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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—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. Some time ago representations were made to the Department that the milk producers in Counties Dublin, Louth, Meath, Kildare and Wicklow supplying milk to distributors for resale in the City of Dublin were not getting a satisfactory price—a price that would be commensurate with the cost of production in those areas—and also that they were not in a position to make satisfactory arrangements of a permanent nature in regard to prices in the absence of legislation. As the House is aware, for the last four or five years attempts have been made at fixing prices which would be fair to the producer, and it was found impossible during that time, and notwithstanding these negotiations it was found impossible to have agreements observed. The prices paid for milk coming into the Dublin market have declined very much during the last few years. During the winter of 1931-32 the average price paid for contract milk was 1/1 per gallon. That was the contract price made with the wholesaler and the farmer for milk sold to the consumer. In the summer of 1932 the price was 9¼d.; in the following winter, 10¾d. In the summer of 1933 it was 8½d.; in the following winter, 10d. In the summer of 1934 the price was 6¾d., and in the following winter, 9½d. In the summer of 1935 prices ranged from 9d. to 5d. per gallon. Last winter the prices were from 9d. to 7d., and during the present summer, until the recent agreement was reached, the price was in many cases as low as 5½d. and 6d., and even below that, delivered in Dublin. That would be 4½d. collected at the farm in some places.

A number of conferences were held between the farmers and distributors during the past few weeks with a view to improving the prices paid to farmers. The distributors, owing to the lack of organisation in the business, felt that they could not pay increased prices unless the farmers were prepared to give a guarantee that no farmer would break the price. Eventually the producers were in a position to give that guarantee, and the agreement was made. The distributors agreed, on their side, to observe the agreement that had been made, and, as long as the farmers or producers have a compact organisation such as they have now, it is possible that the agreement may be kept. It is feared, however, that these arrangements are at best only temporary—in fact, the agreement is made only until the end of September, and it is possible that these prices may be broken through unless there is some legislation in order to regularise the position.

As pointed out here already, the difficulty is that there is more milk available for the Dublin market than it can absorb, but that is no reason why farmers, for the amount of milk they sell at any rate, should not get an economic price. Under this Bill an attempt will be made, as far as possible, to take some surplus milk from the farmers and dispose of it as best the board can. It will be possible under this Bill to regulate the price of milk on the Dublin market, and, of course, in any other area to which the Bill may apply, since the Bill is a general one.

The scheme of legislation is that the Minister shall have power to declare, by Order, any particular area specified to be a sale district or any particular area to be a production district, both of which will together form a joint (sale and supply) district. Whenever a milk (joint district) Order is made the board shall be established for the joint district consisting of as many representatives of milk producers and wholesalers and retailers, in respect of each joint district as the Minister may determine, and the chairman of each board will be appointed in all cases by the Minister. The first members of the board will be nominated by the Minister and, as soon as possible, when the registers are built up, these boards will be elected; that is, that the farmers who are on the register of suppliers will have a vote for their own nominees, and distributors and retailers likewise, as soon as the registers have been completed. When that is done, the elected boards will hold office for three years. Practically all the functions of this Bill will be performed by the board when it is formed. The board will keep registers of producers, wholesalers and retailers of milk, and only producers whose premises are situate in the production district specified for any particular sale district will be eligible for registration as producers, and only producers who are registered and whose premises are registered will be permitted by law to supply milk to the city or towns concerned, as the Bill may apply.

In the same way, registered wholesalers and registered retailers only will be permitted to take milk and they will be permitted to take milk only from a registered producer. The expression "producer" includes creamery proprietors, registered under the Dairy Produce Act, 1934.

What about your Milk and Dairies Act of last year?

Dr. Ryan

That is not my Act, but does the Deputy want to know when it will be applied?

Yes, I do.

Dr. Ryan

I think, in the very near future.

Well, how does it square with that proposition?

Dr. Ryan

Naturally, if a board is set up in Dublin they could not register a producer unless he had already got a licence under the Milk and Dairies Act. That is a sine qua non.

It would be illegal otherwise?

Dr. Ryan

Yes. It will be unlawful, after an appointed day, for a registered producer to sell milk to a registered wholesaler or retailer or for a registered wholesaler or retailer to purchase milk from a registered producer, except in accordance with a contract for the purpose made between the parties and approved by the board. The contract must state the price, which will be at least the minimum price—although it may be more—and the contract will also specify the quantity of milk to be supplied daily. Existing contracts, when the appointed day comes, may become void, and new contracts may have to be entered into. It might be the case that in an emergency such as sometimes occurs, where, for instance, there might be a big influx of visitors into Dublin, or for some other reason such as, say, a heavy snowfall in the winter time, it would not be possible to get sufficient milk from the ordinary producers, and there is a provision in the Bill which enables the board to give a special permit to a person to bring in milk from outside the registered producers, but that permit, naturally, would only be given in extreme cases.

A levy at a rate to be prescribed by the Minister may be collected by the board on all sales of milk to which the Act applies. We discussed the levy very fully already and the things for which it would be raised, such as the expenses of the board. remuneration of the chairman, salaries of staff, office accommodation, purchase of surplus milk for manufacturing purposes, cost of any scheme for promotion of the increased consumption of milk where the board would turn their attention to popularising milk in schools, and so on, or any object of that kind. It will be costly, at least, in the beginning, and a certain amount will be required to finance it. The Minister for Agriculture, after consultation with the Minister for Industry and Commerce, may prescribe maximum retail prices to be charged for different kinds of milk sold under different conditions. If an Order is made in relation to a specified kind of milk sold under specified conditions, it will be unlawful for any person to charge more than the appropriate prescribed price for such kind of milk sold under such conditions. Amongst the matters raised in the discussion already is that the wholesaler is perhaps charging too much to the retailer. If the board consider that the wholesaler is charging too much to the retailer, and if they recommend to the Minister that action should be taken, the Minister may then prescribe a minimum price at which milk can be sold retail, whether over the counter or delivered to the consumer.

Milk is defined in the Bill as "whole milk which is sold for consumption as whole milk, or is used in the manufacture of butter, cheese, cream or ice cream," and consequently milk used in the manufacture of condensed or powdered milk is not included in the scope of the Bill. That means that manufacturers who are making sweets or toffee, or confectioners who are making confectionery, cakes, and so on, which require condensed or powdered milk, will not be compelled to pay the fixed price.

Is that good milk?

Dr. Ryan

It is. In the first place, it gives an opportunity to the board to dispose of a surplus at a price somewhat below the price at which it is sold to the ordinary consumer, and, in the second place, it gives an opportunity to those people to carry on their business, and to take the milk from the source from which they are taking it at present if they wish. Some of them are taking that milk from the manufacturers of dried milk or condensed milk in the country, while others are condensing milk themselves.

The Bill is not, I believe, difficult to follow, because, for one thing, there is no reference to previous legislation, and, therefore, reading through it is only a matter of studying the meaning of the Bill without referring to previous Acts. Part I contains the usual preliminary and general clauses dealing with Orders, definitions, and so on. Under Part II, power is taken to set up a board for each joint sale and supply district which may be established under the Bill; to register producers and distributors of milk in each joint district; to restrict the sale of milk in each district to registered persons; to collect levy on such milk for the expenses of the board, and to fix minimum prices below which milk may not be sold in such district. Under Section 6, the Minister may, whenever the need for so doing arises, prescribe joint districts to which the Act will apply, and such districts will each comprise a sale district, in which milk may not be sold except in conformity with the provisions of the Act, and an associated supply district. We must define a sale district as a district within which milk must not be sold at less than the minimum price by suppliers, and must also fix a supply district, a district from which wholesalers or retailers, as the case may be, are permitted to draw their supplies.

Sections 8 to 29 relate to the constitution, powers, duties and finances of boards set up for joint districts. Boards will be corporate bodies, consisting of a chairman and as many producer members, retailer members, and wholesaler members as may be decided upon, having regard to the local conditions in the district for which the board is established. It was considered advisable to leave that matter open, because in the City of Dublin, for instance, we may find it necessary to give a certain representation to a rather large supplying district.

There will also be the consideration of giving a certain representation to both retailers and wholesalers, and, to get a balance between these numbers, it may be necessary to have a larger board there than you would have in a smaller town where there might be no wholesalers, and perhaps in such a district a smaller board would be sufficient. As I have said already, the chairman of each board will be nominated by the Minister, and he will have much the same powers as the chairman of the Pigs Board has in the fixation of prices, that is, if there is disagreement, the chairman will decide. It is quite easy to imagine, I think, that the producers of milk would be looking for a higher price than the wholesaler or retailer would be prepared to pay, and there would be a deadlock unless the chairman had this power of deciding between them.

The other points arising here are matters dealing with the filling of casual vacancies on the boards. The method by which the boards are to be constituted as soon as the registers are set up is much the same as in other legislation, particularly legislation dealing with the Pigs Board, and it requires no explanation, at this stage, at any rate. The board will have power to employ staff, secretary and inspectors, and so on, on conditions prescribed by the Minister. The Minister will lay down conditions with regard to remuneration, service, and so on, and the board will then make the appointments. The boards will have to establish registers of producers, retailers and wholesalers, and to keep those registers, and, as soon as those registers have been made up, regular elections to the boards will be held, and, so far as that is concerned, matters should be in order after a short time. There is the usual power with regard to the cancelling of registration. If a person procures his registration through fraud or misrepresentation, asks to have his name withdrawn, is adjudged bankrupt or is convicted of an offence under the Act—all these matters are set out as being reasons for which the board may take a person's name off the register. A person will get the usual notice, and will have an opportunity of making representations if he thinks he has been unfairly dealt with.

The big question which the board has to deal with is the question of price, and the method by which the price will be fixed is set out in Sections 42 and 43. In the first instance, when the board is set up, they will decide on the price. That decision will be communicated to the Minister, who will then fix the price payable. In respect of subsequent changes, it will be a matter of recommendation to the Minister. If they recommend a change of price, the Minister will consider it and make such change in the original price, or not make such change, as the case may be.

There is an appointed day as soon as the board think they have everything in order, registers built up and so on, after which no milk can be supplied except under contract which states the price and quantity. Under Sections 49 and 50 the board may buy at less than the statutory minimum price from registered wholesalers and sell or use it for manufacturing purposes. It would be absolutely impossible for a wholesaler or retailer to buy the exact quantity of milk required. If he wants to make certain that all consumers will get the amount of milk they require he will obviously have a surplus, practically every day, because he must overshoot the mark a little in order that everyone gets enough. That surplus will have to be dealt with. The board will have power to take the surplus and to decide what quantity they will take. They have power to deal with the surplus and to decide whether to have it made into butter or sold for manufacturing purposes. There is a use for milk for purposes besides consumption as liquid milk. They will have to decide whether they will sell it at a cheap rate so as to popularise the use of milk in certain industries. Some part of the proceeds of the levy will be used for that purpose.

Is it proposed to leave that discretion to the board?

Dr. Ryan

Yes. We must give them power to buy milk from wholesalers at less than the fixed price. If a wholesaler felt that he could sell whatever surplus he had at the fixed price, he would not exercise the necessary discretion, knowing that he would be paid. Perhaps he would buy more than he required, thinking that if a rush came he would have plenty, and that if a rush did not come he would not lose anything. In that case it would be necessary for the board to pay a wholesaler something less than the wholesale price in order to make him cautious about the quantity he would buy. The board may contribute out of the funds to be placed at their disposal towards advertising to popularise the use of milk. The final section provides that the Minister may, after a consultation with the Minister for Industry and Commerce, fix the maximum price at which milk of a specified kind may be sold. That power is put into the Bill because, on previous occasions in the case of bacon and cattle, Deputies were rather anxious that when legislation of this kind was introduced the Minister should take power to fix retail prices. Power is being taken here, but I am not sure whether it will be possible to reduce retail prices in the city. Naturally we will have to get some advice from the board before fixing prices. Although the Minister is not bound under the Bill to follow the advice of the board he would naturally try to get advice before fixing retail prices.

It was stated that wholesalers were buying milk at 8d. and selling to the retailers at 1/- a gallon. I do not think that is true. It is hard to know what are the circumstances, but I think they were selling to retailers at 11d. Supposing it was 11d., it is very hard for me, or for officers of my Department to know whether they are justified in charging that margin or not. After some experience of the working of the Act, and after consultation with the wholesalers and the retailers, it may be possible to come to a reasonable understanding with these people, and to get the margin down to a proper level. Perhaps that may be done without making an Order at all, as it is very often the case, with some legislation, when the power is there, it is not necessary to use it. In any event it may be well to have the power. That is an outline of the Bill and it is the first of this kind that has been introduced. The board is somewhat on the lines of the Pigs Marketing Board, as we are getting producers, distributors or retailers to come together jointly to try to fix prices and to regulate the industry. The big difficulty, as we realise, is that there is more milk in the vicinity of Dublin than the city can consume.

That is the trouble.

Dr. Ryan

The question is whether this board will be able to get over that difficulty. It is believed they can. Producers and people in the trade believe that if they had this legislation they would make a success of the situation.

Does anybody in this House seriously believe that there is more milk coming to the City of Dublin than the city is able to consume? It is perfectly true that there is more milk in Dublin than the people can afford to buy, but there is a very wide difference between these two statements. I want Deputies to make up their minds about this: Do they desire to fix the price of milk in the City of Dublin at such a figure that a large section of the people will not be able to buy milk? If they are going to do that they ought to do it with their eyes open. Deputy Belton spends a great deal of his time dealing with the poor and the destitute in the City and the County of Dublin, and he knows what an immense difference it makes in a poor household with a large number of children, if there is an abundant supply of milk there. It is the difference in that household between starvation and reasonable nourishment, and I do not think any interest, farmers or otherwise, wants to withhold abundant supplies of milk from poor children. I cannot imagine any rational man subscribing to the statement that there is more milk coming to this city than the city can absorb. There is not half enough milk coming to the City of Dublin. That is not peculiar to the City of Dublin. It is peculiar to almost every industrial city in Great Britain and Ireland, and has recently been the subject of an elaborate report by experts in Great Britain, who pointed out that there should be a vast increase in the quantity of milk consumed. Professor Drew, of University College, recently delivered a speech at the Albert Agricultural College, under the patronage of the Minister for Agriculture, in which he pointed out that there was plenty of room for doubling the consumption of milk in the city without giving any one more than the minimum quantity they ought to consume.

The Minister introduced this Bill to-day and explained that since 1931-32 the winter price of milk had fallen from 1/1 to an average of 8d. and the summer price from 9½d. to 9¼d. Perhaps this is the beginning of some of the repercussions of the economic war. When you make one branch of agriculture wholly unprofitable, and when other farmers get into that branch, and throw their output on a market that is unorganised and unable to absorb it, most undesirable consequences ensue. The problem is not going to arise only in connection with milk. It is going to arise in connection with every other branch. If you make the production of live stock hopelessly unprofitable, and subsidise the production of grain, everybody will go into grain, and when there is a surplus of grain, no matter what steps you can take you will not be able to fit grain production into the stomachs of the people even though you fill everyone's stomach.

That situation arises because of an inept and incompetent Government interfering with the agricultural industry. It has resulted in an excessive number of persons getting into the milk business, before the Dublin market was organised for the reception of increased quantities of milk, and an artificial glut on the market which has given rise to the present difficulties. What happened? Instead of trying to get to the root of the difficulty and to increase the market for milk in the City of Dublin—and all Parties agree that it could be increased with great benefit to public health—a Bill of 55 sections is introduced at the end of a long Parliamentary session, at a few weeks' notice, after studiously refraining from taking any steps that would remedy a situation that has been developing for the last six years, until a group of farmers came along to start a riot in a railway station. That was the only way to extract reforms from the Fianna Fáil Government, to start a riot, but if that impression gets abroad it will not be good for the country or for any section of the community. I do not know if Deputies are acquainted with the report of the Commission dealing with the reorganisation of milk supplies in Great Britain. They had this problem of milk distribution there and they invited a committee to sit down to consider it. Having done so the committee produced a report extending to about 220 pages dealing with the milk problem there. Founded on that report a Bill was drafted and enacted into law in Great Britain.

We are presented with a Bill of 52 sections, and I repeat that nobody in this House, not excepting the Minister for Agriculture, has the faintest notion of all the implications involved in the situation. The Minister has a couple of sheets of paper which have been prepared for him and which are of a very sketchy character. He says that this Bill is very much like the Bacon Bill in its machinery. He tells us nothing as to what effect he anticipates this Bill is going to have on the price of milk in the city. He takes power to regulate the price of milk. Can he tell us now what he thinks the price of milk will be in the City of Dublin? He says that at present he does not know anything, but that he hopes that when the milk board is established they will be able to tell him what to do. Would it not be better to find out what he ought to do before he introduces legislation and then legislate in accordance with what he believes he ought to do? Why does the Minister, in assumed futility, delegate all his functions to a milk marketing board of this kind? Surely he ought to know what he wants the board to do? Surely he ought to have some idea which he could communicate to the House of the price which he thinks the people of the city ought to pay for milk? Surely he ought to be able to tell us whether he has made any calculations as to what the costs of production of milk are? Does he know or has he inquired? I do not think he has.

The Minister says that the machinery of this board is going to be similar to the machinery of the Bacon Marketing Board. If that is so, God help the consumers of this country. The Bacon Marketing Board was set up and delivered from the authority of this House. It has consistently gouged and plundered the bacon producers of the country ever since it was established, and every attempt that was made in this House to raise the question of the activities of the Bacon Marketing Board has been opposed by the Minister on the ground that he has no authority over it. At the present moment the Bacon Marketing Board have illegally fixed prices for bacon, which have resulted in the consuming public of this country paying, through the price of bacon, a large part of the export bounties that used to be charged on the Exchequer. That illegal activity is being carried on with the connivance and encouragement of the Minister for Agriculture. The producers are being plundered by the Pigs Marketing Board. They are being plundered with the connivance and the assistance of the two gentlemen put on the Board by the Minister to represent the producers of pigs in this country. No Deputy can raise the issues that arise in connection with the Pigs Marketing Board in this House, because the Minister protests that he has divested himself of all responsibility in that regard. If this milk board is going to function in the same way as the Bacon Marketing Board and the Pigs Marketing Board, the net result may well be that the consumers of this country, the consumers in the cities, will be made to carry a burden out of all proportion to what they ought to be asked to carry.

I believe that an economic price must be got for milk, not because I love the farmers' lovely blue eyes but because my experience is that if you make the production of any particular thing uneconomic, the end of it will be that everybody will get out of production. We have got to have milk, and, in order to get milk, we have got to pay an economic price to the people who produce it. If the futility, the ineptitude and incompetence of the Government create a situation in which the normal markets for milk are dislocated, then the damages which have to be paid for the incompetence of the Government ought to be charged upon the Exchequer. You have no right, simply because you have got an incompetent as Minister for Agriculture, to levy a tax on the consumers of milk in order to pay for his futility. The net result of this legislation is going to be that an artificial price will have to be fixed for milk coming into the city which will be financed by increasing the prices of milk in the city by ½d. per pint. That means that the entire burden of the cost of remedying the existing difficulty is going to be borne by the milk consumers. You cannot take blood out of a turnip or water out of a stone and if a tenement dweller in this city has got a certain amount of money for milk, she has got to be satisfied with the quantity of milk that that money will buy. If the money will not allow her to purchase another pint of milk, she has simply got to do without it. I say it is an outrageous proposal that whatever reforms should be necessary in order to remedy the defects that exist in the supply of milk to the City of Dublin at present, should be financed out of the pockets of the poor consumers of milk in the city.

While I know that the farmers who are supplying milk want an economic price and feel that they are agitating vigorously for it, I do not believe that any farmer in Kildare, Meath, Wicklow or elsewhere wants to put the burden of the increase on the consumers of milk because the farmer knows the circumstances of the vast majority of the people who buy milk. I again suggest to the Minister that instead of rushing this Bill through and delegating the duties, which this House has, of regulating the milk supply of the city to a milk board, he should set up a commission to inquire into the situation obtaining, just as a commission was set up in Great Britain. After that a Bill can be introduced which would provide for the interests of the parties concerned—milk producers, distributors and consumers. If needs be, that Bill could authorise the Minister for Local Government and Public Health to inaugurate schemes for the consumption of any temporary surplus of milk that may be on the market by the children of the poor in the primary schools of the city. I venture to say that if a scheme of that kind were put in hand it would be very quickly found that instead of more milk coming into the city than the city was able to consume, we would have to go further afield for further supplies of milk. Money spent in that way would be much more profitably spent than on unemployment assistance or cheap beef.

Let me say this word in conclusion, that in circumstances such as surround this milk problem, when nobody knows all the facts, it is only too easy to start a campaign of vilification and slander against those persons who are engaged in the milk distributing business. I would much prefer to have this matter dispassionately examined and have every detail of this problem investigated by a competent committee when, if there was any blame attaching to the distributors, it could be fairly fixed upon them. But in the absence of conclusive proof that the distributors of milk in this city are behaving unjustly to the consumers or producers, I think Deputies should be chary about denouncing them in the unmeasured terms that some of them have seen fit to employ. From what I hear, the life of a milk distributor in this city is no bed of roses. Milk distribution is hard, arduous work. There has to be a lot of give and take about it and, whatever is to be made in the business, I do not see any millionaires conducting dairies.

I feel at a considerable loss in dealing with this matter because I am painfully aware of my own lack of information in regard to it and I am painfully aware that no Deputy in this House knows this industry in all its aspects and is really competent to deal with the problem as it ought to be dealt with. If any sense of responsibility obtained here, some kind of commission of inquiry would be instituted, so that this matter might be satisfactorily and permanently disposed of. Until that is done, I am not prepared to support any measure of this kind, because I believe it may result in very serious injustice to the people least able to bear it.

The Minister says that it is quite easy to follow this Bill. That may be. At the same time, there are some points in it that are not quite clear to the ordinary reader. For instance, in Part 1, sub-section (2) of Section 2, it is laid down that, for the purposes of Part 3 of the Bill, milk dealt with at premises registered under the Dairy Produce Act, 1924, shall be deemed to have been produced at such premises. What is the purpose of dealing with creameries in this way, because I take it that, if the Minister makes an Order fixing a retail price, they will be bound by it?

Several other matters also call for consideration. There are registered producers, registered retailers and registered wholesalers, and each section can be registered in its proper place. Can a person be registered as a producer and as a retailer as well? There are large numbers of dairymen in the County Dublin who distribute the milk produced by their own cows. So far as I can see, that practice is not expressly forbidden, but I should like the Minister to say if a person can be registered both as a producer and as a retailer. Presumably, a person producing and selling milk in this way would pay a levy on each gallon of milk so consumed. The Minister suggested that a levy of ¼d. per gallon would probably enable the board to carry out all the work it would be required to do. I should be pleased to hear that that was the maximum figure. If, however, the board was not very careful, it might easily find that ¼d. per gallon would be totally inadequate to cover the cost of advertising milk, and the cost that would be incurred if the board were to engage in a manufacture that would require milk as its raw material. The Minister will say that he would be very careful before allowing the board to embark on schemes of manufacture and on advertising schemes with a view to increasing the consumption of milk. Other Deputies have said—I entirely agree with them—that the best way to increase the consumption of milk would be to supply clean, first-class, high-grade milk at the lowest possible price.

It is very difficult to foresee all the ramifications of this board. The prices are to be regulated, and, evidently, the Minister is rather doubtful as to whether or not he will start by fixing the retail price. Apparently, he will leave that to come about in its own way. He is concerned that the producers should get an economic price. It is perfectly evident that there would not be the glut of milk in this market that there is if the production of butter were an economic proposition. As Deputy Dillon has said, the farmer, having been driven out of production of butter, has invaded the milk market. The Minister may say that he is a realist and that he is facing facts. In so far as he is doing that, we have to sympathise with him and consider his problems. If he does not start with the retail price, and work backwards from that, what will be the position? The board will have to fix the price the producers are to get on their farms in the country. They will, then, have to fix the price for producers on their farms in County Dublin. Then they will have to fix a price for producers delivering milk in Dublin. Then there comes the question of the wholesalers, where they intervene between the producers and retailers. What price are wholesalers to pay for milk delivered at their headquarters?

I suggest to the Minister that if he is not very careful something like this will happen. He will start by saying: "I will fix the producers' price at, say, 8d. a gallon." I am merely suggesting that figure for the purpose of argument. I do not say that it represents the correct price, in my opinion. I do not pose as an expert in the price of milk. Now, the retailer will probably say that he will have to get the milk at a certain price above that figure. The wholesaler will probably have to come in at something between that, and the next question then is that having fixed that all along the line, it looks as if the consumer in the long run will pay for everything.

I would like to suggest to the Minister that if he is going in for regulating prices, he will find it a very difficult thing if he does not control prices right along the line. For instance, during the late European war they found in England that if they did not fix a price for everything right along the line, there was a difficulty right from the outset. I am afraid the Minister will find it exactly the same in this matter. He will either have to control it all or none of it. I would remind the Minister of the case of the disappearing rabbit throughout the country. An uneconomic price was fixed for rabbits, and it was found that there were no rabbits. The Minister has got a very difficult task to fulfil in the settling of these differences on the various boards. He has certainly armed himself with plenty of power. It seems to be an extraordinary position in which the chairman is a quorum and on the question of prices can listen to everybody and then say: "I disagree with the whole lot of you and so I will fix the price myself."

We would be sorry to see that state of affairs translated into the political arena. Imagine, for instance, a place like a county council where you would endow the chairman with the power of saying: "I disagree with the entire county council and I am going to pass a resolution myself and make all the orders necessary." I think the Minister should give us some indication how far he intends to embark on trading in these boards. I say that because, as I have said previously, if he is not very careful he may find that he has merely handed over considerable sums of the consumers' money to make experiments in increasing the consumption of milk, when the obvious way of increasing the consumption of milk lies in quite another direction. I wish to conclude with these few observations and I hope the Minister, in his reply, will deal fully with the points I have raised.

Mr. Belton rose.

Notice taken that 20 Deputies were not present; House counted and 20 Deputies being present,

I think this Bill is an extraordinary production to meet a very serious situation. I do not think anybody realises that more than the Minister himself. The whole framework of this Bill is nearly a year old, and the Minister has hesitated, and rightly hesitated, about putting it into operation. The desperate position which the farmers found themselves reduced to a couple of weeks ago drove them into the action they took. The proverbial worm turned. When they see all that the Minister has been able to give them I think they will definitely turn. The Minister realises and admitted throughout his introductory speech that the whole trouble is the surplus of milk. The farmers' trouble was an uneconomic price. Naturally, when there is a surplus of anything the price will be low. It was not looking for a market the farmers were when they took action a few days ago, but looking for an economic price for their milk. I should like to know from the Minister—he carefully evaded it in his introductory speech—whether this Bill proposes to give them an economic price for their milk, which is alleged to be a glut in the Dublin market. He has, I suppose under advice, adopted the principle in this joint board which all up-to-date dairymen in Dublin have adopted from experience for many years. He is giving this joint board power to work off surplus milk. Every prudent dairyman had pretty well every day of his life to work off surplus milk.

There is nothing original in the conception of this Bill. The Minister is trying to establish a kind of super-dairyman for handling the milk trade, and in that he proposes to destroy all private enterprise and initiative. On whose advice is he doing that? I challenge him to produce the advice of any successful dairyman or farmer. I know there have been a number of job-hunters, broken-down creamery managers, promoting organisations of this kind for the last year and a half. Have any successful dairymen, who knuckled down and built up their own business, advised the Minister on these lines? The Minister realises that it is a problem of finding a market for a very perishable commodity that has a surplus. Driven to the wall, as he was a couple of weeks ago, he had to fix maximum prices. In introducing the Bill, he said that these could not be sustained. He had to go on, and, driven to fix prices, he has gone on and produced this Bill.

It seems that, instead of the Minister and the Government generally facing up to the outstanding facts of the economic situation which confronts this country at present, due entirely to the policy pursued by the Government, they bring in a Bill. A year ago we spent a long time passing a Milk and Dairy Bill through all its stages in this House until it became an Act. Was there any necessity for that Act? Why is it not in operation now? It was hung up as soon as it was passed and it has never been put into operation. Here is a Bill which proposes to cut right across the fundamentals of that Act.

Deputy Dockrell, in referring to the way to increase milk consumption, said that if a good, clean article is produced at a reasonable price the consumption will go up. Is the Minister proposing to do that? Section 2 of this Bill says:

The word "milk" means whole milk which is sold for consumption as whole milk or is used in the manufacture of butter, cheese, cream or ice-cream.

I put it to the Minister that such milk is prohibited by law from sale in Northern Ireland and Great Britain as unfit for human consumption as liquid milk. I do not think the Minister will contradict that statement. If he does, I have the Order made by the Department of Agriculture in Northern Ireland. That Order grades milk into four grades. Grades A, B and C can be sold for human consumption as liquid milk. A licence is not required for the production or sale of grade D milk, but such milk may not be sold for human consumption as whole milk. Grade D milk is milk produced under these conditions—milk not sold under a grade A, B or C licence. Grade D milk cannot be sold for consumption as liquid milk and must be disposed of on the farm or sold for manufacturing purposes. That will usually mean sale to a creamery. That milk is not subject to any inspection at its source and the milk the Minister proposes to have dumped into the City of Dublin is milk that is not subject to any inspection whatever at the source of production.

While I agree that this matter requires investigation at the moment, I at the same time agree with the view put forward by Deputy Dillon that the Minister should go slowly and get sound advice. The members of the County Dublin Board of Health, at their meeting to-day, asked themselves these questions: "What are we paying a veterinary organisation for in the County Dublin? What are we paying a medical officer of health and the organisation of his department for in the County Dublin?" If a single farmer in County Dublin sold, in the City of Dublin, the milk certified by the Minister in this Bill he would be prosecuted, and, mind you, prosecuted not under any bye-law made by the Dublin County Council or by the County Dublin Board of Health, but under an Act passed by this House. Why should the people of the County Dublin be taxed to provide machinery to make the cost of the production of milk greater in their case than it is elsewhere? The people in the County Dublin are obliged to do that by an Act of this House under the Milk and Dairies Order and under the Bovine Tuberculosis Order. This Bill is now before the House while we have on the Statute Book an Act, passed last year, the object of which was to provide a cleaner and better milk supply to the people of this country, that has never been put into operation. We are asked by the Minister to give a Second Reading to a Bill the object of which is to provide us with milk that, according to experts and to the report of the Milk Commission that sat in Great Britain, and according to the best opinion that we have at the present time, is unfit for human consumption. I do not know whether it is unfit for human consumption or not, but what I do know is that under an Act passed by the Oireachtas the obligation has been imposed on farmers in the County Dublin not to produce that milk.

In the County Dublin we have been obliged to set up machinery under the Department of Agriculture and under the Department of Local Government and Public Health, but in view of the introduction of this Bill we have decided to call a meeting for Tuesday next to decide as to whether we are going to scrap the organisation that we have in the County Dublin. If other counties can produce cheaper milk and sell it in the market at our doors, then we are going to produce milk and to scrap the machinery that we have been compelled to provide.

The Minister thinks that, by juggling with an organisation, he is going to get a better price for the milk. We all know that you can only put into a gallon measure a gallon of stuff. It has been said that about 20,000 gallons of milk per day are required to supply the needs of the City of Dublin, and that after meeting that demand there is still a surplus available. How does the Minister propose to find a market for that surplus in the city? He is proposing to introduce a series of registrations, the object in view being to attempt to get an economic price for the milk and to have a market for all the milk that is offered. Joint boards are to be set up, prices are to be fixed and machinery provided whereby both wholesalers and retailers can buy more milk than they require. A dump will be provided for that, because that is really what it amounts to, by the board which apparently will manufacture all the surplus milk that goes into the dump into butter. I presume that butter will be sold at a lower price than the prevailing price for creamery butter. Obviously, butter made from milk that is carted about to many destinations and that finally cannot get a market as liquid milk, and is then brought to this dump, will hardly be up to the same standard of quality as butter made from fresh milk. There will be a loss on that milk.

When people know that there is a dump they may not be so anxious about the amount of milk they buy. They may be inclined to buy too much knowing that they have the dump to put it into. But where, in all the organisation of this Bill, is there any further outlet for milk? At the present time every dairyman in Dublin is producing more milk than he requires for his contracts or for his customers. He knows that he must always have a little extra milk. Following a cold night, the quantity of milk that he gets from his own cows may be reduced by 10 per cent., so that the prudent dairyman who wants to hold his customers and to obviate the necessity of buying milk from other people, the quality of which he cannot guarantee, always aims at producing a surplus which he churns into butter. Now, instead of one person doing that, the Minister proposes in this Bill to jumble all these little surpluses into a dump. All that milk is to be churned into butter, but so far as I can see the Minister is not making any other attempt to provide a further outlet for the milk.

The board will be confronted with two problems. One will be not to admit into the city, or into a sale area, any more milk than is required for use as liquid milk. It will either have to limit the supply of milk or allow milk in ad lib and then turn the surplus into the dump to make inferior butter. But does that remedy the situation with which the Minister has been called upon to deal, and it was to remedy that situation, apparently, that he introduced this Bill? I do not see that it brings him one inch further.

There may be a nominal minimum price fixed, higher than the prices that have been obtainable in the last couple of years, but the levies will have to go up, because the joint board will sustain a loss. That loss will increase as the amount of milk allowed into the sale area exceeds the amount of consumption in that area. That loss will have to be made up by a levy on the whole of the milk, so that the net result will be that the price of milk will go down, or the supply must be curtailed. What is going to be done with the land which is producing that milk? First of all, what is going to be done with that milk if it is not admitted into the towns but is turned back into the country? By creating an artificial shortage you can keep up the price. You can fix a minimum price for a certain number of gallons, but the whole problem is not that price but what is to be done with the extra amount of milk. I certainly cannot see in this Bill—and the Minister has not elaborated the point—any indication as to what will be done with that milk.

Deputy Dillon, and to a lesser extent Deputy Dockrell, touched upon the main point. The trouble with the market to-day is that there are people producing milk in the last couple of years who never before produced milk for sale. Why are they producing it? Because they had nothing on their land which they could turn into cash. Instead of dry stock, which proved a failure on their hands, they went in for cows. They sent milk to the local towns; they sent milk up to the City of Dublin. The result is that there is a superabundant supply of milk, and, of course, down goes the price. Does the Minister not realise that it is not at milk he should start in order to relieve the milk situation in Dublin? Is it not clear to him that that situation is a manifestation of the failure of the Government policy in regard to agriculture? The people would not be producing milk and sending it to Dublin at 5½d. per gallon unless that was the best profit they could get out of their land. If those people could make a better profit by tilling their land, by growing any of the ordinary agricultural crops, by grazing dry stock, by raising sheep, by growing corn or wheat or the famous beet, they would not be sending milk to Dublin at that price. One does not require any expert knowledge of agriculture or any other business in order to realise that. If there is any grumbling about the price of an article produced in a workshop or a field where other articles are capable of being produced, and the price of that article which is being produced at the moment is not an economic one, the fact that the people still continue to produce it at that uneconomic price is in itself proof that, although it is not an economic price, it is more nearly an economic price than that which can be secured for any other article capable of production in the same workshop or the same field.

I will not go into the general agricultural policy, but the Minister should realise that the uneconomic price of 5½d. a gallon for milk, and the fact that the people have no line of retreat from the production of milk but are forced to go on producing it at that price, are proof of the fact—and he ought to sit up and take notice of it— that that is the best which can be made out of land under his administration. The situation generally is very serious, and it must come to a head sooner or later. Perhaps we are nearer to its coming to a head now than we realise. My opinion is that this Bill, perhaps unknown to the Minister, puts him and his Government in the dock. The uneconomic price of 5½d. a gallon for milk is the best that can be made out of the best land in Ireland within five miles of this city. The Minister proposes in this Bill to fix an artificial price for that article sold in the limited market, and by a series of registration fees and levies he tries to deceive himself into the belief that he is raising the price.

He is going to set up a new department somewhat similar to the Bacon Marketing Board and the Pigs Marketing Board. If it is to be similar— I am quoting his own words—then if the price is to be kept up it will have to limit production as in the case of the Bacon Marketing Board. That new department is going to cost something. The chairman is going to be a civil servant, though perhaps he may not be so styled. The Chairman of the Pigs Marketing Board and the Chairman of the Bacon Marketing Board have not, I think, been so styled. A question put to the Minister about pigs or bacon is very neatly side-tracked by him. He says: "The Pigs Marketing Board or the Bacon Marketing Board is dealing with that. I have no control over them." The Minister for Agriculture has no control over pigs and bacon? I suppose he will be telling us in the near future that he has no control over milk either. If he keeps on legislating in this way he will legislate himself out of existence. It will be a race between the Minister and the farmer as to which of them will go out of existence first. There are many points in the Bill that require attention, but this is hardly the appropriate Stage at which to go into them in detail. They will be more properly dealt with on the Committee Stage.

I should like if the Minister, when replying, would deal with the all-important question which prompted this legislation, and that is the low price for milk and the limited market for liquid milk. I should like him to tell us how he proposes in this Bill to raise that price of milk without keeping back the surplus—without letting in anything but what is required or thereabouts.

If those are the lines he proposes to pursue, in order to get what he styles an economic price for the milk producers, will he tell us what is going to happen to the milk that is being produced, of which there is now a surplus here, that is pulling down the price below the economic level? If it is to be thrown back on the people's hands, they will stop the production of so much milk, and what is going to be done with the land then and how is the Minister going to face up to that problem? It will not be solved by any sleight-of-hand tricks such as levies and apparently inflated prices — prices the effect of which is taken back again by a levy per gallon on the amount of milk sold in order to pay for the loss that will be on the dump, for there will be a big loss there, and superimposed on the expenses of marketing milk in the future. If this Bill goes through you will have the cost of this machinery of the milk marketing board, as one might call it, and you will have the cost of the big staff that will be required, the expenses of the board, and so on. All that is coming out of the price of milk, because it will be financed out of levies which the milk marketing board will collect from the producers of milk. So that the Minister's proposition really boils down to this: He has an article for which he wants to get a better price. There is a small price because there is a surplus of it put on the market. He now proposes to set up machinery to sell that article in the same market in which it has been sold heretofore. The market is no larger and the number of articles put on that market will be the same or perhaps greater, as turned out to be the case with pigs when the machinery was set up to deal with that problem. There was a surplus of pigs produced and they were put on the market. As I say, the Minister adds to the expenses of marketing by whatever will be the cost of the marketing board or of the general organisation he will set up under this Bill, and all that has to come out of the price.

Now, the Minister increases the cost of marketing. In other words, he increases the cost of production, and the market remains the same. How is he going to increase the price? These are some of the general matters which I certainly should like to hear answered on the Second Stage. The more detailed matters relating to sections and sub-sections, and the details of organisation, can best be dealt with in Committee, but I should be very interested to hear the Minister tell us how we will get a better price for milk, in the limited market we have, in the future than we have been receiving in the past, and at the same time provide as big a market in the future as we have had in the past.

I presume the Minister has had time during the last couple of years to see the measure that was introduced and passed into law in connection with the supply of milk in Northern Ireland. We had a Milk and Dairies Act passed into law here in June of 1935, and now we have another Bill dealing with the matter and following, to some extent, the line of what has been done in Northern Ireland. It is not with any sense of satisfaction that I venture to say that the Northern Ireland Act appears to me to be a more business-like Milk Act than either of the two measures we have had here. I will admit at once that the Bill we passed here was, first of all, an earlier measure than the Northern Ireland Bill, but it was more or less a procedure measure. In that case, we took steps to see how far it was possible to exclude from human consumption milk from animals that were affected by disease—to see that the milk was bacteriologically sound and so on. In the measure that was passed in Northern Ireland they took the line of separating the different classes of milk into grades—grades A. B, and C, as Deputy Belton pointed out—and, only these three types of milk, which are very lucidly described in the Act, can be supplied for consumption by the public. In the case of either of the measures that we have had, while steps are taken under one, and under a particular Minister, to exclude any milk that is not of proper quality— milk that is not free from disease and so on—there is nothing in this measure to ensure that, when people are getting a better price for their milk than they have been receiving for some time, the quality of the milk they will supply will be up to the standard.

The prices that have been mentioned by the Minister in the course of the second part of his speech indicate that there is something wrong with agriculture in this country. We have been telling the Minister that for a long time, and this surplus of milk that is now becoming evident in the City of Dublin gives further proof of that situation. Whatever the situation is, however, if by reason of this measure the citizens of Dublin, or of other places that the Minister may schedule by Order, are going to be compelled to pay a higher price, they are at any rate entitled to get the quality of milk that their money is worth. As far as this measure is concerned, it does not provide any machinery or regulation for dealing with that.

Now, it might be possible to improve even upon the Northern Ireland Bill. For example, that measure deals principally with the elimination of disease from milk. The Minister, for instance, might have included in the measure now before us a standard of fats, for the sale of milk. If the price is going to go up by a few pence per gallon or, as Deputy Mulcahy pointed out from 1½d. to 2d. a pint since this new arrangement took place, obviously the people are entitled to get the quality for which they are paying. That is not unreasonable to expect, but there are no means under this Bill or under the other Bill of ensuring that. The earlier measure that was taken seeks, along with other steps that the Minister is taking, to eliminate animal disease, but there is no absolute effort made to secure for the people the quality that they ought to get and that it is the Minister's duty to see that they do get.

May I draw the Minister's attention to what appears to be a slight complication between this Bill and the Milk and Dairies Act of 1935? In Section 51 it states that the Minister, after consultation with the Minister for Industry and Commerce, may by Order fix the maximum price at which milk of a specified kind, defined in such manner and by reference to such things as the Minister shall think proper, may be sold or offered for sale. Now, the Minister has to consult with the Minister for Industry and Commerce under that section about milk of a specified kind. In, I think, Section 36, or 37 or 38 of the Milk and Dairies Act of 1935, the Minister who makes the designation as regards the quality of milk is the Minister for Local Government and Public Health. The Minister for Local Government and Public Health is not mentioned in this Act, but rather the Minister for Agriculture and the Minister for Industry and Commerce in consultation. In a later section, I think, of the Milk and Dairies Act, the Minister for Local Government and Public Health must have some consultation with the Minister for Agriculture. Now, with regard to milk of a special designation, the Minister and his Department is the body that should be responsible for that. His jurisdiction might not conflict and need not conflict with that of the Ministry for Local Government and Public Health, but it should be his Department alone that would have the authority and the duty of having a special designation in respect of milk. The designation here is more or less permissive. It says "The Minister may," and I would suggest to the Minister that he ought to consider whether it should not be "shall" in that case. There ought to be available for purchase by citizens milk which they can be positively certain is free from bacteriological infection, from disease of any sort or kind and has a certain specified percentage of fats. It may not be possible always to get a certain percentage of fats. For example, there may be a very wet night or the cows may not have been milked regularly, and in that case there may be some reduction in the percentage of fats, but, in the normal course, one could settle a difficulty of that sort by having an average of a number of days milkings. However, the Minister ought to consider whether he would not put in some clause which would secure quality for the people, now that he is taking steps to ensure that the producers will get a price.

The other point which I put to the Minister this evening I again stress. This measure is, to my mind, expensive, and expensive in many directions. There are registers of retailers, wholesalers and producers; there are joint districts and boards and everything else; and there is going to be enormous expense, not alone on the Minister's Department, but in respect of the boards in getting the levy, which would be met by a Vote of £10,000 or £15,000. That sum of money could scarcely be better spent in the Minister's Department than by a Vote, and it would be much more inexpensively raised and dealt with than by providing all this complicated machinery. In addition, you have the usual result of an Act like this—prosecutions and people brought to court in respect of mistakes made in the compiling of returns and so on.

There is also an objectionable feature in connection with this measure which has crept into other Bills introduced here. If an official of the Minister's Department or any member of the Gárda Síochána enters the premises of any person and puts a question to any person on the premises and is not immediately attended to, the owner of the premises is liable to prosecution. One can imagine a question being put to an office boy or messenger in respect of any matter or thing. For one reason or another, the boy may not have the information, and the owner of the premises is liable to prosecution in that case. Further, in respect of these interminable inspections and calls by either officials or members of the Gárda Síochána, whether or not they are meant to be intrusive, an officious person may make it very difficult for the owner or a person in charge of a business place to carry on if he comes at an inconvenient time. It amounts to this, that once any member of the Gárda Síochána or any official of the Minister presents himself, work should stop until the necessary number of questions are put and the official or member of the Gárda answered to his satisfaction.

Dr. Ryan

Deputy Dillon started off by asking whether any Deputy would state definitely that there was too much milk coming into Dublin. We would all like to see more milk coming into Dublin, and we would all like to see everybody in this city, particularly the poor people, drinking more milk, but asking that question and leaving it to be solved is not going to help the farmers. If the farmers are getting a poor price for their milk—5d. a gallon or whatever it is at present— are we to leave the farmers with that price of 5d. per gallon in order that the poor may get as much milk as possible? Surely the question should be solved in another way. I did not say that there was too much milk coming in; I said that too much milk was produced in the area to command an economic price. Perhaps there is a little too much coming in to command that price, but that is the trouble. There is about three or four times as much milk produced in the area that could supply Dublin as is actually coming in. We are up against that position and this legislation is introduced in order to give the farmers a better price.

There was a lot of talk here about Great Britain, but Great Britain's problem is very much different from the problem facing us. Great Britain has not enough milk products to supply her own needs, and, if we were in that position, we could deal with the matter easily. For instance, we have no great difficulty here in fixing the price of wheat because we know very well that, for some years to come, at any rate, we will not get too much wheat produced in the country and, therefore, we can pay what we consider an economic price to the farmer; but where we have a big surplus of any product for export, we are in quite a different position. Milk is one of our surplus products and we have to export a certain amount of milk products, the export price of which naturally has a very big influence on the price all round.

I was asked by Deputy Dillon if I would state what I think the price in the city ought to be. If I were to bring in a Bill here laying down that the price should be so-and-so and that distributors, retailers and producers should do such-and-such a thing, I am sure Deputy Dillon and Deputies opposite would say "The thing is becoming all bureaucratic control; the Minister is interfering in matters he knows nothing about," and so on. There might be a certain amount of justification for that. I have brought in a Bill enabling producers, retailers and wholesalers to fix this matter for themselves and giving them the necessary powers. I do not think I am called on to say what I think the price of milk should be in Dublin. It is not my business at all; it is the business of that board to fix it as best it can. We are giving legislative sanction to an organisation of farmers because we know that the farmers could not maintain that organisation themselves. Deputies opposite know better than I do that it is impossible to organise farmers, either politically or in any other way. It has to be done by legislation. Deputy Dillon asked why I had not found out what should be done before introducing legislation. In other words, to have a commission and to put into the Bill what the price should be, who should be supplied, and everything else. We had the example of Great Britain quoted. A commission was set up there and Deputy Dillon stated that it produced something like 220 pages. What did the commission do after sitting for a long time? They recommended that retailers and producers should regulate the industry. That was the natural thing to do before any commission sat at all. We want this industry to be self-supporting and to get away as far as possible from interference by the Government. I know that Deputies opposite will agree with that. Deputy Dillon, unfortunately, has left the House now, after making his speech. It is a habit of his.

He is here oftener than Ministers.

Dr. Ryan

He comes here to make impertinent and futile speeches and then runs out, and gets his leader to take his place.

He makes as many speeches as the Ministers.

Dr. Ryan

The Deputy stated that the Bacon Board was acting illegally. If it is, he has a remedy. He accused members of the board of being parties to a plot to defraud the producers. The Deputy has a remedy by saying that outside and proving it. He will not do so. The whole thing about this Bill is that we want farmers to get an economic price. Deputy Dillon said he wanted that, too, and wants poor people to get milk more cheaply. I am not going to go back on the political manæuvring of the Party opposite to try to get the votes of the producers and the consumers, but I want to say that inevitably, if Deputy Dillon wants to do that, it leads to a subsidy to farmers, a thing that he has condemned all over the country during the last two or three years. We read typical speeches by Deputy Dillon, who seems to speak very often in the country, in which he says that farmers do not want subsidies, but want to be allowed to carry on in their own way. Is not that so? Deputy Dillon now wants them to get subsidies so that poor people may get milk more cheaply.

Is not this Bill proposing to subsidise a certain type of consumer?

Dr. Ryan

No, I am not giving any subsidy. I am trying to make these people stand on their own feet.

What is the levy to be used for except as a subsidy?

Dr. Ryan

The levy is not to be used for any such purpose. The Deputy is regarded as one who knows most about the creamery business, and he ought to know the milk legislation which brought in the levy, bounty and subsidy system.

Is this not applied in the same way?

Dr. Ryan

It is not.

I am only looking for information and I am not in any sense hostile.

Dr. Ryan

That is all right. Deputies opposite want to make out that the position is due to the economic war. They know quite well that Great Britain had to take action and that Northern Ireland had to take action and to bring in legislation establishing Milk Boards, although the economic war has not hit them in that particular way. Of course, Deputies have the economic war on the brain. I suppose we cannot blame them.

We have paid well for it if we have it on the brain, and I do not think we are finished with it yet.

Dr. Ryan

Deputy Dockrell wanted to know if a person could be registered as a producer and a retailer. He can. With regard to Section 2 (2) a creamery supplying milk to Dublin would be in a peculiar position if that sub-section was not in the Bill, because the producer must be registered and the premises must be registered. The effect of that sub-section is to make a creamery "premises" and in that way makes the position easier.

The Deputy also asked if ¼d. a gallon would be sufficient. Probably it will not if the board goes into business. At the beginning it will be sufficient to pay staffs and for premises, and perhaps will do a little in the way of dealing with a surplus. If they have to finance a scheme to any great extent for dealing with surplus milk, ¼d. a gallon would not be sufficient. That is a matter for the board. I think we should wait to see if they are able to deal with that problem effectively. We were told that farmers were driven from butter making into the milk business, and that that was responsible for so many going into milk. If Deputies opposite honestly want to solve this problem, I think they should take an interest in trying to get farmers better prices. Why should they be looking for reasons to hit this Government rather than for the true reasons? After all, we are considering this question apart from politics. The economic war is not responsible for the position. If it was, what was the urgency of introducing such legislation in England and Northern Ireland? The economic war was not responsible there. Is it because people were driven from butter making into liquid milk production? I do not think there is any foundation for that statement. In England, Northern Ireland and in Scotland, the system was changed by transport conditions. Deputies opposite do not suggest the Government should be blamed for that. I suppose Deputy Cosgrave is interested in the farmers and would like to see this problem solved. If Deputies opposite want to have this question dealt with they should look at it in a fair way to see what is the cause, and having found the true cause, see if it can be solved. From my knowledge, it appears to me that the whole reason for the change over in the case of these farmers is that lorries are passing their houses, and that it is now possible to send milk to Dublin which was turned into butter before. That is a big reason why there is a surplus of milk in the City of Dublin at present. If that is the case, it may be a very difficult problem to solve. We are putting the onus on the board to do the best it can. Deputy Belton asked how the surplus was to be dealt with. Even if the board is driven to taking the surplus for manufacture into butter at the ordinary economic price at which they can take milk for butter making, say 4d. or 4½d., would it not be better for the farmers, even under these circumstances, to sell the surplus or whatever the city will take at an economic price, rather than sell the whole lot at the butter price as they have been doing recently?

Would not some, suppliers be rationed as to what they would supply?

Dr. Ryan

The board would have power, if not directly, indirectly, by getting a fair amount of agreement between distributors, retailers and producers. As far as I can see that is the only way it can be dealt with. I have been asked why I had no definite proposals about setting up a commission. I do not think we would get nearer a solution if a commission were sitting for 12 months. The nearest way was to get the board set up and producers registered, and in a short time we will know the amount of milk that is coming to Dublin daily. I cannot see any other way of getting that information.

If the Minister had a surplus is this the type of board he would select?

Dr. Ryan

I do not know of any better type of board than this. After all I think we would get more goodwill and co-operation by having everyone interested in the board.

Do you not want more than that?

Dr. Ryan

I do not know, and perhaps the Deputy will tell me what is on his mind. Deputy Belton said the farmers were not looking for a market; they were looking for a price. If that is the case Deputy Belton thinks there is no surplus. I do not know if that is what he meant. The Deputy said there was nothing original in the Bill; that it was a kind of super-dairy Bill. It is not necessarily original. If we can solve this problem without being original, it is all right. It is not necessary to be original at all. The Deputy asked if I had been advised by successful farmers. I think so. I met a number of farmers representing suppliers at many meetings and I think they are successful farmers; men who, having an interest in their business, try to do their best as far as farming goes. I do not think there is a bit of use in Deputy Belton saying that I met no one but ex-politicians, dismissed creamery managers and so on and that these were the people at the head of this business.

With regard to the question of grades of milk, I do not see any reason whatever for dealing in this Bill with the grade of milk that is to be supplied. There is clean milk legislation already in existence. Part of it has not yet been put into operation, but that clean milk legislation will regulate the quality of milk to be supplied to the city. There will be certain grades specified and people will be compelled to keep their dairies clean, and to see that the milk is produced under hygienic conditions. After the Minister for Local Government has put this part of the Act into operation, as I believe he intends to do very shortly, then I can, under this section, fix a price for the various grades after consultation with the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I think it is recognised that it is the function of the Minister for Industry and Commerce to fix prices generally. Deputy Cosgrave will realise that, under the Ministers and Secretaries Act, the Minister for Industry and Commerce must be consulted before anybody fixes a price for any consumable product. The Minister for Industry and Commerce is consulted before a Price Fixing Order is issued. After that is done, the Minister for Agriculture can fix prices for the various grades in order to encourage the production of the best and the cleanest milk for consumption.

Deputy Belton said that it was not with milk we should start. I have heard that statement, on every Bill I brought in, from the Opposition. I was told that I should not start with wheat, that I should not start with beet, that I should not start with flax, that I should not start with tobacco, and now I am told that I should not start with milk. Deputy Belton said that I had no control over the Pigs Board and that therefore I had no control over pigs or bacon. He said that I will have no control over the milk board. If I say that I have no control over the milk board, it does not follow that I have no control over milk. I say now before the Bill goes any further that if it is passed and if the milk board in the city here does something that does not require my sanction—for instance, if it removes a name from the register —and if I am asked a question in the Dáil I shall say that it has nothing to do with me because it was not intended that my sanction should be sought in reference to matters of that kind. There are, however, certain things which the board will do which will require my sanction, and in such cases I shall have to take responsibility for answering questions in reference to them. I am sorry Deputy Belton has left the House, because he said that sleight-of-hand tricks in this Bill would be of no use. I was very glad to have the Deputy's assurance on that though there is no use in complimenting him on his being an authority, when he is not here.

I do not think Deputy Cosgrave was present when I was dealing with the motion in regard to the Financial Resolution. I think this is a case where the levy ought to come out of the price of milk. As I explained before, in the case of the Bacon Act, the money voted by the House goes for the expenses of inspection, to see that it is produced under hygienic conditions, and so on. The corresponding legislation in relation to milk is the clean milk legislation. On the other hand, the levies imposed by the Pigs Board for the equalisation of price comes out of the industry. They go to build up a fund for the equalisation of prices, and naturally that levy must come from the factory or the producer. In this case also, where it is a trading matter—and it is absolutely a trading matter, and has nothing to do with hygiene or matters of that kind—the levy goes altogether in the interests of the trade, in the pushing of further sales of milk, or the disposal of surplus milk, as the case may be. All that expense is connected with the sale of milk, and not with the quality of milk at all. If we were dealing with the inspection of milk, or the quality of milk, this House should vote the moneys, but in this particular case I think it is better that the board should have full control over that levy. If they want to go into trade in a large way, they may prepare their scheme, and they may estimate that they will require a bigger levy, perhaps, than ½d., ¾d. or 1d. per gallon. Having prepared their scheme and estimated that it will take that levy to finance the scheme, they will put the whole proposal before me. I can then either approve or disapprove of it, and as soon as I have done that I must make an Order with regard to the amount of the levy and the Order must be laid on the Table of the House. The House would then have an opportunity of discussing it if they think it desirable. I do not think it will be expensive to work this levy because every contract will be brought before the board, every contract made between the supplier and receiver, whether he is a retailer or distributor here in Dublin. That contract will state the quantity of milk. I feel that there will be a check in that way, a check on the amount of milk received by the retailer from the distributor.

The contract will not show the amount of milk in all cases.

Dr. Ryan

There will be a check on the amount of milk when we know the amount of business a person is doing. At any rate, I do not think it will be an expensive levy. I shall be surprised if the examination of the books in this business will take more than one inspector. I do not think it will take any more than one. We all recognise that this is a difficult problem to deal with. We have the city here only capable of taking a certain amount of milk at an economic price. Certainly, the City of Dublin cannot take all the milk that is produced in the area which supplies it. There is therefore a big problem in front of the board.

Deputy Belton and others might have offered the criticism that this Bill is not going to solve it, but I, at least, can say that I have got no help in the way of a better suggestion from Deputies opposite. I can truthfully say that if a better suggestion is put forward either by way of amendment on the Committee Stage, or by way of a suggested policy for the Board, I shall be very glad to adopt that suggestion because I know the difficulties of the situation.

Would the Minister say anything as to the quality of the milk?

Dr. Ryan

I thought I had explained to the Deputy's satisfaction that we should leave that to be dealt with under the clean milk legislation. The clean milk legislation is coming into full operation very shortly. That means that every producer bringing milk into the city will state the grade of milk he is supplying, whether it is grade A, grade B, tubercle free milk or whatever the quality may be. As far as I am concerned I would encourage suppliers, by the prices fixed, to send in the best grades of milk. We would give every inducement and encouragement with regard to price to suppliers to produce the very best type of milk.

I thought I made it clear that the legislation passed in respect of milk here and also in Northern Ireland had reference to the cleanliness of milk and its freedom from bacteria. What I had in mind was the question of fats.

Dr. Ryan

The Deputy suggested that we might have samples occasionally taken to find out the percentage of fats. I think it would be difficult to keep a record, right through, of the percentage of fats.

I do not want that. If a particular sample is taken in unfavourable circumstances, it may be found to be deficient in fats but a sample might be taken under circumstances which would do no injustice to any one. I made the point that if the people are to be compelled to pay a certain price, they have the right to ask for quality.

Is it intended that this Bill shall apply only to Dublin?

Dr. Ryan

No; it can be applied to any area.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage fixed for Tuesday, 28th July.