Thursday, 7 March 1940
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. Dillon: When I moved to report progress last night I was asking leave of the Chair to deal with the matter of tanker accommodation for supplies of petrol and the Minister intervened to say that he was not responsible for the industrial alcohol factories now. I rejoined that I knew that, but I felt that inasmuch as he required the community to submit to a petrol rationing which he described as drastic I was entitled to make suggestions to him whereby he might be able to make available ampler supplies of petrol to the community by constraining persons, citizens of this State, who were chartering tankers to use those tankers for the transport of petrol in preference to treacle. I do not want, Sir, to avail of the fact that you are now in the Chair and the Leas-Cheann Comhairle was there last night to invite you to make a different ruling from what was made on that occasion, and if you feel that this is irrelevant I do not wish to pursue it. I feel, however, in the light of what the Minister says that it is very relevant. The Minister dwelt on the inconvenience that scarcity of petrol must specially create for commercial travellers, men who depend for their livelihood on their ability to move about the country.
Mr. Dillon: Very well. I have already referred to the difficulties experienced by merchants in getting supplies of china and delph and the prospective difficulties that concern country blacksmiths as a result of the cost of shoeing iron at present being offered from Irish sources. Quite frankly, I have not had any dealings in Irish shoeing iron since supplies became available, but prices have been quoted which suggest to me that it would be impossible for a blacksmith to get the price of a set of shoes if the cost of his iron is raised to the level that has been suggested so far.
No supplies of fuller shoeing iron are available from Haulbowline but plain shoeing iron is. I should like the Minister to examine this question with a view to determining whether the supplies that will be available from Haulbowline are really reasonable for our blacksmiths. If he makes up his mind that they are not, then I suggest to him that he should busy himself to get supplies of this commodity before a number of respectable men are driven out of business, because every Deputy knows that if a blacksmith closes his forge and his custom goes elsewhere, it is very difficult for him to get that custom back. If the cost of supplies rises unduly, certain blacksmiths may be constrained to close up and go out of business. It will be no relief to them if the price of shoeing iron should subsequently be reduced, because by that time their trade would be gone and they would simply have to become journeymen, looking for employment with any smith or foundry that has work to offer.
Now, we come to the position of firms which are supplying cheap knitted socks and stockings, which are principally purchased by the poor. Most Deputies in this House who come from the country are familiar with the coarse 1/- sock and are also familiar with the women's black four-in-one ribbed worsted hose. These are manufactured from the low-grade yarn to which the Minister made reference yesterday. I think a similar, if not  identical yarn, was employed in the manufacture of cheap blankets. We all appreciate the Minister's difficulties in procuring supplies of this commodity because it is undoubtedly true that the British have purchased the entire wool clip of more countries than one and are in a position to dominate the situation so far as we are concerned. But, as he very properly observed yesterday, the Minister has found that the British Department of Supplies are reasonable and have no desire to blackmail him any more than he has to blackmail them. We are sending to Great Britain at the present time a very considerable quantity of coarse wool. The Minister is using his licensing powers to hold in the domestic market so much of that wool as is suitable for our trade here. Might I suggest to him that a more effective means of remedying the difficulty would be to approach the British Department of Supplies, in the same spirit as they approached him, and without using his licensing powers to detain in this country part of the wool clip, offer to give it to the British, saying to them at the same time: “Look here, if you get wool from us, will you go as far as you can to require your spinners to send us back a fair proportion of the low-grade yarn that we require for certain purposes, a yarn which we have used in the past?” We are not asking them to send us yarns of this class to start a new industry in this difficult time but just to keep going essential industries that we have always had and to supply essential demands that were always there. I think on that basis a reciprocal agreement could be arrived at.
I mentioned, in connection with matters that arose between our Department of Agriculture and the British Department of Agriculture, that I thought a more satisfactory arrangement could be made, if the negotiations were conducted between Minister and Minister. The negotiations could be carried on on more flexible lines and could cover a wider basis than was originally intended. I suggest to the Minister for Supplies now that if he could meet the British Minister for Economic Warfare and the President of  the British Board of Trade, he might be able to solve the difficulties in connection with the yarn problem without any serious trouble. This is an urgent matter, because already the price of these commodities has gone up immensely, and it will become a matter of very considerable embarrassment if supplies are no longer available. Many Deputies may think that a suitable alternative would be for the women of the country to get out their knitting pins and go to work knitting the stockings and socks they are unable to buy, but the Deputies to whom that occurs cannot be familiar with the drapery trade or they would know that the worsted requisite to knit such articles would cost more than the finished article, the stocking or the sock, that these people have been in the habit of buying. We are in no serious difficulty about the better-class end of the trade. It is the cheap stuff that is the bother, and it is a bother that is not of the Minister's making. It arises out of the situation, and I believe it could be satisfactorily overcome by a reciprocal agreement with the British Government.
I think the Minister should bear in mind also, in using these licensing powers to prevent the export of wool from this country, that the sheep farmers have already had to make their contribution through the Fellmongers Act which, undoubtedly, for a considerable period, resulted in the sheep hides fetching a lower price in Éire than that at which they could have been sold in Great Britain or Scotland. It may be argued, of course, that the English and Scotch fellmongers were paying an artificially higher price in order to wipe the Irish fellmonger out. It is unnecessary to go into that question now, but the net result was that the Irish sheep farmer had to take less for his skin than he would otherwise get. I put it to the Minister that if the effect of restricting exports of domestic wool is to make the price realised for that wool lower, he should think twice before he acts drastically. I understand that the fleece of one of our sheep weighs about 7 lbs. If the Minister reduced the price of wool by 1/- per lb. as a result of these restrictive measures  it would mean a reduction of 7/- per head on the sheep of the country, and 7/- per head represents the profit that many a man makes on his sheep. I would urge the Minister to keep in constant touch with the Department of Agriculture before he acts drastically in that matter.
The Minister spoke of the difficulty of getting supplies of bags and sacks. I do not know whether the Minister realises the boundless ocean of empty sacks and bags that floats about this country and that could be tapped if the people were given to understand that these bags were worth money. I have experience of it practically every Friday and Saturday of my life. Practically every farmer who comes into my shop buys a broken parcel of manure, meal, flour or something of that kind. After he has made his purchases he is asked: “How are you going to take it home?” He says: “Cannot you give me a bag?” There is then a long wrangle and, at the end of the wrangle, he says: “We have dozens of bags at home but we never thought it worth while to bring in one with us. If you give us one to-day, we will bring it in some other day.” I do not give him the bag and, in the end, he produces a bag from somewhere and takes away his purchases in it. It is astonishing, but nevertheless true, that if you offered such a farmer 2d. for a bag, he would bring along the following Friday about 15 bags and ask you for 2d. for each bag. They proceed to sell the bags to me and, if the Minister could bring home to farmers throughout the country that bags are worth money—say, worth 6d. a piece, and I think they are nearly worth that now—he would be smothered in a deluge of bags. But, of course, it will require a little organisation to get them collected. At the moment I cannot think of a plan, but one way he might do it would be to fix a price—and he is very fond of fixing prices. He might fix a price for so much a bag and, if he would undertake to accept delivery at a depôt in Dublin, I think a great many shopkeepers in rural Ireland would be glad to act as his agents and collect the bags for him.
 Let me give him this warning. I frequently send bags to sack makers in this city. I go through those bags scrupulously and I see no torn or dirty bag is despatched, but when they arrive at the sack merchants and I get my returns, out of 100 bags there are always about seven torn, three useless and 22 dirty, on which I am substantially cut, with the result that sending bags becomes an uneconomic operation. It may be their view of what constitutes a torn bag is different from my view, but there is that difficulty, and the Minister's whole scheme for collecting bags might be aborted if it transpired, when the bags arrive in Dublin, that they are described as torn and dirty when, in the opinion of the consignors, they were perfectly good and entitled to the fixed price for the particular class of bag to which they belong.
The Minister spoke of the difficulties of getting supplies of aluminium blanks as a result of the sinking of the ship Rhynanna, which was on its way with supplies of that commodity. Was the ship Rhynanna registered in this country, or was it British?
Mr. Dillon: It was not a war casualty, but there was another ship to which the Minister referred which was carrying oil cakes and which was attacked. It survived the attack, staggered in, and delivered its goods. Surely he has considered the desirability of making representations to the Government responsible for these attacks?
Mr. Dillon: Perhaps the Minister will consider co-ordinating his Department with the others with a view to safeguarding those ships against further attacks? I think the whole House heard with great relief the Minister's description of the success which attended his efforts to get supplies of sugar and, I believe, the success which attended his efforts to  get supplies of wheat. May I direct the attention of the House to one interesting fact? There are two commodities in respect to which we have sweated for four years to achieve self-sufficiency. There are two commodities to achieve self-sufficiency in which we spent millions of pounds in the last four or five years and when the hour of crisis comes these are the two commodities in regard to which we have very little difficulty in getting adequate supplies. Is not that a strange thing? We urged everyone to grow more wheat and to grow more beet and now it emerges that we have ample supplies of wheat and apparently can get as much as we want, and that we have ample supplies of sugar and are getting it in ample quantities since the beginning of the emergency and we see no probable prospect of those deliveries being suspended in the future.
On the other hand, animal feeding stuffs are in very poor supply. The Minister told us that so far as oil cake is concerned, he can hold out very little hope, and so far as maize is concerned, the price is going to go higher and higher as a result of circumstances over which he has no control. On essential commodities, such as animal feeding stuffs, of which there is an acute scarcity, we have not spent a penny in the last five years towards stimulating production. I ask Deputies to remember how frequently in this House we have urged on the Government the policy of one more cow, one more sow and one more acre under the plough—one more acre of tillage devoted to the production of animal feeding stuffs—because it seemed clear to us all through that the big, bulky thing that it would be hard to get control of in a time of emergency would be the feeding stuffs wherewith to maintain our live-stock export trade. We pointed out that if we could not maintain that, the whole economic fabric of the State would collapse.
Here we find ourselves in the crisis. There are abundant supplies of wheat coming in, and not at prohibitive prices; there is an abundant supply of sugar coming in, and not at prohibitive  prices; but there is very little maize, and there is going to be less. There is no oil cake, very little concentrated feeding stuffs, and there is going to be less. I do not want to rub into the Minister unduly the fact that we told him so for the last four years, but I would be glad if he would say to us to-day that he sees the emergency in its true perspective now, and that, in addition to exerting himself to get supplies from abroad, he is going to make urgent representations to the Minister for Agriculture to relieve the difficulty of the Minister for Supplies by getting from our own farmers adequate supplies of feeding stuffs.
Will the Minister tell us quite honestly, if the Minister for Agriculture were to ask him to-morrow morning: “What is your greatest difficulty —is it animal feeding stuffs or is it wheat and sugar?” what his reply would be? Would he not be bound to say: “Well, in regard to wheat and sugar, I can see my way; we are getting supplies and, unless the situation greatly deteriorates, we may reasonably hope to go on getting supplies. But, in regard to animal feeding stuffs, we are in a terrible difficulty. We cannot get them. There are currency difficulties in providing credits to purchase them outside the sterling area, and, superimposed on them are the transport difficulties and the prohibitive charges that are being made by neutral shipping to carry grain from the Argentine and concentrated feeding stuffs from their countries of origin”?
Political face is an important thing in this country. I listened with admiration to the Minister last night in another place pointing out how vital it was that there should be courageous co-operation without regard to past differences in order to secure the survival of democracy in this country. I suggest here is an opportunity to instruct us not only by precept, but by example, and if he will soft pedal in regard to wheat and beet for the moment——
Mr. Dillon: Yesterday the Minister spoke at some length on maize and linseed cake and meals and animal feeding stuffs. I am putting it to him that all he told us yesterday means that his source of supply is going to fail, and he has to fill that gap somehow. Now is the time to do it, and I admit the only effective means of doing it is going to cost him some political face.
I think he has got to face that. I think he has got to accept that difficult position and meet it in the spirit which he advocated so eloquently in University College last night. The sooner he does that the better, I think, it will be for the country. I have nothing to add to what I have already said, but I trust the Minister will confront the problems that I have put before him as energetically as he hopes that some of his neighbours may confront other problems that embarrass them.
Mr. Hickey: May I ask the Minister this question: can he give the House the actual costings of a sack of flour in the country mills, and the actual costings of a sack of flour in the modern city mills?
Mr. Hurley: I listened very carefully to the Minister's statement yesterday. He made a point, I think, about prices and the control of prices. This is a very important subject and was dealt with at some length yesterday by other speakers. Deputy Hickey, a moment ago, tried to elicit some information with regard to prices. I came up against cases recently in the course of my public duties where ostensibly very serious over-charging took place. One case in particular made me suspicious of the rather hurried way in which prices are inclined to be  jumped up on the pretext that the war situation is the cause. At one of the public boards in Cork with which I am connected, we had a demand very soon after the outbreak of war for an increase of 10/- per ton on the contract price for coal. Naturally, to the ordinary layman the demand seemed to be terribly exorbitant. We had not the machinery to investigate such a demand because it required a very technical and deep knowledge of shipping rates, insurance rates, etc.
We sent the matter on to the Minister's Department, or some subsection of it, for investigation, and after some time got a reply which was not at all satisfactory. It was in the nature of an evasive answer. We were not satisfied with it. In fact, some of us were very dissatisfied, and I think had very good reason to be so. We sent the matter back to the Department for further investigation, and about the 8th February, I think, we had a rather astonishing reply from the Department which said that, after very careful investigation, both in the Department itself and on the spot locally through inspectors, it was discovered that the suggested increase of 10/- per ton on the coal was reasonable by reason of the fact that this importer had got the coal from some obscure port on the east coast of England, and that the freight and insurance rates, etc., justified the increase. But, following on that, here is an astonishing fact, that as a result of an investigation into an increase in coal prices in Cork, the Department had come to the conclusion that there had been an unreasonable increase of 2/- per ton in coal prices in Cork, and directed that the price be reduced by 2/- per ton.
Now, naturally coming up against a thing like that at one public board, one is rather inclined to be suspicious. At another public board we got a demand from various contractors, who are on the approved list of contractors, for increases in the price of their commodities. In this case again we sent the matter back for investigation. It turned out to be a case of going from Peter to Paul and from post to pillar.  We did not get any satisfaction on the matter. We were told that we should investigate those complaints ourselves. I want to suggest to the Minister that the Department over which he has control must have the necessary machinery to carry out such investigations, and that it is their function to see when cases are reported to them, as they have been by the bodies I speak of, that these cases get a very thorough investigation because the position with regard to rising prices is very serious. Anybody who has experience of family life knows that costs are mounting very seriously. When complaints are made by public boards about increases in price, and when these are sent on to the Department, the machinery at its disposal ought to be put into operation and a thorough investigation carried out. I say that because it is at the public boards that the headline is set for the ordinary purchasers of commodities in this country. If prices to public boards are allowed to be increased, then naturally the ordinary consumer has no grievance because the headline has been set for him. I want to suggest to the Minister that that is a side of his activities he should give very serious attention to. There are increases which can be justified, but there are others which cannot.
In another case at a public board, of which I am a member, we had the price of oatmeal raised to a very exorbitant figure. In that case the investigation carried out by the Department consisted of this: that it sent down to the local miller asking him to tell them what price he paid for oats on such a date before the outbreak of war, and what price he paid for oats some time after the commencement of the war. By a very simple calculation they decided that the increase was justified, never adverting to the fact that this miller had the oats in his mill from the previous harvest. He had bought it at a time when there was no increase in the cost of it to him. Yet, he was allowed to get the increase from the committee of the public body that I speak of. That is why I say this is a side of the Minister's activities that will require his very serious attention. If a serious attempt is made to control  an exorbitant rise in prices, the consumer will be safeguarded in a way that is very necessary.
I have thought it well to bring these points to the Minister's notice because the cost of living in this country has serious reactions on the social problem generally. When the cost of living goes up, it naturally is followed by demands for increased wages. Then we are told that the spiral starts the upward trend. I am suggesting to the House and to the Minister, that one of the ways in which he and his Department can contribute to control the position is by putting into operation the machinery that he has at his disposal, and by doing so in a rigorous fashion.
We have heard from time to time in this House that profiteers are trying to exploit a position with regard to prices that, in the case of ordinary people, would be looked upon as a very serious offence, but if one complains to the Department, and if one feels that they are dealt with as I have seen complaints that were put up, I am afraid we will begin to lose faith in the necessity for a Department of Supplies or in the one-sided activities of such a Department. I am putting these points definitely to the Minister and, if necessary, I can produce evidence to show that everything I have said is a fact. I am very seriously perturbed at the lack of rigorous dealing that his Department has shown in these matters. If public bodies can be exploited and if certain prices can be extorted from them what protection has the ordinary individual? A suggestion has been made to the Minister's Department that a prices committee should be formed amongst local people to draw attention to any exorbitant rise in prices. That would be a very good step. That suggestion has been put up by various bodies, including Cork Corporation, and is one worthy of attention, because the ordinary working man or woman, or poor person, will not go to the trouble of sending in details of their grievances to the Department. If local committees were appointed with some kind of authority to be an intermediary between the Minister and the  public, it would be a very wise and useful step. Unless the Minister and his Department are more active in that respect, I am afraid they are not fulfilling the full functions that it was expected would be performed by them.
Mr. Hughes: It is a notorious fact that the millers here have been making huge profits. I know that one well-known miller boasted a couple of years ago that his profits were beyond his wildest dreams, and that he did not know what he was going to do with his money.
Mr. Hughes: Bread is the staple food of the people, of those living on the dole, on home assistance, and lower-paid workers with big families. They live, I might say, altogether on bread and tea, and we are forced to conclude that it is the responsibility of the Government to make bread available at the lowest possible price. This matter has been dealt with by Deputy Dillon, and I do not propose to go further into it now, beyond mentioning that I believe in the last few months, taking into account the conditions under which our wheat is purchased and delivered, the price of flour has definitely been tightened up. I believe Deputy Dillon, in view of his complaints and criticism, deserves a great deal of credit for bringing about the improvement. I believe there is room for further improvement, and I ask the Minister to spare no efforts in that respect. In the statement he made yesterday, the Minister told us that 1/- per sack is charged to pay for the cost of conserving a wheat supply here. I have worked out the figures, and believe that would cost the country £137,500. If it is assumed that the millers can borrow money at 5 per cent. to pay for that conserved supply, there is a capital of £2,750,000 invested in our wheat reserve.
It appears to me that that is hardly right. The Minister also told us that there was a wheat supply available now for 20 weeks. I do not think 20 weeks' supply of wheat would cost £2,750,000,  and I suggest to the Minister that the amount could be reduced. It is hardly likely that it costs 1/- per sack now. I appreciate the fact that storage costs something, and that possibly our storage facilities are old-fashioned. The method of handling wheat is mostly by man power, and that costs something more than it should to maintain a reserve supply. It appears to me that a charge of 1/- a sack is rather high.
I wonder if the Minister has asked how he could account for the difference between the prices farmers get for wheat and the actual cost of Irish wheat when ready for grist. There is a big discrepancy there and room for improvement. There is no proper organisation for the distribution of Irish wheat. Very often we find it going from Wexford to Donegal. The transport charges are very high and storage charges are also high. There are big profits made on the handling and storing of wheat, and those costs could with more attention be reduced. The price paid to farmers last year was 30/6, and by the time the wheat was ready for milling the figure was at least £2. The difference between 30/6 and £2 is certainly too great a margin to cover handling and distribution charges. In my opinion there should be better organisation as regards the distribution of Irish wheat between the various mills. It does not seem right to be bringing wheat from the South of Ireland to Donegal.
On the question of the price of bakers' and household flour there was always a difference in prices, but within the last few weeks the price fixed by the Minister has the same level as for bakers' flour. I realise that there is a difficulty in getting the right type of wheat to manufacture household flour. The Minister told us that there was very little Pacific, Californian and Australian wheat available, and that we were depending mostly on Manitoban and Plate wheats. Now that the wheat supply is pooled is any attempt made to supply the softer varieties of wheat to mills catering for household flour? After all, what is necessary for bakers' flour is strong gluten content that  absorbs more water but has a higher production of bread per sack. The wheat that went to make household flour was always of a weaker variety and had not the same power of absorption and the production was not as good, but it produced an excellent bread for the household. Again, if we get the strong Manitoba wheat for household purposes it will make a very sodden kind of bread; it will not be spongy and soft like the bread made from white wheat. You might possibly differentiate between Manitoba and Plate wheat. I am sure the Minister realises that in some districts the percentage of household to baker's flour produced is very much higher than in others. In some parts of the country you will get millers producing 50 per cent. of household and 50 per cent. of baker's flour, while in other districts, like the city here, I imagine the output of baker's flour would be as high as 90 and over 90 per cent. I think very close attention should be paid to that, and, if we can classify the Plate wheat and the Manitoba wheat, the Plate wheat should be sent as far as possible to districts where the demand for household flour is greatest.
If you send Manitoba wheat into districts where there is a big demand for household flour, you may give a bad article to people who are used to baking bread, an article which will not produce the best results with milk. It produces first class results with yeast, but the people do not use yeast; they have no experience in the production of yeast bread. Close attention, therefore, should be paid to that matter, now that there is a definite shortage of soft wheats for household purposes. I suggest that the Minister might also look into the question of better organisation in the distribution of Irish-produced wheat, as I think that some money could be saved in that direction. There should be a very determined attempt made to reduce handling, storage and distribution costs.
As to the question of sugar, the Minister told us that he had been purchasing a good deal of raw sugar; that we have actually 50,000 tons of  manufactured sugar in stock and 58,000 tons of raw sugar, and that there are 24,000 tons on the way. I understand that there was some difficulty about the extraction of the impurities in raw sugar, that we had not the right type of machinery. I take it that has been got over and that we have now the right plant to extract all the impurities, because the Minister told us that we are now manufacturing 240 tons of sugar per day. He told us that this raw sugar was purchased below the ordinary f.o.b. price. I should like to ask if the consumer is going to get the benefit of that purchase below f.o.b. price. If the consumer is not going to get the benefit, who is going to get it? Will the beet growers get the benefit, or who is going to get it?
Then the Minister told us that it is likely we will have 65,000 acres this year under sugar beet, producing 97,000 tons. I have some experience of beet production, and I should like to impress on the Minister that beet is a crop above any crop produced on the farm which requires an intensive dressing of artificial manure, and superphosphate is the basic manure required. If there is any shortage, therefore, this crop is going to suffer severely as a result of that. It is probably the last crop the farmer puts in. All the available phosphates there are at the moment will be already used up on cereal crops such as wheat, barley and oats, and root crops like potatoes, and if there is a shortage of phosphates this crop is definitely going to suffer severely. It is a crop which wants an intensive dressing of artificial manure more than any other crop and, in my opinion, if we are going to go short of superphosphates for the production of beet, the crop will be a wash-out.
We cannot produce good beet without superphosphates. For 65,000 acres, at 5 cwt. of superphosphates to the statute acre, you would want 325,000 cwts. That crop is going to be put in at the end of the sowing season when, if there is a shortage of superphosphates, it will reflect seriously on the crop. I want to impress on the Minister again the necessity of making every effort to secure all the phosphates that are available anywhere,  to make representations through diplomatic and other channels if necessary, but, at all costs, to use his influence to secure any supplies, either of raw rock or manufactured phosphates which are available in any country, and which can be secured.
I have had several complaints from blacksmiths that there is an enormous increase in the cost of horse shoeing iron, fullered iron especially, and that there is a pretty stiff tariff on it pending production in Haulbowline. The Minister told us that he is experiencing a good deal of difficulty in getting pig iron. I should like to ask the Minister if it is wise to have that tariff in force. If there is a difficulty in getting pig iron—and, if the difficulty is going to increase, the raw material for Haulbowline is likely to run short or dry up —would it not be well that we should secure supplies of the fullered iron that is available at the moment? I would ask the Minister to use his influence with the Minister for Finance to have that tariff removed and to secure the supplies while they are available, if we are going to run short of pig iron. I am sure the reserves we have at Haulbowline are limited. We cannot have big reserves there because they are not long in production. It is somewhat analogous to the fertiliser situation. We may take off the tariff when it is too late and when we cannot secure any fullered iron anywhere. I shall leave it at that. It is a matter for the Minister for Finance; but I ask the Minister for Supplies to use his influence with regard to that matter.
With regard to the question of agricultural machinery, we asked the Minister early this winter to secure supplies of agricultural machinery, especially machinery suitable for tractor purposes, tractor ploughs, disc harrows and tractor implements of all sorts, and the supply I must say was very unsatisfactory. I am not saying that the Minister is responsible for that. There must have been difficulty in securing supplies owing to the big increase in tillage on the other side, because, naturally, they gave preference to their own people. We did secure tractor implements from American sources, and  tractor plougns, but they were very unsatisfactory. They are not good implements. I suggest to the Minister that any further agricultural implements which are available from the other side ought to be secured. It is unlikely that we shall see the end of the war within the next 12 months. It is probable that we will have another year or two when increased cultivation will be necessary. Therefore, any agricultural machinery, any ploughs, or tractor implements, that are available ought to be secured when they will not be so much in demand from now on. I understand that the supply of fuel oil for agricultural purposes has been satisfactory.
As to the question raised by Deputy Dillon on the cost of sacks and bags, there has been an enormous increase in the cost of sacks and bags, some of them manufactured here. I do not know whether that increase can be justified or not and I should like to draw the attention of the Minister to it. I know that jute has gone up considerably in price but, at the same time, I do not know whether the increase in the price of jute can justify the increase in the price of bags. For instance, we have developed in recent years here an export trade for seed potatoes. We have beaten the Scottish exporters in the English market in that respect but the cost of the bags this year is operating against us. Last year the cost of a bag for the export of potatoes was 5½d. At present it costs 1/1½. Now, when it is considered that you have to supply 20 bags for a ton of potatoes this is a very big increase in costs. I am doubtful if that increase can be justified by the increase in the price of raw material. That is all I have to say except again to impress on the Minister the necessity of making every possible effort to secure an increase in our basic artificial manures supplies.
Mr. Hughes: I think we will have a complete failure in the sugar beet crop if we do not get adequate supplies of  artificial manures. That will be the crop that will suffer most. At the moment we can only bank on getting 75 per cent. of last year's supplies of artificials. There is a tremendous increase in the acreage under sugar beet this year. That is a crop which demands a very heavy dressing of these manures. Now without any increase in the acreage under beet the demand for artificial manure would be considerably more than last year's level. With the increase in the acreage under beet I ask the Minister what he thinks is going to be the position of beet growers if supplies are not available.
Mr. Dockrell: When discussing this Estimate one has some difficulty as to where the Ministry of Industry and Commerce ends and where the Ministry of Supplies begins. There would seem to be some border-line cases. In fact, in some instances the Minister as Minister for Supplies appears to overlap into every Department. While no doubt the Department is doing its best for this country I would like to appeal to the Minister to give some idea as to the continuity of the supplies that traders and manufacturers are expecting. It is no good to get one consignment if that consignment is going to be the last. A person might just as well shut up now as in a couple of months' time. As an instance of some of the things that appear to be unobtainable I might mention what was said on the Fire Brigades Bill when passing through the House. There was the question of the 2¾-inch bores and the 2½-inch bores and the hose attachments. I mentioned that that was unobtainable for the whole of this year. I was then invited to look to the Ministry of Supplies and I replied that I did but though I could get one part I did not happen to be able to get that hose. I mention that because we have just passed the Fire Brigades Bill and, presumably, they are going to provide stand pipes, etc., but there are no hose attachments for those fire-fighting appliances for the whole of this year.
The Minister mentioned timber supplies. Timber supplies, I think, can be left to the timber people if they can get the ships. The Minister said he  would use his good offices in obtaining shipping. I will tell you how he may use his good offices and how he might not use his good offices. The Minister spoke about the rise in the price of freight. I think the timber freight has risen by 700 per cent. English ships apparently are available at round about £7 10s. per ton. Foreign shipping would be about £16. If the Minister could get us £7 10s. shipping we would be glad, but, if he is going to look to neutral countries for shipping at £16 in competition with the people who are already on the search, the consequence will be that it will be £17 and not £16 that will be paid.
Another matter on which I wish to touch in connection with the Minister's opening statement is the Prices Commission. That is under the control of his Department in order to prevent profiteering. I suppose his Department cannot prevent profiteering to the limit of 100 per cent. I take it we would all give the Department our provisional blessing in their efforts to stop any profiteering. But there are other phases of their activities that I would like to bring to the Minister's attention. The Prices Commission regulate the price as between the manufacturers in this country and somebody making a complaint from a neighbouring country as agreed under the recent financial settlement. When a complaint such as that takes place an investigation is undertaken, and it is on that I want to make a comment. I would like to suggest to the Minister that one of the most important bodies in this country are the distributors. They give more employment than the manufacturers. In many cases they have been manufacturers themselves in former years and have been driven out by economic circumstances in the distributing trade. The present position is that when an inquiry is held by the Prices Commission between the manufacturer and the complainant, the distributor is not even invited to the inquiry nor is he heard. It is not the ordinary person who complains of an overcharge in the price of a commodity. This is a complaint where the intention is to have the tariff investigated.  The distributor, as I say, is not even admitted to that inquiry nor is he heard.
In fact, I understand that the law is so framed or so interpreted that he cannot be heard. I suggest to the Minister that that is a monstrous state of affairs, that if the distribution of goods is to be undertaken in this country, all sides are entitled to be heard, and, not least, the distributors. I have heard complaints about foreign invaders who landed in this country and drove out the native Irish. They were dispossessed from their lands, but they fiercely resisted, and the Government of that day—whatever sort it was— gave those people who were driven out all the assistance they could. That they were driven off their lands, outlawed and dispossessed, was not their fault. I suggest to the Minister that a new technique has been evolved in which the distributor and the other parties engaged in trade in this country can be driven out of their business, because they will have no say as to the terms on which the trade is to be carried on. A frightful Nemesis awaits the Government that continually betrays its own nationals for some other group of individuals who seem to offer a more favourable set of conditions at the time. Perhaps the Minister will say: “What have I got to do with this? The distributor can look after himself.” Formerly, the distributor could protect himself. If one manufacturer behaved badly, he could transfer his custom to another. In most cases now, there is only one manufacturer in this country, and the merchant is delivered over in chains and left to the tender mercies of that manufacturer who, since there is no alternative, can treat him exactly as he likes. I put this simple question to the Minister: Have the Government made up their minds that they are going to do away with the whole distributing class in this country? If so, they might as well say so. We have heard about certain classes being “liquidated” in other countries. The Government have arrived at a stage at which they ought to lay down some machinery for a person who, by Government action, is left  without the means of carrying on the trade he may have been engaged in for generations. By the Government putting somebody else in control of his business, he is left without any means of earning a livelihood.
It is quite fair that the Prices Commission should review the profit that certain individuals or classes of traders have, but I suggest that they should not seek to alter age-old trading terms, especially since there are people doing business here who, since they are not domiciled here, can give any terms they please. One of the results of this policy will be that the distribution business of this country will be done by people who are domiciled in other countries, who pay flying visits to this country and send over travellers, and that warehouses, stocks, etc., which, in my opinion, are equally important to the manufacturing end, will be done away with in this country. Is it any wonder that a feeling of uncertainty pervades a large part of the community? People do not know how they are to carry on business, and, when they are treated unjustly, they have no remedy. I have heard of people who, when rain comes down on them in one part of a building, merely shift to another part. They do not get the building repaired.
Is that the Minister's idea of how unemployment is to be cured and a stable economy reared up? I ask that the Minister provide some machinery by which sections of the community who are engaged in the business of distributing goods and have been carrying on that business for many years will be enabled to make their case for an equitable distribution of the trade. I am not asking a favour from the Minister, and I am not suggesting that anybody should be put in a privileged position, but there is an idea abroad that the Irish entrepreneur is to be liquidated, and that a new system of trading is to be established. If the Government desire that, I suppose they will have to go through with it, but in practically all other countries it has been found that the distributor is essential. Where he has a choice, and where he can purchase his goods competitively, the distributor can look after himself, but when he is left with  only one source of supply, and when the manufacturer dictates the terms on which he will do business, it is not long until the distributor finds that he has no business to do.
Mr. Keyes: I should like to direct the attention of the Minister to one point. It is in connection with control of maize supplies. It was found necessary to restrict the issue of licences, and to prevent anybody from grinding maize into maize meal who did not have a licence and was not operating on a particular date. The date was, I think, the 31st July. I can readily understand the necessity for some control of that kind, but I fear that hardships may have been inflicted by the too rigorous interpretation of that order. A man may have been grinding maize into meal on a date prior to the 31st July. For some reason or other, he may not have been operating on that particular date. I do not think it would be reasonable to treat the order too literally and to cut a man like that out of the right of grinding maize subsequently. I have a case in mind which I have taken up with the Minister's Department. I was forcibly reminded of it by the story told by Deputy Dockrell. This man was in the distributing trade for 50 years, and his people were in it before him. In recent years he took up the grinding of maize at a mill a couple of miles from his premises, under licence from the Department.
He applied for a transfer of the licence to save the expense of bringing the maize out to the mill and back again to the shop, and, having got the licence from the Department, he set up plant and premises, but he had not got it ready for the magic date 31st July. He was actually in operation and grinding before the order came out, but nevertheless he has been closed down, and his premises and plant are no use to him although he had received a letter from the Department sanctioning his operations. I ask the Minister if that case, or similar cases, could possibly get his sympathetic consideration, because I gather that, in the particular instance I mention, no possible disturbance in regard to distribution could take place because this man's  clientele is the same for the past 50 years. The only difference is that he gets the maize from the combine and whatever profit there is, is made by them. He could grind the maize himself and, as he is a native, it seems to me that he is entitled to consideration, so that whatever little extra employment is involved in it may be given because somebody has lost employment by reason of its being ground in the big mill.
I ask the Minister to look sympathetically into cases of the kind, and I ask him further whether he could say if licences have been granted since that date, to any person who has never ground before, because while this man has been put out of business, I know one case of a man who has got a licence who never ground maize in his life. I have heard of others, but cannot vouch for them, but, in connection with the case I mention, I have authoritative information. I should like the Minister to say why the position in which a man who has been grinding for some years with authority from the Department, who is technically caught out on a particular date, who was grinding subsequent to that date and who was then closed down by the Department of Supplies, should be allowed to continue to the hardship of that man, and furthermore, if that is so, why licences should have been issued to anybody who had not been grinding before, as I have information as to a licence being granted in at least one case.
Mr. Cosgrave: I have been asked to raise three questions on this Vote. The first came to me in a roundabout manner from the Federation of Irish Manufacturers, Ltd. The information I have is to the effect that the managing director and chairman of the hosiery groups of the Federation of Irish Manufacturers wishes the question put: to ask the Minister for Supplies whether he is aware that stocks of low cross-bred yarn and wool tops normally imported from England for the manufacture of the cheaper grades of hose are running dangerously low, and that, if substitutes are not easily available, it will have the effect of raising prices to the consumer while  restricting employment in the industry. He goes on to add that “in view of the fact that there is a large potential export surplus of wool from the country to England, there is a case for making some effort to negotiate for the returns of the yarn and tops in question on an exchange basis.”
The other matter is in connection with timber supplies. This businessman writes that he knows that “the Minister for Lands is anxious to avoid the slaughter of our woodlands such as occurred in the last war, but the position we are faced with is that we must decide whether we are to import timber at famine prices or slaughter our own woods”. “It is quite apparent that this question,” he goes on, “is not one to be decided by individual Ministers. It would be very useful to our trade if we could find out what was the Government policy.” I hope the Minister will not take the line that this does not concern him. It is a Ministerial matter and we cannot get them all here to decide it. There is a case for using the Irish timber if it is available and saleable at a high price. The only condition which I would be disposed to insert, in giving the necessary permission, is that a similar number of trees should be planted. If that had been done during the last war we might have got some money then for saleable timber, which has since probably become unsaleable. This businessman continues: “The cost of timber we are importing is already running into colossal figures, and, later on, it is apparently going to run into fantastic figures. As an example, the freight from Canada last year was £3 5s. per Petersburg or English standard, and to-day's corresponding figure is in or about £20 per standard.”
The third matter which I desire to raise is in connection with the allocation of quotas to petrol users. I have been informed that accountants are restricted to the lowest distribution made and that no increase in their quota will be given. It seems strange that one particular branch of the commercial community should be singled out for such a restriction. Accountants  have business in various parts of the country and it is necessary for them to get to those parts. It is certainly essential to business people that they should be facilitated in seeing their accountants whenever they require them, and I think the Minister should reconsider the distribution made in their case and review the decision come to.
Mr. J. Flynn: I have been asked to make representations with regard to the Minister's order in connection with the fixed price of bread. I have already referred this matter to the Minister's Department. It affects the outlying districts of Kerry, and every other county, I expect. An order was made prescribing a fixed price, and this has worked out, in practice, to the detriment of towns which are far removed from the distributing centres. For instance, bakers in Limerick and Cork can manufacture bread at a much lower cost than bakers operating 60 or 100 miles from Cork or Limerick, and the result, of course, is that the price to the poor people in those areas is being driven up to a high level. No account is taken at all of costs of freightage and transit of raw materials from Limerick, Cork or Dublin to these outlying districts.
While making these representations, I realise that it is a difficult matter to adjust but something should be done, and I appeal to the Minister to arrange some plan, in the shape of an allowance for transit or freight charges to enable bakers in the outlying areas to produce the finished article on somewhat reasonable terms. They are handicapped as compared with the bakers who reside adjacent to the milling centres and distributing centres, and I think that, if the matter were examined, some scheme might be evolved which would meet the situation.
Mr. McGovern: The Minister told us yesterday that the object of control was to regulate profits. He also told us that there was a prohibition upon the export of hides and skins. I wonder how he proposes to regulate the profit in that case as between the producer  of hides and the producer of the finished article—leather. The producer of hides is entitled to the cost of production, and he is entitled to a profit also on the goods he produces, just as much as the producer of leather is entitled to his profit. The manufacturer of leather should be effectively protected, in my opinion, by the tariff on imported leather, which I think is about 33? per cent. or 35 per cent. If he got that for his part of the work, I think that should be an effective protection, and the producer of hides should be entitled to a similar protection, in my opinion, if the Minister were to deal equitably as between the two classes of producers. The man producing the hides is entitled to 33? per cent. if the man manufacturing the leather gets that much protection, but it was not enough for the Minister to deny the producer of hides protection. Instead of protecting the producer of the hides, the Minister prohibited him from getting the world price for his hides and simply transferred the ownership of the hides on the backs of the cattle from the farmers to the Irish tanners, subject to whatever these people wished to pay for the hides. In other words, a monopoly of all the hides of cattle killed in this country, or half of all the hides, was given to these people.
I do not see how the Minister can justify that control, nor do I see where the regulation of profits comes in in that case. It seems that it is a continuation of the old policy of crushing and destroying one section of the community. In my opinion, it is absolute robbery to hand over all the hides from the backs of our cattle to the Irish tanners subject to whatever they may wish to pay for these hides. Not only that, but the Minister and the Government are acting as slave drivers in compelling the farmers, at their own expense, to treat these hides, by paying inspectors and so on, through the county councils, to go out and see that they are treated for warble fly. The fact is that the hides do not belong to the farmers, in effect, but to the Irish tanners, subject to whatever the latter wish to pay for the hides.
I am surprised that the country  should continue to put up with that state of affairs, or with such treatment from any Minister or any Government. I think it is time that one class of producer should be given as much consideration as another class, and the very least the Minister might have done would be to let the Irish producers get free competition, even without any protection. The producers of hides did not ask for any protection, but they were certainly entitled to whatever free competition Irish tanners or other home producers had from abroad. In that case, what would be the position of Irish tanners? They would still be getting 94 per cent. profit on the raw material of their leather. Assuming that the cost to their competitors of removing these Irish hides to their factories was 20 per cent. ad valorem at the present time, that means that Irish tanners could purchase for £80 what is costing their competitors £100. That is the advantage that the Irish tanners would have as competitors with foreign manufacturers. For every £80 they would pay for hides—that is, for the raw material of their manufacture—they would be getting £155 without using any workmanship whatever. They would also be getting the advantage of the tariff and the other advantages on their own manufactured work, but upon the raw material alone, if there were no interference by the Minister and if the producers of hides were to be given a fair chance of world competition, the Irish tanners would still have that advantage of 94 per cent. and be getting £155 for every £80 worth.
I challenge the Minister to deny that, I may not be quite right as to the exact figure in regard to transport costs, freight, insurance, and so on. but I am allowing 20 per cent. ad valorem both ways on the raw hides and the manufactured leather. I may be right or wrong in that. It may be more than that, but in any case the profit Irish tanners have been getting on Irish hides produced by our farmers is enormous. The position is such at the moment that, when hides are offered now to local purchasers, the farmers will be given nothing worth while for them. I shall give the Minister  an instance of what happened in my own case only about a month ago. Owing to a flood a two-year-old bullock was drowned and cast up upon my land along the river. The Guards notified me that the beast should be buried, and I offered the hide to anyone who would skin the beast. I sent word to the people who were dealing in skins to get somebody to take the hide off the beast. Nobody would do so, however, as I was told the hide was not worth it, and the animal lay there for about a day until another flood came along and settled the matter by taking the beast away into Northern Ireland.
Now, that is the position. I know of hundreds of cases where these animals are put down with their skins, even after all the money that has been expended and all the trouble of the inspectors under county councils and so forth, but when anything happens to a poor man nobody will take the hide off the beast, and even the butchers, when buying an animal, will tell you that the hides are of no value and that they are getting nothing for them. The middleman may be getting, perhaps, half price, or £40 instead of the £80 mentioned, but the farmer is getting practically nothing. In the case of the Irish tanners, however, for every £40 that they put into the raw material they are getting £155 for that portion of the leather represented in the raw hides, without counting any work whatever put into the thing, and they are also getting protection. I should like to ask the Minister whether or not he thinks that fair. How does the Minister propose now, since he is so keen on control, to regulate the profits, and so on, as between these two classes of producers? I think it is about time that the primary producer got some consideration in this country. The Minister should not wait until there is a revolution, until they get up and go on strike and have to be brought before the Military Tribunal. It is not so very long since they went on strike, and for very good reason, for something like this, though it was not as bad as this. Instead of being treated as other strikers are, they were sent before the Military Tribunal. That is  the sort of treatment meted out to one class of the public as compared with others.
I ask the Minister to go into this. If he does believe in control and wishes to regulate prices, let him do it more equally. It is nothing short of confiscation. He has confiscated the hides of the whole country and handed them over to the tanners, while the rightful owners are buying them. There can be no benefit to anybody in that way. The cattle are breaking their bones and falling in drains, and so far as these are concerned they are buried. I do not know whether the butchers' hides are all sold: they have to take them off, and I suppose they get something for them. In any case there is a complete confiscation. There are other matters to which I could refer, but one example is sufficient to show the sort of control the Minister is operating since he got the power.
Mr. Corish: Yesterday we were treated to a very interesting debate between the Minister for Supplies and Deputy Dillon in connection with the price of flour. Some of us are not in a position to know whether it is the Minister or Deputy Dillon who has the true facts of the situation. Certainly, it did appear to a good many members of this House that Deputy Dillon's arguments were very convincing. So far the Minister has not, I think, given an answer which could be considered as satisfactory to the allegations made by Deputy Dillon. However, no matter what the position is between Deputy Dillon and the Minister for Supplies, I think it will be admitted by everybody that the price of flour is too high, and that it is absolutely impossible for householders with very limited incomes to provide themselves with the necessary amount to enable them to nourish their bodies.
We are told that bread is the staff of life, but it is very hard at the present time for a person with a large family to get an adequate supply of flour, at a cost which he would be able to meet. I suggest that, no matter what the position is at the present moment—whether Deputy Dillon is right or the Minister for Supplies is  right—something will have to be done by the Government to ensure that cheaper flour and cheaper bread are given to the people. We have been told that, in England at the present moment, the Government is subsidising flour to enable the English people to secure cheaper bread. I suggest to the Minister for Supplies that something on those lines will have to be done in order to secure adequate supplies for the very poor of this country.
Take the position of a person drawing unemployment assistance at the present time. His income has not been increased since the outbreak of war, but flour and other necessaries of life have increased enormously in price, with the result that such a man is unable to secure a supply of bread and other such necessaries. Even people with comparatively decent incomes are finding it hard to meet the increased cost of food stuffs. Bacon and beef have also risen enormously in price in recent months. I wonder if the farmer is getting the benefit of the increase, or if it goes to the middleman. The shopkeepers deny that they are profiteering, and it is not easy to ascertain whether they are or not. Deputy Hurley suggested to the Minister that local committees be formed under the agis or auspices of the Minister for Supplies, with a view to drawing the attention of the Government to cases in their areas where they consider profiteering is taking place. I do not know what the Minister's reaction to that will be.
About a month after the outbreak of war, the Wexford Corporation appointed a committee to take complaints from people, as numerous complaints were coming in to the corporation regarding profiteering. A list of commodities was sent up to the Minister, setting out against each item the prices that prevailed pre-war and those prevailing at that particular time. The only answer which has been received to that is that the matter is having attention. That does not coincide with some of the things the Minister said yesterday in his speech. He said these things would have attention. Very definite details were sent up on that occasion,  and a letter was received a few days afterwards—that was four or five months ago—saying that the matter was having attention. I suggest to the Minister that that is not giving sufficient attention to a matter of that kind and, like Deputy Hurley, I would urge that local authorities be set up to keep the Minister informed of the position in so far as profiteering in their areas is concerned.
Let me repeat that something will have to be done in regard to the supply of flour and of what may be considered the common foods. I cannot understand at all how unfortunate men in receipt of only a few shillings unemployment assistance eke out an existence at this moment. Either unemployment assistance will have to be increased or there will have to be a curtailment in the rising cost of living.
Mr. Lemass: A large amount of the time taken up in this discussion has been devoted to the price of flour. That fact is easy to understand, because, of course, the price of flour is of very definite significance for most people in the country. Bread being the staple article of food, the price of flour is of daily interest to everybody. Deputy Corish's contribution to that discussion was particularly futile. It is fairly easy to say that flour is too dear and that something must be done. Any of us can say that and risk nothing, as everybody would agree with us; but it is getting us nowhere. If Deputy Corish wishes to suggest that we should subsidise the price of flour, then he is dealing with a practical possibility.
Mr. Lemass: I do not think it would be a wise course to adopt. To subsidise flour to any appreciable extent would cost an amazing amount of money. Does Deputy Corish realise that? A subsidy which would reduce the price of flour from 47/- to 46/- per sack would cost very nearly £150,000 per year.
Mr. Lemass: A subsidy to bring down the price of a sack of flour from 47/- to 46/- would cost that amount. Even that reduction is too small to be reflected in the price of the loaf. To bring the price down sufficiently to reduce the price of the loaf by ½d. would cost £600,000 to £700,000 a year in subsidies. We can do that, but it would mean simply taxing tea, sugar or bacon, or some other commodity, in order to obtain that amount of money. Where is the benefit to the community and of what advantage is it to a person consuming those commodities if he is to get flour cheaper and sugar dearer, or flour cheaper and tea dearer? There is no means of doing this other than that of taxing something else. The net result would be an increase in prices because the process of collecting a tax on one commodity for the purpose of paying a subsidy on another would mean a certain amount of administrative expense, which would mean a net loss to the community.
Mr. Lemass: This question of the price of flour is one about which we have had a number of acrimonious discussions here, and I think that is due to the fact that a number of people think they know all about it. They think it is easy to understand. It is a fact well known to anybody who has had any contact with the flour milling industry that the costing, the determination of the actual cost of producing flour, is a very difficult matter, involving a very high degree of knowledge of the industry, and training in that particular work. Those who undertake the business of determining the cost of production in flour mills are very highly skilled individuals and command very high salaries. When amateurs step in for the purpose of showing how easy it is, and make rough and ready calculations for the purpose of establishing comparisons, they get themselves inevitably into the same muddle that Deputy Dillon got into here yesterday. I am not going to  say that if I prove that the price of flour is now reasonable—and by “reasonable” I mean merely sufficient to recover the price of the wheat that goes into it, the cost of manufacturing the wheat into flour and a reasonable profit for the miller—I am at the same time proving that the price of flour 12 months ago or 12 years ago was also reasonable.
That does not follow at all. Neither, I submit, does Deputy Dillon's quotation from the Prices Commission Report of six years ago, to the effect that some excess profits were made by the flour millers as a whole during a particular quarter of that year, prove that the price to-day is unreasonable. If we use arguments of that kind we will get nowhere. Whatever the position may have been last year or six years ago the fact is that the price of flour to-day is rigidly controlled. Within a few days after the war started, an Order was made which fixed the price of flour at the level that it was before the war, and no increase has taken place since then which has not been thoroughly investigated by skilled accountants in the service of the Department of Supplies and approved of by them as being completely justifiable in all circumstances.
I defended the fixed price for flour here yesterday, and was immediately accused by Deputy Dillon of defending the flour millers. He even went so far as to say that I was speaking from a brief prepared by the flour millers, which was completely untrue. I was not defending the flour millers here yesterday, nor am I defending the flour millers here now. I am defending my own action in fixing the price of flour which is now in operation. That price was not fixed by the flour millers. It was fixed by me. That price, in the opinion of the flour millers, is too low, and they have frequently come to my Department and sent their officers to my Department to urge that we are not making sufficient allowances for their cost of production to enable them to get a reasonable profit from their business. The flour millers are entitled to make whatever representations of that kind they see fit to make to my Department. They have made these  representations continuously and these representations, naturally, have the most careful consideration. But, to argue from that that the Department is completely in the pocket of the flour millers and must do whatever they say is just nonsense. That type of statement may impress very stupid people who want to believe the worst about everybody, but it is not a useful contribution to the deliberations of this House.
There is a price for flour fixed now at 47/- a sack. That is the maximum price fixed. I assure the House that that price was fixed after the most careful examination of the accounts of millers and all the relevant factors concerning which information could be procured and on my authority and my authority only. It is not possible for individual Deputies or persons who have not got the same facilities that the officers of the Prices branch of my Department have to check that figure. They cannot go and examine the accounts of individual millers. They cannot apply the same expert skill that the accountants in my Department possess to the examination of the various factors and, consequently, they will have to take my word for it that the figure is a reasonable figure.
There is one rough and ready check that can be made—the rough and ready check that I made here yesterday—by comparing that figure with the commercial price of flour in Great Britain. The price at which flour is being sold in Great Britain is being subsidised by the British Government to the extent of £500,000 per week and, consequently, the actual sale price of flour there has no relation to the price here, which is a commercial price, but the Chancellor of the British Exchequer did state that the commercial price for flour in Great Britain was 41/- per sack. That is the price which would have to be charged for flour if they were trying to do what we are doing, that is, to cover the cost of the wheat, the cost of manufacturing the wheat into flour, and give reasonable profit to the millers. We know that when we buy flour in England and we have bought some flour there— it is a special type of flour used mainly  by biscuit manufacturers—we have to pay 43/- a sack for it and, in addition, pay the cost of freightage to this country and the charges of the various factors who handle the flour. There is a difference between what is the commercial price of flour in Great Britain and the maximum price fixed here but that difference is explainable. The British price is a price for flour independent of the sack. The fixed price here includes the price of the sack, that is 2/-. There is the fact that we are subsidising the production of wheat here to a slightly heavier extent than the British are subsidising the production of wheat in Great Britain.
Mr. Lemass: Yes. We fixed a price here but apart altogether from a difference in the amount of subsidy, there is the fact that native wheat here represents 35 per cent. of all the wheat we use, whereas in England it only represents 20 per cent. The result is that over and above the element of subsidy for native wheat in the British flour price we must allow 2/- in the price of flour here for the cost of the sack, 2/- additional subsidy to native wheat, 1/- representing the cost of maintaining the reserve stock of wheat which is still being charged, leaving 1/- as the only unexplained difference between the two prices. That 1/- is easy to explain. Imported wheat costs more here by reason of the fact that we have to pay higher freightage. The actual milling costs here are higher because wages are higher and certain other charges are higher here than those obtaining in English mills.
That is a rough and ready calculation, but it is sufficient to show that  the price of flour here is not unreasonably high, and that it contains within is no element of excess profits. The only reason I want to emphasise that is because it is important that the public should know that there is not any prospect of the same type of profiteering arising during the course of this war as occurred in the last war. If the public can be convinced of that, then a number of difficulties which are being experienced now and might be anticipated in the future will be removed. If there is a feeling in any quarter that some people are able to feather their nests and to secure their own interests irrespective of the effect upon the interests of the country as a whole, then everybody will try it. If there is a feeling that some people are profiteering, other people will be induced to attempt profiteering. If there is a feeling amongst the workers that employers are getting away with excess profits, they will be formulating demands for increased wages. It is important that there should be public confidence in the system of price control that we have got, and so far as it is humanly possible to make that system effective, it is effective, and is working to ensure that no excess profits will be made, at any rate, in respect of any of the essential articles which have come under review, and no excess profits are, in fact, being made at the moment.
Reference was made here to the difficulty that has arisen in connection with the supply of the cheaper types of woollen yarns. Reference was made to it yesterday by Deputy Dillon, and to-day by Deputy Cosgrave. I dealt with that matter in my introductory statement yesterday. It is a fact that there is considerable difficulty in getting supplies of the cheaper type of woollen yarns, but that difficulty does not arise out of the fact that somebody has cornered supplies and is now sitting on them. It arises out of the fact that in every country in the world woollen mills are working overtime making military uniforms for which that cheap woollen yarn is required. It is that extraordinary increase in the production of certain classes of cloth  which has caused the shortage. We are producers of wool here. That fact was referred to by Deputy Dillon yesterday, and again by Deputy Cosgrave. We use only a comparatively small part of our production of wool, and we export the balance. It is necessary to get some clarity of thought concerning the disposal of that surplus wool. Deputy Dillon to-day said that we should try to make a bargain with the British to secure supplies of the cheaper grades of woollen yarn from them in consideration of our selling our wool surplus to that country. He said at the same time that we must ensure that we take no action which would prevent our wool exporters getting the maximum price available. The position at the moment is that, because the price of wool in Great Britain is controlled by the British Government, we are selling practically no wool there at all. I mentioned that on the outbreak of war the British authorities bought up practically the entire wool production of the world. Because of the action they took, there now is a scarcity of wool in the United States, in Holland, and in other countries, and consequently the price of wool in these centres is much higher than in Britain. It is to these centres our wool surplus is now going.
Prices are being paid there far in excess of anything that could be procured in Great Britain. I said the disposal of our wool surplus is bound up with getting supplies of woollen yarns. Deputies must appreciate the fact that if we are going to place any restrictions upon the disposal of our wool surplus, it means inevitably that we shall get a somewhat poorer return than might be procured if we allowed wool to go to whatever part of the world prices were at the moment highest.
Mr. Lemass: I am taking the year as a whole. I gave the figures yesterday. We produced about 16,000,000 lbs. of raw wool, of which we normally use about 3,000,000 and of which we could use about 6,000,000. The balance could  not be used here, and must be exported in any event. Deputy Dillon had what he thought was a good crack at our self-sufficiency policy by mentioning the fact that we had concentrated for a number of years upon getting increased production here of wheat and beet, and he then said that it was in relation to these commodities the least difficulty had been experienced, so far, in time of war. That is a very superficial view to take of the position. It is true that up to the present we have been able to get large supplies of wheat, but it would be utterly unsound to conclude from that that we can always get large supplies of wheat. On the contrary, it is obvious that it is going to become increasingly difficult to get supplies coming from abroad. Not merely is it going to become increasingly difficult, but it is going to be increasingly expensive. We have now reached a position where a very small rise in the cost of delivery of foreign wheat here will make it dearer than Irish wheat, although in normal times there was a substantial difference between the guaranteed price paid for Irish wheat and the price at which we could buy imported wheat. That difference is now almost entirely wiped out, and if the price of foreign wheat continues to increase at anything like the rate at which it has increased for the past six months, it will soon be much cheaper to grow all the wheat we require.
The difficulty of obtaining foreign supplies is not due to any scarcity in the countries of origin, but to circumstances connected with their transportation here. The war, so far, has been mainly a war on shipping. Apart altogether from the actual losses during the war, other factors have operated to make the arrangements for shipping very difficult. You have the entire German mercantile marine tied up. You have the American mercantile marine ordered by the American Government to stay out of these waters. You have a large part of the British mercantile marine immobilised by the convoy system, which involves that where convoy is given, the ships must arrange their days of sailing to suit the convenience of the convoy, and the largest ship must reduce its speed  to that of the smallest. All these factors tend to make the arrangements for shipping, particularly in relation to goods which have to be transported over long distances, very difficult and very expensive.
I mentioned, in connection with the plans made in relation to the shipping of fertilisers, that long ago we purchased in North Africa a certain quantity of rock phosphate to enable us to make here all the superphosphates that we might require this year, but up to date we have only been able to ship 25 per cent. of the quantity of rock phosphate which was purchased.
Mr. Lemass: It is due to the difficulty of arranging for shipment. In the course of time we shall get in these supplies, but the difficulty is to get them in within the time in which we require them. Some Deputies speaking here emphasised the importance of getting adequate supplies of superphosphate. It is easy to speak like that, but emphasising the importance of it does not get it. There are only limited sources of supply. In practice, we may take it that, during the course of the war, whatever supplies of compound manures and superphosphate we use here will be made here either from our own raw materials or from imported raw materials. In times of peace, supplies of superphosphate were available in Belgium, but the Belgian Government have now prohibited their export. It is easy for Deputies to say that we could make diplomatic representations to get the Belgian Government to remove the ban in our favour. We could make representations, but does anybody think that by doing so we would get them to remove the ban?
Mr. Lemass: Of course it was, but we are not dealing now with the circumstances before the war. Let me deal with Belgium and the possibility of getting manufactured superphosphate imported. It was suggested here that we could make diplomatic relations to the Belgian Government to get a removal of the ban on exports in our favour. We can do so, but it would be foolish to imagine that we are going to get any result. It is just as important for the British, or the French, to get the ban removed in their favour as it is for us to have the ban removed in our favour, and I am quite certain that our influence with the Belgian Government does not exceed the influence of either the British or the French Government.
Mr. Lemass: The Belgian Government have, presumably, taken this action in the interests of their own people. It is not altogether a question of neutrality. They are merely doing in regard to their commodities what we are doing in relation to such things as wool, hides, timber and other items that are produced here. We are determined to keep those things here, because our people will need them, and we are keeping them even though the prices that might be got for them abroad would be much better.
Mr. Lemass: I do not know why they prohibited exports, but they have done so, and I do not think it is for me to question their attitude. It is  possible that they may respond to our representations and give a licence in regard to the export of superphosphates. The Dutch people have also prohibited exports. These are some of the difficulties.
Mr. Lemass: I can assure the Deputy that everything that can possibly be done to increase the supply of superphosphates here is being done. It is idle for Deputies to talk as if difficulties did not exist. If it can be done, it will be done. The indications at the moment are that we cannot do better than we have already succeeded in doing.
Mr. Lemass: Of course, the Belgian ban on exports was imposed some time after the war began. Possibly the Belgian Government may, at the instance of some of their own citizens, decide to give export licences. I cannot say that they will, but possibly they will be willing now to give export licences to some of their merchants, and, if so, we will see if we can induce those merchants to export to us.
Mr. Lemass: Some years ago we set up a committee to decide whether that rock in Clare was capable of being used for the manufacture of superphosphate. The committee left the position more or less indeterminate. Some people on the committee thought it could not be used economically; others thought it could, and there was a third view which seemed to suggest that it was technically possible, but, in the circumstances of that day, impracticable. The matter is being considered further.
Mr. Lemass: Deputy Dillon spoke about shoeing iron. We have experienced very considerable difficulties in procuring supplies, even at any price. I have in mind now supplies of steel sheets, steel bars or even the billets which can be manufactured into sheets and bars here. I presume that was to have been anticipated. The steel industry of Great Britain is concentrating upon the production of armaments. The same thing is presumably happening in Germany, and Germany and England were two of the greatest exporters of steel in the world.
The position is that supplies are procurable only from Belgium and the United States. In the case of Belgium they are deluged with orders from all over the world. It is almost impossible to get supplies from them, and when you do they can ask any price they like. In the case of the United States, prices are extraordinarily high, because of the demand for steel, the dollar exchange rate and the cost of transporting the material. It is inevitable that steel of all kinds is going to be scarce and dear, and although we have been able to make arrangements which have enabled essential requirements to be met so far, we cannot say that it is going to continue.
Mr. Lemass: The only bar steel procurable  in the country is made at Haulbowline. It is not possible to get it anywhere else. Our problem is to keep up the supply of the billets which that concern requires.
Mr. Hughes: Does the Minister realise that we are not getting any fullered iron from Haulbowline and any that we are importing is carrying a duty and the price is already high enough without any duty? I think the latest quotation is £26 a ton.
Mr. Lemass: I said that in the case of wheat and sugar it was taking a very superficial view of our position to say that because we have been able to get supplies so far we will continue indefinitely to get them. In the case of sugar it is true we have been able to arrange for the importation of a  quantity of raw sugar this year which will meet our requirements, but when I said that so far as we can see, unless there was some very exceptional development, we were secure so far as our sugar supplies were concerned up to the end of the war, I had in mind the fact that we would be able to arrange for the keeping up of the beet acreage and the manufacture of sugar from Irish beet. It is utterly wrong to think that there is no difficulty in getting sugar. I cannot understand that attitude at all. In Northern Ireland and Great Britain supplies of sugar are rationed. Fortunately, we have been able to have our requirements met so far.
Mr. Lemass: I cannot enter into details of that kind. I said that we got it favourably. Deputy Hughes said there was difficulty about the refining of the sugar. The contrary is the case. Not merely is there no difficulty, but there has been a fortunate development which indicates that whether we get beet grown here or not the sugar factories here have a useful economic purpose to serve. Raw sugar can be purchased and imported cheaper than refined sugar. That is very useful information to have learned. It is also a fact that the refinement of sugar gives a substantial amount of additional employment which is very welcome.
Deputy Dillon referred to the making of a protest concerning an attack on a neutral ship conveying materials to this country. In the ordinary course if information was received that an act of war was directed against a neutral vessel or a vessel of our own nationality bringing supplies to our country, it would have been the function of my Department to bring it to the notice of the Minister for External Affairs with a view to having a protest made. But before we would do so we would have to have the information verified, because we could not act simply on newspaper reports. In the case the Deputy referred to, a neutral ship was carrying a cargo of animal  feeding stuffs and we applied forthwith for a report from the master of the vessel as to what happened. That report was, in fact, only received to-day. In matters of that kind one must be very certain that an attack did, in fact, occur before rushing in to make protest. In the case of that particular ship the captain alleges that torpedoes were fired at it, but that none of them hit it.
Deputy Dillon referred to the availability of the supply of second-hand sacks in the country, which might be collected and reconditioned for use. It is, of course, not practicable to use second-hand sacks for flour.
Mr. Lemass: However, to meet Deputy Dillon's point, I may say that there are in the country a number of firms engaged in the business of buying and reconditioning second-hand sacks, and I presume that they have established as efficient an organisation as could be created for that purpose. I am certain that if there is no agent purchasing supplies in Deputy Dillon's area, or in any other part of the country in which supplies are available, if some of the firms engaged in the business are notified they will make the necessary arrangements to collect them. In any event, we think that this is a matter which might be left to the commercial firms engaged in the business.
Mr. Lemass: Deputy Hurley referred to matters affecting price control. I spoke yesterday at some length concerning the principles which we are endeavouring to apply to matters of price control. The Deputy mentioned certain incidents which, he said, had occurred to his own knowledge. He mentioned that an investigation had been taken up by my Department at the request of a local authority in Cork into the price quoted them for coal by a local merchant. The result of that investigation was that the price quoted by the merchant was a reasonable price, having regard to the circumstances. The coal in question was transported from a port on the East Coast of Great Britain. Subsequently, arrangements were made for the merchants in Cork to get their coal from ports on the West Coast of Great Britain, with the result that the price went down by 2/- per ton. That is the explanation of the two cases to which Deputy Hurley referred.
The price of coal has been regulated in discussions with the Coal Merchants' Association in each of the principal importing districts, and I must say that they have conformed very well to the agreement that we made with them. The aim of price control is to ensure that such merchants, or other merchants handling similar commodities, will not get their gross profit increased as the result of an increase in prices caused by war conditions. As I explained yesterday, if the same percentage margin of profit were to apply to the inflated prices of war time, then, of course, the gross profit secured by merchants would be substantially increased. Our aim is to secure for them that their total remuneration will be the same, and to regulate prices to that end, which means that, assuming there is the same volume of business, if there is a substantial increase in prices the percentage margin of profit will be somewhat lower.
Deputy Hurley also referred to a case where an oatmeal miller was permitted to increase the price of oatmeal  because there had been a rise in the price of oats as compared with the period before the war. He said this merchant was making an excess profit on oats that he had in stock. I do not think that happened. I explained not merely yesterday, but shortly after the war began, that it is the concern of my Department to ensure that pre-war stocks are disposed of at pre-war prices.
Mr. Lemass: I am dealing now with the question of stocks. I agree that in every case it was not possible to apply that principle. But, in the case to which Deputy Hurley referred, the whole transaction came under the review of the prices branch of my Department, and the Deputy's contention was that it agreed to pre-war stocks being disposed of at post-war prices. I do not believe that happened. Deputies will remember that another policy was possible, and was, in fact, urged upon the Government. Amongst those who urged it was Deputy Dillon. Those people contended that, after the war ended, there would be a slump in which stocks purchased at high prices would have to be disposed of on a falling market, and that merchants should be allowed to accumulate reserves now against that anticipated slump by permitting them to charge post-war prices on their pre-war stocks. We did not accept that view. We think that it will be possible, in the circumstances that will arise when the war is ended, to take special action in this country which will preserve traders against undue losses. I think it is unwise to build entirely upon the experience of the last war in this country which is neutral in this one, and which now has a native Government capable of and concerned to preserve the interests of its citizens. The experience gained during the last war may not work out precisely similar at the end of this war.
Mr. Lemass: I know that. In the case of the principal oat merchants in the country we are, in fact, examining their books weekly and fixing the prices at which they can sell their stocks. There are various grades of merchants. I understand there are intermediaries who buy from the producers and sell to other merchants, but the people we have been dealing with are the larger merchants who sell direct to consumers of one kind or another.
Mr. Lemass: Deputy Hughes, I think, is peeved that there is a war on. He gave me the impression that he was not facing up to the difficulties which the war is creating. We all know it is desirable that the sacks which are required by the exporters of seed potatoes should be made available at as low a price as possible, but merely to say that does not get them. After all, we have to remember that one third of the adult population of Europe is, at the moment, filling sand-bags, and that the demand for jute sand-bags is so enormous that it is inevitable there is going to be a scarcity of jute and canvas for other purposes.
Mr. Lemass: The Deputy said that the increase in prices that took place had not been fully justified by the increased cost of jute. With regard to agricultural machinery, it may be true  that American agricultural machinery is not as good as British, but if we cannot get British machinery we have to buy it in America. Deputy Dockrell said that it would be an advantage to get our timber supplies imported in British ships. The British, of course, are subsidising freights on timber, and if the Deputy can give me a good argument why the British should subsidise the freight on timber to this country I will use it. It must be a good one.
Mr. Lemass: I think it is quite clear that the British have not sufficient ships for their own requirements, and are chartering neutral ships for that trade. Deputy Cosgrave raised a question regarding petrol rationing, and said that no additional allowance was given to accountants. It is true that an additional allowance was not given to accountants as such. The mere fact that an individual is an accountant does not entitle him to an additional supply, but if he can show to the satisfaction of the officers of the Department that he requires an additional allowance for the conduct of his business, then he will get it. In other words, the merits of the individual case must be considered.
Mr. Lemass: They will be considered. It can be taken as a general principle, upon which the distribution of an additional allowance is based, that all those persons who require to use a car for their business, or to facilitate their business activities, or in some other way in connection with their professional or other avocations, will get an additional allowance of petrol. That is to say, taking the case of the commercial travellers, without examining individual cases, we can give them an additional allowance if a car is insured as a commercial traveller's car, as it is a reasonable assumption that it is required for his business. We give a similar allowance automatically to  doctors and to other professional people in respect of whom it is reasonable to assume the use of a car is essential to them. In the case of accountants, they did not get an additional allowance merely because they are accountants. They have to show, as well as those in every other class of business, that the nature of their business is such that they require to use a car.
Mr. Lemass: Deputy Flynn referred to a matter that does not arise out of the war situation, and, on that account, it was a relief to hear it, namely, the fixing of the same maximum prices for bread in the larger centres as in the outlying rural districts. The Deputy may be assured that before the Bread (Regulation of Prices) Act was brought into operation, and the price of bread fixed, that question was very fully considered, and it was deemed equitable to fix the same overriding maximum price for bread under various conditions of sale as set out in the order for the whole country. In fact, the position before that Act came into operation was that, in a number of outlying rural areas, the price at which bread was sold was lower than in the larger centres. Their labour and other costs being less, they could compete quite effectively with those in other areas. I do not think any point raised has been left untouched. I assure the House that it is not the policy of the Government to put distributors out of existence.
Mr. Lemass: Shortly after the outbreak of war I considered the desirability of taking steps to establish local committees, and I came to the conclusion, eventually, that it was desirable to postpone action, at least, for a while. In a period when prices are  rising everyone is alleging profiteering. That is inevitable. People do not like to see prices rising. They do not like to have to pay more for commodities they buy, and would like to feel that it is due to some cause which can be remedied, whereas, in fact, most of the increases that took place were due to causes outside the control of anybody, the increased cost of imported materials. It was felt that it was desirable to allow people to adjust their minds to the circumstances of the war, and to appreciate that a certain higher level of prices was inevitable in respect of some commodities, and to get them to understand that there was in operation machinery for investigation and control which my Department operates. We have, in fact, been able to procure sufficient protection in the case of complaints received from a very large number of areas, and arranged for the investigation of these complaints by inspectors. As a result inspectorial visits have been very much appreciated in the areas concerned. At any rate, it is obvious that the visit of an inspector to a particular district, and his activities in investigating prices charged for commodities, have aroused considerable public interest, and it has made known to the public that there is machinery for such investigation which they can avail of.
Mr. Lemass: If there is a feeling that local committees could be more effective on principle I would be in favour of any device which would help to secure the co-operation of the public with the administrative authorities. I do not know if Deputy Corish suggests that the committee set up in Wexford by the corporation did not do effective work. That committee sent in a list of prices which the people thought too high. It did not follow that these prices contained any element of excess profit. Prices may have been too high without it being possible for anyone to remedy that situation. The officers of the prices branch can tell, almost at a glance, in relation to  any prices whether they are likely on investigation to be too high, because they have already investigated similar prices on more than one occasion in many other parts. If there is a feeling in any district that such a committee could be really effective, and that it will not be effective for a short while and then fade out, I am quite prepared to take the necessary steps to set it up. I have no objection to that. The only reason I have not taken action is that I had some doubt whether it would work, and I did not want to appoint officers or a secretary or undertake other expenditure for something which would disappear in a short time.
Mr. Corish: The committee I spoke of would be glad if it were done, even at this stage. As far as inspectors are concerned, it is not known to the general public when they visit a town. It would be well if there was some connecting link in a town with the in spector when he arrives. That would help the public to feel that the Department are doing something in that respect.
Mr. Dockrell: The Minister did not answer a question I raised about distributing merchants being admitted to inquiries held to investigate the revision of tariffs. I am sure the Minister will agree that they could furnish valuable information.
Mr. Lemass: The Prices Commission has had additional functions given to it in relation to the carrying out of tariff reviews. An Act was passed following the trade agreement with the United Kingdom, and its administration is under the Department of Industry and Commerce. The legal position is that the Control of Prices Act is administered by the Department of Industry and Commerce. The Department  of Supplies is working under the Emergency Powers Act.
Mr. Dockrell: I should like to point out that the point I have raised apparently cannot be answered by the Minister, because he says it is a Prices Commission (Department of Industry and Commerce) point. I would be precluded from raising that on the Department of Industry and Commerce Vote, because the Minister for Industry and Commerce will say that it has already been debated on this Estimate. I spoke before about my difficulty in appreciating the difference between the Department of Supplies and the Department of Industry and Commerce. Apparently there is a Prices Commission (Department of Supplies) and a Prices Commission (Department of Industry and Commerce), and the Minister has made that clear to us here. I am perfectly satisfied with the answer if I am allowed to raise the point on the Department of Industry and Commerce Vote. But I submit it is most unfair that the Minister should say it is not his business to answer it, and that then on a technicality it should be ruled out of order.
Mr. Lemass: The determination of the cost of production in flour mills here, as I explained, is a highly technical and expert job. The actual cost of production of a sack of flour varies from mill to mill and from day to day.
Mr. Hickey: I am speaking about Cork. In Cork there are five inland mills and two port mills and there is the possibility that the cost of flour in Cork might be based on the cost of production in the most remote mill.
Mr. Lemass: I explained yesterday how the price of flour is determined. Deputy Dillon mentioned that the Prices Commission six years ago reported that, for the first quarter of the year during which they investigated the accounts of the flour millers, an excessive profit had been made. They drew up a formula on the basis of which they said the price of flour should be determined. That formula provided for variations in the price of flour with variations in the price of wheat. But over and above the price of wheat, it was based upon the average cost of production in Irish mills. That formula is still in operation to some extent, but had to be modified because of variations in different charges. But it is on that basis that the price of flour is fixed, and that means that it is on the basis of the average cost, and not on the basis of the cost in the least efficient mill.
Mr. Lemass: The bulk of the production is at the port mills. When I say the average cost, it is the average cost per sack, and the bulk of the flour produced is produced in the highly-efficient mills at the ports.
Mr. Hickey: That is what I am saying. The danger is that that is why their profits are so high, because it is produced in the port mills in Cork, and we have five outside mills as against two port mills. It is easy for them to make excessive profits, because the production is based on the average of the mills.
Mr. Dockrell: I am not satisfied with the position in which, apparently, there are some subjects which cannot be  debated in this House at all. I should like to ask the Minister on what Vote the Prices Commission section of the Department of Industry and Commerce can be debated.
Mr. Dockrell: Apparently, the Prices Commission have a dual personality. If one section of their activities can be debated on the Department of Industry and Commerce Vote, I am perfectly satisfied; but I want to get a ruling on that, because the Minister says that he cannot answer for that section.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I should like to point out to the Deputy that, if he looks at the Book of Estimates recently circulated, under the Department of Industry and Commerce he will find—“Sub-head K—Prices Commission”—and on the bottom of the page there is a note—“(d) The staff of the Prices Commission is at present on loan to the Department of Supplies for work in that Department”.
Mr. Lemass: Whatever the answer to Deputy Mulcahy's query may be, on the point in which Deputy Dockrell is interested the procedure in connection with the review of tariffs is that they are properly discussed on the Vote of the Department of Industry and Commerce.
Mr. Dockrell: If it is the ruling of the Chair that it can be discussed  under that head, I am perfectly satisfied; but I do not wish, when I start to discuss it under that head, to be told that that item has already been discussed in this House, namely, the Prices Commission.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Minister stated that certain activities of the Prices Commission come under the Department of Supplies and others under the Department of Industry and Commerce. As it was originally under the Department of Industry and Commerce. I take it that it may be discussed on that Vote in certain aspects. I suppose each Minister will accept responsibility for the activities he has control of, according as they arise.
Mr. Norton: As the Minister probably knows, in a number of other neutral countries, particularly in Scandinavian countries, which are neutral like ourselves, and which have problems arising out of the war akin to ours, the Governments have found it advisable to set up representative committees in industry consisting of employers, on the one hand, and trade unions on the other hand, with the assistance of liaison officers from various Government Departments. Although the war has only been on for six months, the reports so far received from these committees have indicated that they have rendered very valuable service in husbanding the resources of industry, in planning industry, and in looking ahead for the necessary raw materials for industry. Will the Minister indicate whether he has given consideration to the creation of similar committees here?
Mr. Norton: Dealing with the matter from the standpoint of supplies, rather than management or suggestions even  in an advisory capacity for industry, I think the Minister has power to suggest, in respect to the activities of his Department, that he would like to have the views of anyone in respect of supplies. Surely it is within the province of the Minister to take the initiative in having committees set up in various important industries with a view to advising him from time to time on the position in those industries in respect of supplies.
Mr. Lemass: I would not think so. It is the function of the Minister for Industry and Commerce to keep in touch with industries, and if, in the course of doing so, he discovers that difficulties in connection with the supplies of materials are arising, then the fact is communicated to my Department which endeavours to see that these difficulties are removed. That is why I say that the particular idea which the Deputy has in mind is one for consideration, in the first instance, by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, and possibly he has considered such an idea. I know there are some committees in existence which bear that out, but the question must be answered by him and not by me.
Mr. Norton: Inasmuch as the Minister would get the viewpoint of the industry from the standpoint of the employer and the worker would he consider the necessity of discussing it with the Minister for Industry and Commerce to see whether any committee could be set up with a view to seeing if anything can be done?
Mr. Lemass: We have prohibited the export of native timber. We are granting licences for the export of such classes of native timber as cannot be usefully used here. The question of cutting native timber is, of course, a matter for the Department of Lands, and I understand that they require four trees to be planted for every one  cut. The matter the Deputy had in mind is adequately safeguarded.
Mr. Cosgrave: That is not the point. The price of timber has been advanced and, at the present moment, it is colossal, and is likely to reach a fantastic figure. Freight has gone up from around £3 5s. last year to £20 this year. That is the freight that has been paid for wood from Canada. I want to know whether the Minister is aware of the efforts that have been made to deal with the situation? The suggestion has been made that we should slaughter our own woods.
Mr. Lemass: We have set up three organisations for buying timber abroad. One is for the Dublin and eastern area, the second is for the southern area and the third is for western counties. All these corporations have the sole right of buying timber and importing it here, the idea being to effect the greatest economy in the purchase of timber and its transport here. These corporations are now functioning. Although prices have risen, there has not been any difficulty about supplies. The stocks of timber now are as high as were the stocks this time last year. So far as prices are concerned, we are considering what action has to be taken to reduce freights and to effect economies in shipping. We realise there will be very large increases in prices. That is unavoidable.
Mr. Cosgrave: The regulation is that the man who cuts a tree must plant four trees for it. Anyone who has experience of any sort in agriculture knows that that is a ridiculous regulation. I am putting this to the Minister, that it is his business if this timber is there growing in this country to allow it to be cut. There is an idea abroad amongst people in cities who do not understand these matters that when once a tree is planted it remains there for ever. Now, even though a tree is a beautifying addition to the countryside it is a national loss unless it is cut at the time when it is mature. It so happens that one of the reasons why farmers object to timber on their land is that the roots grow out beyond  the tree and make tilling difficult. Another thing is that the leayes and branches of the trees in the summer keep off the sun. The situation now in this country is that we are short of timber, and I am putting it to the Minister that it would be a judicious thing if timber rises beyond what one would conceive to be an economic price, that the slaughter, as they call it, of our native timber should be permitted. That is my view of the situation as regards timber so long as freights and the cost of importing timber from abroad are as high as they are at present. I trust that the Department of Lands will give permission to loosen the regulations with regard to the cutting of trees.
Mr. Brennan: Apparently the Minister has held out no hope as to a withdrawal of the tariff on imported fertilisers. We have been agitating for some months past for the removal of this tariff on artificials. Is the Minister now prepared to urge upon the Minister for Agriculture to extend the subsidy to imported manures? Considering the increased prices in freights that should be done.
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