I see the Minister rising. Might I ask if this Bill is in the charge of the Minister for Industry and Commerce or of the Minister for Agriculture?
Tobacco Bill, 1934—Second Stage.
Of the Minister for Agriculture. I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. The Bill is framed to control the production and manufacture of tobacco within the country from the time the seed is imported until the manufactured tobacco is released from bond for sale. Tobacco is a very important source of revenue, and on that account alone strict regulations will be necessary. Apart from the revenue point of view it is necessary from the agricultural standpoint to produce the best possible tobacco within the country, so that consumers may continue to enjoy a good article. The scheme suggested is to grow the maximum quantity each year which can be evenly mixed with imported tobacco so as to give qualities of pipe tobacco which will not depart too suddenly from what smokers are accustomed to. It is hoped in that way to maintain the present high consumption of tobacco in the country. The acreage will be increased gradually from year to year, until eventually we will become self-sufficient in our production. The economic advantages to be derived are substantial. We import at present about 10,000,000 lbs. of tobacco. If our growers are paid at 1/3 per lb. for this quantity it would mean £625,000 per annum.
£10,000,000 worth of tobacco is imported per annum?
No—10,000,000 lbs. weight. At 1/3 per lb. that would amount to £625,000 per annum to be added to the income of agriculturists. To come to the Bill, no person will be allowed to import or produce seed without a permit from the Minister. Conditions may be attached to this permit, and we are in that way enabled to see that only suitable varieties are produced in the country. It shall not be lawful for any person, other than a person holding a permit, to grow or import seed, or a grower to have seed in his possession. With regard to plants, no person will be allowed to import plants without a permit from the Minister. Hitherto this function belonged to the Revenue Commissioners. The reason for the change is to see that only plants of a suitable variety will be allowed to be imported. As regards the area to be grown, the Minister, after consultation with the Minister for Finance, shall make an order each year fixing the maximum total number of acres which may be planted with tobacco in such year, the maximum number of acres which may be planted by each person, and the minimum area which may be planted by each person. With regard to growers' licences, application for a grower's licence must be made before the 31st of December in respect of a licence for the coming season. This licence entitles a grower to purchase seed, to plant the area specified on the licence, and cure the grown tobacco in premises approved by the Revenue Commissioners. Applications for licences will be sent to the Revenue Commissioners in the first instance. The Revenue Commissioners may refuse the granting of a licence on certain grounds which will be set out in regulations made by them. A complete list of applications other than those refused by the Revenue Commissioners will then be sent to the Minister for Agriculture, and he will recommend at his discretion the area to be allotted to each person. The Minister shall be guided by the maximum number of acres allowed for the year, the area grown by each applicant during the previous year, and also — though not bound by the Bill to do so — by the economic conditions prevailing in one district as compared with another. For example, there are rather large scale experiments being conducted this year in the counties of Galway and Mayo, and, to some extent, in Kerry. If good tobacco can be grown by the small holder in congested districts, the extension of tobacco growing will naturally take place principally in those areas.
The grower's licence includes a curer's licence. There is provision in the Bill, however, for a curer's licence to be given to a person who does not grow tobacco. This is designed to meet the case of the co-operative curing station, or possibly the preparatory curing station, if such is considered necessary. Application for a curer's licence, as such, must be made before 31st March in each year and application for a re-handler's licence must be made before 31st March in each year. The application will be made to the Revenue Commissioners, who may refuse on grounds which will be specified in the regulations and if not refused, the application will be transmitted to the Minister for Agriculture for his consideration. The Minister — that is, the Minister for Agriculture — may then recommend the granting of the licence to the Revenue Commissioners and his recommendation, as in the case of grower's and curer's licences, will be accepted by the Revenue Commissioners.
With regard to the transfer of licences, it may be necessary, during the time tobacco is growing or during the curing stage, to have a licence transferred because of the death of the original holder or because of the sale of the property on which the tobacco is grown or cured and provision is being made for this purpose. The ownership of a re-handling station may also be transferred under like circumstances. Coming now to the valuation of the tobacco, when tobacco is received by the re-handler from the grower it will be valued by an officer appointed by the Minister for Agriculture. This valuation, however, is only provisional and is made for the purpose of ensuring that each grower gets relatively the same price for his tobacco as his neighbour, having regard to the quality.
Might I ask the Minister at what stage this valuation is made?
When the grower or curer transfers it to the re-handler, the basic or preliminary valuation is made. The tobacco is then re-handled, after which it is graded by the officer appointed by the Minister for Agriculture. After grading, a price is fixed for each grade and a catalogue is prepared by the Minister of the different grades with their prices. These prices are fixed in relation to the price of imported tobacco at the time. The catalogues of the various re-handling stations having been prepared, they will be sent to the Minister for Industry and Commerce who will, by order, allot this tobacco amongst the manufacturers' according to their output during the previous year. Within four months, the manufacturer is compelled to pay the basic price above referred to, plus the difference between customs and excise duty on every pound of tobacco received. I will go over that again. The position is that the tobacco grower and the curer — in the main, the same person — takes the tobacco, in the first instance, to the re-handling station. The tobacco will be received by an officer appointed by the Minister for Agriculture, who will grade it and value it.
It is the officer and not the re-handler who will grade it?
The officer appointed by the Minister for Agriculture will be at the rehandling station and will grade and value the tobacco. After it is re-handled, the officer appointed by the Minister for Agriculture will grade all the tobacco again and will fix a price. That is the price that will have to be paid by the manufacturer. The Minister for Industry and Commerce will allot tobacco among the growers.
The packet operation takes place after the tobacco has been re-handled?
Yes. The re-handler will be paid under two heads by the manufacturer, namely, the basic or intrinsic price of the tobacco plus rebate. The amount received by way of basic price is distributed to all growers on the basis of the valuation originally placed on the tobacco received by the re-handler. The amount received by way of rebate is a flat amount per pound, out of which he first deducts re-handling charges. This year, for instance, the rebate will be 10d. and the re-handling charges 5d. Having deducted re-handling charges, he distributes the remainder on the tobacco as graded. The grower, therefore, will receive two instalments on every pound of tobacco — his share of the intrinsic price of the tobacco and his share of the rebate, both being based on the quality of the tobacco as well as on the quantity. Growers will complain that they cannot afford to remain very long out of their money. It will, undoubtedly, be possible, however, for re-handlers to get an advance from their bankers after receiving the tobacco, out of which they can make some payment on account to the growers.
With regard to the restrictions on manufacturers, manufacturers will be compelled to blend. They will be compelled to use the tobacco received within 12 months, unless an extension of time is given by the Minister for Industry and Commerce. They will not be permitted to export home-grown tobacco or any mixture containing home-grown tobacco. There are provisions in the Bill also relating to experimental manufacturers. There are certain small manufacturers in the country who grow and manufacture their own tobacco and, if the Bill were to be applied as above outlined, it would be impossible for these manufacturers to continue in the business. It is, therefore, proposed to give a special licence to any person who grew and manufactured his own tobacco during 1933. The licence will enable him to continue to carry on. They will get a larger rebate than that allowed to the ordinary manufacturer. The rebate, of course, is not fixed in this Bill; it is fixed in the Budget.
As to the application of the Trade Boards Act, as the order stands under that Act with reference to the tobacco industry, re-handlers, curers and growers would be affected and it is proposed to exempt these three classes from the provisions of the order and instead to give power to the Minister for Industry and Commerce, after consultation with the Minister for Agriculture, to fix fair wages for the workers in re-handling stations. The Bill also gives power to the Minister for Industry and Commerce to set up an advisory council of manufacturers to advise him on the distribution of home-grown tobacco amongst the manufacturers. The Minister for Agriculture has power to set up an advisory council to advise him on the growing, curing and re-handling of tobacco and I understand the Minister for Agriculture, under that Act, can set up an advisory council for each of these processes. Those are the principal provisions in the Bill. Everybody in the Dáil realises the urgency of an enactment of this kind. The Government have in view the procuring of all the tobacco that we require within the shortest possible time. It would be impossible to get that tobacco grown and, at the same time, to safeguard the revenue which is very valuable from the State point of view, without strict regulations of all sorts and kinds. This Bill has been designed to have the tobacco under strict supervision from the time the seed is imported or saved by the grower until the time it goes to the tobacco manufacturer. Some clauses may seem very rigorous but a certain amount of rigour is necessary.
It will also be necessary to keep the whole process of tobacco-growing under strict Government supervision so that we may grow the highest possible quality of tobacco. We may not be able to grow tobacco that they will like in Turkey or some other parts of the world where they have different leaves, but if the Department of Agriculture can supervise the growth of our own tobacco I have not the slightest doubt that we will develop a leaf here suitable to our own tastes. Already a number of people who are using Irish tobacco have become accustomed to it and like it and would not go back to any other, but it would be impossible to take the number of people who have gone on to Irish tobacco as representing the whole community. The Government have to be particularly careful that the tobacco produced here will approximate to the tobacco to which people have been accustomed over a number of years, and if there is to be a change that it should be changed gradually.
I must say when I read this Bill and sat down to consider it in the very limited time we have had I could not help asking myself: what is the Bill for? Is it to encourage agriculture or is it to encourage the Revenue Commissioners? I think it is well to say perfectly honestly, speaking for myself, that I do not believe we are ever going to grow here all the tobacco that is to be consumed in this country. I do not believe there is a single Deputy on the Fianna Fáil Benches, with the exception, perhaps, of Deputy O'Reilly, who believes that. I know that the modern philosophy is that people should not have what they like, but that they should have what the Government damn well think they ought to have. That, of course, is the philosophy underlying the Bill. Time alone will tell whether I am right or whether the Minister is right. In the meantime, however, seeing that this is going to be put into operation, we ought to try and make the best job of it that we can and see that as little damage is done and that as much benefit as can be secured from the Bill will, in fact, be secured.
I invite the Minister's attention to Section 3 in which it is proposed to set up a Tobacco Advisory Committee. It is a Tobacco Advisory Committee to the Minister for Industry and Commerce and its purpose is to give advice and assistance to that Minister on any matter arising on or relating to the carrying into execution of this Act by that Minister. Sub-section 2 sets out that the Tobacco Advisory Committee shall consist of such number of members, being representatives of manufacturers, as the Minister for Industry and Commerce thinks fit. I think that is a mistake. You want to have on any committee that is going to advise any Minister who is charged with the carrying out of any part of this Bill representatives not only of the manufacturers, but of the growers as well.
I want to make that clear. The Minister for Industry and Commerce has one special function and that is the distribution of the re-handled tobacco; that is the tobacco in the stage in which it usually goes to the manufacturer. The Minister for Industry and Commerce distributes that amongst the manufacturers. At that point the control of it passes from the Minister for Agriculture to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. All the Minister for Agriculture is concerned with is getting a price for the farmers. The Minister for Industry and Commerce is concerned with seeing that, while all the native-grown tobacco suitable for use is taken by the manufacturers, they should not be unduly upset. The only function that committee has is to distribute the tobacco among the manufacturers. The Minister for Agriculture has power under the Agriculture Act to set up advisory committees to advise him on all the processes and all the stages of tobacco growing and re-handling up to the time it leaves his control. He can set up an advisory committee for the growing of tobacco, for the curing of tobacco, and for the re-handling of tobacco — all the processes in which farmers are interested.
I think there is force in what the Minister says. May I interpolate that it looks like as if we were going to have a pleasant time on this Bill. There is an atmosphere spreading through the House which presages good will. In view of what the Minister says in regard to the functions of the Tobacco Advisory Committee set out in Section 3, I am not at all sure that the Bill is not better as it stands and that possibly representatives of the growers there might be rather a hindrance than a help. I think it is worth consideration, however, whether the Minister for Industry and Commerce should not have with him a representative of the Minister for Agriculture, because questions might arise in the matter of the distribution of that tobacco amongst the manufacturers which would be of interest to the Department of Agriculture from the point of view of enlightening them as to the kinds of tobacco that it is difficult to place and the kinds of tobacco for which there is a ready demand, and for informing him, by constant collaboration with the manufacturers on a variety of technical matters from the manufacturers' viewpoint which would be of assistance to them in directing the activities of the farmers engaged in growing the weed.
Section 8 provides that the Revenue Commissioners may, by order, make provisions generally for a variety of matters in connection with the raising of tobacco. I want to submit two suggestions to the Minister in that connection. One is, that when the Revenue Commissioners are making the regulations they should make them in consultation with the Minister for Agriculture. In that regard it has to be remembered that heretofore, I think, the general view of the Revenue Commissioners was that the growing of tobacco in the country was rather a nuisance than a desirable thing. Their relationship with tobacco was a revenue-collecting relationship. Heretofore their sole interest in tobacco was extracting the revenue, and so, having for decades made regulations with the object in view of collecting revenue, that purpose may predominate too strongly in their minds when they are making regulations under the new circumstances. I suggest that it would be of material assistance to the revenue authorities themselves and to the growers if any regulations they make in future were made in consultation with the Minister for Agriculture, who would be awake to the repercussions these regulations would have on the growers and producers. Over and above that, tobacco growing, saving and handling, as we know, form a highly technical business, and there may be details or a process which would be unknown to the Revenue Commissioners. Knowledge of these details might affect their judgment when they were making the regulations. That knowledge could be furnished by the Minister for Agriculture, and he would know when it was necessary to draw the attention of the Revenue Commissioners to the specialised knowledge involved in the culture of tobacco.
There is another point arising from the regulations made by the Revenue Commissioners. Growers heretofore had this great difficulty, that they had been living from hand to mouth and instead of having some clarity of prospect before them they were obliged to plant the crop this year almost on chance. I would like any regulations that are going to operate in 1935 to be made known long before the planting season of 1935. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I think regulations that are going to apply in the year 1935 ought to be made known not later than the September of 1934. I think revenue provisions that are going to be incorporated in the Budget ought not to be made operative in the financial year to which the Budget refers. Perhaps I should amend that. I know one cannot impose taxes for 1935 in the Budget of 1934. I suggest the procedure should be that where it is the intention to alter the revenue taxes on tobacco in the year 1935, the intention to do so should be announced in the Budget of 1934, so as to give growers and cultivators an opportunity of making their plans and arranging the rotations on their farms with a full knowledge of the regulations or impositions which the Revenue Commissioners are going to adopt.
In Section 12 we have further provisions for the Revenue Commissioners to make regulations. I can suggest to the Minister, for the same reasons over which I have gone, that the Department of Agriculture should be invited to co-operate in respect of the regulations which it is intended to make. I think it would be even better if the consultative council which the Minister for Agriculture will set up under the Agricultural Acts should be called into consultation. The regulations under Section 12 are regulations specifying the grounds on which applications for growers' licences, curers' licences and rehandlers' licences may be refused by the Revenue Commissioners and different regulations may be made in respect of growers' licences, curers' licences and rehandlers' licences. I think the growers' representatives should have a voice in the making of those regulations and if that is not possible I think the Minister for Agriculture should have a very material voice.
Section 14 (2) deals with the application for a growers' licence and it provides that each application to the Revenue Commissioners for a growers' licence in respect of the growing of tobacco in any year shall be made within the last six months before the commencement of each year. That is much too late. There ought to be a much longer period provided between the issuing of the licence by the Revenue Commissioners and the commencement of farming operations in connection with the crop for which the licence makes provision. I suggest that applications for licences to grow tobacco should be with the Revenue Commissioners say, in the June of the year preceding that in which it is proposed to save the crop, and the Revenue Commissioners should have allotted the licence not later than September of the year before that in which it is proposed to plant and save the tobacco crop in respect of which the licence issues.
The grower's licence is dealt with in Section 16, and it shall be in such form as the Revenue Commissioners may direct, and it shall operate to authorise the person to whom such licence is issued or to whom such licence is transferred to grow tobacco in a specified year on specified lands in an area not exceeding the area specified in such licence, and to cure such tobacco. The Minister made special reference to the desirability of promoting the growth of cigarette tobacco. We all know that at least two-thirds of the tobacco consumed in this country is cigarette tobacco. Cigarette tobacco is a bright tobacco, and bright tobacco requires to be planted rather more closely together to the acre than the ordinary dark varieties. In addition to that, in the curing of bright tobacco steam heat is required and special equipment is necessary. You cannot ask a man to invest £1,000 in the installation of special apparatus for the curing of bright tobacco unless you hold out to him some prospect of permanence in respect to the licence which authorises him to carry on the operation. According to the Minister, the Government want to promote the growth of cigarette tobacco. If you want that you will have to make up your minds that persons prepared to embark on the production of that particular type of tobacco will get a licence which will give them a guarantee of permission to continue their operations for five or ten years. If you do not do that you will not get anyone to put in the kind of equipment which will produce the best type of cigarette tobacco.
The sections following are largely dealing with routine procedure until you come to Section 28, and that has a bearing on what I have just said. In Section 28 the Minister may make regulations in relation to the maximum and minimum number of tobacco plants per acre, the varieties of tobacco that may be grown, the equipment to be used by holders of growers' licences, the method and processes of growing tobacco, the making of returns by the holders of growers' licences, and so on. I confess that when I was studying that section I was labouring under the misapprehension that the Minister there referred to was the Minister for Industry and Commerce, but I now see in Section 2 that the Minister, where not otherwise defined, is the Minister for Agriculture. If the Minister here referred to were the Minister for Industry and Commerce, I was going to suggest that he should consult the experts from the Department of Agriculture before making regulations, because it is a highly technical question as to the maximum and minimum number of plants which may be planted to the acre, and that has a very direct bearing on the quality and type of the finished leaf.
I want to draw special attention to Sections 32 and 33, because they may give rise to a very awkward situation for growers, and might result in material injustice. Under Section 32 (2) it shall not be lawful for any holder of a grower's licence to deliver tobacco grown by him in any year to a rehandling station other than the rehandling station specified in the return made by him unless he has first received the consent of the Minister to his delivery of such tobacco at some other rehandling station. Deputies will know that it is quite true that the grower can choose his own rehandler. There is no compulsion on him to go to one man in preference to another until after he has made his own choice, but having made his choice, he is bound to that man.
Section 33 sets out that subject to the provisions of the section every person who is the holder of a rehandler's licence shall purchase, at the price and on the terms and conditions applicable to such purchase at the premises to which such licence relates, all tobacco in a suitable condition for rehandling grown by the holder of a grower's licence in the year to which such re-handler's licence relates and offered for sale in accordance with the provisions of the Act at such premises before the 31st December in the year in which such tobacco was grown, or such later date as the Minister may fix in relation to tobacco grown in that year. Who is going to define whether the tobacco is in a suitable condition for re-handling, or not?
The officials of the Department of Agriculture.
There is no provision for that. The Minister will remember that, under the Cereals Act, we provided that compulsion could be brought to bear on millers to mill wheat of millable quality, and the Minister was eventually forced to admit that that was incapable of definition and that they would have to do the best they could from time to time. But it was the Minister who had the decision in his hands and he could force the wheat on the miller. As far as I can find out, however, there is no authority appointed here to decide what tobacco is in a suitable condition for re-handling, so that the grower might find himself face to face with the re-handler and the re-handler refusing to accept the tobacco on the ground that it was unsuitable. The grower, under the election he made under Section 32, would find himself precluded from going on to any other re-handler and asking him to take the tobacco from him. That is a matter which, I think, deserves consideration.
The Minister foresaw the difficulty that might be raised in regard to paying the grower for his tobacco. His solution of that difficulty is that the re-handler should go to the bank and raise sufficient money on the security of the tobacco he has purchased to pay at least a part of what is due to the grower for what the grower has delivered to him. As the Bill stands at present, let us assume that the grower will bring his tobacco to the re-handler in the latter end of September, or, perhaps, early in October. By the time the re-handling, the packeting, the sampling, and the allotment have been completed, it will be January. Now, there is no obligation whatever on the re-handler to pay the producer anything until he gets his money from the manufacturer to whom the tobacco has been allotted by the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I submit, with respect, to the Minister that a statutory provision ought to be made whereunder the re-handler could pay the grower sooner than the month of January.
A variety of schemes might be worked out, but one would be that the rehandler would be entitled to issue drafts on the Agricultural Credit Corporation in favour of the grower, which would be a chattel mortgage on the tobacco which was in bond or in the keeping of the Department of Industry and Commerce. It is true that, under normal conditions, the rehandler could go to the bank and give the bank a bill of sale on the tobacco and get enough money to pay the grower, but, of course, he would have to pay interest on the money and he might not want to do that. Unless you provide the grower with some means whereby he can make the rehandler pay him at least a moiety of what is due, you will find that in the vast majority of cases the growers will be out of their money until January.
It is perfectly true that, in the case of many crops that we grow, we are out of our money until January or even until March or later. I doubt if there is any other crop which involves the expenditure of more ready cash on labour than tobacco. I do not think I overestimate when I say that £50 cash will have to be paid on the cultivation of an acre of tobacco. That is a substantial sum for a farmer to be out of for three or four months in respect of one acre, and I think the Minister should consider some scheme whereby it will be possible for him to recover at least the money that he was out of pocket sooner than the four, five or six months after the time he delivers the tobacco to the rehandler's station.
Part 4 of the Bill, which provides for experimental manufacturers' licences, is not very easy of comprehension, but I take it that it is incorporated in the Bill really in order to make provision for three or four people who were engaged in the manufacture of tobacco heretofore and whom it is not desired to squeeze out now. All I can say is, that, so far as I am aware, there is nothing in that portion of the Bill which operates unfairly or unjustly in respect of those persons. If there is anything which operates unfairly to them, doubtless they will raise it with some Deputies and have attention called to it, but there is nothing in that part of the Bill, as far as I can see, that will operate unfairly.
As I say, I do not believe that we will ever grow all the tobacco we want in this country, any more than I believe that the Fianna Fáil Government intends to build a deep sea port in the County Donegal, but it is a very good scheme when you want to keep the pot boiling, to say: "Some fine day we are going to do something wonderful for everybody. We will build a deep sea port in Donegal and we will grow all the tobacco that everybody wants here in Ireland." Time alone will tell whether the Minister is right or I am right, but in the meantime, subject to the few particular matters I have mentioned, I want to strike this note of warning. Let the Minister remember that the Revenue Commissioners, who, for their own purposes, are as highly efficient a body of men as you will find, will approach the cultivation of tobacco in this country from quite a different viewpoint from that which is enshrined in this Bill. They are bound, by their experience and practice, to approach it from the point of view of revenue collecting. The Minister wants them to approach it from the point of view of the promotion of agriculture while bearing in mind its repercussions on the revenue. They cannot do that unless there is vouchsafed to them constantly the assistance of the Department of Agriculture. I venture to say that this is one of those cases where the gift horse will be looked in the mouth, because I am not quite sure that the Revenue Commissioners will welcome the kind of assistance that will be forthcoming from the Department of Agriculture. However, I suggest that the Minister should adopt towards the Revenue Commissioners the same attitude that he adopts towards the people of this country, and that is to tell them: "We do not give a whoop what you want; it is what we damn well want you to do." It is interesting to notice that the Minister is much more formidable and courageous when he is facing the unfortunate voters of this country than he is when he is facing the Revenue Commissioners. I exhort him, however, to do his damnedest when facing the Revenue Commissioners, because I know they are quite well able to look after themselves, and I am quite sure that between the Minister and the Revenue Commissioners they will evolve a scheme which will avoid friction between the Board and the Revenue Commissioners and which will provide easy working for all those who are concerned in making this measure a success. They will have a hard job. I should be glad to see them succeed, and it is with that view that I point out possible sources of friction which ought to be removed before the scheme is put into operation.
Deputy Dillon does not seem to be a believer in tobacco growing. At the same time, of course, he made no great objection to the Bill. The objection he holds to tobacco growing possibly is an objection that was held here by many people in this country. They allow themselves to be influenced by the opinions of others that you could not grow tobacco here any more than you could grow bananas. Tobacco is classed as one of the weeds that can grow anywhere. There is no country in the world that cannot grow tobacco. The very cold or the very hot country or a mild climate can grow it. It possibly grows better in a damp climate. The country that starts to grow tobacco has got to find out the kind that will suit. No country grows the same tobacco. The tobacco that Deputy Dillon smokes—if he does smoke tobacco—may be excellent tobacco for Deputy Dillon. Many around him would believe that it had a perfect aroma and that nothing better than that could be produced. The man from the United States, who possibly grew that tobacco, would turn round and say that tobacco was trash. A Frenchman cannot stand the smoke of our cigarettes until he gets accustomed to them. Every country in the world grows the tobacco of the peculiar flavour to which its people have got accustomed.
There is not the least trouble in getting people accustomed to smoking their own tobacco. There is not a country in the world that does not grow its own tobacco. Great Britain for special reasons, colonial and otherwise, did not allow tobacco to be grown. They could grow it in England, but, for revenue reasons, for a time they did not allow it to be grown. At other times they allowed it to be grown and following that they refused to allow it. Here in this country it was believed that tobacco could be grown. It was attempted, and the County Wexford grew the most excellent tobacco. It, is on the records of the House of Commons that the tobacco manufacturers of London petitioned the British Government to disallow the growth and manufacture here, because of the severe competition with their own tobacco manufacturers who handled tobacco which they got from the United States. The extinction of tobacco growing here was largely political and economic. English manufacturers at all times did not want industries in this country, and they did not want competition from us. They were perfectly right from that point of view. This same thing also obtained in the tobacco industry. We had the usual experiments here. Tobacco was grown in the County Wexford. The main reason why the English manufacturers petitioned against Irish tobacco was because the tobacco grown here was of such superior quality, and was a very severe competitor with the English grown or manufactured tobacco, and the growers and manufacturers there thought it should be stopped.
If we are to make a success of this industry we must proceed cautiously and due respect must be had for the taste of the smokers of tobacco. People on the opposite benches bellowed forth that we should grow 10,000 acres. It was easy enough to listen to them because we knew they did not understand the question or want to understand it. It was a political dodge to make things awkward. Up to the present we have not grown anything except pipe or ordinary tobacco. We have made experiments with the growing of cigarette tobacco. Some years ago we produced a very excellent cigarette. The formula still remains. We hope to have that seed for the coming season. But the cigarette side of the business was not developed. The most we produced was pipe tobacco. Because of the system adopted and the awards given, pipe tobacco produced more leaf per acre than any other variety. There is less difficulty too with the growing of it. It gives a heavier crop and is generally more attractive to the farmer. The position here is that some 3,000 acres of pipe tobacco would supply the market if we smoked all Irish tobacco. About 3,000 acres would fill the bill if we had all the market and if we had a complete mixture of Irish tobacco. On the other hand, if we go in for manufacturing cigarettes we should continue to manufacture from the tobacco to which we have been accustomed. It would be quite possible that pipe smokers would not smoke Irish tobacco if all tobacco manufactured in the country was made from Irish leaf. What would happen in that case would be that tobacco smokers would drift entirely to cigarette smoking. If we had more than 3,000 acres of tobacco grown it would not be possible to get the people to consume all that, no matter how cheap it could be marketed. For that reason we decided we would grow a certain acreage which would ensure a small mixture of Irish to be blended with the foreign leaf. Thus the people would be gradually accustomed to smoking Irish tobacco. In this Bill it is proposed that something of a better price should be given for cigarette leaf in order to encourage the growing of cigarette tobacco. In the near future we will be able to put on the market a reasonable amount of Irish-grown cigarette leaf mixed with foreign leaf. In that way we will gradually accustom the people to smoke Irish-grown tobacco. In three or four years' time there will not be much difficulty in putting on the market a 50 per cent., 60 per cent. or 70 per cent. blend. If you reach that stage you could put on the market an entire mixture of Irish-grown tobacco.
To do that it would be necessary to have somebody to supervise the business, some people with a knowledge of blending and who know what the people will accept, people who know the different classes of tobacco that will leave a blend and give a certain flavour. That part of the business is left in the hands of the manufacturers. The Advisory Committee which is under the Minister for Industry and Commerce has control of that particular branch. Some of the duties of that committee will be to indicate the different classes of tobacco that may be grown here with a view to creating a blend. Tobacco, in fact, must be blended. In the particular classes of tobacco, etc., we grew ourselves at home, half-acre or an acre, no matter how good the tobacco was, it would not be palatable unless it was mixed with some other tobacco in much the same way as tea is mixed. The blender in a tobacco factory is an important person and is the most highly paid worker in the factory. He is the most important of the whole lot. On him depends the success of the industry and on him depends the sales. One mixture made by the blender will make a palatable smoke while another mixture may be unsaleable. The greatest care must be taken in the blending of the tobacco and the people must be gradually accustomed to a particular blend. It must be blended so as to meet, as far as possible, the taste of the consumer. The public would not mind, I believe, a ten per cent. Irish cigarette leaf—a ten per cent blend in cigarettes. The public to-day would not object to that, although there would not be very much difficulty in detecting that there was a ten per cent. blend in it. Some of the manufacturers have already produced quite good and very pleasant cigarettes, but there is not the slightest doubt about it that any person will be able to detect that they are not ordinary cigarettes.
Would the Deputy give the name of the cigarettes?
Taylor produces them but they are not on the market. He has manufactured them for test purposes, and two or three others as well, I think. The whole idea behind this Bill is to see that the question is handled judiciously and carefully, and to see that there is not too much tobacco put on the market in any given year. The thing which is most pleasing in the Bill is that the producer has got his definite price. He has no bargaining or anything else. I do understand and know that the price he is going to get is based to a very large extent on what is known in this Bill as the basic price, and which is the price of foreign tobacco at the port of Dublin.
Would the Deputy give us a figure?
It depends on the quality of the leaf.
What is the basic price?
I daresay the average price now would be round about 7d. I cannot tell you what it is.
7d. per lb.?
Is that what the grower is going to get for his tobacco?
Have a look at the Bill later on. I can tell you he will get more than that.
I want the Deputy to give me a forecast.
It will do you no harm to encourage you to read the Bill.
I have read it very carefully.
I told you the price to-day is roughly about 7d. If I told you the rest you may not read the Bill.
I have read it very carefully.
You will get it all right. It will give you a lot of information if you read about how it is got.
The Deputy does not care to put a figure on it yet.
Take it on your holidays!
The Deputy will not put a figure on it?
The figure I am putting on it is a figure I do not know. I only tell you that I believe that is the price. It has to be arranged by an expert who understands prices, and understands the value of the different leaves.
It is a terrible thing to be speaking on a production you know nothing about.
Who does not?
But you need not listen. You can walk out.
The sooner you go the better.
I will go as soon as I am pleased or as soon as the Chair tells me to go. Is it in order for a Deputy to tell another Deputy to sit down?
No Deputy has called upon another Deputy to sit down.
The basic price will be the price paid at the port for foreign tobacco. That is the price on which the remainder of the prices will be built up. I should prefer that instead of having that basic price——
Deputy O'Reilly is entitled to make his speech without irrelevant interruptions of that kind.
I would suggest that the price should be a fixed price in that case.
Would the Deputy say what he means by a fixed price?
That there would be an agreed price given instead of depending on the price at the port.
And without any regard for world prices?
There are peculiarities about the tobacco business just like any other business. If the ordinary price paid at the port were paid on the weight of the bale or the casks in bond, without any deductions whatsoever, it would be much more satisfactory. I understand, and I have heard a good deal about it, that there is a system here in purchasing tobacco under which there is a sort of luck-penny given. It is not really given in money, but it is a deduction made from each cask or each bale. They call that a draft, and it is worked in this way; for every 900 lbs. of tobacco—say a cask weighing 900 lbs.—there are 10 lbs., of tobacco deducted. The weight of the cask would, therefore, be 890 lbs., instead of 900 lbs. They would have to pay for 890 lbs. instead of 900 lbs. There would be 14 lbs. deducted for every 1,000 lbs. or over, and there are actually 3 lbs. deducted from a bale of any weight. According to the Bill, that condition would exist, and the growers would have to submit to that custom. I should prefer, from the growers' point of view anyway, if the price was the price at the port for the full weight of the bale or the barrel in bond. It is only a small thing, but after all the price is small. It is not such a good price perhaps as many men growing tobacco would expect to get.
The Deputy has not told us what the price is yet.
There is here a rebate of something like 10d. on the lb. The 10d. rebate will be divided between the grower and the rehandler. The rehandler will be allowed 5d. for rehandling, and the grower will get exactly the 5d. plus the price at the port.
That would be about 1/-.
1/- per lb.?
Roughly; whatever the price will be at the port. That is 1/- clear. He has not to pay rehandling expenses or anything else. That is quite clear.
What does Deputy Corry say to that?
There is another danger in that. I notice that the manufacturers have imported a very considerable quantity of tobacco this year. Within the last two or three months they have imported a considerable quantity of tobacco. Of course one may not be suspicious of that because that is the custom among manufacturers. They have done that for the last eight or nine years. In some years they import more than in others, but this year they have imported quite a considerable amount. If it so happened that you did not want to import any tobacco next year, except perhaps tobacco of a very low or inferior class, it would reduce the price of our tobacco considerably. As well as I remember—the Minister will correct me if I am wrong—there is some provision in the Bill against that. If there is not a provision in the Bill it might be very serious. I should like if the two things were considered in that case. To my mind the most important part of the Bill is the price you are going to get. I should like if the two things were considered—the question of what is known as the draft, or what I call, for explanatory purposes, the luck penny, and the amount of tobacco that was imported within the last two or three months. If manufacturers sought to import perhaps very low grade tobacco at a very cheap price they could do it. All over Europe tobacco is at a very low price. Many grades of tobacco in the United States are at a very low price. Tobacco is imported here at as low a figure as 2½d.
Would it mean that we would get 8d. per pound for ours?
It might be very serious if that happened. However, that is simply in passing. I am glad the Bill is introduced because it indicates quite clearly that there is an understanding that a taste for tobacco could be cultivated here.
At 1/- a pound?
And I am glad that the industry here has been made permanent, because once legislation is introduced and once an industry is recognised, it is an industry that will stay, at any rate for some time. I admit that three, four or five years must elapse before we shall know what are the possibilities. It is to some extent in the experimental stage but, even so, men who seemed to understand a great deal about tobacco and who have been in the business for many years told me last year that samples they saw in Meath and Wicklow—and one sample in Wicklow, by a new grower—were as good as they had ever seen. It was a perfect pipe tobacco and perfectly cured.
Would the Deputy mind answering one question as an expert? In his opinion, is it an economic possibility for a farmer to grow tobacco and sell it at a price varying between 9d. and 1/- a lb?
It is quite an economic proposition to grow tobacco at 1/- a lb. There are no re-handling charges to pay on it. Your average production would be 1,000 lbs. per acre and over, and in good years, on a certain class of tobacco, you would get a good deal over 1,000 lbs. There is, however, a bonus system attached to this Bill which will ensure the growers of cigarette leaf a rather higher price. Cigarette leaf will give a lower weight per acre while the pipe leaf will give a greater weight. The average of the pipe tobacco would be up to 1,000 lbs. per acre where it would be well grown.
The Deputy will not mind my asking what he estimates to be the cost, in labour, etc., of growing an acre of tobacco in an average year? Not making allowance for peculiarly bad weather conditions or peculiar unforeseen events, what allowance would he make for manuring, seeding and saving an acre of ground?
With all his expenses —cartage and different other things— a sum of £40 per acre would clear him.
At what rate would you pay your labourers? Would that be allowing 26/- per week for a farm-labourer?
Would that be the maximum wage?
It might not be. It might run up to 30/-.
And £30 per acre!
Even growing 1,000 lbs. at 1/- would be only £50. I guarantee that in some cases it will take £40 or £50 to grow it.
However, the crop is a profitable crop and with a little experience, it can be made really a profitable one at 1/- a lb. That is accepted by all the old growers and the practical growers. It has beneficial uses, because it is one of the greatest benefits that land can get. I saw two or three cases where wheat was put in after last year's crop and an extremely good crop of wheat has been grown. Tobacco is a great cultivator. It also has other advantages and will have special advantages in this country where fruit growing is about to be developed and where nicotine sprays and that sort of thing will be largely used. We at present import most of those sprays. There is a man in County Waterford at present manufacturing nicotine from German tobacco. He gets the German tobacco across and manufactures nicotine, which he exports to Canada and South Africa and to other countries. It is one of the most useful sheep dips known and it is admitted by most people who have used it that for sheep and wool growing, there is no greater stimulant. It is used entirely in South Africa, and in Canada they use quite a lot of it. This manufacturer in Waterford exports entirely to these countries. It is not used in this country so largely because that manufacturer makes it up in rather large drums, which are not convenient for smaller farmers. At a later stage, I have no doubt, that from the stems and stalks now left derelict, and which possibly have to be burnt, good nicotine could be manufactured which would create a further industry and benefit the country largely. It is one of the greatest disinfectants known.
Deputy Dillon was rather perturbed about the control, and this board was to be set up. The Minister for Agriculture has automatic powers to set up an advisory board, and I have no doubt he will do that. In fact, I hope he will do it, and I am sure that everybody interested in the growing of tobacco will do all they can to persuade him to do so. As I say, he already has power and there is hardly any necessity to give him further power in this Bill to do it. There is another matter which I should like to suggest for the Minister's consideration and that is, that only co-operative societies should be allowed to re-handle tobacco. We have in County Meath at present a re-handling machine of the most modern type. When fully worked, it will handle the produce of 5,000 acres.
In what time?
Over the year.
But what time would it take it to re-handle the produce of 5,000 acres?
Just over the year.
Twelve months. It will keep 16 or 18 men constantly employed in grading time and rehandling. The machine's capacity is 5,000 acres. Originally, there were here two machines and the calculation was that those two machines could handle the produce of 10,000 acres. One machine was situated in Adare, in County Limerick, but, unfortunately, a year or two after it arrived, it was burned. Only one of the machines remains at present, and that is the Proctor machine in Randalstown. That machine is worked on co-operative lines. The growers belong to a co-operative organisation, and last year we were enabled to go to the banks and get money to advance to the growers, advancing to each a small share of what the tobacco was possibly worth, with the result that it brought great satisfaction to them. The rehandling was greatly delayed owing principally to not having heating apparatus that suited. The first electric heating machine we got was too small and we had to wait until we got a new one and, but for that, most of the tobacco would have been handled really early. The tobacco generally makes its appearance in the rehandling station about September or October, having been packed for conveyance to the rehandling station. If it becomes too dry it cannot be tied in bales, because it will break, but by November or December the tobacco is all in to the rehandling stations. It is there the tobacco is graded—at some stations into three classes and, at others, into four and five classes, according to quality. The bottom leaves are generally of a higher quality.
Are they not thrown away as refuse?
No, only the yellow leaves you might pick off while the tobacco was growing. The bottom leaves are generally the top-grade leaves. In some factories, they divide into three grades and in others, into four. It is at that time that the officials of the Department of Agriculture decide on the different grades of tobacco. After the tobacco is graded, it is put through the Proctor machine and dried. It is dried in the cask in which it is graded. It is tied in bundles, hung on poles and passed through this machine. When it comes out at the end of the machine it is packed in barrels or bales, as the case may be, and is then fit for sale.
The tobacco is then what we call perfectly safe. The extra moisture is extracted and the tobacco is fit for sale, mortgage or manufacture. Manufacturers generally buy it at that time. Sometimes they compel the rehandler to take it to Dublin and put it into a bonded store. In order to do that, there is a regulation that the rehandler must take out a bond to be of good behaviour—to see that none of the tobacco is stolen on the way from the time it leaves his place until it is placed in bond in Dublin. Sometimes there is great difficulty in that, because the bond is rather a small one and will only cover a certain amount of tobacco, and you will be only allowed to remove from the bonded warehouse the exact amount that the bond covers. If the Revenue Commissioners would notify the rehandlers exactly what bond would cover the whole of the tobacco, they would be able to remove the whole lot within a week or ten days and would not have to be waiting for a fresh bond.
The Bill, as I said, is a good Bill.
It will encourage the growing of tobacco and make the thing permanent. The only thing I should like to be assured of is, as I said before, that only co-operative societies will be allowed to rehandle. If manufacturers are allowed to rehandle tobacco I believe it will lead to a great deal of abuse. The next thing is the question of the sale of seed. The seed is a very important matter in tobacco growing. When a well-saved seed is not procured or when a seed is not true to variety very grave results accrue. I believe that the sale of seed should be altogether in the hands of co-operative societies. Last year the Meath Co-operative Society was able to sell to growers as much seed as would sow an acre for 1/-, while small packages here in Dublin and elsewhere cost nearly twice that amount. That seed was a guaranteed seed. It could be tested within the co-operative societies. In the Meath Co-operative Society we have our own plants and are in a position to produce our native seed. I believe it would be a good thing if the Minister would consider accepting such an amendment as would allow the sale of seed by co-operative societies only. Last year a good deal of mixture took place. The experts I had with me when they went and looked at the tobacco on one farm were surprised at the different varieties of leaf in the one shed. The grower believed that the seed he had sown was all the same. These experts pointed out to him that there were many different seeds mixed up and that he had in his barn several different classes of leaves. It is important to see that that will be eliminated.
Deputy Dillon spoke about compulsion on growers to send their crop to a certain rehandling station. I think that difficulty can be got over. The Minister has power to release either the rehandler or the grower from that contract. I think it would be much better if the Minister in the Bill compelled co-operative growers to send their crop to their own co-operative society and if he would consider the question of granting a minimum price or, if not, a price for the weight of the bale or the barrel of tobacco in bond. I am glad that this Bill has been introduced. It gives a degree of permanency. Contrary to Deputy Dillon's statement, I am satisfied that tobacco growing in this country is going to be a complete success.
If we had less praying over Bills and more practical information we would get on better and know more about them. There is no use in expressing a pious hope for any economic undertaking if you do not get right in the middle of the road and show how it is going to be an economic undertaking. Of course, on this stage of the Bill it is only the principle that is discussed. There can be no question that the Bill is necessary and there is no question, of course, of opposing it, because people are growing tobacco and the marketing and curing of that crop, owing to the nature of it, and all the revenue derived from it, have to be watched closely and, therefore, it can be controlled only by Act of Parliament. Hence a Bill of some kind is necessary and the real criticism of this Bill will have to be reserved for the Committee Stage.
Deputy O'Reilly has no doubt that tobacco growing is going to be a success. He has no doubt either that tobacco at 10d. or 1/- a lb. is going to be a success. Has he any doubt that the growing of tobacco, when the State pays in subsidy 10d. per lb., is rather an expensive luxury? The revenue loses 10d. on every lb. of tobacco grown in this country. It is just the same as if they charged the full revenue and handed back 10d. per lb. to the grower. Taking the produce of an acre at 1,000 lbs., that means that the State has to give to the grower 1,000 tenpences. It means that each acre of tobacco will cost the State £42. I hope that is clear enough. That is the actual position.
There is no use in saying that we can grow tobacco here. We can. When Deputy O'Reilly was questioned as to the price we were going to get for tobacco, he hedged and he thought. There is no thinking about it. The price of the low-grade tobacco is 7d. per lb. That is the American price of that grade of tobacco. I challenge the Minister to contradict that the grading of our tobacco at the re-handling stations will be based on the American grades. Our lowest grade will be a grade that will approximate to the American grade that is fetching 7d. per lb. The grower will get 7d. a lb. for that tobacco in the world market, but our Government will give him 10d. a lb. for growing it.
The grower is going to get by way of bonus more than the basic price of tobacco. The State is going to give him more for growing tobacco than the article itself is worth in the market. How glad we would all be to get from the State a bounty exceeding the market price of potatoes? How many more potatoes would be grown? If potatoes were £4 a ton or, taking the world price of potatoes or whatever price will rule here in the market, and if the State gave us that much more merely for the growing of them, would it not be a profitable proposition from the individual grower's point of view? This institution here is the Government, not of the farmer, not of the agricultural population, but of all the people in the country. Only a few people will be allotted their share of growing 1,000 acres of tobacco this year. Even if the El Dorado visualised by the Minister is ever reached, when we will become self-sufficient in the matter of tobacco, the most we will require on a good average crop will be 10,000 acres. Whoever will be allotted those 10,000 acres will, if the present subsidy continues to be paid, be in receipt of £400,000 or £500,000 from the State for growing it. It will cost the State £400,000 or £500,000 more for tobacco grown here than the price at which we could buy it in the market.
You mean buying foreign tobacco. Surely you do not suggest that?
I regret the Minister for Agriculture is not here and I regret all the more the circumstances of his absence—we all do. We know it is difficult for the Minister for Defence to keep au fait with his own Department and to take charge of a measure of this kind. This is not by any means a simple Bill. It is the most intricate Bill that I have seen since I came into the House and, consequently, I feel disposed to reserve most of my criticism for the Committee Stage, when we hope the Minister for Agriculture, who has studied this Bill carefully, will be present. When I say that I do not mean to cast any reflection on the Acting-Minister. I am sure he knows the Bill pretty well, but the Minister whose job it is ought to know it better and I would like if he were here. To grow our own tobacco it will cost us £400,000 or £500,000 a year. The Minister told us that our total consumption of tobacco is about 10,000,000 lbs. Anybody can calculate 10,000,000 tenpences, because 10d. a lb. is the subsidy we get for the growing of the tobacco. That is what self-sufficiency in the matter of growing tobacco works out at. We pay £42 an acre and the 1,000 acres that will be grown this year will cost our Government £42,000. That is the Minister's ambition.
Deputy O'Reilly said that to supply our pipe tobacco it would take 3,000 or 4,000 acres. Supposing we produced all our pipe tobacco, it would cost us about £150,000, to £160,000. The sequence of events in the growing of tobacco is interesting to follow. One point that has not been brought out already is that when we have a grower, the grower will in nearly all cases be the curer; but the curing is an operation in itself apart from the growing. The basic price of the inferior tobacco will be 7d. Then, after the tobacco is cured it passes on to the rehandler. The Minister informed us that the rehandler is going to get 5d. a lb. for rehandling. Now, with the bonus, that will come to 1/5 a lb. gross. Fivepence will come off for rehandling and that leaves it 1/- a pound. That is not 1/- a pound for growing but for growing it and curing it. I understand that the curing of tobacco means collecting all the leaves, tying them up in bundles of a dozen or two of leaves and drying them to about 25 per cent. of moisture. Then they pass on to the rehandler and they are graded for blemishes, colour and texture. There, I understand, they are dried down to zero, all the moisture taken out of them and ordered back again to be steamed so as to have 12 or 14 per cent. of moisture.
Deputy O'Reilly charged Deputy Dillon with being opposed to the growing of tobacco. I do not know whether he is or not and I do not knew whether he would be wise or unwise. I do not know what his views on it are. But Deputy O'Reilly does not grow tobacco and, though he displayed a fair knowledge of the routine of tobacco growing and manufacture and all the intermediate stages, he did not display much of a technical knowledge when he suggested that the rehandling station in Meath, probably in Randalstown, was capable of rehandling the whole crop. When you rehandle tobacco, when it is cured down to the standard moisture which classifies it as being cured, it is not in a fit state for distant transportation, because a leaf that would be a first-class leaf is graded lower when punctured. I have a first-class leaf here that got punctured, but it was grown for cigarette tobacco and cured for colouring. It succeeded in getting the correct colour, but that is all it has to commend it as a cigarette leaf, because it has not the flavour. To advocate the transportation of tobacco dried down to 10 or 15 per cent. of moisture, and to have that advocated by an expert from the expert county, shows somewhat of a lack of the technical knowledge of tobacco curing—not that I claim to have a whole lot.
Has the duty been paid yet on that leaf you have there?
There is no duty paid in this House, Deputy Donnelly. As I said in my opening remarks, a Bill of this kind is required because of the circumstances in which we find ourselves now, and the principal criticism will come up on the Committee Stage. As a few points have been dealt with, however, I shall just make a few remarks on them. I think that the Minister said that when the tobacco is taken from the grower—that is, when it is passed over to the re-handler—that then the tobacco is valued. I think that the job is more than that. That is the job of the re-handler, to grade it, order it to a certain moisture, and so on. Then it can be valued. Now, the re-handling would take until January. You get the crop in August and September, and it would take till January to re-handle it, and it would all have to be re-handled before it was graded or before the allotment could be made to the manufacturers as to how much of it they should take, because until it was re-handled the Minister would not know how much tobacco was available. Then it is passed on to the manufacturers. From that point on, the Minister pointed out, there is four months' credit—I presume in the trade or manufacture of tobacco—but the grower wants some money. Neither the Minister nor the Bill tells us where he will get it. It is very important, and even at the expense that this tobacco growing will cost the State, if it is continued, the actual growing of the tobacco loses a lot of its value as a cash crop if that cash is not made available early to the grower. There is no provision in this Bill to make it available early to the grower. In fact, it might conceivably run until June or July of next year in order to get cash for this year's crop because, taking it on the average, it will be June or July of next year before the manufacturer will pay the re-handler.
The Minister says that the re-handler can go to the bank and get money. I think that the Minister knows quite well that it is not so easy to go to a bank and get money nowadays and I think that it should not be left in that nebulous state. The Minister should make some provision, by promissory note, bills that would be discounted, or something like that, in order to make money available; but then out of the price that is quoted for the tobacco will have to come the interest. The discount will have come out of it, so that the grower will be paying interest on money that he should have then. If the bill is drawn and made payable for next May, June or July, who is going to pay the discount rates on it? Nobody, except the man at the bottom that wants the actual cash; whether it is a direct discount or a re-discount, he has got to pay all the discounts ultimately and that discount will come out of the grower's pocket.
There is a provision in this Bill that the Minister for Industry and Commerce can set up a committee to fix the rates of wages for re-handling, etc., but, of course, there is no provision made for the rates of remuneration for those who are growing it. I wonder would the Minister, who is representing the Minister for Agriculture in introducing the Bill, insist that the man who works at the growing of this crop is entitled to equal remuneration with the man who re-handles it? If the Minister for Industry and Commerce sets up a committee to fix rates of wages for re-handling, what will be his standard? Will it be the standard rate of the man who is growing the tobacco or will it be the standard rate of some factory hand who is getting three or four times the wage of the man who is growing the tobacco? There is no safeguard there to protect the grower and to see that he will get a fair share of the remuneration from this crop. Already, it is stated by the Minister, they are going to allow 5d. a pound for re-handling. The commercial value of the crop they are re-handling is only 7d. a pound even after it is re-handled.
There is nothing very useful that can be said of this very intricate Bill on Second Reading, especially in the circumstances in which we find ourselves. The position I find myself in is that there is a necessity for a Tobacco Bill to be introduced. The Government are the responsible people to introduce that measure. This is the measure they have introduced. There are no grounds for opposing that measure in the circumstances, regardless of whether I agree with them or did not agree with them; because it embodies the principle that we must adopt on the Second Reading that a Bill is necessary. On this stage of the Bill the Opposition cannot offer anything in the way of criticism. That criticism can only be effective when we come down to deal with the sections. Any further criticism that I have to offer will be reserved for the Committee Stage. The Minister, or perhaps some of his supporters, will reply to some of the points raised.
I am a supporter of tobacco growing if it can be made a profitable undertaking. It is no use for any supporter of tobacco growing in this country to get up here and tell this House the amount of money he or any other person made on the growing of tobacco last year. The duty on tobacco and tobacco products varies from 9/4½ per lb. to 17/10 per lb. Last year growers of tobacco got a remission of duty.
Did you grow any?
It would be very easy to make money at that rate. There is no use in trotting out that, because only 10,000 acres are needed to supply all our requirements. Last year there were 700 or 800 acres grown and those people who got away with it made up to £300 or £400 per acre. Some claim they made that much. Well they made it at the expense of the rest of the community. The rest of the people put their hands in their pockets and handed out these £300 or £400 for an acre of tobacco. The nation as a whole cannot continue to do that. That crop was not a commercial crop. It was a nurse crop.
There is no use in making a case for growing tobacco on the basis of having the taxpayer pay the money to prop up the men who grow it. Let the case be made that we can grow tobacco in a reasonable way to suit our requirements, grow it as a crop that is self-contained and has not to be subsidised. Will anybody make a case on that ground? The case put up by the Minister—and it is embodied in this Bill— is that the growing of tobacco can only be made possible this year and there will not be much to be made out of it even after giving a subsidy of £42 per statute acre. These are very important figures—a subsidy of £42 per acre by the State to each grower of tobacco. I would like that to be refuted if it can. There is no crop that was ever grown in this country but could be grown with better profit than tobacco if the State is prepared to give the grower of that crop a subsidy of £42 per acre. I would like to have that refuted too. On the Second Stage in the circumstances that is all I can say. It is the most important of all considerations.
The Government gave, I suppose, at least 10/- a lb. subsidy to tobacco growing last year by way of remission of duty. Is the experiment wise? People made money out of it. Look at what the Government has done with agriculture and they cannot deny that. They reduced the remission to 10d. per lb. this year. Even that means £42 a statute acre. That is a cardinal point on the Second Reading for supporters of the principle of this Bill. Whether the principle is good, bad or indifferent the Bill is necessary now to regulate the crop for this year. To make tobacco growing anything like permanent, are we prepared to give £42 a statute acre for it? Any other crop grown with the subsidy of £42 an acre would give better results. I could grow anything at all or nothing at all with a subsidy of £42 an acre. When the weed would put up its head it would only be necessary to plough it in again and run the cultivator through the land. This is the case where money can be got out of the tax-payer's pocket for a crop and then we throw up our hats and cheer "Up de Valera."
There are several sections about the growers', curers' and rehandlers' licences and the granting of these licences. I think these questions would be more appropriately dealt with in the Committee Stage. One point struck me and that was that the Revenue Commissioners were given power to refuse any applications that they wanted to refuse. But in the case of those to whom they are prepared to give the licences they have not the power to issue them. They recommend these people to the Minister for Agriculture and the Minister has power to grant or withhold the licences and convey the information back to the Revenue Commissioners, who then grant the licences.
I do not say at this stage whether the Revenue Commissioners should or should not be given the power to grant or refuse the licence. If they are not given the power to grant the licence they should not be given the power to refuse applications. They send the applications they are prepared to recommend to the Minister, but in doing that they should also send to the Minister their comments by suitable endorsements on those applications which they have refused. As the Bill stands the Revenue Commissioners can refuse any applications they think fit. The names of those they recommend are sent to the Minister, but they cannot grant the licences themselves. When they refuse an application there is no appeal to the Minister over the heads of the Revenue Commissioners. However, that is a more appropriate matter for the Committee Stage. In conclusion I would like if the Minister would refute, if he can, the points that I have put up. I would be glad if he would be able to do it. I would be glad that tobacco could be made a success in this country. Under the present conditions it cannot. Can the Minister deny that this Bill provides a subsidy of £42 per statute acre for an average crop? Or that the curing and rehandling charges will be at least 10d. per lb.?
That brings the price down to the grower of tobacco at 7d. per lb. for dried leaf—that is dried down to 12 or 14 per cent. moisture. I would like the Minister, when he is replying, to deal with these points. The leaf mostly grown here is that for pipe tobacco which is the cheapest leaf. One point made by Deputy O'Reilly was that the bottom leaves are the best. I know a man who grows a plot of tobacco and he always knocks off the bottom leaves. When the plant comes to a certain stage he knocks off the top leaves and flowers and the bottom leaves, and says that it is only the mid-leaves that are really good. However, that is a detail. What I have asked the Minister to deal with, in his reply, is what I am most concerned about. I want to know what is the cost to the State of this growing of tobacco here? And without the aid of the State what would be the cost to the grower? If he pays 10d. for drying and rehandling tobacco, and if, after he has dried and rehandled, its commercial value is 7d. that means that the grower will get minus 3d. for growing tobacco. That is the position. To cure that, and to give a little profit to the grower, the State comes in with 10d. bonus, subsidy or bribe, whichever you wish to call it, amounting to £42 per acre. That is the quintessence of the whole thing. Those who say we will grow more tobacco; it is the salvation of agriculture, should realise that the State has to provide £42 per acre. Where is all that to come from? That, as I say, is the quintessence of the whole problem. It is not so easy as it was last year, because then the duty was remitted. Tell us what the nation will get out of this tobacco growing and whether it is a dutiable product? If it does not pay duty the duty has to come from somewhere. Let the supporters of the details of this Bill tell us how it can be grown without subsidy. If it cannot be grown without subsidy, what is there to justify them throwing up their hats in the air and saying we have reached agricultural safety, we have changed our economy, our motto is "the road for the bullock and a chew of tobacco for the people."
I wonder whether Deputy Belton realises the infliction it has been to any Deputy to have to sit and listen to him for the last hour, talking about something he knows damn-all about. Somebody gave him a leaf of something or other and persuaded him it was tobacco, and he believed it was. It might have been cabbage. Then he started telling us all about tobacco. The Deputy got his chance last year and would not grow tobacco.
I knew exactly what you would say.
We first had Deputy Dillon, and he was nuisance enough until Deputy Belton started, and that finished it. Deputy Belton was not averse to getting a tariff on rhubarb, and I am sure he made noise enough about it. I heard him trying to persuade the Minister here, on one occasion, that he did not know that there was going to be a tariff on rhubarb. Then when the Minister said that he gave a tariff on rhubarb the Deputy declared that it was he persuaded him to do so. Next year Deputy Belton will be persuading the House that he made the Fianna Fáil Government grow tobacco. Deputy Belton, however, is a long way from his predecessors, I admit that. Here is what a predecessor of Deputy Belton said, which will be found in Vol. 36, col. 1196, of the Official Reports. This is what Mr. Blythe said:
"An industry that can only be kept going at a cost of £310 an acre to the State"
Deputy Belton assures us that it costs £42 an acre to the State, but his predecessor told us that it would cost £310 an acre.
If you remit all the duty.
The Deputy's predecessor said that the industry could only be kept going by getting £300 an acre, perhaps more. That was his opinion.
Was not the remission of duty provided for?
I am quoting the contention of your predecessor. He said it would be cheaper to give a man £3 a week and tell him to grow nothing at all. That was Mr. Blythe's view. The Minister for Agriculture at the time told us that tobacco growing was wrong; that it should not be grown at all. He said from information he had received he had come to the conclusion that tobacco growing was futile, and that, in that state of affairs they were not prepared to waste the time of the Dáil in setting up a committee to go into the question of tobacco growing. That was the way things were for ten years. The committee was set up in 1926 and then it was ascertained that it would cost about £35 an acre to grow tobacco. But Deputy Blythe made the declaration that it would cost over £300 an acre and Deputy Belton now comes along and puts the figure at £42 an acre.
I did not relate the £42 per acre to the cost of growing tobacco; what I did say was that if 10d. of the duty was remitted over an acreage of 1,000 acres of tobacco it worked out as £42 per acre as subsidy or bribe to the farmer.
I accept Deputy Belton's statement that it costs £42 to the State, but Deputy Blythe said it would cost over £300.
That depends upon the amount of the remission of duty.
It means that he was a little more foolish than the Deputy. If we take Deputy Belton's argument, and it has been used in secula saeculorum, you can buy foreign beef for half what beef costs to produce here. It is the same with regard to Indian meal, wheat, everything that is grown on the land. Under certain conditions nothing could be grown on the land that would pay for cost of production. Deputy Belton could not even grow rhubarb. He had to fight here for a tariff. When we came in here we put a tariff on rhubarb. Is not that a fact? Does the Deputy stand up and deny it?
Do you deny——
The Deputy must address the Chair.
Deputy Belton has been arguing for the last hour——
I find that Deputy Belton spoke for half an hour.
That is just exaggeration by Deputy Corry.
I should not care to waste any further time on Deputy Belton, because he has shown that he knows nothing at all about the crop of which he was talking. One of the complaints made by Deputy Belton—before I give him up for a bad job—was in regard to Deputy O'Reilly's statement on the subject of moisture. Deputy Belton wanted to put Deputy O'Reilly in the wrong by suggesting that he wanted to shift tobacco at from 10 per cent. to 15 per cent. moisture from one county to another. Deputy Belton knows that when tobacco is being shifted to a re-handling station it contains from 17 per cent. to 25 per cent. or even 30 per cent. of moisture. I have seen tobacco in perfect condition coming into Cork this year from County Waterford and even from the County Clare. There is no great amount of "fat" in this Bill for the grower. He will not have very much to spare. I suggest to the Minister that that is one reason why re-handling licences should be refused to all but co-operative societies of the growers. They have set up re-handling stations and, if the greater portion of the crop is sent in to them, they will be able to re-handle it at a lesser charge and the grower will be getting the benefit of the 2d. or 3d. extra per lb. on his tobacco. The larger the bulk of tobacco that goes to the re-handling station, the smaller the overhead charges and the smaller the charges for re-handling will be. Things are so confined in price that the Minister ought to make an effort in that direction. I cannot see what claim these gentlemen in Dublin or elsewhere who set up re-handling stations can have. They pay no labour.
Manufacturers who set up rehandling stations last year paid no labour whatsoever, but turned their own staff on to the work. Our rehandling station in Cork paid £600 in wages last year out of 35 or 36 acres of tobacco. In that way, that rehandling station, the Randalstown station, and another one in County Wexford, could easily cope with all the tobacco grown this year. The growers would, in this way, be given an opportunity of getting a better price. Last year some of the people I have referred to bought tobacco for 2/6 or 3/- per lb. and made their fortunes at the expense of the farmers. These rehandlers should be put out of existence. There is no room for them. If the tobacco industry is to develop on proper lines there ought to be only two bodies—the growers, with their co-operative society having its own rehandling station, and the manufacturers. If there are too many middlemen, they will get all the "fat" and the grower will come to the ground. That is one of the principal things with which I ask the Minister to deal.
Another point I should like to emphasise is that made by Deputy O'Reilly with regard to seed. If we are to allow seed to be sold around the country by seedsmen we will never get a proper variety of tobacco. These seedsmen sell stuff that turns out in many cases to be flowering tobacco and the grower loses his whole crop. The third point with which I should like to deal is that of the manufacturer who is also a rehandler. That is another thing which should be ended. There is no room in this business for anybody but the ordinary grower, with his co-operative society, and the manufacturer. I am glad that the Bill has been introduced and that this year we will know exactly where we stand in regard to tobacco growing. There is a big future for the tobacco growers. I see no reason why the £650,000 that leaves this country every year for foreign tobacco should not find its way into the pockets of our farmers and help them out. There is not much "fat" in the price, but still the crop will pay. If the Minister takes the advice he has got in connection with the rehandling stations, it will pay better still. There is no room for the gentlemen in Dublin who set up little rehandling stations, buy the farmers' tobacco, as they did last year, and make a haul while the going is good. Neither is there room for Deputy Belton's argument. Deputy Belton turned himself into a builder when the grants were going.
Because there was more money in it.
You were quite prepared to take advantage of the money that was coming out of the pockets of the people. The grant you got for building those lines of houses came out of the pockets of the taxpayer, same as the £40 per acre for tobacco. I should like you to remember these things when you get up. The tariff on rhubarb came out of the taxpayers' pockets and out of the pockets of the farming community. The tobacco growers have an equal right with Deputy Belton. In fact, they have a greater right, because they are providing a much needed want. They have just the very self-same right to get a grant or to be helped out in starting this industry here as you have to be helped out with a £75 grant for a house.
Will the Deputy say who is going to pay all the grants and subsidies?
You got your haul.
I should like to ask the Minister one question before he replies. I do not want to prolong the discussion for more than about three minutes. I am glad to learn that Deputy Corry's political and economic education is almost complete. We have at last the acknowledgment from the Government Benches that all those subsidies and all those bounties come out of the pockets of the ordinary taxpayer. That is a wonderful acknowledgment, and it is about time we got it. I am also glad to learn that the tobacco experiment in this country has been at least a partial success. We all, I am sure, wish it further success. I want to put in just a few words on behalf of the consumer, who has not been even once mentioned in the course of this debate. Without saying anything derogatory about the tobacco which has been grown in this country, we cannot fail to remember that all tobacco smokers, whether they smoke tobacco in a pipe or in the form of a cigarette, acquire certain tastes. I would remind the Minister, in case perhaps he might be forgetting it, that tobacco smokers cultivate a taste. Their palates are either tickled or pleased by certain brands of tobacco. When a smoker cannot obtain his favourite brand of tobacco it is with difficulty that he takes the next best thing. I do hope that the change over from the tobacco which has hitherto been smoked in this country by the users of tobacco will be very gradual, in order that the palates of the smokers may become accustomed to the new growth. My own experience has been rather an unhappy one. My first essay at experimenting with Irish-grown tobacco had rather disastrous consequences for me. That may, of course, be a very pleasant thing for Deputy Corry to hear, but in all sincerity I do suggest that the change over should be very gradual, unless it is the intention of the Minister and his Government to do what the anti-smoking league were unable to do, namely, to compel us to give up the pipe, or the cigarette, or the cigar. I would ask the Minister to ensure, at any rate, that the change over will be gradual, and to insist that whilst the 25 per cent. of Irish-grown tobacco may be used this year, it should not be more than about 30 per cent. next year, and so on until such time as the palates of our people become educated—I use that word in an open and broad sense —up to being able to smoke the homegrown product. I wish the experiment every success. I agree with Deputy Corry that it would be a very good thing if we could secure for Irish growers the money that has hitherto been paid to the foreigners who grew our tobacco, all the time having regard to the fact, from the smokers' point of view, that if we do not get good tobacco we will not smoke it. For that reason I do hope the Minister will see that the change over will be the gradual.
The Minister to conclude.
Very few points of the Second Stage character have been made. Nearly everybody who has spoken has agreed that as tobacco is being grown this year it is necessary to regulate it, and that a Bill of this kind was necessary. There were some criticisms of the different sections. As well as that, there was criticism of the price. The question of price is one which would be more appropriately debated at the time when the rebate is announced, because it is largely the rebate given in the Finance Bill that would decide the price which the grower is to get for his tobacco. I do not propose to go into that. Deputy Dillon made the point that the Revenue Commissioners should make their regulations after consultation with the Minister for Agriculture. I am quite sure the Minister for Agriculture and the growers will make their voices heard when the regulations are coming out, and I am sure that they will strongly impress their views upon the Revenue Commissioners. I agree with Deputy Dillon when he says that the regulations under which the growers have to grow tobacco should be made known to them pretty far in advance of the date on which they are to set the tobacco. I do not agree with him, however, when he said that the applications for growers' licences should be made in June of the year before the crop is to be set. It is pretty difficult to get farmers to make applications either for licences to grow tobacco or licences to grow wheat or anything else before they have to set it. It is usually after they have set it that they apply for their licence. I do not think, either, that it will be possible to give a grower a licence for 5 or 10 years. After all, the men who grew tobacco last year have been stabilised in their position this year. Naturally the whole tendency of the Department of Agriculture will be to give licences to those who are fully competent to grow tobacco, and to those who have been proved competent in previous years. Several Deputies raised the question of advance to growers. The proposals for this year will enable rehandlers to pay interest on whatever advances they get from the bank or other sources. I think tobacco in bond, if it is insured, is as good a security for money as the bank or any other lender could get. I do not think the rehandlers would have the slightest difficulty in getting advances from some source against the tobacco that is being rehandled or that is in bond.
Deputy Belton did not know whether it really was wise or unwise to grow tobacco. He gave some fantastic figures about what it was going to cost to grow all the tobacco, if we were going to do it. The fact of the matter is that it is at the moment costing us some £700,000 to buy the tobacco we are importing. If by the adjustment of taxation we can keep that £700,000 at home it is all to the good. It does not mean that the taxpayers have to pay it. It might as well be said that if we were to charge Deputy Belton and every other citizen in the State a 1/- per cubic foot of air we would be getting an income of about £90,000,000 a year, and that on that basis Deputy Belton is getting a subsidy of £30 a year to go round. If we do not put the tax on tobacco it would be put on something else, and there is really nothing in the argument that it is going to cost the State whatever number of million pounds Deputy Belton made out for the growing of tobacco. The net result of growing our own tobacco here will not be a loss but an advantage of some £600,000 or £700,000 to the agricultural community. That is a sum which hitherto went into the pockets of foreign farmers for their tobacco. That will be all to the good. I hope that by the control which this Bill gives to the Department of Agriculture and to the Minister they will be able so to regulate the growth of tobacco that we will have a leaf which will suit the tastes both of cigarette and pipe smokers here, and that we will be keeping here before many years that £600,000 or £700,000 which is now going out to foreigners.