Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 21 Jul 1938

Vol. 21 No. 9

Finance Bill, 1938—Fifth Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be returned to the Dáil."

I would like to say a word or two to express my disappointment at the way the Minister met the case, a reasonable case, which I believe I put before the House last night. Now, the Minister went so far as to indicate that he realised as well as I realised that there is a problem. In fact the Minister's speech suggested to me that he regarded the problem as being one of such gravity, of such seriousness and of such tremendous size that the Government could not take the responsibility of tackling it because of the risks entailed. He did not attempt to deny that there was a problem. I put it to him again that this problem is going to remain. I put it to him also that, if he tried to get under it, as some of us have, he will realise what a very disturbing problem this is. Apart altogether from its consequences to our economic life, in the sense, so to speak, that productivity is very considerably lower because of this lack of capital, on the land, and apart altogether from the consequences of reduced production on our purchasing capacity in town and in country, there is the other disturbing factor, the social problem, of the people on the land who are not fully occupied on the land; in fact, who are not half-time occupied on the land and whose thoughts are turned from it.

I am thinking particularly of the many small farmers whose plight I have tried to depict to the House. I am not thinking of the man with a hundred acres so much as of the thousands of small farmers who are in the position which I know them to be in, and whose boys and girls, so far as it is possible to do it, ought to be brought up to work the soil as their fathers did before them. But to-day, because the means are not with them, quite a number of the boys are turning away from work on the land. I know many of them; every Senator from the country knows them as well as I do. Some boys are signing on in the labour exchanges and getting a few shillings per week dole during the winter months. A very large number of girls are leaving the country.

The great trouble that I see is that this problem cannot be tackled by anybody but the Government. Is there anything worse in a country than people whose minds cannot be concentrated on the work there is to do? You know the mischief that idle hands can make. They are a disturbing factor in our social and economic life. They are out, so to speak, for a full life, and because they cannot get it from their little possessions at home, they are out to get it some way, and the consequence is that the Minister has to make provision in various forms from the Exchequer to meet demands that would not have to be met if the Minister would take the risks which I suggest he ought to take and provide capital to enable our land to be worked to the full by the people born on it.

The trouble I see is that, in my judgment, this problem is going to become more accentuated as time goes on. Senator Condon yesterday evening, according to the Minister's standards, apparently answered my case. I do not accept it that Senator Condon answered my case at all. I gave a number of figures which I suggested represented a picture of the country. I suggested that these figures indicated that the country is less wealthy than it had been and I am not bothering to discuss the causes now. I suggested that that situation was common not only among the big farmers in Meath, of whom Senator Condon spoke, but amongst the small farmers in my own county.

Senator Condon apparently thought he had answered my whole case by speaking, I think, of a cabin farmer who went to Meath and secured 25 acres of land, who at one time had only one four-footed beast on the land, and who was able to declare a short time ago at a meeting of the Meath County Council that he had his land fully stocked and was putting money in the bank. He was a most remarkable man, if he were able to achieve as much as that. I am puzzled to know how he managed to get all this stock on his land. One four-footed beast could not produce at all. I suggest that he never could have got it on the land but for the economic war which reduced the price of stock to a point when it was almost there for throwing away. I am wondering where he got the cash to buy. Nobody here is going to tell me that he got it off the land. He must have got it from somebody else. I can take any Senator here to dozens and dozens of farmers in my county, supporters of the present Administration, whose plight is what I have suggested and who live only two miles from my own home. With their horse and cart these men are trying to get work on the roads because there is no stock on their lands. There is work on their land to do if they had the capital to work the land. They are industrious, but they have not the means. Who is going to provide it? I say that nobody can do that but the Minister. The Minister apparently thinks that the risks are very great. I do not think they are so very great at all. I do not think that it is beyond the wisdom and the capacity of the people here collectively to devise a scheme which will meet the present situation. I suggest further that the longer this problem remains unsolved the more difficult it is going to be to solve it. There will be more waste in our economic and social life and the numbers of those who want to go away from our country will be greater. We cannot afford to lose any of them. We cannot afford to dissipate any of the resources left to us to employ, whether they be boys or girls or the soil of the country. These are things that we have to try to hold possession of and enrich our land by making the efforts of all more fruitful than they are.

I again urge on the Minister the point of view which I have tried to express. It is not a Party point of view at all. It is a point of view that is held strongly by very responsible supporters of the Administration which is in power, just as strongly as it is by me and a number who agree with me, and which is held equally strongly by men outside the political atmosphere altogether. I believe that if the Minister took time during the Recess to go to men outside of this House and of the Dáil who are talking of these things and thinking of them, and asked them to tell him what there is in all this talk of theirs and what is the justification for it, he would get information which would be a revelation to him. I am convinced that if the Minister will take his chance and pump more money into Irish agriculture more money will be put into circulation in this country, the purchasing capacity of our people as a whole will be very considerably increased, and the products of the new and old industries that the Minister is trying to put into life will increase in quantity, and in quality as well, because the people will be there to buy them with the money to buy them.

One individual has got a lot of publicity for the past two or three days, and that man is Douglas Corrigan, because he flew through the clouds over 2,700 miles, and landed in Ireland. I suggest that Senator Baxter is a worthy opponent of Mr. Corrigan, that he has flown through the clouds.

That is the kind of talk that has the country as it is.

He has come here after the general election to try to convince us that the policy turned down during the general election is the right policy for the people, and appeals to the Minister to change his policy, to go around amongst the people and learn things which Senator Baxter has learned, or should have learned within the past four, five, six or seven years, for that matter. One would imagine that the policy which the Minister has been advocating was the Minister's own personal and private affair, that nobody knew anything about it and that nobody could interfere. The fact of the matter is, and Senator Baxter has as much reason to know it as anybody else, that not only did the Minister get the majority of the people to agree to his policy at the last election, but that 100,000 extra voters voted for that policy within the last couple of months at the election. Senator Baxter comes along and trots out this same old stuff day after day. I suggest that he will continue trotting it out until there is nobody left but himself. I have the greatest respect for a man who fights for a lost cause, but I think the Senator would be well advised to take a headline from the other people of his Party, and not to keep insisting upon this thing, against the will and the advice of the people who really count for anything in the country.

Senator Baxter comes along and says that this is not a Party point of view. Perhaps he is going to start a new Party. If he says it is not a Party policy, the policy of the Party to which he has been attached for some years, I say he is perfectly right. But if he wants to start out with a new policy that is another matter. If he tries to make out that he is not talking politics, I say that he has consistently talked nothing else but politics. He says that Senator Condon or the Minister has not replied to his statement. I feel sorry for Senator Baxter if he thinks he has been slighted. I say that the people have replied to his speech and to other speeches made like it during the last general election and that 100,000 more people are against Senator Baxter than there were a couple of months ago.

With regard to this business of boys turning their thoughts away from the land, Senator Baxter knows well that at every stage in our history for the last 50 or 100 years or 200 years, in fact, a certain proportion of the boys on the farms turned their minds elsewhere for the reason that a small farm could not maintain all the boys reared on it. In the past, they turned their minds to New York, Chicago and other big cities, but they are turning their minds now to the cities of their own country because this "disastrous policy" that we hear so much about of developing industry has succeeded in this country and because there is work for a certain proportion of those boys, and I hope there will be work for a greater proportion of them, in the cities. Senator Baxter says that the Government should by now have found out that it was not such an easy matter to put this policy of industrial development into operation. Senator Baxter ought to have found out before now that it is not such an easy matter to prevent a policy from coming into effective operation when he or anybody else sets out to oppose the will or policy of the people. He is knocking his head against a stone wall and the sooner he realises it the better.

Senator Baxter also spoke about credits for farmers and said he believed in it. Senator Baxter knows as much about that problem as most other people. Many people who have been refused credit within the past two, three, or four years have been refused credit for the simple reason that men like Senator Baxter have considered them as not credit-worthy. They have been refused credit because it has been decided by a body of sensible men who know the conditions in the country just as well as Senator Baxter or anybody else and, a good many times, on the personal report of Senator Baxter.

On the question of interest, I do not want to bring the business of any private company into this House but, when it is so brought in by a man who ought to know better, it is up to me or somebody else to reply. It is not a question of whether the rate of interest will be 3 per cent, 5 per cent. or 6 per cent. I am quite prepared to admit that it would be desirable if more money could be made available to the farmers. I know the obstacles to doing that. So does Senator Baxter, and so do most other people. It must be admitted that the difference between 3 per cent. and 5 per cent. is not going to alter things to any great extent. The average loan being made at the present time is about £80, and the difference between 5 per cent. and 3 per cent. on £80 is about 30/-. If Senator Baxter seeks to convince any body of sensible people that 30/- is going to mean life or death to a farmer, he either does not know what he is talking about or does not mean what he is talking about. He says the Government should provide capital for the farming community. At the same time, he objects to the policy of land division. He says that that policy is interfering with something which would be of far greater benefit. In fact, the policy of land division is, in itself, a policy of credit to the agricultural community.

Senator Baxter would like to create the impression that a man getting a farm is getting a present of £600 or £700. He is getting no such thing. He is expected to pay back a certain amount of that money by way of rent over a period of years. Neither Senator Baxter nor anybody else who talks about the rural population can, by any stretch of the imagination, condemn the policy of land division. I believe that there is no better policy for the country, and I think that it is one of the numerous things which will have to be pursued more vigorously in the future than in the past if we are to maintain the agricultural community on the land. We have had numerous speeches of this kind within the past four or five years but, so far as I can remember, not one sensible suggestion was made by Senator Baxter within the last couple of days or even within the last couple of years as to how that situation might be remedied. When the other Government was in power, they were not able to avail of all the suggestions made by Senator Baxter. Neither was this Government.

If Senator Baxter and others get down to business and prepare a workable scheme which would be acceptable to a sensible Department of Government, such as the Department of Lands or the Department of Agriculture, that scheme would be welcomed by this Government—or by any other Government for that matter. A good deal has to be done if we are to induce people to remain in the rural areas. It is very desirable that they should remain there. But that is not a question of whether the rate of interest charged by any corporation should be 3 per cent. or 5 per cent. Life must be made more attractive for the people. One of the things which would make life more attractive in the rural areas and which would go further than the difference between 3 per cent. and 5 per cent. would be the provision of electric light, whether by the Shannon scheme or any other scheme. Any man who is in touch with the rural situation knows what a difference it would make if, on a winter's evening, people going to a village on business or for amusement found it lighted by electricity. That is not impossible and I believe it would go a long way towards meeting the situation. The same remark applies to the setting up of halls and places of amusement for the people. If Senator Baxter, and those usually associated with him, would study matters of that kind and try to work out some scheme, they would do far more good than by talking about such things as rates of interest. That is all right in its own way but has very little to do with what we have been told about the flight of the people from the land. People always fled from the land in certain proportions and probably always will flee. When we met as an agricultural panel—we shall probably never meet again and I am sure the country will get along well without us—I put up certain schemes to Senator Baxter and Senator Baxter pooh-poohed them.

What schemes did you suggest?

Now he says what a great thing it was that we were all in agreement. We were nothing of the kind. We were at the north and south poles immediately we sat round the table. There is no use in discussing that matter now. I hope that when we come back here various Senators, and particularly Senator Baxter, will have learned a lesson and that they will talk honest-to-God business and not be trotting out worn-out political arguments which have been turned down seven or eight times by the people.

Mr. Hayes

I should like to intervene for a moment to advert to a theory put forward by Senator Quirke which I heard put forward by various leaders of his Party in other places. His theory is that, when a particular election has been won, those who have been defeated have no right to speak any more.

I never suggested anything of the kind. In fact, I am quite pleased to see that there are still a few people who have the nerve to stand up and advocate such a policy.

Mr. Hayes

Senator Quirke's theory is that when a particular Party have been beaten in an election they should accept everything the winning Party propose and give up talking, either in Parliament or out of it, about the things which they believe would help the people. That is the essence of Senator Quirke's statement. It is a statement which Senator Quirke would not have accepted at any period before 1932. There was a time, for example, when various proposals which the Minister for Finance would not listen to now, if put to him, were propounded with great vigour, great energy, and, I may say, great ingenuity, by Deputy Seán MacEntee. The Minister for Finance does not now put forward the sort of proposals that Deputy MacEntee argued at that particular period.

I just want to protest—not that it is of any use—against this theory that, when a particular election is over, the Party who lost the election have no further right to put forward any scheme in which they believe. For example, certain people went before the country on the basis that they would never enter a particular Parliament. Although they were beaten on that policy they persisted in it. When they were beaten often enough they changed their minds and went into the Parliament. The essence of Senator Quirke's speech is that some scheme to remedy the flight from the land is necessary, but that he does not believe in Senator Baxter's scheme. The sum and substance of his speech, when we take the political content out of it, is that if we had the Shannon Scheme in more villages more people would stay in these villages. Even though I do not live upon a farm I submit that that is a very poor remedy for the flight from the land. The difference between 3 per cent. and 5 per cent. on £80—the mathematics of the Senator are, I think, inaccurate; the sum is less than 30/—would go a long way towards buying a petrol lamp, and a petrol lamp would solve the problem of lighting in most of the villages.

What about petrol?

Mr. Hayes

If we have industrial alcohol it will be much more difficult to buy petrol and my scheme will not work. The Minister for Industry and Commerce is putting obstacles in my way and in Deputy Quirke's way. The idea that nobody must put forward a scheme because at a particular election his Party did not win is one with which we cannot agree. Senator Quirke would be the last to agree to it if he happened to be in a minority, and nothing is more certain than that that will happen. He said that people had always fled from the land. The flight from the land had ceased in 1932. It began again, and is now increasing inspite of the fact that we are supposed to have a policy in agriculture with which Senator Quirke is in entire agreement, and that we had an industrial policy which, he says, is finding employment in the cities and towns for the children of farmers who cannot find work on the land. In spite of that the disagreeable fact remains— it is not a political fact, but a common or garden fact—that people are fleeing from the land to the cities and making city problems more difficult to solve, whether these problems relate to unemployment, housing, or just the question of living. The people are leaving the land and going across to England in search of work which they cannot get at home, and they would fly from the land even if they had light in every house, and if the Minister for Finance paid for it, if they had not work and could find it in England.

Senator Quirke wants an end of the type of speech which is disagreeable to him, but in the course of his oratory he did not suggest a single thing which the Minister for Finance might do. While it may worry him to hear certain people talking politics, he adopts an old definition of politics which is very familiar to me: "If you adopt my politics you are not talking politics, but if you adopt the other fellow's politics you should not be in a vocational House." We are all quite good humoured with one another in stating our points of view here, but we are not accepting Senator Quirke's theory. You, A Chathaoirligh, have been very good to me because you have not intervened, although I have not said a word about the Finance Bill—any more than Senator Quirke did. We ought to be able to discuss our position without stifling people who can claim to represent 400,000 voters.

Deputy Hayes has taken objection to what Senator Quirke said—that, as he put it, people beaten in an election have no further right to talk. I say that neither Senator Hayes nor Senator Baxter has any right to try to persuade the Minister in this House to adopt a policy which has been rejected by the people. That is what they have been trying to do all along.

Mr. Hayes

Have we not the right to try? The Senator does not know how often the Minister has changed, and he might change again.

Question put and agreed to.