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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 28 Jul 1936

Vol. 63 No. 16

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

I move:—

That it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas of any expenses incurred in carrying into effect any Act of the present Session to make provision for regulating the supply and price of milk, and to provide for the imposition of levies on milk and to make provision for other matters connected with the matters aforesaid.

How much will this cost?

Dr. Ryan

Very little. It will involve part of the time of one or two officials. It is very hard to calculate the amount, which may be a matter of hundreds, say £200.

Has the Minister consulted with the Minister for Local Government and Public Health about this Bill, or does he think this an opportune time to bring it in, seeing that an Act was passed at the instance of that Minister last year and is still hung up? The regulations prescribed under last year's Act have not been issued. If the Act was essential in the interests of public health, why was it not enforced and the appointed day fixed? Why has it not come into operation before this Bill is passed? As the Minister is aware, various grades of milk are being put on the market, some excellent, some fairly good, and some not fit for human consumption. The Minister in this Bill has not taken the trouble to define "milk" as it is defined in Northern Ireland and in Great Britain. Even the orders issued to local sanitary authorities by the Government are not being generally carried out, and local authorities that took precautions or incurred the expense of building up machinery in order to have good milk produced are getting no more consideration than those that did not do so. I believe I am right in saying that there are only three sanitary authorities in the Free State that have built up that organisation, the City of Dublin, the County Dublin, and the Borough of Dun Laoghaire. I am a member of two of these bodies. There is not another county health district in the Free State with a whole-time veterinary officer outside County Dublin. The report of the reorganisation commission for milk set up by the British Ministry of Agriculture, published in 1933, states, on page 146, "the appointment of a whole-time chief veterinary inspector by the council of each county and county borough is the irreducible minimum." That is backed up by the report of the medical officer of health for County Dublin, the medical officer of health of the City of Dublin, the chief veterinary officer of the City of Dublin, the chief veterinary officer of the County of Dublin, and the veterinary officer of Dun Laoghaire Borough. Speaking for the county health district of County Dublin, the cost to the ratepayers of the organisation alone, including a whole-time veterinary officer, four part-time veterinary officers as well as dairy and other inspectors, is about £3,000. The organisation of the production of milk in County Dublin is such that nobody can sell milk without being registered. When a man or woman registers, then the dairy premises are open to inspection and a great many regulations have to be complied with. These regulations are so exhaustive and so searching that under regulations of the Milk and Dairies Act of last year which are in draft, and which I have seen, we would not have to make one new regulation in County Dublin. We are carrying out the Dairies and Cowsheds Order, the Bovine and Tuberculosis Order, the Meat Order, and the Infectious Diseases of Animals Order.

We have not only created machinery to do all those things but they have not been done in any other county health district in the country. The machinery that we have already set up, therefore, is good enough to administer the Milk and Dairies Act of last year. I know that because I have compared an advance copy of the regulations with the regulations we have at the present time. In the County and City of Dublin and the Borough of Dun Laoghaire we produce milk for consumption. On the commercial end of it, we produce milk particularly for the City of Dublin. I have stated that the cost of the administrative machinery set up in the county alone— I have not asked for figures for the city or for Dun Laoghaire—is £3,000. That has to be raised on the rates but that is a small portion of the cost of clean milk production in the County of Dublin because, as I have already stated, the purveyors of milk must register, and the producers of milk for sale must register and then our inspection starts. There must be proper dairies; there must be proper cow-sheds built, to a specification of a high standard, with smooth walls, concreted up to a certain height. The sheds must be of a certain cubic content. There must be proper ventilation. The manure must be taken away, once the sheds are cleaned, a certain distance. Pigs must be segregated from cows. There must be proper drainage and a proper water supply. A wash basin and towel must be provided. It is an offence for a milker to milk two cows in succession without washing his hands in between. All this is done to produce clean milk. We are doing it in the areas I have mentioned but the Government that has imposed these conditions on the producers of milk in those areas has failed to see that its own Orders are carried out in any other part of the country. I challenge the Minister when he is replying to contradict that statement. He is Minister for Agriculture and I challenge him to say that in any other county area, except the county area of Dublin, is there a whole-time chief veterinary officer. I gave him an authority here that a whole-time veterinary inspector is the irreducible minimum in having these Orders carried out.

The milk brought into Dublin from a distance, as a very large quantity of milk is, has to be pasteurised, and here is what the same authority says on page 147 of this on pasteurisation:—

"Pasteurisation is not, and never can be, a substitute for clean production and the same care should, therefore, be exercised in the production of milk that is to be heat-treated as is required to be observed in the production of milk that is to be consumed in its raw condition."

What steps has the Minister taken to have milk of a uniform standard produced and sold in the City of Dublin? Why should we in County Dublin and in the City of Dublin be compelled by Government Orders to produce milk of a certain standard when the Government does not see that every other county is producing milk of a similar standard? If we must produce milk of that standard, what is the object? Is it to sell it to the children of Dublin? If milk of the standard which we are compelled by Government Orders to produce is necessary to the health of young and old in the City of Dublin, why does the Minister allow milk of a lower standard to come in? Does not this Bill, as far as it goes to define milk, define milk of a much inferior standard?

I shall give another illuminating authority on this matter. We hear very often that the North must come into the Free State. Now, here is the standard the North has set for milk. It is set out in "Leaflet No. 77, Government of Northern Ireland, Ministry for Agriculture, Milk and Milk Products Act (Northern Ireland), 1934, Licensing of milk producers and milk suppliers." They have graded their milk into four grades. One is Grade A, under which "cows have to be tuberculin tested by the double intradermal test at six monthly intervals by a veterinary officer of the Ministry." We do that in County Dublin, but it is not the Ministry's officer who does it but the board of health officer or the county council officer. Milk standards under that Grade A are: "maximum number of organisms per cubic centimetre, 100,000. Milk to be cooled on the farm and either bottled in sterilised bottles with green caps, clearly marked Grade A or sent to distributors in sealed sterilised churns similarly marked, must be sold to consumers in bottles marked Grade A." Grade B—"Cows to be clinically examined periodically by a veterinary officer of the Ministry and certified to be normal and healthy. Maximum number of organisms allowed, 300,000 per cubic centimetre. Milk to be cooled on the farm to at least 60 degrees and either bottled in sterilised bottles with brown caps marked Grade B or sent to distributor in sealed sterilised churns similarly marked, must be sold to consumers in bottles marked Grade B." We produce milk of that grade too. As regards Grade C, the cows are to be clinically examined periodically by a veterinary officer and certified to be normal and healthy. There are no bacterial standards but the milk is to be subjected to a test for cleanliness at intervals. Milk may be distributed to consumers in the ordinary way from churns and cans, but they must be clearly marked with the designation C in red letters. If distributed in bottles, the bottles to be sterilised; caps to be red in colour and marked Grade C. Except for minor details, we produce milk of that grade in County Dublin. That is the lowest grade which is allowed to be sold in the County or City of Dublin by Dublin milk producers. Why does the Minister for Agriculture or the Minister for Local Government and Public Health allow milk of a lower grade to be sold? Grade D is described as "Milk not sold under a Grade A, Grade B or Grade 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. This will usually mean sale to a creamery." Milk which must be sold in the North only for manufacturing purposes is being dumped into the City of Dublin—milk that would not be allowed to be sold for human consumption in the Six Counties or in England. Here is an Order from the Ministry of Agriculture in Belfast. The date is the 29th July, 1935:—

"Milk and Milk Products Act (Northern Ireland), 1934:

"Sir, I am directed by the Minister of Agriculture to refer to sub-section (6) of Section 1 of the above-mentioned Act, which provides that milk shall not be sold or offered or exposed for sale for the purpose of human consumption unless it is milk of Grade A, Grade B or Grade C, and I am to state that a query has recently been addressed to the Ministry upon the question whether milk sold for use in the manufacture of foodstuffs for human consumption, i.e., ices, icecream, bread, confectionery, etc., and for use in cooking generally is for the purposes of this provision to be regarded as being sold for human consumption."

The effect of the Order is that the milk that is sold freely for human consumption in its raw liquid state in the City of Dublin will not be allowed to be sold for the making of icecream or bread or confectionery in the Six Counties or in England. Though I can speak with the authority of the veterinary services of the County Dublin, the City of Dublin and the Borough of Dun Laoghaire, that is not the point I want to feature. We have a Ministry of Public Health and it is the job of that Ministry to look after the public health.

I want to put the commercial and business view. We have carried out these Orders at considerable expense and we are producing the article. After we have been made to produce an article of a certain standard, the market for which we produce that article is going to be glutted with an inferior article—an article that, according to all the information we have at the present time, is unfit for human consumption. Is it not time that our Ministers sat up and took notice? I asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Local Government and Public Health to-day when regulations would be ready, circulated and put into operation under the Milk and Dairies Act of last year. I reminded him that there was a Milk Bill going through here. He said he knew nothing about that. I wonder if it is possible that the Minister for Agriculture brought in this Bill without knowing that the Minister for Local Government had put through that other Bill last year? That Bill is still hung up, for what reason I do not know. Does the Minister not realise that one measure hangs on the other and is he not aware that the people who have been producing milk for consumption in the City of Dublin, and who, for years, have been subject to very stringent regulations are being put out of business, not because they are inefficient but because they have been producing an article of a standard higher than that which their competitors were asked to produce? I suppose we shall be told by the Minister that the Dairies and Cowsheds Act, the Tuberculosis Order and other Orders are in force in other counties. I know of a case in which a veterinary officer was offered £50 to do the job in a large section of a county. He would not take the job on those conditions because he said he could not do the work properly.

In many counties, the work is being done in a slipshod way. We are paying £600 a year and travelling expenses to a full-time officer. For what? The rates have to pay that sum and the producers have to raise their sheds to a certain standard. When all that is done, their milk is classed only with milk produced without supervision, with the logical result that the production of milk in the areas I have mentioned is going down. I do not want to be misunderstood. No interest in the County of Dublin looks upon the milk market here as a preserve of the producers in either the city or county. We do no care where the milk is produced. We recognise that Dublin is the capital of Ireland and not merely the capital of County Dublin and that all Ireland should have a share in its market. What we want is simple justice, from the commercial point of view, and what would be in the interest of the public health — that no milk should be allowed to come into the City of Dublin that is not produced under as good hygienic conditions as the milk we are required to produce under the Orders of the Government.

A large quantity of milk comes in here from creameries. That milk is produced by suppliers to the creameries and is pasteurised at the creameries. But there is no supervision over the production of the milk. Even the Milk and Dairies Act of last year did not provide for that. I do not want to go into that matter now because I would be infringing the rules of your order, Sir, if I did. I only want to advert to that fact. The Minister has not taken that into account in this Bill. The sheds in which the cows are housed, the conditions under which the milking is carried on, the conditions in which the cans are cleaned, sterilised and stored are subject to no supervision.

I have here an order that came before the County Dublin Board of Health yesterday. We held a meeting to consider the report of the chief veterinary officer. We had before us the case of two milk producers in the County Dublin. Our veterinary officer went in and inspected the herds. These are comparatively small producers, comparatively poor men. One of them had a cow for which he paid £16 10s. 0d., a year ago. The other man had a cow for which he paid £15, less than a year ago. Our veterinary inspector tested these cows. They reacted to the test and he ordered their destruction. One man got £3 15s. 0d. for his cow and the other man got only 30/-. The man producing milk in the City or County of Dublin goes up to the market, buys cows, drives them into his land or into his yard. Such a man will find that the veterinary inspector will be after these cattle very soon. It is for that he is paid. He tests these cows and if they are found suffering from tuberculosis they are destroyed. There is a valuation made of the animals and what the owners get is a quarter of their valuation or 30/- whichever is the greater. For all intents and purposes they get nothing. They lose the animal. If the suppliers of milk to the creameries buy cows there is nobody to examine them. The owners do not incur that risk. They do not run the danger of the loss through the veterinary inspection. Veterinary examination and supervision of milk production in the City and County of Dublin have been imposed by our Government. But why does not our Government see that these orders are carried out in other places as well as in the City and County of Dublin? Deputies may take it that the orders are not carried out extravagantly in the County of Dublin area. They are only carried out up to the standard to satisfy the Ministries concerned. Why should the Ministry of Local Government and Public Health and the Ministry of Agriculture allow milk into the City of Dublin that is not certified to be of as good a standard and produced under equally clean conditions as the milk produced in the City and County of Dublin? The Minister asks us to vote money. I suppose Dublin City and County will have to put up its whack of that money to enable the people who produce milk in a primitive fashion to dump that milk into Dublin and compete with our milk which is produced in an up-to-date condition. Apart altogether from the public health point of view that is not reasonable or equitable.

I cannot understand at this time of day why any county or city should be saddled with the expenses of a county medical officer of health and all that follows in the train of a county medical officer of health if, as was stated to-day at a meeting of the Dublin Board of Health by our medical officer, we are permitting an article to be sold for human consumption that really may be little better than poison. Our veterinary officer mentioned that milk produced under dirty conditions and pasteurised is only camouflaged dirt. Under this Bill the Minister permits that. He is going to fix a maximum price for milk for consumption in the City of Dublin, but he is making no distinction in the price charged for milk fit for human consumption and milk that is admitted could not be fit for human consumption according to the standards set in Northern Ireland. I have amendments. I do not want to suggest what the Minister should put in the Bill. But I do say that it certainly is not equitable that people who produce a good article of food should be treated in the same way as regards price as those who do not.

Our medical officer stated that milk is the best and the most complete food for the human. He added, what we must all realise, that it is also the most complete food for the germs. In order that milk should be kept a complete healthy, wholesome food for the human we must protect it against the germ. The important thing is that the Minister is not taking precautions to protect that complete human food from the germs and that he allows that unprotected food to be dumped into the City of Dublin and sold as a good article of food. This City of Dublin has been for years building up an organisation to improve its milk supply and the quality of its milk. Yet in the case of milk produced outside its own area the inspectors of the City and County of Dublin have not the right of entry to the place where the milk is produced in order to supervise the conditions under which it is produced. Nobody but a national authority could properly supervise that.

My case is that the national authority, as represented by the Minister for Agriculture and the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, is endeavouring to undo the good work that has been done for generations, by successive Dublin Corporations, towards providing the City of Dublin with a wholesome milk supply. The Government is now permitting milk not produced under proper conditions and graded as unfit for human consumption to be dumped here. Some of this milk is unfit to make ices or to be used in making bread. But it is allowed in here to supplant an article that is produced in the City and County of Dublin under standard and up-to-date conditions. The Ministers are failing in their duty in permitting this. They are doing an injustice to the babies—the weakest section of the community. It is time, before irreparable damage is done, that the Ministers should sit up, take notice and take the necessary precautions that all the milk supplied to the citizens of Dublin will be produced under conditions at least as good as the conditions under which milk is produced in the City and County of Dublin.

Fearing that the people who consume milk in Dublin might be under the impression that it is only from the County Dublin and the City of Dublin that clean milk comes into the city—and I daresay it was Deputy Belton's intention to convey that impression——

It was not.

That was the impression created.

What supervision have you over the production of your milk in County Meath?

We have veterinary supervision.

Have you full-time veterinary officers?

We have veterinary officers.


We have veterinary inspectors.


I do not suppose he is a full-time officer, but there is a veterinary officer. The County Dublin is not the only place in which there is supervision. It may be that it was absolutely essential to have this strict supervision in County Dublin.

They are all angels in Meath.

It may be essential to have a little more supervision in County Dublin. Generally speaking. I do not see how this refers to the Bill under consideration. This is a Bill to regulate the distribution of milk. The other is a matter for the Minister for Local Government. He has, of course, the necessary machinery which will be put into force. I stood up in order to ensure it would not be generally accepted that the only place you can get a clean, pure, healthy, sound glass of milk is within the County Dublin. I think the general impression all over the country is that in the City of Dublin you are more likely to get milk that is not whole milk than you are in other parts of the country where the milk is altogether better than the milk in the city. I do not know whose fault that is, but I think Deputies are well aware of the fact that the milk that is sold here, no matter in what way it is sold, is not anything like as rich in fats anyway as the milk that can be got down the country. I think that is generally accepted. I know that I am out of order as far as that is concerned, because it is purely a matter for the Minister for Local Government.

You are beyond the range of the truth.

No. I think it is admitted by everybody that within the city here you can get possibly the worst milk to be got anywhere.

That is imported milk.

The reason I stood up was to see that Deputy Belton's statement would not go without somebody making a protest and indicating that it is not a fact. I know it would be a good thing for Deputy Belton if he could get a monopoly for milk in County Dublin.

I did not ask for it—I made that clear.

Perhaps it is my suspicious mind, but I have performed that duty.

The Minister on the last day said that the levy to be based on each gallon of milk would amount to about ¼d. Assuming that the price of milk was 1/- a gallon, ¼d. does not appear a very large sum, but it amounts to something over 2 per cent. on the gross turnover. The Minister knows sufficient about business to know that that is a pretty considerable impost. If, on the other hand, the price of the milk sold was only 8d. per gallon, it would amount to a shade over 3 per cent. That is all on the basis that not more than ¼d. is going to be charged as a levy. I put it to the Minister on the last day that it would be better that this should be taken over as a State service. The Minister did not agree with that. He says this is a question of price. He is regulating the price for certain people.

Deputy Belton makes a good point when he askes that quality should be taken into consideration in connection with the matter. When we are going to provide for the price to such an unusual extent that, I think, the Minister on the last day said it would cost about £10,000 per annum, surely the people have a right to have some money spent in ensuring quality for them. While Deputy O'Reilly may be correct in regard to some of the milk in Dublin not being of good quality, nevertheless I can inform him of more than one dairy in Dublin that sells milk which he will not beat even in his great county. I think it is unwise for us to be talking about a standard of excellence when the only person to speak on behalf of it is the exponent for a particular district. Our aim ought to be to get quality. Here in this Bill people are assured of a price. That is the purpose of the Bill. To my mind, it is the most expensive machinery that could have been adopted to secure that purpose. But, assuming that you have succeeded in doing it, the price is assured before the quality.

The Minister might consider in connection with this matter of milk whether he should not take over, or suggest to the Minister for Local Government that he should take over, the running of the Milk and Dairies Bill as well. This division of functions amongst Ministers, particularly in a matter of this sort, where it leads to expense, is inadvisable. Even though the question of public health is one which concerns the Minister for Local Government, the Minister for Agriculture might suggest that, in so far as the supply of an essential and necessary article of diet such as this is concerned, it would be better if the administration of all Acts in connection with that was his particular responsibility. The trend of legislation since this Government came into power has been to increase the cost of practically every public service. Not only are the services increasing, but they are extending, and they are extending without any regard to the cost entailed.

In this case the amount seems a small one, but is there any man in business in Dublin who, at the present moment, could stand a tax of 2 per cent., possibly 3 per cent., and maybe 4 per cent., on his gross turnover? It would amount to a commercial revolution if it were imposed. The Minister may answer by saying that this will ensure a price to them. Who is to pay that? The consumer in the long run. Apparently the consumer, being an unorganised individual, has no means of asserting his authority unless by a revolution or something of that sort. The only method that is left to the people is to take the earliest opportunity of changing those who are responsible for adding to the cost of government, the cost of administration and increasing taxation.

Will Deputy O'Reilly say whether they have complete machinery for veterinary inspection in his county? I made it quite clear that we do not want a monopoly. What we do want is that any milk that is allowed to compete with the milk we are selling must be produced under similar conditions of cleanliness, inspection, etc., as required by the Government. I repeat that there is not a single county which has a whole-time chief veterinary inspector except the County Dublin. We could not do the work with a part-time inspector, because it would be against human nature to expect a part-time veterinary officer, who had to make his living by getting jobs from myself and others, to come and inspect our milk and prosecute us, if necessary, for a breach of the regulations. The reason we have a chief veterinary inspector is because he is independent, as he has not to earn his living amongst the people.

A county that can produce a horse like Reynoldstown can also produce good milk.

Even though it was on the borders of Meath that Reynoldstown was produced.

Dr. Ryan

If we are discussing a Clean Milk Bill I might be inclined to reply to many things Deputy Belton said, but I do not propose to waste time in replying to them, especially as there was a Clean Milk Bill before the Dáil already to-day, and the Deputy had an opportunity of talking then on this matter. Surely the Deputy ought to see the distinction between dealing with milk from the public health point of view and dealing with milk from the economic point of view. They are two distinct aspects of the situation. The Minister for Local Government dealt with it from a public health point of view. I am attempting to deal with it from the economic point of view. The Deputy, in his 35 minutes' speech, demonstrated that he could not see the difference between the two aspects. He mixed them up hopelessly. Even if the County Dublin does produce cleaner milk than other counties, what objection can producers in the County Dublin have to getting a better price for their milk? Surely it is not going to harm them if the price they receive goes up from 4d. to 9d. a gallon. The producers in the County Dublin will be better off to that extent as well as the producers in the Counties of Meath, Kildare and Wicklow.

The Deputy thinks that we ought to define milk in this Bill. The position is that whatever milk may be allowed into the City of Dublin under the public health laws is the milk that this Bill will be dealing with as regards price. I think it would only create hopeless confusion if we were to bring into this Bill the definitions that we already have under our clean milk legislation, or if we were to bring in the definition that Deputy Belton appears to advocate. With regard to the question raised by Deputy Cosgrave, this Money Resolution does not deal with the levy, but rather with whatever moneys may be voted by this House.

The word "levy" is in it.

Dr. Ryan

The levy has already been dealt with. The House has already passed the Financial Resolution on which the levy was fully discussed. This Money Resolution covers the money that may have to be voted eventually by the Dáil to meet whatever expenses there may be. The expenses will, I think, be very small. The principal expenses in connection with this Resolution will be paid through the board and, therefore, out of the levy. The expenses of the Department of Agriculture will be very small. There will be some part-time supervision by a few officials of the Department. The expense that that will involve will be small so far as this House is concerned. Deputy Cosgrave made another point about the cost of administration in these matters. I think we should regard this type of legislation as very different from other legislation in connection with which large sums of money have to be voted annually, say, for public health purposes, and borne out of the Central Fund. Here is a case where we are trying to organise a trade. Under this legislation the trade will be enabled to organise itself. It is quite conceivable that if the producers could organise themselves they would have done so without any legislation at all. We all know the difficulties that farmers have in organising themselves. If they have too much milk some of them are inclined to cut prices in order to get more of their milk taken by retailers and wholesalers. In that way the price of the milk goes down and down. We know from experience that farmers have found it impossible to organise themselves. They tried to do so several times, but the agreements arrived at only lasted for a short time. Under this legislation we are now giving them an opportunity to organise themselves so that they may be able to get an economic price for their milk. They have not been getting that during the last few years.

Looking at it from that point of view, I think we should give farmers an opportunity of organising amongst themselves in order to get that better price. Therefore, I say that the cost of the organisation as well as the cost of running it should be borne out of the industry itself. It is possible that the levy may be very small. If it were only to meet the cost of administration, I think it would be much less than a farthing a gallon. But then the board may decide to embark on a scheme of using a certain part of the surplus milk, or it may embark on a scheme of advertising in order to get that surplus used. I think it is much better that the board should feel that, whatever the cost of all that may be, it should be within its own province to raise the necessary funds. It should feel that if it is going to embark on these schemes it will have to pay for them. It is very much better, I think, to leave the position that way than to adopt Deputy Cosgrave's suggestion which would mean that in order to embark on schemes of that kind the board would have to be going to the Minister for Agriculture, and through him to the Minister for Finance, looking for increased grants to deal with such matters. As I have said, this is entirely a trading matter, and the cost should be borne by the milk suppliers themselves. The sum of money that this House will be asked to vote in connection with this legislation will be very small.

Resolution agreed to and reported.