Supplies and Services (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1946 (Continuance and Amendment) Bill, 1950. Second Stage—(Resumed).
Thursday, 7 December 1950
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. Allen: Speaking on this Bill previous to the adjournment for questions, I had just said that the previous Government in October, 1947, took steps, and very definite steps, to halt the increase, to stabilise the cost of living at that time, so much so that their predecessors took it that the index from that period on was to be based on the cost of living as then stabilised by the Fianna Fáil Government in October, 1947, as a result of the Supplementary Budget at that time. The general election took place a short time afterwards, and the groups that now form the Coalition, or some of them, made promises during the election campaign that if elected they would take off the taxes imposed by the Fianna Fáil Government in 1947 in the Supplementary Budget.
The Coalition proceeded to do that and reduced the taxes on beer, spirits, champagne, cinemas, dog racing, and so on. We had great glee and satisfaction in all the groups that formed the Coalition because of that. We had  the Labour Party taking a major part in the glee and satisfaction there was in this House and in the country because the price of beer was reduced. I am just wondering if they still have the same view. Would it not be well to-day irrespective of the source of those taxes, if this Government had £6,000,000 or £8,000,000 at their disposal to hold and stabilise again the prices of essential commodities? They are incapable of doing it by any other means. I put that to Deputy Larkin of the Labour Party. Would it not be sound national policy in the present day? I am sure that the people who depend on wages in Deputy O'Leary's home town or any portion of his constituency will tell him that it is much more important for them that the necessaries of life should be made available at a price they can afford to pay than to have cheap beer, cheap champagne, cheap cinemas, cheap dog racing, and lower income tax. That is the policy of the present Government— to make all these things available at lower prices.
It is no advantage to the ordinary worker or to those families who depend on a limited amount of money for their provisions to tell them that the Government propose to freeze prices at their present level. What is the use of freezing the price of fuel? Is there any use in freezing the price of bacon, one of the commodities about which the people are very dissatisfied? The price of bacon has been forced up unjustifiably and unreasonably by the Minister for Agriculture within the past six or nine months. What have the Government done about it? They cheered and shouted for the Minister when he was filibustering on the Border with bacon pigs for three weeks and shifting them out of this country. The result is that bacon has gone up. unreasonably and unnecessarily by 4d. to 6d. per lb. within the past fortnight. What is the use in talking about this committee halting a rise in the price of essentials? It can do nothing about it and if the small sprat in the shape of the committees suggested in the Bill satisfies the Labour Party, more luck to them, but I have no doubt that it will not satisfy the householders, the  wage earner, and the poorer sections of the community who must depend on a limited amount of money for the provision of the necessaries of life.
There was much talk here from the Government side about what Fianna Fáil did about halting prices and about the inadequacy of the original Act. I say definitely here that the Government did not use in any single respect the powers which were available to halt prices over the past three years. Will the Parliamentary Secretary tell me the number of Orders they made fixing the price of essential commodities in the past three years? Will he tell me any respect in which the Government took action to reduce the prices of essential commodities? Will he tell me the number of officers of his Department who have been actively operating to see that any price Orders in operation are carried out? Will he tell me the number of prosecutions which took place for non-compliance with price Orders? Will he tell me the number of convictions set aside by the Department of Justice, the number of fines reduced, and the number of jail sentences set aside, by the Minister for breaches of these price Orders and regulations since the Government came in? Will the Labour Party, through its leader, Deputy Larkin, tell me why in the past three years they have not sought to force the Government to make law the Industrial Efficiency and Prices Bill of 1947?
Mr. Allen: That Bill was introduced by Deputy Lemass, as Minister, and received its Second Reading by a majority. Will Deputy Larkin tell me that, if the provisions of that Bill were in operation to-day, they would not be capable of preventing an unjustifiable rise in prices.
Mr. Allen: The Labour Party voted for it and spoke in favour of it here. They believed it would serve the best needs of the country. Have they done  anything to get it made the law of the land since? They have sat silently by with the swashbuckling Tánaiste as leader of that Party telling the country that all was right—“trust us and all is right.” The feeling in the country to-day is that the sooner this Government consults the wishes of the people, the better. They will then find out whether the people are satisfied with the way they have carried out the laws of the country and looked after their interests during the 34 months they have been in office.
Mr. O'Leary: This debate has dragged on for two weeks now and we find that a new Bill could be put into operation immediately, were it not for the Opposition who are holding it back. The trade union congresses are favourable to the setting up of the committees proposed to be set up by this Bill and we know that Fianna Fáil under their Act of 1947 would not put a hand on the people who are fleecing the public. It is the working-class people who suffer all the time. We speak here on behalf of the lowly paid people and I am not here to speak for the gang of manufacturers who have been fleecing the public and reaping profits at the expense of the public. We want to stop that immediately and as soon as this Bill passes prices will be frozen. That is what the people of Ireland are crying out for. Take the case of clothing. People can travel round and, at fairs throughout the country, can offer suit lengths and trimmings for £5, and we have people advocating that this should not be allowed, when an agricultural labourer can go to a fair and buy a suit length and trimmings for £5 for which the shopkeeper will charge from £10 to £15. Is it not time we faced facts?
We hear all the crying about rationed commodities, but rationed food was sent out of this country when the poorer sections of our people were going from shop to shop looking for this food. Thousands of pounds worth of rationed food was sent to foreign countries which found its way into the hands of the Communists who have such a grip on the world to-day.
We have poor people at home, and our duty as a Government is to see  that they will be looked after. Where was the bacon before 1948? It could not be seen in the shop windows nor got for love or money except on the black market. We hear talk about the two prices, but farmers of the Fianna Fáil Party who are members of county committees of agriculture were crying out for pollard and bran. The reason the white flour was made was to give pollard and bran to the farmers to feed the pigs, the chickens and turkeys. It was not to give black bread to the poor and white bread to the rich. People who can afford it are buying white bread now, but what happened when Deputy Lemass was in power? Little mills all over the country were closed up and sealed and confectioners' shops were haunted by inspectors who wanted to see if anyone was sifting flour to make a white cake. You can go now and get your white loaf and your rationed loaf as well. There has been talk about what the Government is doing, but where would the country be if they had not taken power in their hands and put out the Government which had been in power for 16 years and which had allowed the country to get into the hands of capitalists. The first thing we did, as was our duty in the Labour Party, was to see that a greater increase was given to the workers and we gave the 11/- that the Fianna Fáil Minister did not allow. He allowed no increase in wages. He did not sanction the 2d. per day increase for the road workers in Tipperary which was asked for by the Tipperary County Council, but yet they are the people who are groaning and telling us all the things that are wrong.
We have heard Deputy Allen attacking the things we have done, but the farmers of Wexford who are producing the pigs and who are very glad to get the increased prices for their products would not, I think, agree with him. Where would the bacon factory workers have been under Fianna Fáil? Where would the workers in the bottling stores, which was one of the greatest industries in the country, have been? Where would the barmen have been if the supplementary budget introduced by Deputy Aiken had been enforced? The barmen would have been dismissed and the bottling industry which gives  such good employment would have been closed down. We did not come into power with our eyes shut. No one knows better than I do the position to-day and I know that our people are still very badly off, but they were worse off in 1946 and 1947 when Fianna Fáil sent goods to Yugoslavia.
At a time when we could get no bacon, 90 tons of bacon were sent out to one country alone. I have the figures here taken from the Irish Review and Annual, 1946. You should get it and study it and see why our people could not get an ounce over the ration unless they were prepared to pay £1 a lb. or coax some young man for a half-pound of sugar.
There is talk of the emergency. As a worker, I must listen to men who had no idea of the situation. How could they?—when they spent 16 years here drawing their salaries? How can businessmen, doctors, solicitors and farmers talk to the plain people? They know no more about the matter than the lion above in the Zoo. We know their needs, however, and we know that there is still suffering in the country. We know that there are thousands of people who are trying to exist on very small incomes. We are not satisfied with the present old age pension code and we hope that the Social Security Bill will get the support from Fianna Fáil that will pass it through the House and relieve the poorest sections of the people who have no trade unions to fight for them, small British pensioners, people living on I.R.A. pensions and the like. The organised workers will see they get their share but we are the organisation representing that section of our people which is the most deserving.
I believe the Bill is necessary when the Trade Union Congress welcomes it and asks for the appointment of a number of inspectors. Throughout the country at the present time a number of people are hoarding boots, clothes and blankets in stores and shops. What are they hoping for? Another war, so as to get three times the profit on them? We want inspectors to see where these things are stored away and I hope to God that war will not  come and that they will be greatly disappointed. Look at the people who, as Deputy McQuillan said to-day, backed the Fianna Fáil Party in the general election of 1948. Look at their businesses and look at the amount of money at the disposal of that Party. That was the Party which backed them rather than the plain people. They backed the plain people when they gave them free beef and a few little items until they got the majority but when they got the majority they were no longer the workman's friend, and for 16 years they held them under threat and frightened the people by telling them that if that Party were no longer in power we would be in the war. There was an end to the humbug in 1948 and the people did not give Fianna Fáil a majority over all, and that is why they are in opposition to-day.
We should like this Bill to be passed through the House to-night if it can be done, but it cannot be done because the Opposition are talking and asking us what we are going to do. We ask the Fianna Fáil Party to help us to enforce this Bill, so as to stop people from putting up prices every day to the ordinary man in the street. It is all right for the man with the money. He is never worried, but we want to relieve the people whom we in the Labour Party represent, the people who sent us here, the workers and small farmers. We did not get any capitalist votes. We want to ensure that the people we represent will get a fair deal, and that prices will not continue to rise day after day. We are powerless to secure that until this advisory tribunal is set up.
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