Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 11 May 1938

Vol. 21 No. 2

Finance (Agreement with United Kingdom) Bill, 1938. ( Certified Money Bill ). - Agreement With United Kingdom (Capital Sum) Bill, 1938 (Certified Money Bill)—Second Stage (Resumed).


The Taoiseach to conclude.

I agree with Senator Tierney that there is a great temptation to go back into the past, and an equally great temptation to try to prospect into the future. The trouble is that we all say that, and we proceed immediately to fall into the temptation or to give way to it. I have no great desire to talk here at all this evening. Any of the points that have been raised can be met, I think, very easily on the later stages, but I think it would be a mistake to let one matter pass, and that is with regard to the change that the settlement of the economic war is likely to produce. I should like to remind the Senators that, before 1932, we were paying out £5,000,000 a year—that is, taking this community as a whole, it was paying out £5,000,000 a year—and that that payment was to continue over a very long period. What happened after 1932, was that that £5,000,000 was being taking from the community by another method. I admit, and I have always admitted, that the method by which it was taken was more severe and that it caused greater hardships than the method that had obtained up to that time. So that, if we were really talking in that atmosphere in which Senator Tierney would like to see matters discussed, we would be talking just in these terms: whether this extra hardship which was being brought on the country was really worth while, whether, as was being suggested, the whole of this hardship of paying £5,000,000 was one which was of our doing or of our bringing about, and whether the whole economic war and the whole condition of agriculture during that time was the result of the policy of the Government. I think that, certainly, was not arguing in the light of real facts. Again, I do not know that I should talk about the question as to whether or not this settlement could have been made before. If we were to go back into the past, I might answer some of Senator Tierney's points by saying that, in my own opinion, some of the things that have been done, and done in recent times, were possible of achievement long before that time. However, that is past, and let it be past.

I agree with the Senator on one point with regard to the present settlement, and it is this: that we have now, at any rate, arrived at a stage in which most of the points of difference, as far as future policy is concerned, will disappear—have disappeared—and that I take it there is nobody who wants to undo anything that has been done in the last four or five years. I heard a remark to-day, and I think it was a very foolish remark. Perhaps I shall only give greater prominence to it by mentioning it now, but it was a remark which was made to-day and which did suggest some going back. Now, the advance that has been made is absolutely necessary, and was absolutely necessary to get the part of our people down here satisfied with the political situation and the relations between the two countries, and it would be the biggest possible mistake for anybody in this part of the country to hold out any hopes to any quarter that there was going to be a going back in that connection. I take it, and I hope that I am right in taking it, that the point we have reached is such, at any rate, that nobody wants to go back. We may differ as to the wisdom of the course by which we have arrived at the present point, but I do hope that there is nobody who, having arrived at the present point, wants to go backwards, and if we take that as a starting point, I think it will be all to the good.

The question of defence was raised. It was natural in a debate like this, particularly as it was a general debate covering the whole Agreement, that we should have latitude and be permitted to discuss in a wide way any matter that might reasonably be regarded as being related to it. I myself introduced the question of defence in the Dáil, but I did so with the clear indication that it was not the time or the place to discuss defence policy. My purpose in bringing it in was to remind the people from the outset that liberty brings its responsibilities, and that just as Belgium or Switzerland or Holland, or other small countries have to provide for their defence, so also have we to provide for defence; and it is our defence— and I want to lay stress on that point —that is our concern. I want these things to be put on a basis of reality. The British have concern for the defence of Britain, I take it, and they are so concerned for the defence of Britain, for example, that if there were any attempt to interfere with our freedom here I have not the slightest doubt that their fleet would be called into action to prevent any foreign power interfering with it —not in our interests, but in their own. So we, too, in defending ourselves and looking after our own interests, will indirectly be doing things that would be of advantage to Britain, and the acceptance of that point of view by the British Government has been nothing more than the acceptance of a point of view which I certainly whenever I spoke as the representative of the Irish people always put forward—and I might say that I was speaking mainly as the spokesman of the Irish people for some years before 1921. During all that period I tried to get British public opinion and British statesmen to realise that a free Ireland meant greater safety for England than an Ireland that was held in subjection against the will of the Irish people.

I said in the Dáil, and I repeat it here, that Britain is getting great advantages from this Agreement. Undoubtedly, we are getting advantages from it, but so are they. I used a phrase which some people have taken out of its context in order to misrepresent it. I said that, probably —I am not talking relatively now, but absolutely—Britain is getting more from this Agreement than we are. That does not mean to say that we are not getting the most we can get, but even our most, in certain circumstances, may be of such an amount that the people with whom we are making the bargain, on account of greater potentialities and greater opportunities, can get more. Our maximum may not be the maximum other people are able to get, and I have always said that this Agreement, in my opinion, will be of greater absolute advantage to Britain than to us. I can assure Senators that it was not to Britain's interest I was looking. I am only weighing the results, and I believe that will be the result; and that Agreement would not have been worth the paper on which it is written if there had been an attempt to impose conditions of any sort, because the moment there was any attempt to impose conditions in that Agreement, first of all, we would not take it because it would be of no value— national sentiment would reject it— and secondly, it would only mean the continuance of the same points of friction between the two countries as there had been before.

About defence, then, I can only say this: that I wanted to warn our people that the moment we have got our complete sovereignty, there is a necessity for us to defend our freedom and to see that that freedom which we have got under certain conditions may not be lost under other conditions. We see to-day; we cannot see to-morrow. We know what are the circumstances of to-day; we have to make sure, as far as we reasonably can with our resources, that the freedom that we have got and what we have in the circumstances of to-day, may not be lost in the circumstances of to-morrow. I warned our people, therefore, that that would mean a certain expenditure, and I said that that expenditure, of course, has to be a matter for the Irish Parliament. We will differ, no doubt, as to the amount we can afford to spend and also as to the manner in which what we can afford to spend will be spent. We will differ as to the amount that will be available. There will be demands from the farmers. They say that, over the period of the last five or six years, whether from the fact that they had largely to bear the brunt of the duties —the effect of the economic war as it was called—or the fact that circumstances as a whole were unfavourable to agriculture, they have been the greatest sufferers and they will be making demands of various sorts on the community. We will have demands made by sections of the community who are not able to get employment at the present time, and demands will be made for social services of various kinds. It will be a nice matter, when the Minister for Finance comes to arrange his Budget, and when we come to vote on these matters both in the Dáil and here, to decide how these sums of money should be allocated; but I thought it right to give a timely warning to our people that, in the new circumstances, the defence of our freedom and the security and assurance for the future would demand a certain expenditure over and above that to which we have been accustomed in the past.

I do not think it would be wise, really, to go into such questions of defence as the best lines of defence, or the best plans of defence, just here. I think that will come in its proper place and time. The part that the ports will play in a scheme of national defence will come up for consideration. Such questions as whether or not whatever money we have to spend should be spent in the air and so on will have to be gone into carefully by the experts. They will have to consider our defence programme, and that will come before the House, in its entirety, in its proper place and time. Again, however, I think it is wise, in discussing this Agreement, to try to put a little damper on what appears to me to be undue optimism with regard to the reliefs of various kinds which will come as a result of this Agreement, and I want to point out to our people that you will have to bear some extra expense—not as a result exactly of this Agreement, because I think we would have to bear this extra expense in any case—with regard to defence. I think I told the Dáil that these negotiations were initiated by me as a result of a despatch in which I was anxious about our whole defence position. I could not imagine any more unsatisfactory position than the position of this country in the event of the outbreak of a great war. As we were, we could not even plan properly to defend ourselves against the things which we thought were likely to happen, and we would have had to face this extra expense even though we had nothing to do with defence and could not plan for ourselves. The only question is that now we can face that expense with a clear and definite line in front of us—a policy or line in which we can plan. Before, the whole position was so indeterminate that it was almost impossible to plan for; you would have had to provide money and do the best you could in any case, and that money would be a greater burden on the community, with the economic war and the old situation, than it will be now.

That reminds me to answer some of the remarks made to the effect that the only way in which the value of this Agreement would appear would be in relief of taxation. I do not think so. I think it can be said that you might extract the same amount of taxation from a community and it would be a great burden in one case, and not in another case. It depends on the ability of the people to bear the burdens, and I believe that the ability of our people to bear these burdens will be greater now than it has been during the last four or five years. That is passing away from the question of defence. The next thing is the question of the money payment. We were told that the payment of £25,000,000 or £30,000,000 a few years ago would have been a better settlement than this payment of £10,000,000 now. But who told you that you could get it? I used to smile at Senator MacDermot in the Dáil when he talked like that. There are times in which a certain thing can be done, and times in which it cannot be done, and if we had made offers such as Deputy MacDermot suggested at the time, we would be turned back very quickly. I had had experience of previous negotiations, and I knew perfectly well what the atmosphere was, and I knew what was the situation. It was not that there was anything wrong about the particular mode in which a settlement could be made, but the point was that there are times when you can make a settlement and other times when you cannot do so. I am perfectly sure that the settlement that has been made now would not have been possible some years before. However, I am not asking that others should be convinced of it, if they are not.

I should like to say that I, personally, am convinced of it.

That it could have been made?

That it could not have been made—for political reasons.

Quite true. There were political questions intervening at that time, but, again, not of our making. The Irish Government was quite ready at any time to consider the financial and trade questions as apart from political questions, but that was not the attitude of the other Government. That brings me also to the question of why are these three related. I think it was Senator Milroy who suggested that it would have been better to have a Trade Agreement apart from the others. Well, it seems to me that if they are made at one time, it does not matter very much whether they are three separate Agreements or one set of Agreements. There is a certain advantage in having them as one set. At any rate, it would not have been very satisfactory to us to pay £10,000,000 to end the financial dispute if duties such as were being charged on our cattle and so on should continue to be charged. Senator Douglas spoke of the form of Article 8. I am half inclined to agree with him that it might be possible to improve the form, but the fact would be quite the same. You might say that Parliament was supreme and could refuse to implement the findings of the Prices Commission. Nevertheless, you would know that Parliament was bound, if it wanted to keep the Agreement, to implement the findings. If you have got Agreements of this sort, you must carry them into effect or denounce them and I do not think that in the circumstances there is any likelihood of our doing that. I would be inclined to the opinion that the form might possibly be improved, but it is a form that corresponds strictly with reality. If there is any renewal of the Agreement, that matter could be considered.

With regard to Part II of Schedule 5, the reductions in duties in these Schedules were very carefully considered. I do not think that the Minister for Industry and Commerce or the delegation as a whole would have made these changes right off if there was any demand or request or pressure to get them reduced to that level. The point was: What could we give without damage to our own industries, what could be given in fair play? On close consideration, it was felt that this could be done. Senator Douglas spoke particularly of the reduction from 40 per cent. to 20 per cent. in the case of linen. Before 1932, Irish linen was competing in the English market. Since then, there has been a 20 per cent. tariff against it. That is being removed now. It was able to live largely on its export trade at that time. That market is opened to it again, and it is protected to the extent of 20 per cent. The barrier against it has been removed, a new market has been opened for it and it is protected to the extent of 20 per cent. All this will, some time or other, come under review by the Prices Commission but the Senator must be aware of Section 10 (2) which gives a safeguard to all industries lest the reduction of tariffs should lead to anything like destruction of industry. There is a safeguard in that and we consider that the safeguard is sufficient.

I do not think that any good purpose would be served by my keeping the Seanad longer in dealing with these matters. I am satisfied that the Agreement as a whole is in the national interest. In the Dáil, we were fortunate enough to have the Agreement passed without a division. The same thing has, I think, happened in the other Parliament. I hope the Seanad will give us these Bills which implement the Agreement as quickly as possible.

Question put and agreed to.

Mr. Hayes

When is it desired that the Final Stages of these Bills should be taken—to-morrow or Friday?

The two Departments principally concerned—the Department of Industry and Commerce and the Department of Agriculture—would like to have them out of the way to-morrow. The Agreements will come into operation immediately legislation is passed in both Parliaments. We may be a little in advance of the Parliament of Great Britain in dealing with this matter, but the interval will, I think, be very short. Our Departments would be very glad to have the Bills to-morrow.

Mr. Hayes

Very good.

The Seanad adjourned at 10.10 p.m. until Thursday at 3 p.m.