I move the adjournment of the Dáil. In view of the very lengthy and detailed statement which I made on the last occasion, I do not think there is any need to add anything to it at the present time.
Anglo-Irish Trade Agreement—Debate (Resumed).
You are not going to say anything about the application to the International Bank for dollars?
I think I mentioned that.
Whatever improvement has accrued to us in the value of our exports and in the expansion of our imports, so far as the London discussions are concerned, can certainly be welcomed by the House. I think we could also express our approval of the fact that the economic problems which concern this country were discussed between both countries at the highest possible level. They were problems that certainly required the attention of Ministers from both sides and any attempt by the interested parties to increase the co-ordination and integration of our mutual interests was a step in the right direction. It was unfortunate, in my opinion, that it was the economic difficulties and the restriction in our dollar resources that compelled the Government to waken up to a realisation of what its duty was in this matter. It is a fact that our exports for this present year, as pointed out by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, will be approximately £30,000,000 while our imports will be £100,000,000, and with the restriction in our dollar spending we had to face a very acute economic problem. The only way to meet it was, he said, by an expansion in our exports, a reduction in our imports and the conservation of whatever dollars accrue to us. These were the things that had to be discussed and these are matters that vitally concern the country. We have been impressing on the Government the importance of having closer co-operation between the two countries, that, as a matter of fact, it was essential that trade should be discussed at the highest possible level, that as our exports were of considerable importance to the country it was highly essential that our export interest should be looked after and that food should be sold at the highest price and that the goods should be sold under a proper marketing organisation. That is, I am afraid, a matter which was not discussed at all but the House must realise that when you produce any article your energies should be directed not merely to the production of the article but to the efficient marketing of the article as well.
This Ministerial discussion took place at a time when we never had less to sell and when all indications pointed to a further diminution in our exports, so that the situation was very serious. It is going to take a tremendous effort to round the corner so far as agricultural production is concerned. Whether the principles that have been agreed to at the discussions will provide the necessary stimulation and effect the necessary expansion, remains to be seen. Exports from this country were never lower in our history; internal consumption of food was never lower, and the population of this country was never at a lower level. It was under those conditions that our Ministers went to London to discuss an expansion of our agricultural production.
The summary of the agreement that we have received is difficult to discuss because it is vague, nebulous and inconclusive: it is not even signed. There are no definite figures or quantities given. Taking the document at its face value, we seem to be getting very little. As regards the vast majority of the articles mentioned right through the document, there is no reference to quantities or prices. It is certainly not the type of bargain a business man would subscribe to. If its purpose is to expand production, the assistance we are to get in the way of raw materials for agriculture is almost negligible. There is a vague promise of increased supplies of machinery. A very small quantity of fertilisers will be provided. The International Emergency Food Council has already provided 25,000 tons of sulphate of ammonia and the British Government propose to provide a further 15,000 tons of superphosphate. Let us bear in mind what the Taoiseach pointed out, that before the war we used approximately 250,000 tons of artificial manures. Therefore, it will be seen that the quantity we will get under this agreement will be almost negligible.
So far as the importation of maize is concerned, we get no information, and if we have only the very low level of dollars made available to us under the agreement, then we will find it extremely difficult to buy the raw materials essential for animal production. So far as machinery is concerned, judging by the reply I got from the Minister for Agriculture the quantity of machinery that we will receive from the dollar countries will be very small. We must bear in mind that we have been using a substantial quantity of agricultural machinery that originates from dollar countries.
I have not made any such statement.
You stated we would get some, but I was entitled to infer from the Minister's reply to my question that there would be no appreciable increase in the supply.
Better read my reply again.
I do not think I am wrong in stating that there will be very little improvement so far as supplies from Canada and the United States are concerned. It would appear that, whatever increased supplies we may have from these countries, we will have to pay for them out of our existing dollar resources or out of the dollars made available to us under this agreement.
Looking over the whole agreement, I think we will get very little benefit from it. If the agreement is for the purpose of helping Britain in her difficulties, our Government should be honest enough to say that. Having studied the agreement, I feel Great Britain will get much more out of it than we will get. We are committing our people to more rationing, to more austerity. There is little relief being given to our people. Every effort is being made to release further supplies of meat from here to Great Britain. I think the Minister for Industry and Commerce, when he attempts to control the price of meat here, is aiming to release further supplies for Great Britain.
By making it cheaper here?
It may appear to be cheaper, but I believe the real purpose is to force our people to consume a lower grade of meat and we are releasing first-grade meat for export purposes. That is pretty obvious. If the Minister does not believe that, I can assure him that that is what will happen—that if we have an export market that is worth more than the price he has fixed for home consumption——
It is. I repeat, that if we have an export market that is worth more than the price he has fixed for home consumption, then beef will be sold for export and not for home consumption, and the Minister knows that. It is obvious that this agree ment is designed to help Great Britain in her difficulties. I am not opposed to that at all. If we are in sympathy with her problems and if we have any appreciation for their magnitude, then. we might assist and co-operate. I do not object to that, but the Government ought to be honest about it and they should tell the country that the purpose of this agreement is to assist Great Britain in her difficulties. The Taoiseach stressed the necessity of mutual co-operation if we are to weather the difficulties facing the country. If that is so, why do we not make it clear and get some credit for an attempt to co-operate with our neighbour in the difficulties she is facing?
As to the deal, there are no quantities given with reference to most headings; there is merely a vague promise to try to increase exports from Great Britain to this country, and to examine the possibility of increasing other sources of supply here. As regards machinery and equipment, we will receive improved supplies of agricultural machinery and the British Government will endeavour to improve the deliveries of certain other classes of machinery and equipment. So far as raw material is concerned, the position is equally vague.
Even in the case of coal the situation is the same, because when we examine how our exports are treated, we find that they are going to be paid for on quality. We get a price for cattle which is definitely fixed on quality. As far as our imports are concerned, however, there is no question of quality. In regard to coal, we evidently had no say. They will make an effort to give us coal, but at their own price. There are two parties to an agreement and if one party is in a position to name prices, the other party ought to claim the right to fix prices also. I do not think that occurred, judging from the prices which have resulted from the discussions as far as live stock is concerned. It appears that Great Britain fixed the prices on both sides. They seem to have fixed the prices both of our exports and of our imports.
As far as meat is concerned, the Taoiseach got an opportunity to remove the disability placed on the live-stock trade of this country as a result of the economic war. The Taoiseach may try to suggest that the 1934 Act was for the purpose of subsidising the production of British beef. But we must remember this, for 100 years or more before the economic war, we sold live stock in the British market side by side with the British animal on level terms and the same level of prices. The Taoiseach was given the opportunity of removing that disability which he himself was mainly instrumental in placing on the country.
But while the gap between the prices of Irish cattle and cattle produced in Britain and Northern Ireland has been narrowed, the disability has not been completely removed. I think we could claim, and that it would not be unreasonable to claim, that we were entitled to the same prices for cattle as Northern Ireland. A parity of prices is essential if we are going to have expansion of production.
Dr. Menzies Kitchin of Cambridge and Dr. Roeburn of Oxford were sent here to examine the potentialities of this country in regard to production. We were anxious to see their report and the Taoiseach undertook to ask the British Government about releasing it. I think he informed the Leader of the Opposition this morning that because the British Government had decided not to issue the report in Great Britain, he would not ask for their consent to have it published here. Maybe he is justified since it is not being issued in Great Britain, but at the same time the report definitely concerns this country and I think that the Taoiseach should at least ask the British Government's approval of the publication of the report, for if we are going to plan for expansion of agricultural production, it would be interesting to see what those two famous British economists had to say regarding our potentialities.
In my opinion, this discussion lacks two essential things as far as the expansion of live-stock production is concerned. The Taoiseach described the difficulties in securing the expansion of our agricultural economy in regard to live stock, but one thing which is essential is a long-term price. This document gives us no long-term price. In fact, the bargain was on a very, very short-term basis, and it appears to me that the document is concerned only with the immediate future. The expansion of live-stock production is a slow process, and should be planned so as to secure stability. There has been no attempt made to provide that essential condition. The British farmer has a long-term assured market; we must have the same. It is a slow job to rear an animal and bring it to maturity and the producer has been fooled for too long in regard to expansion, because expansion often meant in the past lower prices. If production exceeded the effective demand, then in the past it often proved a disaster to the primary producer. The primary producer all over the world demands that that situation must be changed. Yet here we have our own Government entering into an agreement with the country where we market our produce on a short-term basis, while the British Government can give long-term security to their own people and to the people of Northern Ireland.
It is the same with the prices. Surely, with conditions as they are now, with meat scarce and valuable, with Great Britain on a meagre ration of meat, which is an energy-giving food, at a time when Britain needs more energy than ever to meet her essential import requirements by exports, a good case could have been made to get rid of the disability imposed 14 or 15 years ago, through the economic war. The Taoiseach is anxious to get rid of the Border. We are all anxious to get rid of it, but he is not going to get rid of it and I do not think that anyone engaged in agriculture in Northern Ireland would be prepared to come into this country where the terms for agriculture will be lowered. There is still a margin of about £5 on a finished beast.
I feel that insufficient attention has been paid to that aspect of the problem. No one in this Twenty-Six Counties will be satisfied with conditions which are below the level of Northern Ireland for a commodity which is at least as good in quality and scarce in the world to-day. We must remember that we are selling in a sellers' market and never was such an opportunity presented to the Taoiseach to get rid of the disability which the live-stock industry has suffered from for close on 15 years. I have already suggested that the Taoiseach owes that to the agricultural community. No doubt the Taoiseach, when he is replying, will be able to give us some information as to the efforts which were made to remove that disability. I consider that a very compelling case could have been made for its removal. As the Taoiseach is aware, one of the results of that disability from which we are suffering is the smuggling into Northern Ireland which has been going on daily since the disability was imposed on us. That is certainly not desirable. Another ill-result is that the animals so smuggled are credited, so far as trade and trade discussions are concerned, to Northern Ireland when, in fact, we should get the credit. If you attempt to aggregate the figures in our own Trade Journal you will find quantities missing which can only be accounted for by the smuggling. We can only claim credit, in discussions, for the figures in our Annual Trade Return.
The results of the discussions so far as the live-stock industry is concerned are open to another serious objection. I refer in particular to the differentiation between fat cattle and cattle for a two-months' stay in Britain. The scales are tilted in favour of the cattle going for the two-months' stay. One of the reasons why our bigger cattle have tended to increase at the cost of young animals for future years is the fact that our trade with Britain is bottlenecked. Before the economic war we had a two-way outlook for Irish cattle—about 50 per cent. went to stores and about 50 per cent. went as fat cattle for immediate slaughter. If, in order to secure the best price on the British market, our cattle must go under this two months' policy we are at the mercy of any conditions which may obtain in Great Britain so far as the incidence of disease, shortage of grass, shortage of feeding-stuffs, a dry summer, and so forth, are concerned. We will be compelled to sell our best animals at the lowest price level which operates for fat cattle for immediate slaughter.
Those are points which seem to my mind not to have been considered. If Britain is vitally interested in an expansion of animal production in this country—she cannot buy dollar meat because her future dollar resources are going to limit her capacity to do so— if her policy is to buy as far as possible her requirements in the sterling countries, then those disabilities, so far as our trade is concerned, must first be removed. I suggest that this agreement does not remove the disabilities, which are hampering production, and that it will have repercussions on the trade which will not be in the interests of either country. The more one examines this agreement the more one is driven to the conclusion that no practical mind can have been brought to bear on the subject. Take, for instance, paragraph 3 (a):—
"(a) fat steers and heifers yielding carcases of A and B grades: an additional 5d. per lb. dressed carcase weight until the end of February, 1948, 4d. per lb. from the beginning of March unless agreement for a higher price should be reached as a result of further negotiations."
Is that not highly unsatisfactory? It is almost impossible to discuss the matter in any constructive way. Any man with any experience would have immediately said to the British: "You cannot have a drop in price on the 1st March. Even your own scales do not show any drop because your own people would not have a drop at that time of the year". The man who has gone to the expense of feeding animals all through the winter months up to the 1st March will not take a cut in price at a period of the year when it is most costly to produce meat. Surely it is not common sense to suggest that there should be a cut in price on the 1st March. We all know that the normal trend of prices is to appreciate up to June and from then on they begin to depreciate. We have now agreed to a condition where we are going to cut the price when good animals, so far as numbers are concerned, are at a minimum. There is no common sense whatever attached to that bargain. I cannot understand why it was suggested. Any man who studies the scale of prices set out by the British Ministry of Food can see that the scale of their own prices is prepared in such a way that it meets the normal fluctuations in prices that ought to occur in relation to the cost of production. Grass-produced meat must be cheaper than winter-produced animals, especially at present when feeding-stuffs are so scarce and dear. It is true that it can be pointed out that a clause is added—
"unless agreement for a higher price should be reached as a result of further negotiations".
My grumble is that the 4d. was so obviously wrong that it should not have been agreed to. There is no mention of marketing. There is no suggestion that we should improve our marketing organisation to reduce the gap in the handling of the animal from the time it leaves the farm to the time it reaches the consumer. That is a point which has been neglected here for very many years. Our methods of marketing are very haphazard and obsolete if the producer is to get the best possible price and the consumer to get the keenest priced food.
We are also informed in this document that the continental trade is to. be reviewed and that a decision will be taken on it. The total number of our cattle to be exported from Ireland to continental countries as from the 1st February, 1948, will be the subject of consultation between the Department of Agriculture and the British Ministry of Food.
It is true that the continental buyers buying cattle in this country have been skimming the cream of the market since last June and it is vitally important that that situation should be reconsidered. If the continental countries have a long-term interest in our live stock we would naturally welcome them in our market because of the competition they would create. If they have not a long-term interest they are only upsetting the whole economy of the market. That is neither welcome nor desirable.
In regard to the quotas granted, the agricultural industry is entitled to specific information in relation to them, particularly as to the duration of the period of operation. It is difficult for a producer to plan his programme if he is ignorant of future market requirements or how the quota will operate. The Minister for Agriculture has been suspiciously silent on the quotas that were granted during the summer and autumn period. A certain amount of chaos has resulted because of that. When new purchasing power is introduced into a market it ought to be carefully controlled. Otherwise, it may have very serious results from the consumer's point of view. The Minister for Industry and Commerce complained recently of the high cost of meat and said that it contributed largely to the high cost of living. If a 12 months' quota is given to any country it should be on a monthly basis in order to stabilise its effect upon the market. The continental countries have taken the very best animals out of the country. Can the Taoiseach give us any information as to whether this trade is on a barter basis and what particular goods are we getting in exchange for the very valuable meat with which we are supplying them at the present time? We must bear in mind the fact that our agriculture has created a new purchasing power abroad and has first claim on it. What are we getting in exchange? Will we get potash from Alsace-Lorraine? Potash is urgently required for agricultural production here.
With regard to turkeys, this agreement is merely returning to the status quo prior to last year. Up to last year we sold our turkeys on the same basis as turkeys produced in Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Last year we were put into a colonial class. That meant a lower price for our turkeys. The fact that we have now been restored to the status quo is to be welcomed.
As far as poultry and eggs are concerned, we will adhere to the agreement made last year by the Minister for Agriculture on his way home from Copenhagen, with the exception that it has been stepped forward one year. We are ignoring the conditions that obtained last year and stepping forward the agreement as from the 1st February, 1948. The prices secured under that agreement, while they looked reasonable at the time the agreement was made, are poor enough to-day because of the increased cost of production and a further increase in the cost of raw materials and foodstuffs, plus the difficulty of obtaining adequate foodstuffs.
The agreement goes on to say:—
"In addition, the Ministry of Food propose to pay in the form of an extra price per long hundred for a period to be agreed, a proportion of the cost incurred by the Irish Government in promoting an agreed scheme for the development of the Irish poultry industry. This proposal was agreed to in principle. It was arranged that the details of such a scheme and the extent of the Ministry of Food's contribution would be discussed soon at a conference in Dublin between representatives of the Department of Agriculture and of the Ministry of Food."
We are now going to accept the position where civil servants will come over from London to tell us how to run our poultry industry and give us some ideas as to the best approach to the problem of expanding production. We have travelled a long way in the last 13 or 14 years. Thirteen or 14 years ago the Taoiseach was advising the country that there was no future for the British market and he was assuring us that the Irish market was the only market that the Irish farmer had and he was going to take very good care to reserve that market for the Irish farmer. In the meantime, the Taoiseach has had forced upon him a more realistic approach, and a few months ago, because of our economic condition brought about by fallen exports and the difficulty of securing foreign exchange, he was compelled to go to London.
A few months ago the Minister for Industry and Commerce informed the country that our purchases in hard currency amounted to £26,379,000 for the first eight months. If we calculated that for the 12 months it means that there is a very considerable margin between that figure and the provision made under this agreement for our dollar requirements, namely, £14,000,000, plus whatever dollars accrue to the country otherwise. That means that we shall be faced with more and more austerity, more rationing, and less and less of the goods which come under the heading of "luxury goods". There is no way of improving that situation except by increased exports and a further reduction in imports. The gap is a very, very big one. The Minister for Industry and Commerce has been stressing that in recent months. Exports this year will fall a further £8,000,000 to about £30,000,000. Imports will aggregate something in the region of £100,000,000. That is a very serious position. Our adverse trade balance will be in the neighbourhood of £70,000,000. That is the position this agreement is designed to tackle. While there is some hope of an expansion in industrial production if raw materials are made available, agricultural production will not increase in a hurry. The measure of our live-stock production in the next four or five years can be gauged by the number of young animals we have at the present time which will come to maturity in the next three years. Young cattle under one year are at the moment down by 15 per cent. since 1944, or 146,000. Our live-stock population this year as compared with last year is down by something like 185,000. Our cow population is down by 60,000. Until that situation is changed, we cannot look forward to any immediate expansion in our live-stock exports. As I said before, it is a very slow process to change that situation and to round the corner. There has been a downward trend in production for some years. One would expect that during the emergency, when we could have devoted all our attention to production here, we might have got some increase in production from agriculture. But, because agriculture has been mishandled and because of mis-direction and non-attention to the essential details, our production has fallen.
If we want to appreciate the close attention that must be given from the top, we need only look at what Great Britain has achieved by the attention that she gave to her agriculture during the emergency. The same attention has not been given here. As a matter of fact, in my opinion the Government do not appreciate what is required if we are to stop the rot there and to change to an expanding economy in agriculture. They have secured something in this agreement, a small measure of what is necessary, so far as price stimulation is concerned. But we have still a margin of disability, we are still not back to where we were 15 years ago. We are still not back to the position where we can sell freely in the British market without any disability. That advantage was lost at that time. We get an opportunity now, at a time when conditions were never more favourable and can never be more favourable again, of restoring equality of price with Northern Ireland and British farmers.
I regret that the Taoiseach has not been successful in removing that disability; I think the country must regret it. Looking into the future, when normal competition is restored, it will be a handicap on our people if that disability is not removed. I suggest that a further effort should be made to iron out the difficulties still there. In the modern world, with modern equipment, with new and better organisation so far as production is concerned, with keener competition this may prove a serious handicap. At present, the disability, so far as cattle for immediate slaughter are concerned, is something over £5 for an 11 cwt. animal.
As I pointed out, this document has one big defect, that the details of the agreement have not been concluded. On the other hand it may be an advantage, in so far as the particular matter to which I am referring is concerned, as further efforts can still be made to remove the disability that has hampered live-stock production in this country since the economic war. I suggest that the Taoiseach, now that he appreciates the value of the British market, now that he knows we have only one market, now that he knows that the continental markets for the very limited number of animals they require are only a passing phase, that when these countries are able to restore their economy they will be no longer interested in our live stock here, and that in future we must depend solely on the British market, now that he has given expression to the view that the future of Great Britain and ourselves can only be secured by mutual and closer co-operation, must make a further effort to remove the disability that he was responsible for so far as the biggest volume of exports from this country is concerned, namely, our live-stock exports. We have to face difficulties in the future in securing necessary imports and our capacity to export will play a very important part not merely in the volume but in the purchasing power that we can command for these goods. This particular disability, if it is removed, will substantially improve the value of our exports. I hope that the Taoiseach, now that he went to London, will take a further opportunity of going there again shortly and have a further trial at getting rid of this handicap.
Deputy Hughes had my sympathy during the course of the speech to which we have just listened. He had a fairly hard case to make and, in my opinion, he made a very poor case and it took him a long time to make it.
It did not take him 15 years.
I did not think I would vex the Deputy so quickly.
I am not a bit vexed.
These are my opening comments on the statement to which we have just listened. I think Deputy Hughes was hampered somewhat in his style by the impression that he and members of his Party have been trying to create for a long time, an impression that has been perhaps accepted in the past by a small number of people, but that number is becoming smaller. The Party opposite would like to give the impression that they are the only people who know how to do business, who can competently meet the representatives of other Governments and discuss matters of trade with them. I had to laugh at the Deputy's reference to the fact that if, in regard to certain aspects of this agreement, practical men had been consulted, such conclusions could not have been reached. Of course, Deputy Hughes knows quite well, as well as every member of this House who has any idea of the basis on which negotiations have to be carried out and the way in which agreements are reached as between individuals and Governments, that it cannot be the case as the result of an agreement that one party can come back and say: "I have got everything I want. All my demands have been met in this document. I am completely satisfied with every detail". Deputy Hughes and other members of the House, as well as the public, will understand that, in endeavouring to secure agreement, there must be that element of give and take and there must be, when the agreement is finally concluded, a certain amount of dissatisfaction on either side. Subject to that statement, I think it was obvious, without my making my comment on it, from the laboured way in which the Deputy directed himself to the terms of the agreement, that there is a general appreciation on the part of those who have examined the conclusions that have been reached, that it is, while not being perfect, a decent understanding between two countries on matters affecting both of them in a very vital way.
When we are told that there is no long-term provision to make these proposals attractive, there again Deputies must realise, that however desirable it would be to have such long-term agreements as to prices and quantities, that with prices and general conditions as they are at present, it is not reasonable to expect on present standards you would get long-term agreement as to price. As I say, I would be very glad both in my capacity as Minister and in my capacity as an individual, to secure a long-term agreement in the sense to which Deputy Hughes has referred but one has got to be reasonable. It is not, perhaps, desirable in these matters that one should strive to see the other person's point of view——
They have given four years to their own farmers.
——but still there comes a time, reluctantly as it may be, when you have got to appreciate these facts to which I have referred.
They have given a four years' offer to their own people.
The criticism has been offered—and it was at this point that Deputy Hughes made the statement to which I referred—that if practical men had been consulted no such agreement would have been reached—that is, in regard to reducing the additional price of 5d. per lb. to 4d. per lb. on the 1st March. Again I should have been very glad if I could have secured agreement that that price should have remained. If Deputy Hughes or any other Deputy thinks that he could make a better case than I did in trying to secure that, I for one, doubt it.
I am sure you do.
I certainly do. I think the House will also agree that we have got this increase of 5d per lb. at a period of the year when there will be many grass fed cattle available for export. Of course, every man in the trade realises just as Deputy Hughes realises and as I realise, that it might have been better if this increase of 5d. per lb. had been given all the year round with the qualification that further discussions should take place at the end of February but I still think that it was far and away better to secure it, in respect of the period for which it has been secured, than to have secured no improvement at all.
Was there any effort made to secure it for any other period?
You have only got to look at me to make up your mind about that.
We know what you could have done.
That is the reputation I have established with farmers since I came to the Department.
We could guess all that.
If it comes down to a question of making a bargain in reference to the disposal of agricultural produce, I shall know how to keep up the producers' end as well as anybody else-in my opinion far better than most people.
It is a good thing to have a good opinion of yourself.
There are millions who think like me.
We shall see.
I have that in mind too. We are, according to Deputy Hughes, inviting the British over here to tell us how to run our poultry industry. We are doing nothing of the kind. There is another consideration for their coming over here-money. Money speaks and money is going to play its part in the discussion that will take place and the scheme that is to be devised by the two Governments as to the amount of the bounty that will be given towards the implementation of that scheme.
It is a new advance for the British.
At any time they advance in matters of money I shall be glad to hear them. I shall even listen to the representatives of any other Government and see if they have anything new to offer in that way. Deputy Hughes is the one Deputy in this House who is always quoting outsiders to us. As Deputy Corry has often reminded him, he is tied up in knots in what he reads from foreign sources of one kind or another, and here is Deputy Hughes taunting us because we agreed with the British that they should send representatives over here to sit down with our advisers and draw up a scheme. Mind you, before we agree, we have an idea of what we ought to get in the financial sense. We have an idea of what we are entitled to get in the financial sense. We have an idea in regard to that as we have in relation to other matters that we shall make a better case and make it strenuously in order to secure for our producers——
Get a decent price and do your own job.
I am sorry I am disturbing the Deputy to such an extent. I merely want to get this discussion on its feet. There was no life in it. I knew it would be a dead discussion. The speech made by the Deputy in opening the debate was dead. When I came in I said I hoped I would not have to participate in the discussion, even early or late, but the whole atmosphere was so dead and Deputies were deserting the Chamber so I decided to put it on its feet. I am glad I have succeeded to the extent of making Deputy Hughes disorderly and obliging my old friend Deputy Keating to leave the place.
What will you give the British for their money? You said that they are coming over here with money. What will you give them?
They are coming here to discuss with my officials a scheme for the development of the poultry industry. There is more in these discussions than just telling us how to run the poultry industry; there is the matter of their contribution by way of bounty, and that means money to the producer and it is not merely a matter of instructing us.
Of course it is.
If they have anything new to tell us, and even if Deputy Hughes has, we will always be pleased to listen.
What a change!
This agreement will not, perhaps, give us everything that one would like; it is not everything one would like it to be, if one had one's own way, but in so far as it concerns agricultural matters it is a good agreement. The price for turkeys is good; the agreement on eggs is not unreasonable; the agreement in regard to cattle prices is not, perhaps, as good as we would like it to be, but it is not too bad. The British have met us, too, in other matters in a reasonable way. We know their difficulties. They have many difficulties to contend with. We examined, with their officials, their performance in the supply of machinery for 1946. We examined our own demands for 1947. They indicated the ways in which they thought they could, and the extent to which they could, help us. It is not true to say, as Deputy Hughes said, that in reply to a Parliamentary question I indicated that, to the extent that they were unable to supply agricultural machinery to us, that machinery would no longer be available inasmuch as it could only be obtained through dollar payments. In fact, dollars have already been made available for the importation of certain machinery, but I do not know to what extent that machinery can be obtained.
Outside the limitation stated in the agreement?
There is no question of the limitation affecting any machinery that we require and can procure through dollar payments. Deputy Hughes is an agriculturist, and he and all other agriculturists should be satisfied with that assurance that the British are unable to supply us with all the machinery we require, but, to the extent that such machinery is obtainable in the dollar countries, then dollars will be made available for the purchase of it. In fact, dollars have been made available to certain firms in this country for such purchases.
Is that outside the provision of dollars in the agreement?
It does not make any difference to Deputy Hughes or to any other farmer whether it is inside or outside the agreement so long as the dollars are there to make the purchases.
But that reduces our supply of dollars for other purchases.
If you want a tractor, so long as dollars are made available for its purchase that solves your problem. It is unfortunate, as Deputy Hughes rightly stated, that we have not more to sell. It is unfortunate that our production in live stock and, indeed, in every branch of the agricultural industry, is not what we would like it to be. I believe if we concentrated more on trying to induce our farmers to interest themselves in these matters rather than take advantage of certain things in this House for the purpose of trying to secure political points that always miss the mark, we would do far better.
I think Deputies will agree that cattle prices are now very good and that as far as the farmers who are engaged in the live-stock business are concerned they are doing fairly well now. But the fact remains, as Deputy Hughes pointed out, that our live-stock population has gone down substantially within the past 12 months. Inside that period there were 60,000 fewer in-calf cows and heifers in this country than in the preceding year. It is a problem the solution to which I should like to find.
Within the past month I received an application from a concern in Cork. That concern asked permission to engage in the slaughter of calves. There is no market for veal in this country and apparently this concern established a connection on the other side for veal and has been carrying on this particular trade. I cannot say offhand what number of calves were slaughtered or disposed of through that concern last year or in previous years, but I know that last year the number was considerably larger than in previous years.
Here are things to which Deputies who are interested in agricultural matters should devote their attention and to which they could make a useful contribution or if they could not make a useful contribution they could make a contribution which they would think useful. Such contribution could be considered by persons in charge, such as myself, in making a final decision. I have refused to give a licence so far.
What else could you do?
If I gave that licence, calves would be sent out as veal and how would I be assured that calves would be reared ?
It is an extraordinary state of affairs that, in spite of the fact that cattle prices were almost never higher, we should have a decline in the number of cows and a tendency not to rear their calves. If any Deputy has given any thought to these matters I would like to hear his views because I have tossed them over in my own mind many times. I could understand the difficulty if it were a period when the cattle trade were depressed or the prospects not so bright as they are now. These cattle prices too, in my opinion, introduce other dangers. Our cow population is down by 50,000, or 60,000. With the tendency which it is possible to detect here and in every other part of the world, it could happen that farmers would say to themselves: "Well, we will use our land for the producing and feeding of dry stock; it is not so risky or so troublesome and we will leave the troublesome and risky part of this business to other people." The worst of it is that if too many people got that notion into their heads that sort of idea would have a tendency to spread and we would find ourselves in the end with a still further decline in the cattle population.
I would like people like Deputy Fagan and other Deputies who are interested in the cattle trade, such as Captain Giles who comes from a county in which the cattle trade is very important, to consider the matter. Our land owners in these parts should continue the practice which they started in the early years of the war of buying—at this time of the year especially—fairly good heifers and making their contribution. In the years 1940, 1941 and 1942 it was a common practice for many graziers to go into the store areas and buy the best heifers on the market. They found maybe then that it did not pay them as well as other lines of business, but there is no danger in the future that it, too, will not be a paying line.
Cattle traders often come to me to discuss matters concerning the cattle trade and the future of the trade. If they went out on a propagandist tour among their own members to encourage them to do something that would not be harmful to themselves and that would be helpful to our whole economy, they would be doing a better piece of work than coming in here trying to pick holes in something that is, as everybody knows, fairly watertight.
When I am on this matter of production there are other contributions that many Deputies, who are interested, can make towards the solution of many of these problems. I may have referred to this before but I do not think I have. We have had compulsory tillage for a number of years and, in the main, it has been observed faithfully by our farmers, but I notice, and I think that everybody in the House who knows the areas in question will admit, that there has been a tendency in this country during the past seven years to keep on ploughing the same land year after year. There is, in fact, a definite prejudice in this matter for reasons which, of course, we must all understand, but for reasons with which we can have no sympathy because of our present circumstances. This has been going on for six or seven years. We have been getting the worst effects during the past six or seven months, and if it continues we are likely to feel it in the next 12 months.
I would appeal to the landowners of this country not to try to meet the law in this fashion, as it is only putting the land to waste. It would be better if they openly defied the law, because then the land could be used for other purposes. I am not trying to be harsh or, as has been suggested, trying to "big stick" those people into any particular line of action, but I would ask the co-operation of the members of the House who are interested in agriculture and who are interested in production to appeal this year to our farmers to get out of the fields that they have been tilling for years, to break fresh land and not to be coming to me, or to the House through the Deputies, telling us of yields of four or five barrels an acre. The reason for the bad yields—though it is not the only reason because there are a number of causes of bad yields— is this policy, as a result of which they could not expect to have good yields.
There is a good deal of this going on. I see Deputy O'Reilly here from Meath and Captain Giles and I saw only recently a story which concerns their county. It was a discussion of Kells Urban Council where one of my inspectors had approached, I understand, the town clerk and suggested that it was time to lay some lands belonging to the council down on grass and break new land. If you do not mind, there was a full-dress debate at the following council meeting when the matter was reported to that body. I do not know what the population of Kells is, but it must be around a couple of thousand—but they are people who should set an example to the farmers who for several reasons, and I may say, illegitimate reasons, might not want to break up land and yet a public body postponed making a decision. They did not give the inspector an opportunity of explaining himself but called upon him to defend such an extravagant and outrageous proposition. When we talk in this House about agricultural production, when we talk about the fact that during the discussions with the British there were a number of agricultural products in respect of which we had to say: "We will discuss these as to prices when we reach the stage where we will have an exportable surplus," do we in this House not realise that in order to get a surplus we must have food? Do we in this House not realise that the only means by which we can get that food is by getting our farmers to produce it on their land? We have tried strenuously to get assistance elsewhere and we have been only partially successful. There is, then, plenty of scope for concentration on the part of our agriculturists and on the part of those who are interested in agriculture and of all of us for doing what we can to bring that production to a stage when we will have substantial quantities to offer. I realise it is not easy to see how exactly it can be done. I realise that it is a slow process.
I consider that the lines along which I and my Department are planning are the only lines which are likely to be successful. Of course, we cannot be successful no matter what we do without the co-operation of the farmers. I think that farm prices are now such that I am entitled to address the farmers and to say that I expect them to do better and to make even more strenuous efforts. I consider that I am entitled, take for example in the production of potatoes, here and now to express my disappointment at the fact that we have not, inside the last six or seven years at a time when the potato crop was a very vital crop, been able to increase our production. It could not be said that the matter of price was a deterrent, because it was attractive. I realise fully, of course, that it was largely because of our inability to obtain fertilisers and because of the fact that our main potato crop is grown in the poorer lands where artificial manures are vital. I say to the farmers in these parts, in view of the prices that have been available for the last three or four years, that we have a fair quantity of artificial manures for them now and that I expect them to make a very strenuous effort this year to increase substantially the acreage under that crop. In the long run there is no way, then, out of this unless we can obtain the full co-operation of the farmer himself. I say that the conditions are now favourable, even though he has difficulties in regard to labour and perhaps other irritations, to the making of a strenuous effort on the part of those who own land to settle down to their business and change this whole downward tendency.
It will be hard to get any more farmers to do it if you give them no help.
You know the old saying. If you do not, I will not tell you.
They are waiting for your aid. Deputy Allen knows that as well as I do. He knows how they are fixed.
They will be all right.
You will have plenty of auctions, I suppose.
I know of no way of making land and of making agriculture attractive and profitable other than a good housing policy that will encourage our farmers to build houses for themselves and their families and decent financial provision from the State in order to secure that end. I will introduce shortly a sensible and, I hope, fairly generous scheme to enable the farmer to provide himself with decent out-offices, sheds for his cattle and for his machinery, for his grain and for his pigs.
What has all this to do with the agreement?
It has a lot to do with agricultural production.
The Minister is in order.
It has to do with the general election.
It is very welcome. We have been waiting for it for years.
Of course it is. When people start to make trouble either inside or outside the House I am not the type of man to appeal for mercy. I can usually cleave for myself a little place in which I will stand and which I will hold. Subject to the ruling of the Chair it might be just as well if I were let paddle my own canoe.
If it will help production.
I want to give the farmer a shed for his machinery. I want to give him a suitable cow-house for his cattle. I want to give him a suitable piggery for his pigs. I want to give his wife a decent house in which to look after her poultry. I propose to introduce a scheme, therefore, which will enable farmers to obtain lime at prices and in sufficient quantities to increase production here, provided that, co-operation on the part of the farmers themselves is forthcoming. In addition to that, I would like to devise ways and means whereby phosphates would be used to an increased extent. I have taken steps already to correct certain tendencies which, it is generally accepted, had produced undesirable results in our cattle breeding policy and which will not be in any way inconsistent with our store cattle trade. That is an agricultural policy. Those are the lines along which we propose to move. With the prices that are obtainable for all the crops that the farmer produces and the prices that are obtainable for live stock, coupled with the general prospects in regard to the future and the encouragement that the State is prepared to give and the drive it is anxious to put into this effort, we will go a long way to correct the tendencies which have crept in amongst us because of the war years and the war situation. I say that is a sound agricultural policy. I say that that policy, coupled with the agreement that we are now discussing, should give to farmers nothing more than they deserve; perhaps it may not give them as much as they deserve, but it will give them something which will entitle me to go out and ask them, as the spearhead of this industry, to get down to the job of increasing production and improving the situation generally by raising the level of the standards of our people as a whole.
It is really difficult to know what to say about this agreement —that is, if it is an agreement. If we take the various items it seems to me that one can sum it up as follows: our Ministers went over to London looking for something which they did not get— something which the country needs and which we do not produce ourselves. The first item is coal. The agreement says:—
"The British Government have undertaken to maintain existing supplies of coal"
—that is a great concession—
"and to provide a substantial additional quantity of coal of reasonable quality in the year 1948."
The amount is not given. The next item is machinery and equipment.
"We will receive improved supplies of agricultural machinery and the British Government will endeavour to improve supplies and deliveries of certain other classes of machinery and equipment."
The amount is not given. No quantity is mentioned. No price is mentioned. No figures of any kind are given.
"We will receive increased supplies of certain textile raw materials and we may expect improved supplies of steel and components for the manufacture of agricultural machinery."
The next item is fertilisers. Our annual requirement in the last year of peace, 1938, was something in the region of 250,000 tons. We were granted 25,000 tons of sulphate of ammonia by the International Emergency Food Council and the British Government have agreed to supply us with 50,000 tons of superphosphate in 1947-48. We are being granted 15,000 additional tons when our needs will be more than 250,000 tons.
I pass on to the next item which deals with seed. We will receive 50,000 cwts. of seed wheat. That is 2,500 tons. The Minister for Industry and Commerce told us to-day that we had 640,000 acres under wheat last year. Assuming that each acre of wheat would take on an average three cwts. of seed we will want at the very lowest estimate 1,920,000 cwts of wheat. We are getting 50,000 cwts. of foreign seed wheat. It is the first time since the outbreak of war that we will have a change of seed.
There is a welcome increase in the price of cattle. It is not a very big one, admittedly, but the Government is to be commended on it. In the case of store cattle, there is a reduction from six months to two months for the qualifying period in England.
"The total number of cattle to be exported from Ireland to continental countries as from the 1st February, 1948, will be the subject of consultation between the Department of Agriculture and the British Ministry of Food."
I hope, when the Taoiseach is replying, that he will tell us exactly what that particular sentence means and what its implication is in relation to the future. Does it mean that we will be prohibited from selling to continental countries, even if it suits us?
Is not the Deputy able to read?
I think nobody but the Taoiseach himself could understand the contents of his draft.
I did not draft that.
If you did not draft it, it tastes very strongly of you.
The usual vague answers.
Perhaps if the Deputy read it aloud, people would understand it.
"The total number of cattle to be exported from Ireland to continental countries as from the 1st February, 1948, will be the subject of consultation between the Department of Agriculture and the British Ministry of Food."
Is not that clear?
I shall not attempt to interpret it. I hope to hear the Taoiseach on it when he is replying.
The next item is sheep and lambs. There are some items here which make me rather wonder as to why they were discussed at all. We shall not have sheep and lambs for export. Another item is bacon. I wonder why bacon was discussed. Were the Taoiseach and his Ministers looking for bacon for this country from England or were they trying to convey to the British Government that we could sell them something which we have not got?
Eggs are to remain pretty much as they were. Turkeys are to remain at the same price as the year before last. There will be an improved price for seed potatoes. There will be an improved price for flax. That is the sum total of the agreement.
When one throws one's mind back a few years, it seems rather strange that we should now be trying to make a bargain with Britain to sell her goods which we have not got. I have no doubt that we went over looking for coal and farm machinery and fertilisers. Those are three things which we cannot produce ourselves in order to fulfil all our requirements. It is the desire of every sensible person in this country to trade with any country and to buy and sell in an ordinary businesslike way. It is the same as if two neighbours attend a fair or a market and one of them has an article to sell which the other needs. There is nothing wrong in these two neighbours buying and selling between themselves. It is just the same with this country and Great Britain. We have something to sell that Great Britain wants and if we want to buy something from Great Britain of which she has an exportable surplus there is nothing wrong or shameful about this Government or any other Government driving as hard a bargain as they possibly can for the exchange of these goods. There seemed to be a notion amongst the present Government that such a thing was absolutely disgraceful or, at least, that it was a dangerous thing even to contemplate. They should realise that they are the Ministers of one independent sovereign State determined on doing business with the Ministers of another independent sovereign State.
Who ever said anything contrary to that?
Then why did not these discussions take place when we had something to sell?
There are two parties to all these things. The first thing the Deputy would want to learn is that there is a time for doing things and a time when you cannot do things.
Apparently the time for doing things and trying to sell to other countries is when we have nothing to sell.
When the other country is prepared to do business.
That argument would not deceive a child, because business is business. In 1929 our exports of cattle numbered 774,733; in 1946 they were 461,876; sheep exports in 1929 were 576,839; in 1946, 62,714; in 1929 our pig exports were 307,208; last year five lonesome pigs were exported; in 1929 our export of bacon was 482,247 cwts. as against 72,000 cwts. last year; in 1929 our export of pork was 273,201, and none last year; butter, 560,482 cwts, and none last year; eggs, 4,810,940 great hundreds as against 1,838,000 last year; potatoes, 303,831 cwts., as against 80,000 last year; porter, 1,423,816 barrels, as against 734,000 last year. Spirits and other things were very much the same.
I do not want to criticise from a destructive point of view. The whole trend of the speech of the Minister for Agriculture seemed to be that if he could succeed in depicting to the House that Deputy Hughes was all wrong or did not know what he was talking about, everything would be all right. We must face up to the fact that agricultural production has fallen to a very serious extent. There is no need to remind the Taoiseach of that. As head of the Government, he must know all about agricultural and industrial production and all the factors which bear on these things. If we are to become a prosperous country or to keep our affairs in order, we must make some definite effort to increase production.
I presume that the three main things which the Government sought from Great Britain were coal, machinery and fertilisers, and of these, in my opinion, fertilisers are the most urgent if we are to increase production. The Minister for Agriculture did not outline a single plan by which agricultural production could be increased. He threw out one hint that he had in mind something about decent out-offices and sheds. These will be a help, but they will not get down to the root of the problem. There is only one way to increase agricultural production and that is to ask ourselves, if we take one acre of land, how we can increase production from it next year and the year after and the year after that.
The Minister for Agriculture apparently thinks that the farmers are a lazy crowd who have been deliberately shirking their duty. He said that they were tilling the same land for the last six or seven years, until it is no longer fit to yield crops. There are very few fields in this country, even in the best tillage areas, which can stand any more than five or six tillage crops in succession. We all know that it is not husbandry to do that. If farmers have been doing that, I contend that that is not the fault of the farmers, because the previous Minister for Agriculture (Dr. Ryan) gave his officials power to dictate to the farmers where wheat was to be sown. I contend that there are very few farmers who took up the attitude the Minister complained of. If any farmers have done that, they are certainly no credit to the country, because, in times of emergency, no matter what our politics may be, we should all put our shoulders to the wheel. I think that was the general attitude of farmers during the last emergency. I have travelled through the country as much as the Minister for Agriculture, and I do not know one farmer who kept on tilling land that was worn out with tillage and refused to break fresh land. Any farmer worthy of the name takes a pride, even if he knows he is growing crops which will not yield a profit, in having a bumper crop, in having something to look at and some reward for his labour. That is the way I feel about the matter and I think it is the way 99 out of every 100 farmers feel. I certainly will not stand for the Minister for Agriculture saying that the farmers are a lazy, useless crowd who have deliberately tried to evade the call that the nation made on them to produce food. That attitude shows deep ingratitude for what farmers have done.
The Minister regrets the fall in agricultural production. While we are denuding rural Ireland of its population, we cannot expect an increase in agricultural production or anything else. We must make life in rural Ireland more attractive to the young people so that they will not be flying from it in the numbers they are to-day. That is the first step. After that we must provide the farmers with fertilisers. We must introduce all the schemes we possibly can to make life in the rural districts attractive. At the present time work on the land is slavery. That is the reason why the young people are flying from the land. There is no living to be made out of the average holding of land in this country. I am speaking now of holdings of £20 or £25 valuation, which form the vast bulk of the holdings in this country. The Minister for Agriculture has not outlined a single scheme or given any indication as to what he is going to do, beyond the swaggering, bullying attitude that he adopted; that he will not take back chat from anybody and will have his own way. That is not the way to tackle the problem.
I admit that the Minister has a lot of leeway to make up after 15 years of bad management and planning by his predecessor. He has been plunged into the middle of a desperate job when our volume of agricultural produce has been falling since 1929 to the extent I have indicated. The Minister has to undertake a big job and certainly he or any Deputy who will step into his boots will require the full co-operation of every member of this House. Any Minister will get that co-operation if he tackles the problem in the right way. The first step is to keep our youngsters on the land. We cannot expect to increase agricultural production if the country is denuded of its young people. At present there is scarcely anybody living on the land except old men, old women and children. The young people are flocking to the towns and cities and are crossing to England, to get away from the countryside where the standard of living is low and everything is so drab. We must get men with the necessary technical knowledge to tackle this question of food production, and we must keep them at home. We can formulate schemes until we are black in the face but they will be no good if the necessary manpower is not available, fortified with the requisite knowledge. If the necessary technique is not there all our plans go for naught. We must also ensure that fertilisers are made available in sufficient quantities. I say that the promised provision of 15,000 tons under this agreement is only a blind and is only just playing with the problem. The Minister for Agriculture mentioned that he hoped to increase the use of lime on the land. That is a step in the right direction as our land is very sour and acid for want of lime at the moment. Lime at the present time, either in the burned form or as ground limestone, is not available in sufficient quantities or at attractive prices.
The Minister also mentioned that he would like to see farmers using more phosphates but the trouble is that such fertilisers are not available. Farmers are very keen to get more fertilisers, but they cannot use what is not there. When the Minister talks about the provision of decent out-offices and sheds I wonder would he throw his mind back to a time, some months ago, when another Deputy and I put down a motion to secure the de-rating of out-offices. We pointed out at the time that an enormous amount of waste occurs owing to the lack of sufficient sheds for crops. We also pointed out that only about a quarter of the quantity of farmyard manure that would be available, if the farmers had sufficient housing for their live stock, could now be utilised in the top dressing of land. My reason for bringing forward the motion at that time was that I was aware that people who erected out-offices for these purposes were being penalised inasmuch as their valuations were immediately increased and they had to pay considerable increased rates and if the Minister for Agriculture wants to make a success of this scheme he will first have to stabilise the rates at the figure at which they stand at the moment. If people, as a result of their thrift and industry, are in a position to erect out-offices to house crops, machinery, or live stock, they should not be penalised in this way. They certainly will not be encouraged to erect these buildings if they find they have to pay severely for them in the form of rates. These are things which affect agricultural production inasmuch as they prevent young men, when they take over power, from making the improvement that they should like to carry out.
In conclusion, I should like to point out, particularly to the Minister for Local Government, that before we go bargaining with any country in relation to imports and exports we must have something to sell. We have very little at the moment. If we are going to increase agricultural production, there is no use in formulating a plan if we do not take some steps to stop the flight from the land. Most farmsteads are absolutely denuded of their young male population at the moment and where the young male worker is not available work cannot be carried on in the proper way. The young men have either gone to England or to the towns and cities; the countryside is no longer attractive for them and the Government has taken no steps to make it attractive. A general cry all over the country is that taxation is too heavy and that the people see no return in useful or beneficial schemes from it. If young people were kept at home production would be stepped up automatically provided they got a little help in the form of loans or grants for out-offices, fertilisers and things of that kind. These are some of the measures that will aid production; without them we are just only talking through our hats.
I am afraid the criticism offered to this agreement, if agreement it may be called, has been concentrated on details rather than on fundamentals. The agreement, or rather the heads which were discussed fell into three categories—the availability of goods, the price for goods and the limitation of credit and currency as far as this country is concerned. It would appear to me that to approach any negotiations of this kind, it is necessary, in the first instance, to determine the major problems that face the country, to ascertain their causes and then to approach any agreement on the basis of these causes. By far the most serious problem that faces the country at the moment is emigration. This country has reached the lowest point from the population point of view in the course of its whole history. This year the population of the country is lower than it ever has been before.
Week after week, month after month, we watch young people flying from this country, young people upon whom we have spent much money, young people who have been fed and clothed and educated here, then to be exported in order to work in the industrial cities or the mines of England. Many of them are immature in age, education and outlook. If the process which has been going on for the past 15 years is allowed to continue, in another quarter of a century this nation will practically have ceased to exist. That, therefore, is the fundamental problem which should motivate any negotiator entering upon discussions for a trade agreement with our next-door neighbour.
One of the difficulties in this respect is that our Government, for some reason, has refused to admit to itself the seriousness of the situation from the emigration point of view. At first it was very nearly denied that there was a serious emigration from this country. Various causes were attributed to it. I noticed the other day in the House, on the question of the redistribution of seats, that the Minister for Local Government mentioned two or three times that the population of Mayo had fallen but, of course, it was only temporary and they were going to come back. The whole assumption on the part of the Government seems to be that emigration is not a problem.
Could the Deputy bring that problem under this agreement?
Yes, I shall bring it in in this way, that I think the whole agreement should have been approached from the point of view of finding a remedy for emigration. Some of the provisions of the agreement will, I think, not merely be of no use as a remedy for emigration, but may even bring about further emigration. The cause of emigration is an economic cause. Emigration, in turn, results in a fall in production. The Minister for Agriculture very candidly admitted two or three times in the course of his speech that he really did not know what was the cause of the fall in production. I can tell him the cause. It is because our country is being depopulated; it is because our young people are fleeing from the land. That is the cause of the fall in production, and until that situation is remedied, production will continue to fall. The fall in production, in turn, creates a scarcity in goods and an increase in the cost of living. The increase in the cost of living worsens the economic position and you have further emigration as a result.
The reality of the situation in relation to emigration is this, that we have next door to us a labour market that offers much higher wages. Despite the figures reported from time to time about what workers may get in London, there the casual worker-and most of the young people who emigrate from here are going as casual workers —receives a much higher rate of wages than he could ever hope to get here. Side by side with that he has a cost of living which is 50 per cent. lower than the cost of living here. He goes in search of a higher wage and a lower cost of living so as to enable him to send maybe £2 a week home to his family.
In so far as I can see, this agreement will, if anything, add to the cost of living. Increased prices for meat sold to England will mean increased prices for meat sold here, unless the Government is prepared to take the necessary steps to subsidise food, to bring down the cost of living to the same level as that which exists across the water.
One of the matters that occur to me in relation to the cattle trade—and I hope the Taoiseach will be able to inform the House whether or not this matter was discussed—is this. England suffers from a shortage of labour. We have a surplus of labour, a surplus that we do not employ because we are not prepared to pay them enough. Instead of exporting cattle on the hoof, I would ask the Taoiseach to tell the House whether he approached the British Government on the basis of selling dressed meat. England suffers from a labour shortage and I venture to suggest she would at this time be quite prepared to buy meat from us dressed, to allow us to retain the hides and to allow us to retain the offals in order to make further items.
If England requires a greater agricultural output from us, she should have no objection to our keeping the raw material for making a greater effort. If England is suffering from a man-power shortage, then she should have no objection to our retaining the hides, dressing them and selling them as leather. If England has a manpower shortage, she should have no objection to our selling her meat dressed or canned. I have seen suggestions in some papers that such a proposal was made in the course of the negotiations but that, strangely enough, it was made, not by the representatives of the Irish Government, but by the representatives of the British Government. Possibly there may be no foundation for these reports. Possibly there is some foundation for these reports. But if this matter was discussed, I suggest that the House should be told the basis on which the discussion took place. If it was not discussed, I would criticise our representatives for not having raised this question with Great Britain.
In relation to the cattle trade, I think that the House should also be told the exact meaning of the provisions concerning the export of cattle from February 1st, 1948, to continental countries. This document which was handed to us, which is not an agreement, which is entitled "Summary", which consists mainly of clauses that are subject to further discussion, states that the number of cattle to be exported from Ireland to continental countries from February 1st, 1948, will be the subject of consultation between the Department of Agriculture and the British Ministry of Food.
What is the exact meaning of that? Is there an implied undertaking that we are to be no longer free to export cattle to any country other than England? What other meaning can be placed on it? If that is not the meaning of that particular paragraph, why is such a paragraph included?
Another matter which seems to have escaped the attention of the House so far, and which may be of some importance, has not, I take it, escaped the attention of the Government. The headings of this agreement provide for the sale of seed potatoes at a certain price by us to England. Are we serious in suggesting that we will go and sell seed potatoes to England? If we are not serious, why have we included this in the headings of the agreement? If we are serious, does it mean that the Government proposes to repudiate the trade agreement entered into with Spain less than three months ago? The House will remember that only a very short time ago, a trade agreement was entered into between our Government and Spain and that this agreement provides in clause (3) that the Irish Government undertakes to make seed potatoes available for export to Spain in such quantities and at such conditions as may be determined from time to time. Article (4) provides that the Spanish Government should make manganate of potash available for export to this country in such quantities and under such conditions as may be determined from time to time.
Article (7) provides that the agreement should last for two years. The agreement was signed on September 3rd last. The conditions referred to in the agreement were then set out in a letter from the Minister for External Affairs, dated September 3rd, 1947, in which-the detailed clauses referred to in the trade agreement itself were set out. Clause (1) of this letter states that the Spanish Government agrees to ensure the purchase in Ireland of not less than 10,000 tons of certified seed potatoes of the 1947 crop, subject to paragraph (3) below, and not less than 10,000 tons of certified seed potatoes of the 1948 crop. Clause (3) provides that, owing to the fact that the Irish Government was not aware at an earlier date of the extent of Spanish requirements, and was not therefore in a position to plan production accordingly and in view of climatic conditions, it is unlikely that more than 6,000 tons of seed potatoes of the varieties Arran Banner and Up-to-Date will be available from the 1947 crop, this quantity to be supplemented by other varieties acceptable to Spain, such as other Arran varieties and a small quantity of Gladstone. The Irish Government will ensure, weather and other conditions outside their control being favourable, that seed potatoes be made available for Spain in the quantity and variety agreed on pursuant to this note and that the bulk of the production of Arran Banner and Up-to-Date varieties will be made available to Spain.
Now who is to get our seed potatoes, Spain, with whom we entered into an agreement in September, or Britain, with whom some kind of agreement was entered into subsequently?
Were we fooling the Spaniards when we talked about climatic conditions and conditions outside our control being favourable? Is this one of the conditions outside our control?
I do not know whether we are getting better prices from Britain or Spain, and we might be given some information as to whether Spain has offered better prices than Britain.
Do we intend to try to keep both agreements? There is no specific undertaking in the agreement with Spain that we should give all our seed potatoes to Spain, but certainly the spirit of the agreement would indicate that that was the intention. It may well be that we had prior commitments with Britain. I do not know.
One other extraordinary thing featured in regard to this summary, is that wherein the prices for any goods exported from Ireland referred to in it, are specifically set out and apparently controlled in that manner, there is no mention of any prices with regard to goods that Britain is to export to Ireland. In no instance is there any indication of the price at which these goods will be sold here.
It would appear to me that the negotiators charged with the responsibility of negotiating prices in respect of the goods which we had to sell, should make stipulations in regard to the price of the goods that they agreed to buy.
I notice also that in Paragraph No. 2 the admission to Britain of certain industrial exports is to be further discussed. What exports are being referred to? We are dependent-and indeed I must admit we are glad to get them—on a great many different types of commodities and capital goods from England. In other words, we are to supply Britain with a free market. As far as the export of industrial goods produced in Ireland is concerned, however, the only thing this Memorandum tells us is that it is to be further discussed. I want to make it quite clear in anything I say in relation to these matters that I welcome any agreement which would be of benefit to Ireland, but it must be of benefit to our own country as well as to Britain. By far the most important section of this Memorandum—because it is not an agreement—is the last little paragraph which provides that from the 1st October, 1947, to the 30th June next, we are to be allowed to draw only £14,000,000 from our existing credits in Great Britain.
I feel that there must be a background of long and protracted negotiations in regard to our financial position and I would ask the Taoiseach to tell us what exactly the position is in relation to our sterling assets. It is estimated that our sterling assets amount roughly from £300,000,000 to £600,000,000. No official figures are available. At least some £200,000,000 was there in 1939. The value of these has depreciated by half. Therefore, we have already lost half of whatever assets we had accumulated there prior to the war. As the House knows, on the 15th July last sterling became convertible into dollar currency, into hard currencies. We had at least £300,000,000 in sterling. The position continued to exist for a number of days after the 15th July last whereby sterling could have been converted into dollars or into hard currencies. That was not done by this country. There must be, I suggest to this House, some reason, some agreement, which precluded that from being done. I think that the House is entitled to be told the nature of the agreement that existed in relation to that matter. I am not criticising in any way the British Government in relation to its financial policy as regards sterling assets and Ireland. We have voluntarily handed over our purse to their control. However, I do criticise the Government and indeed those people in this country who have continued to pursue a mid-Victorian policy. The one essential requirement for economic development is control of the delicate machinery whereby credits and currency are created to meet the needs of production and employment. That machinery is the key to the economic development of any country. We are, I think I am right in saying, the only country in the world, including the British Dominions, that has not got control of that mechanism. We have allowed that mechanism to pass out of our hands, and I do seriously urge upon the Government that the time has come when they must regain control of that mechanism. I would also urge upon the Government to overhaul many other aspects of this policy in relation to the present financial position that exists as a result of our being tied to sterling. I take one instance. For the last few years it has been the policy of the Government to support Córas Iompair Éireann in their policy of closing our branch railway lines, in their policy of effectively destroying the railways.
That seems somewhat outside the range of this trade agreement.
I propose to relate it, Sir, in this way. It is quite apparent from the limitation placed upon our purchases from the nonsterling areas that we will be curtailed in the quantity of petrol, oil and rubber we can purchase. By reason of the Government's policy in relation to transport, our transport system has become more and more dependent upon oil, rubber and petrol. Our transport company is absorbing larger and larger quantities of petrol. As a result of that, there are now insufficient supplies to meet the demands of other petrol consumers. I urge the Government to review its policy in relation to transport in the light of this agreement and not to permit our transport to become solely dependent upon oil and petrol.
I would also urge upon the Government the setting up of some machinery, representative of both consumers and producers, to ensure that at no stage will more food be exported from this country than is required by the people at home and to ensure that at no stage will anything be exported unless it can be definitely established that it is surplus. The first economic aim of every Government should be to provide for its own national needs. Having regard to the fall in agricultural production there is a danger that foodstuffs may be exported to such a degree as to leave an insufficient quantity available for consumption at home. Side by side with that I would urge upon the Government the provision of food subsidies sufficient to bring down the cost of living to the level which obtains in Britain. Unless that is done there will be a still further fall in production.
The Minister for Agriculture commenced to-day by saying that Deputy Hughes had a hard case to make. I think the Minister had a much harder case to make. Having come back from Britain he now realises that the British are not such bad fellows at all and that they really should get something. But, having come back, he finds that he has nothing to give them. The policy of his predecessor over the last 15 years has left him now in the position where he finds the British willing to negotiate but he has nothing to negotiate with. He realises now that the policy of Fianna Fáil over the last 15 years was a bad policy. He realises that the slaughter of the calves was a bad policy. He ought to have realised that ten or 15 years ago. In some paper I remember seeing where Senator Counihan had tabled a motion in the Seanad to stop the slaughter of calves. The Minister for Agriculture laughed at him and said that no such thing took place. We all know that there is quite a heavy slaughter of calves and we all know that there is a big veal trade in the City of Dublin. Farmers are now getting as much as £20 or £21 for a calf. The slaughter of calves is increasing week by week. This year the farmers are particularly alive to it and their practice now is, when a cow calves, to put two calves on her, keep them for three or four months, bring them up to Dublin and sell them for £40. The Minister asked for suggestions and that is one suggestion I make to him.
It is heartbreaking to see Shorthorn calves being slaughtered. Last week I saw a calf sold for £17 10s. 0d. It was the nicest heifer calf I have seen for years.
Why did you not buy it?
He sold it.
There was an offer of £17 for it but the butcher offered £17 10s. 0d. That calf went over to the abattoir to be eaten by the people of Dublin.
To-day in the Dublin market I met a certain individual who said he had been on a deputation to the Minister for Agriculture. He told me that the Minister for Agriculture had definitely stated that he was going to do away with the single dairy bull. I am not particularly well acquainted with that end of the industry, but I do not want to see anything done which will in any way interfere with the single dairy Shorthorn bull. I was also told that the Minister intends to do away with the beef Shorthorn bull, and that he will subsidise nothing in the future but the whitehead and the black. If that is what he is going to do, then he has no proper appreciation of the agricultural economy of this country. In my opinion, the beef Shorthorn bull is the only animal which should get a subsidy. The small farmer does not go to him because his calf does not come to maturity quick enough. The Hereford comes to maturity some six or eight months before the Shorthorn. Therefore, the small farmer will not go to the beef Shorthorn bull. Why should subsidies be paid on the whitehead, to which everybody will go and which should require no subsidy from anybody? Why not pay a subsidy for the beef Shorthorn to which nobody wants to go? One should be put in every parish. You will get ten or 12 calves from him. It is only in that way that you will get the small farmer to breed the Shorthorn. It must be remembered that the Shorthorn is the foundation of our store cattle trade. It built up the name we have of having the best store cattle in the world. That name came to us through the grand old Shorthorn cows we saw in the country long ago.
I remember 30 or 35 years ago when I first went to fairs as a young lad of 16 and I saw Shorthorn cows that you would nearly have to get on a ladder to put your hand on their backs. You do not see those cows now. I suppose the Whitehead and the Hereford are all right in their own way but I maintain no subsidy should be paid on them. It pays a man better to go to these bulls because their stock matures early. If you have not a Shorthorn cow to cross a Hereford with you will not have the good store cattle we had heretofore. That is the cross that gets the lovely store. The country is fast filling up with Whitehead and Hereford cows. Some are good milkers and some are not. Soon we will find ourselves without the lovely store beasts we used to have. Numbers of people in my county are against me because I decry the Hereford bull. I maintain that any ordinary farmer can keep a Hereford bull, because he will be paid well enough for it by the farmers going to him with cows. But, if there is any money to be spent on subsidies, it should be spent on the beef Shorthorn bull. It is not popular with the farmer, because the progeny do not come to maturity soon enough.
The Minister criticised the Fine Gael Party and said that they thought they were the only people who could do business with the British Government. They were pressing the Government for the last 12 or 15 years to do this. The people of the country are very glad that the Taoiseach and his Ministers went to London, even though this is not a good agreement. There are certain things in it which are not proper. There is a mistaken view in the country that cattle are £5 or £10 a head dearer. They are not. Anyone who was at Edgeworthstown fair knows that they were a £1 or 25/- cheaper than that day month. At Mullingar fair yesterday they were also cheaper. People who had land on the 11 months' system and had a certain type of beast could afford to keep them because they knew this agreement was coming. Kerry cattle were bought last year and fed on the lands of Meath. The people who had these knew the agreement was coming and kept them back. That is why there are thousands of cattle going across to Britain this week. Cattle like these have not gone to Britain for the last four or five years because the price was only 65/- a cwt. These are the cattle which are going out now. In a fortnight or so all these will have disappeared.
The small farmer is getting no benefit from this agreement because he has nothing to sell now. After the second or third week in November what has the small farmer to sell? All his cattle were gone by the 1st of November. It is the big farmer who could afford to hold over his cattle that is getting the benefit. I sold cattle in the Dublin market to-day belonging to a customer at 79/- per cwt. Three weeks ago he would have got 82/- or 83/- for these cattle. As I said, Kerry cattle and other cattle of that kind which are not up to standard are getting the benefit of this agreement.
The worst feature of the agreement is that it is not known how long it will last. The agreement would be a good one if it were for a four-year period. I maintain that next year cattle will be 4/- or 5/- a cwt. less if a certain part of this agreement is implemented. The agreement should have been for three or four years, so that the Minister could try to make something out of it by planning ahead. The British Government have guaranteed their farmers their present prices until 1951, with the option of a revision every February, but not a downward revision. With a four-year agreement, our farmers would have something that they could plan ahead for. What have they to look forward to next year? In one part of the agreement we have the prices. Under another part there is a danger of our trade with Belgium, Holland, Switzerland and other countries being cut off. Officials and others say that that is not so but, so far as I can read the agreement, on the 1st February next we must consult the British Government as to what cattle we shall export to Belgium, Holland or anywhere else. Only for our trade with Belgium, Holland and other countries the British Government would not be so ready to bargain with us. That is what led up to the agreement. The British saw the danger to them of new markets being opened by this country.
Deputy Hughes said that he did not value that trade. There are a lot of changes in the world. When he came into power first, the Taoiseach said that he was looking for alternative markets. Why decry the alternative markets when you have got them? After 1934, 1935 and 1936 you left us in the position that we had nothing to sell to the British Government. You were looking for alternative markets then. Now that one has dropped into your lap, under this agreement you have to consult with the British Government as to what you will sell in that market.
If the Deputy would only read the agreement.
I have read it, and I have discussed it, and I cannot see anything in it but that they want you to discuss that matter with them. If we want to sell cattle to Holland or Belgium, why should we have to discuss that matter with the British Government? They did not worry about us until they found that Belgium and Holland were out bidding them in the Dublin market by 4/- or 5/- a cwt. Deputy Hughes said that the foreign market may not be a great market. I know that there is hardly a four-footed beast in Belgium to-day. They had to slaughter even their cows and their calves because they had not hay for them. They had to send their dead meat over to London to be put in cold storage. Is there not a market for three or four years there? Is there not a market in Holland for three or four years? The British Government are giving their farmers £3 for every calf they rear so that they will not have to buy store cattle from us. The Minister should encourage our people to keep their cows. They should stop the canning of these cows. In the Dublin market 15 years ago I hardly ever saw a cow sold. All other kinds of cattle were sold but there was hardly ever a cow sold. At that time we sold the loveliest of bullocks and heifers.
Because you had no bullocks.
What is in the Dublin market for the last three years? When I came into the Dáil first, Deputy Corry called me "bullock Fagan". If he had followed my policy, we would have something with which to get dollars to-day. We have nothing now to trade with England for dollars. The Deputy decried the bullock then but he is calling back the bullock to-day. In my pens in the Dublin market to-day I had only 16 or 17 bullocks. All the rest were cows for sale. Half the market to-day was filled with cows. For every five bullocks or heifers there were 40 cows. Before that trade came on these cows were not worth a lot.
In former years, farmers sent their cattle to the bull every year and kept them until they calved. They got a good price for the calves. Now many farmers will not send their cows to the bull because they can get £30 or £40 for each cow as she stands. They can then buy a milch cow after calving. Why would a farmer bother sending his cow to the bull when he can dispose of her at a good price and buy another cow after calving at practically the same price? It is that practice of selling off the cattle of the country together with the slaughter of the calves that is responsible for the decline of the cattle industry.
Another aspect of the agreement which I think is shortsighted is that which refers to the reduction from 5d. to 4d. per lb. on the 1st March next of the increase granted for beef. The Minister tried to explain that away by stating that on the 1st March the trade in grass-fed cattle commenced. I think he made a huge mistake in that statement because anybody who knows the actual circumstances realises that there is scarcely a blade of grass in the country on the 1st March and it is generally the first week of August before any grass-fed cattle are available. It might happen that in the second or third week of May, you would be able to get a waggon of grass-fed cattle in County Kildare but it is generally the first week in August before we are able to produce them in other parts of the country.
The Minister also asked us to till our best land. If he wants to encourage tillage in such a manner as to promote stall-feeding he has gone the wrong way about it in this agreement because a reduction of ld. per lb. in the price for fat cattle on the 1st March will mean that there will be no incentive to farmers to stall feed their cattle for marketing after that period. The Minister also asked farmers to till more fresh land. No doubt some farmers are not making the efforts they should in this respect but I think that it is not bad husbandry—and I think Deputy Corry agrees with me—if a man breaks a field, lets it out and then puts it in grass for one or two years before tilling it again. I heard of a case to-day where an inspector called on a farmer near Athboy who has some third year grass. The inspector would not allow him to break that third year grass and is compelling him to enter another field of 20 acres in order to find five acres to complete his tillage quota. I cannot see that that farmer would be guilty of bad husbandry in tilling the land under third year grass. A farmer cannot be expected to cover his whole holding for the purposes of tillage. Once land has been broken up for tillage purposes you will not restore its grazing properties to it for another nine or ten years. This method of breaking up good grazing land and reseeding it is all a humbug. I saw cattle being turned into land which had been re-seeded in that way and instead of grazing the new grass they went round to the old headland to get at the old pasture. Once good grassland is broken up, it takes almost 20 years to re-establish it as grazing land again.
The real trouble is that farmers are asked to do too much tillage. I think that 38 ½ per cent. is much too high a proportion for any farmer. He could carry out a 24 per cent. or 25 per cent. tillage fairly comfortably, but once he is called upon to exceed that proportion you are adding the straw that breaks the camel's back. He gets so far and then finding that it is beyond him to complete his quota in a proper manner, he finishes it any way at all with the result that the yield from the crop is very poor. If farmers were asked to do 10 per cent. or 12 per cent. less than they are obliged to do at the moment I guarantee that the mills would have more grain than is being sent to them at present. I believe that you would have far better results if farmers were not required to till such a high proportion of their land.
Another suggestion I would make, as the Minister has invited suggestions for increasing the number of cows in the country, is that any farmer who keeps a certain number of milch cows and rears calves from them, as well as supplying milk to the people in the neighbourhood, should be exempt from the tillage regulations. If the Minister operated a scheme of that kind it would mean that a farmer having 10 or 15 cows would be able to rear 10 or 15 calves and would be able to supply so many more pounds of butter and pints of milk to the surrounding countryside. All over the country at the present time children are being reared on tinned milk and powdered milk. I referred in this House before to the fact that heaps of empty milk tins are to be seen at the back of many labourers' cottages in the country. I think that people would be encouraged to keep more cows if some concession were given to them in the way I have suggested. There are three farmers at present in the neighbourhood of Mullingar who formerly kept cows and supplied the town with milk, but they have been obliged because of the tillage regulations to abandon milk production. If you do not encourage such farmers to keep cows you will have a continued decline in milk production.
Deputy MacBride said we ought to encourage the dressed meat industry. I want people to keep away from that. We know what happened with the canned cows. They were all talking about the canned cows and we saw where a number of factories were established in order to can cows. In the beginning the buyers were in the Dublin market, but one week, when they got the farmers to come up with a whole lot of cows, they allowed only one factory to buy and they gave the farmers what they considered their cattle were worth. The next week the second factory came in, and week after week the same thing happened. We also saw what happened when the dressed beef reached England. Some of it reached that country in anything but a good condition. If you go into the dressed beef trade again our farmers will rue the day. My suggestion is that you sell your animals on the hoof and, if you do not like the price, then keep your stock till another day. The dressed meat trade will only ruin our farmers. If Deputy MacBride pursues that policy he will not get. many farmers to follow him.
The Deputy also referred to seed potatoes. Possibly he does not understand the position. The Government made an agreement with Switzerland England and other countries, and, even though there may not be enough potatoes, I think the Government were right. Deputy MacBride mentioned Arran Banners and Up-to-dates. If we could get a good market for those potatoes, then I do not think Deputy Corry would have much beet growing. Those potatoes are the easiest to grow. You could grow 20 tons to the acre and if you got £12 or £14 a ton you would not have much beet grown here. Arran Banners and Up-to-dates are potatoes not many can eat. If the Government could get a market for them, I would clap them on the back.
It would be a good thing if we could get a market for our seed potatoes. If you could get a good export market for them it would mean that all the bog gardens could be utilised with profit. Around Athlone there is a good export trade in seed potatoes. It is a thing that should be encouraged. In low land and bog land they will grow well. It would be a great asset to the farmers if that trade were encouraged.
The Minister referred to lime. I am not a believer in lime. Some people consider it is good for the land. I put it out and I saw no great difference. In my opinion it is not such a great thing as some people think. The Minister expects to distribute a lot of lime. He also mentioned that the farmers are getting relief in regard to rates. If we go back on the debates in this House we will see where he stated that he and the Minister for Local Government would take the rates relief back from the farmers and give them a supply of lime instead. If he takes the rates relief back he will injure many farmers because it is a great help. We do not want his lime.
As regards out-offices, they are urgently needed, especially lofts for grain. It is pitiable to see the plight of many farmers who have not sufficient room for their grain and they are often at the mercy of the mills. If they had lofts they could store their oats and feed it to live stock all the year round.
I welcome this agreement. If there are any further negotiations, I urge the Taoiseach to try to do away with the 5/- a head of a difference between our cattle and the English cattle. In that way he would remove the inducement to smuggle across the Border. At present our animals are treated on the English market as foreign animals. There should be no difference between our cattle and the English cattle. Any beast across the Border at the moment is worth 5/- a cwt. more. Numbers of our cattle are brought across the Border into Northern Ireland and they are stamped as British-born cattle, thereby gaining 5/- a cwt. That practice should be done away with and our cattle should not be treated as foreign.
I urge the Taoiseach not to fight shy of the Belgian trade or the trade with Holland. In my opinion you would not have the agreement with England if it were not for the continental trade. I believe that trade will last for a good while. Maybe when the people on the Continent get a taste for our livestock they will remain our customers for a long time. I can see that five years from now the policy of the English Government will be not to buy cattle from this country. They give their farmers £3 for every calf they rear. They will encourage their farmers to rear calves and soon they will not require any of our cattle. The British market may not be in the future the good market for us that it was in former years. Therefore, I ask the Government to encourage every market for our stock and not close the doors on those markets that have done us such a good turn by causing the British Government to negotiate with our Government.
On a point of correction. I do not think I suggested that we should not export seed potatoes. On the contrary, I would welcome that. I did draw the attention of the House to the fact that on the 3rd September last we entered into a trade agreement with Spain for the sale of our seed potatoes in exchange for fertilisers. I merely asked which of the two agreements would supervene —the agreement with Spain or the new agreement with Britain.
You could keep the two agreements if you had a good year of potatoes. I can remember good years when the potatoes were rotting in the pits.
I have only got two points to mention on this trade agreement. I would like to say that it is the best kind of agreement that we could have got, or at least that it is the only type, when we consider the inability of our present Government.
On behalf of my constituents, I would like to say that they are going to be very disappointed at it. When I am talking of my constituents, I refer especially to the workers employed in the agricultural machinery factories of Wexford and Enniscorthy. For a long time we have been expecting some determined effort to be made with success to get foundry coke and mild steel to keep those factories in full production. I need not stress the importance of those factories in Wexford and Enniscorthy, for they are the means of support of a very large number of people there. For a long period past, the insufficiency of foundry coke and the unsuitability of the small amount available have resulted in a very big proportion of the men being laid off in the foundries. I would like an approach to the problem from this point of view: there has been an indication that certain types of agricultural machinery will be imported to this country from Great Britain. I do not know what was put to the British Ministers as the Taoiseach was not very helpful and should have given us more information than is contained in the Dáil Report of 13th November. Many of us here and in the Opposition are speaking in the dark because the whole agreement is very vague. We may get this or we may get that, we may get a certain quantity of this or we may not get a certain quantity. It is still a matter of speculation and it probably will not mean anything to either of the two countries until five or six months have elapsed.
In regard to agricultural machinery, if we are going to import it its manufacture in Britain will undoubtedly require foundry coke. It would have been a good proposition for our Ministers to get the British Ministers to give us coke and let us make any machinery that we could in our own foundries. Neither the Taoiseach nor any of our Ministers have told us what kind of machinery is going to be brought into the country and I am worried as to the effect it will have, or the damage it will do, to the Wexford firms which are engaged in producing—or who are endeavouring to produce—agricultural machinery at present. I suppose that the Minister for Industry and Commerce is the best man of the four Ministers involved to give us an explanation of the prospect of getting coke from Britain. It seems useless to try to get it from Belgium or France or any other country, while American coke is unsuitable. If foundry coke could be got here, our people would get employment and the agricultural machinery we require would be produced. Failing that, I would like the Minister for Industry and Commerce to devote a small portion of his speech to telling the people of Wexford at least-it may not be of national importance—what the future prospects are for the foundries of Enniscorthy and Wexford to procure foundry coke and mild steel. A great deal depends on that, and if there are no good prospects we will lose a substantial portion of our population because about one-third of our people are employed in two or three foundries there.
I would like to ask whether the agreement provides for the export of an increased quantity of canned meat to the United Kingdom. Many people engaged in the canning of meat at the present time are wondering whether to hold on for the proposed agreement. I am sure, I have been led to believe, that there is an alternative market apart from the British market and I want to know whether the British market is going to be the more attractive one. If the Taoiseach or the Ministers cannot say anything or give the details, I would like to know if, and when, an official statement will be issued. I am sure that the Minister for Industry and Commerce will have many queries to reply to, but I would like him to devote a portion of his speech to telling my constituents, through me, what prospects there are for the foundries of Wexford and Enniscorthy.
If ever a mouse came out of a mountain it was this agreement. Some of the benefits conferred on us are that we are to import manures, machinery and seeds from Great Britain. Who stopped us from importing manures, machinery and seeds from Great Britain? Ourselves. We were always able to bring in as much of these things as we wanted until we put tariffs, quotas and restrictions on them and made it impossible for us to bring them in. I remember in the opening years of the war urging the Minister for Industry and Commerce to take the duty off agricultural machinery so that our people could buy it and we were told that he could not think of it. He postponed doing that until such a time as there was no more machinery to be got. One of the masterpieces of negotiation, of which we are so proud now, is that when he was in London the British Government told him that he might have a little machinery of the same character, or rather, slightly worse in quality, which he could have bought five years ago and which our people could have been using for the past five years and which they might still have to use now.
He is getting artificial manure. I remember I suggested to bring in artificial manure, but it would not be allowed, it was then our proud privilege to pay the manure ring in this country 10/-, or £1 a ton extra for super and compound manures, and a great part of the land was starved of manure because our people could not afford to pay the price charged by the manure ring and our own Minister refused to bring any into the country from outside. He got a great victory over himself in London after "wrastling" with himself for five years. He persuaded himself to let in manure. In regard to seeds, if any of the Deputies were to go out and look at a field of oats, or wheat, or barley, during the past few years he would see that in wheat there are at least three or four varieties in every field, while in a field of oats, God knows how many varieties there are. Who was it that laid down the doctrine that we must not import seed and that to suggest importing seed was high treason against Kathleen Ni Houlihan?—The Minister for Industry and Commerce. He wrestled with himself again over in London last week and after a desperate struggle convinced himself that we ought to start importing seeds again. Nobody ever stopped him but himself.
Another mighty victory was that there was to be an increased price for turkeys. But who was to get the increased price—the shippers. Is that increased price going back to the people who reared the turkeys? At the present time every unfortunate person in this country who rears turkeys has to pay 3d. a lb. in order to subsidise his neighbour's eggs. Why in the name of Providence the unfortunate turkey breeders should be lit upon as the source of revenue to create a fund with which to subsidise the egg producers I cannot imagine. You might just as well levy 1/- a sack on flour out of the millers' profits, who are a great deal better able to afford it than the women who raise the turkeys, and use that for a fund to subsidise the production of eggs. Most of the supporters of the Fianna Fáil Party are muddle-headed people. They think turkeys lay eggs and that therefore it is no harm to put a tax on turkeys to subsidise hen eggs. I do not give two fiddle-de-dees whether the shippers get more money for turkeys or not. God knows they made enough out of shipping turkeys and eggs within the last five years. They are the only people in this country who got any fat out of it. I would be very much interested to hear now how much of the increased price the producers are going to get and how long are we going to carry on the revolting injustice of blistering the turkey producers in this country in order to subsidise those who produce eggs. Sometimes I despair of this House when I hear Deputies' chop logic about beef, milch cows, white-faced cows, black cows, seed potatoes, and so forth in the times in which we are living.
It is really like the talk that should be going on in a kindergarten. It does not matter two traneens what minor fluctuations in quantity or price occur in regard to our agricultural produce at the present time unless the fundamental matter that is causing the economic crisis in the world is faced, controlled and overcome. Unless we can prevent the catastrophe that is hanging over Europe at the present time the least of our worries is going to be whether we have white-faced calves or black calves because we will have no calves at all, and only those of us who can fly over the ocean or who are prepared to become serfs will be allowed to survive here or elsewhere. What answer can the Government make to the point raised by Deputy MacBride and the point raised by Deputy Fagan? If it is true that the interests of this country economically and politically are not indissolubly interwoven with those of Great Britain why did our Government not convert the £300,000,000 of sterling we held in Great Britain into dollars during the short period of convertibility that existed between July 1st and August 15th? The poor simple creatures that sit on the Fianna Fáil Benches do not know the meaning of the word convertibility. They do not know what I am talking about. The fact is that if our interests are completely independent and divorced from those of Britain and the Commonwealth the Minister for Finance of this country was guilty of something very close to treason.
They could not have done it.
The agreement in relation to convertibility related only to sterling arising from current transactions.
The Minister is a very innocent lad.
Read it for yourself.
There were countries in Europe who took the short view and by a series of astute manæuvres converted the bulk of their outstanding sterling assets into sterling accruing from current transactions—it was a perfectly simple banking transaction to carry into effect—and thereupon converted those assets into dollars. That matter has been repeatedly adverted to by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the British House of Commons. The Irish Government was perfectly right not to do that. It was a short-sighted, silly and desperately dangerous irresponsible piece of self-seeking on the part of a few short-sighted European and South American Governments who acted either through reckless irresponsibility or quite possibly through a malevolent desire to assist the Communist power which was seeking, is seeking, and will continue to seek to encompass the economic destruction of Great Britain in the confident hope that there will ensue thereon the economic collapse of Europe and, in the remoter future, the economic collapse of the United States of America in the confident hope that that would result in their political collapse which would make them the serfs of the Communist power which seeks to impose itself on the world.
Deputy Fagan is at a loss to understand why this Government does not appreciate the full value of the alternative market at present available for our cattle in Belgium and Holland. I confess that I was amazed to hear Deputy Fagan take so short a view. Suppose in any shop in rural Ireland you had a good established business. The time came when Indian meal was scarce, as it is scarce now, and the shopkeeper who had regular customers who were not fly-by-nighters, sold all the Indian meal he had got in his shop to people from 30 and 40 miles distant for a couple of shillings a hundredweight more than his regular customers were in a position to pay. How long would he be in business after the emergency and the shortage were over? There would be grass growing on his doorstep. Every regular customer that he and his father and his grandfather had before him and on whom they depended for their livelihood would walk a mile rather than go to the man who, in a time of shortage, sold them out in order to collect a couple of scroungy shillings from strangers who would never cross the threshold of his door if they could get what they want to buy anywhere else.
Ninety-six per cent. of our total agricultural export in peace time goes to Great Britain. Never a penn'orth was purchased from this country by Belgium, by Holland or by any other continental country except when, as a result of the "Andrew Martins" of this brilliant collection on the front bench of the Fianna Fáil Party, the Germans were able to come over here and buy cattle at 15/- per cwt. Then we had the Germans up in the market and "John Brown" of blessed memory! A great benefit they were to the people of this country. The geographical position of this country forces the country, whether it likes or not, to sell its agricultural produce in Great Britain. We have taken 15 years to batter that fundamental elementary fact into the head of Taoiseach de Valera. Will we now have to start in on Deputy Fagan, because really one's heart sinks? Fifteen years we had, walloping away. We are getting near middle age now, and one does not want to have to start all over again.
In times of scarcity the Belgians and the Dutch will come in here. When the gallant band in Fianna Fáil reduce the price of Irish cattle to 15/- a cwt. the Germans will come in again. I suppose if we were to give turkeys away the Chinese would come in here. Will we then get some Deputy in this House telling us that we ought to cultivate the Chinese market; that he met a Mandarin below in Smithfield going away with cartloads of free turkeys and it would be a grand thing if only more of them would come? We have as much chance of getting a market for our agricultural produce on the Continent of Europe as we have of developing a market for live turkeys in Pekin. It makes me sick with horror to hear tripe of that kind talked in this House.
I would like to hear the Minister for Industry and Commerce or the Minister for Finance, without resorting to the silly excuse that it was only sterling arising from current transactions that was convertible into dollars, explain why we did not raid the dollar pool. Everybody knows why we did not raid that dollar pool. Everybody knows why we did not raid that pool by manipulating the sterling assets of which we had control. We could have done it if we wanted to do it. Now the real reason, I believe, is this—that there was somebody in the Government, thank God, who had the commonsense to realise that the prime interest of Ireland is to maintain sterling and that anything done to shake the value of sterling is a real injury to this country; that the further we can buttress up and maintain the value of sterling during these critical years, the greater service we do our own people. If sterling should lose its value and if there should eventuate an economic collapse in Great Britain, so certainly as we are in this House, if Britain collapses to-day Ireland will collapse to-morrow and the United States of America will collapse the year after. There is no rational student of the situation confronting the world at present who does not know that. For a variety of reasons in different places it is deemed, by persons concerned to maintain popular government, inexpedient to say so so bluntly and so plainly as I am saying it now. Most of the economic disturbances that are upsetting Great Britain and this country, threatening the United States of America and bringing France and Italy to the very verge of ruin, have little or nothing to do with the ordinary economic forces which operate in normal times. Most of the economic ills afflicting the world at the present time are carefully engineered for political ends.
At this moment, there is being waged upon us here in Ireland, just as much as it is being waged on the people of England or Italy or France, or the people of the United States of America, a vigorous and energetic war under the aegis of the Soviet Socialist Republics and its satellite States. The form that war is taking is the effort to precipitate economic collapse in these countries in the hope that with the advent of economic collapse the place of the Government in power will not be taken by another Government but will be followed by a period of chaos and confusion and that in that period their hired traitors—of whom we have some in this country, of whom there are many in Great Britain, of whom there are many in France and Italy—would take over, as a minority, and control the people in the interests of a foreign power. Everybody who is short-sighted enough to suggest that we here should contribute to precipitating economic confusion in Great Britain by jeopardising the stability of sterling is simply helping to pull down the keystone of an arch on which we ourselves depend for our existence as a nation. The plain truth is that individual liberty in the world is arraigned against Communistic action. The Cominform are wise enough to see that Great Britain is the keystone of the arch of individual liberty. If they can destroy that keystone the whole arch of the individual liberty of the world will come down and bring down with it this country and the United States of America. They confidently hope that short-sighted people in this country and in the other countries threatened will help them in their work by two follies. One is what I call the MacBride folly, and that is where any member of the individual liberty group of nations finds itself in economic or financial trouble, let all the other members of that group rush in to try to make their difficulties ten times greater, and then glory in the fact that we saved our 1½d. only to discover on the morrow that economic collapse in our own country renders the 1½d. we snapped upon the previous day worse than worthless.
The other folly is what I describe as the Taft folly, after Senator Taft of the United States of America, whose policy is to take the resources of the individual States sustaining individual liberty in the world and deliver aid to those in danger in quantities too late and too little everywhere, doing nothing effectively to save such countries as France and Italy who are immediately threatened, and effectively weakening those countries who are in a position still to fight by the constant dissipation of their resources in dribs and drabs where they can do no good, so that ultimately, when France and Italy have been destroyed, when Great Britain has been overthrown and this country engulfed, the United States of America will be an easy victim for the same aggressor in the aggressor's own good time.
I want to make it clear that my concern in this matter relates to this country. It is only a Government of fools who will pretend before the world that they are concerned for that neighbour and the other neighbour and that they have no interest in their own country. Our primary interest is the safety of Ireland, and it is in defence of that safety that I suggest to this Government that they are a Party which may be described as a very unique Party, the Taft-MacBride Party, which subscribes to both the errors of Deputy MacBride and of Senator Taft, because they do not think it is politically expedient to face our people with the truth. The survival of this country depends on whether Great Britain, the Commonwealth of Nations and the United States of America can avert economic collapse. What we do in the sphere of economics inside this country does not matter a damn. The agreements we make, the Acts we pass, the taxes we impose, the loans we raise do not matter a damn. Our survival depends upon whether the group of nations that stand in defence of individual liberty and our way of life or the group of nations in the Cominform prevails in the world.
It is still possible for those with whom we stand to save for us and posterity the kind of life in which we believe and to end almost overnight the economic perplexities which are at present threatening to wreck our several societies. There is only one way to save that situation, and anything short of this way is going to fail and will fail in such a way as seriously to weaken the remaining Powers in the world who have the strength and the resources adequate to counter the war that is at present being waged upon us by the Cominform and its satellites in Eastern Europe. The one way in which we can save that situation is to use all the influence we are in a position to command to induce the United States of America, Great Britain, the Commonwealth of Nations and the colonial empire to pool their economic resources and, while each preserving its political independence, establish a common currency, abolish all tariffs and restrictions on trade between their several jurisdictions; preferaby, but not essentially, permit the free passage of the nationals of the several countries subscribing to the association over their entire territory. If that last proviso should prove impracticable, then the situation can still be saved by the pooling of the economic resources to which I refer, concomitantly with the preservation of the political sovereignty of each participating country.
If that were done, and it could be done to-morrow, what would the result be? Austerity would end in England. The industries of England could be re-equipped. Once the English people were fed and relieved of the starvation that is at present literally destroying them, their increased production and increased effectiveness in the concert of Europe would provide that leadership to the remainder of Europe which would steady it while the necessary help was being brought to offset the assaults made upon it by the Cominform.
The United States would be guaranteed against any possibility of deflation consequent upon the drying up of their foreign markets, because after the trade of England had absorbed all that is required from American production there would remain the whole vast undeveloped colonial empire in the development of which the resources of the United States could be employed to capacity for the next 50 years. At the same time a vast volume of work remains to be done in many parts of the Commonwealth of Nations in which the United States of America could play a part.
With the immediate dangers removed of economic collapse in the U.S.A. from deflation and complete collapse in Great Britain from starvation and deterioration of industrial equipment, the combined resources of both these nations, together with the Commonwealth and the colonial empire, trading with a currency fixed on the basis of 35 dollars to the ounce of gold and four dollars to the British £ based upon the gold stocks and industrial potential of all the participating parties, this great combination more powerful than any other combination that the world could produce, would then be in a position to say to France and Italy, the immediately threatened parties: "Whatever steps are necessary, we have here the means and the will to provide, and there is no longer any danger of the statesmen of Italy or France meeting the fate of Petkoff in Bulgaria. There is not going to be for you any day when a minority of traitors, who wish to sell the sovereign freedom of your country to the Cominform in Moscow, will have the opportunity to do so, because we will provide from our combined resources the economic means to prevent the inflation that they are seeking to thrust upon you and, if they throw down the gauntlet of war, you will not be required to pick it up alone." Given that notice to Europe now there will be no war.
But, as certain as we are in this House, if Europe is allowed to collapse piecemeal, the oldest Deputy will live to see a third world war, and it is doubtful if the youngest will live to see the end of it. That is the real measure of the problem with which our Government and every other Government in Europe and the world is confronted.
To be burying our heads in the sand and pretending that it is a matter of real significance whether the price of beef is to be raised by 5d. per lb. or the price of turkeys by 2d. per lb. is the most puerile nonsense. What these prices are going to be or what quantities of stuff passing between us and Great Britain are going to be, unless this fundamental matter is dealt with fearlessly not only by ourselves but by Great Britain and the United States, will not matter.
What I have said is really all that matters. In fact the trade agreement is not worth the paper it is written on. It does not matter a hoot. I know that no doubt that statement will be misrepresented and twisted to make it appear that I said the farmers of this country do not matter a damn. I do not care what misrepresentation goes on; the facts are there. I have no hope of making the silent 77 understand the facts. If they did, they would very likely run away. The only hope is that they would quietly, peacefully and docilely do what they are told to do, if action falls to be taken between now and the end of January. What they do, or what they do not do, after the end of January will concern nobody but themselves because then they will go into exterior darkness in the political life of this country from which they will never return——
What a hope!
Rest assured in that exterior darkness we shall be solicitous to protect them, to see that their rights are respected, that they are treated with the consideration that even the afflicted are entitled to expect. But should this present peril pass, the policy of this country is a simple, positive and inevitable one: import wheat, make an end of this disgusting and fraudulent cod of "grow more wheat" which has recently become "grow more wheat on my neighbour's land".
From where shall we import the wheat?
From the most abundant crops which have been grown in the history of the world since Pharaoh sat on the throne of Egypt, a crop so vast in the United States that transport cannot be found to take it to the ports, a crop so mighty in the Continent of Australia that ships cannot be found to ship it to northern ports. And the blessed planners have managed to interpose themselves between the human beings who want to consume that crop and the farmers who want to sell it, to divert it down the throats of the hogs in the Middle West of America and the Continent of Australia. Because it is possible to transport it to the hogs, the planners have so fixed things that we cannot get it. The human beings who stand clearly in need of it are deprived of it. Did anyone ever hear of such a fraud? It happens that at the end of 1947 the greatest crops of wheat the world has ever seen have resulted in what? In universal famine. If the wheat report that was published in Sydney, New South Wales, had appeared 10 or 15 years ago the bottom would have fallen out of the wheat market but as a result of the activities of the planners, nothing happened except that Sir John Boyd Orr got up and said that the greatest crop the United States has ever seen or that Australia has ever seen has brought us to the verge of starvation.
Is it not high time these warriors were put out on grass? We never knew such starvation since the dietitians got hold of the management of these matters. Over in England you will be told that the people have so many calories while the poor creatures are going around starving on their feet. The only consolation they get is that they are told that they have more calories than ever they had before. Calories, my foot! People cannot live on calories. What they want is food and that is the one thing the planners will not give them. That would be too simple. If you could just live on food and dispense with the dietitians and planners, the planners would have to go out and work and that is just what they do not want to do. I say import wheat, bring up the flour extraction to the American standard as soon as we can, and feed the bran and pollard to our live stock. Buy maize when it is available; and when it is not available use feeding barley and potatoes when barley can be produced in this country profitably; when barley can be produced cheaper than maize can be bought then use barley and when maize can be bought cheaper than barley can be produced then buy the maize and feed it to the pigs and fowl; grow oats and feed it to the cattle and ship into our own people's stomachs eggs, milk, meat, vegetables and stirabout and to blazes with the calories. What we have left over ship abroad to whoever will pay us a profit — black, white or yellow. I know where we will get a profit. We will get it in the British market because in that market we have a unique advantage that no other nation has, that no other nation can take from us—that is, the ability to deliver on a luxury market perishable agricultural produce in a fresh condition. There is no nation in the world outside Great Britain herself that can do that in the industrial cities of England as we can.
Instead of exploiting that advantage what do we do? We spend our time trying to compete with the prairies of Canada, growing wheat on a 10-acre farm—" on my neighbour's 10-acre farm." We are always very careful to say that—" grow more wheat on my neighbour's farm because everybody knows my land will not grow it." We have Fianna Fáil Deputies saying that they would be glad to grow it if they could grow it, that their land cannot grow it, while their neighbour's land can, to compete with the prairies of Canada. My goodness, I wish I could bring some of these poor simpletons out to see wheat being reaped on the prairies of Canada. Deputy O'Reilly saw it. He saw the six combines sweeping across the prairie—reaping, threshing, discharging it into the lorries and the lorries moving away and getting it into the elevators, all in one operation. Then you have some poor wretch from East Limerick out with a scythe mowing wheat, binding it with his hands because it has all gone down, and is lying tangled on the ground. Ship the fowl, the eggs, the live-stock products to Great Britain; revise your marketing methods so that the shippers do not get all the cream, all the profit; ensure by your marketing methods that those who produce the stuff get the full price for it, and we will have a prosperous agriculture in this country without any of the elaborate agreements that Deputies are looking for, without any of the plans or the planners who are driving this country, and the whole world, to confusion and despair.
Remember, that if the philosophy of Deputy MacBride should prevail widely throughout the world, or if the philosophy of Senator Taft is to be the rule in the United States of America, it will not matter two hoots to any of us what agreements are made or what prices are paid; but, given the economic collaboration between those of us who believe in individual liberty and the right of men to call their souls their own, there is a fine future in front of us, provided we are prepared to work. The people here were prepared to work until Fianna Fáil came into being to rot their souls. When they have swept Fianna Fáil out of their way, and put into power a decent Administration that believes in hard work, not only for their neighbours but for themselves as well, this country will be able to earn as good a living for its people as it was in the past. The country that produced the men and women who were able to rear us without doles or grants or bribes or pauperisation by the Fianna Fáil Party, will produce another generation who will look back with contempt on those who sought to turn the people into soup kitchen dependents and will glory in the fact that, given the chance, they can do better for our own people in our own country than any other people in any other country similarly circumstanced.
I agree with Deputy Dillon that anything we can do, whether by taxation or otherwise, will have very little effect on the international money or economic situation, but that, perhaps, it will matter much where our sympathies lie in regard to different nations. To get back to the agreement we are discussing, the Minister for Agriculture began by twitting Deputy Hughes that he could not work himself into a state of enthusiasm in opposition to this agreement. The Minister worked himself into a form of enthusiasm on behalf of the agreement. The best contribution he could make was to say that this was not a very bad agreement—in other words, that it might be worse. It is not a lot, but it might be worse.
Both Deputy Hughes and the Minister referred to our disability, the gap in prices of agricultural produce between here and Great Britain. It is well to get back to the origin of that disability. The gap in prices arose during the economic war 15 or 16 years ago. There has been a world war since and all the nations of the earth are busying themselves trying to get over the difficulties brought about by that war. We ought to concern ourselves in that way, too. As it is, nearly all the other countries in the world have got over the grievances of previous wars, but we have not. We do not really concern ourselves as we ought to with the position arising out of what I may call the third war, because we feel we are suffering from the disabilities of the second war, the economic war.
Deputy Hughes rightly remarked, though perhaps not with the enthusiasm Fianna Fáil Deputies might desire, that previous to the economic war we marketed all our agricultural produce on the British market at the prices ruling in Britain. In other words, even as a dismembered country—because we were dismembered previous to that—we could market our agricultural goods on the same terms as the dismembered portion. I suppose we were the aggressors, but whether we lost or won the battle—and there is a difference of opinion about that—we are still paying the penalty. There were neither tariffs nor quotas on our agricultural exports to England prior to 1931.
We have been advocating for a long time that there should be better relations between ourselves and the British, and I am glad to say the relations have improved and have become so good with Britain now that we have invited them, or, if we have not invited them, we have accepted their suggestion, to come over here and help us in the internal administration of a section of our agricultural industry. Anyhow, they propose to come to Dublin at an early date to tell the Minister how to run the poultry industry and, if we can have agreed measures for the revival of that industry here, they will help us with a subsidy. That is all to the good, but it is an extraordinarily great advance on the policy the Government had 15 years ago.
If, then, we had half the approach to that particular advance, we would never have had the economic war that led up to all the disabilities in prices that now exist between this country and Britain. I would suggest, perhaps, as we have got so far in our agreement with Britain, that we are going to let them meddle not only in our affairs but in the administration of our internal affairs, that we should ask them to help us in the re-incarnation of our poultry industry and to help us in the revival of our pig industry, our bacon industry and our dairying industry so as to give our own people, and Britain as well, the share of bacon and butter which we used to give them before the economic war and for some time after it.
I propose to help the Minister, as far as I can, with a few suggestions, because he did ask for suggestions in regard to various things which he was puzzled about. Before making these suggestions I would like to say, as a preamble, that we are all agreed that our agricultural exports are the foundation of our economy and that if we cannot export agricultural goods there is not much hope, at present anyway, of exporting anything else. Our only export which is worth while at all is the export of live stock and the subsidiary exports of canned beef and dressed beef which are an offshoot of the same industry because they all come from the live beast. Did it occur to the Minister that, having lost our butter and our bacon trade as far as exports are concerned and, to a great extent, our internal trade, we are in grave danger of losing our export of live stock, or that we will have fewer live stock to export, or that, as the Minister hinted, we may have none to export?
The Minister asks us for the remedy. If he has so hopeless an outlook on the matter and if he has come to such an opinion that he had to ask Britain for help in regard to some portions of the industry, he might have asked them how the deuce we are going to continue our live-stock trade. He proceeded to tell us that he had an application from a firm in Cork for permission to slaughter calves. He said that he did not know what number they wanted to slaughter but that he was awarethat a certain number were slaughtered in the past few years, and he assumed that they were going to increase their operations. I think that he hinted that he was not giving them permission but I expect that they will slaughter a good many whether they get permission or not as there is no law against it. However the Minister is not going to give them his visa. He suggested that Deputy Corry and myself and others who know-something about the cattle trade should tell him some of the things which are militating against the rearing of calves. Deputy Fagan referred to it in a way when he mentioned the number of calves sold in the Dublin market and slaughtered for veal. Those particular calves are intensely fed in order to be sold for veal.
What about Senator Counihan?
You can deal with Senator Counihan.
You asked me for my advice.
I did not ask you for any advice. The Minister asked me for advice and Deputy Corry can have it gratis.
The slaughter of calves is due to three causes. The policy of the Minister in regard to the export arrangement with Great Britain only comes out now. The export of young cattle was never included before. Britain is very careful in her arrangement of our export policy so that we should export only-mature cattle and so that she could encourage the raising of young cattle in Great Britain even by subsidising them with a bounty. No calves are exported from Ireland to any extent that would affect our agricultural economy.
The big farmers in Meath and Kildare and in Limerick outside the dairying areas who export mature beasts do not want to buy calves because they have to wait for two or three years. The unfortunate dairy farmers in Limerick and Tipperary, in portions of Cork and, to a certain extent, in Kilkenny, raise them at a loss, and when the time comes to sell them are without a purchaser and calves are a drug on the market while mature cattle are selling. Was it any wonder that the farmers decided not to raise any more calves?
The second cause is that the cost of feeding does not permit farmers to raise calves and sell them.
The third cause is the policy of the Minister. He admits a diminution of 60,000 in the number of dairy cows. I have tried to dun into the Minister's head for the past three or four years that the number of cows has been gradually diminishing, but neither the previous Minister nor the present Minister believed me. They always trotted out statistics that there was the same number of dairy cows. Any farmer of any size in this State, or any Deputy of ordinary intelligence who wants to be sincere, knows that whatever the statistics say the same number of cattle is not there. Everyone who looked round a farm, every policeman who went down the road to take the statistics, knew that the same number was not there, but it would not be admitted until this year when the thing has become so extravagant that the blindest follower of Fianna Fáil in Ireland had to admit to a falling off in cattle. Even the Minister admitted a reduction of 60,000. Why was there this reduction by 60,000 in the number of dairy cows in this country? Incidentally that is another reason why there are less calves in the country.
It was inevitable that we should have less dairy cows during the past four or five years because of the policy of the two Ministers for Agriculture in regard to the compulsory tillage scheme. Now you cannot make three halves of anything and you cannot have your cake and eat it. A farmer cannot feed 15 cows on the same amount of land on which he fed ten. A small farmer who milked ten cows cannot continue to feed ten cows under this scheme which compels him to till 38 per cent. of his arable land. He cannot continue to milk the same ten cows. One of two things is going to be the result. He will have to drop probably three out of the ten cows or, if he attempts to carry on the ten cows on a diminished amount of land, everybody knows that the cows will starve and they were starved. There were many small farmers in this State with eight or ten cows who would prefer not to get rid of a cow. A small farmer hated to get rid of a cow because he might not have saved the money which he got for its sale to replace it. Some small farmers made the attempt to carry on the same number of cows on the diminished acreage of land with the result that they were much in the position of the fellow in the school books long ago who tried to grasp too much. The result was altogether different from what they expected. Their production decreased, and what they did produce was of poor quality. That would not have happened if they had not been interfered with. If the Minister wants one suggestion as to how he might possibly increase the rearing of calves, certainly increase the amount of milk and generally help in the economy of this country in regard to the production of live-stock, it would be to do away with compulsory tillage in the dairy counties and if he likes, and I hope he will, give a greater incentive to the production of wheat and other cereals in the counties where they can produce them without any adverse effect on the cattle population of this country.
The people in the dairy counties are not lazy. They have always been the most industrious people in this country. They live hard lives—milking cows early in the mornings when other people are in their beds, and late in the evenings when other people have given up work. It was their desire to carry on their industry as always—producing enough butter for this country and a great lot for export; producing skimmed milk and other things that fed a certain number of pigs which eventually turned into bacon and incidentally helping the whole operation of agriculture in this country and keeping alive the only industry on which this country can hope to exist in the export line, namely, the production of live cattle. It is not too late yet. I do not suppose that the existence of this country depends on the amount of wheat grown in the dairy counties. It was very little last year. The Minister referred to the opposition there was in different counties to breaking through land. There was opposition in the dairy counties. The farmer wanted to stick to the number of cattle he had, if he could. He broke as much land under the Compulsory Tillage Order as he ever wanted or hoped to break. If he breaks any more, taking into consideration the amount already broken, he will not have a cow at all and a calf will not be reared whether they slaughter it or not. The dairy farmer has disabilities enough already in the carrying on of his industries without being hampered by an incompetent Government which is destroying his trade. He has the difficulty of milking. The man or woman engaged in the milking of cows works harder and does a very difficult job, whether it is dry or wet, than the worker in any other industry. Is it any wonder that eventually people took a dislike to milking? They do not like it as an occupation. It is extremely difficult in the country to get people to milk. The farmers have had to pay treble wages.
People engaged in that occupation should get a better wage than any other class of worker in the country. I hope the Minister and the Government will put the farmers in a position whereby they will be able to pay them that wage and that they will be able to rear an increased number of cattle in this country. The increased cattle will not be there unless you do away to a great extent with compulsory tillage in the dairy counties. If it is vitally necessary for the existence of this country that a share of home-grown wheat must be produced in this country in the next season—even though Deputy Dillon says there is a preponderance of wheat in the world which cannot be shipped this year and which might be shipped next year— and that the dairy farmers must do their share, we will do it. We will do it, but I would say—let it be confined to wheat. If it is vitally necessary to do so, then ask the dairy farmer to produce his quota of wheat but let him off the rest of compulsory tillage and he will be fairly satisfied He is willing to do his share in the interests of the nation but if he is let off the rest of the compulsory tillage he will devote his energies to increased production in the dairying industry, in the rearing of calves and so forth. He will endeavour also to increase the amount of milk, to rear more calves to provide some extra skimmed milk for the rearing of pigs.
I was glad that Deputy Fagan referred to the diminishing number of good cattle at the Dublin market. Anybody who knows anything at all about the cattle trade—I ought to know something about it—knows that for the last ten or 15 years, and maybe more the quality of our good cattle has diminished. I am not blaming the Fianna Fáil Government for that. It has happened under a succession of Governments in this country. The quality of our good cattle has deteriorated year after year until we are in the position, as Deputy Fagan who is a reliable man with a good knowledge of the market in Dublin admits, that good cattle are scarce. They are scarce. Everyone who has even a remote knowledge of cattle and the cattle trade knows that the number of good cattle has decreased and is decreasing day after day. The Governments have been mainly responsible for that situation. The Livestock Breeding Act was a failure.
Who brought that in?
The man who brought it in was probably the greatest Minister for Agriculture we ever had, or will have, in this country.
Did the Deputy support it when it was brought in?
The Deputy is going to say something about the Minister and his proposals. That particular measure was brought in as a remedy against the production of scrub cattle in some areas, notably in the Kerry areas and in certain areas in the West of Ireland where a very inferior type of cattle was produced. Possibly the live-stock breeding scheme, as introduced by the late Mr. Hogan, was a success. It was admitted by the majority of the cattle buyers and others that it was a success in improving that particular type of cattle. However, towards the end of his administration Mr. Hogan came to believe that the scheme had not a good effect generally in the dairying counties where the bulk of the cattle are produced. As an Opposition Deputy here he presented to the Minister for Agriculture, who succeeded him in that office, the fruits of his experience and he admitted from this Bench that he had found there was a snag in the live-stock breeding scheme which he had introduced. He made the then Minister for Agriculture a present of his experience.
What did he say?
The Deputy can go back and read the debates for himself. The House will excuse me if I refer to him as "Paddy Hogan". Everybody refers to him in that way. Paddy Hogan was recognised by every Deputy in this House as a competent Minister for Agriculture. He was recognised as a competent Minister for Agriculture by people outside this House and he was recognised as an expert Minister for Agriculture by the world at large. Paddy Hogan's reputation and his memory rest on his success as the first Minister for Agriculture in this country. No Minister for Agriculture can forecast with any great exactitude the results of any policy in the future. Paddy Hogan was not infallible and he had the decency and the courage to come in here on these Opposition Benches and admit that there were snags in the policy that he had advocated and asked the then Minister for Agriculture to remedy them.
Time and time again I have spoken on the policy of cattle production in this country. In the last four or five years I have repeatedly warned the Minister of the danger not only of losing our export trade in agriculture but of losing our export trade in live cattle. I told him that even if we did not lose it altogether we would come to such a pass that we would only have scrub cattle to export. In other words, we were producing a mongrel type of beast. That is what we are doing to-day. Anybody who attends a fair must admit that. Anybody who is as old as I am is old enough to remember the fairs of 25 and 30 years ago. The Taoiseach must remember them. I am sure that he roamed the countryside just as I did. I am sure he took an interest in everything that happened. I am sure that in his holidays he took a delight in engaging in some agricultural operation. If he saw the fairs in Kilmallock, as I am sure he did, he would not then have been impressed because the sight was a familiar one to him. But if he attended a fair now he would be impressed at the absence of good, young cattle. Our cattle have deteriorated in quality. I happened to be what was called the "Baron of the Fair" at one of the greatest fairs in Ireland 30 years ago. That fair no longer exists because conditions have changed. I remember on one occasion the Dwyers of Roscrea, who were then the largest buyers of yearling stock, paying tolls to me on 630 yearlings. The O'Connors of Charleville on the same day paid tolls on 200 head of cattle and two buyers paid tolls on 100 head apiece. Everybody knows they were people who would not buy a bad beast. When those cattle were travelling on the road they were so level that one could have played billiards on their backs.
Would the Deputy tell us what that has to do with this agreement?
I am relating it to the fact that the cattle are no longer there and I am telling the House why they are not there. This whole matter is bound up with the question of production. It is no use making an agreement if we cannot improve production. The Minister for Agriculture has invited experts from England to consult with him in regard to reviving the poultry business. They are to help and assist in the internal administration of the poultry business here in order that it may be run properly and production increased. Surely, it is open to a Deputy to offer some suggestion as to the cause of our decreasing production. I venture to say that if any Deputy in this House spent the next six or 12 months travelling round from fair to fair he would not be able to buy 1,000 of those cattle in that 12 months.
We were a country which at one time produced the best cattle in the world in great numbers. We are rapidly deteriorating into a country producing in the main second and third-rate cattle. The policy has been to allow bulls of all denominations—black bulls, red bulls, polly bulls, white-faced bulls. You have a variety of breeds introduced into the dairying counties. As Deputy Fagan said, results were excellent for a short time. Now Deputy Fagan knows the trade better than any Deputy in this House, so far as the selling of finished fat cattle is concerned. He probably knows more about it than I do, although I have sold many a fat beast in my time. He deliberately tells the House that the first cross between a good Shorthorn heifer and a black or white-faced bull was a good cross and probably would make a first-class price on the Dublin market, but that the second cross was a different thing altogether and was not at all near the first.
You have in the dairying counties the best heifers in the world and the farmers make an effort to keep them. The late Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Hogan) made an effort to do away with the scrub bull, which was mainly a Shorthorn bull, though not up to standard. Farmers were allowed to keep a bull of any description as long as the Department passed it—either a black bull or a white-faced bull or some other breed. They were let out all over the country indiscriminately. You had a white-faced cow produced from a Hereford. There were a certain number of Kerry heifers. Some farmers kept Kerry cows. The result was that the progeny got all mixed up. I venture to say that to-day you could go among a number of cows and it would be impossibly to say with certainty that any particular beast was a pure Shorthorn. All the breeds are mixed up. You have a mongrel breed. The remedy for that will take time. But it is a matter which must be looked into if there is to be any hope of an export trade or of exporting what we used to export—the world's best cattle.
All sorts of theories have been developed in this House as to how we might resuscitate production. Most Deputies, both on my side of the House and the other side of the House, have deliberately kept away from the vital question of the production of cattle. That is the one question that matters for the dairy farmer, the people to whom he sells his cattle in Meath and other places, and eventually for the prosperity of the country. It all depends on the manner in which we increase our exports and the quality of our exports. It is time that somebody looked into the matter. Too much stress has been laid on the question of improving the bulls.
The Deputy is going back over the history of the last 30 years without reference to this trade agreement.
The Deputy before me spoke for half an hour and he did not refer twice to the agreement. He was not even enticed by the Minister's statement that we should offer suggestions. He did not refer to the agreement and yet he was allowed to proceed. I have referred to the agreement and taken up the Minister's challenge as to how he was to get out of the present difficulty. The Minister asked how are we to get over the difficulty. He referred to an application made to him by a Cork firm within the last week for permission to slaughter more calves. He asked us for suggestions as to how he is to prevent all this. In the light of my experience, I am trying to give the Minister these suggestions and I cannot do it in two words. The Minister is not here now and I am trying to impress on the two members of the Government who matter most—the Taoiseach and the Minister for Industry and Commerce—that something is rotten in the state of Denmark and that it should be rectified.
When the Ceann Comhairle thought I was out of order, I was suggesting that the policy seems to be to get a bull of a certain type, whether a blackor a white-face or a Shorthorn, so long as he passes an inspector of the Department, and proceed to breed cattle and never mind the result. The Limerick, Cork and Tipperary farmers try to get the best Shorthorn cows they can and they are a diminishing quantity. I have had a measure of success in the breeding of various animals. I was a fairly successful breeder of cattle and I am continuing in my own small way to improve the breed. I am trying to help in every way I can in the production of the best Shorthorn bulls for shows and other places. In various ways I have tried to improve the breed. I have had a long experience of the breeding of thoroughbred horses, and even of dogs. I was once referred to as an expert in dogs. I am an expert in dogs of a certain type.
The Deputy is not on the trade agreement.
I do not want to give a lecture on eugenics. My experience has been that sometimes too much stress is laid on the sire and that the best results can be got from the female line, whether in connection with horses, cattle or dogs. Those who have succeeded best have concentrated their attention mainly on the female line. We have departed from that. We have tried to encourage the production of cattle without imposing any particular type of bull on the farmers. It is not too late to offset all that.
If we are to have any increase in the rearing of calves, we will have to breed a better type of cattle. We shall have to induce the British or other people to buy our young stock. The young stock were being left on the hands of the dairy producer to feed on a diminished amount of land owing to the operation of the Compulsory Tillage Order. The producer could not dispose of them up to this year at any sort of a fair price. He could only dispose of them at a "give-away" price. An inducement must be offered to the farmers to preserve these calves. They must be kept in the country until they are matured. If possible, we should increase the number of dairy cattle which is dropping year after year. Dairy farmers must be put in a position to keep more cattle. In order to do that, compulsory tillage in the dairying districts must be dropped. There is perhaps no use in saying during an emergency that it must be dropped. The Minister will probably say that the people must get food. Next year at any rate we should confine the compulsory tillage in the dairying districts to the production of wheat. If that is vital for the nation, the dairy farmer will produce his quota of wheat, but let him drop all the rest.
I have taken a rather long time to refer to that important matter of cattle raising, but not more than was desirable. I think it is the most vital question in our whole economy, of greater import than any matter we have discussed in the Dáil in the last 12 months or perhaps that we shall be called upon to discuss in the next 12 months, except the possibility of war. The most important matter in our economy is the maintenance in our live-stock trade. In the opinion of many people who ought to know, our live stock has diminished both in quality and in numbers and there is a great risk that if some action is not taken to prevent it, there will be a further reduction in quality and numbers. In all seriousness I ask that that action should be taken.
The most that can be said for this agreement is what the Minister has said for it, that it is not a very bad agreement and that it might be worse. It could be worse but not a great deal. Again I suggest that the policy adopted in regard to eggs might be extended to other forms of agricultural production The statement says: "In addition, the Ministry of Food"—that is, the British Ministry of Food—"propose to pay in the form of an extra price per long hundred for a period to be agreed, a proportion of the cost incurred by the Irish Government in promoting an agreed scheme for the development of the Irish poultry industry. This proposal was agreed to in principle. It was arranged that the details of such a scheme and the extent of the Ministry of Food's contribution would be discussed soon at a conference in Dublin."
All to the good. I am not a bit against that particular proposal. I think it is a good thing, whether we invite the British Minister for Agriculture to come himself or to send his experts here, to help us to run our business, if we cannot run it ourselves. We seem to have failed to do that and it is time we took suggestions from somebody, the British Minister or any other Minister, if the Government will not accept the suggestions made by plain Deputies in this House who have engaged in this business all their lives and who ought to know something about it.
In conclusion I should like to say a word about the back to the land movement. We hope to get back a number of the unfortunate young people who were compelled to emigrate. Our greatest export for some years past has been our young people. Young men and women who would have been an asset to the country were exported in their thousands. We hope to see them coming back soon to help in increased production from the land. We hope that they will be induced to come back to help in the great agricultural revival, that we shall have them coming back and not the type of people like some of the immigrants who came into this country recently, people with money perhaps——
What has that to do with the matter before the House?
——but with nothing else to recommend them, morally or otherwise.
Deputy Bennett may not have been any more relevant than Deputy Dillon was but he was at least a lot more interesting. I hope however he and the Deputy who spoke before him will pardon me if I say a word about the matter under discussion —the trade agreement, the terms of which were announced last week, because it is obvious that it is necessary to remove certain misapprehensions regarding it. Deputy Hughes, as shadow-Minister for Agriculture, spoke for the Fine Gael Party and he certainly left on my mind the impression that if, as the Minister for Agriculture said, the agreement was not too bad, Deputy Hughes would have been much happier if it had been worse. If the trade agreement could be represented as an apple, then Deputy Hughes's criticism of it, as an apple, is that it did not sufficiently resemble a banana. His main complaint, as I understand his rather disjointed remarks, was that the agreement was not a long-term arrangement. It does not purport to be a long-term arrangement. It is an arrangement made with the British authorities concerning immediate trade arrangements, relating to matters that will affect trade next month and next year and it provides for the establishment of the standing committee, referred to in the agreement, which will facilitate other temporary trade arrangements of a mutually satisfactory nature to be made as opportunity arises.
We have a trade agreement with the British Government. It was made in 1938 and it is still in existence. The question of revising that agreement, which has no very close relationship with present-day international trading circumstances, was raised in the course of our discussions and the attitude of the British Government, one which appears reasonable, was that consideration of any new long-term arrangement to replace the existing arrangement made in 1938 should be postponed until after the International Conference at Havana, which is to meet in the near future to lay down principles governing international trade, for which it is hoped to obtain general international acceptance. If there is to be a multilateral trade agreement, defining the principles upon which nations adhering to the agreement will conduct international trade, then it is obviously desirable that we should await the clarification of these principles before ourselves entering into new long-term agreements.
Deputy Hughes said of the agreement that Britain will get more out of it than we will get. I think it is desirable that the particular approach which these words suggest to an agreement of this kind should be abandoned. We have not made a balance sheet or attempted to set out in a profit and loss account the gains resulting to either party from this arrangement for the purpose of determining whether Great Britain gained more than we got or whether we gained more than Great Britain got. This arrangement arose out of a serious international difficulty which affects Britain and ourselves. We had enunciated the principle that if the solution of the difficulties created for countries in the sterling area by the dollar crisis was increased production within the sterling area, then the expansion of production in this country was just as important as the expansion of production in Great Britain, and we approached the British authorities to see how we could co-ordinate our plans to ensure here an expansion of production, which we believed to be possible, provided we got certain assistance in the matter of materials and equipment.
I think from that point of view the agreement is a good one. In so far as there are still difficulties of supplies, we have to recognise that it is not in the power of the British Government to give us all the materials that we require, but we did secure an acceptance of the principle that the fullest development of Irish productive potentialities, of Irish economic resources, was desirable, not merely in our interest, but in the general interest, and that to the limited extent that it was possible for Britain in present circumstances to assist us in securing that development of our potentialities and resources, the assistance would be given.
The agreement is not, as the Taoiseach stated last week, a static arrangement; it does not merely represent a state of affairs that, once fixed, will continue unchanged. Certain arrangements were made which were deemed to be possible in present circumstances, but it was recognised that conditions are changing from day to day, that new possibilities of development are opening up, and it was deemed necessary that we should create an instrument for permanent contact to ensure that no possibility of increasing trade between the two countries, or of facilitating our economic development, would be lost.
I do not know what particular political purpose Deputies opposite think they will serve by their references in this debate to the economic war, or their attempts to establish the contention that any disability which Irish cattle have in the British markets at the present time is a consequence of the economic war. Deputy Bennett spoke about the economic war. He is an old man and perhaps he does not easily change his ideas, but there must be some members of his Party who, even at this stage in relation to that episode, can take the Irish point of view.
It is not correct that the trade dispute with Britain, which is called the economic war, was something on which we decided. In so far as there was an attack upon our economic system, it was a consequence of a decision of the British Government, to make that attack. But let us forget that. That whole episode was ended by the agreement of 1938. There were no continuing consequences of any kind after that agreement came into force.
If there is a disability—that is the term used by Deputy Hughes—affecting Irish cattle in Great Britain, it is in no sense, directly or indirectly, a consequence of anything that happened during the economic war period. What is this disability? The British Government pay a somewhat higher price for cattle finished on English farms than they will pay for finished cattle from this country. The British Government have a policy for the development of British agriculture and that policy contemplates a considerable expansion in live-stock production there during the next three or four years, a policy which involves the British farmers concentrating in the immediate future on the production of breeding stock. They have described that higher price paid in Great Britain as a form of capital subsidy to British farmers, designed to fulfil their own policy and offset whatever temporary disadvantages the British farmers may have in the period when they are expected to concentrate on the production of breeding stock rather than on production for immediate sale.
It is, of course, to be assumed, as Deputies opposite no doubt fully realise whatever they may say in public, that in the course of the discussions every effort was made by the Irish representatives to secure the best possible terms for Irish exporters to the British market. In presenting an agreement of this kind, which is the result of negotiations, those who had the responsibility for negotiating the agreement have a certain difficulty. They will hear criticisms of the agreement from Deputies who are expressing frequently the very same point of view that they put forward in the negotiations and, if they want to defend the agreement as such, they may occasionally have to use the arguments that were put forward by the other side in the negotiations and which they countered during their progress.
This is a reasonable arrangement— every Deputy knows that. Every Deputy understands that, from the point of view of our cattle trade, it is a good arrangement. We are all concerned with the slowing down of cattle production, the low prices of calves and the discouragement there is to farmers to rear calves. What is the cause of it? The cause of it is this accumulation on our land of older, heavier cattle which were not being taken off the land as rapidly as they should have been. And why not? Because the British price structure did not encourage farmers to sell them. These heavier, older type of cattle were cluttering up the land, slowing down the whole business of cattle breeding and rearing, and there was no prospect of getting them off the land except by some such arrangement as was made in this agreement. That arrangement has been made. These substantially higher prices now paid by the British buyers for these older, heavier cattle for immediate slaughter will result in their being cleared off the land and the way will be opened for a big expansion in the production of younger cattle which will eventually react right down to the rearer of young calves and yearling cattle.
Why did not the British get these cattle before? Because they were not prepared to pay the price which the Irish farmer thought reasonable, having regard to the price of other cattle, the price that continental buyers were prepared to pay. In present circumstances there was not the immediate urge to cash in, even on the finished stock, and the cattle accumulated. The British have now decided to pay for these cattle the same price which the continental buyers have been paying and in consequence of that decision these cattle will come off the land in greater numbers, the British will get the advantage of an immediate increase in the supply of beef, and we will have a substantial improvement in the whole structure of our cattle trade.
Deputy Hughes put forward the amazing contention that we have established a more rigid price control over meat in order to get more cattle for the British. Will somebody explain to me how we can increase the supply of cattle to Great Britain by reducing the price of meat to the Irish consumer? Was there ever a more nonsensical suggestion? The fact of the matter is that the type of cattle affected is not the type purchased ordinarily by the Dublin butchers. The type of cattle ordinarily purchased by the butchering trade is not really affected by this agreement at all.
In effect there is no buyer for that type of cattle except the Irish butchers. It is, therefore, entirely incorrect to assume that there is any relationship between this agreement and the Order fixing maximum retail prices for beef. The Order fixing maximum retail prices for beef was made on the basis of the average market price for top grade cattle during the month of October. It is unlikely that there will be any change in the prices of these cattle because of the agreement, though there may be changes for other causes. There is often a seasonal fluctuation in the price of such cattle at this time of the year and from now until next spring, but the agreement itself will have no effect on the prices which the Dublin butchers will pay.
The Deputies opposite apparently felt obliged to disparage the agreement and, thinking that it was in their interests and in the interests of their Party, they have referred to the scheme for increasing the production of eggs. It was a reasonable proposition for the British Government to put to us that they would pay us the same price for eggs as they pay everybody else and no more unless they could get—what the British Government are anxious to secure—an effort on our part to increase the production of eggs. Their proposition in regard to price assures a higher price if we increase production. They are also anxious to facilitate us in the preparation of a scheme which has for its aim a long-term plan to increase production of poultry and eggs. This scheme will be a benefit to them and they are prepared to pay a financial contribution towards it. The details of the scheme and the financial contribution will be worked out at a conference to be held in Dublin by representatives of the British Ministry of Food and the Department of Agriculture. That appears to me to be a sensible method of collaboration, because it achieves for the British what they want namely, an increase in supplies of fresh eggs and poultry, and for us what we are anxious to secure, namely, expansion of production of eggs and poultry, for which we believe there is a very bright future.
One of the matters discussed at the negotiations and to which reference is made in the published details, was the supply of fertiliser, but there appears to be an extraordinary misunderstanding of the position in the minds of some of the Deputies opposite.
Deputy Hughes referred to sulphate of ammonia and stated that we will be provided with 25,000 tons of sulphate of ammonia by the International Emergency Food Council. It does not provide anything. The International Emergency Food Council was set up to control foodstuffs and other essential commodities which are scarce, and to allocate them to countries needing supplies. It allocates the quantities which may be imported in a particular season. They do not provide anything, but rather they limit the quantity countries can get. Our allocation of sulphate of ammonia from the International Emergency Food Council never exceeded 4,000 tons which is only a fraction, not much more than 10 per cent. of our pre-war usage of sulphate of ammonia. While the International Emergency Food Council limited our supplies of sulphate of ammonia in that manner, we could not get the British Government to supply it. Having got our allocation from the International Emergency Food Council we had to get somebody to supply it. Normally we got it from Britain, but during the war period they refused, claiming that they wanted all their supplies for their own use, and said that they could not allow us any, even to the limited extent of our allocation. This year, not as a consequence of the agreement, but as a result of other representations made to the International Emergency Food Council, we have got an allocation of 25,000 tons of sulphate of ammonia. In consequence of this, and earlier conferences, we have got an undertaking from Britain to supply the full amount of the allocation.
In regard to superphosphates, we usually make the bulk used in this country and we are producing superphosphate in our own chemical factories to the fullest extent possible. Now there is no embargo on the import of phosphate rock and other materials used, and though there are some problems with regard to fuel and equipment, our factories are producing all that they can produce. Even so, they are not producing enough for our own needs and we have endeavoured to secure more. We got some from Belgium, and as a result of this arrangement we will get some from Britain.
Basic slag is another artificial fertiliser which we have been without during the war years. I went to Belgium in the course of the summer and in a discussion there arranged for supplies, but it was not nearly enough. The British Government were at first reluctant to commit themselves to supply any here because they have not enough for their own use, but they have agreed to consider making an allocation to us. Everybody knows that the production of basic slag depends upon an active steel industry because it is a by-product of steel manufacture and it is not easy to forecast the position in regard to price and the quantity available over any particular period.
Deputy Dillon talked his usual nonsense about the curtailment of imports of these essential commodities by tariffs and quotas, but there never was a tariff on superphosphate from Great Britain. At one time there was a tariff on superphosphate other than of British manufacture, but that was to counteract the price-cutting policy of Belgian exporters. But that was another era, when everyone was trying to protect themselves against an international slump and that is not likely to happen now. Our anxiety is to increase production capacity, if possible, and if not, to get greater supplies from other sources.
Deputy Dillon also spoke of the question of wheat. He is so far above the clouds that it is almost impossible to contact him. He is like a man floating in a balloon with his radio telephone cut off so that anybody with his feet on the ground cannot contact him. He said that there was more wheat in the world than ever. There never was more danger of famine because of wheat scarcity. The International Emergency Food Council has estimated that though bread and flour is rationed in most countries in the world, the supply of wheat is insufficient by 10,000,000 tons to maintain even the existing rations until next harvest. So abundant is wheat in the United States that they cannot supply any to us in this quarter. The Canadian Government cannot supply any this year and the Argentine will only supply wheat at fantastic prices. It is almost certain that there will be famine conditions in many parts of the world because of the scarcity of wheat and Deputy Dillon has suggested that in these circumstances we should abandon wheat growing and import wheat.
He wants us also to import more maize for animals and poultry. We would love to get maize. We would love to get hundreds of thousands of tons for these purposes if it were available. Does he not know that the North American maize crop failed and that because of this and because of a world deficit in wheat, all the maize in the world has been allocated by the International Emergency Food Council for use only as human food. We have imported some maize which we got earlier and which was unfit for human use and it has been distributed for animal feeding. I think it is extremely improbable that there will be any substantial additional supplies of maize, certainly not in considerable quantities, to be procured before next year's harvest.
Before I leave the subject of fertilisers may I reply to a query which was apparently made here concerning the position under the Spanish Trade Agreement. We have contracted with the Spanish Government to supply a quantity of seed potatoes in return for a quantity of potash. That contract will be fulfilled in detail.
Deputy Corish spoke about foundry coke. I am sorry he is not here but perhaps some Deputy will tell him of my observations in that regard. It is not a fair and reasonable attitude to represent the position as one in which adequate supplies of foundry coke could be procured if the Government would only ask for them. The Paris Committee which prepared the report on the Marshall Plan estimated that in this year the total deficiency of foundry coke in 16 European countries is no less than 12,000,000 tons. Three times I went personally to London to interview the British Ministry of Fuel and Power in an effort to get increased supplies of foundry coke—three times without success. I went to Belgium and discussed the possibility of supplies of foundry coke from Belgium in the course of discussions which involved the shipment to Belgium of cattle of which the Belgium people were in urgent need, and I failed to get coke. I discussed it with the Netherlands Minister for Economic Affairs who came here during the course of this year, and without success. Some small quantities have been obtained from continental sources and some small quantities from South Africa. The only source we have been able to open up is the United States. We got a substantial quantity of foundry coke from the United States and more is coming. It may be that it is not of the quality which the Irish foundries have been accustomed to use but it is the only supply available in any part of the world and it was only with very great difficulty is was obtained.
We tried to produce foundry coke here and without success. Every possible device to meet the requirements of these foundries, particularly the foundries manufacturing agricultural machinery, was adopted. The supplies of American foundry coke which have arrived or are coming will be sufficient to keep the foundries going for many months. It is the only quality of foundry coke which can be secured.
Supplies of mild steel bars are, of course, difficult. Steel is one of the scarcest commodities. Some supplies are available from Belgium. The price is high. We have restarted the furnaces at Haulbowline and from the Haulbowline factory the mild steel bars are again being produced. The available supplies from that source will be confined to the most essential purposes, amongst which the production of agricultural machinery will rank first. I do not think it is necessary, despite Deputy Corish's remarks, to assure the foundry workers, the people employed in the production of agricultural machinery in this country, that the Government is just as concerned as ever to develop their industry and that we will be concerned to ensure that we will not import from any source forms or types of agricultural machinery which we could make quite well for ourselves. We hope, in fact, to secure in the course of the next year a considerable extension in the range of production of agricultural machinery achieved by Irish manufacturers. Everybody knows also that there are many types of agricultural machines which we never made here, from agricultural tractors downwards. It has been our inability to get supplies of these machines, which were never subjeet to tariff or quota on importation in this country, during the years of the war which has handicapped our farmers greatly. In consequence of the arrangements made in Great Britain it is now clear that substantial additional supplies will become available from that source and from other sources also.
The immediate arrangement made with the British Government provides for an increased price for canned meat supplied under the present contract. It does not provide for an increase in the quantity of canned meat to be supplied. This year the British Government—I think it is known—cut down the quantity of canned meat which it was prepared to take. It is not correct to assume that it will be easy to find another market for canned meat. There are certain objections, apparently, in many European countries, even countries that do not appear to be well supplied with meat, to the purchase of canned meat. Sometimes it is merely a public revulsion against a form of footstuff which was the sole type of meat for so many years of occupation and war. Sometimes there are other objections, but we are very anxious to develop the canned meat industry here. Not merely is it a useful outlet for a certain type of cattle, not merely does it give very substantial employment in areas where it is exceedingly useful, but it ensures there is left in this country the hides, the bones, the fats and the offals which we also require and use for various industrial purposes. Any steps which the Government can take to increase activity in the canned meat industry will certainly be taken.
Deputy Hughes and other speakers of his Party appeared to be determined to saddle on the Government a policy of austerity. The Government does not believe in a policy of austerity. We do not believe it is a good thing in this country to curtail any supply of goods in any form unless circumstances make it unavoidable. This agreement for the curtailment of dollar expenditure which now becomes necessary will not involve any reduction in any existing food ration as Deputy Hughes suggested. There are certain rationed goods which can be procured only from dollar sources. We have, in the past, obtained our wheat from dollar sources. We are hoping to obtain increased supplies from non-dollar sources this year. Already a quantity of 35,000 tons of Australian wheat has been contracted for. If there is difficulty in obtaining increased supplies of wheat from the North American Continent it will not be due to any reluctance to provide the dollars to pay for all we can get. All sugar is dollar sugar. It is possible to obtain some supplies of sugar from non-dollar sources but only at prices so fantastic in relation to our domestic price that its purchase would be a very doubtful matter. We have imported sugar from Cuba paid for in dollars. We have contracted to buy more sugar in Cuba to be paid for in dollars and with the supplies purchased added to our own production there will be little difficulty in maintaining the existing sugar ration until the beginning of the next campaign.
There is no other foodstuff, subject to rationing, supplies of which might be curtailed because of the curtailment of dollar expenditure. We have purchased in the past various forms of textiles and some textile raw materials in the United States of America. We will still have to go to the American market for some supplies which we cannot obtain elsewhere but we are satisfied that other supplies from non-dollar sources will open up. There is, therefore, no need to associate this agreement with any increase in austerity. The Government is against austerity as a policy. On the contrary, we believe that the maximum inducements to people to work hard and earn as much as they can through the provision of all forms of goods, even luxury goods, is good policy; and, while at the present time, because of the exchange difficulties and perhaps because of other causes, the importation of some luxury goods may have to be curtailed in order to ensure an abundant supply of non-luxury goods, I want there to be no doubt as to the Government's policy in that regard.
Deputy Hughes asked if we had obtained any supply of necessary or desirable commodities in consequence of the arrangements made for the sale of cattle to continental countries. We have. In each case the arrangements made with the continental countries under which we permitted the export to these countries of certain numbers of fat cattle included the supply to us of essential or necessary goods for agriculture, or for industry, or for immediate consumption here. There are no other matters to which I wish to refer arising out of the discussion.
I again want to repeat, however, that this agreement must not be looked upon in the same way in which the trade agreement of 1938 was regarded— namely, a document which sets the terms of trade between Great Britain and ourselves for an indefinite period ahead. This is only a temporary arrangement relating to temporary changing circumstances and something that will be modified as circumstances require. It is only a preliminary to another long-term trade agreement which will be negotiated in due course with the British authorities after the conclusion of the International Conference at Havana.
Does the Minister include petrol as one of the commodities which will not be restricted?
No. It has been stated that the total petrol available for distribution will be less. I would not like to enter into a discussion as to the extent to which our petrol supplies are dollar supplies or non-dollar supplies.
I am glad to learn from the Minister's concluding remarks that the Government does not favour a policy of austerity. I do not know whether the printed word is likely to deceive us or not, but there have been a number of recent statements, including some of the Minister's—and, in particular, the recent speech of the Minister for Justice in Roscommon—in which reference was made to austerity conditions as being likely in this country, not merely in the future but for a number of years ahead. While austerity may be necessary to some extent in certain circumstances, provided people do not err by becoming too indolent or too slothful, a reasonable amount of enjoyment and a reasonable amount of luxury goods are essential and have become an accepted incentive to work.
It is true, as the Minister remarked, that this agreement is in no sense a definite one setting a limit to our economic programme or to our future economic relations with Great Britain. From that point of view it can be compared with the 1938 agreement. I think this discussion may be fruitful if it helps to elucidate certain matters which have not been made very clear up to the present. The most important aspect of this agreement and the one which is most likely to prove beneficial here is the increased price for cattle. But there is one limiting factor to that increased price. It relates in particular to stall-fed cattle. For that reason, as far as the increased price refers to fat cattle, it is of importance that there is so far as one can judge no long-term agreement. The increased price of 5d. per lb. is payable until the end of February, 1948. It will then drop to 4d. unless there is a further agreement. A number of Deputies have adverted to the fact that stall feeders and the people who engage in winter feeding have not merely had to suffer serious difficulties in recent years due to shortages of feeding stuffs but, in order to partake to the full of this agreement, they should know how long it may last. I understand—I did not hear the Minister for Agriculture's speech in full— that the Minister for Agriculture went so far as to say that grass-fed cattle would be available earlier than usual this year. I think the very earliest at which grass-fed cattle generally become available is about the beginning of June. This year they were much later. Deputy Fagan said they were as late as August. If this lower price is to come into operation in March—unless there is an agreement on a higher price in the meantime as a result of further negotiations—I do not see what guarantee winter feeders have or what inducement there is to people to feed stall-fed cattle this winter or in the future.
The agreement refers to the uncertainty as to the supply of feeding-stuffs in connection with the production of bacon. The Minister has also referred to the fact that this year the maize crop was a failure. He gave no specific details as to the supplies which might be available for animals. I believe it would be beneficial to the farmers of this country, if they are to be induced into winter feeding, if they were given a reasonable prospect of a long-term agreement and told now as to the likely duration of the agreement. This agreement as it stands lasts until March next. It then drops unless there is a further agreement in the meantime. In recent years our output of stall-fed cattle has declined considerably. Even before the war there was a marked drop in numbers. That is detrimental not merely to the stall feeders but to the country in general. Stall-fed cattle, as well as providing employment and manure, make available to this country if the animals are killed here a number of offals suitable for industrial processes of one kind or another. In recent times the supply of feeding-stuffs was considerably limited owing to the emergency and also owing to the decrease in the number of stall-fed cattle. I think the House and the cattle feeders are entitled to something more concrete than the rather nebulous agreement with which they are presented here. At any rate, they need something with a little further prospect than March next. The Minister did refer to the fact that under the 1938 agreement cattle bred in England were entitled to a higher price, and British producers got a higher price for their cattle than did the producers of cattle in this country. It is also a fact that cattle retained in England for two months receive a higher price. That disability or limitation was originally three months under the 1938 agreement. During the war it was reduced to two months. There is now an added reduction of 2/6.
I am disappointed that the Government did not find it possible to make a more advantageous agreement and to wipe out entirely the two months disability. I believe that that is operating considerably to the detriment of our farmers and that it has also encouraged the smuggling of cattle into the Six Counties. To what extent undesirable results flow from these activities is a matter for conjecture.
The Minister did refer to the fact that, under the agreement, we get increased supplies of certain textile raw materials. I should like to know whether these raw materials will be available at the same price as they are available to British manufacturers, or whether a higher price is to operate for textiles exported to this country. A number of manufacturers are in considerable doubt as to that part of the agreement and I should like to have some information about it.
The British subsidise some forms of textile manufacture and the Deputy would not expect them to subsidise us. They will be available to us at the same price as anybody else.
That may mean that a number of commodities will be available at a much higher price here than in England. I suppose that is another matter to be examined. There are two other aspects of the agreement to which I wish to refer. One is the statement concerning bacon which I think is an extraordinary example of under-statement The statement says:
"Bacon is not likely to be available for export for some time, and with so much uncertainty as to the supply and price of feeding stuffs, a definite offer could not be made. The British Government have, however, agreed in principle to negotiate a contract which will give Irish producers an assured market over a period of years."
What plan have we for bacon production? Last year a White Paper was issued dealing with the whole pig-rearing problem and bacon production in general. After the new Minister for Agriculture was appointed, that plan was scrapped. So far no plan has taken its place, and whether the Government have any plan or not is not apparent. But merely to state that we will not have any bacon for export is avoiding the question. I should like to hear from the Government what plan they have for increasing bacon production and pig rearing.
The other matter to which I wish to refer is our dollar requirements. I understand that this year we used over £58,000,000 in order to buy goods from dollar areas or hard currency countries. From October last to 30th June next year we are cut down to £14,000,000, plus whatever dollar earnings we may get from goods sold. I should like to hear, not merely to what extent this is likely to interfere with the supply of petrol or of luxury goods, but to what extent, in view of our experience this year and last year, it will limit our productive capacity and the supply of essential raw materials here. It is a very sudden drop. It may be that we were facilitated to a larger extent than it was reasonable to expect, or to a larger extent than our own dollar earnings would have entitled us. The bald statement in the summary circulated last week does not convey adequately to the House or the country the effect of the reduction in dollar currency. I want to ask the Government if it is the intention of this country to apply for membership of the International Monetary Fund. I noticed that the Minister for Industry and Commerce, when speaking in Youghal the other day, referred to this matter. So far, however, there has been no definite statement on the matter and the House and the country would like to know whether it is the intention to apply for membership of that fund or not.
The agreement is satisfactory if we can avail of it. To what extent we can avail of it only time will tell. To what extent agreement may be reached on the outstanding points, again only time can tell. I would urge on the Government that the sooner a long-term agreement and one that offers more assurance, not merely to the agricultural community, but to the manufacturing community, is arrived at the better. I hope that either before or after the election a more satisfactory agreement offering longer and better terms will be available for industrialists and agriculturists alike.
So far as it aims at a better exchange of goods between the two countries, the agreement undoubtedly is beneficial. The extent to which both countries may benefit is, of course, dependent on the amount of goods which one country is able to exchange with the other. In our case, I am afraid that there is no immediate prospect of extra goods being available. It is true that we have cattle to export and that the increased prices now available for cattle will encourage their export. Eggs are only available here at present in very small quantities for our own use and the butter and bacon supplies are not sufficient for our own needs. If a higher price was offered for some of these commodities which are still in insufficient supply, I suppose some of them would be exported. That, of course, would not be a good policy. Where are we to get these extra commodities which we are to offer to the British Government? I see no prospect of increased butter supplies or of increased supplies of eggs or bacon being available. The one commodity of which we have an exportable surplus is beef. According to the report of the butchers, the increased price for beef will have an effect on the supply available for Dublin and, probably, for the country generally. No doubt, that matter will adjust itself. If a situation of that kind develops, I am sure the Government will take the necessary measures to deal with it.
The outstanding question is this: what are our plans for increased production? Contracts entered into in anticipation of some beneficial results are not of themselves of any value unless they are implemented in a manner by which the greatest possible effect can be obtained from them. There was a suggestion made that the agreement will provide some financial assistance to help to resurrect the poultry industry with a view to increasing the availability of eggs and poultry for the British consumer. I cannot understand why this financial help is forthcoming only in the case of poultry, though I could understand such prices being paid for eggs or poultry as would encourage producers here to produce more, or I could understand feeding stuffs being made available so that poultry production could be increased. However, if financial help is forthcoming for that purpose, I cannot understand why similar facilities should be withheld in the case of butter, pigs, etc. Financial assistance of any kind is not wanted from any Government to enable our people to produce more poultry, butter, etc. What is really wanted is an increased supply of feeding stuffs, whether provided from our own soil or imported.
It is true that under the agreement we are going to get an increased supply of farm machinery and of fertilisers. These undoubtedly will be a help towards increased production. I take it as a matter of ordinary business that the prices to be paid for these commodities will bear some proportion to the prices which we receive for the products we sell to England. I hope that the farm machinery will not be bought at England's price, as was the custom in the past, and that we shall not have to accept a price fixed by Britain also for the products which we send to her.
Reference has been made to the fact by the Minister for Industry and Commerce and other speakers that an increased price will be paid for our cattle but that cattle purchased from us in the form of stores must be retained by the British for a period of over two months before qualifying for the full fat cattle price in Britain. I think that is a most iniquitous and unfair decision on the part of the British authorities. If they are, as we believe they are, in great jeopardy in regard to their supplies of beef, why should they pass this penal enactment affecting our cattle, insisting on the retention of these cattle for that period, cattle which in the ordinary course should go through to the butcher? That many of these cattle are fit for the butcher is evidenced by the fact that Irish cattle bought here and smuggled over the Border go directly into the slaughterhouse. The policy of the British Government is that these cattle must be fed, and fed on rations in limited supply in England, for a period of two months. I say that is a penal enactment so far as the production of beef here is concerned. It is even unfair to themselves in so far as these cattle are consuming foodstuffs, the consumption of which is altogether unnecessary to finish them off. I do not think there has been a honest attempt to deal with the position from the British point of view in that respect nor do I consider it right that they should leave in operation an enactment which has encouraged the smuggling of our cattle in a large way over the Border, smuggling which is detrimental to our productivity here.
While I hope that this agreement will bring good results to both parties, I am not one of those who hold that the question should be canvassed very strongly at this juncture, as to whether this agreement is more in favour of Great Britain than it is of us. There is no bargain we could make that would not carry with it the risk that the other party might derive more benefit from it. There is the possibility that this year's contract could result in England securing greater benefits than we do but surely it is not contemplated that this contract is going to end at March? For a long period there will be a system of give and take and there must be beneficial results accruing to both parties. It is to be hoped that our agriculturists and our industrialists will benefit from it to the greatest extent possible.
So far as the industrial side is concerned, I am sure that the Minister for Industry and Commerce will protect with the greatest care and caution our industries and any contracts he enters into. There is always the fear, seeing that we are a small country and are mainly in the infant stage industrially, that every contract we enter into with our big, powerful competitors may have an injurious effect on small enterprises here which are hardly yet established. Any inflow of goods from outside, no matter under what agreement, that would have the effect of displacing one workman in industry or hindering the development of any beneficial industry, would be a damaging blow, the effect of which it would be very hard to calculate. Our people are still new to industrial undertakings and they require all the protection, the encouragement and assurance that beginners in Irish industry should have.
I want to emphasise that while it is important to encourage increased production of live stock and every form of agriculture, and while it is important to encourage the importation of everything appertaining to the possibility of increased production in these directions, it is far more important and vital to the nation to retain in the rural districts the manpower needed for such production. Whilst the life blood of the nation in the form of our young men and women is gradually being drained away, let us stop talking about prosperity in connection with trade with England or any other country. Something drastic must be done. If there is an increased income to be made out of this agreement, it is essential that some of that income should be devoted towards a policy of retaining the population in the rural areas. Increased production cannot succeed and it can only be a sham unless the thing that really matters, the retention of our people on farms through the countryside, is secure. Towards that end the efforts of this or any future Government must be applied with all the vigour that it can apply them if the country is to be saved. Financial agreements between countries are only a humbug and a sham while our lifeblood flows out in the form of our youth from our country homesteads.
One must rather sympathise with the Opposition in their Leaders not being quickly enough off the mark in opposing this agreement. Last week I met in the hall a usually lonesome-faced Senator who knocks around this place. He said: "It is a great agreement, a wonderful thing for the country. For the first time in my life I nearly could say `Up Dev'. " I met him down there since. He still had a solemn face. He said: "It is a bad agreement." The instruction was sent out that he was adopting the wrong line by approving the agreement. We had the members of the Chamber of Commerce in Cork, which is the spokesman of the Fine Gael Party, expressing their appreciation of the agreement. None of them can be said to be the friends of this Government.
In recent times we found representatives from continental countries coming here to buy our beef and paying us well for it. Britain was not getting enough because she was not paying enough. Britain always succeeded in paying our agricultural community a sufficient price to give her one jump ahead of other countries. That was her attitude. People may ask why not have a long-term agreement. I do not want a long-term agreement in regard to the price of agricultural produce with anybody at the present time because I am not satisfied with the position of the agricultural community in the light of present prices. That is why I say you should make your agreements from day to day, from week to week or from month to month when you find it convenient to do so. If we made a long-term agreement this time two years in relation to wheat we would not have it up by 18/- a ton to-day.
The only way in which you will keep people on the land of this country, the only way in which you will increase production here, is by uplifting the ordinary worker, be he a farmer or a farm labourer, and putting him in as good a condition as his brother in the towns and cities.
I heard a lot of tripe spoken here to-day. I heard Deputy Bennett and I heard others speaking here about dairy farmers and suggesting they should be relieved of tillage. I remember giving some advice to a colleague of mine who happened to be a Deputy for the County Limerick. He told me the farmers in Limerick could not grow wheat because it was a dairying county. I suggested he should plough his fields and put in a good crop of kale. Then from October onwards he could feed the kale to his cows. He did so, and that Deputy has been ploughing his land ever since.
As for Deputy Bennett's policy, I remember in my younger days when workmen used to leave my district and go to Limerick on a nine-months' hiring system. They returned on Christmas Eve and were not required again until 1st April. We had to feed them and provide employment for them for three months each year.
Tillage does not interfere with the production of milk unless as regards the five months' grass milker, and I do not think there are many in this country or anywhere else who have much use for that type. There is no dairy farmer that I know of who had to increase his tillage, with the exception of some of the County Limerick boys or those in other counties who never till. On one famous occasion in the train at Kilmallock I brought the Leas-Cheann Comhairle to the window to show him the kind of tillage they were doing in that area. We looked out the window at a fine, rich field where a pair of horses were tackled to a new corn drill. There were two boys sitting on it. The horses were trotting up and down the field but nobody could say whether there was anything in the old tank. That is the way they sow the wheat in the County Limerick. I drew the attention of the Leas-Cheann Comhairle to the same place two months later. You could see a space here and there with nothing in it, and here and there were spots with a bit of wheat growing. I suppose they cannot help it. At the same time, I would not relieve them of their obligations.
We heard a lot of talk about the slaughter of calves. The slaughter of calves was the policy of the Government. I would like to see Deputy Fagan with his teeth in a piece of a ten years old bullock if the policy of slaughtering calves during the economic war was not carried out; I am sure he would have some tough chewing. As a matter of fact, there were more calves slaughtered within the past two years than at any period during the economic war. Why was that? Because the farmers of Munster have grown tired rearing calves for the ranchers of Deputy Fagan's constituency and other parts of the country. Let those men do a little for themselves. It would not pay to rear calves at present, with the price of milk. We from Cork seem to be the only fools in the country.
At present there is keen competition by the Dublin Milk Board to secure milk from two creameries within five miles of Cork City, because the rest of the counties are not prepared to produce milk for the City of Dublin. They would give the milk if they were paid for it. The County Cork farmers are to be the only fools in the country to keep cows and milk cows. We cannot get a six-day cow so we cannot comply with the regulations. If we have to comply with all those regulations we must pay for them and the people who require milk must pay for them too.
As far as milk production goes you have already a serious position. I hold that the first duty of the land of this country is to produce food, not for export, but for the people of this country, and that must first be provided. You have a gap in milk: you have a gap in butter; you have a gap in sugar and a gap in wheat. When I hear Deputies here, who seem to have no common sense at all, talking about pig production, it makes me laugh. What are they going to produce the pigs on? What are they going to feed them with? Are they going to feed them on potatoes or on milk? What are they going to fatten the pigs on when you cannot get imports of grain and when we are not prepared to produce sufficient grain to feed ourselves, not to mind the pigs? And then they talk about bacon production! The House has been brought face to face with the problem, and our first need is to supply a sufficiency of all the commodities that are rationed at present for our own people.
Such as we have, we will give to the highest bidder. Just as last year when we had suffered a six year famine of fertilisers, people went out with seed potatoes that Britain offered us £9 a ton for, while refusing to give us any fertilisers, and sold them in Spain and got a cargo of manganate of potash for them. We will sell to the highest buyer, for that is the only thing that can control any agreement made in regard to food in this country at the present day, and nothing else can control it.
I appreciate the fact that we were able to get from Britain agricultural machinery which we badly need. It is not manufactured in this country and never was manufactured here. I never saw an Irish reaper and binder and I do not know whether Deputy Blowick ever saw one or not. That is only one implement, but there are a whole series of things which are absolutely essential and if Britain has them, she gets our stuff for them, and if another country has them, then that country gets our stuff. That is a simple way of clearing up the situation as far as I can see. But I am more concerned about statements made here this evening. I sympathise with the Opposition as they were at least a week too late in sending out their instructions on what to do in regard to this agreement. They remind me of nothing so much as the thing which was spoken so fluently about last week—the pint. A man in, I think, Deputy Bennett's constituency called for a pint, and when he got it, he found that there was a mouse in it. He handed it back, saying that there was a mouse in it, and the woman took the mouse out and then gave it back to him, but he would not take it then either. These people, as long as I can remember, have been shouting here for the Government to go over themselves and make a trade agreement with Britain. How often was the House held up for hours while Deputy Hughes shouted that? Now that the Government has gone there and brought back an agreement, they are not satisfied.
It is the pint with the mouse in it.
They will not have the pint with the mouse in it or without it. I am more concerned with statements such as Deputy Fagan's, who started off by saying that we were without cattle, and Deputy Bennett who followed him by telling us that we had only mongrel cattle here to-day. When I asked them to quote a statement made by the last Minister, they said: "Quote it yourself." This statement was made, not while the late Mr. Hogan was still Minister, but after he went into the Opposition. He said: "The only warning I have to give to my successor in office is that if the Live-stock Breeding Act is administered as I administered it during the past six years, we may have a very fine looking cattle in the country but it will be impossible to get a milch cow." Those are the words which he used. I have them off by heart.
He was right in connection with the very fine looking cattle. Bulls are licensed, not for their milk potentialities, not for the milk yields of their dams, but by the conformation of the beast. If he is a good looking bull he passes. If not, no matter if his dam yielded 2,000 gallons of milk, you may as well take him home. That has been the policy of the Department of Agriculture for the past 20 years and the result is that we are breeding mongrels. We have thrown away one good thing on the one hand and have not got anything on the other. We have thrown away our milch cows and have not even got a good beef animal instead, but rather, according to Deputy Bennett, a breed of mongrels. It is a very serious position and a position which will have to be very carefully considered by all of us.
We are endeavouring this year to get the Department of Agriculture to allow us to give a premium to a milk breed namely Friesian cattle. However, when we ended the racket by cutting off the premiums altogether we did a wise thing. The people of this country, both ratepayers and taxpayers, have paid enough. They have paid millions of pounds—for what? If Deputy Bennett is right, for mongrels. If the return of our creameries is correct, for reducing the yield of our cows. Those are the sole results of both. We decided, very wisely I think, that the racket has gone on long enough. I heard statements made here by Deputy Dillon in regard to the question of milk and the question of calves. Senator Counihan happens to be a member of the Deputy's Party, if I could put it that way. Senator Counihan's advice to the Minister for Agriculture was that if there was a lower price for milk the calves would be reared. I wonder if Deputy Bennett agrees with that. The position is that four different policies are advocated by the members of the main Opposition Party. We have one from Deputy Fagan, another from Deputy Bennett, a third from Deputy Hughes, and a fourth from Senator Counihan. Talk about coalition governments—they should come together themselves and coalesce in the matter of a farming policy.
I consider that the agreement is a good one. I am glad it is not a long-term one. I think that as time goes on we will be able to get rid of what we have to export in the line of agricultural produce at better prices and with better satisfaction to our agricultural community.
Any agreement which helps to bring two neighbouring countries together is welcome. Therefore, I welcome the agreement as far as it goes. It is a step in the right direction. It seems that our Government has come to face its responsibilities. The representatives of the two countries have met after having fought for the last 15 or 20 years. We are glad that they have met. Of course it is only a talk, but it is a preliminary to further talks. We are glad also that there is a hope of more coal, machinery and fertilisers. Those are the things which the farmer welcomes. Unfortunately, as far as we are concerned, the only life-line we have at the moment is the export trade. I am sorry to say that that is the position. I consider it a very dangerous position because we are going to go back to a system of ranching in this country to which I am totally opposed and to which every other man of my type is opposed. I hope that a proper balance will be kept and that those things will be righted in due time. I am satisfied that as far as we are concerned we have made the offer to England but I think Britain has not played the game very well. She has a penal tariff in operation against this country since 1933 and 1934. I suppose she wants the annuities but on that tariff she has got back more than her share of the annuities. It is very unfair. She should have kept to her agreement.
When we discuss agriculture in this House it is as if we were at the Tower of Babel. Everybody speaks with diverse tongues.
It is time some fundamentally sound policy on agriculture that would suit all Parties were come to. We are satisfied that it is out of the land the wealth and the living in this country comes. The country in the main is sick of false economics. Most of the talk that goes on is tripe and false economics. Looking back over 25 years I find that the small man whether he be a labourer or an uneconomic farmer is definitely neglected. He has been neglected by the first and by the second Government. I am satisfied that this country is now a place for the idle rich, for speculators and all those with big money, and that it is no place for the small man with little money. I want to ask the Taoiseach to take those things to heart. I am satisfied that he has a heart and that he realises that an effort must be made to bring this country to a sound balanced economy that will raise the lower man first and that will let the higher man, who is well able to look after himself, fend for himself. This trade agreement will do good all round, but it will do a vast amount of good to the type of people who do not need that help. It will do a vast amount of good to the big man with 200, 300, 400 or 500 acres of land. It will, however, do little good to the man with ten, 15 or 20 acres of land. Therefore, I would ask the Taoiseach to keep a close eye on things and not to let this country get out of hands as it was in the old days 20, 30 or 40 years ago. I would ask him to try and hold a proper balance for the ordinary people. Those are the people who marched behind the Taoiseach and myself, who went into prisons, who stood before firing squads. Those people represent nationalist Ireland. They stand for the dreams of Pearse, Connolly and the other great men who died that we and the rest of us might live.
With such changes as are going on in the world to-day, with every man trying to get more than his share, it is essential that a proper balance should be kept. I am satisfied that things are not all right so far as Britain and this country is concerned. She is still trying to strangle this country. It may be said that she is not, but I think she is trying to strangle this country economically, nationally, and in every other way. She is trying to do so even in regard to our trade, in quite a peaceful way. She has brought us to the position that we are denuding our country of our labouring men and the sons of our small farmers. These people are going across to her to take up a living. She has brought that about because she has such a grip on our financial position and on our very life-line. We will have to be bolder and braver and bigger than we are. We will have to shake off those shackles. We are being squeezed tighter and tighter. As we look back over the last 15 years of native government we find there has been no advance of any kind. The body of the nation has decayed. The Government is not, perhaps, wholly to blame for that because the people themselves are to blame in some measure. The people refuse to get down to realities or to have any proper appreciation for the things that do matter. All they want is big money. The so-called big men are trying to put big things across while the little men struggle in a losing battle. Bold action is called for on the part of the head of this Government. The Taoiseach must do something to resuscitate the spirit of the Irish nation. The spirit of this nation was never so anaemic as it is at the present time. The people are ready to turn left or right.
A co-ordinated national effort is needed and the only way in which that effort will be made will be by making this nation a single unit. As long as this country is divided we shall get nowhere. Unity for a nation is possible. Independence is possible. Egypt has achieved it. India has achieved it. Palestine is achieving it rapidly. Why cannot Ireland take her place alongside these nations and follow their example? If the nation were a single entity and North and South stood together I think we would achieve much with comparatively little trouble because we would stand together as a nation. With the existing division of the nation into two you have an unbalanced economy in both and, with an unbalanced economy, there can be no progress. If there were one parliament over the entire nation this country could resuscitate itself. Is there no great man amongst us who will tackle this job of a united Ireland? Even if he were to fail in his efforts he would go down in history as someone who made a whole-hearted effort to bring about a union.
Our whole economy in our existing circumstances is a false one. It is a decaying policy. While it continues you will have emigration whereas if we had a properly balanced and true economy our people would come back here. This country should be capable of supporting four or five million people in reasonable comfort. You cannot hope to have a proper economy with a nation of less than 3,000,000 people. It is a lopsided economy.
The county I represent plays an important part in the life of our nation. I refer to the export trade in livestock. My county is a grazing county. It is a wealthy county. But in that county there is a vast disparity. You have, on the one hand, wealthy ranchers and, on the other, desperately impoverished smallholders. The wealthy ranchers are not putting their money to the purposes to which they should put it. They spend it on having a good time— outside the country if they can get out, and inside the country if they cannot get out. I do not know which has the worst consequences from the national point of view. There are too many uneconomic smallholders living in dire poverty. Those smallholders who got twenty acres of land in the last fifteen years are letting that land on the 11-months' system at £8, £9, £10, £11 or £12 an acre and they themselves are working for the nearest big farmer in the area. That is not right. There should be more co-operation amongst the farmers themselves. A man living on 15 or 20 acres cannot keep two horses. His holding is an uneconomic unit. If six or eight of those smallholders could be induced to co-operate and buy a tractor and farm machinery for their own use something could be made of the holdings. But the Government would have to give them unlimited credit facilities for their purpose. In that way the country could have more production and more intensive farming everywhere. The small farmers are credit starved. There is a certain type of man who can start with nothing and reach the top; but the majority of the people never get anywhere unless they have some support. The uneconomic smallholders in this country have had no support. Those are the problems to which we should address ourselves now if we wish to save this country from total decay.
We have heard a good deal here about cattle breeding and pig breeding and so on. I am satisfied that the type of cattle we have in the country is quite good enough. It is as good to-day as it was 25 years ago. There are plenty of good cows in the country that will give us plenty of milk if they are properly fed. But I am satisfied myself that the bulk of our cattle have to live off the fat of their own hump during the winter. More infeeding of cattle should be encouraged. Quite a number of the farmers in County Meath are now supplying the Dublin market with milk. They are not getting from their cows anything like the amount of milk they should get because they are not able to feed their cows. Some of them get no more than two quarts of milk from cows that should give buckets of milk if they were properly fed.
Another matter to which my attention has been drawn is the fact that the big milk combines in Dublin are now giving credit to these farmers to build sheds for their cows and, in some cases, they are even buying the cows for them. I would prefer to see the Government providing those facilities from the national purse. A gigantic effort must be made to make our small farmers economic units and enable them to pay their way by supplying the nation with their produce and exporting the surplus. At the moment farming is done in a most haphazard way. I do not stand for wealth. I want to see hard-working, thrifty small holders earning their living and earning it well. On the one hand, at the moment you see luxury and on the other nothing but misery and squalor. Is that something of which Catholic Ireland can be proud? We must do something. Surely, the Taoiseach is aware of the position as it is. I feel that to some extent he cannot be. I am satisfied that if he went around to the homes of these people and saw the conditions under which they live something would be done to remedy the situation and I am satisfied that he himself would make a gigantic effort to resuscitate the people and imbue them with a new spirit of nationalism and co-operation.
As far as this agreement is concerned, I am afraid that the increased prices for cattle will send us back into the ranching system again. The small farmer at the moment lets his holding on the conacre system. It is easy money for him. He could not make it himself by working his holding. He lets his holding to the big farmer and in some cases the small holder is in the grip of the big farmer because money has been advanced to him.
That small-holder gets away altogether from the idea of practical farming for himself with the result that he loses all initiative. He goes out and looks for work with the nearest big farmer he can find. I am satisfied that if he were given some inducement to remain on his own holding and work it as an economic unit he would earn that money on his own little homestead. There is a living to be made by any man who has 25 or 30 acres of land if he takes off his coat and works it. These people will not take off their coats when they can find an easier way out.
There is much to be done in this country. There is no use in talking about a trade agreement until we find out what is wrong and remedy it. I ask the Taoiseach to inquire as to the position with regard to credit for small farmers. I am not concerned about the man with 50 acres or upwards; he can hold his own in bad times and good times. Farms of 30, 40 and 50 acres have been in the same family for generations. When you come to the small units, however, you find that they have changed hands ten or 20 times. In my county a peculiar position has arisen in the last two years. Practically all the big residential holders with 300 or 400 acres have sold out. It was not a case of looking for big money. The banks said to them: "Sell while the going is good or we will make you sell." They were up to their necks in debt to the banks. Now they are trying to buy smaller holdings. We have Indian princes and prosperous British people buying these holdings. Once again we have a process of peaceful penetration. That may seem to be all right, but, from the point of view of a Gaelic or nationalist Ireland it is a bad thing. After all, what did we fight for in this country? We were glad when we saw the British marching out of it. But, with their big financial interests, they are coming back slowly but surely and starting again where they left off 25 years ago.
I ask the Taoiseach to waken up the Government. Things are on the move. The people are uneasy. There is poverty in the homes of many and luxury in the homes of a few. There is good money in the cattle trade, and it is easily earned money. But, if we look too much to that we will forget about other things. All over the country we could have a vast quantity of poultry, eggs, bacon, butter and vegetables which we have not at present. County Meath could be a market garden and granary for the City of Dublin, but it is not. That is because we never made the slightest effort to promote co-operation amongst the people. If we did that, we could make our country prosperous. If you could get six or eight farmers to co-operate they could work their land properly. I did it myself in a small way. I got six farmers together and we purchased a reaper-and-binder. When that was paid for we got a turnip seed-sower and afterwards a horse spraying-machine and other machinery. We have reached the position now when we can afford to buy a tractor and hope to reach the position when we can buy a threshing mill. We will be an economic unit helping each other. What we have done in a small way should be done all over the country. I ask the Taoiseach to try to promote the spirit of Muintir na Tíre amongst the people, I know it is a difficult matter as the Irish people are very individualist. I know that there are many cranks to be found in the country and that one crank can destroy any movement. An effort should be made, however, to bring about co-operation amongst our people.
There is a huge amount of waste on many farms. The people are not able to prevent that waste. A man with 15 or 20 acres may have only one horse and is dependent on the loan of a neighbour's horse. When that horse is available the day may be wet and he will not be able to do anything. Next day, when the weather may be all right, the neighbour probably wants his horse back. The result is that that man cannot sow his seed in time and as a result his harvest is late. The weather may break, with the result that half of his crop is lost. That is all due to the fact that he has to do things in a haphazard way. These are things that we should look into. There is more food wasted in this country than would feed the people for two or three months. I travel a good deal through the country, as I am fond of sport, and I can see a vast amount of waste on large tracts of land. A man with a reaper and binder will go into 30 or 40 acres of land and reap the crop and get shut of it. Afterwards you can see pigeons, crows and rooks having a royal time eating up the grain. If that work were done by a thrifty farmer that would not happen.
Will the Deputy come to the agreement?
In my opinion, the agreement is better than nothing. I was glad to see the two Governments coming together, a thing we have been trying to bring about for the last 15 years. It is a good thing for the country. I hope there will be further talks and agreements. Before very long I hope we will have a trade pact covering a definite number of years so that we will know where we stand. If the Taoiseach succeeds in doing that, he will make up for many things he failed to do in the last 15 years.
Many Deputies are inclined to criticise this agreement, but, although the agreement may not be suitable for every individual and for all interests, I think the Government have gone a long way to meet the needs of the farming and producing community. In negotiating this agreement with the British Government they have taken a step in the right direction. For that reason, I do not think we should criticise the Government at this time. We are dependent on exports from this country in order to maintain stability at home. The first item on the agreement is coal. It states that the British Government have undertaken to maintain existing supplies of coal and to provide a substantial additional quantity of coal of reasonable quality in the calendar year 1948. It must be taken into consideration that the British have to provide coal for their own people. We know that over a long period the coal industry in Great Britain has been affected very considerably by strike action. For that reason it is very hard to expect the British Government to guarantee to supply more coal than this country has been getting in recent times.
It being now 10.30 p.m. the motion lapsed.
The Dáil adjourned until 3 p.m. on Thursday, 20th November.