DAIL IN COMMITTEE. - CENTRAL FUND BILL, 1925—THIRD STAGE.

Friday, 27 March 1925

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 10 No. 19

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Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  The occasion that this Bill provides for discussing general questions might have been taken advantage of on the Resolution stage, but, by an understanding, it was agreed that at this stage of the Bill we might raise questions of general interest. I gave a kind of informal notice that I intended to raise the question of Unemployment Insurance and economic questions arising out of the unemployment that is rife in the country. The White Paper that has been circulated in reference to the Vote on Account has given rise to a certain amount of misapprehension [1587] which, I think, it is well to clear up. Comparisons have been made in the Press regarding the reduction in the Estimates, and while it is true that on the White Paper there is a comparison drawn between the total Estimate for the year 1924-25 and the total Estimate for the year 1925-26, showing a considerable reduction, it has not been noted, though I think it ought to be noted, that the total Estimate, as originally presented a year ago, was considerably less than the total Estimate indicated in the White Paper as having been passed throughout the year. The sum of £1,200,000, or round about it, is the difference, and that is accounted for mainly by Supplementary Estimates. Now we know in the Estimates that have been presented in the White Paper, and in the provisionally detailed lists of Estimates —in the advanced proof of them which is subject to correction—that there is a reduction in the estimate for building houses, in the estimate for unemployment, and in the estimate for relief, and I wonder whether there is any good reason to anticipate—it is this point that I want to dwell upon—that no Supplementary Estimates will be needed in respect of these three classes of services—Unemployment Insurance, relief schemes and housing. Speaking of housing, last year's Estimate showed a total of £587,000, partly accounted for by the balance out of the grant of £1,000,000 to municipal authorities and £206,000 under last year's Act.

Now we know that a great proportion of that sum of £587,000 has not been spent, and that, therefore, it will come back into the Exchequer at the end of this month. The total amount in the present year's Estimates for housing purposes is £330,000. That may be utilised within the year. I think it will, because of the rather generous terms and of the very effective inducement that, I think, there will be to builders to build. In respect of relief schemes, mainly road-making schemes, last year a Supplementary Estimate of £250,000 was voted. This year the total Estimate for relief schemes is £110,000. I think we are entitled to have some information at [1588] this stage as to whether it is believed that £110,000 will constitute the total requirements in respect of relief schemes as from the 1st April. If the Minister can give us any satisfactory evidence which will reassure the Dáil and the country that the state of employment and the prospects for employment are so good that none of these Estimates is likely to be increased by a Supplementary Estimate, then we shall all have reason for gratitude.

In respect to Unemployment Insurance, the position as I understand it is that last year there was a total of £329,000 put down in the original Estimate and there was a Supplementary Estimate of £176,000, making a total of £505,000, so that in the White Paper this year's Estimate of £366,000 shows a reduction on the total Estimate of the year of £139,000. I take it that that is made up in the main of the non-repetition of the funds set apart for soldiers who had not been insured—a total of £135,000. I take it that in the working out of the Unemployment Insurance scheme these ex-soldiers, who were not hitherto insured, will now be left uninsured and not entitled to any benefit unless they have had an opportunity of fulfilling all the requirements by paying into an Insurance Fund and coming into benefit.

I was disturbed, and I am not yet satisfied by the explanation given by the Minister as to his views in regard to the Unemployment Insurance Scheme. He said that the fund was in debt to the extent of over £1,000,000, and following on earlier predictions, he appeared to hold the view that it could no longer be considered insurance, and could hardly be considered an advance which might ultimately be repaid. It suggested itself to me that his contemplation was that there was not to be any extension of the Unemployment Insurance provision because of that fact. But, then, he suggested that the state of employment was such as to have brought into benefit a much larger number of insured persons than was the case when the last Act was passed, and that, therefore, there was no necessity, or he hoped there would be no necessity for it, when his figures were made known.

[1589] Well, I do not know on what he is basing his expectations. It may be that the relief schemes and their operation have affected the financial situation of the insured persons very greatly, but I want to restate what I stated before, that the residue of persons who are going to be out of benefit, even though it is reduced very considerably, is just going to suffer as much from the horrors of continuous unemployment, and if the insurance scheme is not bettered, not altered, and not increased in respect to these persons, their state of want will be just as great even though they are smaller in number than was the case six months ago. A man is just as hungry standing alone as he would be if he were in the company of twenty-five others in the same position. I want to impress upon the Minister that this question of the reinsuring—I am not now speaking in a technical sense—the bringing into benefit and making available for benefit moneys to meet the cases of men who have been continuously unemployed and out of strict benefit under the present Act, is important and urgent, and it ought to be faced at once, if provision is to be made for that class of person.

Undoubtedly we are all anxious that people should not have to rely on Unemployment Insurance, whether it is strictly insurance, or whether it is uncovenanted benefit. We do not want that to continue for any person, or any group of persons, any longer than is absolutely necessary, but it is the lesser of two evils. It is much better than that thousands of men should be left without either insurance or employment, and while we are all anxious that the provision of employment should be the first aim, then failing the provision of employment, we must provide something in the nature of insurance. The Minister admitted, in the discussion six months ago and also within the last few days, that it is very difficult to understand the real position regarding unemployed persons and their relation to insurance, the amount of benefit that they are entitled to, the numbers of persons who have a claim upon the funds, and the number of weeks which that claim will be valid. We had some [1590] figures a week or two ago from the Minister with respect to the number of persons unemployed on the 23rd February this year. The number of persons registered for unemployment was 53,000; that is to say, 43,700 men, 7,900 women, 518 boys, and 882 girls. That gives a total of 53,000 persons in the Saorstát registered as unemployed, but the figures are not available giving the number of unregistered wage-earners who are unemployed, and there is not sufficient material to get an estimate of their number.

I am not going to lay any stress upon the numbers that may be unemployed, but not registered as such. Let us take the figure of 53,000 in relation to the total number of insured persons which I put at 265,000 or thereabouts. We have a total of 20 per cent., one in every five persons registered as insured who were, in fact, on that date out of employment. That is a very terrible state of things, no doubt, and we have not had any information to give us any reassurance that would be needed to justify our assuming that those provisions contained in the White Paper are going to be sufficient. If the Minister could give us an assurance in that respect, I think it would be well that he should give it. The fourth benefit year expired on the 25th of this month. From now onward insured persons will be entitled to the maximum benefit of fifteen weeks out of the twenty-nine weeks up to the 16th October. That maximum can only be received provided that there is a sufficient credit on the insured person's card to entitle him to that, and he will have to have had a considerable reserve accumulated during the war period to entitle him to that maximum benefit. It was, I think, suggested some time ago that possibly one-half or two-thirds of the insured persons might be entitled to that amount of benefit if they were continuously employed, but that left one-third, or roughly about 20,000, who could only claim benefit for varying periods of from one to ten weeks, and there has been a continuous state of unemployment and very many thousands of people, unfortunately, have been unemployed continuously, and [1591] unless we can see definite signs of renewed activity they will continue to be unemployed for some time. Many men may run out of benefit in two or three weeks, but in three or four or five weeks' time, we will find complaints that, for some reason or other, they have run out of benefit, that they are not now getting any benefit, and consequently that they are left stranded, and are unable to maintain themselves and their families out of any remuneration they may receive from any source, because they have no benefit accumulated. That simply means steady deterioration in physical ability and in moral strength; it means the steady depletion of such home reserves as many men may have had; it means the gradual increase in the number of visits to the pawn shop, and in every way leads to demoralisation and to the sapping of the physical and moral strength of that element of the community.

I believe we ought to make sure, and we ought to face it at this stage, that there will have to be further provision made to keep men in benefit. On this question of unemployment, and the number of unemployed, I want to refer particularly, because of the matters that we were discussing in the course of the Housing Bill debate, to the number of persons unemployed in the building trade. I have some figures which show that in December last, notwithstanding the Housing Act of last year, there were in the Free State, amongst the various trades, 2,221 skilled men unemployed out of a total of 8,900, or 25 per cent. —plumbers, carpenters, painters, plasterers, bricklayers.

Mr. GOOD: Information on John Good  Zoom on John Good  Could the Deputy give details of these trades?

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  Yes, out of 3,887 carpenters and joiners, 722, or 19 per cent., were unemployed on the 15th December. Out of 617 bricklayers 94, or 15 per cent., were unemployed. Out of 1,134 masons 260, or 22 per cent., were unemployed. Out of 146 slaters there were 40, or 27 per cent., unemployed. Out of 739 plasterers 51, or 7 per cent., were unemployed. Out of 1,871 painters as many as 932, or about [1592] 50 per cent., were unemployed. Out of a total of 525 plumbers as many as 122, or 23 per cent., were unemployed. Now, these are skilled men, and while I cannot give any figures as to the period or number of weeks in the year during which anything like this percentage was unemployed, it is quite evident that when one is talking about rates of wages and hours of work you will not arrive at any satisfactory conclusion as to earning unless you know that there is continuous employment at these rates.

Mr. GOOD: Information on John Good  Zoom on John Good  These figures are for the whole of the Saorstát.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  Yes, they are for the whole of the Saorstát. There will be a proportionate number of unskilled men unemployed, about double the number of skilled men. Deputy Good could perhaps confirm the figure. So that we may assume that in December, last year, there were between six and seven thousand men unemployed in the building trade out of about 30,000 men altogether.

The President made a statement which, no doubt, he had thought about beforehand. He said we were not going to build houses economically, or solve the housing problem on the basis of a 44-hour week. I wonder would the President say that in regard to a 47 or a 48-hour week. I wonder if that would be any solution, or whether he suggests that an increase in the number of hours to 48, or 47½, or 47, is going to make it economic to build houses, because I find, from a return which I have, that it is only in Dublin that the 44 hours prevail, and that in places throughout the country, where the 47 and 48 hours prevail, there has been no greater number, but rather a lesser number, of houses built than in Dublin, and that where the rates of wages for skilled men and unskilled men are several pence per hour lower than in Dublin, neither the reduced rates per hour, nor the greater number of hours per week worked, have gone any distance towards solving the housing question in these towns. I do not know; I have not had any opportunity to find out what the difference in price is of houses built in Cork, Limerick, [1593] Waterford, or Wexford, compared with Dublin.

The PRESIDENT: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  In some rural areas it would be 40 per cent. less than Dublin.

Mr. JOHNSON: Information on Thomas Johnson  Zoom on Thomas Johnson  I am speaking of town areas, not rural areas. In rural areas the houses are partly built by the labour of the builder-owners. How ever, I may put forward this plea as an instance for the necessity of approaching the question of the solution of the problem, not merely the problem of building houses, but the problem of employing the labour of the country, that we should approach it in a very much more earnest and determined manner or, shall I say, in a more scientific manner than seems yet to have been attempted.

The Minister for Industry and Commerce has shown what I believe to be a most commendable spirit, and has been most earnest and effective in his view of what is required in respect of the production and the development of power in the country. We heard a little to-day about the Shannon scheme and we were promised more. I suggest that if the same kind of intensive study and application to the solution of the problem of the waste of human power were devoted by the Ministry as has been devoted to the problem of the utilisation of the power wasted in the Shannon, we might very speedily have some practical solution of the general problem of the economic waste of human energy in this country. It is not only the water in the Shannon that is going to waste, but we have, as everybody who thinks for a little while will realise, this other waste of human energy, physical strength, and moral force, through the continuous unemployment of not less than 50,000 people and the half-employment, and, to some extent, perhaps, the wrongly-directed employment, of very many thousands of others both in agriculture, industry, and distribution. I suggest to the Minister, for his very earnest consideration, that there ought to be devoted to the problem of utilisation of the human power of the country, at least the same amount of intensive study and care as has been devoted to [1594] the study of the utilisation of the Shannon, and that in respect to this other human factor, we have to look to the future, not merely to the present. We are considering the Shannon in the light of its possibilities of the future. We are not thinking of it only for this year, the next six months or the next eighteen months, but for ten, fifteen, or a hundred years ahead. So far as we have gone, we have had small contributions for the relief of unemployment, we have had piecemeal legislation respecting housing, and nothing yet has been forthcoming to show that there is any comprehensive scheme in the mind of the Ministry for dealing with these problems. There is no constructive proposal which would carry us on for a few years. We are simply only looking ahead for six or twelve months at a time, regardless of the fact that this problem, particularly of unemployment, is not going to be solved within one year or, perhaps, within two years.

The Minister told us some time ago that it is obvious that in the development of private industry rests the main solution of the unemployment problem; any other remedy can only be a palliative, and that the Government's responsibility, therefore, is to do everything possible to stimulate private industry and to provide for those who at any particular time cannot find employment. I am not quarrelling with that. It is quite obvious that the great mass of employment in the country, the use of human energy, will have to be by virtue of private activity co-operating as much as possible. But under what kind of direction is another matter. Certainly we should look forward, and I am quite in agreement that the great mass of wage-earning employment of the country will have to be found in the direction of private activities. I want to see the policy outlined by the Government as to how they are going to stimulate, how they are going to develop, or assist in the development of, this mass of private industrial activity, and what is their general policy and outlook. We have had for several years back now, round about fifty, sixty, seventy, or eighty thousand people unemployed at various times. The problem is one which is very widespread [1595] in England, and in some other countries. The reliance upon private enterprise wholly, without direction and authoritative intervention as to the line of stimulation, the direction of that activity, the direction in which such activities shall be stimulated, is not going to solve the unemployment problem.

Here and there you may assist one industry or another and generally promote a certain amount of activity, but I can see very little prospect on present lines, no matter how you may stimulate private activity, of any solution, any very great inroad into the number of unemployed for some time to come. We have the housing scheme before us and if we absorb all the present unemployed of those whom I have enumerated as being unemployed in December, we will take out of that 53,000, say, 6,300, a very important contribution. Take the Shannon scheme. That is expected to take, say, three years, during which there will be employed something about 3,000 men on the general scheme of construction. There may be more, but you have, roughly, about 10,000 persons out of the 50,000 taken into employment and absorbed by these schemes. We have road-making schemes, for which a grant has been made, but that, on this Estimate, has been reduced to £100,000 or perhaps a little more, to £115,000. Concurrently with that we are hearing every day that the county councils are reducing the estimates for roadmaking and that they are jibbing here and there at the spending of more money on roads. We are told by some of the absent Deputies from the Farmers' benches, and, I think, from some of the absent Deputies who ought to be on these and other benches, that the farmers, when they get possession and control of the county councils, are going to cut down very considerably the amount spent on roads and roadmaking, and until we hear of some very extensive scheme of reconstruction on the main roads I can see very little prospect of a considerable number being added to the 10,000 people of whom I have spoken as being absorbed from the 53,000 persons into [1596] new employment. If one could ensure that every penny spent by these persons who will be engaged in house-building, the Shannon scheme and road-making were spent on home production, that would, no doubt, stimulate an amount of employment of a secondary character.

I suggest to the Minister that it is a fair deduction to make, that your present schemes that have been touched upon are not going to absorb any very great proportion of the present unemployed. It will be answered, and I think fairly, that if you once create confidence in the future, private enterprise will begin to increase, will rebuild and generally extend its activities. I have no doubt that that will be so, but, unfortunately, we are faced with the fact that there are very many unemployed in other countries which are just as well-placed in regard to many of these industrial undertakings as we should be, even when the new schemes are completed. I want to suggest, for the consideration of the Minister, that while house-building, road-making and many of these new schemes of construction are valuable and essential ultimately, in the present stage they are, in so far as they are financed and paid for out of the annual national production, not really increasing the total amount of available wealth for distribution.

The available national production is being used in that direction rather than in another direction, and we are thus forced to the conclusion that until we devote our activities and thoughts to the stimulation of actual new production of commodities generally usable and exchangeable we are not immediately adding to the wealth of the country. We are undoubtedly catering for the health and strength of the people, we are catering for the amenities, we are laying foundations for future industrial and productive activity, but I want to urge that our real need for the moment is to direct attention to actual new production of exchangeable commodities of general, common use. I would specially emphasise in that, food production, clothing, boots and the like. I think until we devote our minds to the stimulation [1597] of increased production of that class of commodities, we are not directing our minds in the right direction. I think even more important than clothing and boots, and more important than any other proposition, is that the national endeavour should be to stimulate greater production, greater gross production of actual utilities, and greater production of net benefit directly from the land.

I am sorry that the Minister for Agriculture has gone, because all I am saying is leading up to the point that the immediate need is to stimulate greater production from the land by way of tillage crops. I suggest that, if it is agreed that that principle is fundamental, we would thereby have a greater national fund out of which the industries in the country can be provided, and a greater value for export and therefore international exchange. Until then we are really not developing the country in the direction in which it ought to be developed. Apart from one or two items, such as stout and biscuits, which are almost negligible, we are dependent, and I think shall be dependent so far as the export trade goes, upon the direct produce from agriculture. I think it is foolish to rely at all upon the prospect of developing industries to any great extent of a kind which will only find a market abroad. Therefore I think, so far as industrial development is to be stimulated, it should be in the direction of the production of commodities of common use among the people of this country, and that for our exportable wealth for international exchange we will have to rely on direct production from the land.

If that is conceded, I want to suggest that we can with profit devote our thoughts as to how best to stimulate that production. The proposition of the Minister on the development of the beet-root industry for sugar-making is, I think, a good one, and I hope it will be proceeded with. I had hoped in fact before I began that we might be able to draw forth from one or other of the Ministers some statement on the present position in regard to that project, but I want to say that neither the beet project nor the development of the egg and butter trade through the operation [1598] of the recently passed legislation, nor the development of the Shannon scheme, nor the improvement of the roads, good as these projects are, and in every case valuable as they will be in a few years, are going to be comparatively slow in their effect, and that the present bulk of unemployed men are not going to benefit materially from the development of those schemes. I think there can be devised ways and means of stimulating agricultural production by tillage, and by other methods which will run alongside and supplement and help these other schemes which have been the object of legislation for the last couple of years, and the proposals for future legislation.

I think I wasted a good deal of time and thought during the sittings of the Commission on Agriculture, and I devoted a good many hours after attendance at the Dáil to going through statistics and making an examination of the evidence that was delivered at that Commission. I say I think I wasted a great deal of that time because the product of that effort has not arrested the attention, so far as I have been able to gather, of anyone in the country. I have not met five people who have confessed that they have read either the majority or minority report of the Agricultural Commission, and yet I venture to say that within the pages of these two reports there is a good deal of matter of value. I think that perhaps some of the things stated in the minority report are of special value. The minority drew attention to the fact that the farmers of the country were perhaps the most altruistic of all sections. They may say when they read, if they do, what I am now saying that I was perhaps somewhat altruistic in giving them a word of praise in their absence, but I pointed out that they were in fact as a body in the community renouncing by their inaction what was claimed by most people who think in terms of capitalistic finance a valid claim in equity of £22,000,000 a year, round or about. If the farmers made no claim to interest in the capital they have sunk in their farms during the last 40, 50 or 60 years, and are prepared to continue their agricultural operations [1599] on the yearly profit they make out of their personal labours to the extent they are satisfied with at present, then they are entitled to the term “altruistie.” Speaking for the community, and speaking more particularly for the urban interests in the community, I think we have no right to continue to look to the agricultural interests, farmers and labourers, to carry on as they have hitherto done.

I agree, as I said before, with the general diagnosis of the Minister for Agriculture, repeated by the Minister for Justice, that the proportion of the total wealth that is taken by the urban interests, and particularly the distributive interests, from the producers was too great, that we are lop-sided economically, and that there has to be a readjustment. I am arguing now for a direct effort on the part of the Ministry to bring about that readjustment, to take direct means to stimulate the activity of the agriculturists in the production of greater wealth in the form of agricultural produce directly from the land. I think that the Minister for Finance, if he has the time and his inclinations run that way, might well consider whether a tariff on imported grain, oats and barley particularly, might not well stimulate agriculture to such an extent without any great cost to the consuming public, but that its effect would be to increase very greatly the area under cultivation, and thereby increase very greatly the actual gross production from the land. If tariffs were not considered desirable there might be a direct subsidy to farmers who till over a given proportion of their holdings. There might be a guaranteed price for a certain class of agricultural produce. I suggest that even better than either of these would be a guaranteed price for certain produce, plus a National Grain Board controlling grain imports. That was the suggestion made in the minority report of the Commission on Agriculture. I believe it would be found to be valuable from the point of view of food security and stabilising the prices of agricultural produce, particularly pork, and also for increasing very materially the area under cultivation.

[1600] Whatever means may be taken, whether the line I am suggesting is considered by the Ministry as being at all worthy of carrying through I do not know, but I am putting these suggestions forward with a view, if possible, to drawing from the Government some ideas as to the line on which they are thinking with regard to the permanent as well as the temporary solution of this problem of unemployment, or speaking more accurately, the failure to utilise the human as well as the natural resources of the country. The answer, I have no doubt, that we shall receive, will largely be based upon the financial difficulties. We shall be told that there is no money, or that money is hard to get. I could not help thinking when we were discussing yesterday the Bill dealing with land bonds that whatever the merits of that Bill, whatever may be said about the terms of purchase of the land, that we did get a clue to one method whereby much of the financial difficulty might be overcome. It is proposed to issue land bonds reaching £30,000,000 within three years. They are to be held as security, and will, no doubt, within a very short time after the three years have expired be used in fact to inflate the currency.

We shall have an inflation of currency of £30,000,000—I suppose one might say it is really an inflation of British currency—but an inflation of currency to the extent of £30,000,000, less such an amount as had already been used for that purpose. No less an authority than Mr. Reginald McKenna, late Chancellor of the Exchequer in Great Britain, and chairman of one of the largest banks, a recognised authority, has made it quite clear, as many other authorities have done, that currency is inflated by the issue of credits by banks on securities. If we are going to issue bonds to the value of £30,000,000, on which banks will lend money for general commercial purposes, and will thereby inflate the currency, I suggest as very well worthy of the consideration of the Minister, that he may possibly adopt a similar means of raising money, even at the cost of inflation, by the issue of bonds, or their equivalent of smaller amounts in bonds [1601] which might be used in the main internally, and that they might stimulate agricultural production without very much fear of consequences, certainly not permanent consequences of an evil kind, by direct inflation by the issue of bonds which will be redeemable not within eighty years, as in the case of the land bonds, but which may be redeemable in eighty weeks.

I suggest to the Minister, for his consideration, that if you stimulate production which will fructify within a year or eighteen months, the issue of credits for that purpose, which can be drawn in within that time when the effort has been fruitful, is not going to do any permanent harm. It will, instead, do a great deal of immediate good, and, as I think, also, permanent good. However, that is a suggestion which I believe is worthy of consideration. If it is not considered fiscally sound, if the general financial policy and the grip that the present system of financing has upon the community prevail, then it is for the Ministry to produce definite schemes which will help to stimulate the production that we all seek. There have been suggestions made time and again, attributing our troubles to what one might call the domestic difficulties that arise within particular industries. Such domestic difficulties have led to a cessation of production and an impediment to the free flow of commerce. I have no doubt this impediment caused very considerable loss. I do not think, however, that loss was really irretrievable. I would like, if it were possible, to avoid such losses and prevent such obstacles.

I do not know what the chances are of any means being devised of avoiding such losses and preventing the development of such obstacles. We had, during the last two or three days, evidence that the financial interests of the build-trade, for instance, needed a stimulus, such as is being proposed in the Housing Bill, to encourage them to develop in the direction of building houses. It had to be made possible, by the removal of all restrictions on prices, for the speculative builder, the person who is willing to risk money in housing, to make a sufficient profit in [1602] the operation as would enable him to carry on and, with those profits, to invest in sound securities giving him 5 per cent. That stimulus is required. The Land Bond Bill is another illustration of how financial domination controls human activities.

In all these discussions we are told that capital is fluid, and will fly away from the country which does not give it security and the normal rate of profit or interest. We are told that we cannot interfere with that flow, and thereby we are forced to the conclusion that that domination prevails and that finance controls humanity. We are forced to the conclusion that in the conflict between Emperor and Galilean, Emperor wins every time. I do not know whether that is so. I do not think we ought to succumb quite so easily as seems to be generally accepted. I think we ought to make an effort to free ourselves from that particular kind of domination.

Whatever may be the merits of that question, I put it to the Minister, and to those sitting behind him, that we will require to develop the productive activities of the country rapidly. That ought to be done immediately, and until it is done it is incumbent upon the Ministry to fulfil the promise of the Minister for Industry and Commerce when he said the Government's responsibility is to do everything possible to stimulate and facilitate private industry and to provide for those who, at any particular time, cannot find employment. I ask the Minister to take that matter into consideration, and to prepare for it in his coming Budget, and, somehow and some way, to find a means to ensure that men shall not go hungry and that their children shall not be naked or deprived of the means for natural, physical and mental development.

Mr. A. BYRNE: Information on Alfred Byrne  Zoom on Alfred Byrne  I wish to draw the Minister's attention to a class that do not benefit whatever by any of his relief schemes. I refer to iron workers. mechanics, fitters, ship repairers and their general helpers. In any of the relief schemes proposed by the Government this class apparently gets no chance of employment. There is another class, the printers, and I think [1603] I am voicing the opinion of all parts of the House when I say that it is with regret we noticed the closing down of the “Freeman's Journal,” which threw out of employment practically 300 or 400 men. They have no prospect so far of further employment.

If there is anything to be done under the Insurance schemes, and in the way of immediate relief, the classes I have referred to should not be forgotten. I am inclined to think that sufficient attention is not being paid by the authorities to the threatened closing down of small Irish industries. They are being shut down because of the need of very small sums. I am aware that quite recently contracts were lost to local Irish factories for the sake of 10 or 12 per cent. of a difference. The Minister would be doing a good day's work for the State if he would see that where local industries are making an effort to continue, they should get at least a preference of 10 to 12½ per cent.

AN LEAS-CHEANN COMHAIRLE: Information on Pádraic Ó Maille  Zoom on Pádraic Ó Maille  took the Chair.

Mr. A. BYRNE: Information on Alfred Byrne  Zoom on Alfred Byrne  By giving that preference of 10 to 12½ per cent. to local industries, it would mean saving the Department that deals with Unemployment Insurance quite a sum of money. It is a deplorable thing to see a small factory, employing 30 or 40 men, closing down. Those men have to be then paid £1 or £1 5s. a week unemployment benefit for very many weeks, and if the amount paid to them in that manner, or quarter of it, was devoted towards assisting the industry, the men would be given a chance of earning decent money and they would not be obliged to draw unemployment benefit. I notice that in England very serious efforts are being made to safeguard industries.

Quite recently there was a case in England where a contract for electrical machinery was tendered for by a British house. The British house was £12,000 more than a Swiss concern. Labour, and the various political parties in England thought it good policy, for the sake of benefiting their industries, to see that the £12,000 did not interfere with the British house [1604] getting the contract. The contract was approved of in favour of the British house, although at the time it was 12 to 15 per cent. higher than the Swiss concern. I have reason to know that a small industry in this country was threatened within the past three weeks. A 10 per cent. preference for local work would be sufficient to save the industry and to keep 30 or 40 men going. There is another industry that is meeting with very keen competition at the moment, and I believe a 10 per cent. preferential rate would save that industry. A similar preferential rate would enable other premises to be reopened. I refer to the woollen industry. As regards that industry, the dumping of woollens in this country, and the consequent closing down of the industry in Ireland, are matters that are really deplorable.

I would ask the Minister when he is considering proposals for insurance benefits to the unemployed, not to forget the classes I have just named. Apparently they are a class that get no benefits from any of his relief schemes. I join with Deputy Johnson in bringing forward the cases that he has referred to, and I would lay emphasis particularly on the unemployment in cities. In Dublin to-day, in spite of all the schemes and the unemployment benefits, there is a condition approaching starvation. I do not want to enlarge on that matter, but if I were asked to produce proof, unfortunately I could only too well be able to do so. I hope the Minister will consider carefully the points raised by Deputy Johnson, and that he will not forget the few small points that I have referred to.

Mr. BLYTHE: Information on Ernest Blythe  Zoom on Ernest Blythe  In case that this debate would run on for some time, I think it might be necessary to move that the Dáil should sit after 4 o'clock.

Progress ordered to be reported.


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