The policy of the present Government has left a lot of people in my part of the country with nothing to do. Although I have not yet signed up on the unemployment register, I found myself the week before last with more leisure than I knew what to do with although I might describe myself as an industrialist. Accordingly, I devoted the greater part of the day to the pursuit of £2,000,000 economy which the Minister and his colleagues led the simple people of Donegal—of whom I am one —into believing would come as a thunder-clap once they were safely enthroned in Merrion Street. My pursuit was in vain. The £2,000,000 saving was too elusive for me. Instead of a saving of £2,000,000, I found myself counting up millions of additional expenditure by this Government which made the welkin ring with their hoarse cries of economy at two general elections and is now making the welkin respond to a sweet chorus of prosperity. Indeed, one would think, to borrow the language of the immortal Mr. Dooley, that "the defeat of economy be prosperity was wan of the raysults of the election."
The actual expenditure on Supply Services in the year 1931-32, before the advent of the economisers, was £21,617,500. For this year the economisers estimate their expenditure on supplies at £27,918,715. That was a little jump of £6,000,000 odd, as the Minister has told us. For the coming year they estimate their expenditure on Supply Services at £29,709,707—an increase of £2,000,000 on top of the £6,000,000. The change of Government from extravagance, as it was called, to economy, as it is called, has cost the country £8,000,000 in two years in respect of Supply Services. Having, as a result of a deliberate and set policy of Spartan economy, run up the nation's bill by £8,000,000, I wonder what miracles of extravagance the Government would have accomplished if they set out to be a little generous! As I said, I was disappointed in my search for the elusive £2,000,000 saving. So I sought consolation for my disappointment in a perusal of the Dáil Debates of a few years ago. I spent a wet afternoon reading the speeches of the Minister for Finance and his colleagues when they were filling the rôle of Scrooge and I was really amazed at the enlightenment which I received. I had intended to cull one of these speeches from the Official Report and repeat it here verbatim. It would constitute a more telling indictment of the policy of the present Government, as disclosed in this Bill, than I could hope to formulate. I thought, however, that this method of attack might be unduly embarrassing to the Minister, so I shall trouble the Seanad with only a few counts of the indictment which Ministers have formulated against themselves. The Minister for Finance may recollect these emphatic words:
"We now see the Deputy in office. But we can remember the Deputy out of office and we can recollect how at great length he pleaded in this House the ever argued and always lost cause of the taxpayer. If ever a man burned with a passionate zeal for economy it was the Deputy. Alas, the Deputy has become one of the tax spenders. It is sad and chastening to reflect how office may corrupt even the best of men."
Has office corrupted our Minister for Finance? He was at one time an incorrigible miser as far as public moneys were concerned. Now, he steps in to us with a Bill based on an expenditure of over £29,000,000. There is an old Latin maxim, Corruptio optimi pessima est! The corruption of the best is productive of the worst. The incorruptible miser when expenditure was £25,000,000 has in office developed into a reckless profligate. He squanders not in thousands but in millions.
One of the minor economists of Fianna Fáil was accustomed to demonstrate to us—when the courts were not sitting—how the British Government ran the whole country at a lesser cost than the Cosgrave Government ran 26 counties. This Fianna Fáil economist—true to type—was a gentleman who, when in the British Parliament, voted for all the Lloyd George Budgets which trebled the taxation of this country. I am wondering what his thesis is, in connection with the cost of Government by Fianna Fáil. Since, however, he has added to the economies of the public purse by accepting a job worth £1,700 a year, we have been deprived of his expert financial assistance. So I am compelled to revert to the Minister for Finance in my search for instruction. The Minister said in the other House in March, 1931:
"On the trade for the year 1929 there was an adverse balance of £5,790,000 which we are unable to pay for out of the produce of our labour because our Government takes too much from us. It is rather a significant fact if you consider the amount paid away in the ultimate financial settlement for which the Minister for Finance was originally responsible, that it is enough almost to meet our adverse trade balance. If we were able to retain in this country the moneys paid away under that agreement we would be solvent from year to year and our position would certainly be much better off than it is."
We have retained these moneys during the past two years and how much better off are we? Our adverse trade balance of £5,790,000, as then stated by the Minister-to-be, has been swollen to £16,000,000, and our total external trade has shrunk from £108,000,000 to £55,000,000. That is what the opportunist policy adumbrated by Deputy MacEntee in the speech I have quoted has yielded the country.
Let me pass for a moment to that bright professor of optimism, the Minister for Industry and Commerce. He is now the Mark Tapley of the Cabinet. He fails to see the cloud because of the silver lining. But his optimism is newborn. It is only when our total expenditure borders on £40,000,000 that Mr. Lemass rises to the giddy heights of optimism. When our expenditure was £26,000,000—a mere fleabite as the Minister for Finance would say—Mr. Lemass was a glum and gloomy pessimist. Here is what he then said:
"If we are going to solve the problem of unemployment, if we are going to remove the cause of depression in agriculture, if we are going to give Irish industry a chance, we must reduce the burden of taxation."
The way in which Mr. Lemass and his friends now proceed "to give industry a chance" is by shovelling on millions to the burden of the taxpayer. In fact the bigger the bill the more exuberant becomes the optimism of Mr. Lemass.
And the same applies to the unemployment figures. Unemployment, according to the Minister for Industry and Commerce, reached its peak point a couple of months ago. But the peculiarity about this Fianna Fáil peak point is that it has been steadily climbing ever since. Nevertheless, Mr. Lemass, who critically examined the Cosgrave expenditure of £25,000,000 in the Dáil in 1930 was not as cheerful a person as the Minister for Industry and Commerce. He then pointed out that the number of persons in receipt of outdoor relief had increased in two years from 16.7 per thousand to 19.9 per thousand, and he said:
"If 2 per cent. of the people of this State have to be maintained out of public charity does it not indicate that the prosperity about which we hear so much at Cumann na nGaedheal meetings is largely illusory?"
Last November the number in receipt of home assistance, which is the current euphemism for outdoor relief, was 131,000 as against 59,352 in 1929. It takes a great deal of optimism to counteract an increase of over 100 per cent. in the number of persons in receipt of public charity, but I have no doubt that the Minister will assure us that the greater the number of home assistance recipients the more prosperous we are.
In order to vary the monotony of pessimism may I give you another quotation from the Minister for Finance. Speaking on the Vote on Account in 1931 and after painting the condition of the country in the darkest hues, the Minister said:
"I know if President Cosgrave were here he would tell us how prosperous the country is. The President is a confirmed believer in auto-suggestion. He is the Mary-Make-Believe of Irish politics. He lives in a world of unreality, moving about from place to place surrounded by a handful of prosperous people. He believes that the whole condition of this country is prosperous. If he had to go to the country as we go week after week—not to meet prominent people—not to meet a few prosperous business people in every town—but to meet the mass of the people whom we see Sunday after Sunday coming out of country churches—those who have to toil and moil from morning to night—and ask them their opinion whether they enjoyed prosperity, he would know, as we know, that there is more hardship and more want at present than there has been at any time during the present generation."
There was hardship and want when our register of unemployment had about 30,000 names and when our home assistance lists numbered 50,000. Now that unemployment has increased to 100,000 and home assistance recipients number 133,000 we are enjoying a spell of profuse prosperity. I wish the Minister would act on the advice he gave a couple of years ago. If he pays a visit to my county he will moderate his views as to the teeming abundance of the good things which the people are enjoying under a Fianna Fáil Administration. And let me remind the Minister that the purchase of chronometers is not a test of the prosperity of the farmers as he seems to think. The importation of clocks and watches could be readily explained. The people are counting the minutes until they get an opportunity of enriching private life with the presence of the Fianna Fáil Ministers.
In the meantime I would recommend Ministers to do a little research work, just as I have been doing, into their own history. As a beginning let them read from their own speeches of a few years ago, if they are not too nauseating to them. For instance, let the Minister for Finance read the speech he made on the Central Fund Bill, 1930, when he was deprecating increased taxation:
"Last year our total export trade amounted to £46,061,000. That represented the gross out-turn of this community, and all that out-turn had to be sold in a very competitive market. It is possible that during the coming year competition in that market will be further intensified, but there is an added factor to be taken into consideration, viz., that during the coming year that market will be a rapidly falling one and, therefore, one in which the producers' margin of profit will tend continuously to diminish. In these unfavourable conditions and in face of diminishing profits, what will happen if the Minister imposes further taxation upon the producers of this country? It will represent an increase in the cost of production for which the producer cannot seek to compensate himself by asking higher prices. He will be between two fires —I had almost said between two thieves—his competitors abroad and the Minister's tax-gatherers at home. What will happen? He will either give up the ghost and cease to produce, or he will endeavour to reduce the immediate, but not the ultimate, cost of production by decreasing wages, by declining to make proper provision for the maintenance and development of his plant and industry and by reducing his personal expenditure. By ceasing to produce he directly creates unemployment and becomes unemployed himself. By reducing wages he reduces the purchasing power of his employees, and by failing to maintain and develop his own concern he creates unemployment in all the ancillary industries which depend upon his."
I think the Minister might profitably read that speech again, and that the Minister for Industry and Commerce could also read what he said when the Central Fund Bill, 1931, was being discussed, when he expressed his alarm at what he termed "the definite diminution of our wealth-producing capacity." One of the principal causes, according to Mr. Lemass, was that our cattle population had considerably decreased during the previous ten years. Now, under Fianna Fáil's beneficent rule, the cattle population has so immoderately increased that Mr. Lemass proposes to slaughter them in order, I presume, to improve our wealth-producing capacity. The most dazzling gem in the Central Fund Bill debate of 1931 was the contribution of President de Valera, in which he proved beyond doubt that an actual increase in the Estimates of £138,646 was, owing to depression and a fall in agricultural prices, really an increase of £6,000,000. As this was so characteristically de Valerian I hope the Seanad will excuse me if I read it verbatim:
"We find, as I have said at the outset, that the Estimates, as introduced this year, show an actual increase of £138,646. That is not a fair picture of the situation at all, because in the interval we know that the value of money, as shown by the cost of living indices, or the wholesale prices which the farmer gets for his produce, has appreciated.
"With reference to all these indices we find that the actual increase is very much greater, and the burden on the community is very much greater than is indicated by that increase. So that instead of cutting down, the fact is that the cost of all these services is gone up, and, with increased cost in other directions, one would have expected that the Minister for Finance would not ignore directions in which substantial savings could be made.
"Between January, 1930, and January, 1931, there was 7.3 per cent. fall in the cost of living. If we take that into account and make a corresponding reduction in the Estimates as introduced last year, the reduction would amount to £1,728,000, or, in other words, this year's Estimate represents an increase of that amount. There was a 19.6 per cent. fall in wholesale prices between January, 1930, and January, 1931. If we make a corresponding reduction in the Estimate as introduced last year we find that this year's Estimate represents an increase of £4,460,000 odd. There is a 16.2 per cent. fall in the index of wholesale food prices. Taking that figure, we find that the Estimates represent an advance of £3,667,000 odd. If we take into account the decrease in the price of the produce which the farmer, who is our largest taxpayer, has to dispose of—take the fall in the price of fat cattle in the Dublin market between March, 1930, and March, 1931—we find that it represents to him—the person who has to sell cattle in order to provide for taxation—an increase of £3,362,000 odd. If we take fat sheep similarly this year as compared with March, 1930, we find there is a fall of 27.5 per cent., and it would represent a total increase to him of over £6,000,000."
Perhaps the Minister for Finance would apply the President's arithmetic to the present estimate, or, alternatively, turn them into gold ounces. In the same speech the President said that the offices of the various Departments were overstaffed with civil servants, whose numbers should be reduced, and he advocated £1,000 a year as the maximum salary for Ministers and civil servants. He pointed out that to the workers and farmers, from whom the bulk of the taxation came, salaries of £1,000 a year seemed a fabulous sum. Now, the President has increased the number of civil servants in almost every Department of the State, and he does not think even £1,500 a year a fabulous sum to give in addition to his pension, to a distinguished professor of pedagogy recently appointed to a public position. The President seems to have a weakness for pensioners, as one of the first things he did when he took office was to appoint a pensioner brother of a distinguished public functionary of this State to a public position worth £1,000 a year, plus his pension of £700. The Labour Party that stands for one man one job never uttered a protest. These things show how utterly sincere was all the talk of economy by Fianna Fáil before they secured office. They were almost eloquent then. Nobody was more eloquent than the President about the iniquity of a poor country like—ours spending £1,600,000 on a police force, and a similar sum on the Army.
In the speech from which I have just quoted, President de Valera declared that a saving of £600,000 could be effected on each of these Estimates, or £1,200,000 for both. Now he and his Government have increased the cost of both, and, in the case of the Army, they are spending £250,000 a year more, on what is practically a new army. But the most sinister increase of all is the increase in the Vote for Secret Service for which £25,000 is now estimated. When I saw this jump from £2,000 actual expenditure to £25,000 in the Secret Service Vote I came to the conclusion that the Minister for Finance had been visiting the cinemas, and had been suddenly struck with the idea of dotting the Continent with a bevy of beautiful Irish spies, who would steal the dispatch cases from unsuspecting diplomats, or perhaps lure foreign representatives of Britain into a disclosure of Mr. Thomas's intentions regarding the tax on stall-feds. My speculation was strengthened by the recollection that when the Ministry set out on its policy of making Ireland Gaelic, by posturing at a cinema show in this city, the title of the film was, I think, "Grand Hotel," which the Fianna Fáil newspaper described as a story of "wine, women and crime." We have had the crime in plenty and I suppose a share of the wine, too. When the increased Secret Service Estimate appeared, I thought the moment had come for the introduction of the women. However, I was amazed to find that the Minister proposes to spend the £25,000 on a new home industry—internal espionage. The £25,000 is to be spent in spying on an organisation which the Ministry hope to outlaw. This sum has been described by the Minister as a mere flea-bite. It may be a flea-bite to the Minister, but the Merrion Street fleas have evidently capacious jaws, and to the man in the street the sum represents the cost of 60 or 70 decent houses annually. I think we are entitled to know what the policy of the Ministry is in connection with this huge sum, which is to be handed out to secret agents. Is any of the money to be handed over to the gentlemen who spied on General Mulcahy in Glasgow? Are the tottering finances of Fianna Fáil clubs throughout the country to be buoyed up by donations from the Secret Service Fund for spying on political opponents? If a Government can only exist by suborning agents to the extent of practically £1,000 per county, then its mandate is at an end, and it should do the decent thing, get out, before the populace is completely corrupted by bribes and secret donations.
I notice, too, that in addition to secret information the Government is providing for public information. We are to have an information bureau. According to the President the function of the bureau will be to let the world know the truth. Well, I sincerely hope not. I found in a recent issue of the Dáil Debates sufficient admissions of outrage, murder and crime to damage our reputation for all time, if advertised to the world. Although these outrages were perpetrated against members of the Party with which I am associated, and although in most cases no arrests were made, I sincerely hope that the Press Bureau will not be used to tell the world the truth about them. What the present administration require is a Press Bureau to keep the truth from the world. Perhaps that will be its function. When defending the increased figures in his Estimates in the Dáil, the Minister for Finance argued that this expenditure would be productive. Let me quote against him an equally convincing authority:
"It is no counter to this argument to contend that some of the expenditure now contemplated will be productive. It cannot be immediately productive... The benefit of it, though possibly certain, is shadowy or remote. But the burden of it is not only certain but substantial and immediate. Some of the heads... will be productive, but the cost of them ought to be met, not by imposing fresh taxation, but by retrenchments in regard to services which are not productive and some of which are merely parasitical. If the Minister proposes to make further provision in regard to local loans, he ought to compensate the taxpayer for that provision by securing a corresponding economy, say, in the Gárda Síochána or in the Pensions or Superannuation Vote."
That was the advice of the Minister for Finance out of office. I commend it to him, now that he is scattering millions about with so lavish a hand. But I have no hope that he will accept his own advice. He is now Minister for Extravagance in an extravagant Government, and he will go on spending until all the resources, so carefully husbanded by his predecessors, have been dissipated. When the crisis comes I have no doubt that President de Valera will meet it with an elaborate explanation of his own bona fides and personal honesty, as remote from the issue as Kerry is from Cornwall.
This Government is dispoiling the country. If they continue for a few more years they will leave the country as bare as the rocks of my native county. That they have been able to carry on so long is a tribute, not to themselves, but to the thrift of their predecessors. When the store is spent the day of reckoning will come. Those who are wasting the nation's assets, and demoralising the people in the doing of it, must take the responsibility for their actions.