Supplies and Services (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1946 (Continuance) Bill, 1948—Second Stage (Resumed).
Friday, 3 December 1948
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. Corry: Last night I was covering the position as regards supplies, as regards farming produce generally, and the reason for the continuation of rationing. I now want to deal with the position as regards barley. The fixed price in this country at the present moment is 50/- per barrel. That price was fixed by the Minister for Agriculture two months ago, despite the fact that that same Minister, on a previous occasion in this House, attacked the former Government for, as he stated, putting millions into the coffers of Messers. Arthur Guinness. He made that declaration from those benches. He struck the desk and he said: “This will never happen again.” Within a fortnight of making that statement, he came along and fixed the price of barley. His complaint against the former Government was that it had fixed the price of barley at 45/- at a time when the brewers were willing and anxious to pay 60/-. During the emergency, the price of barley had to be fixed. It had to be fixed during that period because of the necessity of growing wheat, and 25 per cent. more than their quota of wheat was grown by farmers who need not have grown it if they did not want to do it. The Minister forgot all that, and he went back once more to a policy, the necessity for  which had ceased to exist. He thereby deprived the farmers of this country of £900,000 this year.
Within a week of the Minister fixing the price of barley at 50/- per barrel the executive committee of the Beet Growers' Association arranged with Messers. Arthur Guinness for the 1949 crop a price of 57/6 per barrel with a differential that in no case would the price be less than 2/6 over the price of British malting barley. For the past two months the price of British malting barley has been 60/- per barrel. Had the Minister for Agriculture refrained from bringing down his heavy hand upon the farmers of this country to prevent them getting something of which, he said, in this House they had been robbed by the previous Government, those farmers would now be getting 62/6 per barrel. Messers. Arthur Guinness would have been paying 62/6 for this season's crop. The Government price is 50/—12/6 per barrel less.
This Government has kept the price of milk at an uneconomic level. This Government has now endeavoured to put the beet factories out of operation. This Government has made a mess of the oats. One would have thought that the Government might have said in relation to barley: “You unfortunate farmers are badly off enough; we will give you this chance of recouping yourselves from people who can well afford to pay you—Messers. Arthur Guinness.” But the Government did not do that. The Government continued the fixed price for barley and thereby deprived the farmers of £900,000. I do not wish to delay the House but I think it would be wrong not to advert to this because it would be wrong if I as a representative of the agricultural community did not do so. I think I should call the attention of the House to these facts.
I heard the Parliamentary Secretary last night mourn the fact that butter has still to be rationed. If the Parliamentary Secretary will study the statement I made last night he will see that the farmer sending his milk to the creamery and having it converted into anything except butter can get 1s. 7d., 1s. 8d. and nearly 2s. per gallon for it without any of the £2,000,000 subsidy.
I also called the Parliamentary Secretary's attention to the position as regards beet last night. Surely, when you have an industry in this country, the raw product of which is directly derived from the soil and which gives employment to something in the region of 100,000 people, that industry does not deserve to be stabbed in the back by a Government which is kept in power by a Party which claims to represent the agricultural community in this House. I appeal to those people who have been put in this position by what, in my young days, I used to hear called posadh saluch, or, in the English language, a dirty marriage; I appeal to those people even now, to get a divorce if they have any influence over there, at least to stand up and fight to get for the farmers, whom they claim to represent, the cost of production, plus a profit.
We had motions in this House previously by Deputy Cogan and others on those lines. I expect to hear from Deputy Cogan to-day on this matter. If we are to go back to the old free trade policy, if we are again to have the land for the bullock——
Mr. Corry: I will put it another way. If we are to see the unfortunate people of this country rationed in their sugar on account of the policy of a Government that used that rationing system for the purpose of creating something in this country that was never equalled unless by the tribes in Africa, or something that you would hear of in Turkey, namely Government black-marketing——
Mr. Corry: Mac's Smile again. No wonder I had a bad shave this morning. The condition of affairs that has  been created will lead to widespread unemployment and will lead to people in the cities and towns having to queue up for a pint of milk. That situation has been deliberately created by the Government. If I did not believe that it had been deliberately created, I might have put it down to their foolishness, or rawness, if you like, but yesterday I had proof that it has been deliberately created. I make a last appeal here to the farmers on the opposite benches to end this situation to-day. I will not go any further.
Mr. Desmond: Deputy Corry apparently is extremely worried about rationing. I think it is a true saying that far away cows wear long horns. If Deputies in this House were familiar with the actions of Deputy Corry and others in Cork in connection with rationing and prices they would take a different view. Deputy Corry is fully aware of the fact that while, unfortunately, milk is rationed in Cork City at the present time, it is mainly through the efforts of a body for which Deputy Corry spoke so loudly here time and time again that that is so. When any of us pointed out the vital importance of extending the area in order to give greater supplies of milk to Cork City, Deputy Corry always rose on his high horse.
Mr. Corry: That statement is not correct. There is lying over in the Department of Agriculture, from the Cork Milk Producers' Association, a map indicating an increased area. It has been there for the past 12 months, and it is not our fault if the Department has not taken action in regard to it.
Mr. Desmond: Perhaps I may be allowed to explain my point. I gave information in this House to the Minister responsible, letters from farmers living very close to Cork City. These men put clearly in writing to me—and I handed it to the Minister—the case where, during the winter period, they were allowed to bring milk into Cork City.
Mr. Desmond: Deputy Corry may endeavour to take advantage of the situation now, but I am prepared to answer him. I am in a position to tell other Deputies that his statements about prices and the rationing of milk in Cork City are totally false. I will leave it at that.
Mr. Lynch: Before the inter-Party Government came into power they attributed the rise in the cost of living purely and solely to Fianna Fáil and they promised that they would set about reducing the cost of living at once.
Mr. Lynch: Many people got it into their heads that the inter-Party Government, the various Parties that compose, it, had a cut and dried plan to reduce the cost of living for the ordinary consumer. I will take a few items in relation to which they claim there has been a reduction. Take clothing, for instance. The price of clothes at the present time, so far as the ordinary person can see, has not decreased, but has increased slightly over the past few months. When I speak of clothing I mean not only ordinary wearing apparel, but boots and shoes. As regards provisions generally, again we were given to understand that should the inter-Party  Government obtain power they would immediately set about cutting down the prices of provision goods generally. Nevertheless, when the Minister for Industry and Commerce was some days ago addressing the annual general meeting of the R.G.D.A.T.A., he had little to say beyond giving a polite admonition to those people that if they did not do something to cut down their distribution costs, he would have to take action.
Apparently the Minister has now decided that the only way in which he can succeed in reducing the cost of living, so far as consumer goods are concerned, is to attack the method of distribution. I think that a lot of uneasiness has been created in the public mind as to the capacity of the Minister to deal with that subject. It boils down now to the fact that he has decided that the high cost of living in the matter of these goods is related to the method of distribution, and he has no plans prepared to deal with it other than a polite admonishing of the members of the R.G.D.A.T.A. that they should cut down their costs of distribution.
During the debate on the Republic of Ireland Bill, we heard a lot about speeches by certain people which, according to the inter-Party Ministers, were calculated to lead to a disturbance of the public mind. I think I will be quite relevant if I quote from a speech made by the Minister for External Affairs before the general election in February with regard to the bread subsidy. He tried to create uneasiness in the public mind as to the purpose of that bread subsidy when he said that the bread subsidy had recently been increased and it was imperative to know why the increase was necessary and into whose pockets the money was going. He asked, and, I submit, with no innocent intention, if the bigger subsidy had been provided to swell the profits of some bakery firms. I quote from the Irish Independent of 28th January, 1948. That Minister, together with other Ministers who now form the Coalition Government, told us in no uncertain fashion that there would be  no increase in the price of bread. Nevertheless, following the recent bakers' strike in Dublin, the Minister has now satisfied himself that the bread subsidy as provided by the Fianna Fáil Government was not calculated to swell the profits of some bakery firms because that Minister's Government has allowed that increase to be passed on to the consumer. As recently as August 16th, an announcement appeared in the Press to the effect that the Minister for Industry and Commerce had sanctioned an increase in the price of bread to the retailer.
Mr. Lynch: I am dealing with a statement made by the present Minister for External Affairs. Events have proved that the Minister's statement was not only wrong but mischievous when he sought to create the impression in the public mind that the bread subsidy was calculated to increase the profits of certain bakery firms. It now appears that not only is he satisfied on that point, but he has broken his specific promise that there would be no increase in the price of bread when he allowed the recent increase in wages to be passed on to the consumer.
Mr. Lynch: I am not going to decide as between the desirability of rationing or not rationing eggs, but only last week I passed one of the largest creameries in the country and I saw there notices to the effect that farmers would get prices ranging from 3/2 to 3/8 for eggs. Nevertheless, the unfortunate housewife in Cork or Dublin had to pay 7/- a dozen for eggs, which represents in many cases an  increase of 100 per cent. as between the producer and the consumer. At some stage somebody is making a lot of profit and I say that here again the inter-Party Government has fallen down on its promise to reduce the cost of living.
With regard to petrol, there may or may not at present be a need for the rationing of petrol. I have no doubt that, in the mind of the ordinary petrol consumer, there is an impression that petrol is rationed to an extent which is completely unnecessary at the moment. The Government simply tells motorists, many of whom are dependent on the use of petrol for their livelihoods, that the necessity for petrol rationing still exists and that rationing must continue. Nevertheless, I submit that the Government should, in addition to saying that to the petrol consumers, state the reason why it is necessary, because people are asking why it is necessary. So far as I can see, and I do not think the Minister can deny it, all over the country people can get petrol at a price, and a certain amount of uneasiness has been created in the public mind as to why some people are restricted to such a meagre ration, while they see better off people able to get all the petrol they want at a certain price. The petrol consuming public, many of whom, as I say, are dependent on petrol for their livelihoods, are entitled to know why some people who can afford it, can procure petrol far in excess of their ration, and why petrol is at present rationed to such an extent. If the Government are not prepared to give them the information, they should at least increase the ration to such an extent as will give all an equal supply.
Mr. Cogan: Two of the most rigidly rationed foodstuffs are bacon and butter and I should like to know when we can look forward to an improvement in the supplies of these commodities and to an increase in the ration. I feel that Government policy over a long period has been responsible for the fact that these two commodities are in such short supply. During the first World War, there was very little control over the marketing and price of bacon.
 Nevertheless, notwithstanding very many obstacles, supplies of bacon to the community were much greater than they are to-day and the price was not higher. It was, as a matter of fact, lower, but nevertheless the producer of pigs was able to get a better price for his pigs and there must be something wrong somewhere when we have a condition of affairs in which the consumer is cut down to a miserable ration at a high price and the producer has to a large extent been put out of production.
The case may be made that shortage of supplies of feeding-stuffs is the main reason for this position, but at the present time we have a glut of at least one basic feeding stuff for pigs, that is, potatoes. The rigid control over the price of pigs and the price of bacon has made it uneconomic, having regard to the cost of fuel and other costs, to go into the feeding of pigs on a large scale. The time has come when these controls must be lifted and freedom must be given to the producer, and he must get a fair price for his bacon pig, to enable him to produce it at a profit. Advertisements have appeared in the papers setting out the virtues of the sow, how she will produce 20 pigs per year at £5 per pig at ten weeks old, which is equivalent to a guarantee of £5 per ten weeks old pig. Does anyone think that any farmer can purchase that ten weeks old pig at £5 and produce a bacon pig 200 lbs. liveweight, and sell it on the market for less than £14 and have a profit? It simply cannot be done, and that is why no pigs, are being fed. No one is feeding pigs, except those who feed one or two on the waste food of the household. That is the reason why bacon has to be rationed so severely.
If we want to get away from this rationing of bacon and give the people ample supplies—to which they are entitled now, three years after the emergency—it is essential that a fair price be given for bacon pigs; but it is no use telling farmers in a vague kind of way that they ought to keep more sows and produce more pigs and that they will get a high price for the bonhams. We all know that if the supplies are increased  the price will inevitably fall. There is no profit in fattening pigs and it is on the fattening that the industry must depend.
It is time for the Minister to try to relieve himself of this duty of rigidly rationing bacon. It has gone on too long and there ought to be a means now of producing more pigs and more bacon. Food supplies are increasing. One basic food-stuff is a drug on the market and in addition oats is becoming to be regarded as a surplus food-stuffs for which there is no market. With potatoes and oats added to other food-stuffs which might become available, the production can be increased and extended, but—there is a but there—the producer must be given a reasonable return.
On this question, as on all other questions, we come back to the contention of the city man, the professional man, that the farmer is trying to bluff the rest of the community and get excessive profits. A challenge has been flung down from this side of the House to go into costings and find out the costs, but it has been evaded up to the present. The Government cannot go on evading it indefinitely.
What is true of bacon is equally true of butter. Butter supplies are inadequate for the home market, but the Government over a long period has been fixing a price for milk supplied to the creameries and for milk supplied to the consumer. In both cases, they have fixed inadequate prices to the producer. One of the results of fixing an inadequate price for milk produced for city consumption is that creamery milk, which should go to add to the pool of butter production, is being diverted to the cities, thus reducing our supplies of butter and consequently the butter ration. By giving a fair price over the winter months to those engaged in the production of whole milk for human consumption, it would be possible to avoid drawing on creamery supplies and thus avoid reducing the butter ration. So far, however, no reasonable attempt has been made to face up to this problem.
One of the basic essentials in agriculture now is tractor fuel, both petrol and kerosene. I, in common with other  Deputies, have received complaints over and over again from extensive tillage farmers, that they never have been able to get enough petrol or kerosene to keep their tractors working fully. In recent months, the more severe complaints I have received have been from people who use petrol for their tractors, who have the type of tractor which requires petrol. I have found that the supplies doled out to them have been utterly inadequate. If we want to keep agriculture going and increase production, we must be absolutely fair to those engaged in tillage operations and who use tractors. Deputy Corry was rather severe on the farmer Deputies who are not in opposition to the Government. However, he forgot that he supported a Government at a time when farmers were compelled to sell their produce at less than 80 per cent. of the 1914 price. During the years from 1932 onwards, that was the position in agriculture, while all other sections of the community enjoyed incomes far in excess of—and, in some cases, double— the 1914 standard. The farmers gross income was reduced to 80 per cent. of the 1914 level, but Deputy Corry never complained. I am not one of those who seek to make political capital out of the farmers' grievances: I seek rather to have them remedied. There are outstanding grievances which must be removed and I have mentioned only two-those in pig producing and in the dairying industry. These two important branches of agriculture must be guaranteed a fair return. With such a guarantee, we can get away for all time from this obnoxious duty of having to ration our people in bacon and in butter.
Captain Cowan: I should imagine that in a matter of this kind we would have in this House at least sufficient Deputies to form a quorum. I intend to say a very few words in regard to the cost of living which, in Dublin City, is excessive. It is impossible for the average family to make ends meet at present. There is a duty on the Government to bring down the cost of living, and whatever steps are necessary to achieve a substantial reduction  must be taken at once. The Minister for Industry and Commerce and the Minister for Finance have made appeals to manufacturers, wholesalers, producers and distributors to bring down the price of commodities, but those appeals have fallen on deaf ears. Those profiteers will not willingly reduce their profits. They must be made to do so, and I avail of this measure to say that drastic action must be taken, and taken at once, by the Government, to reduce the excessive cost of living in the country.
Mr. Derrig: I think that we cannot let this opportunity pass without asking for a statement as to the position regarding the provision of essential food supplies during the coming period. There is a widespread feeling in the country that, in view of the international situation, we ought to have more information as to what the Government contemplate in regard to encouraging farmers to produce more food. We have heard references to the necessity for abolishing the rationing of bacon. Everyone knows that that step can only be accomplished if sufficient feeding-stuffs are available, and if prices paid to farmers enable them to cover their costs and have a reasonable margin of profit. I think that the experiences of farmers throughout the country at the present time afford them very little assurance that the Government is fully alive to their difficulties or to the necessity for guaranteeing them remuneration for their labours and proper prices for their produce. They were promised remunerative prices last spring for the most important crops, the crops upon which, in the poorest and most congested areas of the country, the people largely have to depend.
We all know that the vast majority of our farmers are small farmers. I suppose 80 per cent. of them would be under £10 valuation and therefore the surplus which they have to offer is small. No matter what the Minister for Agriculture may say, there is no question of applying the methods of mechanisation and production that apply to prairie countries and comparatively new States, to an old country  like this where we have an economy of small farms and where the surplus, not very large at any time, is barely sufficient to enable the farmer to meet his costs, to bring up his family and to carry on. The farmers were depending in very great measure on the returns they would receive from their oats and potatoes and in respect of these two important articles of agricultural production, they have been sadly disillusioned. They have been told that they ought to keep their potatoes and put them away in store until such time as they could utilise them for the feeding of pigs. In the same way they had been told to hold their oats until spring.
We had this problem before and it was not a problem peculiar to any one particular Party. Deputies on every side of the House representing the agricultural community agreed that in the grain-growing and potato-growing areas it was the duty of the Government to assure farmers, in so far as was possible, of a fair price for their produce. In this particular case in the present year, that principle seemed to have been accepted when the Government gave solemn undertakings in this matter. The present position is that the farmers have disposed largely of their oats, and how the Government can reconcile their sudden change of attitude with the promises they made and their neglect to fulfil those promises until political considerations compelled them to face the issue, is more than I can understand. The farmers, more than any other section of the community, feel that they are largely in the lap of the gods, that circumstances completely outside their control—the international situation, the oncoming of a sudden depression— can plunge them into misery and absolutely destroy all prospects of their getting a decent living from their occupation. This country depends on agriculture. Every Party agrees that it is the basis of our national economy and farmers, I think, have every right, not alone to be anxious but to be impatient and to question the bona fides of the Government when they see the development of events in their regard  since the present Government took office.
It takes six cwt. of cereals, roughly, to produce one cwt. of bacon, and there is surely something to be said for the Government honouring its obligations, having regard to the dollar position, having regard to the necessity for encouraging agriculture at home, and for keeping all these thousands of farmers who, whether the Minister for Agriculture agrees with it or not, have, from time immemorial, produced grain as a cash crop, and depend on the sale of the crop after the harvest, to meet their current obligations. It is surely not good national policy to drive these farmers to despair, to make them feel that there is a policy in operation that takes no cognisance of their needs, and which, if it were allowed free play, would soon reduce them to the position we were familiar with 20 years ago, when, if they went to the market with oats or barley, they could not find buyers at any price, and were forced to bring it home again.
It seems to me that the attitude of the Government in this matter is creating such a lack of confidence in the farming community that it is difficult to see how they can place much credence in the promises that will be made to them in connection with the growing of certain crops in future. Every country realises that you must depend on home grown feeding stuffs to a greater extent than before. We are simply trying to compete in Washington with the needs of European countries. The American policy is to assist those countries, and as far as possible to enable them to get back to normal economic conditions, to counter the moves being made by Communists to further their own policy. Therefore, we in this agricultural State are in the sad position that, while we are negotiating in Washington for maize and wheat or for the exchange of maize for wheat, there is a very general outcry and very general dissatisfaction at home among farmers who depend upon tillage for a livelihood.
Mr. Derrig: The Deputy's Party brought the farming community from the position where the dealers refused to purchase under any conditions their oats or barley to the position that the dealers were glad to go out to the farmers' haggards and pay a decent price for them. As Deputy Smith stated recently, we now have the position that, even in regard to wheat, and although we are on a bread ration, the farmers cannot get the merchants to take delivery of their produce. If the Deputy who has interrupted me thinks that the position, that when their produce is available for sale, and when they have been told there is a guaranteed price and a guaranteed market, they are unable to effect a sale, is one that will appeal to farmers or encourage them to increase production, I am afraid he is making a great mistake.
Mr. Derrig: The alcohol factories have nothing to do with the present situation. The present situation is that there is a shortage of feeding stuffs. Farmers are being asked to produce more bacon and more eggs, and to go in for poultry. Encouragement ought to be given to those who would produce the necessary feeding stuffs, and thereby relieve the strain on the dollar position by getting, instead of feeding stuffs for which we depend on dollar advances, industrial raw materials, machinery and such things. Instead of that, we are being driven back to the position that we had before, when tillage was declining owing to the fact that farmers were not being encouraged as a result of the decline in prices.
Everyone knows that the outlook for employment on the land is not at all good. Everybody knows that there are attractions to farmers to give up what they consider the more laborious sides of husbandry and agriculture. They are being attracted to the easier ways of carrying on their business, ways which, unfortunately, do not lead to increased employment. We have heard a great deal about emigration and the  necessity for maintaining the population on the land. Those who honestly represent that interest in this House will agree that there is no other way in which you can give reasonable security to the tillers of the soil, or, in the long run, increase food production, maintain at least the existing employment and possibly increase it, or even induce farmers to improve their methods and to make them more up to date, than by giving them a reasonable guarantee as to the prices they will receive over a period of years.
Mr. Derrig: We were told by the Leader of the Fine Gael Party during the general election that the republic which has received so much consideration in the last few days was not a very pressing matter. He said, in an article in the Irish Independent in which he set out the policy of his Party, that there were more pressing issues at the moment than the republic and he stated that, in particular, the high cost of living was a very pressing problem, that the great task he saw in front of them was to increase the people's income so that their purchasing power might be thereby augmented. The cost of living, he said, can be definitely reduced. This is an opportunity on which we might very well ask the Government what steps they have taken in that regard. Not only did they bind themselves definitely through such statements as I have referred to to reduce the cost of living by augmenting the value of money so that money could purchase more than it had hitherto done, but also they promised definitely to control prices. The Labour Party, in particular, through its Leader, Deputy Norton, now Tánaiste and Minister for Social Welfare, proclaimed as the policy of that Party an efficient system of price controls, the establishment of representative councils to prevent profiteering and unjust speculation and to ensure that the people will get the goods they need at a fair price. The argument was that the previous Administration were allowing profiteering to run rampant. They were simply in the grip of big business; they were simply small boys being dictated to by magnates of big business here in Dublin.
That was the position that it was sought to represent to the country and which must have affected a large number of people. We know that the ordinary housewife, the ordinary worker, here in the City of Dublin in particular, felt grievously the limitations placed upon them with regard to rationing. We know the difficulties that the people had who have to purchase the necessities of life in small quantities, and pay a higher proportionate price for them than those who are in a position to get their needs in  larger quantities, and make provision in good time for the shortage they see ahead. Those people had the difficulties of rationing, and they had to pay higher prices as they were purchasing in small quantities, and they were told by more than one Party which is now represented in the inter-Party Government that the blame for the position rested upon the Administration, and that it was not taking steps to control prices or profits effectively.
The Minister for Finance, when in opposition, discoursed long and eloquently on the high profits that were being made by certain trades like the drapery trade and gave particulars here in this House alleging that the Administration in office was not taking steps to deal with that situation. With this Supplies and Services Act which is being extended, the Government have now an opportunity to state what are the steps they are taking to carry out those undertakings they so solemnly gave to reduce the cost of living, to bring about more efficiently a control of prices and to stop profiteering. We read in the newspapers that interviews are taking place and appeals are being made to the business people but, at the same time, we are told by other sections on the benches opposite that these appeals have not met with success. I believe that there is no great change in the situation with regard to the cost of the necessities upon which the worker has to depend and purchase for his family.
There may be small reductions here and there in regard to certain articles of a capital nature, certain articles of equipment, but with regard to essentials, I believe there is no change. In fact, it was admitted in statements which were recently made by Ministers, that the most they were trying to claim is that they have succeeded in keeping the cost of living at the figure at which it was last year. I doubt if the different items going to make up that cost of living figure were closely examined, it would be found that that is the situation, but at any rate, the fact that they have adopted that line of country is simply a proof that they have departed completely from the  stand they were making early this year that the high cost of living was the most pressing problem in the election. Before the election, and even in this House on more than one occasion, the Taoiseach referred to that as the problem to which all their energies must be devoted.
This House is surely entitled and the country is entitled to know what are the steps being taken. They have now taken up the position that the most they can hope for is to try, hoping that events will move in that direction, that there will be no further increase, when we know that in regard to certain articles the prices have gone up by 300 per cent. over the pre-war figure. The Government had the opportunity to explain to the country what are the steps they propose to take to deal with that situation and having regard to the pronouncements they have made, I think they are in duty bound to give the country the fullest possible information, first with regard to the articles in respect of which they claim there has been a decrease and the evidence they can show to prove that there has been no increase in the cost of living, and having done that, to go on to state in clear and definite terms what is the policy at the present time with regard to this matter, what is the policy which is going to be pursued to enable the workers to receive more value out of their pay packets than they had been receiving 12 months ago and what steps are to be taken to control prices or to put down profiteering.
Mr. Aiken: The Minister for Industry and Commerce, speaking as far as I can remember on his Estimate, said that we could not de-ration bread because it would cost too much money. That is a most peculiar admission from a member of a Government which secured the defeat of the previous Government because of their lack of enterprise in manufacturing money for any good purpose. The Minister for Finance on numerous occasions said that if we had a good purpose, we could, if necessary, print the money, and Deputy Con Lehane who is here went round the country urging the people to vote for him and for his  Party so that he could support Deputy McGilligan on that.
Mr. Aiken: The fact is that instead of printing the money, which appeared so easy to these gentlemen in those days, they do not print money and they refuse to de-ration bread because of lack of money.
Mr. Aiken: And that is why he was pushed out, because he could not keep on the Party line. The Party line was, as announced by the Minister for Finance, if there was any good purpose, it was a reason for printing the money and carrying out that good purpose.
Mr. Aiken: I am not advocating money reform, but those Deputies interrupting me have taken me off my point. My point was to ask the Government why are they not de-rationing bread. The Minister for Industry and Commerce gave as the sole reason for not de-rationing, the shortage of money, the amount of money it would cost. They had plenty of money to give for cheaper drink and cheaper tobacco, but they could not find the money to make bread cheaper or to de-ration it.
Mr. Aiken: There was a good deal of yapping going on during the general election about the salaries of Ministers, but all the Ministers are now  taking their salaries and they made more Ministers.
Mr. Aiken: You will have to give him a little bit of latitude because he “took the shilling” and he has to justify himself by interruptions. He used, on occasions, to talk in this House for hours about the cost of living and why this and that were rationed. All we hear from him now is an odd growl.
Mr. Aiken: As well as the shortage of money and the necessity for making beer and cigarettes cheaper, another reason for the continuance of the present standard ration is the fact that we did not grow sufficient wheat last year. Instead of using our money to make bread cheaper, we used portion of the State's funds to encourage farmers to grow oats instead of wheat. We succeeded in persuading farmers not to grow 63,000 acres of wheat. We persuaded them, through our very voluable Minister for Agriculture, to grow an additional 57,000 acres of oats. That 63,000 acres of wheat had to be substituted by imports which represented about 5,000,000 dollars which the people of this country had to borrow and will have to pay interest on for the next 50 years. It would have been a good thing for this country if we had persuaded the farmers to grow that wheat, instead of growing a crop which has become a glut in the market. If the Government's policy in regard to  agriculture is continued, if they can persuade farmers not to grow wheat next year, we will require between $60,000,000 and $70,000,000 or other foreign currency. The fact that we have to borrow in order to get our wheat leaves us less money for the purchase of capital goods and raw materials by which we could relieve other shortages which are affecting the national life and necessitate the continuance of the Supplies and Services Bill which we are discussing.
I hope those Deputies on the Coalition benches who still have some sense left will persuade the Government to change their attitude and their policy in this regard. It is a very dangerous period in the world's history to leave our people depending altogether on foreigners for an essential article of food like bread. It was dangerous enough in the last war to the extent to which we had to depend upon foreigners for the supplies of bread, and, in my opinion, the only reason we were not squeezed more tightly was because we were growing 500,000 or 600,000 acres of wheat, and, in the last analysis, could have given our people a reasonable ration of bread; we could have kept them at very much more than 3,000 calories a day. But, if we continue this attitude in regard to an essential commodity like wheat, we will be left defenceless against any squeeze to put us into a war against our will. I do not mind our people deciding to go into a war in their own interest, but it is certainly a wrong national and very foolish policy to leave yourself in such a position that you can be squeezed in against your will and your interest.
Up to a few days ago the Minister for Agriculture spent a lot of his time and energy talking to food organisations in America. He was very voluble in his demands for the production of more food. I think he could very well have got the reply: “Why do you not begin at home?”
Mr. Aiken: That is a reflection upon me which is unworthy of such an honourable Deputy as Deputy Con Lehane. The Minister for Agriculture, as I said, tried to persuade farmers in all other countries to develop and increase their agriculture. I think he had a poor case to make in view of the fact that during the year of his administration of the Department of Agriculture the principal staple food crop went down by 63,000 acres. If we had that 63,000 acres this year and had the vast supplies of artificial manures which the Minister promised, but which a lot of farmers did not see, the 63,000 acres would probably have produced more wheat than my estimate of 50,000 tons. The Minister's cure, of course, for the situation produced by his policy, which necessitates rationing and Bills like this, is for America to open her gates to emigrants.
Mr. Aiken: I do not intend to do that. I am simply dealing with those aspects of Government policy which relate to rationing and which necessitate rationing. I have not the slightest doubt that, if the Minister's policy in relation to wheat and in relation to emigration is carried out, we in this country will be on very short commons some day.
Mr. Aiken: I do not intend to do it, and I would not allow myself to be drawn in that direction. If employment for our people on the land goes down still further—Deputy Cogan adverted to several aspects of our agricultural policy which are tending in that direction—we certainly will have great need for Bills such as this. There will have to be a lot of inspectors, “pip-squeaks” and others, to ration out the very meagre supplies of the essential commodities of life that we will have available here. The cure of the Minister for Agriculture for underproduction in the world is to pipe water to arid regions.
Mr. Aiken: I was in it very often at my own expense. The Minister for Agriculture is in the United States at the moment at public expense trying to get food for which we must borrow dollars, food that we could produce here at home and that we would not have to ration.
Mr. Aiken: I was in the lucky position that we were producing here at home 500,000 acres of wheat, and we had only to look for the margin. If Deputies will read certain books which are available at the moment they will see that it was advocated then that we should get no wheat at that time—that we should be starved into the war.
Mr. Aiken: I hope that is true, and I hope that it will be true next year. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary, when replying, will be able to assure us that it is not a fact that one of the reasons why more home-grown wheat will be available this year is because the seed assemblers have gone out of business, and that the wheat which every year was kept—60,000 tons of wheat for seed by farmers and the seed assemblers—is now going to the millers. On that question I would like to get from some member of the Government an assurance that the farmers are not going to have to sow all sorts of mixed seed next year which will be brought back from the millers, and that some effort is being made to keep back spring wheat so that the farmers can get seed to grow the acreage that they want to grow.
Mr. Aiken: The Government have the power to set up any institution or organisation they like. All that I am asking is that the Government should use some organisation to assemble spring seed wheat so that the farmers will have the seed to grow whatever acreage of wheat they feel pleased to grow. If that is not done there will not be much use in the Minister for Agriculture piping water to us. Perhaps if we had the pipes laid down he could use them some time to spray England with liquid eggs.
There is the other question of sugar that I want to refer to. It seems to me that there is no reason for the rationing of sugar except, again, the shortage of money. There was a very cute dodge used during the year by which sugar was distributed off the ration to people, whether they lived in Grafton Street or in the heart of the country, if they made the case that they wanted to help farm work. If they did that they could get all the sugar they wanted—at a price. There were unlimited quantities of sugar for sale and distribution in that way. Why should rationing have been kept on? We were told that this Government were going to give the people freedom from “pip-squeak” inspectors. They were to get the run. Instead of that, rationing is being kept in operation unnecessarily, and further inspectors have been employed. We saw the other day, as I pointed out, that six additional inspectors were appointed in the Department of Agriculture. That was just on one day, but every day the papers are filled with demands for more staff in order to carry out Government policies of various kinds. Why will the Government not take the rationing off bread and off sugar, and give the people freedom in that regard? Why are they continuing to ration bread? It is most inconvenient for the housewife, for the retailers of bread and, I take it, for the bakers. Why do they not get rid of it, if they want to carry out the promise that was made by one very vocal Party in the last election, that not only would they take the ration off bread but that they would reduce its price by about 50 per cent? We were  supposed to get a decrease in the cost of living all over the country by 30 per cent. Deputy Cowan and his assistants at that time were yapping about the cost of living, and of how they were going to reduce it by 30 per cent.
Mr. Aiken: It is quite open to the Deputy to do it. There are other Deputies who have got away on policy to a very much more disastrous extent than that would be. As Taoiseach, some of them might be able to keep a grip on the Deputy, but as Minister for Agriculture no one can keep a grip on Deputy Dillon. He gets his way all the time. I take it that Deputy Cowan might be a little more amenable to——
Mr. Aiken: It has the point that these people have a right to expect that the Government will live up to the promises made by various sections of it to release them from “pip-squeak” inspectors; to increase their salaries and pay, and to reduce the cost of living by 30 per cent. Deputy Coburn, my colleague from Dundalk, spent all his time before the last election criticising the Government on the fact that the cost of living was standing at a certain height, and that, during the war, we kept the people on very short rations. Here he is proposing to vote through this Bill to give the Government the power to continue the rationing—and there is no indication from him that he will use his good influence to put rationing out of commission, or to reduce the cost of living. It is a very poor substitute for the people of Dundalk and district, who voted for him in the belief that they were voting for a reduction in the cost of living, that he is going to sing in the future the Soldiers' Song which he refused to sing up to to-day.
Mr. Aiken: I am trying to keep to rationing as closely as I have been allowed to do so. I hope that Deputy Coburn will, before this stage of the Bill concludes, assure those who voted for him that he is not going to stand for the continuation of the rationing of bread and sugar just to save money, as it was put by the Minister for Industry and Commerce. After all, the people of the country want more than cheap beer and cheap cigarettes.
Mr. Aiken: If they can get all the bread they want, they can get it for the dogs, too. I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to say what it is costing the State—apart altogether from the trouble to the people of the country, the shopkeepers and everybody else—to administer the bread rationing scheme. If there is anything like a check being kept on the bread coupons there must be a very big staff engaged on it.
Mr. Aiken: Last year there was a necessity for it. There is no necessity for it this year, according to Deputy Rooney. Would the Parliamentary Secretary explain, when there is no necessity for it, why the people are not getting freedom in regard to it?
Mr. Aiken: I regret that the Chair and myself should have differences on that point. The “pip-squeak” inspectors who are carrying out the rationing scheme are still being employed. Are they being kept in glass cases or are they administering a rationing scheme for bread, which Deputy Rooney says is not necessary?
Mr. Aiken: The people of the country have a right to have an answer to those questions. I hope that when the Parliamentary Secretary is replying he will answer my questions which I shall summarise as follows. First of all, for what reason are the Government continuing bread rationing if it is not that they do not want to spend the money on giving free supplies all round? Why are they continuing to ration sugar? What do they propose to do in order to encourage the people of this country to produce the essentials of life which may continue to be rationed under this Bill? I trust that the Parliamentary Secretary will give some indication that where the inspectors can be withdrawn they will be withdrawn and that the people will not be forced to pay taxes to pay for unnecessary controls and unnecessary inspection.
Mr. T. Walsh: We seem to have a very anomalous position in this country considering that we have 12,000,000 acres here and yet we have to ration bread, sugar, bacon and butter. There must be some reason for that. This is a highly agricultural country and the owners of the land are prepared to produce these commodities I have just mentioned provided that they are paid for doing so. If the people who are  the owners of this land, the farmers, were getting a remunerative price for their produce many of the commodities that are now rationed would not be rationed at all. An announcement was made by the Minister for Agriculture this year to the effect that compulsory tillage was to be done away with.
I understand we are to have a big reduction in the amount of tillage in the country. Under the compulsory tillage regulations, the amount of tillage we had was only three-eighths of the arable acreage. No great hardship was placed on farmers under the wheat-growing policy. Complaints were made that people on the hilly lands were not able to produce wheat. The country was zoned for the purposes of this particular policy. In some portions of it only one-tenth was required to be wheat; in other portions it was one-sixteenth, and there were places where it was as low as one-twenty-fifth. I hold, therefore, that there was no great hardship placed upon the farmers under the wheat-growing policy. There is a sufficiency of good land in the country on which to grow wheat, and there is a sufficient number of farmers prepared to grow wheat on suitable land to do away with rationing altogether, provided always that the farmers are compensated for their work. If no wheat were grown in this country, we would be compelled to import 60,000,000 dollars' worth of wheat; in hard currency that would amount to £12,000,000.
If the Government wants to give bread to the people, why is it not prepared to offer our farmers a sufficient inducement to grow wheat? There are farmers who are prepared to grow wheat. During the past two or three years we were told by members who now occupy Government Front Benches that once the emergency was over, we could stop the growing of wheat and go back to grass. Farmers in this country have spent considerable sums mechanising their farms for tillage purposes. If the policy enunciated by the present Minister for Agriculture is going to prevail, those farmers will be compelled to go out of tillage altogether. I submit that if that happens, rationing will inevitably continue; not  only will rationing continue, but if we are faced with another emergency, we will not have sufficient bread for our people.
I am sure you all remember how long it took us to get into wheat production. It took ten or 12 years to educate the farmers into the growing of wheat. Now, just as they are educated, and in a position to grow wheat, and thereby produce sufficient for our needs, provided they are adequately paid for their work, we are told that the policy of wheat growing is to be discontinued. From time to time we hear a good deal about the fertility of the soil and how that fertility is affected by wheat growing. I am going to quote now for the information of the House the annual report of the County Kilkenny Committee of Agriculture on wheat tests that were carried out.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: On the basis of the Deputy's reasoning, we might then find ourselves discussing soils, manures, fertilisers, agricultural machinery and all manner of things in connection with the production of wheat. We cannot discuss all these things in this debate. The Deputy will have an opportunity of discussing agricultural policy on the Estimate for that Department, but not under this Bill.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy may say that, but I am not going to permit the Deputy to proceed to demonstrate that we can grow wheat and thereunder discuss manures, soils, fertilisers and so on.
Mr. T. Walsh: In 1931, on an average test taken in County Kilkenny, the production of wheat was 13 barrels per acre; in 1947 20 barrels were grown. These figures can be proved. Consequently, the arguments put forward to show that we cannot grow wheat in this country are wrong.
Mr. T. Walsh: If we grow wheat, we can increase the present ration of bread. I submit that we can grow wheat provided a sufficient inducement is held out to the farmers to grow it. If that inducement is given, there will be no necessity placed upon the Government of borrowing £12,000,000 worth of dollars.
I think the policy with regard to beet has been adverted to by Deputy Corry. As a result of the action of the present Minister for Finance, it looks as if there will be a reduction in the sugar ration in the coming year. At the price that is offered to the growers, the growers will not produce beet. It would be uneconomic for them to do so. Therefore, the Government will be faced with the necessity of going outside the country in order to maintain or increase our present sugar ration. The Government will have to buy cane sugar—cane sugar that is possibly produced by labour at slave wages. If the people here are given a fair price for their beet, which will allow them a reasonable profit on its production, I have no hesitation in saying that the Irish farmers will grow a sufficient quantity not only to maintain the present ration but to increase it.
 Bacon is another rationed commodity in the country. The production of bacon is governed by the price and by the supply of foodstuffs available and the labour that can be obtained for its production. The price offered by the present Minister for Agriculture would justify no farmer in producing pigs. It has been stated that bacon has only value for £9 per cwt. Maize costs 28/- per cwt. Barley is 50/- per cwt., plus the cost of grinding. I cannot see how anybody could profitably produce bacon under such conditions. Bacon will continue to be rationed until there is a change of policy in that direction. In this morning's paper I see that the number of pigs delivered to the factories has gone down below the number delivered in the same period last year. I think the people who are expecting bacon for Christmas will be sadly disillusioned.
I come then to the rationing of butter. The rationing of butter is due largely to the policy of the Government in regard to milk. The farmers will not produce the amount that they have hitherto produced, or increase that amount, until such time as the price of milk is increased.
The reason for it is this. The price of milk was fixed last year and, since then, the cost of producing milk has gone up, not merely on the farms, but in the creameries as well. We have to consider two increases in agricultural wages. There was one last May and there will be another in a month's time. The price of milk has not been changed in 12 months. Even last year, when that price was fixed, many farmers claimed that they were still getting an uneconomic price for milk. If it were not economic last year to produce milk at 1/2 a gallon, having regard to the cost of production in that year, how much worse is it now with the 25 per cent. increase in creamery costs, crude oil, petrol, salt and stamps? Then again, renewals and repairs have gone up by 25 per cent., and the wages of the workers in the creameries have gone up from 8/- to £1 per person. In addition to that, the rates have gone up, both on agricultural land and creameries. If it were uneconomic  last year to produce milk at 1/2, the position has so changed in the past 12 months, that 1/2 is certainly not economic now.
Due to the difficulty of getting labour to milk cows, the people will go further out of cows; they will not keep them. There seems to be an idea in this country, and particularly in the City of Dublin, that provided they get articles of food from the farmers at the lowest possible price, everyone is satisfied. They have no regard for the people who are producing that food. In the County Kilkenny within the past ten years there was a drop of 5,938 cows. If you had anything approaching the conditions that obtained in 1938, you would go a long way towards taking off the butter ration; but with present conditions obtaining, with the low price for milk and the difficulty of having cows looked after, you will have that rationing for a great number of years. That is the position as I see it.
It is a strange thing, but it is a fact, apparently, that we here, with 12,000,000 acres, must ration commodities such as sugar, bacon, butter and bread. I heard Deputy Rooney say there was plenty of bread in the country. I say there is not. If there was, why have you notices stuck up, even in the restaurants in this House, that bread cannot be supplied at lunch? Go to any hotel in the city, and you will find the same thing. The people will produce a sufficient quantity of wheat to enable this country to increase the bread supply if they are paid for doing it, but not otherwise. Until the Government realise that, so far as these commodities are concerned there will not be much hope of improving the position.
Regarding compulsory tillage, I believe that unless there is a certain compulsion regarding tillage your wheat acreage will go down and your beet acreage will decline, too. I would like to know the policy following the advice that was given to our farmers regarding an expansion of agriculture. There are farmers who invested considerable sums of money  in the purchase of machinery in order to produce sufficient food for the people. They produced food during the past ten years and it has been claimed by people opposite that they have reduced the fertility of the soil. I could quote, if I were permitted, so as to prove that wheat has not affected it very much anyway, but, even granting that it has been reduced in fertility, we must realise that that was the farmers' contribution during the emergency. They produced food at prices below the cost of production. Now that the emergency is over, would this or any Government not think it right to compensate those people for what they have done by giving them increased prices?
I can assure Deputies that, so far as County Kilkenny is concerned, it is a county that did everything it possibly could in order to produce wheat, beet and milk, and the farmers there will do more in the way of producing food— they will do as much, anyway, as any county in Ireland, provided they get reasonable compensation for doing it, provided they get the cost of production plus a fair margin of profit.
If we retain a certain quota of compulsory tillage, I believe it will be all to the good. I know there are parts of the country where farmers regard tillage as something that should be avoided, but the working farmers, the people who have the land and who are prepared to work it as it should be worked, merely want to be told to do it, and to be paid for doing it. In the constituency I represent, Carlow-Kilkenny, I will guarantee that, for its size, it will produce as much food as any other constituency in Ireland. The farmers and agricultural labourers there are prepared to do so. If every other constituency did its share, if the farmers and agricultural labourers elsewhere did their share as well as the farmers and agricultural labourers in Carlow-Kilkenny, many of the commodities that are now rationed in this country could be taken off the ration.
Mr. Moran: One of the things I would like to know from the Parliamentary Secretary is whether there is any truth in the statement the Minister  for Agriculture made at a meeting of the Mayo County Committee of Agriculture in Castlebar recently. He was asked about the bread ration and he told the people there to wait until New Year's Day. Complaints were made to the Minister that the present bread allowance was not sufficient, particularly for people working on the land and in the bogs. The Minister waved his arms and told the people to wait until New Year's Day, expressly implying that we would have an end of bread rationing on that day. There is not much sign of it in this Bill. I want to know whether that is just another of the completely irresponsible statements of the Minister for Agriculture and whether he was adopting what seems to be a new vogue— whether he was speaking not on behalf of the Government and not as Minister for Agriculture but purely as Deputy James Dillon.
I would like to know whether, in putting off the farmers' representatives at the meeting of that county committee by implying that bread rationing would be abolished on New Year's Day, it was just an easy way for the Minister to get out of his difficulties. I want to know why the people of Mayo and the farming community in general are to be misled by a statement of that kind, if it is untrue. If it is, in fact, untrue, I want the Parliamentary Secretary to say so, so that the public will know that, to the Minister's own knowledge, it was untrue when he made it.
It is true that the bread ration is insufficient and particularly for people working on the land and in the bogs, and if, as some Deputy on the opposite side said to-day, there is plenty of bread in the country, I want to know why bread rationing cannot now be abolished. If, as Deputy Rooney says, there is plenty of bread in the country, can the Parliamentary Secretary suggest any reason whatever, except the saving of money, why bread rationing should not be abolished? The wheat crop went down this year by some 63,000 acres and I am not at all surprised that that should be so. It would indeed be a miracle if people  were to produce wheat when the growing of wheat has been consistently and continually laughed at and scorned at by the Ministerial head of the Department of Agriculture for a number of years. That Minister evidently has not changed his spots.
Last year, people were supposed to produce their quota of wheat on each farm. Everybody knows that the farmers did not do so. Any farmer who did not wish to grow wheat ignored the law and ignored it for two very good reasons, one, that the inspectors whose duty it was to enforce the tillage regulations were jeered at and sneered at by everybody in the Government from the Taoiseach down and the other that the Minister for Agriculture, who should normally encourage an expansion in agricultural production and the growing of wheat and beet and other foods which the nation requires, set out, by the attitude he adopted towards the production of these commodities, to make them unpopular throughout the land. A farmer who produced a number of acres of wheat during the war years told me that he did not propose to obey the law last year, and, when I pointed out to him the danger of such a course, that he might find himself in trouble, he said: “Can you imagine any judge or justice in the country fining me for not producing a crop the growing of which has been described by the Minister for Agriculture as sheer lunacy? The Minister has said that he would not be found dead in a field of wheat or beet.”
When that is the attitude of the head of the Department—and evidently the Government stand over that attitude— it is no wonder that the wheat acreage has gone down as it has. It will be a miracle if we have any wheat at all produced in the coming season, and the Irish people will have to face the consequences of that policy, and will have to face the borrowing of still more millions of dollars for the importation of a commodity which we could produce here. We still have bread rationing, and evidently we are to have it for an indefinite period, notwithstanding the wild statement of the Minister for Agriculture recently.
 With regard to sugar, some people say there is plenty of sugar available. It is being dealt with in a very peculiar way. We were told before the last general election about the reduction which was to come about in the cost of living and about the speed with which that reduction was to be brought about. We find instead that, by reason of the Government having given sugar at the increased price to restaurants and hotels, the man who has to have his lunch away from home has to pay an extra sixpence for that lunch, the increase being justified by these traders on the ground that they have to pay more for the sugar they are getting. We hear very little now about the reduction in the cost of living. We hear very little now about the wiping out of all rationing and the getting rid of all the inspectors who were necessary during the emergency years.
Why is that, so many years after the war, we still have all the inspectors and are getting more inspectors? Why is it that, after all these promises that immediately Fianna Fáil was got rid of, rationing would disappear, these inspectors would disappear and the cost of living would come down, we still have the same position? We will not have increased beet, and therefore increased sugar production, unless there is a change in the Government's attitude, or unless they get rid of their present Minister for Agriculture, because just as in the case of wheat, the Irish farmer is not going to produce a crop, the production of which he is told before he starts is financial suicide, and when he is discouraged before he puts the seed into the ground. I want to know why, instead of the nation going into debt and expending these millions of dollars on importing sugar, that we could well produce at home, with proper encouragement and a proper attitude on the part of the Government and the Minister, we have decided to take this gamble with the future, particularly in these dangerous times.
Some people seem to scoff to-day at the idea of another war being imminent. I do not know whether another war is imminent or not—it is impossible for  anybody to say, and I am sure that most of the heads of States throughout the world would find great difficulty in answering that question—but if we do not have war this year, from the look of things, I fear very much that there will be a world war before many years, and, if a world war breaks out, then is not the time to start preparing for it. It is useless to talk about armies, about men or about the organisation of the country, unless we have provided for our first line of defence, that is, food for our people and unless we are in a position to make the best use we possibly can of our own resources. It is a form of insurance for the nation and the deliberate sabotaging of the production of wheat and beet is one of the greatest national dangers presented to the country by the present Government, and particularly the Minister for Agriculture. The Government must, as a unit, tell us where we are going in relation to this rationing question and in particular explain to the nation what is to be the future of wheat and beet production, and whether the Government as a whole intend to stand over the irresponsible attitude of the Minister for Agriculture towards the production of these commodities and generally towards the expansion of the tillage programme of our people.
Mr. Coburn: Listening to the speeches delivered by Deputies opposite, speeches of the dolorosa type, one would imagine that the people of this country were starving. I mix as much as any Deputy with the rank and file of the people, and, so far as I can see, the supply position has improved and has been improving for the past six or eight months, but, just as Rome was not built in a day, new Governments cannot change the whole aspect of affairs overnight. I think it would be more patriotic on the part of the Deputies opposite not to be making speeches of the type they have been making, with their gloomy forebodings about a future war and how we would do about wheat and sugar. Personally, I am forgetting about war: life would not be worth living if we  were to go on from day to day on the expectation that there would be another war. Let us forget about war. If it comes, it comes, and that is all; we will live through it as we did before, we will go on as a nation as we have done for very many centuries and we will continue to live, war or no war. The people in the Six Counties lived and got food during the emergency. Perhaps they did not grow ten acres of wheat there, but they got some food. We do not need these gloomy speeches and twitting, as Deputy Aiken has twitted me to-day. Why he did it, I do not know, as I always had the name of being very impartial, even with the last Government, recognising my position here as an Irishman. I do not believe in making gloomy speeches, or that the Irish people simply have a Government this week to turn them out next week because Fianna Fáil is opposing the present Government and especially the present Minister for Agriculture.
The Parliamentary Secretary may make a reply and give Deputies the figures till he is black in the face, and he will not convince one member on the opposite side that he is telling the truth or that the position is such; because the speeches which have been delivered have been made because there is a by-election in Donegal. Everyone listening to the present Minister for Defence, acting for the Minister for Agriculture, when he spoke on the motion of no confidence, heard the facts and figures, which any honest Deputy must admit are right because they were given by the Minister, and were supplied to him by his officials, who are bound to supply nothing but what is correct. He told us that the supply of fertilisers was going up by leaps and bounds this year, and that in every other stage of agriculture—such as husbandry, enabling the farmers to carry on—the present Government—as, indeed, the Opposition Party, if they were in power, would do the same, as it would be their duty—was doing its best to get all the machinery and fertilisers necessary to enable increased production from the land. It will take time to do that.
 There is no use in concentrating on the present Minister for Agriculture and making out he knows nothing. He is one of the best, I will not say the best, Ministers for Agriculture we ever had. He is an ornament to this House and we are proud of him. He is able to carry his position and put our case fully before the nations of the world, who, but the way, can do much to mar or make the good work of our Government. I always have taken the attitude and hope Deputies opposite will do the same, that in regard to beet growing and sugar, this country never could and never will be able to support itself. Will Deputies opposite get that into their heads now and not be talking nonsense about self-sufficiency? We had that for the last 15 or 20 years and should get away from it. The present Minister for Agriculture and the Government have told the farmers that they can grow any crop they like. He stated in my hearing, and in the hearing of Deputy Aiken and others, including Deputy Moran, who are trying to twist his words, that he will not prevent any farmer from growing wheat, beet or any crop he likes. There is only one thing he said he will not do—he will not compel the farmers to grow a crop they do not wish to grow.
Mr. Coburn: In view of what has been stated by the Opposition regarding the future in store for us if we do not grow more wheat, may I say in regard to bread rationing that there is no shortage of bread?
Mr. Coburn: The Deputy said I only sang “A Nation Once Again” and did not sing “The Soldier's Song.” There is no use in trying to decry the position and trying to magnify the things that are happening at present, the little deficiencies here and there. It is the duty of the Opposition to help whatever Government is in power——
Mr. Coburn: ——on this matter of supplies. Some Fianna Fáil Deputies have said there will be no wheat as from next year. The Fianna Fáil supporters represent about half the country. Am I to understand that all the farmers supporting Fianna Fáil will be so unpatriotic as not to grow wheat for this nation? Yet that would seem so, according to the statement that was made.
Mr. Coburn: The supply position seems to be improving for the last ten or 11 months, and we should be proud of that. We hope it will continue to improve, according as the nations of the world get back to normal times from the last war. That should be our motto for the future — none of these speeches and gloomy forebodings, we will live and survive no matter what comes.
Mr. de Valera: We are not opposing this measure, and I simply want to add my voice to that of the other Deputies who are urging the Government as quickly as possible to get rid of rationing and other controls. Everybody knows that these things are causing grave inconvenience to the community, and there is also the cost of administration. I urge the Government as strongly as I can to do everything in their power to get rid of these controls.
Mr. Childers: We have just had some observations from Deputy Coburn on the attitude of our Party towards the  Minister for Industry and Commerce in connection with supplies. We have a perfect right to try to maintain some reasonable standard of honesty in political life, particularly in regard to charges made against the former Government in relation to the cost of living. I wish to repeat here that, during the general election, the definite statement was made by Fine Gael and all other Parties now supporting them, that that Government had been deliberately conniving at excessive profits, that whole groups of wholesalers and retailers throughout the country were charging grossly excessive profits on the goods they sold, that it was not a question of stabilising the cost of living or bringing it down a point or two, but that the cost of living was too high because we had permitted large sections of the community to enrich themselves at the expense of the ordinary poor man. That was the charge levelled against us, and, to the degree that the Government succeeded in earning an extra quota of votes, part of the reason was that some of our people listened to those accusations and believed them.
As I have said, there was no question but that the cost of living was just a little too high but the suggestion was made that we had been bribed by large groups of businessmen not to interfere with profits. In that connection, an advertisement issued on behalf of a relatively small number of businessmen asking for funds for Fianna Fáil was used as a kind of bait with which to dupe the electorate. Well, we have seen the result. We have seen the cost of living stabilised and we have watched the Government make their effort to reduce prices. It is already virtually admitted that there was no large scale profiteering during the period of office of the last Government, by those who retail and wholesale the principal commodities used by the people in the country.
The other day the Minister for Industry and Commerce destroyed half the case made during the election campaign when he said, speaking at the Retail Grocery, Dairy and Allied Traders' Association luncheon, that distributive costs should be reduced but  that the present grocery profit margin compared favourably with that of other distributive trades. He went on to say that the 80,000 persons employed in the distributive trade were entitled to reasonable wages and profits for their services to the community. The whole course of his speech indicated that that group of businessmen had been exonerated from any accusation of over-charging and they supply a very large proportion of the commodities used by the housewife. If there was to be any large scale reduction in the cost of living the Minister would have to reduce their profits, and the profits of wholesalers and retailers, by a very considerable percentage. That would be the first very necessary step the Minister would have to take and the fact that he has been unable to take it is proof that the former Minister, working in conjunction with the officers of his Department, was able to peg prices to a sufficiently low level that only marginal changes could be effected. In other words, the price control mechanism in regard to food generally appears to have been satisfactorily operated and no substantial changes have been made by the present Government. That in itself proves that many of the pronouncements made by Government speakers during the last election were deliberate falsehoods, statements uttered for the purpose of securing votes and which had no substance behind them.
As other Deputies have said, the price of food commodities has gone up. Meat has gone up 1d. or 2d. per lb. and the price of bread has been increased. In that connection, Fine Gael have deliberately broken a pledge they made to the electorate. In their official advertisements and announcements they stated that they would continue the stabilisation of prices by means of subsidies. They promised that they would not allow the price of ordinary food commodities in connection with which there was a subsidy scheme to be raised. It is a breach of that promise that there has been no increase in the subsidy on bread and no aid given to reduce the price to the consumer. We see the Minister for  Industry and Commerce addressing drapers and exhorting them to reduce their prices. I am prepared to stake my political reputation by making the prophecy that, whatever decision the drapers may arrive at, the reduction in prices will be very small and cannot possibly affect the general price structure in this country. Whatever the decreases—2½ per cent., 5 per cent. or 7½ per cent.—they cannot affect the general price structure, and will cause no remarkable reduction in the cost of living.
The Minister having disposed of the grocery trade and the drapery trade has not been able to effect any considerable decrease in the cost of living. Moreover, as everybody knows, a number of commodities are still rising in price. Certain industries in England are going back to war production with the result that the price of manufactured articles in a number of categories has been actually increased. We were well aware before we left office that the period of inflation had not terminated. We knew that there might be certain price reductions throughout the world which would affect us favourably but we knew with regard to a number of other commodities there would be certain increases. We did not attempt to promise the people that we could reduce materially the cost of living. We were aware of conditions throughout the world and we were aware of the fact that so long as we had to import raw materials at increased prices, it was almost impossible to make any noticeable decrease in the cost of living for the ordinary consumer.
Then we had the Minister for Finance in the course of his Budget statement threatening a number of unnamed people with excess profits taxation because he said they were making excessive profits. He said that he would have to take such action unless the cost of living was materially reduced. His threats so far have not been implemented, and the only justification of the Minister's inactivity has been a statement issued recording a number of price reductions in a series of miscellaneous commodities, none of which has any great effect on the cost  of living as a whole. We are all aware of the propaganda and lying talk indulged in prior to the election about the huge profits of manufacturers, and now we have this list of reductions reported by the Minister, many of which have not been reflected in decreased prices in the retail shops. We have such items as ties, readymade garments, enamel ware, aluminium ware, putty for housing schemes, paints and varnishes. That is the list of commodities the prices of which were reported to have been decreased. I should like the Minister to say if he can confirm that even these small decreases of anything from 2½ per cent. to 7½ per cent. have actually been reflected in the prices charged in retail shops, and whether he can give any proof that the reductions have affected consumers. I may add that if they have, they do not by themselves effect any substantial reduction in the cost of living.
Again we have the Taoiseach, in reply to a question by Deputy Cowan, starting to make the inevitable explanations. We awaited these explanations with much interest. We saw the question on the Order Paper, and we waited to see what he would say. We found that he had to make, in respect of a number of items, exactly the same excuse as any person in his position would have to make—that the cost of raw materials coming in from abroad had not gone down, that he saw, in fact, little hope for any substantial reduction in the cost of living until industrial and agricultural production had increased. That was not the statement made by members of the Government Party prior to the election. They had not really to increase agricultural and industrial production to make the cost of living cheaper for the housewife. They represented then that they hoped to be able to discover all sorts of hidden devices in the Department of Industry and Commerce, all sorts of evidence that businessmen had entered into a conspiracy with members of the Government to maintain high profits and high prices, that, in return for their political support, price control machinery was not to be operated against these businessmen, and that  the officials had been ordered not to interfere with these firms. We have had none of these revelations so far, and, I venture to say, no such revelations will be produced by the members of the Government, because that was nothing but election bluff. It was thoroughly dishonest, and now we see the result of it.
The Minister for Industry and Commerce in a further effort to bring down the cost of living has made statements contradictory to those made by the Minister for Social Welfare, in that he has clearly indicated that a time has been reached when wages should no longer be increased. He has suggested on at least two occasions to the workers that the only effect of increases in wages is to increase prices. On the contrary, Deputy Larkin, who apparently still supports the inter-Party Government, has twice warned the Government in the course of addresses at trade union meetings that he is not satisfied with the effort made to reduce prices and that, naturally, wages will have to go on increasing. So, the Minister for Finance recommends that wages be stabilised, the Labour Party recommends that wages should be increased, and the public can take their choice.
Incidentally, the Taoiseach suggested that one of the ways of reducing the cost of living was to enable an increase in industrial production to take place. Materials are now in fuller supply. No doubt, there will be some increase in industrial production, but I know of a number of promoters of industry who have not yet made up their minds whether to go into new production or to extend their production, as they are still waiting to find out what the final level of taxation will be, whether the Labour Party's extreme views are going to win the day or whether the Fine Gael Party's more conservative views are going to win the day, and it is unlikely that there will be a very large-scale increase in new production unless the Government can give some idea that they have a stable policy in regard to wage levels and in regard to taxation levels. At present, as I have said, the public are uncertain.
 I should like also to ask the Minister for Industry and Commerce whether he thinks that the controls upon the use of building materials for housing purposes are having the desired effect. We heard great talk during the election about the vast amounts of materials and labour that were supposed to be utilised for luxury building. It was repeated over and over again that the facts of the situation were that of the total value of all building licences issued in the previous two years only 5 per cent. were utilised for recreational or tourist purposes, and still the talk went on. As a result of the new Government's action, a number of controls have been tightened in various directions and builders have to wait for a considerable period in order to secure licences for this or that commodity.
I should like to ask the Minister for Industry and Commerce to review the action taken by the Minister for Health in Great Britain. When the Labour Government came into office they instituted a number of severe controls, so severe that materials piled up in warehouses and the effect of the controls was, not to encourage building of the right kind, but to discourage all building. It would seem to me that it may be necessary for the Minister for Industry and Commerce to review present controls to see whether they are having the desired effect, namely, that of stimulating the building of workers' houses and the building of new industries and hospitals, stimulating construction of all kinds useful to the community at large, because I have received a number of complaints from builders and allied trades that these controls are having harmful effects.
The former Government when they left office claimed that they had maintained prices at a reasonable level and that if prices had gone up it was due largely to an increase in agricultural prices, that any other increases that had taken place could only have a marginal effect on the cost of living. We said that there were over 50 States where the cost of living had gone up more than here. We claimed  that we had decided to levy subsidies of a reasonable character and that if we had taxed the people more by arranging for more subsidies we could have made our figure in comparsion with England more favourable. We heard frequent reference to the wonderful success of New Zealand in maintaining a low cost of living and we replied to that that New Zealand was a country where every farmer had an average of 200 acres and that, because of that, 80 per cent. of all New Zealand's food-stuffs was exported and, that being the case, it was very much easier to maintain the cost of food-stuffs retailed in New Zealand at a low figure and to maintain price controls and subsidy controls of a kind which would make it possible for them to reflect an increase of only 25 per cent. in the cost of living, compared with the beginning of this war. Everybody knows that in this country for the last 25 years the proportion of agricultural produce exported has been much lower in comparsion and, therefore, the cost of maintaining subsidies, the cost of maintaining price controls, is relatively greater for our people to bear and, as a result, if subsidies are to be increased, the cost rises to the taxpayer. A level of subsidy has to be found which is reasonable and which will enable the poorest man to buy the necessary food-stuffs and at the same time maintain taxation at levels which can be borne by the people as a whole.
We claimed we had done a fairly good job. We claimed that our cost of living increase compared favourably with that of a great many countries, that there were very few countries where the cost of living had gone up less than here, and that in most of those countries there were special circumstances which could explain the fact that the increase had not been so great.
Finally, we are still looking for this great and substantial reduction in the cost of living. We are still waiting for the miracle to be achieved. We are still waiting for the great groups of profiteers arriving in the country in expensive cars to find out that their profits are to be slashed  so that there will not be a decrease of 2½ or 5 or 10 per cent. in the cost of living, but the substantial decrease looked for in the case of most of the electors of this country who supported the present Government.
Mr. Briscoe: I would like the members of the House to reflect on the discussion which is taking place. It is quite true that before the last election the public were led to believe that with a change of Government one of the great grievances of the multitude of our people would be removed, that is, that the cost of living would be definitely reduced. As the previous speaker has said, this was very widely advertised in the Press and was stated by all the spokesmen of the Parties who now form the Government. One of the items to which specific reference was made in no uncertain terms was the price of bread and flour. The general public believed, from what had been said, that the price of bread and flour would be reduced if a Government were elected that could face up to taking from the flour millers and bread producers the extravagant profits that they had been permitted. It was even suggested that the Fianna Fáil Government had an interest in these institutions that were making these vast profits. What happened? After the change of Government, a strike took place on behalf of the workers in the bread industry and it was found necessary, in order to bring about a settlement, in order to give the workers increased wages, notwithstanding all that had been said, to impose an extra charge on the retail price of bread. If there was any foundation for the suggestions that the subsidy to keep bread and flour down was really there for the purpose of enhancing the profits of the flour millers and the bread producers, why was that suggested profit not reduced in order to enable the Government not to have to charge the public the extra retail price of the bread? I do not know whether the extent of the effect on the cost of living in the ordinary Dublin household of the cost of bread is sufficiently appreciated in this House, particularly by the members from non-metropolitan areas. There was a lot of talk during the  elections about the increased cost of beer, spirits and entertainment in picture houses. These were to be regarded as an attraction to get the people to be sore with Fianna Fáil, the fact that they were making beer dearer and entertainment dearer for the ordinary worker, when all this need not happen if the huge profits of the producers of the essentials were reduced. Notwithstanding all the promises which were made at the elections, we have, in fact, to-day, an increase in the price of what has been regarded throughout the ages as the most essential support of life, bread, the staff of life. Even if the Government had increased taxation for the purpose of keeping bread at the same price, one would have said: well, maybe they have not been able to tackle the other side of it yet. The fact is, however, that the electors who made the mistake, in my opinion, of bringing about this change, are now paying for it, and paying for it very dearly.
I want to put another matter to the Parliamentary Secretary. I remember when the organisation was started in this country which is called the R.G.D.A.T.A. which is to-day a very big organisation representing the interests of all the retail grocers' establishments. It is regarded to-day as one of the very vital bodies for keeping fair margins of profits in the interests of the shopkeepers themselves and in the interest of not charging the public unreasonable prices. I remember when it was started at a meeting in Jury's Hotel. Members for the City and County of Dublin of all Parties were invited and representatives came of all Parties. At that meeting one of the grievances was that the retail traders' margins of profit on butter was so small. They were so small that if the retailer continued to sell butter he would have to go out of business. I think that Deputy A.P. Byrne, Junior, was present at that meeting and he saw there a 56-lb. box of butter which he saw cut up into pounds and half-pounds. He saw the loss which arose to the retail trader from the cutting up of that 56-lb. box.
We all agreed that the then Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy  Lemass, in the interests of keeping the cost of living down for the general public, was, in fact, unreasonably hard on the traders. It could not be done. A person coming in for a pound of butter had to get a pound of butter; the shopkeeper had to keep the scales right for the customer; the shopkeeper could not give short weight. That 56 lb. box of butter had to give so many grains over in order that the customer could get full weight, but the margin of profit did not meet those few grains which were necessary to keep the scales down between the retailer and the customer. There was a meeting recently which was addressed by the Minister for Industry and Commerce. The organisation now represents 13,000 or 15,000 shopkeepers, and these people know that the margins of profits which were accorded to them under the previous Administration and reached after lengthy and protracted negotiation, attempted to give such a margin of profits that the individual trader could continue to exist while the consumer would not be asked to pay more than a reasonable price. What happened we know.
I met recently a small Dublin shopkeeper in the cycle trade, a man who sells maybe a bicycle or two a week. In order that the cost of living should go down—and one must keep this in mind with regard to bread and its present position—this retail shopkeeper has had to reduce his margin of profit by 7½ per cent. in the sale of the bicycle. The margin of profit which always existed between manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers was always examined with a view first to seeing that unreasonable margins of profit would not militate against a particular brand of cycle and also so that the person handling them would have a fair chance of carrying on because overhead costs could never be met with a margin unreasonably low. How long is the life of a bicycle? It goes over many years, and the 7½ per cent. cheaper price has now taken away the livelihood of the man who sells it, while it is not going to contribute anything to the reduction of the cost of living. It may be a nice thing to advertise in the paper that the  price of a bicycle previously sold for £11 is now 10 gns., but the man who has to buy bread every day of every week of the year and who has to pay a farthing extra on every loaf he has to bring into the household to keep his family fed is not going to say thank you because the cost of a bicycle has been reduced by a few shillings, against the increased charge every day, three times a day, at every meal, in the cost of his bread.
A lot has been said—and Deputy Childers referred to it—about the unreasonably high margins and the huge fortunes which have been gathered by those in the manufacturing industries. I wonder why any official of the Department of Industry and Commerce has not indicated to the present Government, particularly to the Department of Industry and Commerce's political heads, what this means. A manufacturer may have a turnover of £500,000 a year and he may, because he has good business ingenuity, be able to make what is regarded as a very substantial profit and have a personal income for himself of £5,000, £6,000 or £7,000 a year, having paid income-tax, surtax and corporation profits tax. If, however, you took away every penny of this man's profits and asked him to work and give his ingenuity and organising ability and have nothing, by what percentage will that reduce the retail price of the commodity? I say that it will not reduce it by one-tenth of 1 per cent. If every penny of the profit which accrues to the manufacturers in all the industries was taken away from them, it would not affect the retail price of any single commodity. If you want him to remain in production, giving employment at reasonable rates of wages under reasonable conditions, that is not the way to do it.
There is another matter which I want to suggest to the Government. We have to-day rationed goods, and we have control of prices in relation to these rationed goods. If the Parliamentary Secretary wants to press this attitude into a practical situation what is going to happen? If you go too far in the reduction of prices you are also going to have a reduction in quality. Remember that prices in relation to  goods have to have some regard to the quality of the goods you deliver. If you demand certain standards of quality you must allow that there shall be a price with some relation to them. Another thing we have to remember is that the manufacturers and traders have not got, as in the old days, freedom of trade. They are limited by the restrictions that confront us as a result of being in the sterling area. There are commodities which can be bought in non-sterling areas at a much cheaper price than in the sterling area, but because sterling has not the power to buy in those areas, we must buy in the sterling area. Consequently, our prices are affected even in the case of raw materials.
That can be very well understood when you take the case of wheat. As Deputy Lemass pointed out yesterday, the main bulk of the world's wheat for sale to-day happens to be in hard curency countries, and, if we want to get cheaper bread, we have either to buy the wheat in sterling countries where sterling has some power to buy or recognise that the production of wheat in this country must be at its maximum. This rationing of bread and flour will react on us in a much more aggravated form in the near future. We have also to remember that our manufacturers and producers have mainly this one market. They cannot very well transact business with other countries, apart from the fact that we are not and have not been, up to the present, a producer for world consumption. We are not in a position, when we manufacture certain goods, to make use of other markets in order to procure a bigger supply of certain by-products which contribute to a reduction in the cost of living.
The question of sugar has been discussed. Sugar is rationed, controlled and subsidised. As Deputy Lemass pointed out yesterday and as is known to all of us, the Government are now juggling with subsidies and prices. The limited amount of sugar which a householder can get to-day under rationing is sold at something like 4½d. per lb. But he can get all the sugar he wants at 7d. per lb. Of course that sugar is supposed to be used for certain purposes,  but there is no control to see whether that increased amount of sugar is being used in the manner in which it is supposed to be used. We all know that during the war, when the Minister for Industry and Commerce was charged with the welfare and well-being of every member of the community, he had to indulge in very harsh methods of control and very harsh treatment of offenders against the regulations in the interests of the well-being of all our people. But to-day, as I say, this juggling is becoming a joke. The fact is that the person who needs more sugar for his household is in fact paying the increased price and if we want to get a proper calculation of the cost of living we have to take the two prices for sugar in order to get the average price paid by the consumer. If the people were getting all the sugar they wanted, you would not have to ration it. You ration it because they are not getting all they want and therefore when they want a little more they have to buy it in this way.
From the contact which I have with my constituents I feel that they are gravely disappointed. I am not talking now of Fianna Fáil supporters or those who have voted for us, but for those who I know were against us. They are very gravely disappointed because all this rationing is causing them very grave hardship. I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that the suggestions made to him yesterday by Deputy Lemass and to-day by the Leader of this Party should be taken seriously into consideration and those controls ended as soon as possible so that we can get back as quickly as we can to normal life in the country. The Government should recognise that all the suggestions and allegations they made before the election were made without knowledge of the facts and that the way in which the country's interests had been looked after, particularly in regard to the essentials of life, could not be improved upon by any Government.
Mr. A. Byrne: I should like to know if it is possible for the Parliamentary Secretary to do anything with regard to the price of children's clothing and  boots. Working-class people find great difficulty in procuring clothing and boots. The average worker with £6, £7 or £8 a week finds it impossible to buy a suit of clothes because the price has gone up beyond all reason. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to make some inquiry as to the price of clothing and boots, particularly children's clothing and boots.
Mr. Cosgrave: I wish Deputies opposite would realise that this measure is being continued because there are shortages of essential goods, and because, in order to make effective a fair system of distribution, it is essential that these powers should be retained. This Government has given tangible evidence of their desire to get rid of as many unnecessary controls as possible. Listening to the speeches of Deputies opposite, one would gather the impression that we were living in normal times such as existed pre-1939; that essential commodities, whether foodstuffs or other commodities such as petroleum, were in plentiful supply, and that we could make them available if we took the trouble to look for them. As Deputies opposite should know, the contrary is the case. Listening to Deputy Lemass last night, I could not help thinking of the transformation which has taken place merely because he is on one side of the House now and was on another side last year.
Mr. Cosgrave: The Deputy last night was all in favour of wiping out controls. He said that they were no longer necessary, that we should end rationing and that there is no need for rationing flour or sugar. The circumstances which prevail at the moment are almost identical with those which prevailed this time last year. In fact, in some instances, supplies of commodities are, if anything, more difficult to procure now than at this time last year. At the same time, the international situation is if anything less promising than it was this time last year. There is, therefore, a responsibility on the Government to ensure that no step will be taken which  will in any way militate against an adequate supply of essential food-stuffs or any other goods that are required here being available and that these supplies will be fairly distributed.
We had a long discussion here this morning on the position about wheat. Deputy Aiken, and other Deputies, commented on the fact that we were taking no effective steps to ensure adequate supplies of wheat, and were throwing ourselves upon the mercy of imported supplies of wheat rather than concentrating on home production. I think it is well to give the House some information about the quantity of wheat available to the mills from home production this year.
Mr. Cosgrave: The quantity of native wheat received this year is 266,000 tons. Last year, the total quantity of native wheat received was 143,700 tons. The rate of supply, which still continues is, taking one week against another, higher than it was last year. The wheat is still coming in to the mills. As Deputies are aware, one of the difficulties, which was adverted to by Deputy Lemass, is the fact that there is still a serious shortage of storage accommodation. That is the position at the moment in regard to native wheat, a position in which, according to Deputy Aiken, we are throwing ourselves on the mercy of imported wheat.
We have been asked here by Deputy Corry, Deputy T. Walsh and other Deputies opposite to offer some encouragement to the farmer to produce wheat and other grain crops. I want to give the House an indication of the encouragement that is being  given this year for the production of wheat. The price of wheat for the 1948 crop is 62/6 per barrel. That is a guaranteed price for the crop for the next four years. The price last year was 55/- per barrel, with a credit fertiliser docket of 2/6, making the total 57/6. I do not know what further encouragement Deputies expect the Government to give farmers other than price inducement. There is this year that increase in price of 5/- a barrel. That is an indication that this Government is anxious to encourage farmers to grow wheat—that we are anxious to encourage them to grow wheat by offering them a remunerative price. If we consider, at the same time, the rate of supply of wheat to the mills this year, I think it will be obvious that the encouragement that is being made available to farmers at the moment is having a greater effect than the compulsory growing of wheat in certain areas, a policy which was in operation up to the present year at a price of 55/- a barrel, plus the fertiliser credit docket for 2/6.
I think it will be no harm if I give the House some particulars of the estimated production of wheat which the previous Government supplied in 1947 to the Committee of European Economic Co-operation. That committee was given particulars from the various countries with regard to the number of hectares of bread grain. As regards this country, figures were given of what we actually produced in 1945, 1946 and 1947, with estimated figures for the succeeding years. In 1945-46 we grew 265,000 hectares; in 1946-47, 253,000 hectares: the estimate for 1947-48 was 233,000 hectares; the estimate for 1948-49 was 223,000 hectares; for 1949-50, 143,000 hectares and for 1950-51, 103,000 hectares. It is obvious from these returns that the Fianna Fáil Government contemplated a far lower acreage under wheat since they estimated a drop of from 253,000 hectares in 1946-47 to 103,000 hectares in 1950-51. These were the figures supplied by the previous Government on the basis of their estimates of the quantity of wheat which would be produced here if their policy had continued in operation.
Mr. Cosgrave: You can explain it any way you like. The fact is, that the previous Government supplied these figures, and in so far as the public have received, up to date, any information on the matter, the previous Government was going to act on the basis of these figures. There is no evidence in any part of this programme that there was to be a greater demand for dollar wheat, but there is evidence that we would have endeavoured to procure wheat from the sterling area if it was available.
It is indicated here, in the estimates of production of bread grains, that the Government contemplated that the quantity produced here would drop from the figure of 337,000 metric tons in 1947-48 to 149,000 metric tons in 1950-51. Does not that indicate that the Fianna Fáil Government not only expected but planned on the basis of a reduced quantity of wheat being provided from home sources? If it does not, then these figures do not make sense, and they do not support the contention which Deputy Aiken advanced here this morning that this Government has sought, not only to discourage wheat production, but to kill it. The fact is that this Government is giving 5/- a barrel more for wheat than was given before. It is not only giving it for this year, but is going to continue it for the next four years.
We also had a discussion on the price of barley. We had Deputy Corry and  Deputy T. Walsh deploring the fact that we were not paying a remunerative price for barley, and that, consequently, we could not expect the farmers to grow adequate supplies of it. The maximum price for barley in 1947 was 40/- a barrel. The maximum price for 1948 was fixed, originally at 45/- a barrel, and prior to the reaping and threshing of the crop it was raised to 50/- a barrel. Messrs. Guinness are, in this year of 1948, paying 50/- a barrel for malting barley. Last year, they paid 40/-, and they have guaranteed to pay to growers next year a minimum price of 57/6 a barrel for malting barley. These figures show that not only is the case that has been made by the Deputies opposite not founded on fact, but that the prices which are at present available for wheat and barley are higher than they were last year, and further that the prospect for this and the coming years both in respect of wheat and barley is better than it was before. Reference has been made to the fact that because of the price which prevails for bacon it is not possible for farmers to produce. Deputy Cogan deplored the fact that bacon and butter are still rationed. I do not think it is necessary to remind the House that under Fianna Fáil the pig very nearly became extinct in this country.
Mr. Cosgrave: In the last three months, however, the number of pigs received at the factories was 70,415 as against 53,428 for the same three months of 1947 and it was announced some time ago that there will be 75,000 hams available for the Christmas trade.
Mr. Cosgrave: The ration of butter this year has never gone lower than 4 ounces. At the present time the ration is 6 ounces. In 1947 the ration of butter was 6 ounces for a period, 4 ounces for a period and from March to May it was 2 ounces. I think that evidence shows that ——
Mr. Cosgrave: ——higher than they were this time last year. We have, in addition, under the trade agreement, a guarantee that we can export in the next four years up to 27,000 tons of bacon, if we have it available. We have, also, as the House is aware, a guaranteed market for other agricultural produce.
It has been said that we should end sugar rationing. I do not know whether Deputies want to put this country into the position in which, because we would end sugar rationing, we might not have sufficient sugar to meet our requirements. The present quantities of sugar either available or in sight will only allow the present ration to be maintained up to the beginning of the next home production season. I think it would be unwise and dangerous, in present world conditions, to abandon rationing in the hope that conditions will so improve that we will be able to procure adequate supplies freely. The same is the case in respect of tea. We have imported this year, or we have in course of transit to this country, 24,000,000 pounds of tea. It is true that last year we imported more than what we have been importing in recent years  but since last year there has been a considerable amount of trouble in the Indonesian tea gardens and there is also a smaller crop available there. In addition, the type and quality of tea which we ordinarily use is not available in the quantities which would make it possible for us to purchase it freely. As Deputies realise, the type of tea used in this country is generally of a superior quality. If we are anxious to maintain the quality of the tea and at the same time to ensure that every person in the country will get a fair ration during the year I think it is essential, while present conditions prevail, to continue rationing.
Deputy Lynch asked why we did not abolish petrol rationing and other Deputies spoke as though petrol were freely available. The present difficulties from the point of view of petroleum products are due to two main causes—two causes which have continued to restrict the quantities available here over the past few years. One is the shortage of tankers, the other is the shortage of refining capacity. In 1938 the total consumption of petrol here was 148,000 tons. On the basis of fulfilling our full demand for petrol at the present time the total estimated quantity required would be 200,000 tons. We used in 1938 68,000 tons of burning oil and vaporising oil; this year we are using 96,000 tons. In 1938 we used 60,000 tons of fuel oil; this year we are using 240,000 tons. We probably could allow petrol to be imported freely provided we were prepared to take a decision to restrict the use of any of these other oils, either light or heavy fuel oil. This year there were 21,000 commercial goods vehicles in use as compared with 10,000 in 1939. There are about 60,000 private cars as compared with 52,000 in 1939. To suggest that we should end petrol rationing when we cannot get sufficient supplies to meet the requirements of the various types of vehicles that are now registered, and at the same time to make available to the 8,000 tractor users kerosene and fuel oil for agricultural purposes—a figure which is four times the number in use in 1938—would be taking an undue risk.
I think the national interest requires  that we must import the maximum quantities of these oils in order to keep agricultural and industrial production going rather than that we should lessen the quantities of fuel oils being imported in order to increase the quantity of petrol available. Even this year we have succeeded in increasing the quantities of petrol available to certain users. As long as the situation remains as it is, as long as the tanker shortage and the difficulties of refining oil continue, the Government could not risk a shortage of either fuel oil or petrol for essential purposes in order to supply, for a temporary period, less essential needs.
Considerable attention has been paid in the course of this debate to price control. It began with Deputy Lemass who said that the present system of price control was unsatisfactory but that the system operated under the Supplies and Services Act was the easier system. Whatever merits or demerits there are in the present system Deputy Lemass and the Fianna Fáil Government were the authors of it. While it is not ideal and while there are considerable defects in implementing or making price control effective under the present system we have achieved some measure of success.
It is quite true that, because the operation of price control is done directly by the departmental officials and the various producers, the public do not get the same impression of its effectiveness that they might perhaps get if a public tribunal were to sit, or if there was some body before which the producers and manufacturers would be obliged to present their case to substantiate their prices. It may be that as a result of our experience of the operation of the present system a change will be made in the future. At the moment the existing price control system is being closely watched and the Government has under consideration the possibility of introducing a different system. I think, however, it is only reasonable that the Government should operate the present system for some time longer in order to examine fully what the defects are and to consider fully what steps can be taken to make it more effective.
It has been alleged that we have  brought about no significant reduction in the cost of living. The latest published cost-of-living index figure is one point lower that it was at this time last year—one point lower despite the coming into operation of the highest wage increases ever granted in this country. At the same time we have made effective price reductions in regard to other commodities; we have made those reductions effective in spite of the fact that many imported commodities remain at a high level or have increased in price.
It has been possible this year to announce reductions in a number of goods. While these goods may not directly enter into the present method of computing the cost-of-living index figure, they are nevertheless goods which every household requires. Readymade garments have dropped from 2½ per cent. to 9 per cent.; waterproofs have dropped from 2½ per cent. to 12 per cent.; hosiery goods have dropped from 10 per cent. to 15 per cent.; woollen goods have dropped by 5 per cent.; sweeping brooms, aluminium and enamel ware have dropped from 7 per cent. to 10 per cent. Gas has been reduced in price in Dublin and Cork; in the case of Dublin 3d. per therm, and in the case of Cork 4d. per therm. Certain other less important reductions have also been announced. Reductions have been effected in the price of motor-cars and bicycles. Listening to Deputy Briscoe, I was left under the impression that he is in favour of continuing the high prices which were in operation in the case of bicycles.
All the reductions which have been brought about have been brought about by the action taken by the Government. I think it is no harm in this connection to remind the House that no less than £6,000,000 was remitted in taxation by the wiping out of the additional taxes on beer and cigarettes. While these commodities that I have mentioned specifically are not directly regarded as entering into the ordinary cost-of-living index figure, they have nevertheless brought results. The net effect is that the people have benefited considerably by the reductions which have  been made and by the drop in prices of some of these commodities.
Some Opposition Deputies referred at length to the promises made in election speeches. I do not think there is much point here in going back over election promises. I could remind the Deputies opposite of numerous promises they themselves made and failed to keep. So long as political Parties remain as they are, promises will be made by candidates in elections. Some of these promises can never be implemented, even if the particular Party is elected as the Government. The fact is that, despite the rise in price of a number of commodities, despite the difficulty in securing supplies and despite all the problems which have confronted the Government in the last nine months, the cost of living has dropped slightly. The cost of a number of commodities has dropped, in some cases substantially.
Deputy Byrne referred to the price of children's clothing. No commodity has proved so difficult of reduction in price as clothing. As the Deputy is aware, the Minister recently interviewed the drapers and put before them his view and the Government's view as to the cost of these articles. We hope to get voluntary action in respect of the prices of these goods. If we do not get that voluntary action we shall be compelled to take other action. But we are confident that it will be possible by voluntary action on the part of the manufacturers and producers to make substantial reductions. Substantial reductions are necessary. From every point of view it would be more satisfactory to have these reductions voluntarily brought about rather than to resort to other methods. Reductions will have to be made effective and made effective quickly.
Some reference was made in the course of the debate to the control of building and the supply of building materials. The supply of materials has improved substantially. There are still some shortages of a serious nature, particularly in regard to roofing materials. But the position at the moment is that materials are available to a reasonable extent for all essential building. We are endeavouring to procure  a sufficiency of roofing materials to allow the building programme to be completed.
This Bill is essential. So far as the Government is concerned, I can assure the Deputies that we are anxious to have revoked as quickly as possible numerous Orders. I read out a list yesterday of a number of goods which are no longer subject to Order. As and when these Orders are revoked, announcements of their revocation will be made publicly. When the time is opportune to revoke any control in existence at the moment—in other words, when, with the passage of time, control is no longer necessary—action  will be taken. While there are shortages and while there are difficulties in the way of procuring some goods, it is essential for the purpose of Government to have this Bill.
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