Wednesday, 12 March 1941
Dáil Éireann Debate
That a sum not exceeding £12,350,000 be granted on account for or towards defraying the charges that will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1942, for certain public services, namely:—
|2House of the Oireachtas||41,700|
|3Department of the Taoiseach||4,600|
|4Comptroller and Auditor-General||6,560|
|5Office of the Minister for Finance||24,500|
|6Office of the Revenue Commissioners||309,000|
|7Old Age Pensions||1,230,000|
|9Office of Public Works||48,500|
|10Public Works and Buildings||380,500|
|13Civil Service Commission||7,400|
|14Property Losses Compensation||350|
|15Commissions and Special Inquiries||3,100|
|16Superannuation and Retired Allowances||166,700|
|17Rates on Government Property||49,000|
|19Expenses under the Electoral Act, and the Juries Act||Nil|
|21Stationery and Printing||60,000|
|22Valuation and Boundary Survey||11,000|
|24Supplementary Agricultural Grants||450,000|
|26Universities and Colleges||77,700|
|27Widows' and Orphans' Pensions||150,000|
|28Quit Rent Office||1,100|
|29Management of Government Stocks||20,700|
|32Office of the Minister for Justice||14,600|
|36Supreme Court and High Court of Justice||18,400|
|37Land Registry and Registry of Deeds||15,700|
|Public Record Office||1,744|
|40Charitable Donations and Bequests||1,100|
|41Local Government and Public Health||410,000|
|42General Register Office||4,278|
|44National Health Insurance||103,000|
|45Office of the Minister for Education||63,000|
|49Science and Art||15,500|
|50Reformatory and Industrial Schools||60,000|
|55Industry and Commerce||87,600|
|56Transport and Meteorological Services||29,460|
|59Unemployment Insurance and Unemployment Assistance||383,000|
|60Industrial and Commerical Property Registration Office||4,800|
|61Posts and Telegraphs||885,800|
|66League of Nations||5|
|68Agricultural Produce Subsidies||80,000|
|69Office of the Minister for Supplies||9,535|
|70Irish Tourist Board||1,500|
|71Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies||5,600|
|72Repayment of Trade Loans Advances||Nil|
|73Emergency Scientific Research Bureau||4,000|
As Deputies are aware, the purpose of the Vote on Account is to enable moneys to be made available for the carrying on of the various Supply Services during the interval which must elapse in every financial year before the Dáil has had an opportunity for discussing each Supply Service Estimate in detail. Normally the greater part of the first four months of the financial year has elapsed before all  the Estimates have been considered by the Dáil and the Appropriation Act passed into law. It is, therefore, customary to provide in the Vote on Account sufficient moneys to cover the working of the various Departments and services for the period from the 1st April to the 31st July. The amount necessary in most cases approximates to one-third of the total net Estimate for the year, but in some instances a departure from that proportion is necessary.
The various items comprising the Vote on Account of £12,350,000 are set out on the Order Paper and in the White Paper which has been circulated. As Deputies will have observed from the Volume of Estimates, the total net provision for the Supply Services in respect of the year 1941-42 is £35,322,791. This represents an increase of £697,755 on the net provision of £34,625,036, including Supplementary Estimates, in respect of 1940-41. The original net provision for the current financial year was £30,511,359 and, as compared with this figure, the 1941-42 provision is up by £4,811,432.
Whichever of the two modes of comparison Deputies may choose to adopt, the increase can only be attributed to the necessity for greater provision for the Army. The Army Estimate for the coming year shows an increase of £1,404,498 as compared with the total Army provision for 1940-41 (including supplementaries), or an increase of £4,957,908 as compared with the original net Estimate for the current year. It will be apparent that, were it not for the increase in Army expenditure there would be a net decrease over the whole Supply Services, notwithstanding the rising costs of materials reflected throughout many of the existing services and the expansion of Governmental activity necessitated by the present emergency.
Deputies will probably have noticed that the usual explanatory details of the Army Estimate for the coming year have been omitted as the Government have decided that, so long as the  present emergency continues, it would not be in the public interest to publish such information.
As compared with the current year's Estimates, including supplementaries, there are increases on 27 of the 1941-42 Estimates, decreases on 42, while four show no change. The total of the increases on the various Votes amounts to £1,836,632, while the total of the decreases amounts to £1,138,877.
Dr. O'Higgins: I regret very much that a bill of this immensity should be presented to Parliament and to the people with such an economy of words. Without actually acting as a timekeeper, I would say that it took the Minister for Finance just three minutes to explain, or pretend to explain, exactly why this country should be asked to provide £5,000,000 more than we were asked to provide this time last year. I think, like every Government that has been in office for a great number of years, the breach between Government and people in this country at the present moment is more marked in extent than any breach that was ever before found to exist between Government and people. It has been the experience of all of us, on both sides of this House, that a Party must have been coquetting with the people very actively, very intensely and very closely for a number of years before the result is achieved of securing control of Government. That close contact continues for one, two or three years, and then, gradually, people and Government begin to drift apart. The rapidity with which that drift has taken place in the case of the present Government has been remarkable. The tone and style of Ministers, one after the other, as they stand up from that bench are ample evidence of the distance between themselves and the people.
I believe we have reached a state of affairs in this country when every £10 note counts very much. We have reached the stage when there should be as much explanation to-day about every extra £10 taken from the public purse as would be required ten or 11  years ago to explain a demand for, say, £100,000. We can all recollect the time when the present Ministers occupied this Bench: their eloquence, their vehemence and their tears about the load of taxation that oppressed the people, when the demands on the people was some £12,000,000 or £13,000,000 less than the demand made to-day by the Minister for Finance in a few brief words. He told us that most of the demand is to be accounted for by the extra demands of the Army. We have been told that every year during the past three years. We have been told that each huge Vote that was demanded for the Army was to be the last, and that it would bring the Army to the final stage of equipment. The money was voted. The money was spent, but apparently the goods were not procured. If the sum so voted had been spent for the purpose for which they were voted, there is a very real explanation required in order to justify the cost of sending a Minister to America for two, three or four months or longer. The explanation given to Parliament and the people is that he went to buy arms. The presumption is that sufficient arms have not been bought—could not be procured—but any sum asked for was never reduced by one halfpenny. If there is such an inadequacy of arms that it has been necessary to send a Minister away for months, I think it is very unwise to be proclaiming it to the world. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry and Commerce told us a short time ago that the safety of the State would be threatened, that the State would be rocked to its very foundations, if we knew the amount of wheat and tea that came into the country in the last few months. Yet, in the light of that statement we proclaim to all the world that we lack arms and military equipment, and that we lack them to such a very grave extent that it is necessary to send a Minister away for months. If any of us had made a statement to that effect outside the House a fortnight or a month ago, the full weight of the emergency powers would be felt. The man who has gone to America is the very man who would ensure that newspapers would be  completely put out of print should any such statement appear in an Irish newspaper. That type of blundering is characteristic of the whole team for some years past. The more serious the situation becomes the more blundering there is and the more pronounced becomes the lack of consideration shown for the people.
Repeatedly from these benches we have urged on the Taoiseach and his Ministers, with regard to supplies not only for the Army but for the people of the country, that it would be advisable there should be direct Ministerial contact between our Ministers here and the Ministers of the country from which we have always bought 70 or 80 per cent. of our goods. The reply we always got was that there was no necessity for such contact, that that country had its representative here, that approaches could be made to that representative, and that the reason why we have all this machinery of representation in the different capitals is in order to make it unnecessary for Ministers to travel from one country to the other. That was a reasonable argument. It was a reasonable answer, and if it was a truthful answer, and represented the real situation, the cost of a taxicab would do to establish contact between our Government and the Supply Department of the United States of America. There cannot be always two heads on the penny that the Taoiseach tosses. That was the answer we got not once but many times. The other head is going to turn up this time in the Taoiseach's favour.
With regard to this particular Vote on Account, the customary practice has been to give notice of the particular items that are to be discussed in detail. It is one of the few occasions in the year when the Dáil is presented with, as it were, a tabloid Vote, a Vote which requires money for each and every Department, and a Vote which permits of discussion on each and every Department. I think it is true to say that there is scarcely one Department which can be congratulated on its work in recent years. Reading the provincial Press, I notice that those who were the strongest adherents and supporters of the Government in the past are  those who are becoming most vocal nowadays in their criticism of the Government. I am inclined to think that we are living in times when a full sense of responsibility may be better demonstrated by a person's capacity to keep a grip on his tongue rather than the capacity to lash any particular Department with that tongue. I speak, as others, with very great restraint, and I have no idea of going into detail with regard to the activities, the mistakes, the blunders of the various Departments. Most of those blunders, unfortunately, are only too well known and too acutely felt by the people. The people themselves, in their irritation and in their anger with the Government, have been calling to task all Deputies and all Parties for giving too free a rein to the Government, for abstaining too consistently from carrying out their functions of challenging, of opposing, of criticising the Government.
Every one of us knows that to a greater or lesser extent throughout this country of ours there is a growing anti-Parliamentary movement, and to an extent an incentive to the growth of that movement has been the amount of freedom from criticism which has been given to Government Ministers in this Assembly for the past 18 months. That was done with the best intentions in the world. The results outside were bad. The results inside were worse. We cannot control the results outside. Inside, the one result has been that Ministers, one after the other, have carried on their work casually, negligently, encouraged in the belief that the day of criticism, of controversy, of opposition, was gone. We have that stamp clearly seen on every single one of the Ministries. Perhaps the one which comes most clearly under public notice nowadays, and affects the life of the people most closely, is the Department of Supplies—a costly Department, a huge Department, and a vital Department. In so far as any of us can interpret the functions of that Department by its contacts with the people, one may summarise its activities by saying it is a huge and costly Department, there for the purpose  of notifying the people when supplies have run out. The local merchant could do that. He would not cost half as much. There is no warning in advance—merely a notification that the worst has happened. When that notification reaches the other Departments of State, they all buzz into activity. If it were in the month of July that they were told of a wheat or a flour shortage, presumably they would select July as the month to tear up the land. We had no timely intervention, no timely increased tillage drive. Either the Department of Supplies did or did not know last fall that there was a shortage, or that there would probably be a shortage in 1941; yet, it was the end of January before any approach was made to farmers and people holding land that it was vital that more land should be turned up in order to safeguard the food supply of the people. When we discussed supplies here some two months ago we had the farcical exhibition of the Minister for Supplies, with his customary brazenness, standing up over there to down-face anybody here who suggested that there was a tea shortage. We were merely engaged in the malicious game of panicking and disturbing the country for political purposes. We had statements of that kind made over there on a Wednesday or a Thursday evening, and on the following Sunday night, I think it was, we had the Taoiseach going on the air, a kind of a representation of all the Apocalypse horsemen rolled into one, giving notice of tea famines, petrol famines, wheat and flour famines and butter famines. That was three days after the Minister for Ballyhoo had told us that things were never better.
Dr. O'Higgins: We were told that perhaps it was true that one wholesaler had held up supplies of tea, but he had been approached and the situation was now all right. Three days later the Taoiseach broadcasts that the situation is grave, is serious, and amongst the items mentioned was tea.
 At the time he was speaking the port of Dublin was glutted with tea, but there was no machinery of government, no activity of government, to connect central government with the port of Dublin. When every pump in the country was run dry of petrol, the Department of Supplies stirred itself into activity to the extent of notifying the people that petrol was gone. I suppose the Minister would claim that that is being efficient.
Dr. O'Higgins: And I suppose he claims that the manner in which the petrol situation has been handled since bears the stamp of efficiency. I have no hesitation in saying—and I bring it home to the Minister—that the handling of that particular commodity since bears the stamp of crass stupidity. Civil servants must do their job according to rules and regulations laid down. They have not, or rarely have, full powers of discrimination, for the free mind, the active mind, the live wire is expected to be on top, the temporary head of the Department.
We have in the issue of petrol the kind of live, elastic, flexible mentality that would be represented by an old-time cannon ball. What have we got? We have certain classes picked out to whom petrol will be issued. We have the bulk of motor owners thrown on the scrap heap. They may have sunk their money in cars; they may have taxed and insured their cars. They may be living in a house miles from their work, miles from schools, miles from a marketing town or shop. The whole homestead was, to an extent, based on the car. No consideration whatsoever is given to them, but we have certain classes who will get petrol. The petrol situation may be so very bad that only certain classes can be catered for. How are they catered for? Amongst them we have clergymen and doctors. There is a flat rate of allowance of petrol to all, according to the horse-power of the car. There is one doctor whose job is in an institution, who can do his work in carpet slippers, who has not  to travel a mile in the year to attend his patients and do his work. There is another doctor with a huge Connemara dispensary district. There is the same allowance of petrol to both.
Mr. Lemass: I stated in the Dáil last week, to the knowledge of a number of Deputies, that in the case of doctors we were able to make special allowances for those whose circumstances were exceptional.
Dr. O'Higgins: I will give the Minister an idea of some of the work of his Department. The exceptions made and the allowances made were to have effect if there was a grave epidemic. The flat rate allowance to a doctor is based on the horse-power of his car, not on his duties, not on his population, and not on the area. If he is a very special case, it will take special certification, and, after a considerable length of time, he may get an extra ration. The same applies to clergymen. Whether a man is a professor teaching in an institution, or responsible for a large parish, there is no discrimination. Latterly we have been told that special cases will receive special consideration. I was immersed as late as the night before last in a mass of complaints and correspondence from doctors and in most of the letters there was written down the number of times they had communicated with the Minister's Department without receiving a reply. Is that the type of Departmental activity we are to congratulate the Minister on?
Mr. Lemass: I do not care if the Deputy congratulates me or not, but I would like to draw his attention to the fact that we published a large scale advertisement in the papers pointing out that it was not proposed to reply individually to letters and that the rations allowed could not be increased.
Dr. O'Higgins: I regret it was necessary for the Minister to notify the public that the era of courtesy has passed in Government administration, because, if more of the public were here, you could have saved the price of the advertisement.
Dr. O'Higgins: The fact that I did read an announcement from the Department that no replies would be made is no reason why I should not complain of the matter here. The advertisement only added insult to injury. The public, when they are paying for a Department, have a right as taxpayers to receive a reply to their communications, and all the jaunty advertisements that the Minister may design will not clear him of the responsibililty of having to reply to correspondents. Is there any divine right with the Minister's Department that it is to be exempt from the ordinary procedure of courtesy that has been the practice in every Government Department in every State? Merely because the people were so stricken with the bungling of the Minister, he probably got more correspondence to deal with than did any other Minister. The advertisement does not clear the Minister from the responsibility of replying to correspondence.
Important organisations, at a time when many, at least, are paying lip service to vocationalism—such bodies within the community as have vocational organisations—were confronted with this advertisement when they tried to represent their members or put up, in a concentrated, considered way, the disabilities under which their trades or professions were suffering. We had further evidence to-day of that determination to exclude the person who is paying for all from any rights,  even the right to information. We had evidence of it in the replies of the Parliamentary Secretary to a leading Deputy, an ex-Minister, representing one of the constituencies making up the city, a Deputy pressed, worried, annoyed and irritated, as every Deputy is, whether in the city or the country, by people who cannot get supplies, people who cannot get their requirements in the way of food. They asked that Deputy why is this, what is the reason, has there been a complete cutting off of supplies. That Deputy, as a democratic representative working within a democratic machine, comes here to Parliament and asks a simple, straightforward question with regard to imports of tea and flour. It is a question that demands an answer, a question to which that Deputy is entitled to get a reply.
What is the game that is played? There is a hocus-pocus reply about the world situation, the world war, the awful state of emergency, and that it would be unsafe to let the Deputy know what every tally clerk at the Port of Dublin knows—and these are the people who at the moment are the custodians of the institutions of this State, including Parliament. That kind of reply and that kind of antics are doing more damage to Parliament and more damage to democracy in this State than those whom you have behind barbed wire could do if they were at liberty. If there is sabotage going on here, if confidence is being undermined, if Leftist organisations are growing in strength, they are being pap-fed by these antics and by the insolence of that type of Parliamentary reply. As a result of all this type of activity or inactivity, we have reached a point in this country when not thousands but hundreds of thousands of people are going out of work weekly. They are going out of work weekly because either the industry out of which they lived is paralysed or working at half-cock because the raw materials of that industry are being curtailed, and these people are clamouring for consideration by Parliament. A Deputy, through the ordinary machinery of Parliament, in the  ordinary manner, asks questions. He is told that he will not be answered and he meets these thousands who are being hurled out of work and tells them: “The Government refuse to give any information in Parliament as to why you are being thrown out of work.” Do you not know that you are breeding revolutionaries by that style of answer like blue-bottles on a dungheap?
Dr. O'Higgins: Are you living on a different planet? Do you not know what the world is like? Do you not know the internal workings of the country? Have you no sense of responsibility for the future? Do you think you can come here like so many little tin-pot czars, despising the people, showing your contempt for Deputies and trampling on Parliament itself? The greatest disservice that was ever done to this Parliament was when Ministers adopted the phraseology: “not in the public interest.” If Parliament is not a place where questions can be put and where questions will be answered fully, freely, frankly, then discussion will take place outside and the mischief-maker will enter into the discussions. Every phrase and every phase of life will be distorted and the object inside and behind these discussions will be to tear down.
It would be well for every Minister to get back to something like where he was ten years ago, to re-establish his contacts with the people, to re-establish his lines of communication to and from the people, to have some kind of machinery to let him know what the people are thinking, what the people are doing, what the people are saying, to try to revive if there is a spark of it left, at least, the phrases of humanitarianism which bubbled so freely to their lips ten, 12 years ago, to revive the spirit, even if it was a hypocritical spirit, of deep consideration for the people. It would be well for him to realise that if the supply position has reached such a point that hundreds of thousands of people must go short, that tens of thousands must  go out of work and that tens of thousands of families must face ruin, hunger and destitution, there is an obligation not only on Deputies but on Ministers and the whole of Parliament to give the appearance, at least in Parliament, that we are conscious of the afflictions that have fallen on these people, that we are sympathetic towards them in their misery and that any use that can be made of Parliament to give them all information, so as to make clear to them in an easy, simple way why it is that the industry which previously gave them full employment can carry now only half, or the industry out of which they and their fathers lived has now closed its doors, to make clear to them that this position is due to circumstances not within our control, but outside our control. Surely in that way you would at least be generating through the people a deeper sense of understanding, and the irritation, annoyance and anger of these people would be directed not towards those who have no responsibility for that state of affairs but towards those who are directly responsible for it.
If these immense votes, introduced without apology and without explanation, are to bear any fruit, that fruit can only be brought forth by the freedom of discussion which such votes must provoke in a House such as this, and nothing but harm can result from Ministerial insolence and Ministerial taciturnity. I ask Ministers to remember this, that when statements are made here by one Deputy, it is merely one voice expressing the thoughts of hundreds of thousands outside, and when a question is asked here by one Deputy, it is the request of only one Deputy, but a request made in order to convey information to hundreds of thousands of decent people outside.
An Ceann Comhairle: It might not be amiss to state that it is usual to give the Ceann Comhairle an intimation as to the subjects selected for discussion on the Vote on Account. These should be of a general character dealing with general financial or other policy. On this occasion, the subject  selected by the main Opposition is supplies.
Mr. Hughes: Facing as I believe the most critical year that this country has faced for the last half century, not only for the defence of our country and of our national rights, but from the economic and financial standpoint, I was grievously disappointed at the paucity of the Minister's remarks on this Vote on Account as a justification for such expenditure. We were told that the huge increase of approximately £5,000,000 in the Estimates for Supply Services was covered by the increased Vote for Defence. In my opinion, a mere bald statement of that sort is not sufficient to account for that huge sum. It is treating Parliament and the taxpayers generally with contempt. The attitude adopted by the Minister, and that has been adopted in recent months by Ministers generally, is undoubtedly bringing Parliamentary institutions into disrepute. We were told that the increase was mainly accounted for by the huge amount necessary for defence. I do not think any Deputy will attempt to question the advisability of spending the huge amount of money that we are spending at present on defence. We all agree that it is necessary to provide adequate defences; that it is our moral responsibility to do so. What struck me on looking over the various items was that, while huge sums of money are being spent on uniforms, salaries and general supplies for the Army, the amount actually spent on arms and armaments is relatively small. As that is a matter we should not discuss in detail I do not propose to do so, but it would be an unfortunate position for the country if, having devoted large expenditure on defence, we found that the equipment was poor. I have no doubt that our Army will give an excellent account of itself if it has to do so, but it would be under a very grievous handicap if it was short of the necessary arms and equipment.
I understand that this debate covers mostly Supply Services, and under that heading I am principally concerned with the agricultural position. With regard to increased agricultural  production and food supplies, it was on Christmas Day that we got the first intimation as to the serious position of food supplies for the coming year. As a matter of fact, I think it was on Christmas Day that the Taoiseach broadcast an appeal to America to come to our aid with certain essential food supplies, but it was some two weeks later that any campaign for increased production of food here was undertaken. Anybody who has any appreciation of the necessity of early notification to the agricultural community to prepare for increased production of food, realises that it was unfortunate there was not earlier intimation and an earlier appeal made for increased agricultural production. As a result of the adverse weather conditions during the last couple of months we find ourselves now in an unfortunate position with regard to the amount of land under wheat, and it is necessary, even at this late hour, to review the position to see what can be done about it. Appeals have been made to the Minister for Agriculture from time to time about supplies of seeds. If farmers are asked to put an increased amount of land under tillage, some effort should at least be made to protect their interests.
The House is aware that the Minister for Agriculture last year licensed certain individuals to assemble seed wheat, and fixed the price that was to be paid to the farmers at 2/6 over the guaranteed price of 35/-. Irish-produced seed wheat was bought by licensed assemblers at 37/6, and that seed has since been sold back at from 55/- to 65/- a barrel. In many cases a considerable quantity of seed reached farmers at 62/-, 63/-, and 65/-. That is a disgraceful situation at a time when farmers are expected to produce a crop of wheat for the coming year at the not very attractive price of £2 a barrel. The agricultural community generally was so chastened as not to kick up a row about that, but the Minister, at least, should have faced up to his responsibility and controlled the price of seed wheat. There was no difficulty about fixing the price. He had the basis of 37/6, allowing a reasonable margin for handling charges which, in my opinion, should be covered by 10/- a barrel. That seed  should have reached farmers again at a cost of about 47/6, but they had to pay from 10/- to £1 more than that. As a result many farmers have been fleeced in the purchase of seeds.
The reply that Deputies get in this House when they put down a question is that the Minister says it is not in the national interest to give any information. I put down a question some time ago to the Minister for Supplies with regard to superphosphate manures. I asked him whether he approved of an ex-factory price of £8 per ton. He gave me that information. I asked him to give me some information as to the approximate dates of the landing of raw rock in this country. He refused to give me that and said that it was not in the public interest. I then asked him if he would give me even the date of the last landing of raw rock, and again he refused and said that it was not in the public interest. I cannot see why it is not in the public interest to know when the last landing of raw rock was made in this country. I cannot satisfy myself as to the justification or otherwise of an ex-factory price of £8 per ton. We are paying a subsidy through the Department of Agriculture of £1 per ton on superphosphate and the effect of that is nullified to a very great extent by the exorbitant price charged by the manufacturers.
I have here the official prices of fertilisers obtaining in England at present. The official price of superphosphate at Bristol is £5 4s. per ton; Hull, £4 19s. 6d.; Liverpool, £5 4s. 6d.; London, £4 19s.; Leigh, £5 0s. 6d. These are the prices at five centres all over England, giving an average ex-factory price of £5 1s. 6d. There are certain rebates on that. There is a rebate of 3/- per ton if delivery is taken in the month of January, and of 1/6 per ton in the month of February. In round figures, £5 per ton is the ex-factory price in England, and the ex-factory price here is £8. I am deliberately dealing with superphosphate, because the ex-factory price of sulphate of ammonia in England is £10 2s. per ton. Sulphate of ammonia is manufactured in England and has always been much cheaper in England  than here, because it is manufactured there. I am taking a particular basic manure, and the source of the raw material for that for both countries is the same, namely, North Africa, and both countries manufacture their own manures. While it is conceivable that the transport charges in our cases are higher——
Mr. Lemass: The Deputy does know that British ships are controlled, and not merely are freights controlled, but they are subsidised by the British Government. Phosphate rock into Great Britain is carried in British ships, while phosphate rock had to be brought here in neutral ships chartered in the open market at the top freight at which ships could be obtained. That factor will be sufficient to indicate the cost of transport, not from North Africa, because it has not been available from there for 12 months, but from across the Atlantic, and the freight is very much higher than in Great Britain.
Mr. Hughes: I have referred to that possibility and I concede that to the Minister. I am taking this up because I represent a very intensive tillage area where a lot of artificial manure is used and has been used for a great many  years. I have tried from time to time to elicit some information from the Minister, and I want to protest against the contemptuous way I have been treated by the Minister in that regard. I have gone to some trouble to try to determine what the position is. I am not at all satisfied that there is any justification for an ex-factory price of £8. What was the position when the agricultural community were satisfied to grow essential food for the community at a price that was not by any means attractive under the conditions that operated last Christmas with regard to the price of essential artificial manures? First of all, we got a delivery of 25 per cent. of last year's supply and there was no sign of any further supplies being forthcoming. From time to time we tried to find out what the position was from the Minister for Agriculture, but he was so vague about the whole position that we could get no information. We were told by him that there was a possibility of 50 per cent. of last year's supply, and, during the tillage drive, the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture went to Cork and announced that a supply of 75 per cent. would be available. But, when a further 25 per cent. of last year's supply was eventually released at a very late period, the price had jumped 35/- per ton, although, without taking that into consideration at all, the price of wheat had been fixed and the whole position with regard to the farmer was ignored.
My attitude on the whole question of essential food for the people was and is still that, facing the very critical time in which we are living and the very serious future for this country, we cannot afford to think individually or sectionally. I do not want to stress the farmer's interest particularly; neither do I want the farmer to make excess profits any more than anyone else; but I think he is entitled to consideration and to a fair crack of the whip, and he is not getting that. Farmers are not being protected at present, as a most important section of the community ought to be protected, if you want them to do their best in this emergency. No effort has  been made to protect them, either in regard to seeds or artificial manures.
What is the position in regard to compound manures? There is 100 per cent. of last year's supply of compound manures available, and any man who bought compound manure last year can get 100 per cent. of what he bought last year. What does that mean? It means that it is contrary to the whole policy of the Department of Agriculture, because farmers have always been advised by the Department to buy single manures and make their own mixture; to study artificial manures and to see what type of mixture would suit their own circumstances; and that, in any case, it was a cheaper and better proposition for them, because the manufacturers always took the advantage of charging too much for compound manures. The price of compound manures as against single manures was always relatively too high, and the low grade phosphates were always mixed in the compound manures. That was the advice of the Department to the farmers and the progressive and keen farmer took advantage of that. The man who took the advice of the Department is penalised this year, because the manufacturers have been permitted to manufacture 100 per cent. of last year's supply of compound manures. The farmer who last year ignored the advice given by the Department of Agriculture is, obviously, going to be the wise man this year, because he is to get 100 per cent. of what he got last year. I think that is not treating the people fairly. This question has aroused a good deal of indignation all over the country. First of all the supply was held up to a very late period. Secondly, there is no reliable information as to the quantity that is available. One Department appears to be contradicting the other on that. Another point is, that within the last few weeks the price has been jumped without any justification because so far as my information goes no raw rock has arrived in this country for some months past.
There is also the question of oil for tractors which we have discussed here  during the last few weeks. I put down a number of questions to the Minister for Supplies with a view to focussing his attention on that problem, to try to get him and his Department to realise the important place that these tractors fill in the agricultural life of the country. We know that on the very large farms their cultivation depends to a very large extent on the employment of these tractors. A number of new tractors came into the country within the last two years. It is well, however, that it should be realised that the high compression engines in these tractors will not function without adequate supplies of vaporising oil. The supply of that vaporising oil for tractors was allowed to run out at a critical period in the year. The Minister may say that after a period he found a substitute for it in a new compound fuel—a mixture of kerosene and petrol. But why was a valuable period of time allowed to be lost, and why were a number of these tractors immobilised for want of fuel? Obviously, because the Department did not take the matter seriously and did not worry about the position. I wonder if the Minister is aware that there is one particular company not able to supply this new fuel for tractors to-day, with the result that there are some tractor-owners who at the moment are without a supply of fuel. Does the Minister appreciate what that means, and the effect that it is going to have on future production?
Again, in some areas, owing to the lateness of the season and the fact that the land is still very wet, many farmers have been unable to sow wheat. There is no doubt, I think, but that the area of land under wheat this year is not going to come up to the Minister's anticipations or to meet the nation's requirements. There will be quite a good increase under oats and barley. No attempt is being made by the Department of Agriculture to deal with the position as regards seed. In some counties seed barley is definitely scarce, even at this early period of the year. To my knowledge, the Department made no attempt to review the position and find out what quantity of barley and oats seed was available.
 In my opinion no proper planning has been done with regard to the production of essential food. I come from an area of the country where there is intensive cultivation of sugar beet. I want to say now that I am very doubtful whether, at the present time, it is in the national interest to cultivate 100 per cent. of our requirements in sugar beet. I say that at the risk of offending many sugar-beet growers in my area. I believe the policy that is being pursued by our neighbours in England and Northern Ireland is the right one. It has resulted in a tremendous increase in the area of land that is being put under potatoes. It is all very well to advise farmers at the present time to grow more potatoes, but that is not enough. If we find ourselves in the position next year that our wheat production is far short of our requirements, the best substitute we can have is potatoes. I want to say to the Minister that it is not yet too late to encourage a big increase in the area of land under potatoes. We should do as our neighbours have done in that respect—give a guaranteed price for potatoes, one that will ensure a plentiful supply of them next year. That is a matter that should be taken up immediately, otherwise it will be too late.
I ask the House to bear this fact in mind, that I am not blaming the Government if the area of land under wheat falls far short of their anticipation and of their requirements. That is due to adverse weather conditions, the fact that the land could not be cultivated in its present condition. I suggest to the Government that they ought to fix a guaranteed price for potatoes. We know that in England and in Northern Ireland, as a result of fixing a handsome price for potatoes last year, the Governments there succeeded in getting their farmers to put a hugely increased area of land under potatoes. I think that if we want to make suitable provision for our people we should do the same. If our wheat supply falls short of requirements our people will not go hungry if we have a plentiful supply of potatoes and milk. While on that point, I should like to say that I do  not think it is at all suitable that cottage plots should be laid down under wheat, oats or barley. These plots should be sown with potatoes and garden vegetables so that should there be an acute shortage of food next year, the occupiers will have a supply of suitable food to meet their own requirements. It is almost certain that there will be a shortage of essential food, if the shipping position does not improve. The Minister for Supplies has told us that he does not anticipate any improvement in that respect. No ships are being chartered to carry grain to this country.
While on the question of food supplies, I desire to refer briefly to a matter that we debated last week. I want to say that I think it is a real crime at the present time, when one takes into account the scarcity of food generally in those islands, to have the wholesale slaughter of herds carried out wherever an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease occurs. We all agree that where the disease is present the infected animals ought to be destroyed and buried. That ought to be done immediately. Unfortunately, delays have taken place in digging trenches and in burying infected animals. A delay of a week or more has occurred in some cases. I discussed that privately with the Minister for Agriculture yesterday, and I do not want to go into it here. There is this point that I would like to emphasise, that where animals at one end of a large farm do not come into contact with infected animals at another end of the farm, the former, I think, should not be slaughtered. You have, however, cases like that. An outbreak occurs at one end of a large farm—this has actually happened in the County Dublin—and at the other end of it you have stock there that have not made any contact whatever with the diseased animals. Yet, all the animals on that farm have been slaughtered and destroyed. It seems ridiculous to me, when we talk about food supplies, that that valuable food should be lost simply because those animals happened to be on a farm where the disease is present and that there might be a risk  of infection if they are allowed to live. Those animals are perfectly free from the disease. The food is good and absolutely fit for human consumption. It seems a shame, a crime, that that food should be buried. It ought to be used for human consumption, providing necessary food for our own people, or there is no reason why we should not export it if necessary. The British are doing it themselves. In the case of the S.S. Kilkenny, which produced an infected animal at Birkenhead, there were 15 contacts in that case, but there was only one destroyed The rest were slaughtered and used for food. I think their system of handling this disease has been very effective in the past. They consider that this food is good for human use and is free from disease. They have not destroyed it, and I think we should not destroy it. There is no reason why those animals should not be killed and dressed on the farm, packed in canvas and brought in either for consumption here or for export.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance (Mr. Flinn): I should just like to ask the Deputy whether or not the British did that in pre-emergency cases of this kind, or whether they are just doing it in those emergency cases?
Mr. Hughes: They have always done it. As a matter of fact you got a set of figures quite recently from the Minister for Agriculture on the other side giving the cost of the incidence of the disease over a period of years. I think the average cost was £100,000, and that low figure was made possible by salvaging any food that was fit for human consumption. The question of tea and petrol has been referred to by Deputy O'Higgins. On the question of tea, I think that to a great extent the Minister himself is responsible for the shortage, because he appealed to people last summer and last autumn to put in stores of essential food. Obviously the principal commodity that people could store easily was tea. I have no doubt that there are stocks of tea in the country, laid in by people who were able to afford to do so. To my mind that is very unfair to the unfortunate  man who was not able to afford to lay in stocks, the wage-earner who could buy only his supply from week to week. Even the alarm that was created within recent weeks by the announcement of an acute shortage in supplies of certain commodities has had the effect of encouraging further hoarding of supplies. Up to the present the attempt at rationing tea is a pure hoax, because there is no difficulty in the way of any individual who wants to go in to two or three shops in a particular town and represent that he is going to buy from each shop his weekly supply, thereby ensuring that he will get three times the amount which is supposed to be rationed to him. In any case, so far the Minister has no control or no information concerning the quantity of tea that a retailer has. The retailers are in a position to supply their friends with any quantity of tea they like, and the whole scare about tea has had the effect of making supplies still more scarce, because hoarding has definitely gone on within recent weeks.
It is the opinion of many people in this country, and I think it is absolutely sound, that if there is a shortage of any essential commodity we should all be put on a short supply. We should all be put on the same basis, and you can only do that by compiling a national register. I think it is unfortunate that a national register was not made months ago. Our neighbours are on iron rations at the present time, and that could only be effectively done there through a national register. After Munich, the British I think spent six months on compiling that register, but we evidently did not anticipate the position which exists to-day. No attempt was made here to compile a national register, and, when rationing was necessary, the sort of rationing which was introduced was utterly futile. In fact, it was harmful, because it encouraged some people to lay in reserves, leaving other people who were unable to afford to do so in the unfortunate position that, as they could only buy from week to week, they would be the first to suffer if there were any real shortage. That is the  sort of thing, which, in an emergency of this sort, gives rise to discontent, and when you have discontent in the country it may go further and give rise to civil commotion and revolution. That is what we ought to be afraid of. That is what we must guard against in this country at the present time. I think we will be lucky if we get through without civil disturbance of some sort or other. As I have said, we all realise the serious position to which we have to face up. We have all the disadvantages of war, and we have none of the advantages that war brings in the way of employment, etc. I would suggest to the Minister, therefore, that in any scheme of rationing which he brings in he should deal fairly with every individual and every section of the community.
On the question of the rationing of coal, there is just one point to which I want to direct the Minister's attention. Apparently, no provision has been made in the case of people in the country who have been in the habit of buying a quantity of coal here in the city. They were in the habit of getting a wagon of coal or a lorry of coal in the city, and they now find themselves in the position that they cannot get supplies. I want to know if the Minister will do something about that. Those people have not been in the habit of buying locally, and they have now no local source of supply. There is also another matter in relation to coal which arises in my constituency. A number of families, soldiers' families who have been evacuated from the Curragh to Newbridge and other towns in the vicinity, and who were always getting their supplies of coal on the Curragh, are unable to get supplies at the present time. I am not sure whether the Minister knows that or not. I would like him to take a note of the fact that those families are not able to secure their supplies of coal locally, because they have not been buying locally. It is only within recent weeks that they have been evacuated. There is a good deal of discontent in those towns in the neighbourhood of the Curragh as a result of that position.
On the question of petrol, I wish to emphasise the point made by Deputy  O'Higgins, that it is really a disgrace to find that the petrol to the medical profession and the clergy is issued on a class basis. The Minister said that they were able to make allowances in special circumstances, but where representations were made, to my knowledge, by several Deputies, because of the special circumstances in respect of dispensary doctors in rural areas where a 'flu epidemic was raging, they met with no response. The representations made in every case of which I am aware have failed to get any allowance. It does seem extraordinary that a medical man working in an institution, a whole-time officer who has no work outside that institution, is allowed eight gallons of petrol for a small car, just as much as a dispensary doctor in the remote, mountainous districts of County Kerry, trying to look after his dispensary patients. The country doctor cannot get the petrol he requires. There is no common basis there, and you should not deal with cases of that sort on a class basis.
I think it is unfair to the men who have to do a lot of work, if they are expected to do that work in any way effectively. It is wrong to put the doctor working in a rural dispensary district on the same basis as the man who does not have to use petrol. The same applies to clergymen. A professor in a college is getting the same amount of petrol as a priest working in a rural diocese. I have been told of medical professors attached to the university, not living far from the university, and they are able to ride up in their cars every day to give lectures there. They get eight or 12 gallons, whatever the allowance is according to the horse-power of their cars. Doctors in the city are also getting a big allowance. With the volume of public conveyances which you have in the city, that seems absurd.
I made a genuine representation on behalf of certain farmers who were trying to carry out tillage operations on farms ten or 12 miles away from their homes. They wanted to supervise the work on those farms, and their applications for a reasonable petrol allowance were refused. There was no consideration  given in a case of that sort. Here were men vital to the interests of this country, producing essential food, and they wanted to get petrol simply for the purpose of seeing that the food was being properly produced for the use of the nation. They were not considered at all, but the professor who wanted to ride in his car to the university, and who would not use a tram, could get his allowance of eight, ten or 12 gallons. I am not a man who would ordinarily approve of farmers attempting to strike, but under those conditions one would be sorely tempted to say to the farmers, owing to the way they have been treated, that it would be time for them to down tools if genuine representations on their behalf were going to be ignored by responsible Ministers.
It is really a disgrace the way this matter has been handled. No attempt has been made to organise it properly. The Department of Supplies has made no attempt to face the problems that are there to be solved. If the petrol supplies that are available in this country are worth rationing, the rationing ought to be done properly. It cannot be done properly from a central office in Dublin. If you work from a central office there will be an inclination to do it more or less on a class basis. I suggest that you should have an office in each county and send down a clerk or two in order to work in co-operation with the local registration officer, the Gárdaí, and other people with local knowledge. The local registration officer in each county is a store of information as to the activity of every man with a lorry or car, and he, alone, would be worth more than half a central office staff. At the present time no attempt is being made to use the knowledge of a man in that position.
Mr. Lemass: Does the Deputy want discretion to be exercised in determining  the relative merits of individual cases? Does he wish to have it this way, that John Smith will get ten gallons, that Pat Browne will get none, and that someone else may get two? Is that the Deputy's suggestion?
Mr. Hughes: I suggest that some of the Minister's officers should go down and get in touch with the Gárdaí and get the information necessary. It is not such a big problem. The money spent in the Minister's Department is worse than wasted, because it is creating violent discontent all over the country. The sooner the Minister gets in touch with how the people feel about these matters, and appreciates how they feel, the better. The gap between the Government and the people has been widened. The people have been ignored. Their feelings have not been taken into account. Their interests are not catered for, and that is what is wrong at the present time. The people who are most disappointed and most bitter in their criticism of the Government at the present time are the Minister's own supporters.
Mr. Hughes: It is so, and if anything is going to happen democratic government here, and if this institution, our Parliament, is torn down, the Minister  and his colleagues will be responsible for it.
Mr. Corry: I will say this in connection with Deputy Hughes' last remark, that if there is anything going to pull down democratic government in this country it is the moaning and the groaning and the howling that has been going on here week after week and month after month on the part of people who cannot see one week beyond another——
Mr. Corry: I will say this to Deputy O'Higgins, that if there were fewer of his class in the country the country would be better off. There are too many pro-British squibs hanging around this country to-day.
Mr. Corry: Ministers and Deputies on this side foresaw that this position might occur years ago, and they started making their preparations for it years ago. They started to make those preparations in the face of a campaign of sabotage and blackguardism such as no Government ever had to put up with in this country before. When we set out to prevent the flour mills of the country being scrapped, we had howls from this and that corner of “there is profiteering here, profiteering there and profiteering elsewhere,” from people whose eyes were blinded while the British millers were profiteering to ten times the extent, if there is any profiteering going on to-day. They were silent at that time, and that campaign of sabotage was conducted in the hope that when this country's hour of need would come, we should be dependent for our bread on those across the water. When we started to get the Irish farmer to grow  wheat supplies here, so that there would be bread for the Irish people, what was the attitude of the know-alls on the opposite benches? What was their attitude even after the war started? We had the deputy-leader of the Party holding out the olive branch and saying: “We are prepared to assist this Government by every means in our power on condition that the beet factories are blown up and the wheat lunacy is done away with.” That was the statement made by Deputy Dillon two months after the war started. That was their policy as enunciated by the only agricultural leader who put forward any policy from that side. If we had accepted his advice, I wonder how many hungry mouths there would be to-day. I wonder where the bread would come from and what would be the price of it. I do not think it would be cash. Deputy Hughes was so far-seeing in respect of the condition of affairs that, last November, he spent a full day demanding of the Minister for Agriculture that he should allow barley to be exported from this country.
Mr. Hughes: I do not think it is fair for a Deputy to misrepresent what another Deputy has said. The way I put that last year was that, when export was refused, the farmers were entitled to at least a guaranteed price on the home market, which is quite a different thing. I did not advocate the exportation of barley or oats, but said that when exportation was denied, a guaranteed home price should be fixed for them.
Mr. Corry: I had a couple of hours to spare the other night, and I amused myself by reading over the speech of  Deputy Hughes on that subject. I have a very good memory—perhaps too long a memory for some Deputies opposite —and I very definitely took that statement from him. It was the period when the farmers were endeavouring to sell their barley and when it was being bought at a price of from 18/- to 20/- a barrel. The Deputy said that barley could be sold across the water at a price of anything from 35/- to 50/- a barrel, and he demanded to know why, since the market was not here for it, the Minister was not prepared to allow its export.
Mr. Corry: I shall bring it in here in a minute, and read it for the Deputy's benefit, if the Ceann Comhairle allows me to do so. But for the manner in which this Government worked from 1932 to the present day, there would be little use in talking of supplies of food, because they would not be here. The Government had to work against that type of sabotage which was carried on in this country. If you went to any farmer who had any kind of Fine Gael leanings at all, and asked him to grow an acre of wheat, he would nearly hit you. They were brought to that viewpoint by the continued——
Mr. Corry: Not in this matter of wheat. I am alluding to his leader, to the shadow Minister for Agiculture, Deputy Dillon, who told us here that  he would not be seen dead in a field of wheat. He is glad to have it to eat to-day. If the farmers had not grown from 200,000 to 250,000 acres of wheat since then, there would be little use in looking for 500,000 acres or 600,000 acres to-day. Let us face the facts. Deputy Hughes is absolutely right when he speaks of the profiteering that went on. I know farmers to-day who are anxious to grow wheat, but who are completely unable to do so at the price placed on that wheat by the merchants.
Mr. Corry: It is a lovely baby. I should like to be carrying that kind of baby. If they were carrying that kind of baby in any other country in Europe, they would be strung up from the nearest lamp post. They bought wheat, re-winnowed, bagged and ready for sale, at 37/6 per barrel, and sold it at 65/- to 70/- per barrel. That is a lovely baby, a beautiful baby.
Mr. Corry: That is the position and there is no burking it. God knows, we have officials enough. My attention was called to three men from the Board of Works to-day who were outside measuring with a measuring tape a 200 year old cannon. There were three of them around it with the tape measure.
Mr. Corry: I suggest that these civil servants would be far better employed  if they were handed over to the Minister for Supplies and told to go into the merchants' stores, examine their books and so get at the profiteers, and end the profiteering. End it, but not by the policy of the Prices Commission, which found a man overcharging for a pair of boots, and ordered him to hand back the difference, and there was no more about it.
Mr. Corry: The Department of Supplies is responsible for prices. Surely the Minister could spare some of the officials to go round and ascertain the prices at which merchants bought and the price they are charging for seed.
Mr. Corry: I dealt with that position six weeks ago. It has not been rectified since. In fact, it got worse when these people saw that they were able to “get away” with it. Unfortunately I find myself in the position that I have to bring matters that I referred to previously before the House again in order to get something done. I refer now to supplies of iron and steel. In August, 1939, the Minister for Industry and Commerce was present at the opening of a big steel industry  in Cobh, which was to give employment to a large number of people, numbering in the seventeenth month 724 persons. I happened to be in Haulbowline then and I was delighted that the Government was going to get rid of the white elephant there, and that there was going to be plenty of employment in the mill that was working in Cobh. Any business man would know definitely from August, 1939, that imports would be scarcer every month until they ceased entirely. Still, in August, 1940, merchant iron was still being produced in this mill from billets. In February, 1941, steel rails and billets were still being used there.
There are now 300 men on the unemployed register in Cobh. The mill I refer to was to be self-contained. It was to deal with all the scrap iron that could be brought there, and turn it into merchant iron. For the past 18 months it has been producing merchant iron. I have a proposal here which would mean that 60 or 70 tons of steel ingots could be produced every 24 hours from scrap iron. Some 120 men could be employed on the erection of an extension for five months. If erected these men could have been working on raw material that for the past 13 months has unfortunately been exported. This proposal is from one of the cleverest engineers in this country, a man who knows his job. He says that in five months he would have the necessary furnace erected and working. In fact, three-quarters of it is erected and the remainder of the material is on the ground. That is bad enough, but when we look at the far-reaching effects the position is going to have on a firm in Cork that employs from 150 to 180 persons, it means that in three months it may have to close down for want of iron, and also some other small industries.
I may be told that there is no right to interfere with private property. We have been told that all citizens of this State have equal rights and privileges. I am a farmer representing the majority of the people, who are farmers. If there are to be equal rights for all citizens I have as much right to my farm as any industrialist has to his factory. For the good of  this country the Minister ordered me to plough one-fifth of my farm in order to produce food. If I do not do it, the Minister has the right to take that land from me and produce the food himself. If the argument is that this place is private property, I say that there should be equal rights for all citizens, and that the Minister has the same right to take over that mill and use it to produce the iron and steel that this country needs, as he has to take over my farm and produce wheat on it. There should be equal rights for all.
Between 60,000 and 70,000 tons of scrap iron have been exported from this country since the war started. It has been exported, I understand, at £3 per ton, while billets have been imported at £16 per ton. Irishmen to the number of 115 could have been employed in that mill in the open furnace portion alone, converting that scrap iron, which is allowed to leave this country, into billets, which were imported at £16 per ton. I do not pretend to know what the difficulties are. I am only a farmer. When I went about this business first, I went about it blindly. But I went about it because there were 300 people in Cobh hungry, and this mill, in which it was guaranteed they would get employment, was not giving them the employment I considered they were entitled to. My job here, I take it, is to look after the interests of my constituents, and I intend to do it. We had this extraordinary position, that one individual in this country, who had two separate personalities, came down to my constituency and bought ten or eleven miles of rails there. He bought them as one individual, loaded them on his trucks, took them to Dublin, then sold them back to himself, and railed them back to within half a mile of the place from which they came.
Mr. Corry: They are. These rails were bought in Cork, brought up to Dublin, and re-sold to the man himself. He was the managing director of two mills; he bought them as the  managing director of one mill, sold them back to himself as managing director of another, and railed them back again to where they came from.
Mr. Corry: When Deputy Belton wants a pair of shoes for his horse, he will have to pay for taking these rails up here and taking them back again. When Deputy Belton wants a part for his agricultural machinery, he will have to pay for sending them up here and taking them back again, and for the profit made on them. Farmers are told to produce a crop at 40/- per barrel, and that they will get no more. But, when we look for a plough-share, or a steel bar for our plough, or a set of shoes for our horse, we find that this is allowed. This is perfectly justifiable, because the person concerned is a business man. I am not concerned how it is to be done. What I am concerned about is that there are 300 men idle in Cobh, and 100 to 150 in Passage, and unless this scandal is rectified within the next three months men will be idle in every metal industry in the Twenty-six counties. This is the root of the matter—the scrap iron going out of our ports for the benefit of the foreigner. That mill is now lying idle. The furnace there should have been converting that scrap into merchant iron. I alluded to this matter some six weeks ago and three weeks ago, and I hope that I will not have to allude to it again.
Mr. Corry: The Minister will have  to look it up again, as my information in regard to it is fairly correct. It took me a long time to poke it out, but I think I have got my finger on it. According to the information I have got, from the 17th month this furnace was to be melting 6,250 lbs. of scrap iron every month. The average export of scrap iron since 1927 was about 30,000 tons per year, so that they would want two and a half years' supply to keep the mill going for 12 months.
Mr. Corry: All I am worrying about is that some of my constituents are idle and that this country is going to be in a bad way because the farmers will not have iron for shoes for their horses and steel will not be available either. One of the objects set forth in connection with this mill was to build one 35 tons open hearth furnace to produce from 100 per cent. scrap, 60 to 70 tons of steel ingots per 24 hours, which could, without intermediate rolling, be worked on merchant mill into standard merchant iron — rounds, squares, horse-shoe iron, angles, car-tyre flats, etc. That has been gone into and found absolutely correct. This proposal was vetted by four or five engineers on the job at Haulbowline, as well as by engineers from the Department. That is the position, as I view it, and I want it ended. If there are any private individuals, private interests or private concerns standing in the way of having it ended, then I claim we are entitled to demand that they be treated in the same manner as the farmers are being treated. It has been found necessary, in the interests of this country, to make the farmer do certain things with his land. If he refuses to plough it the Minister for Agriculture comes in, takes the land from him and gets it ploughed. I suggest that in this case, if the people I refer to are not going to do the job themselves, the Department should come in and do it for them, take over the thing and work it as an emergency measure. At any rate, it is time to have an end to this gamble that has been going on there.
 Our agricultural community have been doing their part and doing it well. We can see that as we travel in the train from Cork to Dublin. Every second field is ploughed. You see men on the land harrowing, or engaged in some other form of agricultural work. Some years ago I demanded that the leeches be taken off our backs, the jobbers, the profiteers, the wanglers of all descriptions who have stepped in between the farmer and the consumer of bread in this country. If our price for wheat is to be 40/- a barrel, let it go in to the miller at 40/-. Let the miller's costings be examined at the price at which he delivers that wheat in the form of flour to the public. Let us not have the local publican getting his shilling a barrel out of it, the thief a little bigger than he getting 2/6 a barrel, and the still bigger thief getting 5/- a barrel; all of it coming out of the farmer's pocket. All those people have been getting that money out of the farmer's price, even though they had not seen the crop grow. It is time that all that should end.
Mr. Corry: People should remember that we of the agricultural community are not profiteers. We are not out to fleece anybody. We are not allowed to fleece anybody. When a Minister tells us solemnly that if we get more than 35/- a barrel for our wheat, the price of a 4 lb. loaf will have to go over 1/-, and when we find afterwards that the get-rich-quick gentlemen step in between the miller and the farmer and extract 43/2 for what was supposed to be sold for 35/-, we say there is something wrong. That also should end. If that is allowed to go on, then  in the course of a few years the position will be reached here that we had in connection with the redundant creameries some years ago. We will find it necessary to set up some sort of a disposals board to buy out those gentlemen and their interests, because in a few years' time they will have created a vested interest in the farmer's crop. These are the only points I wish to deal with.
Mr. Cogan: A few days ago the Minister for Supplies delivered a lecture to his political supporters under the heading—“Let us face the Facts.” That was a very appropriate heading. It would also, I think, be an appropriate heading for this debate. It is about time that this Parliament and nation faced the facts as they are. At the present time there is in this country a growing feeling of hostility towards Parliamentary institutions. Nobody, except a person employed in a Government office, or a member of the Government, perhaps, can close his ears to the mutterings of that campaign. At the moment we are only hearing the first great murmurings of that protest. Therefore, I say that unless we face the facts, these murmurings will swell into an angry roar, demanding the abolition of democratic government and the substitution therefor of a socialistic or communistic form of dictatorship, such as has been established in some other countries in Europe.
What are the facts at the present time? Suppose the 130 odd elected representatives of the Irish people who sit in this House found themselves marooned to-morrow on some island in the middle of the ocean, what is the first thing we would do? Would we start by looking out across the waters to see if some big banker, some Government official, or some financial expert was coming to us with a roll of notes, or a fat cheque book to provide us with the means of improving our position? No; we would first of all survey the position of the island and take account of whatever food supplies were on it; to see how we could best provide ourselves with the necessary food, clothing and shelter. In other  words, would we not, for the first time in our lives, put our heads together and face the facts? The first thing to do would be to make a survey of the quantity of food that we had in the nation. The second would be to try to make provision for the growing of increased supplies for the future. In addition to that, we would have to see about providing shelter. If we were to adopt the methods which we in this country adopt, we would have to wait until somebody would provide us with paper currency from some source in order to get to work, but if we were facing facts as we would be facing facts in such an isolated condition we would not wait for any paper currency, or for any financiers or bankers to come to our assistance. We would get to work at once. Those Deputies who have some knowledge of agriculture would be put to work on the land. Those who have some knowledge of building would be put to work to provide us with houses. In a word, we would all get to work as sensible people, and thus ensure at least survival. What this nation wants at the moment, and what this nation expects from the 138 elected representatives here in this House, is that we will get down to bedrock facts and give the nation some hope of survival.
At the present time we are faced with a shortage of food, although we know that this country is capable of providing more than sufficient food for a much larger population than we have at the present time. Why are we faced with that shortage? Simply because nobody thought it worth while to face facts. Nobody thought it worth while to make provision for the future. Last year, a considerable amount of land was put under tillage. The greater portion of that land under tillage was applied to the growing of potatoes, oats and barley. When those three crops were produced, there was no market for them. There was a market for a limited quantity of barley. There was no market for oats or potatoes. Was that, I ask, facing facts? Was it encouraging the agricultural producer to get the maximum amount of food out of the land? As far back as last August I asked a question here in this House: I asked the Minister for Agriculture  would he be prepared to assist the farmers with credit to hold over their supplies of oats and barley until a market would be available, but the Minister said “No”. He said there was already machinery there through the Agricultural Credit Corporation, which every farmer knows is machinery that is not available to the farmer who requires credit. Later, in October, it struck me as a farmer that a sufficient effort was not being made to encourage or induce farmers to get in autumn sown wheat. I asked the Minister for Agriculture if he would be prepared to take steps to offer some particular inducement to farmers to get in autumnsown wheat. I suggested in the question which I asked that a special inducement should be offered which would increase the price of wheat, particularly to those who got their crop in before Christmas. The Minister replied that they were about to engage in a campaign for increased wheat growing and that there had been an increase of 2/6 in the price, an increase which every farmer knew was altogether inadequate and was completely cancelled by the already increased costs of production. That, in my opinion, was not facing facts. The fact that I put that suggestion to the Minister for Agriculture ought to show that the Deputies at this side of the House were not out to criticise or obstruct the Government, but were simply concerned about making constructive suggestions to them, and making them in good time. However, no notice was taken of that suggestion, and we had the position allowed to drift on until after Christmas when the Government found that supplies of wheat were becoming exhausted. Anyone with any knowledge of realities, or any desire to face up to realities, would have realised that September and October were the months in which to launch a campaign for an increased acreage of wheat. They were the months in which the best results would have been obtained from that campaign.
Last week, at a meeting of the urban council in Wicklow, the chairman of that urban council stated that there were children in the town of Wicklow whose feet were bleeding from the cold  through the shortage of coal. A Government facing facts would not have allowed a situation to develop in which children in this country would have to suffer from such an acute shortage of fuel. I myself know that the statement by the chairman of the Wicklow Urban Council was not exaggerated. Any Deputy who has visited the cottage of a worker, particularly a cottage situated on the seaside, in a bleak, exposed seaside town, will realise how bitterly cold the weather was, and how bitterly cold it was in those cottages during the past two months. The statement that children's feet were actually bleeding from the cold was not exaggerated. Yet, we know that in this country there are and have been quite formidable supplies of coal in the hands of merchants and individuals, but those supplies were never properly distributed. In addition to whatever other complaints may be made in regard to coal, there was no reason whatever why last year we should have supported or tried to support, or pretended to support, an army of 100,000 unemployed, while we had tens of thousands of acres of bog which simply called for employment in the production of fuel. We know that the Government asked those engaged in turf production to increase their production, and we know that those people did increase it to the utmost of their resources, but we know also—at least, those of us who try to face facts know it—that those engaged in the production of turf are people with very limited means, with very limited resources, and with no capital to employ additional labour. Surely it was the duty of the State—the State which was paying 100,000 unemployed men, or paying them at least a portion of their maintenance in various ways—to put those men to work in the production of fuel, thus saving us from the humiliation of seeing children in this country, which is teeming with supplies of fuel, actually suffering acutely from the cold. That was a primary duty which should have been realised by those occupying the position of Government, and it was a duty which was pointed out to them by Deputies in all parts of  the House. There was a necessity for direct action on the part of the State in the production of fuel, because it was only the State that could have taken up that work. It was only the State, with their resources, that could have provided us with supplies of turf.
It is the duty of the State, whereever possible, to employ men on the land. In towns where there are large numbers of unemployed, it should be the duty of the State to provide these men with adequate allotments and, where that is not possible, it should be the duty of the State to acquire plots of land and engage the unemployed upon them directly. There is no doubt that an unemployed man with a spade on an allotment will be much more useful than if he is left standing at a street corner or parading to the local labour exchange. What does he do at the labour exchange? Nothing, except that he signs his name. I was speaking to an unemployed man and he told me he was getting reconciled to being unemployed, reconciled to attending the labour exchange. I asked him what he expected would happen to him in the future and he said: “I am becoming so educated through signing my name every week at the labour exchange that I may have a chance of getting into the Civil Service and then I shall not have to work for the remainder of my life.” That is the rather hopeless type of mentality that is being developed through the Government's policy.
The Government have been severely criticised over the hopeless muddle they made in the matter of petrol. I do not want to add anything to that criticism, but I should like to ask how it is possible to provide a court messenger, a man who simply runs messages with, possibly, some attendants to show him the way about, with 130 gallons of petrol a month when a dispensary doctor, upon whom the lives of hundreds of people may depend, is allowed only ten gallons a month? There is something wrong there. Surely there is some gross disregard of the real interests of the people when you can supply a court messenger with 130 gallons a month, as was stated here last week, and refuse a doctor in a  mountainous district an extra ration beyond the ten gallons allowed. The Government claim to be a Christian Government, to be an example to the governments of other countries, but surely that is not an example of Christianity. A court messenger could easily get around on a bicycle and the dignity of the State would not be lowered if he had to find some other mode of conveyance than a V-8 motor car.
This is a matter to which the Government should pay attention, if they wish to live up to the claim that they are a Christian Government, and it is a matter with which we Deputies should concern ourselves if we claim to be the representatives of a Christian country. I am told—it may not be true—that petrol can be bought in this city at 8/6 a gallon. I wonder what kind of supervision or rationing has brought about that situation? I am told that any person prepared to pay 8/6 or 9/- a gallon for petrol can get as much as he wants. If that kind of profiteering is allowed under the guise of rationing and control, I think we would be far better off without a Minister for Supplies.
In connection with our food supplies, why is it that the unfortunate farmers are obliged to sell potatoes at 6d. to 8d. a stone while the poor in this city have to pay as much as 1/4 a stone for them? There is something wrong there and I think that in itself is one of the most serious evils under which this country is labouring. There is too much profiteering in essential foodstuffs. The net result of that profiteering is that the working classes are turning away from wholesome, home-produced foodstuffs, such as potatoes, vegetables, milk and butter, and are depending entirely on tea and other such commodities. If consumers of farm produce in our cities and towns were able to get their food supplies at a reasonable margin over the price which farmers obtain, I believe we would have more of our home-produced food consumed and we would have a healthier and a happier people.
I am afraid our Ministers are too much inclined to be benevolent to the speculator and the gambler in every  walk of life, and that is not desirable. In a time of emergency there should be rigid control over people who try to corner supplies and make exorbitant profits. We have an example in the case of oats, where in some cases 200 per cent. profit has been made. We have the same position in regard to milk and butter. We had the position in the summer months when we were providing butter to the British at a very cheap rate and subsidising that supply in order to make it still cheaper and no attempt was made to foresee our own people's needs, with the result that we now have not enough butter. There has been no organisation, no foresight, no national planning. Everything has been allowed to drift in a haphazard way.
I suggest that, even now, we should begin to plan for the future. We should see that every unemployed man—and there are more than 100,000 unemployed —is occupied usefully. There are far more unemployed than have ever been registered at the labour exchanges, and the Government know that. Every unemployed man should now be converted into food and fuel. That may create a certain amount of amusement, but it does not require anything in the nature of a miracle to bring it about. Unemployed men, if put to work in the bogs right now will ensure that we will have sufficient fuel for the coming year, and perhaps for the next two years. Unemployed men, if provided with allotments and assisted to get into work in agriculture, will see that we have sufficient supplies of food.
It may be asked how we are going to assist the unemployed man to get into work in agriculture, but there is at least one thing you can do, that is, you can ensure that the agricultural employer will get back the wages he pays to these men in a fair price for his produce. If the farmer is guaranteed a price which will cover the cost of production, not only in respect of wheat, but in respect of other products also, the Government can rest assured that there will be increased employment on the land, and that that increased employment will be converted into the food which is urgently needed by the nation. No attempt has been made to  assist in the financing of tillage operations during the next few months. In regard to the beet crop, I have pointed out before that ample provisions are made to finance the farmer's tillage operations over the summer months. He is provided with seed on credit, with manures and with an advance to meet his expenses in tilling and tending the crop. Farmers engaged in other branches of production which are equally important are not given any facilities. Why? Surely wheat, potatoes, barley and oats are as important as beet?
I do not altogether agree with Deputy Hughes when he says it might not be wise to grow as much beet as we intend to grow. I think that we should maintain last year's acreage, that we should even increase it, because not only does the beet crop ensure this nation supplies of sugar, it also provides a foodstuff, beet pulp and tops, which are equal to almost any other crop which can be grown on the land. An acre of beet is equal to the grain produce of an acre of oats, which shows that beet is an important crop. The other crops, however, are equally important, and it is equally essential that the credit facilities provided in respect of beet should be provided in respect of the other crops. Yet, the Government has refused to do so. They have allowed the profiteers, the gamblers and the speculators to make excellent profits out of seed wheat, oats, barley, and every other kind of seed as well as out of other supplies which the farmer needs, such as manures and implements. As Deputy Corry has pointed out, scrap iron has been brought from one end of the State to the other, and then brought back, and the cost of it falls on the tillage farmer when buying his implements and supplies.
This is a time for planning and for foresight. We all know what happened last year when the Government made a small attempt to look into the future. They apparently looked into the future with their eyes closed, when they advised parish councils to urge people in every walk of life to lay in supplies of tea, sugar, flour and coal. Surely our  Ministers were not looking into the future with their eyes open when they issued that advice, the result of which is that people who could afford it have laid in supplies, but people who could not afford it, who live from day to day and hour to hour, are starving and cold to-day, because they have neither sufficient food nor sufficient coal, and are faced with the fact that before many months have passed they will be unable to get sufficient bread. I appeal to the Government to plan for the future.
In planning for the future, they have some models upon which to rely, which are not outside this country. I direct their attention again to the sugar industry. There we have a planned industry; there we have an industry in which there are no big profits being made by capitalists; there we have an industry in which the producer of the beet, the raw material, is guaranteed a fair price for his produce before he puts the crop into the land. In that industry he is given credit facilities, and not only that, but the workers in the factory are paid a wage far in excess of anything which can be paid on the land at present. If we can plan in regard to our supplies of sugar, can we not plan in regard to other supplies? Can we not look ahead? Why should we always be compelled to rely upon the very conservative and often not impartial advice of financiers and State officials? Why have the Government not sufficient initiative to plan something big for the future, as their predecessors did when they planned the sugar industry, and as they did when they extended that industry, and as their predecessors planned a national supply of electric power and light? What is needed at present is national planning, boldly conceived and courageously carried out.
Mr. Murphy: This Vote on Account contains a reminder of the vast expenditure which will be required by the Army this year in respect of what is termed “national defence”. The papers this morning contained, under rather heavy headlines, reminders on that issue also, and that, to my mind, prompts the thought of how futile and  how useless all this expenditure will be if the main essentials of defence and security are ignored, as they have been up to the present. I suggest to the Minister for Finance, as a very important Minister, and to his colleagues, that as long as the injustices which are perpetrated in this country at present on the mass of the people remain, the gravest danger to national security and the greatest enemy of national defence remains in this country.
This expenditure has prompted the thought also of how easily objections which appear insurmountable to the provision of money for any useful or reproductive purpose are overcome when the provision of money for anything else arises. This world war and the breezes of the world war which have reached our shores remind us that in a situation of this kind money is always obtainable. They remind us of how insignificant all human claims —the claims of widows and orphans, of old age pensioners, of people who are idle and sentenced to a life of semi-starvation, with similar conditions for their children—appear when the thousand obstacles and difficulties alleged to exist in providing money for these purposes are enumerated, and how rapidly all such obstacles disappear when money is required for purposes of this kind. We have heard a great deal in the last seven or eight months about national unity. I repeat what I said elsewhere, that there can be no real or lasting unity while masses of our people are living as they are to-day. I say, furthermore, that the greatest menace to our security is the rising tide of discontent that unemployment, want and poverty have created, and that will be intensified in the months to come. I say to the Government in all seriousness, that all the expenditure on the Army and such purposes is useless, if they neglect to lay the real foundations of defence and security. As Deputy Hickey reminded the House, last evening, I believe that they must begin with the family, and with the home by taking real cognisance of the neglected and miserable homes that exist in our midst. A great many people are asking, and a greater  number will ask in the near future: “What are we to defend?” Is it a flag that is at present the symbol of misery, the symbol of a system that has heaped upon us, time and again in the last few months, wrongs and injustice; that has deprived the unemployed of the miserable amount of assistance that the labour exchanges afforded them from the 5th of this month until next October, in addition to other indignities?”
The Government and those who think with them are sitting on the edge of a volcano if they believe that the situation that now exists is going to be borne with the same patience and the same resignation as that to which the Irish people submitted in the past. In the past the people submitted to difficulties and privations under alien administration because they had the ideal before them that the time would come when managing their own affairs, that state of affairs would end. They have been disillusioned and disappointed in that hope, and even with the fortitude that their religion has always enabled them to maintain it is expecting too much, and is, in fact, expecting the impossible to imagine that they will continue in that attitude in future. If there could be any further revelation of how hopeless is the outlook in regard to their position, that revelation was contained in last night's debate. I think the Ministerial spokesmen in that debate cut most pathetic figures. Surely, it was patnetic to hear the Minister for Industry and Commerce say that there was an improvement in the employment position in the building industry, when, to the knowledge of any man with any shred of common sense, work has completely ceased in that industry.
The position concerning supplies is represented in my opinion by a complete absence of any real national lead. We had an inquiry from the Minister for Supplies as to what could be done. No country in the world got such notice as this country got of the difficulties that would arise. No country could have made more complete preparations about supplies, because from the very day that the war broke out, the Government should have taken the lead and given the example, if  private enterprise could not do it, by providing supplies and the storage necessary to sustain this country to stand any prolonged siege. There was no great foresight or knowledge of any of the plans of the belligerents needed to do that. It was quite clear to anyone who lived through the last war that the activities of submarine warfare would be a very big factor in this war, and that if wholesalers and merchants were unable to get in supplies, the Government might have gone some distance along the road that the British Government have gone, in taking over and importing and storing supplies in anticipation of the situation that has now arisen. The dislocation that could be expected might have set the Government planning along lines to counteract the effects of such dislocation. No reasonable person wants to put all the blame on the Government for the dislocation, but at least they knew that 120,000 people were idle before the war started, and as a Government they were bound to make some national effort to reduce that number substantially. We were taunted on this side last night with failing to suggest any method by which that could be done. On the eve of the war the Labour Party put down proposals in black and white to deal with the crisis that would arise but beyond sneers in certain quarters they received no attention from the Government. Many people realise now how useful some of these proposals would have been if they had been adopted. I say in all sincerity to the Government that there are people in very responsible positions, who are neither Labour agitators nor irresponsible demagogues who are wondering how long the present situation will last, until an attitude that is favourable to revolution may arise. The Government should be aware of that. It would be no pleasure to anybody if that situation should develop. It would be a great disaster for the country, but there is certainly some limit to the patience required of people who have to submit to the situation that now exists, which is virtually an economic sentence of death for thousands who cannot get a penny until next October except by way of  out-door relief. There are many people in the rural areas who have not yet lost that pride that exists even amongst the humblest of them, which repels the idea of charity either through poor law institutions or the poor law system in another form.
I know thousands of people in the rural areas who are always willing to work for a living. They have been denied the opportunity of doing so, although they were told in recent months that as they were the salvation of the country they should work harder. That was what they wanted to do all the time, but they would not be allowed to do so. They would not be allowed to work more than three days a week on rotational schemes. They would not be listened to for the last seven or eight years when they asked for work from a Government that promised them work as soon as they assumed office. They are being told now that they should work hard to produce more food and do all kinds of things to save the country. I hope the Government will realise the duty they have to such people. I hope the Government will take seriously this matter of security and defence and national unity, and do something before it is too late to show, with the assistance of some outside body, or with a belated recognition of their own responsibility, which they have shelved up to the present, that they are prepared to face up to this matter in a real way. If they do that, they can depend on the co-operation of every Party in the House, and they can feel that in the future, in so far as any danger threatens the country, such danger can be faced more bravely because of the fact that the people, no matter in what humble circumstances they are, will realise that there is a united desire to do them some justice and to remove some of the grievances under which they have suffered so grievously and bitterly in the last two or three years.
Mr. A. Byrne: I am wondering whether the Government have yet come to a realisation of their responsibility to the people. One would imagine that the conditions obtaining during the last few months would have made them realise the position. Only  to-day I received complaints that people in the poorer quarters of this city could not procure a couple of ounces of tea for their breakfast. I join with other Deputies in entering a protest against the treatment of the people as a whole, not alone in regard to tea, but in regard to petrol, coal and paraffin oil. Paraffin oil is much used in houses, tenements and cottages where there is no gas. Sometimes paraffin oil is used both for lighting and heating at the one time. Tea is scarce and very dear. When one realises that £1 unemployment assistance and 4/- home assistance have to maintain a man and his wife and four children, with the cost of necessaries increasing every day, and that the children of these people, as one Deputy said, are cold, hungry and half clothed, one can see how bad the position is.
I heard one Deputy suggesting that some outside body should be called in to advise the Government. I know that the Minister who is at present on the front bench has a keen interest in the welfare of the Dublin working classes and he knows what the Dublin tenements are. Last Sunday week 1,700 of the finest volunteer workers in any country assembled in the Mansion House at a meeting of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, under the patronage of His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin. Any one of these workers could tell the Minister about the hardships and patience of our people. I heard a clergyman recently in a reference to saints saying: “You will find saints in every cottage and in every tenement room in the City of Dublin. The wives of the unemployed who are depriving themselves of the necessaries of life in order to see that their children do not go altogether hungry, are saints that should receive every praise.” I think every Deputy will agree that the wives of the unemployed are suffering very great hardships so that their children will not go hungry. I would not like the Minister to think that this is an attack on the Government. It is not intended to be an attack on the Government. We sympathise with their efforts to do the right thing for the country, and we want to give them our help, if we are allowed to do so.
 I received a complaint to-day regarding the petrol supplies for the ferry boats carrying workers at the North Wall. These boats are overloaded, because there is not sufficient petrol for them to go across the river as often as is necessary. When I made inquiries about getting extra petrol for these ferry boats, I found that not an extra gallon of petrol could be got for them. I have visited the North Wall very often during the last few weeks, and I want to assure the Minister that the conditions there, so far as the workers are concerned, are appalling. Dockers who are in the habit of earning reasonably good wages are now unemployed. There are no goods coming in, and none going out. These men have to exist on the miserable sum of 24/- per week which they receive in unemployment assistance.
One Minister said yesterday that we now have 20,000 more people to provide for as a result of people returning home from across the water. Three or four of these people came to me to-day to see if I could get them passports to go back to England. The Minister went on to say that he could not understand what was happening with regard to the labour exchanges, as there were 13,000 fewer people registered. I wonder has anybody tried to study these figures—20,000 more to provide for, and 13,000 fewer registered. The 13,000 are men who have no stamps on their cards, or men who went across the water for a few years and have only English stamps on their cards. There is no reciprocal arrangement for dealing with these people. They are signing on for employment, but they are not registered to draw either unemployment assistance or unemployment insurance benefit. These people are now depending on relatives or friends in the city to provide them with the wherewithal to keep them going.
Last week I raised the question of the price of flake meal, and pointed out that, since the Minister appealed to the public to use meal as a substitute for other foodstuffs, the price of flake meal to the small shopkeepers had gone up by 1/- per stone. The small shopkeepers complained to me, and to other members of the House, that there was no earthly reason why  the millers should have put up the price of flake meal by 1/- a stone. It is used a good deal in our working-class quarters. Some farmer Deputies assured me yesterday that there was no reason for the increase, and that the producers were not getting any part of it. Potatoes were selling to-day at 1/4 a stone. I have been asked to press on the Minister the urgency for a greater drive to grow more potatoes, so that, should there be a shortage of wheat, they will be available for the people. We have been told that there will be a shortage of wheat in the month of June or July. The Government, in their campaign to grow more food, should, I suggest, encourage our farmers and others to go in more extensively for the growing of potatoes. I had a letter to-day from a small shopkeeper who uses a donkey and car to sell coal in small lots at 5½d. a stone. He says that when he went to the yard for a supply, he was not allowed to go to the coal bank, but was told to go to the slack bank. Slack at the price quoted would be of very little use to poor people who are only able to buy firing in small quantities. I would press this point on the Minister, that I think we are expecting too much from the poor people.
Mr. Byrne: Deputations representing the sand hauliers have waited on Dublin Deputies to point out the difficulty they are finding in getting supplies  of petrol to enable them to get sand to the sites for corporation housing schemes. One of these men told me that he had secured a contract in Northern Ireland. He had sufficient petrol to take him to the Border. The Government here would not allow him to cross the Border, and he had to come home. I understand the reason for that was that there is a prohibition against taking lorries across the Border. At any rate, he informs me that as a result of not being able to get to Northern Ireland he will have to let 10 men go to-night. He has two lorries, and if the Government here had allowed him to cross into Northern Ireland he would have been able to keep these 10 men in employment. He was prepared to give a guarantee that if he were required here he would be able to return within 12 hours. The Dublin Corporation are being asked to pay 4¾ per cent. on the money they require for their housing schemes.
Mr. Byrne: I am prepared to get away from it. I hope the Government have taken note of the very important statement made a few days ago by a very eminent medical man in this city, and that the Minister will have enquiries made, because the statement was of such a nature that it should not be allowed to pass without notice. The statement was to the effect that, in certain areas of this city, new babies were coming into the world, and that their mothers were only half fed. The word “starvation” was used in one newspaper placard. I think the Government should take notice of a statement of that kind. It does not exaggerate the position. It is quite true that the wives of unemployed men are not getting sufficient nourishment. Being on the committee of maternity hospitals in the city, I am aware of the conditions that prevail in certain areas here. I have attended some of the feeding centres that are being run by the St. John Ambulance Brigade, under the direction of Sir John Lumsden. They are doing splendid work for expectant mothers. I hope the Minister will see to it that the conditions referred  to by Dr. Collis are inquired into and an improvement brought about. I am sure his statement shocked many who were not aware of existing conditions. When I read it I said: “Unfortunately, it is too true.” I hope that, even at this late hour, the Government will realise its responsibility in the matter and take steps to ease the burdens on our poorer people, on the unemployed and those casually employed. They are suffering great hardships at the moment.
General MacEoin: There are just a few questions that I desire to deal with on this Vote. Before getting down to particulars, I should like to refer to some statements made to the effect that Parliamentary institutions have been brought into disrepute in this country. I do not subscribe to that belief. In my opinion it is the personnel of Parliamentary institutions that has come into disrepute, and that, I suppose, reflects on all of us. The borderline in that case is very narrow. I respectfully suggest to the Government, who have the custody and control of our Parliamentary institutions, that they should take the necessary steps to defend and protect them.
On the question of supplies, I feel that the Government have failed in their duty. Down the country at the moment there is grave dissatisfaction with the manner in which it has been handled. The Minister for Supplies, speaking recently, said that facts should be faced. I agree with that, but he should give us some facts, so that we may face up to them thoroughly. On March 8th, as reported in the Irish Independent, page 5, he gave us the following statement as a fact, and I should like to have a much clearer interpretation of it:—
“Early in 1940 we made an arrangement at the request of the British Government for the joint chartering of neutral ships for the purpose of eliminating competition and effecting a reduction in freight charges, but the arrangement worked out ultimately so much to our detriment that it was terminated.”
 Now, Sir, he stated prior to that that no ships were available for the carrying of supplies except neutral ships. Then he told us that jointly with the British Government we were chartering ships, and on this occasion he told the political organisation which he was addressing that that arrangement had been terminated. Surely we are entitled to know who terminated it. That is question No. 1. Secondly, in what way was the arrangement working out to our detriment? Thirdly, assuming, as I think I am entitled to assume, that, as it was working out to our detriment, it was the Government here which terminated the arrangement, we are entitled to know whether the Government has any ships left now, or whether by the terminating of that arrangement they left us without any ship at all to carry anything? If so, did they realise that position before they terminated the arrangement? Before we can discuss this question of supplies in a proper and intelligent manner, it is imperative that we should have the information upon which the Government acted, and some information as to how certain situations arose, because without that information we are groping in the dark.
If the Minister was down the country, as I am every week, he would see the farmers selling off their pigs wholesale for slaughter, the bonhams upon which the pig population will depend being slaughtered as the calves were slaughtered. He would also see the farmers' wives selling the hens. It has been said that the reason they are doing that is because there is a good price for them, but I can assure the Minister that it is because there is no meal, or pollard, or bran, or anything of that type to feed them. The farmers' wives and the poor people of the country districts feel that by feeding potatoes and oats to poultry and pigs they would be running the risk of leaving their families short of food. They feel that it is not reasonable to give to animals the food that human beings may require in the hungry months of June and July. That creates a new situation. Take the small shopkeepers, and the large ones, too, who go in for mixed trade. I know merchants  who at this time of the year handled from 50 to 60 cases of eggs per week, and that really meant their financial turnover for the week. There might be a few odd shillings from old age pensioners, or some small payments from agricultural workers, but the big turnover for those shopkeepers was from the eggs brought in by the farmers' wives and labourers' wives. I am speaking now of the small shopkeepers in the County Longford. At the present time, they are getting only 15 or 16 cases of eggs, as against 50 or 60. That immediately reduces their turnover. It means that their credit is restricted, and it means that the people employed in those businesses, shop assistants and so on, are now under notice. That, in itself, is bad enough, but in other parts of the district, where important poultry farms have been established, they depended a good deal upon maize, barley and things like that, which could have been got last year and up to the beginning of February. They cannot get any at the present time, and those poultry farms are now being dispersed. Several of them had thorough-bred strains of various types, which were prizewinners at shows all over the country, but at the moment because of inability to obtain poultry feeding they are being dispersed and destroyed. The result of that will be that the people engaged there, maids, workmen and others, will become unemployed.
Added to that, there is the dislocation of the petrol trade and the motor trade. The situation is being worsened every day, and unemployment is facing people who were in well-secured employment until a short time ago. That creates an unsettlement of mind, and there is nothing at all to show that the Government or this Parliament did anything about it, except to warn the people that things might be serious. They are not satisfied with the information given to them as to how that position came about. Unless the Government of this country have faith in the people, and take them into their confidence, there is no doubt at all that parliamentary institutions will be running a grave risk, and not only parliamentary  institutions but the safety of the State. I think there is no person in the House who will not agree that I have done my best in every way to defend the interests of this State against all comers, and I say that the Government, through the flippant answers of Ministers in this House, has created a situation which will be very hard to overcome, but which could be overcome if they would only tackle the matter in a proper spirit.
In the case of hackney drivers there have been complaints that there is favouritism. I do not know whether or not there is any truth in that. I did make inquiries at the Department of Supplies, and I admit that I found that some of the complaints made were not well founded; they had neglected to fill some particular form, or had not done something else that they should have done. But that is very hard to explain to John or James or Billy or Tom, whose livelihood is depending upon the use of a hackney car. When one of those men sees a well-off firm able to get a substantial amount of petrol and supplementary supplies, while he gets merely his basic allowance, he cannot see why he is not better treated. I admit, of course, that there are certain difficulties, but I think the Minister should leave no stone unturned in order to see that people whose livelihood depends upon getting a fair share of petrol will get it without delay. He should also see to it that there is not even a hint of political favouritism or favouritism of any type.
I am not going to say much about the Estimates. It is undoubtedly a huge bill, and if the Minister would apply the figures that the Taoiseach used to use some time ago—66 to 1—he will observe the colossal load that is being put upon the shoulders of the Irish people. I hope that the Government and the Minister for Defence will be fully satisfied with the return they get for the money. I trust they will make sure that transport will be very carefully handled and that it is used only where it is absolutely essential. If you have a lorry containing one or two soldiers running up and down the street of a town, and a hackney driver  without a drop of petrol to run his car is looking on, it is liable to make him say: “What the devil are they doing with that? Why could I not get a gallon or two, which would enable me to bring a little food home to my wife and family?” Every care should be taken of the petrol used by the Army, the Guards, Ministers of State, and everybody in State positions who are entitled to use State transport. More care should be exercised in the use of State transport than in the case of a private individual. At the moment there is a responsibility upon every one of us to set a good example. If we ask the people to undergo hardships, we should at least make an effort to carry some ourselves.
I will have an opportunity at a later stage of dealing with the various Estimates. I want just now to impress upon the Government the absolute necessity of making sure that this money will be expended in a useful way and that they will get value for every penny of it. Perhaps I will be permitted to say a few words to civil servants. If they expect the farmers——
General MacEoin: This is concerned with supplies. If the civil servants expect the farmers to work night and day to produce the food supplies necessary for this State, it is essential that they should be in their offices pretty early in the morning, and remain there fairly late in the evening, so that——
General MacEoin: Then I will put it to the Minister that he should be early in his office; he should be there a bit earlier and remain somewhat later than he usually does, so that he may show the farmers, who are expected to work  early and late, that he is doing his share to assist them at a time when they are asked to do everything necessary to produce essential food supplies for the nation.
Mr. O'Reilly: I think, as well as I remember, that it was on a Saturday we met here when the war began, and I think we sat the whole night. Most of us left this House the next morning with very definite impressions of what was going to take place. Those impressions were brought back to me to-day when I was listening to Deputy Byrne, and other Deputies, reciting the woes and miseries that are now upon us, the same woes and miseries that we thought at that particular date were about to come upon us. Fortunately they did not begin to make themselves felt until lately, but I do not think there was one of us leaving this House that morning who did not feel that within the following two or three days these misfortunes would arise. I am not going to say that it was entirely through the wisdom of the Government that they did not arrive until now, but I am certainly entitled to say that the Government had a good deal to do with staving off many of these miseries.
Many people hold that this unfortunate conflagration, this unfortunate catastrophe that is raging all over the world has not properly begun yet. So far as I can see, we have evidence in this country that a beginning is about to take place, and I believe that we all should do our best to pull this country through whatever misfortunes may come. There was not one of us that morning leaving this city in our cars, but had been calculating the nearest day when the car would be locked up. Most of us had already decided here that we were going to have a petrol war. Anybody who looks up the propaganda papers from foreign countries will see magnificent drawings of petrol wells in Iraq and other countries, and even then it was obvious that petrol would become an extremely important commodity. Being such an important commodity, ordinary individuals in this country naturally came to the conclusion that they were not going to have their full share of it. As the  struggle became more intensified, the demand for petrol became more acute, and the average man here realised he was going to get less.
I do not think any good case has been made why the Minister or the Government should be blamed because there is a shortage of petrol. I wonder what the position of neutral countries—I do not know how many there are, but I do not suppose there is a great number in Europe—is. I wonder what is the position of these countries who are engaged in the war. Have they not got to make sacrifices, and have they not to face a good deal of confusion and difficulties? I appreciated very much what Deputy MacEoin said. He spoke about fowl, and said that many of the farmers' wives were selling their hens. Oats increased very much in price, and to-day it makes possibly 28/- or 29/- a barrel. That might be some answer to Deputy Byrne's complaint about the increased price of flake meal. Oats has definitely gone up in price. The farmers are glad of that increase, to which they are entitled, but someone has to pay for it.
Mr. O'Reilly: Some Deputies opposite said that we should face facts, and  these are some of the facts. The result of this increase in the price of oats is that people could scarcely, in reason, be expected to feed oats. which now makes 25/- or 26/- a barrel, to fowl, and get 1/3 a dozen for their eggs. There is another thing about it. There are many people who run poultry farms in a modern way, who, at this time of the year, sell off their two-year-old hens, because the price happens to be good and it is time to get them out of the way for the new brood. The real point is that the price of oats has gone up. The seed time for potatoes is coming in, and they do not want to waste their potatoes on feeding fowl when eggs are only 1/3 a dozen. I agree that it is unfortunate that people in the cities should be hungry, and that people who produce farm produce should feel at times that it is not worth producing because the price is too low. There are people here who have not got the means of buying. Some would have the means if the price was normal, but the great difficulty is how to fix that price and make up the difference which the cost of transport involves.
Mr. O'Reilly: It would be worth sending them down to Wexford. We had a long speech from Deputy O'Higgins in which he told us of the change of opinion in the country, which, he said, was mainly brought about because Ministers had begun to ostracise themselves and were not in  touch with the community. So far as the general opinion of the country is concerned, the bulk of the people are extremely grateful that they had a Government with such foresight and such wisdom which has, up to this, kept them from being directly interfered with by the war. I do not think anybody will refute that statement. They are also extremely thankful that preparations were made in time here to enable farmers to produce the necessaries of life and that we had the machinery here to handle them. Most countries may be reduced to a point at which, if they had enough to eat, they would be satisfied, and, so far as the Government are concerned, they did their best—in face of strong opposition —to ensure that if war did come and, whether it came or not, we would be as self-contained as possible. Every effort was made to propagate the growing of wheat, while every effort was made by many people to stop it, to condemn it, to ridicule it and to prove to those who attempted to grow wheat, to learn something about it and to bring back the wheat-growing tradition, that they were merely foolish, and were mostly politicians. I am glad to be able to say that every necessary step to make this country independent was taken by this Government.
We have heard about petrol. That turned out simply to be a political snag —they thought they were going to make much political capital out of petrol and its uses, but they did not. I know that the petrol situation created a great deal of inconvenience. I have not seen any myself since last January, and lately I have begun to come to the conclusion that I am not terribly sorry. We have other ways of getting on, and if we really intend to get about, we can do so, because I do not believe for one moment that the situation will be solved if we talk here for two weeks or two months. I do not think we are going to get that petrol as long as this war continues, because it is one of the bases upon which what is happening in the world is taking place. Whichever side runs short of that commodity, that side is going down, and, therefore, the powers that be in these countries are going to conserve  all their supplies of petrol. That must be known to everybody. I could argue like other Deputies that there is difficulty in the distribution of that petrol.
If the Minister for Agriculture tomorrow—and he may do so—were to issue licences for the slaughter of cattle, he would be faced with difficulties. When any of these commodities become scarce and have to be licensed, all these difficulties arise, but they can be solved to a large extent, or minimised in their effects. There will be people with grievances, no matter how you do it, but those grievances can be lessened if those in authority consider cases put up to them and decide on rectification.
I do not see anything whatever in the complaints made by Deputy O'Higgins. So far as the Government are concerned, the definite opinion of the bulk of the people is as I have stated it. They know that up to the present they have been kept secure; they know that every effort was made to see that they would be secure in the matter of food, and that that food would come from a source as nearly certain as possible, that is, the land of the country. I do not know what more a Government can do. I agree with Deputy Murphy that the country now is ripe and suitable for many “isms”, and I think it the duty of every Deputy to see that these “isms” are not allowed to develop. We live in times of hardship, and there is no use denying it. Everyone of us is involved, and it is up to us all to do what we can to lessen the difficulties of the situation. Petty criticism sometimes irritates but I am sure Ministers have the good sense not to be unduly irritated by it, because the bulk of these criticisms are not sincere and are not meant in a sincere way. It is a good thing to have opposition and to have criticism so long as it does not encourage people to try to get what cannot be got. So long as that is not done, there is not any great harm in criticism. I said before that parliamentary institutions only live by being used. Motor cars deteriorate when not used and parliamentary institutions will also deteriorate if not used. One of  the best ways to use them is by advancing honest, sincere criticism.
Mr. O'Reilly: As long as criticism does not aim at pulling the whole thing down just because one section cannot succeed, it is all right. So long as people do not say: “Since we cannot succeed, we will pull the whole thing down,” criticism may be useful. Hardly a speech is made here, whether long or short, in which there are not a few ideas that are worth examining. One sometimes reads a whole book without learning anything from it, but you will find in most books a few things which are worth remembering. That is how democratic institutions should be carried out. It is a great consolation to us that we can meet here. It is a good thing that we are not thinking of the shortest way out through the place at the back. I hope we shall never be thinking of that, and I hope that the biggest problem we shall have to solve will be the feeding of the hungry.
Mr. O'Reilly: We have not. I think that further steps could be taken to improve the situation, but my remedy may not be the same as yours. The remedies might not be akin. None of us is going to deny that there is misery and hardship and hunger in the country and that we should try to eliminate it.
Mr. O'Reilly: That is one of the problems which possibly can be surmounted, and which we hope to see partially surmounted. I am not going to say that we shall succeed 100 per  cent. No matter how we manage, there will be people who will get into misery and misfortune, but we should aim at securing that there will be no starvation. It is probable that we shall have sufficient food here. The season is not generally very promising but, at the same time, I believe that we shall have sufficient food. So long as there is a sufficiency of potatoes, even though wheat be not as plentiful as we would wish, I think we are safe so far as the alleviation of hunger is concerned. It will be then only a matter of arrangement regarding its distribution. Transport is short. The railway is the only method of transport for these commodities to the city. We want to see just how that is done and what it costs. I think that transport is one of the greatest difficulties we have, and that it is one of the stumbling blocks to feeding the poor who are hungry. There are plenty of potatoes in the country and no great demand for them.
Mr. O'Reilly: They are not as dear as we are told they are and, if the question of transport were solved, a great part of that difficulty would disappear. The whole Dáil should come together and sincerely try to solve this problem. It is only on the internal supplies we can count. There is no use in trying to solve questions which may arise regarding supplies from other countries.
Mr. Keyes: The speech of Deputy O'Reilly epitomises the real danger of the situation. He speaks with so much complacency that he gives the impression that everything is lovely in the garden and that the danger has not yet arrived. He gives us the impression that something may happen later, but that nothing has happened yet. He is to be congratulated on his happy immunity from any of the hardships which are weighing upon the people at this juncture. He has not felt the draught in any shape or form from the economic crisis up to now.
Things may happen in the near future but he is perfectly happy that  all the necessary plans have been made and are ready for operation when these evils arise. He complains that allegations were made from this side of the House that Ministers are not sufficiently in touch with the people. I can readily believe that Ministers cannot be in touch with the people or with the situation generally if they accept from back benchers information of the type which has been given by Deputy O'Reilly. He, a prominent member of the Government Party, tells us that there is nothing wrong, that hens are not being killed off for lack of food as alleged by Deputy MacEoin. I can substantiate the statement of Deputy MacEoin from the evidence of poultry keepers in the County Limerick. They are killing their fowl because of lack of food and not because of the price they are able to obtain. Deputy O'Reilly is quite happy and content since eggs are only 1/3 a dozen, as he tells us. I think we should all take an excursion up to Meath. There, we can have eggs for breakfast and go into training. But in the City of Dublin, eggs will cost 3½d. each. I cannot get them in my city and it is not such a bad place for eggs. The price there is 2/4 and if Deputy O'Reilly can get them at 1/3 he will make a fortune. Deputy Corish tells me that the same position obtains in Wexford. This is indicative of the mentality of the back bench members of Fianna Fáil. We are to sit down and allow Ministers a clear road. Everything they do is perfectly correct and Deputy O'Reilly tells us we should not offer criticism because our criticism is not sincere. The Government is to be accorded a monopoly of business capacity, planning ability and even citizenship. We are not to advance criticism because our criticism is automatically and ipso facto insincere. We are all trying to score political points off the Government and we have no interest whatever in the affairs of the country. That is the conception of Deputy O'Reilly, and, indeed, of the front bench, too, according to the speech of the Minister for Industry and Commerce yesterday and, to a certain extent, the speech of the Minister for Supplies. That is indicative of the outlook of the Government. They are intolerant of  any criticism or interference by anybody else. They monopolise citizenship, the patriotic virtues and administrative capacity. Anybody who makes a suggestion is immediately turned down. He is merely trying to score political points off the Government and his suggestion is not intended for the improvement of the country. We claim to have as much interest in the affairs of the country as the Government and the back benchers of Fianna Fáil have. We definitely refuse to allow the Government to run the country on the rocks. The country does not belong to the Government and we have a right to call attention to what is happening as a result of lack of planning.
I do not propose to deal with the petrol position. Last night, the discussion was definitely diverted into that channel by the Minister for Supplies and the Minister for Industry and Commerce, who held that we must not go back behind the period of immediate emergency. Their arguments had to do with the difficulty of providing supplies during the emergency. I suggest that the drift on the part of the Government set in long before the war commenced. If the Back Benches or the Front Benches of Fianna Fáil were in touch with the country, they would know that our list of 120,000 idle men did not open with the start of the war. We have been carrying that as a legacy since Fianna Fáil came into office. The figure may have fluctuated, but the position before the war was that charitable institutions were doing what should be the Government's job. To-day, the St. Vincent de Paul Society is working overtime to provide such sustenance as will keep people from actual starvation. That is not a function of any charitable institution whatsoever. They are perfectly entitled to act as adjuncts to any national provision, but it is not the function, surely, of any charitable institution. Any Government ought to be ashamed to have to admit it, and I challenge a denial; and if it were not for the activities of the St. Vincent de Paul Society and kindred societies, you would have definite death from starvation in the country to-day. They are making provision  now, in thousands of cases, for the sustenance of our citizens.
Arising from the absence of petrol, let us see what was done by the Government to plan an alternative. It was known that petrol would be short. I am not going to say whether it came suddenly or dramatically, but it did come about that petrol became short, and the situation was difficult to cure. One would think, as we looked up alternative means—producer gas, and so on—to drive motor vehicles, that there would have been some thought of the alternative in the way of horse-drawn vehicles. A lot of people thought that those respectable tradesmen, the saddlers, the harness-makers and coach-builders, would have got an opportunity in the building of traps and cars, and the provision of harness for horse-drawn vehicles. But the saddlers and harness-makers, all the craftsmen of Dublin, Limerick, Cork, and other cities, were at the labour exchanges for years past, and their skill had been definitely wasted by the abuse of that institution. They were sent out to concrete streets, and quarry in quarries, while their skill was allowed to become dissipated. Now, they were looking forward to getting some of their own work, but instead of that being restored to them, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, in his wisdom, immediately struck off the duty against outside bodies, saddlery and harness, and allowed lots of second-hand stuff to come in, in the way of old hearses, carriages, and all kinds of chassis. These were brought in here. The Minister hurls back in the teeth of these men the expectation and hope that they had.
Mr. Keyes: I will tell the Minister something about that. I have a letter from a prominent harness maker in my own city who said: “Now in the name of commonsense, will you please ask the Minister for Industry and Commerce what is his idea in suspending the tariff on saddlery and harness and  leaving the duty on leather. Is it his idea to wipe out the harness makers altogether by this method and prevent them from making harness and saddlery at home?” If they wish to make it, there is a tariff on the leather, and they have to get a licence, but the finished article can come in without any tariff whatsoever. The Minister may shake his head, but that is true.
Mr. Keyes: I am suggesting that, as a result of the Emergency Order that has been made—and I do not wish to have any equivocation about it—the finished article can come in from Britain, but any person who wishes to import certain kinds of leather must pay a duty on the leather. Is that encouraging? I know this particular gentleman I am dealing with here was called up by a nobleman of this country with a big title, to meet him in the city, to place an order for six sets of farm harness from England. He said that he did not order them from England, as he could make them himself. The nobleman then said that he need not mind doing that as he could import them himself free. That is the contribution that has been made by the Government. The Minister does not seem to be fully aware of it, but he can check it up and I am sure he will find that it is perfectly correct.
He can see the protest made by the Secretary of the Bootmakers' Association in this city quite recently at a couple of meetings, when they were voicing their indignation and amazement at the complete lack of assistance from the Government, when they thought that they were going to get a chance, through the shortage of petrol, to get a bit of work. The Minister for Industry and Commerce again told us last night that the building trade was not less busy than last year, but something better because of the fact that there were less signatures at the “College of Signs”—the labour exchange—this year than last year. As long as we are being treated to that kind of thing in this country, it means treating the hunger and misery of the poor with levity. We had the Minister  for Industry and Commerce last night juggling with figures in regard to building.
Mr. Keyes: He argued last night that there was a bigger influx of people, as the balance was one of 13,000. He completely ignored the fact that these people were evacuees—mainly women and children—and were not signing on at the labour exchanges. They would not be entitled to register there, and I am suggesting that they would not be allowed there, as most of them were children. But the people who went out were the heads of families and active bread-winners in one shape or form.
When the Minister tells us that there is an improvement in the building position, does he wish to suggest that we should go round with black glasses and ask where the building is going on in Ireland to-day that in any sense compares with the activities of last year or the year before? It is said that they cannot get sand or gravel to bring in for the houses, and there is a standstill except in the case of municipal authorities, but the responsible Minister told us in the House last night that the position in the building trade leaves nothing to be worried about, that it is better than last year. Deputy O'Reilly said that is so, and if we can keep lulling ourselves all the time into that sense of false security that there is nothing wrong, I think we will have a rude awakening.
We who live down the country feel that it is our duty to focus the attention of the Government upon it We believe we are entitled to do that, and we will persist in doing it, whatever reception we may get. At any rate, I am amazed at the objection shown by the Government to accepting any advice or suggestion, regarding an economic council or otherwise. We are told that the only man to plan in his own Department is the Minister and his staff, and we know that the policy of one Minister may cut across the policy of another. That definitely has taken place in some instances. There seems to be no plan or policy in the Government as a whole. Again, I want to  accuse the Department controlling the labour exchanges, the Department of Industry and Commerce, as being one of the most wasteful in this country— wasting human labour and skill. They are no longer entitled to be called employment exchanges, as they have long since ceased to function in that capacity. They exist at the moment only for the paying out of unemployment assistance and unemployment insurance and, in the main, they are trying to deprive recipients of as much as possible. Then there were the period orders, which I will deal with later.
During the period that the men were signing on at the labour exchanges there was a national waste, through the lack of segregation of the different classes of people. We have linotype operators, electricians, highly technical engineers, printers of all types and kinds—all herded together in one common herd. They are definitely classified on the register by their particular calling, but the exchange refuses to give any recognition of that thing whatsoever and, as I have said, they are sent out on jobs for which they are unsuited. Some of these men would sooner take these jobs than lose their benefit and starve, and so they do work for which they are entirely unfitted. Then, as a result of doing that heavy work, in many cases they are unfitted for their own type of work. A skilled man who has had to do work of that nature, handling picks, shovels and crowbars, becomes unfitted for his own particular work. For instance, I know of the case of a linotype operator, a £6-a-week man, who was sent out making concrete, and if he were to be called back to his own work in a day or two he would not be able to do it.
I know of some cases where tailors were sent out to do work in quarries, men who had never handled a pick or shovel before. Their hands were stripped to the bone as a result of that work, but the unfortunate men were prepared to do it rather than leave the exchange and lose benefit, because they had wives and families.
I say that the Labour Exchange has other functions than that of cutting men off the dole, investigating spurious  or alleged spurious claims, opening up letters, and so on. Surely, if they are not able to supply work, they should have some function which would enable them to segregate these people into different classes.
Mr. Keyes: Well, first of all, that the skilled men ought to be classified as such, and not sent down to work on these relief schemes, in quarries, and in streets in the city and on concrete work, or digging trenches and dykes, because that class of work unfits them for their own type of work if they are called back to do it. I have known of cases of men who were called back to their own types of jobs and they were unfit for them as a result of the work they had been doing. At the same time, I have known of cases of plenty of men of the labouring type, who were anxious and fitted to do that work, but because they were on a lesser scale, under this scheme, they would not be sent out. One man had 20/- and the other had 19/-, and it was determined according to the amount and number in family.
Mr. Lemass: Am I right in saying that that would not arise except in the case of people who had been out of employment for a considerable period? A skilled tradesman, for instance, would have been drawing unemployment insurance benefit for a certain period, and it would be only when he comes on to the unemployment assistance scheme that he would be liable to be sent out on such work?
Mr. Keyes: The original scheme had a certain amount of humanity and citizenship in it as well as patriotism, but all that has been wiped out by the action of the Department, for which the Minister was responsible for a considerable time and for which the present Minister for Industry and Commerce is now responsible. The original intention, in my opinion, has been departed from, so far as the operation of that Act is concerned, because it is more and more being pointed out to the citizens of this country that what they are getting is charity. We contend that that assistance is as much the right of the citizens of this country as any assistance that has been given under any other Act that has been passed here. We contend that the attitude of the Department is to try to defeat the original intention in every shape and form and to give the idea to the citizens of this country that what is being given to them is not what they are legitimately entitled to. I know that there is a motion coming forward in connection with the Employment Period Order, which is worse in its effects, and this perhaps is not the proper time to discuss that matter.
Mr. Lemass: Perhaps the Deputy will allow me to intervene for a moment. Would not a tradesman, who had been unemployed for a long time, feel that he had a grievance if he were denied the opportunity of getting work on relief schemes? Some of them might feel that they did not want to be denied that opportunity.
Mr. Keyes: Yes, if it was a voluntary matter, and if there were any people of that type—and there might be some who might be sufficiently strong and hefty to do such work. I know that some of them would be prepared to volunteer for such work, but  there is no question of volunteering in the matter. They will be struck off from benefit if they do not go down to the job to which they are sent. That is the difficulty. The Parliamentary Secretary, when this or a similar matter was being discussed on a previous occasion, spoke of these things being only in the interests of the community. Now, this Vote on Account is to make provision for moneys that are necessary, and I have no objection whatever to voting whatever money the Government thinks is necessary for the successful running of this country if I can be satisfied that these moneys are being utilised in the best interests of the citizens.
When, however, we see, on the one hand, a huge sum of money being voted, presumably for the carrying on of services in the interests of the community, and when, on the other hand, we see such destitution, misery and poverty, with no sign of any improvement, but with definite signs of an increase in destitution and misery in the weeks and months to come, we feel that we must protest, and, in my opinion, much of that destitution and misery has been caused by the Government themselves. The money is supposed to be for the purpose of preventing destitution and to maintain the citizens in the best social standards possible, but I am accusing the Government of not acting in the best interests of the citizens.
When they are dealing with unemployed persons and sending them about their business, telling them that there is plenty of work for them and that they should go and do it, without indicating where that work is to be had, the Government are definitely producing these conditions of want and misery. I have seen letters from men with families of five, six, eight and even ten in numbers, who have not a shilling left and do not know where to look for it. Somebody here spoke about sending these people to the local authorities, and said that they do not like to go to the public authorities. Whether they like it or not, the public authorities are not able to bear the extra strain. The public authorities plan for old and invalid men and  women, and it is the Government's business to deal with able-bodied persons who are fit to work. It is a terrible responsibility for the Government, at a time when they are calling for co-operation amongst all sections, to be striking off thousands of men for a certain period of the year from benefit and callously telling them to go about their business and find work that is not there.
I know of some of these chaps who went into the various Forces, such as the Local Security Force and the Local Defence Force, from the very beginning, and who have been drilling and parading around the country, making themselves fit for their duty, and these men are constantly asking: “Are we to continue in the Local Defence Force when we have not a meal or a crust of bread in the house at home? What are we going to defend?” I could read these letters for you, and I also have dozens of men coming to see me, during the past week even, pointing out the position. I say that the Government should calmly and patiently examine the position, and if you want more money, then ask for it and you will get it, but do not treat this responsible section of the citizens of this country as if they were pariahs and untouchables. These people should not be left on the verge of starvation as they are being left to-day.
Colonel Ryan: It seems difficult to agree with this Vote on Account because of the huge amount of taxation about to be imposed. What seems most peculiar is the huge increase in the Army, I suppose because of the danger of invasion and for the purpose of defence. In the circumstances, we cannot say much about that, but it is extraordinary that there is no provision at all made for the national problems that face us to-day. There is no Minister on the other side of the House, no matter what he said yesterday, who does not know there are more people hungry and more people unemployed now than at any stage of the existence of Government here in this country. There is no Deputy on that side of the House who does not know that we are going to have  thousands more unemployed. Even in the pictures they paint themselves, they admit that. While they try to evade straight answers about it, sometimes they really admit it. In this Vote there is not one provision for dealing with the people who are likely to be hungry in the future.
One thing which should concern us as much as our national defence is that peaceful social conditions will continue to exist in this country. If you have thousands of hungry men in every big town in this country, whose wives and families are hungry, you are not likely to have peaceful social conditions, and it would be better, no matter what amount of taxation is involved, to ensure peaceful social conditions. There is no use in condemning robbery or anything else which is bound to come. If I were long kept a hungry man, standing at a corner, seeing my wife and children hungry, I would find food some way. That is what every unemployed man is talking about at the moment. People on that side of the House said there was no grumbling or growling among the people of the country. Never before in this country was there so much grumbling and growling at every street corner. When the people see this Estimate for the Army, perhaps they will not understand why such a large amount should be spent on the Army. They will feel worse when they see nothing is provided for themselves, and they are saying: “I wish Hitler came, or somebody came; we would not be half as badly off as we are to-day.” I am sure there is no Deputy in this House who does not know that as well as I do. Not alone is that the case, but Ministers in the Front Bench of the Government have done everything to make their position worse. First we had the butter fiasco. Who was to ration that? Who took control of it? The Minister sent word to the creameries that it was to be rationed. It was rationed to the shopkeepers and the hucksters' shops throughout the country. Let us say, I came in first; I had the price of my butter and I got it. The poor man who had children, who is badly off, perhaps in debt, was left without any butter. He was  not even able to get his half pound of butter. Then come on to tea. It was forgotten that we had thousands and thousands of families from one end of this country to the other who are only living from hand to mouth, perhaps getting their tea on credit, especially while they are idle or waiting for relief schemes to start. The Minister told the people to lay in supplies, to buy up all the supplies they could. It was hoarded in the drawing-rooms of the people with money.
Colonel Ryan: The Minister told the people to lay in supplies of everything, and they certainly laid in supplies of tea. Tea has been scarce throughout the country for months. I do not know how else that scarcity was created. That is really what has happened. The Minister would not tell us the amount of tea that came into the country, but presumably as much came last year as ever came in. The shortage is there, but the tea is in the drawing-rooms, back parlours and stores of those people who could afford to buy it. The position is that tea is not even selling at a fair price, and those being mulcted are the poor.
With regard to agriculture, there has been a tremendous campaign to grow wheat. Unluckily, that campaign came in too late. It was being pushed forward even at the expense of oats and barley. Even before the propaganda campaign was started, people were going around hawking their barley. Even when everybody knew feeding was getting scarce, people who wanted ready cash—the poorer people —were hawking their barley from one place to another and hawking their oats around, asking shopkeepers to buy a few barrels in order to give them an opportunity of getting food and other things.
That, I believe, was done purposely. No effort was made by the Ministry to get the millers to buy up this barley and oats at a reasonable price. People sold oats at from 12/- to 14/- a barrel up to last Christmas, and barley at 17/-, 18/- and 19/- and £1. Later on the Minister told the merchants he  would take it from them at 32/-. There was no attempt to make provision a few weeks before that, when the producer would have got the benefit. It appears to me, as it should appear to everybody else, I think, that this was a deliberate thing, done in order to ensure that people who were not growing wheat previously would grow it in future. That was a dangerous side of the campaign, because it is making people put down wheat this year where it will not yield one-fourth the feeding stuffs that would come from oats and barley. They will put it in land where normally they would not dream of putting it, land which is not suitable.
Deputy Hughes raised the matter of manures in this House this evening. It is a serious thing. The best farmers in this country bought the ingredients and they mixed their manures. The position to-day is if you are going to grow beet you can get nothing but the compound manure, and the farmer who bought his own ingredients last year and mixed it has no manure to get. The letters from Goulding and Paul and Vincent to the merchants say that they are sending the same amount of beet manure as they sent last year, and they cannot give any extra this year. Therefore, people who got their own ingredients and mixed them, who have signed contracts to grow beet, cannot get manures except the phosphates they want for wheat. I think that is a matter to be dealt with immediately by the Minister for Agriculture. I know hundreds of people who have increased the acreage of beet which they have contracted to grow this year and who have signed contracts. They are not able to get manure.
Certainly no farmer is going to chance growing a crop with something other than the right manure, or with less of it than he requires. It is up to the Minister to see that Paul and Vincent or Goulding supply a percentage to every farmer, and that those people who got manures last year will not get 100 per cent. this year. Those others who are growing beet are entitled to get some, and there ought to be some distribution. The matter of manure also is left to the shopkeeper to decide. I suppose it has to be,  because of the policy the Minister has adopted that it would be too big a job to take over all these things for the purpose of saving the country.
It was left to shopkeepers to decide whether poor people were to get any supplies. They had to go from shop to shop, and often could not get the share that they got in previous years. It is time that there should be a system of rationing of all essential food supplies. If it is necessary the Government might consider taking over everything produced on the farm and dispose of it at regulated prices. A state of emergency has arisen and we are not in any better position than the British. It is up to the Government to take over what is produced, to pay a fair price for it and to see that purchasers get it at a reasonable price. The position now is that there is muddling, that those who are producing food are not getting anything like its value, while the poor have to pay practically three times what would be a fair price for it. No effort has been made to control flour supplies. Up to this farmers, well-to-do tradesmen and labourers bought in as many half-sacks of white flour as they could afford when the scare came. They are holding the white flour and are also purchasing further supplies, some of which may be used for feeding bonhams or hens. Something ought to be done about that or otherwise we may find, as the Minister mentioned, that we will not have sufficient flour to last until July, or that before the harvest there may be no flour available for the poor. I am interested in this question because I am afraid that if things go on as they are going, and if the poor cannot obtain the necessaries of life, that may cause trouble.
Mr. Belton: The only defence I saw Government spokesmen falling back on for the muddle that has arisen is that they made preparation to provide the necessaries of life for their eight or nine years of office. They overlook the fact that years prior to taking office, there was a feeling abroad that our climate and soil were not suitable for the growing of wheat of good milling quality, and that the growing of sugar beet was an experiment which had never been tried here. The Government  have no right to arrogate to themselves credit for producing sugar beet and good milling wheat. The bogey that this country could not grow good milling wheat was exploded in 1925 by the efforts of a voluntary body called the Grain Conference, which held deliberations every fortnight in the offices of the Dublin County Council. The Minister for Supplies smiles. He knows nothing about wheat, except to eat it in bread when it is milled into flour, but those of us who applied ourselves to the practical side of producing supplies of wheat, had first to surmount an obstacle which then amounted to national prejudice, and to demonstrate by experiment that it could be done, and it was done in every county in 1926. Even the Department, which was opposed to the experiment, was surprised with the result, and issued a pamphlet about it for the general information. Beet growing also came as a result of a demand from progressive farmers.
I give full credit to the Government for building on that information, and raising the acreage of wheat between 1932 and 1939 to 200,000 or 250,000 acres. They deserve full credit for that, and also for increasing the number of beet factories, thereby making it possible in times of emergency like these to produce the necessary sugar supplies. Where I find fault with the Government is, that when war broke out in September, 1939, there could be no more favourable month in which to prepare for food production, and particularly wheat production. In addition there was the warning of the Munich Conference of September, 1938. Those of us who lived through the last war, 1914—1918, and who followed the trend of international events up to 1939, knew that the world was in for a terrible conflict, and that such a war would not be one of massed armies, but a war of attrition, in the nature of an economic conflict, greater than any previous war. It was up to our Government to build on the foundations that were laid—foundations for which they deserve great credit. What inducement was offered for an extension of wheat growing? What did the Minister for Industry and Commerce do to  provide supplies? Did he not know that all the new industries started under his direction depended on imports of raw materials? Did he provide the raw materials? He did not. Did those engaged in the industries appeal to him to have supplies provided?
Mr. Belton: I have been informed by responsible people in the industrial world that they approached the Minister and told him that this was going to be a long war, that their industries would go out of production if raw materials were not procured, and that that was the time to lay in stocks. They said to him: “We are comparatively poor people engaged in these industries. All our money is in these industries—not a terrible lot—and as we are not able to finance the importation of supplies for some years ahead, we ask you to put it up to the banks to finance the purchase of raw materials.”
Mr. Lemass: On the contrary, that was done. If the Deputy is raising the matter of difficulties which industries might have in financing the purchase of reserve stocks, my reply is that an arrangement was made with the Irish banks, under which they provided finance in any such cases.
Mr. Lemass: Certainly. A company called Timber Importers, Limited, was  set up after the war broke out, but the financing of reserve stocks for individual traders was arranged with the Irish banks before the war started.
Mr. Belton: The proof of the pudding is in the eating of it, and in considering this very tall order of a Vote on Account for over £12,000,000, we have to consider how it is going to be raised. I first want to touch upon the abuse of censorship here. About three weeks ago, I attended the annual meeting of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce. A very important business man in this city, a man of no politics, but essentially a business man——
Mr. Belton: He is against nobody. He is not against the Government. He is a man I know of for a number of years, and I do not think he cares what Government is in so long as business is booming. Anyway he made the statement that some of our industries are going out of production within three months for want of raw material, that a considerable number would be out of production within six months, and that within eight months there would be practically none of the industries working. He said: “I am quite satisfied that one-third of the population would be out of work within eight months.”
Mr. Belton: Does that square with the Minister's statement that supplies were brought in? My information from an ex-president of the Federation of Irish Industries, perhaps one of the most active in the industrial world today—the information is not a week old —is that the supplies which the Minister was requested to harness the banks to purchase were not purchased,  and now we find ourselves short of supplies. The war was not three months old when we were short of the most essential of our supplies.
Mr. Belton: If the Minister surveyed the position correctly when war broke out in September, 1939, took his eyes from the ends of the earth and said: “we here in this country are going to produce food for this country,” it would have been better business to have paid the people of this country to grow wheat rather than to speculate on corn exchanges in New York and Chicago for supplies which are now at the bottom of the Atlantic. No wonder the Minister would not in the public interest give the amount of wheat which was purchased and the price which was paid for it, because the wheat that went to the bottom of the Atlantic cost this country more than they are going to pay the farmers for growing wheat.
Mr. Belton: If you had built granaries you could have filled these granaries with wheat at the start of the war. A lot of criticism, and I do not think it is fair criticism, has been levelled against merchants who bought our wheat last harvest at 35/- a barrel or thereabouts. If they made a few shillings on it, at any rate they provided us with seed wheat. If it were not for these merchants, we would not have the area under winter wheat that we have to-day. I defy contradiction in that and I think when they carried the baby, they are entitled to be paid for it. I say that unequivocally and I am perhaps one of the largest wheat-growers in the country. The Minister may laugh.
Mr. Belton: We have had to slaughter calves in the past but before the year is out we will have to slaughter cattle and other live stock to provide food. The Government is beginning to learn its lesson. It was good propaganda a few weeks ago to say that a few farmers in this House wanted inflated prices for wheat when they asked for 50/- per barrel. I challenge any Deputy in this House to get up and say now what feeding-stuff is as cheap for live stock as wheat at 50/- a barrel? What feeding-stuff is as cheap for cattle, pigs or fowl as wheat at 50/- a barrel? The Government did not grasp the significance of the situation with which they were called upon to deal. They were confronted with the situation that half the quantity of feeding-stuffs required for our live stock had to be imported. I am quoting the Minister for Agriculture when I say that. We now have to do without that half of our requirements. Then we mill about 600,000 tons of wheat and formerly we took 30 per cent. offal from that. That was 180,000 tons of offal. We are now taking only 60,000 tons of offal from that wheat. I do not think we are taking even as much as that judging by the sort of loaf we  have. What was that bran selling at here while it could be got? £15 and £16 per ton. Wheaten meal at £30 a ton is much better feeding. Difficulties are bound to arise at the end of next harvest seeing that 50 per cent. of our feeding-stuffs will be no longer available, and that we shall also have to do without 180,000 tons of bran and pollard if we continue to extract such a heavy percentage from wheat for human consumption. Every inroad we make on oats and barley reduces still more the amount of feeding-stuffs available. Deputy O'Reilly is not in the House now but I can tell him that they are killing poultry all over the country, in Meath as well as in Limerick— that is, in parts of Meath where they work.
It was a revelation to me, as it was a revelation to anybody who had his ears to the ground, to be told yesterday that the building trade was booming. I wonder where and how could it boom when there is a shortage of timber and no provision has been made to meet it? Where was our Ministry of Supplies which had organised and harnessed the banks to back the merchants in order to bring in materials? Is there not a shortage of timber now? Is there not a shortage of window glass in Dublin? Have we not ceased for over a year to make window glass in this country?
Mr. Belton: I accept the Minister's statement, and I am glad he succeeded. The Minister is aware that there is a terrible shortage of window glass. When the war started, he knew that we had no timber for building in this country, and that a shortage of timber would stop the building trade, even if we had everything else. An explanation is required from him as to why stocks of timber were not laid in. Then, as to the petrol position, why was not a supply of petrol stored? There was a lot of cross talk, and people who knew something about the organising of the oil refinery kept warding off criticism about it. If you want to get stores of petrol here, what is the use of dragging in the oil refinery? Is it not substantially correct to say that it takes four tons of crude oil to manufacture a ton of petrol? In case of an emergency, would it not be the greatest folly to import crude oil, which requires four times the space of petrol, and neglect the importation of petrol? Why was not petrol imported and stored here? Does the Minister suggest that Great Britain is depending from day to day on the importation of petrol? Is it not true that Great Britain has about 12 years' supply of petrol? Will it be contradicted that millions of tons of petrol are stored in the bowels of the earth in Great Britain? Was there not an offer made within the last month to provide 50 per cent. of our requirements of petrol? I say that offer has been made.
Mr. Belton: The Minister is trying to do a little bit of the amateur detective, but I got up a little too early for that. I am making the statement that the offer was made. Will the Minister contradict it? I am sure he will not. Why was not petrol stored here in the bowels of the earth? Is it not true that tankers came into the port of Dublin within the last year and were not able to get a place to discharge the whole of their cargo, and went away again with a considerable amount of their cargo? If that is true why did it happen?
The question of unemployment, not so much in its economic aspect, as in its dangerous and potentially revolutionary aspect, has been dealt with here. It is time that we got down to business about running this country, and ran it in the way a successful business man will run his business. What does a business man consider the most vital department in his business? Finance. The Minister for Finance is asking us to pass estimates for public services running into £35,000,000, which will have to be paid for out of the industry and agriculture of this country. But the Minister for Finance was not a bit surprised that he was not consulted when the bank rate was shoved up a couple of points. That could not happen in any other country in the world. The Minister for Industry and Commerce says he got the banks to give guarantees so that raw materials could be bought. These banks are part of a larger banking system in another country, and are not in touch with the Government of this country. If the rising tide of unemployment threatens the stability and peace of this State, then the fault will lie with the Government, which did not take control of the financial and banking system of this country.
I do not think the food position looks as well now as it did this time last year. Despite the campaign that  is being carried on for the growing of more food, I doubt if there is as much wheat sown now as there was this day last year. Inquiries have so far failed to enable us to get information on that. We are proposing to spend £8,500,000 on the Army. What good is an Army in modern times without petrol, and at any time without food? I suppose it is as true to-day as it was in Napoleon's time, that an army marches on its stomach. If we are not making provision for the Army's stomach, is it not a pure waste of money to spend this £8,500,000?
Why are we short of seed wheat and of seed spring wheat? We took over the Department of Agriculture from the British, and 12 or 15 years ago established a faculty of agriculture, but we seem to have failed to make any provision for the propagation and raising of seeds. We should be told why we are so short of seeds now. Presumably, we intend to remain neutral in this war, and yet we depend on a foreign country for the seeds that we require for food production. Onion, carrot, parsnip and, to some extent, cabbage seeds were imported this year, but not from countries where we had been accustomed to get them. We did not get the strains of seed that we were familiar with. We are now faced with the alternative of American seed or no seed. We do not know how it will do here. I cannot understand any Government spending millions of pounds on an Army while the food basket is empty, and there appears to be no chance of filling it. We are not making any attempt to provide food for man and beast.
During the last eight or nine years, on the Estimate for the Department of Agriculture, I developed my speech on that Estimate each year on the lines of producing seeds. Sometimes I advocated the breeding of new strains because it is by that means that other countries have excelled in particular branches of tillage. It was that method that enabled California to become the finest producing country in the world. It may be news to Ministers to hear that when wheat was first grown in California and Canada it was  a failure, but that position was corrected when the right strain of seed was bred in subsequent years.
As regards fertilisers, we do not know what we are getting. The farmer who tills a certain amount of his land, who can more or less depend on the choice part of his farm always responding, and who has plenty of farm-yard manure to throw into the small crop that he cultivated, can take a chance, but not so the man who tills on a large scale. He must handle artificial manures intelligently. That class of farmer never bought compound manure, because it is not meant to grow crops so much as to make profits for the people who mix it. The farmer depending on artificial manures to grow crops must first ascertain what the crop requires, what his land is deficient in, and make his mixture accordingly. If he does so intelligently he will make different mixtures for different seeds. This year we are to get a percentage of what we got last year, perhaps 75 or 50 per cent. We do not know what we are getting and might as well burn a few old trees and mix the potash through them. That is the position.
If the statement made by the Dublin business man in the Chamber of Commerce, to which I have already referred, is substantially correct, and my own survey of the industrial field agrees substantially with it, then I think the difficulties confronting agriculture here, supposing we are thrown back entirely on our own resources, are, unless I am mistaken, very gloomy indeed for the future. Deputy Byrne may shed tears because flake meal is selling at the price he mentioned, but he may have to shed more bitter tears if, in the future, he has no flake meal to get, and I think that is the position we are facing. It will not be a question of price or of suitability, but rather one of having food to keep body and soul together. While giving the Government all credit for developing a tillage policy and for having the country well prepared for a good spring in 1939, and particularly in 1940, to enable us to produce all the food necessary for man and beast, it must be said that they failed at the last jump. There is not much use now in  appealing to the Government to do work that can only be done in its own season. It was in last September or October that the field should have been surveyed for producing adequate supplies of food to meet the requirements of the country, but there was not a word said about it at that time. We had, of course, broadcasts and after-dinner speeches when it was too late to make good the neglect of the Government. We had these when the weather was so bad that you could not enter on the land. Now, we have not enough wheat.
It is not fair to keep us in the dark as to how much wheat has been sown. I have made inquiries, and from what I know it would be painting a rosy picture of the situation to say that we have more wheat sown than we had at this time last year. We want nearly twice as much, and if we have not got it we will lose half of our feeding stuffs for our livestock. If we have to encroach upon oats and barley, even to the extent of 120,000 or 180,000 tons of bran and pollard, in order to supplement our bread supply, it will leave us very little, if any, for feeding our livestock. If we have not livestock to sell, how will we buy our tea? How will we buy our petrol? How will we buy all those things which we cannot produce here, and which are essential to our economic life? Questions about the wheat position have been asked here in this House by responsible Deputies, but it is not in the public interest to give the information sought. If it is not in the public interest to give it, then the position must be very bad. Wheat is bought in foreign countries, paid for before it is shipped, and it goes to the bottom; we will not be told how much was bought, or at what price, but we are told that £2 per barrel for doubling our acreage under wheat is a paying price. The Government is playing with a question of life and death by concealing necessary information. All Irish writers from the famine period down refer to the famine of the forties as a British-made famine. If we are up against famine now, I wonder whether subsequent Irish writers will declare that it is an Irishmade famine? I am afraid that those  responsible for supplies, and responsible for maximum production here will be gravely responsible for the stringency which I hope will not reach the famine stage.
When supplies run out, what is going to be done with the workers who will be thrown out of work? I was speaking to an industrialist during the week, who said that their normal output of a certain commodity was 40,000 units. They are now producing 25,000 units. They are keeping on their staff, just in order not to throw them on the labour market, “but,” he said, “we cannot continue for very long, because our production will become less; we will be eating into our capital, and we cannot do that unless we want to court bankruptcy.” That is the position in practically every trade. The building trade is even worse than that, in spite of anything which the registers may be said to show. I will take the Minister around the City of Dublin and that is the register that will speak plainly; he will see the roads which have been made, the houses which have been partly built, and no work going on. Why? Because conditions are not favourable to building, either through lack of materials or otherwise. Building is not going on, and it is an insult to this House when a responsible Minister comes in and says in effect that there is a boom in the building trade. In what industry has there been increased employment? The Minister for Industry and Commerce juggled with figures in regard to the people who have come back from England. I think that was dealt with fairly well by Deputy Alderman Byrne, when he said that the people who came back did not register, while the people who went over did register.
On the whole, the people who came back here were people whose nerves had been shattered through the air raids, and who came over here to friends. The people who went over were workers who could get no work to do here. Thousands of them left both the Ministers' constituencies, and thousands of them left County Dublin, and are still leaving. Anyone who goes down to Amiens Street will see how many of them are going up to Belfast to go over to England. Anyone who  goes out to Dun Laoghaire will see how many of them are going on the mail boat every day. Yet, we are told that that is not so. There is not much use in this House assembling if that sort of stuff is given out here as official information.
I should like to hear some Minister explain to the House the survey of the position made by the Government on the date when it became evident that this country was thrown back entirely on its own resources. I should like to know what survey was made, and what planning was done to meet the future. If we are thrown back on our own resources, how does the Minister for Supplies propose to give us our supplies? What steps has he taken in that direction? Of what supplies must we go short? Has the Minister for Agriculture taken adequate steps to provide sufficient food for man and beast in the months and years ahead? We are entitled to know those things, and if the Ministers refuse to give us that information I think it will make the people even more apprehensive of the position. Anything may happen. I quite agree with, I think it was, Deputy Keyes, who said that, if that position is allowed to develop, we here in this country are sitting on a volcano which will explode any day. Then it will be too late to give the information. It will be too late in the national interests, but it will be given then, so why not give it now and let us know where we stand? Why not make an effort to produce all that is required to keep the home fires burning, and to produce the necessary food here? The people will produce the food if they get the chance. If the unemployed are sent out to produce fuel—they can go out in the ordinary old-fashioned way with the barrow and sleán—I think they will produce as much turf per £1 spent as the experiment in Clonsast is producing. Let them be sent out to produce turf so that we will have fuel, and let the Minister for Agriculture see to it that we have enough food for the human population. Let us see that we produce enough food for the bovine population and that we will not have to kill many more cattle. I think the  Minister, when asking for this £35,000,000, should explain how it will be possible to pay it, considering that we have not our normal imports. We cannot have the same import duty. There is a shortage of tobacco and we cannot have the same duties from that commodity. We have not much petrol. I do not suppose there is anything like half the normal consumption, and in that connection we will lose the tax. Half the motor cars are not licensed and we will lose in that respect, too. Our outlay has increased, whereas the national income from every direction is contracted. How do the Government propose to make good the deficiency and allow the country to live?
Mr. Lemass: I am anxious to intervene in the debate at this stage, because it is my intention this evening to make a calm speech for the information of Deputies. I feel that it might become a matter of considerable difficulty for me to make that speech if I had to listen much longer to speeches of the kind that have been delivered here this evening. I propose not to give way to the temptation to revive the Party dog-fight, as was quite evidently the intention of Deputy McGilligan last night and of Deputy O'Higgins to-day. Why these Deputies chose to adopt the line they did, it is hard to understand. I do not think they were serving any national purpose, and I doubt if they were serving even a Party purpose.
I propose to curb my tongue. Deputy O'Higgins said he was going to curb his tongue, but he followed up that announcement by a great deal of personal abuse of Ministers. I was referred to as the Minister for Ballyhoo. All the other members of the Government were described as tin-pot Czars, and the adjectives used throughout the whole of his speech were by no means complimentary. If Deputy O'Higgins wanted to put this debate on the wrong line, he did his best, but, fortunately, he did not succeed, because other Deputies who spoke subsequently adopted a much more reasonable line. No one could find the slightest fault with the speech delivered by Deputy MacEoin, nor have I any serious complaint to make about  the speeches delivered by other Opposition Deputies yesterday. Some of them even went to the extent, which Deputy McGilligan never reached in his life, of putting forward constructive proposals which, whatever their merit, are at least worthy of consideration.
Deputy O'Higgins spoke of the position existing in the country and, of course, like other Deputies who spoke yesterday, he was anxious to make it clear that the Government alone were responsible for any difficulties that the country is experiencing. He said that the position in the country was giving certain persons, certain ill-disposed persons, an opportunity of provoking discontent. Deputy O'Higgins did his best to provoke all the discontent he could, and I think it is no harm that Deputies should realise that one of the most obvious dangers in a situation in which foodstuffs are scarce, unemployment is growing and the whole economic organisation of the State has become dislocated, is that people may be stampeded by false hopes into taking certain courses of action, hoping to escape from unpleasant realities, which may well result in permanent damage being done to this State, which may well result in the total destruction of the State.
It is important that that should be avoided. If there are remediable causes of discontent, they may be removed, but all leaders of opinion, not merely members of the Government or the Dáil, must co-operate in ensuring that the public will understand the causes of their troubles, the extent to which these causes arise from matters that are within our control and the extent to which they are unavoidable—and a great many of our troubles are unavoidable. It is open to Deputies to blame the Government, if they wish to do so, for not having foreseen with greater accuracy the course of the events in Europe, and made more extensive provision against the consequences of the war.
We can deal with that if it is worth while, but for those who are merely concerned with facts as they are, those whose main purpose is to endeavour to find the best means of dealing with  these facts, so that the inevitable troubles which they cause will be minimised, and the inevitable hardships which flow from them will be reduced, it is important that there should be no playing upon the discontent of individuals, upon the difficulties of individuals, merely for the purpose of arousing irritation or promoting disorder.
Reference was made here to-day by a number of Deputies to an alleged growth of opinion in the country hostile to parliamentary institutions. Apart from a few fairly obvious references to Deputies' salaries and matters of that kind, in the pages of the Irish Independent which, for some motive which has never been made clear, never loses an opportunity of bringing disrepute upon this House, I am not aware that that situation is developing; but I am fully alive to the possibility that it may develop if the institutions of the State are not fully utilised, and properly utilised, to secure whatever solutions are possible of our present difficulties. What must we do if we are to make democracy work under present circumstances, and avoid a futile turning by the people to other methods of organisation which would be no more effective in dealing with difficulties arising from causes which are not within the control of this country at all, but which, nevertheless, might be resorted to if discontent should grow to the point of unreason? We must, first of all, ensure that the most effective methods of handling our problems are calmly discussed here, not for the purpose of putting blame upon one individual or another, but to get all the facts marshalled and the combined wisdom of the House brought to bear upon them.
It is natural enough for me to retaliate in kind to speeches made from the opposite benches, designed to show that I alone am to blame for all the ills of the country. If that is said, I will endeavour to ensure that other people bear what I consider is their due share of whatever blame is going, but that is not going to profit either them or Deputies on this side. What is important is that we should have a calm approach to this problem in order to find  a solution, making it clear to the public that the best solution can only be a makeshift, something designed to tide us over a temporary difficulty until changing international circumstances make it possible for us to plan on a more permanent basis.
I think it is necessary that the idea that all our difficulties are due to some errors on the part of the Government should be killed. That idea exists partly through natural causes, and partly through the efforts of anti-Government propagandists. Deputies can believe it privately if they like, but if the idea gets public currency that all these evils are due to errors on the part of the Government, that all these evils could now be made to disappear if the Government were to resort to some new method of operation, some new policy, then, it will not be possible to get that calm, deliberate consideration of our position which is necessary, or to devise the policy which will be most effective in dealing with it. I ask Deputies to stop nagging. Nagging has been defined in a dictionary as the continued reiteration of unpleasant truths.
Mr. Lemass: The Government knows quite well, in the light of circumstances as they now exist, that many of the steps it took to deal with a possible war situation, before the war or in the early days of the war against possible adverse developments in it, were inadequate, having regard to events as they actually developed. We did not know before the war what its course was going to be, or when precisely it was going to start. Deputies now convey the suggestion that the Government should have endeavoured, in the early days of 1939, to build up Government stocks of essential goods, stocks imported by the Government and held by the Government against the possibility of a scarcity. We did not do that.
Mr. Lemass: Generally, we endeavoured to operate through the existing trade organisations. The wisdom of that course was obvious. We did not want to disorganise trade in that year. We were not certain that war was going to start, and we did not want to undertake a commitment which would create immense trouble for those engaged in particular businesses, if, in fact, war did not occur, and our effort was to get the various trade organisations of the country alive to the importance of bringing in additional supplies and building up reserve stocks, and in facilitating them in the doing of it. We endeavoured to facilitate them by getting over whatever financial difficulties they might have had. An arrangement was made with the Joint Standing Committee of the Irish banks to provide the finance, and we got over difficulties due to the absence of organisations necessary to provide for combined or concerted action.
When war did occur, it was necessary to go further than that, and in relation to a number of commodities, combined purchasing organisations had to be brought into existence. They were brought into existence not merely for wheat, not merely for timber, but also for animal feeding stuffs and more recently for coal; but, apart from these Government sponsored organisations, other arrangements were made for combined purchasing which were acceptable to all the people concerned, and which worked reasonably satisfactorily. Not in every case did they produce the full results that we thought were possible. Some of these organisations were more efficient than others, and some worked more energetically and more enthusiastically than others. It may be that some of them were luckier than others, but they all did succeed in handling the situation which had arisen here and which called for the existence of some centralised purchasing  authority in relation to the goods concerned.
There were other goods in relation to which those who were most concerned with the problem of importing them advised us that a combined purchasing organisation was neither necessary nor desirable. They felt that their own trade associations, their contacts with particular markets, their ability to bring forward small parcels on a large number of boats, meant that we would get larger supplies than if we tried to confine purchases to bulk lots bought by one organisation. In relation to some of these commodities, we tried both methods alternately, and in each case our actions were decided by the advice given us by those who were best able to advise, those who were engaged in the particular business and had expert knowledge which they placed at our disposal.
Mr. Lemass: The Deputy must not misunderstand the position. Some of our efforts to get supplies have not broken down. Problems have arisen in relation to a number of individual commodities—I propose to deal with them here to-night—but there must not be any exaggeration of our difficulties, any more than is it desirable that there should be any minimising of them. I will endeavour to put the facts as accurately as possible before the House in relation to the commodities to which I wish to refer. A number of Deputies referred to-day to the speech made by the Minister for Industry and Commerce yesterday, in which he dealt with the employment and unemployment position up to date. The statistics which the Minister quoted cannot be contested. Whatever interpretation may be given to them, whatever significance is properly attachable to them, the statistics themselves are accurate; but our concern here this evening is, presumably, not with the position which has existed up to now, but the position which common sense tells us is likely to exist in the future, and even though it was true that more houses were built in 1940 than in 1939, it is extremely unlikely that more will  be built in 1941. We know that various problems are going to arise which will affect the activity of a number of industries and reduce the employment these industries give, and it is in relation to these future anticipated problems that our main anxiety exists. We can debate what has happened up to the present when the war is over, because handling these problems which will arise next week, next month and during the course of this year, is going to occupy, and going to require, all our time and our attention.
Deputy Belton spoke of the possibility of various classes of farm animals having to be killed off in order to economise the supply of feeding-stuffs. He referred to that possibility as something which was so out of the question that only extraordinarily bad fortune could bring us to that position. That position has been reached in a very large number of European countries already. In Denmark, Holland, Belgium and a number of other countries in Europe, by Governmental decree, for the express purpose of conserving the existing food for the maintenance of human beings, a very high percentage of the number of cattle, pigs and other farm animals have already been destroyed, and while I recognise that our position is not made any easier by contemplating the greater misfortune of others, it is not impossible that a situation may arise for us as grave as that which has already arisen for a number of other European nations.
For the purpose of dealing with the situation, it has frequently been suggested that we should have a general rationing scheme. Sometimes, I think that those who speak of a general rationing scheme do not fully understand what they mean by it. If, by a general rationing scheme, we mean complete control of individual expenditure of all kinds, such as exists in Germany and, to some extent, in Great Britain, then, I say that our circumstances do not require it. General rationing of the kind they have adopted in Germany or of the kind they are operating in Great Britain had behind it other purposes than the equitable distribution of supplies that  were short. In these countries they were concerned to release from non-essential occupations labour required for war production purposes or for their armies. They were concerned also to compel economies on the part of individuals, so that they would save a substantial proportion of their incomes which they could lend to their Governments for the financing of their war efforts. It may be that many of the rationing measures adopted in these countries had primarily the idea of economising labour, and were only in a secondary sense associated with the problem of a fair distribution of supplies that were short.
Our position is different. There is no reason why we should deliberately discourage people from buying and consuming a very large number of goods of common use concerning which we have no supply problems and do not expect to have any. Over a great range of foodstuffs we are producers, and we produce far in excess of our own requirements. Instead of trying to curtail the consumption of these goods here, it is obviously in our interest that we should, if possible, afford facilities which will permit of even greater consumption of these goods than was the normal practice in times of peace. Our aim is to try to preserve as long as possible normal civilian employment. We have no purpose to serve by restricting employment in non-essential occupations. On the contrary, to the utmost extent possible and for as long as possible, we want to maintain the maximum number of people in their normal peace-time occupations. Therefore, over a wide range of industrial goods produced either from native raw materials or from materials in respect of which difficulties of supply have not yet arisen, there is no reason why we should curtail the purchases or the consumption of the public.
I think it is common sense to say that there is no reason why we should resort to rationing, save for one purpose and one purpose only. That is, to secure fair and equitable distribution of supplies of essential goods which are either in short supply at the  moment, or concerning which the danger of short supply in the future may exist.
It can be said that difficulties have arisen, so far as goods of general consumption are concerned, only in relation to a number of products—such as tea, coal, petrol, wheat and timber. It is quite true that there are a number of other goods the supply of which is running out, and may at some time cease, but they are not goods of general consumption, and their disappearance from our shops—as, undoubtedly, they will disappear before the war is over—will not cause any great hardship.
Mr. Lemass: There are a number of other commodities, like soap, concerning which the position is somewhat different. It is not that we shall not be able to keep up a supply of soap; we shall. We may not be able to produce soap of the quality to which we have been accustomed. We shall have to do without certain imported materials required for the manufacture of the high-grade soaps to which the public have become accustomed, but we can to some extent substitute for these imported materials native materials which will produce a soap of lower quality, but in sufficient quantity to supply our requirements.
Mr. Lemass: I do not think that that is correct. An individual trader or an individual manufacturer may be short, but, in the industry as a whole, there is a sufficiency of supplies or stocks to meet existing requirements. That is a problem for the soap manufacturers. We have said to them: “There is the supply of raw materials you are going to get. You are going to get no more unless our supply position improves.” These manufacturers of soap were told that the existing stock of vegetable oils in the country, or any future stock of vegetable oils that might come in, was going to be conserved for the manufacturer of margarine, and that none would be made  available for the manufacture of soap. The manufacturers of soap were told that they would have to work on existing stocks, and that, when these became exhausted, they would have to replace them with materials produced within the country. They will be able to produce a lower grade article, but in sufficient quantities for our requirements, so that there will be no absolute scarcity.
I do not want to go over the whole range of industrial goods. I am merely referring to some of them by way of illustration. There are commodities other than those of general consumption to which I have referred which may become short, but the problem of dealing with these shortages could not be met by a general rationing scheme of the type we are applying to tea, or which we have applied to petrol, because it is not everybody who requires them, and those who do require them cannot be as easily identified as owners of motor cars can be identified.
In the case of such commodities, control must be exercised at the source or at the point of distribution. It is necessary that there should be a limitation of the quantities supplied to retailers and an obligation on retailers to distribute those goods in accordance with specific instructions. I know that retailers dislike the placing of such an obligation upon them. But in relation to certain commodities, such as paraffin oil for household consumption, no other system of control is possible. We must put that obligation on retailers, and put it in legal form, if we are to get over the difficulty of distributing a reduced quantity of paraffin oil to people who cannot get their full requirements. It would not solve the paraffin-oil problem to give ration coupons to everybody. I may not want paraffin oil. Half the members of the House may not want paraffin oil but, if we get a coupon entitling us to buy it, we shall, probably, buy it and intensify the problem of supply. Therefore, in relation to paraffin oil, our main concern must be to keep all that is required for agricultural and industrial purposes and our secondary concern must be that the balance left over, representing only a proportion of normal supplies, be distributed  fairly by retailers amongst customers registered with them, giving each customer a fixed proportion of what would be his normal purchase.
There is a whole variety of problems of this kind to which I do not propose to refer. I merely mention this matter for the purpose of showing that a general rationing scheme is not required at present. I have no objection to a general rationing scheme if circumstances call for it but our present circumstances do not call for it. They do call for a number of individual schemes to control the supply of commodities concerning which scarcity has arisen or will arise in the near future. We do not need for any of these ration schemes a general national register such as has been suggested. I do not know if Deputies who speak lightly of a national register quite realise what it means in the matter of organisation both throughout the country and at headquarters. The taking of a census is a fairly substantial task which the Government undertakes every ten years. I want you to contemplate what the problem would be if a census had to be taken on a different basis. A census is taken at present for the purpose of getting information relating to everybody in the family, family and industrial conditions, and so forth. It is taken in relation to a particular date and, in the course of some years after the taking of the census, the information is collected and published in respect of that particular date. But a national register, established for a particular date and containing information only in relation to that date, would be of no use whatever for a rationing scheme.
If a national register is to be of any value for a rationing scheme or for any other system of public administration, it must be correct, not merely for the date on which it begins, but for every date. The information contained in it must be accurate for every day and every week in the year, and that involves, not merely a temporary organisation, drawing up the register once, it means a permanent organisation established throughout the country, supplying information to a headquarters as to  variations in the original records that must necessarily be made to ensure that, for whatever date it is decided to bring it into use, the register for rationing or some other purpose would be accurate.
We may have to establish a national register yet. They established one in Great Britain, but not primarily for the purpose of rationing commodities. They were concerned with the conscription of their man power for armies, and the best utilisation of their labour power for war production and other purposes. It was primarily for that purpose that they set up their national register. I feel certain that, in relation to those commodities that are already in short supply here, and for which we have to introduce rationing straight away, our system of rationing will work better than the system operating in Great Britain. The system there, as I think is common knowledge, is not working satisfactorily. There are a number of people who, of course, have the impression that the mere introduction of a rationing scheme solves problems of supply and automatically guarantees to everybody that they will get supplies of the rationed commodity. That is not the case. Everybody who has been in Britain knows that there are people there holding ration cards for a number of commodities that they cannot get. Before we decided upon the introduction of a rationing scheme for tea and for other commodities here, we took the precaution of examining the methods in operation in Britain, and hearing the views of the officials of the British Government, who had the responsibility for the operation of these methods; and it was with all that information available that we decided upon the system of rationing which we are operating.
Let me say at once that our present plans are based upon our present problems and upon our present knowledge of prospective future problems. If the circumstances change so as to require the scrapping of those plans—and that may happen—then we will scrap them. Perhaps we may yet be obliged to establish a national register or to resort to a general rationing  scheme on a coupon basis, or to some other device which is not considered necessary now. It is not thought possible, in circumstances such as exist in Europe at the present time, to do more than to base plans upon the immediately ascertainable facts, but it is necessary always to keep in mind that these facts are liable to the most violent fluctuation, and that circumstances may arise in a week or a month to completely upset all calculations.
Let me refer to the individual commodities concerning which difficulties have arisen, and to which references have been made by a number of Deputies here to-day. The first is tea. The information which I am about to give the House now was given by me some days ago in the Seanad. Those Deputies who take any interest in the proceedings of the Seanad, and who read the Seanad Debates, will know what I am about to say. When the war started the position in this country was this. The great bulk of our tea supplies was bought through the London market. A very high percentage of the total tea output of the world came to London, and was auctioned there by brokers, and the tea merchants—tea importers and blenders—of this country went to the London market and there bid for the various grades of tea which they required, in the quantities that they required to produce the blends that they were putting on the market. The great bulk of our tea came from London; a very much smaller quantity was purchased from a similar market which existed in Amsterdam; and a very small amount was purchased direct from the countries of origin.
The bringing in of teas direct from the country of origin was not a very practical proposition, because, as some Deputies know, tea in the raw as it comes in in chests from the countries of production could not be consumed; it has to be blended with other teas produced in different districts, or with different characteristics before producing the beverage which we take at breakfast or supper. When the war started, we made an arrangement with the British Government under which we, on our side, undertook that we would not compete with them in bidding for supplies of  teas in the countries of production, or for shipping space for the transhipment of tea from the country of production, nor would we utilise dollar resources to purchase teas outside the sterling areas. They, on their side, agreed to give us 100 per cent. of our normal requirements of tea. Our normal requirements were agreed to be our imports for a twelve months' period between 1938 and 1939.
That arrangement operated almost from the beginning of the war. The necessary legal restrictions were put upon the tea importers of this country by us, and the British Tea Control on its side made periodic allocations of tea to this country, which represented our normal purchases of tea. There were various considerations which prompted that arrangement, to which I might make reference, as they have a distinct bearing upon our present problem of rationing distribution. One of these is that many of the firms engaged in the business of selling tea by wholesale in this country are British firms, or firms established in Belfast. Their headquarters and their stores are outside this country. The allocation of tea in respect of this country made by the British Tea Control is made to those firms and not to a Government Department here or retailer here. Consequently, the fact that the British Tea Control made an allocation of so many pounds of tea did not mean that that tea had arrived here. That tea, in part, was in the possession of British firms who, however, were under obligation to sell it in this country, in very much smaller quantities, to retail firms scattered throughout various counties.
The arrangement concerning tea worked, as I have said, reasonably satisfactorily. It is true that, from time to time, the allocations of tea which were due to be made to us were not made or, if made, did not arrive because of the destruction of stocks in Great Britain or transport difficulties. So, at the end of 1940, there were a number of these allocations in arrear. Nevertheless, the quantity of tea imported over the whole of the period from the beginning of the war to the end of 1940 was not less than our normal imports, as there was a period during which the British Tea Control  was not completely operative and a quantity of “free teas”, as they were called, came in, so that even if the Tea Control were a number of allocations in arrear, the total quantity of tea imported was, nevertheless, up to normal.
Deputies have frequently represented me as having said here in the Dáil on the 17th January that we had an abundance of tea in the country. I said nothing of the kind. I said on the 17th January that, up to that date, no shortage had arisen, that the tea wholesalers were in a position to make, and were making, to reach retailer allocations equivalent to 100 per cent. of their normal purchases. Before I made that statement, I had taken two precautionary steps. In the week in which the Dáil met and before the Dáil met, telephonic communication was established with the head of the Tea Control in Britain, and inquiry was directed to him as to whether there had been any change in the position, and we were informed there was no change in the position. The position was that we were still getting allocations of tea equivalent to 100 per cent. of our requirement under the arrangements made at the beginning of the war, even though the British had decided to ration tea to their own consumers as from the beginning of July. Not merely was that information received from the Tea Control of Great Britain, but a meeting of the tea wholesalers in this country was held in the offices of our Department, and their view was that tea supplies, while not abundant, were at any rate adequate to keep up 100 per cent. supplies to retailers, and that there was no necessity to introduce a rationing scheme. Supported by the knowledge that that was the opinion of the tea wholesalers, and with the knowledge supplied to me by the head of the Tea Control of Great Britain, I came to the Dáil on the 17th January and said that there was no shortage of tea—not that there was an abundance of tea or that there was going to be no shortage, but that up to that date any difficulties in connection with supplies either to retailers or individual consumers were due to accidental causes.
That was the position, but shortly after the Dáil adjourned we received  notification from the Tea Control in Great Britain that, owing to sinkings of ships and the losses of tea due to these sinkings, and also due to the destruction of stocks of tea in Great Britain by fire, they were compelled to effect a percentage reduction in the allocation of tea to this country. They did not specify the percentage. It was when that information was received—and not because our stocks of tea had gone down or been lost, or had been misappropriated by any body of traders or consumers — it was only when we received the intimation that our future allocations of tea were going to be reduced, that we decided to introduce a rationing scheme, and forthwith we ordered the tea wholesalers to reduce their allocations to retailers by 25 per cent. We did that, knowing that a number of retailers throughout the country had stocks of tea—some of them, possibly, had considerable stocks —which they could put into consumption. Some of these retailers may have been holding these stocks against the possibility of the tax upon tea being increased in the Budget, and some of them for some other reason, but at any rate we knew that these stocks were there, and, furthermore, we felt that it was necessary to get our people to understand that the problem that we had feared might arise in relation to tea had, in fact, arisen. Accordingly, we asked these people to reduce their consumption of tea, and we proposed in the case of retailers, that that should take the form of an allowance to each adult individual of two ounces per week and, in the case of each child under 12 years of age, of one ounce. These regulations are now prescribed in a legal order which will come into force next month.
I want to say that these precautions are now justified on the basis of the situation with regard to supplies as we now know it to exist, but consumers must face the possibility that the situation with regard to our supplies of tea may become worse. It is true that the Tea Controller in Great Britain said that the reduction in allocation of tea was temporary and that it was due to the recent losses they had experienced,  but I think it would be very unwise to base any hopes upon the assumption that full allocations will be restored again. On the contrary, we must be alive to the possibilities that future allocations may be reduced even by a greater percentage than 25 per cent., imposed upon the wholesalers in their trading relations with retailers. I want now to refer to the question of wheat.
General Mulcahy: Before the Minister leaves the question of tea, I should like to ask him whether, in view of the fact that the import price of tea from 1939 to 1940 was 1/6 in the lb., and that the increase on that was only 1¾d. in the lb., he can explain why there has been the great increase that has come about in the price charged for tea to the consumer?
Mr. Lemass: I have made many attempts in the past few years to find a satisfactory method of regulating the price of tea by order. I do not want to say that I have found a solution. A solution has been proposed to me, and it may work, but at any rate it is not in force yet. Clearly, it is extremely difficult to regulate the price of a commodity which is sold in such a great variety of grades, and where the ordinary layman, or even the ordinary inspector is quite incapable of determining what represents the highest value or what represents the lowest value. We could have standardised the price of tea, that is to say pooled all the tea in the country and levelled it out at a controlled price, but that would have involved a considerable hardship on those who bought the lowest priced tea. It would have meant that they would have had to pay more for their tea while those who bought the higher-priced tea would pay less, and I have not so much faith in human nature as to expect that the retailer would give the same quality tea to the poor person who ordinarily got the lower-priced tea, as he would give to the person who previously paid the best price.
Mr. Lemass: The Deputy must remember that a number of factors must be taken into consideration about which he knows nothing. A very large amount of tea is sold in bulk to various large institutions, public and otherwise, in this country.
Mr. Lemass: There is what people have to pay for tea, and what that price is has to be related to the import price. I am not saying that there are no instances of overcharging. I have inspectors going around, and I have ten additional inspectors going around this week, in an endeavour to enable me to bring about the prosecution of any people who may be trying to evade the regulations.
Mr. Lemass: Yes, we are dealing with the matter of supplies at the moment. The position with regard to the enforcement of control over tea prices is that there is inspection following upon individual complaints whereever a substantiated complaint is received by my Department in relation to a particular sale by  a particular trader. Where that occurs, inspection follows, and at the moment, in this city, the inspectors of my Department are going through the books of certain firms for the purpose of ascertaining whether any breach of the law is taking place, and if we find that a trader has broken the law—and it is against the law to do many things at the present time—prosecution will follow, and, if the necessary evidence is available, I hope that conviction will follow in such cases. This question of prices can be discussed, perhaps, on another occasion. The matter of price control is one that is worthy of consideration in itself. At the moment we have been dealing with the question of the supply of tea, but I want to deal with the matter of the supply of wheat.
It has been stated here that we should have taken steps much earlier to secure a rapid expansion in the area under wheat in this country. When the war began we were in the position that we had substantial stocks of wheat in the country, and the native harvest came in sufficient to supply our own requirements for four or five months. Furthermore, in addition to the stocks held by the millers, we had also stocks held by the Wheat Reserve Committee.
Nevertheless, in that year we took positive action to secure an increase in the area sown in this country. Not merely was there a publicity campaign, involving advertisements in the newspapers, lectures on the radio, talks to county committees of agriculture and similar methods of propaganda, there was also a Compulsory Tillage Order which made it compulsory upon farmers to put a proportion of their land under the plough and, furthermore, there was the inducement of an increase in the guaranteed price given them to use that newly-ploughed area for the purpose of producing wheat. These measures were resorted to in 1939. Perhaps Deputies will say, in the light of the knowledge they now have as to how events have developed since, that they were not adequate, but in 1939 we were still bringing in substantial quantities of wheat from other countries, spasmodically, it is true, but nevertheless getting it in. There was a  period, in July and August of last year, during which so much wheat was available that a problem had arisen at the ports. We were not able to clear the ships as fast as they could come in, and it was partly for the purpose of dealing with that problem and partly for another reason that the advice was given to the public to buy flour and store it, so that congestion in the granaries at the ports would be eased and make it possible for us to bring in more wheat as well as saving the Irish harvest when it came along.
Mr. Lemass: Towards the end of November of last year, Grain Importers, Ltd., reported to me that they had not been able to charter a ship to bring in wheat in this year for some time past. Deputy McGilligan tried yesterday to make some case based upon the fact that we did not immediately adopt the measures that subsequently were resorted to to secure a still further expansion in the Irish wheat acreage. When Grain Importers, Ltd., so reported, the first reaction of my Department and of the Government was to endeavour to secure the ships for them. We felt that the difficulties which they had experienced might possibly be removed by our intervention, and we intervened. It was only after we had explored a number of possible means of getting over their difficulty that we had to come to the conclusion that it was likely to prove impossible to get over that difficulty.
Nevertheless, in December, considerable quantities of wheat came in. Let not Deputy McGilligan or anybody else convey the impression that the import of wheat was stopped in November or some time previously. At one time in December there were so many grain ships in our port that the labour organisations came to the Government and asked that the old method of clearing ships by hand should be resorted to rather than those ships should be queuing up, waiting discharge from the automatic discharge plant. The arrival of that considerable quantity of wheat however,  did not materially alter the position because we were reckoning upon it, and as I stated in the Dáil in January, several thousands of tons of wheat purchased in last year, for which ships had been arranged in last year, were still due to arrive in the country. Unfortunately, more than half of that wheat we were expecting has already been lost.
The position is, because certain quantities of imported wheat which were purchased failed to arrive, because of the fact that the quantity of native wheat prescribed in the national percentage fixed by the Minister for Agriculture, and which we expected to get from the Irish harvest last year, has not arrived—instead of 40 per cent. of our total requirements we only got 34 or 35 per cent.—and because of the fact that during the early months of this year there has been an increase in the consumption of flour as compared with the last quarter of last year, there is a problem, the problem of how best to conserve existing stocks, on the assumption that these stocks are not going to be supplemented in any way, in order to secure reasonable supplies of flour and bread to our people until the next harvest is in. For safety's sake, we cannot reckon on the next harvest being in until late in September. Various measures have been taken towards that end and we have got to recognise that these measures will not be effective unless we get a considerable degree of public co-operation in carrying them out.
One of the orders which I directed should be prepared to be made, and will be made this week, relates to the feeding of flour or bread or any wheaten product to animals. We are proposing to make that illegal. We are proposing to ask the Civic Guards to bring up for prosecution anybody who is found, subsequent to the making of that order, feeding wheaten products of any kind to animals. But we all know that the making of that order may not prevent it, that farmers who are unable to get other kinds of feeding-stuffs, and who have animals which require to be fed may selfishly utilise flour or wheat in some form as animal-feeding,  and that the Civic Guard will not always be there to take down the evidence in his note-book and get the farmer charged before the appropriate court. If we are going to get that order obeyed—not merely enforced, but obeyed—by the public, everybody must co-operate in creating the public opinion which will regard the utilisation of an essential human food such as wheat, in the present circumstances, as food for animals as a crime, a crime not merely against the law, but a crime against the community, a crime which would be punished by individual members of the community even if there was no law.
There is a number of other orders which it is necessary to make. I think it will inevitably be necessary for us in the near future to increase the present extraction to 95 per cent. We are making an order taking under control the deliveries of flour from flour mills, the intention being to confine the average weekly deliveries of each mill to their average deliveries during three months of last year in which consumption of flour was somewhat lower than normal. It is difficult to know what the causes of the fluctuations in the flour consumption of the public arise from. Such fluctuations do occur. For a certain number of months last year the consumption of flour was low. In the earlier weeks of this year it began to rise. It now appears to be falling off again. We are, however, proposing, for the time being at least, to confine deliveries from the mills to the average weekly deliveries of a three-month period during last year. We are proposing to place restrictions upon the sale of bread in hotels and restaurants. As the nature of these restrictions will be published in due course, it is not necessary to reiterate them now.
One further order is being made by the Government, and that is one removing all restrictions upon the importation of flour. It is probably true we will not be able to arrange for the importation of flour from anywhere, but recently there were some indications that it might be easier to ship flour than to ship wheat, and if these indications should prove to be based upon reality, then it is desirable that  the existing legal barriers to the importation of flour from abroad should be removed, and an order to that effect is now being prepared.
Mr. Lemass: If that should happen, there is no reason why we should worry. By a combination of all these measures, we believe it will be possible to eke out existing stocks over the whole of the period until the next harvest is in. It may be that some of the various plans now being explored to increase existing stocks will produce results. We cannot reckon upon that. If they do produce results it may be possible to modify some of the rationing restrictions now being imposed.
I want to refer now to matters concerning petrol. I know that it is difficult, as Deputy Belton found it difficult, to understand why it was not possible for us to accumulate stocks of petrol. It is necessary that Deputies should know that the total storage capacity in the country is limited to twelve or fifteen million gallons, and, in any event, it could not all be utilised at the same time. The effective storage capacity is only two-thirds of that representing from ten weeks to three months' supply. I know the idea exists in some quarters that if throughout the whole of 1940 we had imposed more rigorous restrictions upon the consumption of petrol than we did we could have taken out of the supplies available a larger quantity and stored it somewhere for reserve purposes, thus preventing a sudden stoppage in supplies when something unexpected or something unaccounted for might arise. That was not possible.
I have tried to explain the situation to Deputies, but perhaps it is as well to do it again, so that any misunderstandings will be removed. Deputies can believe it or not as they like. I am concerned only to tell the facts. We are supplied here by companies which are engaged in the oil business on an international scale. These companies have parcelled out the whole world between them. They supply the various markets in agreed proportions, and for these companies this country is very  small fry. The total annual consumption here of petrol is less than one day's consumption in other countries supplied by them. No special arrangements were made by them to secure supplies for us. They did arrange to bring supplies across the Atlantic, or from some other sources outside, consigned to their parent organisations in Great Britain, and that stream of tankers came across the Atlantic carrying oil supplies to Great Britain. Only when it was reported that stocks here were running out, and new supplies were required, was one of these tankers diverted into our harbours and our stocks replenished in consequence. If we had six months' supply on the 1st January, 1940, we would have gone on using that six months' supply until the end of June, and then a tanker would be diverted to replenish stocks then exhausted.
It was not possible to build up reserves unless we went to purchase supplies from the oil companies to put into storage of our own. Precautions had to be taken, obviously for certain purposes. There comes a danger period recurring regularly when existing stocks are low, before a new supply has arrived, and clearly if at any time the new supply fails to arrive, there is going to be an immediate problem of distribution. That happened at Christmas. Stocks were running out, and the new supply to replenish them did not arrive, and it was not possible to replace the lost supplies. Some Deputy said to-day that we only woke up to the fact that there was a petrol shortage when the petrol pumps in garages were dry. The first intimation of the existence of a difficulty at all was the announcement from my Department that the distribution of petrol to garages was going to be temporarily suspended. Petrol pumps in garages were not dry then. In fact, the suspension of supplies was to ensure that the quantity of petrol available in tanks owned by garages would be utilised while we were keeping the position under review. As soon as we got the position under review, we were able to resume supplies. Since then we have not succeeded in getting a sufficient  quantity of petrol to enable anything like the rationing allowances of last year to be restored. We have not, in fact, been able to make any distribution of petrol to private car owners.
I want the House to understand that the situation which arose in December may arise again. That danger period cannot be avoided and, at any time, a further failure of a new supply to arrive, when existing stocks are exhausted, will mean that for a period there will be no petrol available, because we had some reserves in December, and we were able to issue during January, in order to keep going, twice the quantity imported during January, but that situation does not exist now. If a new supply does not arrive periodically, then distribution has to stop forthwith, and there will be petrol for no one. That may well happen more than once during the course of the present year. There is no means by which we can avoid it. It is, if course, necessary that certain essential reserves should be acquired and kept for purposes such as Red Cross services, ambulance services, fire brigade services and other essential services. That is being done.
The balance of the petrol available is being distributed on the most equitable basis we could devise for those requiring it. Some Deputy suggested to-day that we should exercise individual discretion in determining to whom petrol should be given. I do not think it would be wise from any point of view that we should do so. At the present time petrol is distributed to people who come within certain clearly defined categories, based on the quantity of petrol available, and if a person comes within one of these categories he gets petrol. If he does not, he cannot get petrol, and no amount of influence, writing to Deputies or to the Minister, will succeed in getting petrol for him. That is the best way to do it, because if the impression gets abroad that a Minister or some official of a Minister has individual discretion, and that Pat Murphy will get petrol when John Smith is not getting it, then there is going to be chaos and widespread discontent, because everybody will believe that failure to get petrol was due to the incompetence of a  Deputy or his inability to pull the wires successfully. Nobody wants that. It is much better the public should know that no discretion is exercised by anyone, and that the only point at which Ministerial determination comes into the picture is when the categories are being fixed. That is the only system I am prepared to work.
I realise that that may mean that Deputy McGilligan may have an invalid friend with a car who would want one gallon a month, and because that individual cannot get it, Deputy McGilligan may present that as an appalling case. His friend is not getting it because it is not available, because we could give 12 gallons a year without difficulty, but I get dozens of letters from motor car owners and others, who support their claims for petrol by providing doctor's certificates, and I cannot deal with Deputy McGilligan's friend without dealing with thousands of others who may, for all I know, have as good claims. It is not possible for any officials in the Department to determine the relative merits of individual claims. We are not going to deal with them. We can only distribute petrol, on the basis of the supplies available, to those coming within the categories.
Mr. Lemass: Deputy Cogan stated to-day that some people were able to buy petrol at 8/6 a gallon. I have no doubt that there are garages throughout the country selling petrol illegally. It is illegal to sell petrol except against coupons. I am sure there are garage proprietors who are breaking the law. I am not going to be held responsible if they break the law. I am going to ask the Civic Guards and the officers of the Department to take every possible steps to detect those who are breaking the law. I am trying to ensure that those breaking the law will receive exemplary punishment in order that others will not be encouraged to do it. It is illegal to sell petrol above the fixed price. That is the law. If people break the law, then I want them to know that if such breaches are taking place, and if the  necessary information is sent to the Civic Guards or to my Department the requisite procedure will be adopted.
It is, I think, of real importance to every individual in this country that there should be no connivance at breaches of these Governmental Orders which are necessary to deal with the difficulties of the present situation. There are a very large number of these Orders. It is not possible for the Government to place an officer at every cross-roads or at every shop in order to ensure that these Orders are being carried out. If we do not get public co-operation in making the Orders effective, then some of them will remain ineffective. The only people to suffer in consequence will be the public and, therefore, I ask the public to help the Government in seeing that the Orders are carried out. I should like, if I am in order in this connection, to address a similar appeal to some of the district justices and to ask them also to see that the law is carried out, because it is of real importance that there should be no connivance even at minor breaches of the law in this situation. If we are going to get through the present period of trial without collapse, there must be effective discipline amongst the public and that means that the regulations made for the benefit of the public must be strictly enforced and loyally obeyed.
Reference has been made to the question of building. It is inevitable that building activities will have to be slowed down because certain building materials, notably timber, are becoming difficult to obtain. Some timber is still coming in and there is a quantity of timber available within the country, but at a very early date it will be necessary for the Government to take control of timber and to determine a schedule of priorities for the use of it so that timber will be released for some purposes earlier than for other nonessential purposes.
Mr. Lemass: There is a plan. I am not quite satisfied with the plan which exists at the moment. Arrangements for the utilisation of native timber and the conservation of imported timber were made some time ago. They were in fact reviewed this week in my Department, and new arrangements will be announced in due course. I want to state that the Departments of State directly concerned are also being asked to experiment with ways and means of conducting building and similar operations with a reduced use of timber. Various experiments have been, in fact, conducted with that object. It is not, of course, possible to do without timber entirely, and the problem is aggravated by the still greater difficulty of getting steel for reinforcement purposes. Nevertheless, an examination is being made of that aspect of the problem. We must face the fact that we cannot maintain building on the same scale as previous years. We may not be able to maintain it even on the scale of last year unless we can utilise the resources of our building industry for purposes other than the construction of residential buildings.
I want to speak on the question of coal, if I may, without delaying the House unduly. We have had a large number of discussions here and elsewhere concerning bellmen's coal. I think to some extent this agitation about bellmen's coal is prompted by the fact that Fuel Importers, Ltd. have in stock substantial quantities of good coal, and those who are encouraging this agitation have in mind the possibility of the Government's releasing some part of that stock for sale by bellmen. The Government is not going to do that. That is our iron ration. Our coal difficulties are likely to be much more serious next winter, and we may have no coal to fall back upon except the very limited stocks which Fuel  Importers, Ltd., brought in last year. They do not represent more than an insignificant fraction of our annual consumption, and we cannot release them for use because of an agitation concerning the quality of the coal which is at present available. These complaints concerning the quality of coal available to bellmen have been revived in the course of the last few days. May I explain that an arrangement was made by my Department with the Fuel Importers' Association under which four dumps of coal were established in the City of Dublin for bellmen. Ordinarily these bellmen were supplied by individual merchants. Each merchant had a number of bellmen to whom he supplied coal.
The merchants agreed with my Department that that system of supplying bellmen would be ended, and that instead central dumps would be established from which bellmen would be supplied. A register of bellmen was established for that purpose. That arrangement to supply bellmen from these central dumps will commence to operate from Tuesday next. Up to the present the arrangement was that a bellman was supplied from his own merchant, and only when the merchant could not supply him was he supplied from the dump. The arrangement also provides that 20 per cent. of every cargo that comes in is assigned to the dumps.
The complaint which has been most frequently voiced is that bellmen are being supplied only with slack. I stated here that that complaint could not be completely justified, because of the arrangement to which I have referred. I received, however, a letter from the Women Workers' Union this morning asking me to carry out an inspection of the dumps so that I would be satisfied as to the quality of coal there. When I received that letter, I caused an inspection to be carried out of these dumps and I have since received the report of my officer. It is quite clear from the report that while the quality of coal in the dumps is inferior to the quality of the coal normally imported into Dublin, it is not of a lower grade than the quality of coal which merchants have available  for sale to people other than bellmen. The position is that during the last week seven cargoes of coal came into Dublin. Five of these were of slack. That reduced the general quality of the coal available in the dumps. That position has, however, improved as from Monday last when 10 cargoes came in, only one of which was of slack.
The report which I have received relates to the position in each dump. Only two dumps are at present being worked, one for the north city and one for the south. No. 1 dump which is worked for the south, consists of a mixture of large coal and slack and the fuel is being sold to bellmen as 50 per cent. coal and slack. There is approximately 1,000 tons of briquettes, coal and slack in the dump. The other dump, No. 3, is being worked for the north side. There are there about 1,400 tons of slack and of large coal and the inspector was satisfied that the quality of the coal there was somewhat better than in the Hanover Quay dump which is being worked for the south side.
However, the report, the accuracy of which I am prepared to accept, while admitting that there was a temporary difficulty during last week, arising out of the fact, that by far the greater quantity of the coal imported last week was slack, shows that the quality of the coal available in the dumps for distribution to bellmen is not inferior to the quality available for sale to anybody else. The arrangement ensures that no matter what the scarcity of coal, the bellmen will get 100 per cent. of their requirements. That means that people who buy in small quantities from bellmen will be assured of their supplies. The price which they pay for coal is fixed by Order. That price is being subsidised. The price which merchants are being permitted to charge to ordinary consumers has been increased slightly so as to permit of a reduction below the figure that would represent an economic price for coal sold to bellmen. Of course the system of distributing coal through bellmen is an uneconomic one. It is unfortunate for the people who have to buy coal in small quantities that they should have to meet the excessive  costs of that uneconomic method of distribution.
General Mulcahy: Will the Minister deal with the question raised last night? The Minister says that the price at which the bellmen are getting coal is subsidised. The Minister for Industry and Commerce yesterday said that the import prices for coal in January and February were 44/8 and 45/11 per ton, but the bellmen are being charged 63/-. There is also the point that the import price rose between January and February by 1/3 per ton, but between the 18th January and 11th February the increase to bellmen was 11/- per ton.
Mr. Lemass: I am not concerned about the figures which the Deputy got from the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I am not going to explain those figures because I have not examined them. I do know that the price of coal which is being sold in Dublin to bellmen and ordinary consumers is fixed by me on the basis of information supplied by the accountants on my staff who examine the cost of importing coal and relate that cost to a reasonable retail price. I am taking the responsibility for the prices of coal in Dublin, and I am guaranteeing to this House that these prices represent no element of undue profit. That is all I am going to say at the moment. If the Deputy's allegation is that somebody is making undue profits——
Mr. Lemass: The Deputy is trying to do what I was complaining about and that is to confuse the public mind for the purpose of causing discontent. Does he believe me when I say that the price at which coal is sold to bellmen is fixed by me? Does he believe  it is fixed by me and that I fixed that price for the purpose of ensuring that the bellmen got it without undue profits to anybody? If the Deputy believes that, he can do his damnedest to try to cause discontent amongst the poor of Dublin. He can go out with his red flag to cause revolution if he likes, but he will not succeed, because the Government will expose his tactics on every occasion.
Everybody knows what Deputy Mulcahy is up to. He is taking a figure supplied from the trade and shipping statistics which has no relation to the price of coal delivered to a merchant's yard, and which does not purport to be the price of coal delivered to a merchant's yard, and quoting that figure to try to convey to other people the impression that somebody is being permitted to take undue profits. Not merely is that not true, but the contrary is the case. The price of coal to bellmen is, in fact, being subsidised, so that these men are getting coal at a lower price than they would get it if that arrangement had not been entered into by my Department. I promise I will not interrupt the Deputy and he can tell what lies he likes.
Mr. Lemass: I could not answer that without notice. In the ordinary course, coal is imported into this country from a wide variety of districts in Great Britain, in a wide variety of qualities. The schedule of coal prices which we agreed to with the coal committee of the British Mines Department was a very lengthy document, and each of these qualities of coal when imported  here has to be priced in relation to varying transport charges, because the cost of bringing that coal into different parts of the country differs in each case. Consequently, the coal prices covered a very wide range in normal circumstances. But the present circumstances are not normal. We are not now allowed to buy coal wherever we like in Great Britain. Our purchases are confined to a limited number of areas and the price differential between the highest and the lowest grade of coal which we are allowed to purchase is very narrow. In these circumstances, it has been found possible to fix maximum prices for four grades of coal. These prices have been fixed by my Department and represent the maximum which can be charged. That development of the situation will, of course, facilitate the whole problem of price control in relation to coal in the Dublin area.
Then I was asked about shipping. Deputy Norton inquired when our difficulties began to develop. The difficulties concerning shipping gradually became more acute during the whole of 1940, but they came to a head when Greece was involved in the war, because for a long time after July the great majority of the neutral ships which we chartered for our purposes were Greek ships and after Greece became involved in the war these were commandeered by the Greek Government. Whether we will be able to make our shipping problem easier is a matter I do not wish to discuss now, because the ground has not been sufficiently explored to express an opinion. As I said, everything possible is being done to find some way by which the difficulties created by the absence of these neutral ships will be reduced. If we succeed, well and good. We must, however, base our plans on the assumption that we will not succeed.
Deputy MacEoin asked why the arrangement with the British Government for the joint chartering of neutral ships was terminated. It was terminated for the simple reason that we were not getting the ships. The arrangement was made when neutral ships were available in numbers; but,  because of the competition between ourselves and the British Government, the freight rates charged for voyages from South and North America increased very rapidly. In order to effect a reduction in these rates, we made an arrangement at the request of the British Government for the joint charter of these neutral ships. That arrangement was effective for its purpose for a time, and in the months after it was made, months early in 1940, the freight rates quoted us for grain fell by 20 to 25 per cent. as a result of the elimination of competition. But in the course of the year the number of neutral ships available became less. Of those that remained, a number were time chartered by the British Government for their own purposes. The net result was that no ships were being made available to us under the arrangement, and in our own interests, we felt that we should release ourselves from the obligations of the arrangement and take steps to secure vessels on our own account, voyage, charter, or time-charter, or purchase them as the opportunity offered. That is what is being done.
Mr. Lemass: The Deputy may ask that question, but he cannot expect to get an answer in a single sentence. We could have bought ships before the war, we could have established an Irish mercantile fleet before the war, but its operation would be most costly to this country. It could not have been maintained on the basis of our own external trade; it would involve a very substantial subsidy. No doubt the Dáil would vote that subsidy with enthusiasm in the light of pre-war circumstances. But, nevertheless, the Government felt that their efforts to promote an Irish mercantile marine in pre-war circumstances should be confined to the encouragement of private enterprise to get into that business.
To some extent private enterprise did get into that business, but not to the extent of building up a fleet of vessels capable of transatlantic voyages. After the war began the problem was a somewhat  different one. It appeared to us, so long as neutral ships of other nationalities were available to supply our needs, that it was unnecessary for us to take the risk of having a number of vessels of our own nationality plying in these dangerous waters. I am sure I need not elaborate in this House what that risk was. The risk was sufficient to induce the American Government to pass a law prohibiting their ships from coming into these dangerous waters.
Mr. Lemass: For precisely that reason, to prevent a breach of neutrality and incidents arising in connection with those ships which would put them in the position of having to sacrifice their prestige or neutrality. There were a number of other reasons. It was only when it became clear there was no alternative that the Government decided to take the risk of acquiring ships to sail in these dangerous waters with goods for us. There are other factors which, I think, the Deputy should bear in mind. His assumption that if we had got Irish-owned ships, acquired before the outbreak of the present war, our problems would now be easier, is not necessarily based on a firm foundation. All those ships which were sunk on their way to this country—and we lost over 70,000 tons of wheat en route to this country in the course of a few months last year—were all neutral ships, sailing from neutral ports, with as much right to engage in the trade of carrying goods for use in this country as our ships would have. His assumption that, if those ships had been carrying our flag, they would have escaped the perils of the sea that brought those other ships to destruction is, I think, unfounded. We might have been luckier, but that is only a possibility.
However, the Deputy can, if he likes, make any case he thinks the facts will sustain against the Government on the ground that it had not built up a mercantile marine in pre-war years. I am prepared to discuss that question at any time, but I suggest that we postpone argument on it until after  the war when its merits, or otherwise, can be debated in peaceful conditions. Our present conditions are such that there is little possibility of getting ships to engage in the business of carrying goods to this country except we own them, and that is why the necessary measures to acquire control of such ships are now being taken.
I do not know that there are any other matters concerning which it is necessary to refer. I have spoken much longer than I had intended. I have endeavoured to give the Dáil the maximum amount of information on the various matters which arose in the course of this debate. The Dáil can take the information in the spirit in which I have given it. I was anxious to give the House the opportunity of making whatever constructive suggestions Deputies may have in mind so that we can pool our wisdom and approach the consideration of these problems in a spirit of co-operation and understanding. If Deputies approach them in the “Smart Alec” spirit of Deputy McGilligan they cannot expect to get away with the idea that they are co-operating with the Government. They cannot do that while at the same time heaving bricks at the Government. We want to get their co-operation. We want the help of every one, but if we are going to get a spirit of co-operation in this House it has got to be evident on both sides of it, and not on this side only. We have had very little evidence of it from some of the Deputies opposite in the course of the past two days' debate.
Mr. Belton: May I ask the Minister a question? Arising out of what the Minister said on the petrol situation, are steps being taken to see that a sufficient quantity will be accumulated and be available for harvesting operations this year?
Mr. D. Morrissey: The Minister, at the beginning of his very long but certainly not very good effort, told us that he was going to approach this matter in a serious way. He said that we were going to have a calm approach to it. We had from the Minister who spoke for an hour and thirty-five minutes, a series of confessions of absolute failure. He finished his speech by asking, with his tongue in his cheek, for co-operation and understanding, and for a pooling of the wisdom of the House. The Minister's contribution this evening to that co-operation, unity and pooling of wisdom was to give an exhibition of his usual bad temper. Deputy Mulcahy put a question to the Minister in a perfectly orderly way, but we saw what the Minister's attitude was. That is an old stunt with the Minister for Supplies when he is put a question that he cannot answer, a question that he knows it would not suit him to answer. Let me put the question to the Taoiseach who is going to speak next. The Minister, in the course of his speech, said that the price of coal to bellmen is subsidised. Instead of answering Deputy Mulcahy's question, the Minister said the Deputy could do that and the other thing—that he could make a speech to-morrow and lie as much as he liked. It would be a good thing for this House and country, if the Minister for Supplies would give as much time, attention, intelligence  and industry to discovering the position of affairs here as Deputy Mulcahy gives. The Minister for Industry and Commerce, in reply to a Parliamentary Question, stated that the price of coal landed on the quays in Dublin was 45/11 per ton.
Mr. D. Morrissey: The average price? Will the Minister say if there is more than the average quality of coal being dropped into the four dumps? Are special qualities of coal being lodged in the four dumps? Is there any coal, inferior to what is being put into the dumps, being imported into the country?
Mr. D. Morrissey: What is being sold in this country to-day for household purposes? However, that is a small point. The Minister amazed the House this evening by the statement he made, and if it is not censored in the newspapers to-morrow morning, it will amaze the people of the country when they read it—the statement that we have to go short of bread, not because it was difficult or impossible to get wheat into the country, but because,  according to the Minister, not only in July last but in December—three months ago—we were not able to unload the wheat that was coming into the country.
Mr. D. Morrissey: In July last, seven months after the outbreak of war, and a month after the fall of France, the people who were set up in this country to ensure that supplies would be available had such little foresight, or rather I should say were so blind that when wheat did arrive the storage was not capable of taking it. The Minister said it.
Mr. Lemass: Will the Deputy allow me to correct him? Following the fall of France, because of the fall of France, there were exceptional quantities of wheat and coal available for us to purchase. Purely temporary circumstances made those exceptional quantities temporarily available, and it was necessary to avail of that temporary advantage to the greatest extent to get in the maximum quantity of wheat and coal. It was for those reasons that we had certain difficulties at the ports.
Mr. Morrissey: Are we to understand that there was such an abundance of wheat and coal coming into the ports of this country in July last that we were not able to handle it, and that our storage was not sufficient?
Mr. Morrissey: If it is true that we were not able to handle it, and that our storage was not sufficient, the Minister and his whole Department should be shoved out of the way as soon as possible. I observe that the Minister is leaving the House.
Mr. Morrissey: This is the Minister who said in the Seanad only last week: “The fact that we have gone through eighteen months of war”—that is bringing it up to the present day—“with no serious consequences developing ....” The fact that there are additional thousands of people unemployed in the country to-day is not a serious development; the fact that we are not going to have enough flour in this country to make bread for the people, even with a 95 per cent. extraction, is not a serious development; the fact that the people in this country have to go without fires, without butter, and in some cases without tea, is not a serious development in the eyes of the Minister. On the contrary, conditions are such that he feels that his Department is entitled to a vote of thanks from the House.
Let us take the bread situation. This is the man who told us three weeks ago in this House that there was sufficient flour and wheat in this country to ensure that, on a 90 per cent. extraction, we would have enough bread on our normal consumption to last us until the new harvest. He now tells us, as in the case of tea, that we will not have enough, but he does not tell us when it is going to run short. He does not tell us whether it is going to run short in May or June or July or August. He tells us about some of the orders that have been made and some of the orders that are going to be made. Let me suggest to him one order that  ought to be made immediately, and should have been made long ago. If there is a definite shortage of flour, if the position is that there has to be a 95 per cent. extraction from the wheat, and that, notwithstanding that, we will have to ration bread, why in God's name are we affording ourselves the luxury of allowing the bakers in this country to make fancy loaves, pan loaves, fancy rolls and all that sort of thing, which are very highly wasteful? Why does not the Minister insist upon a plain standard loaf being turned out? Why does not the Minister insist, as he should insist, that no bread should be allowed to be offered for sale in this country unless it has been at least 24 or 36 hours baked? The things that would appeal to the ordinary man in the street, the matters that it is easiest to enforce, are the last things that appear to commend themselves to a Government Department.
The Minister talked about the wheat situation. With respect to him, he talked a whole lot of nonsense about it. The Minister talked about what was done in 1939 when we were talking about what should have been done in October, 1940. Of course, now I can see why we are in danger of not being able to produce enough wheat this year to meet our requirements next winter. There was so much of it coming in at the ports that we were not able to handle it even in December. In critical times such as these, if that is not the greatest confession of incompetence and inefficiency—I go further and say criminal negligence—that was ever made in this House, I do not know what to say.
If it was not clear to any Minister, to any member of this House, last September and certainly in October, that there was little hope of getting supplies of foodstuffs from outside for either man or beast, and that it would be necessary to double our own production of wheat, then all I have to say is that that man must be living away up in the air. What is the result? Because the campaign which was started in the middle of January was not started in the middle of October, it is highly problematical that we will  get 500,000 acres of wheat, much less 700,000 acres, and as I said yesterday that is not due to any reluctance on the part of the farmers to whom the appeal is being made. It is due to the fact that there is a shortage of seed wheat, and to the fact that we have had extremely bad weather for nearly three months. I am glad to say that a great deal of winter wheat has been put in, and put in under very unfavourable conditions. Even this week people are taking the gamble, and a gamble it is in our climate, and sowing winter wheat. It is a definite gamble, notwithstanding the fact that some officials of the Department of Agriculture and some instructors of county committees of agriculture were told to go down the country and spread the gospel that it was perfectly safe to sow winter wheat up to the end of the second week in March. There is not a practical farmer in the country who does not know that sowing winter wheat in the second week in March is a gamble.
Mr. Morrissey: I am granting that, but I am putting this to the Deputy, that the risk, such as it is—let us agree that it is there; it does not matter whether it is big or small— could, with a little ordinary foresight, have been avoided. I think the Deputy will agree with me that if he were sowing winter wheat he would prefer to see it peeping over the ground in the week before Christmas than to be putting it into the ground in the second week in March.
Mr. Morrissey: The position with regard to seeds in this country to-day is well-known. I want to put this to any member of the House, any farmer on the Government Benches: Is it not a fact that, if we are to produce our own root seeds for next year, this is the month in which the preparation must be made for it? Is any member of this House satisfied that the Department of Agriculture has taken any effective steps to see that that is done? Is it not a fact that, because the Department of Agriculture was asleep this time 12 months, six months after the war started, and made no provision for providing seeds, that there is practically no turnip seed to be had in this country to-day? It is almost impossible to obtain it at any price. Is it not a fact that, until we got the recent consignment of mangold seeds from America, it was impossible to get mangold seeds from any other quarter? Is it not apparent to everybody who takes an interest in the matter that it will be extremely difficult, if not absolutely impossible, to obtain either root seeds or vegetable seeds?
Is there any evidence that effective steps are being taken by any Department of the State to make adequate provision for such a situation? It is bad enough to be short of manures; it is difficult enough to raise crops successfully without manures; but it is utterly impossible to do it without seeds. Is it not as essential at the moment to have early seed potatoes sown as it is to have spring wheat? Is it not essential to do something of that sort if we are going to have an alternative food supply in June, July and August when the flour is likely to be short? What effort is being made to provide for that situation? There is just one line at the bottom of a large advertisement about wheat. It is false economy. It is of sufficient importance and urgency to demand at least a  separate advertisement for itself, and every person in this country who has a perch of ground to spare should be encouraged to put early potatoes into it.
We talk a lot about waste. There is colossal waste, having regard to the circumstances in which we now live and will have to live in the near future. Is any Department of State making an effort to stop that waste? There has been no national effort made to collect waste material, whether paper, tin or anything else. There are a number of voluntary societies appealing in a tuppence-ha'penny sort of way to the people to avoid waste and to save old tins, paper and other things of that sort. They can appeal only in a small way compared to what the Government could do. We are told that our industries are running short of raw materials and yet there is no national appeal made by the Government to the people to avoid waste.
There is no Deputy here who is more anxious than I that every member of this Assembly should pull together in this crisis. Deputies opposite should not take the point of view that we are helpful only when we are dumb. That seems to be the idea of the Minister for Supplies—that is his idea of how we should co-operate with the Government. He started his speech by telling us that he was going to make a serious speech, that he was going to approach the matter in a calm way. What was his first sentence? He said that Deputies on this side should not be playing on the feelings of the people in order to create discontent. I find it very hard to imagine that the Minister for Supplies believes that. He criticised the speech made last night by Deputy McGilligan and he talked about “Smart Alec” and about being slick. He criticised the speech made by Deputy O'Higgins to-day. I did not hear Deputy O'Higgins speaking, but I listened with very great attention to Deputy McGilligan and I considered his speech a very searching speech and I think nobody could consider it other than being a helpful one. I think it is helpful  not only to the country but to the Government that if we believe they are going on wrong lines we should point that out to them. Not only is that helping them, but it is our duty to do it.
Mr. Morrissey: So far as Deputies on the Government Benches are concerned, their idea of co-operation seems to be that we should simply shut our mouths, or else simply say “ditto” to everything that is done. I suggest that when Deputies get the Official Report they should read the speech of the Minister for Supplies. There were several points in it—let us leave out what happened during the last two years and start with the facts as they face us to-day; let us, if it is necessary in the future, have a national register; let us make plans for rationing, if they are necessary in the future, and, if they do not prove suitable, we can change them; we have not coal for this reason, we have not petrol for that, we have not flour for the other, and so on. There was not one sentence in the whole hour and forty minutes' speech to show that he has any plan of his own, that there has been any constructive thinking.
The Minister asks for constructive criticism. His whole speech shows there has not been any constructive thinking in his Department since it was set up. He simply moves from one blunder to another. He says that rationing is not necessary, but if it becomes necessary we will have it. Will we have the same situation as in regard to tea? The position in relation to tea was that the people who could afford to do so bought all they  wanted, when there was talk of rationing, and the poor could hardly get any at all. We know what happened with respect to coal, tea and even flour. If you take the import statistics over the years 1938, 1939 and 1940 and study the figures for tea, petrol, coal and wheat, you will see that the shortage was to some extent artificial. People were not only allowed to hoard, but they were even encouraged to do so.
We had another helpful speech from Deputy O'Reilly. He told us that our criticism was not sincere. He told us that when we talked about the petrol shortage we were merely trying to make political capital out of it. He told us we should not be reciting the miseries of the poor and we ought to be satisfied that we had not sheer starvation. I think it was Deputy Keyes who said that, having regard to the type of speech made by Deputy O'Reilly, he was not surprised to find that Ministers knew so little about the actual conditions in the country. I must agree that if Ministers gather their information from men like Deputy O'Reilly, who tells them that farmers are to-day getting 35/- a barrel for their oats—there may be a couple of  farmers here and there getting it, but there are very few farmers who grew oats and could afford to keep them over until this month—they cannot be very well informed about existing conditions. I should like Deputy O'Reilly to address himself to the farmers who had to grow oats last year and to sell it at 13/- and 14/- a barrel and saw someone else getting 35/- for it later, or the farmer who had to sell his barley at 19/- and has to buy it back now, if he can get it at all, at £2.
If there is one thing clear from the speech of the Minister for Supplies it is that we would be much better off in this country if that Department had never been set up. We certainly could not be worse off. They have not given us adequate supplies of one single commodity and have not attempted, with the exception of petrol, to see that there was an equal distribution of any commodity in the country. I move to report progress.
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