Friday, 16 April 1943
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. O'Loghlen: The speeches delivered by the Opposition Parties in this House in the past two days have, for the first time in my judgment, shown an appreciation of the enormous burden that has fallen upon the shoulders of the Minister for Supplies since the outbreak of war. That burden is not going to be diminished until the close of this emergency nor, in all likelihood, for a considerable time afterwards. There has also been, I might say, a further appreciation and an acknowledgment by Opposition Deputies that having regard to the difficulties, the Minister has succeeded in the discharge of his work in bringing to the community many benefits which communities in other countries do not enjoy. Even Deputy Dillon, in dealing with a particular phase of the work of the Minister, made the acknowledgment:—
On each previous occasion on which a like Vote was before the House, a violent attack was made on the Minister and his Department. Speaking figuratively, dangerous missiles were flung across the floor of the House. During these two days, it is certainly encouraging that if missiles were flung, they were wrapped in cotton wool. There was an attempt made also to divorce the Minister from the civil servants who act in the Department controlled by the Minister. Many Deputies said that in getting unravelled the difficulties with which they had to deal on behalf of their constituents, they always found the civil servants agreeable, and that many of the difficulties placed before these civil servants were unravelled, disregarding the fact that the master of the ship on many occasions made it possible for those men to do that work—surely an attempt to extol the poem and decry the poet.
However belated this acknowledgment by Opposition Deputies may be and however long it has taken to educate them into an appreciation of the difficulties and repercussions caused in this country by war and an appreciation of how difficult it makes the operations of the Minister for Supplies—it has taken some few years to educate them—it is helpful and hopeful to realise that they are now educated and that their appreciation is there for the work the Minister is performing.
Mr. O'Loghlen: I am making my speech and I want to make it without  any interruptions from the Deputy. When I set out to speak on a matter before the House, I confine myself to, and act within, the regulations governing debate in the House.
Mr. O'Loghlen: Quite so, and the Deputy who has graced the Front Bench for so long should know how to conduct himself. It will be some encouragement, I am sure, to the Minister in grappling with the many difficulties which still lie ahead to have this appreciation which he received from at least some Deputies on the opposite benches.
The Minister indicated that many of the supplies provided here, many of the needs of the people which have been met, were outside his control. That is quite true. It is recognised that he has no control over many of the goods required here—essential raw materials and other requirements of the people. That, of course, has made the Minister's work rather difficult, but, in speaking of the matter with which I am about to deal, I ask the Minister to project his imagination into rural Ireland and to picture himself in some of the retail shops there which have to deal with the many Orders and regulations issued by the Department. If he can do that effectively, he will find that the retail grocers have a terribly stiff battle to fight at present. I venture the opinion that there is scarcely any section of the community who are finding it more difficult to meet their liabilities and discharge their obligations than those engaged in the retail grocery trade at present.
Many of these people have been prosecuted and brought before the courts for offences which were brought home to them because of their inability to procure supplies of essential goods —a somewhat similar position to that of the Minister. Many of these prosecutions related to overcharges for tea. You had a situation, following the making of the quota Order, in which retailers, because the quota of tea they received was based upon a particular  year, 1938, and because their buyings in that year happened to be very slender and lower than their regular buyings, found that the quota was insufficient to meet the demands of their regular customers, and you had instances of grocers receiving supplies of tea sufficient to meet the demands of 20 of their customers and leaving ten customers unprovided for, with the result that at least once a week pandemonium reigned in many of these shops. The life of the grocer was made miserable and unbearable, and, forced by these circumstances, many such traders bought tea outside their regular suppliers, paying a price in excess of the controlled price in order to relieve themselves of the attacks of their customers day in and day out.
In many instances those traders sold tea at the price at which they bought it, but it was in excess of the controlled price, and they were prosecuted and brought before the court. Following the decisions in the courts, the Minister has, in many cases, revoked their licences. I know that in other countries where people charge prices for goods in excess of the regulated prices, the penalty is death.
In this country, the Minister confines himself to depriving them of their means of living. He does not enforce the death penalty against an individual trader, but he enforces a death penalty against his trade. The trader's other lines of business depend entirely on his tea and sugar business, and if his tea and sugar licences are taken away, it would be just as well for the Minister to seal the doors, because his customers will buy all their other goods in the house to which their ration cards are transferred.
As a result of the Minister's revoking a licence and indicating that that revocation is to endure for the period of the war, these traders, if the war continues for another 12 months, are out of business for all time. Surely that is a penalty in excess of the crime? There are traders in business in this country for two, three and four generations, and because they have been brought to court and fined for charging 3d. or 4d. a lb. extra for tea or 2d. a lb. extra for  soda, they are to be driven out of their business, which cannot be revived. According to the 1933 Census returns I notice that we have somewhere about 18,500 persons engaged in the grocery trade, and according to the Minister's own figures there are 1,114 cases pending. That is, roughly, one-eighteenth of the total number of traders. Having regard to that, I do not think it is right that the entire grocery trading community should be classified as persons desirous of breaking the law. Surely, if only 5 per cent. of the entire trading community have been brought before the courts, no justification exists for saying that there is a desire on the part of the other 95 per cent. to break the law.
The Minister, by his revocation of the tea and sugar licences of these retailers, has given a shock to the trading community of this country. He has shocked, not only the actual offenders, but also the people who have not offended at all, and I suggest to him that this shock is an amazing corrective to that type of offence. I would ask him, therefore, when dealing with these types of cases in the future, to realise that there are extenuating circumstances underlying many of these offences. They are brought about in many cases by the shortage of supplies; and because of the fact that a situation arose over which the traders themselves had no control they were forced to do these things in order, practically, to defend themselves against the attacks of their own customers.
The Minister should not think that he has the approval of the whole community in taking such drastic steps. The customers of traders whose licences have been revoked say that they had a right to select the place where they would deal. They object very strongly to that right being taken away from them. They regard it as a shocking thing—and it is so—that their ration cards were taken away and, as many of them say, that they should be forced to go into another shop and place their trade with a man to whom, perhaps, they had not spoken for ten years previously. Some consideration  should be given to the rights of customers in this matter. They should not be forced by the Department to deal with some trader with whom they do not wish to deal. They should be given some right to exercise their own judgment, and the Minister certainly has not the entire support of the public in regard to the drastic action that has been taken in many cases.
As I say, the shock has been so great that a repetition of this kind of offence is most unlikely to occur, and I think the Minister should refrain from any further revocations of licences except where there is a glaring defiance of the law and where the activities of the persons concerned force up prices immensely. Regulation and control of prices, of course, was meant to ensure that the level of prices, generally, would not rise, but surely, if a man is convicted of charging 2d. extra for 1 lb. of bread soda, which would last for about a month, the increase in price there would be only about .001. You have the same thing with regard to sugar and tea. Many traders were convicted for selling tea at 8d. a lb. over the fixed price. That would only supply a family of four persons for a month, and surely that increase can hardly have had an enormous effect on the rise in prices generally?
Now, there are records available in the Department and, through these records, the Minister has a cross check on all these retailers. He has returns showing the quantities of tea and sugar supplied, and it should be easy to find out that these retailers can only give so much of these commodities to their customers. It is my belief that if there is a slight increase in the charges made by these traders, it is due to the fact that they are compelled to do so. I am not supporting the black market, but I do say that in these cases the Minister should exercise his authority with mercy. As I have said, he has given an enormous shock to evil-doers or potential evil-doers in this country, and I think that that shock has been so great that he should now hold his hand in regard to the matter of the revocation of licences  except in cases of very serious breaches of the law. This idea of revoking the licence of a small trader for the duration of the war is an extreme hardship, and I suggest that if you wipe out a man's business for such a comparatively small offence it constitutes a very great hardship indeed and the penalty inflicted is far greater than the crime. I think the Minister should review all these cases and, where the offences were not of a grave character, he should consider restoring these licences.
In connection with assisting the handcraft, industry in this country, which was referred to by other Deputies, I should like to impress upon the Minister the advisability of ensuring that the tailoring and dressmaking trades in rural Ireland should be given every possible assistance. We have often complained in this country of the gradual disappearance of the handcraft traders, particularly from rural Ireland, and I wish to impress on the Minister the necessity for encouraging anything that could be done to keep such trades going. If the handcraft tailoring and dressmaking trades in rural Ireland are denied the opportunity of getting certain necessary supplies, it will only mean the disappearance of these trades, and I think that tailors dressmakers should be assured of a reasonable share of what they require. These are the only comments I have to make on the Vote.
Micheál Og Mac Pháidín: Is iongantach an scéal é go bhfuil cineál measa agam féin ar an Aire Soláthairtí. Ní a chríonnacht no a mhaitheas a ghnidheas sin. Is de thairbhe a chlisdeacht, a mhór-ghliocas agus a chuid athchomaireacha. Is minic a shílim go bhfuil an ealadha dhubh aige, B'fhéidir go dtig leis coiníní a thabhairt amach as hata no ór buidhe as a mhuinchille. Go dearbhtha, bíonn daoine ag dréim le sin uaidh. Ar aon chaoi níl amhras nach dtig leis na daoine a chur faoi dhraoidheacht. Ghnidh sé seo le béal bán, le plámás agus le líomthacht cainte. Le seal fada  anois d'éirigh leis clár a chur ar chluasa na ndaoine agus ciapógaí ar a súla. Thiocfadh leis an dubh a dhéanamh bán, agus ar thoradh moille thiocfadh leis an bán a dhéanamh dubh ar ais. Is láidir an crann-taca ag Fianna Fáil cleasaidhe eólach mar sin. Ach a fhad ar théidheas an madadh ruadh beirtear sa deireadh air. Níl sárú ar an ionnraiceas sa deireadh thall. Tá na daoine ag múscailt ó dhraoidheacht Fianna Fáil. Is léir leo anois gur mealladh iad le geallstain nach rabh súil no rún ag an Rialtas a choimhlíonadh choíche. Ach tá lá an chunntais buailte linn agus creid mise, ní go maith a rachas sé leis an Aire agus an fhuireann atá leis. Is cruaidh an breithiúnas a bhéarfas muinntir na tíre seo ar lucht na ngeallstan i gceann mí no beirt eile.
'Nois labhair oiread teachtaí ar an mheastachán so nach bhfuil mórán fágtha agamsa le trácht air. Ach tá cúpla nídh ar mhaith liom labhairt ortha. Rud amháin, cluinim go bhfuil an tAire lán-ghéar ar lucht siopaí fá ghnaithe chunntais. Amuigh sa tír is minic nach bhfuil eolas no léigheann go leór ag fear siopa leis na fuirmeacha a líonadh i gceart. Níor chóir go gcaillfeadh a leithéid sin a cheadúnas le tae no cloch-ola no siúcra dhíol. Níl aon chiall leis an bhreithiúnas sin agus tá súil agam nach mbeidh an tAire comh géar ar lucht siopaí atá eadar dhá theine Bealtaine ag iarraidh an pobal agus an Rialtas a shásadh.
Rud eile, tá mé ag éagcaoin go trom ar an Roinn nach dearna rud éigin le cúig bliana anuas—ó 1938—leis na hinnill agus ná gléasraí d'fháil don mhuileann sníomhachain i nGaeltacht Thír Chonaill. Bhí an scéim seo eadar lámha sul ar thosaigh an cogadh agus thiocfadh linn na hinnill d'fháil go réidh an t-am sin ó Shasain. Ach rinneadh neamart sa chúis mar rinneadh i gcás Sunbeam Wolsey i gCorcaigh agus támuid anois gan innill gan snáth. Tá ár n-olann ina moltraí againn agus gan caoi lena sníomh, agus éadaigh ag éirghe gann agus ag dul i ndaorsacht gach lá. Ach nach mar sin a fágadh an tír gan tae, gan cloch-ola agus go leór rudaí eile— moill agus neamart na Roinne ag  úthairt le ceadúnais le mangairí beaga nár thuig gnaithe na tíre.
Labhair an Teachta O Mongáin aréir ar luach na bháinín agus ba mhaith liom enidiú leis. Tá súil agam nach bhfuil sé ar intinn na Roinne bac a chur ar luach an bháinín a ghnidhtear sa Ghaeltacht. Seo tionnscal ar leith a d'fhás go nádúrtha imease sléibhte na Gaeltachta agus má tá airgead le saothrú as anois tá sé beag go leór ag na daoine bochta seo nach bhfuil aca ach an ghann-chuid de shóláisí eile.
Mr. Byrne (Junior): The ground has been very well covered and I have never allowed, and will never allow, it to be said that I wearied any Minister towards the close of a long debate with tedious repetition. There are two important matters to which I wish to refer. The position with regard to fats for cooking has become very alarming in Dublin. There is no dripping and no lard to be got, and there is very little suet available. Apart from the difficulty of securing these very essential commodities, housewives find great difficulty in paying the price demanded. The suggestion was made some time ago—in fact, there was something in the Dublin papers about it—that the Minister, or perhaps the Minister for Agriculture, certainly some Government authority, would take over control of the distribution of cooking fats. I think the suggestion was that they should take all the fat from the abattoir and have it rendered down and then distribute it to the victuallers in fair quantities—ration it as well as they could and allow for a reasonable margin of profit. The difficulty seems to be that it does not pay the victuallers to render down the suet. I did not see anything about that proposal since, and perhaps the Minister will be kind enough to indicate what he may have in mind. Perhaps he contemplates the rationing of cooking fats on the coupon system. The Minister has access to information that is not available to other people and he should be in a position to say what is the best scheme to adopt.
There has been a serious breakdown in the machinery for supplying school children in the national schools in Dublin  with a very essential form of nourishment at their school meals— jam. I raised this matter yesterday by way of Parliamentary question, but I was not allowed to put any supplementaries. The Minister admitted that there was a temporary dislocation in the arrangements for the supply of jam at school meals. I should like to point out that there have been many dislocations of a similar nature within the past few months. One school is deprived of its jam supplies one week and another school the following week and that has been going on for a considerable period. I understand that the Minister for Supplies has made a special allocation of sugar towards the making of jam for the use of school children at school meals. I should like him to find out the cause of the breakdown. Has the sugar been used in the manufacture of the jam? If so, where has the jam gone to? Has it gone into the black market? The jam is the only consolation the kids have at their school meals and it would be interesting to know why it has not been delivered to the schools.
Mr. Lemass: In the past it has been the pleasure of some Deputies to represent the Department of Supplies as a nest of incompetent bureaucrats, who spend their time making confusion worse confounded for the very joy of it. There has been a rather noteworthy change in the speeches of these Deputies on this occasion. Apparently they now regard the Department of Supplies as a very competent institution, staffed by efficient and exceedingly polite officers who are doing their best in a difficult situation, but who are, unfortunately, handicapped by the Minister for Supplies. I did not expect Deputies opposite to vie with each other in singing my praises, and modesty prevents me doing it for myself.
We are on the eve of a general election and it may be that this is the last occasion upon which I shall have to defend the Vote for the Department of Supplies in the House. If that should prove to be the case, I may say I have a very easy conscience. I have no  apology to make for my conduct of the business of the Department of Supplies since the outbreak of the war. In fact, I think that the comparatively favourable circumstances existing in this country as compared with any other country in Europe is sufficient justification for my administration and should require no further words from me. We have had the usual variations and types of speeches from Deputies. In fact, some of the speeches, particularly that made by Deputy Dillon, were almost a verbatim record of speeches made on previous occasions.
Mr. Lemass: Most of the speeches made fell into four main classes. We had Deputies who have a constitutional objection to facing facts. The number of Deputies on the benches opposite who come within the class is quite considerable. They dislike dealing with facts. They are either engaged in wishful thinking or trying to pretend that circumstances are other than the general public know them to be for the purpose of securing some political point. We have also a certain number of Deputies who think that very real difficulties may be got rid of by grumbling about them. That type of speech may do very well at the crossroads, but it is of very little value here. We have got real problems to face, and by merely reiterating the circumstances of these problems and complaining about them is not going to get rid of them. We have other Deputies who make no attempt to find out what the facts are, and proceed gaily, year after year, drawing wrong conclusions from false assumptions. The speech we have just heard from Deputy Byrne (Junior) was typical of that. Quite obviously, when he spoke here about the supply of cooking fats and other matters, he made no attempt whatever to find out what the facts  were, or even to read the statement which I made when introducing the Estimate. In that statement I made a very concise but full report upon the position in respect of cooking fats in Dublin. The Deputy obviously did not listen to that statement or bother to find out what it was about. Nevertheless, he comes in here and makes statements which might have been true two or three years ago but which certainly are not true now.
Mr. Lemass: I do not care who the Deputy met. The fact of the matter is that the supply of cooking fats in Dublin at the moment is better than it has been for years, and the control for which the Deputy has asked has been in operation for some time past. That fact was stated here on Wednesday last with precise figures and other information which would satisfy any reasonable person. The Deputy, however, did not bother to find out. He is not alone in that.
Mr. Lemass: There were other Deputies who made no attempt whatever to ascertain the facts, but proceeded on the assumption that their guesses were correct, and in that way wasted the time of the Dáil elaborating a number of wrong conclusions from very inaccurate guesses. Some of the speeches made, however, dealt with matters of real importance and with these I propose to deal at some length. A very large number of matters were raised which it will not be possible for me to deal with. The debate, in fact, did not  crystallise around any particular subject except, to some extent, this matter of the revocation of traders' licences where traders had been convicted of offences under Price Control or Rationing Orders.
There is one error under which some Deputies laboured that I want to clear up quickly. It has been stated that the Department of Supplies does not consult with trading interests. There is no person who has the least knowledge of the working of the Department of Supplies, and no Deputy who has any contact with trading interests, who can make that statement believing it to be true. I should say that the outstanding complaint of representative businessmen in any trade is that they are called far too frequently into consultation with the Department of Supplies. That certainly is the complaint as expressed to me: that the Department brings them in on all occasions when matters affecting their interests are under consideration, and that the consultations involved take up an undue proportion of their time. It is true that there are occasions upon which prior consultation is not desirable in the public interest: that is prior consultation with parties affected by proposed orders or regulations. These occasions are very few. I noticed in this morning's newspapers a speech by a representative industrialist who suggested that in normal times traders should be consulted before tariffs are imposed. I am sure every Deputy will realise the impossibility of proceeding in that way. Precisely the same considerations arise when the matter of the rationing of non-perishable goods has to be considered. In that case prior intimation to the affected parties would give them an opportunity of cashing in upon the knowledge so obtained. That is a risk which the Government cannot and will not take, but where consultation is practicable then it is resorted to. Where it is contrary to the public interest that there should be such prior consultation with the affected parties it will not be resorted to, but provisional controls and checks will be established which can be amended if necessary after consultation.
 Deputy Giles complained about delays in answering letters sent to the Department. The number of letters received in the Department of Supplies averages about 20,000 per day. To deal with that vast mass of correspondence requires a very efficient organisation, and it is inevitable that some proportion of it cannot be dealt with as expeditiously as the parties concerned would like.
Mr. Lemass: I said that. The practice has been established in the Department, however, that in every section of it where action upon correspondence has been delayed for more than one week, the officer concerned has to report the fact to his superiors, and to indicate the reasons for his inability to deal more rapidly with the question concerned. I should say that of all the Departments of Government of which I have any knowledge, the arrangements made for the rapid disposal of matters affecting the public, or raised by members of the public, are more satisfactory in this Department than elsewhere.
Deputy Hughes and some other Deputies assumed that the Department was not getting co-operation from the public. I think that is an entirely false assumption. It is true that individuals and, on occasions, sections of the public or of traders dealing with the public, did not co-operate to the extent we would desire. But, to an ever-increasing degree, the public is assisting the Department, not merely in conforming to the requests of the Department, but also in the enforcement of the Department's regulations. In my view, the public will always co-operate with any individual dealing with public problems, provided they are satisfied, first of all, that he is trying his best to act impartially and, secondly, if they believe that the regulations made by him are such that individuals will not be able successfully to evade them. I have often expressed the opinion that, if the scarcity of textiles made it necessary  for the Government to prepare an Order prohibiting individuals from wearing trousers, nobody would unduly complain about it unless and until he saw one person with a pair of trousers.
Mr. Lemass: The Deputy need not be afraid of that. That is the last garment that will disappear. In the earlier stages, it is true that many individuals and some traders were able successfully to evade the Department's regulations. That fact produced public annoyance; that fact also led to efforts to emulate these parties who had, to their own advantage, found the loopholes in the various Orders made. But, with the efforts of the Department to tighten up its regulations and a growing realisation among the public that these regulations are all designed in their interest, there has been a change of attitude and I am glad to say we are now getting a very effective degree of public co-operation which is making it easier for the Department to secure control of the distribution and utilisation of materials in the public interest.
I want, however, to deal particularly with this matter of the revocation of traders' licences. There is nobody in this House who appreciates better than I do the large number of Orders that have been made affecting the distribution of grocery goods and the problems which must confront traders in endeavouring to carry on their business in accordance with these regulations. I think I can say with confidence that no regulation has been made unnecessarily. On every occasion when it becomes necessary to bring under control any commodity sold by grocers my whole concern is to secure that the regulations are as simple as possible and offer no undue difficulty to traders in conforming to them. But we must keep in mind, not merely the difficulties of the traders, but also the difficulties of the public. Our main concern is with the public. If, in these times of difficulty, we have to put obligations on traders which would not exist in normal times, it is because the public interest so demands. All the  emphasis during the debate has been on the difficulties of traders. I want, however, to bring up here and to keep before Deputies the problems of the public who have been on occasion treated unfairly by traders, and where that has been proven, I think there is an obligation upon the Department of Supplies to ensure that the same thing will not happen again.
No trader has lost his licence who has not been convicted in the courts of overcharging for price-controlled articles or selling contrary to the rationing regulations. Not every trader who has been convicted has lost his licence. I have heard expressed by Deputies, during the course of this debate, two conflicting complaints against the practice of this Department in this matter. Some Deputies voiced both complaints without realising the conflict between them. One complaint was that the revocation of the licence followed automatically on the conviction of the trader without regard to the circumstances of the case. The other complaint was that the Department was discriminating between one trader and another in this connection. Both complaints cannot be true. It is not true that the revocation of the licence follows automatically on the conviction of the trader. It is the practice of the Department to take all relevant considerations into account before coming to a decision, and no trader has lost, or will lose, his licence unless it is evident that he has deliberately and knowingly either overcharged for a particular commodity or broken the rationing regulations. It is very easy to represent the charges brought against traders as mere technical offences. Failure to keep records, the irregular disposal of supplies look in print to be technical matters. They are nothing of the kind. They may be the only charges which could be proved against a particular trader. But, in the majority of cases, the failure to keep records or the irregular disposal of stocks means that a trader has been black-marketing. Do not have any doubt about it.
A trader may have a stock of 50 lbs. of tea. He is given a supply of tea equivalent to the rations due to his  customers. It is intended that he should keep that reserve stock of tea to meet any of the various contingencies that may arise in the future. That stock of tea is taken into account when the total supplies available to the people in the country are being calculated. If, at some stage, an inspector goes into the shop of such a trader and finds that that tea is not there, it is a fair assumption that the trader has been unable to resist the temptation to cash-in on that tea by disposing of it at an unfair price outside the rationing regulations.
Mr. Dillon: Surely the Minister knows that it is not true to say that the retailer is given a quantity of tea proportionate to the number of people registered with him? That is quite untrue. Does not the Minister know that it is impossible to give it to him?
Mr. Dillon: The Minister's regulations are that the trader was entitled to tea for as many customers as he was in a position to supply, and for that purpose he was entitled to use his existing stock of supplies in addition to the allocations of tea from the wholesaler he was dealing with. That is the law.
Mr. Lemass: I do not want to argue the point. The regulations are specific. The trader was told what his quota was and he was told he could only take on his register the number of customers who could be supplied with the appropriate ration from that quota. The stock of tea he had when rationing came into operation need not have been used to supply the appropriate ration to any number of customers. Let me say at once that the distribution of tea is not entirely controlled by us. There were discrepancies in the supplies to  individual traders, and these discrepancies have been smoothed out as far as it has been possible for the Department to do so.
The point I want to make is that these so-called technical offences are really a cover-up of irregular activities. The trader who has been irregularly disposing of his tea will not keep the records. Some of them may, but the majority of them will not. A trader may have disposed of his tea in excess of the ration but without taking undue profit on it. He may have been influenced by the requirements of his customers for additional supplies at harvesting time or on the occasions of wakes or other such functions and, where such appears to be the case, although it is recognised that an irregularity has occurred, the revocation of the licence does not follow. The revocation does follow, and will follow, where it is clear that the trader knowingly overcharged for supplies which should have been sold at the fixed price or entered actively into black-marketing operations.
Let us consider this question of the black market for a moment. I have heard a great deal said here in justification of the trader who, to meet the requirements of his trade, bought what was described as unrationed tea. I have often tried to emphasise in this House and in public that there could be no black market at all unless there were buyers of black market goods. It is the traders who went out to buy it in excess of their appropriate quota, either for the purpose of conveniencing their customers or for the purpose of making additional profit, who created the black market. Without them, there could not be a black market. These traders need not try to plead that circumstance as a justification for their irregularity and expect to get sympathy for it.
The efforts of my Department are designed to secure that every individual in the country will get his appropriate ration at the prescribed price. The traders concerned are naturally agitated about the prospect of this penalty being imposed upon them and  they have been making representations to Deputies. A number of Deputies referred to those representations during the course of this debate. I think they pussyfooted to some extent upon the question. They tried to have what Deputy Hannigan called an each-way bet upon this issue. They were not quite sure on which side of the fence political advantage lay. They did not know whether it was better to back the traders wholeheartedly—as Deputy Belton did—or keep a weather eye on the point of view of the consumer.
Mr. Lemass: We have had here proposals made that we should only revoke licences on the recommendation of the district justice. Am I to take it that members of the Dáil would regard that as a satisfactory procedure? They know quite well that district justices cannot be as familiar with this problem as the officers of the Department of Supplies are, and that, generally, they will tend towards leniency. Does the House want leniency for people convicted of black-marketing activities?
Mr. Lemass: Deputy Mulcahy stated here what he was told the proposals of the organised members of the grocers' trade are: first of all, that there should be no revocation of licences except upon three convictions; secondly, that there should be an appeal body to consider appeals against the revocation of licences, including representatives of the traders; and thirdly, that where a person is prosecuted for overcharging there should be no conviction except where the prosecuting counsel is able to produce a receipt proving the overcharge. Deputy Mulcahy did not indicate, I noticed, his own attitude in regard to these proposals. I do not know whether he intends us to take them seriously, or not. There used to be an old proverb that every dog is entitled to one bite but are we to proceed on that principle in our efforts to check the black market activities of certain traders? I do not think we should. There may be errors committed by traders which will make them subject to legal penalties where the subsequent revocation of the licence would be an unduly harsh penalty. I think the officers of the Department of Supplies and I, personally, so long as I am Minister for Supplies, can be trusted to give due weight to any representations that may be made in that regard but where, after considerable effort, the inspectors of the Department succeed in convicting someone whom they have known for years to have been black marketing, are we nevertheless to continue to leave that  trader's customers dependent upon that individual for their supplies of essential goods, even though it is reasonably certain that his profiteering activities will be repeated in future? I do not think we should. I think it is perfectly ridiculous that we should not have freedom to deal with those who have clearly shown their disinclination to obey the law, particularly a law which was designed to protect the interests of poor people.
The wealthier section of this country can, to some extent, at any rate, protect themselves. They will always be able to get supplies of goods in short supply because of their greater purchasing power. All these regulations, controls, checks and penalties are designed to protect the poorer section of the community, the people who cannot protect themselves, the people who will be exploited if the State does not step in with its machinery to safeguard them. I want Deputies to appreciate that fact. It is not merely a question of what is a fair deal for the traders concerned. It is primarily a question of what is a fair deal for the poorer members of the public, whose claim to the very limited supplies of essential goods must be safeguarded by the State because it cannot be safeguarded otherwise. Deputy Cosgrave in fact suggested here that we should pull our punch in dealing with black market activities. I am not going to do it. Whether that is what the public desire, or not, can be tested at a general election, but I want it to be known quite clearly here that by every device that is open to me I propose to endeavour to detect those who are overcharging the public or black marketing in controlled goods and to see that they are punished appropriately by the courts.
I want to protest most emphatically against the statement made by Deputy Cosgrave concerning the inspectors of the Department of Supplies. I think that these public officers who are charged with the duty of seeing that the various Orders made to protect the public and to secure for them fair and equitable distribution of scarce goods should not be subjected to the type of abuse which Deputy Cosgrave directed at them. It is, I think, a disgraceful  thing that the Leader of the second largest Party in the State should have spoken here for the sole purpose of holding these public officers up to public odium and contempt. There is no analogy whatever between the inspectors of the Department of Supplies, and the activities of these inspectors, and the informers who operated in this country under a former régime. That is what Deputy Cosgrave described them as. The detection of breaches of price control and rationing Orders is a most difficult job. It is not enough merely to know that a particular trader is fleecing his customers or black marketing the supplies of goods allocated to him for distribution amongst his customers. It is necessary also to have legal proof of that fact.
There are many traders who, we know, are just as guilty as those who have been convicted but against whom we have not yet succeeded in getting evidence. Knowledge is not sufficient; legal proof is required if these traders are to be convicted in the courts. It is the function of the inspectors to get that legal proof. As Deputies can imagine, that is no easy task. These officers of the Irish Government, endeavouring to carry out public policy in this period of difficulty, should, I think, be regarded by members of the Dáil and members of the public as their protectors—not as people to be opposed and obstructed and held up to contempt on all occasions. Whatever reactions one might get from some ignorant member of the public who was not familiar with considerations of public policy such as are discussed here, I think it is astounding that a speech such as we heard from Deputy Cosgrave should have been delivered by a person of his experience and position of responsibility in this House. I do not want to be misunderstood on this question of the revocation of traders' licences. The intention is to give notice to traders who are convicted of offences of the proposal to revoke their licences.
Mr. Lemass: In all cases where the  circumstances seem to justify that course. It will be then open to the traders concerned to make whatever representations they can, and I undertake that full consideration will be given to their recommendations. Where it is clear, however, that they overcharged knowingly and deliberately or, conscious of the fact that they were breaking the law, disposed irregularly of the supplies of goods made available to them, their licences will be revoked. I do not think that we should allow members of the public to be dependent for their essential supplies upon traders who have acted thus.
General Mulcahy: Where it can be shown, in cases already dealt with, that traders acted without deliberation or in mistake, will the Minister give reconsideration to those cases? In some cases, there has been an interval of six or seven months between the decision of the court and the withdrawal of the licence. Will the Minister review those cases?
Mr. Lemass: Where a trader's licence has been revoked, it is a matter of considerable difficulty to restore it. The Deputy may assume that, where a licence has been finally revoked, the trader's customers allocated to other traders and his supplies diverted to those traders, it will be only in very exceptional circumstances reconsideration of that decision will be practicable.
Mr. Lemass: Delays are of two kinds —(1) between the commission of the offence and the bringing of the trader to trial, and (2) between the date of conviction and the revocation of the licence. As regards the first type of delay, the explanation will be obvious. An inspector of the Department of Supplies, examining the books of a trader, may discover that the trader was guilty of some offence 12 months previously. The trader will be charged with that offence. I want traders to understand that the mere fact of the detection of the offence by the trader  being delayed will not prevent his being prosecuted and convicted, if the facts justify that course. Many of the long delays that appear to have occurred between commission of the offence and conviction of the trader are due to the fact that legal evidence that would stand the test of examination in court did not become available for some considerable time after the offence was committed. There is, to some extent, congestion in the Chief State Solicitor's office, which is always undesirable but, nevertheless, inevitable at certain periods of the year and it may delay the bringing of cases to court.
Delay between the conviction of the trader and the issue of notice of intention to revoke his licence is undesirable. That delay is sometimes caused by the lapse of an unduly long period between the date upon which the case was heard in court and the date on which the record of the result of the hearing is conveyed officially to the Department of Supplies. Where, in my opinion, the delay has been unduly long, I have always used that as an added reason for giving favourable consideration to the proposal that the licence should not be revoked. If the case was a serious one, delay would not justify failure to take action; in fact, it would be an added reason for taking action. Deputy Mulcahy referred to a particular case at Ballybrack, County Dublin. In that case, the licence has not yet been revoked, and any representations that may be made concerning it will, of course, be considered.
All the discussion has proceeded upon the basis of licences for tea and sugar. Traders are licensed for the sale of other commodities, and I want, at this stage, to refer particularly to the traders' licences for the sale of butter. It is true—whether Deputies want to contest the fact or not does not matter —that the sales of creamery butter during the past 12 months have exceeded the sales of any previous year. Nevertheless, there has been a scarcity of creamery butter. We need not at present discuss the reason for that. It is true, also, that there has been, and  is now, some leakage of butter over the Border.
Mr. Lemass: I am referring only to creamery butter. It will be necessary to impose very definite restrictions upon all dealings in butter in the Border areas. It may be that the traders in that area are no worse than traders elsewhere, as Deputy Coburn suggested, except that they are subjected to greater temptation because of proximity to the Border. Because they are subject to that greater temptation, they must also be subject to a greater degree of regulation. In order to try to trace this leakage of butter from this area to Northern Ireland, the traders of Dundalk, to whom Deputy Coburn referred, were required to make a return of all their customers for butter. The number of customers returned was 34,000 and the population of Dundalk is 17,000. That fact does justify us, in dealing with that particular area in relation to such a commodity as butter, in assuming that attempts will be made to get round the regulations and, consequently, necessitates the tightening up of those regulations where those special difficulties are likely to arise.
Mr. Lemass: If the Deputy believes that 17,000 persons come in regularly for supplies of butter, then he is more credulous than I thought. It will be necessary to adopt a similar practice in the matter of revocation of licences in this case if traders in those areas indicate by their actions that they are not prepared to conform fully to the requirements of the Department's regulations. May I say that I do not believe for one moment that there is any substantial number of traders who  do not know the fixed prices of the commodities which they are selling. I think that the thinnest excuse ever offered by a trader is that he did not know the fixed price. The fixed prices of commodities are not only prescribed in Orders and announced on the radio, but they are published in the daily and weekly papers again and again. The traders concerned can have no trouble whatever in informing themselves of the fixed prices. I do not believe that there is one trader who ever sold tea above the fixed price without knowing he was breaking the law. I am prepared to give no trader the benefit of the doubt in that matter.
In relation to such commodities as tea and sugar, where there is a flat rate price for the whole country, no trader can overcharge without knowing that he is doing so. Deputy Hannigan stated that he knows, or has evidence, that butter is being exported to Northern Ireland by the Great Northern Railway from Amiens Street. If Deputy Hannigan knows that, and keeps the knowledge to himself, then he is compounding a felony and it is his duty to the public, as a member of the Dáil, to give that information to the appropriate authority. Perhaps I should say no more about that, but I will give Deputy Hannigan ample opportunity to make available to those who can take action on it the evidence he says he has.
Reference was made by Deputy Mulcahy, and also by other Deputies, to the directions which were recently issued by me to cotton manufacturers regarding the distribution of cotton piece goods produced by these manufacturers. Before we come to consider this matter, let us remind ourselves of the fact that the full quantity of cotton yarns available to Irish piece goods manufacturers in the present year will not exceed 17½ per cent. of the quantity normally used by them. Mention of that figure does not invalidate what I stated yesterday, that possibly the cotton goods which will be available will not exceed 10 per cent. of our normal requirements. We are  endeavouring to secure that the cotton quota allocated to this country by the United Kingdom authorities, so far as they are agreeable, will be taken in the form of yarn. In view of the shortage of supplies, it is necessary to prescribe the type of goods which may be produced by manufacturers of these goods, and instructions were issued to the manufacturers in that regard after consultation with them and in complete agreement with them. Arrangements for the distribution of the goods manufactured under these directions were also discussed at length with manufacturers and with the other interests concerned. Reports have been reaching the Department of Supplies from time to time that a considerable amount of speculation is taking place in regard to textiles. I refer to speculation which is entitled to the description “profiteering”. The term “profiteering” has a much wider significance in these days than it had during the last war. It was invented during the last war to describe a type of individual who “muscled in” on the chain of supply of goods from the producers to the traders for the purpose of re-handling these goods at a profit to themselves, but conferring no benefit on the community by way of any services rendered. That process is taking place at the present time in relation to textiles. People who were not—some of them, at any rate— engaged ordinarily in textiles, are trafficking in these goods, and it is for the purpose of eliminating them from the chain of distribution that these directions have been issued to manufacturers as to the persons to whom they will sell goods. The sole purpose of the directions is to eliminate unnecessary trafficking in goods and thus prevent profiteering in their sale.
Mr. Lemass: I will deal with that matter in a moment. It is necessary to do something more than confining distribution to normal channels. It is necessary also to secure that the best use will be made in the national  interest of the materials produced. In my opinion, the best use which could be made of the available supply of materials, which are very limited, is to give the major share to the manufacturers of finished garments. The manufacturers and makers-up of finished articles, and retail traders were all consulted in that regard, and all agreed to the proposals placed before them, except in one respect. Disagreement was expressed on behalf of the drapers in regard to the proposal that all shirting materials should be earmarked for shirt manufacturers. The answer to the Deputy's question is that it is the only material which it is proposed should be confined entirely. The suggestion put forward on behalf of the drapers was that 75 per cent. of the available supply should be allocated to the manufacturers, and that the other 25 per cent. should be available to the retail trade for sale in the piece over the counter. I did not accept that suggestion. The quantity of shirting which will be available for sale is so small that its division amongst the various retail firms in the country would be a practicable impossibility, and the effect of allocating a proportion of the available supplies for retail sale would, in my opinion, merely have the effect of facilitating black marketing in respect to that quantity.
As a further measure to prevent black marketing in textiles, I have decided to introduce a system of buying permits. Under that system, a trader will require to obtain from the Department of Supplies a permit to buy supplies of textiles to which the system applies. The directions to manufacturers will be that they must sell only to persons who hold these buying permits. There has not been complete agreement amongst the traders concerned in favour of the adoption of that system. I have received from the Drapers' Chamber of Trade intimation of their objection to it. The Drapers' Chamber of Trade and some other interests recommend that it would be sufficient to license manufacturers, wholesalers, and retail traders and merely prescribe that these goods can be sold only by persons holding such licences. I was unable to regard  that recommendation as sufficient to deal with the situation. I realise that the introduction of a system of buying permits will create difficulty and inconvenience for bona fide traders but, in my opinion, the protection of the public must continue to be our paramount consideration, and I regard these inconveniences and difficulties as a small price that bona fide traders have to pay to ensure that members of the public will be adequately safeguarded. My directions to the cotton manufacturers provide that certain goods such as shirtings, dungaree clothing, trousers pocketing, raincoat linings, tailors' linings, and interlinings will be sold by them only to holders of buying licences. Buying licences will be issued only to the makers-up of these goods except in the case of trousers pocketing, tailors' linings, and tailors' interlinings. In respect of these classes of goods permits will be issued not only to makers-up but also to approved wholesale merchants, and they will be distributed by these wholesale merchants through the normal trade channels. I consider that those arrangements are the minimum necessary to ensure fair distribution of the limited supply of goods that will be available, to ensure that the best use will be made of that limited supply, and to afford the fullest possible protection to the public against exploitation.
Mr. Lemass: The Deputy must understand that possibly the supply will be far short of the normal amount available, but a proportion of the linings  which will be produced will be available for sale by the retail trade.
Mr. Lemass: I do not agree with that. It will be the scarcity of materials and not the regulations made to secure the best use of those materials that will affect them. I think it is all nonsense to talk of this regulation of retail sales affecting employment. The purpose of the regulation is to ensure on the one hand the maintenance of the maximum number of people in employment, and, in so far as all the goods produced by the manufacturers will eventually be sold in the retail establishments, I do not see how the regulation will affect employment in those establishments. The fact that the goods sold will be manufactured goods rather than piece goods will not affect that employment.
Mr. Lemass: The dressmakers will be affected by the scarcity of supply. Now Deputies can say to me if they like that in their opinion the whole supply of linings and interlinings should be distributed to the retail traders for sale to home dressmakers; that we should shut down all the clothing factories and disemploy all the people engaged in them. I do not think that  would be a good policy. I think if we are considering the important question of making the best use of the limited supplies available to us, there clearly must be distribution as between manufacturers and retailers in somewhat the proportions I have mentioned, nor do I think there is any force whatever in Deputy Mulcahy's contention that this arrangement will involve an increase in prices. On the contrary, it is designed to secure that unnecessary inflation of prices by speculation in those textile goods will be eliminated. In that connection, Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney asked me how it was that traders who had three years' stock of goods last year are now selling those goods at inflated prices. The answer is that they had not three years' stock of goods last year, and they knew it themselves at the time. The Deputies who spoke here on their behalf at the time also knew it. If there was any doubt about the accuracy of their contentions at the time, those contentions have been amply disproved since.
Deputy Walsh raised a question concerning saddlers' ticken, and, as there appears to be some confusion concerning the arrangements for the supply of saddlers' ticken, it is just as well to clear it up. It is not necessary for saddlers to use their personal clothing coupons for the purpose of purchasing ticken. The arrangements made by the Department are designed to secure that saddlers' ticken will be available only to saddlers. A person who requires ticken for the purpose of saddlery production or other approved use should apply to the Department of Supplies for what is described as a coupon equivalent licence. That coupon equivalent licence can be presented by him to any trader, who will be able to supply him with saddlers' ticken against the licence. At the present time, saddlers' ticken can also be supplied on ordinary clothing coupons, but, under an Order recently made and coming into operation on 2nd May, saddlers' ticken can only be supplied against those coupon equivalent licences, and not on ordinary clothing coupons.
In relation to the matter I have just  been discussing, I should say that the retail drapery trade are securing a fair share of the textile goods produced by cotton manufacturers, such as calico sheeting, binder canvas and towels. Those goods will, for the time being at least, be delivered to the retail trade by manufacturers, in exchange for clothing coupons of the ordinary kind. It may be necessary later to extend the Buying Permit system to their distribution, but that is not being done now. Deputy Mulcahy queried the necessity for imposing a surcharge upon clothing coupons held by traders. He seemed to feel that that was in some way unfair to traders. It is not merely a fact that our clothing rationing system has been unduly liberal, having regard to the available supplies, but it is perhaps more pertinent to this discussion that the supply is diminishing. With a diminishing supply of goods proceeding from manufacturers to wholesalers and from wholesalers to retailers, it is evident that there is an accumulation of coupons at each distribution point.
There are coupons in the hands of traders, whether wholesalers or retailers, which they cannot translate into fresh stocks. The accumulation of coupons in the hands of those traders naturally removes from them the incentive to take coupons from their customers. They cannot fully utilise the coupons they have, and consequently there is no particular reason why they should require persons who buy goods from them to surrender more coupons. In order to take up that accumulation of surplus coupons on the hands of traders, a surcharge has been imposed upon them. The situation in future will be that, for any article for which, say, 20 coupons must be surrendered by the consumer now, the trader seeking to replace that article will have to surrender 30 coupons, and on the wholesaler will again have to be imposed a 50 per cent. surcharge. In that way there will be action taken to accumulate those surplus coupons and take them out of circulation. It may be that individual traders are going to be hit by that, and the Department will deal with bona fide cases, but, in so far as  a trader's scarcity of coupons may be due to the fact that he has been selling, without coupons, goods controlled by the rationing Order, he cannot expect to get consideration or facilities from the Department of Supplies. If at any time while clothes rationing remains in operation the present tendency should be reversed, and the supply of goods down the chain should tend to increase, then the opposite system will have to be adopted, assuming that in such circumstances clothes rationing will be retained in operation at all, but, so long as there is a diminishing flow of goods, it is necessary to have some such surcharge in operation.
Deputy Bartley requested information concerning transport arrangements which are now being brought into operation in certain western areas —parts of Galway and Mayo. The primary purpose of those transport changes is to secure the establishment in those areas of a transport organisation which will operate with a minimum of petrol and, at the same time give adequate transport facilities to the people living in those areas. Saving of petrol is an important consideration—the arrangements which are now in force in Galway and Mayo are in fact saving petrol to the extent of about 2,500 gallons per month—but it is not the only consideration. In addition to the saving of petrol we are aiming to secure that there will be in existence in those areas an efficient transport service which will meet the essential requirements of the public, with the minimum consumption of petrol. We are facing a period in which our petrol supplies will be sharply curtailed, and, when further reductions in allocation become necessary, they will have to be imposed upon private owners of transport vehicles. So long as there are any supplies available to us, they will be retained for the public services, and we are aiming to secure that in those districts the public services, will be reorganised on such a basis as will enable them to continue meeting the essential transport needs of the country for as long as possible.
The Deputy asked why we picked  on the non-railway areas for the introduction of that reorganisation. It is precisely in the non-railway areas, where the transport needs can be met only by road services, that the need is likely to be greatest, when it is necessary to have in operation arrangements which will permit of some services being provided for all districts, no matter how our fuel supplies may contract. I can understand that, in those areas, the traders affected—and perhaps even, to some extent, the members of the public—have a certain natural resentment that they should be chosen for treatment first. It would be desirable, if it were practicable, to impose this reorganisation throughout the whole country simultaneously, but the magnitude of the task and the staff available to me did not permit of that. Consequently it has to be effected, area by area, and we deliberately chose non-railway areas because it was in those districts that it was most necessary to make arrangements which would ensure that there would be no wastage in the carrying on of transport facilities and that there would be created machinery which would enable the responsibility of the State to secure the distribution of any essential supplies, to be discharged.
The total number of vehicles in Galway and South Mayo areas which have recently been subjected to Department control is 277. Of that 277,106 have been discontinued. It is, of course, open to the owners of those vehicles to equip them with gas-producer plants and thus continue on the road. These have been discontinued only in the sense that petrol allocations will not be available for them in future. The vehicles which were discontinued were mainly merchants' lorries—lorries owned by merchants using them primarily for the transportation of their own goods. There was very considerable overlapping and wastage in operation. In some cases, the firms concerned had taxed more than one lorry—although only one was in use—for the purpose of getting additional petrol supplies. In the majority of cases, the change will prove beneficial for the traders concerned.  There has been no interference with the licensed hauliers, or hauliers who are entitled to carry on that business of carrying goods in the exempt areas around Galway and Westport. The inspectors who visited the areas made personal contact with the great majority of lorry owners concerned and inspected a large number of vehicles. The critical nature of the petrol situation was explained to them as also was the urgent necessity to expand the public services so that the public need could be met, if possible, in all eventualities. Every individual problem was fully considered and the inspectors reported to me that they found, amongst the people concerned, a very ready appreciation of the difficulties of the situation and of the motives of the Department in effecting the reorganisation.
As I am on the question of transport, I might refer to some other points raised by Deputies in relation to gas-producer plants. It was suggested that special efforts should be made to collect scrap metal for the manufacture of these plants. As far as my information goes, there is no shortage of material for the number of plants likely to be made by the manufacturers of them, for a year or more to come. The total production capacity of those manufacturers is, of course, limited, but it is hoped to get them working to full capacity; and on that basis the available supply of materials, although undoubtedly limited, will keep them going for a year ahead.
It was suggested by Deputy Byrne that the Dublin omnibuses should also be fitted with gas-producer plants. The Dublin omnibuses, as also the omnibuses of the Great Northern Railway, operate not on petrol but on Diesel oil, and experience has shown so far that gas-producer plants cannot be used with those engines. Much the same applies to the long-distance buses operated by the Great Southern Railways. Experiments in the use of gas-producer plants on these buses have been made but, generally speaking, it seems unlikely that they will be very successful. It is, however, an established fact that the operation of these plants on commercial goods vehicles is  reasonably satisfactory, and that is why the arrangements made by the Department are definitely designed to encourage the equipment of commercial vehicles with such plants.
Deputy Bartley urged that the Great Southern Railway should be more active in manufacturing gas-producer plants. I understand from the company that they are actually producing these plants and fitting them to their commercial vehicles at the rate of ten per week.
Deputy Belton referred to some one who was prosecuted for bringing goods by road. I do not know the case to which he referred, unless it was the case where he was prosecuted by the Revenue Commissioners, not for bringing goods by road but for using a tractor for the haulage of goods, on which the wrong tax was paid.
Reference has been made here to some problems which arise in connection with turf. I do not propose, at the moment, to deal with the turf subsidy which will be dealt with on the Supplementary Estimate; but there are some points which I am anxious to have cleared up, so that the misunderstanding of the Deputies concerned may be removed. Deputy Cosgrave, in the course of his rather disgraceful speech, referred to the whole turf programme as a ghastly failure. I do not know what Deputy Cosgrave would regard as success in the circumstances. Under enormous difficulties, and at very short notice, a programme for the production of turf for domestic consumption upon a colossal scale had to be undertaken. It was not merely a matter of producing a few thousand tons or a few tens of thousands of tons, but of producing hundreds of thousands of tons. The organisation had to be created at short notice, it had to be produced without the equipment which would normally be utilised in a project of that kind, and it had to be transported over long distances by a transport organisation that never had to face such a task before. We have been able to maintain a reasonable ration of turf throughout the non-turf area since coal for domestic purposes ceased to be available  to us. Not merely that, but we have built up in those areas a reserve supply of turf capable of meeting the minimum needs for a year ahead, even if all transport should stop to-morrow. That is not my idea of failure. I think that the people who directed and carried out that vast enterprise deserve the thanks of this Dáil and of the country, rather than the cheap sneers of a discredited politician.
Deputy Byrne referred to the question of the supply of turf to bellmen from the dumps in Dublin. He implied on this occasion, as he did on other occasions, that there is some preferential treatment to firms whom he described as members of a monopoly. That is all nonsense. I do not suppose that Deputy Byrne will refrain from repeating those statements, merely on that account, but I want the House and everyone else to know that it is utter nonsense. I do not even know what he means. There is no monopoly given to anyone in the matter of turf supplies. Merchants and bellmen are treated alike, and all get sufficient turf to supply the prescribed ration to their registered customers. In fact, at present and since turf has been supplied from the dumps under the control of Fuel Importers, Limited, bellmen get a much bigger percentage of the domestic fuel trade of Dublin than they ever had when coal was available.
During the past winter bellmen took an average of 2,600 tons per week out of a total consumption of 6,200 tons in the city. Deputy Byrne suggested that the merchants should have been sent to the Phonix Park dump while the bellmen were left to draw from the North Wall. There were, as the House is well aware, no facilities in the Phoenix Park for the disposal of turf until weighbridges were installed. For some time even before the weighbridges were fully in operation, some merchants were going for turf to the Park and used scoops for weighing purposes. As soon as the weighbridges were working, the merchants were transferred to the Phoenix Park while the bellmen were still drawing supplies from the North Wall. It was only when the stocks at the North Wall were completely exhausted that the  bellmen had to go to the only other source of supply available, the Phoenix Park.
We have had repeated here the old canard that people were advised by me some time ago to board stocks and that, as a result of their hoarding stocks on that advice, there is a scarcity of these goods now. Is it necessary to repeat the circumstances under which I gave certain advice to the public in June and July of 1940? In that year, we were facing the immediate prospect of invasion. We contemplated that, if invasion occurred, there might be areas in the country which would be separated from the sources of supply of essential goods for periods at a time and we endeavoured to get a distribution of available stocks throughout the country, so that the dangers of that situation would be minimised, by encouraging traders and wholesalers to draw more than their normal quantities from their primary suppliers. That advice was given with the full knowledge, and as I understood at the time, the full approval of every Party in the House. Certainly no Party in the Dáil at that time expressed disapproval of the advice. Furthermore, there was a situation, which lasted only a short period following the collapse of France, during which there was a number of ships in British ports loaded with coal intended for France. At that time we had coal rationing in operation here.
For a period of three or four weeks, it became possible to get exceptional quantities of coal by reason of the availability of these supplies in ships in British ports, provided we could take them in quickly. The only thing that prevented us was the congestion at our own ports. The merchants' yards were also filled up, and it was only by getting stocks cleared out of the merchants' yards into the stores of industrialists and householders, that we could avail of the fortuitous circumstance which made these large supplies of coal available to us. With that object in view, I urged industrialists, householders and others to draw all the supplies they could at once from the merchants' yards. To the extent that  that was done, we got more coal than we otherwise would have got.
A similar situation existed in relation to wheat. Wheat granaries and wheat stores at the ports were filled to capacity. Our ability to bring in more wheat, while it could be done, depended upon space being made available in these stores by the milling of wheat into flour and the removal of the flour into the stores of merchants. In order to enable us to get in more wheat, merchants were encouraged to stock up larger quantities of flour than they normally would, and to the extent that that was done we got in more wheat. That advice was given to the people, the circumstances were explained to the people and not one Deputy in this House raised a word of protest against that advice being given. Now, three years later, that advice is misrepresented as advice given to wealthy people to hoard goods and the unfortunate poorer sections are being told that because that advice was given they are getting less of these goods than they would otherwise receive. Political Parties who resort to tactics of that kind must be bankrupt of anything in the nature of a constructive policy to put before the people.
We had a number of references to prices fixed for various commodities. The present margin allowed to traders is, in the case of Dublin and other towns, as high as ever they got. The butter merchants in Dublin never had a larger margin on their butter sales than they have now. It is true that in other parts of the country merchants normally sought to obtain a higher profit margin than Dublin traders. I know of no reason why they should. I am told by Deputy Hughes that it is ridiculous to expect merchants to sell butter at a profit of 1d. per lb. Apart from the fact that they are getting more than 1d. per lb., I might mention that during the last war, when the British Government controlled the price of butter at 3/6 per lb., the margin allowed to traders was 1d. per lb. At the present time the controlled price is only 2/- per lb. and the margin varies from 2½d. downwards, varying according to the conditions of sale.
I do not think that I could take  Deputy Giles' suggestion seriously, that we should entirely confine price control activities to Dublin and not interfere with country traders. Everybody denounces the black market and any person who engages in it so long as he is a vague individual who cannot be identified, but the person who may be dealing in the black market may be the trader who is living next door to you, the individual whom you know to be in ordinary circumstances no law breaker. I want to repeat what I have often said here before, that there would be no black market if there were no people prepared to buy in the black market and pay black market prices. The worst offenders in this regard are those small country traders who, Deputy Giles tells us, should not be subject to price control at all.
Deputy Cosgrave made an extraordinary statement to the effect that the present scarcity of certain goods is due to the decline in imports last year resulting from a diminution of exports following the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. If any Deputy can make any sense out of that statement, I should like him to explain it to me. If there is any meaning in it, the implication is that because we could not export, or did not export, during the foot-and-mouth epidemic on the same scale as previously, then we could not pay for the goods we otherwise would have imported. That is the only interpretation that can be put on that statement. Deputy Cosgrave knows, or ought to know as the Leader of a Party, that we have at least £300,000,000 worth of foreign assets that we cannot translate into goods. We could pay for all the goods that we are likely to require for the next ten or fifteen years if we could utilise these assets. The difficulty is that owing to our inability to use our foreign assets to purchase imports we are accumulating enormous balances abroad which we cannot translate into imports and which if we could translate them into imports would be a great advantage to us.
Deputy Dillon repeated this year, as in previous years, the nonsense about restrictions maintained upon the imports of supplies which prevent us from  getting stocks when they can be obtained. He referred particularly to agricultural machinery, denounced the fact that there was a quota on agricultural machinery and said that we had removed it when it was much too late. There never was a quota on agricultural machinery. One does not expect Deputy Dillon to be as accurate as other Deputies try to be but this nonsense that Deputy Dillon has uttered and which misled other Deputies into repeating his remarks, that supplies which could have been procured were not obtained by reason of the maintenance of unnecessary quotas and by reason of other restrictions, is just bunkum. There are certain goods in respect of which there is control of imports at the moment. These are goods in respect of which we have a definite allocation to us of a stated amount.
In relation to certain classes of textiles, cording for manufacture of fishing nets, to which Deputy Cogan referred, and certain other goods, we have received as a country a definite allocation. We know precisely the quantity of goods of these classes which will come in, and we endeavour to secure that these goods will come in in the form and to the firms we want to get them. If people succeed in bringing in these goods outside our control, it does not mean that the country is getting any more. It merely means that our control has been made less effective, and that goods have reached the hands of speculators who are going to confer no advantage on the community, but who aim at making profit for themselves. In so far as control of imports is maintained, it is maintained for the purpose of directing the flow of goods into the country into the channels in which they can be best utilised in the national interest.
Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney and Deputy Kennedy both asked what was the justification for allowing public houses to open until 10.30 p.m., when other establishments were being required to close earlier in the interests of economy of light and fuel. I could evade answering the question by saying that the Order for the closing of shops is made by the Minister for  Industry and Commerce and that therefore, the question does not arise on this Vote. It may be that for the purpose of effecting greater economy in electric light and fuel of one kind or another, the closing hours of particular classes of establishments, such as public houses, may have to be further altered, but having regard to the controversy which has developed during the week between the owners of these houses and their assistants, I do not think I would be justified in using the Emergency Powers Act for that purpose at this stage. The Dáil deliberately decided to amend the law relating to the closing hours of public houses. That law is a permanent measure. It may have to be temporarily suspended in its operation by Emergency Powers Orders before the end of the war, but at the moment I am not prepared to make an Order of that kind affecting public houses in Dublin only.
Deputy Byrne referred to the difficulties of tenement dwellers in Dublin, owing to the shortage of paraffin oil and candles. So far as paraffin oil is concerned, people in Dublin who have no other forms of lighting get allocations upon the same basis as people everywhere else. In a sense, they are treated better than rural dwellers, because since the gas supply in the cities has been restricted, the paraffin oil ration has been granted to persons who have gas laid on and who, therefore, have gas for a certain period in the evening, if not at all hours. The real answer, of course, to the representations made by Deputy Byrne concerning Dublin and by other Deputies concerning rural areas is that there is not sufficient paraffin oil to go round. It is a very easy matter for Deputies to urge me to give more paraffin oil for domestic lighting in particular districts. They know they cannot get results by that means and they know as well as I do the total quantity of paraffin oil available to the country this year—I told them. They know the purposes for which it will be used—I told them. If they want to propose that more oil should be made available for domestic purposes, they  must in all honesty suggest from whom it is to be taken in order to make it available for domestic users.
There is one matter concerning which it might be desirable to correct a false impression, that is, with regard to the quantity of copper sulphate which will be available this year. The allocation of copper sulphate is on a quarterly basis. The allocation for the current quarter will be 800 tons, but it is anticipated that a similar allocation will be available for subsequent quarters, so that the total quantity available to the country over the whole year will be substantially larger than 800 tons.
There is a further matter to which I might perhaps refer briefly, in order to avoid misunderstanding. Deputy Cogan and Deputy Hannigan referred to clerical assistants in the Department of Supplies being employed at the disgracefully low wage of 19/- per week. If these Deputies would do what is their duty as members of the Dáil, that is, take the ordinary elementary precaution of reading the documents circulated to them, they would know that that statement is completely without foundation. Deputy Cogan told me that he could not find out what was the bonus appropriate to a basic wage of 19/-. He had only to turn back to the beginning of the book from which he was quoting to find set out a table which would have given him all the information he required in the matter.
A temporary clerical assistant of 21 years of age in the Department of Supplies receives a total remuneration of £2 0s. 2d. per week, and, having regard to the prevailing rates of wages for female clerical officers in commercial employment, I do not think that wage can be unfavourably criticised. It is, of course, entirely nonsense to talk about these temporary clerical officers deciding traders' quotas or matters of outstanding importance, as Deputy Cogan alleged. Deputy Cogan does always expect to be taken seriously, but he makes these very foolish statements, and nevertheless, by some means or another, retains his position as deputy vice-president of the new  Farmers' Party, of which Deputy Belton is not a member.
Deputies referred to a number of other matters of varying degrees of importance, but I do not propose to refer to them now. Deputies who asked for specific information can get that information, either by reference to published replies of Dáil queries, or by tabling Dáil queries in the future. Deputy Cosgrave said that there should be an issue of sugar for the manufacture of household jam, even if it involved a drain upon our reserves. I do not know where Deputy Cosgrave got the idea that we have reserves. The present domestic sugar ration is calculated upon the basis of utilising all the available supplies of sugar between now and the commencement of the next production season. I could not make sugar for the manufacture of household jam available, except by cutting the general domestic ration, and I feel certain that no Deputy would approve of that course.
If we get additional supplies of sugar, as a result of the importation of raw sugar from the West Indies, which I have told the House is proceeding, it may be possible to give a more liberal distribution for domestic purposes. I should like to be in a position to give a larger domestic ration of sugar, and to let the people who wanted to make household jam save the sugar for that purpose from their ordinary ration; but it cannot be done yet, nor can it be done for some months to come until there has been some reserve accumulated as a result of imports. By reason of the greater acreage under sugar beet this year, plus the anticipated imports during the year, it can be confidently stated that, subject to unforeseen contingencies not arising, a larger ration of sugar for domestic purposes will be available towards the end of the year.
|Last Updated: 18/05/2011 23:44:31||Page of 9|