Thursday, 29 October 1942
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Order, to which very serious objection is taken by me, was issued  under the emergency powers which were granted to the Minister for the purpose of preserving, during the emergency, the life of the community, dealing with supplies and any other matter affecting the safety or preservation of the State. Under the powers so provided we find an Order issued concerning the affairs of a particular company, as a result of which the Government take over that company, make it practically a Government company, apparently appoint a board, and take other action of that kind. Under Order No. 194 the Government indicate that no person, having made a contract with the company concerned-that is, Irish Steel-shall be able in any way to take legal or other steps that might be necessary to secure that the contract will be carried out; that no person to whom the company owes a salary shall be able to recover that salary; that no person to whom it owes fees or commission or payments of any kind will be able to seek legal redress if these payments are not made.
The Order puts the general shareholders in the same position as any person who has a claim against the company; that is, they are completely cut away from safeguarding their interests by making claims against the company. In addition, the shareholders and the debenture holders are prevented from exercising the power they normally would have in connection with the company's affairs. Here we have in operation an Emergency Powers Order which is intended to deal, during the emergency, with exceptional circumstances. Under this particular Order the company is made a Government company, and all persons having claims against the company before the date the Government took over are prevented from exercising their rights. What the position of that company will be when the emergency passes, and the powers given to the Government under the Emergency Act cease to have effect, I do not know.
We are presented with two sets of facts. First of all, where people established a company and had an interest in it, the Government have completely cut out that interest. As I said before,  when we were continuing the Emergency Powers Act, I believe it is a blow to general credit that the Government could do such a thing. No statement has been presented to the House, or was made at the time the Order was issued, giving an explanation why this particular industry should be treated in this way, and why the people who have claims upon the company should be treated in the way in which they are being treated. We do not know what other industry may, in the future, be treated by the Government in the same way. We do not know what industries may have to be established during the emergency. If it is necessary to establish industries during the emergency, I do not know how anybody can expect that they will get capital if a sword like this is left hanging over their heads by the Government.
Even if a complete statement of the facts were issued by the Government at the time of the making of this Order, I would object to the procedure. If people are going to be deprived of their statutory rights, particularly in a case like this, then it ought to be done by legislation. If, on the other hand, the Government are going to take on the responsibility for organising, managing and controlling an industry of this kind, then the House should have, through the only medium in which it is possible for the House to have them, the facts put before it, and that is by way of legislation. The House should have all the facts, both in regard to the Government's plans and the necessity for proceeding to establish and develop this industry. Deputies should have the facts placed before them in the only way in which these facts should be placed before them, and that is by legislation passing through the House. The House should have an opportunity of discussing the pros and cons of the matter and understanding what are the financial commitments of the Government in this connection. I think it is a shocking thing that use should be made of an Emergency Powers Order to enable the Government to take over a large industry like this and to undertake very big financial commitments in connection  with it. No satisfactory explanation has been given to the House.
There is a number of detailed matters that I should like to put to the Minister. First, what is the necessity connected with the present emergency which prompted the Government to take over this industry? Secondly, what do the Government intend to do towards solving any problem connected with the present emergency by means of this company? Thirdly, under what powers have the Government taken over the company and appointed a board of directors? What experience of the steel business have the directors who were appointed, and what technical persons who are capable of running it are left with the company? What are the financial commitments at the present time in connection with the running of the company? These are matters that we should know.
As regards the matter that the Order deals with, I should like to know the nature of the contracts that are set aside by this Order, the number of people owed salaries or fees or commission, what the total amount is, and what are the general circumstances that prompted the Minister to decide that these people's claims should be set aside. Finally, what will be the position of these people and of the company as a Government concern when the emergency passes and the powers in this Order no longer exist?
I am not at all sure that the life of the community would be endangered  if this Emergency Order were withdrawn. The more one looks at this matter, the less one likes it. If this had been an ordinary concern, it would have gone into liquidation and a receiver would have been appointed for the debenture holders—I think, as a matter of fact, a receiver was appointed—and the company would either have been sold as a whole or would have been broken up. Why this extraordinary procedure in this case, under which a wall is built around a company to protect it from all legal actions? Deputy Mulcahy spoke of the position of the company when the emergency powers are withdrawn. I suppose that walls sometimes have a habit of falling with disastrous results.
I am not at all sure that either the Taoiseach or the Minister has been absolutely frank with us because it is popularly supposed that there were certain contracts held by individuals which had to be brushed aside and, if that is so, I think this is a most unfortunate procedure. We have only just dealt with a Bill which is designed apparently to do away with the rights of certain private individuals against a company. The Minister made a very able defence of that position, but I do not know that he did away with the query in some of our minds as to whether it was really necessary to invoke the powers of this House in order that private individuals should not exercise certain rights which they had. Following that Bill on the Agenda, we have an Order which, I suggest—I do not say it was brought in for the purpose— prevents certain individuals from taking steps which they might think they were entitled to take.
There is an old saying: let justice be done though the heavens fall, and I would much have preferred that this State should have been “stuck” for a certain sum or sums which we might consider unjust in order that the rights of a private individual should be preserved. When the Russian Government years ago were floating a loan on the London market, they used to put on it: “Free from all Government taxes, present and  future.” That guarantee was given by the Russian Government. If we are to continue much longer like this and have many more of these Emergency Orders, I think we shall have to have some sort of statement by the Minister for Finance or certain other members of the Government to the effect that they will not pounce on a company and do away with anybody's rights. Even from that aspect alone, I think this Order is most unfortunate.
There is another matter with which I should like the Minister to deal, because it is the whole kernel of the position. Why is this company so sacred, and why is it so necessary to preserve it? It is a steel company, but any expenditure which will be incurred—and presumably very substantial expenditure will have to be incurred—will be incurred at the top of the market or very near it. Does the Minister see any prospect of being able to get ample supplies of coke for its furnaces, and billets and pig-iron for conversion into steel? If the Minister is relying on the stocks of steel in the country at present, I should not be at all surprised if he got an unpleasant awakening, because scrap iron, which before the war nobody would look at, and which was simply shipped across the water to be again turned into steel, has now been turned into steel over and over again by anybody who thought he could get a turn out of a rod or sheet of iron. It is only the other day that I made inquiries as to what a certain man was doing with very small pieces of steel. I was told that they were going into the manufacture of studs for the boots of soldiers. If that scrap of steel is not beneath the notice of a person who is looking for a piece of those dimensions, it is not likely that furnaces will last very long on the stock of steel in this country. If the Minister could get steel in here, it would be very valuable; but, when he is replying, I should like him to give us some assurance on that point, because a most extraordinary procedure has been adopted, and the question is: will the end justify the means?
Mr. Corry: I am only concerned in  this matter so far as it gives the Minister an opportunity to let us know what hopes there are of getting those furnaces completed and the steel factory going. The agricultural community are at present breaking up the old gates and taking them to the forge to get shoes for their horses. There is no shoeing iron in the country—at least, very little of it finds its way into the forges of the rural smiths. One of the jobs of this industry was to be the smelting down of scrap iron and steel for the purpose of converting them into workable iron and steel. I do not agree with Deputy Dockrell. I think that there is plenty of scrap steel and iron to bring us right through the emergency if those furnaces were completed and this factory set going. I think that the keeping intact of the factory for that purpose is complete justification for any kind of emergency Order.
My anxiety is to know when the new company intend to get a move on in that direction and when the agricultural community can expect to see that scrap turned into workable iron and steel. The situation is serious at present and is getting more serious every day. We who have to put horses on the roads to do work which was formerly done by lorries know the difficulties and the seriousness of the situation. I consider that the keeping of that factory intact was absolutely necessary for that purpose alone. I am looking forward to a statement from the Minister as to when we can hope to see those furnaces completed. I know that the necessary technical skill for converting scrap iron and steel into workable iron and steel is in the country. The necessary expert advice is there and the experts are there to do the work—men who did it previously and who are prepared to carry on here. My anxiety is to see the work going ahead and to learn when the members of the agricultural community can hope to get horse-shoe iron and stuff of that description out of the factory. If we have to put our horses off the roads and out of the fields, it will mean that there will be a more serious position regarding kerosene  and petrol. When the Minister is replying, I hope he will state what hopes there are of carrying out the original purpose of the factory, which was self-sufficiency in iron and steel so far as practicable.
Mr. Curran: My object in intervening in the debate is to bring to the Minister's notice the position of the people of the rural areas in connection with horse-shoes. The blacksmith who shoes my horses has told me definitely that he cannot procure any more iron, and that I shall have to send iron to the forge before he can shoe my horses. That will apply to all his customers. The iron is simply not there. There never has been a great deal of iron, capable of conversion into horse-shoes around a farmer's place, and there is not much now. I do not know the merits or demerits of the Emergency Order under discussion except in so far as I have heard the arguments here. Therefore, I leave the debate on that question to people who know more about it than I do.
I have searched every hardware shop in my town and in other towns to get a couple of beet sprongs, and I have been unable to procure them because there is no steel suitable for the making of them. The ordinary sprong seems to be available, but the beet sprong cannot be obtained. That is the position so far as I am concerned, and I know that other people are in the same position. It seems very peculiar that we are not able to get implements to harvest a crop which the country so badly needs. I do not know whether this matter has been brought to the Minister's attention or not, but I take this opportunity of mentioning the shortage of iron for horse-shoes and for implements which are wanted about a farm.
Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. Lemass): Deputy Curran need not waste any time trying to convince me of the desirability of providing a supply of steel to meet the requirements of the agricultural industry. He may find it necessary to spend some time convincing Deputy Mulcahy. So far as I am concerned, he is speaking to one of the converted.
Mr. Lemass: Deputy Mulcahy is moving to annul an Emergency Powers Order made by the Government. His objection to that Order was more theoretical than real. I have got to deal with realities. One of the realities I have got to deal with is the shortage of steel. There may be theoretical objections to trying to meet that difficulty in the particular way decided upon by the Government, but the reiteration of these theoretical objections does not minimise the reality of the problem.
Deputy Mulcahy asks what circumstances connected with the emergency justify the Government in dealing with this matter under the Emergency Powers Act. Deputy Corry and Deputy Curran have both answered him. It is a vital matter for this country to get some supplies of steel bars and sheets for the production of agricultural instruments and for other essential purposes. There is only one steel mill in this country. Deputy Mulcahy objects to the Government interfering with the affairs of a private firm. The Government would not normally think of doing so. But here is a steel mill partially completed—the only one in the country. There is no possibility of getting fresh supplies of steel from any other part of the earth except from Haulbowline. Steel is an essential implement of war. All the great steel-producing countries are at war. All these countries need the full output of their steel mills for their own purposes and they have none to spare for us. It is quite useless to hope that there will be any importation of steel bars, steel sheets, or any products of steel from any other countries. There will be no more steel until the end of the war, unless we can get this mill going.
Let me tell you the circumstances under which the Government found it necessary to intervene in this matter at all. A private company was  formed, financed by private money, to establish a steel mill in this country. They decided to locate it at Haulbowline in County Cork. They ordered plant for that mill, they proceeded with the construction of the necessary buildings and the erection of such plant as had been delivered to them, and they were half-way through the process of completing that mill when the war started. A large part of the plant they required was on order in Germany, and the day the war started it became impracticable for them to obtain that. They proceeded to continue in operation upon the basis of imported steel billets.
Perhaps I should explain that the process of steel production can be divided into two parts. The first process is the production of billets from iron ore or from scrap steel, and the second process is the manufacture from these billets of steel bars or steel sheets, which constitute in themselves the raw material of other industrial undertakings. The merchant mill, the portion of the plant capable of producing steel bars from billets, had been completed at Haulbowline and, in fact, came into production some time about the date on which the war began. The billets which were being rolled in that mill were procured for a time from Belgium and, when that source of supply dried up, from the United States of America. They cannot be procured now. Some substantial quantity of billets was purchased in America by the Government after this company had ceased operations, and of that quantity which was purchased, or at any rate upon which options had been taken, a proportion was brought over here before they shut down all export of these things. The balance is still in the United States and will stay there.
This company, starting under these inauspicious auspices, finding itself unable to make a large part of the total capital invested in the enterprise remunerative, because it was represented by partly completed furnaces and partly erected machinery, faced with the very rapidly rising cost of  billets and an obligation to import them as they could, in circumstances entirely different from those which would operate in normal times, found itself in financial difficulties and finally went into liquidation. The company had been financed, as I said, by private capital partially subscribed in the form of ordinary share capital and partially provided on debentures. The total nominal value of the debentures issued by the company was £250,000. The debenture holders, finding that the company was unable to pay the interest due on the debentures, and fearing that other unsecured creditors might forestall them, decided to take action to protect their own interests and appointed a receiver. The works ceased operations. The receiver endeavoured for a long time to dispose of the property of the company as all going concern, and various efforts were made by me and by other members of the House—Deputy Corry, Deputy Cosgrave and certain other Cork Deputies—to get together a group of people who would be prepared to put up the money to buy the enterprise from the receiver who was endeavouring to sell it, and it could have been bought for a comparatively small sum. But all these efforts in that regard were unsuccessful.
The alternative course which would ordinarily be taken by a receiver in such circumstances would be to break up the concern and sell all the assets separately at a break-up sale. Clearly if that had happened the prospect of getting this mill into production again during the war would have been nil. The Government decided not to let that happen if they could prevent it. But the powers of the Government to intervene in the affairs of a private company of that kind were limited. We could undoubtedly, under the Trade Loans Guarantee Acts, give them financial assistance, and eventually, on the basis of an application from the company, the Government did offer to guarantee a loan under the Trade Loans Guarantee Acts amounting to £200,000, subject to conditions. The Government naturally insisted upon  conditions which were considered necessary to protect the interests of the taxpayers who would have to find the money in the event of the enterprise failing again. These conditions were simple. First of all we required that the board of the company should be nominated by the Government while any portion of the loan guaranteed by the Government remained outstanding. Secondly, we required that the company should get the consent of the debenture holders, of the shareholders, and of all the unsecured creditors; because it is quite obvious that if the consent of the unsecured creditors to the proposed arrangement was not obtained the whole development could be arrested, the whole project could be brought to naught by anyone of those creditors taking the course of action which would be open to him in the courts to secure the payment of whatever amount of money he claimed was due to him.
The Government's proposal in relation to these unsecured creditors was reasonable. We suggested that they should agree to accept a third debenture on the assets of the company in discharge of their claims against the company. There was a first debenture which had been issued when the company was established. There was a second debenture created in this way. When the Government undertook to guarantee a loan of £200,000 on debentures it desired that its claims should have priority over other claims on the assets of the undertaking. There was, however, a prior claim in the case of the holders of first debentures, but the holders of the first debentures agreed to surrender that position of priority in respect of half their claim. Consequently, under the arrangement contemplated by the Government, there would be a first claim on the company, representative of half the original debentures, and of the Government guaranteed debentures, a second claim representative of half the original debentures, and we proposed that there should be a third claim, in the form of a third debenture, issued to the unsecured creditors, in discharge of their claims.
 Now, the process of getting the consent of each individual debenture-holder, and of each individual shareholder, and of each individual claimant of any kind against the company, so far as they were known, was a colossal one. The great majority of the claimants against the company—those who were creditors for substantial amounts—accepted the Government's proposal, but because of a certain difficulty in determining the identity of all the people who had claims, and because a few individual claimants stood out, the whole project was not merely delayed for a very considerable period—a period during which the question of the Government taking action to restart these mills was raised frequently here in the Dáil—but it seemed that the whole project was likely to be nullified. Therefore, the Government made an Order postponing the claims of those who had refused to accept the offer of a third debenture, and that postponement was to last for the duration of the emergency.
Now, let it be quite clear that no hardship of any kind whatsoever was inflicted on any of these individuals. The company against which they had a claim had gone into liquidation; the holders of the first debentures, secured upon the assets of that company, had appointed a receiver. The receiver had failed, in any effort he made, to sell the concern as a going concern, for an amount equal even to a fraction of the claims of the first debenture holders. There was not the slightest prospect of the assets of the concern, if sold separately at a break-up sale, yielding more than sufficient to meet the claims of the first debenture holders—if, in fact, they would meet so much. Therefore the chance of the unsecured creditors getting even a penny on their original claims at any time was practically nil. There was also the question that if we were prepared to put new money into the enterprise, these people would still have a live claim and could hold up the scheme, and we felt that it was unreasonable that they should be put in such a position, and that we would not be justified in risking public money for that purpose: that if there  were to be any risk, the only risk should be that, as a result of it, the public need of getting this mill restarted and producing the iron bars and sheets required was likely to be met in consequence. That is why this Order was made.
Now, I have been asked, what are the prospects of getting the enterprise going again? I, honestly, cannot answer that. The position is that it is possible to equip the mill so as to enable it to operate entirely upon scrap steel, and, if that possibility can be realised, then our most pressing problems in relation to steel will have been solved for the duration of the war.
Mr. Lemass: But whether we can get the equipment necessary to complete the furnaces and to get the mill into production upon scrap steel, I cannot say. The board which have been appointed think that they will be able to do so, but even if they are successful, on the basis of their most optimistic expectations, it will be a matter of from nine to 12 months before the construction of the works can be completed and production, upon the basis of scrap steel, begun. I might mention, however, that after the company had gone into liquidation and the mills had ceased operating, the Government, realising the difficulties that the future was likely to bring, and hoping that an arrangement would be possible which would enable these mills to be made productive again, stepped in, itself, into the American market, and bought steel billets. We bought these steel billets and held them—at least, we purchased the billets on option and held them in America: first of all, until we could get shipping to bring them here, and secondly, until there was some immediate prospect of the Haulbowline Mills commencing operations again. A quantity of some thousands of tons of billets was, in fact, shipped, and then the export of steel billets from the United States was stopped by the American Government. Another quantity  of steel billets was secured from a wreck which went ashore off the Donegal coast, and these billets are also at Haulbowline. There are also some thousands of tons of steel rails which can be used as raw material.
The position, therefore, is that even if the project of the completion of the furnaces cannot be proceeded with, it will still be possible to restart the merchant mill and keep it going for a time upon the basis of the raw-material that is there. The board decided—and, I think, rightly decided— not to restart the operation of the merchant mill until they had reached a decision as to the possibility of being able to complete the furnaces, because, clearly, if they were preparing their plans on the assumption of continued operation for an indefinite period, they would proceed upon a somewhat different basis, both in the matter of the recruitment of staff and of the contracts they would make with skilled personnel and other matters of that kind, from that upon which they would proceed if they were merely contemplating a short period of operation, and then finally to stop. The position is that the company have now reached a decision to proceed with the construction of the furnaces and the full development of the mill originally contemplated. They may fall down on that job by reason of inability to get the necessary equipment from abroad. Some part of the equipment can be procured here, and perhaps some improvisation may be possible with the equipment that is already available. Nevertheless, the whole project may fail to mature by reason of difficulties in securing equipment. On that account, they will, at some date, be in a position to restart the merchant mill so as to utilise the available supplies of billets, aiming, no doubt, to time that so that the date of exhaustion of the existing supply of material will coincide with the date of the production of new material for the merchant mill from the completed furnaces.
Mr. Lemass: I am sure persons of average intelligence understood it. The Deputy has asked by what authority we have taken over this company. We have taken over this company at the invitation, and with the consent, of the proprietors of the company. I think that answers the Deputy's point.
Mr. Lemass: No. Let me put it this way—the shareholders of this company, the proprietors of it, came to the Government and said to the Government: “If you will give us the financial assistance we require, namely, a Government guarantee for a loan of £200,000, we are prepared to put the industry under the control of a board, nominated by you, so long as any part of that loan remains outstanding.”
Mr. Lemass: The House passed the Trade Loan Guarantee, Acts and gave these powers to the Government, powers which were exercised off and on for the past 15 or 16 years by our predecessors as well as by us. Not only that, but we exercised them much more unscrupulously.
Mr. Lemass: Does the Deputy want to bring up the question of the Irish Glass Bottle Company and the various enterprises that our predecessors tried to assist under this Act, in a not too successful way?
Mr. Lemass: The Deputy should look up the whole history of that. Some day, when we have more leisure, I am prepared to produce it here. It does not arise in this case. The point is, the nomination of the board of this company is done by the Government by reason of the fact that the shareholders of the company met and unanimously decided to alter their articles of association to provide that the directors of the company would be nominated by the Government. That is the power under which it has been done. The provision of the trade loan guarantee was made in accordance with the provisions of the Trade Loan  Guarantee Acts. The making of this Order was merely intended to secure that the whole project would not be brought to naught because a small number of unimportant creditors have failed to comply in any reasonable time with the request made by the Government, namely, that these unsecured creditors would accept a third debenture in full discharge of their claims. I cannot say what number of persons is concerned or what is the total amount involved, but it is insignificant in relation to the total claims of all the unsecured creditors. In fact, one unsecured creditor alone had a claim for, I think, almost 80 per cent. of the total amount due by the company. He accepted the Government's terms and so did all the other large creditors.
Mr. Lemass: I am not going to say. The company was in liquidation. It has been put back into production. New money is going into it. The unremunerative capital is going to be made productive of revenue. An enterprise which was dead has been revived.
Mr. Lemass: Whether it is going to remain alive indefinitely or not, I cannot say, but if it does remain alive, for the first time, these creditors have some chance of getting something. Up to the present they had no chance of getting anything. Most of the claims which had to be disposed of by these Emergency Orders were claims based upon service contracts, on the validity of which I could express no opinion, but in order to ensure that there should be no tie-up, that once we had our hand to this wheel the wheel would be made to turn, this Order was made. If any of these persons now feel that they have been aggrieved, or that they want to take advantage of the offer which was made to them originally, they are still at liberty to do so.
Mr. D. Morrissey: The Minister was asked what was his authority or the Government's authority for taking over this company. I think that was the principal question put to him by the mover of this resolution.
Mr. Lemass: I am not quibbling. Let me be quite clear, for the information of Deputy Morrissey, that we could have adopted that measure; we could have requisitioned all the assets of this company under the Emergency Powers Act, and proceeded to operate the concern ourselves. We preferred to keep the company alive.
Mr. D. Morrissey: I am quite satisfied, from what has happened, and from what the Minister said this evening, that the Minister and the Government have satisfied themselves that there is nothing on earth which they cannot do and which they are not prepared to do under these Emergency Powers.
Mr. D. Morrissey: The principal question put to the Minister was what was the Government's authority for the steps they have taken. What is the Minister's answer? “Because the Government was asked by the proprietors and the shareholders.” Is that given seriously in this Parliament as an adequate and as a reasonable reason? The Minister started off to tell us that the Government stepped in to prevent a catastrophe, that the Government stepped in to prevent the complete closing down of this mill.
Mr. D. Morrissey: It is still closed down. The extent of the production that can be expected is represented by the steel that may be turned out at some time in the future from the billets brought in from America by the Government—how much or how little, we do not know; whether it would represent a month's or six months' work in the factory, we do not know. Except for that, and some miracle— I think the Minister almost put it in these words himself—that will enable them, in the emergency, to complete that part of the factory which it is necessary to complete in order to produce steel from scrap, there is no hope of production. That is a very poor prospect.
Mr. D. Morrissey: The Minister gets heated. He usually does when he has a very bad case. He has a very bad case here and he gets heated because he is asked to give the House, that will have to undertake the responsibility for whatever finance is necessary in connection with this matter, an explanation. That is the full measure of this resolution. The Minister is asked why the Government took certain steps in connection with this industry. He is asked to explain the reason for taking those steps. He is asked to explain what money is involved. He is asked to explain what rights or securities are being taken away from the people who put up the money originally to start this factory. He is asked when this factory, which was taken over to be put into production, will be put into production. He says he does not know. He says the company does not know. He says there is a possibility—and I think the Minister could not be expected to say more than that—that the factory may be so equipped during the emergency as to be able to produce steel from scrap. Is not that information that this House is entitled to get? Are not these questions that the House is entitled to ask?
The Minister heard from Deputy Corry and from Deputy Curran what he could have heard from every Deputy in touch with rural areas. It is very little consolation, either to Deputy Corry, Deputy Curran, or to any farmer or blacksmith, to be told by the Minister's reply that we have a quantity of steel which was got from America and that it may, at some time, be put into the furnaces, with some remote possibility later, during the emergency, that we may be able to equip the factory to turn out steel bars or steel plates from scrap. I am not in a position to say the amount of scrap available, but, from the disclosures that were made—or rather extracted—in the House, whatever suitable scrap there was in the country, there is not as much as might have been available.
Mr. Curran: Personally, I know very little about this matter, but I understand that the controlled price of scrap is £3 a ton. A person who knows something about it said that it would not pay anyone to collect scrap at £3 a ton.
Mr. Hickey: I agree, but what I find fault with is that control was not taken long before, as we would now have steel that we want. What I complain of is that control was not taken before the mill closed down. As a member of the Cork Harbour Board, I know that the work of that body has been held up for the past couple of months for want of steel that was expected from Haulbowline. I do not object to the Minister's interference.
Mr. Corry: In view of the statement that has been made by the Minister, and the quantity of steel that he says will be available from rails and from the billets already in Haulbowline, I want to know if he will see that that iron and steel will be reserved in the first instance for the agricultural community. I want the Minister to realise that the agricultural community in this emergency should have first claim over building or any other work that may be in view by Deputy Dockrell or anybody else.
Mr. Corry: I am getting Deputy Morrissey now “on the quick”. My anxiety is to know since when have the Fine Gael Party decided to differentiate as between one class of the community and another. The farmers are made plough their land, and if they do not do so it is taken from them. If it is the right of the Government to do that with farmers they should have the same right with manufacturers. Is there to be a special law for crooks?
General Mulcahy: The Minister told us that he has to deal with realities. I welcome and I appreciate Deputy Hickey's remarks in which he said that if he were dealing with realities he would not be waiting until July 1942 to deal with steel. The Minister stated that the mill was closed down 12 months before that. Were there no realities to be faced before July 1941 with regard to steel? It is because we want to make the Minister face realities that we protest against the method adopted in this instance.
General Mulcahy: I object to the Minister dealing with it in an Emergency Order. We have not the power to prevent him doing so if he could get the support of the House. A question of this kind should not have been dealt with by an Emergency Order before the House got the fullest particulars with regard to the possible effect on their rights on the one hand, and the actual work to be done by the Minister on the other hand, in facing the realities of the situation connected with steel production. Although this  mill was shut, as the Minister admits, 12 months before making the Order, it is only now, in reply to a motion that was put down some weeks, if not months ago, that we are getting information, but how little information. The realities of the situation are the one thing that must be faced. One of the realities is the presence of this House, and the help that it could be in directing public affairs, as well as the responsibility of this House for safeguarding the proper carrying on of public affairs. If we confine ourselves to the production of steel I want to ask whether any of the directors appointed to the new company have any experience of the business. I asked for some information as to what experts still remain with the company that are able to carry on, but we got no information with regard to that. We got the information that a certain class of work could be done, that there are rails and billets available, as well as the whole machinery of the mill to get these processed into steel. But that is not going to be done until the problematical question of the setting up of the furnaces to deal with scrap has been fully investigated. How long was that under investigation before the order was issued in July last? Has it been under investigation since, and what progress has been made with it? The Minister threw up his hands regarding the giving of any information or of any hope——
General Mulcahy: When? I take it that when a decision was made there was plenty of time for consultation and review of the situation, but he has told us nothing of the review that took place before a decision was made, or that there was any hope that there would be any achievement in building up the furnaces. In the meantime, in spite of what Deputy Corry has said about the horse-shoes and steel required for various things, the raw materials for the manufacture of steel are to be held at Haulbowline for a further period, so that the better staffing required as well as contracts with  regard to people to be employed might be made. I think the Minister indicated that it would take from nine to 12 months before we could have any results from some of the decisions taken. I wonder if this is an emergency proposal at all, or for what purpose related to emergency this Order has been issued. On the face of what the Minister has told us tonight, we can get no immediate purpose related to the present emergency, and this mill is not likely to do anything to help the present emergency inside the next 12 months. I do not think that in this short and unsatisfactory way of drawing information from the Minister, we can be satisfied to leave the situation as it is.
I welcome the help of Deputy Corry and of other Deputies in getting more information with regard to the realities of the situation. I think it is a shocking thing, in an emergency such as the present, which the Minister admits he is faced with, that dark chamber work of this kind should be done, and the facts not put before this House. More than the rights of those who have contracts with Irish Steel, and of those who are owed wages, salaries or commissions by Irish Steel are being wiped out by this procedure, because the rights of this House, and the rights of the people to be served by this House by the doing of its work in a proper way, are being taken away. If they are being taken away in a matter in connection with Irish Steel, it is a very nice precedent for having them taken away in other ways as well.
 It is because of that and of the realities of the present situation, that I raise this question, and that I oppose this Order. The Minister has said that, if the Order is annulled, this factory goes, and that we are going to get no production. Does he take us to be children? The Minister has responsibilities to this House, and this House has its responsibilities. If the Minister does not stand up to his work and face the realities that he speaks about, if he does not accept his responsibilities and take action suitable to the situation, we cannot rid ourselves as lightly of our responsibilities. The problem that is involved in the provision of steel is one that, as Deputy Hickey indicated, should have been tackled before July, 1942. For months and months before that the people who had interested themselves in the setting up of Irish Steel had been pressing the realities of the situation on the Ministry, but the Minister was not prepared to face the realities until July last. I condemn in the fullest possible measure the whole approach of the Ministry to this particular matter, and I condemn absolutely the utilisation of an Emergency Powers Order for the purpose of taking action of this kind, particularly for the purpose of endeavouring to keep vital and important information from this House, of preventing the House from exercising its responsibilities with regard to very big parts of Government policy, and very big matters affecting the country's necessities in the present emergency.
|Beunett, George C.
Benson, Ernest E.
Dockrell, Henry M.
Esmonde, John L.
McFadden, Michael Og.
O'Higgins, Thomas F.
O'Sullivan, John M.
Redmond, Bridget M.
Rogers, Patrick J.
Childers, Erskine H.
Corry, Martin J.
Crowley, Fred Hugh.
Fogarty, Patrick J.
Gorry, Patrick J.
Keane, John J.
|Kelly, James P.
Lemass, Seán F.
Lynch, James B.
McDevitt, Henry A.
Murphy, Timothy J.
O Briain, Donnchadh.
O Ceallaigh, Seán T.
O'Loghlen, Peter J.
Pattison, James P.
Rice, Brigid M.
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