This is a very simple Bill. It is in two parts. The first is to give power to the Minister to make regulations providing for the method of keeping records of what is held over in cold stores or in the premises of manufacturers or exporters, and also to provide for making returns to the Minister of butter in cold stores. The underlying idea is to enable the Minister for Agriculture to publish, periodically, figures as to the amount of butter in cold stores, so that butter manufacturers will have some data to enable them to see what the provision will be. The second is a matter of form. Under the Dairy Produce Act there is power to license certain manufacturers who are collecting cream instead of collecting milk, and to enable them to call their butter creamery butter. These powers were renewed under a subsequent Act, and expired on the 17th December, 1930. This Bill provides that these powers shall be continued until March, 1933. I move the Second Reading.
Dairy Produce Bill, 1931—Second Stage.
Would the Minister not consider extending this Bill to statistics of other goods such as coal, and imported supplies? Did not the Minister consider whether there should not be statistics collected of the stocks of essential goods in the country at a particular time? I think it is the case that we never know at any time what amount of wheat or what amount of flour or coal is in the country. Could the present Bill not be so extended that power would be given to the Minister for Industry and Commerce to collect statistics of that kind?
What I want to say on this Bill is in connection with Section 6. I would like to know if the Minister in introducing this Bill, appreciates that the information which will be collected under it will be very useful to the butter traders? Would the Minister think it advisable that they should have access to that information as a matter of right? I notice that Section 6 says that the Minister may from time to time publish this information. I think it might be well that traders would feel that they could be supplied with information on occasions. If a man had a certain quantity of butter to sell, and if he were in doubt as to whether he ought to get rid of it or not, it would be well that he would have the right to the knowledge as to the quantity of butter in the country.
I am very glad that Section 10 has been inserted in connection with the licensing of these creameries. I think that a particular creamery, with the condition of which I am familiar, will be glad to see that it is getting a further lease of life. I think that the creamery industry in general will be very glad to see this Bill. As a matter of fact, two or three creamery managers to whom I have been speaking on occasions during the last month, told me that if they had such information at their disposal about the 1st March last the fall in prices would not have come nearly so quickly as it did come. Undercutting and underselling this year commenced four to six weeks sooner than it might have commenced if there had been a knowledge of the quantity of butter in the country.
The introduction of this Bill last week was welcomed by a conference of creamery managers, which I had an opportunity of attending. I agree with what Deputy Ryan has said. This Bill is welcomed as a necessity at the moment, for it gives the Department power to collect those statistics. It is absolutely necessary for us to get reliable statistics in this matter. As the Deputy has mentioned, the position is apparent to anyone. The creameries suffered a very severe loss this year through an unnecessary fall in prices brought about by the undercutting which took place. There were, of course, other reasons as well. I hope that eventually the individual creameries in the country will come to see reason and come to understand what the word co-operation means in fact as well as in name. Meanwhile it is very desirable that the Department of Agriculture should have this power to collect those statistics, because if we are to be faced with a very large amount of hoarding and cold-storing of butter in a disorderly fashion the benefits derived from the tariff on butter will be nullified.
At the present time the creamery industry is going through what might be called a crisis and farmers are going away from the creameries or withholding supplies. This Bill will help to stabilise the industry. It will help the creameries to avail of the temporary benefits we have from the tariff in the spring time. The benefits of that tariff can be continued for five or six weeks longer. I am sure that the large creameries in this country will see the common sense of not undercutting each other. But that is hardly relevant to this measure. This Bill tightens up the regulations and gives the Department power to collect those statistics. It is going to be of great benefit to the industry. There are, unfortunately, some people who think that they should be privileged to carry on any sort of trade or industry no matter what injury it does to the country as a whole. The creamery industry of this country is an important one. A very large amount of capital is locked up in this industry which is so valuable to the country that it is right that the Department of Agriculture should have this power that is sought for in the Bill. At a conference of seven or eight creameries last Saturday it was agreed that this Bill was necessary, and they welcomed it. They expressed the hope that the returns will be available in as quick a time as possible. On behalf of the creameries that I represent, I wish to state that they are anxious that this Bill would go through as quickly as possible.
With regard to Deputy Dr. Ryan's point, I do not think that he is quite correct. He stated that if information had been available as to what stocks of butter were in the country the fall in price would not have occurred as quickly as it did at the beginning of the season. My recollection is that butter was about four-pence above the world's price up to the middle of March, and the fall took place between the middle of March and the last week of that month. If that is so it shows that the rise in price remained to the extent of the full four-pence while there was no shortage. During the last week of March there was a surplus. The position here in regard to butter is that in March we produce about 20,000 cwts, whereas our requirements are 27,000. On the basis of 27,000 a month our weekly requirements would be about 7,000 cwts. We produce most of the 20,000—I should say about two-thirds—in the last week of March. We produced in that week about 15,000 cwts., and the requirements for that week would be only about 7,000. The position is that there was a jump from a shortage in the middle of March to a surplus in the last week of March, and down came the price. Any information that we might have had would not have altered that state of affairs.
With regard to the question of "may and shall," the intention is to publish these returns fortnightly. "May" is inserted for obvious reasons. If it read "The Minister may from time to time publish," I could publish the information to-day and again this time five years. Once you put in the word "shall" you must say how often the information is to be published. It would be very difficult to settle that. It would be a contentious point. It might be that as a result of experience it would be better to publish the information not fortnightly but monthly or two monthly. We cannot foresee all possible contingencies. If you put in the word "shall" to make it different you must insert some particular time. If you say "shall publish information with respect to the amount of butter from time to time held in cold storage in Saorstát Eireann" I could very easily, if I did not wish to publish the full information, publish very meagre details. I need not publish the full amount. If the word "shall" was inserted the Minister could evade it. If you want to make the word "shall" operative the section would have to be redrafted and we would have to say specifically when the information should be published and what information exactly is required. The intention is to publish information that would be useful to the creameries so as to keep them informed of the amount of butter in cold storage and to publish the information fortnightly. I think that Deputy Dr. Ryan will agree that in all the circumstances "may" is the better word.