The series of amendments suggested by Deputy O'Donovan got very full consideration in my Department and I think the case against accepting them is very strong. Even assuming that the value ascertained from the sale were available and reliable in the first place it would lead to great delay, as is shown by our experience of the wheat scheme. When the wheat scheme first came in we had to get returns from the millers as to what they paid for the wheat all over in order to find out the average price paid. We were held up for a long time because the millers did not make returns, and then perhaps some little error was detected in the returns and they had to be sent back. The result was that we had farmers complaining all over the country and their representatives here also complaining at the great delay in paying the honus on the wheat. The same thing in another way applies to tobacco. The returns are very long about coming in and the bonus, for instance, on last year's crop is not paid even yet, so that, although the farmers are growing the tobacco for the second time, they have not yet been paid for the last crop on account of the long delay in getting returns from the rehandlers and manufacturers which are necessary before the bonus is paid.
In this case we can imagine even a worse position arising than in the case of wheat, because we would have to wait until all the flax is sold. If any farmer for any reason held up the sale of flax we would have to wait until he effected a sale to get the return from the spinner or whoever might buy it. In that way the subsidy would not be paid perhaps for months and months after a number of farmers had disposed of their crop. From experience we find that farmers were much better pleased to get all that was coming to them for the wheat when selling it. They did not like getting part of the value when the wheat was sold to the miller and waiting for the bonus for some time. The same thing would apply to flax. They cannot get the subsidy at the same time of course, but we want at least to see that they get the subsidy as quickly as possible. That is my principal objection, in fact my whole objection, to the scheme suggested by Deputy O'Donovan.
Under the scheme as laid down in the Bill we send an inspector to see the flax weighed, and at the same time he notes down what he thinks is the value of it, but not for publication. He notes it down in his notebook, which is returned to the Department, and the miller is not made any the wiser of what the inspector thinks is the value of it—at least, he need not be. When we have got the values from our own inspectors, we can strike an average value. In fact, under the Bill, I do not think we are bound to wait until all the flax is valued—we only want to get the average value. If there is any miller, or any farmer, holding up things, we need not wait for him, but can go ahead and ascertain what the average value is, and begin paying the subsidy when due. Deputy O'Donovan also knows that there are not markets here. In the North of Ireland, where they have a flax scheme, they have, I think, compulsory marketing. If we had some scheme like that here, of course, we would be in a better position to adopt Deputy O'Donovan's suggestion if we thought wise to adopt it. But, as we have not markets here, I think it would be impossible to consider it at all.
Deputy O'Donovan also made the case that the inspector would be no judge of the flax; that even buyers have their own values; that one buyer wants a certain grade of flax and pays a certain price for it, and another buyer may not want that particular grade, but another grade for which he will pay a different price. It appears to me that an intelligent inspector would, for that very reason, be in a better position to assess the price, because he would have an idea, perhaps, that a certain grade of flax would be taken by a certain individual at a certain price, and that another grade in the same mill would be taken by a different buyer at a different price.
On the whole, I think that we should give the Bill as it stands a trial. The experience is that when legislation is brought in with regard to a matter like this, or cereals, or dairy produce, invariably after a year's or two years' experience it is necessary to have further legislation to deal with matters that were not foreseen, perhaps, or with further developments. If there is a big increase in the growing of flax, we may possibly have to deal with that by an amending Bill. Therefore, I think that for a commencement we should give this present scheme a chance, and if flax-growing increases to any great extent, and if we have a good case for bringing in a marketing scheme, and seeing that public markets are instituted, as they have been in Northern Ireland, then it might be possible to consider the principle of the amendments. As things stand, however, we could not accept it.