Wednesday, 11 April 1934
Dáil Éireann Debate
That in view of continued widespread unemployment the Dáil instructs the Executive Council to make available forthwith sufficient money to permit of the carrying out of large scale schemes of public works, so as to relieve the distress caused by unemployment.—William Norton, William Davin, Timothy Murphy, Richard Corish.
General Mulcahy: When the adjournment was moved on the last day I was discussing the statement of Deputy Norton in support of his motion, and I was charging the members of the Labour Party with dragging before their supporters in the country a smoke screen—dragging a smoke screen of probable disorder across the position and across their particular responsibility for the position that Deputy Norton has discussed. I was asking them if the Labour Party were seriously interested in the proposals they were making and in the intention enshrined in the motion and would they make some  attempt to get back to the principles which they themselves enshrined in their published policy issued under the names of Deputies Norton and Davin in a booklet called “The Nation Organised,” because it will require a return on the part of the Labour Party to some close proximity to these principles if they are going to help the workers to get employment, and particularly to get anything like security in any kind of employment that they say they require for them.
There are certain things in the published Labour Party policy that I would particularly draw their attention to. I ask them what are they going to do with reference to these proposals or what are they going to do that has any relationship to the principles enshrined in these proposals? Deputy Norton has issued a sample of the things that might be done—drainage, turf getting, water supply, the reconstruction of school buildings, sewerage schemes, land distribution, afforestation, further intensification of house building and slum clearance, cleaning of burial grounds, speeding of public works, cleaning of rivers and streams, improvement of Government buildings, widening of streets, rounding of corners, etc., all based upon moneys that the Deputy considers can be got on the credit and capital of the country. I think in their innermost minds he and the members of the Labour Party must know that that is all oratory, mere talk, and that no amount of that talk and no amount of urging on the part of the Government to give work to the unemployed can give them work and provide along these lines as long as the present destructive policies are continued, policies that are destructive of credit and destructive of capital. I call attention to paragraph 45 of their published policy, in which they say:
“We believe that a failure to improve the position of Free State produce in the British markets, relative to that of competing countries, would mean rapid retrogression, involving enormous loss, and all possible efforts should be made  to place our goods at the head of the market.”
The head of the British market! As part of their original policy they proposed a tax of 5/- a head on cattle exports so as to form a pool to ensure owners against loss due to expense and disease. But even that small imposition on the cattle trade of the country for the purposes of benefiting through the Labour Party that export industry was withdrawn at the first annual conference the Party had because they found that it was unwise to interfere by any kind of interference with the export of cattle. At any rate, the interference with the external market was, in their opinion, going to bring enormous loss to the country. They believed that. They knew it well and they have given reason for knowing it, because they had a market three times as big outside the country able to consume the produce we have been producing as the home market we had. They believed even in co-operation with members of the British Commonwealth. They believed that an improved type of trade could be got by this co-operation. In paragraph 121 they stated:—
“For instance, if the proposals now before the British public for a national grain board for the purchase of Britain's supply of Overseas wheat were to come into effect, we would try to become participants of the benefits of such a scheme in respect to the comparatively small tonnage of foreign wheat the Free State would require. On the other hand we would be willing to participate in a similar scheme made applicable to the sale on a national scale of our butter and eggs exports etc.”
“Seeing that the object of these proposals is to reduce the margin between what the producer receives and what the consumer pays, and to limit market fluctuations, considerable advantage would come to this country through inter-State co-operation of this nature.”
“The Labour Party would insist upon securing for the Free State every advantage accruing from any international agreement to which this country is a party but declarations of policy on issues between nations, particularly on questions relating to finance and debts, ought not to be made in the language of challenge and defiance. The jingo politicians of small nations as of great, are notorious for the disastrous consequences of their leadership, financial and political.”
“That in a dispute regarding interpretation of statutes, political parties are not qualified to pronounce judgment but favours expert inquiry into United Kingdom assets and liabilities and claims and counterclaims referred to in the Treaty with a view to revision of financial relations with the British Government.”
“But we believe that the country needs a rest from agitation for mere political changes so that attention can be devoted to the solution of the much more serious economic and social problems which so closely concern the national life.”
In every one of these important matters during the last two years the Labour Party have run away from their own policy. I am now discussing the motion which was put before this House by the Labour Party 12 months ago. I think it appeared first in the Order Paper on the 6th April, 1933. Looking back we find that in the 12 months since this motion was put on the Order Paper asking for additional State expenditure to start public works and to relieve unemployment in the country, our trade has been reduced by £14,000,000, that we finished a year in which the expenditure on home assistance was £830,000 as against £676,000 for the 12 months before that. I am speaking of the years ended 31st December,  1932 and the 31st December, 1933.
We find ourselves in the beginning of this year, starting a new year after that very big increase in the payment of home assistance throughout the country, with the home assistance paid for the end of February, the last month which is available, gone up an extra £1,000 a week over the amount paid in the same month last year, although the same month last year showed such a considerable rise over the year that went before it. We find unemployment figures rising. Since the 1st of January this year they have risen by 22,000. In the same period from the 1st of January, 1933, to the 3rd of April there was a reduction of 18,000. So that, we find ourselves with that fall in trade; we find ourselves with that increase in home assistance; and we find ourselves with that increase in unemployment; and in the City of Dublin itself we find that the cost of maintaining the able-bodied under the poor relief system, has gone up by 25 per cent. as against this time last year; that is, the weekly expenditure. We find ourselves discussing this matter after Deputies of the Labour Party have expressed themselves in many ways very bluntly on the conditions that have been and are being brought about.
and he called the policy national suicide. Everybody knows that agricultural labourers, from one end of the country to the other, are being paid less at the moment than they have been paid, I might say, since the setting up of this State. I heard it described, from a place not very far removed from Dublin, that the wages of these men were that they got their milk and they got their meat and half-a-crown. The Deputies cannot point to any single part of the country in which conditions are not worsening. Deputy Norton tells us that there is no use in making comparisons between the unemployment figures of to-day and those of last year. He says:
“I do not think they matter very much. The serious position to-day, so far as the unemployed people of the country are concerned, is not so much a matter of comparison of unemployed figures to-day with those of two, three, five or ten years ago. The problem for these people to-day is to know what steps the State, which has a moral responsibility in this matter, is going to take for the relief of the unemployment which is pressing so heavily on the people.”
After all, what is the State? The people. Deputy Norton, asking to have the situation relieved, has nothing to suggest but a large number of pieces of public work that must be paid for either out of public revenue or by borrowing, and he says that public work will require to be carried on in this particular way for a very long time. He says, in column 1360:
“It is quite clear that you cannot, within any reasonable period, hope to see our industries developed to such an extent as to make it possible to absorb into productive employment even half of those now seeking for an opportunity of working, but who are unable to obtain that opportunity.”
 At the same time, on the agricultural side of things, he explains that agriculture in this and in every other country in the world is passing through a period of acute depression. He says that “the State can create credit and capital for the purpose of financing a public works policy of that kind; that it is not orthodox finance, but it is difficult to talk about orthodox finance when you are presented with a situation in which you have 80,000 unemployed men and women.” To-day you have 100,000 unemployed men and women. Where are you going to get the revenue to employ these people on State works, and where are we going to get the credit if we are pursuing policies that are absolutely destructive of the real wealth at the present time in this country, the agricultural industry? There is no use in running along, as Deputy Davin runs along, on the unity stunt. He hoists the flag of unity on his public platform. He is going to unify everybody.
General Mulcahy: I will send the Deputy a copy of his speech, where he really endeavours to avoid facing up to the question of what should be done in this country to improve employment by saying: “Everybody is divided in this country and I am going to stand for unity.” There is no use in Deputy Davin saying that he is going to stand for unity and then thinking that that is going to solve the difficulty, say, of the agricultural labourers in his own constituency or the town workers, or that that is going to improve his credit or any other body's credit on which to borrow money to put these people working.
Deputy Norton becomes a Republican on his latest platform. The kind of Republicanism that is wanted in this country is the kind that James Connolly had, who saw a job to be done and went out and did it and paid the price of doing it; and the job of Republicanism that wants to be done  in this country or that has the spirit of Republicanism is the task of seeing what has to be done with the finances and the policies of this country on constructive lines so as to give our people a chance of living, even if political leaders have to pay the penalty. Decisions must be taken, and the sooner the Labour Party come from under some of the banners they are raising at the present moment and take decisions on the material matters in front of them, the sooner what Deputy Norton wants to see for employment in this country will be brought about. Deputy Corish raises the flag of Catholicism.
General Mulcahy: That is the answer to those people who scratch their heads and wonder what kind of religion or what kind of belief men can have who bring the destruction on the workers of the country that Deputy Corish's policy brings. No one in this country has been challenging Deputy Corish's Catholicism, but the result of his policy to the agricultural workers in Wexford and to the port of Wexford and the urban workers in Wexford has been such——
General Mulcahy: Well, I hope that if they put him at the top of the poll at the next election he will have begun to face the facts and that he will have re-read the Labour Party policy and understood something of what it means and understood something of the spirit of the men who ever did anything for labour. The members of the Labour Party are not blind to the position that we have, and day by day they are coming more and more up against the practical problem that they are going to be asked to tackle, and no number of flags is going to help them, either spiritually or materially, to do their work and to show that they are going to help the people on whose behalf they are  speaking or on whose behalf they were asked to come here and speak.
General Mulcahy: There is, apparently, a lot of stuff being read and written that either people do not understand or that they have no intention of implementing in any way. There are certain paragraphs in this pamphlet here of the Labour Party that I suggest ought to be read.
General Mulcahy: The Deputies can quote anyone they like. I am really quoting the best of the Labour Party's expressions and I am trying to draw the attention of the Labour Party to the good that they thought was in them. I want to send you back along the roads that you once hoped you would travel. I do not know what drove you from those paths.
General Mulcahy: I pointed out that when the members of the Labour Party were going before the electorate, before the Fianna Fáil Government came into office, they drew attention to the very desperate state of the country then. In the Watchword of Labour of 16th January, 1932, we had this as regards the pitiful position of some people in the country who had to pay rates:
“Whole armies of unemployed besieged the country homes throughout the country, while a piteous tale is told by one rate collector in the following words typical of the South of Ireland: ‘In one case my official duties compelled me to distrain a cow and small calf, the only stock on a farm of 50 acres, where the father was helpless, and the  mother, with six little children, followed me along the road in anguish for the little ones, who were dependent on the milk of this cow for their sustenance. I abandoned the seizure and gave the poor woman some assistance to get a little bread and groceries. Is it to be contended I was guilty of a breach of duty, or am I to be compelled to perpetrate deeds of Cromwellian atrocity?”
That was in 1932. “Deeds of Cromwellian atrocity.” Could not members of the Labour Party go to South Tipperary and Kilkenny and Waterford and see acts that compared with that would be indescribable? We had a case in South Tipperary where 22 cattle were seized from an unfortunate woman to pay rates and sold for £1 per head. Of course, Deputy Norton will say: “The Labour Party refuses to be influenced by the artificial wailing of the ascendancy class, whose hatred of the Labour Party and the Government was only equalled by their venomous attacks on the pre-Truce I.R.A.” That is the sympathy that is got to-day by people when their whole source of living is seized and their cattle are sold at £1 per head to pay rates. Deputy Corish has reason to know that it is not easy for people to pay rates. I should like to hear Deputy Breen and Deputy Hayes, of Tipperary, on what they think of that action.
General Mulcahy: I am quoting the case here and I should like to hear either Deputy Breen or Deputy Hayes on the case. If the Minister does not appreciate that that is a hard case I  refer him to some reports from the District Courts, where district justices, after going into the merits of the cases, put back the payment of the rates for many months and arranged to have them taken in instalments. The case quoted by the Labour Party as a distressing case of having to pay rates has been multiplied all over the country.
General Mulcahy: Deputy Holohan, I am sure, could make even a much more vigorous case than I am making on his own particular subject. I am drawing the attention of the Labour Party to the fact that not only have you cases where people's cattle are taken and sold for £1 per head to pay rates, but you have had cases before the District Courts, and the district justices, in case after case, gave time for the people to pay the rates, having gone into the merits of the cases. The only thing that the editor of the Ministerial journal has to say on the case of a person who said that when he drew an overdraft on the bank he drew it to pay his workmen's wages first rather than to pay his rates was that he had money and did not want to pay them. The position with regard to the rates, with regard to our trade with Great Britain, the position complained of by the Labour Party at the time, that Denmark was getting a better do in the British market than we were getting—all that has been worsened by the destruction of Irish capital, by the lowering of Irish wages and the prejudicing of the future of Irish workers in every part of the country, both in agriculture and other industries. The contribution to  employment here has been mainly tariffs and Deputy Norton has expressed himself vigorously enough on tariffs to show that there was something in what the Labour Party enshrined in their policy that tariffs were not the beginning and the end of all industrial prosperity in this country.
A day or two ago the last bit of machinery was taken out of Gallaher's factory. I had with me two people who had been receiving £3 5s. per week in Gallaher's factory. The only work they received since the factory was closed was eight months' employment on three days a week on relief work at 29/2 per week. A couple of months ago one of them went to a labour exchange in Dublin and saw the person in charge and asked to be helped to get employment. He was asked was he not on relief work and he said he was. He was asked had he not a nerve to come there and ask to be found employment while on relief work. He had lost a permanent position in a developing industry at £3 5s. per week and he was given eight months' relief work at 29/2 per week and he had the “neck” to think of approaching a labour exchange in Dublin with a view to being put back on some kind of permanent employment.
General Mulcahy: Yes—by an official. The Minister promised that he would see that the employees of Gallaher's were put back into some of the industries that were being started. The Labour Party have been having fortnightly meetings with the Minister to discuss the general policy. They are supporting a general policy which destroys our agricultural industry and which is building up industrial conditions here that they do not agree with, and that they really see no decent prosperity coming out of. They support the policy of a Government that tells them through their Minister of  whatever he is now—Forestry—that the whole economic conditions of the present world are shattered to pieces, and that we have to start all over again. If the world has to start all over again I would ask the Labour Party to turn back a bit to some of the things they thought they ought to do as a matter of policy; to some of the things that ought to be, with them, a matter of principle; to make their restart on those; and to get away from the one particular line of policy they are on at the present moment— a one-day strike against Fascism, a political levy against O'Duffy, and all that kind of thing which they know is quite futile.
General Mulcahy: Give up play acting; give up starting up smoke screens; give up misrepresenting matters, and get back to some of the useful things that are in your own policy. The leader of the Labour Party will not then be coming here and making himself ridiculous by adopting the litany policy of the Minister for Industry and Commerce —giving us a litany of all the things that could be done here if we would only scrap orthodox finance, and hold out our hand to get all the money that would come into it on the credit of our national character, and the great resources of this country.
Mr. Lemass: On this motion, moved by Deputy Norton, we had from him  a clear statement on the policy of the Labour Party for the immediate alleviation of the unemployment position, and the permanent solution of the problem which unemployment constitutes. We had from Deputy Mulcahy, following that, what I presume is the clearest possible statement of the attitude of his Party on the matter of unemployment, and his suggestions for its solution. Before I deal with the matters raised by Deputy Norton I think we should dispose of Deputy Mulcahy's points. I gathered from him that unemployment is due to the economic war; that it never existed before the economic war, and will disappear immediately the economic war is settled. That is the policy of Deputy Mulcahy's Party as expounded by Deputy Mulcahy. He spoke a lot about one-day strikes; he read extracts from the Labour Party pamphlet; he talked about the effects of the no-rate campaign in certain parts of the country, all of which were, in a sense, relevant. In so far as he dealt with the motion before the House he told us the policy of his Party in relation to unemployment. It is just as well that we had that clearly stated. I know that General O'Duffy has got some fantastic notion about getting all the workers of the country conscripted into labour battalions, and marched around up and down the hills to do an odd job here and there, being permitted, if the General likes, to send home to their families at the end of each week some contribution from their wages.
Mr. Lemass: It is very hard to know what exactly he means by any of his statements. He has made a number on this matter, and he certainly made it clear that the worker was not going to be allowed to select his own job, or  even to select the district in which he was to work. He was to be taken into a battalion, and, subject to whatever type of discipline the General determined to impose, he was going to be compelled to work at any job——
Mr. Lemass: In any case, it was half an hour on this occasion and an hour on the last occasion. He spoke at considerable length, and he gave us his solution of the unemployment problem. He gave us a clear statement of his attitude in relation to it, and the manner in which he would deal with it if by any misfortune he were translated to this side  of the House as a member of the Government. He said he would settle the economic war. His only idea about the whole subject was, as he stated, the restoration of the market which is three times as valuable as any market we have at home. Presumably, if that desirable end was achieved, unemployment would cease to exist. Again I want to remind Deputy Mulcahy that unemployment as a problem, and as a serious problem, existed here long before the economic war began.
I think Deputy Alfred Byrne is going to make a speech. I should like to be able to take time to go back over the records of the debates on unemployment which took place here in 1931, 1930, 1929, 1928, and 1927, and to read out the speeches which Deputy Alfred Byrne then made. It would be quite interesting were it not for the fact that it would be a bit monotonous, because all the speeches were the same. In any case it would be unnecessary, because we will hear exactly the same speech from Deputy Alfred Byrne on this debate. We will hear it again, no doubt, with the changes necessitated by the passage of time, but precisely the same in all other respects. Unemployment existed here in those years. Unemployment was a very serious problem in those years, despite the fact that up to 1930 a very considerable number emigrated from this country in every year, hoping to find in America or elsewhere an opportunity of earning the livelihoods they could not find here. Emigration has stopped from causes outside our control, and the unemployment problem which existed has been aggravated on that account. The unemployment problem will not end with the economic war. If Deputy Mulcahy, or Deputy Brennan, or any other Deputy opposite, thinks that the mere termination of this dispute with Great Britain is going to solve unemployment, I want him to tell us what the unemployed are going to work at as a result of the stoppage of the war. Deputy Norton said in the course of this debate that with the development of mechanisation in industry not even the fullest possible industrial development that could conceivably take place here would be sufficient  to absorb all the unemployed. Deputy Mulcahy, however, thinks that all those unemployed would immediately get back to work if the financial dispute with Great Britain is ended. Work at what?
Mr. Lemass: I know it is nonsense. I am saying it is nonsense, but Deputy Mulcahy took an hour to give expression to that nonsense. That is his solution of the unemployment problem, and it is nonsense.
Mr. Lemass: Perhaps Deputy Brennan will tell us his solution of the problem. I am inviting him to do it. We are anxious to get from some responsible member of the Party opposite a statement concerning their policy in this matter, that all the rest will not repudiate, just as General O'Duffy has been repudiated by Deputy Mulcahy to-night.
Mr. Lemass: The Deputy will have an opportunity of making a speech when the Vote is being taken. I am anxious to get out of the heads of Deputies opposite the misconception that they have as to the facts. Unemployment is not due to the economic  war, nor will it end with it. The fall in agricultural prices, to which Deputy Mulcahy referred, is not due to the economic war. The fall in agricultural prices started in April, 1929, and it has continued ever since. The fall in April, 1929, was severe. It was not quite as severe in 1931; it was much less severe in 1932. If the Deputy will take the agricultural prices index and draw a graph he will find that the curve will show a rapid fall in 1929 and in 1931 tapering off and levelling out in 1932, although still falling. The fall in prices of primary products has taken place in every country in the world. It is the cause of world depression. It has produced an international conference which was unable to correct it. It has caused Governments of every country to adopt novel, and sometimes revolutionary, methods in an effort to stop it. They have not succeeded.
The restrictions upon the export of Saorstát agricultural products to Great Britain are not due to the economic war. They would not be removed at the termination of the economic war. I do not want Deputies to take my word for that. I am asking them to take the word of British Ministers, who have been repeatedly asserting that these restrictions have been occasioned by British internal policy, and are going to remain so long as British internal policy remains unchanged. I refer Deputies to the statement of Mr. Stanley Baldwin to the British Farmers' Union only last week, in which he again made that assertion, and pointed out that with the termination of the Ottawa Agreements in June next the policy of the British Government will be further to restrict imports of agricultural goods, and particularly of meat products, into Great Britain from countries with whom Great Britain has no economic war. Again, I want to remind Deputies of the newspaper report which was read here by the Minister for Agriculture dealing with the communications which passed between the Governments of New Zealand and of Great Britain. The Government of New Zealand is on the most friendly terms with the Government of Great Britain,  and New Zealand is regarded as one of the most loyal of the Dominions. When the Government of New Zealand communicated with the British Government, offering to allow all British goods in free of tariffs if the British Government in return would undertake that New Zealand agricultural produce would not be the subject of quota restrictions in Great Britain, the British Government turned down the offer. It is necessary to state these facts, which most informed persons are already aware of, in order to get rid of the fog of misconceptions which Deputies opposite are allowing to cloud their thoughts—if, in fact, they do think—so that we can bring out the essential facts of the situation clearly, which must be done if any attempt is to be made to deal with this question.
Mr. Lemass: The essential fact in the situation is that the Government is attempting to develop in this country an economic system which will operate within its control and not be entirely dependent on causes outside its control, and which must in the nature of the case remain permanently outside its control.
Mr. Lemass: The essential thing is to maintain agricultural prices and not agricultural markets. It will be much better for us if we can maintain the agriculturist's purchasing power here without depending on other markets.
Mr. Lemass: The number of persons registered at the exchanges has increased, but a very large number of these people are not unemployed. In fact, we have had to take very special action because persons in employment were continuously registering at the exchanges for the purpose of getting permanent and perhaps better paid work, if available, either arising out of Government schemes or from the operation of the beet factories or other causes. There is also the fact that as the Unemployment Assistance Act comes into full operation on next Wednesday, there is consequently an inducement greater than ever to every person in this country who can sustain any kind of case to qualify for assistance under that Act to register at the exchanges.
Mr. Lemass: I want to get this discussion down to actualities, by saying straight away that the unemployment situation is serious. It is not as serious as some Deputies opposite would have us believe, nor is it of recent development. It has always been serious since the depression began, at the beginning of 1929, and, in fact, for a much longer period. It is because the unemployment problem is serious that the Government has taken what might be properly described as revolutionary steps in order to deal with it, and to alleviate hardship. I mentioned that on next Wednesday the Unemployment Assistance Act comes into operation. There may be criticism of the principle of that Act, but it is, at any rate, an attempt to give effect to a measure of relief designed to secure that persons, when unemployed, not through their own fault, will be protected against destitution, if not secured comfort. Under that Act, there will be paid out on an average about £25,000 a week through the various exchanges. It is an entirely new scheme, a new service much bigger than any existing service of the same kind in this State and much more comprehensive than any similar service yet established in any other State. It has taken us a long time to perfect the machinery to operate it. Even at present the machinery is only partially complete. It will be able to work next Wednesday, perhaps not completely satisfactorily, but, nevertheless, in some manner. After a little while, the bearings will have been run in and it will work more smoothly. But it does represent one big effort to deal with the serious unemployment problem here—and only one effort. I have always described that Act as the third line of defence against hardship arising from unemployment. The first line of defence is industrial development, the second is what Deputy Norton is pleading for—a large scale programme of public works. We hope that, in due course, it will be possible  to prevent unemployment at the first line or, if not at the first line, then, at least, at the second line. But if conditions are such that neither the first nor the second line is effective in stopping unemployment, there will be the third line to ensure that persons unemployed will be secured something to enable them to maintain life.
Deputy Mulcahy talked about the condition of the farmers. His evidence that the farmers' conditions were bad was that certain people had refused to pay rates and that, in one case, a lady had 22 head of cattle seized and sold to pay her rates.
Mr. Lemass: They would probably have realised more if they had seized her motor car. In other cases, as the Deputy is aware, luxuries of that kind were seized and sold to pay rates which the persons concerned, incited by members of the Deputy's Party, had refused to pay, although they could well afford to do so. The Deputy can get by Parliamentary question or through the columns of the newspapers information as to how the rates have been paid. He will find that in those parts of the country where one might expect hardship, where the population has always been pressing against the limits of subsistence, the rates have been paid better this year than they were in some other years.
Mr. Lemass: The places where, in the main, the rates have not been paid are where there are large farmers. The percentage of rates remaining unpaid is due to the fact that these large farmers have failed to pay. I am not denying that they are less able to pay a heavy rate charge now, because of the fall in prices, than they were some years ago. That is so, but their failure to pay was not due to inability to pay but to an organised campaign.
Mr. Lemass: I know of a meeting which took place in South Tipperary, within the past few weeks, of a large number of those non-ratepaying farmers. The meeting was called by the organisers of the campaign to discuss whether, having regard to the tactics of the Government in seizing household goods instead of livestock, they should not change their policy and pay their rates.
Mr. Lemass: That deterioration was caused by the fall in prices in external markets and the restrictions imposed by external Governments in consequence of that fall in prices. These factors have operated in every country in the world and I assert that they have operated, in many directions, less harshly here than they have in most countries. Live stock is, undoubtedly, one of our principal agricultural products. Excluding cattle, of the products raised by farmers, there is no product in respect of which it can be said that the situation here is more  critical than, or, in respect of most of them, as bad as it was. In previous debates, I have given figures for week after week showing that in respect of a number of agricultural goods the prices now operating are higher than they were 12 months ago. Cattle are our sole problem and we have to tackle that problem in a manner which will secure——
Mr. Lemass: —— so that the wealth-producing capacity of the Irish farmers and, consequently, their purchasing power will be maintained despite the diminished production of a commodity we cannot now and will not in the future be able to find a market capable of absorbing to the same extent as in previous years. That is the fact. Deputies may deplore the fact, but that gets them nowhere. The essential fact is that, so far as we are dependent on the British market for the sale of our cattle, we have repeated declarations by British Ministers that that market is not going to be available to us on the same conditions as previously.
Mr. Lemass: Or to attempt to deceive anybody else into believing that  there is available in Great Britain now, or will be at any time in the future, a market for live stock capable of absorbing the production which we undertook in previous years. It is not there. I again refer to the fact that only last week the President of the Council in the British Cabinet, Mr. Baldwin, asserted in a most emphatic manner, in a manifesto to the British Farmers' Union, that they were going definitely to conserve the market for meat in Great Britain for the British producer and to limit supplies from all other countries. He pointed to the fact that their Treaty obligations with Canada, Australia and New Zealand terminated in June, and that, with the termination of these engagements, supplies from these countries were to be cut down also. Deputies who try to deceive members of the farming community into the belief that there is any action open to any Government in this country, that will secure for them again uninterrupted entry to the British market for live stock, do the farmers of this country a very great disservice. I did not want to go into these matters because they are only slightly relevant so far as the motion is concerned, but that statement does clear the air, and does help Deputies to realise that in tackling the position we have to have regard to actuality and not to the fancies to which they may care to give utterance.
Deputy Norton, in the course of his remarks, supporting this resolution, which asks the Government to take steps to provide a large scale scheme of public works to relieve the distress occasioned by unemployment, argued as follows: We have within our control all the powers required to deal with the unemployment problem. And he said that we had to face the fact that the development of industry, which is taking place and which has taken place, no matter how intensive it may be, because of the development of machinery and the tendency towards the adoption of labour-saving devices in modern industry, is not capable of absorbing our unemployed. The words he used were:—
He argued that industry might help to deal with the problem, in a much greater degree, if legislation was introduced reducing working hours so that to maintain the same production a larger number of hands would be required. He dealt also with the position of agriculture, and the reaction of world prices upon agriculture here, similar to those on agriculture in other countries; and while he agreed that the change over from live stock production to the production of tillage crops might, in due course, have its effect upon the unemployment problem, nevertheless he argued the process was likely to be slow and that we could not depend upon it for any immediate improvement of the situation. Therefore he urged that the resources of the State should be mobilised in whatever form the Government thought best in order to finance a scheme of public works and thus provide the opportunity of using the unemployed in some useful manner. And he then proceeded to indicate various kinds of public works that had occurred to him and to the members of his Party which he would like to see undertaken.
I think that we must, first of all, examine very closely the facts of industrial development upon the unemployment situation. If it is true that the mechanisation of industry is having the effect of lessening the effect upon unemployment which development might otherwise have, and if, in fact, it is not possible now to absorb the unemployed persons in this country, no matter how great the industrial development we may secure in industry, that situation would be serious indeed. It is quite true that President Roosevelt carried out an investigation of unemployment conditions in the State of New York and came to the conclusion that if every factory in the city of New York was put to work at full time, or even at overtime, all the unemployed in that city would not be absorbed. It is quite true that every day new devices  for speeding up production, and for the elimination of human labour, are being adopted in many industries and that, in fact, it is possible to get, in respect of these industries, a very great increase in production without any increase in employment and, in fact, with a decrease in employment.
I remember well in Canada, in 1932, I went with a British Minister to see a nickel works in a certain province. Some 50 people or so were employed there. The manager told us that a few years before the same production from this works required the employment of between three or four thousand persons; but an entirely new process of production was introduced and the result was that they could maintain their output with one-tenth of the number of people they formerly employed. That development has taken place in a much similar way here. But I submit it is an open question whether it is true to assert that the various possible industrial developments will not give us work for all the people now unemployed whatever their number be. It is, of course, difficult to forecast what employment will be given by any particular development and we must always bear in mind that economists calculate that for every two persons employed in production at least one person is employed in distribution or a luxury occupation of one kind or another. The forecasting of the employment to be given by any industrial development is often very inaccurate. It was always regarded as axiomatic that the development of the flour industry would have no effect on employment. The Tariff Commission, after exhaustive enquiry, expressed the opinion that the production of flour required in Irish mills would only increase employment by 150. In fact, 550 people extra have been employed in Irish flour mills since June, 1932, when the tariff was imposed, and we have not yet supplied cur requirements. Two or three new mills are being built and still further mills are being planned, so that the actual number will be further increased.
On the other hand Deputy Norton  referred to the brushmaking industry. Despite the fact that, as a result of tariffs, the output of that industry has been increased by nearly three times, the new conditions were made the occasion of the reorganisation of the industry and the introduction of new methods of manufacture with the result that the total employment given by the industry has actually diminished. There is, however, still a wide field of industrial activity untouched. We have succeeded in the past two years in producing activities in the directions where it was easiest to produce activity, in respect of industries where there were not the same difficulties, either in respect to the management or the staffing, as will exist in the case of industries to be created in future. We got that development in relation to industries where increased production and increased activity could be secured with the smallest capital expenditure. We have now reached the stage in our industrial programme where the new concerns will have to be of larger size, require a heavier capital investment and can only be brought into existence with the assistance of technical skill, both in the management and in the staff, not at present available in the country. These industries however are of the kind that absorb workers in large numbers and which mainly require for their operation male workers and adult workers. They cannot be brought rapidly into existence. The actual construction and equipment of factories will in some cases take over 12 months but, even upon that work, employment will be available which will have its bearing on the situation.
The housing programme of the State is being pushed ahead as rapidly as possible. Very great activity is being undertaken in all directions. In some respects it has been held up by the absence of skilled workers, as Deputies will have read in the Press for themselves. There is, of course, a natural reluctance on behalf of the trade unions catering for these skilled workers greatly to increase their numbers by the admittance of new entrants without some guarantee  that the present scale of development will be maintained, because otherwise they might find a slackening off in activity at a later stage and consequently a much greater demand amongst their members for whatever work might be available, with reactions on their general standard of living. The development of the housing industry, however, even at the scale at which it has been possible to undertake it having regard to the limitations which I have mentioned and the other limitations imposed by the nature of the machinery at the disposal of local authorities, has also created the possibility of other industries which are being established and extended at the present time and which are capable of very considerable development. I have been, in fact, surprised, on going into the figures in respect of many of the materials required in house construction, to find the extent of the market available and the extent to which we are still unable to supply our own requirements. Our efforts in recent months have been very largely directed towards interesting people in the organisation of concerns to undertake the production of these goods. I say, however, it would be a pessimistic idea to allow to operate in our minds that it is not possible to deal with our unemployment problem by industrial developments.
I suppose Deputies will differ as to the extent to which industrial development is possible here but there is, I assert, much more to be done than has been done and in the doing of that we shall make a very considerable gap in the ranks of the unemployed. The reorganisation of agriculture, involving as it does a much more intensive tillage programme in respect to wheat, beet and the cereal feeding stuffs required by farmers, must also have its bearing on the unemployment problem. It is true, that while our industrial and agricultural plans are working out, there is a situation which has to be dealt with, but a situation which, I assert, is being dealt with in the public works programme of the Government, backed by its unemployment assistance  scheme. There are, of course, limitations naturally imposed upon any public works scheme that can be undertaken. No matter what that scheme may be, whether it be a waterworks, a sewerage, a drainage or an afforestation scheme, there are technical engineering problems which must be solved and the resources at the disposal of the State and at the disposal of the local authorities in the solving of these problems are limited.
It is easy enough to say that there is work to be done. Deputy Norton suggested quite a number of directions in which there is work to be done. It is a much more difficult matter, however, to organise the doing of that work—to provide the direction, to prepare the plans, to get the men actually down on the job. The preparation of the plans alone involves considerable delay and these plans must necessarily be carefully prepared so as to ensure that not merely will work be provided for the unemployed but that useful results are likely to accrue from the doing of it. If it were merely a matter of employing men, it would be quite feasible to engage them to make holes and fill them up. It is not that class of work on which we want to engage the unemployed, because unless the work is of a useful nature it is better that they should not work at it at all. It takes much more in hard cash to put a man on work than it does to maintain a man in the same degree that he would be maintained from the wages arising from the work. If you have 100 men unemployed you can pay each of these men 30/- at a cost of £150, but you could not put them into employment at a 30/- wage for £150. Even at the simplest form of work, such as road construction, at which only simple tools like spades and picks would be used, the provision of these tools, the provision of the materials and the provision of directional control would involve an expenditure of almost as much again— another £150 a week. However, if we are going to use national funds for the purpose of putting men to work we must ensure that we are going to get a return for the money so expended.  That involves, as I have said, the solution sometimes of intricate engineering problems and always the direction of the operations with considerable care.
Deputies have had explained to them the difficulties that arise in connection with, for example, any large schemes of afforestation. Afforestation involves the planting of trees and before it can be undertaken numbers of young trees must be available. I understand that the afforestation experts say that the trees must have been grown in this country, that it is not feasible to import young trees from abroad and plant them here as they seldom make good progress. Consequently, as a preliminary to any large scale afforestation scheme, there must be a nursery stage. That at present has been organised and this year or next year afforestation work will be on a much larger scale than heretofore. The following year it will have reached a point at which we will be able to maintain if for a number of years after that, so that the full afforestation programme of the Government, outlined by the Minister concerned, will be given effect to.
The erection of public buildings of any kind is not, in my opinion, a useful form of work to undertake for the purpose of relieving unemployment, because the type of persons, apart from preliminary work on foundations or demolition, that would be employed upon such schemes are, in the main, not unemployed at the present time. In fact, in respect of a large number of such classes of persons they are in demand and are not available in sufficient numbers to meet the requirements of the ordinary housing programme. Certain plans in connection with public buildings are in contemplation, but the immediate relief of unemployment requires works of a different kind. The reclamation of land, the drainage of rivers and so forth is all work which has been, and is being, undertaken. But, again, there are very definite limitations upon that class of work arising out of engineering problems. However, the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary who are dealing with these matters from  day to day will be able to inform the Dáil of the actual undertakings that have been carried through in the past year, and of those that are planned for the coming year. I think they will be able to point out that, to the limit of the resources made available, very useful work has been done and a very large amount of employment has been given. The returns show that at various stages in the course of the year, especially during the winter months when unemployment is considered to be at its worst, there have been from time to time over 40,000 people employed upon Government works or works assisted out of Government funds of one kind or another. The provision of these public works has, of course, its bearing upon the industrial and agricultural position.
It is, I think, a remarkable thing that there appears to have been no slackening off whatever in the consumption of goods in this country. Most of the retail concerns, the accounts of which are made available to the public at the annual meetings of shareholders, have reported in this year an increased trade over the previous year. It was not merely a matter of one concern, because of good management or exceptional circumstances, doing well at the expense of others, the remarkable fact is that they have all had the same report to make. The trade statistics available show that the consumption of the goods in most frequent use from day to day and from week to week has been well maintained and that, in fact, there has been an increase in the consumption of many classes of goods the sales of which are regarded generally as an index of the purchasing power of the people. That situation is, no doubt, partly due to the public works which the Government have undertaken, and partly due to the fact that the very large sum which previously went out of this country to pay for manufactured goods imported is now being retained here and circulated again and again during the course of the 12 months through new or existing industrial concerns. It is partly due, too, to the fact that the farming community, even though they have had to  face a substantial fall in the prices of their products, have also enjoyed a considerable reduction in their operating costs.
It is not correct to pretend or to assert that the whole of the fall in prices, to which reference has already been made, has been borne by the farming community. Nothing of the kind has, of course, occurred. The expenses which the farmer has to meet out of the price he secures for his products have all been reduced. This year we are providing almost £2,000,000 in relief of rates on agricultural land. It is the largest sum that has ever been provided for that purpose in any year since the Saorstát was established. This year, in addition, the farmers have had their annuity charges reduced by half. That left available amongst them to meet other charges the sum of almost £2,500,000. There have been reductions in the prices of the materials used by them—feeding stuffs and so forth—and various measures are being adopted in order to make these reductions more effective and of direct benefit to them. The fall in agricultural prices in respect of certain commodities has, therefore, been in a large measure offset by the reduction of other charges, and we must also bear in mind that in respect of a number of agricultural products prices are now moving upwards and the indications are that they will continue to move in that direction. I refer particularly to those commodities which are sold in large quantities. The prices of milk and butter, of milk products of various kinds, and of pigs and bacon have all been well maintained. They are much higher, in fact, than they are in other countries. The prices for oats and barley have been moving upwards, while the prices now obtaining for sheep are higher than they have been at any time since an early date in 1931. The price of potatoes has also gone up. In fact, the customs authorities are now engaged on the problem of dealing with persons attempting to smuggle potatoes in from Northern Ireland, where the price for them is very much lower. The price of wool has also  advanced considerably. The prices for other agricultural products have also either been maintained or they are moving upwards. The position, therefore, is that in respect of those commodities the reduction in charges to which I have made reference—the reduction, for instance, in the price of feeding stuffs—has been of very direct benefit to the farmers and has helped them to meet their losses upon live stock. In respect to live stock, the measures which are being adopted by the Government will help farmers to carry over the transition period before the new order is in full operation. Farmers appear to have been able to maintain their purchases of industrial  goods to much the same extent as in previous years. Again, I would remind Deputies of statements which have been made by persons who have no sympathy with the Government: of men like Senator Sir John Keane, who is a director of the Bank of Ireland. The information available to them is that not merely are sales being maintained, but that cash payments for sales are as good, if not better, than they have been for a number of years past. I move the adjournment of the debate.
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