The Senator who has just sat down spoke of the importance of this measure. I think I did not misunderstand him when he gave credit to the Minister for the manner in which he had met the House. If the Senator meant by that, that the cursory nature of the Minister's introductory speech was intended to credit the House with supreme intelligence, then I can understand his giving the Minister credit for the way he approached the House. It seems to me that when dealing with a Bill of this importance we ought to have had a little more explanation of its purpose, the way it will work, the reasons for it and the emergency method of introducing such a measure. It is spoken of as an emergency. What is the emergency? We are presumed to know. I am a fairly constant reader of the newspapers, but at this moment I do not know what the emergency is. I have read stories about enormous stocks of goods being landed in London port, but I think that those stories were very largely influenced by the desire of the promoters of the stories to ensure that there will be a big thumping tariff put on imports in England.
Is the Minister in a position to give us any evidence in support of his case for an emergency measure? That, at least, ought to be given to the House. Then as to the machinery and the method, surely we are entitled to have more explanation, a little more light thrown upon the proposals of the Government when introducing a measure of this kind that it is intended shall be passed through all its stages in one afternoon. Surely there is something due to the Seanad from the Minister when making a proposition of that kind? In the circumstances of our industry and commerce it is probably necessary that the Ministry should have power to act rapidly to prevent what is called dumping. Because of my admission I am not going to oppose the Bill, but I am going to raise some questions that I think ought to be given consideration. The Bill is described colloquially as an anti-dumping Bill and two Senators have asked what is the meaning of the word "dumping." I do not think it has occurred in any legislation of this State; I do not think it has occurred in any British legislation, but it has occurred in the case of South African legislation and perhaps in one or two other countries. Whether in any other country there has been any definition or not, I do not know, but in view of the loose method in which this term is used, surely we should have some definition?
While it is no doubt intended to be an anti-dumping Bill, that is not only what the Bill gives power to the Government to do. In Section 1 it is stated: "Whenever the Executive Council is satisfied, on the report of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, that the immediate imposition or variation of a customs duty on any particular description of goods is necessary to prevent an expected dumping of goods of that description or an expected importation of goods of that description..." If we leave out the sentence, "to prevent an expected dumping of goods of that description," we are going to give the Government power to impose a tariff in order to prevent an expected importation of goods of the description named. The Ministry are going to describe the goods which they fear might do damage to the industries of this country. There, again, I would like some light as to what the Ministry have in mind with regard to the description that is necessary. Is it a description of a particular pattern or quality or the condition under which the goods are produced? Is it the country that they come from, irrespective of the conditions under which the goods are produced and irrespective of the price at which they can be sold?
"A particular description of goods" does not indicate that this is intended to be aimed at goods sold much under cost. That is to be left to the Ministry. They may decide to prevent the importation of goods from a high-wage country like the United States or a low-wage country like Poland or China or India. We ought to have some light from the Ministry as to what they have in mind when speaking of a particular description of goods. What policy is to be put into effect during the next nine months? I presume the Government have made up their mind as to the policy they intend to put into effect; I dare say they had it made up before this Bill was introduced. I think the House is entitled to some information.
From what one reads of the debate in another place and from the general discussions that have taken place around the whole question of dumping due to currency difficulties, there are raised in one's mind a great many questions. I wonder whether our Government has anything to say upon the very big question that is affecting the world just now, the question of German reparations? One assumes that behind this Bill is the thought that Germany may have to supply the world, and particularly England, with one or two hundred million pounds' worth of goods for which she can get no return, goods that she must sell if she is to pay her debts. She must dump them. Britain, no doubt, will follow the practice of France and America and refuse to take goods in payment of debts. Therefore, there is a risk that those debts may have to be paid for by landing portion of Germany's exports on the shores of this State. If the Free State, Great Britain, France, the United States, Belgium and South Africa and all the other countries of the world are going to refuse to accept goods from Germany and are still going to ask the German people to pay their commercial debts as well as their reparation debts, then I wonder how the world is going to get along.
I do not know whether we ought not to look upon this problem from a somewhat different standpoint than that of the mere tariffist. Our friends of Fianna Fáil, followed as they legitimately claim by the Government, are laying entire stress upon tariffs as a means of fostering Irish industry. When it comes to a question of very low-priced imports, then they say that you must raise the tariff barrier very high. Let us see how this is going to work. It is supposed to be intended to protect Irish industries against the kind of competition, and therefore disturbance, that very cheap imports would cause. We have a tariff of 20 or 25 per cent. upon certain manufactured goods. It is alleged that dumped goods might come in even if there were a 50 per cent. or a 75 per cent. tariff—that other countries would perforce be obliged to sell goods at almost any price and, therefore, we must raise our tariff wall very high indeed in order to prohibit importation.
Let us take a not unfair instance of a concrete kind—boots. Let us assume that Czecho-Slovakia or Poland or Germany want to unload boots at almost any cost. Let us assume they threaten to land their exports upon these shores. If they were landed, the unemployed worker or the farmer in the Gaeltacht or congested areas might be able to buy boots at one-third the price of Irish or English boots. But because we have to protect the Irish boot manufacturers we must make it impossible for the unemployed worker or the congest farmer to buy cheap boots. We are protecting the Irish industry. That is the professed object of this Bill. The Irish boot industry in 1929 supplied 11½ per cent. of the requirements of the people of this State, 88½ per cent. being supplied by Great Britain. We put a tariff on British boots, and that enables the Irish manufacturers to go a little way towards supplying Irish requirements. Now we are professing to prevent the importation of very cheap boots from other countries than Britain, nominally in support of the Irish manufacturer, but actually in practice in support of the British manufacturer; that is to say, we are going to prevent our poor people from buying very cheap goods from Czecho-Slovakia, Poland or Germany because we want to protect the British manufacturer in his market, in regard to which we are protected to the extent of 20 per cent. or so.
The effect of this tariff in relation to an article such as boots is practically to protect three-fourths or four-fifths of the suppliers of Irish requirements. That applies to boots and it applies also to clothing of various kinds. While we are out ostensibly to protect Irish manufacturers, what we really are doing is to protect British manufacturers in their trade in this country against the competition of cheaper goods from the Continent of Europe. The Minister for Agriculture on another question in the Dáil yesterday is reported to have said that the only thing that will save the farmer from bankruptcy is the extremely low price of grain. One might say that the only thing that will protect the unemployed workman or the agricultural labourer from hunger or cold during the winter will be the very low price of boots or clothing from the Continent of Europe. The contention that this is intended to protect the Irish manufacturer is valid to the extent of 10, 15, or 20 per cent. of the requirements of the people of this State. The great majority of the articles consumed by this country come from Great Britain and, in effect, this is going to protect British manufacturers against the competition of continental manufacturers. Is that the intention?