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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 21 Jul 1936

Vol. 63 No. 12

In Committee on Finance. - Milk (Regulation of Supply and Price) Bill, 1936—Financial Resolution.

I presume we might follow the usual practice in taking the Financial Resolution and the Second Stage together and then, if Deputies desire, we could take a vote on both of them if necessary.

I will raise an objection to that to which I think the Minister will agree. There is a proposal here that a levy shall be imposed on all milk sold where this Bill comes into operation. That is very definitely an imposition of taxation—it is hidden taxation. It is going to be utilised, not through Government machinery, but nevertheless through machinery set up by the Government. It will impose a definite tax on the consumers of milk. The Bill is a very elaborate machinery measure, and I think the Financial Resolution is really intended for the definite purpose of discussing the financial effects of this levy. I think it is a very important matter and should be discussed separately. Then the Bill can be discussed as a machinery business.

I should like the Minister to understand that there would not be objection to a discussion of the Financial Resolution and the Bill, as such, if in the Financial Resolution the proposed impositions were set out. The objection is to the Dáil giving enabling powers to the Minister. Enabling powers may, in certain circumstances, be excusable or pardonable, but there is a reservation with regard to the imposition of taxation. We could not undertake to countenance the matter being settled in any other way. My own view for what it is worth is that it is unconstitutional, and could be upset in the courts of law, for the Minister, or Executive Council, or any authority, to impose taxation other than what is put before the Dáil and passed here. That is the real objection I have to discussing the two matters together.

Dr. Ryan

I do not mind very much whether you discuss them separately or not, but it is in order to set out the reasons for this levy that I suggested it, as I will have to make almost a Second Reading speech. It is for that reason that I thought it might be more convenient to explain the whole of the provisions of the Bill, and so give the reasons for this levy. I do not mind in the least whether you take them separately or not.

Might I suggest to the Minister that there were Bills in Great Britain and in Northern Ireland in connection with the price of milk in which was laid down what was aimed at—the exact price? Neither in the Financial Resolution here, nor in the case of the machinery of this Bill, has that figure been arrived at. I can quite understand that, to some extent, the circumstances are different, but that they are not entirely different. But we hold there is a difference, and we think that, even if there are two different bodies of milk producers to be dealt with, it would be better if the prices were set out. Whatever may be said in criticism of that, I hold that, in respect of the levy, the Dáil should be in possession of the exact amount of the imposition.

In order to regularise the discussion, perhaps the Minister would formally move item No. 7 on the Order Paper.

Dr. Ryan

I move:—

(1) That there shall be charged and levied and paid to each milk board as on and from a date to be fixed in respect of such board under statutory authority a levy on milk sold in the functional area of such board.

(2) That the said levy payable to a milk board shall be paid by such vendors and purchasers of milk as shall be specified in that behalf by statute, and that such levy shall be applied in such ways as shall be directed or authorised by statute.

(3) That the said levy shall be charged, levied and paid at such several rates as shall be fixed by the Minister for Agriculture under statutory authority and provision shall be made by statute for collecting and enforcing payment thereof.

(4) That in this resolution the expression "milk board" means a board to be established by statute for the purposes of fulfilling (amongst other functions) certain functions in relation to the supply and price of milk.

In reply to Deputy Cosgrave, I would like to say that those levies, in the form of an Order, will be laid on the Table of the House. I do not know if that satisfies the Deputy, but they will come before the Dáil in that form. It is extremely difficult to foretell what the amount of the levy may be. In my opinion it will not be more than a farthing per gallon, but I would not like to give that as a definite figure. The expenses with regard to the payment of the chairman's remuneration and to meet whatever staff he may require, as well as the expenses of the members of the board, will be small when measured as a levy per gallon on the large supply of milk coming into the City of Dublin, and it is in regard to that supply that I am speaking now. There are, however, two other items and it is very hard to gauge the amount of the increase that they may be responsible for. If we are to encourage the consumption of milk that may take the form of advertising, and the advertising, in turn, may take the form of supplying milk below cost to certain classes of the community. I do not know, of course, what the board may do. All this is in their hands, and I cannot anticipate what the board may do. Another uncertain item is that relating to a surplus of milk. If the board have to deal with a surplus of milk there will, inevitably, be a loss in connection with it, and, again, I cannot say what that may amount to. As far as these two items and the expenses of the board are concerned, the Department estimate that the levy is not likely to be more than a farthing per gallon.

This Resolution proposes to continue the policy that the Government have embarked on, namely, to impose hidden taxation on that large section of the community who find it so hard to purchase the bare necessaries of life. When the Government came into office the Minister for Finance boasted, in his first Budget, that they had imposed additional taxation to the extent of £4,000,000. Ministers went through the country explaining that that amount of additional taxation was going to come out of the pockets of the rich. While that rate of taxation was continued, and even raised, we reached the point when Ministers had to face the Dáil and say: "Why should not the poor man, why should not the working man rather, pay taxation?" Experience has shown that the greater part of the burden of increased taxation has fallen on the working classes and that the taxation position in the country is such that, when recently a small relief in respect of children's education was proposed, the answer given by the Minister for Finance, in refusing to adopt it, was that the taxation that would be necessary to give effect to it would fall on the working classes. Not only has this £4,000,000 in additional taxation been maintained, but very substantial amounts have been shed out of the revenue accounts in the way of hidden taxation, all of which, of course, has fallen on the people.

There is hidden taxation in respect of sugar. It does not appear in the revenue accounts, apart from what appears in them in respect of customs and excise. Hidden taxation is paid over the counter for bacon. Increasing sums are being paid in respect of flour and bread. Hidden taxation is being paid over the counter in respect of butter, and to the extent of £4,000,000, and perhaps more, additional taxation has been put on consumers of the necessaries of life by the present Government's policy. Apart altogether from the additional £4,000,000 that the Minister for Finance boasted so much of when he put that amount of extra taxation on the people in his first Budget, the consumers of the necessaries of life are being taxed over the counter for bread, bacon, butter and sugar, and they are now going to be taxed over the counter for milk. The Minister says that to meet expenses the amount of the levy may be small. He said it may be a farthing a gallon, but added that he could not be sure.

We are asking the Minister to face what has happened in the City of Dublin since Sunday week last. Never in the history of the City of Dublin was there a greater supply of milk at its doors from the Counties of Louth, Meath, Kildare and Wicklow and from the County Dublin itself. The number of milch cows in these counties, as compared to 1931, has increased by one-fifth. The position is that there are now 16,000 additional milch cows outside the doors of the people of Dublin as compared with 1931. People who were in consultation with the Minister early in this year complained of the glut of milk between April or May and August. That is a point that has to be taken into account when dealing with the milk situation in Dublin: that the city is suffering from a glut of milk from what may be described as the Dublin home counties. Before last Sunday, the big distributors in the City of Dublin had been paying the farmers in the Counties of Wicklow, Meath, Kildare and Louth—so the distributors themselves complain—something about 5d. per gallon. I have seen myself a circular issued to the farmers in County Meath saying that their quota was so many gallons for which they would be paid 6d. a gallon, and that any surplus would be paid for at the rate of 3d. per gallon. Statements have been made on behalf of some producers that they were receiving 4½d. per gallon from the large distributors. While that was so, ordinary retailers in the City of Dublin who serve ordinary areas in the city, not necessarily the poorer areas but areas close to the ordinary working class districts such as Camden Street, were paying 8d. and 9d. a gallon to individual farmers delivering milk in the city. These retailers were able to sell that milk over the counter at 1½d. a pint.

Whatever happened as a result of the discussions between the officials in the Minister's Department and the bigger distributors, an attempt was made to prevent these retailers getting their milk at 8d. a gallon. In some cases they were forced to pay a shilling a gallon. At any rate, they were forced to pay an increased price and forced to raise the price of milk sold over the counter by 2d. a pint. What was it that brought about that situation? The big distributors in the City of Dublin agreed to pay the producers in the neighbouring counties the same amount, and not more than the same amount, as the ordinary retailers had been paying the local farmers heretofore. They were paying 8d. and 9d. a gallon to farmers when the bigger distributors in the City of Dublin were paying, according to the producers themselves, 5d. a gallon. According to documents I saw myself they were paying 6d. for a limited quota and 3d. after that. So far as I can understand anything about the suggestions or the circumstances that force up the price of milk over the counter——

Dr. Ryan

The Opposition were very anxious that I should confine myself to the Financial Resolution. I wonder would the Opposition confine themselves to the Financial Resolution?

I am confining myself entirely to the Financial Resolution and I am pointing out that the negotiations that took place, as a result of which this Financial Resolution is in front of us——

Dr. Ryan

As a result of which the Bill is in front of us.

As a result of which the Bill and the Financial Resolution are in front of us—and I do not see any merit in the Bill any more than I do in the Financial Resolution——

Dr. Ryan

That does not put the Deputy in order.

I will be prepared to be called to order by the Chair; I am not prepared to be called to order by a Minister who has sat still and done nothing while the price of milk to the poorer classes in the City of Dublin was increased by ½d. a pint, although the people responsible for bringing about that increase are paying no more now than the retailers were paying before the big producers came to an agreement with the farmers.

The Financial Resolution proposes that a levy be charged. I fail to see the connection between such levy and an agreement recently made between wholesalers or retailers, distributors and producers of milk in the Dublin area.

The connection is this, that the only explanation you can get from anyone as to why any set of farmers were forced to charge retailers in the city 1/- a gallon for milk when they were selling milk to the big distributors at 8d. was that the additional 4d. was going to go into a fund that was intended to do something to improve the general milk situation in the country; that is, that the additional 4d. was going to be a levy, that it was not going to be handled by the farmer, but that it was going to be paid into some kind of fund.

This Financial Resolution deals with a proposed levy. The Deputy should discuss that proposal.

There is a levy in operation at the moment. There is one in operation at the present moment to an extent that causes milk to be increased from 1½d. to 2d. a pint over a considerable part of the city.

The Chair still fails to see what relation an outside arrangement arrived at by milk distributors and farmers bears to the levy now under consideration. The Deputy has referred to some levy alleged to be in operation. It is not the levy set out in this Resolution.

It is the precursor of it. I would be satisfied to leave the ½d. alone and discuss the ¼d. a gallon that the Minister speaks of, if the Minister will tell me that the ½d. is going to disappear or if he gives any reasonable explanation as to why, when people who paid the farmers 5d. a gallon agreed to pay them 8d. a gallon——

That explanation has no bearing on this Financial Resolution.

——the price of milk should be raised by retailers who were paying the farmers 8d. before.

The Deputy has not demonstrated any relation between that increased price and the levy.

You are in the dark, Sir, because we are all dealing with a big swindle. We are imposing here a levy. I do not accept the Minister's statement; at least, the Minister may be right, but why should I accept the statement from the Minister that this word "levy" means ¼d. a gallon when there is a levy at present operating of a ½d. a pint and that levy is being paid by the poorer consumers of milk? If I am to be confined in the matter of order, I am prepared to hear anybody, yourself included, Sir, on the definition of this word "levy".

It is not the function of the Chair to define or explain such matters.

At present there is a levy of ½d. a pint being paid by consumers in the poorer districts, being paid over the retail counters. That is why I am talking about a ½d. in connection with this levy, because tortuous and obscure explanations have been given as to what that ½d. is going to be used for. It was not necessary to pay that ½d. when the ordinary retailers of milk in the city were paying the farmers what many farmers considered a reasonable price for milk in the circumstances, 8d. a gallon. But we have the situation that when the bigger distributors agreed to raise the price that they were paying to farmers from 5d. to 8d. a gallon, they manipulated the situation in the city and raised the price on the poor.

The alleged manipulations of dealers in milk are not relevant. The Deputy may be perturbed about the price of milk, but that fact does not make his remarks relevant to this Financial Resolution.

Speaking as a representative of the people who use this milk in the city——

Quite, but the Chair would like to hear the Deputy speak to a definite Financial Resolution.

I am speaking to a definite resolution, and this whole proposal, to my mind, is the giving of sanction by a general and loosely-worded resolution to the continuance of the charging of a ½d. a pint extra on milk sold over the counter in the city. I say that this Resolution is entirely on a par with the extra money that people pay over the counter for bacon, the extra money people pay over the counter for flour and bread, and the extra money people pay over the counter for butter. It would be more decent and honest if the Government would admit that that was so. We have a Bacon Board to look after the bacon business, and the bakers are doing all the necessary collecting and the millers all the necessary paying out of the additional money taken from the people in respect of bread and flour. It is being done in another way in respect of butter. The whole thing arises out of the fact that the agricultural community has been prevented managing its business in its own way.

The chairman of the producers who carried on the bulk of the negotiations with the Minister in respect of this, is a person who, by his political actions, has reduced the price of cattle from £16 a head to £7 10s. and £8 a head in respect of every head of cattle in his county. He is, no doubt, persisting in that. All the Ministers and all the back benchers belonging to the Government Party are persisting in that, and at the present time they have to go to the poor in the City of Dublin and collect a ½d. a pint to keep some of these farmers in a state of decent subsistence. Everyone must sympathise with the producer who wants to get his cost of production and something over that will enable him to keep his family, to look after their education and place them subsequently. It is sheer lunacy, it is criminal, that men such as I speak of should, by their actions, have destroyed the whole economy of the farmers in respect of their cattle-rearing and live-stock products, and now, instead of looking after the real interest of their business, they endeavour to get another ½d. on the pint out of the poor people of the city.

I object, Sir, to this further searching out of some of the necessaries of life to impose—and to impose in a hidden way —taxation on them, even to keep the farmers in some kind of a decent position. The fact is that, bad as is the position of the producers of milk in the counties near to the City of Dublin, they are no worse off than the unfortunate people in the city who in the last week were being charged this increased price. They have between them in the five counties I mentioned 16,000 additional milch cows. They at least have milk. Here to-day we are being asked to put on a levy which will fall on the poor people here at a time when, as a result of the negotiations that went on, there is milk being spilled down the shores in the City of Dublin because the bigger distributors, trying to stand up to their promises to the producers, are taking milk from the producers to-day that they are unable to use. It is a nice comfort and it must be a nice outlook for the workers of the City of Dublin to see that the Minister is moving a Resolution here, which is going to have statutory effect through this House, to sanction the increased price of milk to-day, because, no matter what the Minister may say with regard to his intention in connection with this levy, the passing of this Resolution is going to give the seal of authority to the charge made to-day in Dublin of an extra ½d. a pint for milk sold over the counter.

The Minister ought to have given the House a little more information as to the real reason for this particular Money Resolution. I do not know how much the Minister expects to get, assuming that ¼d. a gallon were going to be put on as a levy. I wonder if the Minister would be able to say how much he expects to get assuming that ¼d. per gallon were going to be put on as a levy? The Minister cannot give us that figure now?

Dr. Ryan

¼d. a gallon would be about £30 a day.

Which is approximately £10,000 a year.

Dr. Ryan

Between £10,000 and £11,000.

If one examines the various provisions of this measure it will be found that in order to get in that much money numerous accounts, returns, forms of accountancy, and so on, have to be undertaken by producers, by retailers, and by wholesalers. It is quite possible that the costs incidental to the provision of that sum would amount to something like 30 per cent. or 40 per cent. of the sum. It will not reduce the £10,000, but it will put extra costs on the individuals. The sum involved is relatively small, a sum which one might expect that the Ministry of Agriculture would include in its own list of expenses for the year. The Minister knows the various steps that are taken in returns from wholesalers, in returns from retailers, and in returns from producers. The producer must be in a position to say what quantity of milk he sold to a wholesaler, or to a retailer, or to a person who is not one or the other, and while it is an equitable imposition in so far as one can learn the quantity of milk that will be handled by each individual, the expenses incidental, the penalties, inspections and so on, will add to the cost of administration, not only on the part of the Government, but of the board and of the individuals, and all for a sum of £10,000.

Observe, in connection with the Bill which has been introduced in Great Britain and, I think, in Northern Ireland, that there is a limitation mentioned as to the sum that is available to what they call the equalisation fund—which does not arise in this case—and they also limit to a particular sum the taxation or levy which might be put upon the milk. If, in this particular Resolution, we had even the information that it would be limited to ¼d. a gallon, it would not be so objectionable as it is at present. The Minister's statement to the effect that the Dáil will have to approve of it afterwards does not improve the situation. That system of imposition of taxation is bad. Unless it were violently opposed to the measure, once the Ministry has been committed to action of this kind, the Dáil would not revoke or amend any such imposition. The Minister knows that if a tariff be put upon anything, and a measure is presented to the House months afterwards, a much stronger case would have to be made to amend or rescind that tariff than would be made in the normal circumstances if it were put down for consideration by the House.

The machinery in connection with the administration of this measure appears to me to be expensive and extravagant. Deputy Mulcahy has mentioned the costs in connection with the Pig Board. Figures in respect of that institution appear in the Minister's Estimate of this year. As well as I remember, the costs are £13,000, and the sums collected are £16,000. There is, I will admit at once, a worse case for putting the costs of that on the production of pigs than there is in respect of milk. At any rate, there is a chance here for the milk producers getting a fair price. Whether the system that is adopted by the Minister to secure that will effect its purpose is another question. If the board be so manned that the producers are in the minority, then the Minister may be called upon to act. In so far as the ordinary public is concerned— and presumably in some cases they have a right to consideration— they have the Minister's expensive machinery to meet in one respect; they have the milk producers in the second respect, and the further profits for either the retailers or wholesalers, or perhaps both, in the third place. This system of putting upon each article of diet its own costs, in respect of whatever administration arises out of the improvements that the Minister introduces in price, is on the public perhaps the most expensive that could be devised. It is quite true that the Minister has not got to face the costs in so far as the imposition of taxation flowing into the Exchequer is concerned, but other than that, what has been devised in respect of the production of sugar, wheat, tobacco and so on, could not possibly be more expensive on the people, nor could it have been less advantageous to the farmers themselves.

I oppose this Money Resolution on the grounds I have stated. Unless in exceptional circumstances, I object to giving authority to any Executive to impose taxation on the people without the authority of Parliament. I object to it because there is no limit beyond which the Minister cannot go. As it stands he could put on a levy of 6d. per gallon. He tells us that is not his intention. Once this Act passes, the Minister is just merely a tenant at will of his office. His office might be occupied by Deputy Davin to-morrow, or by Deputy Everett or some other man who has, perhaps, more interest in the farmers than he has in the citizens of Dublin, or of Cork, or of Galway, or of some place else like that. He may consider that the board should go into very big expenditure under one head or other and justify whatever charges might arise in the course of the imposition of an extra levy. I oppose the Money Resolution.

I should like to say a word or two in connection with this Money Resolution. I understand that it is the intention of the Minister to set up a board. I remember some questions being asked from time to time in connection with boards established in the last few years by the Minister, such as the Pigs Marketing Board and, so far as I remember, the Minister's reply in connection with these boards was that he had no further authority in connection with their establishment. That, at least, so far as I remember, was his reply in connection with the Pigs Marketing Board. I am just wondering will the Minister adopt the same attitude with regard to the setting up of this milk board, and I am wondering whether or not the Minister will be responsible to this House in connection with questions that may be asked from time to time about the administration of the proposed milk board. Then, with regard to the question of price, I should like to know from the Minister what exactly will his position be when this milk board is established, and what will be the board's powers and functions?

With regard to this Money Resolution and the levy in particular, the position that I find myself in is that I am confused about the whole matter. If I thought that the introduction of either the Money Resolution or the Bill was going to improve matters in some way I might be more satisfied, but the mere intervention of the Minister, in reply to Deputy Cosgrave, proves to us what a complicated and impossible matter the Minister has set himself to solve. In reply to Deputy Cosgrave, the Minister said that the levy would amount to £30 a day. Well, £30 a day, calculated on the basis that the Minister suggested, represents 36,480 gallons of milk per day. We have the calculation of 16,000 cows alone, and 14,000 bad cows alone are going to supply the amount of milk that the Minister says he is going to get a levy on. The Labour Party all know what a two-gallon cow is, but 14,000 two-gallon cows are going to supply the amount that the Minister is going to get a farthing a gallon on. I think something like that figure represents the number of cows in the vicinity.

There are something like 98,000 cows in the vicinity.

What does the Deputy mean by the vicinity?

The five Counties of Dublin, Wicklow, Meath, Kildare and Louth.

Anyhow, 14,000 bad cows are going to supply the amount, if the Minister's estimate is correct. Now, we all know that there are a lot more cows than that—treble the number, in fact—and unless, in the course of this discussion, we can get further facts, such as that the Minister has underestimated the amount and only made a shot at it, the problem will not be solved in that way, and, if it is not correct, he will have to state to the House that he does not see any chance of regulating the supply to the demand, and that it is a matter that is insoluble if the present rate of supply around the city continues. As I said, I am confused about the whole matter. Even the little study that I have been able to give the Bill up to the moment confuses me, and I have not been able to study it very much because, naturally, Deputies around the City of Dublin are more interested in this particular Bill; but I see that it may be of interest to me also, in the future, and to the people of my neighbourhood.

If the Bill works well, the Deputy would not object, would he?

If the scheme works well I should be very glad to welcome it, but I cannot see how the subsidy and levy will get over the difficulty. Before the operation of this Bill is attempted, I should like to see some regular open inquiry set up, so that everybody would know the position we are all facing up to, but as it is, we are all confused at the moment when the Minister says that he expects to get £30 a day out of one farthing a gallon. If, as we know it, 14,000 cows can supply the amount of milk required around the City of Dublin, the question appears to be insoluble. I think the House would need to have very much more information before we go much further in this Money Resolution or in the Bill.

I should like to make a few remarks, Sir, in connection with the attitude of the Opposition towards this Bill. I have been listening here, and I have been unable to make up my mind whether or not the Opposition are in favour of the producer securing a reasonable livelihood. We have heard them pointing out the necessity for a guaranteed price for the farmer. In this case, the farmer or the producer, as a result of the farmers organising on trade union lines, has secured some redress. We cannot consider for a moment that 4d. per gallon for milk purchased from the farmers was a price at which the farmers could reasonably supply milk to the consumers here in Dublin. I am in favour of this Bill because it is necessary for the farmer to secure a fair price for his milk in order to be able to pay a living wage to the workers employed by him——

Hear, hear!

——and the producer will be able to pay a living wage now in return for the price he receives as a result of this agreement. Now, as Deputy Mulcahy pointed out, there were a few cases here in Dublin—I suppose about 10 per cent.—of the producers that supplied milk to the shops direct. The other 90 per cent. supplied the milk wholesale, but in return had to pay trade union rates of wages and to observe trade union conditions here in Dublin. Only about 10 per cent. were paid at the rate of 8d. per gallon, and 90 per cent. of the milk used was purchased at 4d. per gallon, or 5d. a gallon in some cases. Now, that 10 per cent. are paying 1/- because the milk is delivered by the producer to a few shopkeepers, but we have no evidence as to what those shopkeepers are paying to the young girls up from the country working from 6 o'clock in the morning till ten o'clock at night. We have actual knowledge of girls from the country working in these so-called dairies in Dublin and receiving only a few shillings a week for working almost 15 hours a day.

These are some of the things that I hope to see remedied as a result of this Bill. I agree, however, with Deputy Cosgrave that the industry should not be asked to pay a levy and that it should be a matter for general taxation. Why should the producer at the present time be expected to pay ¼d. a gallon levy to the Government in connection with this scheme? It should come out of general taxation, as Deputy Cosgrave pointed out. He pointed out, in his address to the Minister, that he was in favour of general taxation in connection with this matter and that it should not be levied on the producer. While we are prepared to give the farmers every support in their efforts to get a guaranteed price for their produce, I would say to Deputy Mulcahy and to others that they should take a different view of this matter because, if they tried to produce under the conditions under which the producer has had to work during the last couple of years, they would realise that even the 8d. a gallon which he is receiving at present does not bring him in a big profit.

I would suggest to the Minister in connection with this new board that the consumer should have representation along with the producer and the wholesale merchant. As the consumer will be a very interested party, it is only fair to the trade union movement that representation should be given, along with the producer and the wholesale merchant on this board to regulate prices. I support this motion, and I support the Bill. I only hope the Minister is in earnest. The House will give every assistance so that a long-felt want in the farming industry will be supplied. The Opposition will have an opportunity to prove the statements made on various occasions that they have sympathy with the farming community and are prepared to do everything possible to see that they will get a guaranteed price for their produce. I believe this is the beginning of a scheme to give the milk producers of Wicklow and Kildare a guaranteed price so as to provide them with a better livelihood than they have at present, and also to enable them to pay a living wage to their workmen.

I asked a question to-day as to whether the Minister would not consider the desirability of setting up a committee or commission to inquire into this problem of the milk supply for urban centres. The fact of it is that no Deputy in this House is qualified to legislate on this question because no Deputy in this House knows the intricacies of the question with which we have to deal. Many farmers, such as myself, coming from rural Ireland, listened with amazement to the price of 8d. per gallon for milk. I never got more than 3½d. a gallon for milk, and when I got 4d. I thought it was a comparatively good price during the last three years, but when one comes up against that situation one recognises immediately that the circumstances surrounding the production of milk for the supply of a city are entirely different from the circumstances surrounding the supply of milk to a rural creamery. I have discussed it with one or two persons who have been engaged in this business for some time, and all the information I extracted from those discussions was a realisation of how little I knew of the peculiar conditions operating in the milk production industry where milk was being produced for the supply of an urban centre.

I want to warn the House of this: the farmers of this country want an opportunity of earning a decent livelihood, but the farmers of this country have never wanted to be quartered on the poor. The farmers of this country were able to make a decent livelihood without asking sacrifices from the poor at any time up to this, and what with the price of bread, the price of milk and the price of other necessities for the poor of this city being increased during the last 12 months, a situation will shortly arise in which the farmers will be held out as a body of men who are battening on the necessities of the poorest section of the community. That situation is one which should not be allowed to develop, and one which, I believe, is highly undesirable. Deputy Everett knows, and I know, that there is not a single child in the tenement houses of this city who is getting enough milk. Every one of them ought to get about twice as much as he is consuming at present, and the reason they are not getting sufficient milk is that their parents cannot afford to pay for it. Is that not admitted on all sides? I know that 90 per cent. of the Deputies in this House would wish them to get that milk, but our contribution to facilitating them in getting the milk is to introduce a Bill which puts a tax of a farthing on milk, and which sets up a machinery which may in the long run operate substantially to increase the price of milk to the poor in the City of Dublin. Whatever the necessities of the producers may be, and I freely admit that they may be very great, will anyone justify in existing circumstances increasing the price of milk to the poor of this city by ½d. a pint? Is that not what is actually happening?

That is so, and nobody in this House has denied it.

Deputy Everett gets up and says that he commends the Financial Resolution to the House. He recommends the Bill to the favourable consideration of Deputies and I put him this simple question: Does he stand for increasing the price of milk by ½d. a pint to the poor of the City of Dublin? I do not, and I say that if we cannot reconcile the interests of the producer with the supply of milk to the poor of this city at a price which the poor can pay for it, the Exchequer must step in and breach the gap.

I know, of course, that what has happened here is that the Minister— and I think the Minister deserves to be indicated for this—allowed things to stagger along until a row started and a number of perfectly respectable men were arrested and the country was threatened with a period of great perturbation, whereupon, I have no doubt, Deputy O'Reilly and a few more Deputies from his neighbourhood galloped round to Government Buildings and said: "For God's sake, do something; these are all respectable men——"

The matter before the House is the Financial Resolution which purports to enact that a levy shall be charged. I do not see how an indictment of the Minister for something which occurred before this Bill was introduced, and the connection of which with this Bill I fail to see, is relevant to the motion.

The expenses to be levied under the Financial Resolution are the expenses in which the Minister will be involved in connection with the setting up of a milk board. The Minister fattened fatuously and futilely for the last six months in the presence of this milk problem. Deputy O'Reilly then went in and put a pistol to his head and the Minister rushed off, grabbed the British Milk Board Act and told his officers: "Put that into operation here." This levy is part of that scheme, with this difference, that the British scheme set a limit to the amount which the Minister could levy. The Minister here has not got the information to say what limit he ought to set himself. He does not know, but he is afraid of Deputy O'Reilly and a few more Deputies. He must do something, and so he comes in here with this Bill which he does not understand himself, and the implications of which he has not considered, and throws it before us at the end of a long parliamentary session in order to deal with a frightful emergency. This emergency has existed for the past nine months and nothing has been done about it.

And longer.

This evil situation obtained. A body of law-abiding farmers make representations through the Deputies of this House that an undesirable situation exists, and nothing happens. Then a number of irresponsible men scatter milk cans all over railway platforms and a Bill is introduced in this House next week. Is that not a nice example to the people?

Your supporters were amongst them.

I quite agree with that. Supporters of mine, or of the Fianna Fáil Party, or the Labour Party, have no right whatever to go into a railway platform and break the law.

The end justifies the means.

Does the Deputy stand for that?

You stood for it yourself, and so did the Blueshirts.

Does Deputy Everett stand for it?

I will take that up on another occasion.

The Deputy wants to wriggle out of it.

If my men were involved, I would take more drastic action to secure rights than those farmers, if you want to know my mind.

I stand perfectly clearly for this: no man has a right to go out and break the law. I say that where you have a fatuous and futile Minister, who stands idle so long as he receives nothing but constitutional and reasonable representation, and comes rushing in here with an undigested Bill the moment somebody upsets a milk can on a railway platform, you are simply encouraging people to do that in the country. I think the Minister is gravely to be condemned and indicted for reacting to the situation in the way he has, particularly as that situation is largely of his own creation. Do Deputies stand for an increase in the price of milk in Dublin by ½d. a pint?

Does the Deputy stand for farmers only getting 4d. a gallon?

Is Deputy Everett clear on this, that the men who in the past were paying 8d. a gallon were able to sell at 1½d. a pint, and that it is the people who were paying the farmers 5d. a gallon in the past who have brought about this situation of increasing the price of milk in Dublin?

I saw that there was going to be a wriggle about this matter. I want to make my position clear. No consideration whatever, in my opinion, will justify an increase in the price of milk to the poor in this city by ½d. a pint. There is no reservation or qualification in that statement, good, bad or indifferent, and I want Deputies in the Labour Party to speak what is in their mind equally frankly. If a Deputy representing suppliers in this city says that the farmers are to go without an economic price in order to provide milk at 1½d. a pint, my answer is that there is no use asking anyone in this country to continue to produce anything at an uneconomic price, because, if you do, the end will be that there will be no production. I have argued that with the Labour Party for the last four years because it applies also to beef and to other agricultural produce which we can discuss at another date. The rule is general. I freely admit that the matter is one of great complexity, because you have the interests of the producers to consider and the interests of the distributors. That might be discussed at this stage, though Deputy Everett takes it upon himself to slander every milk distributor in this city by describing them as sweaters, rogues and vagabonds. That is not true. Deputy Everett knows little or nothing about conditions in the city or the conditions under which these distributors work. If the Deputy had to earn his livelihood as a distributor of milk he might not talk so loosely.

Can the Deputy say what wages girls employed in dairy shops receive for working 16 hours daily?

Deputy Everett cannot keep order. He does not like this. There are also the interests of consumers to be considered. I am prepared to sit down with the Minister for Agriculture and to co-operate with him in any way in order to elucidate all the relevant facts in regard to this problem, and to agree with him on a measure which would be an agreed measure in this House as far as the Opposition and the Government are concerned. I want to deal with the situation and put it on a satisfactory basis, but I emphatically object to panic legislation of this kind, the result of which may be very material hardship and may not overcome the difficulties we are called upon to confront. We are asked to try to wade through the provisions of a Milk Bill before the Recess. I am not qualified to debate this Milk Bill because I do not know anything about the problem, and I assert that not a single Deputy, including the Minister for Agriculture, is qualified to discuss it, because neither he nor other Deputies understand all its implications. Some of us will respond to the reactions of consumers in the city; others to the plight in which producers find themselves, while others may understand the difficulties of distributors, but I say that we cannot legislate intelligently or dispose of the evils in connection with the problem until we know all sides of the question. Deputy Everett said that there was no evidence before him in regard to a number of points that arose. How are we to get evidence except by some kind of commission of inquiry? Unless some body is set up to which all and sundry interested are invited to give information, if they have any to give, how can we hereafter say that we legislated with the best information that we could get? Are we always to be open to the rebuke that there were legitimately interested parties who were anxious to put their point of view if a tribunal was prepared to hear them? Farmers or no farmers, if this Financial Resolution in connection with this Bill goes through, and if the poor in this city are to pay 2d. where heretofore they paid 1½d. a pint for milk, I will vote against this motion. I invite any conscientious member of the Labour Party to stand up and defend a proposal to increase the price of milk on the people of this city. I do not understand the details of the problem with which we have to deal, but I am prepared to make a general suggestion that if the production of milk is wholly uneconomic owing to a series of circumstances too complex to go into at the present stage, and that have been given rise to as a result of the Government's general policy, if the supply of milk to the city has become an uneconomic proposition, then I say a far better line to start thinking upon would be to examine the possibility of extending the free milk supplies to necessitous children, thereby assisting in taking away the temporary surplus of milk that may be on the market and restoring milk production as an economic proposition. Sooner or later I believe this House will encourage the responsible Minister to provide some kind of meal for necessitous school children in national schools. If that social service is ever decided upon, I can imagine no food stuff more eminently suited for the purpose than milk. I believe that Deputies representing farming communities and city Deputies would always feel happier if they could say to themselves that the poor of this city and of every other city were getting all the milk that their health demanded. We have had reports from distinguished dieticians in England pointing out that large sections of the community are really dying from a type of starvation known as under-nourishment, and surely we would be better employed devising ways and means of remedying that situation by supplying children with milk, than starting to force up the price of milk on people who are hard set already to get enough milk for their tea much less to give to children in the quantities they should get it.

There is a milk scheme for poorer areas.

Does Deputy Everett think that the poor of this city are getting enough milk? He does not know. He does not express an opinion. I can sympathise with the Deputy. He may not be acquainted with the conditions in the city, but if he lived here as I do, he would know that that is why I want to have a commission set up so that the evidence would carry conviction and show that there is an urgent necessity for more milk rather than less milk, and that if the price is increased from 1½d. to 2d. a pint there will be less milk purchased.

When milk was 2d. a pint it was the same.

When was it 2d. a pint?

I do not upbraid Deputy Everett. He pleads ignorance of conditions in the city. All I ask is that, before we embark on this legislation, a commission should be set up so that ignorance of the problem should be clarified. That is a simple suggestion, and I think the Minister ought to meet me there. As one who wants to face the task, whatever the solution, we will accept no solution which will result in people getting less milk than before. We have common ground there, I imagine. I believe that in accepting that common ground a solution of this problem will be found if we have adequate information at our disposal. I want that information, and I say that the Minister stands as much in need of that information as I do. I say that this is panic legislation brought in without adequate consideration and on the face of it, contemplating its earliest defect—an increased price to the poor—it seems to me to be bad legislation. Certainly I could not vote for it with the information at my disposal at the present time, but if the Minister is prepared to set up an inquiry to consider the whole matter, and to utilise the few months of peace which have been secured by the recent settlement between distributors and producers for that purpose, he will, I am sure, be able to overcome all the difficulties with which we are now faced and to produce an agreed measure on our return after the Recess.

I had not intended to intervene in this debate until Deputy Dillon found it necessary to make a very serious statement.

What is that?

He never makes a serious statement.

The Deputy made the suggestion that certain people had held a revolver to the Minister's head. This question of legislation first cropped up, as many members will remember, on the occasion when a Bill was introduced by the Minister for Local Government and Public Health to achieve something that was very necessary—to ensure a supply of clean milk for the people of the city. That Act is not now entirely in operation, but, at any rate, it imposed on the suppliers of milk to the City of Dublin a rather heavy expenditure in so far as they were compelled to put their cowsheds and other appurtenances in order. That is going to cost them a good deal of money. The only statement I made on that occasion was to request the permission of the Leas-Cheann Comhairle to ask the Minister for Agriculture what steps he intended to take to ensure that the purchasers were going to get a better price for their milk in order to meet the increased costs which would naturally ensue from the operation of the Bill then going through the House. This legislation, as far as I am aware, is not at all panicky. It has been under consideration for some time, and of course it is absolutely essential. Deputy Mulcahy, I am sure, knows that perfectly well. He must have been down in County Meath, and I am sure he heard many whispers there. He ought to be satisfied that it is absolutely essential. The Deputy dwells on what he describes as an unhappy situation because, he says, there has been an increase of ½d. per pint. I am not so sure that this Bill means that such increases will occur because the consumers' interests will be protected just as much as the interests of the producers and the distributors.

You are starting very badly.

I do not think the Deputy understood thoroughly what is being discussed.

I understand thoroughly that there has been an increase of ½d. per pint.

For instance, I was not quite sure whether he was discussing the levy or the Bill. The levy is essential and has been introduced, I understand, for the purpose of enabling producers to dispose of the surplus milk. There must be a surplus of milk and it can be used for many purposes. Possibly at a later stage it can be used for the purpose of enabling poor people to get milk at a cheaper price. The whole object of the levy is to enable us to dispose of the surplus. I admit that this Bill should have been introduced before now, but it was not because there was a strike of producers that the Bill was introduced. The Bill was under consideration long before there was any question of a strike. The strike occurred because the prices that were being paid were much less than those which had been formerly paid. That was quite a natural thing owing to the lack of organisation in the system by which milk was supplied to the City of Dublin. That lack of organisation existed for a number of years. It existed during the time that Deputy Mulcahy was in office as Minister. Overstocked cows were being milked at the markets in the City of Dublin, and the milk was being carried round in buckets and sold at any price which could be got for it. Yet Deputy Mulcahy, when he was Minister, did not offer the slightest objection to that. Cans of milk were being sent by rail to the City of Dublin from time to time. That milk was carried around in buckets and sold under most undesirable conditions. We could not stand for that condition of affairs. It would be highly undesirable that it should be allowed to go unchecked. Some steps had to be taken to remedy it. The Minister for Local Government took the first step, and the Minister for Agriculture is now taking the second step. I suppose if the price goes too high the Minister for Industry and Commerce will regulate that.

They will be all in line.

One thing we had to recognise was that it was a terrible state of affairs that children were drinking a substance that was almost all water and which was called milk. The stuff that was being sold round the city as milk would not be given to dogs.

That is going on still.

It is going on still. This Board may help to stop it. I believe that that calamity, and it is nothing less than a calamity, can be stopped. Milk from over-stocked cows in the markets is hawked round Dublin without anybody having any control over it. Nobody can tell what amount of milk comes into Dublin on any given day or on any given week. It comes in by motor car, by train and by road, and nobody has the slightest control over what is the most important food of the whole community. I think that anything that can be done to remedy that situation should not be objected to. Deputy Mulcahy may have heard some whispers going round about these matters but he did not bother about them. It is the duty of the Government to take action of this kind and to go further on the question —to guarantee to the City of Dublin or to any district in which the inhabitants cannot procure an adequate supply of milk in the immediate neighbourhood, that the milk which is supplied from outside areas is produced under circumstances which will carry a warranty of its purity. The result of the old situation was that we were only consuming as much milk as we required for tea, less than one half glass per head of the population. That is a desperate state of affairs, but it is largely due to the fact that Deputy Mulcahy, when he was Minister for Local Government, made no attempt to deal with the question. The farmers have here a market if it can be developed, and this levy is going to be used to develop that market by inducing people to consume more milk, which they will do when they know that that milk is pure and can be drunk without the slightest risk.

Deputy Dillon, which is most unusual for him, confessed that he knows nothing about the matter that we have been discussing for some time past, and he put forward the suggestion that he should receive his education in this matter from a long-winded commission set up by the Minister. He did not pluck up sufficient courage to go so far as to suggest the personnel of that commission. I should like to hear from any subsequent speaker from the same benches what the personnel of that commission should be. Is it to consist of representatives of producers, distributors, consumers and of the Minister, or is it a matter to be inquired into by the Tariff Commission or by some body of civil servants to be set up by the Minister? I have no faith whatever in a long-winded investigation to be carried out by a commission of the type which Deputy Dillon foreshadowed. Deputy Dillon overlooked the fact, consciously or unconsciously, that the agreement recently arrived at will expire in the next month or six weeks. Are we to assume that he would like to see the same chaotic conditions after that period as we had prior to the recent agreement between producers and distributors in the City of Dublin? I am very definitely of opinion, and so are my colleagues, that there is no justification whatever for an increase in the price of milk to the consumers in the City of Dublin.

It is there.

If it is, it is for the Minister for Industry and Commerce to deal with it through the agency of the Prices Commission.

He is not dealing with it.

I believe it should be possible for the producers to get the price recently agreed upon, or a better price, while at the same time milk is sold at the price at which it was sold up to recently by the distributors in the city. Does Deputy Mulcahy agree that too many people are engaged in the distribution of milk in the city?

I agree that the Minister for Industry and Commerce is not going to intervene in connection with an increase in the price of milk brought about by the Minister for Agriculture.

Will Deputy Mulcahy answer a simple question—whether he believes that too many people are engaged in the distribution of milk in the city?

I am not prepared to say there are.

Do you know what you are talking about?

I do, and I say that the machinery of distribution is not distributing enough milk in the City of Dublin.

I invite Deputy O'Leary to take Deputy Mulcahy into a committee room and teach him something about the distribution of milk in the City of Dublin.

I did not intend to intervene in this debate, but, now that I have been invited, I shall intervene and let the people know what is responsible for the present position.

I am delighted that I succeeded in inducing Deputy O'Leary to intervene, because Deputy O'Leary knows more about the rights of the producers and the uneconomic method of distribution than all the front-bench Deputies on that side of the House. I hope he will give us the benefit of his knowledge and experience.

And the help you gave in creating the present position.

He should tell the Minister whether, in his opinion—I know his opinion will be given honestly—the distributors are entitled to increase the price to the consumer as a result of the recent agreement. I do not like to see Deputy Bennett interrupting Deputy O'Leary, because I know what he is thinking about and what he is going to say may be of assistance to everybody who wants to see this question settled on its merits.

You will not believe him.

The Deputy would not answer my simple question as to whether too many people were engaged in the distribution of milk.

I could take you through Dublin and show you a few things about the distribution of milk.

There are too many people engaged in the distribution of milk in the city. That is obvious to anybody who knows anything about this problem.

Have the people a right to get milk at all?

The Labour Party policy is to put some of them out of work.

It would not require the service of this commission to investigate and give a proper answer to the question I have put. I hope Fine Gael will set up a commission from within their own ranks and teach the Deputies who are talking about this matter something about it, because they know nothing about it at present.

Tell us something about it.

They all represent ranchers over there.

This Party has always advocated the provision of a guaranteed, economic price for producers. The Labour Party would not know its business if it did not realise that, unless producers get an economic price, there is no hope for agricultural labourers or other workers getting a decent wage from the producers. We shall back the producers, and we always have done so, even to the extent of saying that we admired their recent action in taking whatever effective action was necessary to get them a livelihood in the work in which they are engaged. In return, I should expect that they would treat their workers in a fair manner.

Deputy Davin is putting on the green shirt now.

The blue shirts are in the laundry and are not likely to come out of it again. I never supported shirts associated with any Party.

There is nothing about shirts in this Bill.

Deputy Mulcahy cannot stop talking about blue shirts. He associates that type of mentality with every question that comes before the House, and he thinks that everybody is thinking in the same silly way. I do not like the idea of this levy being directly imposed on the people concerned.

I could quote the Minister for Agriculture, on the Slaughter of Cattle and Sheep Bill, as being opposed to this whole idea of a levy on the people directly concerned. The Minister, in inviting this House to give him permission to repeal certain sections of the Slaughter of Cattle and Sheep Act, stated that the levy system was going to disappear, and pointed out that its administration was uneconomic. The policy of the Government in future, he said, would be to devote all the money at their disposal to supplying cheap beef without any unnecessary administrative costs. The administration of the Slaughter of Cattle and Sheep Act, so far as the collecting of levies was concerned, was uneconomic. It was a failure, and that was why the Minister came here to ask permission to repeal that section of the Act. I am of opinion that the people directly concerned should not be levied with the cost of setting up a board for the administration of this Bill. I think that the necessary expenditure should be defrayed out of general taxation. I do not think that anybody will say that the levy system in regard to the stabilisation of prices in respect of butter has been a success. As the amount involved in this case is so small, I suggest that the administrative coats of the board should be borne out of general taxation.

Deputy O'Reilly said that the levy was essential. He did not develop that contention or explain in a convincing way how it is essential. If the money comes out of general taxation, what difference will it make? Why should not that be done instead of setting up machinery in the Department and pressing people for money they are not willing to pay at the time it becomes due? If the Deputy has a private conversation with the Minister for Agriculture or some of his officials responsible for administering the Slaughter of Cattle and Sheep Act, he will probably change his mind in regard to the collection of levies. The Government should make provision for the payment of these expenses out of general taxation. I take my hat off to the people of Dublin, Wicklow and other milk-producing areas who had, at last, the good sense to organise themselves for the purpose of getting a fair price for their milk from the city distributors. I see no other way of implementing an agreement of that kind in a proper way except through the establishment of a board of this kind and through machinery such as is provided in this Bill.

Will they do that for cattle?

No useful purpose is to be served by the proposal put forward by Deputy Mulcahy's leader. The setting up of a long-winded commission which would carry on its investigations for 12 or 16 months and then allow an interval of six months for consideration of these recommendations would serve no useful purpose. After about two years, a measure would probably be brought in having no bearing whatever on the recommendations of the commission. Deputy Mulcahy, who has been a Minister, knows how recommendations were brought in by commissions and how these recommendations were ignored, and put up a plausible case in support of that particular line of action. Is the Government to meet these farmers by setting up a commission and then ignoring the recommendations of the commission when it brings in its report? I am afraid that unless some of us warn the Minister for Agriculture, there will be a disposition on the part of the present Government to follow the bad example that Deputy Mulcahy and his Government gave. Why does not the Deputy come along with a more effective proposal? If the Deputy cannot accept the machinery in this Bill then let him suggest a more practical proposal. But if the Deputy wants to give us a practical proposal it is not the proposal suggested by Deputy Dillon—the setting up of a long-winded commission and allowing this thing to go on for years.

The Minister could knock half of it off to-morrow.

Why did not the Deputy do it when he was Minister?

I would not intervene in the debate this evening only for what Deputy Davin has said. As the Deputy said, I know as much about the milk business as anybody in the County Dublin, and I tell him that he and his colleagues of the Labour Party and the Deputies on the Government Benches are responsible for the whole trouble in the matter of the milk prices.

Responsible for the price of milk?

Yes, absolutely, and in a very few words I will prove the truth of that statement to the House and to the country. Previous to the economic war I never sold my milk at less than 9d. a gallon wholesale. Since the economic war started the prices have fallen, as my figures will show. In 1930, I got 9d. a gallon for my milk. In 1931 I got 9½d. a gallon. In 1932, the first year of the Fianna Fáil administration, the price came down to 8d. In 1933 I got 9d. from the shops for my milk and 6d. from the distributor for surplus milk. In 1934 I got 9d. from the shops and 5d. from the distributor for surplus. In 1935 I got 8d. from the shops and 5d. a gallon for my surplus milk from the distributors. In the present year I am getting 8d. from the shops in Dublin for my milk. Were it not for those people who are trying to intimidate me from bringing milk to Dublin I would be getting 9d. in the shops for my milk. These people went into the shops and tried to cut the ground from under me by offering the milk at a lower price.

Does Deputy Dillon know that?

I have had no conversation with Deputy Dillon about this matter of the milk. I have the courage to put the facts before the House, and if Deputy Davin had the courage to speak to the facts and to put this question fairly before the country it would be better for the milk consumers, for the milk producers, and for the country to-day. They would be all in a much better position than they are in if the Deputy and others like him faced up to the position and gave the facts. What is really the position? It is that the Minister for Agriculture has himself created this problem. Would the Minister set up a commission to inquire into how many people in Dublin and adjoining counties have gone into milk production since the economic war started? How many people in the more remote parts of the country have turned to sending milk to Dublin as a result of the 4d. or 5d. a lb. levy that the Minister has placed on butter which the farmers were themselves making in the country? When the Minister put this levy on butter he drove these people into the milk market in competition with me and people like me. I am prepared to deliver milk in Dublin at 9d. a gallon for half the year and at 1/- a gallon for the other half. I am not going to be a party, as the Farmers' Organisation has been, to fixing the price of milk to the shops in the summer at 1/- a gallon and to the distributors at 8d. per gallon. Just fancy a distributor going into Westland Row Station, taking milk there at the station at 8d. a gallon, and handing it over to a shop across the road at 1/- a gallon, as a result of which the poor would have to pay ½d. a pint extra for their milk. Then Deputies here tell us there is no necessity to set up a Commission to inquire into that sort of thing.

Cannot the Prices Commission deal with it?

The Prices Commission have not interfered with the price of milk, and Deputy Davin knows as well as I do that the Prices Commission is a complete failure. I have no sympathy with the milk distributors in Dublin. I could supply my milk direct to the distributors in Dublin, but when the economic war started I was forced to go to the shops to get prices which would enable me to carry on and pay a decent rate of wages to my workers. I have a communication in my pocket from a distributor; it will show you the position in which, by their action, the Government have placed people like me. At the Show last year (1935) a certain distributor in Dublin approached me in connection with the distribution of my milk. If I had not been in politics I could have opened shops in Dublin, but I suppose some people are made for the wrong job, and I have not opened the shops. This distributor approached me last year and said: "Unless you supply me with the whole of your milk, I am not going to take your surplus." I said: "I am not going to give you the whole of my milk. I will stick to the shops and the shops will stick to me through thick and thin." This distributor and myself were very pally and we put in the day together at the Show. He went with me to the Customs House, where I had to call about an old age pension, and he sat in the motor car at the Customs House. I thought I was after softening him. I went down to Cork the following week, and a few days after my son sent me this post card. I will not mention the name of the distributor. The post card reads:

"Dear Mr. O'Leary — As your supply of milk is now around 50 gallons, and we find it impossible to clear buttermilk, and cannot even sell it for pig-feeding, your milk would not be worth more than Sherrin's price for carriage. Consequently I must ask you to discontinue supplies forthwith, as it would be a serious loss to carry on with you. I explained our position to you last week. I am sorry to have to dispense with your supply, but I cannot avoid it.

"Sincerely yours,


Did one ever hear such a statement coming from the lips of a man who claims he has a creamery and says the milk is only worth the carrier's—Sherrin's price—that was 1d. a gallon? Anybody knows that milk for manufacturing butter is worth about 4d. a gallon. That is the position. I say that if any scheme is going to be brought in here that there should be intelligence enough in the Department to frame such a scheme as would enable the suppliers to send their milk direct to the shops, and, at the same time, put the people in the shops in the position of selling their milk to the consumer at 1½d. a pint in the summer and 2d. in the winter. I put up a scheme to these farmers, and I am not going to be driven into the policy they are putting forward. I suggested previously that we should set up some kind of a depôt in Dublin that would take during this period the surplus milk off the market, so that these farmers who were not getting a fair price would be in a better position to secure more reasonable prices for their milk. I tell the Minister that so long as the economic war lasts, this milk business will present a problem to the farmers of Dublin. Deputy Davin referred to the beef problem. Is it not a well-known fact that the Minister for Agriculture was not able to put the Beef Act into operation? Is it not a well-known fact that the farmers, the dealers and the butchers made a bargain beforehand behind his back, and the farmers took any reasonable price they could get for their beef? Is it not a fact that the same thing will happen with regard to milk? After all, there is a very good argument in favour of the proposal that a commission of some kind should be set up to inquire into this matter of the milk supply of Dublin.

Thank God, we have at least one Deputy who is able to give Deputy Davin the definite information and the lecture which he wanted so badly. The Deputy asked for the information and he got it, and I hope it will have its effect. Deputy O'Leary has certainly disclosed to the House the absolute necessity for some type of commission or inquiry, not necessarily a long-winded commission, which the Deputy appears to have in mind. Why should it be a long-winded commission?

What kind of a commission?

An effective commission of some kind.

What kind of a one?

Surely Deputy Davin, with all his experience, does not expect that I am going to go into the details of the type of commission which will deal with this.

Civil servants or the Tariff Commission?

That type of interruption will not get anybody anywhere. Deputy Davin told us, as a matter of fact, that he knew very little about the question. He was certainly very silent when Deputy O'Leary was speaking. I do not blame him for that. I hope Deputy O'Leary gave him what he wanted.

That is quite right.

Deputy Davin said that he did not profess to know much about the question, and yet he professes to legislate for it. Deputy O'Reilly told us that nobody knew what quantity of milk was coming into Dublin, in what condition it was coming in, or anything about it, and he also proposes to legislate for it. Would it not be well for somebody of the type of Deputy O'Leary to give us information on the matter before we attempt to legislate?

You got it.

Have you got enough of it?

Yes, all he had to give.

I think that the very practical speech made by Deputy O'Leary, from his personal experience, ought to convince the House that there is much more at the back of this than this House knows, and that before we attempt to legislate on the matter we ought to get that information. I do not think that it would be necessary to appoint a long-winded commission. Why should it be long-winded? If it is an urgent matter, why should it not be dealt with urgently? Let us deal with it in a practical way and not make Party capital or any other kind of capital out of it. Deputy O'Leary has certainly put the practical side of it and told Deputy Davin where he is getting off and where the Minister is getting off with regard to the economic war and the effect it had. As a matter of fact, it was the only really practical speech we had on the matter.

You got it all from him.

Exactly. If anything could be effective in convincing the House that there ought to be some kind of commission set up, it is Deputy O'Leary's speech.

Dr. Ryan

In the beginning I asked the Opposition to allow the Financial Resolution and the Second Reading to be taken at the same time. They objected to that. I wished to talk about the Bill and the Financial Resolution. They talked about other things. In fact, some of them admitted that they did not know what they were talking about. They wanted a commission to instruct them. I was trying to think out what was the reason for this. It appeared from the discussion as it went on that they did not want to offend the farmers of Wicklow and Kildare by voting against the Bill, but they did not like to offend the consumers by voting for it; therefore they wanted to have two separate divisions. They want to please both the consumers and the farmers. They are carrying out the Cumann na nGaedheal policy of trying to please everybody, and, like the man with the ass, they will not please anybody. They always try to please everybody. The first plank of the Cumann na nGaedheal platform is: "Do not lose a vote."

Should not everyone be interested in a matter like this? If you are not making political capital out of it, nobody is.

Dr. Ryan

The Deputy would not make political capital out of anything. Deputy Mulcahy started off by making his Budget speech, or his by-election speech if you like, about the poor people in the City of Dublin. It is nauseating to hear him talking about the poor of Dublin. When the Deputy was Minister for Local Government there was no talk about widows and orphans, pensions or free milk for the poor. Now he comes along and talks about the poor people.

They were getting milk then at 1½d. a pint.

Dr. Ryan

They were not.

Dr. Ryan

The price of milk to the wholesaler, that the farmer got on his contract during the winter we came into office and for four or five months previously, was 1/1 per gallon. Does Deputy Mulcahy think that the wholesaler sold that milk to the retailer and that the retailer sold it to the consumer at 1d. less than the farmer got?

The retailers I am speaking about, who were selling milk at 1½d. per pint up to Sunday last, were selling milk in 1931 at 1½d. per pint.

Dr. Ryan

That is about as true as the other things the Deputy says. Imagine a farmer selling his milk at 1/1 per gallon, and when it reaches the retailer in the Coombe he sells it at the rate of 1/- per gallon!

I should like to correct a misunderstanding. The price was always 2d. per pint in the winter.

Dr. Ryan

Of course, it was. I knew Deputy O'Leary was an honest man.

I said that.

Dr. Ryan

Of course it was—everybody knows that.

I want to say that I am speaking of people who were paying 10d. a gallon for milk during last winter, and were selling their milk at 1½d. per pint. The only thing they increased was the price of the quart from 2½d. to 3d.

Dr. Ryan


Last winter.

Dr. Ryan

The Deputy is trying to wriggle out of what he said before. I went back to the time when the Deputy was Minister for Local Government, and said that the poor were paying 2d. a pint.

In 1931, at this time of the year, they were paying 1½d., the same as before the agreement was made.

Dr. Ryan

What was the farmer getting?

Deputy O'Leary told you that.

I was getting 9d.

Dr. Ryan

I do not want to have any controversy in the Fine Gael Party over this. I do not want to have Deputy O'Leary contradicting Deputy Mulcahy. We will come to the price the farmers get in a minute. They talk about the levy as hidden taxation. The position, as every Deputy knows, is that if the farmers could organise and co-operate amongst themselves they would do it, and they would do the very thing we are legislating for—they would agree amongst themselves to charge a fair price and, if there was a surplus, they would agree to dispose of that surplus.

They would have some sort of an organisation. The salaries of the officials would not be very much. It would amount to practically nothing when it comes to a levy on the gallon of milk. We all know that if the farmers could organise the same as other traders they would organise and charge a fair price, and if they had to pay certain expenses in connection with that organisation, for instance, for disposing of the surplus milk, they would naturally collect a small levy in order to do that.

In the same way as we are bringing in legislation here, legislation was brought in, for instance, giving certain rights to co-operative societies with regard to the running of creameries. It would be just as reasonable for any Deputy to say that these creameries in paying their own manager and paying for advertising were imposing a hidden tax as to say that this levy is a hidden tax. The levy is for the purpose of managing the supply of milk to Dublin and paying for advertising, if necessary, in order to increase the consumption of milk and to dispose of any surplus which may be left over. You could call anything a hidden tax if you call that a hidden tax, as it is just trying to regulate the trade and to give the producers an opportunity of getting a fair price for their milk and disposing of a certain surplus, because you cannot manage the milk trade of the City of Dublin or anywhere else and gauge the supply to the gallon each day. If you want to make certain that nobody is short you must have a fair surplus every day and that surplus must be disposed of.

The point that Deputy Mulcahy has raised about the 5d., 8d., 11d. and 1/- is the greatest nonsense. Farmers were selling their milk for 4½d. or 5d. a gallon, and the distributors have now agreed to give them 8d. The distributors who, before now were selling milk to retailers at a certain price, certainly must have made some profit over the transaction. They believe now that they must get more than 8d. if they sell it to a retailer. If a farmer, in turn, sells milk to a retailer rather than to a distributor, he has more trouble with it. The milk must be better cooled and so on, and, therefore, a farmer must get a better price for supplying milk to a retailer than he would get if he were to supply it to a wholesaler or a distributor. That is why there must be a different price when selling to a retailer and selling to a wholesaler. What the margin is between these prices I do not know. I do not know whether the margin is justified or not, but at any rate, under the Bill that is to come before the Dáil, power is being taken to fix the price if it is believed that the margin between the wholesaler and the retailer and the margin between the retailer and the consumer is not justified. That is one thing that can be done. Deputy Mulcahy talked about the extra price of bacon, flour, bread and butter, although he knows as well as I do, because I am aware that he looks up the figures, that the cost-of-living figure is not higher now, or as high as it was during the term of office of the Government of which he was a member.

Surely the Minister does not say that butter is not dearer now than it was in 1931.

Dr. Ryan

Take the case of the poor woman going out to buy food for the week. I say that she was paying as much in 1931 for that food as she is paying now, if getting the same amount of commodities, because the index cost of living for food is not higher now than it was in 1931. To give Deputies an example of the reckless exaggeration that Deputy Mulcahy indulges in in this House, the Deputy talked about a bullock in the County Wicklow being worth £16 and said it was now worth only £8 because of the action of this Government. Now, at the worst, the tariff on that beast going into Great Britain is all that the economic war can be responsible for, and that tariff amounts to £4 5s., but Deputy Mulcahy, in order to get a good round figure, makes it £8 on that bullock. He said a bullock that should be worth £16 was now worth only £7 10s. or £8 because of the policy adopted by the Government. Supposing that we were to bring in a Bill, and suppose that under it we were to raise the price of that bullock from £8 to £16, think of the way in which Deputy Mulcahy would be getting up here and talking about the poor consumer in Dublin. I suppose he would approve of such a Bill from the point of view of getting votes from farmers. He would approve highly of raising the price of cattle from the point of view of getting farmers' votes, but from the point of view of getting consumers' votes in the City of Dublin, he would disapprove of raising the price of meat. In other words, Deputy Mulcahy and his Party want to get better prices all round for farmers and at the same time they want to bring down the cost of food in the city.

The Minister does not suggest that the consumer is getting a reduction in his meat prices equivalent to the reduction that there has been in cattle prices?

Dr. Ryan

Deputy Mulcahy may try to evade the issue as well as he can, but I say the attitude he has adopted on this financial resolution is similar to that which he has adopted on every other measure that has come before the House. His attitude is this: "You must give the farmer more for his stuff, but you must not increase the price on the consumer." In other words, the Deputy wants to be able to go down the country and say to farmers: "We made the Government bring in that Bill to give you a better price for your milk," and then to go up to James's Street in Dublin and tell the people there that his Party and himself had got the Government to bring down the price of milk. That is the attitude of the Deputy and his Party. They think they can have it both ways, but experience has shown that they are not having it either way. They talk a lot about the poor of Dublin. When they were here as a Government they did not show much regard for the poor widow in Dublin, the poor orphan, or the old age pensioner. When they wanted to get some extra funds for the Exchequer they took 1/- off the old age pensioner. They did not show very much sympathy for the unemployed or anybody else, but now they are all sympathy for the poor of Dublin. Deputy Cosgrave said that this levy should be borne by the Department. I do not, know how the Deputy could make that suggestion except as leader of the Opposition.

Deputy Davin made it also.

Dr. Ryan

I am taking Deputy Cosgrave first. We are asking the distributors of milk to contribute a small amount of money in order to dispose of the surplus. That will be for the general good. If we were to contribute that money from the Exchequer, and suppose we had to ask the Dáil to vote £10,000 or £20,000 to set up a board. The board would be helpless, because if it formulated a good scheme for using up the surplus it would know that there was no use going on with it unless the Government voted the necessary money. It is much better, I think, to give the board an opportunity of framing a scheme that will benefit the producers all-round. Even if the board were to take 1d. a gallon off farmers, in order to take the milk of the 100,000 cows that Deputy Bennett spoke of, and to give a fair price, would it not be better to do that rather than not deal with the problem at all? It surely would be better to do that than only take some of the milk and have the rest thrown down the sewers, as some Deputies said.

The cost of the Pigs Marketing Board is an altogether different thing. The money voted by the Dáil in that case is for the inspection of bacon— an altogether different matter. Under the Clean Milk Bill brought in by the Minister for Local Government, the cost of the inspection of dairies, etc., under that measure is paid for out of funds voted by the Dáil. In the same way the inspection of bacon is paid for out of funds voted by the Dáil, because in that case we must have veterinary inspectors under direct Government control in order to see that the duties laid down are properly carried out. But here we are dealing with a trading matter and nothing else, a matter that concerns the disposal of surplus milk, and it is clearly one in which the levy should be taken from the industry itself.

It would be better, I suppose, if the farmers themselves would organise and do this business without any legislation, but as we all know farmers are very helpless in these matters. It is very hard to get farmers into an organisation. Some of the Deputies opposite often tried their hands at that and did not succeed very well. It is very difficult to get 100 per cent. organisation amongst farmers. Some will fall away and do injury to the whole business. Deputy Bennett talked about the 14,000 cows that are supplying the City of Dublin, although there are 100,000 cows there. I did not hear any suggestion from the Deputy as to how we should deal with the matter. He did not say that, if we dropped the levy, things would be any better.

I did not say that 14,000 cows could do it. It was the Minister who suggested that.

Dr. Ryan

Perhaps nobody knows, but we will know very soon under, the Bill. It is thought that about 30,000 gallons of milk come into the City of Dublin each day. Deputy Bennett thinks that 14,000 or 15,000 cows could provide that supply. He gave us that information but there was no suggestion from him as to what we could do to mend matters. Certainly to drop the levy will not mend matters. The Deputy referred to difficulties which we are already aware of, but he did not tell us how to remedy them. Deputy Everett suggested that there should be a consumer on the board. I do not know that the Deputy could make a very strong case for that. This board will be very much like a trade board. We have trade boards, for instance, in the case of boots and shoes, but so far as I know there has never been any suggestion that the consumer—the farmer—should have representation on these trade boards. The representation on them is confined to manufacturers and workers and they try to fix up matters as best they can. In the same way, this board will be very much like a trade board. You will have on it representatives of the producers and of the people who sell milk. I do not think a very strong case could be made for putting a producer on it. It would be very difficult to see what function a consumer could discharge on it.

Deputy Dillon, of course, went out after making his usual impertinent and futile speech. If he stood his ground here after these speeches we might be able to teach him a little, but evidently he has not the courage to stand his ground. It took him half-an-hour to tell us he knew nothing about the matter. Any other Deputy who does not know anything about a subject does not get up to talk and that is a much better system than that adopted by Deputy Dillon, who takes a half-an-hour to tell us that he knows nothing about it. Deputy Dillon's principal plea was "Certainly let the producer get a good price for his milk and let the consumer get his milk cheaply." That is the Cumann na nGaedheal attitude. "Then," the Deputy goes on, "if there is anything required to bridge the gap, let the Exchequer come into it." Is not that a subsidy for the farmer? I wonder could it be described as anything else except a subsidy for the farmer? Would any Deputy care to go back over Deputy Dillon's voluminous speeches to find out how often he has denounced subsidies to the farmers? His plea always has been no subsidies and no doles for the farmers. He has emphasised on the public platform, and here too, that the farmer should stand on his own feet and could do so. In this particular case, however, he wants the farmer to get a good price for his milk and he also wants Deputy Mulcahy to retain the votes he has in the City of Dublin and, therefore, in this particular case a subsidy is justified.

Deputy Dillon paid me a very high compliment, only he did not mean to do so. He said that as soon as this strike had arisen I rushed and got this Bill ready; I copied it from the British Act. I did not copy the British Act. I am not familiar with the British Act, but the whole thing reminds me of an old Irish proverb, "Sás a dhéanta do chuimhneochadh air." Whenever you hear a Deputy saying anything like that, it is always a sign that it is the very thing he would do himself. And Deputy Dillon is the one who would do that. If he were in a hurry, naturally he would copy the British Act, because the British cannot err in his eyes. Suppose I did do what Deputy Dillon says I did, and suppose I prepared the Bill, my goodness! It would be a monument to my memory to prepare a Bill like that in a few days and do it as perfectly as it is done. I could not have got a higher compliment, although I am sure the Deputy did not mean to pay it to me.

He talked about the rapid preparation of this Bill. I can assure the House that I am not in a hurry with this measure; there is not the slightest hurry. I think, however, that this measure should go through before the Dáil adjourns. At the same time, I am quite prepared to allow all the discussion that Deputies want and leave as long a period as possible between the stages. I would advise Deputies however, to put it through before the adjournment. I expect that if I were to suggest that we should adjourn this Bill until after the Recess, there would be a chorus of disapproval and I would be asked "What about the farmers in Wicklow and Kildare?" Deputies opposite would immediately think about the farmers and the consumers would be forgotten. It is just a matter of politics all the time. Those Deputies who, like Deputy Dillon, suggested a subsidy to the farmers in order to keep in with both sides, the farmers and consumers, have not indicated where the subsidy should come from. Naturally we would have to put on an extra tax on something. I would like to hear the Opposition suggesting something that we might tax, taking responsibility for that before the country. I would love to see them taking the risk of losing half a dozen or a dozen votes.

It would not be easy to say what is left to tax.

Dr. Ryan

It would not, and the Deputy would not suggest anything.

Let the Minister himself suggest something.

Dr. Ryan

We are doing it every day. We had 123 in the last Budget. We are not a bit afraid to put those things across. After all, courage is the best thing in the long run. Deputy Dillon wound up by saying that if we cannot please both the farmer and the consumer, then we must bridge the gap by a subsidy from Government funds. It is a great thing to hear Deputy Dillon advocating subsidies for the farmers. It would be better still if he would advocate something from which we would get the subsidy—some form of taxation. Deputy Brennan returned after Deputy O'Leary had spoken, and he said that here again one saw the necessity for a commission. A commission is another way out of the dilemma. I can understand the Deputies opposite being in a dilemma. A vote for the Bill is a vote against the consumer, and a vote against the Bill is against the farmer. I suppose they will compromise by voting for the Resolution and against the Bill. A commission would be a nice idea. It would delay matters. They could get their views better explained before a commission, and they could try to make out that the whole thing was due to mishandling on the part of the Government, and they might not have to be put to this severe test.

There is no price fixed in this Financial Resolution?

Dr. Ryan


Is it not a fact that it was admitted in the debate that when the farmers were selling recently and getting 8d. for their milk, it would be sold to the consumer at 1½d. a pint? There is no provision in the settlement or in the Bill that will give the farmers more, but there is a provision that will take more from the consumers.

Dr. Ryan

The Deputy is very innocent, almost as innocent as Deputy Mulcahy in his efforts to try to explain why he is going to vote against the Financial Resolution. Deputy O'Leary, in his apologia, put the blame on Deputy Davin and his Party for the position in the country. He also suggested a commission, a brilliant idea. Deputy Bennett ought to go for a commission, too. Deputy O'Leary said very plainly that he could sell milk for 9d. in the summer and 1/- in the winter. Deputy O'Leary will sell milk to the wholesaler or retailer at 1/-, but Deputy Mulcahy wants that sold to the consumer at 1½d. and he wants the retailer to work for nothing.

Deputy O'Leary also said that milk sold at 9d. could be retailed at 1½d. a pint.

Dr. Ryan

When he gets 1/- in the winter at what will he retail it?

Dr. Ryan

So Deputy Mulcahy is not getting unanimous support for 1½d. a pint. Deputy Mulcahy's point is that the retailer must get it at 9d. and, if the retailer has to get it through a wholesaler, what is the farmer to get for it? Nothing like 8d., so far as we can see. As well as fixing the price that the farmer will get from the wholesaler, there is also power to fix the price at which the wholesaler sells to the retailer and the price at which the retailer sells to the consumers. If the Deputies opposite had any genuine fears about those matters they would, of course, agree to the Bill, but whether their fears are genuine or not I do not know.

Question put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 44; Níl, 24.

  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Bartley, Gerald.
  • Beegan, Patrick.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Brady, Brian.
  • Brady, Seán.
  • Breathnach, Cormac.
  • Briscoe, Robert.
  • Concannon, Helena.
  • Cooney, Eamonn.
  • Corbett, Edmond.
  • Davin, William.
  • Derrig, Thomas.
  • De Valera, Eamon.
  • Everett, James.
  • Flynn, Stephen.
  • Fogarty, Andrew.
  • Goulding, John.
  • Harris, Thomas.
  • Hayes, Seán.
  • Houlihan, Patrick.
  • Keely, Séamus P.
  • Kehoe, Patrick.
  • Kelly, James Patrick.
  • Kelly, Thomas.
  • Killilea, Mark.
  • Kilroy, Michael.
  • Kissane, Eamon.
  • Maguire, Ben.
  • Moore, Séamus.
  • Murphy, Patrick Stephen.
  • O Ceallaigh, Seán T.
  • O'Dowd, Patrick.
  • O'Grady, Seán.
  • O'Reilly, Matthew.
  • Pattison, James P.
  • Pearse, Margaret Mary.
  • Rice, Edward.
  • Ryan, James.
  • Ryan, Martin.
  • Sheridan, Michael.
  • Traynor, Oscar.
  • Victory, James.
  • Walsh, Richard.


  • Beckett, James Walter.
  • Belton, Patrick.
  • Bennett, George Cecil.
  • Brennan, Michael.
  • Cosgrave, William T.
  • Curran, Richard.
  • Dillon, James M.
  • Dockrell, Henry Morgan.
  • Dolan, James Nicholas.
  • Doyle, Peadar S.
  • Fitzgerald-Kenney, James.
  • Lynch, Finian.
  • McFadden, Michael Og.
  • McGilligan, Patrick.
  • McGuire, James Ivan.
  • McMenamin, Daniel.
  • Mulcahy, Richard.
  • Nally, Martin.
  • O'Donovan, Timothy Joseph.
  • O'Leary, Daniel.
  • O'Sullivan, John Marcus.
  • Redmond, Bridget Mary.
  • Roddy, Martin.
  • Wall, Nicholas.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Briscoe and Brady; Níl: Deputies Doyle and Bennett.
Question declared carried.