Friday, 6 May 1955
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. Glynn: When speaking last night, I was anxious to make the point —I was making it in relation to high prices—that during their periods of office the Fianna Fáil Government, both in recent times and in the past, were guilty of errors of judgment in relation to policy which affected the economy of the country. If prices are high to-day, though we cannot blame Fianna Fáil entirely, because world conditions must have something to do with it, they nevertheless must accept some of the blame, and we must ask ourselves why they are so high.
I pointed out that, in recent times, they have vigorously opposed and criticised here the policy of the present Government in providing subsidies for  the reduction of the price of butter. I asked the question: If they were still in power, what would the price of butter be to-day and what would be the price of tea? What would the cost of moneys being borrowed for national development be? I do not think Fianna Fáil can truthfully say that the present Government have not made not only a serious but a very excellent attempt to reduce the cost of living. These may appear to be small matters, but we must not forget that the Government have been in power for only a short period of ten months, and neither must we forget that they took over a situation which was by no means easy.
I think the Minister for Finance is to be complimented on the Budget he has introduced and I think he is also to be complimented on his budgetary statement. In that statement, during the course of his economic survey, he pointed out that there has been a real improvement, an improvement in the balance of trade particularly, since this Government came into office. He also pointed out that one of the greatest contributory causes of this improvement has been the export of cattle and meat. If anybody should get credit for that improvement in the export of cattle and meat, and in the consequent improvement in our adverse balance, the present Government and the previous inter-Party Government are the people who should get it, because I think it traces back to the 1948 agreement which the Minister for Agriculture, who was Minister for Agriculture in the previous inter-Party Government, negotiated.
Furthermore, we have to remember that down through the years the Opposition catered only in a very weak way for the cattle trade, the cattle export trade and meat trade. They paid lip service in a sense to agriculture, but they gave it little thought by way of making the farmer conscious of what could be produced out of the land and how best to do it. The present Minister for Agriculture has done more for farming in this country in the three and a half years and the ten months during which he has been in  office than any other Minister at any time.
These are all matters which we have to take into consideration in relation to our economic position and in relation to prices. I believe, in the knowledge of what has been done during the past ten months by the present Government, that, as time goes on, they will prove themselves a good Government. I believe that, as time goes on, the promises which the Opposition suggests we made will be implemented to the fullest possible extent. I would repeat that the inter-Party Government made no promises they do not intend genuinely and sincerely to fulfil. I think their performance in the past ten months is sufficient proof that there will be a complete fulfilment of these promises.
I went back further in relation to the economy of the country generally and in relation to the errors of judgment or lack of judgment possibly made on the part of our predecessors in office. I mentioned the fact that in industry they were pioneers. I believe that if there had not been, a change of Government in 1932 the rural electrification scheme would have been completed for the entire country prior to the last war, which commenced in 1939.
Yesterday we were told that the present Government are retarding progress in regard to rural electrification, although the Minister stated that is not true and that, in fact, rural electrification will proceed at an even greater rate than heretofore.
I do not think anybody can seriously criticise this Budget. I think the Opposition have really no case to make in relation to it. I think the present Government are carrying out first what they deem to be the essential things. The people who are benefiting under this Budget, the old age pensioners, the widows and married people with children, are all people who should receive consideration. The Budget will meet with the approval of everyone. It is a tribute to the work of the Government that they have been able to do that in the short period of ten months. I think that is an earnest of things to come.
Mr. MacBride: I think it is necessary to consider a Budget in the light of the general economic policy of the Government. I am afraid we are inclined very often to debate the Budget statement, and, indeed, the economic policy of the Government from a rather transient point of view, looking at it from the point of view of the immediate reliefs that are given rather than from the broader point of view of the general effect of the economic policy pursued in regard to the development of the country.
The Budget and the economic policy of the Government should, in my opinion, be viewed always primarily from the effect they are likely to have on employment and production. The most acute problem which this State faces is that caused by unemployment and under-employment. We suffer from one of the highest rates of unemployment and underdevelopment in Europe. It is well recognised that the economic policy operated by a Government can control in some degree at least the employment and unemployment conditions in a country. My main criticism of the policy pursued by the previous Government was that it framed its economic policy without any regard to the employment position in the country and to the likely effect of its policy upon unemployment and upon emigration, because emigration and unemployment are linked.
Listening to the former Minister for Finance, Deputy MacEntee, the other night, I felt that had he been in office he would have produced a Budget which was very well balanced on paper but a Budget which would have meant the export of several thousand of our people in the coming year. It is surprising that the members of the last Government who are men of experience, and men, no doubt, of intelligence too, should have failed to appreciate the elementary and obvious results of the policies which they imposed upon the country. It is one of the things which has puzzled me during the course of the last three years that men of intelligence should have been so blind as not to realise the obvious results of the economic policy they were pursuing.
 The economic policy of the last Government was in the main a deflationary policy, one which was intended to reduce the purchasing power of the public. The pursuit of such a policy must inevitably cause unemployment and emigration. Indeed, on the day the Budget was introduced, I took the trouble of looking up the unemployment figures for that week over a number of years. In the last week of April, 1951, we had 56,000 people unemployed. This was one of the lowest unemployment figures for that period of the year we ever had. Following upon the change in the economic policy introduced by Fianna Fáil, by 1953 we had over 84,000 people unemployed in that week. Now, mainly as a result of ten or 11 months of a more liberal policy, unemployment has fallen to 66,000 or 18,000 less than when the famous Budget of 1952 had time to make its impact on the economy of the country.
Mr. MacBride: I do not think so, Deputy, because the employment figures show a pretty corresponding increase and, indeed, one of the most gratifying statements contained in the Budget speech of the Minister for Finance was the one in which he drew attention to the fact that for the first time over a great many years agricultural employment had remained stable. In the course of the last eight years there was a decline of approximately 100,000 men in agricultural employment —that is, an average of 12,500 men per year. That trend has been arrested at least this year, and I think that is one of the most heartening features of our present economic position.
Listening to Deputy Lemass yesterday it occurred to me that the logic of his argument must not have been very well thought out. He argued all the time that had the present Government not expended money by way of increasing the subsidy on butter and providing an increased subsidy on tea there would have been a surplus of £3,000,000 this year. If that is so, and possibly Deputy Lemass is right in his conclusion, why was £3,000,000 unnecessary  taxation imposed upon the country last year? If the Budget prepared by Deputy MacEntee last year contained a surplus of £3,000,000 it would appear that £3,000,000 quite unnecessary taxation was imposed upon the country last year.
The Budget, taken in the light of the economic policy pursued by the present Government, is a good Budget. There are naturally many things that all of us would have liked to see done but, having regard to the general economic position of the country and to what has actually been done, it is a good Budget. Relief has been given by this Government since it took office to that section of the community which requires assistance, namely, to the lower income groups. That relief was given by way of subsidy on essential commodities such as butter and tea; it was given by way of increases in the old age and widows' and orphans' pensions and also by way of incometax relief to the lower income groups.
To that extent the policy pursued by this Government since it took office has been a sound policy. From the economic point of view the main virtue of that policy—and, indeed, the main difference between the policy pursued by the present Government and by the Fianna Fáil Government—is that the present Government is pursuing a policy calculated to expand the purchasing power of the people. It is the pursuit of that policy in the last ten or 11 months which has enabled the Minister for Finance in his Budget to draw attention to the improvement in the general economic position of the country as a whole.
To my mind the most important development which has taken place in the economic life of this State since its establishment was the action of the Government in ensuring earlier this year that our bank rate was not increased. That was the first and practically the only step this State has ever taken towards achieving economic independence. I have no doubt that had the Fianna Fáil Government remained in office when the bank rate was increased in Britain in January or February of this year the bank rate here would likewise have been increased.
 I think very often the public do not realise the importance of interest rates on their own lives and on the economy of the country. An increase in interest rates inevitably leads to increased unemployment; increased unemployment is in fact a consequence of increased interest rates. The House will remember that in 1952 interest rates were increased from 3¾ per cent. to 5¾ per cent. I know that talking about an increase of 1 per cent. or 2 per cent. in interest rates very often does not convey to the public the results that flow from such increases and I think it is essential that these matters should be clearly understood.
That increase of 2 per cent. in 1952 affected moneys borrowed by local authorities and by the public under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act. On a loan of £1,500 repayable over a period of 35 years that increase of 2 per cent. added an additional £794 to the cost of building a house. Obviously an increase of that dimension must have the effect of reducing the number of houses built. Had Deputy MacEntee been in office in January and February of this year, I have no doubt we would have seen similar increases in the rates of interest here; the cost of works undertaken by local authorities would have been increased; and there would have been an inevitable reduction in the number of houses built and in public works generally with consequential unemployment.
I would like to take this opportunity of congratulating the Government and the Minister for Finance on their action in ensuring for the first time in the history of this State that we would not automatically follow the British bank rate. Anybody with even an elementary knowledge of economics should know that the economic conditions which exist in Britain and which may in Britain necessitate the pursuit of a deflationary policy have no parallel in the economic condition of this country. Britain is a large industrial country which suffers from over-full employment. We are a small agricultural country suffering from chronic unemployment with consequential emigration.
One of the reasons for the pursuit  of a deflationary policy in England and for the increase in interest charges was to remedy the condition of over-full employment, because when employment levels are very high it is more difficult to direct labour and to maintain a constant output. There is an inevitable tendency on the part of the productive people to go from employment to employment with a resultant fall in production. Another reason for the increase in the interest rates in England was to remedy this condition of over-full employment; in other words, to depress employment and create a certain amount of unemployment which is hardly noticeable in the state of full employment which exists in Britain at the present time.
It is obvious that the pursuit of such a policy by us would be lunacy. The pursuit of a policy which would create additional unemployment here would be completely indefensible. Yet, that is more or less what the Fianna Fáil Government did in 1952. Their pursuit of a deflationary policy in 1952 was bound to lead to unemployment and bound to lead to an increase in prices, and it did both.
A matter which is of great importance and which was referred to by the Minister in his Budget statement was the increase in agricultural production, an increase of £6,000,000 in terms of money and an increase of 4 per cent. in volume. That is extremely important and it is a tendency which should be fostered by every means at the disposal of the Government. Agricultural output has been low and certainly has not been rising at the rate at which it should rise.
From that point of view I think one of the most useful steps taken by the Government, and by the present Minister for Agriculture in particular, was the land rehabilitation project. I think that the increase shown in agricultural output and the arrest in agricultural unemployment may, in a great measure, be attributed to the policy pursued by the Minister for Agriculture in relation to the land rehabilitation project. We have vast areas of land which are unproductive or produce only to a small  proportion of their capacity. The money expended on reclamation of that land, money spent on making that land productive, is money which adds not merely to the income of the person who owns the land but is money which adds to the income of the nation as a whole. Therefore, any money expended on land rehabilitation is money well spent and money that is bound to benefit the economy of the country.
There are one or two matters I would like to mention for the purpose of drawing the attention of the Minister and the House to them. They concern our capital development. I asked a question the other day in the House of the Minister for Local Government to ascertain our total expenditure on roadways. The expenditure on roads is concealed—“concealed” may not be the proper word, but it is tucked away—under so many different headings that I found it practically impossible to obtain any estimate of the total expenditure on our roads. The Minister for Local Government had prepared a table showing the total expenditure, but I think that that table is not absolutely complete. It shows that in the year 1954-55 we spent £10,649,000 on our roads—over £10,500,000. A break-down of that figure shows that approximately £5,000,000 was spent on road maintenance and that the other £5,500,000 was spent on road improvements—that is, road widening and taking off corners and so on.
Mr. MacBride: £5,500,000, a total of £10,500,000 altogether, £5,000,000 being spent on road maintenance and £5,500,000 on road widening and road improvements. I do not think these figures are necessarily absolutely accurate—I mean they are as accurate as the Department of Local Government was able to make them, but I think we may have some reserve as to the accuracy of these figures. However, for the purposes of discussion here, I think we can take them as being reasonably accurate.
 I would like Deputies and the Minister to consider that figure in relation to the other items of capital expenditure. In the list of capital expenditure which the Minister embodied in his Budget statement we see, for instance, that for forestry the amount of capital provided is .85 of £1,000,000. Does not that disclose somewhat of an unbalance in our capital expenditure? Are we not overspending on roads and unproductive capital development and possibly not spending enough on productive capital development such as afforestation?
Mr. MacBride: I think any Deputy who really faces those figures must come to that conclusion. I think that this is partly due possibly to the psychological approach which we have had to road work. In the past, we regarded road work as a form of relief work, a way of providing employment when there was much unemployment and therefore we were inclined always to be prepared to increase the expenditure on road works, not because we felt it was always necessary to spend this money on the roads, but because we felt by doing so we would relieve, to a certain extent, the unemployment position. But in modern conditions, I think that argument—if you like, that sentimental approach—which we have had to road work has ceased to have any merit, because the labour content of road work is now negligible, particularly on main roads. The work is done mainly by machinery. Most of the cost of road making and road widening goes into the purchase of machinery which has to be imported and materials which have to be imported.
I have asked the Statistics Branch to try and obtain for me an analysis of the labour content of different types of public work. I know, from figures I had before, that afforestation has the highest labour content of any form of public work, and I think road-making is among the lower ones. In my view,  the Government and the Minister for Finance could, with benefit, have that whole position examined. They could arrange to examine each item of capital development in relation to other items of capital development and they could arrange to examine these items of capital development in the light of the relation they bear (a) to employment and (b) to productivity. I have no doubt that £10,500,000 would be much better spent on afforestation than on road work. I do not want to say we should not have good roads but, for a country which suffers from such a chronic rate of unemployment and emigration, it seems to me that we should aim at the pursuit of capital development works that will have the highest labour content and that will also add to the productivity of the country.
I think the time has arrived when a really useful piece of work could be done by the Government, in conjunction with the Statistics Branch, in trying to assess the labour content of all these capital projects. I do not want to be taken as in any way advocating that capital development should be reduced in the slightest: on the contrary, I think the more capital development that can be undertaken, the better. I am anxious to ensure, however, that the money available for capital development will be utilised on projects that will be productive and that will provide employment.
There is only one other matter to which I should like to refer and that is the question of savings and investments here. I hope the present Government will seriously face the question of our investments and that a definite effort will now be made to set up an investment board here whose function it will be to provide outlets for investments in Ireland. We still pursue the fantastic policy of exporting the earnings and savings of our people and of investing them outside the country—lending them, for the most part, to the British Government who use them for the very purposes for which they should be used in Ireland. Much of the earnings and savings of the people which we lend to the British Government are used in  Britain for afforestation, road work, housing, the subsidisation of agriculture and to help in their social services. Surely the time has come when we should be able to set up a home investment board here which would provide an outlet for our own capital and which would provide investments for State funds.
The arguments against this which were advanced in the past have long been proved to be completely erroneous. We all know that had even a portion of the money which we exported to Britain and invested in Britain been utilised here for forestry, housing, any public works you like, the value of that money would have increased many times. We have lost a very substantial portion of our capital investment by reason of depreciation in the purchasing power of money. These are important questions. The Government have had the courage and the initiative to take the first and only step which has been taken towards the achievement of economic independence here by ensuring that the rates of interest would be governed by the national interest of the country rather than by the requirements of the Bank of England and the British Treasury. That was a good step.
I hope the Government will have the same courage and the same initiative to ensure that serious efforts will now be made to provide investments for our own money in Ireland and to provide an outlet for the utilisation of the earnings and the savings of the people in Ireland so as to provide employment and to increase production.
Mr. S. Flanagan: Before Deputy MacBride leaves the House, I should like to expand a little on my applause on the subject of road widening and expenditure on roads as opposed to afforestation. I do not know why the Minister for Finance was amazed to hear me applaud Deputy MacBride's remarks on that subject. I am convinced that if we do not leave a few dangerous bridges and a few twists in our main roads it will not be safe to go out on the roads any more. It is a paradox, I know, but it is true that the most dangerous bridges and corners are the very ones where there  is never a fatal accident. It is only when we straighten the wretched things out for the purpose of making them safe that people drive at the rate of 70 miles an hour and then crash into each other and kill each other. I am serious when I say that I do not see any objection to Deputy MacBride's statement and that, in fact, I applaud it. Times have changed and we should change with them. The labour content of road work at the present time would be very small compared with the labour content of road work even 20 years ago.
Deputy Glynn gave a long list of the achievements of people such as Deputy McGilligan and the Minister for Agriculture, Deputy Dillon, in their capacities as Ministers and Deputies from time to time. He mentioned, for instance, that Fianna Fáil had opposed the Shannon scheme project in 1927. He mentioned that the then President of the Executive Council, Deputy de Valera, made a statement about the British market in 1933. He went on to say that representatives of his Party had done very good things and that Fianna Fáil had done very bad things in the course of the past 30 years. To tell you the truth, I am not one bit impressed and I am not one bit interested. If it is any good to Deputy Glynn or his Party we will give him what Fianna Fáil did in 1927 in connection with the Shannon scheme on a plate.
Mr. S. Flanagan: I am not interested in what happened when the Shannon scheme was brought in. I was brought up to believe that not  even the Pope is infallible. Even the Pope is not infallible except when he is speaking about matters of faith and morals. I am convinced that nobody is infallible, that we all make mistakes and that Fianna Fáil made them as well as Fine Gael. If that does you any good, there it is for you but I really do not see what use it is to anybody in 1955 to talk about an error of judgment or a mistake that was made by anybody or a good thing that was done by anybody in 1926 or 1927. We cannot change what happened at that time. We can try to do something now about the problems that face us.
We on this side of the House apparently annoyed the Deputies on the Government Benches by reminding them, not of what happened in 1926 and 1927 but of the undertakings which they gave and which were responsible for their being in Government to-day. I do not intend to spend my time quoting out of newspapers. It is generally agreed that the Irish Independent is not favourable to the Party I represent, that generally speaking it is more favourable to Fine Gael than it is to Fianna Fáil. On 2nd October, 1954, in a leading article headed “Two Major Problems”, the editor said:
“What we feel bound to stress is that the great majority of those who returned the present Government to power were mainly influenced by the assurance of strong measures to cope with both the cost of living and the alarmingly high rate of State expenditure.”
I do not like going over what has been said before but it happened in my constituency as in every other constituency that people voted for inter-Party candidates because of these specific assurances on the subject of the cost of living, the high rate of Government expenditure or, as Fine Gael put it in their advertisements, lower taxes and better times.
I am sorry, Sir, to repeat what other speakers have said, but if you and the House will bear with me I would like to put on record, for the benefit of the people in the West of Ireland as well as those in the East, what was said by  the representatives of the various Parties with a view to getting votes and getting power.
“As you are an elector in the County Kildare constituency, I take the liberty of enclosing herewith a copy of my election address and would kindly invite your attention in particular to the portion of the programme set out in page three under the heading “Reduction in Prices”. In view of the serious effect of increasing taxation on cigarettes, beer and spirits—which no doubt has had an injurious effect on your trade—I trust that you will find it possible to give me your Number One Vote in the forthcoming election and kindly ask your relatives and friends to do likewise, so that with the aid of the Labour Party I may advocate in the new Dáil a reduction of the taxes which so adversely affect your business and the consumers generally.”
Mr. S. Flanagan: Volume 148, columns 937 and 938. There can hardly be any doubt that the electors of Kildare were influenced by a specific undertaking of that nature. To prove that that was so I would remind the House of a fact which is very conveniently forgotten, that the people of the country endorsed the policy of Fianna Fáil as enshrined in the Budget in 1952. The theme of all the speakers who represented the Opposition at  that time, after that Budget was introduced, was that it was the duty of the Government to go to the people and to obtain their views on it because, they said, the people would repudiate a brutal, harsh, unfair and unjust Budget of that kind.
As Providence decreed, three byelections were held in about two months after the Budget was introduced in 1952, one in County Mayo, one in Limerick and one in Waterford. It can hardly be said that the problems that affect the people of Mayo are similar to those which affect the people of Waterford. There may be a certain similarity between Waterford and Limerick but certainly the three counties together represent a fair cross section of the country as a whole.
In the event, Fianna Fáil won the seat in North Mayo despite the fact that in the general election they had only two candidates elected out of three. There was in fact a sway in their favour between the time of the general election and the by-election. And that was after the Budget of 1952. In a four-seat constituency in Water ford Fianna Fáil gained a seat from Fine Gael. In Limerick they lost their seat, but they lost it in a constituency where they did not have a majority in any event of the total vote. So that the over-all picture, after three byelections in 1952, was that Fianna Fáil had not lost but gained and that the people—taking those who voted in the by-elections as a cross section of the community—had endorsed the policy enshrined in the 1952 Budget. At that stage, the propaganda that was being churned out on this side of the House had not been brought to bear on the people sufficiently. But every opportunity was taken between then and the General Election of 1954 to ram that propaganda into their heads.
That is the Communist technique— to say a thing and keep on saying it and to repeat it and repeat it and repeat it until eventually the person whom you are trying to convince believes the statement that you want him to believe or has so far lost his power of distinction that he does not care what he believes. Can anybody say that a repetition of these specific  promises made by Fine Gael aud Labour from 1952 until the general election and all during the election campaign did not, as the Irish Independent of October 2nd, 1954, said, cause the great majority of those voters who elected the present Government to power to swing around? Can anybody say the Independent was wrong or that we are wrong in saying that the vast majority of the people who voted to put the present Government into power did fall for those specific assurances?
Those assurances were not confined to any one Deputy representing Fine Gael. You have had most of them here before. Many of them were made by Deputies Donnellan, Mulcahy, O'Sullivan and Costello during the course of the debate on the Budget in 1952. There was also the statement by the present Taoiseach that there was £10,000,000 of unnecessary taxation involved in that Budget and that the policy of Fianna Fáil was that at the end of 12 months they would remit this unnecessary taxation, give reliefs and call for a general election as if they had produced money with a fairy wand.
I do not want to bore the House by going over again quotations from what these people said. I should rather instead take up the Minister for Finance on a question he put to a previous speaker when he said: “We know what we have done. We are asking you what would be the alternative.” Assuming for the sake of argument that we mark as proved the case that the present Government is in power because of specific promises made— promises that had not been honoured in this Budget—and assuming that when Fianna Fáil introduced their Budget in 1952 it involved an apparent contradiction of its public programme, where does all that get us or where does it get the people who are being openly canvassed day after day in Mayo by the representatives of big English manufacturing firms and who are going out by the hundred to employment in England?
There is one quotation I should like  to give from a speech made by Deputy Declan Costello in the course of the debate on the 1952 Budget when he said that in the hierarchy of values of Fine Gael emigration, or the cure of emigration, came first. At column 497 of Volume 131 of the Official Report Deputy Costello said:
“We put in our hierarchy of values the ending of emigration, the provision of full employment, the provision of houses and hospitals, harbour development, land reclamation and telephone development. We put all these things before settling the deficit in our balance of payments.”
I do not claim to be an economist or to be an expert on matters of high finance but I am very interested in the statement that the ending of emigration has such a high place in the programme of the Fine Gael Party. It is perfectly true that the representatives of big English firms are canvassing men outside public houses and labour exchanges in this country at the present time and that in two West of Ireland towns last week 150 men were canvassed and given their tickets to go to England to work for a particular firm.
I should like to know from any side of the House whether we have the prospect even of a policy being put into operation that will end that state of affairs. I fully realise that we cannot ever hope to provide employment for everybody born in this country and who comes to working age. I understand that if we were to do so we would have to find 30,000 new jobs per annam. We could not do it unless we discovered uranium or something miraculous like that or unless we succeeded in discovering large mineral deposits or unless we had an industrial tradition.
What is more than that, we have a very old and honourable tradition of sending people abroad as ambassadors from this country—ambassadors of Christ to teach the nations of the world the Christian Faith. We would not like to stop these people emigrating but what we do want to stop is this flow of the life blood of the nation, the  20 to 40 years of age group, male and female of which 25 to 30 per cent. are leaving at the present time. I believe also that if we did succeed in providing suitable employment for some of our young people they would not stay here anyway. I am convinced also that if we had suitable employment to offer them we would be able to keep at least 25 per cent. of them at home. I do not see any prospect in this Budget of being able to provide employment for the percentage of these young people that we badly need to keep at home.
It may be true to say, as Deputy MacBride has said, that the labour force did not decline in the course of the past 12 months. Frankly I think it would be very hard for it to decline because it cannot continue to decline at the rate of 15,000 a year as it has been declining over the past ten years or so. We will not have that number left to go now that the labour force could decline by 15,000 a year any more. If this emigration situation is not cured in the course of the next 20 years or so we will be like the man in the Gospel who has gained the whole world and suffered the loss of his soul. What doth it profit us if we can give old age pensioners 30/- or 40/- a week——
Mr. S. Flanagan: Yes, and spend money on hospitalisation, and so on, if we have lost the people that will keep the soul of this nation alive? Do not ask me what we did about it. I am not interested as far as that is concerned. I am interested in doing something about it now. I will not argue the question as to what we did because it is past and done with. We did our best and we believe the present Government are doing their best. I say that the best is not good enough from either side as far as the West of Ireland is concerned and that we need and we must have a new approach to this problem if we are not to lose the soul of the nation in the manner in which I have said.
Mr. S. Flanagan: I was going to ask that question, too, and I was very interested to hear the Minister for Lands two or three weeks ago, in the course of the debate on the Estimate for his Department say here that he was considering bringing in legislation designed to facilitate the acquisition of land for afforestation purposes. I remember at the time asking him if he meant by that that he would bring in legislation to make establishment of title to some of this land easier, and I am afraid he ran away from that question. Maybe he was right to run away but he did run away from it, and he left in my mind the impression that he had not been serious when he said he would bring in legislation designed to facilitate the acquisition of land for afforestation purposes. I hope that his colleagues will see to it that the Minister for Lands does bring in such legislation.
As a Deputy representing a country constituency, I am naturally more interested in the problems of the people in the country than I am in the problems of city folk. I hope I will not be offending anybody, civil servants or people like that, if I say that the money voted annually to the Land Commission for the purposes for which the Land Commission is designed is largely a waste of money.
Mr. S. Flanagan: I am not discussing administration. I am discussing the fact that in this Budget provision has been made—I do not know how many million pounds—for the payment of staff and for the payment of everybody from lay commissioners down to the lowest cleaner in the Land Commission. Taxpayers' money is being poured out—the Minister will correct me if I am wrong—at the rate of certainly not less than £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 and I do not see why I am not entitled to say that that is a waste of money. The Minister could do a  great deal with £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 if he had it in his pocket. As a result of our policy, he was fortunate enough to have £3,000,000 but if he had £5,000,000 more he could do a lot better.
Mr. S. Flanagan: May I say this much in explanation? I do not like to hurt anybody's feelings. I do not want it to be said that I, personally, would like anybody to lose his job. What I am saying is that it is the view of the people I represent, and of the people in the surrounding counties, that the day has come when the Land Commission should hand in their gun and admit that they are wasting public money and getting nowhere. At the present time the Land Commission have lands on hand which they cannot give away and that in the County of Mayo, which was one of the most congested counties in the whole of Ireland. There are other areas where the congestion is now just as bad as it was 40 or 50 years ago because people differ so much even from one parish to another that in one parish they all want to get out and in the next parish they want to stay at home.
Mr. S. Flanagan: I have not read the Emigration Report, to my sorrow. I have looked at it. As the professor in the university used to tell me, if you cannot read a thing it is a good thing to look through it, and if you cannot look through it look at the cover, then at least you can say you have seen it. I looked through the Emigration Report. It advocated the abolition of the Land Commission and the creation of a different system to deal with the problem. I say, and I would like to accept full responsibility for saying, that at best the Land Commission is a very wasteful instrument for  the purpose of carrying out Government policy and that much of the money which is now being spent by the Land Commission could better be spent, at the direction of the Minister, in some other way.
I will move on from that subject to take up one or two statements that have been made and, I must say, without interruption from our side, by Deputy Glynn. He said that Fine Gael and, I presume, the present Government had taken over a very difficult situation from Fianna Fáil. He said that in spite of that they were able to give certain reliefs. I understood that, on the rates of tax as they were in operation, the Minister would have had £3,000,000 more to spend this year, without putting on a penny of extra taxation. I frankly do not see how Deputy Glynn or anyone else can describe that as a difficult situation for the present Government, if you are satisfied with the present level of taxation, the present cost of living and the reliefs that have been given in this Budget.
On behalf of his Party, Deputy Glynn said that he was perfectly satisfied—he purred for threequarters of an hour about all that had been done for the taxpayer as a result of this Budget. I hope he finds that people down the country who heard “Vote Fine Gael for lower taxes and better times”, “Vote Labour for better subsidies and a reduction in the cost of living” and who heard from every Deputy from Donegal down to Cork: “You are brutal; you are brutal, you are brutal” until it buried into them. There was also: “Ten million pounds too much was taken off you; give us ten minutes and we will give it back”. Take the poor person that Deputy O'Sullivan was so upset and so worried about in 1952, the poor housewife who lived—unlike the person in the Gospel, living on bread alone—not on bread alone but on bread and butter. Let us just mention that little item now. I agree that at the present time there is a subsidy on butter which operates to keep its price at 3/10 a lb. At the time Deputy O'Sullivan and all the other Deputies were crying about the cost of  butter as a result of Fianna Fáil Budget measures in 1952, the price of butter was 3/10 and not 4/2. The price of butter now is the same as it was as a result of the withdrawal of the subsidy in the 1952 Budget.
Mr. S. Flanagan: It was a very good thing, but one should not try to give the public the impression that there was a reduction, that in 1952 the price of butter as a result of the Budget went up to 4/2. The price of butter went up to 3/10, the present price is 3/9, so there is only a penny in the difference.
Mr. S. Flanagan: I think it is quite in order to quote a person on the price of bread as it was then—and it is cheaper now as a result of Fianna Fáil policy and dearer as a result of the present Budget.
Mr. S. Flanagan: If I can get this reference from the outraged Deputy O'Sullivan in 1952, who painted a most harrowing picture of the housewife living on bread and butter alone and  the poor Corkman going in for his pint——
Mr. S. Flanagan: I cannot find the splendid utterances of Deputy O'Sullivan in 1952, but he painted a most harrowing picture, with all the other Fine Gael Deputies, and told the people they were being robbed, to vote Fine Gael for lower taxes and better times, for £10,000,000 reduction in taxation in ten minutes—“put us into power and we will do it for you”. In that way, he influenced those people, by repeating that ad nauseam for two years, into giving him the vote in order that they would be given an opportunity of redeeming that promise.
Mr. S. Flanagan: I agree that the old age pensioners were given an extra 2/6 a week. What I say is that not one penny less will be sought by the Minister for Finance in this year. In fact, £3,000,000 more will be got out of these very taxes and £3,000,000 more will be accepted by him and provision to use that £3,000,000 is being made by him. While I agree that the old age pensioners got 2/6 more, because the taxes were buoyant enough to bring in £3,000,000 a year more and while I  agree that £3,000,000 could also give a very slight relief to the married man with two or three children in income-tax, no attempt has been made to cut down the level of State expenditure.
No attempt appears to be envisaged to cut down the level of State expenditure. A representative of Fine Gael, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, Deputy Oliver Flanagan, gave a long recital here last year of the total Budgets of the various years from the time Fianna Fáil came into office in 1932 up to 1954. He showed how the total figure involved each year became bigger and bigger. The total figure for this year is bigger than it was last year. I know that the Minister is likely to ask—and he is entitled to ask—would I like to cut down on the services the State is providing and if so where would I like to cut them down and would I be prepared to accept the consequences of cutting down State services. I have given one instance—the Land Commission, which I believe could effect a substantial reduction, which would enable the money to be used for some other purpose.
Apart from that, is there any prospect that the present situation is going to be changed in the forseeable future, in the next two or three years? Is it not, on the other hand, the intention of the Government to increase rather than decrease State expenditure? What prospect does that offer for employment in areas in the West of Ireland? Does it help towards a realisation of what Fine Gael themselves say is No. 1 in their hierarchy of values, the ending of emigration, and No. 2 in their hierarchy of values, the ending of unemployment? There is no point in asking me what we would do at present. We are not in the Government, but we are entitled to ask will the Minister do what he can do to offer suitable employment and a decent living for our people who are forced to leave and find employment outside their native country?
In spite of the wailing which went on here from 1951 to 1954, I assert that  the present level of emigration from the West of Ireland is now at its very highest, that at no stage since the war were people leaving in the numbers in which they are leaving now. It may be due to the over-employment in Britain, about which Deputy MacBride spoke. I know that the present Government cannot be expected to accept responsibility for the state of over-employment in Britain, but it is responsible for the numbers of representatives of big firms coming over here and openly canvassing the young men and women in front of public-houses and labour exchanges in rural Ireland. But whether it is due to over-employment in Britain or not, the fact remains that people are now leaving that area at a faster rate than they have been at any stage since the end of the war. Yet we sit idly by watching them go, without a prospect, or apparently without a prospect, of doing anything to stop them.
Mr. S. Flanagan: I would, but I understand that Deputy MacBride said that had Fianna Fáil been in power at the time the bank rate was raised in England, he had little doubt but that Fianna Fáil would have caused the bank rate in this country to be raised also, to keep in line with it.
Mr. S. Flanagan: I doubt if the people who were to decide this would think it worth while to consult me on the subject of the bank rate, and I  doubt whether they would take much notice of my opinion, even if I had one to offer. I do not know whether the bank rate would have gone up; if it had, it would have affected the position in the West of Ireland. It would have been bad if it had gone up. I understand that there would be no reason for it to go up when it went up in England, even if Fianna Fáil had been in power.
Mr. S. Flanagan: Supposing it had gone up and had still more adversely affected the position in the West of Ireland, what would have happened? The position, as far as we are concerned, is that still more people would have been leaving; maybe ten more people a week would have been leaving than are leaving now. I will accept that. I will agree that maybe ten more people would have to leave. I am not prepared to accept the proposition that if ten more people per week would have to leave, it would make any substantial difference to the present very bad position in regard to emigration in the western areas, or that it would make any difference to the verbal pyrotechnics here and the uttering of silly cracks at each other.
I am interested in providing something for these people, so that they can look forward to having employment provided for them. I believe it is the duty of this State to take more drastic measures now to provide employment in the West. I certainly believe, and assert, that if Fianna Fáil were in power, they would be taking those steps now. The House will remember the various attempts made by Fianna Fáil down the years to solve this problem. I do not intend to give a history of them now, but the last one was the Undeveloped Areas Act which was passed in 1951.
Deputy Lemass, the then Tánaiste, stated categorically in the course of his introduction to the Second Reading of the Bill that, if more drastic steps were necessary, and proved by time to be necessary, he would be  willing to take those steps. I assert, on behalf of the people of the western areas, that that time has now come. We have given a fair chance to that piece of legislation, which I think the entire House welcomed as enlightened legislation, but we have made only limited advances, partly because we have not an industrial tradition, because people in the West are too fond of the stocking and are not prepared to speculate. Whatever the reason, the fact is that we have not succeeded to the extent we had hoped in 1951 when the Undeveloped Areas Act was passed. We must adopt more radical measures now if we are to achieve the object of all the pieces of legislation introduced in this House in the past 20 or 30 years.
Of course, agriculture is the most important industry in the West. We must do something for these small-holding areas other than increasing the agricultural production. Many of these holdings are bad and poor and, no matter what fertilisers or scientific methods are used, you still will not have a holding capable of giving a decent living to more than one or two people—at the most, three people. At present, some of the new houses for which the taxpayer of this country over the past ten years or so gave £375 or £280 are now locked up. I should like to call on the Government to take whatever steps are necessary to provide suitable employment for at least 25 or 30 per cent. of the people from 20 to 40 years who are at present forced to leave the country. If the Government does that, it will have saved the soul of the country; if it fails to do it, I think we will have lost it.
I should like to know from the Minister what the possibilities are for rural electrification in the course of the next 12 months. I am not interested in the Party political end of it. Rural electrification is one of the most important things any Government in this country can do to induce people to stay in the rural areas. By the use of electricity, the housewife, the person responsible for managing the household, is saved much of the drudgery which has been associated with life in the country over the past  50 or 60 years, and anything that this or any Government would do to reduce the programme of rural electrification is greatly to the detriment of the people in the rural areas and something of which any Government should be ashamed. I want to know whether as a result of Government action the rural electrification programme is going to be curtailed in the course of the next 12 months.
Mr. S. Flanagan: I want to know also if the programme, whether it is accelerated or maintained, is going to involve the consumer in higher costs during the next 12 months. I notice that the Minister is not as ready to answer that question and I do know that, in the West of Ireland, consumers who had been promised supply at a certain rate were subsequently informed by the E.S.B. that they would be forced to pay more.
Mr. Sweetman: I am not questioning the Deputy's bona fides at all. No doubt, the representations were made to him on that basis, but they are without foundation, and that is why I should like to investigate them.
Mr. S. Flanagan: I understand that there was a similar case raised in the House recently by Deputy Bartley, of the E.S.B. attempting to raise the charges to the consumer. It was only as a result of his question here that the E.S.B. went back on it and gave the supply at the rate at which it had originally been promised.
Mr. S. Flanagan: If, therefore, this Government hopes to redeem its promises to the people I represent, so far as I am concerned, they would be better off not talking of millions of pounds, but, instead, taking active measures to provide these people with employment, and whatever representations, fraudulent or otherwise, they used in order to get themselves into power will not matter, if they can take effective steps to keep these people in this country. The time is long past when we can afford to stand aside and say: “What about it? We were a wandering race ever and we will stay that way.” That time has passed. We must take positive action and we must take it now.
Mr. Kyne: I normally do not base my speeches on what the previous speaker has said, but because Deputy Flanagan, a man for whom I have a very high regard, has repeated what has been the theme of all the Fianna Fáil speakers on this Budget, I think it only right that I should give my views on it. He has repeatedly stated that it was the promises of the inter-Party group, if you like to call us that, that secured us a majority vote at the last election. None of us is a Simon Pure. In all the elections that are to come— as in the last election and elections before that—I am quite sure that every Party will hold out all the  promises they can, but the average Irish elector is a pretty shrewd person who judges both Parties and Deputies on what they actually do in the House, either as a Government or as Deputies, and that the success or failure of a Deputy is based purely on the work he does here and nothing else. A man can keep on promising until he is black in the face and he will not be returned here. It is something he does which is positively good or positively bad which gets a man elected or put out and I suggest that the reason Fianna Fáil are now in opposition is something positively bad they did. I suggest they did it in 1952.
I must confess that, on first hearing the Minister's Budget speech, I felt certain slight disappointments. I had hoped—perhaps, being a Labour Deputy, I hold certain views different from those of other people—that old age pensioners would get a little more than 2/6. I had also hoped that the Minister might see his way to provide money whereby national health and unemployment benefits for single people could be increased in some small measure. I do not think it can be denied by anyone, unless he is speaking with some political motive, that these benefits are small and that it is difficult to live on them at present and I think it will be generally agreed that, if any concessions could have been given, they should have been given to the people most deserving of them.
The fact that we are not able to give them indicates to me that this Government will have to plan some system whereby the economic life of the country will be so arranged that the social welfare benefits to the most needy groups will be brought to a higher standard and the economic standard of living throughout the whole of Ireland raised to a higher level. This, I agree, cannot be done overnight, but I suggest it must be done by progressive stages, and it is the duty of this Government to plan these stages, so that, at the end of our period of office, we will be able to announce that we have attained, in so far as it was humanly possible, the objectives we announced when we set out as a Government.
 On reconsideration of the Budget and on thinking over the difficulties of the Minister, I have come to the conclusion that this Budget is not a bad Budget at all. The Budget has given to the people most in need the maximum that could be given to them.
Much has been gained. The old age pensioners, the blind and the widows and orphans have received a measure of justice, a measure of justice that has not been given to them for quite a long time past. Were it not for the insistence of the Labour Party, I would imagine that the Minister would only now be announcing a further concession. As a matter of fact, the reduction in the price of butter which we yelled for earlier last year would now be announced and would have been applauded throughout the country because the actual money required to reduce the price of butter was only announced through this Budget yesterday or the day before.
When you provide £2,000,000 to reduce the price of butter, when you add £1,250,000 to improve the social welfare benefits, plus the additional minor allowances, you will find that over £4,000,000 has been conceded by the Minister mainly to the group that I represent, the working class group in this country, the most needy people. The increase of the allowances for children under the income-tax code from £85 to £100 is a direct help to the average working man. Nobody with an income of £800 will qualify. All those under that, with the different wage standards, at the present time can in truth be clearly classified as working people.
The only way to look at this Budget —it is the way the country will look at it—is to contrast it with that of 1952. It is quite true that in this Budget we have not reduced the price of bread. It is quite true that in this Budget we have not been able to reduce the cost of living enormously, but it is equally true that we have not increased anything. At the same time, we have given concessions to the people most in need and that is tantamount to a decrease. I do not want to dwell on what concessions were given. They  were announced by the Minister and discussed by Deputies. Newspapers carried statements about and analyses of the various things.
I would prefer to deal with the matter from a Labour point of view. I would prefer to take advantage of the Budget to deal with the problems still facing us. I would like to warn the Minister about too much complacency, if he has such, on the question of employment or unemployment in this country. The statement that, as compared with last year, we have 5,000 or, perhaps, 6,000 on an average fewer unemployed is to me not good enough while we have 60,000 or 70,000 out of work. Added to that there are thousands and thousands of boys and girls who never register at a labour exchange. While that position remains in Ireland, it is absolutely necessary not to sit back and remain complacent about it. Rather should we treat it as an emergency and in that emergency we will have to succeed if we are to keep our promises to the people.
When speaking yesterday, Deputy Lemass referred to the economic and industrial development in Britain within the past number of years which caused a state of almost full employment. He suggested that position was due to heavy investment in capital development by the British Government. I quite agree with him. I would also point out that it was a Labour Government in Britain which started and encouraged that initial development by putting Government money into huge industries. That has been continued under a Tory Government. The very happy position at the present time is that not only will they be able to provide a higher standard for all their people but they will be able to absorb the hundreds of thousands of Irish men and women and other nationalities who flow into England seeking employment.
I suggest that if the Labour Party policy was followed a little more in this country, if cognisance was taken of our claims or if we were strong enough to influence the future implementation of our policy we would  reach that happy state of affairs in this country as well in a very short time. I noticed that in his statement the Minister made an appeal—if he did not sound a note of warning—to workers and employers not to cost themselves out of the export market by increasing the cost of our commodities or by demanding higher wages. I also noticed in his statement that he announced an increase in industrial production.
Let us be clear. If workers give increased production they are entitled to an increased wage. No worker will work harder unless he has some initiative and the initiative is to secure for himself and his family a higher standard of living. Provided he gives that increased production, there is no reason why the costs of our commodities should be any higher than they are at present. I believe that one of the causes of some of the depression here is that the wage structure as a whole is, on an average, much too low. If we had the lower standard increased we would have a much larger market for our consumer goods. I believe that would solve, to some extent, the problem of emigration.
Deputy Flanagan, speaking of emigration, pointed out—he was quite right—that many of our boys and girls emigrate for no apparent cause. I suggest that many of our workers are leaving this country not because they cannot find employment here but because they cannot find employment at the proper wage rate. It is very little use being employed at a figure that will not permit you to rear your family in the comfort you believe they should have.
There is just one other point I would like to mention and that is on the much disputed question of tea. Whether or not we have subsidised tea or whether or not tea will, in fact, be reduced by next September does not interest me beyond the fact that tea has not risen in price. If in September we find that tea will not have fallen low enough to permit us carry on the normal price, then I will be one who will press that it should be subsidised in order to keep the price as it is. Whatever the reason tea has not risen for the past six  months; whether we underwrite a balance for a tea company or whether by direct payment we pay the difference, it is subsidisation and I am not ashamed to say that I think it is good policy on the part of this Government to see that essential foodstuffs are subsidised and kept within the reach of the people. These are part of our election promises—the promises we are now keeping.
Deputy Lemass, I understand, during yesterday afternoon devoted much time to quotations of what I had said over a number of years here, speaking as Chairman of the Labour Party. If I knew what the particular quotations were I would repeat them to-day. I have no doubt as to what my policy is. I have no doubt as to what the Labour Party policy is.
I would remind Deputy Lemass now that this is not a Labour Party Budget. The inter-Party Government is not a Labour Government. At the end of his Budget speech the Minister stated quite clearly that this Budget is but a first instalment. The Labour Party will be in this Government for the next four years ensuring that that promise of the Minister is implemented.
We realise that there are two sides, and possibly three sides, to this inter-Party Government and that policy cannot be all the one way. All three groups forming the Government have enough honesty of purpose and enough intelligence to know that they cannot have their own way. We have decided on an agreed programme. With the help of Providence, we will at the end of the next four years be able to return to the public and say that, in so far as was possible, that programme has been fulfilled. Labour is satisfied that its side of the bargain will be kept. Labour realises that, while this is not a Labour Budget, it does enshrine the old adage: half a loaf is better than no bread.
Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Cosgrave): The Minister's Budget Statement on last Wednesday was a comprehensive and lucid exposition of the economic position of the country as a whole. For clarity of expression  and precision of phrase it ranks as one of the most remarkable Budgets ever presented to this House over a long period. It covered in a detailed way every aspect of the country's economy and it clearly outlined the policy that this Government proposes to pursue.
In addition, it pointed the difficulties which have to be overcome, and it expressed the confidence of the Government in its capacity to guide the economic affairs of this nation over the next four years. The Budget statement showed that our economic circumstances have improved considerably and, as the Minister said, that substantial improvement occurred during the last quarter of 1954 and was reflected not only in an improvement in our balance of trade but also in the public confidence which was shown in the subscriptions made to the £20,000,000 national loan floated in that quarter. These two factors indicate more clearly than any speeches or expressions of opinion by either supporters of the Government or Ministers of State the confidence of the people as a whole in the soundness of the policy being operated by the Government.
The Government depends to a considerable extent on the success of its policy in having public confidence behind it. The public confidence engendered by the terms of the loan floated last year, which was reflected in the improved terms of trade generally in the last quarter of last year, indicates clearly that not only is there confidence in the policy implemented by the Government but that this Government has inaugurated a suitable economic programme which has been reflected in an improvement in the employment position in the short period of ten or 11 months since the Government took office.
It is almost impossible in a short period of less than a year to alter substantially economic affairs, affairs which were in many cases the result of the misguided policy of the previous Government as enshrined in the Budget of 1952. While it is not possible to affect to any great extent some of these forces, this Government has minimised the worst effects of them  and has lightened substantially some of the burdens that were then imposed. It is well to reflect on what has happened.
At the end of last year it was seen that in the first five months the adverse trade balance was £5,000,000 worse than in 1953; but, in the last quarter of last year, the improvement was such that it amounted to £8.7 million so that the out-turn at the end of the year was £4,000,000 better than in 1953. That improvement brought our balance of payments deficit to the lowest point reached in any year since 1946, which was an exceptional year because, while the deficit was artificially low, that was, in the main, due to the difficulty of obtaining supplies. It is right and proper that we should emphasise the circumstances and the main contributing factors to that improved balance of trade. It was almost entirely due to the substantially increased exports in respect of live stock and live-stock products.
During last year we exported a total of approximately 870,000 head of cattle. Our exports of cattle had increased in numbers by 163,000 over those of the previous year. The value of our exports had increased by £8.8 million which, in effect, compensated for the substantial drop in the exports of chocolate, chocolate crumb and confectionery, a drop inevitable because of the derationing and decontrol of sweets, sugar and sweetened commodities in Britain. At the same time, our exports of dressed beef and veal increased by 17,000 tons, or by £3.8 million.
That situation was achieved because of two factors. The 1948 trade agreement, which was negotiated by the previous inter-Party Government and which secured a permanent link between the prices paid to Irish producers and the prices paid to British farmers and, in addition, eliminated the differential which existed prior to that in respect of cattle fattened in England and cattle sent over from here, as well as reducing the period of time during which they were obliged to be fed in England before becoming eligible for the increased bonus.
 That situation, which is extremely satisfactory, showed the wisdom of the previous inter-Party Government in negotiating the 1948 trade agreement, but in addition it enabled our farmers and those who work on the land, farm workers, all who depend for their livelihood directly as well as those who derive a living indirectly from the prosperity of agriculture, to secure a higher standard of living than they had ever secured before. The second factor that contributed to that position was the success of the measures initiated by the present Minister for Agriculture during his previous term of office in which he reduced the calf mortality, both the direct slaughter of calves and the deaths caused by various calf diseases, by the elimination, on the one hand, of the slaughter policy of the previous Government and the provision of adequate veterinary and scientific measures to prevent or reduce the death-rate from calf diseases.
These two factors raised the live-stock population in respect of cattle and enabled farmers and farm workers and all who benefit from the prosperity of agriculture—shopkeepers, business people, traders and others in towns and villages throughout the country—to share in the improved economic circumstances arising from that agreement.
Considerable discussion has been directed during the course of this debate to employment and unemployment. In the Budget speech of the Minister he adverted to the fact that there had been over the last ten or 11 months an improvement in the numbers employed and that in addition the number on the unemployment register showed a reduction of 5,000 or 6,000 persons per week on the numbers registered this time last year. I confess that I cannot follow the line of argument of the Opposition, who, on the one hand, deplore the fact that there is at, the present time such a heavy rate of unemployment and emigration but who refuse to face up to the consequences of the Budget which they introduced in 1952. That Budget imposed excessive taxation on all sections of the community. As the Independent leading article of the time described it, “Everybody was in  the casualty list”. The result of that Budget was to raise the cost of essentials on every section of the community, to increase the burden of taxation borne by all sections in the State, both direct taxpayers and indirect in respect of higher prices for essential commodities.
One of the later speakers here this morning, Deputy Seán Flanagan, referred to the three by-elections following immediately after the 1952 Budget and he made the comment that because Fianna Fáil won two out of three by-elections the people had endorsed that Budget, but he omitted to tell us this, and in this I want to point to the contrast between the honourable way in which the present Minister for Finance proposes to bring in the benefits and the manner in which they were brought in by the previous Government. In 1952, when the by-elections were fought in North Mayo, Limerick and Waterford, the increased pension books were circulated to the various offices throughout the country. The recipients of those books knew in advance that although they had not actually got the increased benefit, these books were there and the increased benefit was written on them—books which they would be entitled to receive after 1st July. But what they did not feel the effect of was the increase in the cost of bread, tea, butter and sugar.
Those increases only took effect after 1st July and the result was that a great number of people were misled by that action of the Government. When by-elections were held in North-West Dublin and when subsequently elections took place in East Cork and Wicklow the people had felt the full impact of the effect of that Budget and the effects showed that they would be obliged to pay increased prices for essential commodities.
We have heard during the course of this debate some criticism from the Opposition, however fainthearted, that we had not made a better contribution towards easing the problem of the people by increasing the social benefits. I have here before me a Budget statement of the Minister for Finance in  1952, now Deputy MacEntee. He said:—
“The rise in retail prices consequent on the changes I have mentioned will not, however, amount to 2/-; in fact, on the average, it should work out at some 25 per cent. less, or almost 1/6 per head per week.”
That is at column 1139 in the Dáil Debates of the 2nd April, 1952. He went on to say that an increase of 1/6 a week would be given to the old age pensioners to compensate for that rise in the cost of essential commodities.
Later in the debate the then Minister for Industry and Commerce, now Deputy Lemass, said that the effect of the subsidy changes contemplated was, as the House had been told, to increase the cost of these foodstuffs to each individual by approximately 1/6 per week. He said that the Minister for Social Welfare would introduce proposals to increase the old age pensions and unemployment assistance payments by way of compensation. That was at column 1298 of the Dáil Debates of the 3rd April, 1952. If it was right and proper, and if it was fair compensation for what had occurred in regard to the cost of these commodities as a result of that Budget, surely this Government is entitled to credit in this Budget for increasing pensions by 2/6. They have raised the pensions of the widows and orphans in respect of a total of 28,000 approximately by an extra 2/6, and they have increased the orphan's allowance to 7/-per week, benefiting in all 162,000 old age pensioners and 6,000 blind pensioners. With the widows and orphans already mentioned, a total of almost 200,000 persons have benefited. That benefit follows the reduction in the price of butter which was referred to in the course of this debate and which was put into operation last August and which will cost this year over £2,000,000.
I think that in these matters it is fair to reflect on what the average person thinks of these proposals and in doing so, I have only to refer to an interview given to the Evening Press on last Wednesday. The Evening Press calls on two average members of the  community, and the first is a married man, who said: “I would like the £85 allowance free for each child increased to £100”; and he went on to say: “Another important aspect is old age pensions. These old people deserve more money.” A lady who is described as an average married woman said: “As a housewife, my interest is in the cost-of-living figures. I want to see prices reduced, cheaper tea and butter.”
Under the previous Government, the price of bread, tea, butter and other essentials was increased. The total effect of the increases was estimated at ? per head per week. To meet the increases, the old age pension was increased by ? a week. Nobody can deny the accuracy of those figures: nobody can deny that that was the estimate given by the then Government. Nobody can deny that that was their estimate of the increases and their agreement that the rise they proposed was adequate to meet the rise in the cost of essentials.
Yesterday, Deputy Lemass came in here and asserted that the increase of 2/6 was not sufficient. Surely, if ? a week was adequate to meet a rise which he estimated had been caused by their Budget in 1952, 2/6 is a substantial improvement? There is not anybody in the House who would not like to see more being given to these old people or to the weakest sections of the community such as widows in receipt of non-contributory pensions or blind pensioners. However, if ? a week was adequate at that time to cover the rise in the price of foodstuffs, surely 2/6 a week is a substantial improvement particularly when we have regard to the reduction of 5d. per lb. in the price of butter which was brought about by this Government. This Government reduced the price of butter by 5d. a lb., at a total cost of £2,000,000, without the additional burden of any increased taxation. As the Minister has clearly stated in the course of his Budget statement, these two improvements—the alleviation in respect of the price of butter by a reduction of 5d. a lb. and the improved social services for the various pensioners I have referred  to—cost £2,000,000 in respect of butter and £.9 million in respect of the various categories of pensioners.
In the course of this discussion and repeatedly during the last few months, Fianna Fáil have alleged that we have not lightened sufficiently the burden of taxation. Surely it comes ill from the Party opposite to refer to the burden of taxation when, in the three years they were in office between 1951 and 1954, they substantially increased the burdens on all sections of the community. In the savage Budget of 1952, they increased taxation directly and indirectly. In 1953, the taxes were continued without any alleviation. It is true to say that some slight amelioration occurred in their Budget of last year—but when was that remission granted and why were those reductions operated only last year, at the end of their period of office? It was because of the results of the by-elections in Louth and Cork City and because of the results of the various by-elections that had occurred in the previous three years. It was because of the clear indication from the people that they did not want a continuation of a policy that added burdens to every section of the community and that made it dearer for every individual to live. It was because the impact of their policy on trade and commerce caused a serious increase in the numbers of unemployed and a serious diminution in the programme of house-building that had been initiated by the first inter-Party Government.
The best test of any policy is the results achieved. We believe the people will test this Budget and test the policy of this Government on the basis of the results which have been achieved and contrast those results with the policy operated by the Fianna Fáil Government. That policy will show that during the previous three years there was a substantial increase in the numbers of unemployed. It will show that during the winter and early spring of 1954 we had almost 90,000 persons on the unemployment register. It will show that that was caused because of the rise in interest rates. It will show that that  unemployment was caused because of the dear money policy that had been operated by the Fianna Fáil Government. It will show that the Fianna Fáil policy placed added burdens on every individual and adversely affected trade and commerce.
We know the people realise that once a policy of that sort is operated, once a particular pattern of spending takes shape, once a particular rate of expenditure in respect of Government or State commitments is entered into, it is difficult to end it and, at most, all that can be done in many cases is to arrest the particular trend. Over that period, it takes much planning and a careful examination of the nation's economy, a close scrutiny of the Estimates of the different Departments, a searching into the various schemes that are in operation, an examination of the various factors involved before it is possible to decide on a line of policy or before it is possible to initiate schemes or to alter existing schemes which will reflect themselves in improved economic circumstances or improved employment.
The result of the policy of this Government over the past ten or 11 months has been such that in the December quarter of last year a record number of persons was employed in insurable industrial occupations. The number reached the record level of 150,000 persons. While that position was shown in respect of manufacturing industry, the number of males—as the statistics describe them—engaged in agriculture shows that the provisional figure for last year was 421,000, the same as in 1953. In other words, for the first time for ten years there has been no decline in the numbers engaged in agriculture. As the Minister's statement showed, over the period from 1945 to 1953, there was an aggregate fall in the numbers engaged in agriculture of 100,000—representing an average annual decline of 12,500 persons. Last year, for the first time, that annual drop was arrested and, at the same time, the figures for industry showed that we had reached a record high level of employment in the December quarter.
In the past few months, since the  beginning of this year, following the improvement that had been shown in the latter part of last year, the numbers on the unemployment register show that there is a reduction of some 5,000 to 6,000 persons per week. It is quite true that the unemployment figures are still high. It is the aim of this Government, as undoubtedly it is the aim of all sections in the House, to work towards a position in which it will be possible to provide more employment for our people who are in search of work and who are anxious to secure a decent standard of living in this country. It is not, however, sufficient to talk about the desirability of that aim. It is not sufficient to deplore the effects of emigration or to deplore the large numbers who, for one cause or another, are leaving different parts of the country to seek alternative work either in the cities or towns or in Britain.
In order to provide employment we must plan effectively. The policy that was initiated by the Government's loan at the end of last year, the policy which secured money at a lower rate of interest for productive work, for building, for the capital programme, for afforestation, for land drainage and reclamation, all these capital schemes that are part of this Government's policy, some of which were initiated during the previous period of the inter-Party Government, such as the land reclamation scheme, offers not only employment but benefits which will inure for this generation and for future generations.
We have on many occasions referred in this House to the fact that agriculture is the cornerstone of our economy and the basis of our national prosperity. Until the land reclamation scheme was started, until the potentialities of that scheme, which were understood and appreciated by the previous inter-Party Government, were exploited to the full, as they have been and will be, no large-scale programme offering long-term prosperity on which agriculture can be expanded was initiated for the farmers or made available to them.
That programme, that policy, the improved fertility of the land, the  increased live-stock population, the increased output, and all the advantages that flow from that programme are not benefits that can be seen overnight or that can be achieved in the space of a few months.
Some Deputies opposite, particularly Deputy Childers, who is bemused by statistics, referred to the fact that agriculture over a long period has not shown what he described as dynamic expansion. It is only those who know the practical workings of farmers, who have experience of the difficulties of trying to secure a livelihood from the land, who realise the tremendous exertions that our farmers have made, not only in recent years, but through the ages, who realise the traditional problems of farmers, problems that were created by the obstacles placed in their way through landlordism and by an alien administration which prevented proper exploitation of agriculture.
Those who know the difficulty of securing a substantial increase in output, who realise the immense problems that confront farmers and farm workers, will recognise that a dramatic increase in production cannot be expected. But, with the improvement brought about as a result of the land reclamation scheme and as a result of mechanisation and machinery, with the increased numbers of live stock that are saved in order to be brought to maturity, because of the drop in mortality as a result of improved veterinary and scientific services, because of the cessation of the calfslaughtering policy of the previous Fianna Fáil Government, all recognise that live-stock exports and the consequent improvement in our economic position will pay dividends, not only this year and in the immediate future but in increased prosperity for generations to come.
We cannot claim that it was any part of our policy to implement the whole of our programme in ten months but the previous Government, as the Minister for Industry and Commerce said yesterday, made enough promises to fill an album comparable with the Encyclopaedia Britannica. They promised to solve unemployment.  They had expressed the view that in this country unemployment could be solved more easily than in any other country in the world. They would be going out with a bugle, as Deputy Lemass described it, to call back the emigrants. But, in their period of office over 500,000 of the people of this country have been obliged to emigrate. At the end of their period of office the present leader of the Opposition, when he was Taoiseach, said that it was a baffling problem and that they had not yet found a solution for it and that the numbers who wanted work and who sought employment were far greater than it was possible for the Government to provide work for.
It is quite true that many of our people who could get employment here seek work abroad because, for various reasons, they wish to go abroad but it is equally true that many of our people are obliged to go abroad because it is not possible to provide employment for them here. The policy of this Government, which has improved employment in industry and which has expanded agriculture, which is expanding afforestation, has contributed and will continue to contribute to an improvement in employment prospects as well as an improvement in the economic position of the country as a whole.
This debate was remarkable for the fact that the Opposition sought to criticise the Budget because we did not grant greater remissions of taxation, because, as some Deputies opposite asserted, we had moneys available which could be devoted to a remission. Compare conditions under this Budget and conditions under the three previous Budgets of the Fianna Fáil Government. In the Budget of 1952 they increased taxation by £9,000,000 or £10,000,000, increased the cost of essential commodities, raised the taxes which were paid directly or indirectly by every section of the community. The result of these increases was to affect every section of the community and to affect most seriously those who were worst off, those least able to bear them, the lower paid sections, the old age pensioners, widows and orphans, those in receipt of the various social welfare benefits.  All these increases in taxation added to the difficulties, added to the burden and caused a substantial rise in unemployment. That was reflected in the rise in emigration.
Fianna Fáil have asserted that because this Government has not reduced the taxes, because we have not implemented in ten or 11 months all our aims and all our objects we have not been true to the undertakings we gave or true to the policy that we put before the people. I challenge the Party opposite to point to a single undertaking in which we said specifically that we would reduce the price of butter or that we would reduce substantially or maintain at a lower rate the price of tea. We said that it was our aim over a period of years to ease taxation and to reduce the burden on all sections of the community. Is it not an earnest of our policy, is it not an indication of our programme that we have lightened the cost of butter, that we have maintained the price of tea at its existing level when the price of tea increased across the water?
This is where we can contrast conditions under this Government and conditions during the period of the Party opposite. Is there a single person in the community to-day who does not realise that the people would be obliged to pay more for tea if the Fianna Fáil Party was the Government, that they would now be paying 5d. per lb. more for their butter? In this there can be no controversy, because under Fianna Fáil the people were obliged to pay 4/2 per lb. for their butter, whereas under this Government we increased the butter subsidy, thereby reducing the cost of this essential commodity by 5d. a lb.
At the same time as we did that we increased, under this Budget, the old age pensions, the pensions of widows and the pensions of blind persons. We also increased the allowances in respect of children for income-tax purposes from £85 to £100. The effect of this improvement is to give to those wage earners in the community who are at present liable to income-tax, as Deputy Kyne remarked here, and who earn less than £1,000 per year, certain  reliefs. These reliefs now apply to categories which include skilled workers, and to various categories of middle class and average wage earners. They mean that every person who does not earn more than £533 a year, or £10 6s. per week, who has one child will not be liable to income-tax. The endorsement of that policy of the Government was given by a person interviewed by the Evening Press on the day of the Budget. Surely the person interviewed by the Evening Press would not be a supporter of this Government.
They called him “Mr. Average Married Man”. The Evening Press said that they had interviewed all those people whose statements appeared that evening and that they had asked those people what they thought would make a good Budget. And “Mr. Average Married Man”, Mr. Maurice Lewis said: “I would like the £85 allowance for each child to be increased to £100.” Lower down we get what he said about the old age pensioners— that they deserved more money. I believe we have given in this Budget not only an earnest of our policy, but a practical example of how we propose to alleviate the burden of taxation on the section of the community that is obliged to meet the responsibility of raising a family.
In respect of the married man with two children, he will have to earn in excess of £666 a year before he is liable to tax. The married man with three children will not incur liability for tax unless his earnings exceed £800 a year. That increased allowance to married men will benefit 27,000 additional taxpayers and will exempt completely 3,000 taxpayers. Deputy Lemass from the Party opposite criticised the Government because, as he said, we have not alleviated taxation, because we have not reduced the burdens imposed by them on all sections of the community. But Deputy Lemass regarded as compensation for the old age pensioners the ? the Fianna Fáil Government gave them to meet the increased cost of essential commodities, not imposed by external factors, not imposed by the prices prevailing for tea in India or Ceylon, not imposed by the effects of the Korean war, and not by economic  blizzards in Europe or Asia, but by deliberate Government action when Fianna Fáil raised the prices of essential commodities, when they increased the price of these commodities to every section of the community. They imposed burdens for which ? a week could not compensate.
But this Government reduced the price of butter by fivepence in the lb.; they maintained the price of tea at the existing level when it was rising by 3/-or 3/6 in Britain; they reduced the income tax allowances in respect of children; and in addition increased the pensions payable to aged and blind persons and in respect of widows and orphans. This Government eased the burdens imposed on every individual who buys the essential commodity of butter. The policy of the Party opposite was to raise the prices of all these essential commodities. That was done because of an alleged £15,000,000 deficit which was the result of inflation caused by themselves during the war and in the post war years. Whether or not there was a deficit is of but academic interest. What is of real interest is the comparison between living conditions under this Government and under the Budget introduced by Fianna Fáil in 1952 and continued in 1953.
Mr. Cosgrave: It is on that comparison that the people will judge the respective programmes of the inter-Party Government and of the Fianna Fáil Government. Many of the statements made by Deputies opposite showed the nonsense in which they indulged during the years. There is, however, a good deal in what Deputy Seán Flanagan said—that it does not matter greatly whether Fianna Fáil criticised the initiation of the Shannon scheme or the initiation of the sugar beet scheme 20 or 25 years ago. What does matter is the comparison between the economic policies of the two Governments. Remember that the previous Government, when they secured office, had a 17-point programme which included, in point 15, an undertaking that subsidies and price  controls would be maintained and that essential foods would be subsidised. Then we had the effect of the 1952 Budget under which subsidies were slashed on essential commodities. Deputy Lemass, yesterday and in the past, has referred to the fact that last year Fianna Fáil increased the food subsidies in respect of the halfpenny reduction in the price of bread. We have pointed out that that decision followed the results of numerous by-elections—that when the drift of public opinion made itself felt on the Party opposite, it was then and only then that they gave consideration to the effects their policy had had on the community and that it was only then that they gave a slight reduction to the extent of a halfpenny on the 2-lb. loaf.
Mr. Cosgrave: It was the Party opposite who increased the 2 lb. loaf from 6½d. to 9d. and the price of sugar from 4d. per lb to 6½d. They increased the price of butter from 2/10 per lb. to 4/2 per lb. and now they have the audacity to come in here and ask the Government, in the space of eleven months, to undo the hardships and the misery that they inflicted in the 1952 Budget and in the 1953 Budget and which, to some extent, they tried to modify last year on the eve of the general election. As I have said, and as the Minister for Finance explained in the course of his Budget statement, this Government has initiated a programme that has given relief to various sections of the community, that has eased the burdens of the tax payers, that has reduced the prices of essential commodities used by every section in the country. At the same time, we have improved social welfare benefits without placing additional burdens on the people through increased taxation.
We have been criticised because we have not reduced Government expenditure. I do not think that any reasonable person who has a knowledge of how public finance works, who realises the various commitments that have been entered into over the years, the various patterns of expenditure that have become part of the national  economic Budget of the community, would expect that the various undertakings, the various Estimates for individual Government Departments, can be radically altered without affecting the livelihood of many in the community and without altering grievously the economic structure of the nation. But what we have achieved for the first time for a great many years is a substantial easement in taxation, a substantial easement in the circumstances of a great number of people without additional burdens on the people through increased taxation.
It is part of this Government's policy to provide these improvements without raising the cost on the community through taxation or increasing the burden indirectly through increases such as occurred because of the excessively dear money policy of the previous Government. We said when the loan was floated at five per cent. that it was bad financial policy and bad economic policy, that it would be reflected in a drop in the number of houses built by private persons and in the numbers employed on house-building schemes. Unfortunately our prognostications were only too well-founded and it is because of that that we recognise that the policy which the present Government initiated last year, and which was endorsed by the magnificent subscription to the national loan, will reflect itself in an improvement in the construction programme, in the building of houses and hospitals and in the erection of schools and other undertakings under the State expenditure policy of the capital Budget.
We do not claim that we can solve all the problems which confront the country in the short space of less than a year. We do not say that it is possible to provide a solution to every problem that confronts every section of the community in the short space of less than 12 months. But on any impartial examination, on any fair test applied to the policy of this Government during the last 12 months, on any economic indices that are available, is it not a reasonable thing to claim credit for an improved economic position, for an improved employment position, for an improved export  position in so far as the export trade has developed, for a general improvement in the economic circumstances of the country as reflected in the various figures that were quoted by the Minister in the budget statement? All these indicate that the policy of this Government is showing results and that, given time it will show further improvements for all sections of the people.
At the same time as the benefits that I have referred to were given, we gave an easement in respect of tractors used by farmers for the carriage of milk to creameries. I know that Deputies from the rural constituencies, Deputies representing the creamery areas, realise the burden that was placed on tractors by the 1952 Budget, by the measure introduced that year by the Minister for Local Government. We believe that if we are to get the return from the land that is essential, if we are to make farming more prosperous, we must endeavour to lighten the costs of production. One method of lightening the costs of production is to make it cheaper for the farmer to carry his milk to the creamery or to carry his neighbours' milk to the creamery. The reduction in respect of the tax from £31 10s. to £8 on these tractors used for reward solely for the carriage of milk to creameries is a welcome improvement, a welcome easement of the burden which farmers have been obliged to bear and which is a direct tax on the costs of production.
In addition to that, the Minister for Agriculture, in the course of his speech when introducing his Estimate, announced that he had raised the limit in respect of expenditure for land reclamation purposes. If the land reclamation scheme is to be a success, it should be expanded as rapidly and as extensively as possible. It is essential not only to improve marginal land but to improve all land that is capable of being brought back into a full state of productivity. That can only be done by a proper survey based on modern scientific methods followed up by the careful exploitation of the land reclamation scheme. I believe that that scheme was one of the great national undertakings that was initiated in this country. The fact that it was  possible to do so was due to the generosity of the Government of the U.S.A. We in this country over the generations have appreciated the magnificent help that was given by the people of the United States to Ireland, not only during the struggle for independence, and we realise that many of our people made good in the United States and built up that great country. The contribution which the American Government made in the Marshall Aid programme has been gratefully received here and has been used in a manner which will develop the potentialities of our economy and, in particular, will assist the agricultural community.
The fact that it was possible in the last 12 months to negotiate an agreement in respect of the Grant Counterpart Fund and the three subsidiary agreements that were negotiated in March of this year will contribute to improved economic development of the country and will assist the agricultural community in particular. The development of the potentialities of the land of this country depends not only on the land reclamation programme, not only on the application of modern machinery and scientific development, but also on the proper application of fertilisers, the proper application of lime and the proper assistance which it will be possible to give under the limestone agreement which was signed in March.
In addition, the eradication of bovine tuberculosis, the elimination of that serious disease, will contribute in no small measure to the development and expansion of our live-stock industry. For these assistances, for the money with which to do that work, we are grateful to the United States Government. In particular, we are grateful to the United States Ambassador, Mr. Taft, for his help and assistance, as well as to the members of his staff and to the F.O.A. administration for geting through the arrangements necessary.
This Budget also provides relief for small breweries. During discussions in this House, on many occasions were-ferred to the need for providing industry in rural areas and in smaller cities  and towns. I believe that on many occasions, in our anxiety to see new development, to see new industries established, in our desire to see factories built, we overlooked the worthwhile industries that are traditional in this country, that give male employment, that derive the raw material from the products of our own farms. One of these native industries is the brewing industry. While we are all familiar with the bigger breweries— Guinness in particular—we have throughout the country many smaller breweries which give worthwhile employment.
It is particularly gratifying that it has been possible in this Budget to give a measure of relief to these small breweries and that the concession will allow that for the first 5,000 barrels brewed in any year the rebate in respect of duty will be increased by one-third to 40/- a barrel. We hope that will assist those breweries to maintain employment, to expand where necessary and to provide not only direct employment but indirect employment because of the grain that is used in the various breweries throughout the country. I believe that these improvements will contribute to an expansion in the economy of the country.
The Minister for Finance referred to the fact that he had been obliged to meet a deficit which was left in respect of last year's Budget because of the amenities which were granted, which cost over £600,000 last year and which were not provided for. In addition, he had to make good a deficit in last year's Budget for overestimation of £500,000. He had to provide for £1,000,000 increase in the Central Fund services and he could not take credit for £1,000,000 or so from C.I.E. which his predecessor was fortunate enough to be able to build up.
May I remark, en passant, that the welcome improvement in the circumstances of C.I.E. has all flowed from the legislation that was passed by a previous inter-Party Government in 1950. The development of the dieselisation programme was then initiated —and there is a great difference between  that programme and the five diesel locomotives purchased at very great expense during the term of the previous Fianna Fáil Government. All these matters are reflected in increased improvement in the finances of that company. They reflect the wisdom of the policy which was operated by the previous inter-Party Government and which is being continued and expanded by this Government.
I think that the public as a whole, taking all sections of the community, recognise that this Budget achieved very considerable improvements. Not only did it increase the social welfare benefits by an additional £900,000 this year, but it provided an additional £750,000 for health services over and above what was available last year. It provided £2,000,000 for the butter subsidy. It provided tax-free allowances under the income-tax code which will bring relief to 27,000 families. It provided the additional cost this year of the benefits of last year's Budget, amounting to £600,000. In all, it gives £4,350,000 in benefits.
The Minister was not able to take credit for the improved circumstances of C.I.E. which his predecessor took last year. In addition, he had to provide £1,000,000 extra for the Central Fund and £500,000 for the deficit in respect of overestimation in last year's Budget. All these various matters I have mentioned show that this year the Minister had to meet extra commitments totalling £6.85 million, yet it was possible to give the reliefs and benefits I have mentioned and also to alleviate the burden of taxation on the various sections I have mentioned, without placing a single halfpenny additional tax on any section of the community.
Is it any wonder that many people said: “How is it done?” Is it any wonder that many people expressed admiration and amazement that it was possible for this Government, not only to grant reliefs and benefits but to do so without imposing a single additional tax?
When yesterday we listened to speeches from the opposite benches, deploring the fact that we did not give greater relief and greater easement,  was it any wonder that many of us doubted whether our hearing was giving us a full picture of the statements that were being made opposite, when we remember the various increases that were imposed, when we remember the promises that were placed before every section of the community by the Budgets of the previous Government.
We believe we have started on the right road. We believe that the policy of this Government, that the economic position which has been reflected by the Budget Statement of the Minister, that the programme that has been initiated in capital development, in housing, in building, in hospitalisation, in afforestation and in respect of all the items which were catalogued under the capital end of the Budget, will in time all be reflected in a substantially better national economy and in a substantial improvement in all categories in the community.
When we asked for public support for our policy during the last general election, we did so on the basis that it would be possible to lighten the burden on the people. We cannot be criticised for undertaking to lighten the load on all sections, all at once. In this Budget, we reduced taxation on many sections, and on many individuals, of the community. In no part of our published programme, no part of the speeches that were made, did we undertake to do it over ten or 11 months, in any specified period. But the policy of this Government, which is so framed as to improve the economy of the country over a period of years, will require time to put into effect. What is more important, we believe that the public want to give us time to complete that programme; we believe that the people want to give us a fair opportunity of doing that.
On the last occasion, when the inter-Party Government embarked on a gigantic development programme, it secured the testimony of an impartial outside observer, the head of the E.C.A., who in May, 1951, expressed the view that with Marshall Aid, Ireland had accomplished in three years what otherwise would have taken a generation to achieve. That impartial verdict, given by an outsider, showed that the programme which the inter-Party  Government had initiated, would have borne fruit, given benefits, and would have been reflected in improved prosperity for every section of the community. But, before it had time to bear fruit, a trick was perpetrated on the electorate, and because of circumstances outside our control, a change of Government occurred.
When the successors to the first inter-Party Government were elected, they undertook that they would not cut the food subsidies, and that they would operate an effective system of price control. Point 15 of the 17-point programme clearly indicated that that was part of their public policy. It was not a mere statement of an individual Deputy in the course of the election campaign; it was a carefully drawn, carefully phrased, clearly enunciated policy announced after the election. Within the space of nine months, the people were deceived by the impositions imposed in the 1952 Budget. Taxation was increased to such an extent that the head of the previous Government announced during their period of office, that the country was staggering under the weight of taxation, and had already reached the limit. What was their contribution to a country staggering under the weight of taxation, except to increase it still further? It was an occasion on which no remission was given. The verdict of the by-elections emphatically repudiated the economic policy of that Government and the burdens and impositions which had been imposed; it emphatically endorsed the policy which was operated by the previous inter-Party Government, and which, when the people got an opportunity to express their view, was emphatically endorsed by the vote of confidence in the election of last May.
During the past ten or 11 months, this Government has proceeded on an ordered and planned programme to provide that our national economy would be so developed. We took first things first when we catered for the weaker sections of the community. We recognise that, given the time and opportunity to develop our resources,  it will be possible to build a sound economy, and possibly to cater for all sections. It was reasonable that the weaker sections would be catered for first. In pursuance of that policy we decided that it was essential to reduce the cost of butter, and to maintain the price of tea. We could not claim that any Government in this country could be expected, nor did we believe that the people expected any Government, to shield them from external economic blizzards, or to prevent external economic forces from influencing them.
At the end of 1950, after the effects of the Korean war had begun to take effect, I explained then that these outside influences might affect prices here. When I did so, the Party opposite repudiated this view and asserted that, because we could not shield the country against external economic factors, we were refusing to take measures that could be taken. Within the short space of a few months, they themselves sought refuge in the defence that had been made in the clear economic indices which we gave. We do not claim that we can prevent economic factors outside our control from influencing our affairs, or affecting our economy. But we give as one instance an earnest of our endeavours, to ensure that, if these economic factors blow particularly strongly at a particular time, if prices outside the control of this Government, outside the control of this country, affect our economy or affect the prices of essential commodities which have to be purchased and used by our people, we will try to ease the burden and lighten the load, and so, the most serious repercussions spread over a period, will not be allowed to influence our people, or make their effects felt in the humblest of homes.
Last year, when the price of tea rose in India and Ceylon, and was allowed to rise in Britain by 3/- and 3/6 a lb., we decided to average the price out, and to allow tea importers to carry an overdraft for a period. That decision was criticised, allegedly on economic grounds, but if we had allowed tea to rise, the Party opposite would have asserted that we had increased the cost of living. They argued  that, because we averaged that over a period, we were unsound economically. Was there anything more unsound in averaging out the price of tea over a period than there was in the policy of the Fianna Fáil Government in carrying the burden of fuel for years? Can anyone assert that tea is not as essential to the individual, to the old age pensioners, to the widows and orphans, or to the blind, as is fuel? Can anyone assert that, because of external economic factors, we should allow the full blizzard to affect those needy sections of the community?
Deputy Lemass yesterday said that we did not give a sufficient increase when we gave an increase of 2/6 to old age pensioners. The Deputy, as a result of the 1952 Budget, increased the cost of essentials, and asserted that the increase of ? a week then given was adequate to compensate for those increases. If it was adequate to compensate them then, how much more is the substantial increase of 2/6 going to benefit those sections of the community who are obliged to bear the burdens of old age and feel the cost of living as acutely as, and more acutely than, those on higher incomes? We do not claim that we can achieve, and I do not think that the public expect us to achieve, in the short space of less than a year, improvements which the previous Government could not achieve in three years, or which, as the Tánaiste said yesterday, took them the whole of their 19 years in office to achieve.
We ask the people to judge us on the results of our policy. But the only way in which any policy can be judged is by results. We ask them to compare the results of our policy and this Budget with the results of the three previous Budgets of Fianna Fáil. We believe that having done that, having assessed the various factors, having compared conditions during the three years of the previous Fianna Fáil Government with present conditions, having seen the effect of our policy on unemployment, the cost of living and the various factors in our economy, on agriculture, on industry, on the lower paid sections of the community, on the old age pensioners, on the widows and  orphans, on young married men rearing a family, on the skilled tradesman, the skilled worker, the average wage earner throughout the country, whether he is working in an office or in a shop, the barman and the clerk employed by a State undertaking—no matter what category of worker we take whose income does not exceed the limits laid down in respect of the benefits given in this Budget—they will agree that their circumstances are better now, that their economic conditions are easier or will be easier when the Budget is implemented. Is it reasonable to ask these sections of the community if their circumstances are better now than they would have been if the previous Government had continued in office?
We ask the people to decide for themselves on the basis of testing a policy by results. We ask them to test that policy—those of them who are now in employment and who were seeking work last year. We ask them to test it on the basis of the numbers employed in industry. The Deputies and the public will remember the scare speeches delivered by the then Minister for Industry and Commerce during last year's general election. They will remember that every time Deputy Lemass went to the wireless he said that, if Fine Gael were elected, they would close the factories. If Fine Gael were elected, he said, the fertiliser industry or some other industry, according to the town or locality in which he was speaking, was in danger. He always took an industry that was there, and he sought to spread panic and dismay amongst the employees of these industries.
We ask these people who now find that, in the December quarter of last year, a record number of people were employed in insurable industrial employment to compare conditions. We ask those whose employment has been continued, where they have been lucky enough to be in work, and we ask the 5,000 or 6,000 people who were registering last year and who are no longer obliged to register because they have secured employment since the change of Government, to contrast conditions under this Budget with conditions under the Budgets introduced during  the previous three years. We ask these people, in addition, to decide for themselves whether it is better to pay 5d. per lb. less for butter than they were obliged to pay under Fianna Fáil.
We do not deny that there are difficulties; we do not deny that there are many problems which yet require to be solved; but we ask people to decide on the basis of the policy operated during the past ten months, to contrast conditions under this Government with conditions under the previous Government and to decide if it is not in the national interest and in the interest of every individual in the community to see that the economic policy of this Government gets a fair chance to produce results. We can only ask people to test a policy on the basis of results, to test a programme on the basis of achievement; but we assert that, by any criterion applied to the policy of this Government, it is possible to say that we are on the right road, that we have achieved a great deal. Much still remains to be achieved, but given time, given a reasonable opportunity and given the co-operation of all sections of the community, we will achieve these objectives.
As the Minister mentioned in his statement, the employment position would have been even still better had it not been for the unfortunate builders' providers' strike which affected the whole building industry. I have no doubt that I express the views of members on all sides of the House when I say that we are deeply grateful to Deputy Morrissey for the part he played in bringing that strike to an end and that the work which the Lord Mayor, Deputy Byrne, did in assisting in that development, is equally appreciated. The fact that it was possible to bring  that strike to an end contributed not only to the well-being of the workers employed and the employers concerned but to the well-being of all who are dependent on the building industry for a livelihood.
We believe that this year it will be possible to go forward with a progressive building programme, a programme which will provide employment, which will enable the provision of homes by local authorities and private builders and which will, in addition, provide many of the amenities, both social and others, which are essential. There is still a great backlog in respect of improved schools, new schools to be provided and old schools to be renovated. In addition, hospitals have to be extended. New buildings have to be undertaken and many improvements require to be carried out in various hospitals and institutions throughout the country. All these development schemes, all these improvements, depend on stable conditions in the building industry.
I believe that when the Minister expressed the view that, in order to develop this country, we depend on the co-operation of all who are living here, he referred to a fact that is sometimes forgotten. The people of this country, all who live and work in Ireland, both individually and collectively, have their futures and their fortunes bound up with those of our economy, and it is true to say that nobody can hope to become better off or attain a higher standard of living, unless the country as a whole is made more progressive.
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