Agricultural Workers (Holidays) Bill, 1949—Second Stage (Resumed).

There is no need for this Bill at all, and I am sure the Minister, having heard Deputy Corry and other Deputies from County Cork, realises that the simple course would have been to draw the attention of the farming community in other counties to the wonderful lead of Cork, where, apparently, the agricultural workers are living in a sort of paradise. Perhaps it might also be well for the Minister to draw the attention of other counties to the El Dorado of the West, as mentioned by Deputy Beegan. He stated that the agricultural workers are not alone the best paid in this country, but in the whole world. As a Corkman, naturally I would like to be able to agree with Deputy Corry, Deputy P.D. Lehane and also Deputy Moylan, who represents one of the Cork constituencies. Unfortunately, I can say from my experience that the grand picture painted by them is nothing but a picture painted by their own fertile imaginations. It is true, as we will find by looking up the Official Debates, that a previous Minister for Agriculture did say that the agricultural community in Cork were in the first three at the winning post in reducing the wage between 1931 and 1935.

It was refreshing to hear Deputy Corry telling us that the men were able to trot off to Mallow races and to Pigeon Hill races. He forgot apparently that Ballinrea races are held once a year, on St. Patrick's Day, which is both a Church and a national holiday. Great emphasis was laid on the fact that these men went away for the day, and even Deputy Smith was apparently worried lest the grand facilities given by some employers would be upset, that, if this Bill became law, some of these employers might say: "We will not give the facilities we gave in the past; we will give barely the minimum required." Looking at the matter from the point of view of facts and not from the point of view of fancy or making political capital, I can truthfully say that this picture is not a true picture of conditions in North Cork, spoken of by Deputy Moylan; in East Cork, spoken of by Deputy Corry, or in South Cork, spoken of by Deputy P.D. Lehane. There may be some employers who give an odd day off, and I give them full credit for it, but in the whole of County Cork I know from records kept that there are only two cases of employers giving a week's holiday. I am also aware that wages were reduced in respect of three hours spent by men who had to attend the funeral of a relative. It is only fair that all sides should be looked at and it is not fair to say: "Just set down what is being given in Cork and let the rest follow." It is a very good job for the rest of the country that the employers there are not following in the footsteps of some of the employers in Cork.

I personally agree with this Bill, which I regard as a step forward. There may be certain points in it which I would consider shortcomings, but as under it these workers are to get a week's holiday, it is to be welcomed. We have been told about the harmonious relations which exist between employers and workers. Deputy Corry took exception to a member of this House, Deputy Dunne, going around the country on Sundays after Mass. It may be well to remind Deputy Corry and other Deputies that when, four or five years ago, the farm workers in Cork offered full co-operation with the farmers and when they asked the farmers' representatives to meet them at a round table conference to discuss their difficulties, their offer was completely ignored. When Deputies talk about the harmonious relations which exist they seem to forget that the relationship which exists is the relationship between master and man. There have been, and still are, odd cases of an employer treating his worker differently, and for that we give them full credit, but when we are dealing with a large number of workers, roughly 85,000 permanent and 51,000 casual, it is no use for a Deputy to talk of upsetting the harmonious relations which exist between these workers and their employers by making this proposal part of the law for the protection of the worker. It has been done in the cities in the past and has not interfered with the relations existing there. I believe this Bill will have no ill effects on these relations, because it means that the worker will be placed in a more secure position than he is in at present and will not have to depend on the goodwill and charity of his employer. Because it does that, we support the Bill.

Some members were in favour of staggered holidays, but we cannot look with favour on any such suggestion because we know it can lead to abuse and we know also that the worker is not in a position to ask his employer, as man to man, for certain days suitable to himself. There may be odd cases, but we cannot legislate on the basis of these odd cases when dealing with 85,000 permanent and 51,000 casual workers. We must base our whole approach to the Bill on the fact that we are dealing with a large mass of workers and a large number of employers and it is only fair that all should be on a level footing.

One point raised by the Minister was the increase in the agricultural income from £78,622,000 in 1947 to roughly £100,000,000 in 1949. Great credit is due to the Minister for helping to bring about that increase. Certain members may have objected to the suggestions put forward by the Minister from time to time in connection with the possibility of improved production, but if we take into consideration the figures, we must admit that the Minister was right. The Minister also drew attention to the fact that, in that period, there was an increase of 20 per cent. in the agricultural worker's wage from £2 10s. 0d. to £3 0s. 0d., and when we take into consideration the fact that one week's wages in the year will mean about 1/2½d. a week to the employer, it is surely not too much to say: "Pass this Bill, and the sooner the better."

Many Deputies were rather noncommittal. They said they would vote for it, but it struck me in listening to the debate and reading over the debates which took place in the past that the same line was adopted when the Agricultural Wages Bill was introduced. They were all mad to give the wage, but they had not got it to give. When that Bill was introduced, some Deputies said there would be a terrible increase in unemployment. The reverse has proved the case. This time, again, you have Deputies saying something like that. Deputy Corry gave a figure of 21,000 agricultural workers who were leaping over the fences. If we say we will leave conditions as they are, in case there may be an increase in unemployment, it means we are failing in our responsibility. Whether the number employed is large or small, it is our duty here as Deputies to see that their conditions are something approaching the standard of Christian conditions. In the debate on the Agricultural Wages Bill, the present Minister used a good phrase when he said we should not have those workers living as coolies.

I heartily agree with Deputy McQuillan when he spoke of conditions in the west. I do not know the west a lot, but I know he spoke the truth. These things are true and it is here they should be brought up. Deputy Cowan, while Deputy Allen was speaking, asked more or less in the form of a question, if it were so that some agricultural workers were living over barns. In turn, Deputy Allen did not deny that these men were sleeping in such places, but his own words were, as reported in the Dáil Debates last week, that they were living in comfortable conditions. Apparently, it has come to the time of believing ourselves, and trying to make other people believe, that sleeping over a barn is in itself sleeping under comfortable conditions.

Other Deputies were worried about the dangers of regimentation. Believing in democracy, no one can agree with regimentation in the full sense of the word, but if you take into consideration that regimentation was introduced of necessity in the Agricultural Wages Bill, surely no Fianna Fáil Deputy can say it was unnecessary then, and if that is so, why say it is not necessary now? I want to agree with Deputy Larkin on the question that arose naturally about the possibility of a weekly half-day. Unfortunately—I have this again on the basis of the records—there are employers who can give it and have stated to us that they could give it, but, simply because their neighbours are not giving it, they are not doing so. That applies to employers holding various political views. In such a case, where they can give it—and we have instances where they are giving it, and we give them full credit—I fail to see why the agricultural worker is not entitled to a half-day the same as any other worker. Various methods might be adopted by various Deputies in objecting to it. In any democratic institution there are bound to be objections to any given course, and any Deputy may adopt any line which he thinks may suit his policy. I am basing my argument on the fact that it has been proved successful and is being given by one or two individuals whom I know. The rest are simply watching what their neighbours are going to do.

In conclusion, I think it is essential to mention again our view in connection with staggered holidays. We are definitely of opinion that six days, where a man is working for the full 12 months, should be given and that the man of necessity should take the holiday to which he is entitled. It should not be left open to the possibility of abuse, whereby a man may not get the week's holiday and may not even get the money, unfortunately, because in some areas he may have to act in a hush-hush manner even as regards wages. In this Bill the worker should be safeguarded by making sure that he gets the holidays and gets them in full consecutive order. When that has been done we may reach the possibility at a later stage of considering fully having included as well a few hours off as a half-day for the agricultural worker.

We can all congratulate the Minister on the figures he produced when introducing the Second Reading of this Bill and particularly on the rise in agricultural production. In this matter we are dealing with one particular industry which has a peculiar characteristic that differentiates it from every other industry— it is almost entirely a one-man business so far as the employer is concerned. While noting the rise in agricultural production and the increase in agricultural income, for the efficient running of that industry, in order that additional burdens can be imposed on the employer—and I do not use the word "burden" in the sense of objecting to anything in this Bill—and approaching it from the practical point of view, we have to consider the particular overheads of that one-man business. One of the overheads which is very often—in fact, entirely—lost sight of is the credit available to the farmer at different times during the year, or perhaps during the whole year.

Again, it being a one-man business, it is different from others and the way others are run in this respect, that the assets on which the farmer can fall back usually are his farm, his stock, his own skill and the hard work of himself and his employees. I have given the matter very serious consideration and this is not the first time I have mentioned this problem. I believe it goes to the whole root of our industry and of our economic future. Several times a year and in different places from honest, hard-working men I have heard the remark: "I am keeping the farm going, but I am not working for myself and I have not done so since my father died, and he was not working for himself either". The position in this country in connection with this large one-man industry is that the control of credit and the price at which credit is available to the farmer is outside the farmer's sphere of influence. At the moment the rate which the farmer has to pay, if he even gets as far as getting the loan, is 5 per cent. I consider that is much too high, when all the industry can economically pay is a rate of 3 per cent.

The Deputy is far away from holidays for agricultural workers.

I do not wish to stray from the point, but I submit that this is relevant in connection with the cost.

Not more relevant than other overheads—the price of milk, the rates, or the cost of manures.

I am the first one in this House to bow to you, if I am out of order.

Yes, the Deputy is out of order in discussing credits.

Very well. At any rate, I have made my point.

And the Deputy is not jubilant over having made his point?

Like all other members of the Fianna Fáil Party, I welcome any social legislation that will be responsible for the uplifting of our people. It is only right that the agricultural workers should have a holiday.

And the widow, too.

Does the Minister want to be introduced to her?

Or the Molly Maguires?

We on this side of the House were the first Party that gave a social uplift to the agricultural worker by the introduction of the Agricultural Wages Bill, 1936 and the establishment of the Agricultural Wages Board, which, of course, has not been improved upon.

Its improvement has nothing to do with holidays.

I am only expressing, Sir, the feelings I have always had towards social legislation of any kind. If we can do anything to improve the lot of our fellow men, we are only too anxious to do it.

At our neighbour's expense.

We are continuing that policy notwithstanding the misrepresentation by some of the archangels of the Labour Party, on the other side of the House, that we are concerned with nobody but ourselves. It is very strange that the Minister should pick out the year 1947, when we had a bad harvest and a bad spring, when the agricultural income was approximately £78,000,000; and compare that with the peak year, when the weather was good——

And the Minister was good.

When the agricultural income increased by over £20,000,000. It is very strange that the Minister should always take the year 1947. I do not know what would happen the inter-Party Government if they had not 1947 to fall back on.

I will give you 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945 and 1946 in a minute.

That seems to be the kernel of the argument. I now want to deal with a very particular point. To hear Deputy Desmond speaking about the members of Fianna Fáil, one would imagine that Fianna Fáil were anxious that agricultural workers should not get holidays; that Fianna Fáil were bad employers who would not consider giving a holiday to anybody. In County Dublin there is and always has been a spirit of goodwill among a large number of workers and their employers. I hope that will continue. There is a number of decent, charitable employers in that county who looked after their employees well and who never objected to an employee taking a half-day to bury a friend or to go to a football match. I hope that will continue.

They were forced to do it by the workers' organisation.

Before the workers' organisation was known the Agricultural Wages Board gave the agricultural worker of County Dublin and Ireland some status. The workers' organisation has only improved on that slightly. They have given the workers of County Dublin nothing more than the Agricultural Wages Board gave them. I want to warn the House that the day is not very far distant when, as a result of the Minister's policy in regard to the farmers of County Dublin, agricultural workers will not be needed. That is the position now. People who grew barley, oats, tomatoes and other agricultural produce in County Dublin will not be able to employ labour as a result of the Minister's attitude. He knows that. I did not hear a word from the Labour members, the archangels of the workers, as to the number of agricultural workers who have been sacked in County Dublin and every other county as a result of the policy adopted by the Minister.

This is not a debate on agricultural policy.

Pardon me. I bow to your ruling. As I have stated, I welcome the Bill. We in Fianna Fáil have always been progressive. We have not tried to retard progress. We are concerned with the well-being of every section of the people, irrespective of class or creed. For that reason, no matter how people may try to misrepresent us, we are always in favour of any measure that will uplift our people.

This Bill has been introduced in an honest manner by the Minister. He has said that it is a simple Bill, to give a week's holiday to agricultural workers. He has pointed out that it will have to fall on the backs of the farmers. He has pointed out reasons why the farming community should be able to bear this Bill. I welcome the Bill as being a step on the road towards placing the agricultural workers, to whom so much praise is given by all sides of the House, in a somewhat similar position to their colleagues of the industrial field.

Deputy P.J. Burke appears to have indulged in wishful thinking when he said that this Bill will cause farmers to let workers go. There seems no reason at all why the fact that a farmer should give his agricultural worker one week's holiday in the year should influence the labour content of his farm so much as to necessitate a man being let go. I suggest again that the Deputy has been indulging in wishful thinking.

On a point of order. I wish to correct the misrepresentations of the Deputy now speaking. I did not say that.

That is not a point of order.

Many Deputies have pleaded for the system of give and take which, they claim, existed in the past between the farmer and his worker. As a trade union worker I have experience of give and take methods being operated in the industrial world and, in many cases at any rate, the employer's idea of give and take was to take the very best a man had to give and to give as little as he could in return. It is time that the State should step in and fix the minimum in wages and holidays. This Bill deals with holidays and fixes a minimum holiday period to which the worker will be entitled if this Bill becomes an Act.

I suggest to the Minister that he should accept an amendment which will make it compulsory upon the farmer to give holidays, whether the worker agrees or not. That is not to save the workers from themselves but rather to save a worker from being intimidated into agreeing to accept wages, or promises of wages more likely, instead of holidays. It would be very easy for a farmer to suggest to his man, and very difficult for his man to refuse, that the man should accept holiday pay instead of holidays. Unless that man is well organised, he will not have the courage to go back to his employer and to demand that pay for the holidays which he should have got. I suggest to the Minister that the method adopted in this Bill should be similar to the method adopted in the Conditions of Employment Act, 1936 for industrial workers, that it will be an offence for the employer not to give holidays, whether the man agrees to accept pay instead or not.

I regret very much that the Minister when he was taking this bold step and bringing in legislation to cover farm workers did not see his way to introduce a compulsory half-holiday for farm workers, as I believe he agrees should be done. Surely these people give as much service as any other people in the State. They are practically the only big body of workers who are not enjoying a half-holiday. I would suggest to the Minister that he should consider accepting on the Committee Stage an amendment from the Labour Party and incorporating in the Bill a section that would give compulsorily to farm workers, as well as six annual holidays and other recognised holidays, a 50-hour week. I welcome the Bill because I feel that it is a positive start to bring the status of farm workers somewhat nearer that of their colleagues in the industrial field

I am glad that the House has decided unanimously to pass this Bill. I do not present it to the House as being an epoch-making or revolutionary departure; it is merely one of many steps that we hope to take to improve things generally in our own country.

Deputy Burke amuses me when he has the fortitude to remind the House that Fianna Fáil introduced the Agricultural Wages Board. The dramatic result of that achievement was to fix the minimum wage for agricultural workers in Ireland at the quite astonishing figure of 21/- per week. I do not know that that is an achievement that I would look back upon with glowing pride if I were Deputy Burke. It was, in my opinion, about the lowest nadir of degradation to which the agricultural industry of this country ever sank, and I do not believe that in any conceivable circumstances, short of the catastrophe of a return of Fianna Fáil, could so degrading a nadir ever be reached again by our people.

I want to dissipate the other fraudulent representation which Fianna Fáil, and Deputy Burke in particular, have sought to pass off in this House and that is that over the last two years there has developed a tendency for the number of agricultural workers on the land of Ireland to decline. Deputy Burke deplored that he had only had made available to him for comparison the statistics of 1947. I am going to give him now statistics for the whole hideous 15 years. I need not further describe the period to which I refer— just the hideous 15 years. In 1931 the census returns reveal that there were 562,573 men employed on the land of this country. Now I shall read down the figures for the next 18 years. I begin with 562,000; 559,000; 550,000; 579,000; 573,000; 560,000; 555,000; 537,000; and 530,000 in 1939, a decline of 32,000 in the first eight years of the hideous 15. Then came the war and in 1940 there were 543,000; in 1941, 555,000; in 1942, 541,000; in 1943, 536,000; in 1944, 526,000; in 1945, 521,000; in 1946, 519,000; in 1947, 507,000 and the nightmare ended. But is Deputy Burke illuminated now? He has had his whole hideous history recapitulated and throughout the whole period of that Administration there was a steady, unwavering decline which resulted in reducing the number of persons who worked on the land from 562,000 to 507,000. Yet with the brazen-faced dishonesty on which they lived for 15 years they storm around this country now to create the impression generally that during their period of office there was a rush of the people to the land with a hive of industry on every acre and that now vast tracts of desert silence mark the departure of these young Lochinvars that came out of the west. Poverty, misery, destitution and ruin mark their passing and we have taken the initial steps to repair the devastation that they did. We have performed what is little short of a miracle in two years on the land of Ireland to repair their devastation, but we do not pretend that it is in our power to repair in two years the wreckage that 15 years of profligacy left behind them. But we do not intend to stop until we bury their evil memory fathoms deep.

I want to make this clear to the House: I consider it no cause to boast if we were to set up as our purpose to multiply the number of lowly paid agricultural workers on the land of this country.

Pharaoh, when he set about building his pyramids in Egypt, provided abundant employment of slaves—200,000 to a pyramid. A modern contractor could build the same with 1,000 men, adequately equipped. Shall we glory in thrusting down upon our people the standard of living appropriate to Pharaoh's slaves, or is it our objective to equip our agricultural workers with equipment which will enable them to produce two and three times what those who went before them produced with the implied understanding that if a man can do to-morrow what it took three men to do yesterday, and if it costs £9 a week to keep three men, what honest employer will offer one man doing as much £3 to-morrow?

My purpose, and I want the Dáil to know it, is to increase the productive capacity of each individual worker upon the land of this country by putting within his reach the best equipment that science can make available, so that in enabling him to do what it took three men to do in the past we may with a clear conscience expect the farmer who employs him to adjust the wages he receives in proportion to the increased quantity of wealth which, with proper equipment, he is now able to produce.

Deputy Allen or Deputy Corry, or some such like, laid down this ponderous aphorism as an inescapable rule in economics for us, that if prices went down wages must follow. Tripe! Only somebody so ignorant that he would not know how to come in out of the rain could lay down such a proposition. Did the Deputy who made that proposition ever envisage the possibility of increased production from effort intelligently used?

Deputy O'Reilly from Cavan was recently advocating a change in the price of milk on the grounds that the average yield of a cow was 260 gallons. It took just as much to feed that 260-gallon cow as it would have taken to feed a cow yielding 600 gallons. The farmer receiving 1/2 a gallon for 250 gallons had about £14 for the produce of his cow and 10/- for his calf during the 15 hideous years. If he were only getting 1/- now, and had 600 gallons from his cow, he would have £30 for his cow's milk, and from £5 to £10 for his calf. Who would be the better off, the man who had the £14 10s. 0d. in the hideous years or the man who had from £35 to £40 on the way out of the desert whence we come?

Let me give the House a few statistics on that, statistics relating not to 1947 but to all the hideous years. In 1941, there were 463,000 acres of wheat sown in this country, and the mills received 1,770,000 barrels. In 1949 there were 100,000 acres less under wheat— 362,000 acres—and the mills received 2,400,000 barrels. Where was the most labour spent—on the 463,000 acres or on the 362,000 acres?

Is this 1947 again?

That is 1941. The other years were even more disgraceful. I will not pursue the other years because, after 1941, there can be called an excuse, a growing shortage of fertilisers. I am taking 1941.

And other reasons, too.

I am taking 1941. Is it compulsory tillage?

If the Minister does not want to be honest about it there is no use in my intervening.

Is it compulsory tillage the Deputy means?

Is the Minister inviting me to interrupt?

If you care to.

I want to be orderly. I am always orderly here.

I do not upbraid the Deputy with the record, the ludicrous record, in 1946 or 1947, because it is fair to say that in 1947 the weather was inclement and the season difficult, but I do not think that excuse is valid for 1941. I did not dwell on the years 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945 and 1946 because the case might be made that fertilisers were not available. But the fact is, of course, that wheat to-day is being grown where farmers think they ought to grow it and where the land is fit to grow it. Under the Administration which preceded us it was grown where any ladeen who was sent around the country told the farmer he was to grow it. A great deal was sown where it never should have been sown. This is one interesting instance of where an intelligently-directed effort can produce a 25 per cent. larger return. That is not all. The figures for beet are not without interest. This was Fianna Fáil's pet.

This was the thing which was a "cod".

You did not send it up the spout after all?

In 1942 we had 54,888 acres of beet, from which we got 49,861 tons of sugar. In 1949 we had 59,498 acres of beet, from which we got——

On a point of order. I have no desire to hinder or prevent the Minister——

Is that a point of order?

I must hear it before I can decide.

I have no desire to prevent the Minister from developing his case in whatever way the Chair decides to allow him. But the Chair has already ruled that this is not a discussion on agricultural policy, that we are now discussing an Agricultural Workers (Holidays) Bill, and it seems to me as if the Minister is departing a great deal from what would be proper on a discussion of such a subject as that.

The Chair agrees to a great extent with Deputy Smith that the Minister is discussing general agricultural policy.

I am in the hands of the Chair. But Deputies have got up and said what they wanted to say and, on their attention being directed to the fact that they were wandering far afield, they said: "We have made the point we wanted to make".

I am assuming that the Minister was replying to certain statements made, but it seems to me that he has got a great deal of latitude.

May I complete the comparison?

In 1949 we had 59,498 acres, from which we got 88,632 tons of sugar.

Will you give us the comparative yields of flax now?

Deputy Smith objected a minute ago and now he wants to inspire the Minister to go further out of order.

It would be well if we got back to the Bill now.

Then what?

Then the tomatoes.

Certain statistical facts have been imported into this debate and I think I do not exceed the limits of relevancy if I give the correct figures. I want to deal with the several speeches made about everything. I notice a tendency among some of my Labour friends on the left, in their eager solicitude to welcome a reform, very seriously to denigrate much of what has been done, which shows a certain sign of a clear conscience. But the Government and the Deputies who support it are not backward in examination of their own conscience and in setting for themselves a high, stern level below which they feel the Administration they are supporting should not fall. I think, however, that Deputies ought to be a little careful, in their zeal for reform, not to paint a picture that can be subsequently quoted against them. I am sometimes a little shocked when I hear our supporters gladly sharing in the indignation expressed that this has not been done and that has not been done, without very carefully questioning themselves has it been done or has it not been done. When I hear the agricultural workers of this country being described as a depressed class, I begin to ask myself do the Deputies who so speak recall that since we came into office the level of agricultural wages has gone up by 20 per cent.

That was clearly mentioned by me.

The Deputy did mention it. But sometimes I am afraid that some Deputies, in their zeal to press home on the road of reform, feel that, instead of pushing an open door, they are battling against unscalable battlements and their language is often quoted as proof of propositions to which they themselves would never dream of subscribing.

Be careful, boys.

Let us then, in evaluating our own achievement, be resolute to do better with every year that passes, but let us not provide fuel for so unscrupulous an assembly as confronts us for more misrepresentation than they can themselves think up. They are pretty good hands at it without any help or inspiration from this side of the House. Deputy Smith, I need hardly say, approved of the Bill, but apprehended that the general agricultural policy would reduce the number of agricultural workers on the land. I have exposed that fraud. He is shocked by the necessity to import oats, tomatoes and potatoes. So am I. But the fact that there is a scarcity of these crops this year is solely and entirely the result of the activities of poor little Deputy Blaney and poor big Deputy Davern who set out covertly to sabotage our efforts by a whispering campaign. But Deputy Davern could not keep his big mouth shut. He had to get up and bawl out in public what he had been instructed to do "under the rose", and therefore we got on his track. That is the reason we have not got these crops. It is the cause of grave injury to our people that that campaign last year has had the result of so materially reducing the supplies of these crops now.

What will be the excuse next year?

Our difficulties in regard to grain have been further accentuated by the failure of our predecessors in office to provide the 200,000 tons of cereal storage that was required. We are now about to build it.

The Fine Gael Party moved to send back the Estimate for the Department of Industry and Commerce in 1939 because we started to do that.

You have, no doubt, an abundance of alibis, but we have not got the silos. We will shortly have the silos and you will not then require the alibis. Deputy Dunne led off the healthy symphony of self-criticism to which I have just referred, and one of his animadversions was that the Agricultural Wages Board was anti-worker. With great respect to Deputy Dunne, that is all nonsense. The Agricultural Wages Board has on it representatives of the workers and of the employers. There are extremely conscientious neutral members. They have tried at all times to do their best, bearing all considerations in mind. I think it is right to warn Deputies that if, in an excess of passionate desire to redress every grievance overnight, this Government were forced to put its hand to everything at the same time, the only place this Government would end up would be in the ditch with everything on top of it. Deputies had better make up their minds to this right here and now. This Government will not end up in the ditch. It has a radical programme which it intends to put through just as fast as the resources in men, money and goods will allow. There is no restriction on the speed with which that programme will be put through through lack of money. I hope there will be none arising from non-availability of hands and men to do the work, though I fear there may be.

There is more danger that you will not have the money.

There is no danger that any of this Government's programme in relation to housing, hospitalisation, development or reform will be delayed for one hour or one day for want of money. It might be well for our colleagues, instead of expressing apprehensions on that score, to reaffirm boldly, courageously and with certainty the fact, which our predecessors in office are anxious to conceal, suppress and distort, that there is no part of this Government's programme that will be held up for one moment for lack of money.

On a point of order.

The Deputy does not like it.

Is it your ruling that the Minister is now dealing with the Bill which is before the House?

It definitely is not.

Perhaps the Minister will say who is obstructing the business of the House now.

I intended calling the Minister's attention to the fact that we are discussing the question of holidays for agricultural workers and not general agricultural policy.

I am actually dealing with notes I took while other Deputies were speaking.

They seem to me to be very wide. Housing, hospitalisation and so on could hardly relate to the Agricultural Workers (Holidays) Bill.

The Agricultural Wages Board was described by Deputy Dunne as being anti-worker. I put it to the House that what that board has done heretofore is to increase agricultural wages with prudent regard to the capacity of the industry to pay. If you try to pile on to the agricultural industry a greater burden than that industry can at any given time carry you will end in the ditch. The only way effectively to achieve a large programme of development and reform is to do it with due regard all the time to the resources at your disposal and by using those resources to the limit of your capacity. I congratulate the Agricultural Wages Board on discharging their task faithfully and well, of constantly keeping under review the agricultural wage while facing the misrepresentation they put themselves in danger of when, having regard to the capacity of the industry to carry it, they fixed a minimum which bears a relation to that industry's capacity to pay.

Again, I ask you to rule whether we are discussing a holidays Bill or whether we are discussing the Agricultural Wages Board?

May I reply that agricultural wages have been discussed in the course of this debate in their relation to the other amenities made available to workers by their employers for nearly five hours?

I must rule that the Agricultural Wages Board, its activities and its operations are not relevant to a discussion on this measure. I cannot see how we can discuss the operations of the Agricultural Wages Board on a Second Reading of this measure.

But they are the body responsible for enforcing the Act.

How does the Agricultural Wages Board come into a Bill designed to provide holidays for agricultural workers?

Because Deputy Dunne said he deplores that the enforcement of this Act will come within the jurisdiction of the Agricultural Wages Board. He said that board is anti-worker.

Might I submit that the Agricultural Wages Board must surely be relevant on a measure that deals with holidays for agricultural workers?

The allegation is that this is not a fit thing to do. It is not fit that that body should be asked to enforce the Bill because it is anti-worker. I am merely saying it is fitting that this body, which has been faithful in discharging whatever duties were given to its care, should enforce it. This body will continue to operate agricultural wages.

I will allow you to make that argument but, beyond that, I do not think it is relevant to go. It is not relevant to discuss the board's operation and activities.

I mentioned that Deputies should bear in mind the difference between the wage paid and the statutory minimum. I think another danger arises. It is one thing for Oireachtas Éireann to fix statutory minima. It is quite another thing for Oireachtas Éireann, or the Executive of the State, the Government, to arrogate to itself the duties of the trade union movement. In every free society the trade union movement has certain functions which it should be allowed to perform. One function is to fix by agreement with employers contracts of employment for its members.

How can employers who are organised enter into agreements with employees who are not organised?

Then the alternative is a very poor one. Instead of organising themselves, the leaders of the trade union movement will come to the Government of the day and say: "The trade union organisation has broken down and we ask the Government to take over our work." I do not think the Irish trade union movement has broken down or that it is in danger, and I should not like to see it so.

It is the employers' organisation, not the workers. They are sheltering behind it.

I do not think you have to have an employers' organisation, necessarily. My point is that the tendency to invite the Oireachtas and the Government of the day to undertake work which ordinarily should be the work of a trade union is an unhealthy tendency——

——and the less the Government interfere in the field where trade unions should be the appropriate organ for effecting agreement the better it will be for any free society. Therefore, let us bear in mind when we speak of an agricultural wage or of six days' holidays or anything of the kind that these are the statutory minima. They are not the limits beyond which no one may go. They are this and no more, limits below which it is not legal for anyone hereafter to go——

That is quite understood.

——and there is a very substantial difference between these two concepts. It is not always evident that that is quite understood.

The minimum is established to avoid conflict. Is that not so? When the State comes in and does that, it is with a view to avoiding conflict.

May I ask the Chair what are we discussing?

We are discussing the minimum six days' statutory holidays under the Bill at present submitted to the House and which has secured the cordial and enthusiastic support of Deputy Smith.

So we now know that it is that subject we are, in fact, discussing.

I am glad the Deputy now knows that to which he gave his cordial and enthusiastic consent. I would invite Deputies to think well before they too closely identify the probable wishes of agricultural workers with the probable or known wishes of industrial workers. If a man is employed in a factory and gets his annual holidays it is perfectly obvious that, circumstances permitting, he will like to go with his wife and family to the country or the sea to get a change, and he will like to go at a time of the year when a seaside holiday or a country holiday is agreeable, when the days are long and the climate is mild. Do not let us assume, therefore, that a man whose work is in the hayfield wants to have his free time when working is a pleasure. He may very reasonably want, having spent his year in the countryside, to bring the wife and children to Cork, Dublin, Waterford or to a neighbouring town in Christmas week to see the shops and the Christmas decorations.

On £3 a week?

Why does the Deputy keep on saying that? Three pounds is a minimum. How many agricultural workers in this country, worthy of the name, accept £3? Go out and ask them. I know. If I sought agricultural workers to-morrow for £3, I would work alone because my neighbours would pay them more and, if for no better reason than that of competing with my neighbour, I have to bid more for agricultural workers. Do not let us go on saying that, despite all we have tried to do, everyone who works on the land to-day is obliged to take the minimum and that that is what they all earn. Ours would be a poor achievement if we succeeded in doing nothing in the past two years but to increase the income of the farmers of this country from £70,000,000 to £100,000,000. We have created a situation in which 90 per cent. of the first-class agricultural workers in this country can laugh at an offer of the minimum wage.

I am not prepared to accept that statement from the Minister.

I know that view to be true.

That would apply in very few places.

I say that 90 per cent. of the first-class agricultural workers in this country can laugh at an offer of the minimum wage. There may be pockets here and there in the country where a peculiar situation obtains— where, for instance, employment locally is not sufficiently plentiful to meet the demand, with the result that they must accept the minimum. Before this calendar year is done I would lay the Deputy a fairly substantial wager that he will be unable to bring me an instance of any such pocket in any part of the Twenty-Six Counties where the writ of this Government runs. He need not toss his head at me. I mean that.

I doubt that.

Do not doubt it. Deputy Smith will make a note, and in the first week of January there will be active interrogation if that is not true. So Deputy Hickey need not bother to write it on the tablets of his memory.

I shall be on to you very shortly again about the eggs, so be prepared.

I would urge that we reflect before pressing that there will be a statutory obligation to give not only six days' holidays but to give them in a given period. Am I wrong in urging Deputies to refrain from compelling their neighbours to do what Deputies think their neighbours ought to do? I do not want to tell any agricultural worker in this country what time he should take his holidays or what time he should not do so. If there is an abuse, if it transpires that this arrangement for mutual agreement as to the time at which the holidays be begun has given rise to an abuse or a denial to the worker of all which this Bill, is designed to give him, we shall correct it. Have no apprehension on that score. But do not let us rush in to correct an abuse that may never arise if this anticipatory precaution means an added right for the Government to tell an agricultural worker what he may do and what he may not do. This Government, I would suggest to Deputies, should be remembered as the servant of the people and not as their masters. This Government should not be charged by Oireachtas Éireann with the duty of going into every man's home to tell him what is good for him. A Government so charged are very likely to forget their proper role—that of servant—and when a Government ceases to glory in the title of servant they tend to become dangerous.

Again I would press on Deputies not to forbid an employer and a worker the right to agree to take a week's wages in lieu of a week's holidays. I see Deputy C. Lehane shaking his head gloomily. Do not forget that in rural Ireland there is not that uniformity that obtains under industrial conditions.

Deputy Lehane is guided by the expressions of opinion of representatives of the rural workers.

But do not let us forget as we vindicate the rights of workers that just as workers have rights, so employers have rights, and just as employers have duties, workers have duties. If there was more talk of duties on both sides, there would be less need to talk of rights. We have all got into the habit of declaiming about people's rights.

Where is the relevancy of this?

I should like to see the Labour Party devoting a week to expounding the duties of employers and of working men and then I should spend a week after them dwelling on the rights of agricultural workers and farmers. Both of us possibly would be the better of our week's cogitations. There are duties as there are rights on both sides. I should like to proceed on the assumption that we can leave a wide discretion, because we expect employers and workers to be conscious not only of their rights but of their duties. I cheerfully pledge myself to this: that should experience reveal that either party has forgotten their duties and are solicitous only for their rights, Oireachtas Éireann will still be functioning and, albeit with reluctance, will take a hand. But it would be very much happier for all of us if, having laid down the statutory minima, Oireachtas Éireann neither empowers nor compels the Executive to break into any man's home, whether he is an employer or a worker, to tell him where he is to take his holidays, how he is to take his holidays, when he is to take his holidays, or in what form he is to take his holidays.

Is that not misrepresenting the whole idea of these holidays?

What I am solicitous to secure is that if an agricultural worker in this country wants six days to go to the city or to the sea he shall have them.

You have not put that in the Bill.

It is in the Bill. If by any manipulation or device anyone in this country succeeds in preventing any agricultural worker from freely making that choice I shall amend the Bill; but let us not start off on the assumption that our own people are all nasty, corrupt, mean and dishonest, and that when the crime of denying the labourer of his hire was described as one of those that cried out to heaven for vengeance, the Lord God Almighty had the Irish people in mind. I do not believe that is true. I do not believe the farmers of this country are the exploiting, unscrupulous, slave-driving individuals that some people seem to think. I am going to try that out and I think I shall prove that I am right. I am quite prepared to say that if I am wrong I shall ask Oireachtas Eireann to amend the law to deal with the situation as it then emerges but I stake my reputation that no one will ever be able to make the case in this House that such an amendment is necessary. I am certainly not going to proceed on the assumption that it is.

Deputy Dunne deplored the fact that the worker was dependent on his employer. Is that so great a humiliation? I am a worker, and if any worker in Ireland has a more mercurial employer than I have I should like to know him. The Irish electorate is neither generous in its stipend nor conservative in its demands upon its servants. Ministers of State are miserably paid, grossly overworked and susceptible to dismissal at an hour's notice.

There is plenty of competition.

Maybe our people will come to find the day when the competitors will be all equally unsavoury though their numbers might be quite adequate. I do not dwell on that further, though I do regard it—and I believe I am the only Deputy who said so in public in this House—as an outrage and a disgrace that men should be asked to spend 20 years, their most productive years, working for our own people and that they should at the end of that period, when entering middle age, be still poor only because they served the Irish people.

It does not seem to me to be relevant to this Bill.

I merely mention it for the purpose of rebutting Deputy Dunne's complaint that the agricultural worker had a very great sense of grievance because he was dependent on his employer. The agricultural workers have not half the grievance that I have.

The Minister has not done very badly, in the matter of holidays, either.

I have not traduced the Deputy on that score in any case, and he might extend the same courtesy to me. Deputy Corry, as usual, did not say much. There is a subtle distinction between talking and saying something. Deputy Con Lehane spoke vehemently on the attitude of the farmers to this Bill being the criterion by which their Christianity should be judged. May I amend that to say that the attitude of farmer and agricultural worker to this Bill will be an excellent test for both and the test will be if both parties recollect that they have rights and duties and if they both discharge them? I think the Deputy will accept that as a reasonably good definition of practical Christianity and he may proceed on the assumption that that is the general rule.

Deputy Moylan rose to confirm the proposition that the agricultural workers are a depressed class. Well, the difference between Deputy Moylan and his colleagues on the one side, and myself and my colleagues on the other, is that we are going to do something about it. He did not do much.

Deputy O'Reilly, with his usual telling eloquence, said that farmers could not take a holiday themselves and farm workers could not take a holiday and everybody on the land was in misery. The farmer, he said, was getting less than half the cost of production because it cost 2/10½ to produce milk in Grangegorman.

Deputy O'Reilly was dwelling on the 2/10½. He said the system of getting agricultural labourers to live in was a grand system and the vocational commission approved of it. If they approved of it 45 times over, I do not, and if the vocational commission and Deputy O'Reilly do not like that, they can lump it.


It may have taken 2/10½ to produce milk in Grangegorman, but that does not surprise me. I knew a man once. He was a good-looking man and he wore a beard. He told me that he could prove, with the assistance of a costing accountant, that it cost 7½d. to produce an egg. I demurred to that proposition and he then said to me: "What will you do if I bring in a costings accountant, lay the whole case before you and demonstrate the truth of that proposition?" I said: "I would send promptly for my colleague, Dr. Browne, and get the pair of you committed to Grangegorman." But he believed it. We were told it costs 3/2 to produce milk in Grangegorman. I suppose anything can happen in Grangegorman.

Is it the ruling of the Chair that all this is relevant to the Bill we are discussing about workers' holidays?

It is obstruction—he is obstructing the Bill.

Because it costs 3/2 in Grangegorman to produce milk and the farmers are getting only 1/2, we are told they could not afford to give themselves holidays or let any of their workers go on holidays.

If Dr. Browne were here now you never know who might be sent to Grangegorman.

One never knows— the Deputy might find himself there.

Deputy Lehane told us about the relative value of milk and lemonade and said he could not see why everybody did not go in for producing lemonade instead of milk. Anyone who wants to can make the change. There is no use pressing the contention that milk does not pay. I think it may cause the farmers considerable embarrassment if that contention is pressed too often and too long. The farmers know their own business. That is the basis I have always proceeded on. They do not produce what it does not pay to produce.

Was it argued that holidays could not be given because milk could not be produced at an economic price?

It was,ad nauseam. During the first eight weeks of 1947 the farmers produced 2,882,000 gallons of milk for the creameries.

It has not been my understanding that if Deputies, in the course of the discussion of a measure, were for one reason or another allowed to transgress from the point of view of order, that necessarily meant that the Minister, when concluding, would be permitted to follow along similar lines.

It has been the practice, when arguments are put forward, that they are allowed to be rebutted by the Minister or Deputy concluding.

Surely it is relevant to argue whether the man who is paying the workers who are going on holiday can afford to do it?

I am allowing the Minister to refer to those arguments.

In the first eight weeks of 1947 the farmers produced 2,882,000 gallons of milk; in the same period of 1948 they produced 3,416,000 gallons; in the same period of 1949 they produced 4,582,000 gallons and in the same period of 1950 they produced 5,538,000 gallons. Does Deputy O'Reilly think that the farmers have gone so daft as to double their production of a commodity on which they lose 1/8 a gallon every time they sell it? He has a very much lower opinion of the farmers than I have now, than ever I have had, or than I ever am likely to have at any time or stage in my life. He was also concerned about the 3/1 a gallon milk but I do not know that it is necessary to pursue that matter very much further.

I think it was Deputy Cowan who said he thought that farmers rarely, if ever, gave their workers a holiday. He protested that, if not himself a farmer, he is the son of a farmer, and a farm labourer. Well, he has become very much separated from the soil and all that appertains thereto if he imagines there is a continuous class war proceeding between the farmers and the labourers. They are not all saints or angels any more than Deputies here. They are average, normal men and they do not spend their time eating the faces off one another. They get on just the same as other men, and 95 per cent. of them are reasonable, rational beings who rub along as best they can and, on the whole, make a pretty good job of it. I am grateful to Deputy Cowan for recognising the grotesque inadequacy of ministerial emoluments here. I can only refer him to Emily Lawless' poem "After Aughrim" for the explanation of why the country goes on securing servants for the inadequate wages it pays.

Deputy Allen entered the fray then. Of course, he agreed with the Bill— that went without saying—but he said the farmer was getting no more for milk or for beet and no more for wheat. It is true the price of milk has not gone up and the price of beet has not gone up. The price of wheat has gone up 5/- the barrel. But in respect of all these products I think I demonstrated pretty clearly that with no greater efforts farmers are getting 30 to 40 per cent. more for each of them since the 15 hideous years came to an end.

The 16 years.

What about 1947? Why do you not throw that in, too?

Deputy Cogan reached the apotheosis of his argument by demanding that the State should provide for all. Has Deputy Cogan ever asked himself what is the State or who is the State, or, if the Government goes spending money, whose money do they spend? If it is true as I think he believes it to be true, that, in the last analysis, everybody living in this country and earning a living in it derives his income ultimately from the land, how can the Deputy argue that the Government of such a society can remedy every grievance by subsidising the price paid for the produce of the land out of the land? In industrial countries, the land can be subsidised from the national income derived from industry.

Surely, Sir, you will indicate at some time that there will be an end to the obstruction in which the Minister has been engaged for the past hour and a quarter. I ask you to rule that he is not now speaking to the Bill before the House.

I have indicated to the Deputy that, if arguments are made in opposition to a measure, the Deputy closing the debate is entitled to reply to these arguments. I am allowing the Minister that latitude.

Might I point out that I did not mention subsidies?

This must be the first time you did not do so.

If the Deputy withdraws the contention, there is no need for me to deal with it further. The last matter is the matter raised by Deputy Larkin and touched on by some of his colleagues. I demur to the division of our people into poor farmers and rich farmers. I do not think it is necessary to discern classes in our rural community. We have not been conscious of it in this House and we are drawn from all sections of our people, and I have yet to meet the Deputy who is too proud, purse-proud, race-proud or any other proud, to bid his colleague "good afternoon". Do any Deputies discern in rural Ireland class consciousness amongst our own people, or a feeling of superiority in one group as opposed to another? If they do, I should be glad of a lesson in the correct approach to the hierarchy of dignity in rural Ireland; if they would tell me where the licensed publican fits in and should he bow down when passing the dispensary doctor, and does the draper take precedence or fall behind? Does the agricultural worker trail after the industrial worker, or does the man who lives on eight acres of land give way to the agricultural worker who is earning £6? I found no trace in the 35 years I have lived in rural Ireland of any such hierarchy, or a desire on the part of any of our people to establish such a hierarchy or to recognise the pretension of any individual or group who asserted its existence. Do not let us try to call it into existence where it never has been and where it would be a most exotic growth.

Maybe that is not nonsense.

I should like to persuade everybody in this country that it was practical to provide a half-holiday for agricultural workers, but there is a wide difference between believing in a thing yourself, between desiring to persuade your neighbours to believe in it and claiming the right to use the powers of Oireachtas Éireann to compel it. I will be no party to compelling the farmers to provide a half-holiday for their agricultural workers at the present time, and, even if I wanted to do it, I would not be fit to do it because Oireachtas Éireann would not enact it. Do not let us therefore throw away the attainable and possible in a futile resolve to insist on the impossible. Maybe it would have been impossible 15 or 20 years ago to do the little thing—and I do not claim any more for it than that—that we do to-day, but whatever was the situation 20 years ago it is possible now. Maybe it will be possible in time to see on every farm in practice what is already practised on very many farms. Maybe the time will come when we shall be entitled to say, with the consent of Oireachtas Éireann, in legislation that which I say now by way of persuasion and recommendation. I should like to see every agricultural worker getting his weekly half-holiday. On every State farm and institution every agricultural worker gets a half-holiday.

At his own expense.

That is a proposition which, I think, on reflection the Deputy will realise is not correct.

He does not get it in Wexford or in Cork.

Let us not argue that out now. The fact is that every Saturday afternoon at 1 o'clock the agricultural workers line up and get their wages. That is, in common parlance, understood as meaning a weekly half-holiday, but Deputy Dunne does not mean a weekly half-holiday by anything other than a 45-hour week. We do not agree about that. Let us agree to differ. I say that the duty of a farmer, if it is within his power, is so to arrange the hours of his men that they can have their half-day by helping one another out. I say that where the farmer's circumstances are such that he has only one man, that he is delicate or something of that kind, it is not possible for him to do it and I am not going to ask that he be made do it. I should like to see the practice widespread and widespreading, but what I like and what my neighbours like may be two different things. This Government is not like Hitler, Mussolini or Stalin: it does not claim the right to force anything down the people's throats; it is here to represent the will of the majority of our people.

I think we need not bring in such gentlemen at all.

It is going to do that and there is going to be no compulsion of our people to do what they, in their judgment, do not think it is right to do. That does not forbid Deputy Dunne or me or Deputy Hickey or Deputy Halliden going out and arguing with our neighbours that whatever they thought yesterday they should think differently to-morrow. If such a change of mind occurs amongst the majority of the farmers of this country, I welcome it, personally; but I am just as solicitous to ensure that the will of the majority prevails when it does not agree with me as I am to see that it prevails when it does. That is democracy, as I understand it. It was the recognition of that principle that secured the enthusiastic assent and congratulations, despite the "buts", which we received from the Opposition on this Bill.

I am looking forward in due course, five, ten or 15 years, to the then greying but vigorous hairs of Deputy Lemass being shaken in enthusiastic approbation of a Bill along the lines dearer to Deputy Dunne's heart than they yet are to Deputy Lemass's. When we reach that time, no one will be gladder than I to hear Deputy Lemass saying: "Yes, but"—to a Weekly Half Holiday for Agricultural Labourers Bill—in 1955, 1960 or 1965, as circumstances allow.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 14th March.