I always understood that the business of an Opposition was opposition, and that the business of any Opposition is to criticise Government proposals. When the Minister stands up and throws out the taunt that we are rising merely to make political speeches, he is dragging a red herring into the debate. I, for one, want to try to see a picture of this country as a whole. I want to try to see what are the fundamental conditions affecting our economic and social position, and by a reasonable discussion of these matters, try to evolve some social and economic system which will keep our people at home on the land and in industry.
I shall first address myself to what I regard as the salient features here as disclosed by the recent census. Our population has declined by 15,000. The male population has declined by 26,000 odd, but there is a slight increase in the female population—8 per cent. Emigration over the past 10 years amounted to 190,000 approximately. Some 19,000 people per year left the shores of this country, perhaps, never to come back. There is a slight improvement in the ratio of our female population to the male population, 976 compared with 952 per 1,000.
But Dublin City and County is growing at an appalling rate. We have an increase there of some 48,000. Our towns, in certain cases, are just about holding their own. The rural population has declined. Despite the fact that approximately one-quarter of our population is now in the metropolitan area of Dublin, there has been an actual emigration of males from Dublin to the tune of 16,000. I am not stating any of these facts for political reasons. I am trying to show to the hard-headed gentlemen on the opposite benches some of the results of their policy. At the present time Dublin, including the city, the county, and Dun Laoghaire, contains 635,876 people or three out of every 14 of our population.
We are rapidly getting to the position France was in in 1937, 1938 and 1939, with a swollen head, Paris over-populated and the rest of the country declining. The head got too large for the body. When you consider this truncated body, with perhaps six of our best counties severed from it, the position from the economic and from the social point of view must give serious thought to anybody who tries to analyse the figure in a reasonable way. Industrial, commercial and governmental activities in this country are concentrated to an extraordinary extent in Dublin. That, I hold, has a bearing upon our figures of emigration and figures of population. I cannot get any recent figures but, according to the census of distribution of industry in 1936, this was the position, and I claim that the figures under the new census disclose a position which will be much worse. One-third of the persons engaged in non-agricultural production are within the metropolitan area of Dublin; one-third of the persons engaged in the distribution of goods and services are to be found within metropolitan Dublin; one-third of the professions are concentrated in Dublin; and one-fourth of our public administration is concentrated there, if not more now. Three-fifths of the non-agricultural production in the entire country is concentrated in Dublin.
There are clearly stark, staring, hard facts there which the Government ought to analyse and ask themselves: what are we going to do about the situation? Have we any policy in relation to the location of industries? Are we going to devolute, to decentralise? Are we going to put industries in the rural areas? Are we going to give county boroughs, cities and large towns their fair proportion of Irish industrial development? I see no evidence of it up to date. I see no evidence of a long-term national policy emerging from the opposite benches on these matters.
I know that there are great difficulties in decentralising industries. I am not suggesting for a moment that old-established industries can be shifted from access to rail or water transport facilities. But I do suggest that many light industries which are at present being embarked upon should be discouraged from setting up in Dublin and that they should be compelled to go to Cork, Waterford, Kilkenny, Dundalk, Galway, Tralee, and the other towns in the country. I say that if that policy was pursued intensely, we could possibly hold our people in the rural towns and in the rural areas. I say that if we concentrated on a policy of that kind we probably could make the present exodus cease, certainly we could reduce it to an appreciable extent.
I say definitely that the concentration of administration under the present bureaucratic system in Dublin is to the detriment of the country at large. I think the Taoiseach on one occasion many years ago expressed the view that there should be devolution in Governmental activities. Again, I say there should be. There is over-concentration in Dublin, with the result that the people on the perimeter, the people out in the remote parts of the country, are forgotten. Their problems are not properly administered by an administration centred entirely in Dublin. There again, is a problem for the Government, a very difficult problem. It is a long-term problem, but it is one that could be worked out and on which we should have proposals in this House. At present, the demand for housing accommodation for Governmental servants of all kinds is increasing to such an extent that a large portion of what was once a residential area in Dublin is now becoming a new Whitehall here.
These problems are all related to production. If there was a national policy of industry planned on these lines, there would be a hope for industrial expansion. There are, I know, many attractions in city life, many attractions in urban life, and that country life is dull, and, perhaps, stagnant. We have, however, to consider another side of the picture—uplifting in some way the rural areas and giving them the amenities which they so badly need in order that we can bring to the people living in the rural areas some of the modern amenities which obtain in the cities and towns. There are many things in that direction that the Government could be doing. There are many ways by which they could improve rural amenities. These are long-term policies also, but they will have to be tackled some day, if we are to keep our people in rural Ireland at all.
Already we are embarking upon rural electrification. We will eventually have to embark on a long-term policy of extending pipeline water supplies to all our towns, villages and farms. We will have to consider social amenities for our people in these areas. I should like to see the Government, and the Minister for Finance particularly, giving some assistance to rural pastimes and to the erection of village halls. I do not mean dance halls, but village clubs where people, irrespective of creed, class or political outlook, could meet in social comfort and could engage in social activities and, if necessary, cultural activities or general amusement. It would not take a whole lot of money to give us some of these amenities in country areas where they are badly needed in order to get the people to be happy and contented on the land. A good deal of the flight from the land is due to the attractions in the cities and to the stagnation that prevails in the country. We can stop a great deal of that if we tackle the job in the right way and on the right lines.
As regards agriculture, bearing on rural Ireland, we all know that agricultural production here is low. We all know that the output per man per year is perhaps the lowest in the world. We have to do something about it. Whilst we have that problem there, we have our people flying from the land, and it seems to me that we will have to face a situation in which we must provide modern up-to-date methods to enable those who are prepared to remain on the land to work that land in a modern way. That will entail capital for agriculture on an extensive scale. It will mean the provision of machinery equipment and capital equipment of all kinds, housing, etc., for our people on the land.
At the present time, we hear a great deal about the prosperity which farmers enjoy on the land. We have had it stated several times from the opposite benches that their income is improved in relation to the national income. I shall come to that later. But I should like to see the Government addressing themselves to the problem of giving to the consumer agricultural produce at a price in some way comparable with the price which the farmer receives for the produce. I should like to direct the Minister's attention to these very significant figures which I have taken from the National Income and Expenditure Tables. I find that in 1938, on the basis of the produce consumed in farmers' households, a value of £13,000,000 was placed thereon by the financial or statistical experts. I find that the retail price of that same produce in 1938 was £21,000,000. Therefore, if the financial experts' estimate is any way near the mark, to distribute to the consumer £13,000,000 worth cost £8,000,000; £8,000,000 was taken by middlemen to enable the consumer to eat the farmers' produce. Surely there is a problem there both for the farmer and the Government. There is definitely a problem for the consumer. To get that £13,000,000 worth to the consumer, the consumer had to pay £8,000,000 extra, almost double. I say that the cost of transport has definitely a bearing on that. I say, too, that the number of middlemen who handled that produce has definitely a bearing on it.
I say, furthermore, that there are too many middlemen in the economic life of this country and there are too many handlers of goods as between the producer and the eventual consumer. I say that Government must sooner or later address itself to the problem of reducing the number of middlemen in order that the consumer may get his produce at a reasonable figure.
In 1944 the produce consumed on farms was estimated at £32,000,000. The retail price in 1944 of the consumed produce was £47,000,000. The cost of distribution was £15,000,000. Therefore, the consumer consuming £32,000,000 of farm produce is charged £15,000,000— approximately again half—and then we are told there are no financial, economic, or social problems confronting the Government in these matters. Surely there are. Is it not a fact that at the moment any Tom, Dick or Harry can secure a licence to get into the wholesale or retail business, or any other class of business here? It is being done every day and there is no restriction whatsoever on numbers.
I think the farmers will eventually have to face up to the situation, as will the consumers, to cut out the middlemen. I am not saying they are all unnecessary but I do say the great majority of them are unnecessary. They are parasites on the economic life of this community. Therefore, I want to appeal to the farmers in particular to consider co-operating together to find out whether something cannot be done to remedy this position. I want to see the Government assisting the farmers in that direction. I want to see the consumers, who are growling so much to-day, pulling themselves together and doing something practical such as the formation of consumers' leagues in an effort to evolve some system in that way which will give us the farmers' produce at a reasonable figure here.
Agriculture, as I have said, is under-capitalised. If agriculture is to survive in this country cheap capital must be made available to it. Deputy Davin referred to the extraordinary increase in bank deposits. There is money lying idle in the banks awaiting an opportunity of investment. We have a big increase in foreign investments. As I said before in this House, I want the Minister for Finance to make up his mind on this matter, both on investment at home and investment abroad, to see if some investment policy cannot be evolved which will at the same time preserve the owner's money and give him a fair rate of interest and to ensure that that money is ploughed here into the right channels so as to expand agricultural production and industrial production. Again, we would like to hear the Government on these matters. I want to repeat that I have heard no constructive suggestion from the Government up to this as to what their long term policy in these matters is going to be. We cannot ignore fundamentals in this country as the Minister for Industry and Commerce has so rightly said.
We cannot ignore fundamentals and one of the fundamental problems here is to settle our people at home. Throughout the last fifty years we have been affected by a low marriage rate, more particularly in rural Ireland rather than in the cities. Of recent years there has been a slight increase in the marriage rate due to war conditions. The same increase was noticed in the 1914-18 war. I do not think economic conditions are such to-day in this country as to encourage early and more frequent marriages. The various Ministers, particularly the Minister for Social Welfare, will have to address themselves to these problems. How are we going to get our people to settle down in rural Ireland early in life and rear their families there? Our birth rate compares very favourably with the birth rate of most other countries in Europe. We are about the fifth highest in Europe. YugoSlavia is the highest with 27.7 per cent. per thousand; Poland comes next with 24.9 per cent. per thousand; Italy comes next with 22.9 per cent. per thousand; Holland has 19.8 per cent. per thousand and Eire has 19.2 per cent.
We are higher than Denmark. We are higher than Sweden and we are even higher than the United States of America. That is, in relation to the marriages which take place. The unfortunate problem here is that there are too few such marriages. I would venture to suggest that if the statistics were examined and analysed it would be found that the rate of marriage in the rural areas is the most crucial problem in the matter. I feel that until we settle these fundamental problems we are merely fooling ourselves in trying to settle other problems. What is the use of talking about grandiose schemes for industry or for agriculture if our people are simultaneously declining and disappearing? We must face facts. If our people will not stay here and if the tendency for them is not to stay here then we may have to consider other matters. We may have to consider inviting displaced persons here to take their place. It might be no harm if we had a transfusion of blood. There are plenty of displaced Germans and Poles who would come here in the morning if they were asked. Other countries are taking them in and it might be no harm if we did the same here.
I want now to come to the position, as I see it, disclosed from the tables of national income and expenditure. In 1938 our farmers got 26 per cent. of the national income. Business got 29 per cent. and the rest went to employees— that is, wage earners and salary earners. In 1938, in this much-vaunted agricultural country, the position was therefore that our farmers got exactly one-fourth of what was going. There may be explanation for that. But one factor which has a very important bearing on the problem is the low agricultural output. That low output, of course, is at the moment affected by emergency problems created by the war—lack of fertilisers, lack of machinery, lack of capital formation. It is a significant fact that that was our position in 1938. In 1944 the position had improved somewhat. The farmers, on an increased national income, got 37 per cent. of what was going. That is in a country where, of all the people engaged in remunerative occupations, half the people were engaged in agriculture and that half got one-third of whatever was going. They are the people who were the mainstay of the country throughout the war period and they are at all times the mainstay of our economy. That is a significant fact, I say, and it is one to which we must address ourselves here.
How are we going to expand our position and give the farmers a bigger share of the national income? I am not claiming that to the exclusion of any other class. There is room for them in that expansion but I do want to say to the farmers who are seeking more that they cannot get more out of the national pool than they are prepared to put into it. If they are not prepared to expand production and if they do not get the necessary assistance to expand production then they will have, willy-nilly, to be content with the share they are getting at the moment. I took the trouble to examine the figures as to the way in which money was spent here and what we got for it. I found that in 1938 we spent 37 per cent. of our private income on food. In 1944 we spent 44 per cent. of our private income on food. The significant fact is that in 1944 we got less food for the increased expenditure—actually less food, minus 4 per cent. In 1938 we spent 15 per cent. of our income on alcohol and tobacco and 16 per cent. in 1944. The extraordinary feature there is that the volume went up by 13 per cent. but, apparently, that is explained by an increased consumption of beer.
In 1938 we spent 11 per cent. of our private income on clothing and 11 per cent., the same figure in 1944, but we got less cloths in 1944 than we got in 1938. With regard to fuel and light— in 1938 we spent 9 per cent. of the national income and in 1944 8 per cent., but in 1944 we got 40 per cent. less fuel than we got in 1938.
These I think are very significant facts which we should ponder upon and ask ourselves what are we going to do about. Now as I have mentioned fuel I may as well refer to the remarks made by the Minister on coal. The present Government have committed themselves to a turf policy. Turf as compared with coal as a fuel has approximately between one-third and one-half the calorific value of coal but when we compare the storing space for coal as against turf we will find that we have to have very much more space for turf than for coal. We will find also when we compare the two that we will have far more waste in turf than in coal and whatever waste there is in coal can always be made into briquettes or, as we call them in Kilkenny, handmade bombs. The turf waste is almost useless. The city dweller has to deal with the problem of storage for turf and when we consider that many city dwellers are living in large apartment houses or in flats or in small houses with very little out-office accommodation, and taking the pessimistic view the Minister gave us here on previous occasions about English coal, I have a feeling that the Government will want to wake up and find some method by which the city dweller can have his turf immediately available at all times, because a great percentage of them can take in only one bag at a time. He has no space for more. He is dependent on daily or at most on weekly deliveries and if he is faced with a transport crisis or with a weather crisis he is in the position that he cannot get this fuel. As I said on a previous occasion, I think it was at the corporation meeting in Dún Laoghaire, we have got to face up to a new fuel policy here if we are going to assume that we will not have foreign coal available. Our housing policy will have to be altered to provide central heating and central cooking facilities, particularly in large apartment houses and, as far as I can see, in ordinary houses. That heating can be supplied either by turf or electric or gas power but definitely it seems to me that if we are going to be without coal indefinitely we will have to do these things and I want to suggest to the responsible Minister that this is something they might think about and not have us compelled in three or five years' time to alter our entire housing policies, housing schemes, plans and specifications.
On the question of coal I was interested to-day to see an article in the Irish Independent on what they call open cast fuel. I have been advocating for a long time here the quarrying of coal as distinct from mining, particularly as an emergency proposition, and I want to advocate it again in the light of what the Minister has said in the fuel debate and what he has said here to-day. In England open cast coal was tackled in 1942 and they produced 1,000,000 tons in that year. In 1945 they produced 9,500,000 tons. Some of the sites produced 1,000,000 tons and the average production was 56,000 tons. After modern investigation, without borings, they simply took out the surface coal by means of mechanical equipment and replaced the soil again. They have been careful to preserve the top-soil in their operations and they have been careful to restore the soil, as far as possible, to its original condition and, in many cases, they have found that the soil when put to agricultural purposes later has shown increased fertility.
I know several areas in this country where coal can be quarried and particularly that type of operation can be carried out in Arigna or in a mountainous district where there may be a good deal of work done by quarrying and tunnelling. We have plenty of out-crop coal in Kilkenny. We are not allowed to touch that coal. If we do get it out we are told we will have to give it to industry, but there is no effort made to get it out and the extraordinary thing is that most of the operations carried out in England were carried out by men who were not miners—most of them were Irishmen who had no experience of mining.
I want to suggest to the Minister that here he has an opportunity of tackling that problem. I am not suggesting for a moment that there is anything like the quantity of coal in Kilkenny, in Leitrim or in Tipperary that they have in England but I do suggest that there is plenty of coal here which we can get out by methods of that kind.
While I am on the question of coal I would like to say to the Minister that the stuff coming in here, described as coal, is the most utter rubbish that was ever pawned off on any country. There was no attempt at screening the coal, classifying or segregating it in any way. It is simply dumped in, take or leave it, as you please. It has been described to me as stone, shale and dirt. We got 1,500,000 tons of coal last year into this country. Pre-war, 500,000 tons would have done the Electricity Supply Board, the gas works and industry. Half a million tons! At present 1,250,000 is not able to suffice for these services, because the coal is simply of a rotten quality and because there has been no effort made from this side to get the quality of the coal improved. At a time when we are sending the best quality goods to Great Britain we are content to take the most utter rubbish from them in exchange and I suggest that something should be done about it. I cannot believe that as a business proposition we cannot say to these people: you will have to give us screened, proper quality coal, the same as you are giving to your own people. I cannot see how we can put up with that condition of things. As I understand it, even the coal that was raised by quarrying methods in England, by this open cast system, and delivered either to industrial or domestic consumers was screened, classified and segregated. If we got 1,250,000 tons of pre-war quality coal last year, we would have had every industry and the Electricity Supply Board and the gas company supplied, and a small ration for domestic consumers would have been available.
We find ourselves in this position to-day as a result of the quality of the coal we are getting and as a result of the fact that the Minister's Department let out a good quantity of coal which might have been held on reserve. We find thousands of people who are dependent solely on coal for cooking in Aga and Esse cookers, and that class of equipment, without a scrap of coal to-day. They got no coal for the month of February until they made representations quite recently to the Department, and they are working on a reduced ration. These people have no alternative means of cooking. They have no gas or electric cookers. When they put up a case, they were informed that they could apply for gas and electricity. It is impossible for any man in the city or anywhere else to get gas or electric cookers installed under present conditions. There are hundreds of people in Dublin and thousands in the country without any fuel for domestic purposes. We bungled the coal problem in many ways. I know several people who applied for turf last August and September and they were asked if they would take coal in lieu of turf. They said they would, and they got it.
Deputy Allen, a few moments ago, was very concerned about the people who are making the money. He thought that Deputy Morrissey was overpainting the picture of the poor and he wanted to know the people who are making the riches. I would like to hear the Minister for Finance on that. Perhaps he knows the gentlemen who are making the riches. This significant fact emerges. In 1938 we had 85,000 on an income range of £150 to £250. By 1944 they increased to 103,000 people. In 1938 there were 53,000 people with an income range of £250 to £500 a year and in 1944 they had increased to 65,000. In 1938, on an income range of £500 to £1,000 we had 16,300 people and in 1944 they had increased to 20,900. In 1938 we had 4,300 between £1,000 and £2,000 a year and they had increased in 1944 to 6,300. In 1938 there were 1,750 between £2,000 and £10,000 a year. These gentlemen jumped in 1944 to 2,700. The gentlemen who were making more than £10,000 a year jumped from 79 in 1938 to 109 in 1944. So there is somebody getting a good whack out of this country. The significant fact is that there have been very substantial increases in all of those who are getting over £1,000 a year.