I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time.
Committee on Finance. - Central Fund Bill, 1941—All Stages.
The Minister for Finance ended up his speech on the Vote on Account by indicating that substantial additional burdens will have to be borne by the people next year, and that we will end up this year with a deficit.
May I interrupt the Deputy to say that only the Second Stage of this Bill may be discussed? Some Deputies might not be aware of that.
I am quite aware of it. I wish that a speech that ended up on that particular note had contained, so far as the House is concerned, something that would show that the Minister appreciated, or was helping the House to appreciate, the type of situation that we are in and the type of situation that we are going into, so that we might take, with a sense of seriousness, the intimation that further burdens will be put upon the people and that we might approach this situation with a sense of confidence that, in proceeding to impose bigger financial burdens on the people, the Government fully understood what the situation is.
I do not know whether, as a result of the debates that have taken place during the last three days, we have a better sense of what the situation is, and a more common appreciation of the spirit and the manner in which it has to be approached. I must say that, on the surface, and judging from the contributions we have had from the Ministerial benches, there is no justification for any such hope. It was because I realised that the people had to bear much heavier financial burdens during the coming year, because they were entering on an economic, social and political period that they never had any experience of, that they were entering into a new political and economic world out of which they might never emerge, that I asked the Government, on the first motion that we dealt with this week, to explain the plans they had for dealing with unemployment and distress. The House cannot say that it has been taken in any way into the confidence of the Government on that matter. There have been one or two suggestions made that things are being talked over, but I do not think it is fair to a people in the condition of our people to bring them so close to the budgetary period and not give them a picture of the situation as it appears to the Government, not give them some idea of the manner in which the Government are approaching the situation, not give them some idea of the type of additional financial contribution that will have to be taken from the people to deal with the situation.
Dealing with existing conditions is only a small part of the task that is facing the people, and if we do not approach the situation in a way that fits in with what the people can do, in a way that will give people confidence that the work is being approached in the right manner, in a way that will bring immediate relief to the very large number of people who are to-day suffering distress, then the Government are simply not going to have the common understanding, the common loyalty, the common sense of values that, in my opinion, it is imperative that they should get among our people before the budgetary position is expounded to them. The people should be placed in a position where they can see, in some kind of definite way, what the Government's appreciation of the situation is, and what the Government are going to do.
I do not think that the things the Government will have to do either in the financial line or with regard to employment and relief can be suddenly sprung on the country. I do not think that the Government that cannot give a more definite outline of what they are going to do to-day can produce that outline in May. There are things requiring to be done to-day which it will be too late to attempt to do in May. The responsibility rests on every member of the House to leave nothing undone to get a common appreciation of the situation and a sense of common values, and to drive home to members of the Government and to the Taoiseach that the country wants to be spoken to with a clear voice, and one in which it can have more confidence. The reaction of Ministers who have spoken on the subjects discussed here during the last three days, instead of increasing the confidence of the people and inspiring them with greater hope, will have the reverse effect. I plead with Ministers to consider that matter very carefully, and see whether they cannot, next week or the week after, make clear what they think of the present situation and what they propose to do.
The Minister for Finance complained that it was said here that these Estimates, so far as certain things are concerned, were dishonest. He explained that he put down bluntly certain financial provisions according to his lights. I am prepared to accept that but, if that be so, they are put down without any understanding of the unemployment situation—not only the trend of the situation but the actual situation. The Minister says that, instead of putting down £1,400,000 for employment schemes, as was done last year, he has put down £1,000,000. He tells us that, in the situation which exists, there is to be spent in 1940-41 less than the amount spent, and audited as so spent, in each of the years 1937-8, 1938-9 and 1939-40. He estimates that there will be £200,000 less spent than was spent in 1937-8, £300,000 less than in 1938-9 and £282,000 less than in 1939-40. I do not think any words need be added to the juxtaposition of these figures to show that the Minister for Finance and his Parliamentary Secretary, in spite of all the Parliamentary Secretary has said regarding employment, are utterly divorced from the situation.
The Minister says, in regard to unemployment insurance and unemployment assistance, that certain things would make this amount, so far from being a decrease of £140,000, an increase of £12,000. Does the Minister for Industry and Commerce, after what he said when discussing employment on the motion for the setting-up of a national economic council, subscribe to the contention that unemployment insurance and unemployment assistance will amount to only £12,000 additional this year? The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance intimated to local bodies that there will be a substantial number of additional unemployed to look after. In Dublin 40,000 has been pretty generally circulated, as if it were intended that the cost of keeping 40,000 additional unemployed on relief or by relief works was to fall on Dublin Corporation. That may be the smoke of the fire. The Minister for Industry and Commerce suggested that 70,000 or 80,000 additional persons might be dislodged from industry, and that only 5,000 of these might be of a type that would find employment on relief schemes. To me, the implication is that the remaining 60,000 or thereabouts will have to be maintained by unemployment assistance or unemployment insurance. That does not square with the Estimate before us. While we may accept the statement of the Minister for Finance, that this is an honest Estimate according to his lights, it is the honest Estimate of a Minister who is not facing the situation. How the Minister for Industry and Commerce subscribes to the publication of these Estimates, after some of the things he has said here, I cannot understand. He gave us the impression that he appreciates the situation, if not in its complete truth, at least in the lines along which it is running. Our people cannot, between now and May, be left in a complete state of bewilderment by the statements made by some Ministers and this Book of Estimates. It would be a shock to the country and a blow to the prestige of the Government if we approached the budgetary situation without a clearer statement of the position.
When discussing some Offences Against the State Bill about two years ago, I said that, for one reason or another, the Party opposite had associated themselves in the people's mind with the State, that, as long as two years ago, they succeeded in doing that, or were acting in such a way as to indicate that they expected the people to regard them as the State. To-day, they have many more powers in the circumstances with which they are called on to deal. They have many more powers and much more responsibility thrown on them for dealing with those circumstances and, to-day, they have, even to a greater extent than two years ago, been forced into the position in which, in the minds of the people, they are the State. I showed that, arising out of past times, they had weakened their own power to be of use to the State, as they did weaken our power to be of use to the State; that the generation which threw up the combined group of us was like no other generation, in that it was not every generation that threw up political groups that would cement together and lead the country; that if a continuation along certain lines which they were then pursuing was going to weaken them, and prejudice such powers and capacities as they then had to contribute to the political and economic well-being of the country, the country would suffer and nobody could save them; and that we were at that time anxious to look to the future in every way and to help them in every way to make the best of things.
Two years have passed, and not only is the country in a more difficult situation, but we are in a completely new world. Our people have to deal with whatever is left of political capacity in the country, and if, through lack of understanding, through improper dealing with situations or improper facing of situations, misunderstandings arise between the various Parties in this House, we are going to leave the country deserted, unhelped and unled. I do not think that anything from the Ministerial Benches here indicates that we are facing a new world. I ask Ministers and members of the Government Party—I ask all Parties—to look to other countries and to see how, under the stress of to-day, they have turned their eyes from the past, have forgotten all the blunders of their statesmen and others which brought about the present situation; how they are not allowing themselves to be dismayed or weakened by looking back, but that, driven by very pressing circumstances, they are girding up their loins, collecting all the forces and energies they can, and bringing all the courage, hope and faith they can to bear upon dealing with the situation in which they are, and facing the future and showing that, with all the resources of their countries, not only are they prepared to face what is around them to-day, but are still preserving a hope and a faith for tomorrow—a to-morrow which will see a completely different world.
Professor Laski has been quoted by the Minister for Industry and Commerce and by the Taoiseach. I would ask permission to quote some people elsewhere, but, first, I should like to quote, as bearing on to-day and to-morrow, an extract from the pastoral letter issued by the Bishop of Clonfert, and published in theStandard on 28th February. It is:—
"Would that our difficulties or dangers would end with the war! It seems to me that, great as are the dangers that threaten us now, far more difficult and perilous will be the problems that await solution when the war is at an end. A completely new world awaits us, a new world, perhaps, in its political changes, but certainly in its social, economic and financial framework. There is nothing divine or permanent in our present economic system, and it needs change and modification to meet the changed conditions of the world and the modern needs of men. We in Ireland can do little or nothing to prevent or check or hasten this change, but now is the time to prepare ourselves so that we can meet it as Christian men when it does come."
I suggest that we in this country, driven into our present circumstances, with an economic situation which is going radically to be changed in the next few months, which is going to demand radically different treatment for its future development, have a chance of picking up some of the vision of other countries, mingling our own ideals with it and trying to do here, in less difficult circumstances than others are faced with, something to see whether unfortunate people in other countries are simply lulling themselves with hopes which will never materialise. I suggest that if we try to do that, we shall be doing not only our own work but something to persuade these people that they can keep their hopes and their faith alive.
I should like to read now a letter issued by the heads of all the Christian Churches in Great Britain. It may appear to deal rather with international affairs than with the domestic affairs of a country, but they are very much interwoven, and, in view of some of the statements made here about self-sufficiency, even within the last few days, in spite of the terrible insistence with which the present situation is driving home to us that we can never be independent of other countries, that we can never be unaffected by what is happening in other countries, it is no harm that we should have an intermingling of the two ideas here.
In Great Britain, the heads of the Christian Churches have all combined to issue a joint statement, in which they subscribe to the five points of His Holiness Pope Pius XII on general national policy for social life, and in which they declare certain points which, in accepting the Holy Father's five points, they also accept. I do not think I need apologise for placing such a document on our records here in view of the present situation, and in view of the necessity for seeing what men inspired by high ideals in other countries are thinking of for to-day and for to-morrow. The statement was issued on 12th December last, and reads:—
"The present evils in the world are due to the failure of nations and peoples to carry out the laws of God. No permanent peace is possible in Europe unless the principles of the Christian religion are made the foundation of national policy and of all social life. This involves regarding all nations as members of one family under the Fatherhood of God.
"We accept the five points of Pope Pius XII as carrying out this principle:—
"1. The assurance to all nations of their right to life and independence. The will of one nation to live must never mean the sentence of death passed upon another. When this equality of rights has been destroyed, attacked, or threatened order demands that reparation shall be made, and the measure and extent of that reparation is determined, not by the sword nor by the arbitrary decision of self-interest, but by the rules of justice and reciprocal equity.
"2. This requires that the nations be delivered from the slavery imposed upon them by the race for armaments and from the danger that material force, instead of serving to protect the right, may become an overbearing and tyrannical master. The order thus established requires a mutually agreed organic progressive disarmament, spiritual as well as material, and security for the effective implementing of such an agreement.
"3. Some judicial institution which shall guarantee the loyal and faithful fulfilment of conditions agreed upon and which shall in case of recognised need revise and correct them.
"4. The real needs and just demands of nations and populations and racial minorities to be adjusted as occasion may require, even where no strictly legal right can be established, and a foundation of mutual confidence to be thus laid, whereby many incentives to violent action will be removed.
"5. The development among peoples and their rulers of that sense of deep and keen responsibility which weighs human statutes according to the sacred and inviolable standards of the laws of God. They must hunger and thirst after justice, and be guided by that universal love which is the compendium and most general expression of the Christian ideal.
"With these basic principles for the ordering of international life we would associate five standards by which economic situations and proposals may be tested:—
"1. Extreme inequality in wealth and possessions should be abolished;
"2. Every child, regardless of race or class, should have equal opportunities of education, suitable for the development of his peculiar capacities;
"3. The family as a social unit must be safeguarded;
"4. The sense of a Divine vocation must be restored to man's daily work;
"5. The resources of the earth should be used as God's gifts to the whole human race, and used with due consideration for the needs of the present and future generations.
"We are confident that the principles which we have enumerated would be accepted by rulers and statesmen throughout the British Commonwealth of Nations and would be regarded as the true basis on which a lasting peace could be established.
Archbishop of Canterbury.
"A. CARDINAL HINSLEY,
Archbishop of Westminster.
"WALTER H. ARMSTRONG,
Moderator Free Church Federal Council.
Archbishop of York."
It is not ordinary circumstances that bring such a combined and joint statement from the heads of the Christian Churches in Great Britain. We can catch from the laity in Great Britain the fact that they now sense, as I said on Tuesday last, that unemployment after the last war was an entirely different thing from what it was before that war and should have been tackled in a different way, and, if tackled in a different way, would have left us with a different world. If we look at, say, the British Budget before the last war, when they were raising taxation less substantial than, say, £200,000,000 per year, and at the Budget at the lowest point that they ever reached after the war, when they were something about the £600,000,000 level, we can well realise that the last war was, as this war is inevitably going to be, one to bring about a radical difference in our financial and social circumstances. The Budget that we face in May next will be a Budget of a new type that will lead to other budgets of a new type. That is one problem.
The other problem is that the type of country and the type of subsistence, the type of distribution of our resources that we will have to deal with as early as May next will be very different from the type of distribution of our resources that we have had to deal with in the past and will be the beginning of a new type of distribution. On the eve of an occasion like that, we cannot afford to have the poorer classes in our cities forced to hunt after very scant supplies at very high prices, the height of which is not appreciated, apparently, by Ministers, with an amount of money to keep a family that—as I said referring to our proposed Easter Week celebrations— Pearse, as long ago as 1913, when the price index was 100 points, spat on. They cannot live on an amount that he then spat on, at a time when we are three months after the cost of living rose to 214, and on top of that we have prices such as I have been complaining of in dealing with supplies.
The Government cannot persuade any Deputies of any Parties in the House that it is in any contact with the situation, or that it appreciates the situation in any way. It will be disastrous if the next six weeks that have to pass before we deal with the budgetary situation will be weeks in which nothing is done to assist the people who are in distress in the city, and in which nothing is done to inform the people of the country as to the Government's appreciation of the future, both financially and from the employment viewpoint.
There is nobody who can influence the Government more than its own Party. On the one hand, I regard the Taoiseach himself as responsible for some of the greatest failures of the Ministers which we have been complaining about. With proper guidance and proper interest in the general situation on the part of the Taoiseach, Ministers would not have been as blind to the circumstances or to the inefficiencies of the operation of their own administrative machine as they have been. Such trouble or disaster as may arise out of the inefficient handling of the administrative machine will fall primarily on the Taoiseach himself. Next only to that, it will fall on the. members of the Government Party.
There was never any real economic, political, social or any other difference between the members of the Fianna Fáil Party as a class and the members of this Party or the Labour Party. We are all part of the one people which brought about the establishment of this State. The things we were divided on were largely intangible things, and, being intangible, the differences grew; then material differences had to be sought for them. As far as conditions in the City of Dublin, or in other counties, are concerned, a Deputy of the Fianna Fáil Party, a Deputy of our Party, or a Deputy of the Labour Party is equally competent to assess them, and they have a fairly common sense of values as to what is happening around them. If they are not outspoken on the situation, and if they do not bring a greater sense of responsibility and make a greater effort to direct Ministers on proper lines, then I say that, next to the Taoiseach himself, they are the people on whom the responsibility falls.
Perhaps the Deputy will allow me to intervene for a moment in order to point out that there were at least two questions on which there was a very big difference between us and the opposite Party, the question of housing and the question of wheat.
I am suggesting that even though differences like that will grow, that will not prevent Deputy O Briain understanding what is making a Limerick man hungry, or what is keeping him unemployed, any more than it will prevent Deputy Bennett understanding it. That is the point I am at. I think the Deputy appreciates that, and I hope he appreciates the spirit in which I am making the suggestion——
——that a very definite and serious responsibility falls on the Deputies of the Fianna Fáil Party. They are the majority in this House. They are the people who hold the whip hand over Ministers, and if the Taoiseach holds one particular kind of whip, they hold another. That is why I say that, next to the Taoiseach's responsibility, the responsibility for seeing that things are put right is on the Deputies of the Fianna Fáil Party.
Accordingly, we have to size up the situation immediately, and, as I say, no matter from what benches we speak or what particular lines of policy we adopt here, we have to get some common appreciation of what the present situation is; we have to get some common sense of Christian values with regard to what we want to do for our people, and we have to get some kind of Christian understanding as to how we can hammer out between ourselves here the best way to do the work we have to do.
I submit again to Ministers that the matter is an urgent one and that the presentations of fact and the proposals with regard to spending, if not put before the House, can do nothing but bewilder Deputies and bewilder and discourage the people, and a large section of our people cannot afford to be discouraged at the present moment.
I would not intervene in this debate now, were it not for information that has been revealed since the discussion on the Vote on Account began, and particularly in view of what was said by the Taoiseach here to-day. There is no use in our remaining, either severally or collectively, in the clouds any longer. It is time that we came down to earth. I was appalled here to-day when I heard the Taoiseach saying, in effect, that in addition to the large unemployment we have, more unemployment is inevitable, and we cannot avoid it.
Is not that throwing up the sponge? Is it not a confession both of defeat and disaster? We have not enough food; we are afraid that we are not sowing enough crops to produce the food; we have 120,000 unemployed; unemployment will increase and we may be faced witli famine. Have we not a country to grow food? Then, why not get down to it and grow the food? Have we not a large amount of unemployed labour, and why is not that harnessed in order to grow food, or is it not due to pure incompetence? I say that it is pure incompetence, and if we had half a dozen business men running this country, it would be saved. I did not speak on the motion, a few days ago, proposing the establishment of an economic council. I agree with the principle, if you get the right type of council, but when you come to think of various organisations of that kind, you find that the fellows who get to the head of them are generally fellows who are no good for anything in the economic sense, and if the proposed economic council were to be composed of that type of people it would be better to have none.
We have had a confession of failure here to-day—a confession of no hope— and further, that our assets in Britain, estimated at £300,000,000, are no use to us; all our industries are going to shut down for want of raw materials, and we cannot realise on our foreign investments. Why could we not? Has Britain not realised on her foreign investments? Has she not told her nationals: "The money you have invested in the United States and elsewhere is going to be mine. I will create war loan and pay you with it and use the investments that you have in the United States to buy the materials that I want to prosecute the war." Why did not we use our foreign investments to buy materials for a few years, when we were facing up to this war? We are talking about rationing tea and foodstuffs. Why not have a rationing of credit to produce these foodstuffs?
We do not control it.
Of course we do not control it, and there has not been a word about that.
According to what we read in the newspapers, it is reported that Deputy Belton controls £30,000 of it.
Thanks, Mr. Minister. Well, whatever I have I earned it, and you did your damnedest to take care of it, and take as much as you could when you were Minister for Finance.
And I shall do my best to take more of it.
Well, we will talk about that later. Anyway, I am sure the Minister will do his best, and without any spite in the matter.
Oh, there is no spite.
Well, that is done with, and I am afraid that before time goes on much further there will not be many more incomes to tax in the future. Incomes will be very lean in the future. The Taoiseach made an appeal to farmers to use their land. He said that the land should be used for the benefit of tlie community. That in a time of crisis I quite agree with. According to to-day'sEvening Herald the Taoiseach is reported as follows: “They were trying to make farming popular by guaranteeing certain prices.” In what way are they guaranteeing certain prices? It is by keeping down prices and not by guaranteeing them, and they showed an absolute lack of vision in surveying the position when they fixed a price of 37/6 for wheat for this year's crop. That had to be revised, after the debate in December last, and increased to 40/-, and so far is that below the ordinary price that would rule that the Minister for Industry and Commerce here yesterday told us that he was going to make an Order making it a punishable offence to use wheat for any other purpose than bread.
Anybody here who knows anything about agricultural economics knows that the best price that can be obtained for an agricultural product is when that product is directly available for human food. What has the Government now realised? It has realised that it has fixed too low a price for wheat, that wheat will be fed to live stock, and consequently they must make a law that wheat must be milled, at a lower price, for flour, and for flour only, because they realise that there is going to be a shortage. There is going to be a shortage unless, even now, some attempt is made to produce a sufficiency of food.
I wonder is it possible to appeal to the Government at this stage to form an advisory council on food production and get it working overtime at once, before it is too late? It is not too late for more oats, it is not too late for more barley, if it is getting later for wheat. In the production of that food, the Government should absorb the unemployed. The Taoiseach said, and rightly, nobody is to starve. The food must be rationed. The unemployed must get food as well as the employed. That principle is accepted all round, but is it not the Government's duty to see that not only will food be rationed but that the production of food will be rationed? Are you going to leave 200,000 or 300,000 men idle, doing nothing, while the rest of the community are working—letting the workers feed those that are idle? If we are going to ration the food, ration production. That is the Government's job, and all they have to say on that subject is, "Well, we have a large amount of unemployment; more is inevitable and we can do nothing about it." That is a terrible confession of both failure and incompetence.
It was an extraordinary admission from the Minister for Supplies, and it explains his reticence in answering questions as to the amount of foreign wheat that was bought and the amount that came in, to tell us yesterday that 70,000 tons went to the bottom in the month of December. Was that planning ahead? Was that self-sufficiency? If you were to add the cost of that to all the wheat that we require, and fixed your price accordingly for the production of wheat in this country, would it not be better and safer economics? You are trying to buy abroad what you can get at home. You had the spring-board of about half, or 40 per cent., of your requirements of wheat growing here. You had a sufficient foundation to make a supreme effort in one year to reach your entire requirements. It was not done and we had panic appeals; we had civil servants put on the radio and, in some cases, civil servants who, when there was a different outlook in the Department of Agriculture, were telling the people that this was not a country where you could grow good millable wheat at all. But, I dare say, they were then propaganding to order just as they were on this occasion. A civil servant should be left to his job, that is, to take orders. He is not responsible for policy. He is there to advise from his technical knowledge and experience. The Minister should shoulder the responsibility, and not the civil servant.
An extraordinary revelation, too—I think it was made by the Minister for Supplies—is that although the minimum safety margin at the end of the harvest period would be 600,000 tons of wheat, we were only carrying a margin, at the peak, of less than 70,000 tons. Of course, when a ship went down, we were short of bread. That was planning ahead.
It was a new rôle for Deputy Hugo Flinn, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance, to explain here to-day to the last degree the economics of the new industries. He took up the matter of road making. He gave its labour content. He said we had to get sand and gravel to the site of road making; there we were up against the petrol position. Cement we had here, but it was raw material when it came to road making, and in the making of cement coal had to be used. That had to be imported. So that we were held up in every way, according to the Parliamentary Secretary. We all know that he gave us a little lecture in economics that he would have laughed at, if a Deputy had put forward such ideas a couple of years ago, as something too small to consider. He has come to earth. It is time a few more of them came to earth. Has no Minister, or has the combined intelligence of the Government no remedy to offer the unemployed? They get up and say here that skilled operatives who are unemployed and others who will become unemployed through no fault of their own, and through no fault of the management of their industry, but through lack of raw materials, will not be fit to be put on manual work. Have they no remedy by which those men could be enabled to earn a living, to produce anything for the nation, or must they hang on as pensioners on those who are working, thus increasing the burden? Every man who is unemployed increases the burden on the man who is working, and we will come to a time when we will not be able to carry the burden and then famine stares us in the face.
We have to find £35,000,000 on the Estimates before us, and the Minister for Finance told us that there will be Supplementary Estimates. He has also told us there will be a deficit at the end of the budgetary year. All these will have to be made up by a country largely in debt, where hardly any industry is paying, whose manufacturing industries are nearly all gradually going out of production, where unemployment will increase, where there is no hope at all for the future. I think it is the most terrible picture that was ever painted of a country.
What about Guinness'? They are paying well, are they not?
They will have no barley to make stout. Is that not being taken from them to put into the bread? I would suggest to the Government that they should get six business men—I do not mean business failures—business men who have made good, and ask their opinion on it. I think the thing is so bad now that the best business men in the country would be afraid to touch it. Ask them to solve the problem or suggest a way out. I do not know how raw materials can be got. There was a time when with boldness and courage they could have been got. A man who has money working in this country should be protected against those who have money invested at the ends of the earth. If this country were in danger our foreign assets should be mobilised, just as Britain's foreign assets were mobilised in the last war to the tune of thousands of millions. Nobody knows to what extent Britain has mobilised them in this war. That is a secret that will not be known for 20 years. Mobilise these assets here to buy raw material and then give credit to our producers. It cannot be expected that production can flourish when our productive industries are not getting credits. I put it to the Minister for Finance that there is not as much bankers' credit here to-day as there was on September 1st, 1939. The note issue here is not one-third of what it was during the last war. In Great Britain it is from £30,000,000 to £40,000,000 more than it was then. How could we face a crisis when we have not control of the purse, when some authority can shove the rate of interest up to 10 per cent. and the Minister for Finance would know nothing about that until he read it in the newspapers? Such a cock-eyed nation was never known. Yet farmers are asked to produce more.
We are told that there are guaranteed prices. There are guaranteed minimum prices, and the so-called guaranteed price for wheat means that wheat is the cheapest animal feeding on the market at £2 or even 50/- a barrel. I ask the Minister to inquire from the experts in the Department if that is not a fact. The Government must have come to that conclusion when the Minister for Supplies is going to make an order conserving wheat for human food. Why was not a proper survey made in time, and an announcement made that a price would be fixed at a certain period, when all the wheat wanted here would be available? We have not got all the wheat that will be wanted. Feeding stuffs have also been taken from live stock. I foresee a great scarcity of butter, milk, beef and pork for want of these feeding stuffs, half of which were imported while 280,000 tons of offals from the milling of flour will be cut off. Farmers are as patriotic as any other section of the community, perhaps more so. During the fight for independence they made greater sacrifices than any other section. Their homes were lodging-houses for flying columns, and they provided them with commissariat and transport, but they never got recognition for that. There is no use in appealing to their patriotism when they have bills to pay. They cannot appeal to the patriotism of those to whom they owe money.
Things have to be done on an economic basis throughout. I do not know much about machine-won turf. I know that turf will boil a pot and provide firing, but I do not know if it would drive an engine. I daresay what was known as "stone turf" would do that. Why does the Government not take up the question of fuel production by the unemployed? Deputy Flinn stated to-day that unemployment in the last few years was mainly centred west of the Shannon. He based that statement on information at his disposal as a result of work on relief schemes. We can see the amount of interest now taken in the debates. There was a time when Deputies could not get more than one ticket for the Gallery, but now it would be possible to play football in it.
Who is to blame for that?
What Deputy Kelly says here will not repel or attract anyone. The Dáil is worth while to some people. Why not bring the unemployed down to the bogs where they could cut turf, and leave aside the new-fangled notion of producing it by machinery? Let us get back to the old way by using a slean. I often put in a day's work in that way. If we expect men in the bogs to work in order to keep fellows up here idle, they will not agree to that. Put the unemployed to work cutting turf. If a price can be guaranteed for wheat, why not guarantee a price for turf? If that will not work, bring unemployed people down to work on the bogs, even if they only get what keeps them alive. Do not try to place on this State, with a population of some 3,000,000, in addition to the old, the infirm, and the imbecile, 120,000 unemployed people. Who is going to keep the pot boiling? It is sheer nonsense to be telling people that everything is being done for them.
How long would a business house stand up against competition if it had to carry a number of hands for which there was no work? It is the same with the farm. If one or two people are working and if there are as many more on it idle, it will not survive. This nation cannot survive unless the people are put to work. The one man who is working cannot carry on his back ten who are not working. The Taoiseach said there was no cure for that position. I should like some Minister to tell the House what is going to happen, or how we are to continue spending £8,500,000 on the Army. Seeing that other countries are spending more than that amount on their armies in one day, our £8,500,000 will not count for much. We could get that for the Army, but we could riot get it for raw materials when this war started. Here in the Central Fund Bill we are giving the Government power to borrow £16,000,000. Why was not that £16,000,000 borrowed to buy raw materials in September, 1939?
I think not a single Minister has made a case to justify his position. Either severally or collectively, Ministers have not shown foresight or an appreciation of the danger of the situation that confronted this country and that was obvious to everybody from Munich onwards, or even before Munich. They laid the foundations for self-sufficiency on an iron ration basis. They established a number of industries. Why on earth, when faced with a war that was certain to be as long as the last war, did they not buy in materials that would last as long as the period of the last war? They could have bought millions of bushels of wheat at 12/- a barrel. We are told now that they could not store it. Why did not they build stores then to store it? We are told by the Minister for Supplies that we had only a certain storage capacity for petrol and when that was filled they waited again until it was empty before another tanker came in to refill it. If the tanker did not arrive to schedule there was no petrol and that is precisely what happened. Fancy a man running a business who finds that his storekeeper has allowed his stores to run out, and who will not take steps to replenish them because he expects a van to call on a certain day. When the van does not arrive on that day the man suddenly finds he is without any stores. How long would a businessman keep a storekeeper of that kind in his employment? I am sure it is running through the mind of the Leas-Cheann Comhairle how long he would keep a storekeeper of that kind in his employment. Surely no businessman would allow his stocks to run out in that way? If we had storage capacity only for the cargo of one tanker, why did we not build stores to take the cargo of at least a couple of tankers? In this matter, evidently, nobody was looking after the business of the nation.
We paid a big price for our self-sufficiency, but this war was not long in being until we woke up to find that we had no materials to keep our factories going. I fear the worst. I am afraid that through economic pressure our neutrality will be broken. I heard it stated at a meeting of the Chamber of Commerce a few weeks ago that one-third of our people would soon be idle. Many of those people are going over to Britain for work. Day after day young fellows from the country call to me looking for work. All they want is a few days until they get their passports or a few shillings to take them over.
I do not inquire what route they take. Day after day they are coming from all parts of the country. People who have been operatives in industries here, when they are thrown out of employment, will seek work in British industries, and they will get good wages there as skilled workers. So that a skeleton nation will proclaim its neutrality, and the youth of the nation will be belligerent on the other side of the water. I am not talking politics when I say that I blame the Government for want of foresight in not buying in raw materials.
I have already dealt with the food position, and there is not much more to be said about it. I agree with the Minister that speeches were made here which might or might not have a germ of truth in them with regard to the danger of revolution, but I do not think that this is a place to parade anything that might have the semblance of propaganda or encouragement for action in a certain direction. I think the least we say about that the better. If the thing is outside it will obtrude itself before us and before the public without any encouragement. The elements of danger are there, and it is our job to remove them. If we allow these elements to grow we shall be blamed —and rightly blamed—by the nation.
In conclusion, I would suggest to the Minister that the Government should have a bigger responsibility in the matter of unemployment than to say that it is a big problem, that it is inevitable that it will grow, and that they cannot help it. Why, nothing can save us from revolution and disaster, if the Government cannot stop it. It is up to the Government, and I am sure they will get the co-operation of this House and of the whole country if they take bold, courageous steps to cure unemployment. I heard a boast here about the experiment made by, the Dublin Board of Assistance to grow wheat in St. Anne's, Clontarf. How are they growing it? By bringing in tractors while there are a couple of thousand doing nothing, living on the rates in the workhouse. Why were these people not put out with spades to dig up the land, instead of spending money on tractors to do that work? If you have employment for these people, why not put them to work? It might have been more expensive but in the long run it would be cheaper than employing machinery. You are demoralising these people by keeping them idle while the few people who are working have to keep them alive.
Tho most discouraging feature of the debate in the last few days was the flippancy of certain speakers and their viewpoint as to the inevitability of unemployment. Surely a system that cannot cure unemployment in a sparsely populated country like this should be scrapped and something else substituted? I am not a revolutionary. The untold wealth with which the Minister for Industry and Commerce taunted me, might go up in smoke if I were. I do not want to suggest revolution but, if the present system that we have cannot cure unemployment, it should be abolished. We were taught, and we ourselves propagated the idea, that this country could support 12,000,000 or 18,000,000 people. If we cannot run this country so as to provide a livelihood and employment for 4,000,000 people, we are either no good or the system we are working is wrong. We have either to accept the judgment that we are incapable of governing this country in the best interests of the people or scrap the system we have. It is up to Ministers to do one thing or the other. They will stand condemned as having let the country down, if they allow the unemployment menace to grow to one of larger dimensions.
This debate has gone on for the entire week and, if words could do anything to save this country, we should not be in any danger. Deputy Belton has made the most constructive suggestion which has been put before the House in the past week. He has suggested that the unemployed workers should be employed directly in the production of food and that the State should organise the employment of such men to produce the nation's food by ordinary methods unaided by any mechanical means. I mentioned the other day in perhaps a crude and clumsy way that the unemployed workers should be converted into food. The Minister smiled at that and I hope I did not arouse any cannibalistic instinct in his subconscious mind. What I meant was that, since the ordinary channels of enterprise cannot provide work for the unemployed, it is the duty of the State here and now to initiate public work in the production of food and fuel and to employ men to do that work without any mechanical means which would cut down the labour content of such work. That is the suggestion which has been made by Deputy Belton which I want to underline.
Deputy Mulcahy made one remarkable statement. So far as I could gather, he said that there was no difference between Deputies on one side of the House and the other and that they had to create material differences. I think that is substantially true, and that the time has now come where there should be no further need to create any differences between Deputies on one side of the House and on the other. The time has come when there should be complete co-operation in the finding of means to solve our national economic problems. There is really no difference between one side and the other.
The Minister for Supplies complained that there was continual nagging on the part of Independent, Labour and Opposition Deputies. The position at the moment is that these Deputies have no power to do anything else except to nag, because they have not been given the help or information they should have been given in regard to the solving of our problems. They realise that Ministers, who have withheld this information from them which would help them to deal with these problems, have failed themselves to cope with the difficulties which faced them.
There are able and energetic men on the Opposition Front Bench, and I suggest that it is not too late even now for the Government to seek the assistance of such men in preparing plans for the solution of our immediate problems. As in this Bill we are called upon to provide a colossal sum for the financing of Government services, I think we should also take steps to establish a national Government, representative of all that is best in all Parties, to deal with these problems. Such a step would be welcomed by the people in every walk of life, and would help to restore some of the confidence in Parliament and the Government, which has been very badly shaken during the past few months.
There are one or two points arising out of his statement which I want to put in the form of queries to the Minister, and one or two points arising out of the statement made by the Taoiseach. The Minister seemed to resent my description of the Book of Estimates as being dishonest. I think he himself then proceeded to prove that what I had stated was fairly accurate. It has been stated by the Taoiseach and other Ministers that we expect unemployment to increase enormously during the coming year. It has been further stated that that unemployment will be of such a nature that the vast majority of the unemployed cannot be absorbed on ordinary employment schemes; in other words, that they will be expert technicians. etc. I should like the Minister to tell us how he is going to provide for the tens of thousands of additional unemployed, as has been stated by Ministers, if the Estimate for relief schemes, the Estimate for employment schemes, and the Estimate for unemployment insurance and unemployment assistance are reduced. You have to get either work or maintenance for these people. Whether it is work or maintenance, the money has to be provided by the Dáil. It is clear that it is not in the Book of Estimates. I want to know why it is not? To that extent I suggest that the Book of Estimates—I am putting it in another way, as the Minister seems to object——
Say it is incomplete.
I will accept the Minister's word. In other words, the Government are shirking the rather unpleasant job of giving the whole ugly dose to the taxpayers at the one time.
Kill them by instalments.
The Minister made a further statement which fills me with alarm and which I think Deputy Belton did not go too far in describing as a confession, of failure and hopeless incompetence. We are told that the reason the Vote for employment schemes has been reduced by £400,000 is because the money will not be required, as it is not possible to find schemes of work that will absorb more than that amount of money. We are further told that £500,000 voted last year for the relief of unemployment is to go back to the Exchequer as it could not be spent in the year in which it was voted. With 105,000 unemployed, if that is not a confession of failure, I do not know what it is. There is no Deputy or no man who knows anything about the country but knows that there are thousands of useful schemes of work crying out to be done. There is no question about that. I do not want to pursue the matter further now.
There are two other points which I want to have cleared up at the end of this long week's debate. The Taoiseach in his speech got rather heated at one period over what he called Deputies accepting and circulating rumours, and he asked us to accept what he was saying as absolutely true, and hoped that we would hear no more about it. I can only come to the conclusion that the Taoiseach in making those two statements in good faith is being misled by some of his colleagues.
One statement was with regard to the wheat campaign. He not only stated it, but repeated it emphatically, and said that as a result of his explanation he hoped we would hear no more about it. He stated that when the Government were informed by Grain Importers, Limited, that they could not get ships to bring in more wheat, the Government immediately started on the intensified campaign for the growing of more wheat, and the Minister for Agriculture immediately got in touch with the county committees of agriculture. That statement is simply not true. As I said, for that reason I can only come to the conclusion that the Taoiseach is being misled. The Minister for Supplies admitted in the House this week that the Government were informed by Grain Importers, Limited, early in November, that they could not see any prospect of getting ships or of importing wheat. The Taoiseach says that immediately that was notified to the Government they went out on the intensified campaign.
As a matter of fact, two of the most valuable months of the year were lost because a start was not made with the intensified "grow more wheat" campaign until the 10th January. When you couple that with the other statement made by the Taoiseach, that, unfortunately, we have not been able to get sown as much winter wheat this year as we had expected, owing to the bad weather conditions, we see how serious was the loss of those two months. The other point I want to refer to is this. The Taoiseach got very angry—in fact, we almost had a scene —with one or two Deputies on the question of the export of potatoes. The Taoiseach quoted, again I have no doubt in good faith, figures which were given to him purporting to show the full extent of our exports of table and seed potatoes over the period in question. Deputy Cosgrave stated here this afternoon that we, on this side, have had figures supplied to us, but as they were supplied in confidence we cannot quote them. We can, however, say in fairness to the members of our Party who, I think I may say, were attacked by the Taoiseach last night, that these figures are vastly different from the figures quoted by the Taoiseach in the course of his speech. In fairness to certain Deputies on this side, it is right that that should be put on record.
It has been put on record already.
Well, it will do no harm to emphasise it again. The Taoiseach emphasised it very strongly last night.
I thought the Deputy said that he was not going to make a speech.
I give way to the Minister with pleasure.
Not that I object to Deputy Morrissey at any time.
Thanks very much.
The Deputy said yesterday that we only appreciate those on the front bench opposite and on the other side when they are dumb. There might be a greater appreciation for some of them if they were more often dumb. Personally, I would not include Deputy Morrissey in that, because I have always found him reasonable. His voice is a pleasing one to listen to. At times it is resonant. I am sure that if he were in a place he could show it to greater advantage by singing a song, we would all be very pleased to hear him.
I am afraid the Minister would get an unpleasant shock.
I hope to hear him sing some time. At any rate, it is not true that this Government only appreciates the Opposition when, as Deputy Morrissey said, they are silent or dumb. Speaking for the Government, and certainly speaking for myself, I want to say that the Opposition are only doing their bare duty when they are vocal and when they are criticising. We have no objection whatever to the Opposition offering criticism. I do not ask for fair criticism, because who is going to define "fair"? I have one view of it. Other people will have an entirely different view. No one and no member of the Government should object to criticism.
What I object to is abuse, and we had too much of that in this debate. One would not expect any better from some of those who indulged in it, but there were others who should know better and who, I think, could have done better. I was pleased with the speech of Deputy Morrissey last night. I am not saying, mind you, that everyone was pleased with it. I can tell him, and it may surprise him to hear it, that one or two members of his own Party were not pleased with it, but, speaking for myself, I certainly could find no fault with it. If Deputy Mulcahy does not mind my saying so, I was also pleased with his speech this afternoon. I think there could be no objection to the type of criticism that he uttered: of his pressing and insisting on being given certain information and certain figures. I think that any figures that can be given without bringing the institutions of the State, or the State itself, within measurable distance of risk or danger, ought to be given. I understand that certain figures asked for by Deputy Mulcahy, and others, were refused. The figures themselves, if they were given, might not be a cause of any danger, but, on the other hand, a series of figures might be asked for and given, and if some were left out they might cause certain people to be able to draw conclusions. That might not be wise at present. That, as I understand it, is the justification for the refusal to supply the figures asked for.
Deputy Mulcahy made a reasoned speech and an appeal that I, as Minister for Finance, would like to be able to respond to in the tone in which it was uttered. I think that I and my colleagues in the Government realise as fully as Deputy Mulcahy, or anybody on the other side of the House, what the present world situation is, and what it may mean for us, small as we are. We have given some thought to what we may be faced with in this country should the situation, described by Deputy Mulcahy and supported to a certain extent by the quotations he read, develop. It is quite true that, with all the self-sufficiency we may be able to devise and build up here, we cannot exist entirely alone. We realise that fully. As a matter of fact, I have heard people express astonishment at the idea that, as we seem to be developing more industrially, our imports seem to be expanding co-equally. People will have to realise that even though we may develop to a much greater extent—in fact we have, I think, only begun to develop self-sufficiency of a kind here—we shall have to rely more on outside sources for various kinds of raw materials. If we want to live the normal life that we have been accustomed to, then of course we shall have to import a good many things. But, apart from that, we cannot be unaffected by any kind of a crisis that may arise in the world from any nation or series of nations, whether it be a financial, economic, industrial or any other crisis. The present situation has no parallel in the world's history, and, therefore, Ministers would be foolish if they did not give thought to the question as to how this small nation was going to be carried through it with the least danger, suffering and sacrifice to itself and its people, as well as to the problem as to how it should prepare to face the changed social, economic and financial order that, in all probability, will develop out of this cataclysroic situation in which we find ourselves to-day.
We are not altogether fools. We are not altogether devoid of some element of brains and commonsense. I know that some Deputies on the other side would like to debate that statement; they would like to question it. But we have some modicum of commonsense and reasoning, some little experience, some knowledge of human nature, and some idea of how human nature reacts in certain circumstances. Some of us here on this side of the House, certainly the Ministers here, have gone through troubles, economic, financial and political, at times before, and out of their experience and knowledge you must give them credit for having some idea of the pains and penalties that are brought to nations and peoples and individuals by those revolutionary changes which have come about and probably will come about before this war is ended and after the war ceases. We must realise that we have the responsibility of thinking out, as far as we can, means and methods to meet those situations. That we have been trying to do to the best of our ability.
Deputy Dillon, in winding up his speech yesterday—it was a speech which I appreciated very much, although I do not always agree with him, I need not tell you—described the situation not in exactly the same terms as Deputy Mulcahy used just now but to similar effect, and reminded us that we would need all the help we could get to carry the nation through; he said that they are willing to give all the assistance and advice they can to help this Government and this people through the dangers and difficulties of the times. I am grateful, and the Government is grateful, for those offers of assistance, and for the suggestions which have been made by various Deputies, some of them useful suggestions which will be examined and considered. I know that Deputy Morrissey and Deputy Belton and Deputy Cogan and others said that one of the greatst problems we will have to face is the problem of unemployment. Unemployment is great at present. It is a big problem, and in all probability, as the weeks and months go over our heads, it is going to increase. It is true that no Government could find suitable employment in this country for all the men and women who will be thrown out of employment.
Find unsuitable employment, then. If a man is hungry, he cannot choose.
If I were one of them, owing to the life I have led what use would I be with a pick and shovel?
I spent 17 years at a desk, and was fired out, and had to make my living with a pick and shovel.
Deputy Belton may be able to do it. I never would. It improved Deputy Belton; I need not tell him it would not improve me. Certainly, it would not improve my temper.
We will not condemn the Minister to that, although we say hard things about him.
Provision will have to be made for the unemployed. In regard to the figure which Deputy Morrissey mentioned several times, the £400,000 taken off that Vote, that was done to give an honest indication of what it was expected would be spent under that Vote in the year. The Department starts preparing those Estimates every year in the month of October, and they have to be presented to the Department of the Minister for Finance before 1st December. In that sense, they are as complete as we can make them. They do not contain all the financial propositions of the Government or of the Minister for Finance for the following financial year. I need not say any more than that the subject of unemployment is getting earnest and constant consideration. The unemployed, I hope, as far as it is humanly possible, will be provided for. Whatever is necessary in the Government's view, measuring our resources, and our resources are not unlimited, will be done to meet that situation.
There is just one other matter to which I should like to refer before I finish. I must say that of the speakers who referred to the Estimates and the amount that we are asking for in that Book of Estimates, there was nobody who said that we are asking for too much. That is a striking fact. That is something which must be borne in mind. Several Deputies said, "If you want more, ask for it." That point of view was expressed from all sides. It was something new in the history of discussions on Estimates in this House. We will have, of course, a detailed discussion later on, when there will surely be criticism of the separate Estimates as they arise, but to my astonishment there was no Deputy in the House who said in discussing this Book of Estimates—even though we are presenting Estimates for a greater figure than ever yet in this House—that we are asking for too much. But it is a heavy burden. As I said already, Deputy MacEoin called it a colossal burden, and another £5,000,000 will have to be added for the Central Fund Services. Even that may not be the entire of our demands on the people of this country by way of taxation or otherwise to meet the burdens that will have to be faced in the coming 12 months. As Minister for Finance—I suppose the same applies to all other Ministers for Finance—I should like to get a little more encouragement in support of economic administration. Since I became Minister for Finance I have thought it my job as holder of the purse to watch every penny and to fight every official and every Department asking for more money. I thought it my job to ask them to show that every penny they asked for was going to be properly spent and that we would get value for it. That has been my job as I am sure it was the job of my predecessors in office.
Deputy O'Higgins said that this was the time when every £10 should be scrutinised as carefully as every £1,000 or £100,000 would be scrutinised in other years. I say that every penny should be scrutinised in those times, and that every penny we can save should be saved. To some extent I was disappointed that I was not lectured more about economy, because that helps a Minister for Finance.
There is a good time coming.
The Minister and his colleagues have completely broken down our courage in that connection and, anyway, it might spoil the whole harmony of the evening if we were to start making suggestions.
As Deputy Bennett said there is a good time coming, and perhaps Deputies on the Opposition Benches will be more vocal when financial matters are later under discussion.
Perhaps we will get the Minister a money-box to enable him to save the pennies.
Pennies I would be happy to save—pennies and pounds. I should like to do everything I could in that way, though not with the idea of depriving anybody of work, because if we try to put as many people as possible to work productively on proper schemes, that will be of help and benefit to the nation. That is what we are trying to do. With that reservation, every penny that can be saved, I should like to save it for the Exchequer.
The Minister thinks that we ought to make whatever suggestions we can for economy. We have been discussing a very vital and insistent problem, but, as the Minister just mentioned economy, it strikes me that there is one particular way in which he might economise. Some years ago an income-tax concession of 20 per cent. was given to companies that were called Irish companies, brand-new Irish companies, and that was at a time when the income-tax was 5/-. It was a concession of 1/- in the £. That concession would be now valued at 1/8 or 1/8½. in the £.
I think we saw where one of these Irish companies that got that particular concession made an increased profit of about £12,000 last year. If the Minister is looking for economies, I think he might consider whether he could not economise a little bit in a case like that. Taking it that we are all Irish now in this particular business, and after giving a concession for some five years or so, I think he might begin to look in that particular direction for the first of his economies. If we went into some of the other directions in which he could look for his economies we might spoil the harmony of this meeting, as a result of which, I hope, we have got a little more common appreciation of the situation than might appear on the surface.
This Bill has been certified by the Ceann Comhairle to be a Money Bill within the meaning of Article 22 of the Constitution. A message will be sent to the Seanad accordingly.
The Dáil adjourned at 7.25 p.m. until Wednesday, 19th March, at 3 p.m.