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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 6 Dec 1932

Vol. 45 No. 6

Trade Agreement between the Irish Free State and Dominion of Canada. - Agricultural Produce (Cereals) Bill, 1932—Report.

I move amendment No. 1:—

In page 5, Section 3, to delete lines 40 and 41.

This is an ordinary drafting amendment. The two lines in the Bill which it is proposed to delete provide merely a definition, that the expression "licensed miller" means a person who is the holder of a milling licence. For a number of reasons it has been decided to delete the words "licensed miller" and to substitute for them "the holder of a milling licence." That is the purpose of a number of the amendments.

Amendment put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 2:—

In page 10, to insert at the end of Section 19 a new sub-section as follows:—

(3) Where the business of milling wheat at a mill is being carried on by a person lawfully entitled, by virtue of paragraph (b) or paragraph (c) of sub-section (1) of this section. to carry on such business at such mill, such person shall, for the purposes of the succeeding provisions (other than the provisions relating to revocation of milling licences) of this Act, be deemed to be the holder of a milling licence in respect of such mill.

This is also really a drafting amendment. Section 19 provides for the carrying on of a milling business in certain circumstances after the death of the person who is the holder of the milling licence. A doubt has been raised as to the adequacy of the section, consequently it is sought to insert another sub-section such as the amendment proposes. It declares that when a person is carrying on a milling business as the personal representative of the administrator of a licensed miller who has died such person shall be deemed to be the holder of the milling licence.

Amendment put and agreed to.

I move amendments 3 and 4:—

In page 11, Section 22 (1), line 12, to insert before the word "licensed" the word "similar."

In page 11, Section 22 (2), line 18, to insert before the word "licensed" the word "similar."

These amendments are moved to meet the point raised by Deputy Good on the last stage. I think they adequately cover the point, which is to ensure that nothing in the section will make it impossible for the organisation of employers and the trades unions to make an agreement which will permit of various rates applying to various types of mills.

I have some doubt as to whether this amendment will meet the object we had in view when we went into the matter fully on the previous Stage. I understand the position is being inquired into and the Minister will doubtless hear further on the subject.

I am fully satisfied that under these amendments the doubts raised with regard to various rates of wages have been removed.

I am not at all clear that that is so but, as I say, the situation is being inquired into.

Amendments put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 5:—

In page 17, Section 36 (1), line 30, to delete the words "a licensed miller" and substitute the words "the holder of a milling licence."

This amendment is consequential on amendment No. 1. It is the first of the amendments which changes the term "a licensed miller" into the term "the holder of a milling licence."

Amendment put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 6:—

In page 32, Section 68 (1), line 8, to insert after the word "Act" the words "in respect of the mill situate at ... or that I am entitled by virtue of paragraph (b) or paragraph (c) of sub-section (1) of Section 19 of the above mentioned Act, in my capacity as ... of ... who was or is the holder of a milling licence granted under Part II. of the said Act in respect of such mill to carry on the business of milling wheat at such mill."

This is also designed to provide for what appeared to be an omission in the Bill in regard to a case where the business of milling is being carried on by a personal representative in the circumstances envisaged in Section 19, to which I referred previously. This is merely to alter the form of the declaration which has to be made by the licensed miller. In that connection I should like, with the permission of the House, to make a verbal alteration in the amendment. In the second last line of the amendment the term "such mill" occurs. As there is no previous reference to a mill we cannot use the term "such mill." I therefore suggest that the words "mill situated at ..." be substituted.

Amendment 6, as amended, agreed to.

Amendments 7, 8 and 9 are consequential.

Amendments agreed to.

The following amendments, which I move, all refer to the same subject:—

11. In page 36, before Section 78, to insert a new section as follows:—

The Minister may by order make regulations in relation to any matter or thing referred to in this Part of this Act as prescribed.

12. In page 37, Section 80 (1), line 14, to delete the word "sealed" and to insert after the word "package" the words "secured in the prescribed manner."

13. In page 37, Section 80 (1), line 16, to insert after the word

"exceed" the words "the prescribed weight or, if no weight is for the time being prescribed."

14. In page 37, Section 80 (1), to insert before paragraph (b) a new paragraph as follows:—

(b) in case such maize meal is sold wholesale by a registered maize miller, such maize meal is sold under and in accordance with a licence granted by the Minister, or."

15. In page 37, before Section 80 (2), to insert a new sub-section as follows:—

(2) The Minister may attach to any licence granted under this section such conditions as he thinks fit and may revoke such licence at any time.

There was a considerable amount of discussion, on the previous Stage of the Bill, on the matters raised on these amendments. The first amendment has reference to the disposal of maize by a registered maize miller where it is used for human consumption and dealt with in a retail way. The way it is to be dealt with, packed and labelled and weighed, are prescribed. If the weight is not prescribed then it is not to be more than one stone. Under paragraph (b) it would be permissible for all maize millers to sell one cwt. or even one ton of maize to a miller in a poor district and he might repack. This provision with regard to allowing a wholesaler to sell to a retailer, and for a retailer to repack would not be availed of in the near future. Perhaps when the Bill is working for six or eight months, and going smoothly, we might be able to frame regulations that would enable a retailer in the poor districts, where maize is sold for human food, to sell as a retailer. But there is no hope of that within a few months, or until the Act is working. The same would apply to one stone weight. These amendments are put in in the hope that when things are going smoothly in four or six months' time, we might be able to meet the points raised by Deputy Professor O'Sullivan, by Deputy Dillon and Deputy McMenamin, in regard to areas where meal is used for human consumption. I do not know that there is any further point.

Are there not maize millers in each one of these areas at the present time?

In that case the difficulty hardly arises.

What occurs to me is that in six months' time when these regulations are made maize meal will be used up and other crops about finished.

It is possible that we might be able to do something in that period but we could not bring these things into operation until the tariff is working.

I agree, but I am urging that this matter be done before the spring.

Why is it not possible to prescribe these regulations?

It is not so much the difficulty of prescribing as the difficulty in having them carried out and enforced. It was pointed out at different stages of the Bill that it will be extremely difficult to get the Bill administered in a prompt way. It would take four or six months to get it running smoothly, without difficulties of this kind arising.

The Minister will understand that whatever desire there is on his part in connection with the working of this measure there is this strong case to be faced: that persons in these poor districts do consume this meal. Surely they are entitled to as much consideration as others. It is practically a matter of life and death with them. There is a 25 per cent. increase in commodities in constant use. Surely it should be easy to frame regulations from the beginning excluding them. He is prepared to exclude them. He does not think human food mixes with barley and rye and those commodities. He is not gambling upon that particular case. Why make it more expensive for those people? It ought to be possible to frame regulations and proposals to prevent them being faced with this particular expense. It is quite within the knowledge of everybody that prices for agricultural produce in those districts in respect of those matters are up, while the income of those people has gone down. In the Imperial Conference Report, which we were discussing this evening, it was apparent that the Minister for Industry and Commerce is aware of the fact that the remittances from America are down. These people, therefore, are not in a position to meet any increase in the cost of living at the present moment. If this is a practical proposition in a few months surely the not very static position in which they are placed now will not interfere with the working of this Act.

May I suggest to the Minister that in the meantime, pending the regulations, the maize millers might be left free in these particular districts. What hardship will that be? None whatever. Because, with these people whatever maize meal comes into their homes must be used for home consumption. I earnestly appeal to the Minister in the present condition, particularly in those areas, to give out the regulations. These areas are well defined. Anyone who takes up a Gaeltacht map will find these areas well defined. It is easy to single out a licensing area where the millers will not sell larger quantities than those prescribed under the Bill generally. I think that red tape should not be permitted to enter this. The Minister should take his courage in both hands and make some concession to those people, particularly at the present time.

I look upon this section as really quite as objectionable a section as one could find in the whole Bill. I do not think that the Minister's suggestions here in any way improve the section. I am not going to discuss the section as a whole but really to point out that this maize meal is a food of the very poorest portion of the community. It is, therefore, of the utmost importance to them that they should get maize meal of a good quality at the cheapest price possible. The provision in the Bill, as it stands, is that it should be in a sealed package. Of course, I think myself that limiting it to a stone at a time is absolute humbug, and that if you put it in any sort of package, whether sealed or secured in the prescribed manner, there will be the trouble of transferring it from the sack into these packages and the grocer and others concerned are going to charge so heavily for that labour as to make it more than it is worth. If you buy a package now that pays more than the twopence packet duty, such, for instance, as the toothpaste which I buy, which costs 2/-, with the twopenny tax it is 2/2, and now it is 2/3— the extra penny being for a certain amount of money lying with the Customs. Very considerable charges crop up here also for the trouble the grocer will go to in putting up this meal in these packages.

Another objection is that it does not seem to be of any real advantage to have it in packages at all because, unless it increases the price of the stuff enormously, a person can come in and buy 100 or 200 packages. There is nothing to prevent him buying as many packages from the same shop on the same day as he likes. The only thing is that he will have to buy it at an enhanced price, because the grocer will have gone to a very considerable amount of trouble getting this stuff into the packages. I do not see, for the life of me, especially as the Minister is dealing here with food which is the food of the very poorest section of the community and is only used as human food in the most remote and— I will say now in this year—most poverty-stricken areas in the country —if they want a one-cwt. or two-cwt. bag of meal, that they should not be able to get it, especially as in many cases they live a long way from the shops. I cannot see why it must be sealed in the fashion prescribed.

I very much appreciate the spirit in which the Minister has met the objections raised on an earlier stage of the Bill. I can assure him that my appreciation of that makes me desire to avoid putting any further difficulties in his way in administering the Bill, but I am primarily concerned at present in favour of the Gaeltacht area, where this meal is principally sold as an article of food for human consumption. It might seem at first that to make special regulations for one area was an impractical suggestion, but I would remind the Minister that the Department of Justice has taken that course in administering the treacle restrictions. There are certain areas in the country where it is possible, if necessary, to get a permit to sell or distribute treacle, so that no difficulty arises to prevent the provision of emergency regulations for a particular area. I would suggest to the Minister that he should ascertain the exact area of the Gacltacht, as scheduled, for instance, in the Gaeltacht Report, or in the Gaeltacht Housing Act, or in any of the departmental regulations they have had to define the Gaeltacht, and that he should provide that, within that area, pending the perfection of a scheme for the whole country, retailers should be allowed to purchase Indian meal and distribute it in stone packages to the people when they want it.

I understand that the Minister has said that the extent to which he has met our objections cannot come into force for about six months until he has devised a plan for distributing the meal in accordance with these new provisions. I suggest, however, that the situation in the Gaeltacht will not permit of that six months' interval, and I urge him most strongly that for that area, in the intervening six months, he will waive his regulations and take a bit of a risk. There is no danger whatever of that risk in the Gaeltacht, nor is there any danger of its jeopardising the general structure of the Bill. It is a gesture towards that area and towards the special circumstances prevailing in that area, and I can assure the Minister that it is a gesture that will be very much appreciated by the people living there and, for myself, by the people who represent them.

I cannot add anything to what I have said. What I said was that, as soon as we have got our Act working smoothly—and we are just as keen as any of the Deputies who have spoken—we will do it. I cannot say at all, however, when that may be, whether in two or in six months from the time the Act goes through. But as soon as we will have the millers going smoothly, then we might be able to turn our attention to the matter. There is a good deal in what Deputy Dillon said—that there could be certain areas taken into consideration—but I could give no promises.

There is no risk, and even if there were, I think the Minister could take it. It is not going to endanger the Bill in any way, and were it not for these people at the moment I certainly would not press for it.

The Deputy is going to make a series of speeches. I do not want to curtail the debate.

The speeches are on the point.

The speeches must be within the rules of order.

Certainly, sir, but I would again ask the Minister to reconsider his attitude. I would ask him to reconsider the matter and I would surely appreciate his doing so.

Does the Minister think that he has power to do anything else than to alter the form of the package? What other powers has he?

To alter the weight.

No. This is only an amendment to sub-section (2) and does not affect sub-section (3).

I am discussing Nos. 12, 13 and 14 together and No. 13 does give power to alter the weight.

Amendments 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 agreed to.

I move amendment 16:—

In page 37, to delete Section 82 (4).

This amendment is to take the place of what is deleted under amendment 11—at least, I should say, that No. 11 is taken in place of what is deleted in 16.

Sub-section (4) of Section 84 gave power to make regulations in relation to any matter referred to in the section. It was the only section in Part VI in which regulations were made. Now, of course, we are making regulations also under Section 80, so a new section has been inserted in amendment 11 to deal with that part of the Act; therefore, sub-section (4) of Section 84 is not necessary.

Amendment agreed to.
The following amendments were agreed to.
17. In page 38, Section 86 (2), line 52, to delete the figure "I" and substitute the figure "II".
18. In page 39, Section 87 (2), line 4, to delete the figure "I" and substitute the figure "II".
19. In page 39, Section 89 (2), line 35, to delete the figure "I" and substitute the figure "II".—(Aire Talmhaíochta.)
Question—"That the Bill, as amended, be received for final consideration"—put and agreed.
Fifth Stage fixed for to-morrow.