It is obvious that the discussion on the Financial (Ways and Means) Resolution would cover the same ground as the debate on the Pigs and Bacon Bill. To obviate duplication of debate it is customary in such circumstances to cover the Financial Resolution and the Second Stage of the Bill in one debate. The Minister might at the outset, if he so desires, explain the provisions of the measure without formally moving that the Bill be now read a Second Time. At the conclusion of the debate two questions would be put. May I take it that the House agrees to this procedure?
In Committee on Finance. - Pigs and Bacon Bill, 1937—Financial Resolution.
Yes, without prejudice to taking a different view in the different circumstances that may arise in regard to another Bill.
Quite. It is possible that in some instances a Financial Resolution might be so limited in scope as not to warrant the discussion of the provisions of the Bill on such resolution.
(1) That there shall be charged and levied levies on certain pigs and carcases of pigs purchased by licensees and registered minor curers during such periods as may be specified in that behalf by statute.
(2) That the said levies shall be paid to the Pigs Marketing Board by licensees and registered minor curers, and shall be applied by the said board in making payments to licensees and registered minor curers in respect of bacon produced by them.
(3) That the said levies shall be charged, levied and paid at such rates as may be fixed by statute, and that provision shall be made by statute for collecting and enforcing payment of the said levies.
(4) That in this resolution the expressions "licensees" and "registered minor curers" have the same respective meanings as in the Pigs and Bacon Act, 1935 ((No. 24 of 1935).
With regard to the charging of levies and so on on pigs and carcases, it is a renewal of the provisions of the 1935 Act. In moving the Second Reading I would like to say that the Bill is largely concerned with amendments of the 1935 Act. Under the 1935 Act (Part II), bringing Part II into operation was critical in this way that from that time, minor curers will have two years to continue as minor curers, after which period they will either elect to become licensed curers —and if their premises are then suitable, they would automatically become licensed curers—or, alternatively, they would go completely out of business. As the original Act has been almost two years in operation, and as Part II was only brought into operation on the 1st April, 1937, the two years' waiting period is being cut down to one year, and the minor curers will either become licensed curers on the 1st April, 1938, or go out of business.
Would the Minister say how many minor curers there are?
Nineteen. The next matter in this Bill is the stamping of bacon. In the original Act, provisions were made for the stamping. It has been found from experience that stamping the bacon leaving the premises creates a certain amount of smudging and gives rather an unsightly appearance to the bacon. It is proposed now to go back to the original arrangement of stamping the carcases, which stamping is at least better than the post-cured stamping that was provided for in the original Act. It may be possible, as time goes on, to improve the method of stamping the carcases when we get some more experience in these matters. Part III of the Bill deals with the Bacon Marketing Board. There are provisions in this amending Bill which must come into operation after some preparation. Therefore we cannot immediately repeal the relevant sections of the original Act. It is provided here that the original Act will remain in operation in all cases until the amending Act comes into operation. Therefore provision is made for the appointed day. That appointed day will be made in consultation with the board.
The next question that arises is in the life of the boards. The only point that I want to raise here is the point of the representation of the producers on the Pigs Marketing Board. As far as the Bacon Marketing Board is concerned, I do not think it would make a great difference whether it was a two-year or a three-year term. But in the case of the Pigs Marketing Board a difficulty has arisen in this way: there is no pig producers' society or association. If there was a good society such as say, the Beet Growers' Association, which represents the beet-growers, we could straightaway have such an association to nominate the members of this board as representatives of the producers. But as there is no such association, it is provided in the original Act that the Minister for Agriculture would nominate three members to represent the producers on the Pigs Marketing Board. The term was given as three years.
I should say that I do not think it is advisable if a member is satisfactory as representing the producers, that he should be removed and replaced after one term of office. Then a difficulty arises. After six years, two terms of office, one does not like putting the whole lot off at the same time, so that means that some will have to be there for nine years. I think it is not advisable that any representatives of producers, more particularly as they are nominated by the Minister, should regard it as a life job, and for that reason I propose to shorten the terms of office to two years, so that it can be taken as a general practice that after two terms of office a change will be made in order that we may give another part of the country representation. I have been criticised by people in certain parts of the country for overlooking their claims to representation on the board, and the only way we can get over that is by making changes occasionally in the personnel.
The next matter that arises is with regard to a bacon production quota order. Up to the present the board made the bacon production quota order; that is, the total number of pigs that could be killed by all the factories in a period. Usually that period was a month, but I will refer to it now as a period. It did happen that in certain legal proceedings the factory which was being prosecuted could claim to have the whole certificate produced before the court, and it was not considered advisable by the board that the public should know the particulars contained in that certificate, that everybody should know what each factory was getting by way of a production sub-quota. It is now provided that a certificate will be issued to each curer each month, and that will be sufcient evidence in case there should be any court proceedings of any kind with regard to over-production or any matter of that sort.
It is also provided that the board may make a supplementary production quota order during the period. Up to the present, having once made an order for a period, there was no power under the Act to alter that, and I cannot say if we have had any instance in which it would have been very desirable to alter it. At any rate, we can all see that circumstances may arise which would prove that the board were wrong in their estimate of the number of pigs available, that they might have put the estimate too low or too high. They might find in practice that they could not get the number of pigs, or that there was a big surplus of pigs and they could not take them off the farmers' hands. In such circumstances they could make a supplementary order increasing or reducing the original order. It is provided that that can be done if half the period has passed.
The Bacon Board have in their orders to strike a figure of yield in the dead-weight pork. This cannot be a uniform figure. Some factories have a process of curing which might give a better yield than others and, therefore, a uniform figure is not very fair to every factory. Under the amending Bill it is proposed that the board might calculate what the average percentage for that particular factory is and might take that figure into their calculations in future so that there will be a given figure for each factory in future and that figure will be taken according to the method of curing pursued by each factory.
There is also provided an external sales quota. Up to the present, when the Bacon Board made an order stating what the production quota for the period would be, each factory got its percentage of that production quota, based on the figure of the corresponding month in 1935. In addition to the home sales which the factory was allotted in that way, it also had the amount which was allotted to the factory by my Department under the export quota to Great Britain. If any factory wished to build up a trade outside Great Britain, in America, France or other places, that factory could only do so by taking from its home sales and there was no great inducement, therefore, to a factory to build up a foreign trade if it had at the same time to reduce home sales and lose a market it had already established here. Under the amending Bill a factory in future will get its home sales quota, its quota for export to Great Britain and, in addition, any external sales it may be able to make. The factory must ask for an external sales quota and, if that is not filled, there are certain penalties attached. There will be, we hope, an inducement to factories to build up this foreign trade outside Great Britain.
The next point which arises has reference to compensation for certain minor curers and curers who did not qualify as minor curers, who ceased to produce bacon on 1st April, 1937. Perhaps it is no harm to remind the House of the different categories into which curers were placed under the original Act. When the original Act came in, every curer who had cured 2,200 cwt. of bacon in the previous year was entitled to get a licence and become a licensee. Every curer who was entitled to a licence under the original Act did apply and did get one. We had something like 30 licences as a result of the original Act. Those who cured less than 2,200 cwt. of bacon, but still cured fairly continuously, who cured bacon for eight months out of the preceding 12 months, qualified as minor curers. There were 19 who qualified in that manner. They are still minor curers and they may qualify, if they fulfil certain conditions, to become licensed curers on the 1st April, 1938. There were other curers left and, under the original Act, they were just put outside the Act and they had to go out of business. I refer now to any curer who did not cure 2,200 cwts. of bacon in the year previous to the original Act or any curer who did not cure for eight out of the 12 months during that year. Well, no provision was made for these people. In this amending Bill, provision is made to compensate all such people: first of all, to compensate those who did not qualify either as licensees or minor curers. They will be compensated on a certain basis about which I shall speak in a moment. Minor curers, if they wish, may also take compensation, because it was felt that a minor curer might not have the necessary capital to put his premises in the order that would be necessary to have a licence on the 1st April, 1938; and if a minor curer preferred to take compensation and go out, he would get compensation under this clause, or, alternatively, if he wishes he can apply for a licence, get his premises into the proper order, and become a licensee. There is nothing in this Bill or in the original Act to prevent him doing so, if he so desires.
The basis of compensation, as laid down in the Bill, may be somewhat confusing. It is laid down in this way: First of all, we take the average profits of all curers over a certain period, and we take that as the basis of compensation. Now, that being taken as the basis of compensation, a board is set up to fix the arbitration in case there is any disagreement between the Bacon Board and the curer who is going out. It does not mean, however—which appears to be the impression of some people who have read this Bill—that they are to get only two years' profits. It means that an arbitration board come in, they are told that the average profits of a bacon curer are so and so—7 per cent., 8 per cent., 10 per cent., or whatever it may be—and then I take it that the question this board will put to themselves will be this: If a firm is making 7 per cent. profit, what is it worth to buy it out?—is it worth ten times that, or 12 times that, or whatever it is?—and on that basis, then, the compensation is fixed. The compensation, of course, is paid by the Bacon Marketing Board.
Why "of course"?
Well, I should like to know, why not "of course?"
Why should the pig producers pay to buy out the curers' competitors?
The Deputy can make that point later on. Now, with regard to regulating a trade such as the bacon trade, it is estimated by some people— I have no idea of the exact figure, because we cannot get the returns— that those small people who are going out may have been dealing with somewhere between 40,000 and 50,000 pigs in the year. If all those people are bought out, those pigs, naturally, will come to the factories that remain, and it is quite natural to expect that, if those pigs come to the factories that remain, these remaining factories will be able to do their business at a somewhat lower cost per pig than they have been able to do their business up to the present.
There is one question that I should like to ask the Minister. Was it not the policy of the Government, before they came into office, to decentralise industry?
You have an application from a firm in Macroom who are prepared to put their own money into a bacon factory.
I would ask the Deputy not to interrupt me with a political speech. He can make that speech later on.
I just wanted to make the point.
Well, the Deputy can make it later on. With regard to the basis of compensation, I should like to say that the period on which the production of these small factories will be taken in calculating the compensation will be the period during which excise levy was collected, so that there will be a perfect check on the business done by these small people during that period. I should say that, under the original Act, the Pigs Marketing Board were entitled to take over a factory, let it, work it, sell it, or do any of these things usually provided for in such legislation. Under this Act there is, if you like, a reciprocal arrangement: that is, that a licensee may, if he wishes, apply to the Bacon Marketing Board to be bought out, and if the board come to an agreement with him, the matter can be put through in that way.
Does the Minister mean any licensee, big or small?
Yes, any licensee, big or small. I can tell the Deputy that there is no danger.
Not the slightest. I foresaw immediately what the Deputy evidently sees now, but there is no danger.
Only the Minister saw the danger?
Well, I was able to see a little farther than the Deputy—that is all.
Deputy Dillon's incurable apprehensiveness!
The next point is that, up to the moment, the Pigs Marketing Board, in making their orders, had to fix a price for all classes of pigs, and that was very difficult in the case of certain classes of pigs, such as old sows, old boars, and so on. Under this Bill, they may exempt certain classes from the Act and leave them to fetch whatever price they may be worth.
Leave it to the curers to give whatever price they want to give?
Yes, or leave it to anybody.
Did anybody ever hear anything like that? Well, I hope Deputy Smith, the Deputy from Monaghan, will intervene on this Bill, because it is the grandest thing that ever happened——
The Deputy has Monaghan on the brain, and he will get Monaghan on more than the brain before long.
Well, do not get Marsh's yard on the brain.
The next point is the purchasing of pigs. If a producer notifies the chairman of the board that he cannot have his pigs delivered to a factory and that he wishes to have them delivered direct to a factory, the chairman may notify the factory to take these pigs direct and pay the fixed price. I think that every Deputy knows what is the reason for the insertion of that section. The reason is that certain factories, at any rate—not all, as far as I know, but certain factories—were accused of being in collusion with dealers who were buying pigs around the country below the fixed price, and the accusation was made that the proper price appeared in the factories' books. There appeared to have been collusion in these cases between the dealer and the the factory and the accusation was made that, in fact, the factory was not giving the fixed price for pigs. Many suggestions that were made for dealing with that very difficult problem were considered and, in the end, I thought that this was, at least, the most practicable of any of the suggestions that were made for dealing with that evil. Undoubtedly, it is a method that cannot be applied to all factories at the same time. It would take a huge organisation, under the chairman, to do it; but at least it can be applied to certain factories and at certain times where there are complaints that such a practice is taking place, and I think it is the best way to deal with that problem.
Will the Minister explain to me how a farmer in Carndonagh can ship one pig from there to Ballybofey?
If he cannot, it cannot be helped.
If he cannot, he can go whistle!
I do not say that he can go whistle but the Deputy is leaving him to go whistle now.
What can that man do?
He does not need to go to Ballybofey. There is a factory at Carndonagh.
You do not know anything about it.
The Deputy knows all about Donegal and Deputy Blaney knows nothing about it!
It is a wonder he did not stay there.
In all seriousness does that mean that if a producer feels he is going to be exploited by dealers he can apply to have his pigs taken direct?
Yes. It is well that the Deputy prefaced his remarks by the phrase "in all seriousness," because frivolous interruptions do not serve any purpose when there is a serious problem to be dealt with. A farmer may have pigs to sell and the factory may say to him that they have more pigs than they can deal with. At the same time the farmer knows that the factory is taking pigs from dealers and that dealers are coming out to him saying that they will take his pigs. He can then apply to the board to direct the factory to take them at the fixed price.
At the same time, the retailers cannot get bacon from the factories.
The Deputy will have an opportunity of raising these points afterwards. These are the main questions which have to be explained. There are other points which can be dealt with on the Committee Stage as they arise.
It will be interesting to see how Deputy Smith of Cavan and Deputy Rice of Monaghan vote on this Bill. This Bill has been drafted by curers. It is designed for curers and it has been imposed on the Minister by the curers. In this matter, the curers of this country are dominated by a big international concern and I undertake to prove to the House, at this moment, that the machinery of this Bill is going to be used by Henry Denny and Sons, a big international concern, to get complete control of bacon production in this country. The object is to strangle every pig producer in this country, to exploit the producer of bacon in this country.
I shall prove that and we shall see whether Deputies opposite are prepared to go into the Lobby to support a procedure to implement which that Bill has been drafted by the curers and presented to that innocent man, the Minister, to come in here and flounder through with it.
Let you do a bit of floundering now.
I have not the slightest intention of floundering but I shall make some of the curers in this country flounder before I am finished with them. Let us examine one of the brilliant suggestions that the Minister for Agriculture has adopted as his solution of the problem which he admits exists. He says that he is now satisfied that the curers have fraudulently acted in collusion with dummy dealers— not genuine pig dealers, and I ask the House to draw a special distinction between genuine pig dealers and the dummies employed by the factories to which the Minister refers. The Minister admits to this House that he is satisfied that certain bacon curers——
I do not admit that at all.
We are legislating for it.
He said that he is asking the House to enact legislation to deal with an evil. Now, he would not ask the House to deal with an evil if the evil did not exist and the evil is that fraudulent bacon curers sent out fraudulent representatives into the fairs and instructed these representatives to blackmail people who have a couple of pigs at the fair into giving them the pigs at a cheap price. Having got the pigs at a cheap price, they brought them into the factory and fraudulently put them through their books as if they paid a fixed price for them. He admits that the evil exists and he throws up his hands in despair and says "I cannot stop it: I must introduce new legislation." His remedy for that is that he is going to say if a man has a number of pigs for sale and feels that he is being blackmailed in that way, he can write to the pigs board and say "I have pigs for sale and I cannot get the fixed price for them; name a factory to which I will sell." He can say moryah, "I want to send them to a certain factory" and then the Pigs Board will issue an order to that factory to purchase the pigs. In certain circumstances, it might be that they would name another factory if the first factory had exhausted its production quota.
If it was within a reasonable distance.
That is when the first factory had exhausted its production quota. Some factory had to be named and you could not order any factory to break the law by exceeding its quota. Let us assume that a pig producer in the Carndonagh district—and I ask Deputy Blayney to consider this—has a pair of pigs, that he wants to sell them and that the dealer offers half the value of the pigs in Cardonagh fair. That man goes home to his house, writes to the Minister and says: "I want to dispose of these pigs" and the Minister says: "Bring them to Ballybofey" How in the name of Heaven is a man from the Malin district to get his pigs from Malin to Ballybofey? How can he do it?
He might join with others.
Is that the Minister's suggestion?
I am open to any better suggestion.
Now, you are talking sense and I am prepared——
I hope you will talk sense.
I am prepared to teach you your business as I am always prepared the moment your mind is open, but I have first got to prise the Minister's mind open. There is a solution for this problem. Of course Deputies on the other benches who know nothing about the problem jeer and laugh. It is a problem that applies almost exclusively to West Cork and Donegal.
And to Monaghan.
Monaghan does not present the same difficulties. What is required in Monaghan, and what I understand the Pigs Marketing Board are engaged in providing, is a bacon factory.
We have plenty of factories to handle pigs.
Deputy Haslett can intervene and make any suggestion that he wants at the proper time.
I have a few good examples for that.
So far as Donegal is concerned, it can be solved comparatively easy. It can be solved with the assistance of a body of men, whom the Minister is at present conspiring with the curers to wipe out of existence. There is only one solution for the problem in Donegal which will effectively protect the rights of bacon producers and that is to establish live pig markets in various centres in Donegal, get into communication with the Pig Dealers' Association, arrange with them to have pig dealers in these centres on fair days, facilitate the export of pigs alive or to have them taken by the factories at the fixed price.
We tried that.
You did not.
We did, of course.
I have reason to believe that you did not try it effectively. Did you seek the co-operation of the pig dealers in the matter?
I met them myself.
I was informed by the Pigs Marketing Board a month ago that that had not been done.
They did not know anything about it.
Who is going to run this business? There is a Pigs Marketing Board and a Bacon Marketing Board and this is designed to give these boards certain rights to do certain acts. If you provide live pig markets in Donegal to facilitate competition people will get the value of their pigs. If you do not provide competition, nothing you can do will protect the people from exploitation by unscrupulous curers. There is nothing you can do, because you may give the producers all sorts of statutory rights and liberties but owing to their peculiar circumstances they are not able to avail of them. Nobody who knows anything of the country suggests that a man with a pair of pigs can economically transfer that pair of pigs over 40 or 50 miles to the nearest factory. Unless you can get a lorry of pigs or a wagon of pigs it is hopelessly uneconomic to attempt to transfer them over long distances. It is all very well for the Minister to talk about people getting together. The facilities for getting together are not available. My pigs may be ready for the April fair. My next door neighbour's pigs may not be ready until the May fair. If I keep my pigs until May they will be too heavy, and will go into grade C. If my neighbour sells his pigs when mine are ready they will be too light, and will not be graded at all. The very essence of a country fair is that pigs are segregated into various classes. One man will be buying fat heavy pigs; another man will be buying porkers; another man will be buying light pigs. All the pigs of the countryside are automatically segregated, competition operates, and the people get the very highest price. If there is any attempt made at a ring, the people can bring their pigs home and take them to some other fair in another direction a week or ten days later. That is the only remedy. Let us not dwell unduly on that aspect of the situation, because it is of comparatively minor importance. This Bill is a Bill which has been provided by the curers and imposed upon the Minister, because the Minister had delivered himself over to the curers. He has swallowed their line of attack, hook, line and sinker, and he is now completely in their hands.
Just stop that talk and let us hear what it is all about.
There are two proposals in this Bill—one proposal designed to limit the minor curer, and another enabling the Pigs Marketing Board to buy out any existing licensed curer. There are 19 minor curers in this country, and there are supposed to be 30 licensees. At first glance people would say that there are 30 independent firms curing bacon. Nothing could be further from the truth. Those licensees are interlocked by all sorts of business and ordinary relationships. Three of those firms, at least, all belong to one family. Henry Denny and Son control the business premises in Waterford. They control the business premises in Sligo. Is not that so? I do not know how many others they control. When it is said that there are 30 licensees, in fact what the Minister means is that there are 30 licensed premises, but many of them are owned by the same person or the same corporation. A great many Deputies in this House think that Henry Denny and Son is an Irish firm. It is not. It is a big international combine, the bulk of whose business is done in Denmark, and the amount of business it does in this country is only a drop in the bucket.
What is the history of this plan to wipe out the minor curer? What happened was this. This Bill originally got its first justification in the British quota. The moment the British put a quota on imports of bacon from this country, it became necessary to set up some machinery here to allocate that quota amongst the curers in this country—the curers and the pig producers.
What happened? The first thing that happened was that a kind of general appeal—tariff reform and economic self-sufficiency—was made to the Minister to do away with so much of our quota as permitted the export of live pigs, and to absorb practically all the quota in exports of bacon because it was necessary to promote Irish manufacture. The result of that was that the Irish producer was forced into the position of producing nothing but the exact type of pig that the Irish curer was prepared to use. Now, many of us who come from pig-producing counties know that in certain counties the farmers find it more economic to produce a big heavy pig. The nature of the food they had, and the type of farming they carried on, fitted in better with the production of a big heavy pig than with the production of the comparatively slow-growing, long, lean Irish white. There was a splendid market in Birmingham and the midlands of England for those big, fat, heavy pigs, which were known in the trade as cutters. There was no use for the Irish factories at all so long as we could ship live pigs. When the pig dealers came into the fair there would be a dealer there for the cutters; there would be a dealer for the bacon pig; there would be a dealer for the store pig; and if you brought your pigs to the market, no matter what category they fell into, you were sure to find a group of men in the fair anxious to bid for them. The first result then of the quota business was that the trade for cutters was completely wiped out, because the pig dealers were practically prohibited from exporting any live pigs at all, and they could not sell a cutter in this country.
The next performance was that the whole system of Bacon Marketing Boards and Pigs Marketing Boards was established under the Pigs and Bacon Act, and it was proposed that everybody should be represented on those boards. The first sign, I say, of the resolution of the curers to use the machinery of the Pigs and Bacon Act for the purpose of exploiting trade in this matter was that they strongly opposed the admission of any representation for the pig dealers. Anyone who knows the pig trade in this country knows that the pig dealers are an exceptionally decent body of men. They have been an exceptionally useful body of men at all times. They know the English trade in and out, and they were always ready to snatch any advantage that was going on the English market for the benefit of the pig producers of this country. They were absolutely excluded from the two boards which controlled their entire livelihood. Mind you, that was the body of men who knew more about the pig trade than any other person in this country, including all the officials of the Department of Agriculture. They had been in the pig trade; their fathers had been in the pig trade; they had known it for generations. But they were completely denied all representation. They had no right to make their voices heard on either board.
The next performance was that the joint refusal of the curers to allow any pig dealer to be on either board, and the pressure on the Minister, virtually wiped out the exports of pigs— operated practically to abolish the pig dealer at the fairs, that is, the pig dealer as we knew him; the man who went in and bought a wagon or a couple of wagons of pigs and sent them to England and sold them there. What happened? You began to find that at the fairs there was nobody but a few agents of the factories, and if you did not sell your pigs to them you did not sell them at all, because the ordinary pig dealer would not get an export quota to ship the pigs if he bought them. That meant that the fairs began to dwindle.
In the old days you went to the fair and if the price offered by one man did not please you you waited for another man to come up and bid. Now there are only about half a dozen men in the fair, all in the employment—directly or indirectly—of the curer, and if you refused the bid of the first man the other five would not come near you and you were left standing up. What happened then? We discovered that the minor curers—with whom we ordinarily never dealt before—were very handy. If you could not get a pig jobber to buy your pigs it was much handier to bring your pigs to the nearest place, get them slaughtered and weighed and get paid the fixed price. So we started going to the minor curers; whereupon the pig curers called a council amongst themselves and said: "We have smashed the pig jobber and put him out of operation, believing that that would bring all the pigs into our factories. Instead of doing that, our destruction of the pig dealers has resulted in driving the pigs, not into our factories, but into the minor curers' factories, and if we are not very careful we are going to have 19 more competitors in the field.
"We have spent the last five years or thereabouts trying to get a stranglehold on the 30 licensed factories that exist in the country. We have built up an elaborate interlocking network of vested interests which virtually control all the bacon factories in the interest of two or three powerful combinations. Now, we are going to have 19 new factories built up because by our destruction of the live pig trade we have been driving the pigs into these small factories." What do these curers do? They come in and tell the Minister that, for the sake of efficiency, it would be highly desirable, having slaughtered the pig dealers, to wipe out the minor curers. They have the effrontery to demand that that foolish man will get up in this House and ask this House to wipe out the minor curers with the producers' money in order to provide a monopoly for the big curers' ring.
What is the change in this Bill regarding minor curers.
What do you want it for if there is no change?
How is the position of the minor curers changed?
Mind you, I think the poor man is honest. He is really like Little Red Riding Hood. He is tripping over to see grandma and, when she gets him, she will rise up and eat him——
Stop this claptrap and tell me what is the difference.
You have been completely fooled. What is going to happen?
You will not tell me straight what difference there is.
There is a provision in this Bill that the minor curer who elects to go out of business may have his compensation assessed by an arbitrator and will be paid out of the Bacon Marketing Fund.
You object to that?
Most emphatically. I say that if Henry Denny & Son want to buy out competition let them put their hands down in their own pocket and buy out the minor curers. There is no reason why they should put their hand into my pocket in order to buy out the minor curer. That is what this Bill proposes to allow them to do.
What the deuce do Henry Denny & Son care how much money is spent by the Bacon Marketing Board in buying out the minor curers so long as they get them out of the way? Henry Denny & Son levy so much on each pig brought into the bacon factory. They do that for the Bacon Marketing Board. That is likewise done by O'Mara, Slattery and the other curers. Out of these funds, Henry Denny & Son are going to pay the minor curer his compensation. Then, what is going to happen. The ring which controls the Bacon Marketing Board will go to one of these minor curers and say, "We think you ought to go out of business. We think you are curing an awkward number of pigs and we know we can cure them better and more cheaply than you can. What about it?" Some independent-minded minor curer will throw a cleaver at that gentleman and put him out. What will happen? That minor curer depends for his supply of pigs on a certain locality. The ring will put 20 buyers into that locality for the following 12 months and, whatever that minor curer bids for pigs, they will bid 2/- more.
Could they not do that without compensation?
They will have dangling in front of them all the time the question of compensation.
We shall drop the compensation.
You certainly ought to drop it and safeguard the position of the minor curer by giving him the quota he is entitled to get instead of handing his quota over to the major curer. Will you guarantee to the minor curers the quota they are entitled to get and drop the compensation? I answered the Minister's question. Let him answer mine. Will he guarantee to these minor curers the quota they are entitled to get for all time?
You are prepared to amend this Bill to give effect to that?
No amendment is necessary.
No amendment is necessary to guarantee to these people a permanent production quota?
Do you guarantee it to them, then?
The Deputy does not know what he is talking about. I must guarantee under the Bill that they will get licences.
I am not talking about licences. I am asking the Minister will he now guarantee to the minor curers a quota which will provide for the continuance of the trade they are doing?
I will guarantee them a licence with a quota.
That is the trouble. The Minister has been cornered by the curers. I am anxious to assure him of the undivided support of this side of the House in any steps he may deem it necessary to take to defend the interests of the pig producers against this unscrupulous ring, but I implore him to open his eyes to the fact that he is being made the tool of this ring. I am asking him to fight them. If he will fight them, he will get all the support he wants in the interests of the producers. At present, he is being tricked into placing not only the producer but, ultimately, the consumer in the hands of this ring. When he has done that, there will be no way of delivering the people from the clutches of this ring save by nationalisation. What I want to do is to prevent that happening and to keep the machinery of production and curing in operation. The whole object of these people is to abolish it and to establish a cut-throat monopoly.
If this policy is pursued, all the minor curers will go. They will be compensated out of the Bacon Marketing Board funds. When the minor curers have all gone, you will have the curing of bacon in this country in the hands of about 20 firms who will have control of about 30 licences. The curing establishment of one of these firms, Henry Denny & Son, does about 50 per cent. of the entire business. Another of these firms does about 10 per cent. and the remaining 40 per cent. is divided amongst the others. In my judgment, Henry Denny & Son are in a position practically to dictate terms to any other firm in the country. That is due to their immense resources not only within this country but outside the country. Having eliminated the minor curer, they will proceed to the final destruction of the pig dealer. You will find that the next proposal will be that all export of pigs will be reserved for the curers, that curers will be the only persons authorised to buy pigs in this country and that they must be given the entire quota for both bacon exports and pig exports. If that happens, you will destroy every pig fair in every small town in Ireland. If you destroy the pig fairs, the first result will be that you will destroy the small towns. The second result will be that the pig producers of this country will be reduced to the same position as that to which the meat producers of the Western States of America were reduced when the meat packers of America succeeded in establishing a monopoly in the stock-yards. You will bring your pig to the factory and you will be completely in the factory's hands as to the price they will give you. There are Deputies here who say: "But is the price not fixed, and is the grade not fixed and everything else?" That is perfectly true, but I put this to Deputies: Suppose you have a ten-acre man, a small, simple man, who has a couple of pigs which mean a lot to him; he knows nothing about grading, about veterinary inspection or about the complicated method of weighing and preparing for the scale and so on, and he will probably not be let into the factory. He does not know his statutory rights, and that man will in fact get what the factory chooses to give him. It is true that if you have a wise man who is a bit of a crank and who knows his rights, he will get his due because he will insist on his statutory rights and insist on watching the weighing, the grading and everything else; but the vast majority, after they deliver their pigs into the hands of people like the curers, will be dealt with in whatever way the curers choose to deal with them.
The only guarantee the small man has is that if he brings out a good pair of pigs that attract the attention of every potential buyer, he knows that if two or three buyers come to him after he gets into the fair and bid him for his pigs, he has something everybody wants. He knows that he ought to be stiff and stand his ground, and that the first bid he got at five o'clock in the morning, as soon as the sun came up, was too low and that if he stands his ground he can get 10/- to 15/- more. That is the way he gets the value of his pig and it is a most effective and efficient machine for ensuring that the small producer gets the true value of what he has to offer. Deprive him of that open competition in the fairs and markets and you deliver him into the hands of what, in my judgment, is the most unscrupulous vested interest in this country. Mind you, it is a vested interest which no amount of inspection and no amount of legislation will control, and if you give them the powers proposed to be conferred on them in this Bill, so surely as we are in this Dáil, it will become vitally necessary to nationalise this industry within five years.
Mind you, the dangers I have already outlined are not themselves the end of the story, because if you create conditions in the pig producing industry which result in the people being unable to get an economic price for their pigs, what will happen? We have in this country quite a different type of mentality from that obtaining in Great Britain or America. In Great Britain or America it would create a revolution—the farmers would rise up and storm the factories —but here that will not happen. What will happen here is that the people will get out of producing pigs. Observe the danger there. The people will drop producing pigs—they will slaughter the sows and simply give it up. We have a quota on the British market and it is putting us to the pin of our collar to fill it. If we slaughter any considerable quantity of pigs and get out of the business, we will be unable to fill that quota and if we fail to fill it this year, our quota for next year will be reduced and the balance will be handed over to Denmark. Once Denmark gets it she will not surrender it. If we fall below the quantity of pigs and bacon which the British are prepared to take from us in any calendar year, they will only allot us a reduced quota in the years thereafter, so that the danger is immense. This infernal ring does not care a hoot because the most powerful vested interest in it is Henry Denny & Son, and if the quota is taken from Ireland and given to Denmark, they will have it still because they are curing more bacon in Denmark than they are curing in Ireland.
I am thinking of the small man. There are in West Cork good friends of mine who are killing a thousand or two thousand pigs. Those men are able business men and pretty well capable of looking after themselves. They are not half as vulnerable as the small man. The big man, killing 100, 500 or 1,000 pigs, can hop in and out of the market, according as conditions demand. Sometimes he will go into bonhams when it pays; sometimes you find him buying strong stores and turning them over very quickly when it pays, but the small man who keeps a sow and sells all the bonhams except two, and fattens them, has to keep them until they are ready for market, no matter what way the market goes. The small man who buys a pair, or two pair, of bonhams has to keep them, no matter what way the market goes, until they are fat, and these are the people who will be absolutely massacred by the proposals contained in this Bill. Observe that in this measure it is proposed that any licensee can be bought out by the Board. The Minister says there is not the slightest danger of that ever happening.
I did not say that.
I beg the Minister's pardon; I understood him to say that.
I said that I foresee the danger the Deputy sees, but that I can see a bit further.
Why is it that at this moment Henry Denny is trying to buy factories in the country? He is buying all the Minister's own licences. Is the Minister aware of that? He has already bought at least one licence, to my knowledge, in Mayo.
With the Minister's consent.
Not with the Minister's consent, so the Deputy is wrong.
Was it against the Minister's will?
It did not matter whether it was or not.
Did the Minister approve of it?
I think the Minister is perfectly right. I entirely agree with him. Does he realise that this provision authorising the Bacon Marketing Board to buy out licences which he has, by policy, created, is going to have exactly the same effect? Does he not know that Henry Denny and Company control that board? The board consists of curers, and does the Minister not know that on that board the presiding genius is the representative of Henry Denny & Son?
I do not think it is fair to talk about a particular firm like that.
I thoroughly agree with the Minister. I turned this over in my mind for a long time, but, really, when vested interests become sufficiently arrogant and menacing, the time has come to square off and state them. I have to state them. These vested interests have gone so far as to threaten me. They calmly announce that they are going to impose penalties on me because I am too awkward. I do not say that Henry Denny & Son have done it, but certain vested interests connected with the bacon-curing industry have done it. I want to make that clear. I do not allege that Henry Denny & Son have done so, but I do say that interests connected with the bacon-curing industry have done it, and when that stage arrives public men have either to come out and point out the villain of the piece in an enterprise of this kind or get nowhere. So far as I am concerned, I have not the least intention of being blackmailed into silence by the bacon curers, or any other vested interest in this country. It is, however, as well for Deputies to realise that circumstances are such that I can afford to defy the blackmail. There are other people in the country who would find it a great strain on their financial resources to resist the kind of blackmail that is being brought to bear on them, and it is by fortuitous circumstances that I am in a position to resist it.
The Minister very rightly says that it ought not to be the practice to name firms. What can we do? There are four or five firms concerned and they own the Bacon Marketing Board. They are the only people on it and I say that this very thing, which the Minister sees going on and which he himself disapproves of, because he does not want consolidation of the licences, is being facilitated by the provision he himself has put into his own Bill. If it is true that one firm dominates this——
Could the Deputy not refer to the dominant firm? Of course, it is rather late now.
It is rather late. It is necessary to tell the House that one firm controls 50 per cent. of the production in this country, making it dominant. It is almost hypocrisy to bandy the name of the firm in that way, and then tack another name on it. At least, if Messrs. Denny want to complain, they have now got grounds for complaining, as I named them. I suppose I could have avoided that by naming the firm which does 50 per cent. of the business. They are the dominant element on the board. They are in a position to secure the adherence and support of the minor elements on the board; and you are going to give them, by law, the power to buy one another out. They are to buy one another out with my money. Was any such proposal ever put before a Parliament in any country? I forget how many members there are on the Bacon Marketing Board. Perhaps the Minister will tell me how many bacon curers are on the board.
Those seven curers may, in fact, control three-fourths of the licences in the country. Then they can do one of two things. They can say: "Let us amalgamate and get together; I will buy all your licences out of the levies made on the pigs." It is a very nice proposition. Why should they not? It is heads you win, tails you lose. They can do it.
What about the power to license new concerns?
There is power, I believe, to license new concerns. Is the Minister going to use it?
I think the Deputy might have thought of that.
I did think of it. Is he going to use it?
You did not think of it.
I thought of it. God help these men, they are as innocent as children. Let me put this case. What use is the provision to issue new licences to a body of men to sell bacon, if Henry Denny is already in occupation of the business in Sligo? What good is the new licence? I say you can remedy this whole thing by nationalising the industry and taking over the whole thing. That is what is going to happen. That is what I have just said —that if you let this happen, five years from to-day your only remedy will be to take over the whole thing and nationalise it. It is no remedy to imagine that by issuing new licences, making confusion worse confounded, you are going to remedy the mess you have created. What will happen is that, if you are going on with this, it will create so stinking a scandal that you will have to take that board over and make it a Government concern. If you are out to socialise the bacon industry, come out and do so. Then we will know where we are. I am opposed to that policy. I think it is going to operate in the worst interests of the producers, the worst interests of the consumers, and in the worst interests of the country as a whole.
I say the proper method is to allow competition to obtain, to secure for our people adequate markets, to take care of any pigs or bacon produced, and then to allow competition to operate so as to raise the price to the highest economic level possible for the pig producer, and to lower the price to the lowest reasonable economic level for the consumer. I do not mean that you ought to give bacon to the consumer for 10d. per lb. and pay the producer 90/- per cwt. for pigs. It cannot be done. I want the producer to get a fair price, considering the price of foodstuffs and his overhead charges. I am prepared to support the Minister in going to the country and telling the consumer that he will have to pay a fair price for bacon based on the price paid to the producer for pigs. I am not prepared to go to the country and tell the consumer that he must pay an inflated price for bacon in order to sell cheap bacon to the British consumer, which we are at present doing. Remember, the way the machinery of this Board has been misused in the past is a warning of what is going to be done in the future. Does the House realise that the hypothetical price fund has been used, and is being used, for the purpose of subsidising exports to Great Britain?
That was fully dealt with before.
Does Deputy Smith realise that the hypothetical price fund——
I realise a terrible lot of things that you have not realised.
Deputy Smith was on this committee. Does he realise that the hypothetical price fund was to be used for the purpose of subsidising exports to Great Britain and relieving the Exchequer of subsidies which would otherwise have to be paid?
I was hoping that you would try to prove what you told us you set out to prove, but you have not. I am open to be convinced, but you have not offered the slightest inkling of it.
It is not easy to convince everybody. I am not quite sure that the Deputy is prepared to be convinced. Suppose the Deputy believes I am right, I do not think he will go into the Lobby with me. I think what he will do is vote reluctantly with the Minister and then go and implore the Minister to do something on the Committee Stage to mend his hand. That is the simple truth and the Deputy knows it. Nothing I can say will induce him to vote according to his conscience, if I convert him. What he will do is, he will vote with the Minister and then try to prevail on the Minister in the interval. As surely as we are in this House, three things are going to happen if this Bill passes. You are going to destroy the pig dealers, who are the only body who can effectively help the Minister out of some of the difficulties that have arisen in connection with the pig trade. You are going to destroy the fairs and markets and deliver the producer of pigs into the hands of the bacon curers. You will create a situation of such a kind that, within five years from to-day there will either be a revolution amongst the pig producers, or there will be no pigs produced at all, because people will go out of the production of pigs. I warn you that, if in existing circumstances, you drive the people out of pig production, you can never get them back into it; because you lose the British market, which will be handed away to the other countries who are willing and anxious to ship bacon to Great Britain. Once they have that market they will not surrender it, and we will not be able to get it back.
No useful purpose is going to be served by this Bill. The Minister has not said a single word which could possibly justify such a measure. Its sole active principle is that the big curers are going to be permitted to buy out the small curers with my money and your money, with the money of every man who produces a pig in this country. No such audacious or unscrupulous proposal was ever made in this country before. I believe the Minister has been misled into recommending such proposals. I believe the Minister has put his confidence in the Bacon Marketing Board and the Pigs Marketing Board and that he is being betrayed. I challenge him now to produce to the House a record of the profits made by the bacon curers for the last three years, and to compare that with any other three years in their history. I ask him to compare the profits made by the bacon factories in the last three years with the profits made by these same factories at the height of the European War. I ask him has he seen the balance sheet of the bacon companies?
It is being examined by another body.
You know the profits they are making?
I do not. It is being examined by another body.
What is the body?
The Deputy knows what the body is.
Have you, before you came into this House to present this Bill to us, taken the precaution of finding out how the powers you conferred upon this board have been used during the last two or three years? Have you seen the profits made by the bacon curers, while you knew that the pig producers could not make both ends meet? While you knew that the consumers were paying a far higher price for bacon here than they were asked to pay in Great Britain; while you knew that no man rearing pigs could do it economically, have you inquired what profits the bacon curers were making? Surely the Minister ought to do that before he comes and asks us to give them wider and greater powers than they had before. This is a rotten Bill. It is a Bill for which no person who holds himself out as a representative of the people should vote. It is delivering the pig producers of this country into the hands of the most unscrupulous ring in this country. I most strongly urge the Minister to withdraw this Bill, to reconsider it and to examine the records of the companies into whose hands it is proposed to commit the pig producers of this State. I ask him to see if better and more effective steps cannot be taken to provide for whatever difficulty he may have in mind.
I think this Bill provides a very good opportunity for Deputies to give account as to how the Bill passed here a couple of years ago is operating in the country. This Bill, like all Bills that are Bills by reference, is an extremely difficult Bill to speak on or to understand. I thought that possibly 40 years' experience in the production of pigs would warrant one to claim that he knew something about the business. But I am doubtful now, after hearing the speeches of the Minister and other Deputies in this House, whether there really is sympathy here for the pig producers. One thing has to be borne in mind and that is that there are very different circumstances in the way of pig production and pig marketing in the different parts of the country. Deputy Dillon has made a very strong appeal for a class of men in his district—the pig dealers. I am not saying that possibly Deputy Dillon is not right in that, because that is a class of people that he comes up against. But, frankly, I have no case to make for these men because they do not exist in my part of the country. There is no such thing there as the people that Deputy Dillon has told us about, the pig dealers.
Your people would be very much better off if you had them.
I am telling the House about things as they are in my district. I would be very glad if we could do anything to improve the business of pig producing and pig marketing. Deputy Dillon has made a very strong case for the type of market about which he told us. We never had such a market in our part of the country. I am aware that a very determined effort was made some years ago in Ballybay and other towns in Monaghan to establish a pig market but the effort failed. Our problem in Monaghan does not seem to be the same problem as obtains in other districts. For instance, there is the problem of handling the pig. At the moment and for the last year that has not been a problem because our factories cannot get enough pigs. At the time when the original Bill was introduced we had a glut of pigs in our district. In the following year we had some glut too, but since then the production of pork pigs has so fallen off that that problem has disappeared and we are now very strongly faced with another problem.
This Bill sets out to compensate the minor curers. That, of course, means putting them out of business. That is a class of legislation of which we have had a good deal in the last few years. I think public representatives should be very careful before they pursue that line to any great extent. Enterprise in this country ought to be encouraged, and the policy of the Government is, I think, in many ways along the line of helping enterprise. But, unconsciously, by Bills such as this, we may curb enterprise. Take the minor curers mentioned in this Bill; take the case of the minor curers who have failed to cure the specified number of pigs in eight months or to fill their quotas. I suggest to the Minister that this is not the time to determine that question. If that provision is persisted in, a grievous wrong will be done and some of the minor curers, through no fault of their own, will be made suffer. The minor curers, through no fault of their own, were unable to get the pigs. If we are to apply this test in the zero time we would be doing a grave injustice to a number of decent men who have done their best and we will confer no compensating benefit on any other interest in the country.
As representative for Monaghan I would like just to put our peculiar position before the Minister and before this House. I am not saying that my view point is infallible but I am trying to put before the House things as I see them. We attempted in the original Bill to revolutionise the whole system of breeding pigs, feeding pigs, marketing pigs and to deal with the price of pigs. We have tried to do all these things. On top of that the price of feeding stuff has so soared that our people in Monaghan have practically gone out of pig production. The remedy that some of us suggested in some respects would have been more gradual, and if our views were allowed to prevail, that would possibly have encouraged our producers to hold on more tenaciously to pig production, even though they found that at a particular moment it was not a paying proposition. Our experience is that when we go into any town in any part of our area we are besieged every time by the consumers who say to us "Look at what we have to pay for bacon; you people who are feeding pigs are making fortunes, look at what we are paying." I am not to be taken as saying this in any ulterior way. I have been with the Minister on this matter. I was glad to act on a committee with him in order to get some stabilisation of prices. I know that the average consumer is asking why should there be such a difference between what the producer is getting and what the consumer is paying. Possibly, an answer could be given to that but up to the present there has been none.
In former years a good many of our people fed their pigs on potatoes, but they have found this year that there has been such a good trade for potatoes it would not pay to boil them to produce bacon. Then you turn to the new mixture, and the cost of that is so prohibitive that it does not pay to feed it for pig production. Then the people feel when they have corn of their own that it is better to take what they can get for their cereals and let the pig trade go for the present. What happens then is that the "suckers," as we call them, are brought into the market and sold off, and so they are not being brought on for the production of bacon. I am stressing that side of the business. I put it to the Minister with all the earnestness I can command that it is very unfair now to judge minor curers on their production during an abnormal period.
I do not think the Deputy understands the Bill. They are not to be judged now. It is on the 1935 production.
Yes, but it narrows the matter down.
Yes, but everything depends on production in 1935.
In the district of Clones there is a minor curer, and the people there feel the pressure of the times very much. Clones was, up to comparatively recent years, a great railway centre, but it is now a pocket of the Free State jutting into Northern Ireland. In that way the business of a great many of the people is cut off, and they are complaining that we are neglecting them there, that we are not giving them any factories, and that the minor curer who is there, because he cannot get enough to fill his quota, is in danger of going out of business. How far the people are justified in making that complaint I am not in a position to say; I simply leave that to the Minister. That point that the Minister mentioned was one that seemed to me always to be a vulnerable one in the original Act. That is, that agents of curers may be sent out and that there might be collusion between them. There is the problem in outlying districts that if production exceeds the normal demand there may be cases where people will be sat on by curers, who simply will not take their pigs. It is a good thing to have a remedy for that, and I think on the whole the suggestion is not a bad one.
An alternative market?
I do not know whether Deputy McMenamin was here when the Minister was speaking, but he told us that he is taking power, if there are pigs that the local factory is not taking or cannot take, to ensure that the Pigs Marketing Board will be in a position to order those pigs to be taken. The problem, of course, will be in relation to the transport of those pigs. In any case, that part of the original Act is open to corrupt practice. At the moment there is competition as to who will get the pigs to fill the quota because the supply is so very small.
The census of live stock which will be taken on the farms on the 1st June will, I think, be a revelation. To anyone who is interested, and I take it that all the Deputies are, in the progress of our country, it is a source of great regret that the population of any of our live stock should be going down, and especially the pig population, because on that a great many of our people depend. It has been the sheet anchor of small farmers, labourers, and other people who have interested themselves in pig rearing.
I think all these things ought now to be reviewed, and the Minister should take advantage of this Bill in order to do it. I put forward these suggestions in all good faith, and I hope that when the Minister is considering these matters he will put us in a position so that we may realise where we stand in regard to the pig industry. The pig industry is one which it is not hard to get into and carry on, if we can get the feeding-stuff and if we can command a price. The complaint made by a great many of our people is as to how the difference comes in between the price which we get for our pig and the price the consumer pays for his bacon.
On the question of compensation, of course if minor curers want to go voluntarily out of business and they are compensated, well, that is a principle that has been enshrined in this type of legislation, and should be. As to who will pay the compensation, there is a feeling amongst the producers that it ought to be those who are getting the most out of it. I trust the Minister and the Department will examine these things in the light, not alone of Deputy Dillon's and Deputy McMenamin's districts, or the district of Cork, but will take us all into consideration, North and South throughout the Saorstát.
Deputy Dillon has drawn a very alarming picture of what is likely to happen if this Bill goes through. Surely the resources of civilisation are not exhausted, and I cannot see any Government allowing such a state of affairs to obtain. While he was speaking, I just remembered that rings can be formed in other ways than by bacon curers. If you ask any farmer in the South of Ireland what the condition of the pig market was many years ago, when the pig dealers, for whom Deputy Dillon speaks so strongly, were in control, I think you would get another angle of the situation. As the Deputy spoke, I must say I was impressed with the danger of monopolies. I saw a monopoly working in the pig industry in the South of Ireland many years ago, and at that time it was impossible for any unfortunate farmer to get an economic price at all. He had to accept any price the Pig Dealers' Association approved. Any man who brought pigs to a fair had to take anything the pig buyers would offer. He had no chance to sell his pigs to anybody outside and, unless he agreed to accept whatever price a buyer offered him, he had to take his pigs home.
As Deputy Dillon spoke, I remembered those times and I recollected the complaints of the people. I often heard the people at the fairs telling each other the price they got for their pigs and the bad way they were treated. They were told to take what they were offered or else bring their pigs home. Remembering that time, I was impressed with the Deputy's fear that like conditions would obtain in the future, but from another angle, and that if the curers got control perhaps the people would again find themselves in a similar position. I remember well the fierce conflict that raged in the South of Ireland between Henry Denny & Sons and the Pig Buyers' Association. There was a miniature war in Waterford, and the trouble and unrest at the time gives one furiously to think that there might be a danger, if the people found themselves in a similar position in the future, that they would resent it very strongly. I take it that it is the duty of the Government to prevent such a state of affairs arising. I am sure the Minister is wise enough to see that the bacon industry is not going to pass into the hands of a monopoly, that every effort will be made to see that the producers get a fair price and that at the other end of the scale the consumer will not be asked to pay too much.
I am quite well aware of the argument put forward by Deputy Haslett that complaints are prevalent throughout the country as to the price obtained by the producer. The people are asking us all: "How is it that there is such a discrepancy between the price the producer is getting for the pig and the price we are asked to pay for the bacon?" Of course, I take it that that is a matter for the Prices Commission. Undoubtedly, however, an effort should be made to meet it. In regard to the Bill itself, we have to realise that in this age we must endeavour to regulate our production to cope with consumption. What has happened always in the pig market is that when prices rise everybody rushes into the production of pigs, with the result that there is over-production and the prices drop, and then everybody stops producing pigs again. I think that we would all be in agreement that the only way to cope with that is to endeavour in some way to regulate production so that it will meet with consumption, and to endeavour to stabilise prices.
I am surprised that Deputy Goulding should libel the pig-buyers in the way he has done when he stood up to speak of the prices they gave for pigs in the olden days. As far as I remember, the pig-buyers always gave the last shilling they could afford, and the competition was so keen that they even gave more than they could afford. The pig-buyers of Ireland are the finest and decentest body of men we have in the country, and why they are to be put out of business for the benefit of a combine controlled from London is a thing that I cannot understand. I cannot understand why any Government should put these men out of their business—men who have reared families by means of the pig trade for as long a time as I can remember.
They put themselves out of business.
They and their fathers and their grandfathers before them were always in the trade, and I do not see why the Government should have put them out of business.
When did the Government put them out of business?
The Government are bringing in this Bill to put them out of business.
This Bill has nothing to do with it. It was the Dáil that put them out.
Why should any such Bill as this be introduced at the instance of a certain clique and combine?
It was the Dáil, including Deputy Desmond, that put them out.
I never consented to have anything else——
The Deputy did.
——but an open market and open fairs in Munster or in any part of Ireland. Since you took the fairs and markets away, what has been the condition of the villages?
Does the Deputy say "since we took them away"?
The Government have put these decent men out of business.
The Deputy helped to put them out.
I would not interfere with the trade of these men in a hundred years. I would let their trade go on without interference, just as I would let the cattle trade, the horse trade, or any other trade, go on without interference. As I said before, the farmer got the last shilling they could afford from those dealers. Now they are getting whatever the combine likes to give them for their pigs, and the consumer has to pay the very highest price for his bacon. Where is the profit going? Who is getting it? Do you think you are encouraging the industry by paying the farmer the price he gets for his pig to-day in view of the price he has to pay for meal? There is a better pig industry in the North of Ireland for the last five years than there is in all Ireland now, and that is because they have cheap meal and an open market, and we cannot compete in any way with them. Now you are going to tie up the farmer, the producer, and to tie the cattle dealer and the pig buyer so that he cannot interfere in any way, and those men that you have up here —I suppose they are the Pigs Board— can control the prices and do anything they like with the trade. I think it is an absolute disgrace for any Government to interfere with that trade at all.
It was not the Government; it was the Deputy's Party.
I wish to assure the Minister, and I think Deputy Dillon has already assured him, that we have no motive in this except to preserve this industry in so far as we can do so.
I am very doubtful about that.
Deputy Haslett has also spoken in that way. There is no doubt about that. Deputy Dillon, of course, spoke rather strongly on this, and I take it that that was inspired by the fact that he is living, as it were, inside the centre of this industry and knows more about it than any man in the street or, probably, than any man in this House. The Minister knows more than any of us in this House know about it, or than anyone else. So far as I am concerned, I realise that it is impossible, or at least very difficult, in a Bill of this kind, or in any Bill, to interfere with an industry and successfully manage it. It is very hard to produce a watertight machine to deal successfully with an industry in all its branches. In this case here, the Minister and ourselves and all of us have got two people to consider. We have got the producer on the one hand and the curer on the other hand. The problem for this House, in taking it upon ourselves to legislate for those two people, is to produce a machine that will hold the balance of justice as fairly and equitably between those two parties as is possible. If we cannot do that by our joint wisdom, then I think we should not touch this industry at all. Of course, however, by the earlier Bill, we have done that already, and hence we are compelled, if there is any crisis in the industry, to go further. I quite frankly admit that the Minister and his officials, in taking the step they took in the earlier Bill, were, so to speak, so far as many branches of this thing are concerned, taking a step in the dark. Naturally they were. It was quite new. It was quite new to everybody— to the Minister himself and to his officials—and, naturally, many defects were bound to be discovered by experience. That is bound to happen. No human being could foresee what difficulties would be created by certain bodies and elements in an industry like that. If there were any loopholes to be discovered in certain sections of a Bill like that, somebody would be sure to find them out and get inside them and take advantage of them.
Now, on the one hand, you had the producer. He was a simple, small farmer. He had not the tricks of the other side, and let me say this—and I do not mean to give any offence—that, watching these pig buyers coming into court for the last 20 years or so, I always thought they were the trickiest and ablest body of men I ever saw coming into court. I do not mean any offence at all in saying that. I thought them the greatest experts I ever saw in a witness box. I only want to put a picture before the House of what is involved. These are the two parties involved, the producers and the buyers. Is the Minister satisfied, or is any Deputy of this House satisfied, that the pig producer, under this Bill, is getting a fair crack of the whip? There is not a Deputy in this House, nor any man or woman outside this House, who knows anything about the industry, but must admit that they are not. That is clear. We are bound to have this difficulty in this Bill because, naturally, with this House coming into these things for the first time and not knowing how this would operate, there were bound to be imperfections.
Now, who was the more likely to get inside whatever loopholes existed in the last Bill? Was it not this body of men to whom I have referred? I defy contradiction when I say that they are as mentally alive and as keen a body of men as ever lived, so far as the industry is concerned. That is my experience. Their training and experience have made them so. What chance has the small farmer, whether man or woman, to compete with that body of men, and more particularly with the experts among them? I say that among the men engaged in this industry in this country, there are as great experts as exist, in my opinion, anywhere in this country or anywhere else—I do not care where they are.
Who is likely to win in that tussle? There is only one side can win and these are the people who have the money. The Minister, of course, knows that. The question is how do they win? Have we machinery in the Bill to overcome that? There is no use in referring to areas such as Donegal, Cavan or Waterford. We are dealing with a national industry. You cannot go into every hole and corner. You must get the machine into such shape that it will be so flexible as to catch up with any misconduct, or rather any mishandling or maltreatment of those engaged in the industry. The machinery must be so flexible, in all its relevant parts, that if anything such as Deputy Haslett stated occurred in Clones happens anywhere, the Department will be able to catch up with it.
Let us take the question of price, which has been the main cause of this Bill. The man in the street, in fact, everybody—and Deputy Goulding says it happens in Waterford—will ask where is the money going? What is the cause of the difference between the price of pork and the price of bacon? Nobody, perhaps, except the Minister, knows it. The public do not know anything about what is happening at all. The public are not aware that over and above the price per cwt., graded or live weight, paid by the purchaser, the purchaser has to pay 12/- per cwt. or an average of between 15/- and £1 per pig as a levy. That is not understood by the man or woman who buys a pound of bacon. They do not understand that that 15/- or £1 per pig must go on to the price of bacon. The small curer who has not an export quota must pay that 15/- or £1 and he does not get one penny of it back. Of course, he must get it back in the price charged for the bacon.
The Deputy is wrong in his statement.
Well, I shall be glad to be corrected.
The Deputy is so wrong that his whole argument is fallacious. Whether the curer sells it at home or exports it, he gets the same amount back. The Deputy's argument is altogether wrong.
I accept that, but that is the explanation I got of it. Of course, the Minister's explanation only makes the case worse. There is no justification then for the price of bacon. That makes the case worse as far as the price of bacon is concerned.
There is a come-back now in the Deputy's argument.
What is the justification then for the price of bacon? I have given the explanation I got but according to the Minister that is wrong. That makes the price of bacon even more unjustifiable. The explanation which I got seemed a fairly sound one, that the small curer who had no export quota had to pay 15/- to £1 per pig over and above the price which he paid the producer, and that he had to add that to the price of the bacon. If that is not a true explanation, what is the justification for the price of bacon in relation to the price of pork? That makes the questions raised by Deputy Goulding and Deputy Haslett much more pertinent. Who is getting the difference or where is it going? If the Minister knew that, and apparently he did— if he did not know it in the past he knows it now—what is the justification for the price of bacon in relation to the price of pork? Deputy Goulding has told the House that the resources of civilisation are not yet exhausted. That is merely a piece of Balfourian philosophy and it is not wise to apply Mr. Balfour's subtleties to everything that arises. I think Deputy Goulding will agree that they do not apply to this case. Has Deputy Goulding any suggestion to offer in regard to the people who are now going out of pig production, the people to whom Deputy Haslett referred? I can confirm what Deputy Haslett says, that when the census showing the number of pigs is taken this month people will be surprised and so will the Minister. That is a very regrettable thing.
Everybody in the country is complaining about this matter. The producers certainly are complaining about it, especially in parts of my constituency where pig production is, in the main, the backbone of the people's livelihood. You get a small farm there on which there is a limited amount of arable land, and on which there is no outlet in the way of a large production of cattle. The occupiers balance that by pig production. Those who had not the benefit of technical advice could not understand what was happening in the fairs and markets with regard to prices. The only thing they could say was that they were not getting enough for their pigs. They merely said: "Look at what we are getting for our pork and what is being charged to the public for bacon. We must be robbed." Whether they were robbed or not, we are here legislating for that problem. These people are going out of production because they feel that they cannot produce pigs at the price they are getting. I went to some trouble in my constituency to get some information in regard to this matter, because it is a fundamental matter so far as my constituency is concerned. I have taken an approximate census of the position there, and I went to some trouble to do that. I went into one small area, a small valley, and I took a census of the pigs that would be marketed there in the month of April this year as compared with the number marketed in April, 1936, and what did I find? That only 12 pigs could be marketed last April, whereas 150 pigs were marketed in the same area during April, 1936. I ascertained further that in the 12 months 18 sows in this one area—a parish area, if you like—had been slaughtered. The worst feature about that was that both the county committee of agriculture and the Pigs Marketing Board last year, in order, firstly, to increase production, and, secondly, to put the right type of pig into Donegal—the White York—put 300 or 400 sows into the county. That was a very excellent thing. They were given a nominal price—at a sum much less than what they actually cost. What happened? A large number of those sows were slaughtered. Of course that can be met to some extent. The pigs were marked, and the Pigs Marketing Board have given instructions to the curers not to buy any sows with those marks. On the other hand, they can be sold and fattened locally to be consumed at home. That will be done when the producer finds that the production of pigs does not pay him. The fact of the curers not taking the sows into the factory does not solve the problem. They can be fattened and used at home. Is this Bill going to cure that?
Deputy Dillon made a violent attack on the proposal to eliminate the minor curer. It is a fundamental business axiom that competition is the life of trade. I do not think anybody will dispute that. A case may be made out for the elimination of small people out of business. I do not care for that case. I think it is bad. I think it is necessarily bad.
Why did you not say that when the main Bill came before the House two years ago?
I have been in business. I know something about particular branches of business, but I never had the audacity to interfere in branches of business which I knew nothing about. I know that much about business.
It is a pity you made this mistake.
I made no mistake. The reason why I did not make a mistake was that I did not know anything about it.
And you do now?
I do not now. I am asking for information. I told the Minister that I am absolutely with him, and will do anything that is humanly possible for me to do to perfect a machine here that will serve the public. In regard to monopoly of this kind, there was a crisis in the American meat industry somewhere around 1910 and 1911. That is a long time ago. I was in business then, and I was interested in this thing to some extent. Of course, the House now forgets all about that. Look what happened. It took a national crisis in America to smash that—a crisis so great that it killed the meat-curing business in America for the time being. They could not sell one pound of their products for about two years. Let us not forget that. I remember it well. There were thousands and thousands of cases—shiploads of cases—lying rotting. You could not give them away. But the crisis cured the monopolists in America; it brought them to their senses. It took a national crisis in America to bring that about. Deputy Dillon referred to conditions in America. I expect he does not remember anything about this. I remember it well. It took a national crisis in America to cure the monopolists. Shiploads of their stuff lay rotting, and had to be thrown out. They had to knuckle down and do two things. They had to serve the producer and they had to serve the consumer. They got a lesson, and it was a very drastic one. We do not want any of those drastic things here. That monopoly in America brought about a crisis which came to a head, I think, in the year 1911. We are not going to have that crisis.
Deputy Dillon talks about one of two things happening. The first is what actually did take place in America in that year. I do not think that is going to happen in this country. What is going to happen, and is already happening, is that the farmers are going out of pig production. I think, as Deputy Haslett has said, that that is a national disaster, and everything possible should be done to prevent it. From my experience of business I think restriction in trade is wrong in principle. The common law in England, in its wisdom of centuries, has refused generally to lay down the principle of any restriction in trade. That is the result of the joint wisdom of centuries in the common law of England. Why did they do that? Now take the statute law. As a result of the wisdom derived from centuries of experience the English law lays down as an axiom that any attempt to restrict the freedom of trade or business is illegal.
On a point of order, I think Deputy McMenamin is discussing a principle that was decided by the first Bill. Is that in order?
It is not in order to discuss now anything that was decided by the first Bill.
I am only referring to the abolition of those minor curers. It might in many ways be a good thing for the industry, but, taking the long view of it, I think it is wrong; I think it is bad business. I think it is a bad thing to put out of business any man who has gone into that business and applied himself to it, even though he has not, if you like, got away on a big scale. It does not follow at all that a man who does not make a huge fortune out of business has not carried on that business successfully. The men who went into business and carried it on in a small way have been the salt of business, and the salt of the country.
This Bill does not put anybody out of business.
Oh, that is the snag about it.
Will the Deputy point out where it does?
I am not saying that it does. I agree with the Minister. I am not alleging that at all. Do not let the Minister think I am trying to cross him. Quite the contrary is the case, but this is an occasion on which we should speak frankly.
That would be a good idea.
How can I operate that machine? Surely the Minister does not suggest he has sufficient experience of business to say that I cannot do it in another way.
One hundred and one ways.
One will do me.
If you give a lever to Deputy Moore whereby he can crush me out of business, it can be done.
What is it?
There are one hundred and one ways.
I want only one.
The combines have crushed everybody out. Let us take one example. Take the Imperial Tobacco Company.
I do not want generalities. Tell me how it is done in this case.
This has not been put in operation yet. The Minister has been "rattled" since early morning. I assure him I am not trying to "rattle" him.
This is merely a lot of futile talk. You do not know what you are talking about.
I do not want to "rattle" the Minister.
The worst of it is that you do not know what you are talking about.
The people with the money can buy out the small man. That is what has happened in the case of all monopolies. That is how all monopolies have been created. That is sticking out in this case.
How does this Bill help them to do that to any greater extent?
Let me take a case as example. I have a small curing station with a capital of £10,000. I am making only one per cent. on that or, if the matter were strictly worked out, I might be making nothing. Deputy Keyes has a reserve of £200,000 and he says to me: "McMenamin, I will give you £50,000 for your place." Is not that what has happened all over the world?
That cannot be done under this Bill.
We have been hearing stories like that all our lives.
The Deputy is talking through his hat.
Under the old Act 3/1 was provided for the carriage of pork. What has happened——
Will the Deputy quote any clause to support his contention?
They went to the Great Southern Railways and got a flat rate of 1/2 per pig from any part of the Free State to their curing stations. From Sligo to Cork or Cork to Sligo, they had a flat rate of 1/2 while we gave them 3/1.
That is wrong.
I am finished. There is no use in talking to that man.
I should like to voice my protest in the strongest possible terms against this Bill. I can see no justification for it and it seems to me that people do not realise the significance of it or the dangers enshrined in it. I do not think that it is feasible for the farmer who has a few pigs to sell to arrange, as Deputy Dillon pointed out, for their transport. Up to the present, the onus as to transport was thrown on the pig dealer. The farmer who brought in his pig to the fair had not to think of the transport of the pig to whatever place it was destined for. In future, it will be quite a different matter. He will have to make the necessary arrangements and it may not be feasible to get the pig away on a particular day to the factory to which it is to go. That is one item which should be looked into. It is, perhaps, a small item and it may be possible to get over it.
There is a far greater evil in the Bill and, to my mind, it is one that ought to receive attention. The Bill does away with competition. The pig dealer, no matter what anybody may say in this House, has always been regarded as a decent and honourable man. The pig dealers in the South of Ireland have a good tradition. These men have devoted their lives to the business. It has been handed down from father to son and I think legislation of this type to do away with the calling of these men comes very badly from an Irish Parliament. I ask the Minister to look into the matter and inquire as to the benefit which he thinks will be conferred by this proposal. These men are Irishmen. Why should we hand over their business to people who will have a complete monopoly of the bacon trade? It has been said here that these men have cut prices and that they have not, as it were, given the producers a fair run for their money. I absolutely contradict that statement. These men have an honourable past and are regarded as a decent body.
The pig producers, so far as I know, are much more anxious to sell to the pig dealer than they are to sell direct to the agents of the factory. The pig dealers at the fairs during the past month have given as much as 5/- per cwt. over and above the price offered by the Bacon Board. That is a fact, and I cannot for the life of me see how it can be made out that the pig dealer has tried to do damage to the producer of the pig. It is for the Minister to look into that. I have it on the best authority and I can stand over it.
I should like to make a special appeal for the pig dealer, because he has not only his own livelihood and the livelihood of his children to think about, but in the past his business has gone down —particularly within the last four years owing to the economic war. Anybody who dares to say that the pig dealer was not a benefit to more people than himself does not know what he is talking about. I know that all the smaller towns have benefited greatly by the pig dealers coming to the fairs and staying there for a night or two. What have these small towns to look forward to if the pig fairs are to be abolished, as they must be, under this Bill, because competition is being done away with and we all know that the life of trade lies in competition. I ask the Minister, in the interests of the pig dealer in whom I am particularly interested, and in the interests of the smaller towns, to see that this does not happen and that some amendment will be made to the Bill to ensure that it will not happen. It would be a serious thing for country towns which have been going down for several years, and particularly for the past four years. I ask the Minister to give special attention to this matter and to make sure that the pig dealer will not be driven out of business, as at present appears to be the intention. The pig dealers are in a very uneasy state. Their livelihood is threatened and there is no talk of compensation. They are simply being thrown out by the wilful act of the Government, for no reason. They have served their country well. They have advanced the interests of their country and they had built up a big business in England. Without rhyme or reason, their calling is being taken from them by act of the Government. In the interests of the towns and the pig dealers, I ask the Minister to have this matter attended to.
So far as I understand it, this Bill is designed to amend an Act passed by this House about two years ago with the approval and co-operation of all Parties. Listening to the speech made by Deputy Dillon and to the speeches of some of the Deputies who followed him on that side of the House, one would get the impression that the members of this Party were entirely composed of bacon curers or the representatives of bacon curers. Deputy Dillon and Deputy McMenamin would have us and the country forget that they were equally responsible with us for the legislation we are now proposing to amend.
Were you equally responsible with us for the Constitution Amendment Act?
I want to say that in so far as this Bill proposes to amend any of the grievances or complaints of pig producers which have come to my notice as a result of its operation for the last two years, I think this measure is entitled to our support. Having listened to the opening statement of Deputy Dillon, I sat here in the belief that he would, during the course of a rather long speech, proceed to prove some of the charges he made, and before I deal with that portion of this amending Bill in which I am particularly interested, I want to refer to one statement made by him. Deputy Dillon speaks here as a businessman and I am sure that if anybody made a charge of sharp practice, so far as the public is concerned, against him, or any members of his trade, profession, or whatever you like to call it, such a charge would be resented very vehemently by Deputy Dillon. Deputy Dillon, however, stands up here and proceeds to tell us the story of the small farmer, the producer of the two pigs, and to show us that when that man takes his two pigs to the bacon factory, that innocent man who is not aware of his legal rights and who hands over his two pigs to the bacon factory in whatever town he goes to, let it be Monaghan, Cavan or any town in which there is a bacon curing concern, he never knows what kind of deal he is going to get from that bacon curer, so far as the weighing, the grading and all the matters that are of such vital interest to the producer are concerned. He never knows what sort of deal he is going to get from the bacon curer, he says, because he is not permitted to go inside that concern.
I am surprised at a man who always makes it a point, and especially in the speech to which we have just listened, to tell us of his business connections, getting up here to tell us that businessmen of any class could make themselves responsible for a campaign designed to deprive the producer of his rights. I might as well charge Deputy Dillon here with endeavouring to deceive the customers whom, I am sure, he has in Mayo, Roscommon, and all over the West, and say that every businessman would take advantage of the fact that in every farmer's house there is not a weigh-bridge, and that businessmen of that type might endeavour to sell to the public a lb. of tea, which was not in fact a lb. of tea, a stone of sugar, which was not, in fact, a stone of sugar, and a cwt. of meal when, in fact, the bag contained no such weight. I have no connection with business, but I think I have some little knowledge of that type of small farmer producer who might go to Cavan town with his two or three pigs, and while I am prepared to concede that the bacon curers would perhaps adopt the ordinary sharp practices followed in business, I have more confidence in the bacon curers than to believe that any bacon curer would stoop so low, would degrade himself to such an extent, as to deceive that small producer who might stand outside his gate and not know how his pig was graded and weighed.
Does the Deputy know that the Minister has himself been endeavouring for the last two months to devise a plan to circumvent just such practices as the Deputy is now describing?
I do not know anything of the kind.
And that the Bacon Marketing Board invited me, the Deputy, and all the Deputies of County Donegal to consult with them as to how best to circumvent the actual practices the Deputy is now describing, because they were being carried on by certain people despite the Bacon Marketing Board?
I am prepared to agree that, so far as the grading of pigs is concerned, it is possible that in the best regulated concern a mistake may be made, just as in the case of the weighing of pigs when we in our county and in County Monaghan had the dead-pork markets, and when the farmer was permitted to take his cart on to the market square and see his pigs being weighed, because if the man in charge of the weigh-bridge did not give it sufficient time to function, he might record a weight for the man's pigs that was too much or too little. I can see the possibility of an injustice being done to a producer in a bacon concern, but, even after Deputy Dillon's intervention, I am still not prepared to believe that the owner of a bacon concern can go to his 50, 60 or 100 employees, because, after all, it must be his employees who will cheat the public for him in this way—he cannot grade and weigh the pigs and do all the other things that are necessary when a pig is taken in for curing —and get them into a little room and say to them: "Gentlemen, I want to be a rogue and I cannot be a rogue unless you help me," and then tell those employees how they are going to help him to be a rogue. Even assuming that the type of individual engaged in this business was as mean as Deputy Dillon alleges, I say that it is quite impossible for him to succeed in that effort. I do not believe that is the kind of statement, or the type of impression, that should be conveyed to the public, because mind you, the public have a sort of tendency to mistrust, and while the public has to be on its guard, it is not right that we should set a further hare going in that respect, because I believe it would be better if the public had a little more confidence, and if all of us had a little more confidence in one another, as to the honesty of our motives and our attempts to do what we think is right.
Deputy Dillon gave you credit for being simple. He could not be fairer to you.
I have dealt with the statement made by Deputy Dillon and the one part of this amending legislation in which I am substantially interested is the part to which I had hoped Deputy Dillon would have referred at greater length. He gave the impression that he had a solution different from the one provided in this Bill for dealing with a difficulty that this proposal purports to deal with. I had hoped that his solution would be better than this one. But, I must say from what I know, and from what I have seen tried out, that it is not as good as this one. I would not say this one is entirely perfect. I have seen an effort made to put the one which Deputy Dillon recommended into operation, and I would not have it as against the one suggested here. There is the problem of a particular curer refusing to take pigs from a certain producer in his area for one reason or another. That is a problem with which I think all Deputies have been confronted, especially Deputies from Donegal, Monaghan and Cavan—perhaps in some other counties—but these are the areas with which I am most intimately connected. That is certainly a problem which has agitated our minds, especially at a period when we had a surplus of pigs. Deputy Dillon said he had a solution for that other than the solution provided in this Bill. I had hoped he really had one, but the only one he had to put forward was the establishment of fairs and the introduction into these fairs of pig buyers, and so on. I do not agree that that will be effective. While this is not as complete as those of us who have experience of that problem would like it to be, I still think that this is far ahead of what the Deputy suggests.
Here is one suggestion I want to make and I cannot see how this cannot be done. When a bacon curer gets his quota for a period of one month, or whatever the extent of it is, I think the Bacon Board, or the chairman of the board, should be in a position to tell that curer that he was to take all pigs suitable for production of bacon, and, when that quota had been exhausted, that curer should get permission from the board to take and cure whatever surplus there is, if not for meeting the requirements of his own trade, for the Bacon Board itself, and then the accumulated surplus all over the State should be dealt with in whatever way the Bacon Board may decide. Surely what is possible for a bacon curer to do under the previous Act must be remedied. I certainly would like to hear a more reasoned criticism of this provision and more suitable alternatives suggested than that of Deputy Dillon. For some time past this problem did not arise and at the present time it does not arise. But, at certain periods of the year, we are always likely to have over-production. When potatoes and other feeding stuffs are dear at this time of the year you have not a very heavy production. How do we know that next year, say, the position may not be different? How do we know that potato prices and other things will be as they are this year? My point is that a surplus such as we have experienced in those areas may arise at any time and I am in some doubt whether the provision made here is ample to deal with that. But, as I said, no suggestion has been made that seems more feasible. I have seen the other suggestion tried and it has not been a success and, therefore, I cannot give it any further consideration.
Do you know why it was not a success?
It was not a success.
Because the Minister would not give licences to pig dealers to export live pigs.
I did. The Deputy is entirely wrong. I met them twice and gave them licences for that purpose.
The dealers who go to Donegal, and it was not a success.
That is all very well, but I know it has not been a success.
It has to be tried for a protracted period or it will not work. There is no use doing it for a month and then giving it up.
It is very hard to introduce a new system. The argument that the Deputy advanced against this provision here is, to my mind, not a really effective argument when you come to examine it closely. The Deputy asked in his criticism of this provision what was a man in Ballybofey or some other place in Donegal to do who was ordered to take his two pigs to some place 40 miles away. Everybody knows that that man was not going to take these pigs 40 miles away. But, in the event of a surplus such as we have experienced in the past arising, you may take it that not alone will you have the two pigs belonging to that man in Ballybofey, but you will have, as all of us experienced at the time we have in mind, many farmers who had pigs on their hands and could not dispose of them. If there were only two pigs left in the area there would be no surplus, and therefore the point that the Deputy made is really not an effective point. I do not know whether this can be done or not. I believe that this provision is ample, provided the Monaghan bacon curers or the bacon establishment in Cavan, when they have exhausted their quota, will get permission to take and cure for the board all the surplus pigs and let the board dispose of that surplus some other time. I do not see any other effective means of doing that. They have been accustomed to sending their pigs there. I think that is the best thing, and I believe it will provide a solution for our difficulties in so far as that matter is concerned. That is really the problem that affects me most acutely. I am sure that that is a problem that affects most of us who are Deputies. Deputy Dillon proceeded to deal with the matter of minor curers and the possibility of minor curers being gobbled up by what he described as a ring. There is no provision in this amending legislation to compel minor curers to sell. I do not see where the anxiety could possibly exist on the part of the 30 licensed curers to buy up the 19 minor curers when the Minister has power to license further concerns for that purpose.
Where is that power?
If this were definitely made close and complete, if the Minister had no power, I might, if I were in business, be tempted to buy up six or seven smaller concerns so as to have the whole field to myself. But if there were six or seven smaller concerns of, say, the same type that might start, I would not be tempted to the same extent to buy up the existing ones. On listening to Deputy Dillon one would have thought that he was really going to say something constructive. I must honestly confess that I listened to him and he did not attempt to establish to my satisfaction any of the charges that he made at the outset of his speech.
Why is this provision put into the Bill at all? What is it there for? Will the Deputy please tell us?
I am only saying what I said when Deputy Dillon was not in the House. I said before he came in here that one listening to him, and to other Deputies, would have thought that we were, in fact, the representatives of the curing concerns. One would have thought that Deputy Dillon and the others had no responsibility for the Act which we are proposing to amend now. I think the Deputy could have treated this subject in a very different way. We certainly are not wedded to the curers and we have no interest in them. As far as I am concerned, I certainly have not any kind of interest in the curers. I would be prepared to deal in a reasonable way with any suggestion made in any quarter for helping us to get out of this difficulty. Deputy Dillon has made no contribution to this debate that is in any way more attractive or that offers more security in any shape or form, than the provision in the Bill. In this matter we ought all, on whichever side of the House we sit, keep in mind the fact that we are endeavouring to amend a piece of legislation for which we all have the same responsibility. Surely in a matter like this which concerns the country we should be reasonable with one another and not endeavour to give the impression that we can come in here, say what we like, and wipe our hands of the responsibility which belongs, to the same extent, to all of us.
Before Deputy Smith sits down, I would like to have his guidance on this matter—whether he approves of the proposal that the bacon curers should be permitted to buy up the minor curers with the money of the Bacon Board?
Deputy Dillon has said nothing to satisfy me that that is wrong.
Perhaps, Sir, from the spirit in which Deputy Smith approaches this, you would permit me to put another question so as to clear our minds on this matter?
Does Deputy Smith approve of the principle under which the major curers can buy out the minor curers and that the major curers can do that by using the funds of the Bacon Marketing Board, not their own money?
So long as there is no compulsion under this legislation, why should not I, as a minor curer, have the right to offer my business for sale, and if I were going to get any compensation, hand it over? Why should not I have the right to do that?
Admitted, but why should it be paid for with the money of the Bacon Marketing Board?
That is a small matter. But Deputy Dillon has not shown any better method of meeting that.
But why not buy them out with their own money? Why should they be allowed to use the money of the Bacon Marketing Board?
Deputy Dillon thinks it is right that there should be provision made for me that I should have the right to offer my business for sale. Has he not admitted that?
Anyone can offer his business for sale to another but why should the bacon curers not buy the business with their own money and not with the money of the Bacon Marketing Board?
That is a matter we would like Deputy Dillon to make clear. That is where we would like him to make some suggestion.
Legislation by reference is always difficult to follow and there are many sections in this Bill which cannot be understood without reference to the parent Act and even after reading the sections in the parent Act it is difficult to understand them without the references in the Dáil debates to these sections. Deputy Haslett said that pig production in every county in Ireland varies. That statement is perfectly true. There are local conditions in different areas pertaining to pig production. I think the Minister understands that perfectly well. In the counties of Cavan and Monaghan the circumstances are somewhat peculiarly affected by the fact that when the original Bill was introduced there had to be a change-over from one breed of pig to another. That change-over naturally dislocated pig production in these counties. The same thing happened in Donegal and in other counties where the people were accustomed to one breed of pig for many years. That had a particular effect on the problem in those areas.
Pig production has always been the main source of the farmer's income. Whether the Minister likes it or not, there is no question that one of the effects of this legislation regulating pig production has been to drive a certain number of people out of pig production. I admit that all those who have gone out of pig production have not done so because of this legislation. This has happened through other causes such as the cost of feeding-stuffs. In any event I hold that the legislation that the Minister had introduced for the purpose of pig production is not suited to the requirements of farmers. That legislation has been modelled on British lines. But the Minister must realise that pig production in Great Britain is carried out on completely different lines to those in which it is carried on in this country. Pig production in Great Britain at the present time is worked on scientific, mass-production principles. The farmer there is engaged exclusively in pig production and some producers turn out probably a couple of hundred thousand pigs a year. Some of them are on a smaller scale and produce considerably less pigs. But the Minister in his original legislation did not envisage the conditions in the small farmer's home who, after all, is the main pig producer in this country. His legislation was not designed to cater for the particular type of pig production in the small farmer's home. Consequently, a number of the small farmers have gone out of production.
Under the original Act pigs were graded. You had four different grades and different prices were fixed for these different grades. The discrepancy between the "A" grade and the lower grades was very substantial. I admit that difficulty has been overcome since by approximating the prices in the different grades much more closely. When the original Act came into operation there were many farmers who undoubtedly tried, in so far as they could in rough guess-work fashion, to comply with the regulations and produce the type of pig which they thought would be graded as grade 1 or grade 2. When they went to the factory to sell they found that, according to the standards laid down in order to qualify for a particular grade, their pig qualified only for the grade 4 price, and so on. In that way, right at the very outset, many of the farmers were discouraged because they thought it would not be an economic proposition.
There is no doubt that there is a big decline in the number of pigs shown at our fairs and markets. I can speak with authority for my own county, and the decline there is very noticeable, especially at the principal fairs and markets. Usually in the big towns in Sligo there is a two-day fair, one day being for pigs and the other for sheep, horses and cattle. Recently there was a fair in one town, and the number of pigs for sale was from 50 to 60 per cent. less than at the corresponding fair the previous year. Many of the farmers engaged breeding pigs are ceasing to do so because of the fact that the price for young pigs, until recently, was so small that it would scarcely cover the cost of production. The Minister has rushed this legislation too much. He has rushed all sorts of regulations with the object of regulating pig production. The net result of the regulations under the parent Act has been to drive a number of people who were anxious to remain in pig production, out of that industry.
A strong case has been made by many speakers for the pig dealer. It so happens that at all the fairs for the last three or four months the dealers paid, on an average, 5/- more than the top price paid by the Pigs Marketing Board. All during last year the pig dealers were on the average 3/- or 4/- higher than the board's top price. The tendency of all the legislation is to drive that type of man out of the pig business.
We could not drive them out if they are paying more.
Does the Minister deny that the pig dealers paid on an average from 4/- to 5/- more than the board?
I am surprised to hear it, because I am sure they would get all the pigs if they did.
Well, they did. I venture to say that the majority of the farmers engaged in pig production would much prefer to deal with the pig dealers than with the factory.
Well, we will not prevent them.
I am sure the Minister will agree, from his knowledge of the psychology of the farmer, that it is in the interests of the scheme that is embodied in the legislation that the pig buyer should be encouraged, because it is only in that way that you will be able to keep up pig production.
I do not know whether you should encourage the buyer or not, but there is nothing to prevent him buying all the pigs if he wishes.
The tendency of the legislation has been to discourage the pig buyers.
How does the Deputy make that out?
There are sections in this Bill calculated still further to discourage the pig buyers.
I would like to have them pointed out.
A great deal of the discussion centred round Section 36, which provides for compensation to the minor curers. The Minister asserted that it is not his intention to drive the minor curer out of business. If it is not his intention, will the Minister amend this section in such a fashion as to ensure that the minor curer will be allowed to continue in business?
He has that right.
I do not think so.
If the Deputy can point out that he has not that right, I certainly would amend it.
The argument has been made that the section is included in order to favour the big bacon curer.
I do not agree with that argument.
The bacon curer has to pay the compensation. As a matter of fact, the compensation will be paid by the Bacon Board, and that is composed of bacon curers, and it is quite natural that a board controlled by curers will be operated in the interests of the curers. The impression prevails very generally—I hope the Minister will be in a position to dispel it—amongst the people engaged in the trade in a very big way, that it is the object of the major curers to drive the smaller curers completely out of business. That is the impression that also exists in the minds of the minor curers.
Perhaps I would be permitted to intervene, as I may not have an opportunity of concluding to-day. I asked that that clause relating to compensation be put in. I was not asked by any official or by any minor curer or major curer to insert it. I myself came along and suggested this compensation clause, and I am awfully sorry if I have offended the minor curers, because I thought I was doing them a good turn. Some of the arguments we have heard are most ridiculous.
The Minister is going away from the point.
There seems to be a suggestion that the major curers wanted this provision—the bigger curers. They never asked for it.
In any event, our case is this, that this section is going to be operated by the big curers in their own interests. We know very well that the whole bacon trade, in so far as they control it, is operated in their interests and they do not care two hoots about the minor curers or the producers. The Minister proposes in this section to give them an opportunity of operating the trade to a much greater extent in their own interests at the producers' expense. That is really what the section does mean. If the Minister is sincere, and I accept his word that he is sincerely desirous to keep the minor curers in business, he should amend this section to ensure that the big curers will have no right to interfere with the interests of the minor curers.
That is the law, and if the Deputy will point out where that is not the law, then I will amend it.
The Minister has introduced the principle of compensation.
And I am very sorry I did—I can tell you that.
That principle will be operated by the Bacon Board, which is controlled by the big curers, for the purpose of driving their competitors, the minor curers, out of business and getting a complete grasp of the trade.
If there is any danger of that in the clause I am prepared to amend it.
The Minister knows enough to realise that where an opportunity presents itself to a big group of men engaged in the pig business to wipe out competitors, they will naturally and inevitably avail of it, as they have been doing since the original Act was introduced.
Can they do anything more against those men with compensation than they could have done without compensation? Does compensation make any difference?
The Minister can amend the Bill. If a minor curer wants voluntarily to go out of the business——
That is exactly what the section refers to.
——and offers to do so, why should he be paid?
If the Deputy wants to offer that amendment, we will discuss it.
There is no question about it: the interpretation placed by Deputy Dillon and other Deputies on this section is perfectly legitimate, and that is that the section can be, and in fact will be, operated in the interests of the big curers. The Minister himself has admitted that the Bacon Board is comprised entirely of the big bacon curers, and he can rest assured that they will operate this section in their own interest. They have operated the whole Bill in their own interest.
There is just one question I should like to ask the Minister. Of course, if a man goes out of business, he can sell to anybody?
If I agree, yes.
Well, anyhow, the money will be paid by the person buying the business?
Is there not this danger, as the thing is going to be operated in future, that the money that will be paid to benefit the curer will ultimately come out of the money of the producer?
That does not follow.
Does it not follow in practice?
No. It is intended that the levy shall be got back from the curers.
How will it? How will you get it back?
Deputy Dillon asks superciliously how will it be got back, but his point when he was speaking was that, if we took the money from Henry Denny, it would be all right, but not when we took it from the others. Now, when we say that we will take it from Denny, Deputy Dillon gets up, in his superior way, and wants to know how we will get it.
What provision is there for that?
We can levy on the curers to get it back.
And they can levy on the producer?
If, as I say, the Minister is sincere in his desire to secure the interests of the minor curers, then I say that he has an opportunity to amend this in such a fashion as to ensure that the minor curers can continue in business without molestation from the big curers. As I have said, this is entirely operated by the big curers. However, as it is a Bill that can be considered in detail on the Committee Stage and which will lend itself to exhaustive and useful discussion on that Stage, I do not propose to say anything more at the moment.
Before Deputy Gibbons speaks, Sir, I should like to know whether any other Deputy wants to speak from the opposite side?
That is all I wanted to know.
I should like to say a few words arising from the conflict of opinion that has taken place between Deputy Roddy and the Minister. I should like to suggest that, in the event of the ownership of any of the minor bacon curing establishments changing hands, the location of the industry should remain the same—that there should be no change in the locality of the establishment with the change of ownership, and that it should be carried on just the same as if there had been no change in ownership.
That is a very important consideration, and I can assure the Minister that if the people knew there was not going to be any change in that respect, it would allay a good deal of the anxiety in the country that has been created by the scare headings in certain sections of the public Press regarding the abolition of the minor curers. We have some minor curers in Kilkenny. There are two curing establishments there, one in the city and one in the county, and they serve a very important purpose there. They are a convenient market for the local pig producers who can market their pigs there very conveniently and very satisfactorily, and who would prefer to do business with the local bacon curers rather than send their pigs further afield. I am making the suggestion seriously to the Minister that, in the event of those who run local bacon-curing establishments being induced, by considerations of money or for other reasons, to part with their business, the business should remain in the same locality. In other words, the Minister should decentralise the industry in that regard. These establishments give good employment, and it is also 100 per cent. native employment. Anybody who is interested in the industry, or in the welfare of the country generally, would not wish to see any of those establishments closed up. I make that suggestion in all seriousness.
Regarding the measure itself, it was an agreed measure which was introduced as an amendment to legislation which was passed here, with the approval of all Parties in the House, two years ago. In some respects, the amendment will be a decided improvement, particularly where it deals with periods in which there is a surplus of pigs and where it purports to ensure that the curers will take these pigs off the hands of the producers and give the fixed price for them. The Minister told us to-day—it was information for some of us—that some curers had been getting their supplies of surplus pigs through dealers.
The Minister stated that, and that is very unsatisfactory. Evidently the people who were operating that were the pig dealers, in whom Deputy Dillon seems to be so interested.
That, certainly, is untrue.
Well, the Minister must have data, or he would not have said that.
The Minister did not say that. He said that it was not the dealers, but dummy dealers, that had been appointed to do this work.
Every business section contains its fair quota of sharks.
There are very few of them here.
Well, in that connection, we all remember the conditions that prevailed some years ago—about a quarter of a century ago—when the pig dealers had sole control of that industry. We know what the feelings of the farmers were in respect of the treatment they received from the pig dealers. They were completely at the mercy of the pig dealers, and we know of the conflict that took place—the miniature war that took place, in Deputy Goulding's words—in Waterford, on several occasions. If the pig dealers were giving the pig producers as good a price as Denny's factory was giving and the other factories were giving, the producers would continue to give the pigs to the dealers, but the dealers gave any price they liked. When Deputy Desmond refers in such glowing terms to the pig dealers and their altruism in the good prices they were giving to the farmers and the service they gave to the farmers, I certainly say that his description would not be recognised by the pig producers of Kilkenny anyhow, in respect of the pig dealers of Waterford and the South of Ireland.
We know the price that obtained for pigs in 1931. We know the position in which the Minister found the industry when he came into office, and we know the steps that were necessary.
Does the Deputy know the price of Indian meal in 1931?
Well, my only object in getting up was to make some sensible suggestions if I could. If Deputy Dillon, or any other Deputy, is in a position to make suggestions to the Minister which will benefit the industry, the Minister will gladly accept them. I know that some of us have gone to the Minister and to the Minister's Department over and over again, both personally and in a public capacity, and our representations have always been very carefully considered, and it is up to Deputy Dillon and other Deputies, if they have suggestions to make, to make them to the Minister and his Department. After all, this is a national matter, which concerns all of us. It should be a non-Party matter, and we should all endeavour to make any suggestions we can with a view to improving this important industry, which affects a very important section of the community. In rising to speak, however, my principal object was to make the suggestion that, in the event of any bacon-curing establishment, either in the provincial towns or in rural areas, being acquired, the location of these establishments should not be interfered with.
But the object of this Bill is to abolish them.
It seems to me that the Second Reading debate on this measure has been availed of chiefly for the purpose of either glorifying or vilifying the people who contributed to the building up of the bacon industry in the past. We have had speeches by some glorifying the pig dealers, and by other Deputies vilifying them, and we have had similar speeches about the curers, and so on. I certainly think that Deputies in this House, who only two years ago enacted the 1935 Act, had sufficient and ample time then to measure the merits or demerits of the people who were contributing to the bacon trade, and their speeches should not be utilised, as they are being utilised to-day, to level charges, in most cases unsupported by any facts, against either one side or the other. I come from a county in which a very large number of pig buyers reside, and whatever may be said about Deputy Gibbons's references to 25 years ago, I should heartily resent, from my personal knowledge of the pig buyers of Limerick, any suggestion that they were wilfully dishonest in their dealings with their clients during all the years that I have known them.
Hear, hear. They supported the old Irish Party. They supported everything national when Deputy Gibbons was pulling down the country.
Why this unseemly interruption? The bacon curers, on the other hand, it has been alleged, have been stooping to all kinds of sharp practices behind the backs of the producers, by giving false and fictitious weights for the pigs, by giving them a false grading and reducing the prices paid to producers in that way. All this discussion, in my opinion, is the very greatest deterrent that could be utilised against increased pig production. The original Act was intended to improve our pig population. Under the old method which existed, we have had it on the authority of the pig curers and pig buyers, there was not sufficient enthusiasm amongst producers and there was no continuity of steady prices to induce them to maintain production. When there was a slump in prices, there was a falling off in pig production. Sows were killed off and the bonhams were not reared, with the result that when prices increased you had no pigs to meet the demand. I think it was to meet a situation of that kind that the Act of 1935 was introduced. Since then some deficiencies or defects have evidently been discovered in that Act which necessitated this amending Bill. I am not quite conversant with these defects, as I had not the advantage of hearing the Minister's opening statement, but these defects must have been of a rather grave character when they rendered this Bill so speedily necessary. One of these defects apparently affects minor curers.
Deputy Gibbons has dealt with the point that if any of these curers go out of operation the factory should be reopened in the same locality where they had been operating. As I understand the matter, if a curer is capable of dealing with a production of 2,000 cwts. in the year, there is no reason why he should be driven out of production by any of the provisions of this Bill. I do not know that there is anything, either in the parent Act or in this Bill, which would result in his being driven out of business if he is capable of dealing with minimum requirements in that way. If for some reason a curer has to go out of business and is compensated, if he has failed or has proved himself incapable of fulfilling minimum requirements in a particular locality, and if it seems desirable in the interests of pig production generally that his factory should be closed, I see grave difficulties in the way of adopting the suggestion which Deputy Gibbons has put forward. I do not know that you could get somebody in that locality to carry on the factory if it is incapable of coming up to the minimum requirements and the producers' pigs must be sold somewhere. I, as I say, have not had the advantage of hearing the Minister's opening statement, but I hope to hear the provisions of the Bill explained in more detail on the Committee Stage. Meanwhile I would appeal to members of the House on both sides that they should try to get away from vilifying anybody concerned in this trade. I do not want to glorify them either, but I think it is bad for the trade generally and it is not likely to inspire confidence amongst producers if Deputies here spend the best part of their time in stating that pig buyers and bacon curers have been dishonest in their dealings with producers.
There are a few points that as an outsider, and at the same time as a Deputy representing a county interested in pig production, I should like to put before the Minister, covering some of the views I have heard expressed in the course of the last 12 or 18 months. As regards the suggestion made by Deputy Gibbons, I gathered from the opening statement of the Minister that one of the attractions, from the strictly economic point of view, is that the larger the firm is and the more pigs it handles, the more economically the work can be done. If that is one of the purposes—and I take it it is; otherwise I cannot understand the Minister's referring to the matter in his opening statement—I do not see how Deputy Gibbons' suggestion fits in with the purpose of the Minister. I think, undoubtedly, although there is no provision in this particular Bill for driving certain people, namely, the minor curers out of the trade, one of the things envisaged in the Bill will have that result.
I am asking everybody why?
That is exactly like some of the arguments we heard last night from the President, that he was not doing certain things, but that he made certain things possible.
Would the Deputy like me to argue it?
The Minister had many questions put to him and he answered some of them. There were some questions, however, very deliberately put, in regard to which the Minister preserved an extraordinarily stony silence.
What were they?
There was first of all a refusal on his part to guarantee a quota.
It is guaranteed.
Then the Minister said that the licence is guaranteed.
So it is.
The next point was whether the Minister had any information about the profits made by the curers in this particular instance.
Nothing but the ordinary information.
Do I understand that the Minister knows nothing about their profits?
That is being inquired into by another body.
And the Minister refuses to answer the question?
I have answered it. I have only the ordinary information.
Will the Minister give us any particulars——
I would have to go back on the papers to get it.
Will the Minister give us some indication of the profits made at the present moment? A number of people are interested.
And I told the Deputy that I have no such information.
And you have not tried to get it?
No, because the Prices Tribunal are inquiring into it.
You can give no indication as to the profits that are being made?
That was a point the Minister deliberately refrained from answering. I say "deliberately" because of the attitude he adopted, looking up at the pictures on the wall, the best possible imitation of a sphinx that has ever been given in this House. Now I understand that he has not the information. I move to report progress.