Wednesday, 11 July 1945
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Taoiseach: I do not know if it is necessary for me to go very much into detail in my reply. I indicated, in the portion of the speech I have already made, that the planning is done by separate Departments. They have been giving their attention to the activities over which they have control with a view to being in a position, when the emergency ends, to get ahead at full speed in so far as supplies will enable them to do so. The plans of the various Departments were indicated, I think, by the Ministers, when they were dealing with their own Estimates.
For example, the Minister for Industry and Commerce pointed out that, from the information which was supplied to him by manufacturing firms, plans for the development and establishment of new and important industries are well advanced. He also told the House that legislation would in due course be submitted for the regulation of industrial development, for industrial  efficiency, for assisting industrial expansion generally, and particularly with regard to the possibility of encouraging the growth of export trade in industrial products. He informed the House that building projects for the immediate post-war years had been listed and classified and plans were being prepared to get, internally, the maximum amount of materials possible for constructive work and also to attract apprentices into the building trade. He pointed out that the essential building material likely to offer most trouble was timber and that it probably would be a considerable time before it would be freely available in quantities sufficient to permit the building programme to be carried through.
With regard to the returning emigrants, the position is that if they should be unemployed they will have all the facilities open to other unemployed workers here and by the Unemployment Insurance Act, 1943, their claims will be kept alive for one year after the emergency.
If you turn to the Department of Agriculture, you will find that the Minister there indicated that he had received certain reports which, of course, are public knowledge, in relation to the cattle and dairying industries, poultry production, cattle diseases and veterinary services and he has just now received the final majority and minority reports. He indicated that, when these reports were carefully examined and considered by him, he would be in a position to put proposals before the Government which, in due course, will find their way into a White Paper and, in so far as it is necessary to do so, into legislation.
We heard a great deal about the agricultural situation, and suggestions have been made here from time to time that there has been no real development. The Minister, of course, pointed out that that was not true, that the real output — the volume of the net output—had gone up and was 9.1 per cent. greater than 1938-39, and 10.3 per cent. greater than 1929-30. It is pointed out that if you are thinking simply of gross output, you can  increase that by importing considerable quantities of raw material for feeding stuffs, etc. Even without these figures anyone making a calculation can see the increase in acreage and the increase in consumption of agricultural products that must have taken place, taking into account the raw materials needed for human food. In 1932 we had 21,388 acres under wheat. The figures were increased almost more than tenfold, and we had reached in 1938, the year before the war, 230,426 acres. The figures were almost trebled again in 1944, when the acreage was 642,487, an expansion to about 30 times the figure for 1932.
Of course it was because of that expansion that we had not to ration bread in this country. Similarly in the case of beet the acreage expanded from 13,686 acres in 1932 to 51,181 acres in 1938, and in 1944 reached 81,824 acres. That is, production expanded six-fold over the figure for 1932. In various ways the question of consumption of foodstuffs and agricultural produce at home was raised. It is only necessary to call attention to the fact that the amount of butter consumed here in 1937-38 was only 426,101 cwts., whereas in 1942-43 it had gone up to 595,910 cwts. In 1944-45, the figures were 578,978 cwts. That shows a considerable expansion in the consumption of butter at home. Similarly cheese increased from 21,000 cwts. to 50,000 cwts. Eggs increased by about 40 per cent. in five years.
The Taoiseach: I said that egg consumption had gone up 40 per cent. in the last five years and I gave the figures, not for the increase in agricultural production, unless for 1942-43 when the net output was 9.1 per cent. greater than in 1938-39, and 10.3 per cent. greater than 1929-30. If you take 1938-39 and compare it with 1942-43  there is an expansion in the net output of over 9 per cent. The consumption of eggs went up 40 per cent. in the last five years.
The next question was the increase in the production of materials which we required to substitute for imported feeding stuffs. Oats went up from 536,749 acres in 1939 to 945,236 in 1944. Potatoes went up from 317,169 acres to 411,946 acres and barley from 73,784 to 167,622 acres. These statistics prove very clearly the distinct expansion that there has been here in production of food for human beings and for animals.
The Taoiseach: The Deputy knows that there has been diminution with regard to bacon, because of the fact that the imported feeding was not there. I gave figures with regard to milk and with regard to cheese. My recollection is that the consumption of milk in Dublin has increased by about 7,000 gallons a day. From these figures there is clear proof of the expansion that has taken place in the agricultural industry, on the tillage side particularly, as we have 1,000,000 acres more under tillage—1,000,000 acres less under grass—but, at the same time, we have increased our cattle production during the war. These are all particulars of the work that has been done under the inspiration and largely due to the initiative of the Department of Agriculture. If you compare the percentage of increased tillage or the percentage of increased output, it will be found that we have done just as well as Britain or any other country during the war.
The Minister also referred to the question of guaranteed prices. He pointed out that the question was under consideration, and was still being actively considered, but that there  were certain essentials before you could give fixed prices, that you should have a certain amount of uniformity in the product, the greater part of which, for obvious reasons, would have to be marketed at home.
With regard to housing, that, of course, falls under the Department of Local Government. The Minister, in dealing with plans—I am not quite sure that he actually gave these figures, but I think they are substantially the same—said that from recent surveys carried out by the local authorities it is calculated that the provision of over 59,000 houses is necessary to meet the existing housing needs of the working classes, urban and rural; that 43,000 of these will be required in urban areas and the remaining 16,000 in rural areas. He, I think, also said that the local authorities had been urged during the emergency to carry out preliminary works in respect to housing schemes which would be put into operation immediately materials became available. As a result, advanced preparations have been made for a substantial portion of the post-emergency programme, approved sites have been cleared for 8,500 dwellings, plans have been approved and works are ready for contract for 7,800 houses, and plans are well advanced for a further 1,360. Site development works, namely the provision of roads, water and sewerage, have been carried out on sites for 5,540 dwellings. Approved sites are available and plans prepared for as many schemes as can be reasonably carried out in the first post-emergency years, and plans for further work on dwellings are already in progress.
He also pointed out that even during the war period houses were being built and completed and that the total number between 31st March, 1940, and 31st March, 1945, was no less than 16,804 completed. He pointed out how the sums had been allocated, provisionally, of course, for the years ahead, and said that it was thought that in the first post-war year—there was a certain amount of doubt as to whether materials would make it possible to achieve the result—it would be possible  to allocate a sum of £2,500,000; that in the second year the sum would be £3,500,000; in the third year £4,500,000; in the fourth year £5,000,000; and in the fifth year, £5,000,000. I could get the notes from the various Departments for Deputies, but if they look up the reports of the proceedings in the Dáil they will find, by studying the reports of the speeches and statements that have been made by the Ministers of the various Departments, in so far as their Departments are dealing with post-war planning, that the matter is being carefully attended to.
Perhaps I might come again for a moment to Deputy McGilligan's speech which, of course, was only a speech pointing out, in so far as it was accurate—there were a number of inaccuracies in it, either misunderstandings or misrepresentations—what we all knew. It is quite clear that he was speaking about things that we all knew. Everybody knew that we were not able to get all the raw materials and capital goods we require at the present time from abroad—from Great Britain or anywhere else—and that, therefore, as long as our exports were being continued, we were building up external assets, and that as these exports were mainly to Britain they were, of course, sterling assets. Now, he said, and it is a fact, that we were doing that, but he did not indicate—he indicated that it would have been more desirable if we could get goods, and we all admit that—what we were to do about it. The Minister for Local Government and Public Health asked him was it his purpose to advise us to stop exporting our agricultural produce or to stop producing it. I have shown you that we have built up a home market, and that, even though at other times we were able to get external outlets, the home market was the only alternative we had during the war, and the figures I have given with regard to consumption here at home and the expansion of tillage are proof that that was being attended to and that to the extent to which it could be done it was being done. There is, however, a surplus and we are very glad, ordinarily, to have  that surplus. It is by means of that surplus that we get the goods which make up the difference in our commercial trade balance. We ordinarily import goods here to a greater value than we export. How do we purchase them? We purchase them mainly as a result of the income that comes from investments abroad, and these sterling assets we are building up or have built up in the last war were really in the form of what you might call a permanent investment. In some cases, we realised these assets when we wanted exceptional quantities of capital goods, but, ordinarily, they are there to enable us to purchase goods that we get in in excess of exports.
As I have said, Deputy McGilligan did not tell us what we were to do about it. We all recognise that it is a fact. He said that they were going to be of no use or of very little use. We do not agree with that. We do agree that if we can get goods for these and if he will tell us how to do it, we shall be very glad to examine the situation with a view to seeing how it will be done. If he can give us advice of the sort that can be applied, we shall be glad to take it, but he is very careful not to do that. He talks — incorrectly — about the Tourist Board setting up offices and advertising to bring in here tourists who will bring in sterling and will again, he says, make available here greater quantities of sterling. He is wrong about that, because it is not the Tourist Board that is doing that, but the Tourist Association, which is a private association of hotel keepers and so on, who, for their own purposes, are doing their advertising. Again, however, what does he propose to do about it? Does he say that we should stop it, or that we should not encourage such a trade? Will he say that we should not be looking ahead, that it is not desirable in ordinary times that these people, who are advertising the good things that we have here for tourists, should advertise the good things that we have, and that these people should be prevented from doing so? I think that things would have to be very serious, indeed,  in the direction to which he refers before we would take such a step. He speaks, again, of the remittances which come in here from those who have gone to work in Britain. What does he want us to do about them? Did he not know that there was a shortage of raw materials, which meant that these people were not able to get work here for the time being? Does he want us to keep them at home against their will or does he want us to prevent their sending back remittances to be used by their families? He points out that these things have a certain effect, but he does not say what the effect of preventing them would be. However, I think that we have all got to the stage at which we do not take Deputy McGilligan too seriously in these matters. We know that he is out to make what capital he can out of any such circumstances, no matter what they are——
The Taoiseach: I have a right to my opinion just as well as Deputy Mulcahy, and I am going to give my opinion: that his attitude here was that of a man who did not care and did not mind what disturbance he caused. He is a Deputy who had been in such a position here that he ought to know better, but, as far as I am able to judge, he did not know better.
The Taoiseach: Deputies do give their opinions here, and when I form a judgment on matters, I am entitled to state it. I say, with regard to Deputy McGilligan's speech, that he knew as well as everybody in this House knows, that there was no remedy for what he was pointing out, and that everybody  understood and knew that he was trying to cause all the damage he could.
The Taoiseach: He tries to cause all the trouble he can. He seems to suggest that there is some easy way of dealing with the matters to which he referred and that we are deliberately pursuing a policy which could have been avoided. What is the meaning of his speech otherwise?
The Taoiseach: What has dawned on the Government is this: the Government knows full well what the situation is, that when you give credit you have to depend on the good faith of the debtor if you have no means of bringing him to book. In this particular case, we have no other way to dispose of our produce.
The Taoiseach: It did not take us 15 years to learn it. The Deputy has not yet learned that, to the extent to which you are dependent on any other country, you are in a dangerous position. If we had not done as has been proven by those figures, we would be in this position: our debtor would not be able to give us the wheat and other things we needed during the emergency because he was not able to provide for himself. There are, of course, always dangers in connection with these credits. If there is any alternative to doing what we are doing, let Deputies point it out. To make it appear that this was a thing which could have been avoided or which could have been dealt with otherwise and to give no remedy for the position, should not be the attitude of a person who sits on the Front Bench and who has been a Minister.
As I have said, the work in connection with the planning which has taken place as a result of Government policy  is distributed amongst the Departments. Therefore, I have little to add on this Estimate. Our general policy is to produce here as many as possible of the things we require, whether agricultural produce or manufactured goods. To the extent that we have the raw materials, we shall go down to the raw materials. From the completed, manufactured article we shall go down to the raw material if it be produced here. Where it is not produced here, we shall go as far back as we can. The advantage of that is that you give employment to your own people. You have in this way an element of safety in times of crisis and you have a further element of safety in the fact that you are not piling up credits with which to finance imports of materials. It is better to finance production internally than have a double operation—exporting and then importing. We have definitely pursued that policy from the start and it is good general policy. Every Department responsible for production is pursuing that policy as steadily as it can.
With regard to social services, the first matter which engaged our attention was the construction of houses. I have indicated to you what the plans are and most of you know the figures which show the extent to which the policy of providing proper houses for our people has been pursued. That policy is to be continued. Our general policy is relatively simple. The various Departments are carrying it out and, therefore, you have, inevitably, questions raised on this Estimate which have been dealt with on Estimates for other Departments.
Deputy Dillon raised another matter which is, I think, more appropriate to the Vote for the Department of External Affairs. I so suggested at the beginning and, with your permission, a Chinn Comhairle, I shall reserve my remarks in connection with it until we come to that Vote.
Mr. Dillon: The Taoiseach asked Deputies on previous occasions not to embarrass him by raising matters without notice on his Estimate. That was a proposal to which we were all  prepared to give ready assent. Accordingly, I addressed to you, a Chinn Comhairle, a letter, at your request, a week ago, stating that I proposed to raise on this Vote the constitutional status of our own country without reference to any other country. I said that I denied the right of any other country to interfere in or make representations in regard to that matter, which was our own business——
Mr. Dillon: You replied to me that it appeared to you that the matter which I proposed to raise related to the Department of External Affairs. I made further representations, along the lines described, to you and you accepted my proposition that our constitutional position was our own business, had no relation to external affairs and that no outside power had the right to intervene in the matter at all. I should have regarded your decision as binding upon me if you had stated, in your ruling, that the matter was not relevant to the Vote for the Office of the Taoiseach. I do not think it is fair that I should be bound by that decision while the Taoiseach holds himself free to say: “I shall not be bound by your decision unless you decide the way I want you to decide. If the Ceann Comhairle goes the way I want him to go, then I agree.” That is “Heads I win, harps you lose.”
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy's submission is rather long. I have no power to make any Minister answer on any question and the Deputy should know that. According to the Official Report of last week, column 1982, I put it to Deputy Dillon that he was intending to refer to the position of this country vis-á-vis other countries or the British Commonwealth. The Deputy's answer to me was: “The matter which I proposed to raise has no reference to any other country or the seven seas surrounding this country, but relates exclusively to the territory on which we stand”.
An Ceann Comhairle: When the Ceann Comhairle rises, he may not be interrupted. The Deputy, in his speech, did refer to other countries, though he stated categorically that he would not do so. Consequently, it seems to be that I was right in my first interpretation that the matter would be more appropriate to the Vote for the Department of External Affairs.
“The matter which I propose to raise has no reference to any other country, or the seven seas surrounding this country, but relates exclusively to the territory on which we stand. I desire to inquire in some detail of the Taoiseach, in vacuo, are we a republic or are we not, because nobody seems to know.”
Mr. Dillon: This is a republic? That is the greatest news I heard for a long time. Now we know where we are, and the League of Nations in San Francisco knows it, too. When did it happen, can anyone tell us?
The Taoiseach: From recent surveys, carried out by local authorities, it is calculated that the building of 59,000 houses is necessary to meet the existing housing needs of the working-class, however the needs arise.
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