Tuesday, 11 March 1941
Dáil Éireann Debate
That in view of the dislocation of industry and consequent increase in unemployment due to the emergency situation, the Dáil requests the Government forthwith to set up an economic council to plan measures to deal with the situation.
In proposing this motion, I do not desire that it should be discussed in any acrimonious Party fashion. The object of the Labour Party in submitting this motion is to endeavour to  awaken the public to a realisation of the serious economic situation confronting the country and to focus the attention of the public and, if possible, the attention of the Government on the entire futility of the methods which so far have been adopted for dealing with the situation which confronts us. I believe that those methods, effete and useless as they were in peace times, will be found to be still more useless in the days of trial and tribulation which lie ahead.
This motion is addressed to a threefold problem: (1) the dislocation of industry; (2) increasing and widening unemployment; (3) the complete absence of a plan to deal with our war-time difficulties and the apparent absence of a plan to deal with the post-war situation. I suppose it might be relevant at this stage to ask ourselves are these three problems with us. Are we face to face to-day, for instance, with dislocation in industry? Have we to face up to and are we obliged to solve an increasing and widening unemployment problem? Have we a plan for dealing with the situation which has arisen within the country and the new situation which will arise in a more intensive form in the post-war situation?
I think it is only necessary to put these questions to ourselves in order to find a ready answer. Statements have been made at meetings of Chambers of Commerce throughout the country, statements have been made at meetings of public companies in which very strong emphasis was laid on the shortage of raw materials. It has been explained that that situation has inevitably brought about the repercussion that large numbers of staff have been laid off and there have been prognostications of further considerable unemployment in industry. At a recent meeting of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce the chairman stated that there was a possibility that within eight months one-third of the population of Éire would be unemployed. In the course of his speech he indicated further that the reserve stocks of raw materials in many cases  would not last longer than from three to eight months. He added that the man in the street did not appear to realise the position and that it was time that the Government took the man in the street into its confidence.
Statements of that kind which have been made ad nauseam at meetings such as I have referred to, indicate in the most unmistakable fashion that, so far as those who are charged with production are concerned, they see the red flag up. They realise that there is a shortage of, and a difficulty in obtaining raw materials. When a man, who occupies an eminent position in the commercial and industrial life of the city, with all his authority goes on record as saying that there is a possibility that within eight months one-third of the entire population of Eire would be unemployed, it is a very serious position,
“From the beginning of the war the federation has taken a grimly realistic attitude towards the problem of supply, has assumed that the very worst would happen, and has constantly demanded the most extreme measures, being confident that finances were available and that the full powers of the State could be mobilised in the early stages of the war to lessen, as far as possible, the adverse effects of the acute shortage now becoming apparent.”
The report of the federation goes on to make reference to the scarcity of raw materials and their efforts to awaken the Government to the dangers that lay ahead; it emphasises the necessity for the compulsory mobilisation of waste materials on which apparently nothing was done by the Government, the necessity of obtaining a dollar exchange to enable us to purchase raw materials in America, of the necessity of a mercantile marine and of the urgency of that problem for a long time before the report was  written. The report winds up with two very interesting observations.
“The council of the federation further suggested that the Government should make a more active examination, with the aid of scientific experts, of native substitute materials, which, while possibly uneconomic in peace time, might prove invaluable in time of war.”
“Having stated the federation's position, it is obviously no use continuing what is in reality an inquest on deficiencies which up to now have been apparent in that part of our national economy concerned with securing deliveries for our national needs.”
The signature to that report is that of the secretary to the federation— Deputy Childers. I congratulate him on the very outspoken views which he expresses in that report, and on the very valuable survey it contains of our economic position.
Mr. Norton: I have no doubt the Deputy was so acting. I have no doubt also that the views dictated to him were very excellent views. They are views that might be adopted with profit by anybody. No one need be ashamed of having expressed them. They are views that mirror completely the chaotic industrial position that exists here to-day — a shortage of raw materials in most industries, inability to procure these raw materials from any source, apparently no foresight in dealing with the problem, and no planning for easing the situation.
One has got to realise, when considering matters of this kind, the interrelationship of one industry with another, and the tied-up character of our commercial and industrial activities. We have seen recently the effects on industry, on commerce, on agriculture  and on employment generally of the shortage of petrol which caused not merely an immediate loss of employment to men in garages, to men in private employment who depend for their employment on activities in connection with motor transport, but we have seen that it results in the disemployment of men engaged in a variety of, apparently, unrelated occupations in industry and commerce. Just like the stone thrown into the centre of a pool, that shortage of petrol radiated unemployment right throughout the entire State. If men are going to lose their employment through a shortage of petrol, through a shortage of raw materials which sustain our people in employment, then a very serious situation is going to arise here from an employment point of view. Men who lose their employment cannot pay their rents or instalments due on furniture. They cannot fulfil their house purchase contracts, they cannot pay for their groceries, for boots and for clothes, and, in the end, their idleness in turn leads to the disemployment of people engaged in these other activities.
A visit to the employment exchange in Gardiner Street to-day, will be sufficient to remove doubts from the minds of the most prejudiced of the serious situation which is growing up in the country, not merely because of the number of unemployed but because of the new type of unemployment which has arisen out of the emergency situation. Men who formerly were in good and regular employment and able to enter into commitments to purchase houses and furniture, men who always paid their rents regularly and suffered no economic distress which necessitated the postponement of that obligation, are now thrown on the employment exchange, and the State, which ought to be concerned, having regard to its constitutional obligations, about safeguarding people in that position, is doing absolutely nothing. Those men are being compelled to allow their insurance policies to lapse, they are unable to pay the instalments due on their furniture, they are unable to pay their rents. Because they have fallen into arrear with their rents they are being evicted and driven down to a  condition of depression never experienced by them heretofore.
The dislocation which has arisen has been due in great measure to the absence of an adequate mercantile marine such as might have served the nation efficiently and effectively in the present situation. Much of the dislocation could have been avoided if, in 1939, we had the foresight to purchase ships from the large number of neutral countries which then had ships and were ready and willing to sell them. It was not until towards the end of 1940, when the area of belligerency had been extended, and when there was practically no country which had any portion of its mercantile marine for sale, that we awoke to the necessity of having a shipping service of our own, and appeared to appreciate its indispensability in carrying to this country the goods and raw materials, needed to sustain life as well as our industrial and agricultural activity. Now, there is some concern about that. It is a belated kind of concern. One does not know even now whether, in fact, there is a genuine desire on the part of the Government in regard to it. We had a most amazing declaration made in this House recently by the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures to the effect that, if all the ships in the world were at the bottom of the sea and if we used our brains, we could still have a good standard of life here. Surely, nobody believes that that is a sane policy for any Government to postulate for this country. Every country in the world regards shipping as indispensable and yet in this country with its negligible mercantile marine, we have a responsible Minister saying that it does not matter if all the ships in the world were at the bottom of the sea: that all we have got to do is to use our brains and that then everything will be all right.
Notwithstanding the fact that all the ships are reposing on the bed of the ocean, this Minister still thinks everything will be all right. We then had a statement from the Minister for  Supplies which gives cause for doubt as to whether he, in fact, believes that the augmentation of our shipping fleet is desirable. His statement was to the effect that the purchase of ships and the utilisation of Irish ships might possibly have consequences for us which might impair our neutrality. Is that Government policy in respect to a mercantile marine? We ought to be told definitely where we stand in this matter. Do we believe, as the Minister for the Co-Ordination of Defensive Measures said, that if all shipping was at the bottom of the sea, everything would be all right, or are ships regarded as a danger to our neutrality as indicated by the Minister for Supplies in his speech? Are ships things of which we should rid ourselves in this emergency because one or two or 12 might be lost as a result of belligerent action elsewhere? Which of these viewpoints represents Government policy on this question of a mercantile marine? It seems to me that both are economically crazy, having regard to our circumstances. Consequently, we ought to have from the Government an authoritative statement on its policy in regard to the acquisition of ships and the augmenting of our present negligible mercantile marine. One does not know whether, in fact, the Government are serious in endeavouring to purchase ships. They were told in 1939 that they ought to purchase ships and at that time ships could have been bought. The Government knew that, but nothing apparently was done. Now, a half-hearted effort is being made to acquire ships. But everybody knows that the only ships that we can get to-day are unseaworthy junks and luggers which are situate at the far ends of the earth where we cannot even inspect them.
I want to say that I charge the Government with sheer inertia in failing in 1939 to survey the requirements of this country, and to examine its potentialities in the matter of supplying its own requirements. We were told at that time that a Department of Supplies had been established. We were told that the new Department was making efforts to obtain certain materials. We were told that it was to be the eyes and  the ears and the brains of our economic and agricultural workshop. But we see now, in the early days of 1941, and we have seen it for many months past, that such activity as was undertaken by the Department of Supplies was of a very limited and puny character. A very short time after the war became intensified we are faced with difficulties which that Department and the Government generally had ample time to deal with if they were only serious in approaching the problem. We are short of materials now. We have been short of them for a long time, but everybody knows that for all of 1939 and for the first six months of 1940 we could have bought supplies in a large number of places without any difficulty whatever because then there was no great drain on the resources of other countries. Ships of many countries were plying the seas. Ships of many countries were available for hire, for sale, for lease, but during that period we appear to have rested on our oars, being treated to an occasional speech to the effect that things were all right. Our sense of security was rudely disturbed, however, by the declarations made in December last regarding a shortage of petrol followed by the declaration that tea was scarce and again by an intimation that we could not get coal, and that if we could get coal it was only the rubbishy quality that is coming in to-day.
If we had not sterling assets during that period, or if we could not get dollars, one might understand the difficulties that confronted us later on, but we had dollars then or could get them, or were entitled at all events to get dollars in exchange for our sterling assets, but we did not exploit that situation as we ought to have done, and did not, apparently, recognise the difficulties which were then naked before our eyes. We could then have utilised the assets which are now frozen in London for the purpose of importing a good deal of the commodities which we cannot get from any source now. Our position in respect of manufactured goods and raw materials so far as Britain is concerned is that we cannot get the  materials we need and we cannot, of course, in those circumstances repatriate our foreign assets. Now, we have neither our money nor the materials to feed and clothe our people or to sustain our industries and agriculture. We could then have bought and stored, if we had only the foresight to do so, the materials that would be needed to tide us over the war period, but because we neglected that opportunity we are now paying the price in an increasing number of unemployed, in a substantially increased cost of living, and in a creeping despair and bleakness in the homes of tens of thousands of our people in this country to-day.
There is probably no better illustration of the complete absence of planning than is revealed by an examination of the food situation. It must have been obvious to the Government last harvest that there would be a shortage of wheat in this country this year. It must have been obvious, with only 300,000 acres under wheat, giving us approximately 300,000 tons of wheat while we needed approximately 650,000 tons, that we were bound to be in a serious position in respect of wheat production this year. Nothing was done in October; nothing was done in November; nothing was done in December. But, in January, the Government woke up to discover that we were not going to get any more foreign wheat, that we could not get ships to transport the wheat if we got it, that we could not get any re-exported from Britain, and that, consequently, we must rely entirely on our own resources in respect of wheat production.
Four very valuable months were allowed to pass before anything was done, and then we had panicky declarations in January and February on the necessity for growing wheat and other cereals, when with any foresight we might, towards the end of last year, have seen clearly that our wheat acreage was insufficient, and that there was necessity for a considerable increase in the acreage under wheat and other cereals if we were to feed ourselves independently of outside supplies. The  campaign to grow more wheat should have been launched at the very latest in October, 1940, and even that might well be said to have been too late to put a comprehensive plan into operation, but instead of moving even in October nothing was done until January. Then there were panicky advertisements, panicky speeches, Ministers let loose all over the country, and other officials let loose to try to get county committees of agriculture to encourage local people to grow all the wheat and other cereals that it was possible for them to grow. That kind of panicky appeal never yields satisfactory results. Certainly, from the point of view of results, it is much to be deplored, when we could have put into operation a planned and systematic campaign such as is always calculated to yield satisfactory results.
Another example of the shortsightedness of the Government in respect of food supplies was revealed by the butter position. Last year, we exported tens of thousands of cwts of butter to Britain at a very low price, at a subsidised price. We had to pay a subsidy on those exports of butter to the British market. With the most unhurried leisure we proceeded to feed that butter out to another country; we are now paying, and have been paying for the past two months, and probably will be paying for another month or six weeks, for the folly of exporting butter which we urgently need for our own people. We have another example of it now in respect of potatoes. The Minister for Industry and Commerce would not disclose the figures this evening. Everybody knows perfectly well that there are substantial exports of potatoes from this country to-day. Somebody may try to defend that on the ground that they are seed potatoes. If those seed potatoes were in the country our own people would not be paying the fancy prices they are paying for potatoes to-day, and we have no indication whatever that even the supplies of seed potatoes in the country are sufficient to meet our requirements this year.
If we have seed potatoes available we ought to be putting them in Irish earth, instead of exporting them to  other people while there is any possibility of utilising them for our own benefit. It will not surprise me to discover later in the year that there is a certain shortage of seed potatoes, which will show itself in difficulty in procuring them or substantially higher prices for those who require them. I think the Government has good grounds to feel concerned with the present food supply position.
Last minute and panicky efforts to augment the acreage under wheat and other cereals are not, I fear, going to give us all that we require in order to sustain our human and live stock population. Even if, by some adventitious circumstances, that does result, the Government appear to be planning from week to week and month to month; they do not appear to have any coordinated plan and apparently they do not intend to plan any distance ahead. Other countries in Europe are to-day planning for the years 1942 and 1943, and they are endeavouring to work to a programme which will ensure supplies of foodstuffs for a few years ahead. In this country, in contradistinction to that wisdom, we wake up in the month of January to an appeal to our people, notwithstanding our climatic conditions, to grow more wheat and other cereals, and there is no authoritative statement from the Government with regard to their agricultural plan.
The reply of the Minister for Supplies to-day with respect to the difficulty of obtaining ships indicates that we may have to depend entirely on our own production of food for our people. In circumstances of that kind it is surely good business to conserve for our people all the foodstuffs which they may need. We certainly ought not to have a repetition of the folly of last year when we exported butter at a time when our own people could not get butter, and we should not be exporting potatoes when there is a possibility that there will be a shortage of potatoes later in the year. The circumstances to-day are probably dissimilar in many respects to the circumstances that produced the famine of 1846 and 1847. It is true there was a potato crop failure in both of those  years, but it is true also, as John Mitchel said, and as was proved by statistics, that, at the time we lost 2,000,000 of our population of 8,000,000 through starvation, we were producing sufficient food to feed a population of 18,000,000. We may well, by a shortsighted policy with regard to the conservation of food, produce a position in which, while we may grow more and harvest sufficient, our own people may not be able to get adequate supplies for which they now must rely on their own country because it is not safe to expect imports.
My main difficulty is to ascertain what is the precise policy of the Government. A short time ago the Minister for Agriculture, in Cork, said he did not know what to do with our agricultural produce if the British did not buy it. In every other country Governments are anxious to garner all the agricultural produce possible for the use and benefit of the people, but here we have the Minister for Agriculture saying that he does not know what to do with our agricultural produce if the British do not buy it. There are 300,000 Irish citizens who do not get a fraction of the Irish produce that good health and decent sustenance demand, and in those circumstances our Government might be well advised if they utilised our agricultural produce for the purpose of sustaining, in healthy life, our own population, rather than worry about exporting any of that agricultural produce to another country. It is that type of mentality, postulated in the speech of the Minister for Agriculture, that is going to commit us to a policy of sighing after a market to which to export goods that we may yet require for our own people.
Of course, everybody will understand that in our circumstances, due to our size, our geographical situation, and the fact that we are ill-equipped with regard to shipping, we may have to put up with a shortage of tea, a shortage of cocoa and coffee, and that we may not be able to get bananas and cocoanuts. These are not serious economic problems, if we have only the courage and vision to produce here the other commodities which we  require for our people. We have a soil which enables us to produce fresh meat, vegetables, potatoes, pork, bacon, butter, milk, cream, jams, bread, cheese, eggs, lard and honey. If we can produce these commodities in quantities sufficient to enable our people to live, then we need not worry about the absence of such things as coffee and cocoa, and we can look with the completest indifference on a shortage of silk stockings, fur coats and tall hats. But we are not doing what we ought to be doing in the matter of utilising the fertility of our soil for the production of these commodities. Their production in abundance will mean a decent standard of life and a healthy existence for our people.
I have already indicated that this motion is directed to three problems. It deals, first of all, with the dislocation of industry and I think the quotations which I have given indicate that there is a very serious position developing in that respect. The motion is also aimed at focussing attention on the problem of unemployment. There is no Minister, no responsible Deputy and no responsible citizen who cannot but be gravely concerned with the unemployment position that faces us. The chairman of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce has indicated that, because of the shortage of raw materials, he could conceive a situation in which one-third of our population would be unemployed in eight months' time. Unfortunately, the fears which he expressed are already being borne out by the disemployment of substantial numbers of workers in various industries in Eire. The number of unemployed who registered at our employment exchanges last December is given as 96,000. That figure has since risen to over 100,000. Of course, figures taken at that time of the year are not necessarily an accurate guide to the number of persons really unemployed, because during that period the Board of Works inaugurates its rotational schemes which result in two sets of men being employed to do a job that would normally require one set in a particular week. You, therefore, get substantially reduced unemployment figures by reference to the December statistics.
 The figures since December have risen rapidly and they would rise still more were it not for the order recently made by the Government cutting off tens of thousands of unemployed workers from assistance for the next six months. Let us examine the last figure relating to the unemployed— 105,000—and at the same time it would be well to remember that there has been a substantial exodus of our people to Belfast and Britain, that we have almost doubled the strength of our Army, and that the doubling of the Army has, in turn, caused a considerable increase in the number of civilian employees associated with the extended military establishments. Notwithstanding the artificial aids of migration, the absorption of large numbers of persons in the Army and the increase in civilian employment associated with the Army, we still have a hard core of unemployed represented by the figure of 105,000.
One might be inclined to say that that is a gigantic figure having regard to our circumstances and our population; but, when you add to it the dependents of those signing at the employment exchange, and when you add still further the numbers dependent on home assistance or outdoor relief and the numbers dependent on unemployed workers who are temporarily out of employment through illness and living on National Health Insurance, I think you will find that the roll-call of the unemployed in this State is approximately 300,000. That number represents approximately one-tenth of the entire population, but, obviously, substantially more than one-tenth of the industrial and agricultural population. That situation would be bad at any time. My complaint is that the difficulty is being intensified and aggravated by the complete absence of a plan to deal with that situation as we know it to-day. There appears to be no plan whatever and there appears to be no appreciation whatever of the still greater magnitude to which that problem may grow in the months that lie ahead.
We had a statement the other day from the Minister for Supplies, a  statement which is in marked contrast with the speech he made in this House a few months ago, to the effect that we are facing a crisis of the first magnitude. That is the declaration now. The last authoritative declaration of the Minister concerned with the preservation of industries and with the procurement of raw materials for industries is that, in his view, we are facing a crisis of the first magnitude, but, notwithstanding that, there does not appear to be the slightest grain of evidence that the Government are facing up to the unemployment position which is going to flow, and to flow rapidly, from that crisis of the first magnitude. The ordinary unemployed man to-day may just trek off to the labour exchange to get the miserable pittance of his unemployment benefit or to try to get unemployment assistance, of which large numbers have been deprived for the past week and of which they will continue to be deprived for the next six months, but there is no evidence either in Ministers' statements or in any Governmental activity to indicate that there is a fragment of a plan for dealing with that situation.
We appear here in our relatively undeveloped circumstances to regard unemployment as something we are predestined to endure, as something which it is the destiny of the ordinary working-class man and woman to suffer, but if we could possibly make hunger as infectious as foot-and-mouth disease, I think we could rouse some people from their present state of indifference towards hunger and towards the sufferings of hungry men and women throughout the country. Under both Governments, unemployment has been looked upon as something from which we can never escape, as something about which we might talk at election times but make no effective effort to deal with between one election and another.
I took the trouble recently of calculating the cost of idleness to the country over the past 18 years in the loss of purchasing power and the capital value of emigrants who left this country since 1922 and I arrived at a figure, for that period of 18 years, in  the vicinity of £800,000,000. If we had put these people into employment and had garnered for the nation productivity to that extent, we could have built 200,000 houses at £800 each and spent £200 on furnishing each of them; we could have electrified the railways at a cost of £50,000,000; we could have redeemed all the outstanding land annuities; we could have bought out every holding in the Gaeltacht under £10 valuation and afforested the whole area; we could have provided a substantial number of up-to-date hospitals, and parks for every town with a population over 7,000; and we could have rebuilt 2,000 national schools; and we could have bought and run a mercantile marine as big as those of Sweden and New Zealand together. But we are apparently quite happy to allow unemployment to remain with us and to try puny methods for dealing with it.
No reference to unemployment could be complete without a reference to the condition of poverty which is endured by a large number of persons who are registered as unemployed. At present, over the greater portion of the country, the maximum unemployment assistance paid is 14/- per week and a man with a wife and five children may have to live on that sum. If any Deputy reflects for a moment on the picture of life within a household where seven people have to live on 14/- per week, he will realise that the condition of life in such a household is a long way below the high ideals, the worthy ideals, set out in the new Constitution. For that family of seven persons, there is a sum of 14/- available, representing 2/- per day or ¾d. per meal. Can anybody imagine endeavouring to purchase a meal for ¾d., having regard to the cost of living to-day, or can anyone imagine a family of seven trying to exist for a day on 2/- for food alone, to say nothing about the necessity of paying rent, providing boots, clothes, furniture, domestic requisites, medicines, school books and all the other articles which ought to be the right of every person in a civilised community?
I want to ask the Government whether they intend that that situation  should be allowed to continue, and whether they are satisfied to have a vast army of unemployed people in this country enduring a condition of life which is mirrored in the payment of that low subsistence rate by the unemployment exchange? I say to the Government in all friendliness that they are sitting on a powder barrel in respect of unemployment, and that it would be very unwise for them to carry on the present complacent policy in existing circumstances because the unemployment problem we have had in the past will be enormously intensified during the coming months, and apathy and indifference on the part of the Government at this stage will make it impossible to grapple with that problem as effectively as it ought to be grappled with, if we are to avoid the economic chaos which is going to follow from the intensification of the problem.
The other aspect of the matter to which this motion is addressed is the question of planning to deal with these wartime circumstances and planning for the post-war period. It is for the purpose of dealing with present problems and the problems which will arise following the war that we are anxious that a national economic council should be established. Everybody who has taken the trouble to read the declarations of statesmen in other countries will acknowledge that the one point upon which they all agree is that, after this war, a new order will enthrone itself on so much of civilisation as is then left. It must be clear to everybody that, having regard to the present gigantic expenditure on arms, the dislocation which has been caused to industry and agriculture and the complete uprooting of existing activities which will take place on return to peace, that the end of the war will be just the prelude to an intensified struggle for the means of livelihood. That will be particularly so in small countries such as ours where we have got neither the mechanical efficiency nor the tradition of technical skill necessary to make a speedy change to meet a new situation of that kind.
This new order, whether we like it or  not, may well enthrone itself in Europe and elsewhere throughout the world and, just as in the matter of supplies, it will be quite impossible for us to imagine that we can ever escape its consequences or ensure ourselves against any of its repercussions here. We should be thinking about it; we should be keeping abreast of those countries that are thinking about it; we should be planning to-day to meet the situation which will follow on the conclusion of the war. But here, anxious to maintain a halcyon atmosphere, we have not even contemplated doing anything to face up to this world situation. We have no machinery for dealing with existing problems in an effective or comprehensive way. We do not appear to have even thought of the machinery we will need, or the thinking-box we will require, to adjust ourselves to the conditions that will supervene when peace does come. One might well be forgiven if, at this stage, one thought that the Government's policy was to leave this country as just an interesting survival of the civilisation that endured up to the outbreak of war in 1939. That civilisation in a post-war world will mean economic degradation for our people, will mean chaos in agriculture and industry, and will reduce the standard of living in this country substantially below even its present low level.
The motion which we have introduced seeks the establishment of a national economic council, because we are anxious that on its establishment it should be charged at once with the task of dealing with the worst evils which have flown from the war in Europe and that, when these problems are in hand, or concurrently with the application of a solution to these problems, the national economic council should also plan for the situation which will arise in the immediate post-war period. It may be urged on behalf of the Government that national economic councils are not practical things and that here it is quite unnecessary to establish such a council. Well, at one time, the Taoiseach used to believe that all this country needed was an economic council, a kind of economic G.H.Q.,  which would act as the eyes, the ears and the brains of our economic activities. If the scheme was worth advocating in 1931, it is as good to-day in 1941. There has been no vital change in our economic sluggishness in the meantime judging by the number of people who still have to register at the employment exchanges. The only thing that has happened is that the Taoiseach has changed his position in this House. What he regarded as something desirable and necessary in 1931, when he was in opposition, the Taoiseach apparently does not regard with the same urgency in 1941 when he is in office.
On the question of the practicability of the establishment of an economic council, there is abundant evidence to show that not only did such councils work and that not only can they be made to work, but that immediately prior to the present war, they were in operation in a number of countries in Europe. These were countries which are not as undeveloped as we are. These were countries the productivity of which was immensely greater than the productivity of this country. Economic councils were functioning in Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy and even in China. The membership of these councils varied but they had, in all these countries, the same common function, namely, to act as a national planning authority. An examination of the reports issued by these councils from time to time and a survey of their work, by those who are interested, will show that they played an important part in the ordered planning and the ordered development of the nations over whose economic destinies they were given control. Why then is it not possible to establish a national economic council here? If it was possible for all these countries in Europe, much better developed than we are, with greater organic strength in the realms of industry and agriculture, to establish with profit these economic councils to plan ordered national development, what set of circumstances prevent the establishment of such a council here?
In August of last year when this matter was debated on the motion for  the adjournment, we had from the Taoiseach the most surprising declaration he has ever made having regard to his previous utterances, that there was no need for a planning authority in this country because Ministers and their advisers are the natural planning authority. Even a cursory examination of a statement of that kind will show that it was not planning the Taoiseach had in mind but sheer bureaucracy, sheer totalitarianism, if the Minister and his immediate subordinates are to do all the planning that is necessary for this State and all our economic wisdom is to be wrapped up in their minds. We can have a Christian Constitution, a democratic Constitution. We can read fine words into the Constitution, we can fill every text-book with fine flowery phrases about it but when we come to decide upon methods of economic government, the only democracy we shall permit ourselves is the democracy of having a Minister and a few of his higher officials initiating, directing and supervising the entire economic development of the country. That is totalitarianism, not democracy; and a constitution which runs side by side with that condition of affairs is a travesty of democracy. Then, we had from the Taoiseach in August last this kind of rhythm: “If the economic council is not large, it will not be representative; and, if it is large, it will not work.” Who could reason at all with a mentality of that kind? I confess that I am not able to reach to that high level of metaphysics—that an economic council which is not large will not be representative and that one which is large will not work. Then you are supposed, from the Taoiseach's declaration, to find something else which will not have these two objections —it is not to be large and it is not to be small. The Taoiseach only permits you to find something which is not large and which is not small, and which apparently must not be anything in between.
Other countries have managed to overcome their difficulties in this connection. Finland has an economic council numbering 20; Portugal has  one of 20; Belgium, one of 35; France, one of 150; and Germany, one of 326.
Mr. Norton: Immediately prior to the recent war. I have not had any information from those countries since then, though the Minister for Industry and Commerce may have had. Apparently, all those countries can overcome their difficulties in the matter of such a council, untroubled by the personnel of the council. One country prefers a small one, another a large one, but with the Taoiseach it must not be large and it must not be small.
Mr. Norton: I have read it very carefully. The example of what happened in other countries demonstrates clearly that there is no insuperable difficulty in the establishing of an economic council here. The only difficulty is that the Government, or certain Ministers of the Government, do not like to see one established, as they think it would be a rival to their activities— something that would impede them, something that would interfere with the kind of bureaucracy to which they are accustomed in the matter of their Departmental activities, something that would dispossess them of some of their power. If it is these considerations, and these only, the public should know why an economic council is not being established in this country.
We may be told, of course, by the Taoiseach, in the course of this debate, that, if you want an economic council, you must have a large one in order to make it representative; but the economic council which we envisage is not one similar in character to a Departmental advisory body which, in the nature of things, might well be concerned with intimate and routine details. The economic council which  we envisage is a national planning authority, which would concern itself with the application of general solutions of problems, rather than the working out of the minute details which is the job of some other organisation to implement. In advocating the establishment of an economic council, we are anxious, therefore, that it should be a body which would plan nationally, that would think nationally, that it would seek and apply general solutions to our larger problems; that, having once given a direction, that direction would be implemented by such a staff as may be available, either in the council or in the Departments, to implement the policy decided upon. We do not desire that the council should in any way interfere with Governmental activities as such. Our desire is that it should be an advisory body, but that it should have considerable weight and standing, by the nature of its personnel. As has been shown to be practicable elsewhere, it may be either a large or a small body.
Mr. Norton: Unless the Minister could be the economic council. Our desire is that the council should be a small body, with those Ministers concerned with economic activities represented on it. The report of the council, on any matter brought before it, should be treated with respect by the Government. It should not be treated as the Banking Commission's Report has been treated, nor as the Minister for Industry and Commerce treats the Transport Tribunal Report.
Mr. Norton: It is not our desire that the council should be a rival to the Government or a rival to the Minister. That might satisfy the vanity of some Ministers. Our desire is that it be an economic counterpart of the Governmental and legislative machine, and that it would work hand in hand with the Government, endeavouring to deal with the special tasks allocated to it, to find the best possible solutions for problems and to submit those solutions to the Government for consideration. Our desire is that the council be charged primarily with the carrying out of a national survey, and that its especial task be to plan the development of our resources and the strengthening of our economic life
In the circumstances under which we are living to-day, we would desire that no hoary traditions be allowed to stand in the way of that council's exploring every possible avenue in the fields of industry, agriculture and finance. In such a manner, they may find a solution for the problems which have left us a legacy of over 100,000 hungry men and women and a notion of starvation represented by 300,000 unemployed and at present unemployable people. Of course, we realise that a council of this kind necessarily must be charged with a particular task and that, at the outset, it should accept certain defined principles. We would charge the council with the responsibility of intensifying  agricultural production of a balanced character.
Mr. Norton: We would charge the council also with the task of retaining in this country the foodstuffs which are necessary to feed our human and live-stock populations. It should survey the industrial possibilities of the country, with a view to their exploitation in the existing circumstances for the benefit of our own people, especially in our present blockaded position. We would charge them also with the responsibility of accepting as an economic fact that idleness is waste and that the most effective way in which that waste can be combated is by the provision of useful work to the full extent of the resources of our country. We would charge the council also with responsibility for the organisation of prices, for the regulation of prices within the sphere of industry and agriculture, so as to ensure that farmers, industrialists and workers would secure a fair return for their labour or for their investments in these particular activities. We would charge the council, too, with the responsibility of organising credit to finance our new economic activities, unfettered by traditions of the past or by present financial practices.
It is a council on these lines which the Labour Party has in mind. To-day we have a choice of doing two things. We can plan on these lines, and, if we do, we can have ordered economic life. If we fail to do so, we will just have the same confusion and bewilderment and that intensified unemployment and continuance of the industrial and agricultural chaos which we have in this country to-day. It is to avoid a continuance of the latter catastrophe, it is to plan for the present difficulties, and for the greater ones that lie ahead, that we offer this motion to the House. I think that the Government, realising the dangers that lie ahead, realising the necessity for co-operation, and realising the necessity for careful planning and ordered development, even at this stage will accept the motion which has been proposed here to-day.
To delete all words after the word “Dáil”, and substitute the words “is of opinion that the Government should immediately reveal to the Dáil any plans already prepared by them to maintain employment, and relieve distress during the present period of emergency.”
With Deputy Norton I think that it ought to be possible to discuss this matter without breaking any of the furniture, and before proceeding further with this discussion I want to thank him for the magnificent case he made for my motion before he mentioned the economic council. I should like to point out to Deputy Norton that the fact that we have a serious situation here, that it has been going on for a long time, that the Government have not faced up to it, and have shown no signs of doing so or of even examining what the situation is, and that they have failed up to the present to face up to these matters which are affecting the whole of our economic life and the well-being of our people, is no reason why the consideration of these important matters should be referred to any back room or to any small section of Deputies in this House rather than to the House as a whole, or that it should be referred to any body of outsiders. There is the present-day situation to be faced, and there is the future to be faced, but there is an additional case to be made against Deputy Norton's motion at the present time, and that is that we are immediately facing up to the consideration of the amount we are going to spend during the current year, the way in which we are going to spend it, and the way in which we are going to search the people's pockets to find the moneys for that spending. As I say, we are going immediately to be discussing, in this very serious situation, the spending of our national money, the way in which we are going to spend it, and the way in which we are going to collect it. I say, on that point in particular,  that in a crisis such as the present it is not the time to refer any economic matters to discussion inside closed doors.
I can understand the difficulty that the Government would have in discussing defence matters publicly. I can even understand, though not entirely, the difficulty they have in discussing some aspects of defence even in private. I can understand their difficulty in visualising the type of defence problem that we are preparing against, but the preparation of our defence resistance, within our resources, is a simple matter. It is a limited type of work, there are specially equipped and specially appointed persons to deal with it in the Army, and the problem of planning is segregated along definite lines and confined to a limited number of people. There is no difficulty, however, but quite the contrary, in discussing what the nature of our economic problem is, but the remedying of it and the preparation for dealing with it is much less simple than is the preparation for dealing with our defence problem, because, whereas the regulation of the defence problem rests upon a small selected few, we require the co-operation of men and women in every walk of life and scattered throughout the whole country if our economic problem is to be settled. Therefore, we require the fullest possible discussion here if we are going to be assisted by all the people in the country, who must and can assist.
It is quite true, as Deputy Norton says, that in no way have the Government shown anywhere that the appreciate the nature of the problem that exists, or in no way have they shown us anywhere how they propose to deal with it or to deal with any section of it. We have had experience of supplies. The Government have failed either to conserve or to distribute, in any kind of an equitable way, such supplies as we have got. Part of the difficulty that is created there is due to the fact that, without any very clear necessity, the supplies, as they have arrived, have not been reported in the normal way, nor have trade statistics  been made available to Deputies or to the commercial community or the manufacturers. I submit to both the Taoiseach and the Minister for Supplies, as well as to the Minister for Industry and Commerce that if our petrol statistics, our tea statistics, and our coal statistics, had been published in the regular way, month after month, during the last 18 months, we would not have had, and could not have run into, the difficulties with regard to the supplies and distribution of these commodities that we have run into, and it would not have been possible for the odd periodic anxieties or excitements on the part of Ministers in respect of one or other of these particular commodities to have upset the whole distribution of them and thereby to have cut off supplies from the poorest sections of the people. The very secrecy which was intended, or which was stated to be in the national interests in regard to some of our principal supplies, has cut deep and hard against the national interests generally. It has undermined the confidence of the people generally in the Government at a time when, goodness knows, all energies ought to be directed towards keeping up their courage and when they ought to have some confidence in the Government, and, on the other hand, it has injured the poorest sections of the people and those who are least able to protect themselves.
The Taoiseach: I do not like to interrupt the Deputy, but perhaps I might be permitted to intervene. I have been at pains to try to see how the publication of the facts in the case of petrol would have helped, but I cannot see how it would have done so. That is, the supply position in regard to petrol, the amount that is coming in or that is not coming in.
General Mulcahy: I would ask the Taoiseach to look at the quantities of petrol that came in last year and the year before, and compare them with the quantities that came in in the year 1938, and I would ask him how, if there was public knowledge of these facts, the Government could panic itself into the situation which it went into on  Christmas Eve. I say that it could not, and I say that the sooner the Taoiseach and the Minister for Supplies tell us definitely what the petrol situation is now, the sooner they will make the best out of their supplies of petrol and the better it will be for the economic life of the country here.
General Mulcahy: I challenge the Taoiseach on that point: that there could not have been in this country the panic with regard to petrol on the 24th December last if the monthly statistics with regard to petrol had been published in 1939 and 1940. I challenge him, too, on the point that the sooner there is publication of what are the facts with regard to petrol to-day, the sooner such supplies as we are getting will be put to proper economic use. I say also that many people are being injured economically, and the country is being injured economically also, because such petrol as we have is not being distributed upon sound lines. However, I make the case with regard to supplies because, as a result of hiding and secrecy with regard to supplies, there has been confusion and economic loss to the country. I make the point that, at the present stage of our problems and at the present stage of the Government's appreciation of them and their action regarding them, you cannot take from the arena of public discussion any aspect of our economic affairs. Men and women in the past have given their lives, their money, their resources, have given tithes from their very poverty, to upholster seats of representation and authority in this House. Seventeen of those seats are filled by members of the Government. There are 121 left. What was the purpose of men and women struggling in the past to put these 121 seats here if their occupants, in times of difficulty and times of crisis, were to relinquish their responsibility and to hand over, either  to a small section of themselves in private, or to anybody outside, the discussion of these things that are vital to the whole interests of our people? I appeal to members of the Labour Party and I appeal particularly to the members who sit behind the Government Front Bench that they should examine themselves as to what their functions and their responsibilities here are and whether, under present circumstances, they can afford simply to sit and wait and see, and to let us pass from one week to another, increasing our problems and increasing the difficulty of remedying them, without their stating their minds here as to what they think the position is with regard to their own constituents, with regard to the facts of their lives at the present time and the tendency of those facts and as to what should be done to protect them, in so far as the Government or co-operation among individuals can protect them from the unfortunate things that are happening economically, politically and socially at the present time as a result of war emergency in Europe.
We cannot hope to deal with the problems that the emergency has brought to this country, unless we mingle our voices here for the purpose of interpreting the facts, unless we mingle our counsels here for the purpose of deciding what should be done, and advise the Government, with all the wisdom and all the experience and knowledge possessed by the grouped members of the House, as to what should be done. We cannot inspire the people throughout the country, who have to do the work, who have to cooperate, and who have to understand what is being done from the Government side for them, or get them to organise their energy and their strength, until they see that their representatives in the national institutions are shouldering their responsibilities, and speaking their minds, and doing the work which can only be done for the country here, that is, the interpretation of the situation and the planning of the broad lines upon which solution is to be found, and the proper instruction of the Government in dealing with it.
 There is a grave crisis, and it would be much more in keeping with what we say of ourselves as being so much a democratic State, if the Minister for Supplies would address himself on the subject of the gravity of the situation to this House. There is no one on whom a greater responsibility rests at the present moment for addressing this House on that subject, because it is particularly in his Department, or from his Department, that some of our more urgent problems have arisen. There is a grave crisis, and what is the Government's attitude, both as expressed by Ministers and by their critics? That the greater part of the problem arises out of the fact that nobody listens to Ministers. “Long before the outbreak of this war, and almost every week since, practically every member of the Government tried to waken the people up to the gravity of the time.” That is the Party Press comment on the 10th March.
So much did we realise the gravity of the economic position which the world war was going to bring to this country that, as early as September, 1939, when we saw the Government, without previous consultation with us, concentrating on mobilising the Army to deal with the defence aspect of things, we thought it wise and urgent to make representations to the Government that we thought the economic side of things was the matter of real urgency, and we asked them to show, in respect of agricultural production, drive and energy instead of in the mobilisation of the Army. It was our concern then that this country was likely to run into financial difficulties, that we were likely to have serious unemployment, that a very considerable amount of distress of one kind or another would have to be relieved, that in the development of the war, circumstances were likely to arise which, post-war, might affect our agricultural production, that there should be special attention paid to our agricultural production and to the relations between ourselves and Great Britain in respect of that, that the shortage that was likely to arise in connection with raw materials should be looked  after and that waste and disorganisation in our administrative machine, were to be avoided as far as possible. We considered that all these things should be avoided, but that the economic problems that were going to arise in this country were the problems that were most serious. In comparison with the steps that were being taken to organise defence in September, 1939, there was no evidence forthcoming that agricultural production at that particular time was getting the attention it required.
There is, on the part of Deputies, a certain amount of natural hesitancy to carry criticism to such an extent that it will show up the weaknesses in the Government. In fact, it can be said, in the time that has intervened, that our criticism has been rather too temperate. Where there has been criticism of the Government, they reacted against it like spoiled or bad-tempered children who threaten to break something if they do not get their own sweet irresponsible way. Responsible members of the Opposition have tempered their criticism rather than disclose that particular tendency or type of weakness in the Government.
General Mulcahy: We will leave it to the Minister to figure that out, but I ask him to consider whether there is any truth in the assertion that, when criticised, Ministers, instead of welcoming criticism from the House that they were able to answer, or to show that they were in the right, or if it was of assistance to them, tried to hide out a weak situation by a kind of bad-tempered reception of any criticism. If the situation is as serious as the Minister for Supplies now thinks, does he not agree that it is the responsibility of a Deputy to speak his mind, so that the position would be understood, so that his advice could be listened to, and the country informed both with regard to what Deputies think and advise, and the Government strengthened or pushed to do what was the right thing. Then we cannot consider  any aspect of our economic circumstances behind closed doors. We asked —what is the situation? The Minister for Industry and Commerce stated that there was an increase of 353,000 acres in agriculture in 1940 as compared with 1939, that about 2,800 additional paid agricultural workers were employed, and about 10,000 additional members of farmers' families, so that it took the production of 625 additional acres in 1940 to put one permanent additional agricultural labourer and four temporary labourers back to work.
General Mulcahy: I mentioned them. I speak now of agriculture as a possible absorbent of unemployed who have to be paid. The point I want to make is that increased agricultural production does not seem to be going to absorb many of the unemployed people that remain to be absorbed at present. The Minister for Industry and Commerce indicated in a speech that he made elsewhere that there were at present 20,000 additional unemployed persons in the country. His figures indicated to-day that the number of persons employed in the year 1940, compared with 1939, and liable to pay national health insurance stamps, was down by what was equivalent to 11,000 every week for the whole year. We have pointed out that instead of what was normal some years ago—an increase of 11,000 persons who paid into national health insurance— as a result of the economics we have been going through in recent years that increase was brought to a standstill since 1937. The Minister's figures to-day disclosed that employment for the national health insurance year has fallen to the extent of 11,000 persons who were employed full-time for the whole year, and the unemployment insurance fund had been affected by a fall of 6,000. I admit that the 6,000 are also included in the 11,000. I am talking about full-time employment of people in the whole year by which unemployment insurance was affected in 1940. With 20,000 additional people to be found employment, and with  agriculture showing that it is not going to absorb many of the people that it was thought it would absorb, showing that it is easier to put men off the land than to bring them back to it, we are faced with the unemployment situation indicated by Deputy Norton. It is a situation about which, I understand, the Minister for Finance communicated with some local bodies in respect of the coming year, asking them to bear in mind, when striking rates, that there will be additional persons, running into tens of thousands, to be looked after and financed either by way of work or relief.
That is the main outline of the situation. There is also the additional question of supplies of raw materials running out, with some of our industries shutting down, and others struggling to keep open. We do not know how others may be affected. The Government must be as fully aware of these things as any Deputy. They ought to be more fully aware, but never have they outlined in any way what principles they are going to apply when dealing with the situation. We are now on the eve of a discussion of the Vote on Account and the Central Fund, and our spending for next year, but we have not been informed what is going to be done. We are within a month or two of discussing what we are going to spend, where the money is to come from or how it is to be spent. I say that certain things will have to be done. There must be an extension of unemployment assistance in the case of families. We are soon going to celebrate the 25th anniversary of 1916.
“In this supreme hour the Irish nation by its valour and discipline and the readiness of its children to sacrifice themselves in the common good proved itself worthy of the august destiny to which it is called.”
That is the final sentence in the 1916 Declaration. Somehow it strikes me to-day as suggesting that we ought to ask ourselves in the first place whether this is an hour less supreme than Easter Sunday, 1916, and whether we have the same conceit of our august destiny to-day as had the men of 1916. I may return to that but, I refer to it  now because Pearse, writing in From a Hermitage, in 1913, said:—
“It is further known that a pound a week is sufficient to sustain a Dublin family in honest hunger. I would ask those who know that a man can live and house, feed and clothe a large family on a pound per week to try the experiment for themselves. I am nothing so new-fangled as a socialist or syndicalist. I am old-fashioned enough to be both a Catholic and a Nationalist. If the inhabitants collect in the streets to discuss these matters to-day, the police baton them. Before God I believe the root of the matter lies in foreign domination.”
The cost-of-living figure was 100 when Pearse was writing these words. The cost of living in November—the last period for which we have a figure —was 214. The cost to a family in November, 1940, was more than twice the amount it was when Pearse was writing about the inadequacy of £1 per week. Since November, 1940, the price of a bag of coal has gone up by 1/11. Other things have gone up in different ways. The Minister for Industry and Commerce protests that the tea used by the working-classes of Dublin is paid for at the rate of 2/- per lb. There must be cobwebs on his Departmental file. But there are no cobwebs on the shillings which are circulating in some of the poorer parts of the city to-day. No tea can be got in the City of Dublin at 2/- per lb., so that the allowance of £1 per week would come in for a lot more scathing criticism from Pearse to-day than it did in 1915. Some aspects of that may be explained by the Minister for Supplies or the Taoiseach as resulting from foreign domination, but it is for us to deal with all the resources we have in our own hands. If there is nothing else for some families but unemployment assistance, then I suggest that we do not celebrate the 25th anniversary of Easter week without considering to what extent a man and his wife and their six, seven or eight children, can maintain themselves in the City of Dublin on 23/- a week. That is one thing which it seems imperative we  should do. I mention it in this debate because I am touching upon things which I consider of importance.
There must be an extension of unemployment assistance to women in some of the urban centres, at any rate. Women in the City of Dublin are being denied unemployment assistance and assistance of any kind. It is utterly at variance with the spirit of the House, as revealed in the Unemployment Assistance Act, that circumstances should be what they are at present. It should not be necessary in any case for a person receiving unemployment assistance to have to go to the poor law authorities to receive a small additional amount. Administrative arrangements should be made so that people in receipt of unemployment assistance should not have, because of its inadequacy, to go down to Balfe Street or the Dublin Union to persuade the authorities there to give them additional assistance. In unemployment assistance there is ground which should be surveyed. Our employment exchanges are not functioning as employment exchanges, nor is there any kind of critical review of the men and women who go there to see how their services could be used. The result is that the men, particularly, are tending to slip out of the country by the hundred and to give service, in employment or some other way, in Great Britain or the northern counties. Part of the trouble at the labour exchanges at the present time arises from rumours that large numbers of men are required for employment in Great Britain. There is no plan in giving out unemployment assistance in a general way except that of assisting immediately people who must be assisted and who cannot be assisted in any other way. We want some kind of review so as to see how the services of these people can be used. I was hauled up by the Chair when discussing the Taoiseach's Estimate, for dealing with spare material and financial subsidies. I suggested that, as a specialised body was being set up to review the materials available, another specialised body should be set up to review the human material gathering around the labour exchanges. As a start, the  material going before the Court of Referees and being turned down as not looking for work might be considered. If anything is to be of use to us it ought to be our men and women, and surely the Government, with all their protestations, are not going to fall back on the theory that they can afford to get rid of men and women while the stress is upon us. To do so might only exaggerate and increase the trouble.
There will, no doubt, be public employment, which we have not yet heard about except in a casual way. We take it that a certain amount of additional employment will be provided by the Minister for Local Government and the Minister for Finance but this House has yet to hear of the schemes in contemplation. The House ought to be put in a position to criticise the proposals and to make suggestions as to the best way in which a return for the money expended in giving employment might be obtained. It may be that we shall have to run into some scheme of subsidised employment. That is a separate problem entirely. In the circumstances described by the Minister for Supplies and in the circumstances obtaining at the employment exchanges, no effort should be spared to prevent boys and girls who would ordinarily leave school this year from drifting out and becoming part of the existing problem. I suggest that, for the purpose of dealing with the present situation and having the future in mind, our young people in urban districts should have their school life extended straight away. Here we are closing down training colleges and preparatory colleges while we have a certain number of teachers unemployed.
There are classes of boys and girls in the City of Dublin in which there are 70 pupils to a teacher. We expect children to go through the primary schools in that particular way, with, you might say, the lack of education, the lack of discipline and the lack of any kind of respect for institutions which must inevitably go with that kind of thing, leaving these young people to find themselves in the streets without any kind of employment, and drifting down towards the labour exchanges.  Not only from the point of view of the present, but from the point of view of the future, in connection with our educational establishments and primary and technical schools there is to-day an opportunity for a plan, and an opportunity that will give, perhaps, a chance of re-opening some educational institutions which have been closed. If we are to come through the present emergency with a large number of our educational institutions closed, instead of a large number of them being kept open, even unnecessarily, in order to prepare and train men and women to deal with the education of this country, then we will never rise from the circumstances in which we will find ourselves after this emergency, because it is only by education, by filtering into our life better-educated and better-disciplined people from the schools that we will make anything of the future. Therefore, I would ask the Government, if they have any plan in connection with our youth and their education which will segregate them from the problem that exists and may definitely increase, and, at the same time, will strengthen the roots of our national mind and our national education and put us in a better position to deal with the situation that will confront us in the future.
As I say, the suggestion that we are to have a commemoration of 1916 this year brings us back at least to the last sentence of the declaration made then, that in this supreme hour something is expected of our people. This is, in my opinion, a much more supreme hour for our people than 1916 was. We look at the various countries which have got torn up and tangled up in the war and we see that in most of them, where there have been gigantic failures on the part of their statesmen during the last ten or 20 years, they are able to forget their failures and to rally themselves to face their present circumstances.
In face of very definite aggressive facts they are able to find the strength to face difficulties much greater than face us here. We are not subject to the pressure of those facts like other countries. If we are to have a certain feeling of Christian responsibility both  in respect to the use of our own talents and energies, and in respect to the responsibility for being our brother's keeper, we ought to be able to exert here a pressure that would enable us to rise to the present situation in the way in which other countries are rising to theirs.
If we look at Great Britain, we find that Great Britain is spending at present £10,500,000 per day on the war, and £1,750,000 on ordinary Government services, and is likely to be spending that for many a day. It has a future to face in which its people will have to live. We do catch from the people who are spending that amount of money, I might say, a heroic outlook, not only on their present difficulties which they are facing up to, but on the future, which we might very well look into and see if we cannot catch up some of the vision and hope of people in greater difficulties than ours, and if we cannot realise that the problems they have to face after the war will have to be faced by us earlier. If we throw ourselves into facing up to that situation, using our resources and energies here, we may have a situation in which we may be path-finders to them. By our work and achievements here, we may raise the hopes and stiffen the courage of many people in Europe who are in much more difficult circumstances than we are, and who also, if they are to achieve a position in which their people will be in any kind of peaceful or happy economic circumstances, have a much longer road to travel than we have.
If I might speak of Great Britain, which is the place nearest to us and which we know most about, it is realised there that the unemployment that took place after the last war and persisted was a different kind of thing from the unemployment that took place before, that if a fraction of the money now being spent on war was spent about 1930 in dealing with the unemployment situation there, and if a fraction of the thought and the planning devoted to war was spent on employment, there would be better housing, better education, and more leisure for a very large number of people in Great  Britain to-day; that they might, indeed, have avoided war, as many other countries in Europe might have avoided war, if, instead of planning and thinking on war lines, they put their effort and resources into planning and building for the people who were their responsibility. It is realised that there are two scourges which have to be got rid of—war and unemployment; that unemployment is now as definite a thing, or was even before the present war as definite a thing in the world as the scourge of war was, and that it has to be tackled with all the energy and spirit required for a war.
Every country in Europe will have to face that question. The present circumstances are entirely new for us as well as for them, but the circumstances are different. We have not yet got any serious or mortal blow from war; we may, please God, be spared it. We have certain resources, and the question for us is to realise that there is serious distress and a serious unemployment problem that is likely to continue as long as this emergency lasts. It is likely to continue after the war, and, however it will be done, the question of unemployment has to be faced, so that we will not be under the stigma of Pearse that, with full control over our own resources, we are leaving a man and his wife and six or seven children to exist on what is, when you take the cost of living into consideration, half the figure that he scorned and spat upon in 1913.
There are little ways in which the Ministry suggest, from time to time, that our troubles here are not our own. I think that a serious examination of some of the information that is being withheld, and a serious sitting down over whatever difficulties we have in regard to supplies, ought to show Ministers that it is inevitable we will be short of supplies, and that the difficulties which we labour under, and will continue to labour under, are such that we cannot get out of them except by our own labour and exertions. We should be given the chance of facing up to that situation. It does not help to say that other people are squeezing us as regards supplies. I do not think a case can be made for that. I would  plead with Ministers that we should face up to present circumstances as if they were inevitable, and that we ought to bring all our brains and good will, both in this House and with people outside, to bear on the solution of our difficulties. What I particularly want to ask the Government is this: to treat the House in a different way from that in which it has been treating it so as to help it to discuss these problems. If the Government have any plans they should not be hanging back about them. They should let us know what the plans are because there is a kind of blight, wherever it comes from, of incompetency over the whole situation. In connection with the defence situation, all kinds of voluntary organisations have come into existence. I venture to say there is not a single one of them in which there is not disillusion and dissatisfaction. That, I think, will continue until there is a definite Government lead on all national matters. You cannot have a satisfactory policy in connection with either the Defence Department or any aspect of the economic situation in the country unless it is felt through the country that you have here a vigorous Parliament, controlling the Executive, informing the Executive and satisfied that the Executive is standing up to its job and doing its work.
In a short time we shall be recalling the 26th anniversary of 1916. What are we to recall about it, if not that in that supreme hour men of leadership, men of action and men of courage came forward and saw circumstances in which they could bridge the gaps that divided men in different walks of life, men of different ages and men with different upbringings: that Pearse could join hands with Connolly, that Ceannt and Plunkett could join hands with Tom Clarke, that MacDonagh could join hands with Seán MacDermott. There is to-day as supreme an hour, but are we getting the leadership in this hour that was given by the men in 1916, with less resources, less hope, and less encouragement from those around them? If we are simply to go back to 1916 and read the half misrepresented and half-faded page of history, and sentimentalise over it at a  time when, perhaps, fiery pens in Europe are even writing the very history of this country, then we might as well forget 1916. If it is going to be of any use to us, it must be to tell us that in a supreme hour it is the Irish tradition that leaders will come forward, openly, generously and vigorously: that they will face the circumstances of that time and hold out a helping hand to anybody whom they can help. The last thing that leadership in the traditional spirit, as we know it, would tolerate or accept is that Irish representatives in an Irish Parliament, founded securely by their efforts and by the efforts of those who went before them, should in a time of crisis sit down and let week pass week and month pass month, each adding its own problems and making the whole situation much more difficult to be tackled.
There is no case for the setting up of an economic council at the present time. Deputy Norton may have some idea of what an economic council might do in other countries, but here an economic council could, at the present time, do nothing except hide facts from the people. The people know that it would take responsibilities from the members of this House which they must shoulder. They know, too, that there is one group in this House that ought to be foremost in shouldering those responsibilities because it, more than any other, could make a valuable contribution in the spirit in which it ought to be given at the present time. I refer to the members of the House who sit behind the Fianna Fáil Front Bench. That group has the biggest contribution of all to make in the present situation, by pooling its mind and counsel in discussion in this House. Those comprising that group are not to think that their doing so will either undermine the Government or destroy the country.
What could undermine the Government or destroy the country is that this House would shut its mouth and fade out. I suggest to those members that, in a moment like this, if they have any sense of the august destiny of this country they have a bigger contribution to make than simply to file silently into the division lobby. We cannot  energise our people, cannot direct their efforts in such a way as to assist them to deal with the problems that face them either in the workshop or in the home, except we show them that we have here an Irish Parliament taking an intelligent interest both in their circumstances and in their lives, that we are prepared to help them by our advice as to the road they should travel, and the control we have over the resources of the country. We must show them that our resources are being used in such a way as to keep this nation alive, vigorous and hopeful during the present situation. If we fail to solve our problems, and if we cannot show that our people are being maintained in circumstances of fair economic well-being, with no real distress amongst them, then God help the people of Europe.
Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. MacEntee): I should like to approach this debate in the spirit in which Deputy Mulcahy has approached it, but I feel that I should perhaps remind the House of the terms of the original motion. The motion is:
That in view of the dislocation of Industry and consequent increase in unemployment due to the emergency situation, the Dáil requests the Government forthwith to set up an Economic Council to plan measures to deal with the situation.
This motion and the amendment, which proposes to delete all reference to an economic council, raise two separate and distinct issues, which should not be confused or entangled with each other, and indeed it would be of great advantage if we were discussing them separately. I take it from Deputy Mulcahy's speech that he rejects in toto the main purpose of the motion, which is to establish an economic council, but I think it would have been of some advantage if he had stated more explicitly the reasons which compel him—as I think all thinking men must be compelled—to take up that attitude. I should like, therefore, before coming to the amendment, to address myself, first of all, to the motion.
 Deputy Norton has based his case for the establishment of an economic council upon the assumption that there exists a grave and widespread dislocation of industry, and a consequent increase in unemployment due to the emergency situation. I am going to begin by questioning that assumption, but I wish to make it clear that the Government's attitude in that regard should not be misunderstood. I am sure that, in view of the grave and serious situation with which this country may be confronted in perhaps some months' time, it will not be wilfully and deliberately misrepresented. We do not contend by any means that all is well either in regard to industry or in regard to employment. How could it be well, in view of the general dislocation and universal hardship which the present war has occasioned in every country in Europe? Neither do we suggest that in some industries changes for the worse have not occurred since last year. That would be demonstrably wrong. In certain occupations, the construction and repair of motor vehicles, for instance, and in the cotton industry, the position so far as production and workers seeking employment are concerned is definitely worse than it was 12 months ago. On the other hand, in other industries, in agriculture for instance and in the general building and construction industry, the present position as regards men registered as seeking employment is very much better, and, since we are dealing with the general situation, it is to the aggregate, to the algebraical sum of the better and the worse, that we must look.
Mr. MacEntee: I am just coming to that. I am approaching and I have  approached this problem with a view to ascertaining, with the means which are at my disposal, what are the real facts. If they are unpleasant, if they are unpalatable, even if they were discreditable to this Government, I would feel it my duty to put them to the House and to the country. Now, what are the facts in relation to those prime issues of industrial dislocation and grave unemployment? Dealing with the latter issue first, so far as I can ascertain them, here they are. Deputy Norton has stated that there has been a substantial exodus of workers from this country to Great Britain and elsewhere. Deputy Mulcahy appears to be under that impression also. Well, that impression is not confirmed, but is refuted, by the statistical investigation which has been undertaken by our Department of Statistics. On the contrary, it shows that, so far from there having been a general exodus from this country, no less than 33,000 additional people net have come into it since August, 1939; in addition, there has been a natural increase in the population of 20,000 souls, and the calculation which has been put to me as a reasonable one—not the calculation which I make myself, but the calculation which has been put to me as a reasonable one —is that there were 20,000 more people available for employment in this country at the end of December last than there were in August, 1939. Now, as I say, all of us, looking at our own immediate narrow circle, reasoning from the particular to the general, hearing of one person or another person leaving this country to seek employment, may have come to the conclusion that that has been the general trend, but here, so far as the facts can be ascertained by a statistical examination, is the net truth—that, so far from people having left this country, on the balance 33,000 more people net have come into it, and that, with the natural increase in the population, with the natural increase in the age groups of the population, there were and have been up to the present about 20,000 more people available for employment in this country.
Mr. MacEntee: They are not exact figures, but they are subject to reasonable check, and they are given to me as figures which do not misrepresent the position. There is nobody going to say that, in a census of this sort, you are exact to the last decimal place or to the last whole number, but it is put to me by men who look at it in a purely scientific way, with no partisan object to serve, but with a desire simply to represent the existing picture as accurately as possible, that on the balance there has been a net inward movement into this country of not less than 33,000 persons and that as a result of these and other circumstances there were 20,000 more people in this country available for employment than there were in August, 1939. Now, if there were 20,000 additional people available for employment, and if they had not got employment somewhere, in one occupation or another, whatever it might be, whether it be in the Army or in some other occupation, then that fact would be reflected in an increase in the live register of those seeking employment.
Mr. MacEntee: Not if they got the employment. If they did not get the employment, the fact that they were  looking for it would be reflected in the live register. The actual position in regard to the live register is this. The actual number of men on it, registered as seeking employment at the commencement of the present month, was 13,569 less than at the corresponding date of last year and was no less than 4,652 lower than on the corresponding date in 1939. I am quite prepared to admit that to a large extent these relative favourable figures are ascribable to the considerable increase which has taken place in our Defence Forces. To some extent, also, the position has been eased by an increase of 2,400 in the numbers engaged on employment schemes and, no doubt, too, part of the decrease has been occasioned by the operation of employment schemes under the Turf Development Board at Clonsast and in the Construction Corps. But, making every allowance for these factors, the reality still remains that, even with an addition of 20,000 to our working population, there are over 13,000 fewer men claiming subsistence to-day from the State than was the case this time last year.
In general, therefore, the position in regard to male employment is not merely better, but very much better than it was in March last, or even in March, 1939. Upon that ground, therefore, I am submitting to the House that there is no case for the motion. If the case for an economic council rests on the statement that unemployment is more widespread than it was last year, or in 1939, then there is no case for the motion because, in fact, the number of men registered as seeking employment in this country is 13,569 fewer than was the case last year and is 4,652 fewer than in March of 1939.
Mr. MacEntee: If the Deputy, who professes always to be concerned about the unemployed, had really studied this question, he would know that a man would not have to have stamps in order to receive unemployment assistance.
Now, let me consider the other issue raised by the motion, the assumption that there exists general industrial dislocation of such a type as might be cured or obviated by an economic council. I think, on the information I have at my disposal, that at the present moment there is no real ground for that assumption. Most industrial concerns in this country are producing according to their normal routine; one or two of them may be even working to capacity. It is true that some undertakings may be seriously affected by the restriction in the supply of petrol or of other materials, such as cotton yarns; but if that be the case, I think that Deputy Norton, who has based his argument for this economic council upon an assumed general industrial dislocation, should at least have told  us in what way an economic council could have prevented either the shortage of petrol or of cotton yarns. The Deputy has not shown us that, and I suggest that a council such as he has outlined in a somewhat vague and shadowy manner would be worse than useless in dealing with that fundamental problem.
We did not hear a great deal about the composition of this council from Deputy Norton and, therefore, we have to try to see for ourselves what his ideas in the matter might be. I suppose he would have on it some businessmen and perhaps some engineers. I do not know whether trade unionists would have a seat on it, but perhaps he would have an economist or, if Deputy Davin would permit it, a banker.
Mr. MacEntee: He would also have, perhaps, a doctrinaire intellectual or two. On this question of obviating general industrial dislocation due to a shortage of supplies, what more could such a body do to secure supplies of yarns for the cotton industry than has been done by the active, able and efficiently-conducted organisation of cotton manufacturers which we have in this country? If the organised cotton manufacturers could not make themselves secure in regard to supplies of cotton yarns, who could do the job for them? I think we will find most people sceptical as to the ability of the association of diverging and, perhaps, conflicting interests such as Deputy Norton has suggested, at any rate to tackle the job and do it for them. What I have said in relation to the problem of cotton yarns applies likewise to the question of petrol and coal and any one of the other things of which there is or there is likely to be a shortage.
Deputy Norton was very critical about the wheat situation. He told us that the Minister for Agriculture and the Government ought to have taken steps, not merely in December, but in October of last year, and even earlier. Has it ever occurred to Deputy Norton that the Government and the Minister for Agriculture had to take steps  in regard to this wheat growing problem not merely in December of last year, not merely in October of last year, but when we took office in March, 1932, almost ten years ago? Could an economic council have done any more in regard to the wheat supply than has been done by the Minister for Agriculture, carrying out the policy of the present Government in regard to wheat? Could this economic council, even if it had been able to increase the area of land put under wheat over ten years, have prevented the grain ships from being sunk? That is the question, and that is the root of this matter at present. If there is a shortage of wheat, it is not because the Government failed to take steps to ensure that supplies of wheat would be available for all our needs during the whole of the present year, but because, due to circumstances over which they have absolutely no control, those arrangements were upset.
I have asked the Deputy whether an economic council could have done any more to ensure that this country would be self-sufficient in regard to its wheat and bread supplies than was done over the past nine years—it will soon be ten years—by this Government and the present Minister for Agriculture. If an economic council had embarked on a wheat-growing campaign in 1932, would its policy have been any less strongly opposed than was that of the Minister for Agriculture?
Mr. MacEntee: Would there have been any less temptation on the part of certain interests to make political capital out of the fact that, because of our wheat growing policy, because of our attempts to make this country self-sufficient in regard to its daily bread, the cost of living was going to rise? These are the practical questions to which the Deputy ought to have addressed himself when recommending a motion of this sort to the House.
The Deputy has spoken of coal. Could an economic council have done more, or have done any better, than our organised coal importers, men who are familiar with every aspect of the trade, have done to insure us in regard to coal? Again, in relation to petrol,  could an economic council have done any more than the Minister for Supplies did——
Mr. MacEntee: ——when he tried to secure the erection of an oil refinery, and among other things to provide much greater storage for petrol? If an economic council had set out to establish that oil refinery, and to make us, at any rate, somewhat independent in regard to petrol, would that proposal have received the benediction of the political and other interests which opposed the Minister's proposals? Although Deputy Norton might wish us to assume otherwise, I think we may be safe in doubting it. Is it not clear that there is nothing an economic council could try to do by securing supplies to prevent the dislocation of industry that has not already been done, and, I think, better done by existing agencies? What justification, then, can there be for further confusing an already difficult situation by creating a body which, in relation to the fundamental question of supplies, will be of no practical utility?
Let us look at this question from another aspect. Deputy Norton, as I said, has been somewhat vague about the nature and constitution of the body he proposes to set up. According to his motion, it is to be an economic council, and it is to plan measures to deal with the situation. Firstly, I should have liked to have had from Deputy Norton a more precise definition of this economic council. It is very necessary, I think, that we should have that, because, in fact, as perhaps I may be able to show later, what the Deputy proposes is an unconstitutional revolution. I suppose all revolutions must be unconstitutional——
Mr. MacEntee: ——except, as the Parliamentary Secretary reminds me, when they are successful. We are told that this body is to be an economic  council and that it is to plan measures to deal with the situation and I have said that I should have liked to have had a more precise definition of this economic council. All of us, I suppose, know what a Cabinet is; all of us know what a Government is, and have some idea how they work here and elsewhere, but which of us knows anything about these economic councils? Deputy Norton tells us they have worked so satisfactorily—and I think his examples were perhaps a little unhappily chosen—in Belgium, France, Germany and Italy. So far as I know, the only country in which economic councils are now a fundamental part of the Constitution is Russia, and, if one may believe what one reads, membership of such a council would seem to be a stepping-stone to an untimely grave. Is that the idea the Deputy has in mind in suggesting that we should set up an economic council, because, apparently, notwithstanding everything which the Deputy says of them, notwithstanding all the good which the Deputy anticipates would flow from the establishment of an economic council in this country, in the country in which such councils have been tried, in which they are fundamental organisms of the State, the only thing that will get them to work is the death penalty.
Mr. MacEntee: While we might be a little doubtful and somewhat ignorant as to what the economic council is, the Deputy has left us in no doubt as to what this economic council is to do. It is to plan measures to deal with the situation. What sort of plans is this economic council going to make? Will it make engineering plans, detailed working drawings for constructional works of some kind or another, such as are made by portion of the staff of the Office of Public Works? Or is this council to confine itself to social plans, plans to set up machinery for the relief of hardship and distress, such as have been evolved from time to time in the Government Departments charged with such matters and such as are being constantly reviewed and revised by these Departments in the light of the changing needs of the times? Or will the council concern itself with financial plans—plans for raising money, plans for controlling the expenditure of that money so as to ensure that it is properly utilised for the purposes for which the community provides it, plans, in fact, such as those upon which the Minister for Finance is continuously engaged from one year's end to another? Or will the economic council prepare all three sorts of plans—social plans, engineering plans, financial plans—as it must, if it is to plan measures to deal with the situation? And if it does so concern itself in this comprehensive way with practically every activity of normal everyday life, would Deputy Norton, or Deputy Davin, who is going to have a chance of speaking later, tell us what functions will be left to the constitutional Government of this country?
Mr. MacEntee: How different is that from the Government? There happen to be ten members of the Government who are holding 12 portfolios. Is this council to consist of ten, 150 or 350 members? Surely on that question we ought to have a little more light from the Deputy who proposed the motion? Whether it is going to consist of ten, 150 or 350 members, the question will arise as to what sort of persons are going to sit on this council. Of course, I agree that if we are going to have a small council, we must be more selective in our choice but, in any event, the question will arise: what type of person are we going to have on it? Would Deputy Norton or Deputy Davin put businessmen on the council? If they would, will they tell us from what particular businesses these members of the council should be drawn? Would Deputy Norton put railwaymen on the council? Would we have brewers, woollen manufacturers or glass bottlemakers on it? Would he have farmers, and if so, will they be sheep farmers, dairy farmers or graziers?
Mr. MacEntee: It is a serious attempt to deal with it because here we have a phrase which is very vague flung into the arena of politics and we want to see what is behind it. If you take this motion seriously as I am taking it seriously——
Mr. MacEntee: —— the moment you sit down to consider it, these are questions that are going to arise. I have asked will you have business men or farmers, members of this council? If you are going to have farmers, will membership of the Dáil debar them from sitting on the economic council? If it does, are you then to go out into the highways and byways of the country looking for a farmer who takes no part in politics and who, if you do succeed in finding him, will tell you that he has no time to engage in public affairs? Will you put such a one on the council whether he wills it or not? These are all questions of importance, even if Deputy Morrissey does not believe it, and these are the questions that will have to be solved if the House is so misguided as to accept this motion.
Then the question will arise, if you are going to be selective in regard to your economic council, which occupations are we not to have represented on it? To which trade or profession will Deputy Norton turn round and say: “Your members are not fit to have a hand in this great planning business?” Will he say that the glass bottle manufacturers will make plans for the woollen manufacturers because the woollen manufacturers are incapable of planning for themselves, or will he solemnly decide that the brewers are to do a similar service for the glass bottle manufacturers? Or shall we have the railwaymen planning for the brewers and the woollen manufacturers, or, reverse the order, and have the brewers and the woollen manufacturers planning for the railwaymen? Or, instead of having brewers or railway men, per se on this council, will it be composed  of jacks-of-all-trades who are notoriously masters of none? I want to know is that what the Deputy proposes to do? I am asking the Deputy to clarify our minds in regard to these matters.
We are asked to set up an economic council and, naturally, one question that will arise is, are you going to put economists on this council? If you are, are they going to be followers of this professor or that professor? Will they be followers of Professor Keynes, Professor Robins, Professor Hayek, or Major Douglas? Perhaps in order that this economic council should be truly representative of economic thought, we ought to put upon it a follower of every professor of economics and a representative of every school of economic thought. If so, does Deputy Norton or Deputy Davin think that the cauldron of economic disputation will make confusion less confounded for the humble people of this country, for whom this authority is going to plan? Or, if we decide that we are not going to have room on the council for disputation, shall we put just one economist on it, and if so, whom, and in what manner are we going to select that infallible guide? I suppose that tradesmen and labourers would feel entitled to a place on the council, but which particular trades are to be denied representation? After all, we cannot give a seat to every trade. Even the Trade Union Congress cannot do that in relation to its own domestic governance. Surely, these are all matters which those responsible for this motion must have taken into consideration, and in respect to which they should have formulated precise proposals. Apparently, they did not, because they could not, because their demand for an economic council is, in my view, only a meaningless phrase.
The fundamental issues involved in the selection of an economic council, however it be chosen, cannot be stressed too strongly. So far as I can see, and so far as I have been able to gather from anything which Deputy Norton has said, from the tasks with which he proposed to entrust it—whether it was recognising that idleness is waste and that  it should provide work for the people or develop our agricultural resources— he was simply going to make it, in its functions, a duplication of existing government. If this council is to deal with the development—I think he said —of agriculture, surely there would have to be somebody on it entrusted with that particular task. If the council is to deal with the provision of moneys to finance the proposals which the Deputy contemplates, there would have to be somebody who would discharge the present functions of the Minister for Finance. Furthermore, the problem of supplies is fundamental in a crisis like the present, and possibly will be fundamental in the post-war situation. If that were the case, I suppose we should have on this council someone to deal with this particular problem and I assume that, to deal with it successfully, he would require to be invested with the same great and far-reaching powers as the Minister for Supplies. And we might go through every aspect of this problem and find that, in regard to each of them, we should require on the council an appointment parallel to virtually every Department of State.
There are other matters inherent in this issue of an economic council which should be brought out, simply to keep people from talking aimlessly and vaguely about it. We are told that the council is required to plan measures to deal with the situation which arises from a general dislocation of industry —a dislocation, bear in mind, of such a character that those who are actively engaged in industry themselves cannot effectively deal with it. If we are to set up a council to plan in this way, naturally the first thing we must ask ourselves is whether the council will be given also the responsibility for putting these plans into effect and, if so, we have then to ask ourselves what powers it will be given to that end. Will it be given arbitrary control over the whole business, property and rights of every citizen?
I believe we ought to get, perhaps, an explicit statement in regard to that aspect of the problem from Deputy Davin, who has seconded this motion, and who, I presume, proposes to speak  to it. I say that we ought to get an explicit statement in regard to that, because Deputy Norton said that one thing which this economic council should not do was to have regard to any hoary traditions. It is a hoary tradition, of course, in this country, that our citizens have control over their business and property. That is recognised by law. They also have control over their everyday lives. Does Deputy Norton propose that this economic council, disregarding all hoary traditions, should be given power, say, to possess itself of stocks and property which far-sighted and prudent concerns may have laid in for themselves? Will it, again disregarding all hoary traditions, have power to distribute those stocks and property amongst other concerns which have not exercised the same foresight?
Mr. MacEntee: Perhaps the Government, in some respects, has done that, but, if so, the Government is responsible here to the Dáil and to the people. If the economic council is to be given power to do what the Government has done already, perhaps somebody might say at once what is the use of keeping the Government established by the Constitution. I know that Deputy Norton is much more revolutionary than sometimes appears on the surface, but, leaving that issue aside, I ask this question. If this economic council is given power to take over the property of one group of individuals and distribute it to another group, disregarding all hoary traditions, to whom is that council to be responsible when it uses such powers? Is it to be responsible to the Government, to the Dáil, or to whom? Do Deputies believe that power of this kind is less likely to be abused by such a council than by the Government responsible to the Dáil? Again, in regard to this council that is to be bound by no hoary traditions, will it be empowered to decide that men are to be transferred from one occupation to another, and from one place of employment to another? Because that is a question which, elsewhere, has been  found to go to the root of all this question of economic planning: that not merely have you a right to use raw materials and inanimate things in a way which appears to some people, to the select few, to be best for the nation, but in these countries where they apply this idea of an economic council it is also implicit in the whole arrangement that they have likewise the power to transfer labour, to transfer flesh and blood, men and women, from one occupation to another and from one place to another.
Mr. Norton: Men are being forced through hunger to transfer in hundreds and in thousands into the British Army from this country at the moment, and you can see them going in hundreds on the trains to Belfast.
Mr. MacEntee: Wherever they are going—and whether or not they are going to join the British Army I do not know, and the Deputy does not know either—but wherever they are going, and whether it is to join the British Army or not, they are not going through hunger.
Mr. MacEntee: It is not true. However, let me get back to this one question, because, after all, Deputies of the Labour Party, who are advocating an economic council, at least ought to answer it? Is the economic council to be given this power? If Deputy Norton thinks that it is in the national interest that people should be transferred about in this way, is the council to be given that power, and if such transfers do take place, who shall decide what rights the transferred workers have? Will it be the economic council, or will it be the Legislature, and, if it is the council, who is to hold it to account should it decide wrongly or unjustly? If it is not to be given this power, if it is not to be given this power over men and materials, of what use is it to be? The moment we begin to examine questions like these, in my view, we recognise at once that if this economic council is to be an effectual instrument to deal with the situation  it must have powers which rival those of the duly constituted Government.
But here is another question. If the Government is to retain its constitutional responsibilities, the effectiveness of the economic council's plans will depend upon the view taken by the Government of their practicability. Supposing this view differs from the view of the economic council, will the Deputies who are advocating this institution tell us how that difficulty is to be resolved? Will the council be entitled to urge citizens to give effect to its plans, even when these have been turned down by the Government? And in that case, will the people be bound by law to obey the Government, or will they be free to follow and support the views of the economic council? In my view and in my opinion, an economic diarchy of the kind that is contemplated in this motion, if persisted in, might eventually lead to civil war.
Mr. MacEntee: There are other more practical aspects of this matter. Perhaps, we may have been dealing with it in its theoretical aspects, but there is this question that would have to be answered if this council is to be set up to do all the things that Deputy Norton has suggested. What is going to be its relation to the appropriate Government Departments? If it is going to function at all, every investigation it may undertake, and every plan it may conceive, will involve their views. Is this economic council to be entitled to butt in on the work of the Departments, to controvert or to counter the policy of the Ministers and of the Government, and to seek precedence for the information which it requires, or the examinations which it desires to have undertaken? Is this power to be exercisable by each and every member of the council at his own discretion, or may it only be exercised by the council as a corporate body after it has met in solemn conclave and decided which Department of State it is going to invade; or, if this is not to be the situation, if the economic council is not going to work through the Government  Departments, is it to have a staff of its own? Are we to build up, for instance, in order to deal with all the manifold problems of, say, agriculture, another staff which, in so far as the directive heads and principal officers are concerned, would be a mere duplication of the existing departmental organisation? Is that to be done, too, in relation to financial and economic matters? Are we to have a second Department of Finance, and, in relation to trade and industrial matters, a second Department of Industry and Commerce, and so on?
Mr. MacEntee: We are told very often that we have far too many people engaged in the public service. Of course it is serious. The Deputy's interjection shows that he has not thought this out. Is the economic council to have control over Departments of State if it wants work done, and if it is not to have control, and if it still wants the work to be done, is it to set up its own Departments? Let the Deputy answer that question.
Mr. MacEntee: We have the opportunity of discussing it now. We are very often told that we have far too many people engaged in the public service and drawing public money. We are going to double that number in the vain hope, as, I believe, it will be vain, that this new-fangled government or council—call it what you will—is going to handle these problems any more efficiently than an elective Government, with Parliamentary responsibility for them all, can do?
Mr. MacEntee: Well, if it is, the Deputy and the House have the remedy in their own hands. If they think that any other Government would handle the problem better than  the present Government is doing, then by all means use the remedy which you have. Turn out the Government. Turn it out, but do not try to turn it out by a side-wind and, for heaven's sake and for Ireland's sake, do not bedevil the whole situation by setting up an other and a rival instrument of government in this country which, as most people believe, has already twice as many governments as it can cope with.
Deputy Norton, in the course of his speech, when he referred to the countries which enjoyed the benefits of an economic council, seemed to think that an economic council is an instrument of democracy. Well, there is an authority equally eminent in regard to these constitutional questions — an advanced democratic thinker, a democratic thinker at least as advanced as Deputy Norton. I refer to Professor Laski, and here is what he has to say in regard to an economic council. He says, first of all:
“But the whole of this demand for an economic council is based upon an assumption which is not justifiable, the assumption that specialists have an esoteric body of truth in their possession the importance of which politicians fail to recognise. In fact (Professor Laski points out) there is no such body of esoteric truth, and the specialist who is insistent that Government needs the aid of ‘thought’ usually means that the politicians do not place upon the remedies the same importance as he attaches to them.”
“In fact” (I was saying that Professor Laski points out) “there is no such body of esoteric truth; and the specialist who is insistent that government needs the aid of ‘thought’ usually means that the politicians do not place upon the remedies the same importance as he attaches to them. But at the point where he makes this judgment, he, in fact, ceases to be a specialist; for he is then establishing a scheme of priority in value for ideas—a matter in which wisdom and not specialism is the test of validity. It is the essence of our parliamentary system to make the responsibility for such priority in value one that the Cabinet must take. Any alternative would destroy that system because it would ultimately place the responsibility for action outside the areas where it can be controlled by Parliament and the electorate.”——
“That road, ultimately, leads to dictatorship, however benevolent in purpose, for it rests upon the assumption that, whatever the popular will, it must accept the specialist's conclusion of what is good for it. It is a view, no doubt, capable of powerful defence; but, so far, it is contrary to the traditions upon which the governmental system of this country has been built.”
Mr. MacEntee: I have been dealing with the motion which proposes to set up an economic council. Every statement I have made since my opening remarks has been directed to that issue and to no other. I presume that if I had been irrelevant the Chair would have called my attention to that fact. I have devoted quite a lot of time to this motion, and to the proposal to establish an economic council. I presumed that as that was going to be the foundation of the debate we would have heard a great deal more about this economic council from the proposer of the motion than in fact we have.
 I would now, however, like to deal with one or two of the matters which were referred to by Deputy Norton in the course of his speech and which had, I think, very little relation, if I may say so, to the motion, perhaps rather more to the amendment. I am going, if I can, to deal with the amendment. The amendment asks the Government to “immediately reveal to the Dáil any plans already prepared by them to maintain employment”. It is difficult, I think—at least it was difficult when I was considering this amendment—to say what was exactly implicit in that phrasing, because we cannot prepare plans to maintain employment in this country without giving full consideration to the circumstances which occasion unemployment, and in this country at the moment such unusual unemployment as has arisen has arisen from a wholly abnormal circumstance—the interruption of certain essential supplies. This is a circumstance which, as Deputy Mulcahy fairly said, could not, I think, have been avoided by any measures which it was possible to foresee— perhaps he did not go as far as that— but at any rate, practicable for us in our circumstances to take. If this particular difficulty were removed, so far from there being exceptional unemployment in this country, the situation, from that point of view, as the figures which I have already given indicate, would be more satisfactory than it has been for a number of years past. Now our ability to maintain employment is governed and will be determined by our ability to maintain supplies.
Deputy Norton seems to think that there would be no difficulty whatever in that regard if it were not for the absence of an adequate mercantile marine. I wonder whether, in fact, that is Deputy Norton's view, whether the phrase “the absence of a mercantile marine”, which has a fine swinging ring about it—very much like that of an economic council—is just simply trotted out in order that the people may believe that it is the easiest thing in the world for us to have and to maintain such a marine service. A few days ago I pointed out that of the  few Irish ships on our register eight, or perhaps nine, have been lost. I also pointed out that that was since last July. Others under charter to us, bringing in grain and raw materials here, have also been lost, and others, the main portion of whose cargo was destined for our shores, have likewise gone down. In fact, there has been sunk, virtually since the middle of last year, an equivalent to more than half of any mercantile marine, adequate or otherwise, which under any reasonable circumstances we could hope to be able to maintain. Deputy Norton states that our present difficulties are due to the Government's failure to maintain an adequate mercantile marine. Has he adverted to these facts, or is he just content to ignore them, to disregard them when putting the issue to the public, to deceive the people as to the seriousness of the situation? How happy we should be if our present difficulties could be cured by the purchase of a few ships.
In ascribing our present situation to the lack of ships, Deputy Norton fully ignores the hard realities that underlie the whole problem, not merely that we want ships, but that we should want a navy—if we wanted to make certain of our supplies—sufficiently strong to keep the sea lanes open and free for the passage of such ships to our shores. Without a force of that kind ships, even if we could get cargoes, would not be likely to afford the relief to us that Deputy Norton believes to be possible. They would be in grave danger of passing either under the control of one belligerent or being destroyed by the other, as has happened to practically every neutral ship in Europe since this war started. Deputy Norton and the members of the Labour Party are aware of that fact. Nor is that all. You cannot keep ships at sea without coal, oil and servicing facilities, and in a time of war facilities of that kind— coaling stations and servicing stations —are under the control perhaps of one belligerent, who might be anxious to reserve them for his own use.
Then there is the question of crews. That is a big question. It raises issues involving human lives. Unfortunately, vital considerations of this character  are apt to be overlooked when the supply problem is discussed by serious politicians, or by serious members of this House, in terms of inanimate objects like ships.
Mr. MacEntee: It is all very well to discuss this problem in terms of inanimate things like ships, but we are apt to overlook the vital issues involved. The Government has to keep those in mind, and if we send our sailors on voyages to dangerous waters, there is a responsibility on us to afford them the maximum possible protection. If we are unable to give them this we cannot deny them the right to avail of such protection as may offer. But when ships and crews accept the protection of one belligerent they may incur the hostility of the other, with consequences of which we are only too familiar.
The Deputy need not think that our difficulties end there. If we had the ships, and if we were able to give them adequate protection in their comings and goings from these shores, there would still remain the question of getting cargoes for them. Our problem in regard to vessels and the maintenance of normal supplies, ultimately comes to this, that in order to safeguard fully the raw materials we  require, not merely do we want the ships and not merely do we want adequate protection for them, but we want an assurance that those who have at their disposal the supplies which we want, will be prepared to sell them to us in preference to another customer. The root of our difficulties in regard to such overseas supplies is that we have no such assurance.
Deputy Norton said that prior to the outbreak of war we could have converted our sterling into dollars. We have no assurance—and this is what makes this problem serious for us and for the country—that even dollars will buy materials which those who have them for disposal have destined for another purpose. The Government have been making every effort, through every channel and through every agency available to them, to secure supplies, but it cannot compel those who have supplies to give them to us if they desire to make other uses of them. Those are the hard facts, and there is no use in saying that an economic council is going to remove them. There is no use in the Deputy's saying that all our problems would be ended if we only had an adequate mercantile marine. All our troubles would be ended if we had peace instead of having war raging around us.
The Deputy and others like Deputy Hickey go on repeating this parrot cry, shutting their eyes to the fact that outside these shores there is a conflict raging whose chief battlefield is the sea, and that every ship that goes into the zone of that conflict goes into it at its peril. Outside that zone people can pick and choose their customers, according to their preference or desires. These are fundamental facts. These are the conditions which govern every plan and every policy of the Government in regard to the employment situation and the present economic position. That and nothing else. It is not going to be cured by the setting up of the body Deputy Norton refers to in the motion.
Leaving aside these difficulties, I should like the House to consider, in view of the request that we should put before the Dáil any plans prepared by  us to maintain employment what, in fact, we have done to safeguard the country against the present situation.
In this country we have lived through 18 months of war, and during the whole of that period employment in general has been well maintained, so that until quite recently the normal tenor of commercial and economic life was virtually undisturbed. During these 18 months this country has reaped the benefit of the long struggle we had to make wheat, beet and peat the staple products of our agriculture, and boots, clothes and cement the staple products of our manufactures. I have pointed out the difficulties which confront us in regard to supplies of raw material which, in the case of some industries, have to be procured from overseas. If on top of that we had to import as well a very large proportion of our food supplies, and of the things that we require to clothe and shelter us, then our position would be intolerable indeed. We may be thankful that, whatever may have been the case in the past, it is no longer the case to-day.
Take our bread supplies. When we first took office, this country was producing 3,840,000 cwts. of flour. Last year the total production was 6,784,000 cwts.—almost double the 1931 production. In the fundamental matter of wheat, the position is even more striking. In 1931, we produced only 418,000 cwts. of wheat. To-day, we are producing 6,257,000 cwts.—15 times more than was produced when we took office in 1932. Undoubtedly, if we are not careful, if we do not do everything possible to ensure that neither wheat nor flour is wasted, there may be a shortage of flour and bread in the period between July and September of this year. But think what our position might have been if the Government, since 1932, had been content to allow this country to continue to rely almost to the full extent of its bread requirements on imported wheat. The same thing is true with regard to bacon and hams. The same thing is also true with regard to other articles. We produced 52,000 dozen pairs of boots and shoes in 1931. In 1939, we produced  349,000 dozen pairs. This industry, because of the policy of my predecessor, is very largely self-supporting, as the tanning industry has been developed to an extent almost commensurate with that of our boot and shoe manufacturing requirements. We produced no cement in 1931 and we produced 256,000 tons in 1939. In 1940, we produced even more than that.
The amendment asks us to reveal immediately plans for the maintenance of employment. These figures represent plans not merely in contemplation, not merely being devised now, but in steady operation at the present moment, maintaining employment in essential industries and preventing the distress that the amendment adumbrates. The people are already reaping the benefits of the advance planning undertaken by this Government. I am not going to say that the programme in operation leaves nothing to be desired. But if there are weaknesses in it, then they are weaknesses which arose out of the conditions of the time, and weaknesses for which we, at any rate, cannot accept full responsibility.
While it is true that, in regard to a number of industries, employment has been maintained up to this, I certainly do not wish anybody to understand that I believe that normal employment is going to be maintained at the same level in future. Undoubtedly, if we cannot replenish stocks from overseas supplies, then existing stocks of raw materials are going to run out, and we shall have to deal with the position of those who were engaged in industries which were dependent upon such imported materials for their continuance. That is a most difficult problem. If men and women are thrown out of employment because their employers have been unable to secure the supplies which are necessary for the continued operation of their factories, one cannot propose to continue them in the same occupation. The question arises: in what other occupation can such workers be employed? It is not possible to take a tenter straight out of a cotton mill and to employ him as a navvy on a public health works. Neither can we do that with a pastry cook, a watch and clock maker, or a  saddler. That holds good for practically every skilled trade. An examination of this problem has shown that if, in the course of six or 12 months from now, 70,000 or 80,000 of those persons normally in continuous employment were to be thrown out of work by reason of shortage of raw materials, barely 10 per cent. of them would be capable of working upon constructional works. Nor would it be possible to employ a significant number of them upon alternative skilled work. All tradesmen are specialists. A carpenter cannot readily become an iron worker, nor a house painter a printer, nor a motor mechanic a tailor, nor an electrician a weaver.
Accordingly, where general unemployment arises from shortage of raw materials for the skilled trades, it is virtually impossible in most cases to provide employment for more than a small percentage of those engaged in such trades. Moreover, even where alternative employment can be provided, we must be careful to ensure that it will be of such a nature as to encroach as little as possible upon the stocks of plant and raw materials which are required for the maintenance of normal productive industry. In those circumstances, perhaps the best thing we could do would be to ration out such normal employment amongst operatives in every concern and stretch out the supplies available so that in every industry, over the period of crisis, there would be some activity which would continue to keep the skilled and semi-skilled workers actively associated with their normal occupations.
Mr. MacEntee: I was going to remark that this may mean that the output of industries operated in this way may have to be dealt with by way of a ration scheme amongst those who would normally take it. It may mean that production costs may be increased —perhaps very appreciably increased— and that the price problem may become acute. It may also mean that the earnings  of workers whose employment is thus rationed may have to be supplemented from public sources. The extent to which it may be possible to give this help, whether in money or kind; the organisation which will be necessary, in that event, to administer it and the alterations required to be made in the existing law, together with other aspects of this problem to which it is not necessary to refer, are, and have been, under active consideration.
Simultaneously, programmes of public works have been planned to provide, so far as possible, alternative employment for those who may be disemployed. We must bear in mind, however, that the possibilities in this regard are limited by three conditions: (1) the proportion of the disemployed who are physically fit for employment on public works schemes such as drainage, road-work and the like, will be small indeed; (2) the works must be of a kind which will make the minimum demand possible upon plant and materials required for normal work; (3) since the greatest proportion of such unemployment, due to shortage of supplies, as we may experience will arise in urban districts—and particularly in the larger urban centres— the works must be convenient to, or within easy reach of, such centres. Due to these limitations, I have no doubt that, when plans have been completed, the amount of alternative employment available will absorb only a small fraction of the disemployed, so that the greater part of the problem will remain to be dealt with by the Department of Local Government and Public Health and the Department of Industry and Commerce in conjunction with the regional commissioners who, with this and similar objectives in view, were appointed months ago to operate under the Minister for Supplies.
We have been, and are now, approaching this problem with the outlook advocated by Deputy Mulcahy. Not one aspect of it has been left unexamined. We have not come to final conclusions in regard to a number of the matters because it is not an easy thing to arrive at conclusions until the situation has further developed. But we have had the situation under constant  review and examination and, as I say, we are trying to see what good we can get out of these evils. The Deputy has made one or two suggestions to-night which, I think, warrant further consideration and investigation —particularly, the suggestion dealing with the position of the young people who are leaving school. I should like, if I may, in that connection, put him a problem which we have quite recently experienced in respect of the Construction Corps. It is a thing which we might bear in mind when dealing with the figures of those who are on the live register. Since this Corps was established, 2,818 young persons in Dublin between the ages of 18 years and 25 years were invited to join. Of these 2,148 refused to join, even though they had reason to believe that, if they refused this offer of work, they would not be eligible for unemployment assistance.
Mr. MacEntee: That may be. I do not want to discuss that. Out of 2,818, 670 agreed to join. They were all called up and all reported for enlistment. The number who actually enlisted was 258— out of 2,818. Of those who did not enlist, 15 were over-age; 14 were under height; 113 were not enlisted because their character and previous discharge from the forces would not warrant that course; 113 had obvious physical defects; 57 had defective vision, and 100 were unsuitable on other medical grounds, so that out of these 2,818, although the Construction Corps is full at the moment, we got only 258.
Mr. MacEntee: There is a very great problem and that is why I say, in relation to the boys who are leaving school, that Deputy Mulcahy's suggestion warrants serious consideration and, perhaps, the necessary action. The Deputy can see that a great many considerations arise out of these figures. The Deputy suggested that  these were persons who were two or three years away from school and who had not learned the habit of work. Another question, however, arises: are quite a number of people in a position to maintain themselves in circumstances that they consider better than those they would enjoy in the Construction Corps and are able, while maintaining themselves, to sign on at the employment exchanges for unemployment assistance? I do not want to be misunderstood. While I am prepared to concede what the Deputy has said in relation to boys who have never acquired the habit of work, I think there are others who would not join the Construction Corps and who would prefer to do without unemployment assistance simply because they were not in need and had some other job which made it more profitable for them not to join the Corps.
Mr. MacEntee: There may be. These figures certainly indicate a problem that is not going to be easily solved. You have men in jobs and men who want work, and you have men who are physically unfit for work—men who should not be drawing unemployment assistance but who should be dealt with in some other way.
Mr. MacEntee: In regard to 670 men out of the 2,818 who offered themselves for enlistment, we might consider there was a problem of poverty but, in regard to the others who did not offer, there is a problem which requires further investigation. In relation to some of them, I do not think it was a problem of poverty at all. It was, probably, a problem of psychology, of ingrained habit which, in some way or other, we shall have to cure.
Mr. D. Morrissey: The Minister has spoken for an hour and 35 minutes. His was a long speech, but what he contributed which would be of use to  the House or the country could have been said in less than 15 minutes. One found it hard to believe during the first hour of the Minister's speech that we were dealing with a matter affecting tens of thousands of people, and a question as to whether these people should be hungry or should get something to eat. The Minister indulged in a speech, if I may use the word, that was not worthy of a fourth-rate debating society for schoolboys. The Minister does not like that. Let me say that the previous Minister could have improved upon the present Minister when he was making petty points about the economic council. I am not in favour of an economic council, but the best speech I heard in favour of it, so far, was delivered by the Minister.
Mr. D. Morrissey: The Minister used gags for an hour and 35 minutes. He spoke as if he heard the words “economic council” for the first time. I remember the Minister a full-blooded enthusiast for an economic council. He followed in full cry behind his leader in favour of an economic council. Apparently, even at that time, when he was following his leader with enthusiasm, he had not heard this name.
We were treated to all sorts of fantastic nonsense. When the Minister gave us figures, I must confess I was rather sceptical about there being a net influx into this country since August, 1939, of 33,000 people. What the Minister had to say about unemployment figures subsequent to that made me even more doubtful. The Minister said that there were 20,000 additional persons available for employment, and he assumed that they had got employment, because, if they had not got it, the fact would have been reflected either in the unemployment insurance or unemployment assistance figures.
Mr. Morrissey: Might I suggest to the Minister, with all possible respect, that he ought to get himself put right in regard to that matter. His colleague, who is sitting next to him, may be able to put him right on the matter, or, if not, somebody else. I will leave it at that.
Mr. Morrissey: Of course they are entitled to register. Is that the sort of serious approach we are to have to the matter? I know they are entitled to register, and so does everybody else. What else are they entitled to?
Mr. Morrissey: The Minister went on to improve on the situation. He quoted other figures, and made the statement, which I do not think he believes himself, that there are fewer unemployed in this country than there were in 1939.
Mr. Morrissey: The Minister went further. He said the unemployment situation is more satisfactory to-day than it has been for years. Does the Minister believe that? If these are the conclusions he draws from the figures put before him, I suggest that he ought to get away from the figures.
Mr. MacEntee: I do not like to interrupt the Deputy. But, in connection with that last statement, he left out the qualification which I made, that if it were not for the difficulty in obtaining supplies, the position would be much better. That is what I said.
Mr. Morrissey: If the Minister said that, I did not hear it, and I did not understand him to say that. As a matter of fact, if it were stated in that way, I do not know why it was stated at all, because, if that condition of things were to obtain, there would be no necessity for the motion or the amendment. When the Minister got a bit serious towards the end of his speech, he proceeded to tell us what the Government were thinking out, what they were trying to plan for the absorption of the unemployed. He did not outline it very clearly, I may say. He did not spread himself so much, as he did during the first hour of his speech, about all the plans and all the proposals and all the schemes they had.
I wonder was it since this motion and amendment were put down that they began to think of these plans and schemes, because the extraordinary thing about it is that not one of the schemes or plans of work, which the Minister says have been having the attention of the Department, is reflected  in the Book of Estimates given us to-day under any of the three headings where one would expect to find them?
I want to approach this motion and this amendment from a different angle. Of course, when he said that the Government have done so and so, the Minister sailed away with the idea that everything which possibly could have been done in connection with providing more food in the country was done. Last September, when the war had been going on for 12 months, surely it was evident to everybody that it was highly problematical, to say the least of it, that it would be possible for this country to import feeding-stuffs either for human beings or live stock. It was certainly quite clear to everybody, as a matter of fact, before September that if we were fortunate to be able to import anything, it would be in quantities that would not be worth taking into account when arriving at the total figure of our requirements for the coming year.
Surely that was the time to announce that it would be necessary for this country to produce all the food that was required both for man and beast. Surely during the harvest, which was one of the best harvests we were ever blessed with, was the time to make it clear to farmers and others engaged in that industry how absolutely essential it was that we should set aside sufficient winter and spring seed wheat to enable us to produce the whole of our requirements this year. Surely, when it was estimated that, in order to be on the safe side, we required from 650,000 to 700,000 acres of land under wheat alone, and when it was quite evident that we would have to go out to what have been called the dairying and ranching counties and to break virgin soil, that was the time to warn people that we would require double the number of acres for wheat alone, apart from all the other things. Surely it was evident to somebody in the Department of Agriculture, if not to any other Department, that if you wanted to sow successfully, and if you wanted to break lea, some of which had not been broken for 60 or 70 years, break it to the fullest advantage, particularly  in a year when manures were scarce, the time to do it was in October or November. Secondly, having due regard to our uncertain climate, your chances of getting a crop of winter wheat was probably anything from 30 to 50 per cent. better by having it sown before, rather than after, Christmas.
That was all the more important this year, because of the fact that we had a fairly good supply of winter seed wheat, and that our supply of spring seed wheat was very limited indeed. Surely, it did not require a great deal of foresight to make, even in October last, the very big effort which was made in the middle of January. The only difference was that, if the effort had been made in October, there would be tens of thousands of acres of wheat over the ground before Christmas. The unfortunate part of it is now that, probably due to the bad weather— which we have had since before Christmas, it was certainly not due to any reluctance on the part of the farmers to do their work—it has been found almost impossible to sow the amount of winter wheat that was available. Winter wheat is being sown this week, and sown under unfavourable conditions, and unless we are blessed with a fairly good year somewhat similar to last year, it is very doubtful whether it will ripen. We are in that unfortunate position.
I doubt if the Minister for Agriculture, or anybody else, could say now that, with all the goodwill in the world on the part of the farmers, he is going to get the amount of wheat grown this year that he says is necessary. Ministers seem to think that they can shed all their responsibility in this matter merely by saying: “Look at all that we have done since 1932.” If Ministers said that, but for the shortage of supplies, the unemployment situation would be more satisfactory to-day than it had been for years, it would, I suppose, be true, to some extent. There are certain shortages for which, perhaps the Government cannot he held responsible, but there are other shortages for which they can very definitely be held responsible. I should  like to hear some of the Ministers tell the House what they were doing from September, 1938, to the outbreak of war in September, 1939. The Minister for Supplies said to me in the House on a famous occasion that, if he knew the war was going to break out in September, 1939, then everything in the garden would be lovely, because he would have seen to it that we had ample supplies of everything we required. The Minister, surely, knew before the outbreak of war that it was necessary to get in additional supplies of wheat, and to make arrangements with the millers to store it. He and the Government must be aware that it was possible to import far more goods of all descriptions between September, 1939, and June, 1940, than it has been since June, 1940, to date. Imports in the earlier period could have been got in at a third of the present prices—that is, if they can be got to-day.
What I blame the Government for is that for six or nine months before the outbreak of war they would not allow fertilisers to be imported. Because of that, many of our crops this year are seriously threatened. There is no use in saying that the Government took every step that could have been taken. They did not. They did not take many steps that ordinary prudence would have suggested. They did not even take steps to get in supplies of certain raw materials and of other commodities which people in particular businesses advised should have been taken. There is undoubtedly a certain dislocation of trade at the moment. No one but a fool believes that that dislocation is not going to be far greater. There is no use in talking about what the Government are doing now or what they hope to do for the future, completely ignoring what they failed to do between September, 1938, and June, 1940. The speech of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, this evening, showed a complete absence of any plan on the part of the Government for dealing with some of the major problems that confront us in the present emergency. It showed that the Government are not, apparently, able to appreciate the seriousness of the position—that is if one is to judge by the way in which they meet the criticism  offered in this House. The Minister's speech, this evening, and the speech of the Minister for Agriculture, last week, showed, in my opinion, a complete inability to appreciate the seriousness of the matters with which we are dealing, or a realisation of the gravity of the situation in which we are living. It appears to me that certain of the Ministers seem to be utterly irresponsible. One can only come to the conclusion that they themselves are beginning to realise what other people have long since realised: that they are either unable or unwilling to do the job given to them and are simply throwing their hat at it. That is the position as most people down the country see it. The strange thing about it, if it is strange, is that the most severe critics of the Government and of the manner in which they have dealt with matters arising out of the emergency, are some of their own strongest supporters.
The existing position with regard to fuel supplies is very serious. Only very limited supplies of coal are available. Limited as they are, the coal is of such an inferior quality that people are looking around for a substitute. May I suggest that the Government plan for dealing with this situation ought not to begin and end by saying: “We are making arrangements to have a two-, three, four, or five-years' normal supply of turf cut this year.” The position goes further than that. Turf can be cut and saved. If given the labour and bog facilities, you could produce as much turf as would meet requirements for the next five years. Having turf in the bog and producing it is perhaps the easiest part of the problem. The most difficult part, I should say, is the distribution. Because of the petrol shortage, that is going to be ten times more difficult in the coming season than it has ever been. If the turf has to be distributed by means of a horse and car, then producers will be limited as to the distance they can take the turf, and in the amount they can supply.
We have in this country another class of fuel that would supply, to a large extent, a good part of our requirements, and that, at the same time, would provide a good deal of employment.  I refer to the timber we have available. I do not like to see trees being cut down. When they are cut, my desire would be that there should be replanting. While I say that, I am aware that we have hundreds of thousands of old trees, particularly beech trees, that could be cut down and used for fuel. Some of these trees are so old and rotten that they are beginning to get dozed. They are of no commercial value. They have a certain scenic value undoubtedly. We have tens of thousands of old trees, beech, ash and even old oak trees. Some of the latter are gnarled, knotted and twisted and of no commercial value. Side by side with the cutting down of those old trees, replanting could proceed. The timber is there and the men are there, and I do not see why an effort should not be made to make this fuel available for the people. The question of transport does not enter in as much there as it does in the case of turf. I put that forward as one of the matters that might engage the attention of the Government, and as one of the matters that would give employment, particularly in country districts, to what is described as unskilled labour.
Mr. D. Morrissey: I sincerely hope that the Taoiseach, when he comes to speak, will approach the matter in a manner very different from that in which it was approached by his Minister for Industry and Commerce. I want to assure the Taoiseach that we have got to consider now plans such as the one I suggest which will give us fuel and give us work for our unemployed, particularly in the rural areas. There are thousands of homes in this country in which turf—if you gave it to them to-morrow morning at 5/- per  ton—would hardly be economical, unless you gave them the proper means to burn it. There is no question at all about that. We all know very well that it is not an economic proposition to put turf into a range, for instance.
Coming to this question of unemployment, there is another matter to which I should like to refer. A while ago, the Minister touched in a sort of vague way on a matter which I touched on before. I should like to know from the Taoiseach—unfortunately the other Minister had to go away—whether any steps have been taken for classifying our unemployed, for grading them?
This year, we hope to put an additional million acres of land under the plough. In many counties, land which has not been broken for years will have to be broken, and many people who do not break the land will give the excuse which was given last year in certain counties—that labour was not available. That may be true in certain cases, but of course I believe that a great many people will be putting it forward simply as an excuse. Great as that problem may be now, if it is a problem at the moment, it will be far greater when it comes to gathering in and threshing the enormous harvest that we hope to have next September, and I should like to know whether any Department of the Government has classified the number of skilled agricultural labourers or men who have been born and reared on the land in this country.
Mr. Morrissey: That is one step. What I want to know is whether anybody in this Government or in any Department has thought of this: If farmers in the County Meath want, say, 2,000 agricultural labourers next August or September, and there are only 500 or 600 or 1,000 available in the County Meath, what plans are there to give them the additional number they require? If farmers in the County Limerick want an additional 1,000 or 1,500 or 2,000 agricultural labourers, what arrangements are there to provide  them? Are we to go on with the old position that we are to be short of agricultural labourers in County Meath or in County Limerick while we have them in thousands in the West of Ireland? I want to say that I have seen no evidence of any plan. There may be a good deal going on that we do not see, but what we do see, far from reassuring anybody in the country is certainly making them very uneasy, because anybody following the activities, such as they are, of the Government and of the various Departments from day to day gets the impression that there is simply one muddle after another, one mistake after another, one blunder after another. That is the impression which is there not only in the minds of the members of this House but in the minds of people down the country, who are very definitely uneasy. Speaking for my own particular district, I have found that there has been a wave of depression over the people for the last month.
I do not want to worry the House with a long speech, but I do appeal to whoever is going to speak from the Government Benches on this matter to approach it in a different manner from that in which it was approached by the Minister for Industry and Com merce. This is neither the time nor the place for that sort of slick turning of phrase, that sort of flippancy, that sort of cheap debating point.
While Ministers may resent what we say sometimes, and probably have a right to resent it if you like, I think most of us here in this House do not say those things for the sake of wounding or hurting anybody; we are merely saying to the House and to Ministers here what is being said to us in the country when we meet our constituents. We are trying to put before you the situation in the country as we see it, and I think it is not going to help either the country or the Government or this House or the unemployed to get the sort of statement we got from the Minister that the unemployment position in this country to-day is far better than it has been for years, or that there are more people in employment in this country to-day than there were in 1939. Nobody believes  that. We know it is not the fact. As I said at the beginning of my speech, if those are the conclusions which the Minister draws from whatever figures are put before him he ought to keep away from the figures and deal with the facts. It is futile also for the Minister to say that people are not going to the other side. They are, undoubtedly, and if it were not for the obstacles in their way they would go in far greater numbers. I would suggest to the Taoiseach that, even if he is against the motion, he ought to give serious attention to the amendment, and that he ought to tell this House what plans he has, as asked for in the amendment, so as to reassure the people in the country. Mind you, the country requires to be reassured.
Mr. Davin: Every member of every Party sent into this House after the last general election was sent here with a mandate to play his part in the selection of a Government, and in the influencing of Government policy and legislation during the lifetime of the Parliament. Since I came here to this House in 1922, now nearly 19 years ago, I certainly know of no period in the history of this House when the members of it had so little to say in influencing Government policy and legislation. That is true so far as it represents the position since the last general election, but it is particularly true regarding the powers of the average member of this House since the emergency arose in 1939. If the members of the House are to play their part here as representatives of the people, they must be given the necessary parliamentary facilities to do their work efficiently, and the members of the House and particularly the members of the Opposition have been denied those facilities for some considerable time.
Whenever I want to get information which might be helpful to a Deputy doing his duty here, I put down parliamentary questions. I consider it is my right to get information, within reason. In recent times every member of this small group here has put down parliamentary questions. I put down a number last month asking for information  which, I believe, I am entitled to get if I have any right at all to be here. I asked for information early in February as to the quantity of fuel, imported and home-produced, which was used by different Government Departments during the last three years. Surely there would be nothing to injure the public interest by supplying me with information of that kind? I have not been given that information.
Mr. Davin: I wanted to find out from the answer to the question to what extent the Government were helping to develop the peat industry by having turf burned in the different Government Departments. I was anxious to know to what extent that was being done over a period of years. I was told it would take a certain number of clerks two weeks to supply me with that information. I have not got the information yet. I also put down a question with regard to the petrol position, asking what was the quantity imported over a period of years and the quantity consumed by different Government services, particularly the Army and the Gárda Síochána. I have not got that information. These are but a few of the many instances in which Deputies on this side of the House have been refused information which we are entitled to receive, and the excuse always has been that it would not be in the public interest to give the information.
The Government have set up, with the authority of the House, a number of commissions and tribunals at the expense of the taxpayers. In 1934 they set up the Banking Commission, the most important commission that, I think, ever was set up by the present Government or its predecessors. It sat for four years and reported in the early part of 1938, and up to the present time we cannot get any indication from the head of the Government, or any of the Ministers, as to the policy of the Government arising out of the report of that commission.
Mr. Davin: Deputy Norton submitted a question to the Taoiseach asking for a statement of Government policy arising out of the Banking Commission's report, and the Minister for Finance said he was not yet in a position—although he must have read the report over several times—to make a statement on Government policy. Finance is at the bottom of every problem that has to be solved in this country, and if the Government cannot make up their minds, after four years, on the subject of financial policy, how can we talk about the solution of the unemployment problem or any other problem in which finance is involved? They set up a Transport Tribunal—the Minister for Supplies established one on the 7th December, 1938, and he told the members of that body, through his eloquent tongue here, that he expected their report, as it was a matter of urgency, inside a period of two months. They reported in August, 1939, and for some unknown reason, notwithstanding that this was a matter of urgent public importance—I am using the Minister's words—these documents have not been allowed to see the light of day.
A Drainage Commission was set up by the Minister for Finance a few years ago and it was composed of a number of experts. When questioned about the publication of the Drainage Commission report two weeks ago, the Minister for Finance said he had received the report, or reports, in August, 1940, but that he had not had time to consider the reports and was not in a position to make any pronouncement on Government policy. I must ask the head of the Government, if he is—and I believe he is—anxious to maintain this democratic institution, representing the viewpoint of the taxpayers, how can even his own Party, apart altogether from other members of the House, do their parliamentary work efficiently if they are not given the information to which they are perfectly entitled to have access?
I mention these matters because Deputy Mulcahy seems to think that  this economic council would be a body that would hide from the House the facts which the House should know. We have not been given any facts, and I am sure that Deputy Mulcahy will not contradict what I have been saying up to the present.
Mr. Davin: I say that we are not given the information which will place us in a position to discharge our duties properly. If we are not in a position to try to influence Government policy and legislation, what is the use of this Assembly? The question has been asked: What is the use of the Dáil? One Deputy adds fuel to the fire when he says that we are being paid excessive allowances and expenses. When that statement was made, I am sure the Deputy did not want to throw cold water on the work of this Assembly. But that statement was made by a Deputy who has not often been seen in the House since the last general election. I am sure his name is not at the top of the division list of the Fianna Fáil Party and, consequently, he should be the last man to criticise his colleagues who are constantly here trying to save the Government when divisions are challenged. Deputy Mulcahy said there would be no difficulty in discussing economic problems publicly. We would have much less difficulty in doing so if we were given access to the documents and other information which Deputies are entitled to receive. I suggest we should have the reports of commissions set up by the decision of the House at the public expense. I submit to the head of the Government for serious consideration that it ought not to be the policy of the Government to continue to withhold essential information from Deputies who are here to help, not to hinder, not deliberately to obstruct. We will have to get this information. Our parliamentary questions should be fully answered, and we should have access to the reports of public commissions.
I was rather amused the other day when I read the announcement that the  Minister for Supplies was to address a meeting of his political supporters, and the title of his address was—“Facing the Facts.” The Minister will not allow us access to the facts here. He thinks it is a far better thing to refuse to furnish Deputies with the facts, and he prefers to go to a meeting of the select few in the Dolphin Hotel, or the Red Bank Restaurant, and to try to persuade the people there—it is much easier to persuade them than it is to persuade us here—that he is facing the facts. I ask for a reconsideration of the position, and an indication from the Government as to whether they believe that the members of the House cannot make a contribution to the good government of the country.
The Minister for Industry and Commerce did not treat the motion with the seriousness that a Minister should treat a proposal of this kind. I know, the head of the Government knows, and the Minister is well aware of the details behind this motion. The head of the Government knows that the proposal was put in writing, and the Minister for Industry and Commerce, and perhaps others of his Ministerial colleagues, were furnished with the framework of the proposed economic council. He asked us did we want an economic council of the type that existed in Germany before the war, and did we want 10, or 350 members. In a communication which was sent to the head of the Government a short time ago, it was indicated that the proposed economic council should consist of 10 or 12 persons, including the Ministers for Industry and Commerce, Supplies, Agriculture, Finance, or the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance, together with representatives of labour, industry and agriculture, who would be appointed by the Government after consultation with the interests concerned.
The Minister for Industry and Commerce was, I believe, in possession of that information when he wasted about half an hour here putting questions to us as to the size of the suggested council, and the type of people who would be members of it. He asked us —and I am sure he was not serious in  doing so, but was merely attempting to waste time—whether we were proposing the establishment of this council for the purpose of superseding the Government. No such thing. The council suggested, as a consultative body, presumably would have powers, and, in my opinion, should have powers, if the Government meant it to do work of a serious nature, to send for persons, papers and documents and to have access to every bit of information which would enable it—and it would include four or five Ministers— to put carefully prepared plans before the Government for their formal and final approval. If a body of this kind had amongst its members five Ministers, the plans prepared by it would surely go to a full meeting of the Government with considerable influence behind them, and I assume that there would be very little delay on the part of the Government in giving formal and final approval to whatever plans were sent up. There is no intention, and never was, on the part of any member associated with this proposal to set up a body which would supersede the Government elected by the people and responsible to this House and to the people. That, I hope, disposes of the silly type of questions which were thrown across at us by the Minister for Industry and Commerce.
The motion asks the Government to select the most suitable persons from those available for work of this kind. The Government would be responsible to the House for their selection and for their activities afterwards. Deputy Mulcahy and Deputy Morrissey, in opposing this proposal, are obviously wrong in suggesting that the work proposed to be done by this body could, under existing circumstances, be done better by this House in public discussion. We have not got the machinery, nor have we the information to enable us to do this work. This proposal, of course, was debated and rejected six or seven months ago on the motion for the adjournment of the House on, I think, 7th August last, but there was no definite proposal on that occasion and no division was taken on the proposal as such. The head of the Government, although he admitted on that occasion that he was the father of the  suggestion when he sat on the Opposition Benches, does not now, and did not then, feel so enthusiastic about the setting up of a body of this kind. He indicated that the body, being a representative body, would be too large and, therefore, unwieldy and unworkable, and he also indicated—and it is perhaps a matter of importance—that the setting up of such a body would be likely to cause friction between different Government Departments.
I do not see how a body of the kind composed of the number and type of persons I have suggested could cause such friction. Roughly, five out of the ten or 12 members would be Ministers, and these five Ministers would come to the meetings of the council armed with all the information they could get from their own Departments, and as well as bringing representatives of industry and finance before them to give information, the council would be entitled to bring in the heads of the Civil Service.
I do not want to go into the details, but an economic council of this kind would have access to far more information than the members of the House would normally be entitled to have access to. Under existing circumstances, and with the practice of withholding information which has been followed for some considerable time, withholding the contents of the reports of public commissions and tribunals, the House could not be expected to do the work which a council with access to inside information could do. Nobody would seriously suggest that a body of 138 persons could do work as efficiently or as quickly as a body of ten or 12 persons, and I hope that if this body is ever set up by this or any other Government, it will be made as small as possible, while, at the same time, representative of the Government point of view and of the point of view of the big interests who control, or have a big say in controlling, the economic life of this country and its people.
The proposers of the amendment ask the Government to indicate their plans for the relief of unemployment, and so  far as I can gather, the information supplied by the Minister for Industry and Commerce does not go very far towards adding to the information given by Ministers during the past 12 months. Is it seriously suggested by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, who should know more about the employment and unemployment position than anybody else, that the position is not as bad as it was in March, 1939? I have here a list supplied to me during the last 24 hours from an authentic source, giving the numbers of members of trade unions at present unemployed. These numbers do not cover the whole industrial and agricultural field, but the Minister suggested that the only two industries more adversely affected to-day than in March, 1939, are the motor industry and the cotton industry. I certainly will not question the Minister in that regard, but is it not true that there is a greater number of workers who could be getting work in the building trade unemployed to-day than there were in March, 1939? I have here a list of the unemployed members of the Amalgamated Society of Wood Workers, the Irish National Union of Wood Workers and the Brick and Stonelayers Society, and I am absolutely certain that the numbers unemployed in these trades to-day are far greater than in March, 1939.
The Minister for Supplies must know it to be true—and the Minister for Industry and Commerce should have better knowledge of it—that there is a greater number of dockers out of work to-day in the different ports of the country than in March, 1939. I am sure my colleague sitting behind me can give very reliable information on that matter. I know it to be true that a number of foreign shipping services have been either totally or partially suspended and that services on long sea routes have been cut off. Dockers who used to get work in the ports where these ships called are out of work. Similarly, carters and other persons associated with transport and shipping services have lost their employment. The Minister for Industry and Commerce did not mention these sources of employment at all. It is  quite evident to me, at any rate, no matter what figures he may have at his disposal, that an addition to the number of unemployed who formerly worked in these industries can be shown as compared with the number of unemployed in March, 1939. I am also aware, and I have figures before me to prove it, that part-time employment only is provided in a number of industrial concerns, due I suppose to the shortage of raw materials. I see in one union catering for boot and shoe workers, that there are about 1,000 workers who are employed only two days a week. I daresay that was not the position in March, 1939. I am quite certain, whether or not fulltime employment was provided for all workers in the boot and shoe trade in March, 1939, that there has been an increase since in the number who are only partially employed. That is not an improvement on the position in March, 1939.
The Minister for Industry and Commerce put another funny question to Deputies across the House. He wanted to know whether if this economic council were in existence since the emergency arose, it would have helped to improve the position in regard to supply of tea, petrol, coal or raw materials. I am fairly certain that if you had, as I am sure you would have, active and intelligent men on the proposed economic council, if the Government had seen their way to adopt this proposal, the members of that body would certainly keep themselves well-informed as to the supplies position in the country and would have kept awake Ministers who might be likely to go asleep on that very important matter. You would have, in the ordinary course, amongst the non-Ministerial members of the economic council, representatives of agriculture, industry, banking and people of that type. Surely, they would make it their business, if they were active-minded men, to inquire as to the position and probably they would be able to help the Ministry in matters of that kind if they were themselves fully and correctly informed. In any case if the economic council were in existence during that period the position could not be worsened in that respect.
 With regard to the unemployment position in general, and the very limited information furnished to the House by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, the Minister did not indicate, for instance, in what measure we should be likely to increase the number of persons employed in this country as a result, say, of a greater expenditure in future on the production of native fuel. I have raised this matter in the House on several occasions by way of Parliamentary question. I have written to the Minister for Lands on the matter on a few occasions pointing out—mind you, this goes back over a few years—that there was a very large acreage of bogland inside and outside my constituency which should be taken over and worked by the Turf Development Board if the policy of the Government was to increase the consumption of native fuel. Recently in this House I asked two or three questions relating to bogs in my constituency with an area in one case of 2,000 acres and in another of 3,400 acres. The Taoiseach has repeatedly appealed to the people on this matter through the radio and on public platforms during the past couple of years. I was listening to him on one occasion on which he appealed to the people in areas where there was a large acreage of bog to produce three times as much turf as they had done in previous years. I suggest to the Taoiseach and his Ministers that production cannot be increased to any great extent while bogs ranging from 500 to 3,500 acres are left in the hands of private owners.
I have raised the question with the Minister for Lands and he indicated that in some cases that were under consideration, if the red tape regulations of the Land Commission were followed, it would take possibly years before these bogs could be taken over and divided amongst the people. Might I suggest to the Minister that he should survey the whole position from the point of view of the production of native fuel, and that he should consider the advisability of asking the Turf Development Board to take over every bog in this country over 500 acres, carry out the necessary drainage work, which can only be carried out by a  body such as the board, and so provide employment in many of our provincial towns for large numbers of people who have no other avenue of employment open to them? I can cite places in my own constituency such as Mountmellick, Birr, and Mountrath, in which there are large numbers of unemployed at the present time, and in the immediate vicinity of which there are many large bogs. If these bogs were taken over and worked by the Turf Development Board many of these people could be usefully employed in producing more native fuel. That would go a long way towards reducing the amount of unemployment in some of the areas where, as I say, no other avenue of employment is open to those in need of work.
I do not know what suggestion to make in connection with the transport position in the country because I have no information, officially, at any rate, as to the contents of the famous document which the Minister for Industry and Commerce has kept in his private pigeon hole for the past eighteen months. If the Minister for Industry and Commerce would release that famous report and circulate it to Deputies, I might be able to make some suggestions whereby the principal transport concern of the country could be saved from bankruptcy and chaos. I am sorry that the present Minister for Supplies was removed, or, at least, transferred, from the office of Industry and Commerce to that of Supplies, because I believe that if he had remained in Industry and Commerce he would, with the knowledge that he has gained over a number of years, have made some attempt to carry out the undertaking he gave to the House when he set up the Transport Tribunal in September, 1938.
Mr. Davin: With great respect I say that the solution of the transport problem involves the employment of a large number of persons who are now unemployed. I can only bring that home to those concerned by repeating the suggestion made by Deputy Norton that if the main railway lines were electrified, it is obvious that employment would be found for a large number of people. When these chess-board like changes were made in 1939, if the present Minister for Supplies were left in Industry and Commerce, I believe he would have made some attempt to solve the problem in accordance with previous promises given by himself and his colleagues.
There is another serious matter affecting the plain people of this country at present, and it concerns mainly the administration of the Department of Supplies. That is the failure, the absolute failure, of the Minister for Supplies and those responsible to set up any effective machinery to control prices of essential commodities.
It is a glaring scandal that prices are being allowed to go up in this country in this way, at the same time as the Government says that there must be a standstill order—that wages must be kept down to the pre-war level, while prices are allowed to go up as they please. At the same time, they pretend that there is a price-control machinery in the Department of Supplies and a Prices Commission. If it were doing its job, it would be keeping down the prices of essential commodities.
Is there anybody in this House who will stand up and say publicly that the prices of essential commodities like vegetables, bacon and potatoes should be allowed to rise as they have done during the past six or 12 months? As far as I can see, the Minister for  Supplies, or the people in the Department of Supplies responsible for price control, merely say: “O.K.” to whatever recommendations come in from the bodies responsible for putting up prices. Even quite recently—within the last couple of weeks—in my constituency the price of an ass-load of turf went up from 2/- to 6/-. There is a member of the House listening to me who knows this to be a fact. The people who have to pay these increased prices are the people whose wages will not be increased under the policy of the present Government.
Mr. Davin: I, personally, am prepared to stand over an increase of prices within reasonable limits, so long as I am certain that the primary producer is the man getting the most out of the increase and that the man who produces the food and essential commodities is getting at least a profitable price. I wish to hear something from the Minister for Supplies, if and when he speaks in this debate, as to the functions and powers of the Prices Commission and whether the members of the Prices Commission, as constituted by this House, are asked to investigate the prices of essential commodities from time to time. If they are not being asked to do work of that kind, I suggest they should be, as there is no more useful work they could be asked to do. I am of the opinion that the standstill policy of the Government, in regard to keeping wages down and allowing prices to rise as they please, is bringing about a very dangerous position which is likely to lead to internal trouble and confusion in this country. That is one of the things which should be very carefully watched by the people responsible for the price control policy.
I referred to the Banking Commission. I suppose, as the Government cannot say anything about it, there is no use in my saying anything about it. We do not know the Government's policy in connection with this matter, and I suppose there is no use in referring to it. However, is it not a fact that the financial and economic  policy here is to a far greater extent controlled by 30 or 40 people in this country outside this House than it is by the Government elected by the people of the country through this House?
There are 30 or 40 persons who have their fingers upon our whole economic life and who dominate and control every key industry, I think, except the Electricity Supply Board. Where do they come from and who are they? Look up a list of directors of the different banks and you will find that there are bank directors upon the boards of all the key industries except the Electricity Supply Board. Those are the people who dictate the financial and economic policy up to the present. That is why those who sit on these benches are anxious to hear—and I hope we will hear—from the Government before the life of this Dáil expires, as to whether they have any fixed financial policy arising out of the reports of the famous Banking Commission.
Mr. Davin: If the Minister for Industry and Commerce can come into the House, as he has done, and read a lengthy pronouncement from Professor Laski, a Communist, I think I am entitled to read from a pastoral letter which has a very definite bearing upon this whole proposal.
An Ceann Comhairle: If the Deputy thinks that it is seemly and proper to introduce episcopal pastorals into parliamentary debate the Chair will not prevent him. It is left to the Deputy's judgment and discretion.
Mr. Davin: I remember that on many occasions the statements of members of the Hierarchy were quoted here. I am certain that this is much more important than the opinion of Professor Laski, who knows nothing about this country. I am quoting from the pastoral letter of the Bishop of Clonfert:
A completely new world awaits us —a new world, perhaps, in its political changes, but certainly in its social, economic and financial framework. There is nothing divine or permanent in our present economic system and it needs change and modification to meet the changed conditions of the world and the modern needs of men. We in Ireland—
can do little or nothing to prevent or to check or to hasten this change, but now is the time to prepare ourselves so that we can meet it as Christian men when it does come. We need—at least so it appears to me—new concepts of society, of economics and of finance; it is necessary that we abandon the social, economic system founded on a pagan materialistic view of life and imposed on us from without, and that we adopt in their fulness the Christian ideals of society as enunciated in the Social Encyclicals.
Why the demoralising dole when there is so much work for everyone? Is it that we lack constructive ability and that we are unable to survey and to plan on a big scale on national lines? Or is it that we have not the money?
 Now, it is either one or the other, or both. I think that, after having read these brief extracts from that famous Lenten Pastoral, you will admit, Sir, that it has a very direct bearing on the subject matter of the motion and the amendment.
Mr. Davin: Regarding the solution of the unemployment problem, I will read an extract from the speech of another famous Irishman—a layman—no less a person than the ex-President of the Federation of Irish Manufacturers, Mr. J.J. Walsh, who was a member of Mr. Cosgrave's first Government. Speaking to his friends in the Federation some time ago—and, presumably, in the hearing of the Minister for Industry and Commerce—he said “it would be a good policy for the Government to employ some of the thousands of unemployed in such work as afforestation and drainage, even if, in so doing, further taxation eventuated.” That was from a man who does not believe in squandering money. Mr. Walsh further pointed out that money expended in this way “served the dual purpose of increasing their spending power and, at the same time, creating real wealth.”
Mr. Davin: Indeed, I did. I was often severely censured for doing so. The Division Lists will tell the tale against me—if it is against me. It is very useful to quote—and I am glad I have had the opportunity—from the pronouncements of distinguished Irishmen, to refute the type of argument  which the Minister for Industry and Commerce used when he read from the speech of two years ago of Professor Laski. I want to say, in conclusion, that I believe that this House, the Government or the proposed economic council cannot do their job efficiently in the matter of dealing with the problems that confront us in this country until the Government make up their own minds and tell the members of this House and the members of the economic council, if and when it is established, what their financial policy is. In the present state of affairs you are just carrying on from one day to another, hoping that the next day that comes will tell a better story than the day that went before it. There are other matters that might be mentioned in connection with a motion of this kind, but I realise that there are many other Deputies in the House who are very anxious to speak, and I have no desire to hold them up any longer on the matter. The proposal for the establishment of this economic council was put forward with the sincere intention of assisting the Government in this country and helping them to solve the terrible and pressing problems before them. Nobody on these benches, and, I am sure, nobody in the House, envies the men who sit on the Government Benches to-day, and I think that the head of the Government and all his Ministers may well admit that the Parties sitting on this side of the House have given them every consideration and every help, especially since the emergency arose, and that they have given every indication of their desire to help rather than to hinder. I and my colleagues believe that one of the best things that could be done in order to help the Government would be to set up a small body of the type suggested by us—not for the purpose of superseding the Government elected by the people, but for the purpose of helping them to discharge their duties more efficiently and more quickly than at present.
Minister for Supplies (Mr. Lemass): I am very glad that the spirit moved Deputies Norton and Davin to put this motion down for discussion, and that this discussion is, in fact, taking place.  No doubt, it was the intention of both Deputies to help the Government, and they will be glad to know that the Government appreciates that help. It is important, really important, that this proposal, put forward conjointly by the Labour Party and by the Irish Times, for the establishment of a national economic council, should be killed and, being killed, decently buried. So long as that idea survives so also will survive the idea that there is some organisational device, some general plan, some trick of finance by which we can get rid of all our present difficulties. That is not true. The most important thing that this Dáil can do at the present time is to get it into the heads of the people of this country— they have got to get it into their own heads first—that there is no such arrangement by which we can get rid of all our difficulties. These difficulties, arising out of the shortage of supplies, bringing with it a slowing down in industrial activity which will mean growing unemployment, cannot be ended so long as the conditions which produce them exist, and these conditions are outside our control. No economic council, no plan, no rearrangement of the bankers of the country on the lines Deputy Davin would suggest, will possibly end these difficulties until the conditions that caused them are themselves ended. We must get that fact realised and into the minds of the people of this country, because it is only when there is a widespread public realisation of the inevitability of these difficulties in our present circumstances that we will get proper attention concentrated upon our task, our real task—the task of taking such action as is open to us to minimise the consequences of these difficulties, the task of ensuring that the exceptional hardship that may be caused for individuals will be reduced by a proper sharing of the burden over the whole community.
This idea of an economic council was debated here before. It was debated in times of peace, in relation to the problems of peace. It is revived now in times of war, in relation to the problems of war. Both Deputies Norton  and Davin, who spoke upon it, appeared to have the most hazy ideas as to what the constitution and functions of this economic council would be, but Deputy Norton at least made it clear that it should be given certain responsibilities. Lord Baldwin, when Prime Minister of England, said that all his experience had taught him that the acme of political wisdom was to put legal responsibility only where there was real power. All history teaches us the danger of power without responsibility, but the Labour Party want to try the experiment of responsibility without power. They are going to give to this economic council—whoever constitutes it or whatever its mode of operation may be—responsibility, the responsibility, according to Deputy Norton, of intensifying agricultural production, the responsibility of conserving our supplies of food stuffs, the responsibility of surveying our industrial position, the responsibility of regulating prices, the responsibility of ensuring that farm workers and labourers will get a fair return for their labour, the responsibility of organising national credit to finance new activities.
How is it contemplated that this council is going to discharge these responsibilities? It is going, apparently, to produce reports which, according to Deputy Norton, should be respected by the Government, and while they are at labour producing these reports the Departments of State that have the power, the legal power, to deal with these matters, are to be standing idly, presumably, twiddling their thumbs. That is no method to recommend or on which to proceed in a time of crisis like the present. If we had 50 years of peace, with no pressing economic problems and with no matters calling for urgent attention, we might try that experiment of the Labour Party, but in times like the present, with circumstances changing from day to day, and when nobody can foretell with any confidence what the conditions will be or are likely to be to-morrow or next week, there must be a complete concentration of power and responsibility, complete contact between  those who are responsible for devising and formulating the plan and the organisation responsible for carrying out that plan. You cannot divorce one responsibility from the other, and it would be the height of folly to attempt it in our present circumstances.
However, the proposal has been put forward by the Labour Party and also by the Irish Times, and we have got to get rid of this idea because, I believe, that there are people in the ranks of the Labour Party who could contribute commonsense ideas and suggestions if these preconceived notions were got rid of. You can hypnotise a hen by sticking its beak to a chalk line; you can hypnotise a rabbit by making it look at a shilling; and you can hypnotise the Labour Party by a phrase. They have succeeded in hypnotising themselves by using this phrase “national economic council” without precisely knowing what it means. We want to wake them up so that they can contribute to the debates in this House in a much more important manner than they have done heretofore. They have got the responsibility, which they do not appear to fully recognise, of assisting this Dáil by giving to it its views on the problems of the class that they represent. They are not the exclusive representatives of that class, but they do claim to have made a special study of these problems. It is in relation to these particular problems that we most want advice at the present time, because, in the long run, all the troubles arising out of our condition, all the problems arising out of the war, will bear most heavily upon the shoulders of the working class, unless we can devise ways and means of shifting them, in part at least, on to the shoulders of others.
We are told by Deputy Norton that if such an economic council as he contemplates had existed in the past, all the alleged mistakes for which he holds the Government responsible would never have been made. A large part of Deputy Norton's speech was designed to ensure that the Government could not escape any blame for these mistakes which he alleged against it. He recited a long litany of things which might have been done otherwise  if the Government had been wiser, or if this economic council had been in existence. Deputy Mulcahy pleaded here for the Government not to defend itself when attacked. I do not think that is precisely the way in which he expressed it——
Mr. Lemass: ——but that is in fact what he meant. He urged that when the Government is criticised it should not resent that criticism. I think I can say that the Government, although composed of human beings, with ordinary feelings——
Mr. Lemass: ——are not more likely to resent constructive criticism than anybody else, but when Deputy Mulcahy was pleading with the Government not to resent constructive criticism, he was in fact asking it also to accept without question criticism of another kind. He might, at least, have addressed a plea to his own colleagues before he came to lecture us. Immediately following him, from the ranks of his own Party, there came Deputy Morrissey, and Deputy Morrissey's whole speech was designed to ensure that the Government would not escape any blame he could put upon it for the conditions that now exist. In fact, he used a phrase in which he said it was no use talking about what the Government is doing now, or is going to do; what he wanted to talk about is what the Government is to be blamed for. And, of course, Deputy Norton was mainly concerned, in talking about these past events, in ensuring that, so far as he could arrange it, all the responsibility for present conditions would be placed upon the shoulders of the Government. No doubt, he very conveniently offered the Government an opportunity of passing the buck to a national economic council. The Government does not want that opportunity. It is taking full responsibility for everything it has done in the past, for what it is doing now, and for what it may do in the future. It is not going to share that responsibility with  anybody, much less attempt to pass it on to some organisation set up for that express purpose.
It is very interesting to know now that the Labour Party foresaw everything that was going to happen since 1938. No doubt some Deputies were surprised to hear that assertion from Deputy Norton, that they foresaw with such extraordinary accuracy the whole development from peace to war, the outbreak of the war, the precise course of the war, exactly the countries that became involved in the war. The only complaint we can make against them now is the fact that they kept that knowledge to themselves. Why did not they tell us then? It is so easy to be wise after the event that Deputies opposite should not fall into the very obvious trap of basing criticisms upon knowledge which they now have, which have no relation to the suggestions they made before the event. Unfortunately for them, all the speeches they made about these problems are on record. Every idle word they spoke was recorded and is now available in evidence against them. They did not know all about these things in advance. They did not make these suggestions concerning supplies of wheat and tea and petrol, until the circumstances of shortage had actually arisen. We know that. They cannot go back over the records of the House and say: “We knew about it then and, what is more, we warned you about it then.” No doubt, Deputies opposite from time to time made various suggestions without much regard to their practicability. In fact, if we are confined to the activities of the Labour Party, one can say there is probably nothing on earth about which they did not make some suggestion at some time. But that is not good enough. There is no use telling us that, if we had a national economic council established a number of years ago, it would have foreseen precisely the need for ships that would arise in the autumn of 1941 and would have taken steps to establish a mercantile marine, even though it involved a subsidy of £2,000,000 a year, and even though we were assured the members of the Labour Party would have gone like one man into the Division Lobby  to vote for the tax on tea, sugar or anything else that was necessary to provide that £2,000,000.
There was a proposition in those years about which the Labour Party had a different view. Ships, of course, are only important for what they will bring to us, and one of the commodities which are in short supply and about which difficulties have arisen and will arise is petrol. Would a national economic council of the kind suggested by the Labour Party, if they knew all about the course of impending events as accurately as Deputy Norton did, have said: “Well, it might be a good idea to establish in this country a national refinery to get the maintenance of our oil supplies into the hands of an independent Irish company, a company which would have a number of tankers on the Irish register”? And, if they had done that, would the Labour Party then have gone out on a rip-roaring campaign throughout the country to see their idea was carried out—a campaign such as they undertook to prevent that idea being operated by the Government?
Mr. Lemass: There is no good going into that at the moment. The files of the paper which the Labour Party published in relation to that one matter are available for examination if anyone wants to examine them.
Mr. Lemass: I am concerned here at the moment with this contention on the  part of the Labour Party, first, that they foresaw all these events and, secondly, that even if they did not, a national economic council, if it had existed, would have foreseen them and would have made that provision. We had not got the refinery when the war started and a large part of the responsibility for the delay in establishing it rests upon the shoulders of the Labour Party and upon the shoulders of others who participated in the campaign to delay the establishing of it.
Mr. Lemass: The situation would be, our oil supplies would now be provided for by an independent national organisation. At the present time they are being supplied by international organisations to which this market is such a small item in relation to their total sales that it is not to be wondered if they give it only very secondary consideration. That is inevitable, but if we had a national organisation, which would have no other concern except to see our supplies were kept up, our position might have been better. I cannot say with any certainty it would have been but, at least, it is a reasonable assumption.
Mr. Lemass: Deputy Mulcahy complained here that Ministers frequently make official pronouncements of importance outside this House. Did it ever strike the Deputy that the sole reason why Ministers resort to making announcements outside this House is because they are permitted to talk without interruption? As far as I am concerned it has been my experience that when I want to get some particularly important pronouncement across to the public it was much better to make it outside this House.
Mr. Lemass: The House is entitled to discuss any question it wishes, but if we are going to have that type of debate, which consists only of placing upon the Government's shoulders responsibility for past events, and the reactions of past events on present circumstances, then Deputy Mulcahy need not appeal to us, in resenting criticism, not to hit back as hard, because we will probably hit harder. If we are going to have that type of debate which Deputy Mulcahy visualises, in which all Deputies would contribute their best ideas for a solution of present difficulties, and that the Government would accept these ideas for what they are worth, and examine them in the spirit offered, then it is asking a bit too much to have this rehash of past events along the lines that Deputy Norton and Deputy Morrissey chose to give it.
Mr. Lemass: The Deputy was solely concerned to ensure that the Government was blamed, and that it carried the blame for the difficulties that we have at the moment. I will deal with that later. Deputy Norton was on the same subject.
Mr. Lemass: Then there was the question of the Government's responsibility for the inadequacy of our present wheat supply. Deputy Mulcahy referred  to that, but on more reasonable lines. He said that in 1939 the Government was so concerned with the summoning of the Army reserve of the Defence Forces, and taking other measures of protection of a defence character, that there was no evidence that agricultural production, and the problem of increasing agricultural production, was getting the attention it needed. Deputy Norton said the same thing, only he put it in this form, that if a national economic council existed in 1939, the problem of increasing our wheat production and other forms of agricultural production would have got more attention. Deputy Morrissey will admit that he said the same thing.
Mr. Lemass: Deputy Morrissey dealt with it in a somewhat different way. He said that it had become obvious to him that in 1941 no more cereals could be imported, and that the Government had taken no steps to increase supplies.
Mr. Lemass: Something to that effect. Let us consider what happened. In the autumn of 1939 the Government passed legislation for compulsory tillage. It undertook a widespread publicity campaign to get more wheat grown. It also increased the guaranteed price, which was then operative, for Irish-grown wheat. These three measures were designed to encourage maximum production of wheat from Irish soil. Deputies opposite who think that the Government did not do enough in these years might now examine their consciences, and ask themselves to what extent they helped the Government then or in subsequent months to secure the increased acreage. No doubt some Deputies opposite were as anxious as the Government that that result should be obtained. Were they all? Was it their official Party policy at that time to help the Government to get an increased acreage of wheat? If it was not do they think it honest now to blame the Government when, despite the measures the Government  took by compulsory legislation, by a publicity campaign, and increased prices, they did not get in 1940 a much larger increase in the acreage under tillage than the 350,000 acres, which, in fact, the tillage area was increased by in that year? But that was not enough. We had got to get a bigger increase. That increase, nevertheless, was secured very largely as a result of the measures taken in 1939 and in the early months of 1940.
Mr. Lemass: No, in tillage generally. It is quite true that the situation concerning the import of cereals from abroad deteriorated rapidly towards the end of last year. Deputy Morrissey said that it was obvious in September, 1940, that deterioration was taking place. It was not so obvious to the Government in September. Let me say that the Government was fully alive to the possibilities of the situation. In discussions which took place at the Cabinet, and Committees of the Cabinet, as to the plans necessary to provide against various possibilities, all these possible developments were taken into account and examined.
In September, 1940, we were still importing wheat and able to charter vessels to import wheat. There appeared to be no difficulty in securing sufficient ships to import the balance of the wheat required to supplement our own yield and to meet requirements here. The one announcement we made in September, 1940, was that to the extent that available tonnage was curtailed that there would be a diminution in the importation of maize, that as far as it was necessary to do so, the whole of the available tonnage would be utilised for the importation of wheat, and that maize would have to take second place to wheat when only a restricted number of ships were available. It was very much later in the year that the position arose in which Grain Importers, Ltd. reported that they were no longer able to get ships for the carriage of any kind of grain to this country in 1941.
Mr. Lemass: I am not going to answer Deputy McGilligan because he is too disorderly. In September, 1940, the Government again took action to secure an increase in the acreage under wheat. Again it proceeded on the same lines as in the previous year. The area fixed under the Compulsory Tillage Order, requiring farmers to till, was increased, the price guaranteed to farmers was increased, and another publicity campaign was undertaken by the Government to impress upon farmers not merely the importance but also the advantage both to the country and to themselves of an increased acreage under wheat. Towards the end of the year, when difficulties had become aggravated as a result of the disappearance of Greek ships, the Government further acted upon the same lines. Again there was an increase in the acreage required under the Compulsory Tillage Order, and a widespread publicity campaign which brought the full facts of the situation to the knowledge of every individual was undertaken. Deputies opposite, no doubt, have helped and helped considerably in that campaign. I urge them in their own interests as well as in the interests of the country, that it is wiser for them to confine their present activities to giving that help now rather than going back to the year 1939, for the purpose of blaming the Government for not having done more than the Government thought it necessary to do.
Mr. Lemass: I have no intention of misrepresenting the Deputy. As I understood it, the Deputy's complaint was that the Government in September, 1939, devoted far too much attention to the completion of defence preparations, and not sufficient attention to the problem of agriculture and increased agricultural production in that year.
Mr. Lemass: Deputy Norton, however, had a further complaint, that the Government had always been telling the public that everything was all right, which was proof of the fact that the Government were not undertaking any real planning, and that, consequently, these sudden shortages of petrol, tea, coal, and wheat caused considerable public dismay. Deputy Norton had no foundation whatever for the assertion that he made. The Government from the beginning of the war were continuously reminding the country that the war was bound to mean for us a period of economic stress; that it would mean inevitably a curtailment of overseas supplies; and that eventually that curtailment of overseas supplies would mean a diminution of industrial activity. I made a speech in Cork the week before the war started, in which I spoke to that effect. Every other member of the Government spoke to that effect. On every occasion on which this matter was discussed, Deputies and the public were warned that, even though the position at a particular time might be satisfactory in so far as stocks available in the country were concerned, there could be no certainty as to the future; that the one thing certain in war was the probability that unforeseen and unforeseeable events would upset all pre-existing plans and create a new situation which would call for new plans.
At various stages during the course  of 1940 I reported to the Dáil here concerning the stock position in respect to wheat, tea, and other commodities. I was able to report all during last year every time I spoke that there was no shortage in relation to these commodities. The shortages in relation to all these commodities arose almost simultaneously towards the end of last year and the beginning of this year, and the problems which these shortages have created for us are only a foretaste of those that are to come, because the circumstances that made it less easy to import wheat also affected the other commodities. All these problems were bound to arise simultaneously. It is, of course, open to Deputies to say that we could have foreseen more accurately the course of events. The answer to that is that we did not know when precisely the war was going to start, over what area it would extend, what countries would be involved, and what its course was going to be. We had to plan against a number of possible developments. We did succeed in making plans which secured for this country during a lengthy period after the outbreak of the war that no serious effect on its economic life was felt.
When these developments towards the end of last year began to intensify all our problems a new situation was created. At the earliest possible opportunity the public were informed that a new situation had arisen, and that, in that new situation, it would depend upon ourselves alone whether we would meet the problems created by the shortages through the utilisation of our own resources and of our own supplies. This House and the country must face the fact that our future safety, the maintenance of our industrial activities, the maintenance of our essential commodities, will depend entirely on the success of our efforts to get them produced here. There can be no certainty that we are going to import any substantial quantities from outside.
 But there is no basis on which we can plan except the basis that these sources of supply are cut off from us and are going to remain cut off until the war is over. On that basis we have to organise internal production of the goods, or substitutes for the goods, that were formerly imported. That is not a matter for a national economic council, but for individuals, with the specialised knowledge which they can get from experts, going out themselves to do the work. It is not necessary to have somebody sitting in a back room writing reports for others to act upon. Those who decide the policy will themselves have to put it into operation, and that is the only sound way of getting effective results.
We have taken various measures to cope with the situation. The Taoiseach informed the House last week of the establishment of an emergency scientific research bureau charged with the responsibility of investigating the possibility of producing substitutes from our own resources for materials that were formerly imported, and which are now not available. We are carrying out a systematic examination of the position of each individual industry, the extent to which its raw materials can be done without, the extent to which they can be substituted by other materials available within the country, the extent to which existing stocks may have to be conserved in order to ensure that the forms of production which will be maintained are those most essential to our circumstances. That systematic review is proceeding. The Government are giving consideration to the problem of having to provide work on public schemes on a larger scale to offset increasing industrial employment. They recognise the fact that the organisation of such schemes of work may be more difficult in the absence of external supplies or certain mechanical equipment previously considered necessary, and they are endeavouring to prepare a programme of works of that nature which could be undertaken with the resources at present available within the country.
We recognise that it will not be possible to deal with all forms of industrial  unemployment by schemes of public works. But we do know that if we can keep up the purchasing power of a substantial section of the workers it will have beneficial reactions over a much wider circle, because the circulation of that purchasing power will prevent the development of unemployment which might otherwise be inevitable in secondary occupations. By various measures of that kind, together with the adaptation of our social services to the new circumstances, whether on the lines suggested by Deputy Mulcahy, or some other lines, we can do all that we can hope to do in present circumstances, and that is to minimise the effects of those difficulties and to share the burden, so that no individual will have to carry an undue proportion of it.
Mr. Lemass: I am prepared to discuss at any time how the position of the unemployed can be modified. Of course, it is possible to speak for a long time about the plight of the individual, to describe the circumstances of the individual, and to ask others better circumstanced, such as members of this House or businessmen outside, whether they would like to be circumstanced as that individual is. It is possible to quote from documents written by Padraig Pearse and others as to the inadequacy of £1 per week for the purpose of maintaining and educating a family. All these things get us nowhere. What does get us somewhere is this, we have got to ensure that, to the limit of our available resources, each individual in the community is protected against the possibility of destitution, with, however, a sufficient incentive to go out and help himself by whatever means are open to him.
Mr. Lemass: I have not said that it does not matter. What I say does matter is this, that any plans that we  make for dealing with these matters must be effective plans. You cannot feed the unemployed on phrases. If there is an unemployment assistance scheme which the Deputies opposite are anxious to get extended, I ask them why it was not there when they constituted the Government. I ask them, also, to remember that when these new social services were being brought into operation, and when new taxes had to be imposed in order to finance them, we did not get much support from the Deputies opposite for the imposition of the new taxes. These are all matters concerning which the Government have got a record of achievement to their credit. That record should be a guarantee to the people of this country that, in any new set of circumstances which may arise, the Government will be prepared to take effective action to deal with that situation, while others here are only prepared to make speeches.
Mr. Lemass: Deputy Davin referred to a large number of matters in support of his statement that he is not able to do his work effectively as a member of this House because certain information is denied to him. The Deputy, I suggest, could do a lot of useful work in the House with the information available to him. If he concentrated his energies on the information available to him he has scope to do a lot of useful work instead of spending his time complaining about the refusal of the Government to tell him the quantity of turf that was burned in Government grates last winter. Information of that kind can be of very little use to his constituents. When Deputy Davin wants to know what number of persons will be employed if we secure a certain increase in the production of turf in this country, the reply is  that it is not possible to get him the information. If the Government are going out to try to secure a very substantial increase in the production of turf it is doing so for the purpose of getting turf—not as a relief scheme and not as a means of off-setting unemployment in other industries. The Government's primary purpose is to get the turf produced economically and efficiently, so that the fuel will be available to the public at the lowest price possible.
Various problems of that kind will arise during the coming year, problems which the Government will have to decide and, very frequently, the decisions which they will have to take will not be easy. If the raw materials for a particular industry show signs of running out, so that one can say with some degree of accuracy that in six or nine months' time production in the industry must cease, shall we, as might be suggested, endeavour to maintain the largest number of people in employment for the longest possible period, even though it means that they will not get a full week's work or a full week's wages, thus sharing over the fullest possible number the diminishing returns which the industry is able to give, but knowing that such a system will result in higher prices, or shall we concentrate the total production possible in a limited number of factories, shutting down the others and disemploying staffs, knowing that while we are increasing the number who will be without work, we will nevertheless be securing the industrial goods concerned at the lowest price, and will have them available for the public at the lowest price possible?
These are some of the questions which the Deputies opposite might consider and give thought to. These are problems about which the Government will have to take decisions, decisions which are bound to be criticised by those who are adversely affected by them. The Government know that they cannot expect to avoid adverse criticism. They know that when people suffer, as they are bound to suffer in consequence of the inability of the Government to increase supplies from abroad, or to expand some form of  internal production upon which employment depends, that people are going to blame them. We are not going to try to avoid that blame, if we feel that there is anything that we could have done which would have left the position better. Where we know that the circumstances were entirely outside our control and outside the control of anybody occupying our position—then we will say so.
Deputy Norton spoke to-day about the widening pool of unemployment caused by the scarcity of petrol, and in doing so, used the old metaphor of dropping a stone in the middle of a lake. We know that a scarcity of petrol can cause unemployment, but every possible step that could be taken was taken to increase the importation of petrol. It has been possible to increase to some extent this month the total quantity in respect of which licences were issued as compared with last month. What the position is going to be next month, I cannot say. With good luck we will be able to keep up next month the same rations that were available this month. With bad luck, there may be no petrol at all available for anybody. It is, I think, commonly recognised that the war has not yet reached the stage of maximum intensity. Should it develop to a much greater intensity than anything we have known, particularly in the immediate vicinity of our country, that is bound to have adverse reactions here, which no plan that the Government or any economic council might adopt, could possibly prevent.
Deputy Davin spoke about the powers and functions of the Prices Commission. Time and again, in the course of discussions in this House, I have asked Deputy Davin to try and get his mind clear on one fact, namely, that the Prices Commission is not functioning at the present time in relation to the day-to-day control of prices. I am functioning through a section of my Department. The powers conferred upon me by the Emergency Powers Act are much wider than those conferred by the Prices Control Act under which the Prices Commission was set up.
 The prices branch of my Department, acting upon my instructions, is endeavouring to ensure that the price of any commodity will not be increased except in consequence of some increased cost arising outside of this country. I do not know if I have made that clear. When one sets out to consider the prices that will be permitted to be charged for coal, one decides that there has to be allowed in the price any increase in the wholesale price of the coal and any increase in the price of the transport of coal to this country. One may decide that no allowance will be made in respect of increased costs arising here, such as an increase in wages to workers, in order to keep prices down, or by way of higher profits to distributors. In fact, the distributor is not even being allowed the same rate of profit as heretofore. His rate of profit is being reduced to ensure that the actual monetary return which he gets from his business will be the same under war conditions as it was in times of peace.
Mr. Lemass: I know quite well it is not in operation all over Ireland. Time and again I have spoken of the difficulties of ensuring an effective system of price control in relation to a number of articles. When one deals with cement, sugar, flour—with any commodity that is produced only in one quality and sold in bulk—price control is easy; but, when you come to deal with commodities that are produced in greater variety, price control becomes very difficult. When you set out to deal with commodities that are sold in an almost infinite number of varieties, then price control, at the source, becomes a matter of impossibility, and reliance must be placed entirely upon individual complaints resulting in the investigation of individual charges.
Mr. Lemass: I am going to arrange that every retailer selling a commodity in respect of which difficulty has arisen or may be anticipated will be registered, and that it will be a condition of registration that reasonable prices are charged, so that a retailer who is proved to have been guilty of a gross over-charge will be removed from the register, and by removal from the register kept from engaging in that business so long as that condition of affairs exists.
That is, I admit, a severe penalty, or may be a severe penalty in individual cases, but having regard to the difficulty of enforcing a system of control for retail prices there must be a severe penalty if that control is to be effective at all. There is no possibility of my being able to send an inspector into Arnott's to examine the prices charged for every commodity in that shop for the purpose of ensuring that no excess profit is being taken. We can only deal with commodities of that kind sold by retail on the investigation of individual complaints, and by making the penalty so severe that people will not take the risk of offending against the regulation.
Mr. Lemass: Coal imported last August is not being sold at the current price to-day. The Deputy can produce any proof he likes, and if he does I will undertake to have it examined by people who are fully competent to do so. I say here that in every case where a price was fixed for coal by my Department regard was had to the stocks in existence at the time, and the price which might have been permitted in consequence of the increased price of coal abroad or the increased cost of transportation was reduced to ensure that no additional profit would be taken on existing stocks.
Mr. Lemass: It is easy enough for Deputies opposite to come here and complain about increases in the price of coal. I say there has been no increase in the price of coal with the consent of my Department except in consequence of an increase in the wholesale price in England or an increase in the cost of transporting it from England. It is true that the price charged us for coal in England has advanced frequently and substantially since the war started. There is nothing we can do about it. When the war broke out we had an agreement with the British Mines Department under which we on our side undertook to buy all our coal from Great Britain, and they on their side undertook to supply that coal on a fixed scale of prices. That agreement had months to run after the date of the beginning of the war, but some time after that date the British members of the committee which was responsible for the fixing of the price came over here and said that that price would have to be increased.
Undoubtedly, as might have been expected, we referred to the fact that this contract had not yet expired, and that their obligation was to supply us with coal at that price for a stated period of time. They said: “That is so, and you can maintain that schedule if you like, but in the circumstances prevailing in England we cannot guarantee that you will be supplied. If you want to be supplied with coal you will have to agree to those increased prices which have already become operative in Great Britain and elsewhere.” We agreed to that in order to ensure that supplies of coal would be available. Since then, that agreement has expired. There is no possibility of our getting coal elsewhere, and whatever price the Mines Department fixed for the coal to be supplied to us is the price we have to pay. That price had gone up and up as the cost of production in England has increased. Furthermore, the cost of importing that coal from England has increased considerably because transport and freight charges have risen, and risen considerably in the case of ports like Cork and others which are further away from the ports of shipment in Great Britain. All those increases  have had to be reflected in the price.
Mr. Lemass: When increases in the pit-head price in Great Britain or in the cost of transporting the coal to this country took place, my Department took under consideration the extent to which retail prices here should be increased, and, in deciding on the extent to which they should be increased, they had regard to the quantity of coal in stock purchased at a lower price, and fixed a price which was fair, having regard to that increase in the pit-head price and to the quantity in stock. At least that is what they set out to do. The fixed prices published by my Department in relation to coal in particular centres were prepared on that basis. It is not true that manufacturers and importers are allowed to charge as they please, as was stated by Deputy Davin. Shortly after the outbreak of the war, we made a stand still order in respect of all prices. It is quite true that that order may have been evaded here and there. I recognise the possibility that in certain circumstances people may be prepared to pay more, and if they are prepared to pay more it is very easy to conspire with the trader to get the goods, in consideration of a higher price, in preference to somebody else, and there is no possibility that we will hear about it. But where a complaint has been received, full investigation has taken place, and in relation to those prices that were subject to the stand still order we have got, since it was made, more than 2,000 complaints, all of which have been investigated. A very high proportion of the complaints were discovered to be unfounded.
Mr. Lemass: But, in relation to a very considerable variety of articles, reductions in price were effected. In the case of manufacturers, the various firms are brought into my Department one by one, their accounts are examined  by qualified accountants and their profits are controlled. Their prices are fixed where it is possible to deal with them on the basis of fixed prices, and their profits are regulated where it is not possible to effect the same result on the basis of fixed prices. I am prepared to agree that circumstances may arise in the course of this year which will make the problem of price regulation a much more important one than it was last year, and a much more difficult one than it was last year, and we may find it necessary to supplement our existing machinery. We may have to resort to much more drastic measures in order to prevent a shortage of commodities resulting in famine prices. We are prepared to do that. I think it is unfair to a number of men who have been doing very hard work and have been remarkably successful in preventing a rapid inflation of prices in this country, to suggest that there is no control in operation at all. In any event, whatever machinery is there can be expanded to deal with new circumstances, or can be adapted in whatever way is considered necessary from time to time.
There is nothing which this national economic council could do in relation to a matter of that kind. That is an administrative work which has been undertaken by a Department of State, and concerning which the Dáil is the only body which should be entitled to satisfy itself that all necessary steps have been taken and that the machinery of administration is working efficiently. I do not profess that I am going to be able to satisfy every member of the Dáil, but I do think I would be able to satisfy the great majority of members that the measures in operation are reasonably capable of dealing with the problem of price control as it now exists, and I can assure the House and those members that if that problem becomes worse then the machinery will be adapted in consequence. There is, of course, a very large number of problems arising every day over the whole field of industrial and commercial activity. That is inevitable. Those problems are going to continue to arise until the war is over —they may not even end with the war —but no system of advanced planning will make it easier to deal with them. No economic council or no Government or no Government Department could sit down now and think out ahead a long term plan for dealing with those problems, because they do not know what the future holds. Nobody speaking in this Dáil in March, 1940, could have foretold the events of 1940. Nobody could have foretold the collapse of France, the blockading of Europe, or the entry of Norway, Holland, Belgium or Greece into the war.
No Deputy opposite knew for a certainty that these things were going to happen. We did not know. When we were marshalling our ideas with regard to the year 1940, we had not the knowledge that we now have as to how the events in that year were likely to develop. We have as little knowledge now about the year in front of us as we had then about the year 1940, and we cannot plan against the unforeseen events of this year with any certainty that our plans will be suitable to the conditions that will arise.
Mr. Lemass: We are taking into account various possibilities. We are preparing tentatively and provisionally to deal with various possibilities, but to have one body concentrating on advanced planning would be folly. The one thing that is essential in present circumstances is to keep the most intimate possible contact between those responsible for the planning and those responsible for the administration, so that there will be the least possible delay between the planning and the implementation of the idea. It is for that reason, as well as a number of others, that I think this motion should be rejected.
Mr. McGilligan: The Minister used to like a bit of in-fighting in this House; nobody enjoyed a debate better than he did when he felt he had merits. To-night he announced that he would prefer the quietude of a Dublin audience, four speakers in evening dress, a platform, and no rowdy  allowed to interrupt, or the quietude of a Fianna Fáil cumann where he has it all his own way, where he is only one step from the refuge of the wireless, so much enjoyed by some of his colleagues, where he cannot have the remotest possibility of being answered back.
There never was a motion which allowed for so complete an answer as this. The Minister is asked merely to place the facts before the House. In one of the proposals before the House the Minister is asked to set up an economic council to plan measures to deal with the existing situation, and in the other he is asked for the revelation of whatever plans the Government have prepared, if any, with regard to the relief of distress and the maintenance of employment. The Minister could have answered these motions effectively by saying: “Here are our plans; what better can anybody else offer?” Instead of which he sighs for the quietude of a Dublin audience or a Fianna Fáil cumann, where nobody will interrupt or ask him nasty questions. In one flight of oratory he referred to the obstructions there were to Government plans with regard to the oil refinery. I thought that that project was not merely dead but entirely forgotten. The Minister was asked if the independent organisation, with its own boats, tried to get this country its crude oil supplies and he tailed off lamely with the observation: “We might have been in a better position.”
He was asked: “Had we not tankers —had not that organisation, even in its embryo state, some tankers, and where are they?” I remember a casual announcement in the early days of the war that those people thought it better to transfer registration to the other side, and the Government thought it better that that was so, and we lost the whole of the nine tankers. Two have since been sunk, but the rest are still sailing the ocean. One of the things that might possibly cause rejoicing is that tankers built in Germany are now sailing the seas under the British flag —those of them that are still afloat— but they do not belong to this country, although apparently once they did, and we let seven out of the nine, or the  whole nine, go. The Minister was further asked what would be the situation with regard to these tankers if they were still afloat and bringing in crude oil. I understand that it takes three tankers of crude oil to give us the equivalent of one tanker of petrol. That would mean three tankers loaded with crude oil running the gamble of the ocean to get home here as against one cargo of petrol. If we had the oil refinery the Government would probably say: “There is the organisation; there are some boats; there is something coming in and that represents our work.”
We were told that nobody could have foreseen the events of 1940, and that no one can foresee the events of the nine months ahead of us. Neither can one, but what was a department of supplies established for in the early days of 1938? What did the Minister for Supplies say he was doing in 1939 —arranging for supplies to be brought into this country, apparently feeling that there might be something in the nature of a blockade. The Minister for Supplies, we were told at the time, was interrupting his ordinary work of fostering Irish industry, taking himself and his officials three weeks off their normal tasks in order to get on to this important matter of supplies and rationing. What supplies have we got? We have not yet heard, even in respect of any single commodity, what supplies were brought in by his Department, What supplies can he say his Department was responsible for bringing in? Can he specify even one commodity?
Apparently he thought a rationing system might have to be introduced. The next time we heard of rationing was on the occasion of his address to a Fianna Fáil cumann recently, where, after the facts had been almost sufficiently strong enough to stun most men, he labels his lecture—“Facing the Facts.” How has he faced the facts, and how has he provided for the situation which is upon us? He is the person upon whom Government responsibility rests, but they have a collective responsibility, the whole of them, for his activity or lack of activity. What did he do? There is no necessity to  go through the old petrol muddle and scandal again to any great extent, but, from information that has recently come to me, the position is worse now than ever I thought it was. In the last fortnight I received a letter from a constituent who put himself to me under these conditions, that he is a man who suffers from infantile paralysis and he requires an invalid's chair, which is petrol driven. If he wants to get about, to do whatever business he has to do, if he wants to get his health in the open air, or to go to Mass on a Sunday morning, he must have that chair, and it requires one gallon of petrol a month, and yet he could not get that from the Department. I wrote to him to know if it was serious, and he replied that it was. The position is that an invalid of that type cannot get even one gallon of petrol a month.
Petrol is an article in respect of which the Minister told us in a recent debate that if anyone asked him on the forenoon of Christmas Eve of 1940 what the situation was, he would have said: “As easy as ever it was.” But by the afternoon of Christmas Eve the situation was changed, and it is now at the point when this sufferer from infantile paralysis cannot get 12 gallons a year. Does that represent making proper provision? Could that not have been foreseen? Could something better at least not have been done than to reduce us to that extremity? Has the Minister fully explained what happened with regard to petrol? It was not clear from his speech in the House whether the tankers were numerous or scanty in number, whether they were sunk or diverted to England. At a later stage he intervened, as if it was his all-embracing excuse: “We should have foreseen that the tankers would be sunk!” I do not know what he was Minister for Supplies for if the possibility of tankers being sunk during this war was not ever present to his mind. His excuse was that he was supposed to consider that tankers would be sunk. Not having considered that, he is able to preen himself here that he did all that any man could have done. All the invalids in the country who want to get their health or go to religious service on a Sunday  cannot get the miserable ration of a gallon of petrol a month.
The Minister boasted of the Government's wheat policy, and someone asked him to keep to the present. I understand that the Minister for Industry and Commerce spent the whole night getting back to 1932. Most of his speech was about that period. What happened about wheat? Again we were told in the debate recently to which I have referred that a great organisation called Grain Importers, Limited, was set up. They were looking after imported wheat supplies, but there came a period in November of last year, and at that point Grain Importers told the Minister that for some weeks previously it had been impossible to charter a boat to carry wheat into this country.
What was the position as the Ministry knew it? Luckily, the House did not know it. The position as the Ministry knew it was that if they could get over certain critical days, they had a provision that would carry us as between certain harvests. The month of November was critical, because, if we had to jump into a campaign for increased tillage, for increased sowing of wheat, November was a very critical month, and Grain Importers, Limited, if they were doing their duty in the first week in which they found it impossible to charter a boat, and knowing also the critical portion of the year, should have told the Minister of it. Possibly they did. Possibly they told him for four weeks in succession that they had not found it possible to charter a boat, but it comes to his realisation in the beginning of November that, for some weeks back, it had not been possible to get a single boat. Did the country hear a word about that? Not until the Taoiseach went to the wireless round about Christmas night, when he appealed to America that if the blockade got any worse, would America please see that we got supplies of wheat. That was the first intimation the public got—and that was round about Christmas night—that the situation was bad, and by that time it was clear to those inside Government that no boats would sail the ocean bringing wheat to us.
 There was the valuable period of November, the running-out period of December, and we had started in the very critical time of January, and it was not until something like ten days had passed that the Minister for Supplies thought fit to address members of the House asking them to indulge in a campaign for extra wheat sowings this year, as he did not believe that the provision made by the Department of Agriculture met the position. He sent around a letter which criticised the Department of Agriculture in its methods of dealing with the situation, and he had information that it was impossible to get ships to carry wheat to this country; and he had sat on that information for a valuable ten weeks. If any part of the harvest, which should have been a plentiful one and for which good preparation should have been made, turns out poor; if a very scanty period hits us as between May and the gathering of the next harvest, the people who had that information earlier, and may have had that information some time in October, if Grain Importers, Limited, were doing their duty, the people who have responsibility for Grain Importers, Limited, and who take whatever information they give them, and who sat on it for a period, will bear responsibility before the people. That is the wheat situation.
Butter is still more amazing. There was a professor long ago in a medical school in this country who used to set the young medical men, when they first began to carve the human corpse, the task of discovering what he called the great sciatic nerve, which runs like a rope through the body and which can hardly be mistaken once certain flesh is dissected, and it was his remark always when some blundering apprentice hand cut the nerve: “I asked you to find it, but you have done better. You have cut it.” It took the Minister for Agriculture to go one better than the Minister for Supplies with regard to petrol and wheat. In this country we had a situation with regard to butter —the Minister for Supplies only helped a scarcity which was really brought on by events outside the country—in respect of which the Minister for Agriculture  did honours work. He helped to create a scarcity. When he found it was coming, he did not close down on exports soon enough, and he left this glorious agricultural producing country in a position in which we have been rationed in regard to butter for some months past.
There came a debate here in January of this year in which the present Minister for Supplies told us that we could be quite complacent with regard to tea, that there was no reason why the people should not get their ordinary normal supplies of tea. At the moment at which he was speaking—it was on 16th January—a circular had been sent around to most of the retailers in this country, of a date of 1st January, which announced that tea supplies were irregular and that it was doubtful if they would continue. It indicated a situation in which rationing would obviously become necessary, but, on 16th January, the Minister, on his defence as he was to-night, and because tea had not then drifted into the emergency situation, preened himself about tea, and said there was no reason why the people should be anything but complacent about supplies, that they would go on. Then we had the announcement that tea was to be rationed, and the Minister at that time, beaten about the head, the impact sufficiently strong even on him of the situation with regard to petrol, wheat and tea, decides to read his lecture “Facing the Facts” to his cumann.
He has told us about the situation with regard to coal and Deputy Hickey has asked him with regard to coal brought into the country last August and the price at which it is now being sold. The Minister was asked questions about the price of coal to-day. The price of household coal imported in January, 1941, was 45/2 and in February, 1941, 46/5, and the c.i.f. value of all coal imported was 44/8 to 45/-. Let us take it at a rough and ready 45/-.
With regard to bellmen, as I understand the situation, a certain percentage of every shipload that arrives at the quay is dumped on the quay for bellmen to gather. It comes in at 45/-  and 10 per cent. is dumped on the quays for the bellmen to gather. They are getting it at 63/- and that is passed on, together with their particular expenses, profits and other costs, to the poor. Why is there that gap between 45/- and 63/-? Let us talk about January and February and not about the scandalous matter of the coal imported last summer and retailed at the present price, because that is what is happening. According to the Minister's statement to-day, the price distributed over various grades comes roughly to 45/-, and the bellmen who pick it up from the quayside where it is dumped pay an extra 18/- before they start on their rounds.
Mr. McGilligan: It appears now that the increase shown in all coal between January and February is 1/3, while the increase to the bellmen is 11/-, and they are the people on whom the poor depend for their supplies. Why has that happened, and if there is this method of price-fixing, and this system of price controlling, is there not a scandal here and now ready and ripe for investigation by the hordes of officials and by whomever, as controller of prices, the Minister has under his control?
Have the Government as a whole yet come to any policy on the question of ships for this country? We have sent off to America a Minister, who in this House recently electrified Deputies by saying the more ships were sunk, the happier he would be. I hope he will repeat that where he is gone. I hope he will tell these people who are interested in a particular drive and a particular war effort that his idea is that the fewer ships, American or others, which visit this country, in order to enable it to get a fair standard of life, the better pleased he will be.
Mr. McGilligan: Will the Deputy tell me what was said? I will accept any amendment of it that is given. We were told in the same debate by the Taoiseach that there is no good talking about ships, that even if we had ships of our own, as long as commodities had to be imported, we required a navy to protect them, and after that, the Minister for Supplies went off to his Fianna Fáil cumann and told them that, although it might be a difficult matter to determine here and now, at the height of a war, the first thing which the Minister for Industry and Commerce, or some such branch, after the war would have to attend to would be the getting of a mercantile marine and, of course, if the Taoiseach is right, unless these wars are abolished for ever from the world, with it we must have a navy to protect it. Is that our policy? Are we all out hereafter for a mercantile marine and a navy, or are we going to have a mercantile marine and some system of convoy which we will bend our proud souls to accept in order to get our ships with our goods brought safely across the ocean?
The Minister for Supplies told us in connection with this matter of prices that he had made a standstill order in September, 1939. So he had; he made two of them. They covered a very wide range of commodities. There were certainly 30 or 40 items mentioned in them. Then in the months between September and February, we had a succession of individual price orders which steadily removed commodities from the standstill order. I am sorry the Minister for Supplies has left the House, but I should like to find out from the Minister for Industry and Commerce, who has taken his place, how many commodities are still covered by the standstill order. How many commodities are subject to the standstill order at the present day? I ask him to agree with me that not more than five are governed by it. That is a serious matter in the situation which is developing at the moment.
 I should not feel happy in having a Labour motion adopted here to-night stating that: “In view of dislocation of industry and consequent increase in unemployment due to the emergency situation, the Dáil requests the Government forthwith to set up an economic council to plan measures to deal with the situation.” I would have thought that Deputy Norton and his colleagues would have been warned by the fate of two recent motions in this House that should be fresh in their minds. They fathered a motion here with regard to unemployment some time ago. That motion was short-circuited by an amendment put down on behalf of the Government which in effect stated that instead of discussing the matter of unemployment there and then in the House, it was meet and proper to set up a commission to deal with unemployment. That amendment was adopted some months ago, but as yet we have had no announcement as to the names of the members or the terms of reference of that commission. No action has yet been taken in regard to that amendment. Of course Deputy Norton need not be reminded of what happened here a few weeks ago in respect of a motion dealing with the report of the tribunal set up to deal with a matter of urgent national importance three years ago. That tribunal reported, but the report has as yet been kept secret. We could not even get it debated in this House after an interval of 18 months. Having regard to these facts, I believe that the acceptance of this motion would be regarded with grave suspicion. Personally I would have been unquiet about it. I would have believed that it was like the diversion of the motion about unemployment into a totally new form, and that it was only a way of getting the Government out of their difficulties.
We offer another solution, that the Government should tell us what are their plans for maintaining employment and for relieving distress during the present period of emergency. Is it conceivable that in March, 1941, in respect of a war which started in the Autumn of 1939, that the Government would not have foreseen that unemployment at least was likely as a result of  the restriction of supplies of raw materials?
Is it possible to conceive that in this month of March, 1941, the Government would not have decided that distress was likely to increase in this country and more particularly in this city, and that they would not have thought of some plan to relieve it? I would have thought that acceptance of the motion, although it might be a cute way of shelving the difficulty, would have involved a confession that the Government had no plans at the moment. We think it better that the Government should have an opportunity of saying: “There are plans already completed for dealing with unemployment and relieving distress; here are the things we are going to do.”
I do not know exactly how many speakers there have been on the Government side in this debate, but I believe there have been very few. I have asked some of my colleagues what plans these speakers have foreshadowed with regard to employment and the relief of distress, and I have been told that while the speakers have been few, the proposals have been fewer still. We have no record of any plan to maintain employment or any scheme to relieve distress. If there is one thing that must be present to the minds of people on the Government side at the moment, it is that owing to the increase in the prices of commodities as are purchasable at all, and owing to the fact that certain commodities can only be purchased in restricted quantities, it is quite clear that those who have the long purse are getting as much as they require while those who cannot avail of the long purse are suffering. There is one way to meet that. I do not know if one can point to any country outside this that is in the war or that is threatened with war that has not adopted a full comprehensive system of rationing and price control. We are unique in that respect; we have decided that we shall have this scatterbrained system of price control in the heart of the Department of Supplies without any visible beneficial results to the people. We have  decided, for no reason that anybody can fathom, that we are not going to have a system of rationing. Is there any other way of ensuring a fair distribution of such supplies as can be got? I think it is quite clear that when there are profits to be made, as a result of restriction of supplies, those who are prepared to pay an enhanced price are not likely to suffer any privation while those who cannot afford to pay that enhanced price will undoubtedly suffer. There has been no attempt by the Government to deal with these two matters.
Apart from all that, if the Government believed that their past programme was worth anything more than a few pious platitudinous speeches in this House, they should have felt that they had machinery in their industrial organisation such as we never had before in this country which could be set at work in this emergency. Have they set it at work? Can the Minister for Supplies say in respect of any single item of raw materials that he has helped industrialists to get supplies which, but for his help, could not have been obtained? I do not think he can. Can the Minister for Supplies say that he had forewarned particular groups of industrialists, that the opportunity for getting in raw materials was likely to be lessened in the immediate future and that he exhorted them at that stage to get in increased supplies? I do not believe that there is a single group of industrialists in this country to whom that warning was given, and I know there is no group to whom aid was given, in the sense of financial aid. That again would have allowed the Minister to tell us what had been done, that although he could not forecast with any precision what was likely to happen in the future he could show that certain things had been done in the past to safeguard the position. No matter what explanations are advanced by Ministers in these matters, nobody can say that what has happened in regard to tea, petrol, coal and butter is calculated to induce any confidence in the present Government—their vigilance, their alertness, their capacity to deal with the situation, their capacity to look forward and make plans  against the emergency which is looming.
They could have dissipated that feeling of lack of confidence by saying it was difficult to obtain some commodities, but that in regard to ordinary requirements for our industrial life they had built up a certain machine and they were making it work. They might have said: “We had some pride in that machine because we perfected it ourselves, and we want to test our policy of self-sufficiency by it in this emergency. Here are the plans by which we propose to make use of it.” Can they tell us in regard to one single item how they have availed of that machine to improve the position or to save us from falling into a worse position? I challenge them to say that in regard to one single item. Surely if the Government have not plans already in existence they must in face of the emergency which threatens, excogitate plans, or produce some rough and ready plans to show that there is some speed, some alertness, or some vigour put into this matter?
There is one thing that brooks no delay. I could mention a variety of other matters but time is running on. You have a vast number of people signing on at labour exchanges looking for work which is not there. The Government know that the strain on the labour exchange has been eased in recent months only by the fact that good conditions are offered on the other side and that men have preferred danger and wages to labour exchange signing-on and our neutrality. They have gone in droves out of this country. If Ministers do not believe that, let them get in touch with anybody who has been on the platform of Amiens Street during the past three or four weeks. Then he will find out about the scenes there, as the overloaded trains go off with our people, facing even the night bombing, as long as they get some money to send home for food for their people, rather than have the temporary security of this country and what it means, together with the unemployed people signing on for work that is not here.
We are told that raw materials are  running out. The Minister for Supplies has told us in a recent speech that we are not at the greatest intensification of the war, that we are not at the worst point, that there is worse to come. Does that mean that the Government is simply content to do nothing, while more and more people clutter up the labour exchanges to sign on for the non-existent work? Do they not intend to do anything in regard to that? Even foodstuffs in this country are getting more scarce and, therefore, dearer. Is there to be any attempt to see that the limited quantity required to keep body and soul together will be on sale to the poorer sections of the community at prices which those poorer people can pay? Is there anything undignified in putting every member of this community on the basis that he has a card and coupons and that he will get certain foodstuffs in exchange for certain coupons, and that those coupons will be given to the head of the household in accordance with family strength and not in accordance with the depth of his purse? Why should not that be done?
We are told that keeping up neutrality requires almost as great an effort as maintaining a war situation. Over against us we have England— defamed by nightly broadcasts as being the home of the plutocrats—and in May of last year they turned everything over into the hands of one man or one group of men. They conscripted not merely the bodies of their people for either field warfare or industrial warfare, but they confiscated the wealthy factories and land, and they took over all the property for the service of the nation. That was handed over for proper use along the lines of the war effort. We are told here that our position, in regard to keeping out of the war, is at least as dangerous and entails as much sacrifice and effort as if we were in it.
What is the nearest approach we have made to the socialisation of all property in England? We have this meagre business of asking the tea merchants to register as retailers, and possibly arranging, as the Minister for  Supplies indicated, that that measure might be applied to other people. Then, if these people disobey, they will be dealt with severely. How the measure of their disobedience is to be taken I do not know, but apparently the Minister takes them off the register and they are no longer able to trade. Who is going to give us a standard, who will give us the prices that the people may charge when they do get on the register? Who is going to tell us where there is to be priority in distribution, whether the supplies will go to the big families or the small families, or whether it will be a position in which the supply will go to whomsoever can get first to the counter or to whomsoever has dealt longest and is best known at a particular shop, or to that person whose trade would most be missed from the particular shop.
As regards all these factors, they will eventually work out in favour of the people who ought to be able to make the greatest sacrifices and against the people who are incapable of making any. We have these ridiculous measures for which there is no necessity, as far as I can see, though it might be that, if these ridiculous measures were adopted, there would be less mental anxiety than there is at the moment, apart from the fact that the poorer people would be considered properly. There is a feeling of resentment that people who are better off are, in this crisis, getting more of the limited supplies than others are getting, and there is a feeling which, if it grows, will destroy a great many more things than one political party. That is a situation which ought to be faced. We think that that situation might have been faced here to-night by some spokesman for the Government telling us: “Yes, we have foreseen that.” These people talk about facing facts. Is it not a fact staring us in the face for the past year?
Mr. McGilligan: I am coming to the conclusion. I suggest that these matters are staring us in the face for at least a year back, and one big question is that of increased unemployment, and the consequent distress brought on the people. Some one spokesman of the Government might have told us: “Yes, we foresaw that, and, as far as what we have done in regard to trying to keep the wheels of industry turning is concerned, it may mean a shortage of work amongst a certain number of our people, and we may have to ration the amount of work that there is, but we will keep them going by means of relief schemes. If this fails, and we cannot cover the difficulties in that way, we will see that the limited supplies available will be distributed as equally as possible.” It is on these matters that the Government have been silent. I do not believe it is worth while pressing this demand for an economic council if the Government can do that on their own. If they cannot tell us what they have done to face that emergency, I do not think the Government should be embarrassed by an economic council, which would have to look on at their inactivity from day to day. I would rather have the opportunity to use this House to bring to the people a knowledge of the position in which they are placed, and a knowledge that, in dealing with such matters, the Government has completely failed.
Mr. Byrne: I would ask leave to speak for just two minutes, to express my disappointment—and, I think, the disappointment of the whole House— with the speeches made from the Government Benches to-day. They did nothing. They only made efforts to justify the past, and none of us wished to go into the past. We wished to know what the Government holds for the future, what consolation this debate will bring to the thousands outside tomorrow morning and during the next few weeks. One of the Ministers, in his opening statement to-day, said that we have 20,000 extra people to provide for. He went on to say that we have 13,000 fewer receiving assistance at the  labour exchanges or through benefits. I cannot reconcile these two points, and I wish to know what the Government will do for the 13,000 fewer registering. They are here in our midst; they came back from England, having been bombed out of their homes; they are our own countrymen. However, they are not eligible for benefits from the Government, and they are anxiously hoping that some form of relief measure will be introduced to give them something for their wives and families.
Even the 20,000 extra that the Minister mentioned that he has to provide for are earnestly hoping for some consolation, too. We have all read in the papers about warrants and decrees for possession of people's homes in various parts of Dublin. There are high rents, high costs of living, shortage of materials, scarcity of tea, scarcity of paraffin oil used in tenement houses, and slack given for coal. Deputy Mulcahy has taken a very active part in dealing with such matters. I heard of a case only to-day where small coal purchasers, who sell again in small quantities, are not even allowed to go to the coal banks but are ordered to go to the slack banks, and they sell to our poorer people at 6d. a stone. These are matters I should like Ministers to deal with. They should tell us what is to happen to our people from tomorrow onwards and not what has taken place in the past.
Mr. T. Kelly: I am sure I can speak for the people of Dublin as well as any man who spoke here to-day. I only want two minutes, as was given to the last speaker. I must say that we have the right Government at this time when this terrible disaster is overtaking the Continent. That is the feeling of the people of Dublin.
An Ceann Comhairle: Would the Deputy have a little patience? Deputy Norton gave two minutes to Deputy Byrne. The Chair decided to ascertain whether Deputy Norton would give Deputy Tom Kelly two minutes also.
Mr. T. Kelly: I have made my protest. I say that the feeling amongst the good Dublin people is that they are thanking God that they have such a Government during the present crisis, and such a leader. I submit that that is as good a speech as was made here to-night.
Mr. Norton: This motion, dealing with the establishment of an economic council, and the amendment which was put down in the names of Deputies Mulcahy and McGilligan, were intended, so far as discussion in this House was concerned, to produce a serious debate, and it was hoped that the Government would realise the importance which not only the House but the whole country attach to a discussion on matters of such tremendous importance in existing  circumstances. If we are to judge, however, by the two speeches that were made here from the Government benches this evening I think that the whole economic outlook so far as this country is concerned is bleaker than I ever imagined it to be. The Minister for Industry and Commerce, who was the first speaker here this evening, treated us to a most infantile display, a display of buffoonery which would do discredit to a third-class music hall.
Mr. Norton: I shall withdraw the remark, Sir, but the speeches we listened to here this evening were not by any means in consonance with the dignity of the House, and that is why I am protesting. The Minister treated the House with absolute levity. He regaled himself for three-quarters of an hour in putting up Aunt Sallies of his own creation and then knocking them down, and that is the answer and the kind of procedure we get from a Minister of this House whose job it is—and who is paid for doing it—to deal with the economic problems in this House in our present circumstances.
He spent some time in analysing the possible work and constitution of an economic council. He did not know what it could do, or he could not be convinced that it could do anything. He forgot, apparently, to ask the Taoiseach what he had in mind when, some years ago, he advocated an economic council and an economic G.H.Q. The Minister was so concerned with reducing the whole discussion to a basis of levity that he could not see that he was engaging in a gigantic satire on the advocacy of an economic council by the Taoiseach in past days, although he was told that our intention was that the proposed body should be an advisory body, a body of weight which, by the nature of its personnel, would command respect not merely from the Government, but from the country. The Minister, with characteristic  perversity, this evening endeavoured to suggest that we were urging that the economic council should supersede the Government, that it should take prime place in the economic development of the country, and that the Government should take second place. He wanted to know whether the economic council was going to take over property and, if so, how it was going to distribute that property—as if anybody made a suggestion of that kind! It only arose in his own imagination, and then only for the purpose of misrepresenting the motion.
The Minister then became grave for a few moments, and wanted to know if the economic council was to arrange for the transfer of men from one place of employment to another, or from one industry to another. Even if it had to discharge a function of that kind, I say that it is preferable to transfer hungry, starving men from one centre where there is no work to another centre where there is work in this country. As I said, it is the absence of an economic council, it is the absence of a transfer system, or of any planning system in regard to work or employment, which is causing hundreds of our men to take excursion trains to Belfast every Saturday, or every Thursday, and when these men go they do not come back to this country. Instead, they are joining another Army, and trying to get work in Belfast, or else endeavouring to get across to Britain to get work there. Would it not be better to have an economic council, transferring these people of ours from one place in this country where there is no employment to another place in the country where there is employment to be had, than to have that condition of affairs prevailing? I cannot understand the mentality of the Minister for Industry and Commerce who would not prefer to see our people transferred from places of unemployment to places of employment in this country rather than have that situation develop as it has developed and as he must know it is developing, if he took steps to inform himself of the facts.
Personally, I should prefer to see our people transferred from one place of  employment to another here in this country rather than seeing them standing in the same labour exchange three times a week, having to face the same landlord without rent, week after week, having to face the same grocer without being able to pay, and so on, with all the economic ills that follow to-day in this country as a result of the endeavour of these people to subsist on low standards of State allowances.
The Minister for Supplies this evening did not at all improve on the contribution we had from the Minister for Industry and Commerce. The Minister for Supplies wanted to know whether the Government were to wait while this economic council was considering problems. Well, waiting for the consideration of problems is a task with which this Government is pretty familiar. We have been waiting for the best part of two years for this Government to give the country some definite plan with regard to industry and agriculture, some definite plan which would tide the country over its present war-time difficulties, some plan indicating that the Government appreciated the danger and that it was planning ahead. Yet, after nearly two years, we have not had a shred of information or any indication from the Government as to what steps it is taking, or proposes to take, to deal with the situation which now confronts us or to provide for the still more difficult position which is yawning for us all in the days ahead.
He said that he did not know that the war was going to start, but he was silent on the fact that for nearly a year before the war started the Department of Supplies was in existence and that we were then told that it was devising all kinds of plans to shield us against all kinds of adversity if the crisis should come. A few months after the war was intensified in the vicinity of these islands, however, the Department of Supplies collapsed like a house of cards. We suddenly discovered that there was a shortage of tea, petrol, coal, butter, and that boats could not be got to bring in cargoes of wheat, and the whole Department collapsed like a house of cards so far as its grandiose plans were concerned. The  Minister now tells us, by means of a kind of courteous gesture, presumably, that the people are satisfied that the Government will take effective action. If that is so, if the people are satisfied, why are not the people told now what action the Government proposes to take? The Minister said that he could not say in 1940 in what way the war would develop in 1941 and that, consequently, he could not plan for 1941. He now says that he cannot say how the war will develop next year and that, therefore, it is not possible to formulate a comprehensive plan for dealing with the situation in the following year—as if it is not possible in connection with agriculture to plan and develop our resources to the utmost limit if we have the energy and the courage and if we are prepared to devote some previous preparation to it.
In respect of our agricultural development, it has been pointed out already, in the course of this debate, that Grain Importers, Limited, told the Minister early in November that they could not get ships to transport grain to this country. Nothing was done in November or December. It was away towards the end of January that there were alarming speeches about the shortage of wheat and other cereals, and then the Minister for Agriculture was sent cantering around the country, addressing county committees of agriculture in an endeavour to persuade them to increase the area under tillage. They had been warned in November, but nothing was done between November and the end of January, and it was not until the end of January that the Minister for Agriculture went around the country, and thus a very valuable ploughing and sowing period was neglected so far as the production of wheat was concerned.
The two speeches that we have had here this evening from the Government Benches reveal that there is no plan whatever for dealing with the situation confronting us to-day, and that there are no plans whatever for dealing with the growing and widening unemployment situation. The Minister for Industry and Commerce spent his time logic-chopping this evening, juggling with figures and  telling us that there were 13,000 fewer people idle this year than there were at a particular date last year. Does anybody in his sane senses believe that? If the Minister believes that, then it shows how far out of touch he is with the people and how much divorced he is from a knowledge of their real sufferings. Everybody who has eyes in his head, who mixes with the people, who goes through the country, who attends small meetings and gatherings of the ordinary people in the country, who attends meetings and gatherings of small farmers, knows perfectly well that the struggle for employment to-day is much more intense than it has been for a long time, that, in fact, there are more people idle to-day than there were last year or the year before and that the situation is daily and weekly becoming worse. When we consider that position, let us remember that we have absorbed a considerable number of people in our Army; we have exported a considerable number of people to Britain and to Belfast, and we have provided a certain new type of employment in connection with our new military activities. All these factors, including the fact that at this time of the year, for which the Minister was quoting his figures, the minor relief schemes are in operation throughout the country, have not been able to conceal the grave problem of unemployment or prevent us from seeing its stark reality.
The Minister spoke of the number of emigrants returning to this country. He sought to get some consolation out of these, to weight his case against this motion, but the Minister ought to have told the House—what he knew to be perfectly true—that all the emigrants who come back to this country do not register at the employment exchanges, firstly, because, if they have stamps on their cards, there is no reciprocal arrangement between Great Britain and this country and they get no unemployment benefit and, secondly, they get no unemployment assistance because they are not registered as resident here for 12 months immediately preceding their claim. If 13,000 came back, these 13,000  do not show themselves at the employment exchanges and they must be added to the number of people who are at present registered at the employment exchanges throughout the country.
The Minister for Supplies, this evening, was as delightfully vague as ever he was on the question of the availability of supplies for industry. The Minister could give no hope whatever that the supply position would improve. He could give no indication that we were going to face up to the difficulties, caused by a shortage of supply, in accordance with any previously arranged plan. The Minister told us about the oil refinery which it was proposed to establish in this country. It was proposed to establish an oil refinery. Some of the stories that came out in the Press reports about that refinery from London meetings did not show that the whole venture was just the creditable thing we were told it was likely to be at the outset. But at all events, even that company, such as it was, built, I think, nine tankers in Germany to liquidate the frozen assets of the British group who had money invested in Germany. The nine tankers were to come here and to sail under our flag. I think we had seven when the war started. With delightful generosity, having no petrol of our own, having no crude oil of our own, we proceeded to give away seven of the nine tankers and they are now sailing the oceans of the world, not in our service, not carrying petrol to us, but carrying these supplies to another country. That is the kind of planning the Minister for Supplies has engaged in.
We had from the Minister for Supplies, in January, during the discussion on supplies, a statement that there was nothing wrong with the tea supplies in this country; that the only thing that happened was that one particularly timid tea merchant was rather nervous about the position, and, as a result of that nervousness, had reduced supplies to his customers, but that all the other merchants were giving full supplies to their customers. There was nothing wrong whatever except the particular eccentricities of this one merchant who, on being brought into the presence of  the Minister, had his fears set at rest, and undertook to toe the line and distribute tea in the same manner as his colleagues in the Tea Importers' Association. We were then assured by the Minister that the tea situation was quite all right; there was no scarcity; we could look forward with reasonable calmness to a continuance of supplies. A short time after that debate, the people in the City of Dublin cannot get one-quarter of a pound of tea or half a pound of tea, as the case might be. People's supplies of tea have been cut down to a fragment of their normal supplies, notwithstanding the assurance of the Minister, much less than two months ago, that the tea supply position was perfectly normal, and that there was no reason for anxiety about it.
In the face of statements that things are right, followed by admissions that things are wrong; in the face of statements that supplies are all right followed by statements that supplies are not all right, how can one have confidence in the present Government's policy? The public has been deluded since the war started in respect of supplies. There has been no attempt to take the public into confidence; no attempt whatever to get the public to appreciate the difficulties in the light of definite information given to the public for the purpose of enabling them to appreciate the position. One cannot even get Ministers to give information. This evening, the Minister for Industry and Commerce would not say what quantity of potatoes was exported from this country in the past two months although he knows perfectly  well that tens of thousands of cwts. of potatoes have been exported from this country during the past two months. They dare not give that information to the public lest the public might rightly and properly say that these potatoes ought to be conserved in this country for the use and benefit of our own people. Last year we witnessed the criminal folly of supplying butter to the British people at a subsidised price and our own people cannot get butter now and have not been able to get it for the past few months. How can one have faith in a policy of that kind or confidence in the management of our affairs when they are in hands which are guilty of glaring inequalities and discrepancies of that kind? The other day the Minister stated that there was a crisis of the first magnitude at hand and, after making that admission the other day, he has now no policy whatever for dealing with that crisis. I interpret the Government's declaration this evening, through the speeches of the two Ministers, as an intimation to the plain, poor people of this country that they will have to suffer more hunger and want, that there is no relief at hand and no plan for dealing with the situation. If the Taoiseach can find comfort and consolation in those two speeches, the ordinary people of the country will see in them an intimation to them that their sufferings and privations are going to be continued and, possibly, intensified so long as persons of that kind manage Government policy.
Murphy, Timothy J.
Bennett, George O.
Benson, Ernest E.
Bourke, Dan. Broderick, William J.
Byrne, Alfred (Junior).
Childers, Erskine H.
Cole, John J.
Corry, Martin J.
Cosgrave, William T.
Costello, John A.
De Valera, Eamon.
Dillon, James M.
Doyle, Peadar S.
Gorry, Patrick J.
Keane, John J.
Kelly, James P.
Kennedy, Michael J.
Lemass, Seán F.
Little, Patrick J.
Breslin, Cormac. Lynch, James B.
McDevitt, Henry A.
McFadden, Michael Og.
Mongan, Joseph W.
O Brian, Donnchadh.
O'Higgins, Thomas F.
O'Loghlen, Peter J.
O'Sullivan, John M.
Redmond, Bridget M.
Rice, Brigid M.
Ruttledge, Patrick J.
Walsh, Laurence J.
|Bennett, George C.
Benson, Ernest E.
Broderick, William J.
Byrne, Alfred (Junior).
Cole, John J.
Cosgrave, William T.
Costello, John A.
Dillon, James M.
Doyle, Peadar S.
McFadden, Michael Og.
Mongan, Joseph W.
Murphy, Timothy J.
O'Higgins, Thomas F.
O'Sullivan, John M.
Redmond, Bridget M.
Childers, Erskine H.
Corry, Martin J.
De Valera, Eamon.
Gorry, Patrick J.
Keane, John J.
Kelly, James P.
Kennedy, Michael J.
|Lemass, Seán F.
Little, Patrick J.
Lynch, James B.
McDevitt, Henry A.
O Briain, Donnchadh.
O'Loghlen, Peter J.
Rice, Bridget M.
Ruttledge, Patrick J.
Walsh, Laurence J.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Doyle and Bennett; Níl: Deputies Smith and S. Brady.
Question declared negatived accordingly.
The Dáil adjourned at 11 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 12th March, 1941.
|Last Updated: 19/05/2011 02:44:45||Page of 22|