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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 14 Jun 1932

Vol. 42 No. 9

In Committee on Finance. - Supplementary Estimate. Vote 41—Local Government and Public Health.

I move:—

Go ndeontar suim bhreise ná raghaidh thar £100,000 chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1933, chun Tuarastal agus Costaisí Oifig an Aire Rialtais Aitiúla agus Sláinte Puiblí, maraon le Deontaisí agus Costaisí eile a bhaineann le Tógáil Tithe, Deontaisí d'Udaráis Aitiúla agus Ildeontaisí a gCabhair, agus eilithe áirithe mar gheall ar Oispidéil.

That a supplementary sum not exceeding £100,000 be granted to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending 31st March, 1933, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, including Grants and other Expenses in connection with Housing, Grants to Local Authorities and Sundry Grants in Aid, and certain charges connected with Hospitals.

This £100,000 is the State contribution for the provision of milk for children whose parents are in receipt of home assistance, and for the relief of destitution. This method of distribution is intended to ensure that this form of relief will find its way to the poorest class of the community; to people who are in most need of the essential articles of food. such as milk. It will be agreed, I think, that the lack of an adequate supply of milk is a potent cause of disease in childhood. It is unnecessary to go into any technical details as to the nature of these diseases. Medical men in the house, and most ordinarily well-informed laymen will agree that if a reasonable supply of milk is not available for the rearing of children the consequences are very serious to their physical development, and very often to their mental development.

I think it is generally accepted that children who are inadequately nourished, apart altogether from disease peculiar to unsuitable or insufficient milk supply, such as rickets, will not resist to the same degree the ordinary illnesses that normal children contract from time to time. It may be asked, why this particular form of relief? It is the considered opinion of the Ministry that in times of exceptional economic distress—and I think we are passing through times of exceptional economic depression at present— the children of the poor will suffer more severely than any other class, and the burdens that the State has to bear as the result of economic conditions in the case of children are ultimately more far-reaching in their effects. It is proposed in this scheme of distribution of the milk supply to give preference, as far as possible, to children who are in a delicate state of health, and to children under five years of age. It is suggested that the allocation to the various areas be in proportion to the number of children who are at present in receipt of home help from local authorities. Child welfare centres are already operating in many places, and it is intended, as far as such machinery will be at the disposal of the Department, to utilise it for the purpose of assisting in the distribution of the milk supply. Where depots are already available, such as those associated with child welfare schemes, they will be utilised as far as possible for the distribution of the milk, and in that way, where milk can be procured that is from tuberculin-tested cows, such milk will be made available to the children. It will not be possible to secure the same standard of purity in the provinces, where tuberculin-tested cows are not available as a source of supply. In the provinces we will have to content ourselves with making available to the children of poor parents, and to destitute children, the best milk we can secure. I do not know that any other question arises on this Vote. This is a general indication of what is in the mind of the Ministry in relation to the expenditure of this £100,000.

The House will remember that the Minister for Finance, having imposed additional taxation to the extent of £2,150,000, said he would be calling for an emergency Vote later of £950,000, and £100,000 of that would be for milk for necessitous children. I submit that nothing has been suggested as to the nature of the emergency which exists, either in the country or on the part of local authorities, who would normally deal with a matter of this kind, to show why the State should be asked, as the Parliamentary Secretary suggests, to give in this way a State contribution towards the relief of destitute children by raising £100,000 in a scheme which took £600,000 from the hospitals, and to distribute that £100,000 to local authorities on the basis of the number of children belonging to families in receipt of outdoor relief. The Parliamentary Secretary says that the distribution will take place to local authorities in proportion to the number of children in receipt of home assistance. Nevertheless he says that there will be some system for bringing it to the more delicate and the younger children.

Within that class.

The Parliamentary Secretary says that the machinery of the child welfare system will be used in so far as possible. First of all, in regard to the necessity that arises for the provision of milk to young children, I submit we have got no information at all to show that there is any special emergency in that particular line. When we turn, then, to the provision of milk for children in relation to the general question of the application of local funds to outdoor relief, we find that outside the City of Dublin—that is, for the whole of the Twenty-six Counties except that part of County Dublin which is in Dublin City—the total amount of money spent for the last three years annually on home assistance was, for 1929, £360,000 odd; for 1930, £370,000 odd, and for 1931, £380,000 odd. That is an increase of about £10,000 each year in the money raised from local rates by the county councils and expended under the supervision of the boards of health. There has been practically no increase, and there are five or six counties in which it will be found that the total amount of money paid out in an average week for December, 1931, was less than paid out in December, 1930, or December, 1929.

In so far as we can judge of the existence of an emergency from the actions of public authorities that are dealing with the question of outdoor relief, there has been nothing to show, as late as the last month in 1931 or in the expenditure of their money in that year or in previous years, that there is anything like a definite increase in the expenditure on home assistance although local bodies have a regular scheme of giving assistance directly in the case of children. When we come to the work that is done definitely in respect of children through local bodies, with State assistance, we find that under the maternity and child welfare schemes between, say, the year 1925 and the last year for which we have the actual expenditure, 1930-31, the State expenditure, which is 30 per cent of the total moneys spent by the local authorities or by the voluntary bodies, rose from £13,201 to £22,364. The estimated expenditure for this year, 1932-33, is £25,500.

There is a system in the country whereby large numbers of local bodies and voluntary bodies deal with schemes of maternity and child welfare. The local authorities, perhaps in many cases, as they did in the City of Dublin, provide milk for children under five years where the circumstances, in the opinion of the nurses dealing with the scheme and the voluntary bodies who supervise it, seem to warrant it. I would like to know if there have been any representations from the bodies dealing with these schemes that an emergency had arisen in that particular direction. When we come to the question of school meals, where children attending schools are getting milk through the machinery of the local authority, we find that the State grant in respect of school meals has risen from £5,500 actual expenditure in the year 1924-25 to £8,253 in the year 1930-31. The estimated expenditure this year is £8,500, the State grant being half the cost of the scheme. I am excluding from these figures the new proposal in respect of the Gaeltacht areas where a separate and increasing expenditure is being provided.

On the other figures relating to the country as a whole, I submit that there is something more behind this proposal than merely to deal with what the Parliamentary Secretary calls special destitution. We have fairly responsible bodies throughout the country. We have the boards of health closely in touch with the actual position in each county, with the relieving officers and the superintendent home assistance officers, and nothing in the nature of an emergency either in the matter of home assistance or in the matter of providing nourishment for children has, I submit, arisen. As a general proposition, if there was this necessity, I submit that it should be left to the local authorities to deal with it. Very considerable grants in relief of rates have been given to local authorities.

Last year there was an addition of £750,000, bringing the total given in relief of rates on agricultural land up to something like £1,900,000. An addition of £250,000 in relief of rates is being provided this year. It would have been better, I submit, even to give the local authorities the additional £100,000 in relief of rates generally than to step into a responsibility which has been completely that of the local bodies up to the present—a responsibility which, if it is taken off the shoulders of the local body, is going to lead to enormously increased expenditure.

The President, in some of his recent speeches, has been suggesting that what he wants is to give more authority to local bodies. The actual operation of the policy as far as I can see, seems to be to give more authority and less responsibility. If we relieve local authorities of the expenditure of which it is proposed to relieve them now—I suggested before that the State was going to relieve local rates something to the tune of over £4,000,000, and the local authorities themselves were going to provide through rates a sum less by £4,000,000—and if the State, after that general relief of rates, is going to step in in a matter directly concerned with home assistance. I submit it is completely undermining the responsibility of the local authorities in respect of the particular matter in which it is most necessary that it should shoulder that responsibility. Deputies on the opposite side have often said that their policy was an anti-centralisation policy, but action such as this, centralising responsibility, is going to undermine the responsibility of local authorities on the one hand, and, on the other, is throwing on the central authority a responsibility without authority. It will simply undermine authority in a most vulnerable way.

I really cannot understand the mentality of the last Deputy. To get up and try to look for an emergency, from his point of view, as a reason for giving extra nourishment to under-nourished children is the most extraordinary performance yet on the part of the Deputy.

Is the Dublin Corporation neglecting its duty?

When the Deputy was Minister for Local Government representations were made to him on several occasions, to which he turned a deaf ear, that the system of outdoor relief was being so used or abused that when people got food tickets these tickets went to pay the rent. The Deputy then took no steps to save the children, for whom this relief was being given, from being deprived of food and nourishment in order that a roof should be kept over their heads. The Deputy should be the last person to bring in a mass of figures as to the extra cost, or the bogey of taking away the responsibility from the local authorities. This is a serious matter. The Government know very well that there are children of poor people to whom relief is given, but that it is far too little to keep body and soul together. The Deputy was responsible for a system of calculation whereby a married man with a wife and family got a certain amount per week for a certain number of children and then, as the family increased, the value of the assistance went down until we reached a figure of 9d. per child in outdoor relief. The Deputy tried to raise a bogey because the Government say they are going to give to the children of the most needy poor extra nourishment in the shape of an essential foodstuff, namely milk, and gave a mass of figures which meant nothing as to the merits or demerits of providing milk, which is an essential food for the children of the poor.

The Deputy has brought me into this in a personal way, and I should like to ask him to be more explicit as to what he means.

I do not see how I could bring the Deputy in a more personal manner into this debate than the contribution of the Deputy himself did.

I stand over my contribution to this debate, but I do not understand what the Deputy has been speaking about.

I do not know whether the Deputy understands or misunderstands himself, but the Deputy spent a considerable time arguing against this money being given, because no emergency has been proved. The Deputy went on to say that the amount of outdoor relief in certain areas has not increased. What we say is that we realise that the sustenance which can be obtained from the amount of relief given to people is insufficient, and because of that extra nourishment is essential for the children of these poor people. I hope the Deputy is clear on that.

Is the Deputy clear as to the responsibility of the Dublin Corporation and the Dublin Board of Assistance in this matter?

The Dublin Corporation, like all local authorities, realises its responsibility, and would do more if it could to alleviate the circumstances of the citizens under its control. There is no taking away of responsibility. The Deputy said we were advocating decentralisation of government, and that we were by this means bringing about centralisation. No local authority is going to object to extra assistance from a sympathetic Government to alleviate the conditions of people which they cannot alleviate themselves, not because they do not want to, but because they cannot afford to, no matter how humane their feelings may be. I hope other Deputies who have experience of local authorities as members, and not as a Minister controlling them without any experience of a local authority, will give expression to their opinion as to whether this is a good or a bad move, and whether they approve or disapprove of the tactics adopted by Deputy Mulcahy in saying that he wanted proof of an emergency. He wanted the Parliamentary Secretary to say as a reason for this that the money spent on outdoor relief has gone up. If the amount spent on outdoor relief had gone down to one-tenth what it is, I think Deputies would be prepared to agree that those receiving it were entitled to extra nourishment, and that this is a proper and decent move to give something that we know will not be filched away from the children but will be given to them. In the case of the Dublin Corporation, when Deputy Mulcahy was Minister for Local Government, representations were made to him time and again to stop the horrible system existing under which people getting a food ticket for 12/6 had to give 8/- of it to the landlord to keep a roof over their heads and exist on the remaining 4/6. This ex-Minister now wants an excuse for giving extra nourishment to the children of the poor people on outdoor relief, to whose cry he formerly turned a deaf ear. He is talking as if he was himself made responsible for the provision of this money. The Government is taking the responsibility of it. If this had been done sooner, a lot of suffering among certain sections of the people could have been avoided. I do not say that this is going to solve the problem, but it is a step in the right direction. If the children are provided with this extra nourishment they will certainly be stronger and better able to face the winter. I hope that Deputy Mulcahy will read what he has said. I do not want to say anything personal, but how any Deputy can get up here and ask for a reason or an excuse for giving extra nourishment to needy and under-nourished children is beyond my comprehension.

Why is this put into an emergency Budget and not the ordinary Budget, if the Deputy means. what he says?

Because it is an emergency matter now due to the administration of the last ten years. I should like to hear Deputy Mulcahy argue that the giving of milk to the children of the poor is not an emergency matter.

As it is put into an emergency Budget this year, the implication is that the necessity for it is not expected to exist next year.

At any rate, the matter is being dealt with immediately as an emergency. Some of us expect that things will have improved by this time twelvemonths, but if they have not, this matter can be dealt with again, even in a larger way, if experience shows that it is necessary. Anyway, whether the Deputy likes it or not, this is going to give milk to those who need it. As far as I am concerned, I am quite happy to be associated with people who are going to supply milk where it is badly needed.

I gladly support this Estimate. In fact the fault I have to find with it is that it is not going far enough. I think that when the Executive Council took £650,000 of the money which should have gone to the hospitals, they might have gone a little further in this direction. In the past I have gone very much further in the schemes I have propounded here than the Executive Council or Deputy Briscoe have gone. I have suggested, year after year, that we should have a scheme of meals for school-children, particularly those in the country areas, where a half pint of milk and a couple of slices of wheaten bread and butter should be given, if possible, to each child. My scheme was that where parents were able to afford it they could pay 2d., which was the sum at which I valued this meal. I thought that the local authorities should be encouraged to further these schemes; that they should encourage benevolent ladies who would run a committee in order to try to make this scheme a success.

I was anxious that it should be done in the rural areas before it was tried in the urban districts. As a matter of fact, I gave as an example my own case. In my young days, when I attended a national school, I had to walk two and a quarter miles to school, and two and a quarter miles back. The result was that I had eaten my lunch before I arrived in school, and when I got home about four o'clock I was practically unable to eat any dinner. It used to be said by way of a joke that nothing could show better what starvation could do than was shown in my person. I have been urging, year after year, that, at any rate, children who have to walk considerable distances to school should be provided with meals. The trouble was to make a selection between the children who could not afford to pay and the children who could afford to pay. Some member of the Opposition at that time said that my scheme was making fish of one and flesh of another. I say now that the Executive Council are making fish of one and flesh of another, and that they are giving milk to children of one particular class, namely, the children of parents in receipt of home assistance. I should like very much to see the Executive Council submit a much wider scheme than a scheme merely to provide half a pint of milk for these children. They have taken credit for this, and I hope I am not ungenerous in saying what I do. They have done this, in my opinion, at the expense of the hospitals. When they were doing it at the expense of the hospitals, they might have gone a little further than they did. So much for that point.

The next point I desire to urge is that this milk should be free of tubercle bacilli. A very large percentage of tuberculosis in children—tubercular glands and joints, tubercular peritonitis and other forms of tuberculosis —is due to children taking in tubercle bacilli from the cow's milk. I am extremely anxious that the Executive Council, in their desire to do good to those children, should not do them greater injury than they would suffer if they had not received any milk. I am extremely anxious that the children should get clean milk. I am sorry that the Labour Party do not take an interest in clean milk. If they did, the Clean Milk Bill, long overdue, would now be before the House. But there is nobody to press this matter except a poor speaker like myself, who has no propelling power and very little influence.

This Bill to ensure clean milk is very much overdue. The Bill, I know, is drafted. It is one of the most necessary measures that could be brought before the House. I have the greatest dislike to putting any additional expense on the farmers, who are finding it extremely hard to live at present. It is costly to have herds tested as to whether they are free from tubercle bacilli or not. I admit that and I admit that that is one of the difficulties that the Government are up against in connection with the extension of the distribution of milk amongst poor children. I am told by the Parliamentary Secretary that, so far as possible, the milk will be given from herds that have been tested but that, in some districts, it will be impossible to do that. A test made three or four years ago in one of the bacteriological schools in the city showed that about 12 per cent. of the milk contained bovine tubercle—that is to say, 12 per cent. of the milk distributed in the city was capable of setting up some form of tuberculosis. My strong objection to pressing this matter too much is the expense which might fall upon the farmer in seeing that the herds from which the milk is taken are free from tubercle bacilli. I know one case where a man had a tubercular cow in his possession and three of his children died of tuberculosis. In the end he was induced to get rid of the cow and he was found 20 miles from his own place trying to sell this cow which had killed three of his own children. I do not want to create any panic, but I do urge on the Parliamentary Secretary, who has a knowledge of these matters, that he should secure that the milk distributed to these children of tender age will not be milk containing tubercle bacilli.

I am proud that the Executive Council have a fund for this scheme to fall back upon for which I am, perhaps, more responsible than anybody else— I refer to the £650,000 they are going to annex from the hospitals. If they can do that without injury, I shall be rather proud, but it is quite possible that, in taking this money from the hospitals and distributing tuberculous milk to the children, they will create more illness and more need for hospitals than before. I am very glad that this matter is being attended to even in a very small way and I am sorry that it is not being attempted on a much larger scale. If it were, it would have my support. I would support a proposal that a meal of milk and bread and butter should be provided for all children and that, where the parents are able to pay, the meals should be paid for. I support the additional estimate.

I desire to refer briefly to this subject in which I have always been interested. I congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary most warmly in moving in the right direction in this matter, though I am sorry he has not decided to proceed in a slightly different way. There is the extraordinarily difficult aspect of the proposal that there will be the suggestion that fish is being made of one and flesh of another. No people are more susceptible to that suggestion than people who are suffering temporarily from adversity. That their children should be singled out in schools as occupying a different social position from other children at school——

Perhaps I may interrupt the Deputy to say that it is not intended to administer this scheme in the schools or through the schools. It is intended to give this supplementary relief to the children in their own homes.

That is a very great improvement. Children come under the observation of the Department of Public Health through the dispensary doctor, in the first place, and from periodical school examination, in the second place. The Parliamentary Secretary knows far better than I do that, perhaps, the most valuable medicament from the therapeutic point of view is milk. A great deal of the illness of children in this city can be summed up in one word—malnutrition. Perhaps the most powerful weapon in the hands of the doctor to combat that is milk.

At present, where the parents are necessitous, the dispensary doctor may prescribe free medicine, and arrangements are made by which he can act under a red ticket, but the extraordinary thing is that he cannot prescribe free milk. In this way, he is deprived of the most potent weapon that he might use to combat illness because the therapeutic value of milk has not been recognised by a Government Department. I would suggest, sir, that in the elaboration of this scheme, the Department of Public Health should authorise dispensary doctors, where they deem it necessary, and also school inspection officers, where they deem it necessary, to prescribe for children a certain daily quota of milk; and that depots should be set up in this city and elsewhere where the doctors' prescriptions might be attended to, and where the quota of milk directed by them should be supplied.

Deputy Sir James Craig referred to a danger which the Parliamentary Secretary also spoke about himself— the great danger of bovine tuberculosis affecting children. Two means of preventing the occurrence of that form of disease present themselves. One is the distribution of clean milk which will be tuberculosis free, and the other is the pasteurisation of all milk. The pasteurisation of all the milk is practically impossible unless the milk is distributed from depots under the control of the Public Health Department. If it be so distributed, pasteurisation is eminently practicable. As the Minister knows full well himself, elaborate precautions should be taken to ensure that the herd of cattle is tuberculosis free. But unfortunately the tuberculin test is not infallible, and both Friedberger and Fröhner give it as their opinion that, in a very fair percentage of cases, it is not indicative of the true state of affairs and that a tubercular beast may not react to the tuberculin test, and vice versa that a number of non-tubercular cattle will react to the test. So that the administration of the tuberculin test is extremely difficult, whereas the pasteurisation of milk is comparatively simple. Of course, pasteurisation, unless undertaken under skilled supervision, is eminently dangerous, because the milk may be boiled in the process of pasteurisation, and a great deal of its value lost. But pasteurisation under skilled supervision does not, I think the Parliamentary Secretary will agree, materially damage the milk as a food for children. It is of vital importance that the Parliamentary Secretary should ensure that the milk is tuberculosis free. He knows as well as I do the almost insuperable difficulty in the way of securing adequate supplies of pathologically clean milk, and I think he will agree with me that the milk should be distributed to children from the milk depots with the absolute confidence that it was tuberculosis free as a result of pasteurisation. And that system has this enormous advantage, that it does not differentiate between the children of parents in receipt of poor relief and the children of parents who are simply ignorant of the proper method of nourishing their children. It brings within the scope of this scheme every child that wants milk and every child that suffers from illness.

I differ from Deputy Sir James Craig when he says that a scheme of this kind should be first launched in the country areas, because we all know that the number of children who suffer from malnutrition in the country parts is infinitesimal. The child of the average small farmer or rural dweller, unless his people be absolutely destitute and in the hands of public charitable organisations, can secure a suitable modicum of nourishing food through the exertions of neighbours or through the exertion of his own parents. The food that comes first to hand in the rural areas is nourishing and suitable for children. The very reverse is the fact in Dublin and Limerick and other urban centres. The food that comes most readily to hand in city homes is the food least suitable for children. And the Parliamentary Secretary will bear in mind that for some astonishing reason which I could never understand, while milk is available in the country at the co-operative creameries at 4d. a gallon, it is selling in the City of Dublin for something like 4d. a quart. I am not quite sure of the Dublin figure, but I know, at all events, that it bears no relation whatsoever to the price of milk in the country parts. We had it that milk has become almost valueless as regards price. The farmers cannot get a price for it in the creameries, and we are passing a Bill through the House at an enormous expense to try to keep the creameries going. Why should not the Government try to mobilise the milk supply of this country and use it for the cure of malnutrition of children? By doing this they will secure a great improvement in the public health in the years to come, because it is well known that a large number of human ills have their foundation in malnutrition in youth. There is a great opportunity of converting this scheme into a channel to provide milk as a therapeutic agent for children in the rural areas and children attending school. I think that the Government have done splendidly in putting their hands to the work. I do not for a moment wish to suggest that they should proceed immediately with the elaboration of the scheme I have suggested. But I do throw out the suggestion that if an opportunity does occur to elaborate or develop the scheme along the lines I have suggested the Department and the Minister may find it very good policy to do so.

I am very glad that this Bill has been introduced and I cannot help feeling a certain amount of sympathy with Deputy Mulcahy in the last ditch in which he finds himself. Deputy Mulcahy does not seem to be getting much assistance even from his own Party. Deputy Mulcahy wanted to know where the emergency for this Bill arose. Well, the emergency arose from the manner in which this country has been governed during the last ten years. The emergency arose from the eighty thousand unemployed people in this country, and if you put down twenty thousand of these unemployed as being fathers of families you might easily come to realise where the emergency arises. The members of the Board of Assistance to which I belong find themselves in the position that they are not able to provide home assistance for the number of people that we have to deal with.

And they spent less last year than the year before.

Whom is the Deputy speaking about?

The three Boards of Public Health in Cork whom the Deputy would say were representative of the particular parties that are dealing with this particular type of problem have been spending less money last year in home assistance in spite of this developing emergency than they were spending the year before.

We find ourselves in the position, owing to the action of the late Government and the manner in which we have been governed for some years past, that we have to decide between two forms of evil. We have to decide to get the money from those who have it, and not from those who have not got it. We cannot get money out of stone. I would like to give Deputy Mulcahy some information with regard to figures, especially as he seems to be very much at home in quoting them. I would be quite satisfied if he would take the advice of Deputy Broderick who is in a position to advise him well in that matter. In September, 1931, the number of children in receipt of home assistance in South Cork was 1,675 and in March, 1932, that figure reached 1,909. In North Cork the number in September, 1931, was 761 and in March it had reached 999. In West Cork the number was 796 and this had increased to 1,021 in March, 1932. The total increase from September, 1931, to March, 1932, in the number of children in receipt of home assistance under fourteen years of age amounted to something like 700.

The Deputy went out at a good time. He had created a state of affairs from which it is practically impossible to recover. He left a sinking ship. Thank God we have some good caulkers to patch up the leaks. But when we come to consider that position, the position of an increase of 700 children in four or five months, we have undoubtedly to face a serious state of affairs. I have one fear and one fear only, and that is that the amount of money provided will not be sufficient. Roughly, there are 4,000 children under 14 years of age in receipt of home assistance in Cork County. Taking the figure for the Twenty-six Counties at 40,000, at 1/- per gallon for milk the money would only provide one pint of milk per day per child. I am afraid the money will not be sufficient.

Then Deputy Mulcahy was sorry it was not left to the local authorities. The Deputy proved himself a genius in leaving things to the local authorities. There was the question of the tuberculosis scheme for Cork, and he managed to shove a lot of that over on the local authorities. When his inspectors came down they pledged themselves that the expense would be borne by the central authority, but Deputy Mulcahy managed in a very handy way to shove that over on the local authority. I would be very glad to hear Deputy Broderick's views on that matter.

Deputy Corry has not heard much about that yet.

Deputy Mulcahy heard a lot about it that time, and what he heard about it must have been against his will. If he will ask Deputy Broderick——

Mr. Broderick

I do not know why Deputy Corry is dragging Deputy Broderick into the affair.

It is because the Deputy is trying to keep away from the merits of the Vote before us.

I think I am dealing with it, and considering that Deputy Mulcahy threw it into his speech, I am entitled to deal with it too. The point the Deputy made was that it should be left to the local authorities. I am dealing with that point. The Deputy was trying to bring in de-rating into the Vote, and, seeing that the local authorities were relieved of £750,000 last year, Deputy Mulcahy thought that this matter could be left to them and that they could find this £100,000 out of that £750,000. That was Deputy Mulcahy's suggestion.

I was thinking of the £250,000 that the Deputy got for them.

Yes, and I might claim also that I got £750,000 for them, though I got it out with a corkscrew. I claim credit for both sums, and when we are after dealing with the secret agreements we will have the whole lot. We had a question here to-day from a Deputy wanting to know from the Minister for Agriculture, in view of the emergency that was created owing to the depressed condition of the farming community, what steps he would take. I think that question is a complete reply to Deputy Mulcahy's suggestion that this money should come from the local authorities. I know very well, unfortunately, that when we come to deal with the matter of home assistance we have to consider the capacity of the people to pay.

Yes, that is what we have to consider.

We have to consider that matter, and it is a very serious one, in view of the capacity of the farming community to face the bill for home assistance and in view of the extravagance that clapped heavy burdens on the shoulders of the farmers during a series of years. At present the farmers find themselves in the condition that they are unable to pay the rates even after the relief that has been given. I am afraid even after that relief that they will be unable to meet the demand for rates at all this year. We have got to try and distribute this burden a little more evenly even though it comes from the sweepstakes, of which Deputy Mulcahy seems to be aware, or from the super-tax of which Deputy Cosgrave complains. If it is met out of either of these it will be of some relief to the farmers to know that some people better off than they are will have to meet the Bill in the future.

My only fear is that the money provided is not sufficient to meet the crying need that exists for it. When we remember the manner in which home assistance cases are met—and, as Deputy Briscoe said a while ago, that ninepence per child per week is the charge, one cannot reckon it as the amount that should be provided for home assistance for one child—I wonder did the Deputy ever try to feed a child on ninepence per week. I suggest that he should test it in some way and see whether that child would want the milk that is now being provided in this Bill. Deputy Mulcahy wonders was it a state of emergency. It is unfortunately a state of emergency. When we took over the country it had been run dry. We have 80,000 unemployed. Our manufactures had been driven out of existence during the last ten years, and the farming community have been driven out of existence or rendered bankrupt in that period. That is unfortunately a state of emergency, but please God, before twelve months have passed, we hope that the fathers of these 80,000 unemployed will be in a position to provide milk for their children. These people will be taken into employment in the factories that were closed down by the action of the late Executive Council. I hold that that is a state of emergency, and we hope that it is a state of emergency that will not be there in a year's time. I am glad that the Minister has introduced this Bill, which is making due provision to see that the children of the poor are not left to starve.

I rather agree with what Deputy Mulcahy said about this matter, that if it was to be introduced at all it should be introduced in the regular Budget and not introduced in what one might call a temporary manner, as is the case here. I think there will be no objection to such a measure as this from the House in general. For myself, I confess that I am in the position that I hardly understand it. Deputy Corry, in his rather jumbled speech, threw a ray of light on the matter when he told us that in the County of Cork, a small section of the Saorstát, not including the city, some 4,000 children were in receipt of outdoor relief. What the number of poor children in Cork, outside those in receipt of outdoor relief, was, Deputy Corry did not tell us. But we know there is a considerably large number. That is what is troubling me—that this Bill, instead of mending matters, will put everything in a more deplorable way because of the distribution of these moneys. As Deputy Sir James Craig said, this will be making fish of one and flesh of another. If I know anything about the manner in which various schemes have worked out, this scheme will work out mainly for Dublin and, with Deputy Corry's eloquence, perhaps for Cork.

Deputy Bennett will be putting in a word for Limerick.

The smaller places like Limerick, Waterford, and Galway are likely to be left in the lurch. The Minister did not give us any figures at all to enable us to debate this. I have been working out this in mental arithmetic for the last few minutes, and I have arrived at something less than the figure at which Deputy Corry arrived. Roughly speaking, this will provide milk for 35,000 children or so. Now we must take into account that possibly the biggest portion of this money will be spent in Dublin where the milk cannot be procured at less than 1/2 or 1/3 a gallon all the year round. Dublin is to get the largest share. If some one takes the trouble to study the figures he will find that about 35,000 children will be provided for. The Minister did not tell us how many children are in receipt of outdoor relief all over the country. Deputy Corry says there are 4,000 being relieved by various county boards in Cork, but the Deputy did not give the city figures.

They are included.

I imagine the figures for Limerick City would be very large in comparison with the figures from the remaining portion of the county. We are to provide milk for necessitous children in Limerick. I do not know what numbers of children are in receipt of outdoor relief in Limerick. I do know that the outdoor assistance we are giving is adequate. If we are to distribute milk only to those in receipt of outdoor relief, we will be doing considerable injustice to other children. Taking Limerick as an example, it would be impossible to distribute milk without rendering grave injustice to neighbours on both sides of the same street; we would have children in one house getting milk while children in another house, equally in need, would be getting none. That will be a difficulty to be faced in connection with this scheme. The Minister said the milk will be delivered to the children in their own homes. Who is to deliver it? The county councils, the corporations and the boards of health are to be out of this matter. Perhaps it is just as well that the work is kept out of the hands of those bodies.

Will the Deputy tell the House is it because they could not differentiate between people receiving home assistance and people not receiving it that adequate provision was not made by them last year, and, as a consequence, some were allowed to starve?

Perhaps the Deputy would endeavour to answer the question for himself. It would be interesting to hear from the Minister how he proposes to deliver the milk. I suppose the Minister expects to include such places as Kilmallock, Rathkeale, Clonmel, Tipperary, Mallow, Nenagh and Ennis. There are children in those towns who need milk very badly, most necessitous cases. The emergency will continue to exist so far as many country towns are concerned. The amount of money available could not possibly cover all the necessitous cases. If we are to pick a case here and there, the last state of affairs will be worse than the first, and no one will be pleased. Is it suggested that the relieving officers will become milk distributors? Their work is arduous enough, and I am sure they would all resent being asked to deliver milk. Possibly milk bureaus might be set up, but the Minister did not indicate that. What I have in mind is the setting up of stores where people could get the milk, but that might raise obvious difficulties. Unless the milk is delivered to the homes of the children no one can be sure that the necessitous children will be getting it. I cannot visualise how the milk will be satisfactorily distributed.

I would like to know from the Minister the exact number of children in receipt of outdoor relief; the exact number not in receipt of outdoor relief, but who are in a condition akin to those who are receiving assistance; the exact number likely to benefit under this £100,000; and how it is proposed to differentiate between the different types of children for the purpose of allocating the £100,000. These are obviously matters that must be considered. I feel sure that an examination of the figures will indicate clearly that the money proposed will not be adequate to cover all necessitous cases. There must be differentiation and, in my opinion, there will be dissatisfaction.

Is the Deputy suggesting that we should not give anything?

No, I do not suggest that. I am suggesting that the House should be given some definite figures of the nature I have just now indicated. We know that there are thousands of necessitous children in the country whose parents, except they are on the verge of starvation, would hesitate to apply for home assistance. Are these children to be debarred from whatever advantages the State may offer? Deputy Dillon said that children in rural areas are very seldom short of milk. I will ask no further authority than Deputy Corry what is the amount of milk that the children of the ordinary working man drink in the week? Do we not all know that the amount of milk per day that goes into the ordinary country labourer's house is little more than half a pint and very frequently it is goat's milk? In houses where there are six or seven children, the youngsters would not get an eggcup full of milk a day. Are these children not to share in this State assistance?

I object to the Deputy slandering County Limerick like that.

If Deputy Corry thinks I am wrong he can comment later upon what I am now saying. As I have indicated, there are many children in urgent need of this assistance.

I thought there was no emergency.

It has already been pointed out that this measure should not have been brought in as an emergency measure. I believe, however, that there is not an emergency; but there are now as always people in the country who urgently need provision and I have cited instances where there are children in a necessitous condition. We should have a more considered scheme that will not put us into the position of having to differentiate in the matter of the distribution of milk. There will be, and must be, such a position under this scheme. To provide this the Minister had to resort to putting his hands into pools that did not really belong to him. I would not have objected if the Minister, having robbed the hospitals of £650,000, had put it into this fund and provided a big fund, because I believe that, in trying to remedy this, the Ministry have, in fact, by what they have taken from the Hospitals' Sweep—and I say it deliberately—prevented hospitals from later on providing an additional amount of milk for the sick children who necessarily must come into the hospitals.

When I was speaking on the Budget motion, I think I said that there was a lot of camouflage about the performances of this Government. There is, and this is another piece of camouflage. They have stolen £650,000 from the sick poor and the hospitals, and they come in here with a Bill to provide £100,000 for milk for necessitous children in this State, knowing full well, as anybody trying to estimate the figures must know, that £100,000 could not provide it if we were to deal with it in an equitable way. I got up mainly, as Deputy Corry got up, to put in a spoke for my own constituency, and I believe, when all is said and done, that when Dublin City and County, and Cork City and County, which will be considered the two principal areas, are finished——

Leave Cork City out of it.

There will be very little for the various other portions of this State. I hope the Minister will take that into consideration and possibly extend the scheme to children not in receipt of outdoor relief, for whom as good a case can be made as that made for children who are in receipt of relief. There are numerous children in every town and village, whose parents, as I said, are too proud, unless they were starving, to seek relief, and yet whose children, from Sunday to Sunday, never taste milk, except, perhaps, the drop or two that colours the tea of which the Minister has unfortunately raised the price. I do not think there is very much more to be said, but I ask the Minister to give us, when he is replying, the figures I have asked for so that we will be in a better position to debate this than we are at present.

I have listened to quite a number of unreal debates here, and I have never heard any more unreal debate than the portion of this debate that was taken up with the speeches to which we listened a few minutes ago. The main criticism of this measure seems to be directed to the form in which the proposal is introduced, but surely on a question of this kind, the time of the House ought not to be occupied for three minutes on a quibble as to the form in which the proposal is brought before the House. One does not like to use the word hypocrisy, but it seems to me that certain contributions, including the one we have just listened to, fall very little short of that term. The complaint is made that certain children in the country will not benefit as a result of this measure, but is that a reason why a beginning should not be made? And if certain people have to be picked out for attention in this way, obviously people who need this attention and the benefit of this reform are the children that the measure aims at helping.

Unquestionably, people in receipt of home assistance, and, especially people with families, receive—and it is easy to understand why this is so—far less than they ought to receive if it were possible to provide more. Families in that position ought to come in for attention and ought to have the first claim in any reform of this kind. Simply to throw cold water on this whole scheme because there are many other children who might be attended to also, seems to me to be an absolutely foolish and futile way of approaching this question. This is a very welcome and valuable reform, and I think it ought to be received in that spirit in the House generally. I know that in a certain portion of West Cork recently, the assistant county medical officer of health visited a school in a particularly poor area and found up to 50 per cent. of the children attending the school suffering from defects that were attributable to malnutrition. That report is on record and that statement can be verified, if necessary, and to suggest, in view of a position of that kind, that there is no emergency or special need for a reform of this kind, no matter in what form it ought to be brought before the House seems to me to be avoiding the main question.

The ex-Minister for Local Government, Deputy Mulcahy, suggested that this is a matter in which the local authorities ought to play the dominant part. In that connection, it is well to remember what happened some time ago. Under proposals enacted by this House, county insurance committees were abolished and the responsibility for the provision of assistance to people, who were hitherto a charge on the county insurance committees, was transferred to the local authorities. It is well within the knowledge of members of this House who are members of local authorities—at least I know cases of the kind—that there are instances, where, as the result of the filching away of such persons' rights under previous insurance legislation, and the relegation of such people to a position of dependence on the charity of the board of assistance, recommendations made by the county medical officer of health in favour of the provision of nourishment for such people were repeatedly turned down, and very often turned down because it was impossible to make that provision. The ex-Minister is responsible for having deprived people in that position of the rights that a previous Act of Parliament conferred on them and of putting them at the mercy of local authorities, that, for one reason or another, financial or otherwise, denied them the rights that Deputy Mulcahy had taken from them by Act of Parliament.

I was very much surprised, and I am sure that colleagues of mine on local authorities in County Cork will be surprised, to find that in West Cork the amount paid in home assistance has materially declined. My experience is that, steadily, since 1925, the amount has been increasing, and I am aware of the fact that it is impossible to make provision for a very large number of cases that ought to be provided for. I understand that there is a decline in the South Cork area. I am not aware of the reason for that particular decline, but obviously, it is not because the position of affairs is improving in the county. I did not have the advantage of hearing the statement of the Parliamentary Secretary in this matter, but I regard this proposal as the beginning of a policy that will be much more comprehensively tackled in future.

I understand that, at this particular moment, inquiries are being made in various directions as to the opinions of people in a position to give information on the advantages of a general scheme for the provision of school meals in rural areas. If that would be any consolation to the members of this House who criticise the inadequacy of the provisions made in this particular proposal, then I hope that the inquiries which are being made will be fully developed and that the information so obtained will go to prove the absolute necessity for a scheme of that kind and will be effectively used in the introduction of a measure to provide a general scheme of school meals for children in rural areas. I believe it will do a great deal of good and I regret that the criticisms have not been helpful, but have rather confined themselves to quibbling as to the particular form in which the proposal should reach the House. That is altogether avoiding the main question and I feel that any criticisms of the Bill ought to assume a much more helpful and useful aspect than they have.

I consider that a most useful contribution was made to this Debate by Deputy Sir James Craig, and his professional experience, which is probably one of the widest in this City, would probably have led him to come to conclusions as to the urgent necessity which was required for the adoption of a scheme of this description. He has enumerated his advocacy of schemes of relief for the nourishment of children in the past. I think that the professional experience of the Parliamentary Secretary will have also been the chief impetus which has been given to the Government of the day in bringing about such a scheme. I support the scheme, and I support it for very many reasons, one of them—and the chief reason which exists at the present moment— being the urgent necessity for maintaining the health of the children and keeping, as far as we can, growing infants in such a condition that they will grow up healthy children.

The Parliamentary Secretary has alluded to rickets and various other diseases to which young children and babies of the country are heirs during the growing period; and as an asset to the country it is urgently necessary that a scheme of this kind should be adopted. It is launched at a time of extreme distress when the parents are least able to provide that nourishment necessary for the maintenance of their children. It is launched at a period when public assistance has increased very largely and there is no more opportune time to acquire cheap milk than the present time when we complain that less than 4d. a gallon is paid in the creameries. Nobody can organise a scheme of milk purchase more efficiently than the particular Department of which the Parliamentary Secretary is head. If he can bring about the formation of committees all over the country, which I understand are provided for under the 1925 Act, the appointment of such committees will serve a very useful purpose. In Germany I understand there is a system for the administration of relief which is altogether honorary and very efficacious for its objects. I have the advantage of being able to see the necessity for a scheme being taken up centrally. I presided at one Board of Public Assistance and I have experience of the activities of another in the area in which I reside. From inquiries I have made and information I have received from various public representatives all over the country, I am convinced that boards of assistance are subject to certain idiosyncrasies. Some of them are cheese-paring; others are liberal. At the present moment in certain areas where unemployment is rife and where public assistance has increased, this scheme will be able to relieve public assistance to a certain degree.

Is that the intention?

In some cases there is a gap in the administration of assistance. It is broken off for perhaps a fortnight. How will you provide milk for the young infants on an occasion like that where there is no work? This is done, perhaps, to force the recipient of assistance to acquire work in some form or other, but at any rate such cases do exist. This Act will make provision at any rate for the children getting a pure milk supply. You will require to see, naturally, that the milk is free from tuberculosis bacilli or to see that the quality is up to the proper standard. I feel, sir, that we will be doing a wrong act in not supporting this Bill, and whatever objection may be made as to the manner of its introduction I think there can be no question whatsoever as to the value of this for the young children of the country.

Those of us who are brought prominently into touch with the poor and know the misery they have—and know our own misery when we cannot help them—when they cannot relieve the wants of their children, will realise what a tremendous amount of relief this will give to the necessitous poor. Perhaps even it should be a little wider. In country districts there is a very great difficulty in procuring milk at all. Farm labourers do not get it, because in the winter time it is not produced and there is nowhere where there is a greater scarcity of milk, at any rate in the winter time, than in country districts. It is so scarce at times that young infants have to drink black tea or some other form of liquid nourishment. I therefore feel it is my duty to support this.

This House may be divided as to the means of raising the money for the giving of milk to children, but the whole House is agreed on the general ideal. Even if it were extended a little further I think there would be general agreement. But there is one thing which I heard coming into this House which brings me to my feet, and no other reason. I feel that nobody in this House would refuse to support a measure to help necessitous children. I had not the pleasure or privilege of listening to the Parliamentary Secretary introducing this Vote, but in coming into the House I heard Deputy Briscoe referring to the fact that "We are going to see that these poor children are going to get this milk." I consider that that is a great reflection on the parents of the poor by insinuating that they have squandered the home help tickets in the past so that their children have been allowed to go in complete want as far as milk is concerned. It is an insinuation that the tickets have been so ill-used and that these parents have been so callous that they neglected their unfortunate children. I wish to state that that is not the experience of everybody and that if it is the exception instead of the rule, it ought to be withdrawn in this House in order to show how proud we are of the poor people of the country. We are sorry to have them, but they are not so callous as to abuse these tickets and allow their children to go unnourished and uncared for. They do their best for them to the small extent in which they can afford to do so.

It is a matter of a good deal of surprise to me to find that this Vote should give rise to any discussion at all. I felt, when it was introduced, that it would be passed with very little comment, and that any speeches that might be delivered upon it might take the form of queries, such as, what would be the methods by which, or the channels through which, the money would be distributed. I am supporting this Vote. I am anxious to know has the Minister suggested that this grant for necessitous children, must find its way through the home assistance committees to the parents of these children or whether other means of distribution might not, also, be availed of. I would draw attention to the fact that in Cork we have a very useful body called the Cork Welfare League. That body provides, in addition to milk for necessitous children, food and other commodities for necessitous mothers. I put it to the Minister that here he has machinery established for many years, and an administrative body to which a great meed of praise has been given from time to time.

I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that he might make available a certain amount of this Vote for such bodies as the Cork Welfare League. You have a similar body operating in Dublin. Because of the facts I have mentioned, and because of the machinery that is existing, you would have a good deal of unpaid professional help. A good many ladies and gentlemen are members of the League and give a good deal of their valuable time to the administration of that body. I feel it would be a wonderful assistance to the Department if they were to make use of that machinery.

The class of persons referred to by Deputy Bennett, who do not care to make their wants known through the medium of the Home Assistance Board, would come to such bodies as the Cork Welfare League without hesitation. No matter how we may attempt to camouflage the change of name from the Union to the Cork County Home, it makes no difference in respect to that fact. The case of those who worked for many years, and have been industrious all their lives, and who, because of some economic upheaval may find themselves in a state of poverty and have to apply for home assistance, would be met if a certain amount of money—I leave the amount to the Parliamentary Secretary after he had made enquiries as to the activities of the body to which I am referring—was advanced to be distributed by these bodies. If a certain portion of the money was allocated to the bodies I have mentioned it would be a considerable advantage to the Parliamentary Secretary's Department. I suggest, in addition, to the home assistance bodies that some of that money should be administered through the channel of the Welfare League.

I know Ireland from end to end and I find there is one thing that does not redound very much to our credit. I heard here, to-day, one of the most tragic stories to which one could listen. In a so-called agricultural area we had it on the authority of Deputies who spent their lives in these areas, that the agricultural labourer in this country can only procure one half pint of milk per day.


Who said that?

Deputy Bennett said it, and several other Deputies said it. Deputy Bennett comes from the best milk and butter producing part of Ireland. That cannot be gainsaid, and that is my answer to Deputies who have asked: Who said that? Deputy Bennett, as a Limerick man, knows his constituency. I am accepting his word as true, and, besides, I know agricultural Ireland myself as well. It is true that an agricultural labourer in this country gets very little of the milk which he helps to produce. I do not want to refer to this aspect of the case, but I want to express my regret and astonishment, if you like, at this state of affairs. I am sure it will be an astonishing thing to those not conversant with the conditions that operate in agricultural Ireland, that we should have a case where a labourer, who helps to produce milk, should be in a position that he cannot get sufficient milk for his family, which is one of the most important foods, as Deputy Sir J. Craig would tell you, in child life and all through up to adolescence. I did not intend to develop this matter. I intended to compliment the Parliamentary Secretary on introducing this Vote. As this discussion has shown this measure is absolutely necessary at the present time and I am very glad it has been introduced.

I had no intention of intervening in this discussion. Deputy Anthony said he heard a very tragic thing stated in this House and that was that only half a pint of milk could be got by a labourer for his family. I know houses where no milk can be had at all. I know mountainy districts, in the rural areas, where the cows run dry and the families have no milk for several weeks. I do not know what arrangement has been made for the distribution in the smaller towns. I understand it is to be through the Home Assistance Boards that arrangements are being made to supply milk to these people. Although every effort should be made to meet the necessities of the cases in the smaller towns, I ask how are the worst cases in the mountainy districts to be met. This might sound like exaggeration, but it is not. Literally I know houses where for several weeks there is no milk at all.

I intervene in this debate in order to emphasise one point, and I hope the Minister will take it to heart. I understand this to be a Vote to supply milk to the children of persons in receipt of outdoor relief, and it has been emphasised that the money should be administered through the local authorities. I earnestly hope that, as far as possible, the administration of the money will be taken out of the hands of the local authorities. By doing so the Minister will ensure that the funds will be distributed in the most sympathetic way amongst those who really need it. In the cities and towns there are voluntary associations, such as the Child Welfare League and I hope that in these places the administration of this welcome relief will be through such bodies. It will be necessary to have recourse to the Boards of Public Assistance for information as to relief already extended to families who will come under the scope of this Vote. In the rural districts, where voluntary charitable organisations do not exist, it may be necessary to have recourse to the home assistance officer for the purpose of ascertaining where there are necessitous children. So far as its administration goes I do not think there is any doubt as to the manner in which it will be carried out, or as to its efficiency, to which Deputy Sir James Craig referred. The work will be done in the best possible way by administering it through bodies inspired solely with charitable motives. The House will await with interest further information from the Parliamentary Secretary as to the manner in which the money will be allocated. As there may be some difficulty there, the public will welcome information about it. The delivery of the milk may constitute a problem, but once the machinery is in operation I do not think there will be any difficulty, even in districts in which Deputy Corry and Deputy Brasier feared there would be difficulty. I think that the fear that impure milk might be supplied is exaggerated. In most places, owing to the operation of the various Acts that were passed dealing with the inspection of cow sheds, dairies, and the appointment of inspectors, it is possible to secure milk of a very high standard. The Clean Milk Bill that is promised will also improve conditions in that respect. At present there is no difficulty in getting milk of a high standard and I think the present Vote will be helpful here. I would like to impress upon the Minister the necessity of seeing that the administration of the money will, as far as possible, be taken out of the hands of local authorities. It will be administered sympathetically and advantageously amongst the most deserving class through purely charitable organisations.

I welcome this Vote. I think the object an excellent one. I anticipate difficulty about the cost of administering it efficiently, and the necessity of guaranteeing that the work will be done impartially. I have no doubt that those charged with responsibility will endeavour to carry out the work impartially and efficiently, but I hope it is not going to be used by local bodies, the members of which are fairly good judges of the necessities of the poor, in order to interfere with the amount of home assistance given to families. I would be very slow to suggest that they would do so, but I would like to be satisfied that those to whom home assistance is given would not lose that assistance at a time when the wants of their children required it. We all hope that parents of children would not be guilty of misapplying what they get in the way of home assistance, in order to secure supplies of milk for their children. I would not like that the money would be used for the purpose of relieving the local rate from charges which they should bear under the heading of "home assistance." I heard it stated in this House last week that milk in certain places costs from 1/- to 1/2 per gallon. That price was mentioned when the House was dealing with the bounty of 4d. per lb. that is to be paid on butter for export, and the tariff of 4d. per lb. on butter imported. It will be within the memory of Deputies that it was proved that in many instances creameries were not paying more than 3½d. to 4½d. per gallon for milk. If that is so, how is it that in other circumstances 1/- and 1/2 per gallon is being paid? I would like the Minister to bear that in mind when he is engaged on the difficult work that he is undertaking under this Vote. If farmers in certain localities only receive 3½d. or 4½d. per gallon for milk, under this Bill they have an opportunity now of supplying the wants of bodies that will be affected by this Vote. It should be an opportunity for them to turn their milk to a better account, and to make it more profitable. I realise that there may be districts in which the same necessity may not exist for the assistance that may be given to families. In congested districts such as there are in the county that I represent, milk is not as plentiful as it is in counties like Limerick, which is so ably represented by Deputy Bennett. I wish that milk could be procured at the same price in Mayo as the creameries in Limerick can procure it. I wish we could change places in that respect. The Minister, I hope, will take care to see that this form of relief is efficiently administered. If he succeeds in doing that he will be doing credit to himself and benefiting the children that the Vote proposes to benefit.

I want to suggest to the Minister that a good deal could be done in the way of administration. If milk is going to be bought in any of the cities, the £100,000 is not going to go very far. Reference has been made to the price at which milk is supplied to creameries. Most of that milk is supplied at about 4d. per gallon, but it is milk that is sent in to have the butter fats extracted.

The sour milk or the separated milk is worth about 1d. per gallon on going back to the farmer. Considering the modern methods of transport that are now available whereby you can collect milk over a radius of 30 or 40 miles, I think the Minister should be able to buy milk very much cheaper than if he were to buy it in the open market—at anything from 6d. to 8d. per gallon— if he utilises these methods of transport. The £100,000 will then go very much farther. Due notice should be taken of the matter of providing for the transit of milk and of getting milk in areas where it will be sold at anything from 6d. to 8d. per gallon. I think we might let the Vote pass this stage, simply expressing the view that we are rather thankful that the story is no worse. The Minister for Finance has taken 13d. from the Hospitals Sweeps and he is giving back 2d. There are many robbers who when they rob people give back nothing at all. In this case we are getting back something and you are not quite as bad as if you kept the whole lot. For that we are thankful. We do not blame him. I suppose most Parties would do—

Is the Deputy in order in referring to the Minister for Finance as a robber?

He did not say that.

I take it he was merely referring to the policy of the Minister.

The Deputy is not as thick as he pretends to us. He pretends to be very innocent and very thick, but we know he is very much brainier. The Minister has not explained the method of administering this scheme, but we may have a statement from him later on. It would be very advisable, if we want to get the most that it is possible to get out of this money, that he should pay some attention to the matter of providing transport so that he can go to areas where milk will be available at a lower price than he can buy it in the open market.

I am very much surprised that Deputy Gorey as a farmer's representative, would get up here and suggest that the Minister or anybody else could get milk during the winter months, the period during which this milk will be required, at 6d. or 8d. per gallon.

I did not say that he could get it at that price everywhere, but I said that if he sent to areas where there was a surplus of milk he would probably get it at that price.

I expect that it is during the winter time this milk will be chiefly required. I am surprised that Deputy Gorey should suggest that the Minister should get it at that price during the winter time and I should like him to go down to Carlow and Kilkenny and tell the farmers there that they can supply milk at 4d. or 3d. per gallon.

I said that if the Minister would offer 6d. or 8d. in certain areas he would get all he wants.

Even if he offers 8d. I do not see how he can get say 500 gallons at 8d. next winter. I have nothing to say on this matter but I am surprised at the statement made by Deputy Gorey.

I gathered from certain remarks made by Deputies that this money will not be administered through local bodies. Some Deputies who spoke were very severe on local bodies but, with all their faults, I think that these bodies have done very useful work in connection with the distribution of milk to necessitous children in the schools. For that reason I think it would be well if the Minister would allocate portion of the grant to such Committees as have been working schemes of this kind for the last three or four years. I do not know whether all public bodies have struck a special rate for the provision of milk for these children since the previous Minister passed an Act giving them that power. I think that the procedure adopted on that occasion was that public bodies could strike a rate of 2d. in the £ and the Minister would then give a grant equal to the amount realised by such a rate.

In Dundalk there is a very energetic Committee which has been operating for the last three or four years. It is composed of members of the Urban Council and it supplies milk to the different schools. The names of the children are submitted by the Christian Brothers and the teachers attached to the other schools. That is how the Committee is guided in supplying the milk. There is no such thing as favour, as far as my experience goes, and the members of the Committee have devoted a good deal of care and attention in seeing that the milk is properly distributed. One of the members has acted as honorary secretary and has carried out his duty in a very conscientious and capable manner. I should be slow to think that the Minister would not allocate a little of the grant so as to enable committees such as the committee that exists in Dundalk at the moment to carry on their work in future as they have done in the past. They are doing very humane work.

I welcome the introduction of the Vote, although I do not agree with certain things that have been stated, for instance that the time will arise when perhaps we will have school meals and all that. I do not think it would be wise to interfere too much with family life. It might be perhaps dangerous to follow that policy. Again it has been stated that there have been many children in the country who have to go without milk in their tea. I should not like that that state of affairs should obtain in this country, but at the same time, in reply to Deputy Goulding, I may state that in England there are thousands of men who never use milk in their tea from the cradle to the grave. There are thousands of workmen engaged in very hard work who never use milk in tea. I have practical experience of that.

A Deputy

Is that from necessity?

It is a matter of taste in many cases. I often offered it to them myself, but they would not have it. I know that there are thousands of men there who from the cradle to the grave never knew what the taste of milk in tea was. That is not to say that we want that condition of affairs to obtain in this country. I should like that we should do all we possibly can to provide milk for children. Another thing that I should like to impress upon the Minister is that the milk should be of good quality. If the milk were not up to a certain quality it might do more harm than good to the children. I am sure the Minister will take care to see that milk of a proper quality is allocated to the different areas. On the whole I welcome the Vote. The money expended will be money well spent and will do a vast amount of good in the different areas in the Free State.

Most of the points that have been raised in the course of the debate were really dealt with in my introductory remarks. Unfortunately many Deputies who took part in the debate subsequently appeared either not to have been here when I was speaking or not to have been paying particular attention to me when I was trying to explain what was in the mind of the Ministry in relation to this Vote. As I said in supporting the Vote, this £100,000 is meant to provide supplemental assistance in a particular form for a particular class of people, the supplemental assistance to take the form of milk supplied to necessitous children. Deputy Mulcahy asked what condition of emergency had arisen and said that only a condition of emergency would justify the provision of £100,000 for this particular service.

I suggest to Deputy Mulcahy that, so far as making adequate provision for the children of those people who are in receipt of home assistance is concerned, the condition of emergency exists at the present time and has existed for some considerable time. In September, 1931, the number of children under fourteen years of age in the Twenty-Six County area in receipt of home assistance was 37,513. In March, 1932, the number of children under fourteen years of age in receipt of home assistance was 47,164. That, to my mind at any rate, constitutes a condition of emergency. The condition of emergency is caused by the economic depression existing, the amount of unemployment, and the fact that quite a big number of people in this country, who have children depending upon them, cannot provide the necessaries of life, either for themselves or their dependents.

In that connection, while I do not want to follow Deputy Minch, and some other Deputy, who took a particular line of complaint in the course of this debate, I do think it may be admitted quite frankly that if there is a very limited amount of money about a house in order to provide the necessaries of life, the children will suffer more than the adults where such conditions of distress exist. I say that for this reason: If the conditions of destitution are fairly desperate about a house, an adult can substitute some kind of rough class of nourishment which will keep body and soul together, and that same class of food might be poisonous to a child. For that reason, when there are exceptional conditions of distress in the country, the children of the necessitous poor must suffer more particularly.

What I wished to get quite clear is: Was one of the things which influenced the Parliamentary Secretary in bringing in this Vote that parents in receipt of home relief were deliberately withholding milk from the children?

Not deliberately. No one suggested that. I do not think the Deputy ought to put that question to me. I do not think there is any justification for putting that question. This Vote has been introduced because we believe that this particular class of the community, in the exceptional circumstances existing at the moment, are suffering exceptional distress, and that when children suffer exceptional distress, and when adequate provision cannot be made for giving them a suitable form of diet and sufficient of it these children will grow up physically unfit, and will eventually become a burden on the community and to themselves. It is because we believe that we are going to get a good return from this expenditure of £100,000 in this particular way, that this Vote is being introduced; not because parents have been neglecting their duty; not because boards of public assistance are not doing everything they can do, within the limits of the resources at their disposal.

Deputy Mulcahy says that there is nothing to show a definite increase in the expenditure on home assistance. I submit that is not the test and cannot be the test. An increase in expenditure on home assistance cannot be the test in this matter. The necessity for the assistance is quite a different matter. It is quite conceivable that a public body would not face up to its responsibilities to the full in this matter for economic or other reasons. In that way, the public body that fails to face up completely to its responsibilities would not expend as much on home assistance as ordinarily such a public body would be morally entitled to expend. Deputy Mulcahy suggests that because of the existence in certain areas of child welfare schemes the necessity for this particular form of relief does not exist.

I did not suggest anything like that.

Then I accept the Deputy's correction right away. I understood the Deputy to suggest that. At any rate, the number of public bodies that have child welfare schemes operating in their areas outside the cities and large towns, is very small.

What I did suggest is that the development in child welfare schemes under responsible bodies, and particularly with voluntary organisations associated with them is an index of whether or not there is a grave problem of this kind lying around them.

Deputy Mulcahy suggests further that provision for necessitous children, whether home assistance should take the form of milk or any other form, should be left to the local authorities. I should like to say in reply to that, that any local authority that makes adequate provision for the children will get every encouragement from the Ministry to make adequate provision, and there is nothing whatever preventing any local authority at present from providing milk for necessitous children. But, it is because we feel that, in these exceptional circumstances that present themselves to us at the moment, adequate provision is not being made for the children of necessitous parents, that we think we will get a very good return for this £100,000 that for all practical purposes will be placed at the disposal of local authorities, in conjunction with those other voluntary organisations, for the supply of milk.

Deputy Sir James Craig would like to see us going a little further, in fact a considerable distance further, and providing meals for school children. We would all like to go considerably further, and we would all like to see, at any rate, that all necessitous children were supplied with a proper supply of suitable food. We cannot, I think, at this stage, undertake anything as ambitious as Deputy Sir James Craig would like us to undertake, and perhaps this form of expenditure, in this particular way, will be the forerunner of providing an adequate food supply on a more elaborate scale for necessitous children. Possibly at some time in the future, though I cannot see it coming in the near future, we will be able to extend it to all children.

Deputy Dillon complains that this system of relief will make fish of one and flesh of another. Unfortunately, the fish and flesh are there at the present time. Children are in destitution and are not getting an adequate supply of milk. I do not think that the hungry fish will complain. I do not think that our coming to their assistance in this way will cause any resentment amongst the classes of the community for whom this form of relief is intended. So far as is humanly possible, tubercle, free milk and milk safe for human consumption will be supplied. But, again, we will be up against practical difficulties there — difficulties which will take a considerable time to overcome. Deputy Dillon would like to see the dispensary doctor in a position to prescribe free milk. It is not easy to find any logical argument against Deputy Dillon's contention. I quite agree with him as to the therapeutic value of milk, more especially on account of its high food-content. But, within the existing machinery, we can get very near to what Deputy Dillon would like to see. The dispensary doctor will be enabled to recommend a milk supply for necessitous children. After examination by the Board of Health of the dispensary doctor's recommendation, I cannot see, if the children are necessitous, any practical difficulty in utilising that machinery for finding out how the money can be expended in the more remote areas to the best advantage.

If a patient approaches a dispensary doctor with a red ticket, which is in itself an admission of financial embarrassment, will the doctor be entitled to recommend a supply of milk under this scheme without further examination as to means?

The fact that a patient is entitled to free treatment under the Medical Charities Act ought to be a reasonable test so far as the dispensary doctor is concerned. It would, of course, be a matter for examination by the Board of Health. The recommendation for home assistance will come before the Board of Health and be examined in the ordinary way.

Has not a dispensary doctor the right, under the existing law, to prescribe milk for a necessitous child if he thinks that the child requires milk?

That may be so but I have no personal knowledge of it.

Is there a break in the giving of home assistance, would that mean that the milk supply would be cut off?

It would be more satisfactory to the Parliamentary Secretary and, probably, to Deputies if Deputies would put their questions when I conclude.

I apologise.

Deputy Bennett says that he hardly understands the position. I think he demonstrated that beyond all doubt. He says that this expenditure will put everything in a more deplorable way. Evidently, this £100,000 is going to make things a hundred thousand times worse than they were. He complains that children in one house will be getting a supply of free milk and the children in the next house will not. He seems to forget that this money is intended to provide milk for necessitous children. If the child in a particular house is not necessitous, there can be no reasonable complaint that we are not supplying milk to that child while we are supplying milk to a necessitous child next door. The gist of the Deputy's contribution to this debate, as indeed of the contributions of all the Deputies who did not whole-heartedly support this Resolution, is that £100,000 will not completely solve this problem and that, if it cannot be solved with £100,000, no money should be spent. I do not agree with that. I think £100,000 will go a very long distance in relieving this particular class of the community and that we will get a very good return for this expenditure. While it will not do all that we would like to see done in providing nourishment for the necessitous poor, it will bring us a long distance on the road.

Deputy Anthony would like to see a certain amount of this money made available to the Child Welfare League, of Cork. At present, the Department is in consultation with the local authorities as to how far we can get the co-operation of these voluntary agencies in administering this £100,000. We hope to avail of any existing machinery, such as that to which the Deputy referred, in giving the best effect to this scheme. I quite realise that there will be considerable difficulty in distribution, more especially in the remote areas. We are in consultation with the local authorities as to what is the best method of distribution. At the moment, the only machinery I can see in the remote areas is that afforded by the services of the home assistance officer, under the supervision of the Board of Health. If any better machinery than that can be devised, I shall be delighted. The Ministry will be very glad to have any suggestions from members of this House or from any outside body in that connection, because we are dealing with a rather difficult problem — the problem of evolving adequate and watertight machinery. I do not think we will have very much difficulty in the towns but we will have difficulty in evolving machinery in the remote areas. The suggestions made to-day will be carefully considered and if we find, when we consult the local bodies, that they are capable of being put into operation, they will be put into operation. Deputy Gorey suggested that we should obtain the cheapest possible milk on the market, so that the maximum amount of milk would be made available. Up to a point, that is sound enough, but our first consideration must be, so far as is humanly possible, to ensure that the milk is safe for human consumption. Cheapness cannot be the only test. It must certainly be a test but the test I would apply, so far as possible, would be to ensure that the food that we supply to those necessitous children will be valuable to them and not liable to cause them injury.

I do not want to prolong the debate. But the proposal is of such far-reaching importance that I should like to underline one or two things. Deputies have seen in the course of the debate how the ratepayer has been very quick to lap up any chance of getting money from the taxpayer. We have heard that from every side of the House. And not only that, but starting off with the idea of the provision of milk for destitute children we get to one class of destitute children from the County Limerick and we have that class put forward in comparison with another kind of destitute children — the children of men from the mountains where milk is not to be had during the winter. We get brought along in that way, and all because we are going away from a position in which we should look closely into a particular problem and see first what are the conditions to be relieved and then how they can reasonably be relieved. And I want to emphasise again that where we are going to relieve the ratepayer from being the person with responsibility for dealing with poor relief, while we leave the local body as the authority that will assess how much money will be raised in rates, then you are going to have a very magnified demand made at a point where it cannot be so easily resisted and under circumstances where there is little money in the ultimate available for application towards relief from the ratepayer's side of the matter. And to proceed along a line like that and to follow such an aspect of poor relief is a move entirely in the wrong direction. And when the Parliamentary Secretary allows his mind to travel along from the provision of adequate food supplies for destitute children, to the provision of adequate food supplies for all children, he is going far away from the actual problem itself; and I think Deputies can see the lines upon which this road would be likely to bring us. I did not suggest that I was sorry that the proposal was not in the ordinary Budget. I asked why it was put down in what was called an Emergency Budget; and the only reason that I can see why it is being put down in the Emergency Budget is that the flag of emergency had to be raised by word even if it could not be raised in the altered description of the position that has come about — that the word emergency or the flag of emergency had to be raised in order that the Hospitals Fund might be raided.

Question put and agreed to.
Resolution reported and agreed to.