Private Deputies' Business. - Proposed Wheat Control Board.

Friday, 29 November 1929

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 32 No. 12

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Debate resumed on motion by Deputy Ryan.

“That it is the opinion of the Dáil that proposals for legislation should be introduced by the Executive Council to provide:—

(a) for the establishment of a Wheat Control Board, which shall be a limited liability company, charged with the purchase of imported wheat for re-sale to millers and the fixing of a minimum price to be paid by Saorstát millers for home-grown wheat sold to them for milling purposes;

(b) for the prohibition of the importation of wheat by any person other than the Wheat Control Board and such persons as may be authorised by the Board;

[1816] (c) for the payment by the Board to Saorstát millers of such sums as may be necessary to make good the difference between the price paid by the millers for home-grown wheat and its market value compared with Pacific wheat, taking into account its higher moisture content;

(d) that the Minister for Finance be authorised to subscribe to the capital of the company, and to make good any losses incurred by the company in the administration of the scheme, out of moneys to be provided by the Oireachtas;

(e) that the importation of flour be permitted only under licence issued by the Wheat Control Board, and subject to an import duty; provided that there shall be no restrictions on flour imported for biscuit manufacture.”

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  When this debate concluded on Wednesday last I was endeavouring to advance the various arguments used by the minority of the Economic Committee in support of the proposal which is contained in the motion. I do not intend to go over these arguments again, except briefly to enumerate them. We have asserted that in our opinion the primary purpose of agriculture is to produce human food. If that is so, then there is a sound case for holding that the primary purpose of agriculture is to produce wheat. To the common knowledge of Deputies wheat is the raw material of the staple article of human food—bread. We believe that it is of advantage to the community to take such steps as may be necessary to make the growing of wheat profitable to the farmers. We believe that it is to the advantage of the farmers themselves that they should place a larger acreage under wheat. It will give them a more balanced economy and induce them to make wider use of the land. In ordinary farming economy there should be double the [1817] acreage under corn crops that there is under root crops. Yet any Deputy who takes the trouble to examine the agricultural statistics relating to the Twenty-Six Counties will see that the acreage under corn is only very little in excess of the acreage under roots. As Deputy Ryan has said here on a former occasion, there is an evasion of corn growing in this country.

The entire acreage required for the growing of all the wheat needed in one year in this country is available without any alteration whatever in the existing form of economy here. The adoption of the proposal contained in this motion would provide the farmers with another cash crop, a crop which they can sell at a guaranteed price and a guaranteed market, and which will release them partly from their dependence upon the British market where the competition for live stock and live stock products is increasing, and is likely to become much keener in the very near future. The adoption of this proposal will reduce our imports by £7,000,000 per year, and consequently reduce our adverse trade balance by a similar amount. It will make a sum of approximately £2,000,000 a year available for wages to agricultural workers in excess of the amount available at present. These advantages can be secured at a cost to the community which will not average more than £250,000 a year when the scheme is in full operation. That figure of £250,000 comes to be compared with the sum of approximately £1,500,000 already expended in the subsidy for beet sugar. The giving of that subsidy has not increased the acreage under tillage to any extent whatever, and the amoung involved has gone almost entirely into the pockets of the foreign shareholders of the factory. The owners of that factory realised in the last twelve months a net profit of 45 per cent. on their total capital investment. In spite of the fact that they were making that huge profit they nevertheless look advantage of the expiration of the three years' contract which was in force to reduce the price paid to the producer of the beet. If the Government Still maintain that they [1818] did a wise thing when they embarked on that beet growing scheme they cannot possibly argue that this proposal of Deputy Ryan should not be adopted because of its cost.

The entire cost when the scheme will be in full operation will not be as heavy as the present cost of the beet growing experiment. Yet it will result in increasing the area under tillage by over 800,000 acres, and the entire subsidy will go to Irishmen and to Ireland. The effect on the general economy of the country will be tremendously good, and the reduction in the adverse trade balance and the increase in the production of wealth here are in line with what all parties desire. If this scheme is economically sound, as we think it is, then no case can be made against it. No case has been made against it. It has been damned not by argument but by the prejudice of the individual who now holds the position of Minister for Agriculture. He has shown himself not merely at the Economic Committee but in this Dáil not open to reason in this matter. He is probably influenced to some extent by the officials of his Department. I do not know, but even when the arguments he advanced at the Economic Committee were shown to be unsound and the facts upon which he relied were all wrong he would not budge from the position he took up before the discussion commenced. I have no doubt the subsidy on wheat growing will come eventually, irrespective of the political changes that may take place in this country. Public opinion will grow in this matter when the advantages to be secured in cosequence of this project are more widely understood, and public opinion will inevitably force any political party into taking action. As I said, I do not want to go again over the ground which I covered on Wednesday evening last. I want to come to the consideration of part of this motion which has not yet been discussed on this debate, in paragraph (e) relating to the restrictions on the importation of flour.

Members of the Ministry have recently been addressing public [1819] meetings throughout the country, and have been telling the people that Fianna Fáil is advocating a tax on foodstuffs. The Minister for Justice at one meeting the report of which I read in the “Mayo News” or the “Western People,” stated that in consequence of our blind adherence to an economic theory we were going to force up the price of bread, and thus hit the very poorest section of the community. Of course those who use that argument are begging the question. If it can be shown that any restriction on the importation of foreign flour will result in a permanent increase in the price of bread, then a very strong case exists against such a proposal. But I assert that if the flour milling industry in this country is protected we can safely assume, upon the information that is available at present, that not an increase but a reduction in the price of bread can be looked for. Flour will be dearer following a tariff if, in the first place, it is now being sold under production costs, or, in the second place, if the costs of production here are and must be permanently higher than abroad.

Let us take there questions in order. If flour is now being sold at less than it costs to produce, then an increase in the price of bread will come inevitably, in any case, whether a tariff is imposed or not. We have had this question of dumping discussed here before, and the difficulty of producing adequate proof relating to it was emphasised. The Tariff Commission considered the matter, heard certain witnesses, studied certain evidence, and finally reported that they had no satisfactory evidence that dumping was going on. The majority of the Economic Committee had placed before them concrete instances relating to specific cargoes that were sold at prices which no mill in England or Ireland could have produced it at.

Ministers have denied that anything in the nature of dumping is in progress. That statement by the Tariff Commission, by the majority of the Economic Committee, and by [1820] Ministers was made in face of the fact that the Irish millers say there is dumping, was made in face of the fact that concrete examples were produced, and was made above all in face of the fact that the British Flour Millers' Association have repeatedly asserted that they are dumping flour here at under production costs. It seems to me an amazing thing that any responsible body of men like the Tariff Commission, like the Executive Council, like the majority of the Economic Committee, can publicly state that flour was not being sold here at under production costs, when every single president of the British Flour Millers' Association has repeatedly stated that it is. Only last week I saw a number of copies of the official publication of that Association and in heavy type across the pages the statements made by the president and by past presidents of the Association were printed. They state that the British flour milling industry is losing £5,000,000 yearly because flour is being sold, not merely in Ireland but in England, at less than production costs.

At some Deputies know, the flour milling capacity of the British mills was substantially increased during the war, and it is now considerably in excess of the country's requirements. The mills in order to keep their costs of production low have been working as far as possible to full capacity. A surplus quantity of flour was in consequence produced, and that flour was disposed of, as the president and the past presidents of the Flour Millers' Association state, at an annual loss to the whole industry of £5,000,000. That situation is going to change. The blessed idea of rationalisation has occurred to the British flour millers. Those of us who are very largely dependent on that Association for our supplies of the most essential article of food, had better not use such a euphonious term but should call the development that is now taking place by the plainer name of trustification. The British flour millers have got tired of selling their flour here at under production costs. They have got tired [1821] losing £5,000,000 a year. They are combining now amongst themselves to recover in the future what they have lost in the past, and a little more, at the expense of the consumers who are at their mercy.

The Executive Council that permitted a position to develop, in which the people of this country are entirely dependent for their supplies of that essential foodstuff on outside sources is, I think, unworthy of the confidence of the Dáil. They have proved themselves negligent in their trust; they have failed to realise the direction in which national safety lay, and I ask Deputies who are open to conviction upon this matter—and I think some are—to realise that it is in the national interest, apart altogether from the special interests of the flour milling industry, that that industry should be preserved here, and that our dependence on outside sources for our food, should be reduced. So much for dumping.

If flour has been sold here, as I have said, under production costs, as the British Flour Millers' Association says it has, then we can expect an increase in price whether we protect the industry or not. That increase in price is going to come, and I say it is much more likely to come if we fail to protect the Irish mills than if we in fact do so. Let us examine, however, the other possibility which might give rise to an increase in the cost of bread following the adoption of this proposal. Is there any reason why flour cannot be produced in Ireland as cheaply as it can be produced in England? We can buy foreign wheat as cheap. I do not think that is denied. It is true that certain British mills situate at the quay side at Birkenhead can buy occasional parcels of wheat lower that cargo costs, but it was not held by either the majority or the minority of the Economic Committee, that that advantage possessed by them has any substantial bearing on the ultimate price of the flour sold. The amount of wheat imported in that manner is very small. The balance of the wheat imported can be brought to this country just as cheaply as it can be brought into [1822] England. It is generally sold afloat. A ship leaving an American port does not know the port at which it is going to discharge. The cargo is sold on the way and telegraphic instructions are sent to the captain where he is to discharge his cargo. It may be Dublin, Foynes, Cork, or any port in England. We can buy wheat as cheaply.

Are the production costs higher? In that connection I do not ask Deputies to accept my word. We had it before the Economic Committee. The manager of the biggest, best equipped and most efficient flour mills in Ireland—the Dublin Port Mills—who was only recently appointed manager there, and who before he came here was manager of two big mills in England gave it as his opinion that there was no reason whatever why flour should not be produced in this country as cheaply as any mill in England. I do not ask Deputies to accept even his word.

There are in this country a number of managers and proprietors of flour mills who have had experience, of managing flour mills in England, and every one of them has come forward and has said that flour can be produced here as cheaply as in any mill in England. If I might quote a statement published in the Press by Mr. Shackleton of Carlow in this connection perhaps it would help to get that fact into the heads of Deputies. You will remember that one of the points made by the Tariff Commission and by the majority of the Economic Committee was that flour mills in this country are mainly situated inland and are, consequently, at a disadvantage when compared with the mills situated at the ports, which can utilise various modern devices for the cheap landing of the wheat. Mr. Shackleton, who was himself the manager of a quayside mill in Liverpoor for a large number of years, says:—“An efficiently run country mill can supply its own district at a cheaper rate than a big mill, no matter where a big mill is situated. I claim the right to speak with special authority about this. Before I came to Carlow I was general manager of a large [1823] and successful Liverpool port mill. I had personally organised the calculation of expenses, and I had very valuable information, and I know that when I came here I could buy wheat in Liverpool, bring it to Carlow, mill it in Carlow and supply the flour in Carlow at the same total cost as the Liverpool mill could manufacture it in Liverpool and supply it in Liverpool.” It is true, of course, that semi-experts like the Minister for Industry and Commerce and of the Minister for Agriculture will tell us that Mr. Shackleton does not know what he is talking about.

Mr. Bennett: Information on George Cecil Bennett  Zoom on George Cecil Bennett  What do they want a tariff for, then?

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  I will deal with that in a minute. But I want Deputies to realise that experts who know the business and who are available to give their opinions to us, have, everyone of them, stated that flour can be produced in this country at a cost not exceeding the cost of production in Liverpool. We can buy the wheat at the same price as they can buy it in Liverpool, and consequently we should be able to sell the flour here at less than the Liverpool flour can be sold here by the amount of the freight between Liverpool and Dublin. Why cannot that be done? Why is it, if that is the case, the flour millers want a tariff? That is a fair question and one that must be answered, and I hope that if I answer it to Deputy Bennett's satisfaction he will come into the Division Lobby in support of this contention.

The costs of production in Irish mills at present are in excess of the costs of production in English mills because Irish mills are only working to half their capacity. Consequently these mills cannot sell their flour in competition with English mills, even if the English mills were selling their flour at a price which repaid them for making it. Remember that I assert, in the first instance, that British flour is being sold here, on the admission of the British Flour Millers' Association, at a price [1824] under the cost of production. Surely Deputy Bennett or any member of Cumman na nGaedheal would not expect the Irish flour millers to compete with English flour millers under these conditions?

Mr. Bennett: Information on George Cecil Bennett  Zoom on George Cecil Bennett  Plus the cost of transport.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  But I say also that even if English flour was sold here at a price which paid its manufacturers, Irish flour millers could not compete with it because of the fact that they are working only to half capacity at present. Whatever was the cause of it, whether it was due to dumping, whether it was due to special credit terms which English millers could give to their Irish customers or not, English millers are established here, and the result is that a mill like the Dublin Port Mill, which is as efficient, as well-equipped and as well situated for the manufacture of flour as any mill in the world—I do not think the majority of members of the Economic Committee will deny that — cannot put its flour on the market in Dublin at such a price that it will compete with the Liverpool flour. The manager of that company stated that if a tariff was imposed for a time and was then taken off, provided it was kept on sufficiently long to enable the millers to reach the maximum of their capacity, then they would be able to compete without a tariff against the British mills.

Mr. Bennett: Information on George Cecil Bennett  Zoom on George Cecil Bennett  Why do they not do it now?

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  Ask the Executive Council.

Mr. Bennett: Information on George Cecil Bennett  Zoom on George Cecil Bennett  I am asking you. You said that they can produce flour as cheaply as it can be produced in Liverpool. In addition they have the advantage of the transport charges, which is a considerable advantage, and why do they not compete?

Mr. Anthony: Information on Richard Sidney Anthony  Zoom on Richard Sidney Anthony  Is it in order for a Deputy to address the Chair seated, unless, of course, he is a cripple?

[1825]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  I am afraid that it is not, but it very often happens.

Mr. Moore: Information on Séamus Moore  Zoom on Séamus Moore  Did Deputy Bennett ever hear of dumping?

Dr. Hennessy: Information on Dr. Thomas Hennessy  Zoom on Dr. Thomas Hennessy  Might I ask Deputy Lemass a question? I presume that when he is talking of the production of flour in this country he is including foreign wheat as forming at least a big percentage of the flour. He said that one reason why we can produce flour cheaper in Ireland is because we would not have to pay freight on the flour from Liverpool to Dublin or to any other part of Ireland. But will we not have to pay it on the wheat?

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  No, the wheat comes direct.

Dr. Hennessy: Information on Dr. Thomas Hennessy  Zoom on Dr. Thomas Hennessy  But even direct will it not include the freight?

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  Obviously the freight from Canada to Dublin will be no heavier than the freight from Canada to Liverpool.

Dr. Hennessy: Information on Dr. Thomas Hennessy  Zoom on Dr. Thomas Hennessy  I always heard that it was.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  That is not so. Wheat can be bought as cheaply here as at Liverpool. In reply to Deputy Bennett's question: what I said was that there is no reason why an efficient mill, operating at full capacity in this country, cannot produce flour as cheaply as a mill of a similar type operating in England. The mills here — and some of them are as efficient as any in the world — cannot now produce flour at the same price as English flour is being sold at here, either because that English flour is being sold at under production costs or because Irish mills are working only to half their capacity. I will admit that some confusion has been caused in the public mind by the action of certain mill owners who are opposed to a tariff. There is also one particular mill owner I have in mind, who is also the proprietor of a large and prosperous bakery in Dublin in which he uses imported [1826] flour almost entirely, but when the application for a tariff on flour was being discussed by the Tariff Commission and by the Economic Committee, that mill proprietor kept his mill, which is very well situated, lit up day and night so that people would be under the impression that he was working overtime when, in fact, his employees were working only three days a week. That particular individual is, of course, making substantial profits out of this bakery, and he does not want to be prevented from making these profits as the result of a duty on flour because, as I have said, he is using foreign flour almost exclusively in his bakery, despite the fact that he owns a mill here. The action taken by that individual has helped to confuse the public mind. I know that that particular miller, and one other miller I have in mind, exercise a particular influence on the members of the Executive Council, with whom, presumably, the ultimate decision in a matter of this kind lies.

The President: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  Will the Deputy explain that?

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  I will give the names if the President wishes, but I would prefer not to do so.

The President: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  I know the millers in question, but I think it is not right to say that any influence has been exercised by either of these two millers on any member of the Executive Council. The Deputy said that one of these millers was making very considerable profits, but there is no greater distributor of profits among the poor than this man, and I think the Deputy should realise that.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  And does the President know the circumstances?

The President: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  I do.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  That the individual concerned is a member of the Master Bakers' Association, and although he can produce bread at less than he is selling it for at present he cannot sell it for less because the Master [1827] Bakers' Association will not allow him, and he squares his conscience by giving bread away free to a certain extent. But when I say that that miller and another that I have in mind exercise a particular influence on members of the Executive Council I am quoting the words of members of the Executive Council themselves, who admitted that they were swayed in their judgment very considerably——

The President: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  By the evidence.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  Not by the evidence, but by the fact that these particular individuals were opposed to the tariff.

The President: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  And by much more than that fact. There are scarcely abler business men in the country than these two individuals.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  That is a matter of opinion.

The President: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  I think the Deputy will admit it.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  It may be considered good business methods to keep a mill lit twenty-four hours a day in order to give the public the impression that it was working full capacity when, in fact, it was only working three days.

The President: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  I know nothing about that.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  I know something about it.

The President: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  He gives more to the poor than the whole of the Party opposite.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  I think that even the majority members of the Economic Committee will admit that there is no reason why an efficient mill in this country cannot produce and market flour as cheaply as an efficient mill in England. One of the reasons why the mills here cannot now compete with the English mills is because they are not working to capacity. It is argued, of course, that an increase in the price of bread [1828] will be inevitable because of the fact that, unlike in England, our milling capacity is less than the country's requirements, and that is, of course, a very serious objection. At present all the mills situated in the TwentySix Counties, it worked to full capacity, can only produce about 80 per cent. of our total requirements in flour, and for a period, which need not and would not be long, following the imposition of a tariff, some 20 per cent. of our requirements would have to be imported, regardless of the duty imposed.

I want to deal with that matter. Let it be quite clear that there is no reason to believe that that deficiency in milling capacity would last for long. The manager of the Dublin Port Mill, who gave evidence, stated that the capacity of his mill could be doubled in a very short time and with a very small expenditure of additional capital. We were given to understand that the imposition even of a very small duty, such as 6d. per sack, would immediately bring into this country one of the great flour millers now supplying this country from Liverpool. I think it is generally agreed that the question of the deficiency of milling capacity would not be very serious after the expiration of a very short period. Nevertheless, during that period some provision would have to be made in order to prevent any undue burden being put upon the section of the community on whom the price of bread weighs heaviest. In that connection, I make a suggestion. A Food Prices Tribunal was established by the Government and went with especial care into the price being charged for bread here. They came to the conclusion that in every town which they visited, with, I think, the single exception of Limerick, the price of bread was in excess of what it should be in relation to the price of flour. The Government took no action to prevent that profiteering in bread. It seems to us very strange that this Government, which has been informed by its own judicial tribunal that such profiteering is going on, and which has taken no action to prevent it, should advance [1829] as its major argument against the proposal to preserve a key industry in the State the fact that it might increase over a period the price of bread by one farthing per two pound loaf.

This profiteering in bread is still going on, and the Government is still looking at it with indifference. Even the degree of profiteering as to which the Tribunal reported was probably less than that actually in operation, because they found that there was very considerable difficulty in getting the truth from the master bakers as to the price which they paid for their flour or the number of loaves they got from a sack of flour. In fact, the efforts made by the bakers, according to the Tribunal, to hide their profits were quite extraordinary. In a dozen places the Tribunal report states that the figures given to them were unreliable; in other words, they were fictitious. In Dublin the master bakers stated that they got 89.15 loaves from a sack of flour. The Tribunal after an exhaustive examination declared themselves convinced that they got 92, or perhaps more, and that the master bakers were making a profit of at least 2/6 per sack of flour more than they admitted. In Cork, the master bakers submitted more elaborate figures. One of them admitted that he got 92 loaves to the sack, another 91 and another 90. But the Tribunal were satisfied that they got on the average 93 or 94, and were making a profit of nearly 4/- per sack more than they admitted. In Galway, the master bakers inadvertently admitted they were getting 96 loaves to the sack, and as they were charging Dublin prices, they were making 6/- per sack more than the Dublin bakers. The profiteering revealed by the Tribunal in relation to the year 1926 has not stopped. The cost of living figures which appeared in the issue of the “Trade Journal” for August, 1929, show that in the year ending July, 1929, flour fell by 8.5 per cent. but that the price of bread was only reduced by 5.8 per cent. The other three per cent. represents the profit held by the bakers.

[1830]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  Is the Deputy rather getting away from the motion?

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  I admit I appear to be doing so, but I intend getting back to the motion now. My suggestion is that if there is any danger, during the interim period between the imposition of the tariff and the time at which the milling capacity will be 100 per cent. of the country's requirements, that the price of bread would be increased on the poor, the Government can take effective action to prevent that increase by dealing with the obvious profiteering which is going on in bread at present.

Mr. Bennett: Information on George Cecil Bennett  Zoom on George Cecil Bennett  What about Limerick?

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  I am going to deal with that. In the one case of Limerick, the only town in the Free State in which no master bakers' association existed, no profiteering could be discovered in 1926, but I understand that a master bakers' association has since been formed there. The proposal which was submitted in relation to flour at the Economic Committee was that an import duty of 2/- per sack should be imposed. Deputies will at once see that the highest increase which could take place in a sack of flour following a tariff would be that 2/-. No matter how the Irish millers desire to profiteer, no increase beyond 2/- per sack could possibly take place, because the amount of the tariff would be only 2/-, and if people were prepared to pay 2/- per sack more, then they could buy foreign flour if they wished. The Food Prices Tribunal, however, tell us that no increase in the price of bread should take place unless the price of flour is increased by 3/10 per sack. They say that an increase in the price of the sack of flour of 3/10 would justify an increase in the price of bread by one farthing in the two-pound loaf. As the farthing is the lowest coin in circulation in this State, it could not be less.

Dr. Hennessy: Information on Dr. Thomas Hennessy  Zoom on Dr. Thomas Hennessy  They might put a halfpenny on it.

[1831]Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  They probably would, and maybe one penny.

Mr. Lemass: Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  A halfpenny would be the increase on the 4lb. loaf. If the price of flour was increased to the baker, consequent on a tariff of 2/- per sack, and if in consequence they increased the price of bread by a farthing per 2lb. loaf, they would be guilty of gross profiteering, according to the report of the Tribunal on Food Prices which has been set up by the Government. Whenever an increase in the price of flour takes place the bakers always put up the price of bread, but whenever a decrease in the price of flour takes place the price of bread does not always fall. This Tribunal reported that over a period of twenty-three months the price of bread was in excess of the price of flour for twenty months, and was only less than it for three months, and then only very slightly in comparison. I have here a very interesting cutting from the “Irish Independent.” It deals with the great slump in wheat prices that occurred earlier this year and states:—“Yesterday the price of straight-run flour fell by 2/-, from 35/- to 33/- per sack. The bakers say that a further reduction of 2/- per sack will be necessary before the public receive the benefit in the form of cheaper bread. But bakers also say if the price of flour goes up by 2/- per sack a further increase of 2/- must be awaited before the public will have to pay in the form of dearer bread.” Apparently the bakers want it all their own way. When the price of flour goes down they pocket the extra profits, but if it goes up the increased cost of production must be immediately passed on to the consumer, and the Executive Council have watched that profiteering going on for the past three years and have done nothing. They set up a Food Prices Tribunal at considerable cost; they sent it round the country taking evidence on oath; they got its report, and they examined its report, and yet they took no action. It is this Executive Council, which now comes here raising its hands in holy horror at [1832] the prospect of a slight increase of 2/- per sack on flour for a short period, following an attempt to preserve here an essential milling industry and give work to 2,000 Irishmen. I do not know if all the members of the Cumann na nGaedheal Party will agree with the Executive Council in this. Judging by the speeches which I read as having been delivered by many of them during the General Election throughout the country, they will not.

Deputy Hennessy, who represents a constituency in which is Midleton where the flour mill is closed down, was quite vehement in expressing his determination to force the Government to take action in this matter. I wonder how he will vote upon this question, and I wonder how other Deputies will vote upon this question. Deputy John Daly represents a constituency in which Midleton is situated and the people of Midleton will be watching very closely how he votes upon this matter. There are other Deputies who come from towns that have also been very badly hit in consequence of the Government inactivity, and they are constituencies that will be watching the votes of their Deputies very closely. I am sorry Deputy Gorey is not here, because the mill in Carlow owned by Mr. Shackleton, from whom I have quoted, was one of the last to go; it has gone to the wall now. Deputy Gorey's constituents will be anxious to see how he reacts to this event. Deputy O'Mahony represents the constituency of Wicklow, and the flour mill in Rathdrum also went to the wall recently. I wonder how he is going to vote on this question.

A number of Deputies opposite talk glibly to their constituents about matters of this kind, but when they come to the Dáil and find themselves faced with a concrete proposal that will benefit the people for whom they express such sympathy, they always obey the Party Whip and go into the Lobby that Ministers tell them to go into. This proposal is now before the Dáil. If adopted, it will bring a degree of prosperity [1833] to this country, not merely to the agricultural part of the community, but to the industrial part as well, such as it has not known for a long period. I believe ultimately that we will get agreement from all parties that it is along the lines of this resolution that progress should be attempted. At present we may be attempting the impossible in trying to get these elemental ideas of political wisdom into the minds of Cumann na nGaedheal Ministers, but sooner or later we are bound to penetrate even there. Constant dropping will wear a stone, and the constant efforts of Deputies on this side of the House may yet penetrate into the recesses of the minds of the members of the Executive Council.

The Minister for Agriculture said he was sick and tired of wheat. He will be a lot more tired of wheat before we are done with him. He will be a lot more tired of wheat and flour before we admit that the despairing policy he outlined here is the only one for the Irish people to adopt. We believe if a vigorous effort is made, even now, to bring back prosperity to the farmers and industrialists of the country that effort will succeed. If the vitality of the country is not yet destroyed it will be soon destroyed if the attitude of the present Executive Council continues to be the attitude of the Government of the country for much longer.

Minister for Education (Professor O'Sullivan): Information on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  Zoom on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  I have a certain amount of sympathy with the acting semi-leader of the Opposition in this respect. I confess I cannot claim his absolute ignorance of the needs and ordinary-day life of the farming community. Unlike him I represent a farming community. Still I shall follow him, in this respect at all events, that I shall not deal with what I might consider the more technical aspects from the farming point of view of this question. Deputies have in their hands the report of the Commission set up to deal with this matter. They have the Majority Report and the Minority Report, and they have, [1834] also, the speeches made by Deputies opposite, so if the people of the country have their interest in this matter and if it is for Deputies, on these matters, to judge, it is, also, for the farmers to judge on the various technical questions, if I might so call them, brought up in the course of this debate. Whether wheat is one of the best nurse crops, whether it is an exhausting crop or comparatively more exhausting than other crops, is a matter, I suggest, that the farmers of the country will be able to decide much better than Deputies. So far as these questions are concerned I dare say the majority on this side would be quite willing to leave them in the hands of the farmers to decide in their own experience of these things.

We have had quotations in the course of the various speeches from evidence given before the Economic Committee by agricultural instructors. Quotations can be very misleading. Do Deputies on the other side suggest that the trend of the whole evidence as given by the agricultural instructors before the Economic Committee was in favour of the view that the small subsidy proposed in this resolution would be sufficient, as advocated in the Minority Report, to bring about a large increase in the amount of grain crops in this country?

Another matter about which I think a great deal of time has been lost, both in the Minority Report and in the course of the debate — so far as the general verdict is concerned, by itself it contributes nothing to help us to form a conclusion — that is, the value of wheat as a single crop. As has been pointed out several times, that is not the question. It is a question of the value of wheat in the general economy of the work among the farming community of the country. For instance, in various pages, in a couple of pages especially, space has been devoted to what looks like a mathematical analysis of the product of an acre given to wheat and an acre given to barley, potatoes and grass. That by itself, I suggest, does [1835] not advance the discussion. That was made quite clear in the Majority Report, and I suggest that no attempt was made in the debate to meet the contention put forward by the majority of the Economic Committee. What is the demand to which we are asked to subscribe here? It is a double demand, a subsidy plus a very elaborate system of control, the biggest effort, I may say, of State interference that we have been asked to contemplate up to the present, the biggest attempt on the part of the Government to take on a business as a business proposition. These are the two principal things to which we are asked to subscribe. The tariff on flour, to which Deputy Lemass devoted so much attention to-day, is incidental, undoubtedly, to the proposition, and must follow the proposal to deal with wheat in the way suggested in the resolution. The two main demands are demands for a subsidy and for this extraordinarily elaborate system of control which would be necessary if the subsidy is to be applied.

In the course of the debate and in the Minority Report we have had presented to us the extraordinary attractiveness of wheat as a crop. In the Minority Report and in the course of the debate the Fianna Fáil Deputies have urged the fact that with great generosity — I do not think I am misrepresenting them— they put the case strongly against themselves, that they have in all cases taken things in the most unfavourable light. You find that referred to in the course of their speeches. I think that Deputy Dr. Ryan said something of the kind, and you find it also in the considered statement of the Minority Report. “On the other hand, we have taken the wheat yield at a figure well below the actual average for the Saorstát, although a yield of 30 cwts. per acre can be obtained on land capable of producing 3 cwts. of beef per acre.” They have taken the yield of wheat well below the ordinary average for the Saorstát. “We have valued the product at an average price, depressed by the high [1836] cost of handling the small quantity produced for sale at the present time by the absence of any effective organisation of growers and by the existence of a decided preference for imported wheat.” They have taken everything against themselves with extraordinary generosity in the course of this argument. Yet, apparently, a small subsidy is sufficient, a subsidy that amounts to 5/- an acre. That is sufficient, but, if they face the problem with this extraordinary generosity on their part to put the case as strongly as possible against themselves, let them take things as they are, let them look from their point of view on the bright side of things, and, if they take things as they pretend they are, no subsidy ought to be necessary. Let them not take the price much below an average for the Saorstát, but let them take it at the average. Let them also allow for every unfavourable condition which they can remedy.

I suggest that there is no case for a subsidy or, if there is, that a subsidy of 5/- is no good. As usual, they prove altogether too much. I could easily understand, therefore, with a view of that kind, namely, with this extraordinarily attractive crop, that if you look at things, not in the favourable light in which Deputies opposite deliberately look at them, but if you look at things as they hold they are, this is an extraordinarily attractive crop. Therefore I can understand the amazement of Deputy Dr. Ryan when he said: “Why we should be in a better position to compete in the case of beef, butter, bacon, eggs or anything else on the British market against the whole world than we are in the case of our own market for grain, wheat or anything else, I cannot see.” I suggest that, naturally enough, he cannot see that, if wheat is such an attractive crop, but, if it is, there is no case whatever for a subsidy. If there is a case for a subsidy, a subsidy of 5/- an acre will not get over it. If looking things in the face and seeing things as they are will not convince the farmer that it is necessary to go into this attractive [1837] crop a subsidy of 5/- will not bring the extra amount of tillage that is forecasted by Deputies opposite.

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  I think it is a pity that the Minister should build up an argument on false premises. It is going to mean 5/- an acre to the State, but it will make a much bigger difference to the farmer by the difference between what he is getting now, 24/-, and 30/- a barrel.

Professor O'Sullivan: Information on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  Zoom on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  That a subsidy of 5/- is to produce this extra amount?

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  That is right.

Professor O'Sullivan: Information on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  Zoom on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  That is the point I am making. In the face of all that, in the face of the extraordinary attractiveness of the crop, as painted by Deputies opposite, can they explain why the country went out of wheat? It was not a case of having to take up a crop with which they were unfamiliar. As Deputies pointed out very strongly, they were under wheat to a considerable extent at one time. Why did they go out of it? Are the economic and agricultural conditions of the world now more favourable to this country than they were at the time when this country was, comparatively speaking, a large wheat-growing country? I will put another question to the House and it is this. Suppose, for the sake of argument, it is admitted that a subsidy of 5/- an acre will produce a certain increase in the acreage of wheat, and admitting, even though it is a different thing, that it may bring a certain amount of new acreage under tillage, does it not follow that in order to increase that amount you will have to give a higher subsidy? Even supposing you get an extra 30,000 acres at a subsidy of 5/- an acre is it not likely that for the next 30,000 acres you will have to increase the subsidy? How was it that when prices were so remarkably high during the war, when conditions were much more favourable than could ever be brought about by the passing of this motion, the total acreage under [1838] wheat was 130,000 acres? Granted that 30/- a barrel for wheat may bring about a certain amount of increased acreage of wheat, how are we going to avoid the substitution of wheat for the oats already there?

That was the problem that was put very clearly by the Majority report. It was a matter put very clearly by the Minister for Agriculture. There are 600,000 acres under oats and 150,000 acres under barley. Take the oats for the moment. How is substitution to be prevented? Will not very elaborate machinery and a very elaborate survey have to be devised in order to prevent that substitution and to bring to the State the gain of increased tillage, because if there is merely substitution of one cereal for another there is no gain as far as increased tillage is concerned. In addition to the amount of tillage, will there not have to be a very elaborate system of machinery of inspection and survey, to see that the community really benefits in the way of increased tillage out of this policy? That question of substitution has been stressed in the Majority report. It was stressed in the speech of the Minister for Agriculture and it was stressed in all the opposition to this proposal, and yet, so far as I have read the speeches, I have seen no attempt to grapple with that question. It goes to the root of the matter, because unless you can show that the subsidy is not gained by substitution, then, as far as increased tillage is concerned, you gain nothing. The objection was not answered. It was not met. No attempt was made even to meet it.

The argument was put up that even if you had an increase in acreage under wheat, in the country, with the small farm lots we have here, our agricultural economy being essentially a small-holding economy, there is bound to be a very considerable cost of transport between the farms and the mills. It is suggested that that, to some extent at all events, might be met by setting up a number of small mills throughout the country. Well, notwithstanding [1839] the evidence which Deputy Lemass has quoted, I wonder is it seriously suggested that in modern times a small undertaking is really in a position to compete with large mass production. It is quite true that evidence was quoted, but is not it an ordinary canon of common sense, when evidence is presented in favour of a certain thing by a man who wants it, to suspect that that evidence may be prejudiced? We do it in every court of justice. We do it with every case that is put up. We must always to a certain extent discount the evidence by the plaintiff himself, so to speak. It is done everywhere not that we disbelieve him or doubt his honesty, but we know that inevitably he must be prejudiced in his outlook. Most people are prejudiced in the views they put forward in favour of what they want to achieve.

The suggestion is that we should revert to the small mill. I suggest that the whole trend of modern economics is against the thesis that the small undertakings are comparatively speaking, productive. Personally I have always felt that one of the principal objections against this whole proposal is the extraordinarily elaborate system of State machinery, so far as I can understand it, that must be set up to make it work. I quite agree that in the case of a cash crop like wheat, and in this particular case, especially if the subsidy is to be made practicable and workable, the corollary to that is control. The resolution demands as well that you must have control of all the wheat and the flour coming into the country, otherwise the thing is unworkable. So far as the resolution is consistent, I ask Deputies seriously to consider that this is the biggest advance we have ever been asked to take in the direction of State control. I am not very surprised that the proposal comes from the Fianna Fáil Party. I have always felt that they are much more Socialistic in their tendencies than the Labour Party, and in the course of the Debate I was not surprised to [1840] hear Deputy Lemass give expression to the rather Socialistic doctrine that the community had given their land to the farmers. However, here we have the proposal that the State should take over the whole business of dealing with the purchase and sale of wheat, a most speculative form of business, one of the most speculative that exists at the present moment.

If you examine the report of the speeches you will see the difficulty of it. The public may subscribe. Whether they will or not is another matter, but the deficiency has to be met by the Minister for Finance, and he has to see that the Board does nothing that will damage the State. There is a representative of the Minister for Finance, as chairman of the Board, who has to see that the finances of the State are not damaged. Yet the whole business is to be conducted as a limited liability company, not as a Government department. How the two things are to be combined, how the interference of the chairman and the other representatives of the Minister for Finance on the Board, who will probably also be in the majority — unless the public are very optimistic about the outcome of the Board, their purchasing power and their business capacity — how that is to square with the business liberty necessary for the enterprise, necessary for a speculative enterprise and for the running of a business of this kind, certainly I must say I fail to see. The directors themselves will inevitably play safely and be conservative. They will be subject to the criticism of the House, and we know perfectly well that if their speculations result in a loss they will receive the condemnation of the House. There will be no mercy for them twelve months after the event if, in a crisis, they act in a certain way and a certain amount of money is lost.

We had a very instructive example of that in the case of the coal crisis. Everybody at the moment. I remember, was perfectly keen that the Government should intervene and should purchase coal. Because there happened to be a certain loss [1841] we had it debated again and again in this House. It is inevitable that a body of the kind would be much more conservative in making its purchases and therefore unable to take advantage of the great business changes from day to day as an ordinary business community would be. At the beginning I made it quite clear that I did not intend to deal with the purely technical aspect of this matter, but in the course of the debate, and in the course of the speeches on the opposite benches there appeared to be a considerable appeal to evidence and to experience. I suggest that that was all camouflage. I suggest that the real attitude and the real point of view of the Opposition in this matter was shown by the Leader of the Opposition. His type of reasoning was given by Deputy Lemass in his speech last Wednesday. Deputy Lemass almost confessed it when he said in the course of his speech that he was not going to deal with the farming difficulties that might present themselves in the growing of wheat, but he did put forward, and you will find again the same type of reasoning in the Minority Report and in the speech of Deputy de Valera, that it is the business of agriculture to produce human food. Admit that and you are logically driven to the position that you must subsidise wheat in this country. That is the real type of mind, I suggest, that is behind this particular motion. All the appeal to evidence, all the juggling with figures is camouflage. The real thing is the starting with fundamental general principles and drawing logical deductions from these.

You will see that, as I say, in the speech of Deputy Lemass. You will find it also in the course of the speech of his Leader. It is very hard to know who leads the Opposition in the House, but, anyhow, Deputy de Valera is the nominal leader of the Party opposite.

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  They are well led anyhow.

[1842]Professor O'Sullivan: Information on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  Zoom on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  To me it seems Deputy Lemass leads quite as often.

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  That sort of propaganda is not going to work.

Professor O'Sullivan: Information on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  Zoom on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  What is the necessity of getting upset by a remark of that kind?

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  I am just telling you that it will not work.

Professor O'Sullivan: Information on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  Zoom on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  There is no propaganda in it.

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  There is and you know it.

Professor O'Sullivan: Information on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  Zoom on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  What is it?

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  The propaganda of the whole Press, of the “Star,” of the Executive Council and of the Cumann na nGaedheal. It is trying to get us to withdraw our allegiance from Deputy de Valera, but it will not work.

Professor O'Sullivan: Information on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  Zoom on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  No, I would be very sorry if you did that.

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  There is no danger at all.

Professor O'Sullivan: Information on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  Zoom on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  That is good. I am glad to hear that. It relieves me tremendously. However, it is an absurd method of procedure to start in that particular way. Here is the argument of Deputy de Valera. We must be as self-supporting as possible. The most essential thing in that matter is human food. The most essential human food is wheat. Therefore, we must produce this most fundamental article. Therefore, we cannot do without a subsidy, without this control, and, therefore, we must have the control. I suggest that is the whole case made. I suggest that is the reason this particular policy was adopted, not because it will suit the farmers, not because there is any experience to show that it will suit the farmers, but because the deductive type of mind that sets the policy, and has more than once set the [1843] policy for the opposite Party, is again at work. Ignore experience; ignore the difficulties; do not face the facts, the fundamental principles in these matters. There are no general principles of the kind there which you can reason in that particular way. There is no principle you can state with that accuracy that you can state, as the Deputy seems to think, a proposition in Euclid and argue from it to inevitable consequences. Yet this is done. In that way ruin lies, so far as politics and economics are concerned.

From the start, therefore, it was inevitable that the Party which put forward this particular Resolution should ignore the facts that prevail here in Ireland, should ignore the fundamental question whether in the general agricultural economy of this country it was a wise thing for the farmers to change from their present system to go in for this immense production of wheat. There are several examples of that kind. Deputy Lemass on Wednesday night proceeded to argue in this fashion. This was more or less his argument. If we argue that we must not go in for wheat because wheat can be produced better and cheaper elsewhere then the same argument will lead us to the conclusion that we must keep producing nothing by way of agriculture in this country because there is not a single product of agriculture that cannot be produced better in some other country. I think I am not misrepresenting him here. I think that was the case of his argument. The Minister for Agriculture interjected the remark “produced and marketed” and he said he was not going to deal with that. Surely that is the whole question. The whole question is dealing with the cash crop. It is not whether you can produce it on your own farm but whether you can market it. He refused to face that question, that is the marketing of it.

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  I do not think he did.

Professor O'Sullivan: Information on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  Zoom on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  He said “I shall not deal with that.”

[1844]Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  I have not the Official Report with me.

Professor O'Sullivan: Information on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  Zoom on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  Neither have I but I happened to hear what he said. I took a special note of it.

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  He gave the instance afterwards of butter.

Professor O'Sullivan: Information on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  Zoom on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  I take it that my quotation is correct. I took down two things. That is one of them. The other was the extraordinary statement that the community gave their lands to the farmers. The question is really marketing. That is the whole position and as usual that was ignored.

The other thing is people say that we have as good a climate and as good weather in this country as in other countries. Other countries have bad weather also. Weather affects other crops as well as wheat. The conclusion therefore was drawn that if we were really serious with that argument we were driven to the conclusion, to the belief that other countries, because they also have weather, not in general better than ours, perhaps, should give up wheat, also. We were driven to the conclusion that we should give up other crops because bad weather affects them. Surely the question is not in general whether our weather is better than in other countries but whether it is suitable for this particular crop. Therefore, no evidence was brought forward to show that the farmers were wrong when they dropped that particular crop in the nineteenth century on finding that they were not able to compete against other countries in that crop. It is not the weather in general that counts. It is the particular weather in this country, whether it is suitable for this particular crop. Similarly with the destruction of the crop. It was pointed out that that should not deter the Irish farmers. So far as this particular propaganda in favour of the growing of wheat is concerned, I am quite satisfied if the Fianna Fáil party will circulate the quotation from the “Statist” that Deputy Lemass read out the other [1845] night to show the grit of the Canadian farmer in face of the enormous difficulties he had to overcome, it will not help their case. He was dealing with the partial failure of the crop in the present year. In Saskatchewan and other provinces as a result of that failure thousands of farmers were faced with ruin. What the sturdy Canadian farmer had to do was to plough his wheat crop into the land so as to prepare for the next year. I am quite satisfied if the Deputies will circulate that as a leaflet to the Irish farmers they will not be able to satisfy the Irish farmer that he can afford risks of that kind so far as this particular crop is concerned. That is the crop he is now recommended to grow in large quantities and the compensation, so far as the State is concerned, for that is to be five shillings per acre.

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  He will get nothing in that case—if he ploughs it in.

Professor O'Sullivan: Information on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  Zoom on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  Quite so. I am going on to the question of that afterwards.

The President: Information on William T. Cosgrave  Zoom on William T. Cosgrave  It would be a national gain!

Professor O'Sullivan: Information on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  Zoom on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  It would be a national gain! As I say, I am quite satisfied if the Deputy will circulate that as a leaflet from his Party——

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  We cannot afford it.

Professor O'Sullivan: Information on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  Zoom on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  I should not be surprised. I have already dealt with one of the principal objections to this particular system, that it is taking out of the hands of private individuals that speculative instinct that business people have to have, and putting it into the hands of a board that must be controlled, according to the resolution, by a chairman who will see that the interests of the Treasury must be looked after. That is bound to be in itself a very costly machinery. The Deputies can read as to what the cost of it is likely to be. They can read the reports and make up their minds [1846] as to what this scheme is likely to cost if it is to be successful. The argument has been put forward that if there is no increase in wheat there will be no cost to the community. Surely there are several answers to that. I will leave out of account altogether the small acreage that is already in existence. That is only a matter, under this scheme, of seven or eight thousand pounds. Supposing there was anything like a large substitution of wheat for oats, you will have, without any gain to the community, increased costs to the State. Everybody knows that what is most likely to occur is the substitution of one crop for another, and, without any increased tillage, you might have a considerable increase of cost to the State. Furthermore, this scheme, apart from these two considerations, means the setting up of a central board that will be extremely costly. It will mean a tremendous revolution in the economy of the State, and revolutions are sometimes disturbing and not always productive of good for the State.

Mr. Carney: Information on Frank Carney  Zoom on Frank Carney  How could the Minister say that it could mean increased tillage if you are only substituting one crop for another?

Professor O'Sullivan: Information on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  Zoom on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  That is my point. That is what I clearly stated again and again.

Mr. Carney: Information on Frank Carney  Zoom on Frank Carney  You will not have increased tillage if you substitute one crop for another.

Professor O'Sullivan: Information on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  Zoom on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  I agree. You are not going to get increased tillage by this. That is my point. The other great argument that was used was that in the midst of peace we must prepare for war. If there was a war I do not think we would be short of foodstuffs in this country. On the odd chance of a war occurring, we are to induce the farmer to take up this particular crop. After all, the farmer may know something about this. The farming community of Ireland once went in for wheat-growing. The question is: why did they drop it? [1847] It has been pointed out that the farmer probably did not know his own business. It was pointed out that there were several Acts of this Oireachtas which did interfere with the liberty of the farmer in these matters. There was the Live Stock Breeding Act, the Eggs Act, and the Butter Act. The Oireachtas did interfere with the farmers. I think it was Deputy Aiken who asked why does not the Minister for Agriculture put into play some of the principles in this particular instance, as in the case of the others. May I suggest that in the case of the others the subsidy was not a remedy that he suggested.

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  Except beet, of course.

Professor O'Sullivan: Information on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  Zoom on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  I am referring to the three Acts mentioned by Deputy Aiken.

Dr. Ryan: Information on James Ryan  Zoom on James Ryan  And the corresponding Act to these would be to improve the breed of wheat.

Professor O'Sullivan: Information on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  Zoom on Prof. John Marcus O'Sullivan  Surely if the crop is so productive the fairer way to the community would be to follow the example of the other three Acts I have mentioned. There was no subsidy so far as these three Acts were concerned. Of course, Deputy Aiken said if compulsion is necessary for some of the farmers and they get nothing out of it, then they must be compelled for the benefit of the community as a whole. I do not wish to misquote the Deputy. I will read his exact words:

We have got to bring in legislation which will encourage the farmers to grow more wheat, to grow all that the country requires, and if the compulsion is to take the form of increased taxation on some of the farmers we cannot help that.

You are bringing in a measure that you claim will benefit certain farmers just as other measures dealing with eggs, butter and beef were brought in here to benefit certain farmers. But the difference is that in this case you are compelling all the farmers of the community to pay [1848] for it whether or not they individually benefit from it. That I suggest was not the procedure adopted in the case of any of the other Acts. What we have from the Fianna Fáil Party, as we have so often had in the case of their political policy, is a statement of the problem but not a solution. They want more tillage; that is the problem they have had to face. They have brought forward no solution for that problem. They suggest one thing and, according to them, that must be the solution. They say there is a problem there and they put forward a suggestion that they declare must be a solution. In so far as they have done anything, they have stated the problem but have done nothing towards a solution.

Mr. M. O'Reilly: Information on Matthew O'Reilly  Zoom on Matthew O'Reilly  If this motion were accepted it would, no doubt, compel some change in agricultural policy. The point at issue is, if it did compel a change, is a change necessary or is all well with the present policy that the Minister pursues to-day? Do we find that in that policy there is no confusion and no over-lapping? The agricultural policy in a country like this is fundamentally a land policy. The land policy is the policy which is reducing large farms to small ones; in other words, the distribution of land amongst the people. The Minister for Agriculture, not being in agreement with the Minister who controls land, takes a path of his own and insists that his policy should be the policy to suit 200 acre farms. The Minister who controls land immediately says to him “My intention is to make 75 per cent. of the farms of this country small farms, farms of around 30 acres.”

The Minister for Agriculture distinctly says: “We will compel these people to pursue the policy hitherto adopted; that is, the policy of having 200 acre farms.” There are no farmers in the Dáil who do not understand perfectly well that on a farm of 30 acres it is impossible to produce beef or fatten cattle; it is even impossible to produce the ordinary store beast that is in demand to-day, a beast two years old. [1849] You must remember they must be as fat to-day as the fat beasts that are exported. We have the small farmer wondering what is to become of him. He is lost in that confusion that he sees in front of him but that the Minister for Agriculture fails to see. The confusion does not exist there alone; the actual confusion that exists in the cattle trade is whether there is to be butter or beef production.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  Surely that matter does not now arise?

Mr. O'Reilly:  I want to point out that a change is necessary, and that in the agricultural industry one particular line depends upon another; that the economy of agriculture in all branches is affected by changes that take place in any particular branch.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  This is a motion for the establishment of a Wheat Control Board, and it does not deal with the general question of agriculture and farming. I do not want to limit the Deputy any more than I can help, but I think he will have to get near the motion.

Mr. O'Reilly:  If this motion were accepted it would entail a big change and I believe that that big change is necessary. We have the question asked by several people “Why is wheat not grown and why do farmers, if it is such a profitable crop, not grow wheat at the present time?” If I ask why did farmers grow wheat previous to the year 1848, the reply is quite obvious, that economic conditions before 1848 were completely different to economic conditions after 1848. The Minister for Agriculture does not believe that this was an economic question. He believes that the whole cause of the decline in wheat-growing was climatic; that our climate suddenly changed. Most members believe that in other countries where they are supposed to be successful in wheat-growing all is sunshine that the farmer there has little to do beyond scratching the earth, sowing [1850] his wheat and leaving the rest to God Almighty, the weather and the climate. That is what we are led to believe and we are told we are up against that. As far as the climatic argument is concerned, that is not the case. There are no countries that I know of, where wheat is grown, that are free from impediments, obstructions and the usual calamities. In the great prairies of the Argentine, which is a comparatively dry country, you have the advantage of dry weather, but against that you have the disadvantage of lightning and hail storms. There are imposed upon the farmer there certain conditions. He has to foot the bill for insurance in connection with his crops. He takes certain precautions but he is assisted in taking these precautions.

Evidently what is behind the mover of this motion is the idea of doing something along that line and not to leave the Irish farmer completely at the mercy of producers all over the world who are efficiently assisted by their governments to produce commodities such as wheat. Here we expect that the farmers are going to do this sort of thing just because it is profitable. We should realise that they have to compete in a world market. On account of the demoralised state in which the farmers live here, those things will not take place without some very direct and powerful assistance. It would be impossible to expect that farmers who are living on such a narrow margin, most of them without any margin at all, would make any change without certain definite promises. The Minister for Finance is afraid to make changes because his margins are so very slender. That is the reason in this country why the farmers are so very conservative. Knowing that fact, I say that that is one reason why every assistance should be given to them.

The Minister for Agriculture stated that he is absolutely sick and tired of listening to a discussion on wheat. That should not be the case in a country like this that depends [1851] purely on agriculture. It may be boring to some, but I believe that there are few farmers through the country who are not interested in such discussions raised here. It does not matter what the discussion may be about if it is dealing with any branch of the agricultural industry. It gives the farmer a little hope that at least part of his industry is under discussion in the Dáil. It should not be at all tiresome; no matter how often these discussions come up, they are useful and, even if to-morrow, next day or even next year these discussions will not have any effect, they will show the farmer that there is at least some hope for the future, that his industry will get as much attention as the industry of distribution which is one of the main industries in this country. We have the farmer producing 75 per cent. of the wealth. He should therefore get even more attention in this House than the industry of distribution gets.

The statement that the Minister for Agriculture is sick and tired of this question of wheat is one that should not be made. The Minister should welcome this discussion. I certainly for one am always glad and interested when I hear discussions on any agricultural subject whatsoever. Some of them may appear to be foolish, but that does not make the slightest difference. No matter how foolish statements on that subject may appear to be, there are parts of those statements which may be found useful afterwards. Oats, wheat, and grain growing generally in this country have not been popular. We have ceased to all intents and purposes to be a grain growing country.

I take it there are reasons why we ceased to be a grain growing country; for the last two or three hundred years the tendency has been to raise stock. I believe the cause of that tendency and that policy was simply the want of security that obtained on behalf of the farmers. The farmer had all along the line the idea of live stock. Live stock were [1852] easily shifted and easily carried away and the farmer had behind his mind the difficulty involved in shifting oats, wheat and any sort of grain. That was one of the first ideas and one of the first reasons why the farmers preferred to raise stock rather than to grow grain. The farmer knew that under certain conditions grain would be more profitable. In every small country or small island I believe myself that grain production must be more profitable than cattle raising. To my mind cattle raising always means big countries. Cattle raising is always found in big countries.

Cattle raising and beef production can only be economically carried on where you have unlimited spaces. But the tillage of the land and the cultivation of crops in a small country like this would appear to the ordinary observer to be more profitable and more successful where the cultivation of the soil takes place. That is one of the broad general reasons why a motion of this description should get very sympathetic consideration here.

The other reasons given are that a great deal of confusion exists in the economy of our agricultural policy. The Minister for Education spoke about the question of substitution. I do not believe that after the Foster Corn Laws were passed that substitution was found to be the case. On the contrary as far as I can find out and as far as I read the matter, the effect of Foster's Corn Laws was actually to produce more live stock; certainly to produce more tillage and above all the waste lands were cultivated. Wages were increased and from the national point of view the value of the land had increased enormously. That is what took place after Foster's Corn Laws were passed. That might not be the case if this motion were accepted, but certainly if it had the effect of increasing the value of land which I believe it might eventually have then it would be welcome.

There is one thing that I am convinced of and it is this, that some change of that description is necessary. [1853] We must remember that our present position is artificial — that our present agricultural position at any rate is artificial. We must remember that the land has ceased to have any value because it has ceased to have any use. All countries, and especially small countries, make full use of the land to produce for the nation or for the industrialists of the nation all that nation's food. They do not accept those climatic arguments. These countries produce because the farmers are assisted with the production. They are assisted by the Government. The reason the Government do that is because they know very well that if those commodities are produced by other countries for them that the value of their own land is thereby reduced. The land in this country at the present moment is rapidly falling in value, and it is for that one reason because we are depending on the people of other countries to produce all that we need.

The farmer, for one reason or another, uses Indian corn to feed his live stock. We see an effort now made to have a mixture substituted for that. And why has that effort to be made? Is it because of the habit the Irish farmer has of buying Indian corn to feed his live stock, when he could produce corn of his own to feed his live stock? Not alone that, but we have the position that the farmer actually sells the grain crops that he grows and buys Indian corn with the proceeds. I wonder what is the real reason for that? I suggest that one of the real reasons for that is the complete poverty of the farmer. He is compelled to sell his own home grown corn to fill some gap, and he gets three months' credit from the shopkeeper for the Indian corn that he is feeding to his live stock. That is the reason why the farmer uses Indian meal so much.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan  Zoom on Patrick Hogan  I am afraid the Deputy is getting away from the motion again.

Mr. O'Reilly:  If this motion were accepted and wheat growing [1854] fostered in this country it will have this calamity brought about, or what the Minister for Education has called a calamity — and what in the opinion of the Government would be disastrous — the springing up of a number of small mills all over the country. Now, the springing up of a number of small mills all over the country would be exactly the thing that suits the small farmer. He needs those mills, especially the wheat mills, because from those mills he can get his offals and his feeding stuffs practically free of freight. It is the freight and the distribution and the distributors that ruin the small farmer.

I believe myself that this would be a God-send to the small farmers, especially if they could establish a number of small mills all over the country. The freights that are paid from Dublin on wheat offals, such as bran and other things, are gradually crushing the farmer, especially when he has to pay freight back on the fat produced off his land. That is more of the confusion that exists in the economy of our agricultural policy to-day. I have no doubt that this motion will not be accepted, but I am confident that the discussions that have taken place on it are good and will do good. While, as I have said, I believe the motion will not be accepted, I do feel that at some time this or some other such motion will be accepted by the Dáil.

Mr. G. Wolfe: Information on George Wolfe  Zoom on George Wolfe  I agree with one thing that the last Deputy has said, namely, that we have had a very interesting discussion on this subject, and that the ventilation of our opinions on it can do no harm, but possibly good.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Michael Hayes  Zoom on Michael Hayes  took the Chair.

Mr. Wolfe:  During the six years that I have been a member of the House we have on many occasions discussed in one form or another the subject of this motion, namely, the question of increasing the production of the food to be consumed by the Irish people with the object of [1855] giving more employment. During this debate we have had masses of statistics hurled at us from one side and the other which, I think, are very puzzling to the ordinary farmer. No doubt the statistics are quite satisfactory to those who have hunted them up, and appear most convincing to them, although I might point out the statistics apply in many cases to other countries that have quite a different outlook to ours as regards agriculture. I speak as an ordinary farmer who has gone in for mixed tillage for very many years. When I gave up the line of life in which I had started, that is to say, about forty years ago, I took up, or rather continued, the farming carried on by my predecessors. I determined that I would try to understand, as thoroughly as I could, the industry as far as it concerned me, and went in for farming in a practical way. I have gone in, as I have said, for mixed farming and have grown most crops, with the exception of beet. As many Deputies who have spoken on this motion have given their experiences as practical farmers, I think it is only right that I should do the same. I should mention that my land is very good land for the finishing of cattle. As well as finishing cattle, I also do a considerable amount of tillage, and the land, I may say, is extremely good for the growing of wheat. It may interest Deputies to know that I have got in my possession the weekly returns for the farm for about one hundred years — from the middle of the eighteenth century to about the year 1855. These returns give details with regard to the wheat grown, the value of it, and all particulars in connection with it.

Wheat is the only crop that I have ever sold. I grow the root crops I require for myself, but wheat I did not require for myself. I grew it to sell it and to make money out of it. I did that from the year 1908 to 1918. During some of those years I found that it did fairly well. During two of these ten years the wheat that I grew was sold for seed. I made [1856] some money no doubt out of the straw. I might say that I have very good accommodation for handling the crop, such as lofts for storing it. During the remaining eight years I experienced extreme difficulty with the crop. During one of these years — 1918 — the crop was an absolute failure. The crop failed in this way, that it rained practically every day during that year from June to November. The result was that it was almost impossible to get the wheat into any sort of good condition. In fact it was a sort of sopping mass. Another difficulty that presented itself was that a mill could not be got to thrash it. The weather conditions had been such that every one was wanting a mill at the same time. I, like so many other people, had no mill of my own. I could not get a mill when I wanted one. There was a delay of about four days, with the result that though corn was constantly turned for the purpose of drying it, it was absolutely ruined. Though it looked very good, in a few days it was beyond use except for pig stuff, and I found great difficulty in selling it for that.

Mr. Moore: Information on Séamus Moore  Zoom on Séamus Moore  That could hardly be considered a failure of the crop.

Mr. Wolfe:  The crop was quite good, but it did not pay. Taking it over a series of years, it did not pay. I grew it because the land was good for wheat. This land is specially mentioned in Young's Book of Travels in Ireland, 1778-80. As far as the growing of wheat is concerned, the land is all right, but the saving of the crop is a different matter. I move the adjournment of the debate.

Debate adjourned.


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