Wednesday, 18 June 1941
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. Hughes: Last night, I was referring to the functions of the Minister's Department, concerned as it is during the period of the emergency with the question of essential supplies of food and fuel for our people, raw material for the production of that food, and raw material for industry. The control of the prices of those commodities ranks in my opinion as the most vital economic work of the Government during this critical period, and should command the constant and vigilant attention and anticipation of the Minister and the Government. The preservation of the employment of thousands of men, and the preservation of reasonable economic conditions for our people, depend to a large measure on  the ability of the Minister to do his job properly and efficiently. That job is by no means an easy one. I have no desire to minimise the complexities and difficulties of the problem he has to tackle, or to blame the Government for the diminution in and—in recent months—the almost total disappearance of the essential supplies from overseas as a result of the intensification of the blockade, the reduction of shipping, and the impossibility of chartering tonnage for the conveyance of our normal import requirements, but it is obvious that the Minister failed to realise the gravity of the situation that was pending, or to anticipate the rapid deterioration of the shipping position. Although the Supplies Branch of the Department of Industry and Commerce was set up as early as September, 1938, on looking over the figures of the imports prior to that period and since that time it is evident that the work of the Department is not reflected in the import figure. No provision was made for the accumulation of stocks of essential commodities to offset to some degree the menace threatening the existence of our people at the present time, when we find ourselves almost completely cut off from the rest of the world. The ineptitude of the Minister to keep a proper and vigilant watch over the supply position of the country has landed us in our present difficulty. His futile attempt to defend the measures taken by his Department, and his specious arguments now, have not deceived anybody either inside or outside the House.
Early in this year and at the end of last year the country was assured by the Minister on many occasions that the supply position in regard to many commodities was quite safe. Immediately after this series of assurances we got a series of shocks and jolts which had the effect of completely shaking the confidence of the country in the Minister's ability to handle the supply problem. Personally, I must say I have never witnessed such universal anger amongst the people, not because supplies were running short but because they felt they had been deliberately fooled by the Minister in regard  to these supplies. He allowed the supply position in respect of many commodities to deteriorate to vanishing point before any warning was given to the public, and his Department was looked upon as the Department “to inform the public when supplies ran out” and it became known as “the Department without supplies”.
An outstanding example is the position in regard to petrol. We were told on a former occasion by the Minister that the petrol position was normal last Christmas up to a particular date when it suddenly collapsed. The Minister discovered that the tanks were empty and supplies were cut off. People away in the country were not able to procure sufficient petrol to bring them home. That was the position in which they found themselves without any warning from the Minister. I listened with great interest last night to Deputy Bartley attempting to defend the position. He blamed the petrol companies and said they did not co-operate because they were opposed to the refinery project. I do not think the Deputy listened to what the Minister said on the matter. The Minister said he was informed that the supply for the present year was 20,000,000 gallons of petrol and 10,000,000 gallons of kerosene. I wonder if Deputy Bartley is aware that there was no co-operation whatever— good, bad or indifferent—from the Department of Supplies in securing that quantity of fuel for this country for the present year, that the initiative and responsibility of the companies which the Deputy says were at fault secured the present supply. There was no offer of assistance by the Department or by the Minister.
It is my opinion that the Minister should have gone across himself on that particular job, as fuel for transport is a very vital matter and of such importance as to deserve the personal attention of the Minister. He should have gone over personally to co-operate in securing the maximum amount which could be released by the British Petrol Board. The fact of the matter is that no help or assistance of any kind was  given by the Department. The Minister's statement indicates that—he says “he was informed” that that was the supply. He did not procure it or assist in procuring it. It is unfair and unjust of any Deputy to accuse those people who did—and who were lucky to be in that position—secure a quantity of our fuel requirements to keep us going. It may be information, too, for Deputy Bartley to know that the representatives of the petrol companies who went over from here met both the Minister of Mines and the Minister of Shipping at the other side and got a cordial reception, and that both of those Ministers were anxious to co-operate as far as possible.
I wonder how many times did the Minister for Supplies meet those representatives if they went to his Department to discuss the very important matter of distribution of that fuel. I think that on no occasion did the Minister think it worth while to meet those representatives to discuss distribution. Those representatives met very busy Ministers at the other side— the Ministers of a country engaged in a life-and-death struggle—but our Minister had not time to meet them to discuss the distribution of petrol. No wonder a complete hash has been made of the whole supply and distribution position by the Minister's Department. In the first instance, he should have accompanied those men across. If his making personal representation as a Minister of this State had secured even another 1,000,000 gallons — making 21,000,000 gallons instead of 20,000,000 —it would have been well worth the journey. It is amazing to find that while other countries think it good business to send Ministers across frontiers to secure trade agreements, and we here think it worth while to send a Minister across to America to secure supplies, no Minister is prepared to go less than an hour's journey across to Britain to make a deal. Obviously, it is the country we should make contact with, the country to which we are selling our surplus produce, the country where we have something we can use as a bargaining weapon.
No effort has been made by the Minister  for Supplies or by any other Minister, or by the Government as a whole, to suggest that there should be some sort of a barter arrangement, to suggest that, while we are most anxious to supply them with our surplus food and maintain our present output and our present export, we can do that only on certain conditions—getting assistance and co-operation, and the release of certain raw materials from the other side. I cannot understand why that has not been done. Whether the record of the Minister's anti-British flag-waving has operated against his concerning himself in these matters personally, I do not know, but his attitude is certainly to the detriment of the economic position of the country, and the people as a whole are suffering. The unfortunate people have to suffer because of the failure of the Minister and the Government properly to face up to their responsibilities. The Minister failed to go across in order to secure something in the interests of this country.
Mr. Hughes: Not at all. Petrol and fuel supplies still present a big problem. Recently I referred to the fact that the Minister refused to make available supplies of petrol in order to distribute the lime which was so much needed for agricultural purposes. That was towards the end of the agricultural year. So far as the distribution of lime for use on the land was concerned, it was about a month too late, because the Minister was not able to make up his mind with regard to issuing supplies of petrol. Just in the middle of the food production campaign the Minister apparently did not care a button whether or not lime was useful for agricultural purposes. He had very little sympathy for the agricultural community. Apparently he does not care two hoots how the unfortunate farmers are treated. It was really in the national interest that supplies of petrol should be made available in order to distribute the maximum amount of lime, especially when there was an acute shortage of artificial manures, but the Minister was not very sympathetic.
A problem also arises with regard to supplies of petrol for private lorries as compared to lorries used for hire. I do not think it is fair to differentiate against the private lorry. While I would be slow to suggest anything that might reduce the number in employment, in my opinion there should not be any differentiation. There ought to be an equitable distribution of motor fuel. Then there is the important matter of crude oil supplies. I know two or three saw mills and some stone quarries where there are crude oil engines working saws and drills. These engines are not getting 50 per cent. of their requirements. On the other hand, you have the railway companies getting practically 100 per cent. of their normal crude oil requirements. I do not suggest that in putting buses off the roads the men employed on them should lose their employment, but I do suggest that it is not good economics to be running buses parallel with railway trains. If you take a bus off the road there is no reason why the people who would travel by it should  not go by rail and, with the increased volume of railway traffic, an extra staff will be required on the railways and the bus drivers and conductors could be absorbed in that way. That would release large quantities of crude oil and petrol which could be used to advantage in industrial and other works.
I will give an example of how oil is wasted. You have large numbers of the Construction Corps working at the Curragh. They are brought to the city every Saturday night, being collected at Newbridge in 14 buses. They are brought back again on Monday morning. Why use buses when you have the railway running through Newbridge? I suggest it is a waste of fuel running those buses twice a week to and from Newbridge. No attempt has been made to preserve fuel in order to use it in the best interests of the country. We have to face a very difficult period and fuel supplies are very uncertain. So far as I can see, there is a shocking waste of both petrol and crude oil.
As regards kerosene, we are getting 10,000,000 gallons of it—so the Minister was informed—and our normal consumption would be 19,000,000 gallons. I am quite satisfied there is a considerable amount of illicit traffic in kerosene and it is being used by private cars and lorries. There is one way of eliminating that, and that is by having kerosene coloured. If you colour it red or pink, and if a Guard looks into the tank of a lorry or a private car, he will have no difficulty in ascertaining whether or not it is kerosene, and then he can bring a prosecution. That is one way of dealing with the situation, and I suggest that by that method you will ensure that kerosene is properly used.
While I admit that there is a difficulty about the distribution of kerosene for agricultural purposes, I do not think that the sending out of query forms is going to serve any useful purpose, because many farmers may ask for more than they require, and when the Department gets in all the returns it will be found that an alarming  quantity of fuel is asked for, with the result that if it decides upon effecting a percentage cut the man who made an honest return is going to be victimised. That man simply asked for what he wanted, but if there is a cut he is going to suffer, while the man who asked for more than he required is going to be quite happy. That happened to query forms that were sent out by the Department last March. I suggest that tractors should be registered, and that farmers should be compelled to pay a tax of 5/-, so that there could be a record of registered machines. At present there is nothing to prevent a man representing that he has a tractor and getting fuel for it, when it may be only imagination on his part. There is no obligation to have a tractor registered unless it is brought out on the public road. The solution of the difficulty is to make owners of tractors pay the 5/- licence.
It is pretty well known that there is a considerable illicit. traffic in sugar over the Border in exchange for white flour, and the Minister should take steps to stop all such traffic. He can only ensure that sugar will not go out if he stops flour coming in. The Minister said that he was only concerned about sugar and that he had no objection to flour coming in. I suggest that now is the time to conserve our supplies of sugar, and that a small restriction would attain that end. We may have ample supplies of sugar now, and normally 72,000 acres of beet would supply our requirements, but Deputies should realise that there was an acute shortage of artificial manure this year, and that as beet is the one crop that requires a heavy dressing of manure, which was not available, the output may be smaller. In addition, the crop was a month late and does not look too promising. Taking these matters into consideration, there may be a sharp fall in the production of sugar from this year's crop. Our normal requirements would be about 100,000 tons of sugar, but if there was any gap to be filled now is the time to bridge it by restricting supplies.
I agree with Deputy Corry that it is an extraordinary procedure to suggest  that threshing-machine owners should have to indicate their coal requirements. That is a complete departure from what has been the practice in all parts of the country. It would be a great hardship on machine owners if they had to provide coal, as they may be operating many miles from their headquarters. It seems ridiculous to suggest that there should now be a departure from the practice that has been followed since threshing machines were introduced here. I do not think it would be possible to carry it out. I suggest that the Minister should have some sort of advisory committee, composed of men who have practical experience in these matters, instead of the Department deciding what should be done, without being conversant with the real facts. That is what happened in this case. The Minister also told us that he had refused export licences for pit props because of the fuel shortage. If we refuse to export pit props to England—and the amount that we could send would be negligible compared to what would be required— when we are looking for any concessions later from the British in the way of fuel supplies, we are not going the best way about securing them, in refusing to export the type of timber used for pit props and which is not suitable as fuel. Personally, I believe that it would get the other fellow's monkey up if he was looking for something and was refused, and if later we wanted something from him. If we are not prepared to meet the needs of others naturally they will retaliate. There appears to be an absolute lack of co-operation there, and no attempt made to deal with these matters on a businesslike basis. It seems to me to be a very stupid attitude.
I also asked the Minister a question about the importation of reapers and binders. I am informed that there is a possibility of binders being brought in from Canada and also a considerable consignment of binder twine. It was well that the Minister saw fit to take the duty off binders so that a supply might be secured during the present year. I do not think the importing companies got any co-operation from the Department in the way of securing  the release of essential agricultural machinery. The question of having a supply of binder parts is most important. I hope the Minister will concern himself with that matter, and ensure that an ample supply of parts will be here for the harvest, because a binder is of very little use to a farmer if a part of it is broken and cannot be replaced. For hay making, mowers and mower parts are required. I understand that a number of inquiries have been made by small farmers, who do not grow sufficient corn to justify the employment of a binder, with regard to getting reaping attachments for their mowers. The duty, however, on all mower parts costing over £2 is 33? per cent. It is a great hardship on a small farmer who has an International harvesting machine, or a Massey-Harris mower, or some other make of mower not manufactured in the country, to have to pay an import duty of 33? per cent. on these reaping attachments. At the present time that is very unfair and in my opinion the rate of duty should be reduced. When the home manufacturers of mowers went before the Tariff Commission some years ago to seek protection for their manufactures, they only asked for a 15 per cent. duty. But here we have the Government imposing a duty of 33? per cent. Some members of the House may not be aware of the fact that the people who manufacture mowing machines here have to import many of the component parts, such as the fingers, knife heads, shoes, and so on. As these are imported in the raw, they are not subject to duty. They are supposed to be put through a finishing process here. That does not amount to much—simply giving them a rub on an emery stone. In view of all that, I think it is unfair that these reaping attachments should be subject to a duty of 33? per cent.
One vital commodity that the Minister did not refer to yesterday was the artificial manure we will require for next year's sowing. The year is slipping by, and no effort is being made to provide the country, in part at least, with its requirements in artificial manures. A few tons are being taken  in County Clare. I observe that the Minister nods his head. I think he does not know much about this. I put it to him that the present output in County Clare is negligible in proportion to our requirements. It is time, therefore, that some move was made in connection with this matter. I want to tell the Minister that there will be a sharp decline in the production of crops next year if the farmers in the tillage areas, and especially those with worn land, have to go without artificial manures next spring. It is time now that we got on our toes about this, and made the best use we could of the deposits we have in this country. Even if the solubility of the phosphate we have is slow, at any rate it is better than nothing. Much the same might be said about the production of potash. So far as I know, nothing is being done by the Government, although I understand that, during the last war, quite a lot of potash was manufactured from seaweed in the County Galway.
I am satisfied that there has been some increase in the acreage under wheat. The area under the crop last year was in or about 305,000 acres. I imagine the present acreage will approximate to about 400,000 acres. In the beginning of this year I suggested here that a census of production should be taken. In February or March farmers would be in a position to give an amount of valuable information. They could tell the Guards the crops they had in, and the crops they proposed to put in. All that information, if obtained early in the year as I suggested it should be, would be very useful. If, as a result of it, we found that the tillage drive was not likely to provide us with our full requirements in wheat, we could make a further effort to get people to increase production. No attention was paid to my suggestion. I regret that nothing was done about it. I think it was a proper suggestion to make, and if it had been adopted we would know now where we stand. The Minister, in his speech yesterday, spoke of a possible mixture of other cereals with wheat, but the fact is that he does not know what the acreage is under wheat, or, for that  matter, under any other crop. It seems to me an extraordinary thing that the getting of that information has been delayed until this hour. The Minister spoke at some length on price control. I am not satisfied that our agriculturists have been properly treated when we consider what they have to pay for artificial manures. In the case of superphosphates, a comparison of the prices prevailing in England and in this country shows that from £3 to £5 a ton more is being extracted from our farmers. The prices charged here cannot be justified. Then there is the question of the prices charged for seed wheat, seed barley, seed oats and root seeds. We all know that oats, which was bought from the farmers during the last fall at 12/- and 14/- a barrel, was some months later sold back to them as seed at 35/- a barrel. That went on and there was no attempt made by the Department to control that profiteering.
Mr. Hughes: The merchants are not entitled to rob. The Minister is supposed to be there to see that such a thing does not happen. I think more attention should be paid to these matters than has been paid to them. We asked that a guaranteed price should be given for the oats crop. The unfortunate farmer was in the position that he had to sell his oats last October. We tried to get a guaranteed, a decent price for him for the grain he had produced.
Mr. Hughes: The Minister contented himself yesterday with giving us an outline of the present position. He did not give the House any information with regard to the activities of his Department in co-operating with and in giving assistance to companies or individuals normally occupied in the importation of commodities to this  country. His Department failed to do that, and I personally think that is where the Minister fell down completely on his job, because anything that has been got into this country within the last year was as a result of individual effort. It was due to the efforts of different individuals with interests outside the country, but no help or co-operation whatever was given by the Minister or his Department. I have first hand information on that: that neither the Minister nor his Department gave any assistance to those people. For that reason I am of the opinion that the Minister failed completely in his job, and landed the country into the mess that we have at the present time in the matter of supplies. I certainly support the amendment, because I think the present position is dangerous for the country—to find that we are at the mercy of a man who is not prepared to do his job.
Mr. Victory: The Minister, in introducing the Estimate yesterday, painted what, to his mind, was a true picture of the situation before the country. I would say that it was not a rosy picture. He made this appeal to the House: that whatever criticism Deputies had to level against the Department would be constructive. Since that appeal was made, I have sat in the House for five hours, and during all that time I have heard very little in the way of constructive suggestions. I must say that I was very disappointed with the Deputy who has just sat down because his speeches, in normal times, were wholly free trade speeches. He was not half satisfied that more money did not leave this country and he implied that it would have been possible for the Government to have in ten years' stores. He went on to say that a number of people had been knocked out of employment by the scarcity of petrol. If he is a farmer, as I suppose he is, I wonder that it did not occur to him that we would have ten times the employment we had if we had to fall back on horses. The horses are here but there was no suggestion that the horse could be used  for anything. He wound up by finding fault with seeds and other things. When going around parish councils, I met people of his type who wanted to ship oats at £1 per barrel to England. I remember having to stand up against that and point out that, if we had one “Black' 47,” it was a foreign Government which was responsible, and that a native Government would not be responsible for another '47. If that is the mentality of Deputies taking part in this debate and if these are the constructive suggestions we are to get, I pity the country as a whole.
Some six months ago, the Government advised people who could afford to do so to buy in stocks of goods. Immediately, everybody in a public position preached that doctrine to the parish councils. I listened to speeches yesterday and what was the suggestion contained in those speeches? “Go and commandeer these stores and divide them up amongst the people who want them.” I would agree with commandeering in the case of licensed dealers, after allowing them a reasonable profit, but if we were to commandeer the stores of men who went out with only £5 in their pockets to buy in some tea and flour, we would be false to our trust and we would not be living up to the standard of honour to which members of this House should try to live.
The Government advocated self-sufficiency through these parish councils and the tilling of cottage plots and gardens and so forth was urged. When I hear criticism of self-sufficiency here, I remember the day when, in reply to a question of mine, Deputy Dillon said he would not be found dead on a field of Irish wheat. Self-sufficiency is now so essential that it is admitted by all sides to be the right policy. We hear a lot of talk about coal. Does anybody know how many boats went to the bottom of the sea with the Irish flag flying? We hear talk about having our own ships and I support that up to a point, but what guarantee have we that they will not go down with the Irish flag, as the others went down? I understand that ten or 11 have gone down already. When talking about  coal, are we to forget that there are bogs to be developed and that there are unemployed who can be usefully set to work there, instead of sending out the money as we do in the case of petrol? Where is financial legislation to stop if we continue to send out our money? If we are going to borrow about £8,000,000 this year, is it not good business to spend that money at home and not send it out for petrol and other things? Before petrol came into this country we were better off because we had the blacksmiths' forges and the harness-makers' and carpenters' shops and a number of other crafts in the country.
Mr. Victory: I suggest that, to improve matters, a bigger drive for turf-production should be made, if possible. I fear a scarcity. I think that the war is spreading. If it is spreading we need not be looking to foreign countries for  supplies. The Deputy who says we should have supplies to carry us over a number of years is not talking seriously. I heard it argued that certain companies would put in a supply of petrol at the North Wall. If there were a large supply of petrol, it is not at the North Wall it should be stored, because we know what would happen when the first bomb would drop. As one of the back-benchers I appeal to Deputies who propose to speak on this Estimate to offer constructive suggestions to the Government. I sat here with a juror's mind. The only constructive suggestion I heard was that, in the case of those making large profits on stores of tea, those stocks should be taken from them, making them a certain allowance, and that they should be sold at a reasonable price. That is a useful suggestion. I hope that, before the debate ends, we shall have a score of constructive suggestions. If we have, Deputies will be doing something for the country and the country is now in a difficult and delicate position owing to the world war.
Professor O'Sullivan: Deputy Victory complained that no constructive suggestions had been made. I was hoping that we would get some of these suggestions from him. I was also hoping to hear from him that the Ministry of Supplies has constructive suggestions to offer about anything. The Deputy should remember that we are not passing this Vote for any Party in the House. We are asked to pass this Vote for the Ministry of Supplies and it is the business of the Minister responsible and of Deputies who back him up to offer some reason why we should pass the Vote. I can well understand the attitude of Deputies like Deputy O'Reilly, who spoke last night. I do not expect Deputies—particularly Fianna Fáil Deputies—to come in here and criticise everything that the Department has done. I should be satisfied if they conveyed elsewhere to the Minister for Supplies the feeling that obtains in the country regarding his Department. That is in no sense a political feeling. It is not stimulated by political opposition to the  Minister. It is shared by people of different political affiliations. It is shared most strongly by supporters of the Minister's own Party and it is more strongly voiced by them than by supporters of the Opposition. If Deputies conveyed that feeling elsewhere to the Minister, I should forgive any speeches in favour of the Minister they felt impelled to make here. I have listened to some of the speeches and I know what the Minister has said.
Can anybody looking at the performance of that Minister and his Department for the last six months suggest that he or it is worthy of the confidence of this House, that that Department has done anything to lead us even to-day to believe that it is capable of dealing with the problems that this country has to face in the matter of supplies? This is a time, as the Deputy knows, when people all over the world are asked to take things on trust and not to examine things too closely. New systems are put completely untested before the eyes of the people. People are asked to accept them without any guidance from experience. But what are we asked to do? We are asked blindly to trust a Minister and his Department that have forfeited any claim to trust whatever as a result of their conduct in the past. It is quite easy for the Minister to say that he wants to face the future, that the past is past but we are now in the difficulty that without any information at our disposal—and I would say for the Minister that he tries as much as possible to prevent information from being placed at our disposal—we are asked to trust a Minister and his Department which have behaved as that Minister and his Department have behaved since the outbreak of war. If we are asked to rely on any body of men let us at least consult our experience.
If reference is made to past mistakes of the Ministry, it is for a two-fold purpose, to try at last to get the Minister and his Department to face very serious problems, to do now what we asked him to do in the debate say of last January, to face the situation seriously and not to wait until a crisis is on him before he takes the necessary  measures to deal with it. That is one of our principal complaints, that from the time that he set up the sub-department of the Department of Industry and Commerce, we have no palpable evidence of any reasonable foresight on the part of that Minister or his Department. That is the reason that we are criticising that Department at the present moment. When mention is made of constructive suggestions, one might say that that is the business of the Department, that is their responsibility. Deputy Victory shakes his head. I quite agree that experience justifies that shaking of the head but surely it is the business of the Department to deal with a situation of that kind by foresight. Not once have they done that.
Take three of the tasks the Department has had to face—to secure if possible the quantity of supplies that any reasonable man might expect them to procure, to see to the proper distribution of these supplies and to order the level of prices. Is there a Deputy in this House who really believes that that Department has satisfactorily faced these tasks? Take any important commodity you like from September, 1938, to the present time, and ask yourselves whether that Department has shown either foresight or ability to deal with any crisis which they should have foreseen. I want to avoid all exaggerations. There were many things which the Government could not have foreseen. There were many things that no Department and no body of men could have foreseen, or could have provided for; but take even the things they could have provided for, that reasonable thought and foresight would have enabled them to provide for. Can they satisfy the moderate demands of any Deputy in this House that they performed their duty in that particular respect? If that is so, as regards the comparatively easy problems we have had to face up to the present, what is the situation likely to be when we are asked to face, as we probably shall be asked to face, a much more serious situation in the coming months? Can you trust that Minister, that Ministry, to deal with that situation? That is really what the House has to determine.  I say, personally, I should be quite satisfied if individual members of the Fianna Fáil Party were capable, as we are not capable, of influencing the policy of the Government, if they would in private put their views before the Minister, acquaint him of the real seriousness of the situation, and of how the country looks upon this particular matter. If they were to do that, I think they would be performing a very salutary duty to the country, and it would, I hope, have some results.
When we were discussing the Budget statement, the Minister for Finance spoke of the efforts he had made to look for economy. I suppose some kind of controlling authority is necessary as regards supplies but speaking quite candidly, listening to the criticisms that I heard, as I say, from members of every Party, I wonder whether the expenditure of even half the £70,000 odd spent on the Department of Supplies was justified, whether it has not created more confusion in the country than really given help. We were told by the Taoiseach that the Government had sufficient foresight, that 12 months before the war broke out a separate sub-Department of the Department of Industry and Commerce was set up. Now, what we should like to see is, not foresight on the part of the Government in setting up Departments or sub-Departments, but in taking the necessary steps to put the country in a position to face a situation that was almost certain to crop up. Did it do it?
Professor O'Sullivan: It is not fair, Sir, to call your memory into this matter but when the Minister suggests that I said that war was unlikely, I say that that is an indication of the way he is managing his Department.
Professor O'Sullivan: Since 1937, as you may remember as a private Deputy, both here and in other places, I preached the doctrine that war was inevitable. I think, Sir, you will bear me out in that, perhaps privately to the Minister afterwards. I think I was even accused in this House of being a warmonger at the time because I said that. There may be Deputies on the opposite side who thought war unlikely but I certainly was not one of the Deputies who thought war unlikely. I said here that the policy of certain statesmen in Europe, of the Western Powers in particular, was such, combined with the policy of other statesmen in Europe, as to make war inevitable. I said that before the Munich Agreement, and I said it after the Munich Agreement, and, if the Minister cares to inquire, he will find a pamphlet on that matter published by me. The Minister is quite irresponsible in the statements he makes about anything. I admit that the mere fact that the Minister states a thing is not sufficient reason for disbelieving  it. If that were so, we could make up our minds a little more easily as to where we stood, but we cannot even rely on that, because he can sometimes—not often—blunder into truth.
In 1938 he had great foresight. He set up a sub-department. What reserves had he in 1939? Again and again, we have tried from this side to get figures from the Minister, but we have got no figures since September, 1939. We were told in a debate last January by the Taoiseach that frankness was necessary, and I will confess once more that when the Taoiseach speaks of frankness, although I am the last man to accuse him of wilfully deceiving anybody, I am exceedingly uneasy that I am going to be taken in in one way or another. The Taoiseach said:
“I think no good at all is done by suggesting that the Minister for Supplies, or any other Minister, or the Government as a whole, is not frank with the people. What is to be gained by not being frank with the people? I do not see it. One must refrain from creating panic.”
He then goes on to suggest that the information which he could see might be refused to the people was information that might create a momentary panic in reference to an article which was short only for the time being. When the Minister for Supplies last February refused to give Deputy Mulcahy information as to the importations of a large number of important products, and especially since September of 1939, he did so on the ground that it was against public interest to state these figures. Does he suggest that the giving of these figures would have created a panic? That was the case in which his leader thought that information might be withheld for the time being. We are not in a position to judge what this Department has done, because, consistently and persistently, the Minister has refused to give information to the House. That may be contempt for parliamentary usage, or it may be contempt for parliamentary institutions, but one thing is certain: what it has brought contempt on—and this is even  more serious—is Governmental institutions. What trust can there be in a man who has behaved as the Minister has behaved for the last six months?
Again, what reserves of essential supplies had we, as a result of the 12 months' operation of his sub-department, when the war broke out? Perhaps the Minister some time or other would give that information? Taking the important matter of wheat, the Government, face to face, as they say, with the likely contingency of a war, set out to lay in reserves. What reserves had we in wheat when the war broke out? I gather from various statements of the Minister, about 60,000 tons. We had, roughly speaking, one-ninth of our normal needs for the year to meet a European war. Is that foresight? Is that competency? We had one-ninth of what is necessary for our normal needs and about one-fifth of our normal imports. That was the reserve we heard such a lot about. Of what other important commodity had we any reserves, and, if we had, what were they? The Minister has been asked repeatedly to give information on that point. Is it against the public interest to give it?
Professor O'Sullivan: I must ask you, Sir, to intervene, although I did not intend to do so. I merely intended to count the number of times the Minister would interrupt. What reserves had the Minister? Practically none, and that is the Department which now comes to the House and expects practically a carte blanche. He was asked in the spring of this year to set up a committee of inquiry into various matters connected with his Department. He refused to do so.
Professor O'Sullivan: He refused to do so, unless it confined itself to the present situation and the future. In other words, the blunders of the Department were not to be inquired into, That was the only condition on which he would allow the inquiry to be held, and, in the light of that refusal, in the light of what we know of the various public statements of the Minister and the changes of policy which occur practically once a week, we are still asked to have confidence in that Department. Is it reasonable? If there is in the country, as I regret to say there is, a certain amount of criticism of the Government which should not be there at this moment, what Department and what Minister is responsible for it? Which is the Department above all others most criticised? The Department of the Minister for Supplies. Is it on account of his virtues and everything he has done that he is criticised? I put it to you, Sir, that it is not, but that it is the very opposite. The people have learned by bitter experience what amount of credence they are to place in any statement made by the Minister, and what amount of trust they are to put in any policy fostered by him.
I do not propose to discuss tea and petrol. They have been dealt with—I shall not say they could be dealt with at too great length, because they are typical instances of the blunderings of the Minister—but I often wonder with what voices the Government speaks. At the beginning of the year, in public debate here, we had the Minister for  Supplies scoffing at the idea of any shortage of tea. A very short time after—less than a fortnight, I think— we had the head of the Government forecasting the rationing of tea. Later on, we had the head of the Government appealing to the people to go in for more tillage, and to produce more wheat and various other commodities, as the situation was most serious; and, a couple of days later, as a kind of counterblast to that, we had the Minister for Supplies saying that there were ships on the way from America with flour, and so on. Anything more calculated to draw the wind from the sails of the Taoiseach, of the leader of the Government, than that I could not well imagine. We had a desperate situation painted by the Taoiseach at the week-end, and then a picture of ships upon the sea revealed to us by the Minister a couple of days afterwards. If a member of the Opposition had answered the Taoiseach with a statement of that kind, I wonder what would have been said of him by the Minister for Supplies. Would we not be accused of trying to sabotage the production campaign? That is the situation right through—no idea of forethought, no foresight, no policy of any kind. They wait until the crisis is upon them and then they jump at something hasty and ill-considered.
The question of rationing has been brought, on several occasions, before the Government. They were asked if they had registers. I remember that last January the idea of rationing was more or less scoffed at by the Minister. It may have been impossible to introduce rationing then, but all that we asked was that at least the preliminary steps should be taken so that, if at any time rationing became necessary, it could be introduced. We gather now that some steps are being thought of, but are they being taken? Imagine what we listened to from the Minister yesterday! Rationing cards, which would be necessary in a complicated rationing system—he spoke against the rationing system generally—could not be printed because there is not suitable paper! I think that is what the Minister said. Imagine the foresight  of that! The war was foreseen clearly by the Government in September, 1938; it broke out in September, 1939, and there is no suitable paper for the printing of rationing cards, should a rationing system, in the strict sense of the word, become necessary. That is the foresight displayed by a Department with a Minister that is supposed to be worthy of confidence! Surely, the Minister is not taking himself, his job, the House or the country seriously when he follows a line of that kind?
Warnings were issued by the Department, warnings that seemed to work in opposite directions—sometimes you would think they were designed to create a panic, sometimes to lull the people into a sense of security on some particular matter—warnings, whatever their intention may have been, that were generally too late for the public to make any use of them and certainly too late for the Department to open their eyes sufficiently to deal with the situation. What I complain of is not that the Minister did not foresee a large number of the things that happened; he could not have foreseen many of them, and he should not be criticised for not having foreseen these things. But there were a number of things that anybody in his position should have foreseen, especially after the outbreak of the war, and the Minister never faced the problems that were likely to arise. He waited until the crisis was full upon him before he thought it well to act. Now he speaks of rationing. I do not know whether he is taking the matter seriously or not. From his speech yesterday, I do not think anybody could come to any conclusion. He seemed to argue as much against rationing as he did to suggest that he was taking any reasonable steps to secure that, if rationing was necessary, he would be able to enforce it.
He painted a gloomy picture to us. Now, for the gloom of that picture, again, he was not altogether responsible, but he was responsible for a considerable amount of it. He should not be asked to do anything that is beyond the competence of a person in  his position, but at least he should be expected to face up to some of the problems that he should have foreseen, and to act accordingly. We are told now, not after ten years of the war, but after some 20 months of the war, that we are facing a very severe shortage of food supplies for human consumption, of animal feeding stuffs, artificial manures, fuel and so on— that we are faced with a crisis in regard to practically everything. Again, I put it to you, Sir, that that is not a Minister who can be entrusted to deal with any crisis, especially the grave one that he himself foreshadowed in his speech of yesterday.
As regards the fuel situation, the Minister said that in certain contingencies, that are not at all unlikely, the situation may well be appalling— that is the word he used. Yet I can find very little that the Minister has done—I do not say that he has done nothing, but very little that he has done—to meet a situation of that kind. Here is a thing that we see now. A portion of the Minister's speech yesterday was devoted to coal and to describing a possibly “appalling” situation as regards fuel. Yet, when that same Minister was faced with a shortage of petrol, what did he allow? He allowed the use of gas for motor cars, and he allowed it for a considerable time. That is, he solved the one problem that was pressing at the moment and did not mind the other problem or how his decision would affect the fuel supply—quite typical of the whole proceedings of the Minister from the beginning of this word crisis to the present moment.
We have had, so to speak, three periods: the period between 1938 and 1939, the outbreak of the war; the second period, from the outbreak of the war to the fall of France; and the third period, from the fall of France until now which, I may say, aggravated the situation so far as supplies to this country are concerned. I cannot see in any of these individual periods any sign of a serious effort on the part of the Minister to face these problems. Take any of the various items that have been mentioned by the Minister  and by Deputies in this House during the course of the debate, and ask yourselves whether the Minister or his Department has given value. When speaking to the Budget statement of the Minister for Finance, I put it that the question we ought to ask ourselves, if we are dealing with money matters, is not merely what is the amount of money spent, but what is the value given for the money. Have we got value from the Minister for Supplies? I wonder what even his own followers in his own Party think?
A number of matters were referred to by the Minister. He referred to the fact that there was less consumption of flour, and he was rather inclined to take the credit for that decreased consumption of flour by attributing it to the advice given by himself and others to the people to effect economies, and to the effect that that advice had had upon the minds of the people. I suggest that there is a simpler explanation of that decreased consumption. I do not say that we should expect the same kind of bread that we were accustomed to before the crisis. That would be unreasonable, and I am not holding that forth as an argument at all, but I do suggest, whether we like it or not, that that is an explanation of the decrease in the consumption of flour. I do not know whether anything can be done in that matter. I do not know whether anything can be done to make the bread a more palatable article of food, in present circumstances. Apart altogether from any mistakes made by the Minister, I think we have to face the situation that no one can expect the same standard of living now that he had before the war. One cannot expect the same palatable bread that one had before the war. I think there is a considerable amount of waste still. I have heard—I speak entirely under correction here; it is a matter I do not profess to know much about—that a number of people find that after a short time the bread becomes still more unpalatable. It is often thrown aside if it is not used up at once. The suggestion has been made to me—I do not know the value  of it or the technical difficulties in carrying it out—that if a smaller loaf were offered, of course at a smaller price, there might be less wastage. Again I do not know what the difficulties are or what the mind of the Department would be in that particular respect. It has been put to me that there is still wastage and there might be some method by which that wastage could be counteracted.
One of my main difficulties in connection with this whole business is the persistent refusal of the Minister to give the necessary information on which this House could base any reasonable judgment on the management of the Department by him.
Professor O'Sullivan: In time of crisis like the present, I look upon this as a Department in some respects at least equal in importance to the Department of Defence, and in some respects, let us hope, much more important than the Department of Defence. Yet, I should say it is the Department of the Government and the Minister of the Government that give the least satisfaction to the people at the present moment. Advice to the people is not enough in a crisis of this kind, especially the conflicting advice and the opposing plans that are put forward by the Minister and his Department.
The Minister has been praised for the frankness with which he painted a gloomy outlook. The outlook is gloomy. I wish we could praise the Minister for frankness in the last 18 months, frankness to this House, frankness to the nation, and I wish we had something good to say for the manner in which he has dealt with what are practically life and death questions for the people of this country. It is because I see no evidence whatsoever of anything to give me any ground of hope that in the future the Minister will be any more competent, or will show any more foresight than he has shown up to the present that I support this motion to refer the Vote back.
Mr. Meaney: From some of the speeches on this Estimate one would think that this state of emergency had only started a few days ago, whereas it really started 21½ months ago. I think any reasonably-minded person will agree that it was not humanly possible, and is still not humanly possible to have sufficient of the commodities which we have to import stored for an indefinite period. To my mind, the most effective way of dealing with an emergency situation is to prepare in advance. This, I maintain— and I am backed in that view by the overwhelming majority of the people —this Government did in the years preceding the outbreak of the war when they advocated a self-sufficiency policy for this country. They advocated increased agricultural production, particularly increased production of such crops as wheat and beet. The only thing that is to be regretted is the fact that that appeal did not get the support of all sections of this House. Had it got that support some of our problems and some of the threatened shortages, particularly of these two commodities, would not now be as acute as they are. Nevertheless, there is much to be grateful for, and I think there is hardly anybody now in this country who is foolish enough to believe that we could escape the repercussions of this war, without suffering some inconvenience, and without having to make some sacrifices.
I heard Deputy Bennett last evening making reference to what he called sodden brown bread. I pass through Deputy Bennett's constituency twice weekly and I think Deputy Bennett would be far more helpful in contributing to ease the emergency situation in regard to our bread supply if he could persuade the farmers of his constituency to do their duty to the nation and to themselves in the present crisis by putting larger areas of their land under wheat. Instead of that, he comes up here, in common with other Deputies of the Opposition, and tries to throw all the blame on the Minister for Supplies and on the Government of the day. To my mind, they are now adopting the self-same attitude they  adopted some years ago when there was an economic dispute between this country and an outside power. At that time, too, they tried to throw all the blame on the Government, but, thank God, that situation had a happy ending. It ended with a benefit, particularly to this country, and I trust this emergency situation will end in a like manner.
We have heard such a lot about racketeering and profiteering that is alleged to have taken place regarding petrol, tea, flour and other commodities that if we were to take the statements seriously we could come to no other conclusion than that we were living in an island of rogues and racketeers. I do not think there is any undue racketeering or any undue profiteering taking place through the country. It is quite possible, of course, that in a situation such as the present you may have isolated cases of profiteering or racketeering as the case may be, but I feel sure that wherever a specific case of that kind is put up to the Department it will be dealt with effectively. I think the people who make those allegations would render greater service to the nation by finding out if there are any specific cases which would require the attention of the Department, and, if there are, by reporting them. Instead of that, they just do not bother whether the allegations are correct or not, as they think that any stick is good enough to beat the Government with. I think that, everything taken into account, the Department of Supplies has done very good work under very difficult circumstances——
Mr. Meaney: ——and it is not right for anybody still further to increase their difficulties. I should like to make a few suggestions to the Minister for Supplies, not because I think he is not already attending to the matters in which I am interested, but in order to draw public attention to the necessity for providing now for some of the commodities we will need in the future.  The most essential commodities required by our people are food, clothing and fuel. I am not competent to say much on the clothing question, but I know something about food and fuel. I would suggest to the Minister that he should get the officials of his Department to plan now for our food supplies and fuel supplies for the period between the harvests of 1942 and 1943. In that connection I should like to offer him a few suggestions with regard to our food supply, particularly wheat. In view of the fact, that, in all probability, artificial manures will be scarce in the coming season I think the Minister should now plan to get wheat grown during the next wheat season in those fertile districts where we have the best land and where we have the lowest amount of tillage. We are up against a very grave situation. Our people must be fed. Nature provided us with the land, and I think we should make the best use of it. I think if this were done, coupled with the growing of wheat in other areas where it has been grown extensively for years, we would not have any need for wheat ships during that period; we would have ample supplies of our own wheat.
We have heard a lot about the shortage of coal. We are short of lots of things, but that is no reason why we should be discouraged. Our people were able to live here before coal or petrol or kerosene or tea or wheat were imported into this country. I am glad to see that out peat resources are being utilised, and I would suggest that all necessary roads, drains etc., that would help in the production of turf for next season be made before the winter comes in. In regard to the lack of artificial manures, I should like the Minister to give serious consideration to the establishment of lime quarries and lime kilns for the production of burnt lime to be used for agricultural purposes.
Mr. Meaney: I do not think I have very much more to add. Some of the previous speakers took exception to the manner in which coal was being distributed for the use of threshing sets during the harvesting season. They pointed out that it was usually the farmer who purchased the coal, and not the threshing owner. That is so, but I think the Department has acted very wisely in allocating the coal to the threshing owner instead of to the farmer because I believe that by doing so they will save an immense quantity of coal which may be wanted elsewhere. In conclusion, I think, as I have said before, that despite the difficulties under which the Minister's Department has to work they are getting on pretty well under the circumstances.
Mr. Murphy: I think it would be unprofitable for us to delay for any considerable length of time on the “might have beens” in connection with supplies. I do not propose to enter into that field of discussion except to say that the “might have beens” of this whole question provide a reminder of the disastrous manner in which the whole matter has been handled and the hopeless muddle that has been made. We have a habit in this House of using certain platitudes which have grown up and which form one of the rather innocent vices of this House. One favourite platitude which has been resurrected on occasions like this is the requesting of what is called constructive  criticism. It seems to me that Deputy Victory, making that request, did not take any notice of the main points of this debate, which has gone on since yesterday. I had not the advantage of hearing the Minister's statement, but I read a rather useful summary of it in the papers this morning. Naturally, it was a condensed summary but, nevertheless, I believe it gave the sense of the Minister's statement. I read, also, the criticisms which were offered, and I think that anybody with average intelligence would agree that at least a number of the suggestions made in the course of the debate were constructive suggestions.
One of those suggestions was that the Minister's failure in connection with supplies has been very largely illuminated by his inability to make direct approaches to the British authorities in regard to the release of supplies to this country, his failure to endeavour to make a bargain for certain supplies in return for produce from this country. No loss of prestige would be involved, and if an effort of that kind failed, the Minister would have made an approach to one reasonable method of securing some alleviation of the present position. It is all very well to say that everybody must make sacrifices, but the burden of the difficulties in matters of supplies is pressing most heavily on the poor people. At every time in our history when the question of sacrifices arose, they were asked to make the most, and they are making the heaviest sacrifices at the present time. Deputy Corry complained about there being one law for one set of people, and another law for the poor. That has always been the history of things in this country, and at this time some effort should be made to make easier the sacrifices of people whose whole life has been a sacrifice in many respects.
I have no complaint against the officials of the Department of Supplies. Their task is a very unenviable one, and they are discharging it efficiently and courteously. Their efforts to meet the intolerable position reflect the highest credit on their patience and  tact. I can well understand the mental and physical difficulties associated with their work. What I complain of is that they seem to get no lead from the Minister. Whether or not it is that the Minister, in company with his colleagues in the Government, is getting stale and tired in many things, and in regard to work generally, the fact is that there is great dissatisfaction in regard to the present position. Unquestionably, there is the feeling—not confined to political critics of the Minister, but generally—that this whole question of supplies has been inefficiently handled from the very beginning.
I propose to make some suggestions to the Minister and in putting them forward to make certain inquiries and to limit my remarks here to two or three matters. The question of tea has arisen very frequently in this debate. I want to ask the Minister whether the statement made by him in the Dáil yesterday that he secured the importation of certain quantities of tea from America represents the facts of that particular transaction. My information is entirely different and the story that I have heard—and I think it will bear some investigation—is that some enterprising person, for business reasons or otherwise, imported a certain quantity of tea from America and that the Minister's whole association with that transaction was to seize that tea when it came in and appropriate it for the purposes he indicated yesterday. That is the information I have, and it comes from a source to which I attach importance.
Mr. Murphy: I have read the newspaper report and the Minister's statement. I am making a certain statement and I invite contradiction, if it can be given. I want to ask, also, whether any proposals reached the Minister at any time from persons in the tea trade who had arranged for the purchase of tea in a neutral country, who had arranged the shipping and who asked for the sanction of the Minister for that business deal, and  whether it is a fact that sanction was refused.
Mr. Murphy: On examination, the Minister will find that the proposal was made to him with a view to anticipating any breakdown in the supplies that might arise at a later date, and I think it was an extremely shortsighted decision on the Minister's part to refuse such permission to people in business, prepared to undertake the financing and shipping connected with this transaction and who desired only the Minister's blessing on their efforts. The Minister must realise now that his decision in that particular matter was a singularly unhappy one.
In the last day or two I have seen correspondence between some business people in this country and a firm in America willing to supply us with a certain quantity of tea. They stated, in the course of the correspondence, that they had made a second approach to the Irish Consul in New York for co-operation in this matter and that they were informed that it would be necessary again to approach the Department of Supplies here before that importation could be secured, that sanction to the transaction should be obtained and that shipping space should be arranged from here. I want to know whether the function of our Consul in New York is purely an ornamental one and why he could not be armed with full powers to co-operate under present circumstances without any fear of prohibition or restriction from the Department at home. The Minister should give a free hand to our representative abroad to co-operate in this matter and make it possible to have sent to this country whatever supplies can be obtained, without the irritating delays, inquiries and sanctions which appear necessary.
May I make one further suggestion in connection with tea, as I propose to  confine my remarks almost entirely to that commodity? I am informed that tea merchants in Cork in the last week or two have been approached by brokers and wholesale representatives from England, who are willing and anxious to sell tea to them in considerable quantities. My suggestion to the Minister is that if he can do anything in regard to this particular commodity, he ought at least to give the wholesale merchants his blessing and encouragement and allow them to make contacts in England for the purpose of importing whatever supplies they can get. They feel that if they got any encouragement or co-operation they would be able to do something practical.
Mr. Murphy: I assume that is a recent change and I welcome it. The feeling is there that the commodity can be got. I feel that what is true in that respect is true in other respects also. With regard to the supply of kerosene, or paraffin, I suggest, while realising the paramount and predominating demands of agriculture, that when the fishermen along our coasts are getting an improved livelihood, one which to some extent will make up for the years of starvation and difficulty that they have experienced, increased rations of kerosene should be given to them, if that is at all possible. I do not know how far that suggestion is  practicable; I do not know how far it can be given effect to. I am aware that the fishing industry has improved very considerably. In the homes of comparatively poor people along the southern coast there has been a decided improvement in what would otherwise be an extremely black and difficult situation. I have had complaints from fishermen that the allowance given to them will permit them to fish only three or four nights a month, whereas they are available for fishing six nights a week and they are able to get a fairly decent return for their labour. The Minister knows that those fishermen have been waiting many years for some improvement and, if it is possible to increase their allowance, I am sure the Minister will not need any pressing.
I suggest that in order to minimise the discomforts and difficulties that will arise in many a domestic circle next winter because of the shortage of paraffin, the Minister should take the earliest opportunity of announcing whether it will be possible to give a small ration of paraffin to householders. Again I speak subject to the better information of the Minister and his officials, but if anything in that direction can be done it will ease many of the difficulties of the people, particularly in the rural districts, and prevent many of the expressions of opinion one hears through the country—perhaps ill-informed—that the distribution of paraffin has not been impartially handled.
I intervened merely for the purpose of drawing attention to the position as regards tea and other things and I hope the suggestions I have made, mainly with the desire of offering some constructive ideas in the present emergency, will be considered by the Minister and that he will be able to give effect to them.
Mr. Dillon: I suppose out of every evil some good comes, and the experience through which we are passing will do at least one thing for us. In fact, it has already done it, because it has evoked the speech made by the Minister  for Supplies yesterday. That speech buried fathoms deep for ever the codology of economic self-sufficiency. The dullest Deputy of the Fianna Fáil Party must now, at last, realise how far he was fooled by the catch-cry of economic self-sufficiency. Some of them were flapping their wings at the commencement of this emergency and were pointing out that the industries, so-called, that the Minister for Supplies had started would indurate this country against the difficulties and trials through which other countries would be called upon to pass. But the Minister for Supplies, yesterday, pointed out that, with the disappearance of supplies of fuel oil, a very large number of the industries that were established here in the course of the last ten years will have to close down and, in another part of his speech, he pointed out that most of the remaining industries, if they were unable to import raw materials, would have to close down as well.
It is a dear price to have to pay for that lesson, but if we salvage that lesson from the ruin we will at least have this knowledge, that economic self-sufficiency is a cod. It cannot work, it will not work, it never worked, and it never will work, and the only person who ever carried it into any form of protracted operation was Robinson Crusoe and his highest ambition was to escape from the perfection of his own fashioning. It took more than Robinson Crusoe's trials to drive that lesson into the heads of the Fianna Fáil Party. Nothing short of a world war could open their eyes to that elementary fact. But even now, if their eyes will but open, we may hope that some degree of economic sanity will obtain in this country during the period through which we shall all have to pass when this crisis is over.
I remember the time when we were told that it was good value to let the millers rob our people of £3,000,000 a year in order to promote the “grow more wheat” campaign. For ten years the Fianna Fáil Party, commanding a clear majority, levied on our people £3,000,000 sterling per annum in order  to promote the “grow more wheat” scheme. When you asked them: “Why do you tolerate this oppression of the poor?” their answer was: “If ever war should come upon the world, the grow more wheat scheme will save us from disaster.” I remember saying from these benches—Deputy Victory's muddled head tried to recall to-day what I said and, as usual, he made stirabout of it—that I would be long sorry to make my living as a farmer if I had to make it by grinding the faces of the unfortunate poor who have to buy bread. If I must get a subsidy to make the crop pay, I would prefer to leave that subsidy to the poor to buy a loaf of bread or a sack of flour. I reiterate that sentiment most emphatically now. Over and above the cruel outrage of allowing these millers to rob our poor, the excuse we have had is that we must “grow more wheat.” We told the Fianna Fáil Party that if they imagined that that policy would make them perfectly secure in a time of emergency, they were mad; that far from making them secure they were creating in the country a false sense of security, which would deter responsible people from building up reserve stocks that were vital if the bread supplies were to be maintained. Is not that precisely what happened? They were as much bewildered by the “cod” of “grow more wheat” as the Government of the French Republic was about the Maginot Line. You told them to stand behind the “grow-more-wheat” campaign and to await the disaster which has hit you now. The Minister tells us that every ship he could buy is carrying wheat to Ireland now, 18 months after the war began.
Mr. Dillon: What is maddening about this man is that he does not know his own job, and he is too lazy to learn it. I do not minimise the difficult task he has. It is formidable, but all I ask of him is eight hours' work in a day. If he would do that we would get somewhere.  He is an intelligent man, but he is lazy and will not work. Everyone knows that he will not work. A great many of our present difficulties are due to the fact that he will not work. That is the plain, unvarnished truth. It is known to his own colleagues, and to his own Party. His own supporters know it, and it is common talk at every crossroads. He talks about no storage being available. Let us have the facts. In September, 1939, before war was declared, by an order made by the Minister no flour merchant would be permitted to store a single bag of flour in his loft because, as Deputies will remember, of the new quota of home-grown wheat for the wheat mixture going to the mills issued by the Department, and so obsessed were they with the importance of implementing the “grow more wheat” scheme that they would not allow any flour to be sent out that had not a higher percentage than 80 per cent. There was storage for 200,000 or 300,000 tons of flour if the flour was there. There was storage in my place for 100 tons. I could not get a bag of flour. I know another man in County Cork who had storage for 500 tons, but he could not get a bag of flour. Why could we not have stored from the wheat then in stock in the form of flour?
Mr. Dillon: Did the Minister ever sell a bag of flour? Did he ever open a bag of flour? Would he know a bag of flour if he saw it? The storage was there, but it was not used because that man was too lazy to learn the facts of the situation.
Mr. Dillon: Eighteen months after the war began he told us that 70 per cent. extraction flour would not keep, but it is common knowledge that no American bakers would allow it to be used until it was six months in the loft. Is there any baker in this House who  can contradict that? That is what makes me mad. Most of our trials are due to the fact that the man will not work. He will not bother to find out. He puts himself in the hands of a little gang of vested interests to advise him. I am not referring to the officials of his Department. I am referring to the advisory bodies to which he turns for advice, and allows to pull the wool over his eyes for the purpose of lining their own pockets. Look at the situation which obtains. We are told that 95 per cent. flour is absolutely necessary to maintain bread supplies. Where is the proof? There is a little gang of millers who do not want their mills to run on short time, because they think their overheads will go up, and that there will be a reduction of their profits if flour is rationed, as it would have to be rationed if there was 85 per cent extraction. For that reason we get a 95 per cent. flour which we all know makes bad bread. It makes bread which goes stale within 36 hours, and a considerable quantity is thrown out, thereby depriving farmers of bran and pollard that would be available if we were making an 85 per cent. flour, while half the calving cows in the country are suffering a serious set-back for the want of bran.
We all know that the 95 per cent. flour contains phytic acid which is inimical to the calcium in the dietary of children and nursing mothers and results in a considerable amount of sickness. A proposal was made that the Minister should give us an 85 per cent. flour. As a practical baker, baking bread every day, I suggest that if an 85 per cent. flour was available more bread would be consumed by the people. If I am allowed to bake 85 per cent. bread far more bread will be consumed and there will be no wastage. I do not exaggerate when I say that with 95 per cent. flour 15 per cent. of our bread production—certainly 10 per cent.—is thrown out, because it goes stale and nobody who has not teeth like a mastodon will eat it. I know why the Minister is being advised against such a proposal. It is because a few selfish millers fear that their overheads will rise or that with decreased production their profits will dwindle. These are the people  who are robbing and plundering the people without let or hindrance for the last ten years. One would think that they would be running to make some retribution for their sins. Not a bit of it. They are as blood-thirsty to-day as they were five, six or seven years ago. They are resolved to get their pound of flesh, to stain their teeth in the blood of the people at this hour as well as in the piping days of peace, and they are being allowed to do it. That is what makes me mad. There are a few advisers, who have bakehouses and who control mills. These boys have put by stores of flour of 80 per cent. and 75 per cent. as they are legitimately entitled to do under an order permitting a 75 per cent. mixture, and they are using that little store of white flour to improve the bread they are making, hoping to take away trade from outlying bakers outside Dublin and Cork, who have no white flour. We who are in the baking trade for 40 years realise that those who control mills, and who are also bakers, are trying to wipe out traders in places like Kilcock or Maynooth who will not get a sack of that flour, while the others can sweep the field. When the war is over the little fellow in Kilcock or Maynooth will be forgotten, and the big boy will cash in then on the foresight he showed at this time of crisis.
I used to think that there was a public spirit in this country. I think there is a public spirit in this country. Nobody who saw the 200,000 young fellows who joined the Local Defence Force could doubt that there was a public spirit in this country, but I never believed that we in Ireland could produce such bloodthirsty racketeers as we have managed to produce within the flour milling industry in this country. I am, however, happy to say that the bloodthirsty racketeer who was brought in here from across the water was a gentleman who romped in here from Liverpool. God speed the day when we will dig him out. That will be some consolation to some of us. I remember that we had to tackle bigger men than he is in our day with British Government forces four-square behind them. We rooted the last one of them out of this country lock, stock  and barrel, and this gentleman will go with them in the heel of the hunt, even though he has the Minister for Supplies as his patron at the present time.
Deputy Murphy's speech was short and, as usual, was characterised by his objective sort of common sense. He spoke of the desirability of removing certain obstacles to our free access to supplies of raw materials. Has Deputy Murphy adverted to the fact that at this present moment all the quotas and tariffs are still functioning? Does he realise that, not two months ago, there was a new tariff put on for the benefit of a factory out at Clonskeagh in which, I think, a member of the Fianna Fáil Party is interested, of 33? per cent. to prevent tailors from bringing in sheets of cotton wool with which they pad coats. I now aver that in this hour of crisis that 33? per cent. tariff is being put on that commodity in order to enable that company to supply grade 3 sheets of cotton wool and charge the price of grade 1. That was done within the last three months. While that is so, you have the people in the drapery trade in this country working day and night trying to get supplies, trying to find any deposit of drapery materials at the present time on which they can draw. They are doing their utmost to try to get supplies from Manchester, Yorkshire, Glasgow or wherever they think they may be able to obtain them. When they have succeeded in getting together the wherewithal to make their purchases, so that they may keep the tailors of the country at work, they find to their astonishment that they cannot bring the materials in unless they pay a duty of 33? per cent. on them, or else they must go to Clonskeagh and buy there. If Clonskeagh will give the draper a certificate that it does not want to sell to him, he is told by the Department that they will give him a licence to bring in material. Deputy Murphy should realise that the Government are not only maintaining the existing quotas, but that they are adding to them.
Now, if you had eight men who had been picked out of Grangegorman, or, indeed, from the Dundrum Criminal  Lunatic Asylum, and if they announced that their intention, in the existing situation, was to put on new tariffs and additional quotas, would not one think it well to say to the responsible medical officer in charge there: “You had better take those fellows back; they are a public danger?” But that is what the Government are doing. They are actually, at this moment, putting up obstacles themselves against getting in supplies. Surely, at this hour, when we are all faced with the situation that next winter people may be hungry and cold, would not one imagine that the first thing the Minister for Supplies would say is, that all tariffs and quotas must be suspended during the duration of this crisis; that people must have a perfectly free course to get in supplies from anywhere they can get them? Public spirited citizens of this State should be put in the position of being able to get in supplies at the present time without let or hindrance of any kind.
I am sure the Minister will say that, even if the quotas are in operation, the Government have made them so big that anybody can bring in supplies. That is all nonsense. Once a quota is announced to be in operation a register is opened in the Department of Industry and Commerce, and unless one is on that register one cannot bring in anything at all. One will not be put on the register unless he can produce some evidence that he has been in the trade in the past. But suppose one succeeds in getting on the register, his difficulties are only beginning. He first of all has to get a licence. He then orders his goods. When the goods come to the North Wall the authorities write and ask to see his licence. He sends up his licence, and if everything is in order they return it, striking off the licence the number of articles that he has imported on that occasion. All that may take three weeks. In the course of the operation the trader may lose his goods or the licence may be lost. If the licence is lost he cannot import any more goods until such time as the licence is found again. On top of all that the trader may get a notice from the Revenue Commissioners to say that  they want to see the invoice and certificate of origin as well as certain other information which one has got to send them. At their leisure they will estimate the duty payable, which not infrequently is wrong. You have got to point out to them that they have estimated the duty at the wrong level. That goes back to them for further inquiry. All that is more typical of the Department of Local Government than of the Department of the Revenue Commissioners. In the end you get back from them the correct assessment of duty. If the articles in question happen to be such as to require to be tested, it may take three months before you get the duty levied.
Mr. Dillon: I submit they concern the Department of Supplies, because, what I am putting to the House is, that in a time like this, when we are trying to get supplies from all quarters, every possible obstacle should be taken from our paths. The point made by Deputy Murphy was that a certain amount of individual effort had been directed towards getting in supplies of tea. He thought that an effort of that sort should be encouraged. The Minister for Supplies will say that there is no restriction as regards doing that. The point that I am making is that the first thing that we should do is to see that all restrictions are suspended. Do Deputies realise that at the present moment you cannot bring a mug into this country? That is true. People may laugh, but a man cannot eat stirabout out of his hand.
Mr. Dillon: At the present moment there is a prohibitive duty on the mug which ordinary people use for eating stirabout. You cannot get the Arklow factory to deliver mugs to you. A mug may sound very laughable to an aristocrat who frequents the race-course and who lives in Dundrum, but if he were living down in Cloonagh, or in the part  of the country where I live, he would find that mugs matter much more than field-glasses and are just as vital. They are a necessary part of the equipment of the small farmer's house, and without them the people cannot live decently or comfortably. They cannot be got, and when they can be got you have to pay 6d. for a 3d. mug. We are told that supplies are difficult to get, but half our difficulties in getting supplies are due to the Minister and to his colleagues in the Government. Therefore, I say the first thing to do, in order to ease the supply situation, is to take off the quotas and tariffs, to suspend them during the duration of the war so as to enable our citizens to get in everything it is possible to get, because before this business is over all that we can get in will be badly wanted.
Do Deputies realise that it was illegal to bring flour or wheat into this country up to a couple of months ago? You dared not do it, and why? Because the millers would not allow it. Do Deputies know what broke the millers? Was it constitutional representations made here in Dáil Éireann, or was it reasoned argument in the Legislature? Not a bit of it, but the smugglers who brought the flour in, in spite of the millers, and set the law at defiance in spite of the Government. The Government, so as to save its own face, knuckled under and legitimised the smuggling of flour from Great Britain, while they refused to allow the legitimate import of flour by honest merchants here. You cannot do that kind of thing without debauching your own people. The British people at present are fighting with their backs to the wall, they are hiding in cellars and tightening their belts, and are suffering death and destruction for a principle, and we are sitting back enjoying the view. Now, the smuggler is coming in and stealing from the British people that flour which their Government is subsidising. You cannot go out in public and legitimise an activity of that kind without debauching the people before whom you do it. I am ashamed of that transaction. To think that the fellows bringing that flour in for the purpose of selling it to  delicate and sickly people at 5/- a stone—not for any philanthropic purpose but for the purpose of lining their own rotten pockets—are being legitimised in their robbery of a people fighting for its life, and for ours into the bargain! That was a dirty, shameful transaction. Every person in this country can well afford to hang his head to think we ever did it.
Mr. Dillon: You should make it illegal to rob the British. You should make it illegal fraudulently to rob the British of the subsidised flour of which they are at present being robbed and if you had the competence to go over to London, or if you sent anybody else but Frank Aiken, or the Minister for Co-Ordination of Defensive Measures, we might get some honest flour.
Mr. Dillon: One thing is certain— to legalise the smuggler who was robbing flour from the British people, knowing it to be subsidised by British money and carried there by British ships, for the purpose of selling it at profiteering and racketeering prices to the Irish people, was a shameful and ignoble transaction. When coupled with the Minister's surprise and indignation at the scandalous conduct of those carrying sugar across the Border out of this State—he said they were doing something as bad as, or worse than, selling military secrets—it makes any decent man experience nausea. If it is a crime to transfer sugar from an Ireland enjoying the blessings of peace to the English people enduring the hardships of war, what is it to steal flour from people who are enduring the hardships of war—flour which they have subsidised out of their straitened needs —in order to sell it like a bootlegger or racketeer in the back streets of Dublin to the poor who are sick and delicate and who can be blackmailed by their sickness and poverty into paying  racketeer-inflated prices for these ill-gotten goods?
Mr. Dillon: There is a legitimate way of getting flour and a dirty, illegitimate way and, if the Minister cannot distinguish between the two things, it confirms my suspicion that he is not fit now to be a Minister of this State and that he never was. Turf is being sold in this city at 1d. a sod. Many Deputies here know how many sods there are in a horse-creel of turf. Does any Deputy on any side of the House believe that it is fair or honest to charge the people of this city 1d. a sod for turf? That is daylight robbery. It would be daylight robbery for blackstone turf but, for some of the spadach I see around the city, it is double-dyed robbery. Why does not the Minister stop that?
Mr. Lemass: Perhaps I may explain the situation. The Government has, by order, transferred to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance control of the production, distribution and price of turf.
Mr. Dillon: Surely, the Government have not transferred to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance or to the Minister for Industry and Commerce the duty of preventing the racketeering exploitation of the poor. That is the job of the Prices Commission.
Mr. Dillon: I heard Deputy Meaney address this House for 15 minutes on the question of developing the bogs. Deputy Victory almost got hysterical on the same question. However, I do not give a fiddle-de-dee if the Minister says that it is not his affair that the people of his own constituency in the city of Dublin are being charged 1d. per sod for their turf.
Mr. Dillon: I now come to sugar. I have said before that I do not deny that the Minister's job is a difficult job. I do not ask him to exercise excessive or remarkable industry. I ask for eight hours a day and no more. On ten separate occasions since last November, I inquired from the Sugar Company if they desired to impose any restrictions on the sale of sugar. It  seemed to me that we might run a little short towards the end of the season and that it might be well to take time by the forelock. On ten separate occasions, I was told “no”. It was implied, though not expressly stated, that it would be better not to mention that because mention of restrictions might start a run. So we all went on selling sugar as our customers called for it. On Friday night, we were informed that there was no more sugar. I know one man who had not a grain of sugar in his shop. I was told—I cannot personally vouch for this—that he went to the Department of Supplies and was advised there to tell his customers to call next door and that they might be luckier. That would be bad enough if it stopped there. One might say that they were rude and Draconian. But it did not stop there. The following morning we were told that a new basis of distribution had been decided upon and that we were to get one-twelfth of the sugar drawn in the previous year. That was fair enough. Nobody could complain about that. But, in 48 hours, they changed their mind again. On Monday, we were told that we would get delivery of one-twelfth of the sugar we got in 1940, but that, before delivery, they were going to deduct from this month's drawing the drawings made in April, May and June of this year over and above those made in April, May and June of last year. That would mean that a considerable number of people would have no sugar to sell at all until the month of July. That would be bad enough if they stuck to it. Within 24 hours, they changed their mind again and they said there was no necessity for any control at all, that the truth was they got a bit windy and that they were going back to normalcy.
Mr. Dillon: The Minister is so lazy that he will not bother to find out the facts. These are the facts, and I know  them because I was buying the sugar. Three times within four days the arrangement for the distribution of sugar was altered and now, so far as I can find out, the necessity for control seems to have passed away. What was the reason for it all? The reason was that the Minister was trying to work out a plan to prevent export of sugar across the Border. He said so himself yesterday in the House.
Mr. Dillon: Was that not the suggestion in the House yesterday? The Minister said he was apprehensive that large quantities of this sugar out in the country would be transferred across the Border and that he was determined to restrict supplies in order to prevent its passage in that direction.
Mr. Dillon: I cannot tell you solely or wholly but that is what he said in the House and that is what the House understood him to say. Because he wants to prevent certain individuals illegally exporting sugar, every shopkeeper must get a kick in the stomach and be told to send his customers next door. Has it become a crime to earn a living in this country? It seems to me that the only man who is treated with respect and deference in this country is the dole man and the fellow who is looking for 9d. for 6d.
Mr. Dillon: I see a good deal of it. I am talking of the fellow who is always looking for the dole. I see him getting every consideration, but the man who is trying to earn his own living, who asks nothing from anybody except to be allowed to earn his living within the law, is kicked here, there and everywhere else. But for the fellow who is earning nothing or who is not trying to earn anything, there is the greatest possible respect.
Mr. Dillon: We were told yesterday that the Minister, as one of his contributions towards the conservation of fuel supplies in the country, has prohibited the export of pit props to England. Can you imagine anything more inept or flat-footed? We are begging the English to send us coal. Every day we are asking them for coal, explaining to them the difficulties that we are experiencing because we are short of coal, and in order to mollify these people, in order to sweeten the bargain, we go and say: “We will not send you any pit props.” Was there ever anything more daft than that? Only one thing and that was the dispatch of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures as envoy to America to sweeten relations between America and this country. After the pit props had been withheld, we dispatched the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures to America to get supplies. Would it be unreasonable to inquire what the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures was doing in Los Angeles? What supplies did he expect to get in Los Angeles? Did it help him to get supplies to go 3,000 miles across the continent to San Francisco in order to make indiscreet speeches there? Has he in fact got any supplies? When are we going to hear the result of his mission abroad, and more important still, before he does any more damage, when is he going to be brought home? I understand that there has been some difficulty about finding a place for him on an aeroplane.
Mr. Dillon: I will tell you about your general difficulty. Listen to me. There is too much of this “Do not hit me with the baby in my arms.” There was never an old lady started a fight in Little Britain Street who did not cry out when she found that she had got herself into a serious difficulty: “Do not hit me and the baby in my arms.” We have been holding off our criticisms for such a length of time that eventually  people began to say: “Have you not as much responsibility as they have for the present situation?”
Mr. Dillon: If the Minister thinks that he is going to silence me by a reversion to his earlier insolence, he is making a very big mistake. Everybody knows that he has fallen down on the job, and it is time to call his bluff. It is going to be called whether he likes it or not. Can anybody tell me why oatmeal in this country should be £36 a ton ex-mill? I sold oats at 8/- per cwt. last harvest, and I saw them sold at 10/- and 12/-. Did anybody get a price for his oats which would justify the millers charging £36 a ton ex-mill for oatmeal? I have got complaints from West Donegal and from other parts that shopkeepers are charging 5/- a stone for oatmeal, that is, £40 a ton. Well, if you are paying £36 a ton ex-mill, and selling oatmeal, you cannot afford to charge less than 5/- a stone. What is the use of kicking the unfortunate shopkeepers of the country if they have to charge such high prices? It is easy for the Minister, who is in receipt of a fixed salary and allowances, to announce that no shopkeeper must charge more than 6d. per lb. on tea. That sounds a popular thing to do, but everybody in this country knows that grocers for the past 40 years have been selling sugar without any profit at all, and that any profit they made was obtained from tea. Who is going to divide a pound of tea into half-ounce packets and sell it at a margin of 6d. over the wholesale price? That allows no profit at all.
Mr. Dillon: Is it not a fact that you are not allowed to make more than 6d. on a lb. of tea? Nobody but a person who had no idea of what he was doing would make such an arrangement. How can you reduce a pound of tea to half-oz. or even oz.-packets, on an allowance of only 6d. per lb. and live, more especially when you always had  to charge, and now have to charge, no profit at all on sugar? How can a man pay wages, rates and overhead expenses on a business and have any profit at all for himself under an arrangement of that kind? If orders of that kind are to be made, why is it that men who are decent, honest citizens, trying to make their living and keep the wheel turning, should get all the kicks, and why should there be the constant implication in everything the Minister says that the responsibility rests on the profiteering shopkeeper who must be getting the fat prices, if fat prices are being charged?
We are told that there is no cocoa in the country. It is bad enough that the people are not able to get cocoa, but what is going to happen to the chocolate manufacturers? Are all the girls employed in these factories going to be thrown out of employment? Did the Minister ever seriously advert to the cocoa situation until it had become serious? Does he know that up to within six weeks of the virtual disappearance of cocoa from the market, supplies of cocoa were unrestricted? You could buy as much cocoa as you chose to order. Then suddenly cocoa disappeared with the same rapidity, and for the same apparent reason, that tea disappeared six months ago. Was the Minister not aware that the cocoa situation was going to become serious, because if he was not he should be?
I do not think it is correct to say, Sir, that supplies of artificial manures are a matter exclusively for the Department of Agriculture, but all I am concerned to say, in any case, is this: Will the Minister, if he is responsible for supplies of artificial manures, take an early opportunity of stating three things? First, what is the nature of the Clare phosphates deposit, and does he intend to exploit it this year?
In addition to giving us information on that subject, because foreknowledge of what manures we may expect to get must vitally affect the tillage programme next autumn and spring, would the Minister at an early stage say whether he has asked the Industrial Research Council, the ersatz Council of Galway University, to investigate the practicability of drying seaweed and pulverising it for potash manure, or extracting the potash from the seaweed, what the result of his inquiries has been, and whether he intends to make supplies of potash available from that source for the coming season?
The last matter of supply to which I want to refer is the matter of winter vetches. This is a year in which, owing to the extraordinarily low rainfall, meadows have been, and will be, disastrously light. That deficiency ought to be made up by catch crops, and the best catch crop for my part of the country is vetches and rye. I believe that we shall be able to get rye when the new season's crop comes in in August or September, in time to plant it as a catch crop, albeit somewhat late, but there do not seem to be any supplies of winter vetches available. There are American spring vetches available, but they will not survive a hard winter. Heretofore we got winter vetches from East Anglia, but we do not seem to be able to get them this year. Will the Minister be able to get in for us any of the winter variety from Great Britain?
Has the Minister's attention been directed to the fact that half the water supply systems put in during the last five or six years in this country are dependent on chlorine purification plants, and is he aware that great difficulty is now being experienced in  securing supplies of chlorine to maintain the purification of these water supplies? Does he realise that if chlorine is not available in both gas and solid form, several of the water supplies of this country will become a menace to public health? Will he tell us whether steps are being taken, or have been taken, to secure supplies of chlorine for the maintenance of these essential services?
The last thing I want to say is that I believe this situation with which we find ourselves confronted is infinitely too grave for patchwork and shuffling, and I think that the method of patchwork and shuffling has demonstrably failed and landed us in the most dreadful mess. The British, admittedly a very much wealthier country than we are, have deliberately made up their minds that whatever else happens the people will get the foodstuffs necessary for maintaining normal health, and in pursuit of that objective they have subsidised certain foodstuffs which they wished to ensure would be within the reach of the poorest person in Great Britain. I want to put this to the House: If you are serious in your desire to ensure that the people here are fed, there is no use in talking about it indefinitely if you are not prepared to put within the reach of the income of the poorest person in this country the essential foodstuffs he and his children must have if they are to live. If we have made up our minds that this has to be done, two steps must be taken. One is to control that particular commodity, and the other to subsidise it.
Mr. Dillon: There is no difficulty about that. There is no difficulty in producing all the oatmeal required in the country; there is no difficulty in producing all the milk required; there is no difficulty in producing all the fish required; there is no difficulty in producing all the potatoes required; there is no difficulty in producing all the butter required; there is no difficulty in producing all the eggs required, and I do not believe that there is any difficulty in securing all the  wheaten flour we may require; but let us resolve that at least these commodities which we are in a position effectively to control shall be made available to the public. I suggest that in order to do that we should get rid of the immense bureaucratic machine which at present is growing daily and which, in my opinion, will ultimately block up the supplies of essentials instead of expediting their arrival amongst those who require them. I think we should cut that Gordian knot altogether, and boldly announce that we are going to give to families who have not resources themselves family allowances in the form of coin of the realm which will enable them to buy the essential foodstuffs for the maintenance of health which we make available at depots where they can purchase what they require, and that if they do not buy them with the money they get in the form of family allowances, we will put the parents who refuse to spend the allowances for that purpose in jail.
If they will not do their duty by their own families they cannot expect the State to do it for them, but the duty of the State is to make it possible for the heads of families to provide for themselves and their children the essentials to keep body and soul together.
A large part of the British House of Commons have come to see that that is necessary. The British people have come to see that the subsidisation of food is essential. If we are serious— and, mind you, much of the food which the British are subsidising at present has to be carried across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans—why do we not resolve to subsidise the foodstuffs we produce here at home? I put it to any Deputy: if the poor household in this country has available to it adequate supplies of potatoes, milk, oatmeal, butter, eggs and fish, can any citizen legitimately say that he is being condemned by the Government to starvation? I say that he cannot. Millions of our people built up fine healthy bodies on a diet based exclusively on these commodities. I do not say that we would wish to restrict our people to a diet of those commodities exclusively,  if it were possible for us, in the circumstances, to make it more varied; but if it is not, no one has a right to complain if we give them a sufficiency of that, more especially if all of us, whatever our monetary resources may be, find ourselves driven back more and more to a diet analogous to that.
Is this House serious in regard to that matter? Let the Minister for Supplies not say to me that he has received no constructive suggestion. I say to him that there is a suggestion which will cut the Gordian knot in regard to getting essential food to those most in need of it. There is a suggestion which contains an absolute guarantee that no person in this country will go hungry in the years to come. If the Minister says to me that there is no money to be found to finance that scheme, I will tell him in another place, in a more discreet form, where the greater part of that money can be found to-morrow morning, without jeopardising the safety of this State, or interfering with the essential defence programme which it is the common purpose of all in this House to give full effect to.
Perhaps if some scheme of a more elaborate and intricate character were adumbrated before the House, it might sound more attractive than that which I now submit, but I suggest that if Deputies reflect calmly on the proposal I here make, and recognise that it sweeps away the whole bureaucratic machine and simplifies the distribution of essential foodstuffs to those who must have them to live, they will come to see that probably in the long run we shall be driven to that expedient, and it is very much better calmly and deliberately to put it into operation, while we have time and peace of mind with which to do it, than to wait until some panie scheme is devised analogous to it, but which will not work because we have not had time to work it out.
If I have succeeded in persuading the Minister to learn something to-day, if I have sufficiently stirred his fury to-day to induce him to do something, my time has been well spent. It is  common knowledge in this country that 90 per cent. of the difficulties of supplies with which we are confronted at the present time are due either to the economic follies of the Fianna Fáil Party, which they fostered for the past ten years, or to the laziness and incompetence of the man to whose charge they gave the supplies situation of this country two years ago. I have faint hopes that the Fianna Fáil Party have learned their lesson. I am not very optimistic about the future of the Minister for Supplies. His usual reaction to deserved rebuke is arrogant insolence, and I have little doubt that he will resort to that insolence at the present time. I have urged him to try to manifest some of the efficiency that he was at one time able to persuade the bulk of our people that he had. I never shared that illusion, but I suggest to him that he is now given a God-sent opportunity, by this great crisis, to demonstrate to all the people that he has that efficiency which they thought he had, and to confound me in my conviction that he is an incompetent and unscrupulous person.
Mr. Benson: One would have thought that in moving this Vote the Minister for Supplies would have made some attempt, in some form or another, to justify the existence of his Department, and that he would have informed the House of something which his Department had done. I listened to his speech yesterday and, as far as I can remember, he never once did say: “I have been dealing with this matter of supplies and, if it had not been for the existence of my Department you would have been without this, without that, or without the other.” I cannot remember that he told us anything of that sort. To my mind, what he told us principally yesterday was concerned with the various things of which we either had no supplies or very shortly would have no supplies. In most cases, I think, the things that he mentioned were known to anybody who had thought seriously about the matter at all; they were things of which obviously, either immediately or in the not distant future, we would be short,  but certainly, as regards anything which his Department had done to ensure that we would have some supply of commodities of which we are now short, he gave no indication at all. In fact, I have heard remarks from people on various sides to the effect that they were getting on very nicely in the matter of supplies until the Department of Supplies stepped in, and that then the trouble started. Possibly, that is an exaggeration, but at the same time I think that in the majority of cases the existence of supplies of whatever commodities do exist in this country at the moment is due far more to private enterprise than to anything the Department of Supplies has done.
When the Department of Supplies was set up, it was staffed by transferred civil servants from other Departments, persons who had absolutely no knowledge, and could have no knowledge, of the matters which they were to administer. I think it is very doubtful if that was the proper system to adopt, and in my opinion the Minister might have appointed either businessmen or, if he was not prepared to do that, at least he might have established an advisory body which would have the confidence of the people in so far as it would be representing people who did know something about the job. When the Department of Supplies has finished its peregrinations around the City of Dublin and has finally come to rest in one or other of its many buildings, I think that the motto it should have over its door should be “Too Late”, because if there is one thing more remarkable about the Department than any other, since it came into existence, it is the manner in which every one of its actions has come too late.
It proceeds to control the supply of some commodity when the supply is practically exhausted. The Department was urged from the very early days of the war to establish a rationing system, or at least to establish machinery by which a rationing system could be promptly brought into effect. No such course was adopted, and as a result we had the fiasco over tea. I think the value of having such  machinery in existence was amply demonstrated in the case of Great Britain where the people, without any foreknowledge, found themselves rationed for certain commodities. It was impossible, therefore, for anybody to have anticipated that order, and the goods were evenly distributed. Here, however, as a result of the way tea was rationed, opportunities were certainly given to people who had the money to purchase it, to secure an undue proportion of the tea that was available.
One thing for which, I think, the Minister cannot really be called to account is the question of coal. So far as any information which I have goes, I think the Minister has done what can be done in that direction. In reference to that, there was a remark made by Deputy Norton yesterday to the effect that there were ample supplies of coal in Great Britain. I think that such a remark as that should not be allowed to go by unanswered, because the natural inference to be drawn from that, I think, is that the British had ample coal but would not give it to us. As anybody can discover by reading the English papers, the position in that country actually is that at this time last year there were large dumps of coal prepared for the following winter. This year these dumps do not exist, and it is obviously the duty of the British Government to establish these dumps and have them filled up as quickly as possible. Then, when that is done, they can turn around and give some to us; but certainly it should not go out as an authoritative statement from Deputy Norton that there is ample coal in Great Britain, because that is the experience there at the present moment.
As far as I can see, the Minister was entirely justified in the remarks he made about coal yesterday. I think he has probably done everything that it is possible to do in that regard, and the only thing we can do in that matter is to hope that during the summer, firstly, the British will be able to fill the dumps for the following winter, and, secondly, still have enough to be able to give us a reasonable supply, or at least a sufficient supply to keep our industries going during next winter.
 What will happen the winter after that is a thing which nobody would like to forecast, and the prospect is not at all hopeful. The Minister has been urged already to consider the position with regard to that winter, but I think that if in the meantime he were to concentrate on the coming winter it would be better for the country generally.
Mr. Hickey: I think it is rather useless to dwell too much on what should have been done up to the present. Like the last speaker, I consider it was too late to be wasting the time of the House discussing what should have been done. I think it must be admitted both on the Government Benches and the benches on this side of the House that sufficient has not been done. I read some of the Minister's speech in the morning's papers, and he states that it is very likely that the building industry is going to be at a standstill. I am satisfied that if any vision or serious interest had been displayed on the question of supplies we would have sufficient timber stacked in the different ports of the country and in the warehouses to enable us to carry on. Even in peace times I have seen stocks of timber out in the open for two winters before the timber was used. I remember discussing this matter with some of the timber merchants in 1938, when we had the first scare of war, and two of them said to me: “If the war does not take place what is going to happen to us with all the stuff we have on hand?” I am afraid that from that time, 1938, until the war broke out in 1939, sufficient was not done with regard to supplies, and neither was sufficient being done from 1939 to 1940.
I think it was Deputy Victory who said that there was very little use in talking unless something was put up to the Government, but I think the Government cannot deny that certain constructive proposals were put before them from members of this House and members of this Party.
When war broke out this Party met on one or two occasions and discussed its implications for this country. One of the things we put before the Government immediately war broke out  was the question of securing shipping for the country. That suggestion was ignored. I see by the paper that the Minister has said the time has gone for the purchasing or chartering of ships. I am going to suggest to the Government that they relied too much on vested interests to bring in supplies needed for this country. Saying that such and such a company is set up on a non-profit-making basis does not appeal to me because I am satisfied that those people did not keep the Government informed of the possibility of keeping supplies up as long as they were fairly satisfied themselves. We heard the Minister saying here some time ago that he was informed that we had sufficient shipping, while certain countries were neutral and their shipping was not being interfered with. I do not think that was the position a responsible Government should take up with regard to supplies for this country.
I think one very important matter to-day is the question of controlling prices. As far back as 1939 some members of the Cork Corporation suggested that the Government should set up local food committees with a view to controlling prices and having some control over what is happening in their respective areas. That suggestion was submitted to the Government and was turned down. Ever since we have had a clamouring about parish councils but I think the time is not yet late when these committees should be set up with a view to saving the people and preventing them being exploited as they are being.
I had a very sad experience of the indifference of the Department of Supplies in regard to the question of prices. In March, 1940, I purchased certain articles in Dublin. The price was 7½d. for each article if bought by the dozen. I bought two samples and I paid 8d. for each sample. I went to Cork the following morning and went into a certain warehouse for the same article. For articles of the same manufacture I was charged 1/3 each. Thinking there was some mistake I sent for two more of the same article and I asked the messenger to get a receipt.
I got a reply on the 1st April to say the letter was received but that the article, the price of which I complained of, did not appear to have been received in the office. I had a further letter on the 19th April asking me had I discovered the reason why the article did not reach their office. I replied that it was rather strange that the article did not reach their office because the letter and the article were posted in the same letter box. I gave them particulars of the complaint on the 19th April. On the 2nd May, I got this letter:—
“I am directed by the Minister for Supplies to refer to previous correspondence relating to the price paid by you for an East Light Manilla Pocket File to so-and-so, and to inform you that the trader in question now states that the price of 1/3 was charged for three of these files in error and that they were anxious to trace the purchasers....”
To state that 1/3 was charged for three is entirely contrary to the facts as stated in my letter. If I were charged 1/3 for three it would be under the price I was charged in Dublin. The price I should be charged for three is 1/10, as I was charged in Dublin. I replied to the Department on 4th May but received no reply. I wrote again on the 29th June and got a reply on the 8th July. There was apparently no great hurry in preventing overcharging during all that time. The letter of the 8th July stated:—
“I am directed by the Minister for Supplies to refer to previous correspondence relating to the complaint made by you regarding the price charged by so-and-so, Cork, and to say that a reasonable price for the file in question is 9d....”
They stated that the Department had got in touch with the firm and the firm was prepared to make a refund. I wrote on the 27th July stating that it was not merely to get a refund of the money that I brought the case to the  notice of the Department but in the interests of the community. I received a reply on the 9th August stating that the Department was satisfied that the price of 1/3 was charged in error by the trader in question and that the price would be reduced if I went to the firm from whom I purchased the article. I wrote on the 1st October and got a final reply on the 9th October that the Department was satisfied that the overcharging was done in error and nothing further would be done.
I come to the question of coal. In Cork some of the merchants bought in large quantities of coal in the first week of August, 1940. From the first week in August to February, 1941, the price of coal in Cork went up by 11/- per ton. This coal was dumped and left in the open through the whole winter. When a 5/- per ton increase took place in January they started to sell the coal they had bought in August, 1940, at the price then prevailing in 1941. I wrote to the Department on the 21st January and asked them was it possible that people who had coal stocks since 1940 could now charge the increased price for that coal. I got a reply telling me that they had gone into the whole matter, and “in determining the price increases to be permitted, full account is taken of the stocks of coal already held by merchants, and price adjustments are effected so that, having regard to: (a) the date from which increased costs are borne by merchants; (b) the stocks of coal held by merchants; and (c) the date from which increased prices are to operate, no increased profits are taken by coal merchants.” I was informed that the increase was due to the increased cost of coal to the merchants and to increased freight rates. The letter concluded:—
“For your information the Minister desires me to add that this principle is followed not only in regard to the adjustment of coal prices from time to time, but also in regard to all other essential commodities in respect of which price control measures have been taken by the Minister.”
I am anxious to know how it could be stated that freight charges in February,  1941, could be related to coal that was bought in in the last week of July in Cork. I am at a loss to understand how they could put 11/- a ton on coal in February, 1941, that had been lying under water the whole winter, without making some excessive profit. The Prices Commission, in their report on bacon, which was published in 1938, stated that a return of 7 per cent. on capital invested in private industries was, in their opinion, a fair return. I would like to know what is the position of the Prices Commission with regard to present profits. The Industrial Credit Corporation is a subsidised body subject to the Minister for Finance, and is that body to be allowed freely to support industries for high profits when another State Department, such as the Prices Commission has stated that 7 per cent. on working capital employed in industry is a fair measure of profit?
I am not at all satisfied that the Prices Commission is in any way effective in controlling prices or in checking excess profits. I am not surprised that there should be such an amount of criticism of the Department of Supplies for their inactivity and ineffectiveness in dealing with the situation confronting this country. I look upon the position as a most serious one for the country. In relation to supplies, I think we should be a little more vigorous. Deputy Dillon and, I think, Deputy Hughes are of opinion that we should not prevent these pit props going to England. I think we are sending sufficient to England at the moment for what we are getting from England. By all means, let there be a bargain made, but I am not keen on sending across any further goods to England and increasing our investments there, without any great security for them in future, unless there is some decent bargain in regard to what we are going to get from England in return for what we are giving them. I would certainly suggest to the Minister that he should take a little more interest in the prices that are charged for commodities at the moment. In regard to the point raised by Deputy Dillon about rationing, I want again to repeat that rationing will not give the poor people an  equal amount of the goods that are rationed when they have not the purchasing power to bring those goods to their homes. While rationing of commodities may be essential in certain cases, there is also need for a rationing of purchasing power to enable those poor people to get the necessaries of life.
Mr. O'Donovan: I think that any further criticism of the Department would be useless. I did not have the satisfaction of hearing the Minister's speech yesterday, but, judging from the reports in the Press, I think he finds himself in a muddle which he will not be able to get out of. As I say, I think the Department has already been criticised so severely that any words of mine would not help the situation. I wonder if there is any hope at all of conserving the small supplies that we have. I am afraid there is abuse in regard to some of the supplies we have in the country, and that there is hoarding in some cases. I should like to refer to the question of feeding stuffs. The Department of Supplies made an order about a month or six weeks ago fixing the price of feeding stuffs at 17/6 a cwt. We got meal, ground maize, at 17/6 a cwt.
We got all sorts of stuff in another cwt.—beet pulp, the hulls of oats, sweepings of lofts and all sorts of thrash—again at 17/6 a cwt. How is it that the Department of Supplies cannot see that there is a difference between the two—that one was not worth a penny, while the other was worth the 17/6? I have had instances of cases where that ration was fed by unfortunate people to pigs and fowl, and both the pigs and fowl died as a result of it. If muddling like that is allowed to go on in the Department of Supplies, the sooner they clear out and get somebody in who will do their job the better it will be for the country. Three weeks after the price had been fixed at 17/6, we had another order fixing the price at 20/-. In the meantime, no stuff had come in; all that was in at that time had been in three weeks before, and why the price was raised  from 17/6 to 20/- is beyond my comprehension. As I say, that stuff has killed fowl and young pigs.
On that question of fowl and pigs, I want to know now from the Department of Supplies whether there is any possibility of getting any supply of feeding stuffs for pigs or fowl that are still alive. The only thing that paid the producer in this country this year was fowl and their products, the chicken and the egg. So far, we have had a reasonably normal supply of reasonable food, but my latest information is that there is no more to be had. Now, what are we going to do? What are we, the producers of chickens, turkeys and geese, to do with them? Will we now have to let them starve between this and next harvest because there has been no conservation of supplies? I suggested to the Minister for Agriculture in this House about four months ago—I think it was on an occasion when the Minister replied to a question of mine with regard to pigs —that he should issue an order to slaughter all the young pigs in the country because there was no hope of making a profit on them and they were using valuable food that was required for other purposes from which the people would have some profit. At one time, the Minister issued an order to slaughter all the calves, and I suggested that it would be much more advisable to issue an order then to slaughter all the pigs in the country instead of having them eating valuable food, but the Minister said that I should have a little more regard for my position as a Deputy in this House and should take things more seriously. I had put that seriously to the Minister, and I regret that it was not done, because they have eaten valuable food which could have been conserved for other purposes, and they will never pay their way while this war goes on. At £5 5s. per cwt. for bacon, and this price of £1 per cwt. for feeding stuff— we cannot get it now at 30/- a cwt., even if we could pay for it—it would have been better if the pigs had been slaughtered and we had that conservation of stuff to feed the fowl on which some profit would be made when the season for selling them comes in. However,  I suppose there is no use in talking about it now.
I also wish to refer to the situation with regard to paraffin oil in the country, although it has already been referred to by other Deputies. I believe there are abuses in regard to this matter. I want to put it to the Minister that in this country a certain amount of paraffin oil is required in the houses of the people. A whole lot of us have not the opportunity of getting electric light. We are far removed from the Shannon scheme, and even some of us who are near enough to it have not the wherewithal to get connected with the Shannon scheme. I have had scores of letters from people all over the country—I am sure every Deputy is in the same position—asking why no paraffin oil is available for the houses in the country. It is not so bad during the summer season, but even during the summer season there are houses in which there are children and old people who have to be attended to at night, but no paraffin oil is available for them. Yet we have the Department of Supplies paying for an advertisement in the Press to inform users of paraffin oil in the country that they are entitled to half a gallon per month, and that if they apply to their dealer they will get it. That advertisement has appeared in the Press time and again, and has cost this country money. The people have gone to their dealers and asked for this half gallon of oil which they were supposed to get without having a permit, but the dealers have told them that they have not got it. They have written to the Department of Supplies, and I have written to the Department of Supplies on the matter. Why not tell the people straight away where they are, and that it is impossible to get paraffin oil, instead of paying for an advertisement in order to fool them? We are not badly off at the moment, but when the winter nights come and the children come home from school they will have to sit down and learn their lessons if they are to escape the slaps which they would get from the teachers on the following day, but if there is no light they will not be able to learn those lessons. Again, there are houses in which there are old people and babies,  and where paraffin oil is required at night. As I say, I think there are abuses; I am satisfied that paraffin oil is used for tractors, for cutting grass off golf links, and other jobs of that kind, while the unfortunate people in the country cannot get one drop of oil to light a lamp so that they can attend to their children or to the sick in the night-time. I think all that is very unfair, and that this tom-foolery of issuing such an advertisement to the Press should be stopped.
With regard to the coal supply and harvesting, I do not know whether the Minister knows the practice that prevails. The man with the old thresher never supplies the oil himself, the man who has a steam thresher never supplies coal—it is the farmer to whom he goes who has to get that supply of coal or oil for threshing. Yet the Minister says it is the owner of the machine. There may be a lot in that. Perhaps it would be abused if he did get it. The difficulty is that he cannot say where he will thresh. I might have a man promising to thresh for me to-day and who might not be able to come for three days. I want to thresh and another man is on the boundary fence threshing and I will invite him and he will come. That requires more consideration than the Minister has given it. I hope there will be no abuse of coal or oil in carrying out threshing operations and that some people will not be allowed to fleece the goose. I impress on the Minister the necessity to see that the regulations with regard to coal and oil for threshing will be stringently carried out and that everybody will get a fair share.
We are living now very much in the mechanical age, dependant on oil and petrol. I can remember a time in the not very far distant past —and so can many Deputies here —when we had no tractors to cut the corn and when we did the work very well with ordinary horse-machine threshing and had big haggards of corn and big threshings, and when the work was done very efficiently, although it took more labour. If we now wish to absorb more labour, that is the way to do it. In areas where there are fields of an acre or two  a man does not want to exert himself at the moment to cut an acre of corn as the tractor would do it, but he would be able to do it quite well while waiting for the tractor. It is an abuse of oil to let it go into small areas like that. On the other hand, the small man is entitled to it as well as the big man; but there should be some way in which we would depend more on our labour and the work of our own hands, on ordinary machinery for cutting and threshing. There would be a considerable saving of coal and oil if such a thing could be arranged.
As I am on the question of harvesting, and as tea has been dealt with exhaustively by practically everyone who has spoken to this Estimate, I suggest to the Minister that, as we have a big harvest to handle, if there is any possibility at all of an extra ration of tea there is no time to lose, as it is required more in the hay and harvest season. There is nothing else to replace it. I have worked hard in the harvest fields, and when it came to five o'clock in the evening, if we got a couple of cups of tea we were good for another couple of hours, and if we wanted to finish that night some one would go in and bring out another bucket of tea. I have experience of that and rhubarb wine, and minerals and stout, and have drunk each in the harvest field, and I hold that there is nothing in the world like tea to get the work done there. If there is any possibility of an extra ration of tea for harvesters, they are the one and only class who deserve it. I ask the Minister to think seriously of getting an extra ration of tea for people in the harvest.
Regarding the situation in respect to paraffin oil for the winter, and the possibility of getting only a small supply, I understand from the Minister's speech yesterday that no candles are available. I do not know the cause of that. We are slaughtering more animals here than we ever slaughtered before, and there is as much tallow in those animals as there was in animals 50 or 60 years ago, when I saw the halfpenny  dip being made. That was the time when every farmer slaughtered a beast and had the tallow to make candles. I cannot say where it is going on now and why we could not have a supply. Of course they are dirty—they are not as pleasant as the candle we have been accustomed to in recent years. I remember my own people making that dip and never having the present-day type of candle. When there is a possibility of a shortage of candles, and when we are slaughtering more animals than ever, which must have tallow in them as they did in our time, I do not see any reason why we could not use that tallow and get some candles to supplement any oil we may have.
Deputy Corry referred yesterday to the export of scrap iron. It would be very hard for us to carry on work here in this country without it. In the town I come from and where I deal, shoeing iron for horses is not available at the moment. Even if it were available, there is not a horse-shoe nail to put the shoe on the horse. Yet we export, I think, 34,000 to 36,000 tons—though the Minister denied blandly here that any scrap was exported. We export so much scrap now that we are left without the wherewithal to make shoes for the horses. You may get horses to work without shoes, if they have been trained from youth, as we were trained to go without shoes to school. If trained to it, horses may be able to do farm work and ploughing, but cannot do any road work without shoes. If we are not going to have any iron here for shoeing horses, God help the farming industry. Furthermore, there is not in the stores to-day any timber for making carts or iron for shoeing the wheels. It is no good criticising the Minister now, but he should have known those things, and instead of a normal supply he should have a supply to keep us going for years and years, to tide us over the difficult period we are going through now.
I would agree with Deputy Dillon— though the Minister objects to it—to reducing the percentage extraction of flour to 85 per cent. We would have as  much food as we have at the moment. I know what it is to see cakes baked in the oven of my house and know that there is wastage. Children will not eat the bread the second day, as it is not fit for human consumption. Even the loaf in the shop is not fit for it, so there is wastage. If it were brought to 85 per cent. every ounce would be used, instead of being thrown to the dogs, and that 10 per cent. of bran and pollard would be available, and is absolutely necessary. I commend that suggestion of Deputy Dillon's to the Minister, and think it would be a valuable way of helping us over the present trouble.
There is a possibility of saving fuel in one way or another where there is duplication of rail and 'bus services. I and every other Deputy from West Cork had a communication from the residents of Castletownbere, which is in the extreme end of this country— the next parish to America. There was a boat functioning between Bantry and Castletownbere, calling at two or three stations on the way. That was a distance of 35 to 40 miles by road. This Bantry Bay Steamship Company was practically owned by the Great Southern Railways and was functioning in that area.
Owing to the shortage of coal they are threatened with the closing down of the steamship service. That would mean that Castletownbere would be cut off from the rest of Ireland from the point of view of having supplies delivered, excepting what is taken by road. A train leaves Bantry at 8.30 in the morning for Cork, and a bus leaves at the same time. They travel almost side by side from Bantry to Cork, a distance of 55 to 60 miles. Is there not an absolute waste of fuel there? Why should there be such a duplication of services? We have the same thing from Skibbereen to Cork, and I take it that it is also happening in other portions of the State. Is it not a down-right waste of fuel? Why not close down the passenger service on the railway line, run the goods service only, and let the coal that is saved go to the Bantry Bay Steamship Company to help them to carry goods to the extreme end of the country? There should not be a waste  of valuable oil or other fuel in a duplication of services.
The Minister, instead of riding the high horse, should consider the existing situation. He has no hope of getting supplies. I do not think he is big enough, as some Deputies suggested, to go to Britain to try to make a bargain with the people there. I do not think he is the man to do it, because I do not believe he knows how to make a bargain. I suggest he should get out and let someone else carry on the duties of his office, or else give serious consideration to the suggestions I have made. He should save whatever commodities can be saved, and he should make every effort to give us what we want in the way of feeding stuffs. Why not slaughter the pigs that are no good to us now? There is no money in bacon. Persons who are rearing pigs are losing money by it. Why not issue an order to slaughter them, and let us deal with the things that are going to pay us, the things that will enable us to pay our way? If the Minister does that he will be doing a good day's work.
He tells us we cannot get any stuff from outside. I remember that some time ago we got supplies of oranges and lemons when we had not an ounce of material to feed to the pigs and hens. We can live without oranges and lemons, and it would have been more helpful if we got feeding stuffs for the pigs and hens instead. I believe that the suggestions I have made are worthy of the Government's serious consideration.
Mr. Hurley: The Department of Supplies was set up as a war measure. It was charged with the duty of maintaining and, if possible, extending employment and maintaining supplies of food and fuel, while keeping prices at the lowest possible level. Following the Minister's remarks a few weeks ago at a Fianna Fáil meeting and what he said in the House yesterday, I think even his most ardent supporter will hardly challenge the statement that the Minister has completely failed in his job. The unemployment position, as admitted by the Minister, is definitely very serious. It is particularly  serious in my constituency. The conditions there have worsened considerably since the war started. In Cobh we had what was regarded by the Minister, who opened the factory on the eve of the war, as a national asset. I refer to the Irish Steel Works in Haulbowline. I do not want to traverse the ground covered by Deputy Corry last night, but I should like to emphasise that the closing down of that factory is not alone a very serious blow to the locality, but it is also a very serious blow to the country. As a result of the closing down of the factory on the 11th February this year, the railways, Messrs. Pierce in Wexford, Metal Products in Cork, builders' suppliers generally and even the military authorities engaged in building reinforced concrete works are all affected.
Steel is a very important commodity and I think the Government should realise that it is definitely their duty to get this factory working again. It would not cost a very big amount of money to reopen it. The Minister stated at the Fianna Fáil meeting that money was no object. If that is so, then the Haulbowline Steel Works should be operating to-day. When the factory closed down a number of skilled workmen were thrown out of employment. These men will not be available in the course of a few months because they will have found work in England. Building workers are going to England every week. Last Tuesday evening I saw a number of men leaving Glanmire station. They were building workers on their way to Bedford to engage in building operations there. There is no work for them here. Timber is scarce and, owing to the closing down of the Haulbowline factory, steel is scarce. I am going to raise this matter again on the Vote for the Taoiseach's Department, in order to try to convince the Government of the necessity of getting this factory going again.
Mr. Hurley: It is, but if supplies are not available for this particular industry in Cobh, I submit the criticisms should be levelled at the Minister for Supplies, not the Minister for Industry and Commerce. A mission was held recently in Cobh and towards the close of it the preacher told the people not to bring candles—these are usually brought by the people for the closing ceremonies of retreats and missions— because he knew that the majority of the people forming the congregation could not afford to get them. No words of mine could better depict the position of things in Cobh.
Mr. Hurley: The people of Cobh are very concerned about the closing of the steel works. Resolutions were sent to Deputy Corry and to myself by the urban council, urging that something should be done about these works. Everyone is aware that the food situation here is very serious, but, at the  same time, considerable quantities of food are being exported to Britain. The bacon factories in Cork are at present slaughtering calves and the meat is being exported to Britain in canned form while veal is scarce in Cork. I could understand surplus commodities being exported, but the Minister should make arrangements whereby we would get goods in exchange for these exports rather than be building up assets in Great Britain as was done during the period of the last war. The Minister has a good bargaining weapon there that he should make full use of. If the Minister bargains with Britain with regard to supplies, I consider that he should suggest an exchange of goods rather than the building up of assets which might be worthless after the war. It is the duty of the Minister to see that essential goods required here should be kept here. The fuel situation is a serious one, and I am not aware that any organised effort is being made to provide the needs of Cork city and towns in my constituency during the coming winter. Take the position in Crosshaven, a seaside resort, where coal is at present very scarce and where last year's turf is being sold at 3/- a bag. Deputies can appreciate how much brown turf would be got for 3/-. I am wondering what the charge will be during the winter.
Mr. Hurley: There appears to be no organised effort in these areas to provide food or fuel for the people. Parish councils are supposed to be functioning, but I got reports concerning the inactivity of some of these bodies. Some of the members were under the impression that their work did not commence until an emergency arose. I saw the secretary of the county council about the matter, and he said it was not his responsibility but that of the city manager. I am afraid that if an emergency arose, and if these places were isolated, the people there might be left to starve. The city manager is the area commissioner, and he said his work did not commence until there  was an emergency. I am wondering whose job it is to see that provision is made for the people. Nothing is being done, and the poor people may be left helpless unless they fend for themselves. In these places where there is no turf, suggestions were made that timber should be provided. As some of those in the councils did not agree, nothing was done.
The Minister should make it his business to look into the position regarding supplies of food and fuel in the different areas. I will probably be told that that is the job of the local people. If I agreed with that then I think the Minister should accept my contention that a local committee should be set up to deal with the control of prices. As Deputy Hickey pointed out, the corporation passed a resolution some months ago suggesting to the Minister that a price control committee should be formed in Cork. Such a committee was in operation during the last war and did effective work. The Minister thinks that price control can be carried on from the headquarters of his Department, but I am sure that this debate has convinced him that it cannot be very effective in that way. Price control will be all the more necessary as commodities become scarce.
Another difference that I have with the Minister is that I do not consider he takes the people sufficiently into his confidence. Some 12 months ago he asked the public to lay in supplies of necessaries in order to make room for further storage. Many people acted on that advice. Then nothing was heard until there was a shortage of tea, a shortage of petrol, and now we have a serious position regarding coal supplies. Surely such treatment is having a very alarming effect on the public. Apart from the Minister no Deputy appears to know the position regarding available supplies of any commodity. If the Minister had taken the public into his confidence, and told them that in six months time there would be a shortage of coal, supplies could have been conserved. The statements which the Minister made at a Fianna Fáil meeting recently might, I think, have been more properly made  in this House. Surely, this House, as representing the people, deserves that much courtesy from the Minister. It should be the first to be made aware of the position. I have been told also that while shipping is very scarce more port wine and sherry wine was imported into Dublin during the last fortnight than during the last five years. Are the cocktail parties going to be so numerous that all that port and sherry wine will be required, particularly at a time when we are told shipping space cannot be found for much more essential commodities? If what I have said be true, and if these statements can be substantiated, then I suggest there is something seriously wrong, so far as the Minister and his Department are concerned, in arranging for such imports.
I want to emphasise that the position with regard to employment is very serious. The building trade is practically at a standstill. I do not know what use can be made of native timber or what substitutes can be found. The Minister should tell the House what hopes he has for a continuance of work in the building trade. We all know that it is a trade that gives a very large amount of employment. It is no remedy to have building trade workers going across the water where they will have to take their chance of being bombed, and all the rest of it, in order to find the employment that should be provided for them at home. I am not suggesting that the supplies referred to should have been and could have been in before a serious shortage in shipping developed, but I want to know what suggestions the Minister has to make with regard to the future. The Minister for Education told the House that, through the country, there are 300 school buildings unfit for occupation. They are insanitary and unhygienic. Are any of them going to be replaced? I hope the Minister will deal with all these questions when replying. The picture that he painted in his opening statement was very black. I hope that, on reconsideration, he will find a glimmer of hope for the House and the country as regards the future.
Mr. D. Morrissey: Deputy Hurley,  like other Deputies, seems to take the Minister to task because of the gloomy picture of the future which he painted yesterday. I think the Minister's departure from the usual type of speech that he delivers is rather to be welcomed. Some of us have complained here in the House, and I think with justice, that during the last two years the Minister, to say the least of it, has been reluctant to tell the people the truth. If the outlook for the country is as black as the Minister has indicated, I think it is right that the people should be told at once what the actual position is, as far as he can foresee it, so that they may be able to take whatever steps are available to try to meet it. I do not want to go back over the last two years or, for that matter, over the past month. In my view the three big items to be considered, so far as home production is concerned, are: (1) fuel in the form of turf, (2) corn, and (3) beet. In regard to these three, what gravely concerns me, and very many people outside, is the question of transport. That problem is a huge one. Deputies should remember that we are setting out this year to cut an additional 3,000,000 tons of turf, of which at least 2,500,000 tons will have to be transported into the urban and city areas. The Minister said yesterday that it is doubtful if there will be any coal available in this country for domestic purposes in the future.
In view of that, Deputies should try to picture for themselves what it is going to mean to provide transport for the shifting of 2,500,000 tons of turf. When I speak of transport I am not thinking of the fuel but of the vehicles to be employed, the rolling-stock on the railways and the lorries on the roads. That quantity of turf must be shifted in a comparatively short period, not only to the cities and the urban areas, but, more important still, out of the bogs, if it is to be got out of them at all. In my opinion, there is not the remotest possibility of our being able to provide transport to shift that amount of turf, when one considers that practically during the same period the country will be called upon to deal with at least 500,000 tons of wheat.
Mr. D. Morrissey: We were aiming at a minimum of 600,000 tons. I am hoping, like the Minister, that we will have 500,000 tons. Last year's figure was 300,000 tons, and I, like the Minister, am hoping that there will be an increase this year. Of course, a lot will depend on the kind of weather we will get between this and the gathering of the harvest, and on the yield of the crop. Let us take it that there will be 400,000 tons of wheat and, say, 250,000 tons of barley. It is not easy to give a figure in the case of oats because, normally, more of this crop than any other will be consumed on the farmer's land. On top of all these, we have the beet. That is the problem, and it is a very big one, that has to be faced. It is a most urgent one, and probably the biggest that the Department of Supplies has ever been called upon to deal with. I would like to know from the Minister whether he has taken any steps to ascertain what road transport is available and will be available over that period.
What lorries will be available, what railway rolling stock is available, what railway rolling stock could be made available with repair, what new rolling stock, if any, is being provided or can be provided? That seems to me to be an enormous problem. We have got to shift between turf, corn and beet from 3,500,000 to 4,000,000 tons. I should like Deputies to remember that the average type of lorry in this country is what is known as the 2-ton lorry. Load that lorry with the average type of turf to the top of the high creels which are used for carrying live stock and you will have got three tons. It will be fairly good turf to make three tons. Take, then, the average small town, with a population of 5,000, cut off from all coal supplies. I do not think that I would be over-estimating if I were to state that the turf requirements of a town like that, for domestic purposes, would be in the neighbourhood of 8,000 tons. Consider the problem which arises when you have to transport 8,000 tons of turf a distance of, perhaps, 15 miles from the nearest bog to that town, when the average  lorry will bring only three tons per load. That will give you some idea of the immensity of the task of supplying the needs of cities like Limerick, Cork or Waterford, not to mention the capital itself.
That brings me to the next point in relation to turf. So far as most of the bogs are concerned, the turf will have to be shifted at certain times. If the winter comes, you may leave it there. That brings you up against the question of storage. From what I see around the country, I am not satisfied that any real effort is being made to provide storage. It may be happening in other parts of the country but I see no evidence of it in the parts of the country with which I am familiar. We have in many parts of the country good, readymade, extensive stores. We have, in many parts, disused workhouses and disused courthouses which could be made serviceable with very small outlay. So much for turf.
The transport of the corn is even more urgent than that of the turf. Even if the farmer can afford to keep it in stacks or ricks in the yard for any considerable period, it will be open to the attacks of rats, and that may reduce it in quantity.
Having regard to the big increase in production this year, we shall also be up against the question of drying facilities. I do not know whether the Minister has considered whether it will be possible, in the time available, to give the corn the necessary drying, with the facilities available. I do not want to labour that point unduly. My next point concerns the question of fuel for the transport. Most people would like to have a definite statement from the Minister that he will have available for the purposes I have mentioned sufficient fuel to work to the fullest capacity whatever transport is available. If the Minister cannot state that definitely, there is little use in talking about supplies at all. I have to assume that the Minister is perfectly satisfied that sufficient fuel will be available to keep the whole transport services working to their fullest capacity for the purposes I have mentioned. Otherwise, it would be impossible to understand  why the Minister recently relaxed certain regulations regarding the consumption of fuel. These are the only matters I propose to deal with in this debate. I confined myself to these three matters, because I think they are all-important—of far greater importance, if I may say so, than any other matter raised here. If we fail in respect of fuel, corn and beet, I do not think it matters much to what extent we succeed along the other lines mentioned. I do not want the Minister or anybody else to think that I regard this problem as easy of solution. I realise that it is terribly difficult, and it is because I realise its difficulty and its seriousness that I have tried to deal with it exclusively, and, if I may say so, as temperately as I possibly could.
Mr. Belton: The public will be glad to see the Dáil coming down to realities when they read the report of this debate. People have been asking why, in the face of conditions which every man engaged in the economic life of the country realises are threatening to crush him, the Dáil was wasting its time on such nonsense as amendments to the Constitution and Local Government Bills which do not matter two hoots. We are being threatened with extinction as a nation and a race, and we have not come down to business. Deputy Morrissey has just touched on an important question—the transport of turf and corn and their storage. What is more important is their production. Two motions on the paper were put down by Deputy Cogan and myself before Easter. We put them down as practical producers of food as an eleventh-hour attempt to get the House and the Government to come down to business.
One of these motions, No. 13 on the Order Paper, had reference to the foot-and-mouth disease epidemic which was not being dealt with, and we were told that it was then in hands. We were told by the Taoiseach that the Minister concerned would be better employed in his office than listening to a futile debate here. We had to accept that.
That Dáil Éireann is of opinion that the Government has failed to make adequate provision of food supplies for man and beast in the coming year, and that the Government be requested at once to make a full and detailed census of land cropped and to be cropped in the present session. That any shortage revealed by the census should be at once made good by the Government taking such action as it deems necessary to provide an adequate food supply so as to dispel the remotest possibility of famine which now seems inevitable if extraordinary measures are not taken forthwith.
The Taoiseach said there was no need for that either. Since then he attended a public meeting in Tullamore at which he said it would be necessary to kill off the live stock of this country in order to save the food that they would consume in their maintenance and fattening, and that that food would be necessary for the human population. Why is enough food not produced this year in the country? Why is the Government not applying itself to the production of food? I take second place to no man or woman in this country in a practical knowledge of the production of food. I doubt if there are six men in this country to-day who have more land cropped than I have. I make no boast about that. I just mention it to show that I am alive to, and aware of, the difficulties, not of 50 years ago or of some years hence, but of this year of Our Lord, 1941.
Mr. Belton: If I were Minister for Supplies I would consider that I was in the position of a county surveyor to a county council. I would take an inventory or stock of what the country required for the coming year in the matter of supplies. I would consider it my duty, if I were Minister, to put it up to every colleague in the Ministry—the Minister for Agriculture, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, and other Ministers—to provide those supplies for me so that I could conserve them and manage them in the best interests of the nation.
I am not accusing the Minister of having failed in his job, but I would say without question that he had failed in his job if he did not make his estimate for the coming year. It has not been shown here that he did not make that estimate, therefore I am not accusing the Minister of incompetency or inefficiency. The Minister himself apparently took that view, for Deputies received the following communication from him, dated the 7th January last:—
“I am writing you to request your active assistance in an effort to secure a substantial increase in the acreage sown with wheat in your constituency during the present season. The need for a considerable expansion in the quantity of wheat sown is very real and urgent.
“Present indications are that our available reserves of wheat will be completely exhausted by the time the 1941 harvest is garnered, and that thereafter we will be wholly dependent on home-produced wheat. Efforts to secure shipping for the importation of wheat during this year have not been successful, and it appears probable that no improvement in the position need be expected.
“I need not point out to you the hardships that would result, particularly to poorer classes, if flour and bread supplies should be seriously curtailed. I feel sure you will agree that this possibility must be avoided at all costs.
“My Department will, of course,  take every course which may result in the importation of wheat from abroad, but our main hopes after August next are based on the expansion of home production to yield 100 per cent., or almost 100 per cent., of our requirements. This involves an increase on the 1940 acreage of 300,000 acres.”
That letter was quoted by me in a speech in this House in support of a motion asking that a price of 50/- a barrel be fixed for wheat. It is interesting to note now, and to bring before the House and the country, the fact that only nine Deputies voted for that motion. Is there any member of the House who would vote against it now?
Nine back benchers showed more foresight than all the front benchers in the country. A few puerile speeches were made here on that occasion by Deputies representing urban and city constituencies to the effect that they did not want to put up the price of bread. Look at the “tack” they have now. Will they go to any street corner and recommend it to their constituents? On that occasion I also said that after the coming harvest was garnered, in a free wheat market wheat would fetch £5 per barrel. I was laughed at by the Minister for Agriculture. Is it not fetching that price to-day?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy is dealing with home-grown wheat. The price of wheat and the question of a subsidy for wheat are matters which are outside the province of the Minister for Supplies.
Mr. Belton: I submit I am dealing with the question of wheat supplies. The Minister for Supplies, on 7th January last, requested all Deputies to see that there was an increase in their constituencies of the area cropped  under wheat, as we would have to depend this year on our own supplies of wheat.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Does the Deputy not know well that that is altogether a matter of the growing of wheat and that the increased acreage and the price of wheat are matters regulated by the Department of Agriculture?
Mr. Belton: I submit that the area under wheat has a direct bearing on the supplies of wheat that will be available, and the Minister for Supplies was alive to that fact in January last when he requested an increase. It is with the increase of supplies that I am now dealing. He indicated to us that no ships could be obtained to import supplies of wheat from abroad and that we had to provide all the supplies necessary from home production. Then there has been the initial failure. That initial failure has been responsible for the warning sounded by the Taoiseach in Tullamore a couple of months ago as to our having to slaughter live stock in order to conserve our food supplies.
It has been suggested here that we reduce the extraction of flour to 85 per cent. I should like to know from the Minister how we stand in regard to supplies of Manitoban wheat. The Minister, I am sure, is aware that Irish wheat, being poor in gluten and having gluten of a rather inferior quality, is not capable of making the best bread, unless there is a large admixture of Manitoban wheat, which is rich in gluten of a superior quality, and I suggest to the Deputy who urged the reduction to 85 per cent. that it will not improve the quality of the bread proportionately, unless we can import some Manitoban wheat, the stocks of which are very low now and which do not represent 10 per cent. of an admixture, the usual mixture percentage being 20 to 25 per cent.
In the matter of our supplies of oats and barley, both now and following the harvest, I am afraid the situation is very dangerous. I intend to refrain, in anything I have to say, from censuring the Minister or Government in  any way. They have a very difficult task, a task with which, when they took up office, they never thought they would be confronted. No body of men in this country was ever confronted with such an important and difficult task, and although I think they made many mistakes, even this year, I consider it the duty of us all to make the best of the position we now have and to see how we can face it. It is a pity we did not make provision for food supplies for man and beast. It is a pity the Government did not see what the food problem was and that it did not consist of allotments here and there near the city and in rural districts, but consisted of wheat, oats, and barley and beet.
Nobody ever saw a shortage of potatoes, cabbage or small vegetables in this country, unless there was an outbreak of disease, and a larger area of these crops will not save them from disease. Instead of the Government subsidising the crops we needed, and of which there would be a shortage, they set about subsidising and financing the crops of which there was no danger of a shortage. There was a time during the spring when there were supplies of fertilisers available, but no farmer could get them. They were given to local authorities to hand out for use on allotment schemes. If the idea was to relieve unemployment, that was all right, but if the intention is to increase the food supply of the nation, then obviously the crops to increase, the crops which demanded an increase, were those of which we knew we would be short, and wheat, oats, barley and sugar beet will not be grown on allotments. I hope that we will get a more active and more practical mentality to deal with this problem than has dealt with it up to now.
I could not follow Deputy Dillon when he talked of providing money to enable the people to buy essentials, and I think that suggestions as to how to provide the essentials nationally would be more appropriate to this debate. The question of getting them down to the people is another matter altogether. The really important thing is to get essential products in sufficient quantities. He suggested that the people should be given potatoes, oatmeal, fish,  milk and butter, and that they were good enough for them. They are good enough for any of us in times of stress, but why did the Deputy leave out the essential commodity, bread? Those of us who soldiered in the national movement which had its birth about 40 years ago and its fruition in the establishment of a national Parliament, followed the economic teaching of one of the greatest apostles of economic teaching this country produced, the greatest in our time certainly, and probably the greatest of all time in this country. That teaching was that when we should have centralised national government in this country we should treat our country, not as the broken limb of a larger national economic organisation, but as a national, economic organisation in itself. Such an ideal and such an outlook on the national position demanded that we should develop this country economically, agriculturally and industrially so that, when a situation like the present should come, we would not have to barter our manhood to fight foreign battles in order to get enough to eat here.
The only fault I have with the Government is that they did not develop that policy quickly enough in view of the danger signals that they saw ahead. If we had enough wheat, oats, barley and sugar, we would be pretty safe in this country now. The industries would require raw materials, and I agree with those who have criticised the handling of scrap iron. I have it on good authority—the only authority on which I set any value, and that is the authority of practical men using shoeing iron—that there is a dangerous scarcity of shoeing iron, and the Minister should put it to the Government that they have a very big responsibility in this matter. Take a man with 200 or 300 acres of tillage. Look at the effort he has made. Look at how he is spread out. He did that with tractors, and there is no fuel for the tractors now. He has mowing machines, worked by power drives from the tractor. I am sorry that I had not the advantage of hearing the Minister's opening address yesterday, but I understand that he said that there is  no tractor fuel for mowing machines, not even for mowing machines that are worked by power drives from the tractor. It is possible that the Minister or some of the Deputies may not understand what that means, but there are two kinds of mowing machines: one that is operated by a power drive from the tractor, and which cannot be used unless you have the power drive from the tractor, and the other is a mowing machine that is just dragged along, and by dragging it along it turns the shaft and works in that way. Now, that could be done by horse power, perhaps, but if men are up against the problem of cutting their meadows now, they could not get the machine reconditioned in time. To start with, they would have to get a shaft into the machine, and I do not know if you could buy a shaft for a mowing machine in Dublin that would be strong enough for that purpose. There would be three horses required, and it certainly would be almost impossible for a man to get a shaft and three horses to work the shaft now when he is immediately faced with the problem of cutting his meadows. I do not think it was fair to leave it till yesterday to inform a man with, perhaps, 100 acres ready for cutting, and with his tractor and machine there ready for work, that there would be no fuel available for the tractor. That is a terrible responsibility for a Minister and a Government to take.
Again, I am speaking of the practical side. I met a man downstairs here to-day, who was up from the country, and that is his trouble. He has about 100 acres of corn, a corresponding amount of other tillage, and a corresponding amount of meadows. His mowing machine is power-driven and, if he does not get fuel, how will he cut his meadows? It is time to cut the meadows now, whether new meadows or old meadows. I think it is a great pity that the Government did not consult some practical men in connection with the handling of these matters. There is no use in relying on civil servants. They have not had the training or the experience of the practical difficulties in the way of transforming agricultural machinery overnight. You are  also up against the difficulty of procuring the necessary parts that would be required for the transformation. They are not here, and it is astounding that we hear so much of what should be done on the land when there is such very little consideration for the difficulties of the man on the land. It is no wonder the people are fleeing from the land, because everybody is making a cock-shot of them.
I am sure that we are on our trial as a nation now. We always had it dinned into our ears that this was a most fertile country, and that we could support in comfort from 15,000,000 to 20,000,000 people. I was one of those who shared that belief, but I am disappointed that we do not get down to it now. I saw a statement by the Minister for Education the other day, to the effect that he was giving longer holidays to the school-children so that they could assist at the harvest and in the rearing of turf. I am glad that we have come down at last to speak the ordinary language of the bog, and speak of the “rearing” or the “cutting” of turf instead of the “winning” of turf. If you spoke to the ordinary man down the country about the “winning” of turf, he would not know what you were talking about, but if you speak of the “rearing” or “cutting” of the turf he knows all about it. At any rate, the Minister is going to give an extended holiday to the children in order to assist in the national campaign of saving or rearing turf. Now, there are 100,000 idle people whom those who are working are keeping in enforced idleness. What sort of management is it that is calling down children, juvenile labour, to work on the bogs and in the harvest field, when you have 100,000 idle adults? Why are these people not put to work? The Minister wanted more turf cut. Deputy Dillon complained that turf was selling, I think, at a penny a sod here. I do not know whether that is true or not, but at whatever price it is selling, if it is a profiteering price, why are there not more engaged in it? Why is there not competition to pull down the price? I am quite satisfied that  whatever the price of the turf here in Dublin is, it is a competitive price, and taking into account all the difficulties connected with the rearing of turf and making it available for fuel here, I think that is as low a price as it can be sold at. I know the bogs as well as any man in this country knows them, but I never met a millionaire on a bog or anywhere near it.
Mr. Belton: I do not know whether the Minister will leave any millionaires on the bog. I do not know if they found any more than was lost at Clonsast or not, but I did not hear that they did. Now, the Minister is aware and, I am sure, the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, being a practical man in this line, knows it also—although, of course, he is precluded from saying anything in his present position—that there is a great waste of bread because of the flour that has to be used, especially in the case of the ordinary batch bread. It will not break clean and the top will come off, and there is a terrible lot of wastage. There is something worth considering in the suggestion to improve the texture of the flour. The Minister tells us now that he will have to put oats and barley into the flour, even after the coming harvest, in order to have sufficient bread to go around. I have endeavoured, by every means that I could, to find out what supplies of wheat, oats and barley we could expect from the present harvest, and I could not get it. It beats me to know why I could not get it. I should imagine that the Minister responsible would have his finger on the situation, and that every Monday morning he would have dished up to him on his office table particulars with regard to the position of wheat, oats and barley. The Minister knows that in the matter of supplies for human bread food we wanted 600,000 or 700,000 acres of wheat. We shall be very lucky if we have the half of that.
He is aware that in the matter of live-stock feeding stuffs we imported half our requirements. At once the  home production of feeding stuffs should have been increased by 50 per cent. Was that done in order to give the Minister supplies to meet the requirements of the nation? It is not the Minister's province to produce them or to see they are produced, but he considered that it was his duty to sound a note of warning on the 7th January last with regard to wheat. I think it pretty well revealed that we would not have enough wheat to go around after this harvest. Even if there was no other loss in the national food store for live stock, we would require to produce 50 per cent. more oats and barley but, in addition, we are short in our supplies of feeding stuffs for livestock by about 200,000 tons of bran and pollard, which is left in the wheat instead of being extracted from it. This was a very good feeding stuff. Has the Minister put it up to his colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, to provide these supplies for him to handle? If he has not, and if it has not been done, there has been laxity somewhere and this country is going to suffer for it. Any ordinary feeder of cattle, pigs or poultry would advise the Minister on that. There is the problem. Has it been tackled? I do not see any evidence of its being tackled.
It would be abnormal if we had as good a production from tillage this year as we had last year and the year before, owing to the shortage of fertilisers. I daresay the position will be worse next year. There has also been a great loss in farmyard manure owing to the ravages of foot-and-mouth disease and the isolation and destruction of herds. I am drawing manure from Dublin now that I should have drawn last February and March and which should be under my crops. There has also been a great shortage because of the slaughter of about 4,000 animals in the City of Dublin. All this indirectly affects the supplies which the Minister would have.
I would like to know from the Minister to what extent he expects to be short of the national requirements in the matter of wheat, oats, barley and beet. These are the essentials. The  acreage under potatoes may have increased but in any case we always have enough potatoes unless there is a failure of the crop. Normally we have potatoes to spare and we have enough of the other vegetables except where there has been a shortage of seed. On the whole I think the seed position worked out fairly well. I do not think anybody went short except perhaps in regard to the minor crops, mangolds and turnips, but I do not think any of us got exactly the strain that we have been accustomed to. We got some kind anyhow and, so far, they are looking all right. The Minister should reveal the position to the country.
A warning has come from the British Minister for Agriculture that they intend killing off some of their live stock because of shortage of food. They require any suitable food they have for human consumption. He distinctly said that they would not buy as much stores in Ireland as in previous years. That directly points to the curtailment of our cattle population by some means. I suggest the most profitable means and the thing we should set out to accomplish would be to provide the necessary food to fatten cattle instead of having to kill them off as lean and poor stores. That would bring our cattle industry into a better position than it has ever been in before. Anybody who has studied the economics of cattle exports will agree at once that a store cattle export is not ultimately good for the nation, that if you have a surplus of live stock it should be the finished article that goes out. We should have endeavoured to provide the finished article.
The Minister is in charge of a Department that was set up as a war measure and it is not fair to criticise him in a Ministry that is only about a year old for some laxity that happened three or four years ago. It is a war machine that he is trying to work and while he must be open to legitimate criticism there is no use in blaming him for lack of provision that could only have been made by some sub-division of another Department prior to the establishment of his Ministry. But at this stage the country wants to know how it stands in the matter of food for man and beast,  as regards wheat, oats, barley and beet for sugar. The Minister should tell us.
The agricultural census has already been taken, and the Minister should know the numbers of live stock in the country and how far the food supplies which will be available will go in keeping those live stock healthy and well fed, and fattening them off as they grow to maturity. Those are essential matters for an agricultural country, and if they are properly attended to now, we will have an agricultural country for the first time in our history. Nobody will ever say that a man is a good agricultural farmer if he simply lights his pipe and goes out with his dog to look across 400 or 500 acres of land——
Mr. Belton: Well, I do not want to go outside the matters before the House, but you will appreciate that, in the matter of supplies, it is very important to have those supplies, otherwise there is no use in talking about handling them. The Minister indicated to us in his letter of 7th January last that we were being thrown back on our own resources, and ultimately would have to rely entirely upon them. Any little divergence on my part was just accidental, and was necessary in order to deal with my point in regard to supplies. I submit that it is essential that we should know how far our supplies of live stock food are likely to be adequate for the live stock population of the country. It is very important to know that at the present time. I might say in passing that animal food stuffs which are stored in the summer, because of the comparatively cheap prices in the summer as compared with the winter, are not available for storage this summer. Many big feeders of stock stored tens of thousands of barrels in the summer for winter use, particularly in Meath, Kildare, and parts of Dublin. That is not being done this year, and we are that much short.
With regard to petrol, I believe the position has improved a bit. I should  like the Minister to tell us what the position is in connection with tractor oil. If we provide the 3,000,000 tons of turf for fuel, how is it going to be transported? I do not think the problem is as big as that outlined by Deputy Morrissey.
Of course we all know that in actual practice, the farmers' horses and carts will do most of that transport. It is very important that the Minister should deal with the position in regard to horse-shoe iron. I am informed that the position is very serious. Within the last few days I was informed by a large practical farrier that within eight weeks the store of horse-shoe iron will be exhausted, and none is coming in now. I hope that is not true, but the man who told me had first-hand knowledge, and had no object in telling me an untruth. I should be very sorry to call the Minister the names that Deputy Dillon called him and his Department because white flour was bought on the Border. If a citizen of this State imports foodstuffs into this country, I do not think he is doing any dis-service to this country. Is not our whole problem and our whole anxiety at this moment the getting in of sufficient foodstuffs? In the case of foodstuffs that we want for ourselves, we have naturally placed a penalty on their export. That is our business. If other people want the foodstuffs that they have, and we get them across the Border, well, it is their business to conserve their essential foodstuffs, and it is our business to conserve ours. I do not think a citizen of Northern Ireland or Great Britain who got a consignment of sugar from this country would be committing any offence. The same applies to flour brought in here. I want to say in passing that that white flour would not be procurable at 5/- a stone; it would cost 6d. or 7d. a lb., and that will not be 70 per cent. extraction either. That is over £5 a barrel that citizens of this State are paying for foreign wheat in the form of 6d. or 7d. a lb. for white flour now. They are paying over £5 a barrel, while we are told that we must sell our wheat at 40/- a barrel. Those who are complaining of that price would not vote for our motion on 5th February to  have the price fixed at 50/- a barrel. There is some inconsistency somewhere.
If there is no improvement in the oil position—tractor oil, fuel oil, crude oil and petrol—and there is no improvement in the coal position, we are threatened with a shortage of essential services. In the matter of transport, we may be reduced to the ordinary horse and cart.
In dealing with the Tillage Order last December, I pointed out in this House that we should get down to the very primary methods of living, that we should make sure that we will have iron for spades and shovels and ordinary hand implements. Our transport problem ultimately can only be solved by horse-drawn vehicles if petrol does not come in. Our supplies of petrol and oil are dependent upon the arrival of British tankers, and these are being sunk very frequently. Only the other night I heard over the radio that a tanker had been sunk not very far from the Irish coast. I do not know whether it was coming here or not, but we may be sure that, if one tanker less was going to Britain, and if those supplies were coming here, they will not stint themselves to suit us. The oil and petrol position will get worse and we will be thrown back more and more on the horse-drawn vehicles. We must see that we produce at home all that is required to keep the horse-drawn vehicle on the road. We must see that there is sufficient scrap iron to maintain vehicles and horses on the road.
I read that we have a couple of wheat ships in Lisbon waiting to come here. It would be interesting to me and to everyone else to know what was paid for the wheat in those ships, what was paid for the ships, and what was the cost of insurance. When the wheat is landed here—if ever it is landed—will it be landed at 50/- a barrel? The whole Government Party voted against 50/- a barrel. Can the Minister for Supplies now get wheat for 50/- a barrel from any corner of the earth? His adviser in regard to shipping from the ends of the earth—Deputy Dillon—did not touch on that aspect of it when he engaged in this debate  to-day. Is it not a pity that the old farmer was not considered in time? Is it not a pity that the Government which talks so glibly about what we can do at home did not put that doctrine into practice and pay to native Irishmen what they would pay to the foreigner? Now, when there is a ring of hostile steel around this country we must live on our own produce. We will get that produce if there is an equitable wage all round, and if the Minister for Supplies taps whatever supplies of fertilisers there are in the way of phosphates. They should be exploited or we should be told they are no good and we could stop thinking of them.
I understand that experiments are being carried out by chemists to extract potash from sea water, and that there is 3 per cent. potash in sea water, and also, as the French did, to extract nitrates from the air. I know the Government have knowledge of that, but would like to know what they think of it, and what progress has been made. If we continue tilling an old country that has been tilled for thousands of years, we will not maintain our production unless we put back into the soil the fertility that we take out of it with the crops. While we are shut away from the world sources of fertilisers, the fertility of our land will go down, and no matter what the acreage under tillage may be, in the years to come our produce from it will diminish in quantity.
Will the Minister tell us the cost of the wheat that is on the ocean? I do not ask for the cost of sending over the Minister who is our ambassador, as I do not wish to say anything to him except in the appropriate way, as a member of a Parliament House of any country should speak of a member of the Government when he is representing the country in another court. I am sure he was sent over there with good intentions, and that he did his best to carry out his mission. I do not know exactly what his mission was, but then it is not for everyone to know on what mission a Minister may be sent. I would like the Minister for Supplies to tell the House what this wheat is costing,  and, in dealing with the supplies of wheat that the farmers of this country will put in in the harvest, how his conscience will operate when he finds that the price fixed for this most essential product—wheat—is the smallest price when compared with that of any other product with which he will be dealing.
Mr. Belton: The Minister will find that the reaction has very detrimental national consequences. I hope that he will make proper provision and give advice in the proper quarter to rectify that for the coming year. A request has been made for suggestions. I suggest that a productive council is necessary.
New Year's Day is not the time to send out an S.O.S. for the following harvest. Now is the time to prepare for the 1942 harvest. Personally, I do not think there is a hope in the world that this war will be over by the end of 1942. We should make provision now for essential supplies. I suggest that the Minister, in consultation with his colleagues in Industry and Commerce and Agriculture, should form a productive council to ascertain the supplies essential to keep industry going.
I think I have read lately of Irish wool going abroad. The shortage of cotton here makes it worth while for the Minister to see that we will have some material to provide us with textiles. If there is a danger of our running short of textiles the Minister should become busy. He should conserve for the nation the wool clip of this year and put it with any that has already been stored. He should also conserve the flax crop of this year and get the Minister for Agriculture to offer inducements for an extended cultivation of flax next year. We will need all these things if we are going to  survive this war, which may last, perhaps, for another ten years.
I suggest the Minister should form a productive council. I do not mean that he should harness a lot of fellows who want jobs. We have had enough of that. He should get people together for the purpose of giving him advice, not create permanent positions, but just get together people who are concerned with industry and agriculture and in a position to advise in regard to essential national supplies. In that way he will come down to the practical man; he will be able to feel the pulse of the country in a way that could never be conveyed to him by civil servants. Civil servants have their own jobs and, on the whole they do their work well, but on this council that I suggest he should get men who are putting their shoulders to the wheel in this national emergency. They will give their advice and their experience on various problems from day to day in connection with the production of essential commodities for the nation.
The Minister should consider that matter seriously and, even though he stated in his circular on the 7th January that we must fall back on home production, I do not think he has translated that sufficiently into practice. I think he should forget about receiving anything from abroad. If anything does come in, let it come, but we must attune ourselves to living on the produce of our own fields, factories and workshops. If we do that we will be able to survive the emergency. I suppose this would more properly come under Industry and Commerce, but I am satisfied that the production of turf this year will fall far short of our requirements and it will be too dear.
Mr. Belton: I am sure I can claim your indulgence on this point. When Industry and Commerce has done with turf, it becomes a matter of supply, and I have knowledge of an attempt made in a county that knows little about the cutting of turf——
Mr. Belton: If the Minister wants 3,000,000 tons extra it will be hard to speak on this Vote without having to say something about it. However, if it is not the function of the Minister for Supplies, I should like him to pass the word on to his colleague, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, and indicate that he has grave misgivings as to the quantity of fuel that will be supplied from the bogs this year if the Minister for Industry and Commerce does not become more active in the matter.
Mr. F.H. Crowley: I wish to make an earnest plea for a reconsideration by the Minister of the position in relation to supplies of fuel and oil for our fishing fleet. The fishing fleet has had seven or eight very lean years. The quantity of fish being caught at the present time is fairly considerable, and pretty good prices are being obtained. Latterly there was a curtailment in the supplies of heavy oil and paraffin for the fishing fleet, and I earnestly ask the Minister to reconsider that curtailment, especially in view of the lean years the fishermen have had.
Another point I wish to stress is the desirability of providing coal, heavy oil and paraffin for threshing sets operating throughout the country. I do not think it will meet the case if the owners of threshing sets are compelled to get their supplies from local agents. The Minister ought to ear-mark now a certain quantity of coal, heavy oil and paraffin for threshing purposes, and arrange to have it distributed at a later date. It will be very little use producing the grain crop if it is not presented in an eatable state.
 Another matter that I mentioned before is possibly one for the Department of Industry and Commerce, but when I did refer to it on a former occasion I am not at all sure that I was not told it was the concern of the Department of Supplies. I refer to the all-important subject of providing machinery for producing potato flour. There are a number of these machines operating in England, and they are working successfully in producing potato flour, which is mixed with ordinary wheaten flour. I should like the Minister to reconsider that matter, particularly in view of the excellent potato crop we are likely to have—at least it looks that way down in my part of the country.
Deputy Belton raised one rather important point. He dealt with a matter that I know a fair amount about. He mentioned the textile industry, and I think the Minister would be wise to call together people connected with the cotton, linen and woollen trade, with the object of getting them to cooperate in the production of clothing material for the people. There is a serious shortage of cotton, and I think a satisfactory substitute could be produced. You might have, for instance, a mixture of linen and wool, or a mixture of cotton and wool, and in that way you could get over the difficulty. I understand from people connected with the trade that clothing is going to be a big problem within the next six or seven months.
Captain Giles: It is our duty in a debate of this nature to give the Minister an idea of what the public think in the present situation. We have listened to a tale of woe all through this debate and none of us, I am sure, thought the position was so bad until we heard from the Minister that there is practically nothing left in this country. We have not sufficient supplies of wheat, tea, petrol, kerosene, candles, coal, iron or steel. What is wrong with the country after ten years of a policy of self-sufficiency? I ask Deputies of the Fianna Fáil Party seriously to consider the position that exists. Will they deny that they have wasted the time of this country for at least ten years in a futile policy of self-sufficiency? Is it  not a terrible thing to realise that in our first emergency we find ourselves with absolutely no supplies, and all we have to rely upon is the farmer to produce whatever he can from the land?
Month after month we have lengthy speeches from the Minister for Supplies, very solemn pronouncements, but he never follows up his speeches with any definite action. We know there are racketeers at work, but not one of them has been put behind the bars of Mountjoy. They all get away scot-free. Right along the Border we have a complete racket system in operation. We barter our sugar and the northern boys barter their flour. It is time that the Minister called the bluff. He should round up the racketeers who are living on the unfortunate people, and he should put them where they should be put, behind prison bars. What does the Minister intend to do about it?
He told us that we are running short of supplies. How will they be replaced? Is there anything wrong between this country and Britain? Is there some snarling going on? Is this country being squeezed by Britain? I hope not. If it was being squeezed we would be up against a serious situation. I hope and pray that the freedom which we secured will not have to be bartered for supplies. The Minister is a brave man, and I ask him to take his courage in his hands and go across to meet the Premier, Mr. Churchill, and ask him where do we stand with Britain. We have food supplies that Britain always took from us at a good price, and in return we took the coal, iron and steel which we needed. I understand there is plenty of wheat in Britain. I ask the Minister to call the bluff by going over to Britain, to let the people here see that he is doing something on their behalf, instead of sending over civil servants, and if their mission is a failure no more is heard of it. When the Premier of Australia or of Canada wants to go to Britain the people of these countries know all about his mission, and they hear the result. Here we do not appear to be able to get responsible Ministers to go on official missions. As we are an independent nation, proud of our independence,  it is the duty of the Minister to try to hammer out some agreement. There is no use in depending on America or Japan for assistance. What these countries take from us is an insult. We had a trade agreement with Germany out of which Germany did well, as she got our cattle at sacrifice prices. We also gave Germany the contract for the building of the Shannon scheme, and we got very little in return. The trade agreement between this country and Germany was a disgrace. The trade agreement with America was also a disgrace. We must fall back upon what was known as the old Imperial enemy, who turned out to be a friend when it suited. Now that the Minister is up against a desperate situation as regards supplies, he should let the people know if Britain is trying to squeeze this country and, if so, call their bluff. That would clear the air a good deal, as our people are not satisfied that things are going well. They believe that there is a bit of snarling going on, and that it is time to stop it. Personally, I would not mind the snarling if it paid.
I am not satisfied that the Minister handled the tea question satisfactorily. He should have rationed tea when supplies were available. It was only rationed when the war was going on for a year and after every man who had a £1 to spare had invested it in tea or sugar. Now everyone is rationed to a ½ oz. a week. I say that the wealthy classes are not carrying on with the ½-oz. ration. The poor people have to do with the ½ oz. as they cannot get any more. It is a disgrace to the Minister and to the House to have poor people having to beg farmers to give them the making of a cup of tea, which some of them do not taste once a week. That is unfair when the wealthy classes could have from 50 to 100 lbs. of tea in their larders to supply their wants for the next two or three years. That is the fault of the Minister. I believe it is his duty to give a ration of two or three ozs. to the poor because they were never in a position to buy a ½ lb. The better off people can buy milk, beer or other luxuries which the poor cannot afford. If the  Minister wants to stave off Communism he should arrange that the poor would get a fair share of the necessaries of life. The gentry and those with banking accounts can go into shops and on the nod can get a couple of lbs. of tea. There is no question about the price which varies from 6/- to 7/- per lb. I blame the Minister for that position. He slept on the job, and instead of rationing supplies let well-to-do people fill their larders. That was a shame. He should review the position now.
I consider that the price control situation has been a disgrace. There is really no price control. There are about 100 different prices for commodities in every town and village. The same price is not charged for some articles in any shop. Some shops charge what they like. Unfortunately, as supplies are running out, many people do not care what price they pay if they can secure what they want. If the Minister had done his duty hundreds of profiteers would have been detected. He made many pronouncements about price control but did not take action. I hope he will stop making pronouncements and act now. There has not been one conviction during the last few years. There is no price list in most of the shops, although thousands of officials are going around the country.
Why are not surprise visits paid by officials to countryshops? Why do they not go into those shops and ask for a lb. of tea and see if they are charged 7/- or 8/- for it? If that were done cases could be brought to court. Unless steps are taken to deal with prices there will be trouble, and people may take matters into their own hands.
As the Minister has heard so much about smuggling across the border I ask him to take steps to stop it. This is a great country for producing racketeers. There appears to be more brains interested in racketeering than in honest trading, when more money can be made by it in a shorter time. I know many people who went in for racketeering and although they started with no capital, they are well off to-day. Every penny they have they got it at the expense of people to whom it rightfully belonged. Now, we have  gentry engaged in the smuggling business. They have motor cars, but we do not know where they are getting the petrol. They are smuggling our sugar across the Border, getting friendly with the gents on the other side who, at other times, would spit in their faces. The position at any rate is that the white flour is coming across the Border and our sugar is going out. It is a poor look out for this country when no attempt is being made to stop that. I think the Minister's remark on that was scandalous, when he said: “What matter so long as we get in the flour.” If we want to make friends with the people across the Border we should not encourage that sort of racketeering. I would ask the Government to put a stop to it. We are supposed to be a Christian people. If so we should stop that. The people who have started this will not stop it unless very strong measures are adopted, and if it is allowed to develop much further it may take a dictator or a revolution to put it down.
We see how that kind of thing spreads. In my own county we have had recently two or three bank robberies, men going into small towns with machine-guns in their hands and flouting the authority of the law, telling the Civic Guards to get off the street or else they would blow their heads off. You had farmers scurrying around with their heads down, afraid the racketeers would use the machine-guns against them. Those men went in and robbed our banks in the daylight and got away with it. As I have said, what is going on across the Border is a scandal, and it is time the Government took steps to put an end to it. While you have that class of thing going on, you have on the other hand 200,000 young men who have enrolled themselves in the Defence organisations to prepare themselves to fight in defence of the rights of the people. In view of that, is it right that the Government should sit down and allow the racketeers to carry on? When the young people were appealed to to come forward in defence of the country, they made a fine response, because they are patriotic. I agree that in the present war situation the  Government have a fairly hard job. At the same time we know that there is too much of this bluff being carried on—telling the people that everything is all right when we know that everything is all wrong. As far as I can see, the country would be just as well off if the Department of Supplies had never been set up. All that the Minister has ever done is to tell the country that things are running out. He has never told them where they should look for new supplies, or how they were to get them. I say it is his duty to do that. If he is not prepared to face up to his duty, then he should change places with some other Minister who perhaps would make a better hand of this. All that the present Minister does is to stick his heels in the ground, and to stay there even if the country were to come down on top of him. That is not enough. I think the best move he could make would be to get out of his present office. I am sure there are other Ministers who would make a better attempt to handle the situation. We do not mind failures, but we would like to see the Minister in charge attempting to make good in the office. The best thing that the Minister for Supplies could do would be to go across to Britain himself and see if anything could be done about getting supplies. There is no use in sending over civil servants. The Minister should go himself and call the bluff, if it is bluff.
Captain Giles: The people would think more of the Minister if he were to do that. The Minister yesterday spoke of pit props and made a statement with which I disagree. He said that we would have to stop their export. I regard his statement as very unfortunate since we have to rely on Britain for our supplies of coal. These pit props are useless for fuel purposes, and I do not think their export should be prohibited. Pin pricks of that sort are not going to do any good. They will produce repercussions which will not be good for this country. I do not think we should put any obstacles like  that in the way of our getting whatever supplies of coal we can from the only outside source available to us.
On the question of petrol supplies, I want to say that I think it is a deplorable thing that members of the Dáil, the elected representatives of the people, should be denied a supply, thereby preventing them from visiting their constituents. I live on the borders of my county. I am 18 Irish miles away from the meeting place of the board of health, the county council and of the old age pensions committee. Owing to the fact that I have been deprived of a supply of petrol, I have not been able to attend any of the meeting of these bodies during the past three months. I cannot get to the meeting place by train or bus. The only other means of locomotion available to me is a push-bike. The meetings of the board of health and of the Dáil usually take place on the same day. When we were given a supply of petrol I was able to attend both meetings. Eight or ten gallons a month would enable me to attend the meetings of those bodies. It is not fair to the people who elected me that my supply should be cut off. The Minister should consider the position of country Deputies. People in the country talk a lot about Deputies, about this House and of the contempt they have for them. The Minister, in denying a supply of petrol to Deputies, is simply playing up to those people who now laugh at the position in which we find ourselves. I suppose there would not be more than 60 members of the Dáil requiring this allowance of ten gallons a month. That would be a mere bagatelle when compared to the total distribution of petrol for a month.
Under present circumstances I find myself very badly handicapped. When my constituents write to me I have to tell them that I have no means of going to see them. The best that I can do is to ask them to meet me here on Dáil days. As I have said, I have not been able to attend the meetings of the board of health and of the county council during the last three months. That was unfortunate for my constituents, some of whom were to get my vote for a labourers' cottage,  and others who are relying on me to obtain some relief for them. I am not satisfied at all with the Department of Supplies. I think it is worse than useless. I think the country would be far better off without it. If private enterprise were given full scope the country would be far better off. If given a free hand, private enterprise would have seen to it during the last three years that we would have big stocks of timber and of other things to keep us going during the emergency. Instead of that the Government stepped in and took over control, so that, with all the barriers and restrictions they set up, they really did more harm than good. The result is that the people have no one to look to now. In my opinion the best thing they can do is to fall back on the old Sinn Féin slogan and rely on themselves. They have nobody else to look to.
Mr. Flynn: Much has been said regarding the activities of the Minister and his Department, but I believe that, were it not that his orders had been published and price control exercised from time to time, what is described as profiteering would have progressed by leaps and bounds. It would have been practically impossible to control prices if the Minister had not got these orders published and enforced, in so far as was within his power, in the different localities. There are certain types of cases which the Minister would be well advised to take note of. I shall refer to a matter which has been raised in our country on several occasions—the question of bacon prices. The price received by the producer is, approximately, from 100/- to 105/- per cwt. for the best grade and, evidently, that bacon is retailed at 160/-. That price is quoted as an example of profiteering but, when you deduct the costings and the waste, you find that the difference is not as wide as it at first seems to be. I should like the Minister, however, to take cognisance of these statements and have the matter examined. The greatest complaint is in the case of bacon curers who reject pigs on the ground that they are not up to a certain grade. We  believe that a case can be made to show that that bacon is re-sold as of the grade for which it was rejected— that is to say, that though the producer has not been paid on the basis of grade A, the bacon is sold back to the consumer as grade A.
Mr. Flynn: Evidently there is no check-up in that case. The Department say that they can check it but how can they come along and prove that bacon, classified as grade B and paid for on that basis, is sold to the consumer as grade A, since they have not an inspector on the spot? Some new system should be devised whereby they could bring the bacon curer to account. I should like to have that matter examined by the Minister.
Then there is the question of petrol. We have received various complaints from medical officers and other people in our county that medical officers in Dublin and other large centres get the same allocation of petrol as doctors in the remote parts of Kerry, Mayo or Galway, who have a very extensive area to supervise. The system is, it appears, worked on a horse-power basis. So many gallons per month are allowed per horse-power of the car concerned and the doctor who has only to cover a small area in the city is allocated as many gallons as a doctor in Kerry who has to supervise a mountainous area of 30 or 40 square miles. These points have been put up to us by medical officers in our county and I should like to have them examined. Some adjustment is necessary and I think the Minister would be well advised to arrange that the doctor who can supervise his district without the aid of a car would be deprived of petrol, or given a very small allocation, the petrol thus saved going to the doctor or clergymen in areas such as ours who have to travel on sick calls in remote districts. That is a matter which, I think, should commend itself to the Minister.
As regards tea, various suggestions have been put forward but I think the Minister's Department could not have done better than they did, except in  respect of the question of price. In our county very high prices have been paid for tea. It is the custom to buy the best tea and poor people have been buying inferior tea at very exorbitant prices. The suggestion I make is that, if possible, a standard price be fixed. I know that that is very difficult but it is not beyond the realms of practicability for the Minister and his Department to take all the tea imported, have it bonded as one type and sold out at a standard rate of, say, 2/6 per lb. What I would describe as luxury tea is being sold at 5/- and 7/- per lb. I think that there should be an average and that the matter would be best adjusted in favour of the poor people who are paying exorbitant prices by having that average fixed as the standard price. If the Minister would consider these points, he would be doing good service to the people I represent and the people of the country generally.
May I again make representations on behalf of people engaged in business, people conducting bakeries, people having contracts with the military authorities and hospitals and others who cannot be given a supplementary ration even though allocations are made available to private owners. I think that the whole question should be examined in the light of the importance of those bakeries and trades which are supplying essential commodities. The only other point I desired to raise—I am glad the Minister's Department saw to it—was in relation to oil supplies for fishing boats. I am aware that the Department of Sea Fisheries approached the Department of Supplies and obtained the best terms. There is also the question of supplies of tea for these men. The men engaged in this work, which is very difficult and dangerous, have made special application for a tea quota, and I again urge the Minister's Department to make a special tea allowance for these crews.
Mr. McGovern: After all that has been said for the last few days I do not think it necessary to prolong the discussion. Although I appreciate the difficulties which the Minister for Supplies has to contend with when  supplies are getting short, I do think that there is something in the general complaints that have gone abroad. Everybody is asking: “What is the Department of Supplies doing?” and nobody is able to answer that question. If there is one thing that should be the function of the Minister for Supplies, it is to see that there is a fair and equitable distribution of supplies as far as they go. The Minister, so far as he has done anything, has done the very opposite because at the time when he was taking an inventory of the supplies in the country, he advised everybody, who could afford to do so, to purchase commodities and store them, and thereby he created an artificial scarcity.
The Minister made the greatest mistake of his life when he advised people who could afford to purchase commodities to buy them and to store them. The people took him at his word; people who could afford to do so bought up supplies of all commodities of which there was likely to be a scarcity, and then there was no reserve to meet the requirements of the people who had not the money or the foresight to make purchases at that time. That was a very serious mistake for the Minister, but, as other Deputies have said, there is no use in discussing past mistakes except in so far as they may help us to avoid similar mistakes in future. I hope the Minister will learn from these mistakes of the past and avoid such mistakes in future.
At the present time, in the part of the country from which I come, there is not a drop of paraffin oil to be had. For the last three months we have not been able to get a drop. This statement is not based on hearsay at all, because I know that in the shop in which my household obtains supplies there has not been a drop for some time. When one asks them the reason they say: “Well, you cannot complain, because you are responsible for making the laws up there. You make the laws regulating supplies, and so on.” That is the answer we get. The Minister is here now, and as he is responsible for supplies, he should not get on his high horse when we ask him to ensure that there will be a more equitable distribution of supplies in future.  As other Deputies have pointed out, there is no alternative to paraffin oil for lighting purposes in rural districts. In these districts it is a very important commodity. While there are hundreds of houses which cannot get a single drop—even if the people in these houses have to sit up at night with a sick child or a sick parent, they have not a drop of oil to put in the lamp— I know of other houses which are illuminated with electricity from the Shannon current and which can get oil for cooking purposes. They seem to be able to get all the paraffin oil they want. Whose business is it to look after these matters if it is not the business of the Minister for Supplies? The people who want oil most cannot get it, but the people who do not want it at all for lighting can get it and devote it to a purpose for which it never was intended.
To-day, travelling from Cavan to Dublin, I hired a car to take me to the usual train, but I was not able to reach the station in time to catch the train. I was a couple of minutes late simply because the car could not travel quickly enough owing to the quality of the petrol on which it was driven. I always made it a point to be in good time but I started a quarter of an hour earlier than usual to-day because I had some little business to transact before train time and I intended to have a quarter of an hour to attend to that business. Instead, however, of having a quarter of an hour extra, I found that I was not able to catch the train at all. I suppose the Minister can do very little in regard to the quality of petrol that is supplied but I think it very necessary that owners of taxi-cars who are frequently called upon to take people on urgent business, particularly in my part of the country where there are practically no private cars, should be supplied with a quality of petrol which can be relied upon. The experience I have given shows the quality of petrol that has been supplied in my part of the country. I hope the Minister will see that not only will there be a fair distribution of available supplies but that fair play will also be given in regard to the quality of petrol that is distributed. I know that petrol is  not generally available but it seems that any sort of stuff is good enough to send to certain backward districts that have no railway service or other alternative means of transport. I think if the Department of Supplies is to perform any useful function, it should see that there is an equitable distribution of all available supplies and that those who need oil most should at least get as fair a chance as those who do not need it so badly.
With regard to the question of coal supplies, coal is produced in County Leitrim, about 45 miles from Cavan town, and is being sold at 50/- per ton, that is 5/- a ton more than the price at which British coal was sold there a couple of years ago. I should like to ask if there is any justification for demanding a price as high as that for stuff which would not be burned at all if other coal was available. It is being raised from the surface of the land and has not to be mined like ordinary coal. Why should it cost as much as British coal, which had to be brought 300 or 400 miles, or perhaps a longer distance? This coal, which is brought from 20 miles away, is sold at a much higher price than British coal realised a few years ago. Wages have not increased, and the Minister has taken good care to see that they will not increase. What justification is there for this price for coal which is much inferior to English coal? I am told, I cannot say whether it is a fact, that a very large grant has been given out of public moneys to the company which is producing this coal. The Minister knows whether that is a fact or not, but if a grant has been made out of the taxpayers' money to this company, is there any obligation on the company to supply decent value in so far as it can? This complaint is not confined merely to the town of Cavan. I have heard it in Ballinamore in the County Leitrim and all round that district. There is a general complaint there about the price that is charged, and there seems to be no justification for the increase that has taken place. It is merely due to profiteering, to the fact that the producers of the coal are taking advantage of the present situation.
 When the Minister or anybody else talks about profiteers, we should be reasonable and ask ourselves who are the profiteers and who can profiteer. Certainly not the man who has to compete with everybody else who is a small merchant. The small merchants are in competition with everybody engaged in the same business. The people who can profiteer with impunity are the men who have a monopoly in the production of coal, the curing of pigs, or anything of that kind. They are not engaged in open competition.
The Minister seems to look very lightly on the actions of these people and, as Deputy Hickey pointed out, will find excuses for them. He will not wait for them to make excuses themselves, but will find excuses for them. Nobody but those people who have a monopoly can profiteer and I think these monopolists should be kept in their places. If they have privileges, they should also have obligations, and should be expected to deal honestly with the public and not to take advantage of a scarcity to fill their own pockets. The Minister should not connive at their actions—I hope he does not—but it has been very often brought to his notice that these things are happening and he has not taken very strong measures. In fact, I do not know that he has taken any measures. If the Department of Supplies has any useful function, it should be to see that there is an equitable distribution of commodities and that advantage is not taken of a scarcity by people who have a monopoly and who have received grants and other benefits from Government Departments. It is neither fair nor right that they should do so.
The Minister also referred to the rationing of clothes. Why should there be any necessity for rationing clothes in this country, where we have more of the raw material, wool, than we know what to do with? We have not been able to sell wool for the last two or three years, and now we cannot get clothes made. Is that the result of the ten years of Fianna Fáil policy of setting up factories to make clothes? Who has prevented us now from being  able to manufacture our own clothes when we have an abundance of raw materials? The farmers are robbed because they cannot sell their wool at a paying price. They have been trying to give it away and have found themselves unable to dispose of it, and now we are told that clothes must be rationed. The Minister should tell us why.
With regard to the quality of feeding stuffs, when the Vote for the Department of Agriculture was under consideration, I brought in a sample of the sort of feeding stuff being supplied to the unfortunate feeders of fowl and pigs. The price at which that was being sold was 2/10 a stone. Who was responsible for that? It was not the small merchant. It was the men with the monopoly, the millers, and the Minister did nothing about it. That price was being charged for a most inferior article. As other Deputies have pointed out, it was not fit to give to any animal. I would not let any animal use it, and yet it cost 2/10 a stone. People who were hard up and had no other food for feeding fowl or pigs bought anything they could get, but it is not right that such an article as that should have been foisted on them at such a price.
There is another point which I think should be a matter for the Department of Supplies. Has that Department, or the Department of Agriculture, taken any steps to provide for the killing and canning of cattle, if necessary? In view of the foot-and-mouth disease epidemic and the stoppage of live cattle exports, when the autumn comes on there will be a very large supply of cattle, and it might be necessary to kill cattle which will not be forward enough for killing. The Department of Supplies, or some other Department, should take time by the forelock and look ahead in regard to what is to be done in that respect. Have we plenty of tins for canning, if it becomes necessary to can? Have we factories to deal with the extra cattle which may have to be dealt with after a couple of months, in case the necessity for canning should arise, as I am afraid it will? It is a matter of which I should like the Minister to take a note, because it may be necessary to  kill an extra number of cattle for export as dead meat. If it is not possible to export them without canning, can we get sufficient cans or substitute containers? I hope it will not be necessary, but it is no harm to mention these matters, because any hints may be useful in a time like this, when we cannot say what is going to crop up, and it is as well to look ahead.
A Deputy on this side referred to the slaughter of pigs and suggested the making of an order in that respect. I hope he did not mean a compulsory order, because anything of a compulsory nature should be well studied before being put into operation. It might be a very good thing in certain circumstances, but it always requires to be studied very carefully. The pig is an animal which consumes a lot of offal and waste food, and I know that in our part of the country, about three months ago, everybody wanted to get out of pigs. Now I find that the thing was somewhat overdone and people are paying very high prices for pigs, because they find that, having got their seed potatoes into the ground, they have potatoes over that were likely to last longer than they might want them, in view of the new crop coming in, and pigs got very scarce because everybody was looking for them in order to make use of the old potatoes which were going to loss. Besides, there is a danger that, if pigs were slaughtered, there would be a shortage of bacon. In fact, there is no doubt that there would be a shortage, and it would be unwise to go in for a policy of wholesale and indiscriminate slaughter. While it might be useful in certain districts, I do not think the Minister should do anything drastic in the way of making a compulsory order.
Deputy Flynn has referred to the price of pigs in relation to the price of bacon, and I entirely agree with him on that point. The matter has been raised very often in this House, and neither the Minister for Supplies, nor any other Minister, has taken any steps to curtail these exorbitant profits, or to keep the curers within reasonable bounds. I know they can put up a very good case, and produce facts and figures to show that they are doing  nothing but what is right, but facts can be produced to show that curers elsewhere, in Northern Ireland, for instance, at the time these people were making a good case for themselves that they were only charging reasonable prices, were able to give more for the pigs and sell the bacon much cheaper. So there was something wrong somewhere, and everybody knows it.
Still, it is very hard to prove it against these people, who make a study of the matter, and can make an excellent case out of a bad one and be very convincing; when they go on a deputation to the Minister they can put up a very plausible case before him. There is profiteering, nevertheless, as Deputy Flynn pointed out and as everybody knows, and the Minister should see that those people who have a monopoly should not be allowed to get away with it, and he should see that they should do something decent in return for the advantages they are getting at the expense of the country. People who have privileges of that kind are bound in common decency to give a return to the people for whom they are intended to cater.
After all that has been said during the last couple of days, I hope the Minister will pay more attention to these matters, and that supplies will be distributed as equitably as possible. Up to this all that people have been getting in some parts of the country, when things are run out, is, like the clown in the circus, the “shorts,” and I suggest that the Minister, instead of being a Minister for Supplies, has turned out to be a Minister for Shortages. I hope, however, that he will see that whatever is to be distributed will be distributed as fairly as possible.
Mr. Coburn: I quite realise that the Minister's present position is a rather difficult one, and I can also appreciate the fact that, great as the difficulties have been in the past, possibly they will be increased in the very near future. It is as well that the people of this country should recognise that fact, and, recognising it, face up to it. One point that I wish to call to the Minister's attention is the question of  coal supplies so far as the future is concerned. I do not know whether the Minister has yet come to any decision in regard to the distribution of whatever coal supplies may come to this country in the future. I think it should be only a matter of common sense that any coals that do come in should be reserved for the counties that do not produce turf to any great extent, and that absolutely no coal should be sent to counties that can provide their own fuel by means of the turf that exists within those counties. I am sure the Minister will see that that would be the best way, so far as the future is concerned, to deal with the matter— to reserve the coal that comes in here for those particular counties.
There is another matter that I should like to refer to in connection with coal. I do not know if the Minister is aware of this, but perhaps he would inform the House whether it is a fact that coal merchants in this country, when ordering coal from the merchants on the far side, were informed by letter that they would have to get, first, the consent of the Department of Supplies here before the coal could be sent, in addition to getting leave from the Ministry of Control in England. I do not know whether or not there is any truth in that story but I have seen correspondence recently to the effect that that is so. If it is so, it is very strange that there is not more coal coming into this country. It is an extraordinary thing if the people on the far side who supply merchants here, in addition to getting consent from their own Minister, express the view that it would help if they had the consent of the Department of Supplies on this side. I should like the Minister to deal with that point because it was a revelation to me, at any rate, that that was so.
In connection with the fuel problem and the question of petrol, I would ask the Minister to do something by way of providing extra supplies for those who will be engaged in the removal of turf, when it will be saved, from the bogs. At the present time, although county Louth is not what you would call a turf-producing county,  yet in one or two areas, acting on the advice of the Government, the people there have thrown themselves wholeheartedly into turf production where turf exists, but there will be a difficulty in the matter of transporting that turf. It is in a very difficult situation, on the top of a mountain, and when that turf is saved, if it is to be got to the various towns and villages throughout the county it will be absolutely necessary that a good supply of petrol be kept in reserve for the many vehicles, such as lorries and so on, that will be requisitioned if that turf is to be delivered in time. I hope the Minister will keep these things in mind, especially the question of petrol for the transport of turf during the next few months.
Deputy McGovern referred to the question of paraffin oil, and I think that, undoubtedly, grievances do exist amongst the people who formerly made a living by going around retailing paraffin oil. There, again, I know that the Minister is up against difficulties and circumstances over which he has no control. We import all these things. We have not developed the policy of self-sufficiency to such an extent that we can do without petrol and paraffin oil. These things are not produced here, and therefore have to be imported. Naturally, in the circumstances that exist at the moment, the Minister is not in a position to know what quantities he will get in the future, if any at all. It all depends. The sources from which we get our supplies are not available, and, therefore, it is very difficult to estimate what will be the position in the future so far as paraffin oil is concerned; but there are large numbers of hardworking people who earned a living by going around with a little pony and cart, selling this oil to the people in the rural parts of the country. I came across one of them about a week ago, a poor, frail little fellow, about 35 or 36 years of age. He was physically frail, of course, but had a great spirit. He had always earned an honest living, and he does not want to go on the dole, and he said to me, rather jokingly: “I will have to consult a solicitor and take an action against the Minister if he  does not arrange to give me a little more paraffin oil so that I can earn a living.” Of course I explained to him that, as far as the Minister is concerned, it was not his fault, and that even the person from whom he got his supplies formerly had not a drop of paraffin oil.
That just shows how honest, hardworking people are being deprived of their living at the moment owing to the fact that there is no paraffin oil to be got, and if there is any to be got in the near future, I would ask the Minister to take into account the position of those people, so as to enable them to carry on in the future as they have in the past.
That applies also to another section. I refer to men who buy coal from the merchants and retail it out in small quantities to their customers. They are called bell-men in Dublin and other cities, but they are just called hawkers of coal in the rural areas. Some of those people are under the impression that they are legally entitled to get a supply of coal from the merchants. That is a position I would like to have cleared up. It places Deputies in an awkward position when they cannot answer questions put to them about that. These men will tell you they heard on the wireless that they were entitled to get their quota so long as there was coal in the coalyards. On the other hand, the merchants may argue that the quantity of coal they have at their disposal is only such that their own men will be able to deliver it. If the Minister would state here and now in his reply as to whether those men are entitled to get any quota of that coal as long as it is there, then one would know where one stood. The men would know where they stood and the Deputies of the House would be able to tell those people what the position really is at the present time.
I do not intend to go into the question of wheat and all the other things that have been mentioned in the debate. It is sufficient to say that what has been done cannot be undone. The wheat is in the ground, and whether we have enough or not does not depend on the price that is going to be given next August or September. Therefore,  Deputy Belton need not have devoted 90 per cent. of his speech to deploring the fact that it was because 50/- a barrel was not paid for the wheat, that there is not sufficient wheat. The truth is, with all respect to Deputy Belton, that there was another factor in regard to the quantity of wheat sown this year, and that was a factor over which Deputy Belton or the Minister or any other person has no control, namely, the weather. The weather had a great deal to do with it. It may be that the Minister for Agriculture was lax in not giving warning in time, but whether the wheat was £5 or £6 a barrel would not make any difference. I do not know that in the difficult times through which we are passing the question of price comes into the thing at all. If this little country is to exist and if the people are as patriotic as they pretend to be, it is not of £ s.d. they should be thinking. They should be thinking of growing more food for the people.
I am just as sympathetic with the farmers as any other Deputy. I suppose Deputy Belton had 100 acres sown before there was a question of whether the price would be 40/- or 50/-. That matter does not weigh at the present time. The fact is that it will require the co-operation of all the people to get through the difficult times ahead and, notwithstanding what has been said in this House, my experience is that the people are, in the main, co-operating and that they realise the seriousness of the position. I was out on the top of Omeath mountain last week. Where, a few weeks ago, it was a home for the little mountain sheep, last week it was a hive of industry. There were about 400 or 500 men there. It was a sight that gave me great pleasure. I went amongst the men there and found that some of them have been unemployed for a considerable time. Possibly they had very little to eat during the day but they have gone out day after day, travelling three long miles up a rugged path to the top of that mountain. The turf is on the very top and they work hard all day. There are men working on the road there. At 6 o'clock in the evening they have a cup of tea and go  back again until eleven at night. The people in general are realising the position and that should be all the more reason why we in this House should do all we possibly can to set a good example. If we were to go amongst our people in the country and get into the work ourselves we might possibly do a great deal more than we do by crying over what might have been done or what should have been done and what should not have been done. We have to look to the future now with confidence. It is not the first time that some of us found that we did not get all we wanted and it is not the first time some of us had to make sacrifices. There are people making sacrifices every day in the week, the unemployed and men with large families. As far as my experience goes, much of the criticism and much of the discontent comes from people who possibly have very little to grumble about at the present time.
It is a good thing to warn the Minister at times about things that were not looked after at the proper time. It is well to remind the Minister of that so that the same mistake will not be made in future but, as far as I am personally concerned, I think what we should do now is to look to the future with confidence. Let us all pull together and work together because if this war lasts for a year or two, there is no doubt about it, we are going to endure much harder times. I do not consider that the times are rather hard, because I am wise enough to know they can be much more difficult and severe, especially on the poor of this country. We may as well face up to the situation and realise the fact that we will have to do without a great many of the things to which we have been accustomed. The position is alarming from one point of view. I never knew the people of this country depended to such an extent upon imported foodstuffs. It seems to me that very large sections of our people depended on the tin opener to the neglect of the healthy food that is produced within our own country. That is a revelation to me. Let us hope that in so far as the future is concerned the position will  not be any worse than it has been in the past, but we must be prepared, no matter what comes or goes, to make the best of it. As I said, our people are doing their part and it will be up to the Government and the Deputies of this House to try to do their part also for the people of this country who, under very difficult circumstances, are doing their share to ensure that, so far as fuel is concerned, we will not go short in the coming winter.
Seosamh O Mongáin: Tá mise ag labhairt ar son na ndaoine atá dhá scór no leithchéad míle ar a laighead o cheann an ráille, daoine a bheas fágtha amuigh ar an iargcúil agus ar an aistreán mara gcuire an tAire dlús le n-a ndóthain, no cuid dá ndóthain, petrol a choinneál dóibh. Ní hionann, dar ndóigh, comórtus dóibh siúd agus do na daoine atá in aice le stáisiún an ráille, ach, cho fada agus is léar dhomsa, is ionann an cás ag an Aire iad. Isé an tos céanna petrol atá sé a thabhairt do lorries atá ag rith le taobh an ráille agus atá sé a thabhairt do lorries amuich in áiteacha ar nós Chonamara a bhfuil trí fichid míle go Gaillimh ortha agus trí fichid míle eile amach ar ais aríst. Ní deacair, chor ar bith, a dhéanamh amach cáide théigheas dhá fhichead galún sa mí ar a leithidí siúd.
Tá aithne agam ar fhear a raibh margadh déanta aige le fear eile móin a choinneál leis. Ní raibh lá nach raibh an fear eile sin ag cur telegram chuige ag iarraidh air móin a chur chuige. Ní raibh ach díol seachtaine de phetrol ag an bhfear sin agus ní raibh sé i ndon móin a choinneál leis. Ní féidir le móin dul ar eiltreoig go Gaillimh; ní mor í iompar ann. Tá an mhóin annsin ach níl aon deis ann le n-a hiompar 'un margadh. Isé ceart an Aire cuimhneamh ar dhaoine den tsórt sin. Tá fhios agam go rí-mhaith gur mór an lán imní atá ar an Aire agus gur iomdha cúis aige leis, ach níor cheart comórtus a dhéanamh idir lorries atá an oiread sin mílte ó láthair agus lorries a bhíos ag obair in aice leis an ráille. Tá mé ag iarraidh d'fhabhar speisialta ar an Aire cuimhneamh ar na lorries atá cho fada sin amach ar an iargcúil. Isé an méid chéanna freisin den phetrol fhaghas  carrannaí tuarastail atá i bhfad ón ráille agus iad siúd atá in aice leis an ráille.
Is mór an buille ar an tír a ghainne atá an ola mhór agus coinnle. Nuair chuaidh na hoicheanta 'un síneadh ní raibh léargus le fáil ag duine bheadh ag dul an bóthar oíche dhorcha ar theach ar bith. Cheapfadh sé nach raibh teach ar bith sa tír. Ní raibh aon tsolus le feiceál mara mbeadh lóchrann teine mhaith go díreach ann amach tríd an dorus. Má leanann sin an geimhreadh seo chugainn beidh an tír in aon rí-rá amháin. Ba cheart don Aire, sa gcás seo aríst, cuimhneamh ar dhaoine den tsórt seo agus níos mó ola mhór a thabhairt dóibh ná dóibh siúd a bhfuil comhnaí orthu in aice le áit a bhfuil fáil ar sholus leictric. Isé an chosúlacht atá ann go bhfuil lá na bhfáideog chugainn aríst, ach, faoi láthair, níl na fáideogaí sáthach stáluithe le lasadh agus nuair a bheas féin ní bheidh an ghréis againn dóibh.
Maidir leis an leath-únsa tae dhe, dar ndóigh is beag an éifeacht é in áiteacha ar nós Chonamara san áit nach mbíonn ach fíor-bheagán bainne go hiondúil. Cluinim go bhfuil an tAire ag tabhairt beagán le cois den tae do mheithealacha bhainte móna, ach céard faoi na daoine atá ag baint mhóna dóibh féin agus dá gcomhluadair agus le haghaidh an mhargaidh? Níl truaigh ar bith dóibh siúd ná aon áird orthu. Bíodh is gur in iargcúil na tíre féin atámuid ba cheart cuimhneamh orainn agus gan dearmad ar fad a dhéanamh orainn.
Mr. Cosgrave: This is the third time we have had a discussion on supplies in the Dáil this year. The first debate took place somewhere about January last. On the occasion of the first discussion we were told by the Taoiseach that the Ministry was aware of the danger which faced the country as far back as December, 1938, and that they took steps from that period, or, to use their own language, they made their plans to deal with the situation which was then known to the Government to be arising. Now it transpires in the course of some of the speeches that have been made either by himself or by his Ministers that, although stating that there was a possibility of war, they knew that they would have to  face the criticism of the Opposition if they made plans for a situation which did not arise. From those observations, as well as from practically every speech that I heard since this debate began from that side over there, it is quite obvious that the first consideration present in the minds of the Ministry is their position in public life. The country is a secondary consideration. Unemployment and everything else are subordinate to the one overriding and dominating factor for them, and that is, how can they remain in office and how long are they to remain in office. As I have said before here in this House, no one in this country had the information that the Ministry had concerning international affairs. No one outside the Ministry could say with any degree of certainty whatever whether there was going to be peace or war. They were the best-informed with regard to the international situation, and upon them devolved the duty of taking the necessary steps to put this country in a position to weather the storm when it did break.
What would they do? According to their own publications the value of the imports for the years 1937, 1938, 1939 and 1940 were as follows:— £44,108,000 in 1937; £41,414,000 in 1938; £43,415,000 in 1939, and £40,799,000 in 1940. They are the “plans”. If we were told the truth by the Ministry, they would get much greater co-operation. If the Ministry paid as much attention to the truth or to doing their jobs as they do to their political livelihood, it would be very much better for the country. According to those figures, it is obvious that they have failed in their job. They either did not believe there was going to be a war, or they took no steps to deal with it. They did even worse; they told the people that they knew it, and that they did take the necessary steps. Why did they deceive the people with regard to that? For the ten years that I was over there they sapped the confidence of the people in the Ministry that was there, knowing full well that they were telling untruths. Now that they are over there themselves, they were so long accustomed to telling untruths that they  cannot stop; so they go on with it. That is the sort of thing that is shaking public confidence in Ministries, and which damages public life through the lack of confidence resulting from it.
When Deputy Mulcahy was speaking yesterday in connection with wheat imports, the Minister interrupted him to ask had there not been an increased acreage under wheat during the last three or four years. The wheat imports for 1936 were over 8,000,000 cwts. There were 139,000 cwts. of flour imported, and the acreage under wheat at that time was 254,000 acres. In the following year, 1937, the imports were almost 6,500,000 cwts. of wheat, and 117,000 cwts. of flour, while 220,000 acres were under wheat.
In 1938, almost 7,600,000 cwts. were imported and 101,000 cwts. of flour, while 230,000 acres were under wheat. In 1939—the year in which the preparations were being made and that the plans had been put into operation, the year that the new Department had been set up under the Minister and the Department of Industry and Commerce —there was imported 7,250,000 cwts. of wheat—350,000 cwts. less than the previous year; we imported 96,000 cwts. of flour and there were 255,000 acres under wheat. It is scarcely necessary to give last year's figures in order to complete the picture. There were 6,637,000 cwts. of wheat and 79,000 cwts. of flour imported and we were told there were 305,000 acres under wheat. As a matter of fact, the tonnage of flour was only the same as in the previous year, about 250,000 tons.
There is the story with regard to the plans that had been made. Yet we are asked to give constructive suggestions, by a Deputy who said he sat here for the five hours' debate. The first constructive suggestion I would make to the Government is, to tell the truth, to do their job. One wonders what occasions the situation with regard to tea. The tea imports are almost a revelation in themselves. In 1937, we imported 25,251,000 lbs. of tea; in 1938 —the year of the commencement of the plans which had been made—the import  figure was 22,675,000 lbs.; in 1939 —the second year of the plans— 21,857,000 lbs. were imported; and in 1940, the figure was 23,597,000 lbs. It is quite obvious there was no plan whatever. If there were, we would like to hear about it.
In my constituency the business people came to a conference within the past month, and reviewed the general situation with regard to commodities. Their considered opinion was that the business people of this country would be far better able to get imports if the Department were out of the way; that, as a matter of fact, the Department of Supplies was hindering them in getting imports. That is not a statement from a politician, but from people in business who have had experience of the work of the Department. From my own knowledge, received from one member of the front bench here who has contact with the business, that particular business made an agreement of its own with some business people in Great Britain and, not being hampered by the Department, is better able to do its job. It is a very nice question for the House and for the country to decide whether we would not be better off without this Ministry at all.
Mr. Cosgrave: May I give that advice to the Minister, whom I have never known to be right in any statement of the kind? May I ask him to check up on it? The Minister, as far as I can judge, has done simply one thing: he has concentrated upon rationing and prices. Listening to the Minister's speech, and having read the whole of it and some parts of it twice, I wonder at the waste of time involved in a statement of that sort—a two-hours' statement which could have been compressed into half an hour, unless the desire was to mislead. Take one particular example, his description of the way to control prices and his statement that the control of prices was to ensure that there would not be undue profit-making.
 I do not know whether that is a Civil Service or a Ministerial interpretation of it, but what the business people and the consumers are concerned about is the cheapness of an article, if they are in a position to buy it. We can ensure that there is no undue profit in respect of the handling of an article, but when it passes through half a dozen different hands, one getting 10 per cent., another 5 per cent. and others smaller sums, the ultimate cost will be very considerable. There are certain items with which the Minister will not interfere. He mentioned one of them, which, I think, was a very foolish indiscretion on his part. He said that someone had telephoned his Department regarding a taxi-cab fare. If my information is correct, all one has to do is to go to the nearest police station and have that settled. It is no business of the Minister's at all, as I understand there is a regulation price.
The object in setting up this Department of Supplies was to get goods. The Government has sent a Minister to the United States of America, from which we buy very much less than we get from Britain. Why is it that no Minister has been sent to Britain? Is it because the Prime Minister would not go and that every other Minister was afraid to go, thinking the same thing might happen as happened 20 years ago? If that is so, we are being served by a very poor class of public representative. What reason can they give for having made no effort to meet British Ministers? Surely, if business people here are not afraid to meet them, our Ministers should not be afraid? What is their objection? They say they are in contact with them. Some Deputy on the opposite benches mentioned that the British had established a Minister here and that that had been sanctioned by the Government. He used some particular term I cannot remember. He said that the Government had actually set up a British Minister here in order to do that sort of thing. That cannot be so, as we have also an American Minister here and, if the Deputy's information were correct, why was it necessary to send a Minister to the United States?  Surely we buy very much more from Britain than from the United States?
In the course of his statement the Minister says that, taking the period of the last twelve months, there was no relative increase here beyond the increase in the cost of living in Great Britain. In his reply would he tell us how we stood with regard to relative comparisons at that time—if we were not high and they low? Let us take a certain period and assume that there has been no rise from that period. What is the relative comparison of the two index prices?
Mr. Cosgrave: Well, we might have reached a peak point at that period, and consequently any rise would either not be recorded or would not extend very considerably beyond that peak. Would that not have something to do with it? Apparently the Minister does not want to understand the position.
Mr. Cosgrave: We have to be thankful for small mercies. If that be so, the Minister might have saved himself the trouble of making his statement, because nobody will believe it—certainly I do not. What was the Minister's Department doing in connection with the oats ramp, when farmers sold oats nine or ten months ago at 12/- and 15/- a barrel and the price of seed oats later was 25/- to 35/- a barrel? Why was there not more consideration for the farmers? Is the Minister aware that oats could be bought freely nine or ten months ago at 12/- and 15/- and for seeding purposes they cost anything from 25/- to 35/-?
What foresight was there in connection with the provision of fertilisers? Is there going to be any effort made to  get fertilisers this year? Whatever may be said about the wheat policy, unless fertilisers are available and the war finishes very soon, the land in this country will go through a process of deterioration which will take a very long time to correct. If fertilisers are not available the yield next year will certainly be seriously affected. Have the Government given any consideration to the difficulties of farmers in connection with feeding stuffs? Feeding stuffs, under the new system, are dear and not of the best quality. You cannot expect people to put their heart into the business in these circumstances.
Consider the position of the farming community at the present time. The foot-and-mouth disease has practically stopped the sale of cattle. Almost all the seeds the farmers require for tillage purposes are far beyond the prices that obtained last year and fertilisers and other manures are difficult to procure. There are no fairs or markets worth speaking of. Feeding stuffs were never as high as they are to-day. In these circumstances the needs of the people affected, in so far as they can be remedied, ought to be remedied. In one particular direction at least an effort should be made to meet requirements and that is in connection with supplies of paraffin for lamps.
In addition to the rural districts, this applies with considerable force to cities like Dublin, Cork, Limerick, and Waterford, where the inhabitants of working-class houses depend upon paraffin for lighting purposes. A special effort should be made to meet the requirements of the people in this connection. The ordinary normal steps that have been taken are apparently inadequate. What are the Government going to do about it? Will they make the special effort that is required?
The Minister is very largely advised by civil servants. My information is that businessmen's appreciation of our Civil Service is at a very low ebb. The more they are regimented by the Civil Service, the more they find themselves hampered in getting supplies. The suggestion is that the more they are hampered the more likely is there to be division and suspicion, non-co-operation  and dissatisfaction. I consider that it is very inadvisable that that sort of thing should be allowed to occur. The Minister is very much out of touch with the country if he thinks that that element has not grown during the last 12 or 18 months. It is not a time when we can afford to see dissatisfaction and discontent growing, particularly amongst the business community.
So far as business people are concerned, they are not satisfied that the Minister or his Department is helping them in the way they ought to be helped, and unless something more useful is done by the Department in getting commodities—and the general impression is that they can be got— dissatisfaction and discontent are bound to grow, and I suggest it is not in the interest of the country that that should be allowed.
Mr. Lemass: Deputy Cosgrave came in at the end of a long debate on the problem of supplies and he made his contribution to the wisdom of the Dáil upon that problem. I think he would have been much better advised to have stayed out. I do not think he has added very considerably to his reputation.
Mr. Lemass: Deputy Cosgrave's main theme was the dishonesty of members of the Government, their inability to tell the truth, and he expressed the opinion that they are more concerned with their political fortunes than with the work their offices imposed upon them. These are not very profound observations and it was not a very statesmanlike speech. The country is facing a supply problem which is likely to produce economic and social consequences of the first magnitude. Probably at no time in the history of this country, certainly within the last 100 years, except perhaps during the period of the Famine, were the conditions more serious than they are to-day. The curtailment, through causes outside our control, of our international trade, is likely to produce, not merely a shortage of  essential commodities, but a disorganisation of our industrial machine, of our whole commercial organisation, and it is with that situation the Dáil is called upon to deal. I think we might have expected from the Leader of the main Opposition a more serious contribution than we have just had.
If we have got to deal this evening, not with the plans of the Government and the alternative plans of the Opposition for dealing with the situation, but instead with charges of dishonesty and untruthfulness or be concerned with political reputations, let it be so. That has been the main theme of the debate. I have listened for two days to the usual abuse which is the stock-in-trade of third-rate politicians when their ideas run. I am incompetent, inept and dishonest. I heard all that before. Deputy Dillon thought of a new one. I am lazy. I think that is dreadfully unfair, but it at least has a certain ring of novelty about it. Accusations in the past were about misdirected energy. Apparently that particular line has lost force, and now, according to Deputy Dillon, I am lazy. That type of personal abuse does me no harm, certainly not as much harm as to those responsible for it. That is my opinion. I am here to defend my conduct as Minister for Supplies and the operation of the Department of which I am in charge, and I am prepared to do so, both in so far as the Dáil may be concerned with its general activities, or with any particular activity upon which it has been engaged. I did not want to have to waste time refuting all the stupid, silly charges which were made by Deputies who had nothing better to say. A few Deputies made a serious contribution to the discussion and dealt with matters of vital importance. Deputy Morrissey, surprising enough, was one of those.
Other Deputies also took the situation as seriously as he did, and gave us either the benefit of their suggestions or brought to the notice of the House problems that were likely to arise, problems on which it was the responsibility of the Government to make plans. If all Deputies did that this debate would be useful. As it is, I will have to spend some time now,  because I cannot ignore all Party considerations, in refuting charges which have no real importance, to answer arguments which were purely of a Party kind as well as dealing with the very serious matters with which this House should be properly concerned.
Deputy Cosgrave has a knack of misusing figures. I am not going to suggest that he deliberately misused figures this evening. I do not think he did. I believe he did not know how to avail of the figures supplied to him to get the information he wanted, and consequently was led to a false conclusion. He has done that before in relation to matters dealt with to-night. The allegation has been made here frequently that the emergency supplies branch of the Department of Industry and Commerce, which was set up in September, 1938, did not produce tangible results in the form of extra supplies before the beginning of the war. Deputy Cosgrave made that assertion to-night, and supported that assertion, as he did before, by quoting import figures for the whole of 1938 and comparing them with the import figures for the whole of 1939. Such figures clearly could prove nothing.
The emergency supplies branch of the Department of Industry and Commerce commenced operations in September, 1938, and the war started in September, 1939. Every Deputy has been supplied, not merely with the annual figures of imports of various commodities but also with the monthly figures, and if Deputies were really curious about the results of the operations of that particular branch of the Department, they could have found out what the imports were during the 12 months from September, 1938, to the same month in 1939, the year in which that branch was in existence, and compared those figures with similar figures for a similar period in other years. That would involve a little work. It was easier to take the annual figures, as Deputy Cosgrave did, particularly when they supported the conclusion he wanted to arrive at. If he had done as I suggested or took the simple course of comparing the first eight months of 1939 with the same  period in 1938, he would have found how wrong his conclusion was.
The emergency supplies branch of the Department was set up, not to buy or to store on behalf of the Government stocks of essential supplies but to assist and to encourage the private interests responsible for the import of various commodities to buy and store additional supplies. It is very easy to be wise after the event. Everyone knows now that the war started in September, 1939. It did not start in October, November or December. It did not start earlier or later. We all know that now, but those responsible for the emergency supplies branch in the early part of 1939 had not then the knowledge we have now.
They had to conduct their operations in the light of the uncertainty concerning future events which we always will have and which a wise Providence has so decreed. Nevertheless, as a result of its activities there was imported in the first half of the year a substantially increased volume of essential goods as compared with any other year. The figures for the whole of 1939 prove nothing. Deputy Cosgrave quoted figures relating to tea. There was a period in 1939, after the war began, in which no tea was imported, and that fact invalidates any conclusion based on the annual figures. Taking the figures for the first eight months of 1939 and comparing them with the figures during the same period in 1938, it will be found that there was a considerable addition to the quantity of tea imported, although the tea importers with whom we were in contact, and whom we were urging to import supplies, urged us to postpone bringing in increased supplies until the months of September and October when fresh tea would be on the market. Deputies may or may not know that the tea harvest begins in June, and continues into July and August, and that tea imported in the early part of the year would be last season's tea. Those who were urged to lay in additional stocks suggested that they should postpone buying these stocks until fresh tea  was available, which they said could be brought here in September and October.
Of course these people did not know what we know now, that war was going to start the first week in September. They thought, perhaps, that they would have a little longer time. Although that was their opinion, and they were strong in that opinion, nevertheless increased supplies were brought in. The same is true of wheat, substantially increased quantities being brought in. That is true in relation to coal. At least 250,000 additional tons of coal were imported. It is true about cocoa, the imports of which were doubled compared with a similar period in the year. It was true in relation to sugar, the imports of which were nearly doubled compared with the previous year. It was also true in relation to a number of other commodities. Deputies will not find that out by taking the annual figures of 1938 and comparing them, as Deputy Cosgrave did, with the figures for 1939.
Deputies who want to find the truth will go about the investigation in another way. If they do they will find that the emergency supplies branch, working in the circumstances of 1939, without having any certainty that war was going to start that year at all, and having to carry out operations by influencing people many of whom did not believe or could not be convinced that there was going to be a war or that it would start that year—people who were asked to risk their money and carry out business operations on the assumption that we were correct in our belief that it was probable there was going to be a war—produced results which have had a substantial influence on the fact that this country has suffered less from the war, so far, than most European countries. I move to report progress.
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