Committee on Finance. - Vote 69—Supplies (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:—
"That the Estimate be referred back for reconsideration"—(Deputy Mulcahy).

The main Vote will be disposed of before the Supplementary Estimate is taken. At the outset of business yesterday, there seems to have been a certain amount of misunderstanding as to the procedure. If Deputies will look at footnote (K) on page 340 of the Book of Estimates, they will find it identical with the footnote (A) to the Supplementary Estimate. The sum of £280,000 asked for in the Supplementary Estimate is an addition to the amount set out under sub-head G of the main Vote, not provision for a new service. In such circumstances, it is not usual to have a separate debate or separate decisions on the Vote and on the Supplementary Estimate. Technically, however, a Deputy would be within his rights in asking for separate decisions, I take it that the motion to refer back is an equivalent to a motion to reduce sub-head G. Therefore, on the main Vote, discussion on peat fuel should be reserved for the Supplementary Estimate.

It is obvious from the note to the Vote that the Supplementary Estimate is an enlargement of the amount provided under sub-head G of the main Vote but owing to the short notice given to the House and the substantial amount provided for in the Supplementary Estimate the Deputy was entitled to ask permission to refer it back.

I take it that it will be debated on the Supplementary Estimate.

The Supplementary Estimate will be taken later. It would be wiser not to discuss peat fuel on the main Vote in order to obviate duplication of the discussion.

May I point out that we have already been discussing turf?

In general terms, yes. Obviously a more detailed discussion will be possible on the motion to refer back the Supplementary Estimate, which is really equivalent to reducing item G.

Before we adjourned last night, I was pointing out to the House that the Minister, in dealing with the many difficulties and complex problems arising out of the emergency with regard to the supply of essential goods and the distribution of such goods, has failed completely to secure the necessary public co-operation or to create the necessary public spirit. I think that that lack of public co-operation is apparent to all. I feel it is due in large measure to the attitude of the Minister in dealing with this whole question, his attitude towards the trading public generally, his attitude to those people who are primarily concerned with the distribution of goods and his attitude to this House. His attitude to any matter coming before the House has been, in my opinion, completely wooden. He has adopted the attitude of sticking definitely to whatever proposal he has brought in. No matter what amount of help, co-operation, or constructive criticism was offered from any Party in this House, the Minister's attitude was that he was not prepared to use the House as it should be used to vary or improve whatever measures were brought before the House for its consideration.

His attitude towards price control has created many bitter feelings throughout the country among decent honest traders. His attitude has been to narrow down a fair margin of profit. Obviously traders cannot operate in difficult times like these if a reasonable margin is not allowed. Their interests have been ignored time and time again by the Minister. These traders were not worthy of his consideration or consultation. He felt that he and his cloistered officials in Kildare Street and Ballsbridge were alone capable of making decisions on these vital matters affecting the everyday lives of our people. I think it is a very stupid and silly attitude for the Minister to adopt, particularly at present, and the Minister's attitude is in very large measure responsible for the appalling situation in which we find ourselves to-day.

The Minister has not appealed for any public co-operation. His policy is to send officials all over the country, and in some cases to adopt methods that are repugnant to the minds of decent men. The agent provocateur has been active in some districts, and I do not think there is a Deputy who would approve of these efforts to induce people to commit offences. With regard to honest and fair criticism, the Minister's attitude is shown by his treatment of a local paper, the Kilkenny People. Because the manager of that paper has dared to criticise, and to have the courage of his convictions on matters affecting the public, he has been punished and penalised. This man was a great supporter of the national movement. He is a well-known journalist, an able man, capable of expressing decent, honest criticism on national matters. The attitude of the Minister is both intolerable and contemptible so far as his treatment of that individual is concerned, and it comes very badly from a Government composed of men who boasted in the past that they were the champions of the liberty and freedom of the individual and of the freedom of the Press that because this man has the courage to criticise Government methods, and particularly the Minister's methods, he should be penalised.

He has been denied his legitimate right to Government advertisements. On the basis of circulation, his paper was certainly entitled to those advertisements, and when an attempt was made at some sort of reconciliation, when the Secretary of the Department invited Mr. Keane for an interview, the Minister gave as his excuse for cancelling that interview that he took exception to the tone of the paper and would have nothing more to do with Mr. Keane. I think that is a contemptible attitude on the part of the Minister. It is a purely partisan attitude and the Minister is permitting himself to be influenced by political considerations. The sooner the Minister mends his ways in that respect and treats people as they ought to be treated and does not deny the liberty and freedom of the individual and of the public Press to express views and criticise Government policy, if they see fit to do so, the better. Obviously the Minister will not accord to any paper which dares to criticise either his Department or the Government any privileges which may be in his gift or in the gift of the Government.

Deputies have referred to the alarming number of notices of the Minister's intention to revoke licences. I and my Party appreciate the necessity for rigid control in order to safeguard the people's interests, and especially the interests of the poor, but this problem is not being properly tackled. Many traders have been penalised for trivial offences, for what are purely technical offences, and have been severely punished in the courts. That is as it should be. If an individual is prosecuted for failing to comply with certain emergency Orders, and is brought to court to answer for his offences, the justice is entitled to inflict certain penalties. No one can take exception to that. At least, I do not take exception to it, but what I do take exception to is that, having brought the offender to justice, the Minister afterwards sits in judgment on him again and decides to revoke his licence, regardless of his position and regardless of the consequences to his future and the future of his family.

The Minister can make no claim to that right to sit in judgment on any man. If there is a question of revocation, the recommendation ought to come from the justice dealing with the case. It should not be a matter for any Minister to decide that, after an individual has been brought to trial and dealt with in the ordinary way, he should be brought further to trial by the Minister and his officials, and a decision come to that his licence shall be withdrawn, very often for a trivial technical offence, such as carelessness in not keeping the records he is bound to keep under certain emergency Orders.

I have a particular individual in mind who has his records of tea sales complete, but who, when the Minister's inspector called on him, was not able to put his hand on the records which had been mislaid. He was prosecuted for failing to produce his tea and sugar sales records and for failing to keep a sugar record—he had not kept a sugar record in fact, but had all the necessary material for completing both records. He was fined £1 and £2 in respect of the offences, and the justice commented that it was merely bad business or carelessness on his part, and that there was no suggestion whatever of overcharging or of any black market activity. Having been fined by the court, he afterwards got a letter notifying him of the Minister's intention to revoke his licence. Surely that kind of offence does not justify such drastic action. I suggest that in all these cases, if the Minister thinks that the revocation of a licence is necessary because of black market activity or overcharging in respect of essential commodities, the recommendation ought to come from the court. Let the individual feel that, whatever consequences he has suffered as a result of his failure to comply with certain Orders, he has been tried in a court of justice and that whatever penalties may be inflicted on him were inflicted in that court and not in a court set up by the Minister in his own Department.

As I said before, I think that quite a lot of those offences, in the way of overcharging and black market activity, have been produced as a result of the wrong approach of the Minister and his Department to this matter of price control. Take the case of butter, for instance. A margin of a penny a lb. profit for traders selling butter is simply ridiculous, and that kind of thing is definitely going to promote black market activities. Just fancy the case of a small trader, who has already suffered a reduction in the volume of goods he is handling, having his profit on butter narrowed down to one penny per lb. He knows very well that if he sends that butter up to Dublin he will be able to get a profit of 4d. or 5d. per lb., and that is encouraging black market activity, because the Minister is squeezing such people out of the just profit to which they are entitled. In my opinion, the Minister himself is an agent of the black market because he is not facing the matter in a proper way or as a businessman would face it. He has acted the part of the dictator all along, and the result of his action has only led to further black market activity. At least, one would expect the Minister to consult the people who are primarily concerned. It was only by reason of extraordinary pressure that those people who were concerned in this matter of the price of butter, after making half a dozen recommendations to the Minister's Department, were heard, and then the Minister did not think it worth his while to receive them personally. Of course, he was too busy and had not time to receive deputations from country people—he left that to his officials.

I have no hesitation in saying that this whole problem of overcharging and black market activity is due to the attitude of the Minister for Supplies. On the other hand, other aspects of price control are completely neglected. Take the case of agricultural machinery. I suggested to the Minister 12 months ago that it was necessary to control and fix the price of agricultural machinery—not only new machinery, but old or second-hand machinery. There is such a scarcity in tractors, power-driven machinery, threshing sets, and all that kind of machinery which is in very short supply at the moment, when there is an increased demand for it, that the price has simply hit the sky, and that is due in a very large measure to speculators coming into the market to buy up such machinery. For instance, if there is to be an auction of agricultural machinery in a district, some unfortunate man who needs the machinery finds that when he goes into the market to bid for it he is up against a speculator who will force up the price to such an extent that he cannot buy. The speculator will get hold of that particular plant with a view to getting some sort of a profit, and generally a very high profit. The same thing applies even to new machinery. Prices are demanded far beyond the normal margin of profit. The Minister has not concerned himself with that aspect of the problem at all, although I suggested to him in this House, 12 months ago, that it was essential to have price control there. In Great Britain they have control of all essential machinery, whether old or new, and that will definitely prevent the activities of the speculator and the gambler who come into the market and prevent the legitimate buyer from getting what he is entitled to get. The sooner the Minister does something about that the better.

I think that the greatest revelation this House has got for a long time was divulged by the Minister yesterday in dealing with the price of turf. This House has adverted several times to the fixed price of turf of 64/- a ton. We have adverted to it time and time again, and a great many people looked upon it as too high a price, but now we find that the 64/- a ton is the controlled price to the consumer and that it has to be subsidised by an amount of 23/6 a ton, making a total of 87/6. We are also told that 80 per cent. of the turf produced in this country is produced through the efforts of the county surveyors, and that a considerable proportion of the price is caused by loss of weight or damage to the turf in the dumps. Yet we find that the cost amounts to 87/6 a ton. You must add to that price the grants that are made to the Turf Development Board under sub-heads K (1), K (2), K (3), K (4), K (5), K (6) and K (7). Under subhead K (1), the grant is £522,400, under K (2), £20,000; under K (3), £2,000; under K (4), £1,000; under K (5), £5,000; under K (7), £30,000—a sum amounting in the aggregate to over £600,000. Now the Supplementary Estimate gives us a revised figure of £660,000; so this extra money by way of subsidy to the Turf Development Board gives us a further subsidy of over £1 per ton or, possibly, in the neighbourhood of 22/- a ton. That makes the actual cost of producing turf over £5 per ton. Now, what does that mean in terms of coal, assuming that a ton of coal is worth two tons of turf?—and that is a moderate estimate. In terms of coal, the price of turf to-day is £10 per ton. That is an appalling figure. It is a staggering figure, and yet we are asked to vote that sum and asked to vote the moneys under the various sub-heads from K (1) to K (7) to the Turf Development Board, and we have a footnote to the Estimate which says:

"Issues from the Grant-in-Aid will be made to the Turf Development Board, Limited, from time to time by the Minister for Supplies with the consent of the Minister for Finance. Any amount remaining unexpended out of the sums so issued during the financial year will not be liable to surrender at its close, but any balance of the Grant-in-Aid remaining unissued at the close of the year will be surrendered. The expenditure by the board of issues out of the Grant-in-Aid will not be accounted for in detail to the Comptroller and Auditor-General."

Well, all I can say about that is that, bad and all as are the figures revealed here, this habit of asking the House to vote large sums of public money to a board which has not to account for that money is a pernicious habit that is growing up in Government Departments and seems to be encouraged by Ministers generally. I should like to ask is it the Minister's intention, or the Government's intention, to turn the Committee of Public Accounts into a farce. What is that committee there for? What useful purpose can they serve if they can only examine part of the national expenditure? The purpose of the Committee of Public Accounts is to examine, with the help of the Comptroller and Auditor-General, the expenditure of the various sums of money voted in this House, and here we have a sum amounting to £600,000, which this House is asked to hand over to a board of which we have no proof of its competence or efficiency. We do not know whether it is capable of spending those public moneys in an efficient and businesslike way. I think that this system that is growing up is a disgraceful one, and that this House should strongly object to that method of public expenditure.

Our system, just as the British system—and Great Britain is particularly jealous in this respect—is based on this, that every penny of public money expended must be properly accounted for through the Comptroller and Auditor-General and by the Committee of Public Accounts. What are we paying a Comptroller and Auditor-General for? What are we setting up a Committee of Public Accounts for, if the members of it are not entitled to examine expenditure of this sort? I think, on this aspect alone, the House should refuse to vote this sum. In my opinion, it is highly improper. We are here in our capacity as public representatives; we are the custodians of the public purse, and every Minister who is head of a Department has to ask the House to vote the sum necessary to meet the expenditure of his Department. That is the basis of our system, and I regard it as absolutely sound in every way. The Minister must account for every penny expended, and his accounting officer, when he is before the Committee of Public Accounts, must justify the expenditure in his Department.

Why should we vote such a large sum to what appears to me an incompetent body? Viewing it from the angle of the price of turf alone, the business capacity of the Department is condemned. I suggest that on a big principle like this we should not give way. We should jealously guard the people's right of control in relation to public expenditure. Under this method I submit that we are denied that right. This seems to be a closed book so far as the House is concerned, and even so far as the right of the Committee set up by the House to examine public expenditure is concerned. I suggest that that is financially wrong and highly dangerous. The precedent was set up some years ago by the present administration, and every year there is a further encroachment on the people's rights. While that method prevails, I will vote against contributing any sum. I object to the House being denied the right to ensure that the money is properly accounted for.

The Minister told us how we are indebted to our shipping company and our sailors for securing certain vital commodities, especially materials required for production purposes here. I think the House agrees that we are all deeply indebted to these brave men who have risked their lives to secure essential requirements for us. The Minister mentioned that we have received 20,000 tons of phosphate rock from Florida. Of course, that is a negligible amount so far as our phosphate requirements go, and in the coming year the Minister should endeavour to get further supplies. The Minister made a passing reference to the possibility of securing sulphate of ammonia. We have got a small percentage of nitrogen in a compound mixture for beet. I understand that that nitrogen was secured by exporting some seed potatoes in exchange. That is a basis of trade I am particularly keen on. I have given expression to my views on that matter already. I do not think sufficient efforts have been made to develop that type of exchange of goods with our neighbours. The Minister told us that the position with regard to binder twine is comparatively safe. We have secured 1,000 tons of sisal and 1,000 tons of twine. The Minister might have gone on to say that we have exchanged flax fibre for the sisal.

It is not because of the Minister's interest in the matter, but because of the activity of private individuals, the manufacturers very often, that this condition of affairs has been brought about. At the moment we are exporting agricultural machinery from Wexford in exchange for certain raw materials which keep factories like the Wexford Engineering Company and Messrs. Pierce of Wexford going. All these things have been done as a result of individual effort. I have no doubt that if representations were made to our neighbours in the proper fashion—direct Ministerial representation—we could secure a quota of sulphate of ammonia, which is so vital to production here. The Minister and other members of the Government do not seem capable of making that representation. I suppose they have not the courage to go across and suggest we are entitled to more in exchange for our live-stock exports than merely getting a credit chalked up. The one thing so vital to production is nitrogen in the form of sulphate of ammonia. There is a synthetic product in Great Britain and I have no doubt we could secure quantities of it, judging by the supplies available for the British farmer and for farmers in Northern Ireland, and judging by the quantities coming into the black market here at very high prices. Perhaps even at this late hour the Minister might consider making personal representations to the British Government.

The Minister made some reference to wheat and he said that the amount that has come into the mills on an acreage basis appears to be very disappointing. He more or less suggested, when speaking of the relatively small amount of wheat that has come into the mills generally, that there was a leakage somewhere. I suggest there is not a leakage and that the explanation is the low yield. We will have progressively lower yields if some effort is not made to secure the necessary supplies of nitrogenous manures. Quite a good deal has been said on that point already, but I believe it is a matter of sufficient importance to encourage us to reiterate our demands.

The Minister adverted to the possibility of controlling the price of fresh meat and controlling the price of potatoes. I think there the Minister is on very dangerous ground. He must now know from experience that undue interference with certain agricultural products had the effect of drying up production. It might be fatal to a flourishing branch of agriculture if the Minister were now, unwisely, to interfere with it. If he thinks there is any necessity to protect the consumer with regard to supplies of meat and potatoes, then I warn him to be very careful as to how he takes action. Deputy Belton asked a question with regard to the possibility of securing rubber tyres for tractors. I want to support that appeal, and to ask the Minister to take every opportunity that presents itself of securing big tyres for the back wheels of tractors. Many of these big tyres are very worn now, and if it is possible to secure replacements then steps should be taken in that direction at once.

Some Deputies referred to the provision of bicycle tyres. I think the Minister mentioned that 300,000 of them would be available in the coming season. The Minister should pay attention to their allocation. Agricultural workers and others in remote rural districts are suffering the greatest inconvenience and hardship, due to the fact that they cannot get a bicycle tyre, or a couple of them. They are now obliged to go to their work on shanks's mare. The impression held throughout the country is that unless you are a member of the local defence organisations you cannot get a bicycle tyre. Quite a number of useful, efficient and skilled agricultural workers, who are too old to join those organisations, find themselves in the unfortunate position that they are unable to procure a bicycle tyre and, consequently, have to tramp to their work. The food production service is, surely, the most vital in the country at the present time. I, therefore, put it to the Minister that he should make some effort to see that those engaged in this vital national work will get their share of the bicycle tyres available.

These, I think, are the only points that I wish to touch on. I think that, even at this late hour, the Minister might adopt a different attitude to this whole problem. I do not want to minimise the magnitude or the difficulties of the problem that he has to deal with. His job is by no means a sinecure. The problem that he has to deal with requires a very big organisation. It also requires public co-operation and the right type of public spirit which the Minister has failed to secure by his attitude. A change of front on his part might be very useful. If he were to mend his hand, he might be able to secure more public co-operation.

Let us not forget that Deputy Lemass, according to his own claim, has been Minister for Supplies in this country for four years. He claimed in this House, long before the war started, that he knew all about it, and that he had set up an establishment in the Department of Industry and Commerce of that day to provide for contingencies. How did he provide for them? By retaining in operation all the quotas, all the tariffs and all the restrictions on imports into this country of goods that were vitally required for carrying on the life of the people until such time as those goods were no longer available. Then he took the restrictions off. That did not happen in one case. It happened in dozens of cases. I remember that I, myself, two years ago in this House, got up and urged that all restrictions on the imports of agricultural machinery should be removed. Deputy Allen was clamouring that there was plenty of agricultural machinery in the County Wexford to supply the whole country. The Minister for Industry and Commerce and the Minister for Supplies said that he had no intention of removing the restrictions since abundant supplies of the necessary types of agricultural machinery were to be had from the factories in Ireland. Where is the agricultural machinery now? In Great Britain where we cannot get it, but when we could have got it we would not be allowed to bring it in.

The same story can be told of 70 per cent. of the commodities that are in short supply at the present time from agricultural machinery down to cotton stockings. I remember the time when we could have bought thousands of dozens of pairs of cheap cotton hose that poor people require. We were told that we would not be allowed to bring in a single pair, but when supplies of that commodity were no longer available in Great Britain we were told that we could bring in as much as we liked. Time and again that has happened, and though nobody but a fool would propound the theory that the Minister for Supplies is responsible for all the shortages that we are experiencing in this country at the present time, I have no hesitation in saying that he has greatly exacerbated the shortages that at present exist. The root cause of the shortages in this country is that we are learning to our cost that the insanity of economic self-sufficiency is "cod," was "cod" and always will be "cod" like most of the Fianna Fáil programme. We nursed the illusion. God be with the day when the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures was praying that all the ships that sailed the seven seas would be sunk so that we really could know the blessings of genuine economic self-sufficiency, and when he assured the country that if they were all sunk in the morning it would not make the slightest difference to us, that we would have everything we wanted within our four shores. Well, it is an expensive education that Ministerial gossoon is receiving. The whole country is obliged to suffer because of that mentality. Nevertheless, it influenced the Government at a time when it was possible to bring in to this country very substantial supplies.

Are the memories of Deputies so short that they do not realise that up to very recently there was a prohibitive tariff on artificial manures? You would not be allowed to bring in a bag. That was done in order to keep the manure ring in its position of being able to rob and plunder the public of this country. It is because you would not be allowed to bring in a bag that the country is now experiencing a shortage of artificial manures. At the very time when the manure ring was encouraging the Government to prevent the importation of artificial manures into this country they would not invest their illgotten gains in procuring reserves of phosphate rock. Goodness knows we have enough waste land in this country on which reserves of phosphate rock could have been stored. We had a Minister who foresaw the shortage 12 months before the war began. Did he succeed in persuading the gentlemen whom he had authorised to plunder the farmers of this country to invest some of the plunder in the piling up of reserves to meet the present shortage? Not a penny. They would not buy an ounce of reserve stock. The Government could go and buy it. They wanted to have public funds invested in it, but they would not risk their profits and dividends. I know they are regretting that now, because they could have made a nice profit on it and would have got away with it, of course. They did not see as clearly as some others did what profits could be made by accumulating stocks and therefore there was not a stone or a cwt. laid by for our people.

It is the Minister for Supplies who is responsible for permitting that kind of thing to happen in this country, who gets up quite blandly on the eve of a general election and says that things are not so bad after all, oblivious of the fact that six months ago he was standing at the corner of Capel Street telling us that we were on our last legs. The soul was frightened out of him six months ago. For the last three years our people have demonstrated their capacity to face any kind of emergency they have been asked to confront. But if, by false pretences, you represent to our people that there is a desperate situation to be met and they brace themselves to meet it, only to be told six months later that it was a canard and there was not any desperate situation, you will find that by crying "wolf" in that way you will cry it once too often, and when it does become necessary for the people to brace themselves to meet a severe ordeal they will say: "In three months' time he will be telling us there is no danger."

The Minister got up to-day and confessed that he so far misrepresented the rubber situation six months ago that he warned the nation there would be no tyres to maintain public traffic and that now, after the passage of six months, he is in a position to say that there is sufficient to keep us going for 12 months and that he intends to increase the ration of bicycle tyres. If he has all the elaborate machinery he is continually patting himself on the back about, he ought to be able to make a better guess six months ahead than that, and we are entitled to ask of him a better estimate in future, if he undertakes to make an estimate at all. I would have great sympathy with the Minister if he said: "My position is that I am not in a situation to make any formal estimate except to say that from week to week and month to month I will do my best." But he has not adopted that course. He has seen fit to come out with harangues at the street corners of Dublin. He spoke of what he foresaw and he warned the people and spoke advisedly and, six months later in Dáil Eireann, he said it was all hullabaloo, that he was mistaken and the situation was not as he described it to be. He will do that once too often; he is doing it too often. Deputies will ask themselves why is this mass of contradictions so much emphasised by me. It is because it is all done with a purpose. It is done for the purpose of persuading people to forget his own record in office. It is done for the purpose of obliterating from the public mind this salient fact which must be remembered if our present situation is to be fully understood—that there were supplies available and the Minister prevented us from bringing them in. In every case, when the time was passed for acquiring supplies, the prohibitions which he had so sedulously maintained were removed and we were told to get all we could when we, who were in the trade, knew there was none to be got. That is the root of a great many of our difficulties at present.

I instance two isolated and dissociated commodities in connection with which that happened—cotton hosiery and agricultural machinery. There are dozens of others you could quote if you had a schedule of them before you. In the middle of this crisis we were informed that there was a heavy tariff placed on cotton wool in order to protect a factory out in Clonskeagh. At a time when it was difficult to get any cotton wool for a suit tailored in this country the trade was required to depend upon the supplies from Clonskeagh and prohibited from drawing its supplies of that now extremely scarce commodity from its usual sources. I suppose 95 per cent. of the tailors in the country were drawing supplies of that commodity from Manchester. But, at a given date, the whole trade was stopped, and that in the middle of a period of emergency when supplies were almost unobtainable.

Do Deputies realise that for 18 months after the war began you could not get a yard of flannelette from Great Britain? It was not because there was a scarcity of flannelette in England—there was plenty. You could have bought and secured delivery of all you wanted to buy, but the Minister for Industry and Commerce would not let you bring it in, so that at the moment there is not a yard of flannelette in the country. You know what that means for the country people and for the poor. When they want underclothes they have to make them out of whatever rags and tatters may be left about the house. Then the Minister here will tell you that our present shortage of flannelette is due to the fact that our cotton supply was reduced to 20 per cent. Who reduced our supplies of cotton and cotton textiles when the available supplies in Great Britain were 200 per cent? I know one small shopkeeper in Ballaghadereen who could have got sufficient to clothe all the people of Ballaghadereen for two years. He would not be allowed to bring in a yard of it until he could not get an inch of it, and then he was told to bring in all he liked. Will the Minister explain that? Perhaps the Minister for the Coordination of Defensive Measures will come in and join in the chorus of explanation and demonstrate to us now how we would benefit by the sinking of all the ships that sailed the seven seas.

I heard the Minister for Supplies talking yesterday about how rubber came in. I interjected: "Where are you getting it?" He said he had nothing to add to the explanation. If we are getting supplies from Great Britain, if the British are carrying these supplies across the seven seas at the peril of their lives and, when they are landed in Great Britain, they share these supplies with us, albeit on a much smaller scale than they did prewar, would it not be a gracious and civil thing to say: "We are getting so much rubber and we are getting it from Great Britain"—if that is where it is coming from? Are we so neutral in this country that we cannot discharge the obligations of common civility and gratitude? When men risk their lives to get supplies to keep us going, do we owe them no debt of gratitude except that which can be discharged in coin of the realm? Is that the view which obtains here? If so, my fellow Deputies are of a different type from what I expected them to be; from what I know them to be. I know well that most of the rational Deputies recognise that when men risk their lives to carry supplies to a country like this at the present time, those who receive and benefit by them have some debt of gratitude and public recognition to discharge. It seems to me to be a mean thing to preserve that shameful anonymity under which you say: "We are getting in supplies," but do not dare to say whence they come.

I read in the papers and I heard very often in Dáil Eireann very stringent attacks made upon shopkeepers in this country. I wonder do Deputies in this House understand the ordeal through which shopkeepers in rural Ireland are passing at the present time? I know a shop and it is keeping 15 different registers of rationed commodities, most of them rationed by the Government, some of them rationed by the manufacturers. How do you imagine the retail shop in rural Ireland distributes butter or jam at the present time? The Government has funked the duty of rationing these commodities, but the people expect their normal supplier to see justice done, and the shopkeepers are trying to do it. How do you expect the country shop that is engaged in retail and wholesale distribution to carry on with machine-like precision, considering the measure of co-operation they are getting from the Government? Have any of the Deputies of this House ever asked themselves how a small shopkeeper with, perhaps, 200 tea customers, rations out his tea for the week? He has to ensure that ¾-oz. of tea goes to each member of each of the 200 households—no more, no less. He has to keep a record of the sales, and he must endeavour at the end of every month to demonstrate that he has weighed out every pound of tea in ¾-oz. packets, that they have all been delivered, and that no tea has been mislaid. That is only one commodity. He has to weigh out sugar in ½-lb. packets, and he has to ensure that each person in each household gets a ½-lb.

I am not quarrelling with the Ministry of Supply. They have their difficulties the same as the country shopkeeper has his, but I often wonder do they envisage the type of trade done in rural Ireland or are they founding their systems of rationing and so forth on the experience of city shops. Do they think of one shop selling tea and sugar, another shop selling bacon, another shop selling cornflour and grocers' sundries, or do they understand that in rural Ireland everything from the candle to the plough may be sold in the one shop? Do they realise that in rural Ireland marketing is not done spread out over the six days of the week? You have three days in which there is practically nobody in the town and one or two days in which the whole population comes in and you have to be prepared to ration practically your entire output on market day and, possibly, on Saturday afternoon. Do they realise that in many country shops; in addition to furnishing groceries, wine and spirits are consumed on the premises, and drapery and boots are sold? You have to be just as strict in rationing reels of thread and boxes of boot polish as you have in ½ lbs. of butter and ½ lbs. of rasher bacon.

I do not want to suggest, Sir— because it would not be true if I did— that if you bring these specific problems to the Department of Supplies or the Department of Industry and Commerce you are met with blank refusal or other lack of sympathy. That is not true. My experience is, certainly, that when I have gone to the Department of Supplies or the Department of Industry and Commerce and exposed peculiar problems which had not been foreseen, they have been met as fairly as it was possible, within the circumstances that obtained, to meet them. But, everybody cannot go to the Department of Supplies. I can go, but I am thinking of the thousands of small shopkeepers who do not even know where the Department is and who, if they once got into the Department, would get lost in the Department. We, in Dáil Eireann, know the man. We do not go to the Minister or to the secretary. We know the head of the division or we know some man in the division who can put us in touch with the man who is handling the particular problem. We can thread our way through the various corridors and myriad rooms until we can find someone to give us yea or may in regard to our particular problem. But the mass of the people cannot do that, and the bewilderment with which they find themselves overwhelmed is painful.

I know that a Minister sitting in Dublin, when he sends out two inspectors to make a routine review, cannot see that that should cause any undue consternation. I wish the Minister would come down the country and watch the reactions of some unfortunate woman in a country shop when two strange men come in, one in a fedora hat and the other in a tweed cap, and say: "We come from the Department of Supplies." If Dick Turpin and Jack the Ripper came into her kitchen, she could not be thrown into a state of wilder confusion. I do not want to suggest that the attitude of these gentlemen is that of Dick Turpin or Jack the Ripper. If she would take herself easy she would probably find that they were reasonable people and the thing would work out all right, but she never does take herself easy. She gets excited, frightened, consternated. These are busy men and they have to do their work and get on to some other job and they have not time to sit down and cosset her and restore her equilibrium. For the period that they are there she is in a state of hysteria and for six weeks afterwards she is waiting for something to hit her, waiting for a letter indicating the appalling consequences that have eventuated as the result of the arrival of these two gentlemen. All the neighbours are coming in for the next week, sloping around to know who were the strange men. They know quite well who they were but they want to know more about it, if they can get information.

I suppose that is largely unavoidable in the situation in which we find ourselves, but we ought to recognise the difficulties of people who have to endure all that kind of supervision and interference, to which they are not accustomed, and which frequently they do not understand. What is peculiarly exasperating is that it is the common experience in rural Ireland that the man who keeps his records most meticulously, so meticulously that he reveals his own mistakes, gets caught and is prosecuted, while he knows there is a fellow across the street who keeps no record at all, because his transactions are of so nefarious a kind that nobody would dare to report him and, because he keeps no record and because he is acute fellow, he gets off acot free. The Minister's reply to that is: "Do you know such a person?" Of course I know him. Is there a Deputy in this House who does not know that, but knowing it and proving that they are doing it is another thing. I know people who have been in to them, and who have bought tea at 1/6 an ounce, but to get them to come and tell the Minister for Supplies is quite another story. The very people who are dealing with them will say: "Where else could we get it? What good is ¾-oz. of tea? We drink it in two days. So-and-so has tea and will give it to you at 1/6 if you deal with him for sugar"—and he has all the sugar he wants, and he is riding high, wide and handsome. Next door to him there is a poor devil sweating to make 224½-lbs. out of a 112-lb. bag of sugar; sweating to divide his monthly deliveries of tea into ¾-oz. packets. He is short in the sugar and has too much tea at the end of the month, and he is prosecuted. He is held up as the type of the black marketeer, grey hairs having appeared in his head in his efforts to maintain a series of forms, the like of which he never contemplated before in his entire business career.

Are not these things true? I do not minimise the Minister's difficulties. The purpose of ventilating these facts is to try to persuade Deputies to get the circumstances of the country shopkeeper into reasonable proportion. There are bad hats amongst the country shopkeepers but, by and large, 95 per cent. of them are decent men and women who are trying to earn a modest living and who are having at present a very hard time. Those who were rich enough to acquire large stocks have, undoubtedly, made considerable profits but the vast majority of small country shopkeepers buy their stocks from week to week. In many cases, they are left short by the wholesalers who usually supply them and, in the remainder of the cases, their profits bear a close relation to the prices they pay for their goods. Having to buy from week to week, as the prices are rising, they are paying the full rise every day.

I want to say to the Minister for Supplies quite deliberately that I consider his entire policy of rationing to be misconceived and mistaken. He has allowed himself to be bustled, largely by the Labour Party, into the utter folly of attempting to control everything. It cannot be done. The net result of attempting to control everything, unless you set up a system such as obtains in Great Britain and the other countries at war in which you control everything from the source of production down to the point of consumption, is that nothing will be effectively controlled.

If the Minister for Supplies had determined to ration or control a few vital commodities, without which people could not get on, and if he had taken entire control of these commodities from the point of production down to the point of consumption, then the thing could have been effectively done. But the attempt to control the price of thread and biscuits and 101 luxury commodities, which ought never have been controlled may simply convert the retail trade into a pandemonium of confusion. It has resulted in the services of men who ought to be engaged in controlling vital commodities being dissipated in chasing round after a shopkeeper who has sold a ½ lb. of Jacob's Fairy Biscuits at ½d. more than the controlled price. That is what is happening. It has forced unfortunate shopkeepers to attempt to maintain a system of records applying to 30 or 40 commodities which they are quite unable to keep. This has resulted in their frequently losing sight of vital commodities which ought to be rigorously controlled, and which could be rigorously controlled if the number of controlled commodities was reasonably delimited.

I do not desire to criticise the Minister without making suggestions. I do not want to suggest that the Minister is oppressing the shopkeepers without pointing out, at the same time, how the position can be equitably rectified. There is an equitable way of dealing with the present situation. That is to review the whole system of rationing. Let the Minister make up his mind that he must go whole hog over to the British system or the system obtaining in other countries actually at war—a system of rationing primarily designed to limit public expenditure and divert wealth into savings—or, if he has resolved that that system of rationing is impracticable or undesirable in the situation in which we find ourselves, let him relinquish the attempt to ration or control the prices of luxury articles. He should take butter, milk, sugar, tea, bacon, flour and certain other vital commodities—in the circumstances in which we find ourselves, I think these should include candles and paraffin oil—and control them rigidly from the port of entry or the factory of production all the way through to the consumer, so that, when he gives the consumer sumer a ration card for any one of these commodities, it will not only entitle him to get that quantity of the commodity, but it will indicate to him to what shop he can go and demand that quantity, knowing that the Minister for Supplies has, directly or indirectly, placed a supply there for him. Have Deputies of the Fianna Fáil Party not told the Minister that, in large parts of the country, when people go in with tea and sugar cards, they do not get anything at all. They are simply told by the shopkeeper that there is not any and they go away. I suggest to the Minister that the proper situation ought to be that, if a person holds a ration card for a given commodity, he ought to know that when he goes into his registered supplier the Minister will see that he is supplied or know the reason why from the shopkeeper, the Minister having placed in that shopkeeper's store the necessary supply to meet the ration card held by the customer.

At present, it is a common experience for shopkeepers who have tried to supply their customers every week with the required ration to find letters addressed to them by the Department of Supplies directing them to take on a new customer for a rationed commodity. You discover, when you investigate the facts, that you are being asked to take on a tea customer from a shopkeeper up the street who has been turning his regular customers away because he wants to sell his tea on the black market. He dumps his customer down on top of you to absorb the tea which you had earmarked for regular customers who had been dealing with you for from ten to 20 years. He does not do that because of scarcity. He tells his customers he has no tea but he is selling it out by the back door at 24/- a lb. So long as the present hit-and-miss system is pursued, that will go on. With our present machinery, we cannot contemplate the rigid form of rationing I envisage for the 100 and one commodities the Minister has sought to control. I, therefore, make a concrete suggestion to the Minister. Take a dozen articles which may be regarded as vital necessities and control them from the source to the point of consumption as, in fact, you do in respect of sugar, which is one of the most successful branches of rationing so far put into operation. Let that apply all round. Limit the number of goods to be controlled. Then you can reasonably ask shopkeepers to keep exhaustive records and you can be reasonably certain that consumers who have ration cards will get that to which they are entitled.

The Minister, from his own experience of the rationing system as applied to sugar, will agree with me that it is working better than any other system of rationing or control. Let him extend it to such number of commodities as he is able effectively to control. Let the others find their own level or, if they are truly luxury products, stop their manufacture completely, if that is necessary. If they can conveniently continue to be supplied, well and good. Any little luxuries that relieve the darkness that surrounds us at present are very welcome. But if they cannot be conveniently supplied, or if their supply simply gives rise to marketing abuses, let them go. The raw materials from which they are being manufactured can be very profitably employed in the production of some bread-and-butter article of which there is a shortage in another sphere.

I am keenly aware of the appalling inconvenience caused by the want of candles and paraffin oil. It is very difficult for a man living in Dublin to understand what that means for people living in rural Ireland. The man in Dublin is accustomed to a man turning on the electric light or the gas, and he does not care about the position of people in the country who find themselves in the dark at 4 o'clock in the afternoon and have to remain so until 9 o'clock next morning. It does not occur to the man in Dublin what it means to a man in the country who has to make his way out to a cowhouse in the dark at 3 o'clock in the morning to look at a cow calving.

That was the daily experience of many people in the country last winter. I cannot, however, hold the Minister responsible for that. What can he do? He is exclusively dependent, as far as I know, for supplies of raw materials and paraffin wax on America or Great Britain, and I presume is getting as much as he can. I direct his attention to it as, no doubt, other Deputies will, and I urge him to keep that position constantly in mind. Owing to lack of personal experience of that kind of life, I urge him to be on guard against underestimating the magnitude of the inconvenience and real hardship that is being caused in rural Ireland. I suppose he is doing his best and therefore I cannot make a hullabaloo about it. If I were in his position I do not know that I could do more than he is doing in order to get candles and lighting materials.

I want to ask this question of the Minister. Why are tea coupons cut out of ration books? There are 300 or 400 coupons for tea and when they are cut out they are put into boxes in which they lie. What happens then? They are never asked for. I have boot boxes full of tea coupons, and they are there to provide food for mice. Think of 10,000 shopkeepers blunting their scissors cutting tea coupons to provide food for mice.

I want also to protest against the practice of prosecuting well-known and respectable shopkeepers for overcharging ½d. or a ¼d., for which junior assistants are responsible. I saw a case in the courts where a firm was brought up for overcharging ½d. and heavily fined, although they were able to prove that they had 1,000,000 transactions. They took every conceivable precaution to avoid overcharging, and had notices in the shop begging anybody who thought they were overcharged to draw their attention to it. Because one junior assistant overcharged that firm was prosecuted. Surely that was not necessary. There ought to be some discretion shown before the Department institutes prosecutions of that kind, and there ought to be some evidence brought to the attention of the Minister which would lead him to believe that the price charged was in excess of the fixed price. When talking about the charging of excessive prices I wonder if another section of the Minister's Department investigated the prices charged by the Turf Development Board. I want to tell the House an illuminating story about what happened on one occasion, and I am telling it to the Minister so that he can investigate it. I understand that the Minister for Supplies may investigate the affairs of the Department of Industry and Commerce. The Turf Development Board produce good turf charcoal and quoted £7 10s. 0d. a ton and got an order, but when the time for delivery arrived the price had gone up to £15. There was to be no delivery until £15 was clapped on the table. The firm concerned said: "Very well, I suppose we have to stand and deliver." They sent a supplementary cheque. They then rang up the Turf Development Board to inform them that the lorry was going out, asking that their order should be ready. They were then informed that there was a little matter of £5 for which a cheque was wanted. When it was pointed out that there must be a mistake the reply was: "Oh, the price has gone up. The charge is now £20 a ton." I assure the House that at £20 a ton three tons were loaded on the lorry and brought home. If that is not an astronomical price I do not know what is. God help some unfortunate publican in Ballydehob if that happened. If it could be proved against him his name would stink in the nostrils of Caitlín Ní Houlihan. God knows if anybody did that kind of thing his name would deserve to stink in the nostrils of the public. If the facts as stated by me are true—and I know them to be true—the Minister when he comes to reply will, I hope, be good enough to deal with the matter.

There are all over the country large numbers of lorries laid up, on which the tyres are rotting, tanks leaking, and the batteries worn out. Owners would sooner have scrap prices than have their vehicles disintegrating. There is at present no means of turning these lorries to a useful purpose. The Minister has stated that they should be sold through the ordinary channels of trade. I do not know anybody who would buy a lorry at present. The Minister will not allow them to be sold in Northern Ireland and will not allow them to be renewed. If they are left as they are they will rot. Surely these lorries ought to be acquired or taken over by the Army, in view of the fact that there are men there to maintain them and to look after them. They could be sold at the end of the war. In the meantime these lorries could be kept in some state of repair and would give a great many fellows who, I suppose, are short of work, employment. If they were in charge of an Army maintenance staff they might turn in useful, and post-war might be sold, might be exported, or perhaps sold back to people who will require them, with the knowledge that they would be in good repair. Many of them are lorries that could do with an overhauling. Here you have a large staff of motor engineers attached to the Army, and I am sure that in their spare time they could find profitable occupation on that work. We would then have a guarantee that at the end of the emergency we would have a fleet of motor transport upon which we could depend until new vehicles are available through the ordinary channels of supply. After the emergency it will not be possible to buy a motor lorry in Eire for five years, because our place post-war, in priority of supply, is going to be very low, and a good deal of lorries of a commercial type will be required everywhere. It is a shame to let them rot away, especially when you consider that most of them have five heavy tyres, and all of them have batteries, which I am informed are practically impossible to get at the present time.

Another matter to which I want to refer is Irish Shipping, Limited. I have no desire to asperse in any way the directors of Irish Shipping, Limited. There are amongst them representatives of some of the oldest and most respected families in this country, men of whom any nation might be proud. But on more than one occasion here the Minister has sought to establish that, when speaking of Irish Shipping, Limited, we are speaking of five gentlemen who, without any reward whatever, are giving public service as directors of that board, and not infrequently he has compared Deputies in this House unfavourably with those gentlemen. On an occasion recently he said that Deputies are well paid for anything they do, whereas those men are doing all they are doing for nothing. I want definitely to lay that "codology," because "codology" it is. Technically, the five directors of Irish Shipping, Limited, receive no remuneration for their services.

The administration of Irish Shipping, Limited, does not arise on this Vote.

I listened to the Minister on Irish Shipping, Limited, for a quarter of an hour.

Not on this Vote.

The Minister has assured the Chair that the administration of Irish Shipping, Limited, does not arise on this Vote.

You let the Minister talk about it for a quarter of an hour yesterday. Surely I should be allowed to deal with it for five minutes to-day.

He debated the amount of essential commodities brought in by Irish ships.

He told us all about the "Irish Pine"——

Quite, but not about the board.

He was talking about ships; I want to talk about the board.

The administration of the board does not arise on this Estimate.

I do not want to talk about administration. All I want to talk about is their salary.

Does this Vote provide money for their payment? If so, would the Deputy indicate the heading under which provision is made?

Under the subsidies paid in respect of shipping costs, to which the Minister referred yesterday in relation to some import.

There is no such item in the Vote.

Would the Deputy indicate the heading?

You will get it under Food Subsidy; a large part of the food subsidy relates to the subsidy on wheat, which is paid largely to compensate for the freight charges.

That submission is far-fetched.

How long are we going to allow the Minister to wrap his activities in obscurity so as to prevent their being discussed in this House? All I want to say is that each of them, or the firms they represent, is earning about £20,000 a year, and to tell us they are getting nothing is just "cod." If I could become a director of Irish Shipping, Limited, on the same terms as any of those gentlemen, I would be paying income-tax on £20,000 per annum. Those are the facts.

If the members of that board receive no salary, the matter does not arise here.

But that is the ingenious trick, Sir. They get nothing as directors, but the five gentlemen represent the firms who manage the ships, and the commissions they get for managing the ships represent an income of at least £20,000 a year.

That statement is not true, and has no relevance to this Estimate.

It is most relevant to the Estimate.

The Chair does not think so.

If the Minister is allowed to speak on this matter for a quarter of an hour, surely I am entitled to a few minutes.

The Deputy may speak about Irish Shipping, but not the board, for whose alleged salary there is no provision in this Vote.

But that is the very thing I am complaining about. It ought to be there and it is not there. When they get it in a devious way, how are we to complain of that? Suppose we say: "Here is money laid out which ought to appear in the Estimates, but it is laid out in such a devious way that it is not allowed to appear in them?" This is the place to register a protest.

Unless the Deputy can show me where the moneys to which he refers are provided he may not deal with the matter.

My complaint is that it ought to be in the Estimate and it does not appear there. It is concealed, but it is none the less there. The Minister himself admits that he has most successfully designed the method of its payment so as to ensure that it will not appear on the face of the Estimate, because he wants to be in a position to say: "It is not in the Estimate; therefore, it cannot be referred to."

I have nothing whatever to do with it.

Those are the facts. As between ourselves and the directors of Irish Shipping, Limited, I am sure we are both doing our jobs to the best of our ability. With our modest £480 we pay our way as best we can, and I suppose the boys are getting on all right on their £20,000.

A matter was raised in Seanad Eireann yesterday by Senator Douglas, to which I want to refer. Deputies may remember that about three weeks ago I asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce a question relating to the proposal to apply the licensing system to the sale of textile goods in this country, and he replied that it was his intention to introduce such a scheme, because a practice had grown up of people running into shops and establishments of one kind or another and buying textiles, and then going out and selling them to other merchants at fancy prices. No one who knows the drapery trade will deny that that abuse has existed. I went on to ask the Minister a supplementary question as to whether it was true that part of the purpose of his licensing scheme was to confine the supply of textile goods to manufacturers; and, if so, whether he realised the consequences that that would bring down upon the country dressmaker, the country tailor and shopkeeper? He said he believed that this plan would result in a more abundant supply for those persons. But, now, what emerges? Within three weeks of that statement, I understand that he has made, or contemplates making, an Order confining all supplies of shirting to the makers-up and all supplies of linings to the ready-made manufacturers in urban centres.

I want to warn this House that if you permit the Minister for Supplies to limit the distribution of linings to the makers-up of ready-made clothing in urban centres you are going to carry destitution into hundreds of houses in this country. There is not one amongst us who does not know some widow in our own town who set up as a dressmaker and reared her family on her earnings, or some poor tailor who is having a hard enough time as it is, with the competition of Polikoffs and other firms who are prepared to make up clothing on merchants' measurements after those have been sent through the post to Dublin. The system was that if a man in a country town wanted to get a suit made, he bought the cloth and trimmings, and the tailor measured him and made up the suit for him. Most of those people are now catered for by the shopkeeper measuring the customer on a special measuring chart supplied by the makers-up here in Dublin, and sending the cloth to Dublin, where it is cut and made up, with the result that many a country tailor is half idle as it is. If all the linings which can be found are sent to the makers-up, it means that the country tailor may shut his shop, because no customer will cross his threshold, if he cannot bring the linings and trimmings, as no small country tailor has any stocks of them to carry on with.

The drapers' shops in rural Ireland have a department devoted to ladies' dress goods and 80 per cent. of the dress goods—I am not talking of Manchester goods—finds its way ultimately into the hands of the country dressmaker. She may be good or she may be bad, but whatever she is, she is earning her living. Usually, she is the mainstay of a family. As we all know, it is pretty rarely that a married woman keeps on her dressmaking business after she marries, unless she is widowed or has a sick husband. If you cut off the supply of linings and confine them to the makers-up in the City of Dublin, there is no use in a girl in the country buying a costume length: she cannot get the linings and buttons to trim it with, and no dressmaker can make it up without them. If every dress goods counter in Ireland is to find itself confronted with the situation that it has no linings or trimmings to supply with dress goods offered for sale, a third of the shop assistants in rural Ireland must go out of a job, since there will be nothing for them to do. Most of them are young people and, I suppose, they can go to England or fend for themselves in one way or another, though it is a great hardship that they should be sacrificed in order to enable a few warriors in back streets in Dublin to keep the wheels turning. I would be glad to see all the operatives in Dublin working, but I do not believe that every shopkeeper, dressmaker and tailor in rural Ireland should be sacrificed in order to keep four or five workshops open in Dublin, Cork and Limerick. Let justice be done, and let every one get a fair share. I do not want to see all the workshops in Dublin, Cork or Limerick closed in order to keep the country tailors at work, but neither should be wiped out.

There might be greater evidence of poverty amongst the families of those in the tailoring trade in Dublin than amongst the families of the country tailors or dressmakers, but those of us who know the interior, intimate life of the country tailor and dressmaker know that poverty may be just as near to their homes as to those of the factory worker in Dublin, but the country people, living in a country way, keep a better front. But take away that little source of income and some of the proud, dignified, self-supporting people will be turned paupers. The Taoiseach may dance a fandango, and say you cannot have omelettes without breaking eggs. You have no right to break eggs. It is contrary to justice to sacrifice one side of the community who pay their share of the public costs, and take away their right to live, in order to render another section completely immune. There ought to be justice between all parties. The operatives in this city have their trade unions to speak and agitate, but the people for whom I am speaking have no one—they have no cohesion, no organisation, no influence, and no pull. Nevertheless, they are an essential part of the social life of the country town and parish and of the rural district with which those of us who live in the country are familiar. We should protect them. I am warning this House that, unless it is made perfectly clear to the Minister now that Deputies will not stand for an abuse of that kind, every tailor and dressmaker in the country will be out of a job, and a large number of shop assistants as well. And remember that, in regard to a very large number of tailors and dressmakers in Ireland, if their trade connection is once broken, they are down and out and finished; they lose their skill and their connection and they never get back into it. It will be a cruel injustice if that is allowed to happen. In my opinion, it would be a great misfortune for the whole rural countryside.

I do not want to depart from the Minister's Estimate without saying this. I think it is pretty generally agreed by people on all sides—Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour, and others— that he has made a hell of a mess of it. There is no use in crying over spilt milk. He was always a bluffer— ever since he came into public life. The leopard does not change his spots. He bluffed his way in the period of emergency and the bluff was called. He had only four hearts and a club in his hand, and was trying to persuade the Powers of the world that he had a straight flush. Well, there is no use in crying over that: that milk has been spilt and we have to make the best of the situation in which we find ourselves. That is what is important. I suppose those of us who warned this House and the country against the danger of leaving a man of his character in the position in which the present Minister is would be entitled to a sort of bitter satisfaction in finding ourselves vindicated by events; but the time for that is not now. The difficulties are too great to allow people to derive any satisfaction from a vindication of that kind. The question is whether we have learned anything from the mistakes. I very much fear we have not. I think he is the same old bluffer and that he is getting ready to double the ante again, trusting that no one with a pair of threes will call him. It seems to be absolutely certain, however, that he will be called.

This emergency will go on for a long time and you cannot play poker against a situation of this kind if you have four hearts and a club in your hand. He thinks it is pedestrian and dull to play with a good hand, as it is not exciting. For the time being, I think we would all prefer someone who had a more pedestrian approach to the problem than this brilliant and scintillating Minister whom we have now. An opportunity will be provided shortly to make that change. I hope the country will make it. For that reason, I do not regard the future as being as gloomy as I otherwise might. I do not believe that you can get this man to do anything of an effective kind: I do not think it is in his nature to do it. I do not think he is fit for his job. We would be very ill employed arguing in this House on this Estimate, unless we had the hope of a chastening result from the impending general election. But with that in mind, I want to repeat what I have said repeatedly before. The greatest bargaining asset we could have with the British at the present time is a supply of barley.

Two years ago, I prepared and delivered to the Taoiseach a memorandum pointing out to him that, if he would arrange for the growing of sufficient quantities of barley in this country, we could use it as a bargaining counter with Great Britain, to secure supplies of wheat or of a variety of other valuable commodities of which we stand in need. On that occasion, the Taoiseach, with great civility, told me that the thing was impracticable and could not be done. Twelve months later, he found himself put to the pin of his collar, without any wheat, and trotted off to the British with Guinness's porter and swapped it for wheat. It does not take much intelligence to realise that Guinness's porter is barley. I put down a question in Dáil Eireann to ask when the practical difficulties which he then foresaw were overcome. He begged me to take the question off the Order Paper as, he said, it would embarrass the negotiations in train. I at once took it off the Order Paper. Within three months, he came in here, like a cat with two tails, to announce the marvellous achievement of his own project. I wish to make a suggestion to the Minister for Supplies—and I address him as a corporation sole, in the belief that some other man will occupy his seat after the next general election.

Does the Deputy really think that?

Well the wish is so much the father of the hope that I sometimes fear that I am permitting myself to be deceived, but in this case I think the wish is twin brother to the hope— an unusual situation, because one so seldom gets what one wants in this troubled world. On this occasion I address the Minister as a corporation sole. I think it is too late now to get anything effective done by the present Minister, but this is not going to be the last year of the emergency. There are several years ahead and I suggest to the Minister that he should take up with his colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, who, God grant, is a corporation sole, the question of getting produced from our own soil and resources an abundance of barely in the knowledge that (1) it is an invaluable bargaining counter in dealing with Britain whether it be used by them for brewing or distilling or as a bread admixture, that (2) it is a valuable potential constituent of our own bread supply, and (3) that it is a most valuable weapon against the wheat racketeers when they attempt to bring pressure to bear on the Government to jack up the price of wheat. I suppose they are even now gnashing their teeth or blooding their claws to raise the price of wheat by blackmailing the promoters of the wheat policy and the Government will have to stop that blackmail.

By whom?

Deputy Allen will be attending meetings of wheat growers at which the scarcity of artificial manures will be discussed. Having discussed their inability to get manures somebody will say at the end of the meeting, "unless we can get manures we cannot grow wheat." Then it will be urged upon the Government that as less wheat will be grown the price will have to be raised. Deputy Allen will reluctantly find himself constrained to agree to that plea.

Who are the blackmailers?

Those who are trying to jack up the price of wheat at the expense of the population because they think they have the Government where they want them. I warned the Minister for Agriculture and the Taoiseach that this blackmailing would begin at some time and that they must arm themselves with weapons to fight the blackmailers at the earliest possible opportunity, but they did not take my word and the process has now begun——

Is that why you left the Farmers' Party?

I began in this House as a member of the Farmers' Party and I have never left it. I am now perhaps the only effective Farmers' Party in the Dáil. I now suggest that they store all the barley they possibly can for the three purposes I have outlined. If the Minister for Supplies, the present occupant of the office, gives an undertaking to give effect to those suggestions I would even suspect myself that he showed signs of reform. However, it is pretty certain that he will not. Therefore, we may all look forward with complacency to the general election that lies ahead, which will have only one redeeming feature. Undoubtedly, it will place this country in great peril, but it will remove from it the incubus of the Ministers for Supplies and Agriculture, and if we can get rid of them, it will be well worth experiencing the great danger which an election at this stage entails.

It may have even a better result than that.

I could not conceive a better result.

The Minister in the latter portion of his statement yesterday evening said that he hoped that contributions to the discussion would be of a constructive character. It appears to me that we might have expected that with more confidence if the Minister had taken the precaution of committing his statement to paper and issuing it to Deputies. In the course of his statement he had to give the House quite a number of figures, percentages and so on. It was not so easy to follow them and at a later stage—I think it was in answer to Deputy Belton—the Minister added something which he had not got in his statement. I am not making that statement positively but that is my impression because I took down what the Minister said. He did not give us the letters "c.i.f.". If he did they escaped my memory.

Is the Deputy referring to the import price of wheat?

I did certainly.

It is strange that I took it down, but I have not got these letters added. However, that is a small matter. Speaking for myself, I should say that I have very little hope of impressing upon the Minister or the Ministry any views with regard to supplies. I think that the administration of the affairs of this country from the commencement of the emergency up to date has been simply deplorable. The worst feature was, perhaps—though this is not exactly the Minister's responsibility, but rather that of his colleague, the Minister for Agriculture—that during a period of almost 12 months they allowed to go practically unchecked a foot-and-mouth epidemic in this country. The Minister may reasonably ask what that question has to do with this debate. During the period of that epidemic our imports naturally decreased, and by the time we had some agricultural produce to export, the price which had to be paid for imports which we did get had risen considerably. While the epidemic cost us £500,000 by way of loss of stock which had to be slaughtered, it is more than possible that the increase in the price of goods which had to be imported, and the fact that we had to do without them during the period of the epidemic cost us four or five times that amount.

How would the epidemic increase the price of imported articles?

We exported practically nothing during that period and, consequently, we imported nothing. If the Minister will look at the returns for that period he will find that our imports diminished as our exports diminished.

But they did not.

I think the Minister will find that they did catastrophically.

The diminution in exports did not reduce imports by one ton.

At a time of emergency like this when shipping space is at a premium, does the Minister not know that no country, belligerent or otherwise, is going to send out full ships if they are to return empty, particularly a country like Britain which, at that particular time, had no shipping to spare? The Minister's attempt to explain away that is typical of the entire Government approach to this matter.

Does the Deputy suggest that there were goods waiting to be shipped at the other side and that there were no ships to convey them?

Certainly. Our exports went down and our imports went down also. We had no agricultural exports during this period and consequently we had no imports or at least our imports were very substantially reduced. That is my case for saying that there is no hope whatever for the future of this country under the control of the present Government. The view which the people of this country hold of the men responsible for that condition of affairs is such that these men will not be in their offices after the next two or three months. There is no question about that. You may humbug the people for a long time but not for all of the time.

I turn next to the question of the administration of this office. The Minister, last week, in reply to a question by Deputy Pattison, dealing with advertisements in the Kilkenny People, said that he had intended to give the editor of that paper an interview but that in view of an article which appeared in it he had decided otherwise. I have already pointed out many times to members of the Ministry that this country is not theirs, that it belongs to the people, that they are expected to administer the affairs of the country fairly and justly, that they have neither right nor title to parcel out in a corrupt or unfair manner any patronage or power they have got. The Minister has no right whatever to refuse advertisements to that newspaper, merely because it criticises either him or members of his Government.

That is not the reason they were refused at all.

That is stated now. What was the reason for saying that, in view of an article which appeared in that newspaper, the Minister would not see the gentleman concerned?

I declined to be blackmailed by personal abuse into giving advertisements to a newspaper which would not otherwise get them.

That newspaper has a larger circulation than any other paper in these counties. The information which the Government has got for the people of this country is for the people, and it should be got to them through and by the means which is most extensive. I say that it is corrupt and verging upon the criminal to refuse to publish in that newspaper information which is for the people. Would the Minister explain in the course of his reply why it is that another newspaper here in Dublin has cause for complaint in connection with the issue of newsprint?

That arises on the Vote for the Department of Industry and Commerce.

And does the same apply to the Kilkenny People? Then, I have this to say, that it is more and more clear that the same Minister ought not to have charge of Supplies and Industry and Commerce. It is enough, and apparently too much, to give him either one or the other of these two offices. It is far beyond his capacity to deal with the two of them.

With regard to prosecutions, it is quite true, as the law stands, or rather under this endless circulation of decrees and amendments of decrees, the Minister has the power to withdraw a licence once given, but he has not the right to do it on an improper basis. If, by reason of a breach of the law, a person is convicted in court, a penalty is fixed and the judge appointed in accordance with the laws of this State administers the law in the court. No second court is provided for. The Minister is not a judge; no official in his Department is a judge; and no exercise of the power of administration gives the Minister the power which should be only that of a judge. He can, if he wishes, place amongst the penalties a fine and loss of a licence. He can have that dealt with by the court and let it be part of the penalty, but he has no moral right to assume power to prosecute and power to take revenge. If the Minister knew his Scripture properly, he would know that "‘Revenge is mine,' saith the Lord." It is not the Minister's, and he cannot afford to usurp a power which is not his. He had better put that matter right and let the courts decide the penalties following prosecution and conviction.

I should say, speaking again for myself, that it appears to me that the manner of bringing prosecutions which has been the practice for some months past in the Minister's Department is little short of a joke. It is a mockery. An officer from the Minister's Department calls upon a man engaged in business and puts to him a proposition that he should buy sugar from him or sell sugar to him. He gains the man's consent, and the transaction is completed. The man is prosecuted, but he is not prosecuted in one of the courts set up for the purpose. He is prosecuted before the Military Tribunal. That officer of the Minister's Department is, in essence, the Minister, and he enters into and perpetrates a criminal act. The Minister is the criminal in that case.

What respect will there be for either the law or the administration of the law if no person in the State, when he interviews an official, can be satisfied in his mind that he will not be tempted to a breach of the law? Are Ministers above the law? Are the officials of the State above the law? If they do not keep the law, is it not to be expected that ordinary citizens, who are taxed to pay Ministers' salaries and officials' salaries, will in future be suspicious of every official calling upon them, fearing they might be tempted to break the law? These agents provocateurs constituted one of the complaints against the British administration here. They were held in contempt by every public man and private citizen in the State at the time, and were denounced on all sides. Have we lived through these years to reach a position when a miserable number of prosecutions are brought, in the first place, and, in the second, when the most notorious of them is the result of the criminal act of a Minister of State and officials of his Ministry? If the Minister wants constructive suggestions, I put it to him that that should stop. Whether it will be possible to get back any respect for the Ministry once it is stopped, I cannot say, but at any rate there can be no respect while that practice is in operation.

We hear on occasion of new regulations in the form of restriction or impositions of one kind or another. This time 12 months, we put it to the Minister that, before embarking on any new series of regulations, restrictions or impositions, the persons engaged in the trade ought to be consulted, that in the case of a neighbouring country very much larger than this country and having a much more extensive industrial business than we have, that system had been in operation practically since the commencement of the emergency, and that it had worked well. Here we have had recently quite a plethora of communications to the Press, addresses by people in business and so on regarding their complaints about prices. When there is a dispute or an application in connection with an increase in wages a tribunal is set up to consider both sides of the case. Both sides are heard, the matter is investigated thoroughly, and a decision is given by an impartial appointee of the Minister, but one outside the service. I should like to know what happens with regard to this matter of prices. Is the matter decided behind closed doors, without taking the advice of the people who are concerned in the matter and who would be able to give an expert opinion? I suggest to the Minister that some such body as that which considers applications for increases in wages should be set up to consider the matter of the control and fixing of prices.

I would also put this constructive suggestion to the Minister: that there should be an issue of sugar for the manufacture of jam. I think it would be very unfortunate if, as a result of the non-issue of sugar in this country, the fruit available for the manufacture of jam should be lost. This is a period of stress in which we cannot afford any loss of that kind, and however big the drain may be on the reserves of sugar, I think it would be better in the interests of our people as a whole that an issue of sugar should be made for that purpose. While I am on that point, I should like to know why it was decided that there should be an importation of oats some time ago. I am presuming that the oats came in through the shipping company that was set up by the State. Now, the price at which it came in was 35/-. Is there any person in this country, with oats available, who if he were offered 35/-, would not have been willing to sell? Why then, if it were so expensive, could not some other commodity have been selected for import rather than oats at 35/-? It was most expensive from many angles. If we take one angle that, perhaps, might appeal more to the Minister than others, I might point out that in the judgment of his colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, the price of oats was fixed at 25/8 as the maximum that could be given to anybody in this country for oats last year. Why not have imported sugar? Was it not anticipated that there would have been a sugar shortage? I suggest that a greater saving, from the national point of view, could have been effected by the importation of sugar for the manufacture of jam, rather than by the importation of oats, because it would have meant that we could have put an extra foodstuff on the market.

The figures that the Minister gave us in connection with the price of wheat appear to me to be very different from the figures that were given to us some 12 or 18 months ago. My recollection is that the price then was far greater than this 50/7, c.i.f., and perhaps the Minister will tell us what has happened in regard to the fall in price. Has there been a reduction in respect of freight or insurance charges, and would he give us some information regarding the profits of the Irish Shipping Company—profits that have been made in connection with the transport of those goods? Would he tell us to what purpose those profits are being devoted; whether they come into the Exchequer or whether it has been found that the original charges for freight were excessive and that it was found possible to reduce them?

The last item about which I should like to say a word is turf. I think that of all the ghastly failures for which this Government were responsible, the greatest is in connection with the turf business. I have experience of turf in two houses— an office and a house. I would not say that the quality of the turf could be given a certificate by even the most optimistic supporter of the Minister. Assuming that the figure we got yesterday, of 87/6, is correct, the price is absolutely prohibitive. This is apparently a kind of a step-ladder arrangement, where everybody puts on something in order to increase the price. The last time we heard of a synthetic price here it was 85/—the Minister's own figure—and it has gone up by 2/6 since. It does not surprise me in the least that persons engaged on the bogs in this country are not looking for increases in wages. The information that was given to us at the meeting of the county surveyors some 12 or 18 months ago—within the last couple of years at any rate—was that turf was being produced in certain bogs in the country for about 10/- a ton.

What bogs?

Down in Mayo. That was the cost, of course, of production in the bogs before the turf was taken out of the bog or put on rail. It was the first operation and, probably, the cheapest one of the lot, but 10/- was the figure. By the time that turf gets up here, evidently, there are all kinds of extravagant costs added on, but does it not seem extraordinary that there should be a cost of 87/6 a ton by the time it gets here? Can the Minister tell us whether the turf transported by the Turf Development Board, or Fuel Importers, Limited, or whatever combination of these bodies and his Ministry are responsible for the cartage of turf up to Dublin, cannot be stopped at, let us say, Lucan or Celbridge, to supply the people there, instead of having to come up to Dublin and then having to be brought back there again?

This business, of course, was managed in the usual way in which a Government or a municipality goes into it. If it can spend money extravagantly, it will do so. I think that any business person in this country that you could ask at any given moment to handle this matter would be able to beat that price of 87/6. I understand also that the county councils have suffered a loss that is not provided for here. I hope that that is not correct. Was there ever an attempt made to put this matter on a business basis? Did any single Department of State undertake this business of the transportation of turf? You have two Departments: one is the Board of Works and the other is the Army. Could they not have done it more cheaply than at this prohibitive and exorbitant price that we have to-day? Did they get in any better quality of turf? Some time ago I put some questions to the Minister regarding the quality of the turf sold in Cork. The people there, as a matter of fact, have nothing to tell me about the inferior quality of the turf we are getting, because I saw it here in Dublin and I know it. I did not see it in Cork, but I was told that the quality was not good, and at £4 7s. 6d. a ton there is still a bill to be met by the county council. The Minister wants constructive suggestions. What constructive suggestions does he expect me to make in regard to that matter? I suggest that the most constructive suggestion I could make would be that he and his Government should clear out before the people take the matter into their own hands.

It is rather a good thing that this Estimate has followed the Estimate for the Department of Justice. During the discussion on the Estimate for the Department of Justice, the Minister for Justice proved himself a very dismal Jerry. He told us that crime had increased by 200 per cent. In the course of the discussion on that Estimate it was made clear that that increase in crime was due mainly to the maladministration of supplies; that it was due to the fact that the ordinary channels for the distribution of supplies had been upset and disorganised and, as a result, people were engaged in exchanging commodities by other means than through the lawful channels and that was the real reason why crime has increased to such an extent. It is, therefore, upon the shoulders of the Minister for Supplies that we can place the entire responsibility for the enormous increase in crime which has taken place in this country.

That is another new one.

Through his maladministration, through his failure to provide the people with essential requirements, through his failure to ensure that what supplies were available would be equally distributed, he has created an illegal trade in every sphere of activity. Heretofore the ordinary citizen purchased the things he required from a lawfully established retailer; the retailer purchased his requirements from the wholesaler or the importer. To-day the citizen who requires certain essential commodities must make contact with, perhaps, some absolute stranger. We have heard and read of large sums of money changing hands in public houses and at street corners for goods and, so long as that situation prevails, is it not certain that the criminal, the person who is out to rob and to defraud, will get ample opportunity for so doing? Heretofore the thief had few opportunities of securing a market for articles he unlawfully appropriated. Now he has ample opportunities provided for him through the failure of the Minister for Supplies to do his job.

In addition to that, there is an attempt being made to squeeze out of business the small businessman. His business has been surrounded by every form of restriction and control and, not alone is he subject to drastic penalties under the various emergency Orders, but, in addition, he is likely to be subject to the wiping out of his business by the Minister for Supplies. Nothing can justify that form of tyranny. It is criminally unjust to take from a man his means of livelihood. A citizen who is brought into court, and tried, knows the charge that is preferred against him and knows the penalty which is likely to be imposed upon him. But when, in addition to that, a Government Department, without any court procedure, without any tribunal or trial, proceeds to wipe that man's business out of existence, it is time for the House to call a halt.

Most of us in this country have sprung from farming stock. Our people fought hard to secure fixity of tenure in their homes. That is the principle which formed the backbone of the national movement. It was and is the accepted principle that a man must be secure in his means of livelihood. To-day the small businessman who has built up a connection finds, as a result of the action of a Government Department, his entire business wiped out, his home gone and his family left without means of existence. That is one of the greatest injustices that could be imposed upon the people. It is being imposed on small businessmen by a Department which has proved itself, and by a Minister who has proved himself, incapable of performing even ordinary duties.

The Minister may find shelter behind the fact that he has under his control a number of Departments. If he is criticised for his action in one particular connection, he can say that that is the function of the Department of Industry and Commerce. It is difficult for Deputies to distinguish between the Minister's functions as Minister for Industry and Commerce and as Minister for Supplies. One would imagine that the main business of the Department of Supplies is, first, to make supplies available and, secondly, when they are available, to distribute them. Yet, yesterday, when the Minister for Supplies was questioned in regard to the newsprint for one newspaper, he found shelter in the plea that that was the function of the Department of Industry and Commerce. What the Department of Industry and Commerce could have to do with the distribution of newsprint, which is imported, it is difficult to understand. The Minister is developing into a kind of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and it is impossible to follow his activities.

In connection with one of his activities for which, I think, he acknowledges responsibility as Minister for Supplies, he said that over 500,000 tons of merchandise were brought in last year by Irish Shipping, Limited, and that 55,000 tons were conveyed by other companies. It would be of great interest to know how much of these supplies represented foodstuffs, and how much manufactured articles or other essential requirements, such as artificial manures and raw materials for the manufacture of goods which could not, under any circumstances, be produced here. It is quite clear that a very large proportion of the shipping provided by Irish Shipping, Limited, is being utilised for the importation of goods, such as foodstuffs, which could have been produced here if the Minister and his colleagues had done their job properly. There is no doubt that the area under tillage was not stepped up quickly enough early in the emergency. It could have been done if the Departments concerned had realised the magnitude of the problem they were up against in providing food for our human and animal population. If they had realised that, and were responsible men, they would have provided, in the first year of the emergency, sufficient money to make that increased production possible. To finance that rapid and extensive expansion in tillage might have entailed the floating of a loan of £20,000,000, but such a step would have been amply justified by the results. Because of the failure of the Minister to ensure that sufficient supplies of wheat for essential foodstuffs were produced here, a vast amount of Irish shipping has had to be devoted to the importation of food, and the lives of Irish sailors have had to be sacrificed to bring to this country essential requirements which the Irish farmer and farm worker could have produced if given the opportunity, with the necessary remuneration, equipment and finance, to carry out the operation. Last year we had to import a considerable quantity of wheat. We also had to import sugar. That would not have been necessary if adequate steps had been taken to ensure that our production was brought up to the necessary standards.

I think there is no justification whatever for the Minister's statement that the consumption of butter has increased by 126,000 cwts. I do not know where he got that figure. A very large percentage of our butter is produced on the farms and sold locally. Therefore, it would be impossible for the Minister or the Government to check up on production or consumption. Those with a knowledge of rural conditions are aware that home-produced butter has fallen by at least one-third of what it was before the emergency. That is the real cause of the present serious shortage. Does anyone imagine that the action of the Minister in fixing the present price for butter will bring about increased production? Is it not obvious that it will still further depress production? In addition, retailers are being cut down to a margin of profit which will drive them completely out of the business. That will mean that, in a short time, butter will not come on the markets at all, but will be sold through other channels than retailers. That is just another example of the way in which people are being driven out of old established businesses by the incompetence of the Minister's Department, and of the creation of new and irregular methods in the distribution of supplies which make for dishonesty and for criminal activities in every shape and form.

I would like to draw attention to a matter that is mentioned in the Estimate, namely, that quite a considerable number of the officials in the Minister's Department who have control over the distribution of supplies —321 temporary clerical assistants—are earning salaries of 19/- per week. They have charge; to a large extent, of the distribution of goods here. They have very far-reaching power over the business of the entire community. Does anyone suggest that officials remunerated on that basis are qualified, or could be expected to be qualified, to take over such serious and responsible positions? I know, of course, that there is some bonus attached to the 19/-.

Some? The Deputy should have found out something about it before he proceeded to talk about it.

I am giving the figures which appear here.

The Deputy could easily have found out about it by asking somebody who knew.

I know that these temporary officials are paid a very small remuneration. I do not believe that they have the necessary qualifications to discharge the important functions which are placed upon them. They have the function of regulating supplies of essential commodities.

They have not. They have the job of addressing envelopes.

The Minister may try to get away with it that way, but those who know anything about the Department of Supplies know the way things are managed there. They know that the junior officials there have very far-reaching powers. They deal with correspondence and with application forms, and by their method of doing so they may, and very often do, deprive people of supplies which they require or delay the issue of supplies for such a prolonged period that when they eventually reach the people for whom they are intended they may be of no use to them. That is why I say these officials have very important functions. I told the Minister before, and think it necessary to repeat it, that the whole system of controlling the distribution of supplies is wrong. The centralisation of this Department in the City of Dublin is also wrong. It is impossible for a staff centred in this city to understand the needs of the rural population: the small farmer, the small trader, the tradesman in our rural towns and villages. Therefore, they have to be guided by the correspondence received. They have no actual contact with the people who make the written applications and whose interests are involved. If the Minister were wise he would accept the suggestion which I made to him already, namely, that in every area a responsible person would be put in charge of the distribution of supplies so as to ensure close personal contact between the Department and the people interested. I move to report progress.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.