I move that the Dáil do now adjourn until Wednesday, 13th February, 1957.
Adjournment Debate. - Economic Position.
On the motion of the Government, the Dáil is now to adjourn for a period of two months. I am sure there is no responsible Deputy on either side of the House who is not apprehensive of the economic and social conditions which may prevail and face the Dáil when it reassembles here in February next, if, as seems likely, present trends persist. In recent years it has not been customary to arrange debates on the motion for adjournment for the Christmas Recess, but in our view it is desirable before the House breaks up for this two months' adjournment period some effort should be made to try to get the Government to face up to the facts of the situation and to their responsibilities regarding it.
This is the last debate we will have in the Dáil in this year. It is not unusual at this time for reviews to be made of the events of the year which is ending. I think 1956 will be recorded in history as one of the worst years which this State has experienced since it was established, with the exception, only, of some of the war years. It certainly has been the only year in which signs appeared of a decline of the confidence of the public in the country's future prospects. In the past, on occasions of this kind, in debates upon motions for the adjournment, criticisms were sometimes expressed and were occasionally justified of inadequate progress in the economic and social spheres. But always in the past, no matter how adverse the circumstances, there was some progress to record. Now, all the economic indicators tell us that national progress has halted and indeed that the country is losing ground in important directions.
It is easy enough to blame the Government for the situation which has developed and is developing. It would be very easy for me, if I were only interested in Party political advantage, to occupy the time of the House in contrasting the results which the Government's administration has brought with the fine promises they made to the people during the General Election which put them into power. It would be very easy to illustrate here by a multitude of quotations from ministerial speeches the many contradictions between the viewpoints and policies of individual Ministers, the general confusion of aim which exists within the Government. I do not think it is necessary to do that. Everybody knows that the Government's performance has fallen a great deal short of its promises, that Ministers are frequently contradicting each other in their declarations of the Government's intentions and that the main characteristics of the Government are lack of clear objectives and lack of leadership.
Whether the country wants it or not —and there can be no very great dispute as to what the country wants— this Government will remain in office at least until February 13th. The purpose of this final discussion is to make an effort to ensure that they will not merely sit down and do nothing during that period, thankful for their release from pressure from the Dáil to take some measures to cope with the grave economic crisis which is developing. We hope that they can find within themselves the capacity to exertion and to constructive and intelligent action which will at least prevent the situation becoming a great deal worse before Deputies reassemble here on February 13th.
This year, 1956, saw the revelation, the official confirmation, of the magnitude of the deficit which emerged in 1955 in the country's international payments on current account. The shock which the people got from that revelation was all the greater because on many occasions during 1955 the Minister for Finance, the Taoiseach and other Ministers gave repeated assurances and forecasts that there was no ground for anxiety on that score. The Minister for Finance, in the course of his Budget Statement in 1955, referred to the satisfactory international trading position—which they had inherited and which was revealed by the statistics of 1954—the absence of any serious deficit in international payments win that year, and assured the House that he had every hope that that improvement in the country's position would be maintained.
The Taoiseach, when introducing his Estimate much later in that year, dismissed as unimportant the evidence in the trade statistics of a growing disparity between the volume of imports and the volume of exports by saying that the increase in imports was the result of stocking-up by business and industrial firms and that he did not believe that we had to fear any crisis on that account.
When these optimistic forecasts, these assurances, from members of the Government, who are presumed to be familiar with the facts, were proved by the event to be completely worthless and groundless, the Government panicked and, in their apprehension that the deterioration in national circumstances was likely to continue and to grow a great deal worse, they introduced a policy of restriction, a policy designed to lower the living standards of our people, by increasing the prices of many goods through special taxes designed for that purpose, the policy of reducing consumption, through a general increase in taxation and by increasing unemployment, because unemployed men and their families must of necessity consume less. The growth in the number of unemployed represented the success of the Government's policy of restriction.
The Minister for Finance, in the course of a speech made recently in Cork, said that these restrictive measures adopted by the Government had brought about a substantial improvement in the position. Nobody has any confidence now in any statement made by any Minister and that statement of the Minister for Finance did little to dispel the apprehensions of the public or to restore confidence in the country's future, because it will not stand examination for one moment in the light of the facts as we know them.
All the evidence that we have shows that the Government is as wrong in its analysis of the situation now as it was in 1955. It is true that, to the end of October this year, the volume of our imports declined by about 10 per cent. It is also true that, during the same period, the volume of our exports declined by about 6 per cent. That decline in imports was due to the reduction of the living standards of our people and in considerable degree to the depletion of industrial stocks. It represents no permanent rectification of the state of imbalance of the country's trade revealed in 1955.
Even allowing for the fact that the terms of trade have moved against this country, that import prices have risen while export prices have fallen, there is nothing in the available statistics to suggest that the measures taken by the Government were adequate to deal with the situation or to inspire confidence that those measures alone will help to put the national economy on a basis of permanent stability.
Production is falling. The great need of our economy is to secure an expansion in overall production. The aim of all policy must be to induce an increase of production. The Government have declared that the object of the measures that they have applied is an expansion of output in agriculture and industry. Will they face up to the fact that they failed, that all the things they have done so far have not merely failed to bring about the increase but have not even arrested the decline in production?
The Minister for Finance, in his Budget Statement this year, had to record that agricultural output fell last year by 2 per cent. That situation has not been rectified since and the whole future prospects of our agricultural industry have been further bedevilled by the circumstance that, while production is not rising, prices are falling. The agricultural price index for June, 1955, was 104.7. For June, 1956, it was 94. That substantial and significant fall in agricultural prices, with static production, means a serious diminution of agricultural income. It is, perhaps, worth mentioning, in passing, that the decline in agricultural prices has not, however, been reflected in the cost of living and that over the same period the cost-of-living index number showed a rise of seven points. Industrial production is down by 7 per cent. Industrial output is now running at a lower level than it has for many years.
For the first time, apart from the war years, the Minister for Industry and Commerce has to record a serious diminution in the number of workers employed in industry. Unemployment, as shown in the number of workers on the live register, is higher now than it has been at this time of the year for over 15 years and that, notwithstanding the fact of which every Deputy is aware, that emigration is proceeding at an unprecedented rate. These are the facts to put against the Minister for Finance's assertion that there is a substantial improvement in our position: falling production in agriculture and industry, unemployment rising to crisis proportions, the trade deficit continuing, corrected only by the diminution of imports due to falling living standards. If that is the Government's idea of what is a substantial improvement in national circumstances they will find very few ordinary men and women to accept it.
Private investment in production is at a low ebb. There is no business concern, no company formed to promote any new business activity, which could hope now to raise capital by public subscription through the stock market and, indeed, no company would attempt it. Government State investment activity has been drastically curtailed. The Minister for Finance did not even attempt to go to the public to borrow the amount which he estimated in his Budget statement would be required in this year to finance the announced capital programme of the Government. Even the limited loan which he sought to raise failed to fill by public subscription, notwithstanding the fact that the terms offered were far and away more attractive than were ever previously offered by the Irish State; terms more attractive than those upon which other countries are able to borrow substantial capital finance at the present time. The failure of that loan to fill was certainly not due to the terms of the loan. It was due to the disappearance of public confidence in this Government and to the reluctance of those who control savings to subscribe to public loans while this Government is maladministering the affairs of the country.
The curtailment of investment activity, on private account and on public account, accompanied by the effects of the credit squeeze, still continuing notwithstanding the big additions to the external investments of commercial banks in recent months, is bringing the level of business activity down continuously.
It is necessary to emphasise for the information of Deputies supporting the Government, if not for the information of the public, that these adverse conditions have developed entirely since 1954. It is not my intention to assert that in 1954, when the present Government came into office, economic and social conditions in this country were as good as we would have liked to see them. There were many deficiencies then which the previous Government were working to rectify, but the facts recorded are that in 1954, when this Government took over the administration of the country, we had no serious deficit in our international payments, production in agriculture and industry was rising, unemployment was falling. The number of workers finding jobs was increasing. The public capital investment programme, which had been expanded considerably in 1953, was continued during the early part of 1954 and through it, not merely was employment given to many thousands of Irish workers, but the country was being provided with the amenities and facilities we would desire to see it enjoy.
The situation in which the country now finds itself did not have to arise. It is in that belief that it is possible to hold out to the country the hope that the circumstances of 1954 can be restored. If the Government could hold out that hope, if they could hold out any confidence, or with truth assert that the measures they have now taken could in time bring this country back to 1954, to the conditions of 1954, then they might be able to face the public with some expectation of getting confidence from them.
But how many of the Deputies sitting behind the Government thought in 1954 that the maximum hope they could hold out to the people after their period of administration was that by drastic measures, by a restrictive policy, by imposing severe burdens upon the economy of the country, they could in time make conditions as good as they were then, repairing the damage which they had done in the meantime? An equally difficult situation, or an almost equivalent situation, existed in 1951 after the first Coalition.
It was to the incoming Fianna Fáil Government that the task fell of repairing the consequences of that first Coalition, of rectifying the balance of payments deficit, which that first Coalition Government left behind them, of checking the rise in prices which was proceeding space when they quitted office, of remedying the deterioration which had developed in agricultural and industrial activities. It took us some time to do it but it was done, and by 1953 all the main consequences of the first Coalition had been remedied. The country's position was not as good as it could have been but nevertheless it was improving.
By 1953 prices had been stabilised, production was rising, employment was rising, trade was rising. Exports, in particular, were expanding so as to make it possible for us to import without restriction the materials we require to maintain production and other manufactured goods which we are not able to produce ourselves. We had no need then of the policy of the present Coalition, aimed deliberately at promoting unemployment, at forcing down living standards in order to keep the national accounts in balance.
The Government spokesmen occasionally attempt to excuse their failure to arrest the decline in the national economy by referring to world circumstances. Accident has given them an alibi for their failures and they are going, apparently, to take advantage of that alibi whenever possible. I want to point out that if this world crisis develops, this country was never less ready than now to cope with it, never less well stocked with essential materials, never less organised to deal with the problems that a worsening in international circumstances can produce for us. But indeed the worsening of our circumstances is hardly attributable at all to anything that has yet emerged from the international situation. We have to face petrol rationing for a period, it is true, but in respect of no other commodity can it be alleged that any serious deficiency in supplies has developed nor has any substantial rise in prices yet taken place.
In the case of petrol, there has been a rise in price. The president of the British organisation which speaks for those who control tanker tonnage said in Britain that the higher cost of transport of petrol to Britain and presumably to this country by reason of the closing of the Suez Canal would not amount to more than ½d. per gallon. But the rise in price which has been announced is far more substantial than that. Apparently a decision has been taken here and also in Britain that no matter to what extent world difficulties may reduce the turnover of the great oil companies, their profits must still be maintained. The speed and enthusiasm with which the Government sanctioned the increase in petrol prices here are in marked contrast with the way in which they have dealt with applications for price adjustments in other spheres because of rising costs.
That is the picture of our economy: falling production, falling employment, a serious deficit in international payments on current account, a drying up of capital, of credit, a restriction of business activity of all kinds. It is against that background that we have to ask ourselves what the Government are proposing to do. The Government's proposals for dealing with this situation were announced by the Taoiseach in October last. In the Taoiseach's speech, made to his Party members on that occasion, he put all the goods in the shop window.
A large part of the Taoiseach's remarks were devoted to matters which had no direct relation to the situation, and in so far as he was able to report anything cheerful to his audience, he recounted the effects of measures taken by the previous Fianna Fáil Government. What new proposals did he make to rectify the deterioration in the circumstances which had developed under his administration? Let us examine them. There was a proposal to establish an agricultural council to advise the Minister for Agriculture. There was a proposal to establish an industrial council to advise the Minister for Industry and Commerce.
Now, heaven knows that both these Ministers require all the advice they can get and far be it from me to cut off from them any advice that might be made available to them. But what use will these councils be in present circumstances? What is the basis for any expectation that they will be able to spur the Government into some positive and constructive action? There is also to be a capital investment council. What that is going to do is by no means clear. No doubt there are very competent people on those bodies. One of them is on record as saying that emigration—the fact that emigration is possible—should be a matter for rejoicing.
If that mentality is to inspire the recommendations of that council, perhaps it would be better to cut off the Government from any advice that council may give. Apart from this collection of councils to add to the variety of boards, commissions and committees which the Government have appointed, what else did the Taoiseach announce as representing the decisions of the Government to adopt measures to deal with the new and worsening situation with which they are faced? He mentioned an intention to extend facilities for providing credit for farmers. Nothing more has been heard of that since. The Government do not regard it, apparently, as a matter of urgency, certainly not calling for the same expeditious action they considered it necessary to take to protect the profits of the oil companies.
There was an announcement that superphosphates would be supplied to farmers at world prices. That proved to be a phoney. There was not a farmer in the country who did not read into that announcement, and who was not expected to read into that announcement, an intention to reduce the price of superphosphates. I do not want to prolong my remarks by using quotations to support them, but I say it is clear from the statements made by farmers' organisations and in their journals that the Taoiseach's announcement was intended to mean that the price of superphosphates would be reduced. It was not. In fact, it is going to be increased. The timing of that announcement, when farmers would normally be ordering their supplies and when merchants would be stocking up, merely operated to upset the trade. In the end, it turned out that the Government were proposing merely to revoke a tariff which nobody paid anyway.
We had the announcement of this tax concession to coal-mines which I calculate may cost the Government, on the most optimistic basis, a few hundred pounds a year, and which, by its introduction, merely shows that the Government have not yet begun to understand the factors which are limiting the expansion of coal output. We had the announcement of the proposal to give certain tax concessions to firms increasing their export trade, a concession which, if we got a 10 per cent. increase in the overall export of manufactured goods, can operate to deprive the Government of revenue to an extent of perhaps £10,000.
The calculation can be made by the Minister or anybody else.
The Minister has made the calculation.
That is my calculation. Again, that measure operated to show that the Government have no idea of what is needed to bring about an expansion of exports on the scale we need. We had this Industrial Grants Bill, the Bill which we discussed here this morning and which I believe may well do much more harm than good in the overall expansion of our industrial production, apart altogether from the evidence it contains of the Government's decision to weaken the policy of encouraging industrial expansion along the western seaboard.
Irish industry undoubtedly needs investment and there is at the present time a greater necessity than ever to revise and improve the machinery by which industry can have access to capital. It is clear that in that regard the Government have no programme or even an idea for a programme. There was an announcement of an intention to increase the capital of the Industrial Credit Company by £250,000. I do not know if even that increase has been effected, but the dimensions of that figure and the absence of any indication of what the Industrial Credit Company could do with that meagre addition to their resources, again shows that the Government are not even thinking on a plane on which an effective policy might be found.
Then there was the announcement that the Government had decided to give partial effect to the recommendation of the Commission on Industrial Taxation regarding the depreciation allowance on industrial buildings. That is the sum total of all the new proposals contained in this well-advertised speech of the Taoiseach, the speech which has since been described not with very much confidence but considerable repetition, by Government Deputies as representing a comprehensive programme for rectifying the present national circumstances.
Relate these proposals to our needs. This country needs, if my calculations are correct, as rapidly as possible an increase in total production, an increase in output from both agriculture and industry of not less than 20 per cent. on the 1955 volume. It would need such an increase in output, either for export or for the replacement of imports, in order to balance the trading account of 1955. The actual deficit in international payments in 1956 may be less than it was in 1955, but that diminution has been brought about in a way which cannot be permanently maintained, a way which must be conceded to be undesirable.
There is no worthy national aim to be realised by bringing about a lowering of the standard of living of our people, denying them access to the goods which cannot be drawn from home sources and which they may desire to purchase and need to enjoy a fuller life. We need to get new investment activity back to the 1953 level and I stress the need in that way in order to indicate that what is required is something that was done before so that we can understand the practicability of doing it again with more competent administration of the nation's business.
In 1953, new capital investment absorbed 15 per cent. of the total national resources of that year. In 1956, new investment has fallen to 7 per cent. of total resources. In the firm conviction that everything turns on the effect of Government policy in introducing substantial additional investment, supplemented perhaps by action to bring the policy of the banks into line with the national need, I assert that the policy announced by the Government, the programme set forth by the Taoiseach in his speech in October last falls lamentably short of what is required.
I do not think it will be difficult in certain circumstances to get the level of savings back to what it was. It has to be recognised that any substantial expansion of capital investment requires a considerable improvement in the volume of savings. It was done before when circumstances were favourable. It can be done again. What is it that induces savings? What are the circumstances in which people will be content to set aside any part of their resources from current consumption to invest in future possibilities? The most essential condition for a successful effort in expanding the volume of savings is the restoration of confidence in the country, confidence in the stability of money values, confidence, above all, in the integrity and competence of the Government in office.
It is because confidence in these things has been undermined that the Government is unable to draw funds for capital investment, that the whole level of investment activity is contracting. Confidence in this Government does not exist amongst the people of the country. That is the vital factor in the situation and it makes it a matter of duty for the Government to decide to give the people of the country an opportunity of rectifying the position if they desire to take it. Whether it is true or not, it is generally believed amongst all sections of our people, amongst those who inspire new business activity, amongst those who control and direct the policies of trade unions, amongst those who speak for our farmers—all the groups in the community whose decisions can influence the course of events—that this Government has lost the confidence of the people and that there will be a change of Government soon. Whether that is true or not, it is a critical factor in the situation and it is one that the Government cannot leave out of account.
Whatever the difficulties of the time, it is clear these questions cannot be resolved until there is a general election. A general election is the first essential step to the initiation of any programme of national recovery. If that general election should return the same Government again with a majority here, then the power of that Government to give leadership, to take effective action, to plan ahead in confidence of the people's support, would be vastly increased; but if the Government are refusing to face up to the issue, to the need for a dissolution and consultation with the people because they fear they may lose office, then it means only that they are putting their Party interests before the national interests. That is what the people of this country believe they are doing.
Any suggestions, therefore, for effective action in this situation which might arrest the economic deterioration that is proceeding, which might put disemployed workers back into their jobs and slow down the flow of emigration, must start with a General Election. It is futile for the Government to think, in present circumstances, that they can do anything other than preside over a further deterioration. The evidence is indisputable. The failure of the public to subscribe even the limited amount of the loan floated last October, notwithstanding the terms, the result of a whole series of by-elections this year, all make it clear that the public has no confidence in the Government and in these circumstances the Government is practically powerless.
What could a new Government do? I believe the mere prospect of a new policy, the chance of more effective administration, would by itself go a long way to restoring confidence in the future of the country. I believe that it would produce, by itself, an immediate revival in business activities, that it would influence the decisions of business boards and managements all over the country to expand rather than to curtail the scope of their activities; that it would inspire our people to the effort to save so that funds would be available for capital investment, either through the medium of private enterprise or public authorities.
I am quite certain that confidence in the country and in its future can be restored and with that restored confidence will come an immediate easement of many of our present acute difficulties. It is quite true that the Government which might take office after an election would have to show that the confidence placed in it by the people was fully justified. If a new Government should proceed in the same dilatory way of the present Government and prove no more capable of devising an adequate programme and applying it with energy and consistency, then the outlook for the future would be very black indeed. But if we get a Government with clear aims and which knows what it is doing, capable of following a consistent line and particularly a Government which was not bedevilled by irresponsible pledges or promises given recklessly to secure votes then the forward movement of the nation, which was proceeding in 1953 and 1954, can be resumed. Indeed I am certain of this, that if the Government even now announced its intention to seek the dissolution of the Dáil some time early next year, the effect of that announcement on economic conditions, the level of employment, business activity and on the volume of trade would be almost instantaneous.
We are now approaching the period of new year resolutions. Is it possible that anything that can be said here will inspire the Government to make the new year resolution that they will give the people the chance to which they are entitled in any democratic State to change the Government and to rectify the serious effects of misgovernment? If the Government will make that new year resolution now, then they can perhaps hope that the last few months of their administration will not be as disastrous as the earlier years. I ask them not to deny the people that chance. The people want the opportunity of reconsidering the decision which they took in 1954. They cannot be refused that opportunity except by men who are not interested in the nation's welfare but concerned only with their Party political prospects.
Deputy Lemass has condemned the Government and wants them to start off by making a New Year's resolution but he did not add to that that he is hoping that at the tailend of the resolution he will come in again in the position he was in between 1951 and 1954. Deputy Lemass can forget certain things when he wishes to do so but he waxed eloquent when he said the Government has not got the right to deny the people an election. Does he not remember the occasion when the Leader of the Opposition stated here as Taoiseach that it would be only when it suited Fianna Fáil that they would have an election because he believed that what suited Fianna Fáil would suit the nation? Apparently what was right then is completely wrong now.
Deputy Lemass after his trip the other day to explain the impossibility of putting into operation a suggested policy of the trade union movement comes back to us and tells us everything we are doing is wrong. Everything he did was right; everything his Party did was correct but I can say quite frankly and honestly on behalf of the Labour Party that we are not satisfied that everything is well. We do not go with our tongues in our cheeks, we are not just here to support the Government and completely to oppose the Opposition. If the Opposition want to put up their case at least we are entitled to say to them: "Give us a policy which we can examine." Have they done so?
According to the reports of their last Árd-Fheis Deputy Lemass himself made it clear that, as reported in a newspaper which always gives an accurate report of these things, the Cork Examiner, on November 21 last:—
"They must now be thinking in terms of two or three months at the outside."
hoping for an election, of course,
"They had no wish to produce a half-baked policy or one which could not be properly checked officially."
Apparently after all the years that he has been a member of the Government, Deputy Lemass in 1956 is afraid of producing his Party's policy which he says is, at the present time, only half-baked. Are we expected then to listen to the so-called sincere pleading of Deputy Lemass for an election when he has only a half-baked policy? I notice, as many of us did who are anxious to try to seize any opportunity to benefit the people of this country, irrespective of politics, that at the Árd-Fheis neither Deputy Lemass nor the Leader of the Opposition mentioned the £100,000,000 scheme, the blueprints of which were prepared 12 or 18 months ago. Apparently they were only half-baked.
The present policy of the Government, according to the Opposition, is wrong. We are entitled surely, if that is so, to examine an alternative. Is it admitted by the Opposition that they have not got the alternative ready? Deputy Lemass mentioned much about expenditure and about the financial difficulties of the Government. As the Leader of the Opposition is present, perhaps at a later stage he will explain what he meant by the following which appeared in the Irish Press on Wednesday, 21st November:—
"At the present time, Mr. de Valera continued, something was happening which never happened before. I remember the time when I boasted in the Dáil that shortage of money had never yet prevented us from doing something we thought nationally desirable. I would not like to say that to-day.' "
Perhaps we may come to that at a later stage.
It may be that the view expressed by Deputy de Valera on that occasion is one to which more thought will have to be given—the question of the shortage of money, the availability of money and the use of money. At any rate, during the discussions on various occasions in this House much was said, usually by the Opposition, against the Government. I admitted, when in opposition, and I admit it now, that the tragedy in this House is that, when one is in opposition, one is expected to abuse the Government for everything. I will go further and say that there are members of the Parties supporting the Government who badgered the Fianna Fáil Government just as much as Fianna Fáil are doing now.
I am entitled to ask where does that get us? If we are supposed to be sincere in our desire to serve the people, will we continue the policy of obstruction when we are in opposition and a policy of defence when in Government? I should expect a little more at least from the Front Benches of Fianna Fáil, having regard to the long number of years they were in power in this country. It is true, perhaps, that there are some younger members who may have a little to learn as regards argument and otherwise. They might in the circumstances be excused on account of youth. If we are going to make any sincere attempt to examine the policy of the present Government in relation to what it may be doing or what it may not be doing, according to Deputy Lemass, I would say that it is about time Fianna Fáil came out into the open and endeavoured to bake their half-baked policy themselves.
Would the Deputy regard the speech of Deputy Lemass as a badgering one?
Ná bí ag caint in aon chor anois. Two and a half years ago, we had an extraordinary situation in this House in so far as it developed from the expressions of none other than Deputy Lemass and Deputy de Valera. On that occasion, we asked them a simple question. It was a question upon the answer to which much depended. Every member of the House may recollect that, when the Budget of 1954 was being discussed, amendments were put forward by Deputy Lemass and Deputy de Valera objecting to an increase in the price of tobacco and spirits. We asked, if we gave them our support, would they be prepared to put their amendment into operation if they became Government? Of course, they said "no". From that day on, every move they have taken in this Chamber in that respect is quite obvious to us. Every move was based on their own political advantage whatever the cost might be to the overall economy of the country.
Does Deputy de Valera remember his words on that same occasion two and a half years ago when he came in here and in a most sinister fashion suggested that the handling of the Ministry of Justice by the Labour Party was the beginning and the end of all decency in this country in relation to its effects on everything dealing with justice? Are we still supposed to believe that these so-called responsible members of this Assembly are sincere when they attack the policy of the Government and ask for an early election? I do not want to waste time, but in fairness to Deputy Lemass, I would say that he did not do so in relation to any quotation here.
As a member of the Labour Party, I am interested in trying to solve some of the damnable problems that confront not only this House but the people as a whole. I am entitled again to draw attention to an important statement by Deputy de Valera at the Árd Fheis when he said during the course of his speech in relation to agriculture that it may be essential in future to consider the possibility of a form of bonus to increase production. That was published in heavy type in the Cork Examiner. With that statement I agree, and I assume all the delegates agreed, including, of course, Deputy de Valera, but apparently it is not what is said that matters but who makes the statement.
Does Deputy Lemass deny that for their own Party advantages in a by-election in the constituency of Laois-Offaly and in their published statement of policy, they omitted parts of the statement of the Labour members in this Chamber? A statement made by a Labour member saying exactly what Deputy de Valera said in the Mansion House was altered to suit the policy of Fianna Fáil and instead of being put down as it should be and as it is recorded in the debates of this House, Deputy Lemass and the propagandists of Fianna Fáil went so far as to say that a Labour Deputy said that all Government grants should be stopped, and left it at that. Apparently, we are to forget all this. We are to believe in the overall sincerity of members who are more anxious to get back to power and to put into operation the policy of 1951 to 1954 than anything else.
I remember in the middle of 1950 or 1951, before the general election, the inter-Party Government were accused of heavy importations into this country. The Taoiseach at that time pointed out that it was the policy of the inter-Party Government to stockpile in case of the danger of a world-wide eruption. In 1951, Fianna Fáil came back to power and, as statistics will prove, stockpiling had been almost completed in many ways. It was a good job for the Fianna Fáil Government that the inter-Party Government in that period arranged for stockpiling, because we know how international prices soared owing to the war in Korea. But while they attacked the Administration of 1948-51 for stockpiling, they were not prepared to admit afterwards that, coupled with their restrictive measures to try, as they say themselves, to come back on an even keel in relation to the balance of payments, the stockpiling helped them.
No; instead of that, when industrial endeavour weakened in the 1952 period and when industrial workers were unemployed, Fianna Fáil members then found it convenient to say that it was the stockpiling of the previous Government which was the cause of the trouble they were facing. Deputy Lemass speaks of the present unemployment figure. I can assure Deputy Lemass and the members of Fianna Fáil that these figures are as much a heartache to the members of the Labour Party as they are to any other Deputy.
It may be no harm to remind the Party opposite that we faced this critical situation, too, in 1952, and if the figures for unemployment then are compared, we can see that the tragedy of that time was as severe on the people as it is to-day. It is no consolation for us, when we refer to emigration, to say that it is at such or such a figure this year, but we know for a fact that Fianna Fáil seem to be prepared to make a clear-cut statement that emigration exists only when an inter-Party Government is in power. Be that as it may, it is of no help to us to know that emigration exists on such a large scale. I am sorry to say, in the few remarks I have made here in relation to an alternative policy, that we of the Labour Party have no alternative to some form of policy based upon an inter-Party Government.
History will recall that the policy of the 1930's was based upon a mild dictatorship. We never could support such a policy and we never shall. In relation to our position in this inter-Party Government, let it be understood that we are not smiling at the position; we are not saying that everything in the garden is lovely. Very often we are saying the reverse, and we make no secret of the fact that we are not satisfied in many ways that the difficulties which confront us are as difficult as some people believe them to be. We start by saying we are convinced that part of our present trouble is that to a certain degree we are following a policy which we ourselves in opposition condemned in 1952, a policy of restriction, a policy in which the Budget of 1952 showed to have dire results. What strikes me most forcibly is this. Does it mean that, no matter on what side members may sit, they are to be confronted with a policy, based on financial difficulties of which some people may tell us, but in the last analysis a policy of complete credit restriction?
Last February' or March, when speaking on one of these discussions, I tried to point out that, as far as we believed, much of the policy being put into operation would have dire effects in relation to employment during the winter period. Perhaps experience teaches and perhaps, as we have the experience now, the Government will understand that the policy of 1951 and 1954, which to us was a wrong policy, would of necessity also be wrong and could not have our support if it were to continue in the 1957-58 period. We cannot have it both ways. As a democratic Party, we believe in the policy of the Labour Party being such that unemployment on a high level, and credit restriction so noticeable, must of necessity be false to an Irish economy based on Catholic and Christian principles.
Then we come to the problem mentioned by Deputy de Valera when speaking at the Ard-Fhéis, that of the scarcity of money. I begin to wonder if it means that in the near future a reorientation of grouping in this House may solve one of these problems. Strange to say—and I am admitting it here quite openly—we realise on many occasions that there are members on our left and on our right who are expressing exactly the same conservative views in relation to finance. I notice that some people do not seem to like to hear the words "credit restriction", at a time when everyone knows that credit restriction is not only there but is hampering trade. For instance, the figures show that in two important activities in commercial and economic life, over £6,000,000 has been, as it were, withdrawn, that is, between the wholesale trade and building, in relation to bank allowances or credits from the banks. Apparently some people would not wish us to say that, some people on both sides of the House. We are entitled to ask a simple question: is it for the welfare of the people engaged in these two industrial or commercial sides of life that such a policy is being implemented?
Deputy Lemass, Deputy MacEntee and many other Fianna Fáil Deputies have been on many occasions bewailing and bemoaning our lot in relation to the reduction of our external assets and, indeed, Deputy de Valera has, too, by saying that they may have gone down a bit. How do we know but that within the next couple of months there may be a further devaluation in England? Is that going to help it? Will it interfere with the average man and woman in this country, trying to eke out a living, just as it affects anyone in a higher position?
When speaking here a while ago, Deputy Lemass mentioned the relationship of present import and export prices. We all know how severely we are being affected by present agricultural prices in the export market and we also know our difficulties in relation to imports. Deputy Lemass, of course, is continually pointing to the golden era of 1952, 1953 and 1954; but he did not say here this morning what he said a few years ago, when he admitted that, in relation to the importation of goods and import prices around 1953, we had come to the period of fairly normal stability in relation to import prices, nor did he say that during those few years very high prices prevailed for our agricultural produce on the export market. We know we are caught; we know our difficulty in relation to the balance between what we get for what we send out and what we must pay for what we get in.
Much was said some months ago and again this morning about the introduction of the levies by the present Government. If the present Opposition want to condemn that, they must be reminded that they voted for it last March, even though then in many ways some of their back-benchers tried to pick out different import levies and point out the dangers. At least, there was a certain amount of common ground between the Opposition and the majority of the Government. Therefore, our whole problem must be based upon some missing point that none of us seem to be getting at or, if we are getting at it, we are afraid to continue to face the problem or we have decided to throw in the sponge. They have made it quite clear, all the way through, that they were satisfied to continue. Whether it was that, in their belief, the Central Bank had sufficient power or not I do not know, but we cannot look to Fianna Fáil for a change of policy in relation to any monetary problems confronting us.
I wonder can we look to the Minister for Finance for a different outlook from the conservative outlook of Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael? If we cannot get it, this country will suffer and if we cannot get it, the only thing that may help democracy for the next few years is the fact that up to the present time there is no one on the horizon who could take over this country as a dictator. Had such a person been available, we could throw our hats to the wind for the next 12 months preaching about democracy, when we are not prepared to utilise democracy and our own position in this matter, to provide for the people and for the economic security which should be theirs, rather than face increased emigration year after year since this State was born and a figure wavering between 50,000 and 70,000 of people unemployed. They are human beings. It may be said by some that it is not the function of the Government to provide employment, but it would be said by us and by others that so long as we have 70,000 unemployed—God forbid it should become 80,000 or 90,000 within the next few months—our responsibility to them is much greater than it is to those who can afford to pay £1,000 or £2,000 for a car.
In regard to saving, I would like to know is it the intention of the present Minister, or is it his belief that all we can get in that way should be put into capital expenditure to build up a truer, saner, Christian economy in this country? Are we to be limited in that way? Many of us are members of local authorities. To-morrow, Deputy Corry, who has just come into the House, and myself with many other members, will be facing the problem of estimates for the coming year in a certain local authority. All Members of this House will be in the same position during the next few months, and it is extraordinary, but true that, when these estimates are examined, we will find that a very high percentage of every pound spent or supposed to be spent on important work in rural areas such as water and sewerage works, house-building, etc, will be spent on interest on the money we have to beg in order to put our people into decent homes.
I suppose it is not the time, nor would I be the person, to delve into a subject which is supposed, at any rate, to be an important and a highly-secretive matter, the discussion of high finance; nevertheless, when we in local authorities are seeking for people living in condemned houses the right to decent homes, when we, under various Health Acts passed in this House, advocate and try to secure for people in rural areas such amenities as water and sewerage, why should it be that the Government are satisfied to have a very small minority charging a huge majority in this State for such essential services at such a high rate? I am not going into the matter now because I know many other members of the House are anxious to speak on this and that the time for this discussion is limited, and I do not want to occupy much more time. But I will say, where this Government is concerned, we cannot allow things to go on as they are.
To be fair to the Government, and to mention something which Deputy Lemass omitted from his speech to-day, the Government has to its credit the fact that we now have through the introduction of mining operations in West Cork, and Avoca in Wicklow, and in Meath, a form of prosperity moving into the country which is in itself the key to a certain amount of peace and happiness based on economic conditions in these areas. We know that, please God, while Deputy Lemass may wish for an early election in 1957, we who are living at the mouth of Cork harbour know we shall be able to say: "thank God an oil refinery is being erected".
But with such a record of achievement in these fields alone, why must credit restrictions have such a complete grip on the people of the country no matter what Government is in office? That is a problem that will still confront us. We believe in supporting this Government; we believe that from 1948 to 1951 it had a creditable record. There are, so far, many achievements to the credit of the Government and much can be pointed to as being for the benefit of the country in the future, but must we stop at that? I say "no".
In the next few months each of us will be studying closely the returns as issued by the Statistics Office in relation to unemployment. We want to co-operate with the Government and we believe the other Parties in the Government also want to co-operate with the Government. Let us hope common sense will prevail in relation to dealing with the most vicious problems of the present time, the credit squeeze and the tragedy of unemployment, and that instead of an early election in the New Year, in compliance with the wishes of Deputy Lemass, the Government will make a New Year resolution that will become a determination to tackle this problem as it must be tackled if we are to survive.
I have listened to the speeches so far, one by Deputy Lemass and the other by Deputy Desmond. Needless to say I fully agree with what Deputy Lemass has said and, strangely enough, in regard to Deputy Desmond, it is not so much that I disagree with him but that I rather pity him in the position in which he finds himself. He feels he should not support the present Government and yet he is doing so. He has made several efforts to indicate that the Labour Party outlook is different from the policy being carried out at the moment and that this is justification on the one hand for being in the Labour Party at all, and on the other hand, it seems to be justification for not supporting Fianna Fáil or the Opposition.
I do not care two hoots whether he supports Fianna Fáil or not; it does not matter one way or the other. When we find people getting up, placed in the middle of the House as these people usually are, they seem to think because they sit in those seats, they must have one leg on either side of the House. It is for that reason I pity Deputy Desmond, because nobody can really ride two horses at the same time. Very often it results in a fall. For the Labour Party to do that is not, I think, a very good indication for the future of the Party nor is it good for the country that this should be so.
Deputy Desmond, I take it, is talking for his Party when he says they are not satisfied with Government policy particularly in regard to credit and credit restrictions and the financial policy generally. If they are not satisfied with it, why do they support it? It is the whole story of the Labour members and others, indeed, outside the Labour Party, who come into the House and make a good speech against the Government and immediately afterwards walk into the Division Lobbies to vote for the Government. That situation has been about played out. The people clearly see through this business of trying to ride two horses at the same time, very often the two horses going in different directions.
Deputy Desmond, again talking for Labour, says that Fianna Fáil has no policy. Then he amends that to read that they have, on their own admission, a half-baked policy. Apparently he has been reading very assiduously the report of the Fianna Fáil Árd-Fheis. One would almost think, to listen to him, that he spent his time at that Árd-Fheis during the entire period that that body met. However, the present Government's policy does not satisfy him. Fianna Fáil, on the one hand, has no policy and, on the other hand, has only a half-baked policy. Nevertheless, he still says he will support the present Government. That is scarcely the reasoning one would expect from an adult and from somebody talking on behalf of what should be a responsible political Party in an Assembly such as Dáil Eireann.
I would say to Deputy Desmond and to the Labour Party—taking it that his statement that a half-baked policy is the only thing which Fianna Fáil has —that half a loaf at any time is better than no bread. The fact is that if we have only a half-baked policy, he knows well that the people on the other side of the House, including himself and his Party, have no policy whatsoever. If he wants to get the best of what is going, the obvious thing is to come and get a share of the half loaf rather than go where there is no bread at all. He can scarcely expect to get bread where it does not exist.
I want briefly to go back and to deal with our position as we found it in 1948. I am not going to go back 20 or 30 or 40 years at all, but just to 1948 when we had the misfortune to have a Coalition Government thrust upon us for the first time. It was an unhappy event. At the time the Government changed hands, Deputy Lemass, from these benches, said to the new incoming Government, to the Taoiseach and the Cabinet, that we were handing over this country to them in good shape. I think the words used were that we were handing over the ship of State in good shape and that we hoped to get it back in the same condition when the next general election came around. Deputy Lemass was able to say that then. Nobody could contradict him. Nobody attempted to contradict his statement that everything in the country was in a proper and shipshape condition. Nobody attempted to stand up to deny that our State and the finances of our State and our general economy were in a sound condition and in a condition that could have gone on to better things. Thus, by their very silence, we can take it that Deputy Lemass's statement was true—and there are many figures to prove it to-day, just as there were then. However, apart altogether from the figures, no voice was raised to deny what he then said.
As was foreseen, the Government changed after three years. What did we find? We did not find the Taoiseach or the members of Fine Gael or of the Labour Party or anybody else sitting on the Government Benches in 1951 and saying that the ship of State was in good condition and that they were handing it back to us as they had got it from us in 1948. That was not the case. It was not said—and the reasons why it was not said by the then Coalition Government were very plain. They could not say it.
We found, when we resumed Government in 1951, that the sound economic and financial position of the country as we knew it during our former terms of office no longer obtained after a short three years of Coalition Government. We found that the adverse balance of trade had increased enormously. To me, and I think to any ordinary person, the adverse balance of trade is the real index of how our country is progressing. The position as regards the adverse balance of trade had deteriorated drastically. When we resumed office in 1951 we found that it had mounted to £61,000,000 or £62,000,000. As the months wore on and as we came around to the time of the 1952 Budget—our first Budget as the new Fianna Fáil Government—we found that not only were we carrying this unduly high adverse balance of trade but we were faced with a deficit in the Budget—a deficit which would have to be met—of £15,000,000. I have heard it said before and I am sure it will be said again to-day that the previous Coalition Government did not leave a deficit of £15,000,000 in their 1951 Budget. Very likely they will say it was only £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 and that the other £9,000,000 was brought about by Fianna Fáil. That is absolutely untrue and even those people who are likely to get up after me and say that what I say is otherwise will know that what they say is untrue.
Undoubtedly, in the initial kick-off, there was a gap of £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 in that Budget. It was purposely left there in order that the Budget could be dressed up to look not too unpopular in view of the forthcoming general election. On top of that concealed £6,000,000 or £7,000,000, there was expenditure that must come and that was already committed before and during that general election. We had the attempted purchase of votes being perpetrated by the then Coalition Government inasmuch as they committed the State in the ensuing financial year to increases all round to various sections of the community, but they did not make any provision for those increases. If you add those figures to the original £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 of a deficit which they knew to exist when the Budget was first framed and faked in 1951, you will find that the deficit we had to meet and contend with in 1952 amounted to £15,000,000. That is the position in which we found ourselves on resuming office as distinct from the condition of the State when we handed it over to the Coalition Government in 1948. We received it back in 1951 in a shambles, and that shambles had to be rectified. Something had to be done about it immediately.
As a result of serious consideration, the 1952 Budget was introduced—and the most voluble critics of that Budget were the very people who had brought about the mess during the period from 1948 to 1951. That Budget was introduced to try to clear up the mess, but we found that all sorts of charges were being made. There were charges that the taxes imposed were unnecessary. There were charges that our Government were over-budgeting and that there would be a surplus. When the people who are now sitting on the Government Benches were challenged in regard to the charges which they were making, they alleged that the motive of Fianna Fáil in introducing that unfavourable and unpopular Budget was that we thought the people were living too well, that they were eating too much and drinking too much and that something must be done about it. They alleged that Fianna Fáil liked to see the people going round in hair shirts. That was the type of propaganda at that time and that was the type of speech made by people from whom better would have been expected. They were being made by members of the Front Bench of the then Opposition, both inside and outside the House. Such a stink and such a confusion was created in the minds of the people from 1952 up to the general election of 1954 that I think it is true to say that never before was an electorate so bamboozled and so confused going to the polls as were the people of the Irish nation in the general election of that year.
It was because of this confusion and lying propaganda that the people were misled. I honestly believe that those who repeated that propaganda so often now have come to believe it themselves and for that reason appear to be sincere when talking to the general public. As far as public life in this country is concerned, I think 1954 brought us to a new low level in the tactics adopted. To-day, we hear a lot about brainwashing behind the Iron Curtain, but I think the type of propaganda, this repetition of falsehoods, carried out for the two or three years' life of the Fianna Fáil Government would compare with some of the brainwashing processes being carried on behind the Iron Curtain.
The result was that the people were misled in 1954 by a conglomeration of figures—none of which was true— which was repeated and repeated. Added to that was the propaganda that if only Fianna Fáil could be got out of office, not only would these taxes imposed in 1952 be unnecessary, but a £10,000,000 reduction in our taxation burden could be brought about within ten minutes of a new Coalition Government taking up office. As we all know, that was a lot of poppycock, a lot of big talk to try to catch the unthinking voter. Added to all the propaganda that had gone on in the previous years, it had its effect.
Consequently, we had a very mixed result in that 1954 election. Despite the fact that Fianna Fáil still emerged as the biggest Party by far in the House, we had the spectacle of people who expressed different viewpoints during the election campaign coming together again. We had the spectacle of people getting votes for reducing taxation while their pals got votes because of their promises to increase social benefits. We had the spectacle of the Party that held and continues to hold its position, and increase its numbers more than any other Party or group in the House, being left in Opposition while Parties or groups that had nothing in common, except a lust for power, got together again in 1954, just as they had in 1948, and got in as the Government.
More power to them if anything good had come from that episode of 1954. However, we know that is not so. In 1954, as a result of the policy followed by Fianna Fáil from 1952 onwards, the financial crisis with which we were faced in 1951, 1952 and 1953, had been met and overtaken. There was no longer an adverse trade balance of £60,000,000 such as was bequeathed to us by the previous Coalition Government in 1951. That had been virtually wiped out and, as I have said, that is the index by which we may measure the well-being of the economy of any country. In addition, we did not have any deficit of any proportion in our Budget.
We had wiped out those two legacies left to us in 1951 by the time the General Election of 1954 arrived. Just as in 1948, the new Government got the ship of State in sound condition. They got it in such a condition that the progress which had been interrupted by the Coalition Government from 1948 to 1951 could be continued. But what do we find? In two short years, the position that obtained after three years of Coalition Government in 1951 is now coming about again. The financial position is much worse than it was in the years of that first Coalition. The savings of the people had not been got through completely in the first Coalition's period but they certainly were got through in the second period, which I hope is now coming to an end.
It appears that this rake's progress which was interrupted—fortunately for the country, but unfortunately for the Fianna Fáil Party—is being continued. It began in 1948 and is continuing to-day with that break in between. We are now heading more quickly than ever for the break-up of this State as a unit of any significance than at any time previously and even during the previous Coalition Government's term of office. We find that, instead of our finances being in a healthy State as in 1954, our balance of trade is again mounting. Last year it was somewhere in the region of £35,000,000 and this year, as far as any of us can calculate and being as charitable as possible and allowing for all errors, it will be around the £22,000,000 or £30,000,000. If the Minister can wipe that out before the end of the financial year, I will be very glad.
Is the Deputy talking about the calendar year or the financial year?
I am talking about both years; the Minister may use whichever suits him.
I want to be fair to the Deputy. When he talk about £22,000,000 to £30,000,000, is that for the calendar year or the financial year?
That would be for a year comparable with the year for which I quoted a figure of £61.7 million. That was the year 1951.
Therefore, the Deputy means the calendar year.
The financial year. That figure does not indicate that the Government is doing any of the things promised. Although they took over the country in a sound condition, it is now in a bad way. In addition, we must remember, even though it may be rather sickening to have to do so, that they have made a mess of our finances and of our adverse trade balance position. We also find that promises were made that, if the people now in Government got into office, taxes would be reduced, social benefits would be increased and, above all, the cost of living would be reduced, by subsidy, if necessary. All of us know that, to-day, taxes are greater by £10,000,000 to £12,000,000 than they were in the years of Fianna Fáil, of which so much complaint was made and, in addition, I doubt if there is even one item that has to be purchased by the housewife and that is computed in the cost of living figure that has not increased in price, whereas we were promised that prices would be brought down and that, if necessary, subsidies would be used towards that end.
All those things are bad enough—our finances gone haywire, our country, as it were, on the verge of bankruptcy, higher prices for foodstuffs and higher taxes—but all these things would be overcome if our employment position were sound. If, while all these increases had to be met there was plenty of work available at good wages, the hardships that now assume such alarming proportions would not be so great but, side by side with increased taxation and the increased cost of living and the messing up of our finances generally, there is a recession in employment and an increase in emigration.
When we inquire into the causes of all these things we find that the financial crisis brought about by the Government's wanton ways is responsible. It is responsible to a large extent for the position in regard to public works and buildings and other public works and it is responsible in a big way for unemployment and emigration. An equally large part is taken in this matter by the complete flop and recession that has taken place in regard to agricultural produce.
Remember, 12 months ago cattle were from £8 to £9 a cwt. It was an abnormal price, undoubtedly. The present Minister went strutting around, patting himself on the back for the great job he was doing for the cattle trade. Then came the bang and, in the beginning of this year, prices dropped very considerably, despite the assurances we were getting before Christmas of last year that everything was well, that everything in the garden was rosy so far as the cattle trade was concerned. In January, the cattle trade suffered a severe set-back. What was the remedy? The Minister for Agriculture and others talking on his behalf and on behalf of the Government said, "Do not mind the recession in the cattle trade. The Irish Press and Fianna Fáil are responsible for that. It is they who have brought about the sudden decline in the price of your cattle. They are sabotaging the country. Do not sell your cattle now. The markets are being glutted because of Fianna Fáil and the Irish Press articles on the cattle trade. Do not glut the market with them now. Hold them until the month of April and I assure you that £6 per cwt. will be got for your cattle.” I remember at that time thinking over what Deputy Dillon had said.
"The Minister for Agriculture."
The Minister for Agriculture. On hearing the month of April mentioned, I took it to be the 1st April and recognised that that was All Fools' Day and was convinced that anyone who held cattle on the say-so of the Minister for Agriculture could be well classed among the people after whom that day is named. It is only too true that anyone who kept cattle until April on the assurance of the Minister for Agriculture that the price would be £6 per cwt. found that they were fooled, if not fools. Since then they have had to sell at a greater loss than they would have incurred by selling in January of last year or they are still holding the cattle and they still cannot get the £6 a cwt. that was promised by the Minister for Agriculture and other Government speakers. That is only one of the items but as it is the most important of our agricultural exports it is the one with which I wished to deal in detail.
In the case of other farm produce what do we find? We find that prices declined by reason of the ordinary rules of supply and demand or that the Government stepped in, as they did in regard to wheat, to ensure that the price was brought down and the farmer was left worse off than he had been before.
That position has created a great deal of unemployment and a very large proportion of our emigrants are people from the small and medium-sized farms. They are members of farmers' families who have suffered and who do not appear in the unemployment lists. They are to be found to-day in Scotland or England. They are the uncounted thousands who have left this country. They are people who do not draw unemployment assistance or unemployment benefit. They are not listed as unemployed. Others may be at home with no money and no work. They are the unknown people of this country who have been badly hit by the present Government's policy and mishandling of agricultural markets and agricultural prices.
The latest effort by the Minister for Agriculture has flopped back in his face. Turkeys are going around now as the rats did in 1949, when oats were a glut on the market. The rats were then going around shouting "up Dillon". The turkeys, knowing their necks are safe in nine cases out of ten, are going around shouting the same thing. It is not to our advantage that that should be so. It is very much to our disadvantage that to-day there is no price for turkeys, bad prices for cattle, uncertain prices for tillage crops such as potatoes and, in particular, very bad prices for oats.
During all these months, from every side of the House there have been calls going out to the farmers to increase production. We on this side of the House make those calls on the farmer to-day but we know, while we do so, that the Government should help the farmers and that the only real help a Government can give the farmer at any time is an assured market and an economic price. The farmer is not getting that from this Government. The farmer's experience is that this Government is more likely to slash prices, if they have anything to do with it, than to increase the welfare of the farming community.
While, as I say, there are cries from all sides of the House for increased agricultural production, the people in Government and supporting the Government make those cries with their tongues in their cheeks because they know very well that they are not doing anything to encourage production by improving prices and ensuring markets which, as Fianna Fáil know, is the only true way to increase production on farms to-day. Although we all make the same calls, the difference is that there is hypocrisy in the calls coming from the Government and there is truth in the calls that come from Fianna Fáil. Fianna Fáil would not do as has been done by this Government, particularly in these trying times. We would not reduce the farmers' income by a deliberate act, as was done by the Government in the case of wheat.
All these things that I have mentioned bring about a situation that is unhealthy and bad for the country. We know that to-day there are on our unemployed list, to say nothing of those who do not appear on it, upwards of 70,000 unemployed. We know also that there is a reputed figure of 40,000 leaving the country during the year. My knowledge of this trend is that it is greater to-day than it has been at any time in my memory and that 40,000 is a very low estimate of the total number leaving the country. Here is the rub: the people leaving the western seaboard to-day are not migratory workers, as of yore. They are emigrating, not migrating. They are going to England and Scotland and America and elsewhere. They are not returning seasonally as they did in the past. They are remaining abroad and they are sending back for their brothers and their sisters, or their wives and their families, or their fathers and their mothers. The doors are being closed; the houses are being locked up. If the Minister sitting in the Front Bench now does not believe that, time and petrol permitting, he might possibly be able to take a little trip along the western seaboard of my county during the Christmas recess.
There he will see, as I see every day and every week and as others see right down the western seaboard, the houses being closed—houses that are better than anything that existed there 30 or 40 years ago. These houses were built under a Fianna Fáil Government for the people in that part of the country. They are now being closed. The locks are going up on the outside of the doors; the windows are being shuttered up. The houses are being closed, in many cases, never to reopen, and this Government comes along then, with its head in the clouds, telling us that this is no fault of theirs, that they are doing as well as any other Government ever did, that they are really in difficulties and that they cannot be blamed. That is utter rot, and nobody knows it better than the people sitting on the Government Front Bench.
So far as taking an independent view in this matter is concerned, an O.E.E.C. Report on conditions in the Republic of Ireland cannot be said to take a prejudiced view. In the Irish Times of yesterday, the following appears:—
"A survey of economic conditions in Ireland, made by O.E.E.C. last September ... states that the primary aim of economic policy must be to bring inflation under control.
The survey, which covers in general 18 months to the middle of this year, states that Ireland's economic situation began to deteriorate in 1955, after several years of internal financial stability and lower external deficits."
Could anything be more damning, coming from a body that is not prejudiced in any way and that is not concerned about the internal politics of this country? But there it is: after several years of stability, the position has been worsening since 1955. One might ask why did the position not start to worsen in 1954? For the very good reason that, although we had a Coalition Government in the latter part of that year, that Government was working a Fianna Fáil programme and so it was not until the Government got itself right into things in 1955 that we find the position worsening drastically from then onwards, until we find ourselves really up against it to-day.
I want to put one or two matters before the Government and, in particular, before the Minister for Local Government as a result of not being able to get it across to him in the debate on housing the other day. The position in our county in relation to housing, as in relation to other public buildings, is that we are neither doing nor starting any new jobs. We may be continuing what we had already been engaged at, but we are not and we cannot go on with any new work. That, of course, is adding its quota to the hardships the people have to bear. I want to know from the Minister for Local Government what is the position in relation to local authority housing in Donegal?
What is the position? Why are tenders which have been submitted to the Department being held up? Why have tenders which have been submitted as long ago as January of this year not come forth from the Department since then? Why is it that a number of other tenders, which have been submitted and in relation to which there is no earthly reason for non-acceptance, have been held up? The prices on those tenders are better than we have been able to get for some considerable time for comparable buildings. Yet, these tenders are being held up needlessly and recklessly and without any thought for either the workers who are being put out of employment or the poor people who are waiting to be housed. But that is what is being done by our Minister for Local Government. It is being done by him to his own county, not only to Cork and Dublin and the other places mentioned here the other day but to his own county of Donegal, in relation to which the Minister should really know the facts, even though he obviously does not know the facts in other counties. Our position in Donegal now is a glaring example of neglect shuffling, side-dealing, misrepresentation, bluff and all the rest of it. A better example of all that could not be found in any of the other 25 counties so far as the Minister for Local Government and the Department is concerned.
We have submitted tenders to the Minister for a number of specific instance houses—47 to be exact. The 47 having eventually satisfied all the various nonsensical queries that we were asked, the Minister in September could no longer stave us off and from our county council there went out, from September until to-day, a stream of S.I. tenders for the various houses, amounting to 47 in number. Tenders for these houses have been sent to the Minister over the past three months. So far, we have got sanction for two, despite the fact that we have better tenders and more competitive tenders than we have had in years for comparable houses.
We have also houses of a scheme type in Donegal, Killybegs, St. Johnstone, Lifford, Dromore, just outside Letterkenny, and various other places. All of them are lying with the Minister in his Department, some of them since January last. Eleven months have passed and we are still waiting for sanction. Yet, the Minister comes in here, as he came in last week, and as other Ministers will come in now, and say that housing is not being held up. Housing is being held up. Housing has been held up and, apparently, it will be held up for some time in the future. All the talk and all the blurb to which we have been treated here in relation to money being available and all the confusion that has been created about the £4,000,000 and the £1,000,000 for the City of Dublin—all that just does not wash when it comes to dealing with a local authority down the country, a local authority which needs the houses and which has done everything within its power to get the houses, which has cleared the way in every direction, which has tenders lying in the Department of Local Government for which sanction will not be given. Yet, the Government expects public representatives and the people they represent to accept that these houses are not being held up. I would like the Minister at present occupying the Government Front Bench to say to his colleague, the Minister for Local Government, what the position is in regard to Donegal. If my figures do not correspond with those which the Minister for Local Government has, I should be very glad to straighten them out and let the Minister see how true are the points I have made.
As I have said, the position to-day is very different from what it was in 1954. It is certainly very different from what it was in 1948. The similarity between those two years is that on both occasions Fianna Fáil were leaving office. On both occasions our finances were reasonably well controlled and we had every indication that our production was increasing, that industry was expanding and that we could look forward to a period of progress in all directions.
Yet here is what we get: a financial crisis of the first magnitude which is now admitted even by Deputy O'Donovan, the Parliamentary Secretary, who went round for months contradicting the Taoiseach, the Minister for Finance and others and telling the country that there was no crisis. Even he now has been converted to the belief that we are in a bad way and that we must do something about it. We have an agricultural prices' slump brought about in no small way by the Government. The cost of living has gone up instead of being brought down as promised. Unemployment is soaring. Emigration is more rampant than it ever has been. The land project was stopped, but I hear there is some move now to accept applications, though these will not fall for payment until this Government has left office.
There is this disgraceful situation about the lack of winter relief grants which are in greater need than ever before. They were wiped out practically entirely in every county, particularly along the western seaboard. Add to that the failure of the National Loan, the bogus call for higher production in agriculture while at the same time agriculture is being strangled. Then we had the petrol rationing about which I should like to say something to the Minister.
It will be brought to the notice of the Minister that a considerable number of people in this country have bought their cars on hire purchase. As a result of the drastic cut which has had to be made in petrol, private motor owners and the owners of lorries will find themselves in the position that unless the Government do something about it their vehicles will be taken from them by the hire-purchase companies. Could the Minister examine the position and see if some arrangement could not be made whereby payment due on foot of hire-purchase arrangements in regard to petrol-driven machinery would be pushed back for the duration of the petrol rationing? I would seriously ask the Minister to consider that matter, because if it is not done the present situation will create not only hardship, but, in some cases, will result in complete loss of livelihood and in the owners of such vehicles having to leave the country altogether.
All of these things are only too true. All that remains for me to say is that, having made such a mess of things, having misled the people to such an extent, having bluffed and codded the people in every direction over the past two or three years, the Government now, even at this late stage, in order to save whatever little face there is left, should go to the country and ask the people if they still want them. The Government, as well as everybody else, know why they will not go to the country; they know that if they go they will be put out. Nevertheless, even at this last hour, the Government might salvage some of whatever respectability they have by going to the country and seeking the people's verdict. During Fianna Fáil's last term in office the present Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the present Minister for External Affairs and many others came in here on a Vote of Confidence in 1953 and talked until we were sick listening to them about why the then Government should go to the country because certain by-elections had not gone in their favour.
If there was any truth in those assertions then I would say there is ten times more truth in them to-day, when you look at the results in Carlow-Kilkenny, Laois-Offaly, Limerick, Dublin and elsewhere. You will find the same picture in every place. The people in each community have indicated once and for all that they are finished with the humbug of a Governmen who say one thing one day and do another thing to-morrow. The people have indicated that they want to represent them a Government composed of honest people who mean what they say. The only thing the Government now can do to redeem themselves is to go to their bosses, the electorate of Ireland, and ask them in a general election for their verdict. If they do that, they know that the few of them who come back will be sitting over here.
I shall be very brief because there are others who would wish to participate in this debate. This question was introduced not for its realism but as political window-dressing. If there is any disillusionment in this House it has been provided by the lack of realism that obtains in the various debates. We all know this has been a difficult year. We must admit the fact that no matter what Government were in office they would be faced with the very same difficulties. Different Governments may have different remedies, but it must be admitted that the present Government have been working in the worst year in the history of this State.
The fact that they have taken corrective measures is a tribute to their realism and courage, as Deputy Desmond has said. It is all very fine to be critical, destructively critical, because that seems to be the whole tenor of the Opposition speeches here. They have provided no alternative. They have not even offered a suggestion as to what they would do if they were in Government during the past two and a half years. I am afraid we have gone completely away from the standard of the Parliament we read about in our youth, the standard of Grattan's Parliament here in Dublin in 1778. Judging by the procedure here in recent years we can never hope to emulate what that Parliament produced before the Act of Union.
Recently I came across a document issued in the Sinn Féin election of 1918. It certainly gives me food for thought. This document was put before the people of Cork in 1918. It told them—and I believe it to be historically true—that in 1800, when we lost our Parliament, we had a population of 8,500,000 and we paid then to Great Britain £2,000,000 a year in taxation. In 1918, the year of the Sinn Féin General Election, we are told in this document, we had a population of 4,500,000 and we paid £50,000,000 a year in taxation to Great Britain. In this year 1956 we have a population in the Twenty-Six Counties of something around 2,750,000 people. We pay £135,000,000 a year in taxation.
Does that not bring home forcibly to us how mismanaged our affairs have been in the last quarter of a century since we took over control of our own affairs in 1922? Is it not a challenge to this Government, as it has been for all Governments down the years, as to whether we are capable of conducting our own affairs along realistic lines in accordance with the people's wishes? On the assumption that democracy is government by the people, for the people, I think there has been a great diversion from that principle on many occasions in recent years.
We talk about increased production, and may I bring this respectfully to the attention of the House? We are told very forcibly from the Opposition Benches, and we know it is too true that we are losing at the rate of 40,000 people a year. Let us assume from the recent statistics, that by the end of this year we will have lost 200,000 people. Assuming they are all adults why do we not, in accordance with the general set-up some years ago, reduce this House proportionately to what it was then? Great Britain, I would say in her wisdom, gave us a representation in the English Parliament under the Act of Union, of 100 members for the whole thirty—two counties. To-day we have 207 members for the Twenty-six Counties Surely this is an overloaded institution and surely the output from this institution is not the output that would command respect and admiration in the country?
We must put this House in order if we are ever going to get back the good will of the Irish people. They see there is a great deal of waste in the Government and in all the Governments down the years, that there is a great deal of waste in all Government Departments in the State. We must remedy that situation sooner or later. Out of evil comes good, they say, and out of this depression may come the realisation that more effective measures must be taken to deal with the situation. If we look objectively at things and if we are earnest and patriotic enough we will see that there should be no such thing as the violent opposition that is occasionally displayed in this House. In this little island of ours we cannot live in isolation. Our wealth and independence depend on the situation abroad. Unfortunately all this year we have been exporting goods on to a falling market. The value of these goods has dropped and the raw materials for our industries and the manufactured commodities we brought in here have unfortunately gone up in value. The Government is not to blame for that situation and any Government in office would have to face up to that same reality.
One thing that strikes me forcibly is that we injected into our economy in the last two years something like £20,000,000 extra and we have not got the production commensurate with that £20,000,000. That £20,000,000 was injected by way of increased wages, increased salaries and increased social benefits, and that is one of the besetting problems of our economy. I believe we have gone beyond our means in our social standing here in relation to our present production, and the sooner that is realised the better.
There is a great cry now for a general election. I do not know whether that is meant in an earnest spirit or not. The people are the masters all the time and they will get the Government of their choice. I would not like to see a general election taking place now. I believe the Government have sufficient ability, sufficient realism and courage to deal with the situation. Now that they have tackled the problem and set the country on the right road they should get the chance of implementing their aims and their programme in the hope that this country will show some improvement in 1957 that unfortunately it was unable to show during 1956.
On a point of order. The Ceann Comhairle has the duty of order in this House and it is for him to see the various Deputies who wish to speak. I asked the Ceann Comhairle by a note when Deputy Desmond was speaking, whether he wished to call somebody from this side of the House or from that side after Deputy Desmond had concluded. The Ceann Comhairle informed me that he wished to call Deputy Blaney, then Deputy MacBride and then me, if I had no objection. I told him that it was perfectly all right with me. The order has now been changed by the present occupant of the Chair.
Deputy Manley is one of your camp followers.
On a point of order, since when is there a preconceived and ordered plan of calling on speakers in this House? Since when is that done before a debate?
Not before but during a debate, it is often arranged when various people wish to speak.
Is it not a fact that the Ceann Comhairle, on instructions from a Minister of this Government, is going to arrange the order of speakers although some speakers have been in the House since 10.30 a.m.?
I never said I give the Ceann Comhairle any instructions. I asked him what he was going to do.
Is it not a fact that the Minister for Finance was making arrangements with the Ceann Comhairle to call on certain speakers that might suit the Minister for Finance?
No. I asked the Ceann Comhairle what he proposed to do. Whatever he proposed to do I indicated was perfectly all right.
The Ceann Comhairle calls Deputies from all Parties and gives all Parties an opportunity of taking part in the debate. I would like to point out to the Minister for Finance that so long as I am in the Chair I will rule according to Standing Orders and I am perfectly entitled to call Deputies from either side of the House.
A most unwarranted interference with the rights and duties of the Chair.
It is because I believe in the rights and duties of the Chair that I did not rise when the Chair had ruled.
If Deputy MacBride is trying to dissociate himself from the Government he should do it in the Government's time.
When Deputy Manley, a member of Fine Gael, the main Government Party offered to speak, I felt it was the duty of the Chair, since no other Fine Gael member had offered, to call Deputy Manley.
He was the first Fine Gael speaker. They had to put up a Labour man to try to cover them up.
One of the most disheartening things in our public life has been typified by the conduct of an ex-Minister, Deputy MacEntee, just now. It is the kind of thing we unfortunately have come to accept far too readily as being part and parcel of our public life.
Now, Messrs. Locke and Maximoe. We do not forget that.
It is that kind of irresponsible conduct on the part of Deputies such as Deputy MacEntee which has brought public life into contempt in this country.
The Government have brought public life into contempt.
I think it is more the behaviour of individual Deputies.
Go on, Uriah Heep.
Is the Deputy going to be disorderly? Is he going to stay here and listen or walk out?
Deputy MacBride is entitled to continue without interruption. Deputy MacBride on the motion.
The difficulty about creating this kind of an atmosphere in what should be a serious discussion is that it prevents any kind of reasoned or objective analysis of the problems which the House has to deal with. In addition, I think very often it precludes those who take part in this kind of childish, irresponsible and ill-informed crossfire from appreciating the actual problems and the basis on which we have to deal. There is unfortunately a complete lack of realism and objectivity in most economic discussions in this House. They are used mainly for the sake of the eternal political Party warfare, and that applies to both sides of the House.
The only argument put forward from the Opposition Benches in the course of this debate has been that they would be a better Government. They did not utter one word about policy or suggest one remedy that they would apply. They merely took the line: "We would be a better Government." Could anybody have confidence in a Government of that type as being a better Government, with that complete lack of responsibility and lack of self-control? The situation which the country faces is far too serious to allow a continuance of this eternal wrangling and irresponsible Party warfare. Surely we should be able to face up to the problems that confront the country reasonably and objectively. The country is probably facing a struggle for its survival.
It is in it.
I do not think there is a sufficient appreciation in this House or in the country generally— although possibly there is a better appreciation in the country than in this House—of the seriousness of the position which faces us. It is a position that is not new, a position that has existed, as far as the economy of the country is concerned, since this State was set up. The truth of the matter is that the economy which we took over some 30 years ago has suffered from an adverse trade balance and an adverse balance of payments except in a time of war or emergency. We suffer from one of the highest rates of unemployment in western Europe, a rate of unemployment which does not really disclose the full extent of the unemployment which exists because it is masked by emigration. We suffer from a fall in population. In the 30 year period from 1926 to 1956, we have exported 673,000 of our people. In the last ten years from 1946 to 1956, and both sides can take credit for it, we have exported 319,000 of our people. In addition, we have this chronic high rate of unemployment. We took over control of our own affairs in the hope that we would be able to build an Ireland in which people would be able to work, an Ireland in which they would be able to live. We have failed in achieving that completely.
In 1926, we had a working labour force, or a working population, of 1,220,000. That has fallen now to a working population of 1,184,000. Possibly the most serious aspect and the most worrying aspect of the position is revealed by the figures that in the five years from 1951 to 1955, some 37,000 people were disemployed in the agricultural sector of our economy. To a certain extent, that was a continuance of a trend which has been there the whole time, possibly accelerated, but what is really alarming is that during the same period, we were able to provide only 1,400 jobs in the other sectors of our economy and that was despite the genuine efforts made by successive Governments and despite the fact that we poured millions, if you like, into attempting to secure a right rate of industrial development.
While we disemployed, in five years, 37,000, we were able to create only 1,400 new jobs or approximately 300 jobs a year. I wonder if one added up the amount spent in the promotion of industrial developments in that five-year period, how much each one of these 300 jobs a year costs. Those are alarming figures which illustrate the complete and utter failure of the policies which we have been pursuing on both sides of the House. It is that which makes me so impatient with the irresponsible Party warfare which mars any attempt at a constructive approach to our problems.
This is a three-hour and not a three-week debate.
I did not catch what the Deputy said.
This is a three-hour debate—not a three-week debate.
It may be. I have been speaking for only about ten minutes. The previous speaker spoke for over an hour. I do not know if the Deputy is in a particular hurry, but even if he is in a hurry, he ought to be polite enough to listen to somebody else talking. We all have to do it.
I would suggest that the Deputy deal with the economic situation now and not with what happened 20 years ago.
I have dealt with the economic situation as it is to-day and the utter failure of the policy which the Deputy's Party and the other Parties have pursued for the past 30 years. It would be much better if we could face up to that situation and to the fact that we have failed utterly and completely to achieve what we set out to do some 30 years ago.
Why do you not get out then?
I am afraid that Deputy Corry and those others who interrupt are illustrations of the reason for our utter failure—uninformed views based upon prejudice and nothing else.
I am not prejudiced.
Deputy MacBride ought to be allowed to make his speech.
I think that the principal cause of our failure arises from our investment policies and from the fact that we made our economic development subservient to the accumulation and maintenance of vast foreign investments and that we starved our own economy of the capital which was required for its development. I think that is one of the main reasons; it is by no means the only reason. I think that our lack of planning, our lack of informed technical advice and possibly, also, our lack of informed Governments over the whole of that period were contributing factors as well.
One of the present problems in politics is that for some extraordinary reason neither of the major Parties seem to be prepared to face up to the extent of the problem which faces the country. None of them seems to be prepared to realise and admit that it is not a question of patching up the economy here and there, but that the problem involves the complete reconstruction and readjustment of our economy. I do not know whether that reluctance to admit the reality of the problems comes from a fear that the Parties might be blamed for creating these conditions in the past. I do not think that matters now. I think the position is far too serious to allow of recriminations about past inaction or past action.
Let the Deputy read Deputy MacEntee's speech last week.
Particularly the younger people in the Parties, people like Deputy Flanagan and the younger people on both sides of the House, ought to make an objective analysis of the extent of the problem. It is no use coming here and talking about unemployment and emigration and deploring these evils. We all deplore them, of course, but it is no use doing that while at the same time we pursue the policies that cause them.
This morning some Deputy from the opposite benches—I think it was Deputy Blaney—talking of the Labour Party and myself, asked why we supported the present Government if we did not agree with its policies. The answer is extremely simple. We know that the alternative to Deputy Sweetman as Minister for Finance is Deputy MacEntee and we know that Deputy MacEntee's policies will be far worse than Deputy Sweetman's. Not only would you have a credit squeeze now, but, in addition, subsidies would possibly also be removed to reduce the consumers' purchasing power, because that is exactly what he did in 1951-52, but undoubtedly one of the main obstacles to any kind of progress is this unwillingness of both sides to face up to the extent of the problems that confront the country.
In my view and I think in the view of anybody who makes an objective analysis of our problems, it is quite obvious that nothing short of long-term comprehensive planning can remedy the structural defects which have now become endemic in our economy. The announcement by the Government early in October of the setting up of an investment committee, the provision of short-term capital for agriculture and various other measures, was welcomed.
They were all steps in the right direction, but I think they were completely insufficient. I think that all isolated measures operate in a vacuum. The position of our economy now is that it is not only stagnant but it is going back. We are marching backwards and nothing short of a comprehensive long-term plan which will determine the annual rate of investment required, assess the consumption requirements and the export requirements of the population and deal comprehensively with every aspect of the economy can be of any value.
Many good measures were taken in the past—isolated measures both by the Fianna Fáil Government and the inter-Party Government. Many good projects were initiated—the E.S.B., Irish Shipping, Bord na Móna and so on. They are all completely inadequate to deal with the problems with which we have to deal and they are now nearly vegetating in a stagnant economy.
I notice that a manufacturer recently pointed out that the loss in falling population represented to him an annual loss in sale of the goods he was manufacturing of, I think, some 300,000 to 400,000 units per year. One cannot hope to develop the economy of the country or to expand production in a situation in which our own market is contracting not only in purchasing power, but in numbers as well. That is the situation we are in.
The most heartening development— indeed, the only heartening sign I have seen in recent times—has been the very careful and well-considered analysis made by the trade union movement, the Trade Union Congress, a week or two ago. It was a realistic attempt to assess the difficulties of our economy and to put forward long-term proposals. If I may say so, it was the only constructive approach in our public life to the problems which are gradually but steadily destroying the economy of this State.
I have dealt so far mainly with the long-term approach to our problems. I do not want to monopolise too much time, or I could say a lot more in regard to them. I wish to say a few words now in regard to the immediate crisis—for it is a crisis. I find myself in profound disagreement with the policy which the Government has pursued since the beginning of the year in regard to the present crisis. We had a credit squeeze, first of all, a credit squeeze for which the Government may not have been wholly responsible but nevertheless a credit squeeze which set in motion a deflationary situation, in which we had mounting unemployment the whole time and which inevitably had to result in the curtailment of investment.
The curtailment of investment resulting from the credit squeeze has led to a fall in production. The fall in production is clearly shown by the figures which were given in this House yesterday in regard to industrial goods. In the course of the year, the index for the production of industrial goods, which stood at 107.7 in September, 1955, fell to 98.2 in September, 1956. That is the steepest fall recorded in our industrial production. That was bound to happen when the credit squeeze was instituted. It was bound to result in a curtailment of investment, which, in turn, was bound to result in a fall in production. That has happened.
It is of no use for the Minister or Deputies opposite to deny that there has been a credit squeeze. There has been an extensive credit squeeze during the course of the year. I do not want to bore the House unduly with figures, but may I mention one or two? Bank advances in the first six months reduced by £6.2 million. Taking the year as a whole, there was a reduction in bank advances of £4.6 million, that is, from mid-October, 1955, to mid-October, 1956. We find that £3.3. million of that reduction was in respect of advances to local authorities. Hence we have had a curtailment in housing and so on. Therefore, it is fatuous for anyone to come along and say there has been no credit squeeze.
The import levies were inevitable and necessary, but they, too, were bound to create a certain amount of disemployment. In addition to that, the Government curtailed public works, though at a later stage—and a little bit too late —they restored £1,000,000 to public works and works of that kind. On 27th November last, the Government issued a circular to local authorities which will have the effect of practically stalling local authority works for a period of three or four months.
I think these measures were unwise and indefensible. As I have said, we were bound to have a certain amount of disemployment as a result of the import levies, but that could not be avoided. In that situation, the policy of the Government should have been aimed at seeking to expand employment, in view of the inevitable unemployment likely to arise as a result of the credit squeeze and the import levies. With a little foresight and very little more expenditure, provision could have been made by the Government to expand expenditure on productive work, on such things as the land project, drainage schemes, afforestation and the building of schools throughout the country. I think all these steps should have been taken earlier in the year.
Now, I do not want to speak too long and there are many things I have to leave unsaid, but I would appeal to the Government to revise its attitude in regard to the immediate crisis. We are facing a situation in which I believe unemployment will range from 90,000 to 100,000 in the early months of the year. Remedial action has to be taken, not when the crisis is on top of us, but before that. At the moment we spend close on £100,000 a week in unemployment benefit and unemployment assistance, that is, in ten weeks we spend £1,000,000. Would it not be better to use that money, or portion of it, to provide employment rather than waste it, one might say— because it is very nearly waste—in paying people to remain unemployed?