Friday, 8 May 1953
Dáil Éireann Debate
“This Budget marks the second phase in the struggle of this Government to re-establish order in the public finances and in the nation's economy; and we may now review what we have accomplished in that regard.”
I pointed out last night that if the Minister and the Government had any regard for re-establishing order in the nation's economy their first concern should be for 84,000 individuals who are a very important part of that economy, and that the Budget did not indicate if their position would be improved in the coming year.
The Minister continued: “We have virtually resolved the balance of payments problem.” It must be clear to every Deputy in the House and to the Minister, as I pointed out last night, that that would indeed have resolved itself and the Minister cannot therefore take any credit for the present position with regard to the balance of payments.
“We have stimulated thrift...” Having regard to high prices and to inadequate wages among many sections of workers and having regard to the unemployment position to which I have referred, I cannot see any evidence of the ability of certain people in this country to be thrifty at the present time. It gives them all they can do to make ends meet and to pay their weekly commitments.
The Minister had no difficulty in doing that. As was pointed out to him in this House on Wednesday and yesterday the terms of his last loan were so attractive that it would have been virtually impossible in this country not to have it subscribed. The Minister was so generous in regard to the terms of that loan that he has done irreparable damage in the country by sending up the price of money to such a high level. It has damaged industry, agriculture and, in particular, the house-building industry. It is a step taken by the Minister that cannot easily be corrected. It will have its repercussions for years to come.
I do not think we could agree with the Minister in that remark especially when we have regard to the statement recently made by the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs—and which was given publicity in the recommendations by the committee on salaries for judges and justices—that, compared with 1939, the £ is now worth 8/11. If that is correct—and if the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs says it then it must be correct—then the old age pensioner is now receiving only 9/7 and the average road worker and the average farm worker in this country receive only 36/- per week.
If the £ is now worth only 8/11 as compared with 1939 standards, the sick man with £2 10s. a week who has a wife and two children, has now 22/4 per week. The man who has £5 now has £2 4s. 7d.; the man with £7 per week has £3 6s. 10d.
I think credit can be given to the present Government and past Governments for their endeavours in the field of social welfare. I would not at all agree that we have reached the limit with regard to what can be done in the field of social welfare. It may be that  we have sufficient legislation on the Statute Book to enable us to come to the assistance of people who cannot by their own endeavours assist themselves or keep themselves and their families. We have provision for widows, for orphans, for old age pensioners, for people who are unemployed, for people who are sick and for people who suffer from tuberculosis; we have a variety of schemes of social welfare. We have the implements in our hands in this Parliament and this country to do things in the field of social welfare, but we must agree that in certain fields of social welfare we have failed miserably when we take cognisance of the fact that the old age pension is 21/6, that the sick man with a wife and family has £2 10s. or, as I have said, 22/4 according to 1939 standards.
There is much that can be done in this sphere. I agree that there is much that has been done in social welfare and in matters of health, but there is still much more that can be done and, if these people who are depending on social welfare in this country are to have any sort of standard, we in this House must be their trade union officers. We must watch the cost of living on their behalf and the Minister for Finance particularly, the Minister for Social Welfare and the Minister for Health ought, when there is an abnormal increase in the cost of living, examine the position of those people who have no organisation or no trade union to speak for them and see that increases will be given to them commensurate with the increase in the cost of living.
If I were to make one criticism more than another with regard to the major discussions that take place in this House, it would be something I mentioned before, the references that are made here from time to time to civil wars, Blueshirts, greenshirts, who killed who and what so-and-so did in 1916 or 1921. I see from both sides of the House that among the younger people—and if I say “younger” I mean Deputies who are under 40— there is evidence of disgust in their minds at these references, at these interjections.
Brendán Mac Fheórais: That is typical of what I am objecting to in the House. When major debates are carried on and one wants to make a point and in the act of proving a point conclusively, there is some interjection about a Blueshirt, about the civil war, from one side or another to sidetrack the vital issues that are being discussed. I do not make these comments in any bitter way to score any political point. I accuse one side as much as I do the other. We are not going to solve or get agreement on the major problems here; we are not going to do the greatest amount of good we can do as long as debates are interspersed with such references as those to which I have referred.
The appeal that was made in that regard some time last year by the President has not been heeded. There should be a realisation that if we are to do the country's work we will have to draw a curtain over that period when the people on the Fianna Fáil side of the House were in conflict with the people on this side of the House. It is not fair to the country and it is not fair to the men who died during the particular period of 1916 to 1921, or to the men who are still in the House on both sides who gave such trojan service and who made such sacrifices during that troubled period. The country wants to give them credit on both sides but they do not want discussion in the House to be muddied with references to the civil war, to  Blueshirts, greenshirts, executions or imprisonments.
The Resolution we are discussing now is not really the Budget Resolution. We had our Budget introduced in three parts. We had the Budget introduced in October of last year by the Minister for Local Government when he brought Resolutions into the Dáil to increase motor car taxation. Certain categories of taxpayers in this, country are paying to the tune of £800,000 per year. That was the first instalment of the Budget of the present Minister for Finance.
Brendán Mac Fheórais: It was introduced by the Minister for Local Government. We had the second part of the Budget last week from the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs where his tax proposals amounted to something like £750,000. Before the Minister for Finance rose from his seat at all on Wednesday, this country was faced with tax proposals amounting to over £1,500,000. Of course, the Minister's task was made much easier then, inasmuch as the Budget proposals meant nothing but 66 pages of speech-making with no proposals.
If I were to describe this Budget in any way at all, I would describe it as a gambler's Budget. The Minister is gambling on an expectation of revenue yielding £2,000,000 more in the present year. He is gambling on that and on a promise or an intention, whether it be a good or a bad intention, of saving £3,500,000 in public administration. He is gambling to the extent of £5,500,000 to £6,000,000. He hopes he will get that; I hope he will, too, but I do not think he should come to this House and say he has balanced the Budget when there are no concrete proposals to fill that gap which amounts to approximately £6,000,000. His Budget was meant to be a by-election Budget or a general election Budget, but I should say it has misfired. The Minister thought he would satisfy the taxpayers, the people of this country generally, when he introduced a standstill Budget or a stay-as-you-are Budget, but he and  the members of his Party seem to have forgotten that the Budget of last year was so harsh and was such a heavy burden on the community that people generally expected reliefs this year. These reliefs were half promised by the Minister last year. He said the treatment was going to be severe but that the cure would be complete in one year.
Brendán Mac Fheórais: The members of his Party also gave the impression last year that the Budget taxation was made so heavy and so severe to ensure that all the ills, from which the Minister pretended this country was suffering, would disappear in 12 months. As I say the present Budget was intended to be a by-election or a general election Budget, but it has misfired inasmuch as the people have been very disappointed that some reliefs have not been afforded. They must still carry the burdens imposed last year without any indication whatsoever that any attempt will be made to solve such pressing problems as unemployment, emigration and rising prices. The Minister's Party may have to move the writ for the Wicklow by-election next week and it will not be long until the writ for the East Cork by-election is moved. I think the Wicklow and East Cork elections will afford a fair test of the feelings of the people with regard to the antics of the Minister for Finance and the members of the Government generally. I am equally confident, knowing the people, that in the result of these by-elections the people will show their absolute distrust of the present Government and  will indicate very clearly that a change of Government is needed.
Mr. Colley: I have always had regard for Deputy Corish's ability but, having listened attentively to him, I am afraid he has not added to his reputation by the speeches he made last night and this morning. If ever a Deputy of this House took a superficial outlook as to the realities of the situation and glossed over the parts which did not suit the points he wanted to make, Deputy Corish has done so. Almost in his last phrase he talked about the Minister gambling with expectations of revenue. Is there any Minister anywhere, whose duty it is to introduce a Budget, who has not to do something that can be described in that way? He has to estimate revenue for the next year; you may call it gambling if you like but he can do nothing else.
By using the word “gambling” Deputy Corish tried to impute that the Minister was doing something that has never been done before. I suppose he would prefer that the Minister should do what his predecessor did in his last Budget. After an undertaking had been given to honour the Civil Service award of that time, he brought in a Budget without providing a penny to do that, although he had the report before him for some weeks and had given the undertaking. Then some Deputies on the other side have the audacity to accuse us of “welshing” on the present award, although nothing was done except what was in accordance with the clause agreed to by the civil servants themselves. We had another instance in the case of C.I.E. which the Coalition went out of their way to nationalise on the pretence that they were going to introduce methods which would make it pay but they did not provide one penny for the loss they knew was going to accrue, a loss that was quite evident to anybody for that year.
Does Deputy Corish want the Budget to be dealt with in that way in future? It was that sort of financing during the years that the Coalition were in office which left us in the terrible position we had to face last year and which was responsible unfortunately for all the ills of which the Labour  Party are now complaining. We had in a sense to throw up a rampart against the floods which threatened to engulf this country in dire disaster. We are still there on guard; the position is not yet at all clear and we are trying to prevent that flood of disaster from overcoming the country. Yet the best that the Coalition can talk about is a comparison of present-day figures with the figures of 1938 for social services. If the Coalition had their way for another few years it is quite on the cards that we would not be able to pay for any social services. At least it can be said in regard to social services, that we did not keep talking about them for three and a half years. We brought in social services and we gave the same benefits as was proposed by the Coalition Government. Now they have the audacity to come along to accuse us of not doing better.
Is not the real remedy for all these problems, after what has been happening in the last few years, with rising prices and correspondingly rising wages, to try to get stabilisation somewhere and then by increasing production and increasing the national income arrange to do better for poor people who are genuinely in need? Is it not the remedy to bring about stabilisation? Indeed, it was plain to anybody that if there had not been a change of Government we would have financial disaster. One need not be a financier to see that. It was plain to any man who examined the position. Last night Deputy O'Donnell spoke about the cost of living in 1951 and since, and attributed the whole of the increase to this Government. I have the figures now here before me. In February, 1951, the index was 103, in May, 1951, 109, and in August, 1951, 111. I do not think anybody opposite can honestly object to taking that figure as being the figure nearest to the time when the Coalition went out of office. There was therefore an increase of eight points as between February and August when the Coalition went out of office. In November the index was 113, in February, 1952, 114 and in May, 1952, 115, about the  time of the Budget of 1952. That was an increase of four points over and above the nearest figure we had to the time when the Coalition left office and that increase was mainly due to recommendations made by the Prices Advisory Committee appointed by the Coalition Government, a committee who were to prevent anything in the nature of profiteering but who had been forced by the circumstances at the time to agree to these increases.
We know that the Coalition pretended they were not going to honour those. They had not done so up to the time they left office. What would have been the position if these recommendations had not been honoured. We would have had wholesale unemployment. You cannot expect the small men with no big capital behind them to be philanthropists because the Government of the day is not prepared to face the unpopularity of putting up a price that is necessary to give them a livelihood. When their own advisory committee had gone into the whole question and found an increase was necessary, even then they were not prepared to do the honourable thing. The cost-of-living index in August, 1952, was 122 and in November 123 points. That was a rise if you like, but it was not all attributable to the Budget. It was a rise of seven points. There was a rise of eight points between February and October, 1951, as against the seven points following the Budget. These are the figures from the trade journal. The whole of the seven points is not at all attributable to the Budget. If the people opposite want to talk about the increase due to the Budget let them examine the figures properly and not try to shove things down our throat that are not correct.
Mr. Colley: Deputy O'Donnell spoke about the Army and said that we had no necessity for a standing army of 12,500. It is a question either of having an army or not. If we do not want an army let us get rid of it altogether, but  if we want an army, it would be sheer waste of money if we did not have an efficient army, and by efficient I do not mean that it should look well on parade or be able to fire rifles or machine-guns. I mean that, when an emergency comes, they will be able to take in an extra number of men and the F.C.A. to deal with the emergency to the very best of their ability.
It was very clear from what happened in the emergency of 1939 when the volunteer force was called upon that were it not for the grace of God and the fact that we got the time we would never have been able to deal with that situation. It was quite clear that the Army of 5,000 odd we had at that time was not at all sufficient. We all at one time thought that number would have been sufficient. Those of us who followed the position then know that it was not at all sufficient. When the Army Staff had gone into the matter as a result of that experience and when it had been gone into again by the Government with every intention of saving all the money they could save with safety to the country, they had to decide on the figure of 12,500. Deputy O'Donnell apparently without going into the question or looking at the history of the emergency, or even looking at our past history comes along and says we do not need an army of 12,500. In so far as I heard him he did not commit himself as to what size of an army we wanted.
None of us wanted an army of 12,500, but if we are going to have an army we must have one that will be able to do its job. The question may arise whether we want an army or not. Having regard to the history of this country throughout the centuries, the part we played in the army in our own generation, the current history of the world, our knowledge of mankind, who is there amongst us who would say we would last a week in a world crisis if we had not got some means of defence? We may not want to do as some of the big nations want to do, but at least our whole history shows us that the people of this country will want to defend themselves if attacked in order to preserve their liberty even if they had to do it with pitchforks as they  did in the past. To any man who says this country does not need an army— an efficient army—I say he does not know the people of Ireland. If such a thing should happen you would find that some small group of men would on their own assert the right of this country to be free against any intruder.
Consequently, it is necessary that we should have an army that would be able to do its job. On the best advice that could be got the strength of 12,500 was fixed as the absolute minimum. I think it is time we ended this argument in this House. We have had the same argument—it apparently passes on from man to man—several times from those in the opposite benches who may not have heard it before. If we want an army let us agree that we want an army that will do its job.
Deputy O'Donnell further mentioned the Supplementary Estimates of last year and stated that the fact that they were met proved that there was a surplus in the Budget when it was introduced. If he looks at pages 20 and 21 of the Minister's statement he will see this:—
“Last year's Budget included £5,750,000 for foreseen supplementary charges and for contingenices, so that the Supplementary Estimates which were subsequently introduced were covered to this amount. Of the £5,750,000 it was estimated that £4,750,000 would be required to meet the additional costs arising under the social welfare legislation of 1952.”
It goes on to explain in further detail. The point I want to make is that quite clearly the big bulk of those were provided for in the Estimates. I understand that the argument made by Deputy Costello was exactly the same argument as that made by Deputy O'Donnell in regard to the Supplementary Estimates. That does not at all bolster up the case which Deputy Costello tried to make last year when he was arguing about overestimation to the extent of £10,000,000.
Deputy Larkin last night, and Deputy Corish this morning, took the line that, if things had been left alone, the position in regard to the external balance of payments would have settled itself. That seems to have  been the line which the Coalition adopted, although we had the statements made by Deputy McGilligan, when he was Minister for Finance, in which he referred to the bad position on external account. But he did nothing about it. In the first year, it was £10,000,000; in the second year, it was £20,000,000; in the third year it was £30,000,000, and in the year in which the Coalition went out of office it had jumped to £61,000,000. That is what came from leaving it alone. If the Deputies opposite really want to deal with the position, they must face those facts and see that leaving it alone, instead of helping the position, made it very much worse. Something had to be done about it or else we would have soon found ourselves in the position when we would not be able to buy the raw materials necessary to keep a good many of our industries going. As a city Deputy, I could see that position coming, and I was very much concerned about it. Unless some steps were taken to correct it, the position was going to be very bad.
Deputy Larkin also implied that the Fianna Fáil attitude to-day as regards the promotion of industry was not the same as it was in the past. I think that if Deputy Larkin had looked a bit more closely into what the actual position is he would never have made that statement.
Mr. Colley: That the Fianna Fáil attitude towards industrial production was not the same to-day as it was in the past. These are not his actual words, and I am just giving a summary of what he said. What are the facts? When we were in office previous to the war our industrial policy was progressing. Then the war came and upset things. No one could help that. We were on the way again when the disaster of having the Coalition Government occurred. What happened about industrial production during the time of the Coalition? They incurred a huge amount of debt. In their time  the national debt went up by almost as much as it had gone up between 1922 and 1947 while at the same time our external assets were reduced by about £125,000,000. In addition, they had got the American loan of £45,000,000. What I am asking is, what did we get for all that in the way of national development?
I say that we are on the march again. First of all, we had to show to the people who were prepared to put money into industry that there was some chance of their being able to carry on, and that the country would not be allowed to go into bankruptcy. We had to take steps to stabilise our finances, and it has now been recognised that that object has been achieved. As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government mentioned when speaking last night, a large number of industries are now developing under this Government. The whole idea that seems to be behind the Labour Party at the present time is to try and get rid of Fianna Fáil. Deputy Larkin was quite candid about that. I think that, in the interests of the working people at least, they ought to examine their position on that. The working people of Dublin, at any rate, know who are their friends, and they have proved it year in and year out.
Mr. Colley: They know who are their friends, and if it were not for the working people in Dublin—this is a well-known fact—there would not be so many of us sitting here on these benches. That is a fact, and so I say that the working people of Dublin know who are their friends.
Mr. Colley: I am not antagonistic to the Labour Party. I want to see a good Labour Party, but I do want to say to the Labour Party that, in their own interests, they should re-examine their position. In spite of the fact that, when we took over, the finances of the State were in a disastrous position, we have been making progress. Grants  have been made for housing, schools and hospitals, for land improvement, turf, rural electrification. Production and output have been increased so far as all these activities are concerned. We brought in a Bill for the improvement of the undeveloped areas. The House is well aware of all that we have tried to do for the improvement of that part of the country. We have put tourism on the way, and we have taken big steps in connection with our defence programme. I, for one, will stand over to the last the proposals to give the Army the chance of doing the job it has to do.
I think that Deputies on the other side ought really to look back over some of the things that happened during the period of the Coalition Government, and at the manner in which they were handled. Turf production was stopped for nearly two years. Then it was taken up in such a hurry that the then Minister, Deputy Morrissey, had to rush to the Turf Board and get all the staff possible working, even on Sundays over week-ends, so that he could come into the House on a Wednesday afternoon and announce the big scheme that he was about to put going, a scheme which, in fact, was one that had been left there for him by Fianna Fáil, but which had not been even looked at for over two years. C.I.E. had been grossly mismanaged, according to the Coalition. Several members here heard the sneers and the jeers that were thrown at the idea of capital development, particularly in relation to the dieselisation of the railways that was proposed at that time. We know that the then Minister would not agree to it at all. We know, too, in regard to the diesel engines which had already been ordered that the orders for them were cancelled.
When, 12 months later, they changed their minds, those engines were costing an extra £10,000 apiece. We know that to-day the board appointed by the Coalition have had to come to the conclusion that the only hope of carrying out their orders to make the railway pay is to dieselise it. Some five years ago the Coalition would not do any such thing; such a course was sheer waste of money; and in the  meantime we have paid about £11,000,000 in subsidies to keep the railways going, a large part of which could have been saved if the matter was looked at in a proper businesslike way instead of from the political angle of making points against an opponent.
It is not the only thing on which we have been justified because we tried to face these things in a businesslike way and not from that angle of making a point against an opponent. We had Store Street and the racket that was made about it. It is the easiest thing in the world for any man to get up and talk about the cost of anything—you could make a case against the expenditure of a £20 note—but just because it was an idea that started under Fianna Fáil every point that could possibly be made was made against it. As a result there was three or four years' inactivity and the people were still suffering under the elements on the quays—and they still are—due to that inactivity of the Coalition, who stopped Store Street and did nothing to replace it. To the day they went out they had not got even an alternative site. Surely that is inefficiency; surely that type of thing is not going to make this country progress in such a way that the Labour Party will be able to pay the increased social welfare benefits they are talking about? I suggest very seriously that it is time the Labour Party examined their conscience.
In all the circumstances, the Minister has done very well. I see another note of mine here, one which I cannot resist, regarding the reference by Deputy Mac Fheórais to the transatlantic air line. Did he ever think what the cutting out of that line has cost this country? Did he ever think that the closing down of that project put 600 people out of employment immediately, to say nothing of the development there would have been? Some of those people, like the pilots who went to other countries as trained men, have cost this country a very large amount of money. They have been trained and the countries of Eastern Europe and India got the benefit.
Mr. Colley: There was nothing whatever about all that. Deputy Mac Fheórais did not live in our days when we were building up the national movement before 1916. Arthur Griffith was probably the man who taught us most about the need for building up these things and what we should do about them.
Mr. Colley: In those days he spoke about the disaster it was for this country that the shipping lines of those days did not call at Cobh or Galway. He showed how the British Government, by using Liverpool instead of Cobh, had built up the big city of Liverpool. Arthur Griffith for weeks and weeks used his great ability in showing the dastardly thing the British Government had done. Everybody knows that to-day and for the future the air lines are going to be the thing. We have had a native Government ruining us out of our position in the air. Our geographical position is just as important for the air as for the sea. We tried to take advantage of it. When everything was ready to put that plan into force, when the officials were actually in America to deal with the line, we had a Minister of an Irish Government coming along at the last minute and ruining it. I do not see how any Irishman can be proud of that. We were told it would not pay. Who is Deputy McGilligan to know whether an air line will pay or not?
Mr. Colley: In any event, the position was there and the future should have been looked to. We are now behind in the race. That has been proved in the events of the last few months where we tried to get it set up again. We had an opportunity once to get our position in the air lines of the world and the benefit to our people accruing from it; and due to political bias—it was the only thing one could put it down to—we have lost that opportunity and the people on the Labour Benches have supported it.
Let us face these things. Anyone who faces the record of the Coalition Parties will have to admit that they made blunders, and huge blunders, that should not have been made. One could understand any man making a mistake, but these blunders should not have been made, because the question was there before them, with all the details for them to examine, and anyone who impartially examined it could not come to the conclusion that they arrived at. The transatlantic air line is one case; C.I.E. is another.
In all the circumstances that existed, following the position he had to face when he took office, following on the position last year when we had to rectify the finances of this country, and with the extra amount he has to meet now, I think the Minister has done very well for the citizens of this country. I personally expected some new taxation. My only trouble was how it was going to be found. As a result of the Coalition drift and mismanagement and squandermaina—to use their own word of years ago—this country has been driven to the stage when it will not be possible, until some further development in output takes place, to get any more from the people. That is my view and there is no use in talking otherwise. In all the circumstances, he has done very well and I, for my part, have no qualms about supporting him on this Budget.
Mr. Lehane: Deputy Colley's speech gives us some sort of reason for the high Budget which has been introduced. The interest that Deputy Colley has in the Labour Party gives me the impression that the two big Parties in this House are trying to ride too many horses, trying to be more republican than Clann na Poblachta and more socialistic than the Labour Party, and because of that competition between the two major Parties you have a very high and excessive Budget to impose on the people. This Budget of the Minister's is a clever Budget but a bad Budget. The Minister pretends that he is very anxious to economise, he is going to retrench; but at the same time he indulges in the luxury of very extensive spending in the spheres that are popular throughout the country.
We have big expenditure on social services and on health services and it is doubtful if there is any demand in the country for them. We also have a large Army which I do not think we can afford. A small State such as ours should not attempt to have a large, properly equipped Army and should not attempt to equip an Army with obsolete weapons which would prove quite useless in the case of an emergency. That is a waste of expenditure. It may appeal to the vanity of some people but it is, in my opinion, unnecessary expenditure. I was not quite clear, listening to Deputy Colley, whether we needed the Army to defend ourselves, to protect ourselves from some group of individuals in the country or to protect the State.
The Minister, in suggesting economies and at the same time indulging in this very heavy expenditure in other directions, reminds me of a man in a public-house buying drink all day who, when somebody lights a match to light a cigarette, runs the whole length of the bar to light his cigarette from that match for reasons of economy.
There is another dangerous feature of which we should take notice, that all State expenditure is not presented in the Budget. There is a good deal of concealed taxation. We had an instance of it in regard to Posts and  Telegraphs, but there are several others. The Minister for Health introduces his grand Health Bill and will take all the kudos attaching to it, but, at the same time, will impose an obligation on the local authority to provide half the money required for that service. That is hidden taxation. We have it in other directions also. The Minister can give directions to local authorities that they must strike a rate of so much in the £ for vocational education. The elected representatives on the county council or corporation have no right to say that they will not vote that amount of money. The Minister compels them to do it. The Minister for Education, probably with the assistance of the Minister for Finance, decided it would be very nice to have a large central library in Dublin and he sent down an order to local authorities: “You have to pay for this. It is no use to you and you do not want it, but you will have to impose taxation on the ratepayers to pay for this grand central library.”
The Minister brings in what is alleged to be a Budget for the year, which is just a smokescreen and I do not blame the Minister for trying to cover up the amount of expenditure involved in administering the State for the year, because the cost is colossal. We have a population of something less than 3,000,000 in this State, which costs over £150,000,000 to administer. I can have sympathy with the Minister. The Minister for Health brings in a health scheme for which the Minister for Finance has to find the money, and he tells the House that it is going to cost £1,800,000. The Leader of the Opposition objects to it, but supports a Bill that would cost £10,000,000. If we are to have this competition between the big Parties, I cannot see any hope of a reduction in taxation, and if the people were to see in one volume the total cost of running this country, there would be a revolution in the morning.
The Minister said that taxation rests lightly on the land. That is a very extraordinary statement. The land is paying taxes, direct and indirect. We have so-called land annuities which at the moment are nothing less than a  land tax. We have rates which are rising every year, and rising in many cases due to directions and Orders made by the Minister in Dublin, compelling local authorities to increase the rates. We have the Government advertising in the papers: “Use more fertilisers” and at the same time clapping a duty of 20 per cent. on the farmers' raw material. That is hidden taxation on the land. Every piece of machinery, every shovel, spade and pipe is bought here with a considerable tax on it if it is imported, or at a very highly inflated price if it is manufactured locally.
We have further hidden taxation in the form of the prohibition on the export of hides. We have to sell our hides at a certain price in order to subsidise the tanneries of this country. There was a case recently reported in the Irish Press of a lorry with two flat tyres and six tons of hides which was found by customs officers crossing the Border. I am told that this lorry with its six tons of hides was sent as a decoy and that 14 other lorries went across the Border. It paid them to sacrifice one lorry and pay the fine because they got the economic price across the Border for the other loads. The price the smugglers got was the price which the licensed smugglers within the country—the tanners—got.
There is then another system. Every side of pork exported from this country is handled by a Pigs and Bacon Commission which takes a levy in respect of the pork and puts it into a fund. Eggports Ltd.. take a levy in respect of eggs exported, and even in respect of the old hen exported, and this is also put into a fund. We have a certain amount of hidden taxation in the price of feeding stuffs sold to farmers. Maize has fallen in price and freight charges have also fallen but the semi-State body, Grain Importers Ltd., are collaring the difference, which is another hidden taxation.
I do not want the House to take my word for all this, but when the Minister says that taxation rests lightly on the land, I want to quote the statement made by the Bishop of Cork,  Most Rev. Dr. Lucey, in the course of a statement at the recent Confirmation ceremony and published in last Friday's Examiner. He said:—
“Over the past six years, the number of men on the land fell by 80,000; for every seven living by agriculture in 1946, there are but six living by it to-day. What an answer to those who call for more rates and taxes from the farmer! What an indictment of the policy that has been imposed on agriculture by the controlling authorities!”
He also appealed for a more helpful and tolerant policy from Dublin—he got it from the Minister for Finance when he said that taxation rests lightly on the land and, from Deputy Costello, when he mentioned the farmers of £50 and under valuation driving around in their Chrysler cars.
“Producers were not likely to produce more to pay increased wages to non-producers under the incentive of a reduced pay for themselves. A further exodus from the land would be the reaction as before.”
That statement was made in the course of a lecture by Dr. Phelim O'Brien at University College, Galway, and published in the Irish Press on 4th February, 1953. In the recently published Statistical Abstract, we find the number of people in non-productive occupations in the year 1947 set out as 1,160,353, out of a total of something over 1,500,000. The farmer is taxed and is taxed heavily. When the Minister says that taxation bears lightly on agriculture I would ask him to try to get rid of this Dublin City mentality that both he and Deputy Costello seem to be affected with and to try to look at things through straight, clear glasses and not the pink or blue glasses through which they like to look at them.
I know that the attitude towards agriculture is that you have to give it a sop now and again because it is keeping the country going and you give it as little as you can and take back as much as you possibly can. The attitude of the Government to agriculture is clearly typified by the way  they have dumped the Minister for Agriculture in the museum next to a lump of Kilkenny coal.
Mr. Lehane: He is still in the museum. These are the few points that I want to mention. I am perfectly satisfied that there is extravagance, that there are schemes and services being given to the people for the sake of getting votes. People are being told that they want these things; people are told they are getting these things for nothing, whereas it is done purely for political expediency. From the Report on Judicial Salaries that we got yesterday we find there is one gentleman in the country who had a salary of £1,700 but he had to get a slight increase so they gave him another £1,700, bringing his salary to £3,400. I do not know; he may be a very important man, he may have very responsible commitments but, if we have to retrench and if the Minister is serious in seeing that the taxpayer will pay as little as possible and if the Taoiseach is satisfied that we have reached saturation point as far as taxation is concerned, some serious effort should be made to keep taxes down, not only in the Budget as presented on Budget day. The Taoiseach should instruct his Minister not to send any more demands to local authorities compelling them to inflict rates for something that has been done by this House and for which the local representatives on the county councils or corporations have no responsibility, good, bad or indifferent.
The Taoiseach: I listened yesterday to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition and I could not help admiring the persistence with which he attempted to maintain an impossible position. Last year he tried to make it appear that we were imposing taxation to the extent of some £10,000,000 unnecessarily. We asked why should a democratic Government that is dependent for its existence on popular support seek to impose unnecessary  burdens upon the community, to impose taxation that was not necessary. We pointed out that the temptation is always the other way. The Deputy who has just spoken referred to the competition that there is between Parties to promote schemes that have popular approval. If that be so, why should any Government impose taxation that is not required?
The only attempt at an answer to that simple question was that we were putting on extra taxation, huge taxation last year in order that we might have the satisfaction of taking it off this year, that we wanted to have an election Budget for the year and that taking off taxation would be very popular.
Now we come to the end of the year and we can ask who is right. Estimates, after all, are estimates. They are good or bad according to the experience and ability of those who make the estimates. We have State officials who have many years' experience in the financial transactions of the State, who have a great deal of experience in making estimates as to the outcome of taxation and the extent to which either anticipated revenue is realised or anticipated expenditure is incurred.
Members of the Opposition on the front benches have had experience of Government also and they know the care with which the Minister for Finance and the officials go through Estimates to try to reduce them and to arrive at the nearest estimate they can of what is likely to become the actual outcome. We pointed that out last year and we said that the contentions of the Leader of the Opposition could only be true if we were to assume that these people, these State officials, were all out in some conspiracy with the Minister for Finance to deceive the Government and to deceive the Dáil and to deceive the country. We felt that there could be no sincerity really about the contentions that were being made because those who made them knew exactly, as we know, the processes that precede the presentation of the Estimates.
However, we have gone from the region of Estimates, probabilities and possibilities in regard to last year. We  are now down to certainties, the record of actual transactions. Is it suggested that these accounts also are cooked? These accounts will go for audit very soon before the Comptroller and Auditor General and his staff, who are independent of the Government, who are functionaries of this House. Is it suggested that these accounts are not a true record of the transactions that have taken place?
The Leader of the Opposition seems to suggest that we do not know whether we have a deficit or a surplus on the year's transactions. There is no doubt whatever about what the position is. The recorded transactions show that there is a deficit of some £2,000,000, not a surplus of £10,000,000, caused by the fact that revenue has been short of anticipation or estimate by £1.8 million and that expenditure has exceeded what was anticipated by £0.2 million, the two together making up the deficit of £2,000,000. That is a fact which we must all accept.
The Minister for Finance and the Government can be attacked, if the Opposition chooses, for not having made provision in the only way they could properly make provision for current expenditure, by producing the requisite amount of current revenue by taxation. That would be a fair line of attack, that in fact we have not balanced our Budget, that the Budget presented last year did not give us a balanced account at the end of the year. When this talk of a surplus of £10,000,000 was indulged in last year, I said that my fear was that we were not making sufficient provision and that in the end we would probably have a deficit. Everything pointed to the fact that there was no likelihood whatever of a surplus.
We are told that we would have had a surplus were it not for the Supplementary Estimates introduced during the year. It is true that a number of Supplementary Estimates were introduced during the year. They were Supplementary Estimates on the current account side, which came to £8.8 million or, let us say, £8,750,000. As has been mentioned in the House this morning, these Estimates were provided for to the extent of £5,750,000.  Actually, provision was made to this extent for these Estimates. There was £3,000,000 which was not anticipated and for which money was not provided directly. That £3,000,000 of additional expenditure was met largely by the fact that there were savings in other directions.
We were told last year that there was overestimation, that we could count on some millions of pounds, because when you have a large number of items as we have in our Estimates, there is a likelihood that there will be quite a substantial saving. We do not deny that. I pointed out, however, that our experience in previous years pointed to the fact that any such savings were eaten up by supplementaries, and that is exactly what happened last year. When Deputy Costello gave figures when he was trying to make up what he described as £10,000,000 of unnecessary taxation, we pointed out that it was necessary not to take these savings into account inasmuch as they would be required, as experience had shown, to meet supplementaries.
This coming year, if there are to be, as there are likely to be, savings on all these items in addition to any economies which can be effected, these cannot be taken into account unless we make up our minds determinedly that we will put a stop to supplementaries except those which are foreseen and provided for in the Budget, or that we will make an exception only in cases of vital necessity where there is an immediate productive possibility. What is the sense in trying to look towards the year in advance if during the year we encourage expenditure for which provision has not been properly made? It is a senseless procedure to have supplementaries to the extent which we have had them in recent years.
The Leader of the Opposition asked how is it, if you had a deficit in the past year and taxation rates remain the same—that is what I understood his argument to be—you are proposing to meet higher expenditure this year unless you have a concealed surplus for the past year? The answer is very simple. It is expected that, even with the present rates of taxation, there will be an increase in revenue of £5,000,000. There is an increase in  expenditure of £3,000,000. The £5,000,000 increase in revenue will meet that and cancel the deficit of £2,000,000. There is nothing extraordinary in it.
The position we are faced with in the present year is that we must watch our step very carefully in regard to incurring new expenditure. We are determined that taxation will not be increased if we can help it. We have reached a level as high as our present production will warrant, and if there are to be further increases in expenditure these increases must be justified by an increase in production.
The Leader of the Opposition went into detail and I would be quite prepared to follow him in detail if I thought there was anything to be gained by it and if I thought that he would admit when facts are presented to him that he was mistaken. We had controversies last year. We produced the figures and we proved our case, but we proved it in vain. Even though we proved our case as clearly as anything could be proved and showed that the Leader of the Opposition was mistaken, our efforts proved quite useless. He spoke, for instance, about a sum of £1,000,000 that had been taken into account and he claimed we were charging £1,000,000 more than we required in connection with health services. It was shown to him quite clearly that he was mistaken in his interpretation of that matter and that that £1,000,000 was for contingencies. It was £1,000,000 out of the £5,750,000 that I mentioned a few moments ago which was provided to meet the possibility of Supplementary Estimates arising during the year.
He spoke, too, about an increase in the interest charge on the national debt. If he looks the matter up he will find that, whilst it is true that the amount put to interest is less and the amount put to sinking fund is greater, the two taken together amount almost exactly to the figure given for the servicing of the national debt. I have dealt with the £2,000,000 that he spoke about in connection with savings. I have pointed out that we could not take that into account last year  because experience had shown that it would be eaten up by supplementaries. He spoke about reserve stocks. The fact is that there has been no addition to stocks during the year.
One could take the various items detailed by him one by one and show that he is wrong, as we showed that he was wrong last year. It is true, as he pointed out yesterday, that there were additional savings in the case of the bread and flour subsidy. That was due not to a reduction in consumption, because the reduction in consumption was very, very small—I think it was something in the region of 1 per cent. —but was due mainly to a diminution in transport costs and some other items of that kind. In all the matters that he put forward the only one in which there was anything like substance was the point relating to food subsidies. In respect of the £2,000,000 about which he talked, that turned out to be something like £0.6 million due to circumstances that could not have been foreseen and for which allowance could not have been made because they were accidental in their nature. There are certain things that one cannot anticipate. For instance, one cannot anticipate milk yield because it is influenced by many factors, including weather; one does not know how weather will affect it.
There are a number of things completely outside our control and they cannot be taken into account in advance for a particular year. If one estimates one must try to keep on the safe side in one's estimation. Last year we were told we were accountants. It is very important that we should keep the national accounts properly and attend to them carefully. What is wrong in that? Why should criticism be levelled against us because we tried to be accurate accountants? Why should we be criticised because we were careful with our accounts, analysing them and interpreting them in the way in which accounts should be interpreted and analysed?
We considered the balancing of our Budget of tremendous importance and, if there is one charge that can be levelled against us as a Government, it is that events have proved that we  have not, in fact, succeeded in balancing our Budget and that there is a sum of £2,000,000 which should have been met from current revenue that will now have to be met by borrowing. We do not want that to occur. It is all right to borrow for certain capital expenditure but one should never borrow for ordinary housekeeping expenses. On our first Budget we set ourselves out to ensure that current revenue would meet the items of current expenditure.
Let us come now to the other problems we have to face. In the coming year I believe that we will do better. I believe that this time next year we will, in fact, have a balanced Budget, but the only way in which we can achieve that object is by doing what the Minister for Finance has indicated we must do; that is, to effect the necessary economies and the necessary savings. We are all at our best when it is a question of providing facilities and providing services: “Is milis fíon ach is searbh a íoc.” In other words, it is pleasant to drink wine but it is bitter to have to pay for it. If we do not want the bitterness of having to pay for it, then we must restrain our drinking.
Let us come now to another task we set ourselves and see how we fared in achieving our objective. We set ourselves the task of trying to secure a balance in our international payments. To use the phrase used by the Leader of the Opposition, when the adverse balance was only some £30,000,000 it was “truly alarming.” The pretence was that these deficits simply represented repatriation of external assets, the suggestion being that all that money was going towards building up our capital resources and that it was spent on capital projects. It was nothing of the kind, and an analysis of the increase for a number of years past would show that not one half of the increases in the deficits in our balance of payments represented capital coming into this country. It was used for consumption.
We have heard a good deal about savings. There were no net savings at all practically in the year in which the  deficit was £61.6 million. We were simply, to use the ordinary expression, living beyond our means. In that sense we had a standard of living that we could not ordinarily continue. We might continue it for some time but, if we continued it for any lengthy period, we would find ourselves faced with disaster. We do not want to become a debtor nation if we can possibly avoid it. We have certain advantages in maintaining a creditor position and we ought to try to keep that position to a reasonable extent.
We have never been against using our external reserves for capital purposes. In the early years from 1932 to 1938 we were blamed by those who took a more conservative view than we did of finance because we were using these reserves. We were using them in the main for capital purposes. We still believe they should be used for capital purposes and they can be used over a long period for all the capital development it is possible for us to undertake. We had this £61.6 million of a deficit—an alarming deficit. It is very easy to look back and to be a prophet after the event. It is very easy to look back now on the events of the past 12 months. It is very easy when you are in a boat to set your course and row for land and when you arrive to say that you would have arrived at land anyhow, that you had a fine wind behind you and if you had allowed yourself to drift you would have been taken by the wind right on to land without any effort of your own. It is very easy to look back when things have happened and say exactly what should have been done and what should have been foreseen.
Looking forward last year, the Minister for Finance felt that unless he took action and set his course very steadily for a certain objective, while we would not have a deficit to the extent of £61.6 million, we would have a large deficit in our balance of payments. As was pointed out here already this morning, we had a sharp upward curve from a £10,000,000 deficit to £30,000,000 and to £61.6 million. It was not easy to change that trend. The Minister thought that if it was let alone and not interfered with, that  particular position would continue so as to give us, if not a deficit of £61.6 million in this year, a considerably high figure. At the beginning he was inclined to think that, left without any corrective steps being taken by the Government, it would amount to some £50,000,000.
The Minister for Finance is wise to be on the safe side. When you are looking at what is likely to happen it is not a bad frame of mind to anticipate the worst and to hope and work for the best. It is possible that when he said £50,000,000 he was rather too pessimistic. It might have turned out better but he could not be sure of that in advance. To come down from £61.6 million, considering the upward curve, to £50,000,000 would have been making a considerable allowance for improvement. But he did not stop at that. He and the Government made up their minds that they were going to take such corrective measures as lay within their power. They took these corrective measures. They set their course for a definite point on land—for a definite objective—namely, as quickly as possible to reduce that deficit and, if possible, to wipe it out altogether. He has not succeeded quite in doing that but he has brought it down from £61.6 million to £9,000,000, which I think is the estimate which he mentioned yesterday for the year that has just ended. To do that is no small achievement.
Fortune favours the brave, and fortune favours those who take right measures. In this case it did, anyhow. Certain things happened which could not then have been foreseen —price changes and so forth. Certain things could not have been foreseen and we were favoured to the extent that the deficit was brought down to £9,000,000. One might feel that a great deal had been done had the figure been brought down to £20,000,000, £25,000,000 or even £30,000,000. One would feel that no bad work had been done at all if the figure had been reduced to half. Fortune favoured us—no one would pretend otherwise—and it has come down now to about £9,000,000.
What is the position for the future in  this regard? The Minister for Finance has warned us, and rightly so, that we must not hope that the favouring wind —if I might use the simile—that helped us in the past year will continue. We should not expect it to continue. It may be more difficult in the coming year to secure a balance of the magnitude concerned. A deficit in the balance of payments which was not excessive would not disturb us too much, particularly if that deficit could clearly be related to increased capital investment. It would not disturb us too much if it could be related to development projects here, if it could be related to repatriation of assets in the right way, if it could be related to the prudent repatriation of assets, of which the Leader of the Opposition is in favour. We are all in favour of it, and we were in favour of it, I think, before the Leader of the Opposition was in favour of it.
The Opposition talk about their policy. I have been watching that policy very carefully. I was watching it very carefully when it was in operation from these benches. I was anxious to see what new things they were going to do for the nation. I was anxious to see what this extraordinary combination of Fine Gael and Labour was going to produce for us. I remember a time when Fine Gael were pointed at from the Labour Benches as being a reactionary, decadent and deserted Party. Labour evidently gave it some sort of transfusion. I was anxious to see what would be done for the nation. What did I find? I found that they were very clever at getting new names for old ideas, for old projects. To cover up the fact that they were taking over a Fianna Fáil programme— and operating it not always too well— they had to get names to disguise what they were really doing. They were talking about a capital programme. What was done by Fianna Fáil from the start but working on a capital programme?
In the White Papers which we issued after the war, in which we outlined what we intended doing, we set forth a very large investment programme. They make a great point of separating some capital items in the Book of  Estimates—listing them separately and calling them capital items. That was usually done at the time of the Budget by the Minister for Finance. It was an old practice to point out that there were certain voted moneys which were expended on capital purposes. There is nothing new in that except the mere segregation, but you would think something extraordinarily fundamental and vital had been done in the country's economy and finances because they separated certain items and listed them in the Book of Estimates instead of listing them in the Budget.
It is true the amount has increased very rapidly since the war. That was mainly due to the fact that there were certain projects anticipated by us following the war. I would not mind if the Minister for Finance would agree to segregating these items in the Book of Estimates. If it had been possible to get agreement as to what were capital items I would not object to it as a mode of presentation, just as I would not object to a number of changes which I think should be made in the presentation of our accounts generally. It is a matter of presentation, however; there is nothing fundamental about it. The thing that would be fundamental would be if we had refused or were against a capital development programme and they were in favour of it. Now, apparently, as a result of the transfusion from Labour, we have both sides of the House in the position that, whatever else they may disagree about, they do not disagree as regards capital investment and the capital programme. The only thing is that we want to relate means to ends and that we do not want to have a flight to-day and a crawl to-morrow. We want to try to plan a head so that we can keep a set course at a reasonably even pace.
We are asked what is our policy. It is the same policy which gave the new and reconstructed houses which we see throughout the country to-day; the policy—initiated by us and continued during the period of office of the Opposition—under whose stimulus and support every third inhabited house has been constructed. It is the policy  that gave us the Turf Board and the development of the natural resources we have in the bogs; the policy that gave us the power plants in the bogs producing the fuel which helped to save us during the war period. It is the same policy that has given us the power houses on the Liffey and the Erne and will soon, I hope, give us power houses on the Lee and some other rivers. It is the policy that has put our aeroplanes in the air and our ships upon the ocean; that saved us during the world war which devastated Europe and many other places outside Europe.
It is the policy that has given us thousands of workshops and factories in this country, that has increased the number of people working in industry from 110,000, as it was before we came into office, to double that number to-day. It is the policy that has given fair social security to our people; that has looked after the old people, the widows and the orphans; that has given us the very many hospitals we see throughout the country and will I hope enable us to reach the position in which the best that medical science can bring will aid anybody that may be afflicted in this country.
We now stand for a continuation of that policy, of pushing ahead more rapidly, if possible, that policy in the region of productive endeavour, the utilisation of our resources in men and materials. That is the policy for which we stand, the continuation of that policy. We are told that it has not succeeded in various respects. That is true. We have not arrived at the end of our journey; we have not arrived at our final objective. Originally we set out before us three or four main objectives which we used to classify as: national, securing the complete independence of this nation as a Republic—we have achieved it so far as 26 counties are concerned; the utilisation of our man power and our other resources to the full, so that there would be here a decent livelihood for every Irish man and woman prepared to do their part and work here. We have not fully succeeded in that. We had before the war brought down emigration considerably,  to perhaps one-third of what its previous dimensions had been. The war brought a new situation. There were inducements of various kinds to our people to go across to the neighbouring island—higher wages, the difficulty we had in regard to raw materials and other matters here. These difficulties intervened and changed that ebbing tide to rather a flowing one.
Again, however, it is well that we should know the truth in regard to these cases and not be misled by propaganda on one side or the other, either in pretending it is more than it is or less than it is. Let us have the truth. It used to be said here in 1946 and 1947 from the opposite benches that the tide of emigration was greater in those years than it had been for a century, that since the Great Famine years emigration was not as great as it was in the years 1946 and 1947, the last years we were in office. Now again we have the figures. These charges were of the same class as the pretences last year that we were aiming at a surplus of £10,000,000. The truth is revealed by the figures, that in the year 1946 the net emigration was only 3,000, one of the lowest figures on record. The net emigration in the next year, when we were again accused, was 10,000. The Coalition came in and we did not hear about emigration from the members who then occupied these benches.
A commission, if you please, was set up—a commission that did not report in their time and has not reported yet. I do not want to find fault with the people engaged on it but we said then, and we say now, that the best cure for emigration—although it is very difficult to get a complete cure—is to do one's best to stimulate industrial and agricultural activity so that those who want to live here may do so in reasonable comfort. That is the cure for it. You do not want a commission set up to find it, and no commission will cure it entirely or cure the drift from the land to the cities which has taken place, unfortunately, in most other countries. However, although that policy will not cure it entirely it can  do a great deal to slow up these tendencies and to check them.
We should aim at reducing emigration. What happened when the Coalition came into office? The figure was 3,000 at the time we were accused of exporting young people. The figure was 10,000 in 1947, the last year we were in office. What happened when the Coalition came into office? The figures from the Statistics Office, which were given here before in this House, show that the emigration in their first year went up to 28,000; in the next year to 34,000; and the last figure we were given by the Statistics Office was 41,000 with certain margins of error— considerable margins of error. We will be told, because there is no parish in the country to which you can point out of which some people have not gone, that emigration is going on at an accelerating rate. Unfortunately we have now no means of obtaining annual emigration figures by means of which statements of that sort— that there is an acceleration in the rate of net emigration—could be disproved.
I have been considering whether we can get accurate figures, but the cost of a census is very great and nothing less than an actual census, it seems to me, can now give you figures that can be completely relied upon. If we are to have arguments about these matters, let us have arguments based on figures accepted by the experts who are in charge of the collection of these figures. One of our aims was to bring emigration, which is a terrible drain on the country, to an end. We have not succeeded in that aim. I hope that we shall succeed in stopping this tide of emigration which has been flowing for a considerable time and which was flowing at an accelerated rate up to the time for which the figures were last available, 1950.
I do not think it would be of profit to the House to continue any further. The debate, so far as I have heard it, has been very disappointing to me. I know the natural tendency there is to try to get out of anything which does not redound to one's credit, the natural tendency to refuse to admit that you  were wrong, but the Leader of the Opposition should not, like the bellman in the Hunting of the Snark, expect us to believe that what he tells us three times is true. Mere assertion gets you nowhere. There has been nothing in this debate from the other side but assertions, which are not based on any real facts, in regard to the aims of the Budget. In the past year, a fairly good job has been done. We have made an honest and courageous effort to try to put the finances of the country on a sound foundation. I think we have got them on a sound foundation and our main purpose now must be to see that they remain on that secure foundation, namely, that we shall balance current expenditure by current revenue.
So far as capital expenditure is concerned, the mere mention of that would set me off on another speech because the suggestion from the opposite side has been that we have been cutting down on capital investment and capital development. There is no truth in that. In fact the amount provided by us last year was greater than in any preceding year. The only way in which you can have a sensible capital programme is to see that it is a programme which can be sustained. We will reach a point which we think is a limiting point as far as our capacity is concerned, that is, capacity for continuance over an extended period. We have no new blueprints of a programme but we have, instead, a programme as is shown by the achievements of the 16 years we were formerly in office and the continuance of these achievements during the period we have been in office since. We have set our internal finances and international finances on what we regard as a sound foundation and the firm determination of the Government is that they shall remain on that sound foundation.
Mr. O'Higgins: I suppose it is possible to weave a web of words around any ugly situation. I think that the speech we have just listened to from the Taoiseach is a very good example of weaving a verbal web. The intervention of the Taoiseach in this  debate was of course necessary in view of the situation which now exists in this country, as ugly an economic situation as ever existed here before, a situation which should command the wholehearted attention not merely of the Government but of the Dáil, a situation in which this country faces the most serious unemployment crisis that it has ever faced, a situation in which prices are rising and continuing to rise and in which taxation, to use the Taoiseach's own words, represents a staggering burden on our people. That is the situation which now faces the country and to conceal which the Taoiseach has spent an hour and a half this morning weaving a verbal web. The Taoiseach talks about policy and says that the Government has in the last 12 months done, to use his own words, a fairly good job. I would have liked him to have gone further and said what was the job they were to do because when they started off on this job 12 or 18 months ago there was no unemployment in this country.
Mr. O'Higgins: I did and I will say no emigration. That is the situation on which the Government set about doing a job 18 months ago. If the Government's intention was to change that situation, then I completely agree with the Taoiseach that they have done a fairly good job.
General Mulcahy: I was forced to call the Minister a brat yesterday and I was made to withdraw that remark. The Taoiseach has been listened to with perfect courtesy and in perfect silence. If the Minister for Finance will not allow this debate to proceed in that atmosphere of courtesy and silence we may be driven to attempt to describe him as being so close to the border of order as to be disorderly. We do not want to do that.
Mr. O'Higgins: As I was saying before the Minister for Finance attempted to prevent me dealing with the matter, when the Taoiseach talks about doing a fairly good job, one has to consider and test the job by the results achieved. It is that I propose to do in spite of the Minister for Finance. One of the results of the financial and budgetary policy which the present Government imposed on the country 12 months ago has been the creation of considerable and widespread unemployment. To-day we have a registered unemployment figure of over 80,000 persons. To-day we have a trend of unemployment approaching the rate of 1,000 persons per week being disemployed. That is the figure for registered unemployed. Of course, that figure can be altered at will by the Minister for Industry and Commerce by deeming certain people to be in employment at different seasons, but the fact remains that to-day, 12 months after the initiation of the budgetary policy of last year, we have achieved a situation in which we cannot provide gainful employment for our own people.
That unemployment situation—registered unemployed—has also to be considered with the background of a recruiting campaign for young fellows for the Army and also the fact that emigration figures are not now available but emigration is taking place at an accelerating rate. There is one of the first concrete results of the job the Government set itself 12 months ago. Where in the heart of any Christian person can there be the slightest element for rejoicing at that situation? How can the Taoiseach come into this  House and say “we have done a fairly good job”? How can he give the bouquets he gave to the Minister for Finance when that situation now exists? How can any leader of a Government be complacent in charge of the affairs of a country where the young men and women are walking the streets of this city idle and without hope, when every morning and evening hundreds of young people are being driven across to Britain and even to Australia and Canada? How can that situation be described by him with any feeling of charity as being the results of a fairly good job?
That is only part of the appalling situation which now faces the country. Unemployment is serious and is a very great hardship on large sections of the community. Unemployment can be dealt with by a proper and sane policy, a policy such as we have and a policy such as we hope to put into operation.
Mr. O'Higgins: But there are other questions in the present situation which possibly cannot be dealt with so easily. Twelve or 18 months ago, before the Taoiseach's Government started to do this job on the country, business was booming. There was plenty of business and industrial activity. The symptoms, which are easily accessible and easily checked, were that insurable employment was being made available at the rate of 1,000 new businesses a month. Business activity was there and the necessary conditions obtained. There was no restriction on bank credit. There was no difficulty for a person seeking to branch out in new lines of business and in getting the necessary financial support. All the proper conditions obtained for decent business enterprise in the country.
What now is the position? The business activity of 12 or 18 months ago has had thrown over it the greatest Fianna Fáil wet blanket in history. The fire of business has been quenched because of the budgetary policy introduced by the Minister for Finance with the approval of the Government 12 months ago. Prefacing that Budget, they told the people—it was repeated to-day by the Taioseach—that they  were living too well, eating too much, spending too much and that the Fianna Fáil Government proposed, deliberately and with malice aforethought, to take from them by taxation and by high prices the excess money they were supposed to have in their pockets and at the same time— it may have been coincidental, but the facts disclose that it was simultaneous —those who controlled banking facilities in the country proceeded to restrict credit telling businessmen, builders, shopkeepers and every class of the community that there was going to be no more credit and no more facilities from the bank.
With taxation imposed by the Budget, with the restriction in bank credit suggested by the Budget in the last 12 months, more businesses have folded up than ever before. That diminution, that destruction of business enterprise cannot be replaced merely by a change of Government. It will take years and years of hard work to undo the damage caused by Fianna Fáil's good job in the last 12 months.
I would like to know from some member of the Government whether they are aware that in this city alone there are more builders in the bankruptcy courts, as a result of the Fianna Fáil Budget of 12 months ago, than ever before. The busiest section of our courts to-day is that branch which deals with the liquidation of companies and the insolvency of ordinary business people, decent, well-meaning people, energetic and enthusiastic people driven into liquidation and insolvency because a financial wizard, under the cloak of a Fianna Fáil Minister for Finance, came along to prevent the people spending money and taking the people's money from them. There you have the second good job that has been achieved by this Government in the last 12 months, but it does not stop there. It is, however, part of the sorry tale that takes very much telling, but what about the ordinary people themselves?
I was amazed at the omissions in the long statement made by the Minister for Finance on Wednesday and in the Taoiseach's speech today. With regard  to the subject of prices, in the last 12 months, by deliberate positive action, a Government effort was made to increase living costs in this country. Bread was increased, flour, tea, sugar and butter were increased. An effort was made to make the job of living more expensive so that less would be available at the end of the week to keep business going and to keep the ordinary community in decent circumstances. There, I say, is the third achievement of the Government in the last 12 months—to increase the cost of living, and the index figure, by some 15 or 20 points, to reduce the real value of the worker's pay packet and to make the harassed housewife who used to be portrayed in the Fianna Fáil posters with grey hair, appear now with her hair snowy white.
That is the third achievement of the Taoiseach's Government in the last 12 months and that is the situation we have to face here—three determined efforts made by the Government, with notable success, to bring about a situation in regard to which the Taoiseach is now complacent. I do not know what is to be done about it. The fact is that the greatest problem facing the country to-day is the present Government. That is the burning question with the people. They are asking: “When are you going to get them out?” I do not know.
Mr. O'Higgins: That is the sorry position, and that is the situation staring the Government in the eyes-unemployment, emigration, high prices, high taxation and business a dead letter. What is the Government's policy? Do they even realise that that is the situation? The Taoiseach, apparently, does not. At least, he has not referred to it. Do they offer any hope for the next 12 months, or during the duration of their term of office, that such a situation is going to be dealt with? Is there any hope in the present Budget that the mistakes of 12 months ago have been recognised, and that some effort will be made to repair the damage?
Mr. O'Higgins: I will deal with that. I hope the Deputy will remain to hear me. Having listened to the long statement made by the Minister for Finance, and having listened very carefully to the Taoiseach's speech to-day, I think they are all living in a period of 20 years ago. The Taoiseach has taken some pleasure in claiming that the policy of Fianna Fáil has been a consistent one. What use is that to the country? Is the policy that applied in 1932 going to face up to the problems of 1953? Is that the kind of Government we have now—a Government that is endeavouring to apply a formula 20 years old to the current problems which are facing our people?
Mr. O'Higgins: And bridges were destroyed over 20 years ago—more than had ever been destroyed in the country before. (Interruption.) I should like if some member of the Government would offer some evidence of a policy for the future. The Taoiseach says, in relation to that; “Well, our programme represents what we have done.” What they have done is this: they have brought about the existing situation where we have unemployment, falling money values, high taxation and all the rest. In any event, what has been done in the past is not going to solve the present problems, because when credit is given for everything that both sides have done over the years, what is left is an unemployment figure of 80,000 odd, with emigration and all the other depressing symptoms which now face the country. What we need, and sorely need, is a really constructive policy for the future, and that, apparently, is what the present Government cannot offer. We, in Fine Gael, can offer that policy.
Mr. O'Higgins: The Taoiseach can sneer about blueprints but Deputy Costello's speech made two or three months ago did represent a cogent,  constructive effort to grapple with the problems which are now facing the country. At any rate, if it did not, has the Taoiseach anything better to offer? What is the use of talking about airlines or about Irish aircraft flying in the air when he knows quite well that not as much as a bolt was made here for any of these airlines and that they had all been purchased from Britain or America. Is that the policy which the Taoiseach has to offer?
Mr. O'Higgins: What the Taoiseach has referred to in a sneering way as an armchair blueprint for prosperity, styled in that way as Fine Gael policy, nevertheless does represent a policy, and the Taoiseach can attack it——
Mr. O'Higgins: ——as faulty and wrong, but he can only do that when he can offer something better. In any event we have a policy which we believe can solve unemployment or, at any rate, can considerably reduce it, a policy which can reduce taxation and which can bring about a measure of stability in the cost-of-living figure.
Much time was spent by the Taoiseach in his speech in an effort to discount the suggestion made last year, and repeated this year, that the Fianna Fáil Budget of 1952 was a deliberate effort to budget for a surplus. The Taoiseach spent a considerable time in endeavouring to deny that. As I judged his speech, he apparently considers any reference to the charge of the £10,000,000 surplus made by Deputy Costello last year as being something that we do not desire to be reminded of. Let me assure the House that it is something that we will continue to state on every possible occasion, that last year the Fianna Fáil Government  deliberately overtaxed this community to a figure—the figure of £10,000,000 may not be exact—far in excess of the revenue required. There were many headings under which that figure was arrived at and one of them undoubtedly was that referred to by Deputy Costello in his charge that there was a deliberate overestimation of the expenditure required by the Government. It might be helpful to remind the House of what Deputy Costello did say on that occasion. Speaking on 3rd April, at column 1275 of the Dáil Debates, Volume 130, he said:—
“Experience has demonstrated over the years that there has never been less than a saving of £2,000,000 each year on departmental expenditure. The Departments are simply not able to spend all the money that is voted to them by the Oireachtas year after year. However close the Estimates may be or the efforts of those people who are charged with criticising and cutting down the Estimate prepared by each Department year by year, there has been a saving or an economy or an over-estimation—call it what you will—of a sum of at least £2,000,000 and the Minister for Finance ought to have taken that by no means trifling figure of £2,000,000 into account when he was framing the Budget proposals which he announced yesterday and which have caused such an appalling shock to the people of this country.”
Mr. O'Higgins: The Taoiseach will permit me to remind him of the principle of the collective responsibility of Government because the person sent into the House to reply to the leader  of the Opposition was the Tánaiste. He is reported in the volume I have here. I have not got the Taoiseach's speech here before me, but of course I accept everything he says. Speaking at column 1290, the Tánaiste said:—
“The calculations which Deputy Costello made to support his contention that taxation is being imposed unnecessarily were based upon three assumptions, firstly, that the Revenue Commissioners are incapable of estimating accurately the yield from taxes; secondly that the Department of Finance is incapable of estimating accurately the interest on the public debt; and thirdly, that the accounting officers in every Department are incapable of estimating the cost of the services administered by their Departments. Does anybody believe that? Deputy Costello's calculations were based upon such obvious fallacies that, I am sure, most Deputies saw them at once, and that it is not necessary to expose them further. Why did he take that line? Why did he choose to build upon ridiculous assumptions and fallacious calculations a case that taxation was being imposed unnecessarily?”
There is a complete and immediate repudiation 12 months ago by the Deputy Leader of the Government, speaking on behalf of the Government, of the charge made by Deputy Costello that there was in the revenue accounts for last year an overestimation which was not being taken into account by the Minister for Finance.
Mr. O'Higgins: And, if necessary, I will deal with every one of them. One of them was selected by the Taoiseach to-day and that is what I am dealing with now. He selected the item of overestimation and said: “We never denied it.” I am saying now that it was denied last year by the Tánaiste deliberately and in determined language, because he described it as a ridiculous contention that there ever was overestimation in the revenue accounts of this State.
Mr. O'Higgins: The overestimation Deputy Costello referred to by an amount of not less than £2,000,000. That was denied last year on behalf of the Government and now 12 months later we are going to see what has happened. In his Budget, the Minister, as if some kind of performing wizard, waves a wand and suddenly finds that the Estimates prepared by the accounting office of each Department referred to by the Tánaiste are likely to be too high by a figure of £3,500,000 and accordingly that saving or economy can be made.
The Taoiseach has talked about exchanging figures and asked why some people will not admit it when they are wrong. There is an instance in which the Taoiseach and his Party might admit that they have been wrong. Deputy Costello was perfectly right when he said 12 months ago that the accounting officers of the different Departments, in some of their figures and estimates upon which last year's Budget was based, were overestimating the requirements of this State and that there would be a saving of not less than £2,000,000. We know that the saving was considerably more and that it, in fact, exceeded £4.1 million. I want to deal with that because people are inclined to forget the powerful amount of changes that can be made in a set of figures by wiping out one figure and putting another in a different place. I was somewhat surprised when I saw some weeks ago that there would be a deficit of £15,000,000 this year, if you please.
Mr. O'Higgins: And there was a heading in the Irish Press:“Minister for Finance to face £15,000,000 deficit.” I have no doubt that the younger and less experienced Fianna Fáil Deputies went around to their few supporters— they do not have public meetings nowa-days—and said: “The Opposition have said that there will be a surplus of  £10,000,000, but look at what we have to face—a deficit of £15,000,000. Wait until you see the taxes we will have to put on. Wait till you see what is going to happen to petrol and to the ‘pint’ and, of course, there will be 2d. more on cigarettes——”
Mr. O'Higgins: We knew well, and we said so time after time, that this Budget should bring taxation relief and the £15,000,000 deficit, when the Minister got down to talking about the things that matter—for about a minute in a two hours' speech—became a surplus of £3,000,000. That is what can be done with figures. I mention that because it is difficult for the people to follow the vast numbers of figures which are exchanged across the floor here during a debate.
There is a simple way of testing whether or not the Fianna Fáil Budget last year was a Budget aimed at bringing about a surplus. Last year, with taxation the same as it is now, the Minister set about raising £98,000,000. He imposed taxation to achieve that figure and framed his Budget accordingly. A year has now passed. The money which the taxes yielded has been collected and spent, and to-day he asks the House to adopt a Budget aimed at an expenditure of £101,000,000, or £3,000,000 more. He asks the country to bear exactly the same taxation to yield that increased amount. He does it, admitting there is going to be a reduction in the yield from certain taxes. The taxation imposed in April, 1952 was to yield £98,000,000. The same taxation this year is imposed to yield not less than £101,000,000. There is a simple way of testing the mass of figures introduced into this financial discussion. If  £101,000,000 is to be raised from taxation in the coming financial year, from the same taxation as was imposed in April 1952, is it not legitimate to suspect that the taxation imposed in April 1952 in fact yielded more than £98,000,000?
Mr. O'Higgins: I will put another test. The Budget introduced in April 1952 by the Minister for Finance was spoken upon by the Taoiseach in a speech in which I remember him saying quite definitely: “We will have no more Supplementary Estimates.” I remember the Taoiseach making that abundantly clear in this House 12 months ago. He said we would have no more Supplementary Estimates, he said they were a bad thing and we would not have them.
Mr. O'Higgins: In any event, whether the Taoiseach said it or not, the picture presented to this House 12 months ago undoubtedly was that of a chastising Fianna Fáil Minister for Finance, chastising the Opposition because in their Budget immediately preceding it they had not taken into account certain liabilities which the Minister charged should have been known. The instance was made of the payment to the Civil Service, the C.I.E. subsidy and a variety of matters of that kind. The white, pure cloak of the orthodox Minister for Finance was assumed by the present Minister. He was introducing a Budget as Simon Pure, aimed at meeting all the liabilities of this State, all the liabilities likely to accrue, and he had his broad mind and imagination scouring every nook and cranny to make sure that nothing was left out that should have been included. That was the picture he tried to paint to this country with the war-cry: “I am restoring order in the public finances of the nation.” He was saying: “I want £98,000,000, which will meet all the debts, all the liabilities; that is all I want.” He denied the charge made by the Opposition that he was looking for more than was required.
A year passed and the story began to unfold. Some months ago, towards the end of the financial year, the Minister came in, not so pure, perhaps his name was no longer Simon, with this heretical notion that he was going to ask the House to pass Supplementary Estimates—and they totalled £4.1 million. We asked if there was going to be a Supplementary Budget. No, there was not. How then had this extraordinary thing taken place? The Minister had wanted £98,000,000 for everything in April, 1952, and was not  asking for a penny more than was absolutely and urgently required. How was he going to meet a bill of £4.1 million, unless there was to be a Supplementary Budget? The money had to be found from somewhere; the Minister could not take it out of his own pocket; it could not be robbed, unless the Taoiseach and his Ministers were going out armed with revolvers, to hold up bank managers.
There was to be no new taxation. Either the money was available or something was wrong in April, 1952. We know well that no Supplementary Budget was necessary. The country knows well now that the existing taxation, the revenue which flowed from the Budget last year, was well able to pay those Supplementary Estimates of £4.1 million. There was that surplus— no doubt even Deputy Briscoe will see that. Those Supplementary Estimates not included in the April, 1952, Budget were met by the taxes imposed in that Budget. There was that plus figure of £4,000,000. If the Minister for Finance were still Simon Pure, and if what was said by different Fianna Fáil Deputies in fact had happened and there were no Supplementary Estimates, £4,000,000 would have been available to reduce the taxation imposed on the people or to restore in some measure the abolished food subsidies.
The Supplementary Estimates had to be passed and the £4,000,000 was available to meet them. Those Supplementary Estimates were included in the figure for last year, they are now paid and gone, they are already taken into account. Nevertheless, at the end of this year, except for the bad, bold Civil Service that the Minister holds up as some sort of stalking horse, there was, according to the Minister's figures, to be some £3.5 millions of a surplus on last year's trade. Four and three make seven; and £7,000,000 at least has become available in some extraordinary fashion.
Mr. O'Higgins: The Minister's Victorian finance is not very amusing. The fact does remain that Supplementary Estimates to the tune of over £4,000,000 were met out of taxation imposed last year and, in addition, the Minister, without imposing new taxation, has been able to implement, from a late date, the Civil Service award which accrued since the last Budget. No matter how an effort may be made to conceal it, there are two sums —a Supplementary Estimate sum of £4,000,000 and a figure of over £3,000,000 mentioned by the Minister yesterday which accrues now out of the taxation imposed in April, 1952—extra and above the Estimates upon which that Budget was based and which are now available to the Minister for Finance.
I do not care how the figure is arrived at. I do not care whether the Minister says, as he said yesterday, that there was £1,000,000 lying around in the revenue balance of the Revenue Commissioners that I did not know anything about, or whether the figure is due to the Minister's admission now that there was an overestimation. However the figure is arrived at, over £7,000,000 has become available on taxation imposed in April, 1952 to meet £4,000,000 Supplementary Estimates and pay in full the Civil Service award as from April of this year.
The country will be curious to know how did that happen. We had the Taoiseach saying here to-day that his fear in April, 1952 was that they were not imposing enough taxation, that his fear in April, 1952 was that the abolition of food subsidies and the taxation on various other commodities would not yield enough. He was saying that after the Minister for Finance had taken £7,000,000 at least more than he anticipated.
Mr. O'Higgins: The facts as I know them are that Supplementary Estimates for over £4,000,000 were passed by this House; no new taxation was sought to pay for them; no new taxation has since been sought to pay for them.
Mr. O'Higgins: I put it this way— the taxation imposed in April, 1952 was to meet a figure of £98,000,000. Can we agree on that? There has been no new taxation since. Can we agree on that? To-day, the same taxation is asked to meet £98,000,000 plus £4,000,000 plus the cost of the Civil Service award. Is that clear?
Mr. O'Higgins: No matter from what source it comes, £98,000,000 was the figure we had to meet. Since that, another commitment of £4,000,000 has been met. Since that the cost of the Civil Service award——
Mr. O'Higgins: The Minister for Finance will not get away with that. The Minister for Finance knows full well that he introduced here, or there was introduced on behalf of the Government, Supplementary Estimates totalling over £4,000,000 that were not taken into consideration in the last Budget.
Mr. MacEntee: The difference between £5,750,000 and £8,800,000 is approximately £3,000,000 but the Deputy does not understand that. That is why I am talking about his kindergarten arithmetic. He ought to get a ballframe.
Mr. O'Higgins: If the Minister gives me a present I will be very glad to exchange one. To continue what I have been saying—despite the agility of the Minister for Finance, the fact does remain that the taxation last year, which has not been changed, has since had to meet £98,000,000 plus a Supplementary Estimate figure of £4,000,000, has to meet some £7,000,000 more. If, in this financial year, with less incometax expected, with less business activity in the country, with less money in the pockets of the people, the taxation imposed in April, 1952, is now expected to yield a figure far in excess of what it was expected to yield in the last financial year, it raises the strong probability that there was budgeting for a surplus.
The Taoiseach has also taken some time off to talk about the balance of payments. Again he seemed to talk as if he felt he was saying something that was really being unkind to the Opposition. I would like to take his example of the man in the boat who makes land. As I understand the Taoiseach's reference, he felt that he had made land by his own hard rowing and that we were saying: “Ah, look, you had a favourable wind blowing and it was due to no effort of yours”—a fair example—because 18 months ago when the Central Bank Report was published the Opposition did say that a favourable wind was blowing, and the Opposition did tell the Government that the situation was such that the balance of payments problem would right itself. There is no doubt about that. The Taoiseach knows that we did prophesy that.
Mr. O'Higgins: We are prophets who  have been perfectly justified. We pointed to the fact, when the Central Bank Report was published before Christmas, 1951, that it was dealing with an abnormal situation, a situation in which the Government, at the suggestion of the Fianna Fáil Opposition, let me add, and with the promise of their full support, let me add, deliberately set out to stockpile, deliberately set out to amass supplies in this country in case any danger might come from outside. That was the cause of the sharp rise in the balance of payments problem about which the Central Bank expressed alarm in their report in the autumn of 1951. Those supplies having been got in, those supplies being available to the country, to business people, we stated that in the normal course of events there would be an evening out of the cycle in time.
Mr. O'Higgins: We said that there would be an evening out, that there was that favourable element there, that if the Taoiseach was in a boat he had a favourable wind behind him and there was no need for the alarm which the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Minister for Finance were trying to  create in the country. We were perfectly correct in saying that. The supplies had been got in, the larder was full and, despite all the criticism subsequently of what we had done indulged in by Fianna Fáil, we had done our job. We had got in urgent and necessary supplies and there was no need to purchase any more and no more were purchased.
The balance of payments began to right itself. It has righted itself so much that the figure is now only £9,000,000, lower than the Minister thought it would be. I would remind him of that because, unnecessarily and against our advice, he took steps to right the balance of payments problem by taking money from the pockets of the people. He taxed them, he made them pay more for food, he made sure they would have less money to spend. These were the steps he took to right the balance of payments problems. The result is that the balance of payment figure is only £9,000,000, much lower than the Minister thought it would be, much lower than is necessary, because the Minister took unnecessary steps to right a situation which did not require righting. I hope I have made that clear to the Minister.
Mr. O'Higgins: If the Minister for Finance had not introduced such a Budget as he did introduce last April, if he had not taken money from the people, the balance of payments figure to-day would probably be something around £20,000,000, and that was the figure, if I recollect rightly, which was aimed at by the Minister for Finance last year. In fact, the figure is less than half that, because unnecessary steps were taken by the Minister to right a situation which did not require righting.
We have to express our regret that the Minister this year should have introduced such an unimaginative Budget. There was not only scope for a reduction in taxation but there was also a real necessity for it. The Taoiseach had rightly described the  situation in which the people found themselves as being one in which they were crippled by a staggering burden of taxation. The figure seem to indicate that room for taxation relief did exist and, accordingly, both prudence and the requirements of the country should have dictated a course in which substantial taxation relief should have been given. We feel that with unemployment such as it is and with recession in business still continuing the need is for an optimistic approach to the financial and economic problems of the country and for substantial tax relief. That is the only course which can meet the present situation.
There is an urgent need now to put money back into circulation. There is an urgent need to allow each individual in this country the ability and the freedom to spend more than he has been spending in the last 12 months. There is an urgent need for the Government to use their influence with the banks to remove the restriction on credit and to enable the wheels of business to start moving again. There is an urgent need for the Government to realise that at the moment under our taxation laws productions is being hampered and that the more that is produced the more and more crippling the taxation becomes. Those are the things upon which an imaginative Budget could and should have been based to meet the present situation.
There is nothing of that kind in the present Budget. There is the same dreary, doleful tale being retold that we listened to 12 months ago. The same damp blanket is still being applied to business enterprise, the same fearful picture is being painted and we find in the Budget the same lack of attention to real problems. We think that will mean that the present problems will grow considerably worse in the coming 12 months, that people must endure, for some time to come at any rate, a continuance of unemployment, a continuance of the doubt and uncertainty as to the future which now exists, and a continuance of high prices and of high taxation. The Minister had an opportunity of giving immediate relief at a time when such reliefs could avert worse consequences.  He has failed to do that and the danger is that in the coming months emigration will assume truly alarming proportions. On that, there is one matter I should like to refer to in conclusion and that is the emigration figures. Figures are extraordinary things and what can be done with them is still more extraordinary.
Mr. O'Higgins: We all agree on that. There was a law imposed on us by Britain, but which we had to observe from 1939 to 1949 or 1950, that you could not go to Britain just as you pleased, that if you wanted to leave Ireland for Britain you had to have a travel permit.
Mr. O'Higgins: Certainly it applied to Ireland. If Deputy Ó Briain or the Minister for Finance or Deputy Briscoe wanted to take up permanent employment in the land of the Sassenach he had to get what was described as a travel permit. He had to go to the Guards and the Department of Social Welfare in order to have a travel permit issued to him. Anyone who travelled to Britain or Ireland without a travel permit became suspect No. 1; he was some sort of fifth columnist and committed a very serious offence. I do not know whether they used to shoot such persons in England, but they nearly shot them here.
These travel identity cards enabled the Dáil and the country to know how many people left our shores each year to find permanent employment in Britain. The finding of permanent employment there represents emigration as I understand it and mean. When I talk about an emigrant, I talk of the person who cannot get work here, who has to travel to Britain or elsewhere to get work in the mines and elsewhere. He is a man who leaves Ireland to get permanent employment abroad. What are the figures? In 1948 when the inter-Party Government took office the number of travel identity cards issued was running at the rate of 48,000. That was serious. We were, in fact, chided for it by Deputy  Briscoe and other Deputies in this House. We were told we had said we would cure emigration and yet 48,000 travel identity cards had been issued in that year. We said we knew that, that we were doing our best, that we would get down to the problem and we hoped there would be a reduction in the following year.
Along comes the Central Statistics Office now with its figure for net emigration, if you please. Net emigration means what is left. It is a population comparison. It is the population of the country in 1948 as against the population in 1947. The figure produced for 1948 is 28,000 or 20,000 less. In 1948, when we were responsible, we thought that emigration was running at the rate of 48,000; we had issued that number of travel identity cards for that number of people leaving this country to work in England; now the Central Statistics Office comes along and says it was only 28,000. We need not have worried.
In 1950 as a result of the housing drive and various other developments we were making some progress, not alone in stemming emigration but in inducing some of our people to return to work at home. Artisans, craftsmen, joiners and many others came back to find work in building and other forms of activity in their own country. In that year only 17,000 travel permits were issued by the Government. Only 17,000 were authorised to leave the country to find employment in Great Britain. Just when we were beginning to be jubilant at the trend along comes the Central Statistics Office and tells us we are wrong; they say 41,000 left the country in that year. We did not give them permits or anything like that, but they nevertheless left the country. What is the explanation? Are we to believe that 24,000 people left the country illegally in 1950 and went across to England? Is that the suggestion?
Mr. O'Higgins: The Taoiseach said it just a short while ago. He quoted a figure of 41,000 for net emigration in 1950. Now, either net emigration means net emigration or it has no meaning at all. It either means the number of people who have been driven from here to find work in England or it does not mean anything at all. In so far as it means the number who left Ireland to find employment in England that is the connotation in which I am dealing with it now. We know that the number of travel permits issued in 1950 was only 17,000. That 17,000 represents the people who left the country with the permission of the Government to find employment in Britain. But if the figure given by the Central Statistics Office is correct, then 24,000 left this country without obtaining permits. That is a reductio ad absurdum. Therefore something must be wrong.
Mr. O'Higgins: I am not arguing. I am merely putting forward the two figures I have been given. I am reminding the House of what the law was. One could not leave the country to find employment unless one had the authority of the Government.
Mr. O'Higgins: I must say in those circumstances I find some difficulty in following the meaning of these figures that have been bandied around here. Should Deputy Briscoe want the figures for 1949 I can give them. According to the net emigration figures, 34,000 people left the country. I have not the exact figures, but I think that the travel permit figure was somewhere in the region of 22,000. Again there is a discrepancy.
Mr. O'Higgins: I am objecting to the use of the net emigration figure by the Taoiseach as showing the number of people who left this country to find employment in Britain. It obviously does not show that.
Mr. O'Higgins: The trouble is that members of the Government never endeavour to consider what is being urged against them at all. The real problem facing the country now is how  to get rid of the present Government. The Government has neither the confidence nor the support of the country. They are implementing a policy which is not producing any real results and which is not supported by the people. There are two by-elections pending. I hope these elections will take place in a very short time because apparently what cannot be achieved in the House may be achieved outside it. The Government has a simple way in which to test the support it has from the country. Obviously the Government is afraid to move the writ in Wicklow. That seat has been vacant for a very long period. I hope an effort will be made now by the Government to submit their policy to the people of Wicklow. There is a certain convention in this House with regard to writs. It is a convention based on this House being representative of democratic way Parties who act in a democratic way. The continuance by the Government to shirk the Wicklow by-election unduly tries the patience of Deputies of this House.
Mr. O'Higgins: It is interesting to hear Deputy Ó Briain say that. At least the Government are taking no steps to move the writ. I am warning the Government that that situation cannot continue much longer.
Mr. O'Higgins: Do not forget either what happened the Government in other constituencies. The Opposition say that the Government have not the support of the people of this country. That assertion is made at a time when at least one Government vacancy exists. There is a simple way of testing what support the Government has in this country.
Mr. O'Higgins: It has not wounded me but it has wounded the Minister's own Party. I hope that the Minister for Finance will become courageous outside this House in the near future and make an effort to let the people of Wicklow judge himself and his policy.
Mr. Briscoe: It is quite obvious that the Opposition have such a bad case against this Budget that they do not know what under the sun to talk about. They do not even know how to deal with simple elementary mathematics. I made notes of several of these terrific indictments which Deputy O'Higgins made during the course of his speech: “The necessary intervention of the Taoiseach to cover an ugly economic situation... to deal with rising prices ... to conceal the staggering burden of taxation....” Deputy O'Higgins gave us to understand that the Taoiseach wove a web in his speech to conceal all these things.
 Deputy O'Higgins compared the position to-day with that of 18 months ago—when we had no unemployment, no emigration and no rising prices! Does Deputy O'Higgins believe the things which he has stated or does he think that he can get people to believe that such statements are in accordance with facts? He spoke about the restriction of credit by the banks. He spoke about the contractors who are now out of business. He spoke about businesses and industries which are closing. He led us to believe—of course, by implication in this case— that these were the industries and the shops that had opened and become prosperous either under the régime of Cumann na nGaedheal or of the Coalition group.
According to Deputy O'Higgins we introduced a Budget last year to establish a new policy—a policy of high prices, a policy of high taxes, a policy to deprive people of the ability to spend money. According to Deputy O'Higgins, we deliberately made food dearer so that people would have less money to spend. Of course, that is an argument which I shall have to examine over the week-end. What he probably meant was that they would get less food. Obviously, if I have £1 to spend on food and it goes a certain distance at certain prices then if the prices rise I still spend the £1 but I may get less food. How the Deputy can argue that if something is dearer you spend less—and that at the same time the money disappears—I really do not know. I promise him, however, that, over the week-end, I shall try to reason out what the Deputy had in mind.
Deputy O'Higgins reminded me of the individual who became ill. A certain medicine was prescribed for him. His illness caused him a great deal of pain. The medicine was bitter and because it was bitter he would not take it. He continued to rave and rave about his aches and pains but he would not take the medicine. It is quite obvious to me what the illness is with Deputy O'Higgins. He is not concerned about the people or the country. His only concern is that Fine Gael are  not on the Government Benches. If Fine Gael are kept on the Opposition Benches for another 16 years, as they were before, their aches and pains and wailings will become all too well known to us.
When new Deputies come into this House they come in with ideas—born of ideals, if you like. When they have been in the House for some years they develop a certain amount of wisdom from experience. It is good to see people gain wisdom as a result of experience and dropping some of the ideas they had when they first came in. As the Taoiseach pointed out, there are Deputies in this House who develop wisdom as a result of experience and as a result of demonstration by other people of what should be done and how it should be done. Then, as the Taoiseach pointed out, when they adopt the ideas of other people they give them new names and try to pretend that they are different things.
Deputy O'Higgins ridiculed the establishment of air services and said that not a single bolt for the manufacture of the aeroplanes was made in this country. That is a very interesting statement from a leading member of a Party who decided, when they took office in 1948, that they were going to bring about economies in the country— economies not by savings on unnecessary expediture but economies by the destruction of industries. As has been pointed out, if the chassis factory had been allowed to continue it might, and I should say it certainly would, at least have been able to make bolts. Deputy O'Higgins made that statement though he belongs to the Party which, in the first year of its office, advocated the complete mechanisation of farms, thus wiping out the hourse on the farm. Am I to take it that, if their objective of the complete mechanisation of farms had been achieved, the Coalition Government would have ensured that the bolts for the tractors which would be used on this country's farms would be made in this country? I move to report progress.
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