Wednesday, 3 June 1936
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. J.M. Burke: Lest there may be any misapprehension about or misunderstanding of my observations, I have written down what I intend to say. On last Thursday there appeared over my name a question relative to an alleged Budget leakage. This query did not correspond with the original question, which was revised and re-revised and emasculated to the form in which it was passed eventually.
Minister for Finance (Mr. MacEntee): On a point of order; the Deputy has said that the question on the Order Paper was not in the form in which it was originally submitted. Does the Deputy allege that I, as Minister for Finance, had any responsibility in that matter?
Mr. Burke: None; I will say that at once. The answer to my question, as I expected, was in the negative. I asked then a supplementary question, which the Dr. Syntax who is in charge of the Ministry of Finance——
Mr. Burke: ——described it as a question which I was trying—I am  emphasising the word “trying” to ask. What the Minister meant by that I cannot say. He is a language purist and an expert on literary matters; he caretakes the well of English undefiled, and he is also a Colossus that doth bestride this narrow State.
Mr. Burke: I have read the Official Report of the question; to my untutored and bucolic mind it is flawless. I challenge the Minister here and now to point to any mistake in the verbiage of it. However, it may have been calculated to make the Minister “stare and gasp.” I put the question in no hostile or partisan spirit, but to allay suspicious and remove doubts which had been raised in the public mind by certain statements in the Press, which I intend, with the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, to read to the House in a few moments.
An Ceann Comhairle: It might not be amiss to make that matter clear now. Deputies must take responsibility for the statements and allegations they make in the House. The House cannot be asked to pronounce on the opinions of newspapers or of people outside the House. The Deputy may not read comments made by any newspaper on the case which he is making.
Mr. Burke: Well, I will take the journalist's case as my own. I take full responsibility for it. He wrote: “Mr. Lemass, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, speaking in the Dáil on Tuesday, stated in reference to a report...”
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy put a certain question to the Minister in Thursday last. The purpose of raising the matter on the adjournment is to further elucidate the case. If the Deputy has any further argument to advance on the question of the possibility of the leakage of information prior to the Budget he must make his own case and not merely quote what some outsider has said. The Minister cannot be held responsible for opinions expressed in articles in the Press. Deputies are entitled to quote from speeches made by Ministers, inside or outside the House or from official documents or reports of commissions, but the House cannot be asked to debate what newspapers say or allege.
Mr. Morrissey: May I submit, with all respect to your ruling, that there are precedents for it? Matters have been raised in this House and Deputies have quoted from newspapers in support of the matters which they raised.
Mr. Morrissey: With all respect, it is quite a common occurrence in this House for members of the House to quote the opinions of other parties in support of the particular statements which they themselves are making.
Mr. Morrissey: If a Deputy who—in pursuance of information which he has received—raises a question in this House is not satisfied with the answer given by the Minister responsible, and decides to have it further elucidated on the adjournment, is he not entitled to quote in support of that matter the information upon which his question was based?
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is putting a completely different question. A Deputy is entitled to quote to support his argument but not to read as his case an article from a newspaper. He may of course refer to relevant points, but may not quote the whole article as his own case.
Mr. Burke: He is not a member of this House, but, as Deputy Morrissey has pointed out, quotations from newspaper reports have been cited here hundreds of times not only by the Opposition but by Ministers, and why on this occasion I am shut down I cannot tell. I am sure the Minister for Finance and the other members of  the Executive Council would like to have this matter thoroughly investigated, and by shutting down discussion of it they simply raise further suspicion in the public mind.
Mr. Burke: I am not demanding an inquiry because I expect that the Minister will clarify the matter so fully that there will be no need for an inquiry or investigation. It is with that object I put down the question. If I am shut down now——
Mr. Burke: The relevant question is this: did the Empire Services Limited, London, a Press agency, convey to Irish newspapers the day before the Budget information that substantial tariffs were going to be put on certain component parts of refrigerators? Furthermore, was that communication marked “confidential,” and were the editors requested not to publish it until after the Budget proposals had been put into print?
Mr. Burke: On the same evening, did Mr. Oswald Jamison, who belongs to a firm here in Dublin, state in London, not only that a tariff or extra duty would be put on these component parts of refrigerators, but that it actually had been put on them? Is there any truth in these statements? Is it all a fiction on behalf of Sir Basil Clarke, a well-known man in the old I.R.A. days, or is there any truth in the allegations that these tariffs were going to be put on and that these people knew of that fact beforehand? Is there any truth in Mr. Jamison's  statement that the tariff had been put on, and, if so, how did this information get out? It may have been a matter of intelligent anticipation, or it may have been that they were promised substantial protection if they erected a factory here in Dublin, but it is a curious thing that these facts should have been communicated to an English company and published in London in an interview with this Mr. Jamison the night before the Budget was introduced. I am only asking the Minister is there any truth in that statement? If he says there is not, of course, I shall accept his word.
Mr. MacEntee: It is very difficult, Sir, to appreciate what the Deputy, who has detained the House here to-night, is trying to get at. He himself has indicated to-night that he does not think there is anything in the statements which have appeared in a certain newspaper, and certainly, in the question which he put down and which has given rise to this debate, he gave no person any reason to believe that he attached anything more than the most casual importance to these statements. The question which Deputy J.M. Burke put down on the Order Paper was: “To ask the Minister for Finance whether any information was conveyed, officially, by his Department to any firm, before the introduction of the Budget, regarding a possible increase of Customs duty on refrigerating apparatus.”
An Ceann Comhairle: I might intervene to point out to the Minister that, as Deputy Burke has stated, the question on the Order Paper was not the question originally drafted by him. The Chair has, on more than one occasion, cut out references to newspapers and named persons in questions in the Dáil, and the Chair so acted on this occasion. Accordingly, the absence of such references is not Deputy Burke's fault.
Mr. MacEntee: Therefore, Sir, I only have to deal with the question on the Order Paper, and that question admitted only of a simple answer —either “Yes” or “No.” I told the Deputy that the answer was in the negative. Moreover I have had made the most searching investigation possible, so far as my Department is concerned, into the matter, and I am satisfied that no information was conveyed to any unauthorised person— whether the person referred to in these newspaper articles or otherwise—that a tariff upon refrigerator components would certainly be imposed in the Budget. Any person who takes the trouble to read the articles which have given rise to all this pother to-night, will see that the person who wrote the articles did not take them seriously himself. Furthermore they will see that the communication which was received from this news service in London was in these terms:—
Mr. Morrissey: On a point of order, Sir. I do not want to go further into this matter, but I suggest, with all respect, that if the Minister is going to be allowed to read certain parts of these articles and letters, in view of what has gone before in regard to Deputy Burke, I do not see what is the use in going on with this.
Mr. MacEntee: And, Sir, in so far as Deputy Burke's speech here to-night is concerned, it is relevant, because what Deputy Burke has alleged is that the statement was that certain “substantial tariffs were going to be put on component parts of refrigerators.”
Mr. MacEntee: Sir, I do not know whether I should be within the rules of the House if I repeat the statement which is here in quotation marks in the article in the newspaper on which the Deputy has relied. The words there are:—
Let us consider the facts so far as I can put them before the House. A certain person, interested in the assembling of refrigerators in this country, applies for a tariff. He gets no information as to what the result of his application is going to be beyond this: that if a tariff is granted it will be imposed in the Budget. That is what he is told. What does this rather astute gentleman do? He goes off to London; he gives an interview on the 11th—the day before the introduction of the Budget—to a certain editorial service there, because he is anxious to get support and publicity for the industry he has established. In the interview he refers to duties which he feels may be imposed on refrigerator components. In order to give that interview it was not necessary for him to have any information. He need only take a long shot. If the long shot comes off and duties are imposed,  he will get very valuable publicity on the very morning following the introduction of the Budget. For here is an interview with a person who is interested in this new industry. It gets splash headings amongst the comments on the Budget, adverse and favourable. It appears in all the newspapers. That is the whole explanation of this story: that an astute gentleman with a good publicity sense, who happened to be in London on the 11th May, gave the interview which was dated 12th May.
Mr. MacEntee: Precisely. It was sent out on the 11th May with a covering letter that it would probably be found, as it might be, that ponent parts of refrigerators would be substantially increased in the Budget. There is this about it, that if it was found, as it probably might be, that there was a duty imposed on refrigerator components, then this interview would be good news. It would be hot stuff. It could be published, as I said, with splash headings, and the gentleman who took the long shot would get free publicity. That is the whole story and nothing more. I have nothing to add to the answer that was given to Deputy Burke on the 20th May, that so far as my Department, or any other Department of the Government, is concerned, I am satisfied that no information was conveyed, either officially or unofficially, to any person that a duty on refrigerator components would be imposed in the Budget.
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