Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 13 Nov 1946

Vol. 103 No. 5

Industrial Alcohol (Amendment) Bill, 1946—Money Resolution. - Industrial Alcohol (Amendment) Bill, 1946—Committee.

Sections 1 to 3 inclusive agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 4 stand part of the Bill."

On Section 4, on the Second Reading the Minister explained to the House that the purpose of the measure was to enable the company to carry out certain investigations regarding the possibility of manufacturing certain chemicals here. I was rather dubious about the proposal because of the record of this company and the promises that were made by the Minister when this company was set up. The Minister stated definitely that the company would produce industrial alcohol at 1/9 per gallon. So far as I know, they never were able at any time to produce alcohol at less than 3/6 a gallon; recently, in fact, the price of industrial alcohol has risen to 7/6 a gallon. When we remember that industrial alcohol has only two-thirds the propulsion power of petrol and that petrol can be bought at 8.9d. per gallon, we can draw our own conclusions. In the extension of powers the Minister suggested that one particular chemical was contemplated which might be produced here, namely, sulphate of ammonia. The Minister has made no attempt to convince the House as to the possibilities of producing sulphate of ammonia here at an economic price. I am concerned with the proposal from the agricultural point of view. Any man who has any experience of agriculture realises the very narrow margin that accrues to the primary producer if we are to have an exportable surplus and if we are to export that surplus in competition with countries able to produce under more favourable conditions and who can get the raw material necessary for production much more cheaply than a similar article produced here. A higher price than the price of the imported article would be a serious handicap. I am not opposed to producing sulphate of ammonia here if it can be produced at a comparable price.

I am vigorously opposed to any project which will increase the price of raw material to the agriculturist. We discussed this matter before and the Minister quibbled with me in relation to the tariff on superphosphates. I did not advert on that occasion to how carefully he put in Great Britain at that discussion; subsequently I looked at the report on the importation of superphosphates from Great Britain and I discovered that we have never imported phosphates from Great Britain. In the past I have imported large quantities of Belgian phosphate myself, equal to the best manufactured here or in Great Britain. The Minister misrepresented me when he said that I was opposed to the manufacture of superphosphate here. Before ever his tariff was put on superphosphate was manufactured here in competition with Belgian superphosphate. I remember after the last war when continental superphosphate was allowed in here the home manufacturers had to sit up and do their job; in a year or two they were able to sell in competition with continental imports. The Minister's quibbling is not to his credit. I looked up, too, the customs list and on page 96 of the 1938 Customs and Excise Tariff List, reference No. 245, "superphosphate, ground mineral phosphates and compound manures ad valorem 20 per cent.", and then there is a preferential "United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries, free."

Does the Deputy want to make a Second Reading speech?

I think I am entitled to reply to the Minister's misrepresentation.

To the alleged misrepresentation, but the Deputy is not entitled to make a speech.

I have not been very long on the matter and I am just on the point of finishing. We did provide a subsidy here which was supposed to help the agricultural community, but the entire subsidy went to the manufacturers.

Sulphate of ammonia is a very important raw material for agriculture. The Minister has not attempted to give any idea of how it can be produced here, so as to give that essential raw material to the agricultural community at a competitive price. If an examination is to be made, an independent commission ought to be set up to investigate the matter. If this company is to manufacture sulphate of ammonia, it ought to give evidence and show its capacity to do so, by convincing an independent commission as to the possibility of the project.

Here is a State board, manned by a group of men drawing salaries. It is a nominal company in which they have no shares, but administering with funds provided by this House. The men on that board will be anxious to keep their jobs, and whether it is an economic proposition for this country or not, they are not going to say whether it is wise of this country to launch this company into the manufacture of sulphate of ammonia. The Minister finished his speech with a challenge. He defended the wisdom of starting this industrial alcohol company, and wound up by saying that it could be possible that the Government would decide for one or the other and see if it would be better business to turn them into some other form of production. I venture to say the decision has been already made. The Minister wants to save his face. He is turning this company over to other interests. He is going to burden the raw material of our primary industry by making it pay a higher price than British or North of Ireland farmers have to pay. I could not support Section 4.

I charge that the Minister, when making a case for Section 4, for the extension of the powers of this company, made three catagorical statements which are not true—plain and unadorned—are not true. In the first of these statements he said:—

"It is very important to get these fertilisers lest an emergency should come upon the country similar to that through which we have passed. In the emergency which has passed it was a comforting thing to know that if the supply of petrol dried up, we had the means, through the industrial alcohol factories, of providing a substitute power fuel which would have taken its place."

That statement is not true. Industrial alcohol will not drive an internal combustion engine under any circumstances and the Minister must know that.

Is the Deputy speaking to Section 4 or answering a Second Reading speech?

I am dealing with the proposal to extend the functions of the factory. What the Minister may have referred to was that it was possible to manufacture what is called naphtha which, I believe, is manufactured from tar, which could be got by a further process of distillation of industrial alcohol, and a combination of straight industrial alcohol with ether. Such a proportion would cost £1 a gallon at least. He knows that it is not a substitute for petrol, and that it could not be used as a sufficient quantity could not be got to carry out the second distillation process to make it worth while. Therefore, that ground for extending the powers of the company falls to the ground. The second statement of the Minister which I declare to be not true is set out in column 538, where he says:—

"At the beginning of the war arrangements were speedily completed for the manufacture of sulphate of ammonia, and to undertake the manufacture of that commodity in this country, and it was only the advent of the war that prevented this scheme being carried to completion."

I refer the House to Vol. 29 of the Official Debates, cols. 925-926, where the Minister for Agriculture stated:

"I have a confession to make to Deputy Dillon and others, and it is that only for me we could have had any amount of nitrogen during the war. The Minister for Industry and Commerce had a proposal submitted to him prior to the war by an outside firm to set up here a plant for the manufacture of sulphate of ammonia. They were prepared to guarantee that the price would not exceed 10 per cent. over the price of sulphate of ammonia manufactured in Great Britain. I, as Minister for Agriculture, held that even 10 per cent. was too big a margin, and that it should be sold at a price no higher than that of sulphate of ammonia manufactured in Great Britain, and because of this attitude of mine the firm concerned would not go on with the scheme."

Either of these Ministers is stating in this House something that is not true. I believe the Minister for Agriculture. On a third charge, I want the Minister for Industry and Commerce to tell us that his statement on a previous occasion was not true.

Is the Deputy answering a Second Reading speech?

The Deputy has not referred to any other activities of this company yet.

Yes, Sir, sulphate of ammonia. The third point is at present in hands. He says that the company is about to produce not only industrial alcohol but a spirit which served its purpose during the war, but was not good enough.

"They (the Industrial Alcohol Company) are satisfied, however, that they can produce a very fine neutral spirit which will be readily accepted by hospitals, laboratories and industrial users, and they are installing a plant for that purpose."

In the same speech he said that one of the prime concerns was to ensure that no future activities will conflict with industrial undertakings carried on by private enterprise. I challenge the Minister that there is a firm in Cork producing the most highly rectified spirit, which will compete with the highest grade alcohol produced in any country, and the plant to produce it is installed at the moment.

Either of the statements made by the Minister must be untrue. Either he is going to compete with the firm which is already producing highly rectified spirit or else this new company can never undertake this production. I warn this House that under all the decorative language employed in Section 4, there are two purposes— possibly three, but certainly two. The first purpose is to defeat the Minister for Agriculture, who is a weak and flaceid man. The truth is that the Minister for Industry and Commerce has got him down and the only petition of the Minister for Agriculture is: "If you are going to roll me in the dirt, at least do it under the rules", and so, sulphate of ammonia is not going to be brought in as sulphate of ammonia. It is going to be brought in as an alternative occupation, initiated subsequent to a period of research, adumbrated and encouraged by Dáil Éireann in the new company which used to rejoice in the name of the Industrial Alcohol Company. When that industry is established in this country, quality for quality sulphate of ammonia will cost our people 15 to 20 per cent. more than it costs our competitors in Denmark, Holland or Belgium. If you want to take a broad average of manure for a statute acre of land in this country, it will be 4 cwt. of "super", 1 cwt. of muriate of potash and 1 cwt. of sulphate of ammonia and for such cwt. of sulphate of ammonia, if you pass Section 4—face up to it—you are putting a tax of 2/- to 3/- on every farmer in the country who uses it. That means that on every acre of Irish land that is manured hereafter, you are going to put a tax of 2/- to 3/- and for what purpose? To provide a respectable funeral for this rotten fraud, the Industrial Alcohol Company.

Ní glactar le fáidh in a dhúithche fein.

Unlike Deputy Kennedy, I do not begin my speech with "A Chairde" and then go on in English. I am not competent to make a speech in Irish, though I can speak the language a great deal better than some of the fellows who think they are. I know my own limitations.

The interjection was made to suggest that I was a kind of West Briton, antagonistic to——

Ní headh, Dúirt mé nach nglactar le fáidh in a dhúithche fein. Ní dúirt me a thuilleadh, ach an sean-fhocal sin.

Bi id' thost. I put this case. Our people cannot compete in the British market if they have to carry a burden of taxation put on in order to cover up the grosser foibles of the Fianna Fáil administration. This is going to mean a tax of 2/6 per cwt. on sulphate of ammonia. I am selling it every day and I know what I am talking about.

What has this to do with Section 4?

You want to extend the facilities for this company in order to facilitate them in manufacturing sulphate of ammonia.

Not by this Bill.

There is no green in my eye. The Minister wants to wriggle out of the grip he is in. He is not going to get away with this Bill and throw dust in the people's eyes. This Bill is a Bill designed——

This section is designed to give the company power which will culminate in the institution of an industry in this country which will put a tax on every acre of arable land in the country. Let no one close his eyes to the fact that if you vote for this section you vote for a tax in perpetuity. Every acre of arable land in this country, which uses this product, will have to bear a tax and then the farmers are asked to sell their produce on the British market, the only market we have, in competition with farmers from other countries who have not to bear such a tax. It cannot be done and if you go on doing that you will wreck the agricultural industry in this country as the pig industry has been wrecked, as the egg industry has been wrecked and as the butter industry has been wrecked.

The Deputy is making a Second Reading speech.

Are you going to forbid us pointing out what the Minister is up to? I know that is his sole purpose.

The pig industry has nothing to do with the section.

What do we feed pigs with? We feed pigs on potatoes. Ask the Minister for Agriculture, who tells us what to do to grow potatoes. He tells us that we cannot grow potatoes successfully unless we use 4 cwt. of super, 1 cwt. of muriate of potash and 1 cwt. of sulphate of ammonia per acre. Is that not true? I remember that Minister saying that one of the reasons for closing down the alcohol factory was that there were better uses to which we might put potatoes. What are these better uses? To feed pigs. I have been feeding pigs and I know the reason I do not get the same return out of my land in the way of potatoes is that I have not got sulphate of ammonia. I do not blame the Minister for that. He could not get it but the moment the markets of the world begin to open to me to enable me to get sulphate of ammonia to ensure a better yield of potatoes and to enable me to produce pigs at a price which will permit me to compete on the British market, the Minister for Industry and Commerce is going to come in and, in the teeth of the Opposition and the Minister for Agriculture, is going to put a tax on sulphate of ammonia whether the Minister for Agriculture likes it or not. You are all going to help him. And 90 per cent. of the Deputies represent the farmers!

Would the Deputy indicate how under Section 4 such industries could be protected?

Fortunately, Sir, I have detected the Minister in his extremely astute method of achieving his purpose. The section says:—

"(c) that the principal objects of the company shall include—

(i) the manufacture, refining and sale of industrial alcohol and products and derivatives thereof, and

(ii) the making, aiding or subsidising of experiments, investigations, researches and tests in relation to the possibilities of the manufacture of any substance, all or any of which is produced or obtained by chemical process."

Experiments, not manufacture.

This company is going to report, and the jobs of the boys in this company depend on the reporting, that they are fit to do it. Remember the alternative to their being fit to do it is that they must go out of existence. Did you ever yet see a man with a good job in this country reporting himself out of existence? Remember that if this report comes in here we shall be told that we are all poor ignorant "crumpauns" sitting on these benches and that the learned men in Carrickmacross have reported that they are able to manufacture sulphate of ammonia, if we put up £1,000,000 to enable them to extract nitrogen and hydrogen from the air. Then when we have spent the £1,000,000 and someone suggests that we should blow up the factory, we shall be asked: "Do you want to blow up the factory after we have spent so much money on it?" When we point out that sulphate of ammonia is costing more than it cost pre-war, we shall be told that we are sabotaging Irish industry. I move to report progress.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.