In Committee on Finance. - Adjournment—Debate on General Economic Position.

Wednesday, 7 August 1940

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 80 No. 17

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The Tánaiste: Information on Seán T. O'Kelly  Zoom on Seán T. O'Kelly  I move that the Dáil do now adjourn until Wednesday, 2nd October.

[1979]Mr. Norton: Information on William Norton  Zoom on William Norton  The proposal is that the House should adjourn to-day for a prolonged period. I think, before it does so, it is only proper that the attention of the Government should be directed to the very serious economic position which exists in the country and the fact that all the indications are that that economic position will become very much worse in the ensuing months. We have, according to Government statistics, approximately 60,000 persons registered as unemployed at the employment exchanges. We know that 31,000 persons are virtually prevented from registering there since they find no advantage by such registration through the operation of the First and Second Employment Period Orders under which that number was deprived of unemployment assistance benefit. Recently we had the most amazing action of the Department in issuing, for the first time, a Third Employment Period Order under which, according to a reply by the Minister for Industry and Commerce to-day, 16,700 additional persons were deprived of unemployment assistance benefit.

Whatever case may be made for the First and Second Employment Period Orders—and I question whether any case can be made—there is no reason whatever, no justification whatever, for the making of the Third Employment Period Order. Under that Third Employment Period Order married men, even those who may have dependents, are deprived of unemployment assistance benefit, not merely if they live in the rural areas, but if they live in towns with a population of 2,000 or possibly 3,000. As Deputy Harris knows, the operation of the Third Employment Period Order prevents an unemployed man with a wife and six children, living in a town like Kildare, with a population of close on 3,000, from receiving unemployment assistance benefit between June and October. It prevents a man in a place like Kilcullen, Maynooth, Celbridge or Lucan from obtaining unemployment assistance benefit, notwithstanding that there is no employment in these areas available for such persons and notwithstanding that it is known to the employment exchanges that there is no employment available.

[1980] The Department are quite unconcerned whether or not there is employment available. They make their Third Employment Period Order, and in towns such as I have mentioned, and in rural areas, all these married men, with their dependent wives and children, are cut off from receiving benefit. Not only are they hungry when they lose such benefit, but they proceed to turn to the local authority, the board of health and the home assistance officer, and they endeavour to extract such sums of money as they can manage to get in order to sustain them during the period when unemployment assistance benefit is not available.

I should like somebody, on behalf of the Government, to attempt to justify depriving such persons of unemployment benefit in these areas and in these circumstances. It could not have been done as the result of an inquiry or because the Government believe that employment would be available. The fact that 60,000 people are receiving unemployment benefit is a definite indication that there is no employment available any more than it was available for the 16,700 who were deprived of benefit by the Third Employment Period Order. I hope the Government will take an early opportunity of reviewing the operation of that order. I do not think its issue can be justified; I do not think the poverty it has created can be justified, and I hope the Government will realise that an unwise step was taken when that order was issued, and that the equity of the situation demands that the order should be discontinued and the benefit restored to married men with wives and children dependent upon them, where they have been deprived of that benefit.

The most serious lesson to be learned from these figures is that we still have 60,000 registered as unemployed, that we have 31,000 at present temporarily standing off benefit under the First and Second Employment Period Orders, and a further 16,000 under a Third Employment Period Order. These orders will cease to operate normally in October. Those who are losing benefit under the operation of these orders will go back to the employment exchanges [1981] looking for unemployment assistance benefit in lieu of the work which they cannot get. In October and in November next we will, again, be presented with the situation of having 107,000 persons, if the figure is not higher by then, seeking an opportunity to work, and with no work available for them.

I think that is a most serious position, one that no Government can contemplate with equanimity. No Government concerned for the economic welfare of the State can be unconcerned at the existence of such a gigantic unemployment problem in this small State. One has to remember, too, that that by no means exhausts the wide strata of poverty in the country, because it must be added to by the existence of another problem related to unemployment, namely, the problem of home assistance and outdoor relief. In March of this year 92,000 people, approximately, were receiving such relief. With all that you get some picture of the widespread poverty and destitution which exists for many thousands of our people to-day. In a situation of that kind, one which tends to get worse by reason not merely of our national inability to face up to our responsibilities under that problem, but because of international repercussions—a situation which, as I have said, tends to become very much worse during the next few months—we are surely entitled to ask what solution the Government have to offer. Already, those who have experience of industry report that firms, in many instances, have been obliged to curtail their activities due to a falling-off in the demand for goods, and to their inability to obtain raw materials. One may be sure that during the next six months industry generally will not be able, unless some special steps are taken by the Government in the matter, to retain on their pay-rolls various of the staffs that they are at present giving employment to.

In view of that we surely are entitled to ask what are the Government's proposals for dealing with a situation of that kind. Are they still going to allow this problem of unemployment to drift? Are they still going apparently to [1982] tinker with the problem by making available relief schemes for a few weeks or a few months in the year, schemes of work under which men can only obtain employment for three or four days a week, and with that employment only available for them for a few weeks or a few months? Is there going to be any serious effort made to cut down deeper into the problem to try to find a solution for it, a problem which, if allowed to continue, can have no other effect but to weaken the whole national economic structure, and to create here in our midst a feeling of unrelieved despair such as the continuance of this unemployment problem has inevitably created in the past?

We were discussing a few moments ago the question of extending the Local Loans Fund so as to make money available for advances in various directions. That reminds me of the very serious position which has arisen in the building industry. According to statistics issued by the Department of Industry and Commerce, 10,500 building trade workers are unemployed. That number would be still larger were it not for the fact that, in recent months in particular, a substantial number of building trade workers went to England, Scotland and Wales to try to find employment there. This country has lost their skill, and their families have had to do without them, but those workers realised apparently that the position in the building industry here was so bad, and was likely to get worse, that they felt it preferable to go across to Britain to obtain employment in the building trade there rather than carry on here under a condition of affairs which held out no prospect of their being absorbed into employment.

While that is so, you have this position in the country: that you want, and still want, thousands and tens of thousands of houses for our people. There is a housing shortage on the one hand, and on the other hand we have 10,500 building trade workers idle and unable to get the opportunity to build houses, although the Minister introduced a Bill to-day to enable another £6,000,000 to be made available for house-building activity. Is it not possible for the Government to find some means of harnessing the unemployed [1983] building trade workers to the necessity for erecting more houses, and of utilising the State's credit to ensure that these three elements can be brought together and applied to a solution of the housing problem?

Another matter which in recent months has pressed with extreme rigour on all classes of the community, and in particular on the working class section of the unemployed, is the rapid rise in the cost of living. Again, according to Government statistics, the cost-of-living index figure, taking July, 1914, the base as nought, was 73 in mid-August, 1939. The figure had risen to 104 by May of this year, and the declarations which issue weekly from the Department of Supplies indicate that an ascertainment of the figure now would clearly demonstrate that it is higher than the figure which obtained in mid-May last. You have, therefore, the position by which the cost-of-living index figure has risen by 31 points between August of last year and May of this year. That would be a very substantial increase at any time within such a short period, but it is a particularly rapid increase at a time when large sections of our people are living under conditions inevitably associated with long periods of unemployment. It does not need a vivid imagination to realise the serious effects which such a substantial increase in prices has upon all citizens. A still less vivid imagination will suffice to picture the position of rural workers and town workers subsisting on a small wage, and of unemployed workers subsisting on the miserable pittance obtained under the Unemployment Assistance Acts—to realise the hardship which that substantial increase in the price of commodities has inevitably inflicted upon them.

To get a picture of what that hardship is, it is only necessary to go back to 1933 when the Unemployment Assistance Act was first introduced. In that Act we set out to provide certain rates of unemployment assistance benefit, and, obviously these rates were related to what the cost of commodities was in 1933.

According to the Department's [1984] records, the cost-of-living index figure in 1933 was 49, and when the figure was at that level, we provided certain scales of unemployment assistance benefit. Now the figure is 104, an increase of 55 points since 1933, and we continue to pay the same rates of benefit, the same miserable pittances as in 1933, although an examination of the figures will clearly demonstrate that whatever 13/- or 14/- purchased in 1933, it is purchasing a substantially smaller quantity of food to-day. We have tried by Parliamentary question and debate to awaken the Government to a realisation of the hardships which are endured by tens of thousands of our unemployed people who are endeavouring to subsist on these rates. We have tried to awaken the Government to a realisation of the fact that these rates were related to a certain price level of commodities, that that price level has been departed from very radically, and that the benefits provided for in 1933 do not purchase anything like the same quantity of commodities that could be purchased then. The Government so far has shown no realisation of the hardships and the sufferings endured by those who are, unfortunately under our scheme of society, condemned to exist on rates of that type.

I should like either of the two Ministers present to picture the situation of a man with five or six children paying a rent of 3/6 a week to a local authority—and many of them have to pay a higher rate—trying to keep himself, his wife and six children out of an all-in income of 14/- a week. That leaves 10/6 to feed a family of eight people for seven days in the week and give them three meals a day. Yet that is the condition of affairs to which we are sentencing, and sentencing with the utmost complacency, thousands of our unemployed people to-day. I hope again that the Government will realise that that condition of affairs cannot continue. The money you save by not increasing such miserable rates of benefit shames whoever saves it. The State can never prosper by saving money while permitting that condition of affairs to continue. I hope the Government will take early steps to revise the scale of unemployment [1985] assistance benefit and fix new rates on a scale which will at least enable these poor people to purchase the barest necessities of life.

Widows and orphans were similarly granted certain rates of benefit when the prices of commodities were at a certain level. By reason of the rapid increase in prices, the value of the income which widows and orphans receive in the form of pensions, whether contributory or non-contributory, was correspondingly decreased in proportion as prices increased. The position of widows in receipt of pensions—those in receipt of non-contributory pensions particularly—is, to-day, deplorable in the extreme. Similarly, old age pensioners who, in 1933 had an old age pension of 10/- a week at a time when the cost-of-living figure was 49, are still compelled to try to exist on that 10/- a week, although the cost-of-living figure has risen to 104. These are facts which no Government can blink. It is easy to realise the widespread hardship and deep sufferings of people who are placed in a situation of that kind. Here in this legislative assembly, the bigger international issues of the moment may obscure a realisation of what is happening in the high-ways, the by-ways and the lane-ways throughout the country, but a visit to them occasionally gives us some conception of the amount of hardship and poverty which is being endured by people living in conditions such as I have described. Their problem every day in the week is the problem of trying to buy food, to buy clothes, to pay rent and to discharge the other responsibilities which our Constitution imposes upon them but which it does very little to assist them to discharge.

I do not want to make any Party capital out of a situation of this kind. I believe to-day, as I believed always, that the problem of poverty is not a Party problem. It is a reproach to our conception of humanity, and it is an indictment of our conception of values, that we can pay so much attention to some things which have an artificial value for us while allowing human beings to subsist under conditions which are a reproach to our vaunted Christianity. On this question, I plead [1986] for the creation of some national thinking box, for the creation of some organisation that will apply itself to an examination of this economic problem as it exists in the country to-day, for some national thinking box that will realise the environment surrounding that problem and the circumstances in which it arose and which it had been allowed to continue for the past 20 years. I would hope that even to-day the Government would realise that there is a necessity for setting up in this country a body—if necessary an all-Party body; if not an all-Party body, a body concerned with social and economic problems representative of the various groups in the nation—to apply its brains to a survey of our economic problems in the hope that by national co-operation, whether through political Parties or industrial groups, it will be possible to evolve in the course of time, a solution of the problems to which I have adverted here.

A suggestion has been made to the Government through the Trade Union Congress and this Party, that an economic council might be established to plan, even now, to deal with the problem of unemployment and underemployment, to deal with the problem of artificial and endemic poverty, to try to eliminate from our national life the criminal waste involved in having over 100,000 people idle in a relatively undeveloped country, in a country the agricultural and industrial potentialities of which have been scarcely scratched. I think it is desirable we should do that now; we have postponed doing it too long.

There is even a greater reason why we should create an organisation of that kind than the necessity of dealing with the present problem, serious though that is. The present European war will be settled one of these days. Its duration will determine in a large measure the condition of Europe during the next generation. We live in Europe; we are part of the European family of nations. We can never hope to escape the repercussions of the military conflict in Europe. Undoubtedly the termination of that war will create problems for us, and every problem [1987] that affects Britain as a result of the war will have its repercussions here. For one thing, tens of thousands of Irishmen and women who now get employment there will probably be sent back to this country. When this military spree is over the headaches will have to be paid for. It may well be that this country will find itself in a situation in which it will not be able to provide for its own unemployed and in which it will have clamped on top of these, thousands of our people from Britain, who will come back here hoping to get work which will probably be denied to them there. Yet there is no organisation in this country to-day thinking about that problem at all. It is useless to imagine that any busy Minister could attempt to apply himself to a solution of that problem, or to think of that problem in any profound way, or, possibly, to frame in his own mind any solution of that problem, even in the sketchiest of ways. I plead for the establishment of some organisation which will survey our national problems, which will ascertain our potentialities, which will ascertain our manpower, and which will ascertain the agricultural and industrial possibilities of the nation, and I hold that, with that information before them, the Government should endeavour to find a solution of the very serious economic problems which exist to-day.

I know, of course, that this suggestion of the establishment of an economic council used to be a pet child of the Taoiseach and that, in former days, he pleaded for the establishment of such an economic council. I think that he was then reasoning on sound economic lines, but since that, however, I am afraid he has thrown over that idea of an economic council, just as he has thrown over some other ideas, and I suggest that if it is not the idea of the Government now to plan national economic development or to endeavour to provide a solution of our economic problems, we should be told that to-day before the Dáil adjourns until the 2nd October. I suggest that we should be told what are the Government's plans for dealing with the situation [1988] in which we find ourselves to-day. We have endeavoured to provide a solution for these problems, and we have endeavoured to grapple with them in a co-operative way, and we wish to assist in any way that is within our power, because the victims of this depression and this chronic misery are our own kith and kin. It is in that spirit that we approach this matter, and only in that spirit, and if the Government is not willing to do what we suggest to deal with the problem, then I hold that we are entitled to know what are the Government's alternative proposals for dealing with it. If our proposals are not acceptable to the Government, then I think that we are entitled to know what the Government's alternative proposals are, if they have any. These problems are very serious, and something should be done to grapple with them and prevent them from becoming more serious than they are, if not to eradicate them altogether. Let us hope that this debate will afford some opportunity to the Government to tell the House and the country what it intends to do in order to grapple with these very serious economic problems—problems that are very serious now and that are calculated to be more serious in the months ahead.

Mr. Keyes: Information on Michael J. Keyes  Zoom on Michael J. Keyes  The eyes of the country are naturally turned to-day to what is happening in Leinster House, because of the rather infrequent meetings of the Dáil that have been taking place recently, but a good many citizens of this country will look in vain if they think they will find anything on the agenda of to-day's meeting of the Dáil, after a lapse of six weeks, dealing with the economic situation in this country such as Deputy Norton has described. We have had all kinds of legislation on the agenda to-day, dealing with matters that may be of interest or may not, but it would appear as if the question of the economic depression that exists in this country must be hidden from the eyes of Deputies in this House, and I think it is an indication of the fact that these things cannot be concealed that the Government, for some reason or other, are trying to conceal the fact that the [1989] problem is there or to shelve its discussion. I say to the Government that you are not going to solve these problems by shelving them.

Deputy Norton has given the figures with regard to the unemployed, and those are the Government's own figures. The only contribution that the Government has made with regard to that problem in recent months was that inglorious episode of the Third Period Order. Even with the example given to-day of 16,700 people being stricken off the unemployment roll as a result of that Order, and thereby deprived of any sustenance whatsoever, I think it would be no exaggeration to say, making a conservative estimate of the families of these people, that there must be some 60,000 whom the Government have picked out to be deprived of employment and, indeed, of any sustenance whatsoever. These people have been struck off the unemployment list as a result of that Order and no provision has been made for them since. If you take these, in conjunction with the other people who were struck off under the Nos. 1 and 2 Period Orders, I think that the number so affected could be easily arrived at. I want to tell the Government that, as a result of this Order, something like 68,000 persons have been deprived of the means of subsistence in this country without any explanation being given by this Government. The Government have made no attempt to employ them, and they say that they have no employment for them. We were told on a former occasion by the Minister for Industry and Commerce that there was plenty of work to be done as a result of the Compulsory Tillage Order, and we also understood that the Minister had some other scheme in his mind. The Minister was asked why he should wait until that sacrosanct date, the 6th June, before providing that work, but the fact is that the Government did not wait, and that willy-nilly they struck these people off the unemployment roll.

Anybody who lives in the country— and I challenge any Deputy here who has experience of the country to deny it—must know that in the small towns in the country we have these people [1990] manfully doing their bit to cut turf and save it as a result of the Government's appeal, but they cannot eat the turf.

I think it is a pitiful thing that, in any Christian country, we should have such conditions existing, and yet, although we only meet for one day between June and October, we find nothing on the agenda for this day's meeting of the Dáil to deal with that problem. We are all very glad and proud of the harmonious response that has been made to he appeal of the Government by every section of the community in the national emergency. Both rich and poor—with the emphasis on the latter—have rallied to the call of the Government in the present emergency. What has been the response of the Government? The unemployed have been called upon for the digging of air-raid shelters, and they have responded, although we have been told that the unemployed did not want work.

We were called upon to repudiate that canard, but I think it has been repudiated sufficiently by these half-hungry men who were called from the labour exchanges to dig these air raid shelters and who responded so well, but we have cases now where men who were employed in excavating these trenches, some of whom got blood poisoned fingers as a result of their work there have been struck off from the labour exchange, and rightly so, if you like, because of the operation of the Act. That is the thanks they have got for their response. That is what they have got for going down to dig these trenches.

I suggest to the Government that it is a very unwise policy for them to act like the ostrich and stick their heads in the sand and ignore the existence of these problems. The existence of the present situation cannot be unknown to the Government. They cannot be so much remote from affairs as to be ignorant of the poverty and misery that exist. Deputy Norton has dealt very fully with the matter so far as statistics are concerned. We are all aware at the moment of what the purchasing power of money is. Take the case of old age pensions. Nobody ever dreamed of taking an old age pension as being worth more than 10/- a week, [1991] but now, with the change that has taken place in the value of money, have we not reason to be assured of the fact that these veterans of ours are still expected to be able to carry on with a pension of 10/- a week which is not worth more than 7/6 at the very outside? Money has gone down by at least 25 per cent. in value. Then, what about a widow who is given 5/- a week? There are plenty of them trying to live on that amount, with this corresponding decrease in the value of purchasing power of money. In spite of all this, we have not had one word from the Government to suggest that they are going to take serious stock of the situation or to deal with that section of the community who are living, or endeavouring to live, on these fixed incomes. Apart from that, there are plenty of workers in the ranks of the Government services who are working at standard wages, and who also stand to lose as a result of that decrease in the value of the purchasing power of money.

The workers who are organised throughout the country have been able to secure through their organisation from private employers a reasonable war bonus on their wages. Notwithstanding the ukase in the Budget statement that the Government have set their faces against all increases regardless of the rise in the cost of living, the workers have succeeded in getting from private employers a reasonable war bonus. Hence the only people who are suffering are the unfortunate widows, the old age pensioners and the employees of the Government themselves. While the agenda has not been smudged to-day by the appearance of anything indicating a change of heart on the part of the Government, there has been some hope encouraged by the introduction of a Bill entitled an Act to make provision by the local authorities of works of public utility and to provide for matters incidental thereto or connected therewith. Were the Government sufficiently broadminded or wise to the fact, they could make the provision to read as to whether it is a continuation [1992] of the doles and grants given to local authorities. What is the necessity for calling it an Act at all? It is only a continuation of doles of two or three days' work a week.

Deputy Norton has suggested that the time has gone for tinkering with this problem and that the time has come for the Government to decide that the wisest policy is wise spending and the utilisation of the brawn and brains of the people properly applied. That is the biggest asset we have in this country. Will we ever have the courage to face up to the fact that the unemployed are our people and that these and the people I have mentioned are entitled to a living just as well as we are, that they are prepared to do their bit and that the job of the Government is to bridge the gulf between the unemployed and the work to be done? We can provide plenty of money for all kinds of purposes except when it comes to boil down to the provision of the necessaries of life. In conclusion, I join with Deputy Norton in the appeal he has made. We are not looking for political capital out of this question. It is an unpleasant thing to discuss. We are prepared to offer our services in any shape or form in joining with the Government in solving the problem, but we feel it our duty to shock the Government into a sense of the irresponsibility that they have shown up to now in dealing with a matter that is so vital to our people.

Mr. Cogan: Information on Patrick Cogan  Zoom on Patrick Cogan  All sections of the people have shown a wonderful response to the appeal of the leaders of all Parties to co-operate in the efforts towards making this country strong and independent and in preserving our neutrality. It seems that this House and the Government have not made a fair effort to meet that noble response on the part of the people. They have not made a reasonable effort to meet the response of the working people, the ordinary workers and the unemployed who have in every town and village turned almost to a man to join the Local Security and the Defence Forces also. Surely the least these men should expect from the [1993] country which they are prepared to defend with their lives, is a living. Surely those men are entitled not to doles or home assistance but to regular constant work that would enable them to live independently and decently in this country. So far, however, no effort has been made to meet that reasonable demand.

Farmers, as a body, have always condemned the dole as demoralising and degrading in the first place and also injurious to their interests. But the farmers have never demanded or suggested that the abolition of the dole should not be accompanied by the provision of work for the unemployed. Therefore, the first step on the part of the Government before abolishing unemployment assistance should have been to ensure that regular constant work would be provided for everybody. It has been frequently suggested that there is not money available for the purpose, and also that there is not work available in the district. As far as money is concerned everybody knows that such things as food, clothing and the essentials of life are really money. The labour of the now unemployed people in this country, if properly organised and diverted, can be converted into food, fuel and the ordinary necessaries of life. There is no difficulty with regard to the problem except the question for organisation, direction and leadership. As far as work is concerned there is no shortage of work in any part of the country. I know that there is a difficulty facing this country with regard to certain food supplies. We know there is a difficulty with regard to fuel supplies. Yet if the men who have been unemployed in the last six months had been employed in the provision of fuel there would be no shortage. There would be an enormous surplus of fuel available in the country. The same applies to a great extent to necessary food supplies. We know that while we have a surplus of certain commodities, there are other commodities of which there is a shortage. So far no effort has been made to organise or encourage production of those commodities of which there is a shortage. One of the remarkable features of the [1994] ordinary life of this country is the fact that the health of the population generally is not improving, notwithstanding the fact that enormous sums are being spent annually under the Medical Charities Acts on medicines and hospitals and upon every artificial means of preserving human life.

But what has been neglected is the most important, namely, the provision of adequate nourishment for our people, and particularly our young people. It seems to me that the Government have never got down to the root of that problem. They have never, perhaps, realised how important it is for our young people in the early stages of their life to be provided with the necessaries of life. They have endeavoured to make certain limited provision for the unkeep of the destitute and the unemployed and to make that provision out of the limited resources of the State. But they should realise that, as long as this State has to maintain a very large percentage of its people unemployed, its resources will always be limited. Therefore the first essential is to increase production by increasing employment.

There are various simple means by which the wealth of this country could be increased by utilising unemployed labour without any cost to anybody. We have, as I mentioned, the development of our peat resources. Similar action could be taken in regard to the conversion of rough timber and old wood into fuel. There again the unemployed could be usefully set to work. There is also the clearing and reclamation of what is called waste land, land which is overgrown with furze or heath, but land which could be easily put into production. That is a type of work which would be immediately reproductive. These are works which could be put in hand without any great organisation, without the need for any great experts, either Irish or foreign.

Again we have the position that poverty not only exists amongst the working classes and the unemployed, but that there is also a very wide measure of poverty and destitution existing amongst other sections of the [1995] community who are supposed to be independent—farmers, small shopkeepers, and people of that kind who find, owing to the higher cost of living and, in the case of small business people, owing to the various restrictions on their business, that it is impossible to make ends meet. Then there is the position of the farmers who find that every article which they require on their farms has been increased in price, while the price of the products of their land is drastically restricted and controlled.

A question as to the price of wool was raised to-day. There we have a position in which the poorer section of our farmers, farmers on the mountainy lands and the poorer lands generally, find that their chief source of income is cut away. They find that wool is now unsaleable. It might be well to ask the Government if they have allowed any wool or wool products to be imported into this country during the past six months. If they have, I am afraid that they have been very neglectful in their duty. They have neglected a very grave problem, I am afraid. It may be said that Irish wool is unsuitable for Irish uses. But, in a case of emergency, I think the Government should see to it that Irish woollen mills and the Irish people generally should be satisfied with their own products. I should be very anxious to know if the import of wool or wool products is still being permitted at a time when Irish wool is unsaleable.

Then again nothing is being done to assist the people who have increased their acreage under tillage and who, because their land is not suitable for growing wheat, have concentrated mainly on the growing of oats and now find the produce of their labour unsaleable also. Some urgent measures should be adopted to ensure that these people will secure a market for at least portion of their oats and that some provision will be made to enable them to hold over the balance until the spring. It has been suggested by the Minister for Agriculture that farmers should use the oats exclusively as a [1996] feeding stuff on their farms. Anybody who knows anything about farming knows that on farms which are suitable for the growing of oats it is impossible or extremely difficult to grow wheat and barley. It is hard to understand how a Minister could expect a farmer to produce a food ration for live stock exclusively out of oats, or how a farmer growing ten or 12 acres of oats could utilise that quantity upon his own farm.

If some steps were taken by the Government it should be possible to provide a market for that oats and enable it to be distributed to other parts of the country where it is not grown. Such a scheme is necessary and unless it is provided there is going to be very widespread poverty and destitution in the areas where oats are grown extensively. What will happen is that the farmers will be forced to sell their oats at any price they can obtain. Merchants perhaps will take a chance and buy it at the smallest possible price in the hope that they may be able to make a profit out of it later. But the unfortunate producers will be forced to sacrifice it. No benefit will be derived from that sacrifice by any section of the people, except perhaps a very few who are prepared to speculate.

That is a problem to which the Government should face up. If they want the farmers to extend and increase the acreage under tillage they must give them an adequate return or ensure that they get an adequate return for their labour.

The same considerations apply to farmers who are being very severely pressed for bank debts. I understand that in the last few months banks, for one reason or another, have been most zealous in seeking to collect debts from farmers. That is not a thing which the Government should tolerate. They should at least ensure that the banks, as the most important financial institutions in the country, should take some interest in the economic condition of the country and avoid putting people engaged in the most important industry in the country out of production.

[1997] The same applies to land annuities. Some relaxation of the pressure in respect of the collection of land annuities was expected, at least during the last two or three months, when farmers were engaged in extending their operations on their farms. They could not be expected to have the necessary capital, not only to finance increased production and increased employment on their farms and, at the same time, to act on the advice of the Minister for Supplies and to lay in additional supplies, while the most extreme pressure was being brought to bear upon them by the officials of the Minister for Lands and the Minister for Justice. These are things to which the Ministers responsible should give serious consideration during the next few weeks. They should see that every unemployed man is put to work on the production of food, on the production of fuel and the provision of necessary housing accommodation.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  The Government which has told us repeatedly that we are in imminent danger of invasion has decided to-day to adjourn this House for two months, and I think it only right and proper that, before agreeing to such an adjournment, we should hear something from the head of the Government, or from one of his Ministers, of what he thinks is the present position of the country and of what the Government's plans are for dealing with the situation which, I am sure, they know will confront the country during the coming winter months. I have travelled around a great portion of the country, and particularly of my own constituency, in the past couple of months and I admit that I have never seen the country look so well and have never seen so much tillage. Provided the clerk of the weather adopts a friendly attitude towards the farmer, we are likely to have perhaps one of the best harvests in the country's history, but if, as I hope we will, we are going to have such a good harvest, I think that, so far as one can judge from present conditions, there is going to be less money available amongst the poorer classes to buy [1998] the increasing quantity of food that will be available to feed themselves and their dependents.

There is evidence in the Government statistics published from time to time that there has been no reduction in unemployment compared with last year. The fact that the Minister for Industry and Commerce on the instructions of the Government issues a first, second or third period order and by the operation of such orders wipes so many registered unemployed from the register, is no proof that the number of unemployed has been reduced. This Government—it is not necessary for me to quote again the Taoiseach on these matters—took upon itself the responsibility of providing work for the unemployed. I remember the Taoiseach and his Ministers, when they sat on this side, censuring on many occasious the Minister for Industry and Commerce in the previous Government for making the statement in the House that it was not the duty of the Government to provide work for the unemployed. They took on that responsibility and that responsibility involved the provision of work at the expense of the taxpayers and not of the ratepayers. They regarded it as their duty to provide the money from the Central Fund for the provision of work and I admit that they proceeded for some time to make an attempt to give effect to these pledges and promises.

I want to say quite definitely that the issue of a Third Period Order for the first time this year and the wiping of so many married men with dependents off the labour exchange register has not had the effect of providing employment for those who were wiped off the register, and I ask the Minister on that point to give us the number of persons whose names were struck off the register as a result of that order who, to the knowledge of the labour exchanges, found employment and the number of days for which employment was found by them. The number of persons struck off as a result of the order was given to us here to-day, and repeated by Deputy Norton. How many of these married men with [1999] dependents were provided with employment through the machinery of the local labour exchanges? I say that the majority of them were merely transferred for maintenance purposes from the Central Fund to the local ratepayers, and if the Minister wants evidence of that, will he quote for us the increase in the amount of money provided by boards of health compared with the amount provided in the corresponding week or month last year for the maintenance of the unemployed population?

I know that in my constituency—and I have discussed this matter with some of the local officials—there has been a considerable increase this year compared with last year for the provision of home assistance as a result of the coming into operation of the Third Period Order. I know that the same position exists in other Midland counties and information on that point has been supplied to different Ministers. If that is so, it merely goes to show that the responsibility for the relief of unemployment has been transferred from the Central Fund to the fund provided by the ratepayers in the localities in which these unemployed people reside.

Deputy Norton referred to a suggestion recently put forward to the Government for the setting up of an economic council or an economic advisory committee. That suggestion has been turned down and reasons have been given for turning it down. If there is no necessity for the establishment of an economic council, it must be assumed that the Government has a plan or policy for a solution of the unemployment problem and of all the other problems that arise from it. If they have a plan, I say that it is their duty, on the eve of the adjournment of the House for two months, to produce their plan and to give the House and the country information as to how they propose to deal with the situation during the coming winter. In the ordinary course of events, we are going to have less employment provided out of State funds this year than was provided last year, and if [2000] any evidence on that point is required it can be found in the Estimates for the Land Commission and for the Department of Local Government. It can be discovered by those who study the Estimates that there is considerable reduction in the amount provided this year under cover of the Land Commission for the improvement of estates. There is a reduction in the Estimates for the Department of Local Government of not less than £250,000 for the provision of houses for our population at present living in condemned houses.

It is well-known that in many parts of the country housing activities have been suspended, not altogether because of a shortage of money, but because there is a shortage of material, apparently, as well as a shortage of money. Will the Minister for Industry and Commerce—if he speaks in the debate—deny that such is the case? Shortly after they were elected in 1933, the Government decided—and rightly so—to set up a Banking Commission. That body of financial experts sat for a period of four years and reported at the end of something like that period. The publication of the report was held up for some time but, in any case, it has been in the hands of the Government for almost two years. I should like to know from the Minister who will speak in this debate whether the Government, after a period of six years, have yet made up their minds as to whether they are going to take any action arising out of the majority or any of the minority reports of the Banking Commission. The Taoiseach told this House shortly after he was elected as head of the Government, that, if he could not solve the unemployment problem within the present system he would go outside the system in order to do so. That was in the early part of 1932 and this is the 7th August, 1940: he should have been able to make up his mind, as a result of the experiments and experiences he has had during the intervening seven years, as to whether he hopes to solve this problem within the existing financial system.

There are many people in this [2001] country to-day who would not listen to proposals for the changes that were made a year or two ago in the existing system. I do not know what view the Taoiseach holds in that matter but surely, inside a period of seven years, he ought to have been able to make up his mind as to whether in this land, which is full of plenty of wholesome food this year, the people who work and those for whom work cannot be provided are to be given food in order to maintain themselves and their dependents. As Deputy Norton pointed out—and as it was also pointed out by Deputy Keyes—money can be found in millions—I am sure that will not be denied—for the purchase of implements of destruction or, if you like, implements of protection. If money can be found so freely for guns and implements of destruction of that kind, surely in a Christian country under a Christian Constitution, we can find the money to provide work for our unemployed so as to enable them to provide food, clothing and shelter for themselves and their dependents.

If money can be found for implements of destruction in this year, surely in the same year we should be able to find the same amount of money as was found last year for the erection of houses for those living in condemned dwellings. I agree that, at the moment, and perhaps, for the next month or so, the conditions in the rural parts of the country may not be anything worse than they were last year: in fact, I am prepared to admit that they may be something better and that that position is likely to continue until the end of the harvest period; but I do seriously say that the position in the towns, villages and cities, with the increasing number of unemployed and with the increase in the cost of living, is going to constitute a very serious problem confronting the Government before this House resumes its sittings on the 2nd October. I hope, therefore, that we will get some indication of the plans that were decided upon to meet the situation which exists in the cities, towns and villages of the country to-day and also a detailed outline of the Government's plans for the provision of work and for [2002] the maintenance of the civilian population during the coming winter.

Deputy Cogan referred to the credit facilities which are being provided by our banks. I agree that he suggested that credit facilities which the Minister for Supplies told everybody on the wireless one night were being made available have not been made available. Any credit facilities worth talking about that have been made available for the purchase of necessary supplies have been made available to our importers and not to our traders. Many cases have been brought to my notice where people in country towns, anxious to respond to the request of the Minister for Supplies to purchase food, coal and other necessary commodities and store them, could not get them from the local traders because the bankers locally would not give those traders the facilities which the Minister for Supplies stated would be available. Of what use is it to give unlimited credit facilities to coal importers to bring coal into this country at a peak price and at a time when there is no other market for British coal in any country in the world, and not give facilities to the local traders to buy the coal from the importers and sell that coal to people in the country towns and villages?

Cases have been brought to my notice, and I have made representations to the banks concerned, where banks have been pressing country traders more so this year than last year. I would ask the Minister for Industry and Commerce and his colleagues, and the Government generally, to look into that very serious aspect of the economic position. The Minister for Finance said to me some time ago—I think it was during the Budget discussion—that the bankers had been opening their purses much wider—and that he could prove that to me—than they had been doing in previous years. I agree that they have been giving credit to the people who do not want the money, to the people who have the credit; but they are not giving it to the people who require credit in order to feed the community and in order to meet their [2003] reasonable requirements on the usual short-term credits which were available many years ago. The banks in England have been taken over by the British Government, but there is no move in this country, as far as I can see, to make better credit facilities available to the people in urgent need of them.

As I said before, the Government set up the Banking Commission and we are still waiting to hear what the Government thinks of anything contained in their very lengthy document. They set up a Drainage Commission, and I am not quite sure at the moment whether that commission has handed its report to the Minister for Finance or to his Parliamentary Secretary. I assume that there must be some kind of proposals contained in the report of the Drainage Commission. A preliminary report has already been submitted which should provide useful work for the people in the rural parts of the country. I wonder, if the Minister for Industry and Commerce speaks on the matter, will he give us any information as to whether the report of the Drainage Commission has been received so far and, if not, what action, if any, has been taken or is being taken as a result of the preliminary report of that body which was submitted some time ago.

I have given up hope of getting any satisfactory answer from the Minister for Industry and Commerce in regard to the reports of the Transport Tribunal. I trust it will not be an offence under the Emergency Powers Order if I mention it in this House on this occasion. Two reports were submitted by that tribunal which was set up by a decision of this House in the early part of December, 1938. The reports were submitted to the Minister for Industry and Commerce on the 4th and 11 August last year. I have sufficient knowledge to say here—and I am sure the Minister for Industry and Commerce will not contradict me —that the financial position of the principal transport concern of this country has been very unhealthy for some considerable time. I have been supplied [2004] with a copy of the evidence which has been tendered by various parties who appeared before that tribunal and I know that proposals were submitted to the tribunal which, if accepted by the tribunal and which, in turn, if accepted by the Government, would mean the provision of a considerable amount of additional employment in modernising our existing transport services. I know, in fact, that as a result of the shortage of money many new works which it was intended to carry out during this year have had to be suspended. To some extent, unemployment has been created as a result of the failure of the principal transport concern to find the necessary money to carry out maintenance works which are essential and reconstruction of rolling stock and works of that kind which, if carried out, would give a large amount of additional employment.

In view of the danger of invasion that exists—and I know it exists—I have been wondering what is to be the position of the principal transport concern in this country in such circumstances. Is there any country in the world to-day where there is so little Governmental control over the principal transport industry as there is in this part of Ireland to-day? There is much more Governmental control over the transport services in the Six Counties of the North than is exercised in this State by our own Government. I do not want to go into that, but I think it is an essential part of our defence scheme to have very effective control over our transport services and I think it is not right that the principal transport concern in this country should be under private ownership when we are threatened with an invasion. I put that point to the Minister for Industry and Commerce and I have put that point elsewhere as a matter for very serious consideration. I am not now suggesting that the Minister has overlooked that matter but, at the same time, I am not aware of any action that has been taken to take more effective control of the principal transport concern of the country in the dangers which exist to-day.

[2005] I repeat what Deputy Norton and Deputy Keyes have said: These questions are not being raised for Party or political purposes. We are entitled, however, to know and the people of the country are entitled to know on the eve of a two months' adjournment what is the Government's view of the economic position and what are their plans, if any, for dealing with the situation which is bound to grow worse as the weeks go by. I am aware— and nobody has better information on this point than the Minister for Industry and Commerce—that, as a result of the shortage of raw materials, industries which were giving a large amount of employment have been closed down. I am aware of cases in my own constituency where the number of persons employed has been considerably reduced as a result of the difficulty in getting raw materials, and of the fact that there does not seem to be the same demand for some manufactured articles this year that existed last year.

I hope the Government, particularly in view of their decision to reject the proposal for the establishment of an economic council, will give us some information as to their plans for the solution of the unemployment problem and whether it is their intention to review the decision to bring this Third Period Order into operation.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  I quite appreciate what Deputy Davin has said, that he and his colleagues have not asked for this debate in any factious spirit or in order to create difficulties for the Government, but mainly because they feel anxious about the present situation and about the future developments of that situation and have felt it necessary to express that anxiety here in the House. I am sure this anxiety of their springs rather more from the anticipated reactions of the circumstances of the present time than from those which actually exist. When the European war broke out last September, I think, there was none of us in this House but felt that before it closed this country and its people would be in a sorry plight indeed. We foresaw, perhaps, even physical attack. [2006] At any rate, we felt that if we escaped actual engulfment in the physical combat we should not escape the disastrous reaction of a complete blockade of our seas. Thanks to Providence, our worst anticipations have not been realised and I think that, generally, the people of this country feel relieved that the situation is not at all as bad as they thought it might be. That gives a certain colouring to our whole outlook upon the situation at the present time. We admit it is not as bad as it might be, but we are reluctant to believe that it is in present circumstances as good as it is.

Unfortunately, I was not in the House when the Leader of the Labour Party opened this debate but I gather that in the course of his speech he emphasised that unemployment was much worse than it had been this time last year and that it was particularly bad in relation to the building trade. I think that note of his has been characteristic also of Deputy Davin's speech. I do not want to minimise or make light of our unemployment problem. In so far as there are people in this country who are able to work and willing to work who cannot find work, it is undoubtedly a very serious problem and one which has very ill reactions upon the morale of our citizens and one which, if it were possible, should be dealt with by the Government or, if not by the Government, then by some better agency.

But it would be a mistake that we should paint the picture blacker than it really is, that we should allow our appreciation of the present situation to be distorted by the fears which were widely prevalent here last September; because, if we do, we are going to depress our people; we are going to dishearten those who might be anxious to engage in enterprise; and, perhaps, make the situation much worse than it is. Accordingly, if I try to correct that impression here, an impression which apparently Deputy Norton, Deputy Davin and their colleagues labour under, it is not to make light of such hardship and suffering as unemployment might cause, but that we [2007] should see the situation in its true light.

Strange as it may appear, the situation in regard to unemployment, in so far as that situation is disclosed by an analysis of the live register, was better, perhaps one might say a good deal better, on the 27th July last, the latest date for which I have figures, than it was on 21st August, 1939. It was better than it was on the 13th July of this year; that is to say, that since about April last there has been a slow and gradual improvement in the employment situation in certain industrial groups, as compared with the 21st August of last year and with some of the earlier months. It is a real improvement, and not a nominal or fictitious improvement such as might be secured by the operation of one Employment Period Order or another. It indicates, as far as these figures go, and as far as the analysis is correct— and we have no reason to doubt the figures on the live register and every care has been taken to ensure that the analysis will be as accurate as possible —that in certain industries the details of which I will give in a moment, employment, so far from having decreased, has in fact improved.

If we take the industrial group for food, I find that the number of people on the live register for that group on the 27th August last was 85 less than a fortnight earlier, and 247 less than on the 21st August, 1939. In relation to the industrial group under the heading of drink, the position is that there were six more people on the live register than a fortnight before, but 131 less than on 21st August, 1939. In the wood-working and furniture group, there were 42 less than on the 30th July, 1940, but, unfortunately, 176 more than on the 21st August, 1939. In the fertiliser group there were 12 fewer on the live register than a fortnight earlier, but 354 fewer than on the 21st August, 1939. In mining and quarrying there was a decrease of eight over the previous fortnight and a decrease of 126 compared with August, 1939. In brick manufacture the number had decreased by 16 over [2008] the fortnight, and by 57 compared with 21st August, 1939.

In relation to the building and contracting industry, which was one of the industries, I understand, that was singled out by Deputy Norton as one in which the unemployment position had been growing increasingly worse, and one which, he suggested, the Government ought to do more to help, the figures are, in fact, surprising. In relation to all activities included under the heading of building construction there were 508 people less on the unemployment register on the 27th July than on 13th July, 1940. On the 27th July, 1940, there were no less than 6,363 fewer people on the live register in respect of that industrial group than on the 21st August, 1939. In transport and communications, other than shipping, docks and harbours, there were 146 fewer registered on the 27th July than on the 13th July last, and no less than 405 fewer than on the 21st August, 1939. In the case of shipping and motor transport there has been an increase, but it is an increase which has taken place practically within the last fortnight. There were 122 more men on the live register than a fortnight earlier and 128 more than on the 21st August, 1939.

In regard to those registered in respect of employment on docks, harbours and piers it is only natural to expect that there was a corresponding increase in the number on the live register to correspond with the increase in unemployment amongst those who follow a seafaring life. That is borne out by the figures I am giving, because in respect of docks, harbours and piers there is an increase of 545 compared with the fortnight before but a decrease of 524 as compared with the 21st August, 1939. These figures indicate the trend and do not substantiate the accentuated pessimism which has characterised the speeches we have listened to to-night, and the speech, I understand, of the Leader of the Labour Party. When I use the term “pessimism” I do not want in any sense to use it in a way which would reflect upon the anxiety which the Deputies who have spoken feel.

[2009] I realise that last year, and particularly at the beginning of this year, most of us thought that things would grow very bad indeed in this country, and that, consequently, we are a little blinded by our worst fears and do not realise that around us there has been, in a considerable number of occupations at any rate, what could, taking all the circumstances into consideration, be justly described as a remarkable improvement. We must ask ourselves: If there has been this improvement and if it is manifested over so many groups—very peculiar groups in some ways—to what is that improvement due? I think we should have to answer: To Government policy.

I think, for instance, we could say that the increase in employment in building and construction would have to be ascribed to Government policy. The fact that we have succeeded in preventing an undue rise in building costs here may have encouraged some people who, a few months ago, had decided that they could not afford to build, to come along and give some private employment. We could, also, say that the Government has done everything it possibly could to continue, notwithstanding the present adverse circumstances, its attack upon the housing problem in Dublin and that that may have had a lot to do with the improvement. The money which the Government is spending on building and constructional work of one sort and another for the purpose of national defence is having its reaction.

When you leave that large group aside and look at the places where, undoubtedly, the increase in employment has not been so marked but where, nevertheless, there has been, so far as the live register shows, an increase in employment, to what are you going to ascribe it? It is, certainly, not due to improvement of conditions outside this country or to decreased interference with our trade which renders it easier for us to get supplies of essential materials to maintain these and other industries. Must Deputies not admit that, in so far as there has been an improvement and in so far as there has not been a widespread increase in [2010] unemployment and in the depressed conditions generally, it is due to the policy which has been pursued by the Government? Perhaps, I ought to say “by the Dáil” and, perhaps, I ought to ascribe it, in part, to the psychological reaction which our people have experienced as a result of the changed relations which have prevailed amongst all Parties in this House ever since our defence problem became an acute one. While we are quite justified in being anxious for the future, I do not think any purpose is to be served by painting the present situation worse than it really is. After all, if the Government is “doing nothing”, in present circumstances, that is a reflection not only on the Government but upon all sections in this House, because it is only right to say that we have received an amount of consideration from all sections in this House during the past few months. Therefore, that sort of statement—that we have no plans and that we have done nothing— is something of a boomerang. Sometimes, it may hit the Government but, when I get up and produce the figures which I have produced, I think it is more likely to rebound on those who have made use of the expression, because, after all, it can be shown that there are certain industries, which people know perfectly well, in which there has been an improvement.

I understand that, in the course of his speech, the Leader of the Labour Party referred to the fact that, through the operation of the employment period orders, the number of persons registered on the live register had decreased by roughly 47,000. He said that the first and second of these orders had resulted in 31,000 being struck off the register and that, according to the figures which I gave to-day, the third order had resulted in 16,700 going off the register. Surely that was the purpose of these employment period orders. That was why the Dáil embodied in the Unemployment Assistance Acts this particular machinery. These are all persons who are not expected to register at the exchange day in and day out. They are not people whose condition, whether of employment or unemployment, [2011] can easily be checked. When the Act of 1933 was going through the House, it was quite clearly indicated that we proposed, as part of this machinery and in order to enable us to deal with unemployment in the rural parts of Ireland during the winter months when employment might not be expected to be available, to avail of this machinery of the employment period order and that, in general, in the rural districts, unemployment assistance would not be available during the summer months. The House passed the Bill with that machinery in it. I am speaking now from recollection, but I do not think that an amendment was put down during the discussion on the Bill to remove these provisions empowering the Minister for Industry and Commerce to make employment period orders because, if such an amendment had been put down, it could, quite clearly, have been shown that, without that safeguard, it would have been economically, financially and administratively impossible for us to put through an Unemployment Assistance Act with provisions so wide and far-reaching. Accordingly, what was to be expected when we made the employment period orders except that numbers—very large numbers—would go off the register periodically. We were not surprised when that happened. What we did also believe and feel was that the great majority of the people removed from the live register in consequence of these employment period orders would be—the great majority, I say; there may have been a minority of exceptions—people who would, in fact, be employed or be in a position to maintain themselves either by working for themselves or by working for their families. That expectation has been justified.

Of course nobody expected, when first the machinery of the employment period order was used some years ago, that people who had been receiving money from the State week after week were going to relinquish the gift of that money without a murmur or without protest.

[2012] It is only natural, if a person has been drawing 2/-, 2/6, 5/6 or 7/6 a week simply because he is registered as unemployed, and if suddenly that source of income is cut off from him, that he is going to put the worst face he possibly can upon his plight. That happened when the employment period order machinery was first put in operation some years ago. It happened when the Second Employment Period Order was put in operation this year and it happened again when the Third Employment Period Order was put in operation last June.

I want, at this stage, to make it quite clear that when these orders were made the Government was not callous in the making of them. It had not merely to have regard to the hard cases in the community, to those who might be occasioned real distress in the operation of the employment period order, but it had to have regard for all the other interests in the community as well, for the people who were providing the money which was being received week after week by those affected by the employment period order, and those people were in many cases—perhaps I could say in the majority of cases—not so much better off in present circumstances than many of the people who were in receipt of unemployment assistance and who were fortunate enough to live either on land of their own or on a farm belonging to relatives.

Therefore, we could not simply say, because there might be a few hard cases, because there might be even many hard cases, that so long as the hard cases represented a minority of those affected by the employment period order, “Well, the interests of this minority must be paramount, and everybody else, even the people not so very much better off, have got to suffer in order that the minority may be looked after.” We had the prospect, if we permitted this minority to go on uninterfered with, of allowing a considerable number of people who did not, in fact, require State aid in the from of unemployment assistance to continue to draw money of which they were in no real need. That was the choice we had to make, whether [2013] we were going, in order to avoid occasioning temporary hardship in a minority of cases, to allow a majority of those 16,700 people to draw money from State funds out of the pockets of every section of the community, workers as well as the rest, money which, in fact, we were not justified in paying on the grounds of the necessitous circumstances of the recipients.

That was the situation and, when we had to take action in that regard, we had this in front of us also, that if there were really hard cases in the areas affected by these employment period orders there was local machinery to deal with them still in existence, local machinery which was bound to deal with them. The hard cases had home assistance to fall back on and, according to the code, if there were able-bodied men or others in real necessity, they were to be looked after by the home assistance officer; so that in making this order while there might have been temporary hardship in a very few cases, we nevertheless had this assurance, that no person who was really in need would go destitute.

Accordingly, the position came down to this, whether we were going to tax the general taxpayer unjustly in order to provide for a minority who were in real need, or whether we were going, as the lesser of the two evils, to ask the local ratepayer for a brief period to look after the people who were going to be affected by the employment period order; whether, in short, we were going to hand out £150,000 or £160,000 to persons who were not in real need of it in order to avoid asking the local home assistance authorities to look after the comparatively few hard cases in their districts; whether we were going to give public money to thousands who did not require it or ask the local ratepayers to assume a burden for a short period and look after a comparatively few people in their own areas.

That was the situation and, in the light of that situation, we took what I think in the general interest was the best course. We said: “We are not going to pay public money to thousands of men who do not want it; we [2014] are not going to give hundreds of thousands of pounds to men who do not require it; and if there are people in need, well, for that brief period the local authorities will have to discharge their Christian duty to them.” And remember, in this matter there is a great deal to be said for the principle of charity beginning at home. For one thing, the local people can exercise some check on the expenditure of this money.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  Is that a case for the parish council?

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  The Deputy has now suggested a good argument for the parish council. There would be a great deal to be said for a parish council or any other local authority that did ensure that men who did not want the money, either because they would not work or because they had other sources of employment, would not be permitted to draw this money out of the public purse. If the Deputy could suggest some agency which would operate in that fashion we could go a great deal further to meet the position of the real and necessitous unemployed in this country. It is because we have no adequate check on this money that we must be careful as to how we spend it and if, at a season when it is natural to expect there will be employment available in certain districts, we can fall back on the local authority and put a burden on them which will compel them to exercise some checks, I think that is a very salutary proceeding.

The results of these employment period orders have been somewhat surprising. Deputy Davin asked me for the number of people struck off the live register because of the employment period orders who found employment through the local labour exchanges. I am not able to add anything further to the information I gave the Dáil this afternoon when I pointed out that, though the number who had been disallowed by reason of the operation of the unemployment assistance period order up to and including the 27th July, 1940, is approximately 16,700, nevertheless, during the period from the 3rd June to the 27th July, 9,323 men were placed [2015] in employment through the local offices of the Department of Industry and Commerce.

Now, we cannot assume, as the Deputy does and as apparently Deputy Norton did, that of those 9,000 people who are placed in employment not one of them was a person who had been affected by the employment period order any more than we can assume that the whole 9,323 were persons who were affected by the employment period order; but, it is reasonable to assume that, in so far as they, being anxious to get employment and being in actual need of employment, registered at the local exchange for employment, a certain number of those 9,323 people were, in fact, persons who had been affected by the employment period order. I say it is only reasonable to assume that. I do not press it any further than that: that in so far as those people who were affected by the Third Employment Period Order were anxious to get employment and in their anxiety had registered at the local labour exchange for employment, are concerned, it should be reasonable to assume that some part of the 9,323 people did find employment through the labour exchanges and were persons who had been affected by the employment period order. But the point I was really coming to was the statement made by the Deputy, that the number of people who had been disallowed unemployment assistance by reason of the Third Employment Period Order, amounting to 16,700—that the majority of those people had been, in the Deputy's words, simply transferred as a burden to the local boards. He said that there had been a considerable increase in the amount provided for home assistance.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  In certain counties.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  On that I have not got any figures available at the moment later than the last Saturday in June of this year. The employment period order came into operation on the 5th June, and on the last Saturday [2016] of June, which would perhaps be nearer to four weeks than three weeks later, the number of able-bodied men who were in receipt of home assistance was 6,086. For the corresponding Saturday in June of 1939 the number was 5,466, so that the increase in the number of able-bodied men who were in receipt of home assistance at the end of June, 1940—three or almost four weeks after the operation of the employment period order—was only 620 more than it had been in June of the year earlier. Now, where is the evidence in those figures to substantiate the Deputy's statement that we have simply transferred the burden of maintaining those 16,700 people from the central authority to the local authority?

Because I want to be as candid with the House as I can in discussing this matter, I do not want to press these figures too far, but I do not believe that in the month of July there has been any significant increase in the number of able-bodied persons who have been in receipt of home assistance. If that impression is correct, we can relate these figures to the argument which I made with regard to the making of these employment period orders. We ceased to pay unemployment assistance to 16,700 people, and a month afterwards the number of able-bodied men in receipt of home assistance had only increased by 620.

Mr. Hickey: Information on James Hickey  Zoom on James Hickey  Because they will not get home assistance.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  Of course they are bound to get home assistance if they are in real need.

Mr. Hickey: Information on James Hickey  Zoom on James Hickey  That is all the Minister knows about it.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  Does it operate immediately?

Mr. Keyes: Information on Michael J. Keyes  Zoom on Michael J. Keyes  The Unemployment Assistance Act was the law, too, until the Minister scrapped it by his order.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  The employment period order was part of the Unemployment Assistance Act. The Deputy [2017] should not forget that. If the local authorities have an obligation to their constituents to ensure that no person who is not justly entitled to home assistance gets it, we also have an obligation to our constituents, and I think it is the overriding obligation in this matter, to ensure that no part of the moneys wrung in taxation out of the people of this country will go to men who are not entitled to it. I am asking the House again to relate the figures which I have just given to the argument which I made for the employment period order. We have 16,700 people disallowed for unemployment assistance by the operation of the Third Employment Period Order, and, according to Deputy Davin, the majority of those people, all of them in need according to him, were transferred to the local authority, but in fact the figures show this: that out of the whole 16,700 people who were disallowed under the employment period order, only 620 of them were able to convince the local home assistance officers that they were in real need. If we had not made that employment period order what would have been the position? That we would have been giving out public money to 16,700 people who were not entitled to it.

Mr. Hickey: Information on James Hickey  Zoom on James Hickey  That is interesting.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  It is interesting.

Mr. Hickey: Information on James Hickey  Zoom on James Hickey  Very interesting.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  I agree that it is very interesting because, of course, the Deputy will say that the local authorities do not do their duty. Well, all I can say is this, that when I made that Employment Period Order it was made after careful consideration. I approached the Minister for Local Government in the matter. He and I discussed it, and he told me—and I believe him—that in so far as there would be real hardship the local authorities were bound to look after that.

Mr. Brasier: Information on Brooke W. Brasier  Zoom on Brooke W. Brasier  They have not got the money.

[2018]Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  And where does the Deputy think we are going to get the money?

Mr. Hickey: Information on James Hickey  Zoom on James Hickey  Now the Minister has said it.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  If the local authorities have not got the money, where does he think we are going to get it? Is the Deputy's argument this: that because he is a county councillor and will not face the racket in order to provide for 100 or 200 more needy people in Cork, we have got to go and tax the people in order to provide not merely for the needy people in Cork and in every other county in Ireland but for 16,000 people odd who are not in need.

Mr. Brasier: Information on Brooke W. Brasier  Zoom on Brooke W. Brasier  The banks have refused to grant overdrafts.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  The Deputy has the remedy in his own hands. Let him go and raise the money honestly by the rates.

Mr. Hickey: Information on James Hickey  Zoom on James Hickey  Money is the whole problem.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  Of course money is the whole problem. If it was not for that, the Deputy and myself would be living in Paradise.

Mr. Hickey: Information on James Hickey  Zoom on James Hickey  We have no control over it.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  Let us look at another aspect of this matter. We have been told that through the operation of this harsh employment period order we have disallowed 16,700 people, all able and willing and anxious to work. Now would one not think that the first thing a man who was out of a job and was anxious to get one would do would be to go and register at the labour exchange, particularly for this reason: that for the purpose of allocating employment schemes in any area regard is going to be had to the number of people who are on the unemployment register in that area, and to the number of people who were previously in receipt [2019] of unemployment assistance in that area? Take the case of the 16,700, all able and anxious to work, all in need of work. Perhaps, I laid emphasis there on the wrong aspect of the matter. There were 16,700 all supposed to be in need of work. If a person is in need of work, is anxious to get work, and has been told that the mere fact of his registration at the employment exchange is likely to bring work to that locality, would you not expect that of those 16,700 men, every one of them was in need of work and who was anxious to work would have gone and have registered at the employment exchange?

Mr. Hickey: Information on James Hickey  Zoom on James Hickey  Although they had been already waiting for the past 12 months?

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  Would you not have expected that they would have at least registered afresh?

Mr. Hickey: Information on James Hickey  Zoom on James Hickey  They had already been waiting for 12 months and did not get any work.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  Might we not assume that those who were really in need of work would make the journey at least once to see if any work were available for them, now that the money was cut off. What, however, is the position? The average number of persons registered who were not entitled to unemployment benefit or unemployment assistance for the five weeks prior to the making of the Third Employment Period Order, the five weeks prior to the 5th June, was 5,307. The average number for the five weeks after 5th June was 5,485. The increase in the average number over the five-weekly period was 178. So that out of the 16,700 persons, there were only 178 who thought it worth their while to go to the employment exchange and put their names down for work if any were available. We are told that these 16,700 people needed work. I must say that I certainly for one am sceptical, and I think as long as my head is hard I shall continue to be sceptical, when a man tells me that he [2020] is in need of work and will not even put down his name in the hope of getting it. If you want to get work in this country you have got to look for it.

Mr. Keyes: Information on Michael J. Keyes  Zoom on Michael J. Keyes  They could not get it for 12 months previously. Did you expect them to walk seven miles in a hungry state to register?

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  If a man thought it worth his while to make the journey to the labour exchange to get 1/- a week, as a very large number of them did, or if he thought it worth his while going there to draw 2/-, 5/- or even 10/- a week, surely if he was in need of work, it was worth his while making at least one journey to register for work? Let us for goodness sake not completely bemuse ourselves with sickly sentiment in regard to this matter. Let us, by all means, feel deeply for a person in genuine need but, for goodness sake, let us not blind ourselves to this aspect of the problem, that the very fact that money can be got easily, and can be got without a good deal of investigation, lends itself to abuse. Let us make up our minds that we are going to take every possible precaution that we can to ensure that that assistance which the Government is making available at great sacrifice to the people, will not be abused because it is only by the prevention of abuse in regard to the service that you can avoid the evils which are almost inevitably associated with it.

I have given you figures. I can give you a few instances, a few actual examples, of the sort of thing which we have been up against in relation to this matter. There is one area in the country which was brought particularly under my notice. I investigated the statements which were made and, prima facie, there seemed to be a case for giving special consideration to that area. I was told there had been works in that area which had been shut down, that men had been employed in these works, and that now, even though agricultural employment might be available in the neighbourhood, it would not be available for them. I approached the Parliamentary Secretary and I asked him to pay particular attention to that area because of the [2021] stories told me by members of the House in relation to the district. He did make special provision because the case seemed to be one of real hardship —with what result? As soon as money for schemes of work was available, the men to work on the schemes were not available; they were employed elsewhere. Of course, as long as it was a case of simply drawing money from an employment exchange they were in need, but when the money stopped they were not available for the special employment that might have been provided for them. I am not going to say that that is the general case, but it is at any rate one case which does, at least, indicate that special care must be taken in relation to the whole of this matter. It is not quite an isolated case. There have been others.

In the light of this and other cases, in the light of the figures which I have given to you, showing the surprisingly small increase in the number of people who registered merely for the purpose of obtaining work, and the moderate and not astonishing increase which has taken place in the number of able-bodied men who are in receipt of home assistance, I think, on the whole, the making of the Third Employment Period Order has been fully justified and that a number of people who had been receiving that money without giving any return to the community as a whole, are now fending for themselves, as it was always the intention of the Unemployment Assistance Act, and the Dáil as a whole, that they should. We never said that, because a man was unemployed, all the obligations for his maintenance fell back on the State, that we were to find him a job, a job that he thought would suit him, a job that he would like, a job that remunerated him sufficiently for the labour he put into it. What we said in relation to that matter was that if a man had exhausted all the possibilities of getting work, and it was quite clear that there was no work available for him, then, since he had no possibility of maintaining himself, we would come in and would help him during the period that such circumstances prevailed. But we must be very [2022] careful not to convert this Unemployment Assistance Act which is meant to tide men over temporary hard times, into a means of providing a permanent pension for men who will not work. That I am afraid is the situation which was developing and which, if we were to accept all the statements of hard circumstances which are made to us at their full value, would lead to nothing but to the general demoralisation of our people.

Mr. Keyes: Information on Michael J. Keyes  Zoom on Michael J. Keyes  What about the provision of the work you promised them and that never came off? They are not slackers. What they want is work.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  I am not suggesting——

Mr. Keyes: Information on Michael J. Keyes  Zoom on Michael J. Keyes  You are suggesting that they are dishonest.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  I am not suggesting that the vast majority are slackers.

Mr. Keyes: Information on Michael J. Keyes  Zoom on Michael J. Keyes  You said that there were 16,700 people drawing assistance who were not entitled to it.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  Will the Deputy permit me to remind him of what I did say? I said that there were 16,700 people who had been receiving unemployment assistance who were not in need of it.

Mr. Keyes: Information on Michael J. Keyes  Zoom on Michael J. Keyes  Not entitled to it?

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  Not in need of it, I said. What does that mean? It means that there were——

Mr. Keyes: Information on Michael J. Keyes  Zoom on Michael J. Keyes  That they had been drawing it under false pretences.

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  Perhaps the Deputy would allow the Minister to continue his speech without interruption.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  What does that mean? It means that there were 16,700 who felt themselves entitled under the terms of the Unemployment Assistance Act to draw this money when, in fact, they could maintain [2023] themselves and who are, in fact, actually maintaining themselves now as the figures show. That was the position. I am not saying that these people were slackers. I have not put that interpretation on the figures at all, but that they were not in need of unemployment assistance because they had other ways of maintaining themselves. Mind you, that is the position as it ought to be: that we should not pay unemployment assistance to people who can maintain themselves by any effort of their own. We cannot put ourselves in the position that, because a man has a holding which is not a good holding, he is therefore going to be relieved of the obligation of working that holding in order to keep himself and his family. We cannot be put in the position, where a man who can get a job or work to do but does not like that particular job and, because he does not like it, will not take it, of having to pay that man a few shillings a week to enable him to eke out a miserable existence, which he would rather content himself with sooner than do the particular job that was available for him. We cannot do that. We cannot, for instance, in the case of the fishing industry, pay unemployment assistance to men who formerly maintained themselves and their families in fishing; and who, because the work of fishing is too hard or arduous, or too dangerous, if you like, are simply going to stop fishing altogether and live on unemployment assistance. These are the things that we must avoid doing, so far as we can. We have a duty to perform in regard to people who cannot find anything at all to do. Our duty there is to try to help such people to live, but we have no duty—on the contrary, we have an obligation to ensure that no man will abandon his accustomed occupation simply because the State enables him, through the provision of unemployment assistance, to live without working.

It is between these two rocks that we have to steer, and I am convinced, from an analysis of the situation as it has manifested itself by the operation of the employment period order, that [2024] we can do that without inflicting any appreciable hardship on any considerable section of the people of this country. I am not going to contend for a moment that, due perhaps to friction in administration or to inertia on the part of local authorities, or to some other causes, there are not hard cases, but we cannot allow these hard cases— at any rate, in these instances—to make bad law. It cannot be denied that there are such hard cases, and undoubtedly somebody will have to relieve them. If the local authority cannot relieve such cases then they will have to be relieved through local voluntary charities, which will look after them, and it is in the interest of the community as a whole that that fact should be realised. It should be realised that the Government cannot look after every individual in the community. It can only act in a broad, general way, by rule and regulation, and undoubtedly, in the operation of these employment period orders and other administrative regulations of that sort, individual cases of hardship will crop up from time to time. We hoped that, so far as unemployment assistance is concerned, the local authorities would be able to fill up the void in such cases and that, if they were not able to fill up that avoid, we would have to ask the local charitable organisations to help them; and we will have to ask them to do so because the alternative to that would be a greater evil, and that is to give money to people who are not entitled to it, and that would ultimately end in the complete demoralisation of our people.

Mr. Hickey: Information on James Hickey  Zoom on James Hickey  I have been listening for an hour and 15 minutes to the Minister and I hoped that he would give us some indication as to what will be done in the future. His whole speech was: Leave things as they are. Well, I want to say, as man to man, to the Minister, and I say it very sincerely, that his speech is a menace to the country rather than a help, and I want to suggest, very respectfully to the Minister that he does not understand the position of the unemployed or the gravity of the unemployment problem. I say that, having listened to the Minister [2025] speaking for an hour and a quarter. The Minister stated that we should not make unemployment assistance a permanent pension for people who do not want to work. Does the Minister seriously suggest that the working people of this country are willing or anxious to travel in to the labour exchanges of the country for six days in the week just to get a few paltry shillings which certainly would not suffice to maintain themselves and their families? I suggest to the Minister that the people in the labour exchanges probably have much more insight than he has into the problems of the unemployed and I suggest that, if he were to consult his officials, he might get a better insight into these problems.

I think the Minister's whole speech was an insult to the unemployed, especially in the way he has treated this whole matter of the cutting off of people from unemployment assistance by means of the employment period order. The Minister spoke of home assistance, but I want to tell him that there are thousands of young men and thousands of married men with families who refuse to look for home assistance relief because their sense of pride and dignity will not allow them to do so. The Minister should realise the danger there is in the country as a result of the way in which the unemployed are being treated. I suggest that democratic governments are on trial to-day and it is for us to show what democracy can do and not to wait for what dictators can do and are doing. The Minister asks, where are we going to get the money? Will he take any lesson from the present war where millions of men have been drawn from productive work and put on work of destruction, where millions of men are working seven days of the week, both day and night, producing engines of destruction, and yet the industrial machine is not breaking down? Yet, where is the money got in these cases? We all know that in the neighbouring country they could not find money in times of peace to increase unemployment assistance or for other such things. But now they can find millions of pounds a day for the purpose of [2026] destruction. Do not tell me that any statesman that can organise for war or against war cannot also organise for peace and construction. The man who will tell me that, I say, is a traitor to humanity.

I am very much concerned about the present position. I am not saying this because of Party interest or anything of that nature, but in my opinion the Minister does not realise the danger to the country as a result of the present unemployment position. I say that after listening to the Minister for an hour and a quarter. The Minister purported to give reasons why these men were knocked off, but these men had been attending the labour exchanges for two or three years, and I want to say here that the labour exchange officials are most helpful to the unemployed—that has been my experience—and if there is any work available they put the men to that work. It is ridiculous to think that these men come in day after day to the labour exchanges merely to get 14/-, in the case of a man with five in family. These men come in to sign at the labour exchanges because they are looking for work.

I think, Sir, that this statement about the unemployment problem is very far removed from reality. I read this morning in the train coming up from Cork, the medical officer's report for the County Cork. I have read the report also of our own medical officer of health. I find that in each of these reports there is a definite statement that malnutrition is on the increase all over the country. I find that the infant mortality rate in Cork County which is a purely agricultural county is higher this year than it has been for the past six years. I attribute that to malnutrition and to insufficiency of food. I tell the Minister that he has to change his mind and his outlook about the unemployed. The Minister should not think that for the sake of a few shillings the unemployed man is prepared to rob the community at the labour exchange. I notice also that the Minister wishes to stress the difficulty of providing this money. I have never yet heard a complaint from the [2027] workers who are in employment about any grievance in providing this money for the unemployed.

It is now ten months ago since I asked that something should be done to increase those benefits for old age pensioners and others. I warn the Minister that old age pensioners and widows and orphans are suffering very keenly through an insufficiency of the necessaries of life. The old age pensioner gets 10/-; I know of one organisation that is helping those people. They have to pay 3/6 for their bed for the week and then they have to exist and provide themselves with food and clothing on the remaining 6/6. I do sincerely hope that the Government will not wait until the 2nd October to end this Third Employment Period Order but that they will decide on doing something this evening.

Mr. Corish: Information on Richard Corish  Zoom on Richard Corish  Nobody wants to paint a picture here through the Press or the people as to the state of the unemployed. What we want to do is to remove, if possible, the feeling of depression that undoubtedly prevails throughout the country. The Minister himself seems to be out of touch altogether with the position as it is in the country. I am perfectly convinced that if any Deputy in any constituency tells the truth he will have to admit that all over the country to-day there is a feeling of depression especially amongst the unemployed. The Minster, in the course of his long statement, seems to think that the Government has no obligation at all so far as the unemployed are concerned. If we compare that with the statement that the Taoiseach made in 1933 in response to a motion put down by Deputy Morrissey that we should provide work or maintenance, one sees the inconsistency. I think the Taoiseach on that occasion accepted very definitely that it was the Government's job to provide employment or maintenance. The statement made by the Minister for Industry and Commerce to-day does not accept that liability at all. I would like to think that the picture painted by the Minister for Industry and Commerce [2028] reflects the situation as regards the unemployed. But I find it hard to believe that the figures quoted are the facts of the situation. We all know that figures can be analysed in a particular manner to suit the particular type of statement a man wants to make. I am not at all suggesting that the Minister's figures are cooked, but they can be analysed in such a manner as to mislead.

Surely the Minister is not serious in suggesting that there was as much done this year in the building trade as there was last year. That was the statement made. But we know there was a very serious slackening down so far as building is concerned. Some of the architects' offices in the city have been shut down because of the fact that building has practically ceased. We know that the county health boards all over the country have ceased to build; that the corporations and borough councils and the people who have been building houses for years in the past have also practically ceased building.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  That is not true.

Mr. Corish: Information on Richard Corish  Zoom on Richard Corish  It is.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  Take Dublin.

Mr. Corish: Information on Richard Corish  Zoom on Richard Corish  Dublin is a serious problem, I admit, but the Minister for Industry and Commerce is in a position to know that at present it is almost impossible to proceed with the building of houses to cater for the working classes and especially for the slum dwellers with whom the Government have to deal. Now, in Wexford two years ago, the corporation could build a house for £340. The tender price for the same house to-day is £486. The amount in the way of rent which has to be paid by the slum dwellers, after taking into full consideration the subsidy given by the Government, would be 10/11 a week. In God's name, what municipal council with any sense of responsibility would proceed to build houses at that price and take a tenant and ask him to pay 10/11 a week?

[2029]The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  Does not that show a fundamental problem?

Mr. Corish: Information on Richard Corish  Zoom on Richard Corish  It does show a fundamental problem.

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  Then the solution?

Mr. Corish: Information on Richard Corish  Zoom on Richard Corish  I want to know how the Minister has arrived at the figures he has given us to show that there is a very small difference in the number in the register of house construction.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee  Zoom on Seán MacEntee  I said that in fact the number who had registered themselves in the general construction group was 6,000 less than last year.

Mr. Corish: Information on Richard Corish  Zoom on Richard Corish  I quite fail to understand that. It must be that numbers of them have left the country and that others of them have gone into the Army. The Minister, in speaking of 16,000 people taken off the register because of the Third Employment Period Order, stated very definitely that it was the duty of the local authorities to look after those people. In the first place the local authorities have made no provision to cater for those people. The Minister knows that the local authorities start to prepare their estimates in November and December and that the rate is practically made in February and March. This Third Employment Period Order was not made until June, and it is very hard to know where the money is to come from to enable the local authorities to give relief to the people. I am a member of the County Wexford Board of Health and since the first week since this order was made it has cost the Wexford Board of Health £20 a week. That is a very serious impost. One wonders how that deficiency is to be met when the end of the financial year comes. It means an impost of £500 during the period of this employment period order. Then the Government cannot have it both ways. As the Minister knows there are a number of urban areas in which the population are called upon to pay 1/6 in the £ towards financing the Unemployment Assistance Act. Because of the fact that the Minister must get the gross value of this 1/6 rate it means that the [2030] local authority has to strike a rate of 1/8 in the £, that is, in order to meet the deficiency caused by unpaid rates. The urban authority of Wexford is the only public authority in the county that has to pay that 1/8 rate, and it will have to pay each year in addition to that rate £500 extra in home assistance. I suggest that the local ratepayers should be taken into consideration to such an extent that when there is an employment period order there should be also some relief given to the urban authorities who have to pay that 1/8 in the £ on the understanding that the unemployed people in the county will be relieved during the financial year. The Minister has it both ways. He is asking the urban authorities to pay 1/8 in the £ and is also asking them to pay their proportion of home assistance. It is costing the Wexford County Board of Health £20 to £30 per week to look after these people during the employment order period.

So far as I am concerned, I look upon the Minister's statement as a confession of bankruptcy of policy so far as dealing with the unemployed is concerned. As I said at the beginning, I do not want to say anything which would cause a feeling of depression; but unfortunately the depression is there and, I am sorry to say, there is more than depression there. There are rumblings and murmurings amongst the unemployed week after week. Those of us who are members of local authorities come into close contact with these people and know what their conditions are. Even people who are drawing unemployment benefit find themselves unequal to meeting the rising cost of living which has been brought about by the war. The British Government and the Northern Ireland Government within the last few months have increased the amount of unemployment assistance given to their people because of the increase in the cost of foodstuffs. They have also raised the amount given to old age pensioners. If the Government want to have people contented they will have to take some action of that kind.

Deputy Hickey referred to the widows and orphans. So far as the contributory pensions are concerned [2031] they are comparatively good; but a woman who is in receipt of a non-contributory pension and who has a large family is in a very precarious condition. I came across a case the other day of a woman with five children whose husband had been ill for a number of years before his death. That woman and five children have to live on 11/6 per week. It was not her fault that her husband was not able to work during the period laid down in the Act. It is very hard on that woman to try to keep herself and five children on 11/6 per week. The Minister referred to the payment of unemployment assistance as being a permanent pension so far as some workers are concerned. I must say in fairness to the people drawing unemployment assistance that every one of them I have come across in my constituency would prefer to be working rather than drawing what is described as the dole. All those people who are in receipt of unemployment assistance, bad though the system of rational employment is, would prefer to work for the three days a week and get money for doing honest work rather than draw unemployment assistance for doing nothing. I think, therefore, that the statement of the Minister is certainly uncalled for and unworthy of him.

I had a question down to-day to the Minister for Local Government in connection with housing. I asked the Minister if there was a possibility of the interest on housing loans being brought back to the pre-war rate and if it were possible to pay a subsidy to the local authorities to cover the whole cost of building. At the moment two-thirds of the interest and sinking fund is paid on a house costing up to £350. I indicated in the question that, if the Government were prepared to advance a subsidy on the whole cost of a house and reverted to the old rate of interest, in my opinion there would be a good deal of employment given in the country. The extent to which that would help people in need of houses would be 2/10 per week. That means a big thing to a poor person. Along with that, it would provide much-needed employment for a number of people. I [2032] suggest to the Taoiseach that he ought to have that question examined because he can take it from me that there is going to be very little house building all over the country owing to the high building costs, and these high building costs have been brought about entirely by the cost of materials. None of the building trade operatives have sought an increase in wages since the outbreak of the war. In my opinion they would be well satisfied if they could get employment at present, and I think their attitude would be helpful to enable the Government and the local authorities to provide houses for the people.

I have nothing more to say other than to urge again that the Government should seriously consider the whole circumstances so far as the unemployed are concerned. The position is very serious. There is a definite feeling of depression in the country. People are looking forward to the winter months with awe, thinking of the sufferings they will have to endure if they are still to continue unemployed. The Third Employment Period Order has brought a good deal of hardship in its train. It has been specially hard on people living in the immediate vicinity of towns. All those people are town workers even though they are living immediately outside the borough. They are living under town conditions and have been working in towns all their lives. They are the victims of this Third Employment Period Order. They have never done agricultural work and would not be capable of doing it, as they were never used to it. No farmer would employ a man unless he has been reared on the land and is capable of doing agricultural work properly. Those people have been specially hard hit, and I suggest to the Government that the best thing they could do would be to take steps immediately to put these people back on the unemployment assistance register.

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  When this war began I warned the people that we had naturally to anticipate that it would mean for our community a considerable amount of suffering, that there would [2033] be hardships which we could not avoid, even though we were not directly and immediately involved in the war. That represented the apprehensions of the Government. Since the war began we have never ceased to be anxious about the possibilities of such hardships. The Minister for Industry and Commerce has stated that from our examination of the situation the hardships are less than we could reasonably have anticipated. It would be altogether a mistake for anyone to imagine that the Government are taking this situation with complacency—far from it. We anticipated at the start, and we believe still, that this war is going to mean for every section of the community a considerable amount of hardship, that it will mean hardship for everybody in one form or another, and that the most we can do is to try to equalise the hardships and see that no one section will suffer more severely than another as a consequence, so far as we can prevent it.

At the beginning I also pointed out that we should naturally anticipate that the hardships would be felt most in the cities and large centres of population; that just as in the economic war we could anticipate that it was the farming community that was going to be in the front line trenches and would need the support of the rest of the community in that position, so in the present set of circumstances we could reasonably anticipate that it was the people in the cities and towns and large centres of population who would be in the front line trenches and who would need the support of the rest of the community. We have on that account been watchful of the position in the large centres, and we have said in regard, for instance, to the Third Period Order, that on account of the increased work that was going to be available in the rural areas, taking them generally, and excluding particular areas where we had reason to believe that the opportunities for extra work would not be available, our attention and our support should be mainly concerned with those who were in the large centres of population.

[2034] We have had complaints from the Labour Party that there are people who have suffered as a result of that Order. The Minister for Industry and Commerce has pointed out that we cannot provide from the central authority, which has to make general regulations, against exceptional cases of difficulty, and it is because the local people are in the best position to recognise these cases of hardship that we think it reasonable that they should come to the assistance of such people by means of home assistance. I cannot understand the statement made by the Deputy who said that people will take unemployment assistance who will not take home assistance. They are both contributions to the individual by the community, whether it be the local community or the larger community of the State as a whole. There is no difference, in my mind, between accepting the one and the other; but the advantage in the local case is that the local circumstances are known, and I think that everybody who wants the State, the community as a whole, or the local community to assist those not able to assist themselves will want to see that that assistance is not abused, and there is not one of those who have been criticising us who does not know that there have been cases of abuse.

I pointed out long ago that the greatest difficulty was to separate the goats from the sheep, and that there were people who were prepared to abuse the laws which were made to relieve a certain section of the community by utilising them to get community money where it was not necessary. What the Minister has said should not be interpreted as meaning that we are going back from any position we took up about the rights of the individual in modern society to live and to get from the community, in some way or other, the opportunity to live. We have not departed from that, but, as the Minister has pointed out, we have to be very careful that the means we are taking in order to help those who really should be helped, and who need help, will not be abused by those who do not need help. The best help that could be given by the Labour [2035] Party, or any other section of the community interested in the relief of those who are genuinely in need, would be to expose those who take it when they do not need it, and to support every step that can be taken by the Government to see that that abuse does not obtain.

I think nobody will deny that there is a problem here, a problem which is facing practically every organised community in the world at present: the problem of unemployment. The fact that it should exist at all seems. somehow or other, to be a blot on our social organisation. I have been often reminded of the statement I made when we were in opposition, that the cure for unemployment should be easier to find here than in most other States. I spoke back in 1933, and I think the number of unemployed mentioned at that time was something around 80,000 or 85,000. I actually went into figures to prove that if we built up the industries which we could reasonably hope to build up successfully here, there would be employment in these industries for some such figure. I pointed out that, from the industrial point of view, we were practically undeveloped and that that gave us an opportunity which States which were fully developed industrially and which had unemployment had not got. We set out at once to build up these industries and, by a remarkable coincidence, I think the figures of extra employment in these industries coincide almost to 1,000 with the figures we anticipated at the time.

The world, however, has moved on since then, and other causes of unemployment have cropped up, and the fact is that though we have been relieved in these directions, there are other directions in which, due to other causes, our unemployment problem, such as it is, has developed. We do not want to say that it is not a serious problem, because it is a serious problem, even though we do not exaggerate it. The question is: what is the solution? It would seem that, in human affairs, no matter what system you adopt, there will be evils [2036] attached to it, and what human beings have been striving for is to get a system with the least possible evils. There has been revolution after revolution in the history of mankind, due to the fact that the evils mounted up in one particular system and people thought they could, by revolution, get rid of these evils and secure a better system, but not that they could get an ideal system. I am afraid that it did happen that, often, the revolutionaries thought they were going to get an ideal system, but what they got was another system which, after a time, showed such evils associated with it that there was need of another revolution to change it.

We ought to strive hard to find a remedy for this evil, which is admitted, and the first step towards finding a solution is to know exactly what is the magnitude of the problem, and to separate the classes of people who are prepared to take advantage of the interest of the community in those who cannot find work, those who are abusing the good will of the community, from those who really need the assistance of the community.

Mr. Hickey: Information on James Hickey  Zoom on James Hickey  Are there people abusing it?

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  There is only one way in which you can do that, that is, to try to offer people work, and, if they do not take it, not to give them any assistance.

The next thing we have got to do, then, is to find work and we have also got to consider the standards which we can afford—in the community, as a whole—to give in regard to such work. Sometimes, when I hear people like Deputy Hickey speaking, it seems to me that there are people who, like him, seem to think that somehow or other the community can provide a very, very high standard for everybody by some process of the manipulation of money.

Mr. Hickey: Information on James Hickey  Zoom on James Hickey  I have never suggested it.

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  It appears, then, that the Deputy must imagine that the Government has some special chest at [2037] its disposal from which it can draw the money necessary.

Mr. Hickey: Information on James Hickey  Zoom on James Hickey  No, I do not.

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  I am glad to hear that, but I got that impression through listening to the Deputy on several occasions.

Mr. Hickey: Information on James Hickey  Zoom on James Hickey  I want to see control of the credit of the country.

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  The control is the same as in the case of transport. I heard Deputy Davin say that transport was not controlled by the State. If it were controlled by the State, where would be the difference? Is it suggested that it would be made more profitable than it is?

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  More useful.

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  Or more useful?

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  Yes.

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  Then, the question is: why is it not made more useful at present? Is it incapacity on the part of the managers?

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  Let us have a look at the report you have for a year.

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  The report is there, and it gives a certain amount of information, but I do not think it is going to make a tremendous difference, or that it shows that a tremendous difference would be made whether transport is controlled publicly or privately.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  Let us have a look at it, anyway.

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  For the moment, the question is this: Why is it that the transport system is not able to pay a dividend; why is it, with the capital invested in the railways in this country, they are not able to pay dividends at the present time? There has been a change very largely in various ways, because the private individual probably is doing a great deal more of his transport directly [2038] than he did before. Changes and developments are taking place which affect the community, and it is foolishness to try to ignore them. Though I agree with it in principle, I do not think that the public control of credit which is demanded would make such a big difference in the social system. Personally, I agree with it as a principle, but I do not think that, in fact, any more than the public control of transport, it would make a tremendous difference. While I am saying that as my belief, I do not suggest that a view of mine will convince those who think it ought to be tried, but that is another matter.

Mr. Hickey: Information on James Hickey  Zoom on James Hickey  There should be a fundamental change all round.

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  If you talk about helping sections of the community, remember that such help must be got through production by other sections of the community, and nowhere else. When we talk of production, it seems to me that we ought to relate what goes out to what comes in.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  Who controls production?

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  Let us keep closely to the question—not, who controls it, but what it is going to do in any case. Is it not a fact that, if the members of any section of the community go to do a certain piece of work, they would reckon whether the work is valuable or not, whether it is worth while, by considering what is used in the production of it. If you consume more in the production, in any form whatsoever, than you produce—reckoning by some method by which you can determine values—will you call it production or the reverse? Rightly or wrongly, I usually compare this community as a whole to a large landholder with a big family. Can he afford to put the members of his family, or a large number of them, building avenues and making ponds and proceeding with the beautification of his property, from the point of view of its amenities? It is quite clear that only a certain number of the members of his family can engage in that work and [2039] that the other members must be able to produce enough to supply those not immediately engaged in the production side, to carry them on and support them whilst they are doing the beautification of the farm and providing those amenities.

It is my belief that a small community such as ours will have to be content with frugal comfort, if that comfort is to be universal, and if we are to expect to have the universality of that comfort at some time and to have each member of the community better off, relatively, in regard to the remuneration that he gets. In other words, if we want to see that every member of this community is given an opportunity to enjoy frugal comfort, a large number of us must be prepared to revise our standards. If we want houses built, there is the cost of the material, and those producing that material cannot expect to have relatively as high standards as in other countries with large communities. What I am afraid of is that none of us—or few of us— think fundamentally about this thing and that we are not prepared to face the consequences of our desires in regard to making certain that everybody has an opportunity to obtain at least frugal comfort. The first thing is that those producing must produce more. To produce more we will have to work harder, we will have to diminish the cost, whether it be of houses or of any other work we do, by making the materials available at lower prices; and again we cannot do that unless we get more production from the individual.

The Labour section of the community can do a tremendous service. I am quite willing to admit that they represent—at least, they claim that, even if they do not represent in numbers—the interests of the workers of this country and that they have at heart the interests of those workers. I believe that the best service which they can render to the workers is to cooperate with us in developing the right mentality abroad with regard to these problems, We cannot solve them without taking some drastic measures in [2040] various forms, and the first people to object to those forms will be the very people claiming to have a solution of the problems. The moment you set out to get a practical solution for any one of those problems, you are opposed just by the people who, of all others, ought to be most interested in getting a solution. Facing—the consequences, can we get that genuine desire for a solution from the Labour Party?

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  What are they?

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  What are they? Suppose we were to say, as an example, that if we want to get houses built we will have to have a bigger standard of production in regard to the output of labour as an individual. I am only taking that at random. I am not saying at all that it is a good example, but let us take it. It has been asserted, rightly or wrongly, that it is one of the difficulties about house building that we have not got as big an output here as elsewhere. I know that has been denied by the workers, but suppose it were found to be a fact, and we say that this is a vital factor in getting houses built for those who want them and who need them, would we have the support of the Labour Party in trying to get that extra output, assuming again, the assertion were true?

Mr. Corish: Information on Richard Corish  Zoom on Richard Corish  Yes.

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  I only want to know. There is first of all the determination of the fact and I am assuming that the fact as determined will be as asserted. Another problem in which I am personally greatly interested is the problem of young people who are in danger of being spoilt and demoralised when they come to the age of 18 from the fact that no work of any kind can be provided for them. Suppose we are able to inaugurate some schemes of work in one form or another by which those people would not be a burden on themselves or their parents and that they would get some support during the period which would be really a period of training in one way or another, are we going to get support [2041] to take such measures as might get these people into work or are we not? Again, we cannot solve this problem by giving out money because it will be abused. We know it will be abused.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  We want to reduce the cost of money, the cost of loans.

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  I am not talking about money at all. I am talking about the fundamentals of production, the fact of how much a person produces with his hands in a certain number of hours. That is a thing that is more fundamental than money.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  What about the finances?

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  Do not mind about the finances. If they stand in the way there will be a way of dealing with them.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  Good. That is what we want.

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  That has never been lacking.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  The cost has been 5 to 6 per cent.

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  I say, whilst we have been in office, we have never been seriously and absolutely prevented, in the sense frequently suggested, from doing things by lack of money.

Mr. Hickey: Information on James Hickey  Zoom on James Hickey  You have been paying a big price for it.

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  If people have got savings in one form or other that they have been using, and if they make them available to the community they are entitled to get a certain percentage for it, assuming they could use that money in other ways themselves. I say here we have never really been prevented from doing useful productive work by lack of money in the sense suggested. We have been prevented in many cases by the fact that either our costs were higher because, for one reason or another, higher wages were paid or there was something else of that sort or that there [2042] were, if you like, to put it on the other foot, greater profits being obtained by certain people. But the fundamental fact in this community that we have got to realise is that if we are going to see that there is frugal comfort for all, everybody must do his share in contributing to that, and the way to do it is that, to start with, there must be harder work for everyone of us, because, without hard work, in a small community such as this, we cannot do the thing we set out to do.

Those are the fundamental things that we need—the help particularly of the section of the community which the Labour Party represent or claim to represent anyhow—the part of the community whose interests they have at heart—because it is there that the beginning has to be made. I know this country for 50 years and there is no one who is here and of my age who does not know that there has been a wonderful change in this country in that time. Standards have been adopted here which would probably not have been the standards that would have grown up naturally in this country. They are standards which were imported from outside, from a country that was the centre of an empire and that had, therefore, opportunities of drawing upon and exploiting, if you want to use that word, a great part of the earth's surface. If we want here to be in ourselves a separate community, trying to live within ourselves, to provide for ourselves, then we will have to revise our standards. Again I say it: we will have to revise our standards all round.

The next question is: How far can we, within ourselves, provide for all our needs and get that frugal comfort? Is it possible to do it? The first thing you want to ask yourselves is: “What are the various things we can provide for ourselves?” We set out, as you know, as a Party and as a Government to try to make this country as self-supporting and as self-sufficing as it could be. We had no illusions about some of the consequences of that programme. We knew perfectly well that if that programme were to be given effect to a number of things would have to change as a consequence. Take, [2043] for instance, the cost of agricultural implements. Were we going to be able to provide those implements for the farmer as cheaply as he could get them outside? As a matter of fact, in many cases we have done that. We have been able to provide these things as cheaply, but there are certain things which it would be quite unreasonable to expect that in a country of 3,000,000 souls we could provide as cheaply, in view of the advantages there are in many respects in regard to mass production, as a community of 40,000,000 could do it. That is obviously one of the consequences of trying to be self-supporting—even though I still believe in it, notwithstanding anything in addition to what had been anticipated that the actual experiment has shown up. But it is ridiculous to expect that we could have these things as cheaply here and that the section of the community which was consuming these things could get them as cheaply as if they were able to get them in from outside.

We hoped that there would be a general balance, that if it was true to say that the worker in the town would have to pay more for his food because of the protection which we were going to give to the farmer, that protection was benefiting the farmer to an extent which would enable the farmer to meet the extra costs that might have to be borne by him through having to pay the workers in the towns the extra amounts for making boots or whatever he required over and above the price at which he could get them from outside. But, obviously, taking it all round, there must be some loss somewhere. Formerly, that loss was not recognised because there was emigration and the diminution of your population was taking place at the same time as, for example, the competition for agricultural produce in outside markets was getting more severe and it was not shown up immediately. With the terrible stress after the last war that there was in regard to getting markets and pressure of that sort, we had a slump, as everybody knows here, which brought reactions over and [2044] above those which might be anticipated otherwise. But the fact is that if we want here to build up an economy, basing it on frugal comfort for all, we will have to be content with frugality in all cases and we will have, as part of that frugality, to work harder and, therefore, to accept standards which would be considered lower standards than the best that could be got elsewhere. If our aim is to have standards equal to the best elsewhere, we must not forget the fact that, if we want to do that, we will have to give up some of our ideas with regard to being a self-sufficing community, or a community that can last with the present numbers.

Stress has been laid on the fact that money can be got for war purposes. Does any person think that money that produces all that expenditure of energy on the production of war implements is not going to have consequences? Does anybody think that the communities that are spending that money will not have to pay one way or another later on?

Mr. Hickey: Information on James Hickey  Zoom on James Hickey  We know that.

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  You may be sure that they will have to pay for a considerable number of years. If people ask us to meet such expenditure as the people are prepared to face in war, and to face the consequences afterwards, will they not say to themselves that they will be paying for it later on, and that they are going to add to some of the difficulties that they are trying to provide against.

Mr. Hickey: Information on James Hickey  Zoom on James Hickey  My idea is to produce goods for the services given.

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  If the community is to be kept employed, do we agree that opportunities are to be given to the individual to exchange his services for services rendered to him in one form or another? Is not that what it amounts to? If we are going to exist as a community, each member of the community has to be employed, and can only be employed by rendering services in one form or another to neighbours. The whole problem is to [2045] enable people to render these services. If services are to be rendered there must be people willing to accept these services.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Fionán Lynch  Zoom on Fionán Lynch  Perhaps the House would like to carry on this debate beyond 10.30 p.m.

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  I am afraid it would be a breach of the rules.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Fionán Lynch  Zoom on Fionán Lynch  It can be carried on if there is general agreement in the House.

Agreed to continue the debate until 11 p.m.

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  There must be people who are prepared to accept these services; otherwise people cannot render them, and if they are prepared to accept these services they must pay for them by giving services in return. The question is: Have we that situation in this country? We are asking people if they are prepared to render services in return for services which they may get, to render return in a form in which other people consider they are getting a fair bargain. I am doubtful as to whether we can or cannot find these opportunities for service for everybody. We ought to aim at doing that, and the whole effort should be to find them. We seem to have tremendous difficulties in finding them. I was listening to the debate in the hope that some people would indicate in what direction useful practical work lay, productive work in the sense that the community is richer when it is done than before it was done.

Mr. Hickey: Information on James Hickey  Zoom on James Hickey  There are many people requiring food, clothing and shelter.

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  The people needing food, clothes and shelter will be among the first people to refuse their services because they say they will cost too much. We had examples from the opposite benches time after time, in which the cost to the farmers, for instance, of boots was brought up as a reason why they were suffering. In other words, the farmers said that the [2046] price at which people were prepared to render their services was too great for them while they were giving too much in return for the services rendered them. That is the whole problem. I was looking forward to hear of useful works. As a matter of fact we have built up the boot industry here at the present time to a stage when I think everyone who wants a pair of boots can get them. It is rather difficult to get any others.

Mr. Corish: Information on Richard Corish  Zoom on Richard Corish  Thank God.

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  I say thank God as heartily as the Deputy. We went out in other directions, as far as possible, to do the same thing, where there was an opportunity as in the case of cement. We have exploited these opportunities, and we have come very near exhausting our list. Take, for instance, the question of wool which was mentioned to-day. We have here the raw material, but, apparently, we have not the machinery, as it was designed for a different type of wool. We have not the machinery available to use our wool, and it is possible that that wool would not produce the best type of material. I would be willing to say: “All right, let us wear the clothes which can be produced from the raw material if we can get the machinery to do it.” But we have to build the machinery, and we have to remember that a certain section of our community will have to be prepared to wear rougher material. Perhaps with an effort it could be made finer.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  You will have to talk to the ladies about that.

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  I have always held that we ought to be prepared in a case like that, where the raw material is here, to use a substitute, because it would put us in a position of independence in regard to supplies, and give wider opportunities for the mutual service about which I have been talking. If you go through the list you will find that we have, at least, skimmed the cream in the direction in which we could industrialise ourselves with particular advantage. People have been [2047] talking about public works, about works of a somewhat different character than those that produce the immediate necessities of life. The fact is that as a community we are producing far more food than we require for ourselves, and if we want to exchange that surplus of food for other things that we require, we would have to do so in an outside market and have to be prepared to pay as a community. However, we may adjust the remuneration for the individual, as a community we will have to be prepared to take whatever opportunities we are able to get for that purpose. That is the only way we can buy the things that we cannot produce.

The unfortunate thing is that there are many raw materials lacking which we require, and so far substitutes have not been found for them. One of our difficulties at present is that there are certain materials lacking and they are expensive to get in present circumstances. We would be in a stronger position if we were able to get substitutes for these things. As far as the fundamental feeding of our people is concerned, there is no question but we have food enough. What we have to do is to see that people who want food have some opportunity of giving service to get it. As far as clothing is concerned we are not too badly off. With regard to shelter there are large numbers of houses to be built, but those who are going to enjoy them naturally are expected to give some service in return. The question is: Are they able to do so? Deputy Corish says they are not able to give service in return because they are not able to pay the rents. They are not able to give service in return for the advantages given to them by the people providing the houses. So far as the fundamentals are concerned, we can get them here, but have we got the mentality, as a community, to face these things in their nakedness and to realise that, if we want to work as a community in that way, we shall have to be prepared to revise our standards? I am afraid we have not. One of the standards we have to [2048] revise is the amount of work an individual should do and the amount of leisure and enjoyment he should have at the same time.

On the question of an economic council, I admit that, when I was in Opposition, I urged very strongly the setting up of something like an economic headquarters planning staff or an economic council—some such idea as the Labour Party have put forward. On more than one occasion, I sat down and tried to see how that could be put into operation. On each occasion that I tried to do so, I came up against certain hard facts. These facts I have already communicated to the leaders of the Labour movement. If you want to have an advisory body for the Government which will advise on all economic affairs, seeing the complexity and variety of these, it is obvious that you will require a very large body. Otherwise, it will not be representative at all. Nobody need tell me that a couple of members of the Labour Party would be able to bring to any such conference that universal acquaintance with the details of industry which would be necessary if the economic council were to function fully. They would have to go to other people to get the information.

Mr. Davin: Information on William Davin  Zoom on William Davin  We never said we would be able to do that.

The Taoiseach: Information on Eamon de Valera  Zoom on Eamon de Valera  I know. I am trying to show that, if you are to have an advisory body, it will be necessary to have a large body, if it is to be at all representative and to be able to give you that help which can only come from people who know intimately the details of the particular industry in question. Such a body would have to be as large as this House in numbers if you were to get anything like the measure of help which it would be supposed to give. If it is mere criticism of proposals that is required, the criticism can be given openly in this House. If it is urged that the Government, once committed to a measure, would not be open to a suggestion here, then there is a mechanism by which, in advance of legislation, information [2049] can be got. The Minister for Industry and Commerce is in touch with a variety of interests and meets groups from time to time. Whenever any particular problem would arise, he would bring into consultation the body which would be precisely the best body he could get to give him intimate advice. The presumption, naturally, is that the knowledge of that particular group with reference to the problem under consideration would be much more helpful than that of any general group. In the same way, the Minister for Agriculture is in touch with various groups. When any question arises concerning a particular aspect of agriculture, he meets some of these groups. If a problem were to arise concerning the tillage areas or a particular part of the country, he would deal with the people of the area affected and, in that way, get the intimate knowledge required. A number of consultative bodies have been created with regard to measures for which the Government takes responsibility. These groups are consulted from time to time. A general council, if it were to be fully representative of the complexity of industry, would have to be a large, unwieldy body which could not meet regularly. Instead of that, you have a large body which can be availed of by taking section after section of it, as required, and it is felt that, in that way, the needs of consultation are met.

I come now to the idea of an economic planning staff. That was the idea which was behind my proposals when I made them—not so much this consultative body which, by the way, would best be got if we had vocational organisation. If we had vocational organisation, then we might, possibly, get a certain group which would be in a position to give expert advice and which would be in a position to consult others and use the information obtained in that way. We have not got so far as that yet. If we had vocational organisation, it is possible that we could have a consultative group, and that the necessary series of groups would be naturally forthcoming instead of being picked out by the Minister for the time being. Whether that would or would not be [2050] better than the present system is an open question. Some people think it would be, and some people think it would not.

What are the difficulties in the way of the operation of an economic headquarter staff? Something like that was tried in Britain and had to be abandoned. As regards the difficulties, you have, in your present organisation, a planning staff in, for instance, the Department of Agriculture. The Minister and his principal officers are the natural planning staff there. They are the best planning staff for that work, because they are more intimately in contact with the needs and details of the industry than others would be. If you put some outside group of officials in their stead—they would have to be whole-time people if they were to be of any service—they would have to consult the Department as to whether certain proposals were or were not feasible. They would have, too, to get, by consultation with the Department, the material from which they could form their plans. When their plans were made, they would have to depend on the Department of Agriculture to see that they were executed. Our opinion is that you will get better execution of the plans if they are made by the people who have to execute them. You would have friction otherwise. You would have people making plans who would not have the responsibility for putting them into operation or, if you put that responsibility upon them, they would have to be working through people who might feel that they knew more about the matter than they did, and who might have different ideas. The moment you try to plan for agriculture, your planning staff will be a duplication, and it may bring about friction in the machinery; it will be a duplication of the work supposed to be done at present in the Department of Agriculture. The same thing is true with regard to the Department of Industry and Commerce. If you put a planning staff outside the chief officers of that Department, who are supposed to do such planning as can be done, if you impose another body outside them, they will have to come to these officers for the detailed information which will [2051] enable them to plan, if they are to have any relation to the facts of the situation. Then you will have the difficulty of execution, just the same as with regard to matters connected with agriculture.

With regard to industries other than agriculture, I find myself in the same position as before. It will mean duplicating existing machinery and perhaps introducing friction, instead of making things go easier. There will be problems which will have to be solved by a proper consideration of the balance existing between the claims of one or other of the Departments. The moment it comes to that, you have to depend on the Government as a whole to bring about the necessary co-operation. The Government is the body to decide between the rival claims of Departments and ultimately it has to provide for whatever co-ordination may be necessary in the activities of one or other of the industrial departments.

When you examine this it looks attractive, but, in fact, it is very difficult. Yet, I will admit I have always had a hankering for it. Even though the arguments seem to be unanswerable, I still have a hankering for such a body, but I have not been able to plan it in such a way that it would work without friction. The only way I can see that planning done is to have a position when there are Ministers free enough to devote their time to that rather than to some of the administrative details of the Departments which they have to supervise at present, and the Ministers ought to be assisted in doing that either by having people to whom they can delegate the work, having Parliamentary Secretaries, let us say, who will look after the details, or else the Secretaries of the Departments should be given a greater freedom than they have at the moment from supervising some of the administrative details. They should be given a larger scope and one of the thoughts that occurs to me in this matter is whether it would not be possible to relieve the Secretaries of Departments from the responsibility that they have at present as accounting officers. I do not know that that can be done without [2052] some inconvenience, but that would be one way in which we could try to relieve Ministers of various Departments from some of the administrative details and similarly relieve the Secretaries of these Departments. These are the only people who, with the Government as a whole, in the long run can do this planning.

Everybody, I think, must admit, that if there is one group of individuals in this community who have everything to gain and every possible incentive towards providing a plan to solve these problems, it is the Government. I do not think anybody can imagine any stronger incentive than the incentive we would have to provide plans, but we must remember that there are certain things to be considered. The moon is going to keep the same distance from us, no matter how much we may desire to change it, and there are things in life, hard facts, which there is no use in our trying to change. Whilst we agree that everything should be done to try to get substitutes for the raw materials which we have difficulty in obtaining at the moment, and so help to provide more productive employment than is being provided, there are limits.

With regard to the question of productivity, the person who endeavours to talk on that subject will find himself up against a difficulty. One Deputy dealt with the production of turf. There has been an organisation set up to try to get turf produced here in a manner which will enable the community without too great a sacrifice to utilise it. I refer to the Turf Board. Every possible inducement has been given to people to try to provide turf because the competing article may be difficult to procure at certain periods and there may be high prices. If these things do not stimulate turf production, the development of the turf industry, I do not know anything that will.

The Deputy spoke about turf and about the furze that you have on farms. Whenever I see a clump of furze in a field I wonder why they do not root out these things so as to make the ground available for pasture. I [2053] wonder why people do not do that. The fact is that it is not done, and I ask myself why. Is it that the farmer is lazy or that the type of land that would be produced after rooting out the furze would not give an adequate return for all the labour involved? I think in many cases it will be admitted that there would not be an adequate return for the labour involved. No matter how desirable it might appear from a general point of view, making more land available for the production of food, whether for home production or as a surplus with which to buy other things, in many cases the labour involved, the cost in energy—whatever standard of value you may wish to apply—would not be commensurate with the results achieved.

We have many things like that in the country where, when we set out to do them, the results do not appear to be commensurate with the energy involved. We have the case of drainage. I am not now saying that we should not go on with drainage, but I remember how shocked I was when I observed the small economic return one case and the small economic return in another case in contrast with the labour content. If the community goes on expending more than it is able to get out of work, you will have to admit that the community will not get richer by that process and will not be able to keep up the standard of comfort of all its citizens.

I would like very much to meet the Labour people in conference. I have always suggested it and I am always ready. The Minister for Industry and Commerce is always ready to meet them in regard to any practical suggestions, but the trouble naturally is that they represent a section of the community. They are interested in the highest possible standards for that section and, when we try to approach it from the community point of view as a whole, the moment it conflicts with the interests of the section they represent, naturally they try to resist that in every possible way. We would have the same thing if we were meeting the farmers. If there was a particular thing we thought of in the [2054] interests of the community as a whole, and if it affected the interests of the farmers they would naturally resist it. For instance, if there was something relating to the price of butter, some suggestion that the price should be less than it is, we would have to give very definite proof to the farming section that they would benefit in some way before they would agree. So it is with the Labour interest, the workers. The Minister for Industry and Commerce and myself would be very glad at any time to meet the representatives of Labour and consider with them any practical suggestions that they may have to offer. I am talking now of practical suggestions that they may have for dealing with the present situation.

I am taking it for granted that they are as interested in getting solutions as we are. There are certain things in relation to which the facts can be put before everybody, but the problem is how to provide a solution on the basis of the facts, because there is no use in talking in generalities and in assuming the facts to be otherwise than they are. I have spoken at some length on this because I want Deputies and the people in general to realise that it is not for want of trying that this problem has not been completely solved. It is not that we have closed our minds to any solution that can be put forward, but there are things that are beyond the control of this community as a whole, given even the best good will on the part of everybody. Unfortunately, we have not yet reached the position in which we think as a community as a whole. We think, unfortunately, in sectional terms or in individual terms. That is the truth. If we want to solve this problem we have got to change our attitude of mind towards it. One of the things that will have to be driven into the people is that this is a small community with certain resources which are not unlimited. I think the worst service that could be rendered to the people would be to give them false notions in that regard. Our resources are not unlimited. They are very limited, in a [2055] sense; but, fortunately, we have here the fundamentals of existence. I think, if we were prepared to do it, that we could be just as happy if we were to moderate our desires in a number of respects. Here below we want very little, and we could be happy with the little if we approached it in the right way; but we want the people to approach it from the point of view that our resources are limited. [2056] What has been called frugal comfort is the most that, at the present time, we can hope for, and I think that in order to achieve that standard of general frugal comfort all of us will have to shed a number of the ideas that we have. As to how that can be produced, I think everyone of us will have to work harder.

The Dáil adjourned at 11.5 p.m. to Wednesday, 2nd October, 1940, at 3 p.m.


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