Wednesday, 22 April 1925
Dáil Éireann Debate
(1) That a Customs duty of an amount equal to thirty-three and one-third per cent. of the value of the article shall be charged, levied, and paid on all bedsteads of whatever material made and on all component parts of bedsteads and on all furniture (other than bedsteads) made wholly or partly of wood and whether completely or partially manufactured and on all component parts of furniture (other than bedsteads) which parts are themselves made wholly or partly of wood imported into Saorstát Eireann on or after the 24th day of April, 1925.
the Revenue Commissioners may, subject to compliance with such conditions as they may think fit to impose, permit such furniture to be imported without payment of the duty mentioned in this resolution.
(3) That whenever the Revenue Commissioners are satisfied that any partially manufactured article of furniture is imported for further manufacture and subsequent exportation, they may, subject to compliance with such conditions as they may think fit to impose, permit such article to be imported without payment of the duty mentioned in this resolution.
This resolution imposes an amount equal to thirty-three and one-third per cent. on furniture, including bedsteads, but except in the case of bedsteads the duty is confined to wood furniture. We believe that the duty of thirty-three and one-third per cent. will be sufficient actually to produce big results in the matter of getting the organisation, and the plant, set up to produce increased quantities of furniture here. Deputy Good suggested that in certain cases we did not put on a high enough tax to get results, and that instead of having a protective tariff we simply have a revenue duty. We believe a very small duty in the case of furniture would be only a revenue duty. We believe, on the other hand, this duty will produce a greatly increased output of furniture in this country.
It has been complained frequently that the reason of the unsatisfactory state of the furniture manufacturing industry was that there was no output amongst the workers. I do not want to go into that, to any extent, now, but I just want to say this: That we are providing the possibility of steady and increased employment for the workers in this particular industry and, if we are not able to build up then, perhaps, the whole matter might be one to be reconsidered after a fair term. On the other hand, I do believe—I am assuming for the sake of argument that there is truth in the suggestion—that generally you find if there is not good output  amongst the workers the fault does not lie with them entirely. If there is good organisation in business, and good management, and good prospects of continuous, and steady employment, you will find that a good output can be got in one country just as well as in another.
I think that this tax will probably bring new people into the trade and will, certainly, cause the setting up of new establishments for the manufacture of furniture. It is expected to bring within a year or so, the employment of about 1,000 hands additional to the number employed at the present time. There are certain very good factories, well equipped factories, for manufacturing furniture at the present time. They will be able at once as a result of this tariff to be busily occupied. Other establishments will be set up to complete the equipment necessary to meet the demand.
As I said in my previous statement in regard to the cheaper class of furniture, a good deal has always been manufactured here. I do not know at the moment what the very recent position has been, but the normal position has been that a great deal of very cheap furniture has been manufactured here. I believe the effect of the imposition of this tariff on the cheaper class of furniture, the furniture which the worker will use and which many of the farmers of the country will use, will be slight indeed. As it is an ad valorem duty, it will come stiff on the furniture that is the furniture of the rich and the furniture of ornamentation, fashion and luxury. I believe it is a tariff which deals with a type of industry different from all the others, and even different from the point of view of the class of labour that it employs.
We believe that in completing and rounding-off the experiment of protection, a tariff of this sort is very necessary, and I commend it to the Dáil in the belief that it will give an industry which was one time carried on here in a successful way, and that produced stuff of high quality, the opportunity of being revived in whatever form modern conditions may require. It is an industry that does not require iron or coal fields; it is an industry that requires  a certain moderate amount of power. It is one of the types of industry that we can afford to try to set on its feet here in the belief that it will come to maturity and in time be able to stand its own ground.
Mr. DAVIN: I am glad that the Minister, after twelve months' consideration, has thought fit to bring in a tariff of this kind. I have been interested in this industry, because I have been more or less concerned with one particular firm that has died out as a result of the dumping of furniture from the other side—furniture that was manufactured under the most horrible conditions from a labour point of view. Last year, when the Budget resolutions were brought forward, I advocated a tariff for the sake of saving an industry that appeared to me, at that stage, to be almost wiped out. Twelve months ago the demand for the tariff, so far as I was concerned, and so far as I was connected with it, came from one of the oldest furniture firms in the country. Strange as it may appear, it was advocated both by the employees connected with the firm and the employers, who were endeavouring to carry on under the most adverse conditions.
The Minister has made reference to the fact—I do not know whether he himself was convinced from some of the arguments put up to him—that the failure of the firms connected with the manufacture of furniture in Ireland was due to the small output on the part of the workers. So far as I could gather from the employers, the failure was due to the fact that we had not in this country workers of the type required to turn out furniture in the same way as they do in those highly industrialised centres such as High Wycombe, and other places on the other side of the Channel. If the additional employment anticipated by the Minister will be available as a result of this tariff, then I anticipate in the very near future—in the course of a few years at any rate—that the apprentices of to-day will be the then skilled workers. If that be so, then we will not be looking to England or to other countries to provide our industries  with that technical skill which will be made available because of the increased employment that is anticipated from this duty.
Ten days or two weeks ago I attended a conference that was held in Edenderry—part of my own constituency—where a works' council was set up composed of an equal number on the employers' side and an equal number on the employees' side in the factory. It was decided there that suggestions for the better working and management of the firm should be brought forward month by month in future. The workers as well as the people responsible for the management will have an equal share and an equal responsibility in developing the furniture industry on such lines as will ensure that in future, whatever articles of this nature are required by our people, they will be provided. So far as the industry is concerned, everything is on the side of success. We have in this country, as far as I can learn, timber suitable for making the type of furniture required. I believe that the tariffs now proposed ought to put this industry firmly on its legs, and any failure that may come in future will, no doubt, be placed at the doors of those engaged in the industry. I think it is due to the Minister to say that the encouragement given to the furniture industry, both as a result of these tariffs and as a result of the efforts on the part of the Government, ought to make it possible for the people engaged in the industry to turn out all the furniture required by our population and so save the two millions which hitherto have been going out of the country by reason of the unfair conditions under which the people engaged in the industry have had to carry on.
Mr. WILSON: I wonder if Deputy Davin was correct in saying that two millions could be prevented from going out of this country? I wonder where he got that figure? The importation of bedsteads last year amounted to £60,000, roughly. I have yet to learn that there is a factory here that can make a bedstead.
Mr. WILSON: That is the sort of exaggerated statement that takes the imagination of Deputies and gets them to vote wrongly. I do not mean that in any wrong sense. I want to point out that, as regards bedsteads, we have no aptitude and no special qualifications for the working of angle iron and the other things necessary for making bedsteads. It will mean an increase in the cost of production, and a cost to the consumer of one-third more than at present. It is all very well to speak about factories and to say that later, when we have the Shannon scheme, we will have all the power required. I would like to tell the Minister that he has begun at the wrong end; he should have obtained the power first and then he could commence to put up the factories. Possibly we will not have the power from the Shannon sooner than ten years, and then——
Mr. WILSON: I was amazed at the Deputy from Tirconaill — Deputy McCullough—when, declaring that he was in favour of taking the tax off the necessities of life, he advocated the reduction of the tax on pianes. Of course we do not want the tax off clothing; that is not a necessity of life at all. That is the Deputy's argument. I wonder how he is going to square himself on this subject? The Deputy is most inconsistent. He advocated the reduction of the tariff on pianos which, he said, were necessities of life, and he insists on getting a high tariff on boots, shoes and clothing. When he is dealing with this subject, I would like him to consider what he has advocated.
Mr. McCULLOUGH: The farmer Deputies have a fatal habit of misunderstanding me, or I have a fatal habit of not making myself clear. I advocated the reduction of an excessive  duty to the normal figure and I advocated the imposition of a normal duty and a helpful duty on an essential article.
Mr. WILSON: We will leave it that way. The point I want to make is, that all those tariffs are going to raise the cost of living, and while we at this side would be very glad to see factories of our own and very glad to put our children to learn these technical trades, we are afraid these tariffs, which are really a general tariff, will be very oppressive. If we go over all the items on which you are putting a tax, you would say a general tariff is established. We are afraid, coming at a time when it is very hard to live, that it will blot us out of existence entirely and you will not have factories or people to work them or anything else.
Mr. SEARS: I wish to correct what Deputy Wilson said with regard to the bedsteads. He said we know nothing about angle-iron in this country. The next thing I expect to hear from the farmers' benches, with regard to beds, is that we never sleep on them at all.
Mr. SEARS: In Pierce's factory in Wexford they have laid down a costly plant for making iron bedsteads. Deputy Wilson may not have heard that, but their bedsteads will be as good as their ploughs were before, and I hope they will get better support than in the case of the ploughs. The Wexford firm turned out a large number of bedsteads last year, and the encouragement given in this proposal now will, I am sure, enable them to capture a large proportion of the Irish trade in bedsteads. I do not believe that the opposition from the farmers to these proposals is altogether seriously meant, because I know myself that the farmer Deputies represent more than the eldest son. The farmers' families are not built up on French lines. There are other sons besides the eldest son, and to-day it is a very sad thing to see all these fine young fellows leaving the country to make bedsteads,  shirts, and suits of clothes elsewhere. We have to send over our young men to these factories to make them for us, and we then buy the articles from the other side.
What I expected the farmers to say with regard to these proposals is this: that at present, as we have no factories in Ireland, the farmers of Ireland are obliged to send over their produce, their beef and their mutton, to England to be eaten by the men who make these things in the English factories. A lot of them are young Irishmen. I have met them from Cardiff up to Glasgow, thousands of young Irishmen, making articles that we pay dearly for. Instead of having these made at a distance of three or four hundred miles, we should have them made here at home and the money circulating at home instead of enriching British artisans.
Deputy Heffernan said that this small nation could not be self-supporting. Well, if we do not support ourselves, no other nation will support us. There is every reason why we should protect ourselves. If Deputy Gorey goes to London for a suit of clothes, and Deputy Wilson goes to Halifax for a bedstead, well, there will be neither clothes nor beds made in Ireland after a while.
Mr. SEARS: I was very glad to hear the Minister for Finance saying one thing at all events. He said that if there are no good factories in Ireland, it is not the fault of the young Irish artisans. I am acquainted with a very intricate trade myself, the printing trade, and I know that a printing firm in Wexford town won first prize in London where an international exhibition was held. This little firm in Wexford won that prize year after year, so that it is not the fault of the Irish artisan, whether the farmer's or the labourer's son. It is the fault of the management, and you cannot expect the management to do wonders unless they get protection. As Deputy Good pointed out, we are living side by side with a wealthy nation like England,  highly industrialised, far more advanced in mass production. If we are not going to contemplate meeting that mass production by some method, then we might as well give up all notion of building an Irish State.
I remember Arthur Griffith again and again insisting that if we did not aim at cultivating the industrial side of our national life, then we would only have done half our work. Englishmen and the other foreigners who send their bedsteads and their clothes here are sending them only in return for a certain price which they get from the farmers. The industries in Ireland will give the farmer the same price, and he will have no cause for complaint. It will be simply an exchange between one industry and another. The agricultural industry will be carried on at home as profitably, perhaps far more profitably, than at present. The American farmer, when tariffs were proposed there, had the same objection to them as are now advanced here on behalf of one small section of the farming community, but the American farmer who goes round in his motor to-day would be horrified if anybody suggested to him that the tariff walls in America should be thrown down and that foreign goods should be allowed to come in to crush the industries of America. We can never build up Irish industry unless we put on tariffs of this kind. I welcome these tariffs. They are our only hope. We made some sacrifices for political freedom and we must make some more if we are going to win industrial freedom.
I was delighted to hear from Deputy Johnson that Labour is not going to be frightened by these petty arguments about the increase in the price of bedsteads or boots. Is it not better for a man to have a weekly wage on a Saturday night to spend on tea and sugar than to have all these articles made abroad and our men living on the dole or emigrating to English factories to make suits or bedsteads? I have great pleasure in supporting this proposal.
Mr. BAXTER: Somebody has got off scot-free in this debate on tariffs, and he will, I think, be complimented  by people other than Deputies here. I refer to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. It seems to me—I may not be correct, but I think I am—that he has been able to impress his mind and impress his point of view on the Minister for Finance. We know that it is his ear which has to listen to the tales of woe from the industrialists of the country and they, no doubt, will welcome this Budget. We, however, are taken to task because we, on these Benches, cannot welcome the imposition of tariffs in the same way as, say, manufacturers in Deputy Davin's constituency, or in Deputy Good's constituency. I want to say at the outset that we are just as keen to see these industries rising up in the State as anybody else, but we are not keen to see them established at the expense of our industry and everybody, even those on the Government Benches, gives lip service to the statement that agriculture must be the first consideration of the Government. The Minister for Agriculture the other day in Wexford pointed out to the farmers in Ireland generally the state of their industry, the necessity for organisation, the importance of improvements in methods, and the difficulties which we have to meet at home and abroad. We are conscious of these difficulties ourselves. The state of the country generally reflects the condition of the agricultural industry. What protection is there for us in the Budget which has been produced here this evening? I think I hear Deputy McCullough say “Blow in another tune now.” He says “subsidy.” It is a subsidy which we say is long overdue. If there is a reduction in other things, such as tea and sugar, there was a necessity for reduction all round in taxation, but we want to remind the Government Party, every one of them, that if agriculture is to live and if agriculturalists are to compete with farmers in other countries, we, too, must get protection. But what kind of protection? A protection that will enable us to compete with the other fellows. There is no use in our asking you to put on protective tariffs on certain products of ours, because most of our products are sold outside the country and we have to meet farmers in  other countries at their prices, and the only protection which is of use to us is that which enables us to produce at the lowest possible cost our clothes and boots and the other things which we use. When the price of these things goes up, it means that we cannot produce in our fields the articles which we put on the foreign market at the same price as our competitors.
Deputy Sears says that industrialists here will give the farmer the same price as he is getting, but I want to tell the Deputy that the price he is getting is not enough to make farming pay, and when you add on to the present cost, the cost which you will have to carry owing to this Budget, you are putting upon him an extra load and you are not guaranteeing to him, nor can anybody guarantee to him, that he is going to get a penny extra for what he has to sell. When you ask us to pay something more for what we have to buy we ask you what guarantee will you give us that we are going to get more for what we have to sell? That is the pounds, shillings, and pence problem which the farmer of the country has to face to-day. The Minister for Industry and Commerce cannot, I think, guarantee to the farmer that the rising of these industries is going to give him a higher price for his produce than the price that rules in the world's market. We have every desire to see industries built up, but if the industry which has to live against foreign competition is to get a fair chance, the Government ought to see that it gives that fair chance which it pretends it is giving. I say that if this burden raises the cost of production to us it will prevent us from meeting the foreign competitor. Our position to-day is that the cost of production is too high. Land has gone out of tillage because it does not pay to till. If the farmer has an off season which does not enable him to have a profitable crop he has not enough to pay his workers and how can he pay rents, rates, or taxes, or anything else? What has he to put on the foreign market? Why is our trade balance against us? One reason why it is against us is that these tariffs prevent us from competing on level terms with the foreign farmer.
Mr. BLYTHE: There is one Resolution, No. 10, I would like to move. There would be a possibility of discussing all the points again to-morrow on the general Resolution, and, of course, they can be discussed in a more satisfactory way still on Report, when Deputies will have time to think over the whole subject of the Budget, and to propose amendments as they think fit. But whatever might be done about this Resolution or the others, I would like the Dáil to facilitate me about Resolution No. 10.
Mr. BLYTHE: So that it will be next month, and after that time the House can more satisfactorily discuss matters. As it is, the particulars are thrown at their heads this evening, and there has not been time enough to look things up and consider the figures.
AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: We cannot fix that until to-morrow. The idea was to go as far as Resolution No. 13 this evening. A discussion would then be in order on the whole range of the Minister's speech; in other words, anything relevant to the Resolutions can be raised again on Resolution No. 13. When that is concluded a date will be fixed for the Report Stage. It cannot be later than ten sitting days after the adoption of the Resolutions. The day will be fixed, so that Deputy Heffernan or anybody  else will have the opportunity of sending in amendments.
Mr. GOREY: Everything has been already said that we want to say on behalf of our Party on the previous Resolutions. Our attitude has been more or less explained. In order to facilitate business we will add nothing further to the debate, and I would suggest that the Resolutions be let go without speaking on them.
Mr. M. DOYLE: I only want to deal with the taunt hurled at our benches from the other side. We were told that we were getting a subsidy. I say it is a most unsatisfactory subsidy, and I would like to draw attention to the way we are treated about this subsidy. I would like to ask the Minister in how many counties is this Agricultural Grant paid up. Is it not held as a security for non-payment of annuities? The Government have secured themselves, and they have added a double security by holding out this £600,000, but I would like to know when is it going to be paid?
Mr. DOYLE: In how many counties is the Agricultural Grant in its present form held up? We are tired of writing to the Minister for Local Government about this grant. He writes back saying that the annuities are not paid up. The same thing will happen now. You have secured yourselves by giving this £600,000, and perhaps in six or seven years' time the farmers may get the benefit of it.
Mr. BLYTHE: I will reserve what I have to say in reply to Deputy Baxter until to-morrow. In answer to Deputy Doyle I may say that this £600,000 will go to the farmers this year, for there is quite sufficient in the Guarantee Fund without putting any of this into it.
Mr. DAVIN: It is only fair that when a Deputy like Deputy Wilson is referring to figures that he should quote the  figures in the form he has before him. The value of the articles on which the tariff is now going to be placed, according to Deputy Wilson's own book which he quoted from, is £761,824 as against £345,712 quoted by Deputy Wilson. I am sorry Deputy Wilson used figures which misrepresent the point of view which he desires to support.
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