So, within two or three days of going out of office, they notified the local authorities by telegram of a grant of £2,250,000—leaving it to their successors to say where the money was to come from and to provide it. That was a scandalous piece of political trickery. At that time the Minister for Finance, if he had held his previous views, would simply have objected to the whole thing. He could have said that the restoration programme, as presented to him, must have been completed by that time. Certainly, more money than was originally contemplated was spent on it because it lasted for over three periods while, initially, it had been presented that it was likely to last only one financial year. It came this year to the point where the matter had to be reconsidered. We had a plan to have money spent in certain other ways and you cannot spend money on everything at the same time, because the money is not there. Consequently, you have not the money for the various kinds of work. We decided that this money should be cut down and devoted to other purposes. It was at least time that this matter showed signs of petering out. It is obvious that, if there is going to be a diversion and if the money is to be devoted to other purposes, that scheme cannot be continued. It would be quite improvident to have big allocations for road grants. The roads must, by this time, have been restored to their original state. Senators will also remember that before the war the local authority, in respect of rates, used to provide £2 for every £1 provided by the central authority. The situation has changed now. The local authority pays £1 for every £2 which the central authority pays. It is about time we got back to the more wholesome pre-war practice.
Much comment has been made in regard to emigration and unemployment to-night. Before dealing with the problem, as such, I want to refer to the fact that, in December of 1947, the last Government woke up to the fact that emigration was likely to increase. A memorandum was presented by the Department of Social Welfare to the then Government. A lot of the facts and figures are set out with great clarity. The warning is given that during the war it was possible to retain people at home by preventing those engaged in certain types of work from going abroad unless they could give evidence that there was no work for them at home. In many ways there were impediments and hindrances on those going abroad. However, during the war the path to America had been completely closed. After the war it was opened again. The American Legation was receiving applications from intending emigrants. The question of visas was being considered. As late as the 15th December, 1947, the last Government decided to take cognisance of emigration. The last paragraph of the memorandum is in this form:—
"Apart from the immediate problem dealt with so far in this memorandum the Minister is of opinion that the effect of emigration on the present and future population trends here, more particularly in view of the influence here of the population changes anticipated in the relatively near future in Great Britain, is a matter which would repay careful examination. He accordingly suggests that the Government might consider the appointment of a commission with wide terms of reference which would examine the population position and probable developments as influenced by various factors of which emigration is one."
We are criticised for having set up a commission on emigration. The last Government had set up a commission to consider a variety of things affecting the trend of population here, emigration being one of them. It was understood that once the ports were opened again and there was freedom to go to American there would be an outpouring of all these people who during the war years had wanted to emigrate and who were being encouraged by their relatives to do so. It was recognised that once the ports were opened there would be a big outpouring of our citizens from this country and a big influx of our citizens into America. One of the Senators beside me has mentioned that you do not get a visa to go to America arranged in an evening. The case has been put to me of two people from the same town who had applied to go to America. They had applied, I think, with a three weeks' difference in the date of their applications. It was thought to be a desirable thing that they should go together. Application was made to the American office here that they should be allowed to go at the same time. The application was made in such a way that the latter applicant would have been promoted to the date of the prior applicant. It was rejected, on the grounds that it would mean that several thousand people would be displaced. However, if the prior applicant would like to date himself to the date of the latter applicant's letter, then it would be all right. That means that inside three weeks thousands of applications to go to America had poured in. Those decisions, as I have said, were not taken overnight. As Senators will admit, if they think about the matter, these people are going as a result of decisions taken by them years ago. It is only in the recent period that they have been able to fulfil their desires to get outside the country. It is a problem that has to be met and we are trying to see what we can do about it. There has been a good deal of experience in this matter.
Emigration and unemployment, I suppose, can be taken together. At least they would be taken together in this House. It might be urged here that the lack of employment was the cause of emigration. In 1928, the former Minister for Industry and Commerce. Deputy Lemass, expressed the view that:—
"Ireland can be made a self-contained unit providing all the necessities of living in adequate quantities for the people residing in the island at the moment and probably for a much larger number."
I need only recall the old phrase about calling back the emigrants, but that might be regarded as a sort of immature view that would have been discarded as people grew up. In 1942, the then Taoiseach, speaking in the Dáil on the 15th July, deplored emigration and said:—
"It is wrong to say that we are trying to induce our people to emigrate or anything of that sort. We are not, but we cannot put up a barrier. In the case of a man who has £7 a week or £5 a week in the particular industry he is in at present, if, through lack of raw materials, that industry closes down and that man loses his employment, we cannot say to him ‘you must stay here; we can only give you 30/-or £2,' or whatever may be the sum which the community as a whole may be able to afford to give him to maintain himself and his family."
Similarly, when talking about emigration, he said that it would be quite wrong to prevent people from going if they had a desire to go, or to put up a barrier and say to them "you must stay at home." Later he said that:—
"I do not believe that the majority of them would go were it not for the fact that their ordinary means of livelihood at home have been taken from them. I believe they will come back those of them who will be still there. I do not want anybody to think that it is a matter of satisfaction to us to see any of our people, for any reason whatever, leaving the country."
There was very little in that record of 1942 to show any plan for keeping people here. The Taoiseach of those days simply threw aside what he, apparently, took to be a suggestion made to him that people should be restrained here forcibly, and said that that could not be done. He went on to say that:—
"I do not see any solution for this problem except a solution based on a complete change of our whole social system. You may do it if you conscript labour, and mind you if you do that you will cause a lot of those hardships which I for one am anxious to avoid."
That was not very heartening for those who were listening to the Taoiseach who, at one time, thought that the country could get back to the old 8,000,000 population. That was his view in 1942.
Deputy Childers spoke on this in the Dáil on the 13th May, 1947. Possibly, Senator Hawkins would bring this to the notice of whoever wrote the editorial in the Irish Press two days ago. He said:—
"We are an adventurous people. We have been forced to emigrate in all our history and it has become a habit amongst us."
He spoke about the problems that the people at the other side had and how these offered temptations to the people of this country. He said again:—
"There is a temptation to people of adventurous spirit in this country, regardless of income, and naturally the people with great intelligence from the poor areas will want to venture forth into the world and, finding acceptable employment available to them on a scale never before, certainly not in the last 20 years, they will go to that employment."
Deputy Childers put it on the ground that emigration was a mixture of a spirit of adventure and enterprise and of better employment on the other side. Speaking in the Dáil in July, 1947, the then Taoiseach said that the most important question was that of emigration. He said that when they had done the best they could there was that drift from the land to the towns, that there had been that steady drain since the famine and perhaps it was a tendency that could not be stopped. In the same debate he said that emigration could only be remedied by some better provision for the rural population, particularly those actually employed on the land. He pointed out that there had been a decline in the numbers engaged in their basic industry, and that raised the question whether there was any solution to it or whether it was a natural decline. That was the view of a man who had been 15 years in Government, who came in with a plan to end everything, including unemployment and emigration. He said that if anyone could see a solution for the difficulties in agriculture they would be glad to consider it. That was the view of people who came into power full of ardour about employment and the stoppage of emigration, and who, in later years, came to a better appreciation of the situation.
I will read a comment or two from Deputy Lemass. Speaking in the Dáil on the 4th June, 1930, he said:—
"The outstanding fact concerning unemployment in this country is that it need not exist at all."
Later, in the debate, when the figure of 80,000 unemployed was questioned, he broke in to speak of how that problem could be tackled. I interrupted him by saying that he appeared to be approaching it by way of a gradual and selective type of solution. His answer to me was:—
"You could find an immediate solution for unemployment to-morrow."
Deputy de Valera, a year earlier, had said:—
"The more I consider the position the more convinced I become that the problem of unemployment in Ireland is quite capable of solution and the more certain I feel that it is a crime against the unemployed and against the nation to leave it unsolved."
Before he became Taoiseach he had a solution for unemployment, but years later he did not see any solution for it except a solution based on a complete change of our whole social system. He came to agree with Deputy Childers that there was a tradition about emigration, that it started in the Famine and was going to go on. It is quite clear that there is only one way of stopping emigration, and that is by providing employment. If there is an opening for employment in the country, and if people still continue to go, they certainly are not being driven out. There may be a pull from some other country, but there is no urge here for them to go. The problem, I suggest, should not be over-stressed. Senator Meighan gave us his own personal experience with regard to people who are called unemployed in this country, while at the same time Bord na Móna and other organisations are making a demand for workers and cannot get them. That is not news, and it should not be news to the members of the late Fianna Fáil Government.
In the early part of 1947 there was a bit of a scare on in regard to the production of fuel and a conference was called in April, 1947, on turf production. It was opened by the Taoiseach, Mr. de Valera, and was eventually taken over by the Minister for Local Government, Deputy MacEntee, and by Deputy Childers. There were gathered into that conference all the people who were supposed to know the local areas—county engineers, county surveyors and other officials—and they were gathered from over the whole Twenty-Six Counties.
They had an address from the Taoiseach, opening the conference in the morning, and in the evening they were summoned back and invited to speak their views frankly. The main problem was to get the same number of workers to produce a greater quantity of turf in a given time. He implored them to do everything they could do to get turf cut.
After he had lectured them for a bit —I do not propose to give any names in this—one representative from one of the northern counties broke in and said:—
"There is a point I did not like to mention this morning in connection with the turf programme last year, that is, the unwillingness of some men to go out and work at all. We had one district last year in which we could not get the men to work. Most of these men are on the dole all the winter. Last year when we asked them to go out and cut turf they refused and I reported this to the labour exchange and all I got was an acknowledgment. There was no action taken—an extraordinary thing—disinclination—people do not want to work any longer. There are too many social services."
He was asked why he did not mention that in the morning and he said he was afraid of hitting at Government policy.
The Minister said:—
"If people refuse to work it is up to use to see that those people are not kept in idleness."
The representative said:—
"I gave particulars of these cases in writing to the labour exchange on six different occasions and I got a promise from the Minister that that would not occur again."
Whereupon, another man from another county broke in and said:—
"I had the same thing in my county. Three or four years ago I got a grant. There were plenty of men unemployed but they would not go out to work. First, they could not walk two and half miles, and when a lorry was provided they could not work unless they were paid every Saturday. Last week there were 70 men unemployed in the labour exchange"—
and he mentioned a particular town—
"and I do not know what to do with them. Some say they are not fit for work."
In any event, he could not get them to work and they were registered as unemployed.
A man from one of the southernmost counties said:—
"Mine is not quite the same experience. There is a general tendency to avoid going out to work at all. If that is to be cured I do not think it can be done by dealing with individual cases but by a thorough investigation of the whole administrative side of paying doles."
And then he added:—
"There seems to be a conspiracy between the dolemen, Guards and those in the labour exchange whereby men can continue drawing the dole and do not turn up for a recognised job. I can prove it—men working for farmers and others—possibly Guards —at reduced rates. There is grave abuse about the whole system."
Another representative added: "I have had the same experience. The men say they can earn more by drawing the dole." The Minister asked: "Can I say it is a fairly general experience?" and they all said: "Yes." At any rate, there was no change made. That was in April, and there was no investigation made in the labour exchanges and no better effort to see that men would not draw unemployment assistance and then work for farmers or Guards or other people at reduced wages. That simply goes on.
Lately in the Dáil Deputy Lemass said quite frankly that he admits the unemployment register is quite inaccurate and Deputy Childers makes it a complaint that we who are now the Government, when in opposition, knew the list was inaccurate but we pretended it was accurate.
There are a number of people unemployed in this country, but I find it hard to understand why there should be so many and I find it very difficult to understand why there should be anything like emigration on a big scale. There are more incentives to work at the moment in this country than there have been for many years. There has been a general increase in wages and salaries as paid to those who live by wages and salaries. Certainly, in the calendar year 1948, the situation was such that the increase in wages and salaries that had been achieved all round—there might have been gaps here and there, but generally achieved —had equated the increase in the cost of living since the 1938-39 period. The rates of wages were relatively up by the same amount as the cost of living had gone up.
In addition to that, taxation had been reduced. Things that in England are regarded as incentives to the worker to make a better effort—beer and tobacco—have been very definitely reduced in price and, in addition to that, there is a vast amount of money pouring out through the country at this moment. Senators, no doubt, know of the returns in the Official Gazette from time to time relating to receipts into and issues out of the Exchequer. There are certain issues of a capital development type. For the year ending 31st March, 1948, these were running at a figure of about £5,500,000. I subtract £1,000,000 because it was expended under the Air Navigation and Transport Act and it was mainly for the buying of Constellations. It would not have meant much employment here, in any event. There was something like £4,500,000 expended.
Anyone who will follow this will see that that amount has almost doubled in the financial year we are now finishing—1948-49. It is not conceivable that there should be an extra expenditure of something like £4,500,000—the old £4,500,000 has been added to and brought to £9,000,000—and that that amount of money could go through the country without there being some reflection in employment. One must despair of finding a solution by the expenditure of money if you can have £4,500,000 doubled and at the same time a very big development in unemployment and a big increase in emigration.
These things are frightening from any angle. If anybody is interested in or is afraid of inflationary pressures, he ought to be particularly afraid when he hears of this amount put into circulation over and above what was put into circulation last year. Senator Baxter asked whether the returns I had in regard to currency showed that there was any reduction in purchasing power in this country. Far from it. The note circulation for the period ending 31st March, 1947, was £43,000,000: for the period ending 31st March, 1948, it was £46,000,000, and for the period ending now it is £49,000,000. There is every sign that one can see of a bigger purchasing power in the hands of the people which, in turn, should create a bigger demand and show some return in the way of occupation for the people of the country. I find it impossible to discover what the reason is. In any event there is only one course to be pursued: that is to see what can be done in the way of increasing work. It is for that reason that we decided upon the establishment of this Industrial Advisory Authority in the first place; and, secondly, upon the scheme of land development to which we have put our hands.
Senator Hawkins said that industry has been terrorised by the setting up of this industrial authority. I do not know why that should be. Senator Hawkins was a member of the Party that dictated the Industrial Efficiency and Prices Bill. Under that Act there was to be a prices commission which would consist of three people, a chairman and two other members. They were to investigate prices, conditions of work and everything else that had to do with industry. In addition to that there was to be an individual selected as chairman under Part V of the Bill. It was his function to exercise continuous supervision over the efficiency of such undertakings and industries as would fall within the ambit of this particular Act. If industry could tolerate that, I do not know why industry should be afraid of the authority established by us.
There are quite a number of things that should be investigated. Applications for tariffs are coming before the present Government pretty regularly. One of the difficulties with which we find ourselves faced is that the last Minister for Industry and Commerce, who was supposed to be the champion of protection, gave what amounted to free trade conditions to a large number of industries towards the end of 1946 and the beginning of 1947. I got a calculation made as to the particular imports in respect of which duties had been suspended. I got a comparison made between those imports in the year 1938 and 1948 as one method of finding out what the result of the suspension of tariffs was. The suspension covered goods of an import value of £6,680,000 in the year 1938. Goods in these ranges were imported into this country in the year 1948 to the value of £28,000,000. That was done by the "whole-hogger" in protection. He gave us that year of free trade. We have not yet got over the effects of it.
One of the most amazing purchases permitted during that year was the Dutch confectionery and Dutch chocolates. In the year 1947 £1,119,000 worth of Dutch chocolates were imported into this country. How any man with any eye on his balance of trade, apart altogether from the question of disturbance, could permit that to happen I cannot understand. The effect is such that it is virtually impossible for any group of Ministers to examine the situation thoroughly. That is one of the matters we would like to have investigated by the industrial authority.
Knowing how much reliance is put upon the wisdom of the late Arthur Griffith, I thought it wise to refresh my memory on what Griffith, who is regarded as the apostle of the tariff movement here, has written in regard to tariffs. In his pamphlet on Sinn Féin policy, under the heading of "What Protection Is", he wrote:—
"Protection does not mean the exclusion of foreign competition—it means rendering the native manufacturer equal to meeting foreign competition. It does not mean that we shall pay a higher profit to any Irish manufacturer, but that we shall not stand by and see him crushed by mere weight of foreign capital. If an Irish manufacturer cannot produce as cheaply as an English, or other foreigner, only because his foreign competitor has larger resources at his disposal, then it is the first duty of the Irish nation to accord protection to that Irish manufacturer."
That is what some protected industrialists in this country would recite— at least they would recite it if they knew it. But they would not go on to recite what immediately follows. They would not recite this:—
"If, on the other hand, an Irish manufacturer can produce as cheaply but charges an enhanced price such a man deserves no support—he is, in plain words, a swindler."
I want now to get some authority to discover if there are any "swindlers", in Griffith's terminology, because there are industrialists here enjoying protection. I do not believe that there is anyone belonging to the manufacturing groups who will not admit that there are some. If any individual publicly speaks so much as one word of criticism against any of them, whether they be few or many, he is always paraded afterwards as speaking of the whole group. I do not speak of the whole group. I know a number of manufacturers who need no protection at all and who can get on admirably without it. Quite a number of them wanted protection and they got it for good reasons; they make good use of that protection by giving a good article in return. There are others who create problems.
One of the matters I should like to have investigated, too, by this industrial authority is the case of the industrialist who uses his position for the purpose of blackmail. All of you have heard of a certain people who are alleged to put women and children in the front line in time of war and who hide behind them when the attack is on. But their conduct is not more contemptible than is the conduct of the industrialist who blackmails, or attempts to blackmail, by pitching his workers out and telling the public: "I gave so much employment to so many people; they are now out of employment and they are going to stay out until such time as I get a tariff." I think that particular type of conduct requires careful scrutiny when it is indulged in by a company, for instance, which subsequently decides to distribute bonus shares of £1 each, free and fully paid, to each of its ordinary shareholders and which, having distributed £1 free to all the ordinary shareholders, then publicly states at its general meeting: "We have no reason to believe that we will not be able to pay a dividend of 10 per cent. per annum on both the old and the new shares," and, subsequent to that general meeting, proceeds to lock out a number of its employees and tells the Government that "they are going to stay out until such time as you come to my assistance with a tariff". That is something that must be investigated immediately by an industrial authority to discover whether that company ought to be allowed to foist itself and its goods on the public here. I have a record here of a number of companies which have adopted that line of conduct. I think they call for investigation.
Take then the matter of issuing bonus shares, particularly when those shares are manipulated by very dubious methods indeed. Take the writing-up of property that had depreciated in a particular way. I want to have the capital structure of some of these industries that have been established here investigated by an industrial authority. Some years ago I called attention in Dáil Eireann to a company here which had issued a public prospectus. From that prospectus it emerged that that company had repaid themselves their capital twice over out of profits and they proposed to sell to the public at a rate which would give them their capital for the third time. Set out, too, in that prospectus was a little agreement by means of which four of them had established themselves in lucrative positions in the company for a period of five years. One was managing director at quite a high salary; the other three had not quite such high salaries but they had very definitely manipulated the whole business so as to render it virtually impossible to make any change for a period of five years. That is only one case. There are even worse offenders than that. There are concerns which have pretended to extend their capital in such a way that they can pay a dividend of 20 per cent. and, in their accounts, make it appear to be 4 per cent.
Further than that, I would also want to have investigated certain matters that were made the subject matter of a good deal of critical comment at the time the Commission on Vocational Organisation was sitting. One of the organisations that came to give evidence before that commission was questioned by the chairman as to whether the particular organisation he represented had any policy, and if so what it was, with regard to concerns which attempted to capitalise goodwill, licences and tariffs. That was brought further and investigated by the chairman and certain other members in the case of four or five named concerns. In connection with one of them—I do not think there is much use in attempting to keep publicity away from this because it is too well known but leaving out the name for the moment the question was put:—
"Is it not true that in that case Messrs. X got something in the region of £600,000 ready money from the Irish people for the sale of their shares, which they could have exported to England and that they over-capitalised the value of their shares to an extent which means a tax of 2/-...
—there is no longer any question of publicity—
... per sack on the price of flour?"
That was the question put, that the over-capitalisation which had been permitted represented a tax of 2/- to the Irish people on every sack of flour that they produced and sold.
Another company was referred to, a different company, and the chairman put this question:—
"And I think it is reasonable to assume that they also are extracting 2/- additional per sack from the public because of the writing up of goodwill?"
Eventually, the commission came to a third concern and they asked the witness who was giving evidence before them what was the entire capital of the concern. It was £170,000. Then that was investigated still further and it was found that a considerable amount of that was set down as value of premises. The premises had been on their books at some sum about £2,500, but they were going into the tariff world and the buildings suddenly went up to £16,000 and were entered in the company's records at that figure. They were content to do with that so far as the buildings were concerned but they capitalised the goodwill at over £100,000. Their assets were represented as £170,000; quite possibly the real value of the assets was £30,000 but they capitalised the chance of making good under a tariff and they wrote up the value of their buildings. They were not the only firm to do that.
At a later point the chairman of the commission refers to another company. The cost of the plant was given in the balance sheet at £9,000. They applied for a tariff; they had a very good chance of getting it and they got what was called a special valuation made of their plant. They got an outside valuer, a valuer not belonging to this country, to make a valuation and eventually the plant formerly valued at £9,000 makes its appearance in the balance sheet at £64,000. There is a good deal more material of that kind—I shall not delay the House further by referring to it at this late hour of the night—the investigation of which would occupy the time of the Industrial Advisory Authority for quite a long time and in regard to which it will be possible to show that properties have been written up to fictitiously inflated values. That commission proved to their own satisfaction that there had been this capitalisation of goodwill where the goodwill depended on the acquisition of licences or tariffs. People have since been paying on foot of these increased valuations. We, in any event, are going to ask the advisory authority to give us advice in these matters.
We were responsible in the first instance for a tariff policy. We have a policy in regard to protection, and the industrialist, who is giving a good return for the protection he is getting, need have no fears or hesitation in regard to any depression. He will have as good a business life as he ever had before under a system of protection which will be fair and reasonable to all concerned. So far as the purchasing power of the people is concerned, there is certainly as much available, if not more, than at any time in the history of the country to ensure a good demand for goods produced in the country.
Finally, we have the land reclamation scheme. The full details of that will be given by the Minister when the necessary authority for the expenditure is sought. No money can be spent on that until the necessary legislation or the Estimate to provide for the expenditure will be brought before the Dáil and the Seanad. In any event, the scheme is before the people now. An expert was discovered here and he was asked to write on the condition of the land in this country. That report has been published. I presume Senators have read it, but if they have not, I would advise them to read it. They will find many amazing comments in it. One of the most amazing was where he described the land of the country as generally being good but, he said, in each of the 26 counties there is land which is producing as little as it was possible for it to produce, under the conditions of the Irish climate, it had become so poor. That certainly showed that there is a great field for development. We are going to make certain provision to ensure that that land is going to be developed. At least we shall put certain resources at the disposal of the owners of the property. We are making this venture, but we are not looking for any increased rates from that land in the way of drainage rates, etc.
If we can get better productivity out of the land, that will add to the national income. We shall get satisfaction for the expenditure of the money, both financial satisfaction as well as satisfaction of another type. That scheme has been described in Dáil Éireann by a Fianna Fáil Deputy as the greatest piece of folly that ever came out of a madman's head. I want that phrase marked for future reference. We do not think it is that, we think it is a reasonably good scheme. We have pledged ourselves to the American administration which is providing us with certain funds that this country is going to be developed to a point of productivity which will mean a big increase in output. We hope that the scheme will produce satisfactory results. There is something of the element of a venture about it but it is for the farming community to seize their chances and to give us a return, not in rates or anything of that kind, but in general production out of which we shall get results that will be beneficial to the whole country.