I wonder if Deputy Dillon has authority to withdraw those amendments? I think we could discuss this matter very much better on Deputy Dillon's amendment No. 9.
Pigs and Bacon Bill, 1937—Committee (Resumed).
Am I correct in saying that the Minister is in fact going some way to meet that?
I intend to discuss it on amendment No. 9.
If this suits the Minister and receives the approval of the Chair I am prepared to say that we can discuss amendments Nos. 4, 5, 6 and 9 together.
I would suggest that the Deputy would withdraw amendments Nos. 4, 5 and 6, and if he is not satisfied with my suggestion on amendment No. 9 they can be brought back on the Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 7:—
In sub-section (3) (b), page 8, line 49, to insert before the word "by" the words "on sale".
This is just a drafting amendment for the purpose of clarification.
I move amendment No. 8:—
In sub-section (4) (b), page 9, line 8, to delete the words "before the commencement" and substitute the words "not later than the second day".
This amendment is practically consequential to amendment No. 3, where we allow the Bacon Marketing Board to make a production quota on the last day of the period. They could not be expected to notify the curers until the second day of the next period.
I move amendment No. 9:—
At the end of the section to add two new sub-sections as follows:—
(6) The Minister shall by regulation fix a minimum amount at or above which every production quota given by the Bacon Marketing Board to a licensee must be fixed.
(7) Every such order shall lie upon the Table of the Dáil and unless revoked by resolution of Dáil Eireann within 21 sitting days of its being laid upon the Table of the House shall have effect.
I intended to associate this amendment with another amendment on the Order Paper, No. 32, but No. 32 has been determined by the Ceann Comhairle as likely to impose a charge and, I understand, some difficulty would arise as to whether it was in order or not. I have apprehended in connection with this legislation that we are drifting straight towards the elimination of the minor curer, and subsequently, under another section of the Bill, to extensive amalgamation between the major curers, with the ultimate result that two or three large bacon firms will control the entire bacon producing business in this country. To prevent monopoly is an extremely difficult thing. If you want to preserve the capitalistic system, founded on individual enterprise, you must leave firms the utmost liberty to run their own business in their own way, to make the best profits, and to allow competition to control their activities. If, in the enjoyment of these facilities, firms deliberately begin to seek monopoly, the State very quickly finds that it either has to make so many regulations to control the potential monopoly, that the regulations amount in fact to nationalisation, or else stand up and watch the monopoly developing.
I detest monopoly so much that I would prefer socialisation of the industry rather than allow monopoly to remain in the hands of individuals. I detest socialisation, because I think socialism is an incompetent and futile way of running any business, and is calculated to depress any enterprise into the slough of inefficiency and second best. If there is going to be monopoly, in my opinion, the State is bound to step in and say: "We do not want monopoly. We begged you not to form a monopoly, but now that you have done it, that monopoly will be operated for the people and by the people in the best way they can. It will not be used for the purpose of plundering the producer and the consumer for the profit of the monopoly owner." We will then have to get along as best we can with the comparatively inefficient instrument of socialisation as a unit to carry on the bacon industry.
I proposed in amendment No. 32, which has been ruled out of order, to fix the curers of this country with notice that if they succeed, despite the express will of the people, in effecting a monopoly, the State will step in and say: "Without regard to the intrinsic value of the property of the monopoly, we are going to acquire it for the comparatively nominal sum of £100,000." That amendment is out of order, but, nevertheless, it served this useful purpose, that it does fix any person in this State, who thinks he may with impunity establish a monopoly, whether the people want monopoly or not, with full and fair notice, that if he continues in that course, and attempts hereafter to exploit the producer and the consumer, the State will deal with him, not as an enterprising business man, but as a public enemy, who has sought, as a result of his own cupidity, to render unworkable the system of private enterprise in the State.
It has to be borne in mind that tariffs beget monopoly. If there were no tariffs a monopolist would derive very little benefit from his monopoly, because when he did effect a monopoly here, foreign produce would come in to rob him of the profits of the monopoly if he tried to exploit consumers by forcing up prices. If you have a high tariff wall the perils of monopoly become greater, because when the monopoly begins to force up prices foreign competition cannot get in as the tariff wall that has to be crossed is high enough to keep out any foreign stuff. Therefore, with a view, in the first place, to placing every obstacle that he can put in the way of potential monopolies, I ask the Minister to notify all the minor curers, who are about to become small curers under this Bill, that they will be guaranteed the minimum production quota, even when under the general scheme their quota would fall below the minimum figure which he determines.
The facts are extremely complicated, and it is very difficult to explain them to the House. The Principal Act provides that we should first fill the quota we got on the British market, that we should subtract from the visible supplies of pigs the amount of bacon pigs and bacon we exported under the British quota, and that the remaining pigs would constitute home production. Having ascertained the home production quota, that had to be sub-divided amongst the various manufacturers producing bacon. Those manufacturers fall into two categories, those who exported part of their production, and sold part at home, and the manufacturers who enjoyed trade on the home market. Small men, producing only small quantities of bacon, naturally did not go on the foreign market, because they had very little bacon to offer for sale, and it would not pay them to hire agents in foreign markets to dispose of whatever little quantity of bacon they had left after supplying local demands. Having ascertained the British quota, and the home production quota, our Government very properly went to the British Government and asked them to increase the British quota, and there was an increase of 5 per cent. Subsequently they asked for and got an increase to 7½ per cent. Is that correct?
Not this year. We got 10 per cent. last year and 5 per cent. this year.
That meant that we had to send 15 per cent. more bacon and pigs there. It was an excellent thing in a market that was so contemptible and that was gone for ever. Fortunately the Minister for Agriculture did not swallow that particular bit of "codology," and very properly and very prudently he got from the British an increase in their quota. That meant, if the total number of pigs in Saorstát Eireann approximated to the same figure, our exports of 15 per cent. more pigs to Great Britain reduced our total home production quota by that number of pigs, always assuming that the pig population remains at a level figure. When you reduce the home production quota by that number of pigs, that reduction had to be spread pari passu over all bacon curers. The man who was purchasing a large number of pigs could afford to lose that 15 per cent. and still have enough pigs passing through his factory to leave it economic, but the man only purchasing say, 100 pigs a week, when you took his proportion off his production quota, might drop down to having only 80 pigs. To operate his plant on the basis of only 80 pigs per week made what was an economic unit, an uneconomic unit. It is partially to meet the case of a man in that position that this amendment is put down.
Remember that the big curers control the board. The big curers control the production quotas and the export quotas, virtually, because they can press on the Minister to get a larger export quota if it is necessary. The big curers can so rig the situation that they would cut the minor curer down to so low a figure of production that the minor curer, or the small curer, as he will be after the passage of this Bill, would find that his plant had been made wholly uneconomic. That is one method by which the major curer can strike at the minor curer. In addition to having that method at his disposal, he also will be able to use that threat against the small or the minor curer. If he was seeking to swallow him up, he can always hold over his head the threat: "If you do not take my price, if you do not sell out to me, if you do not check in your licence to the Bacon Marketing Board, the day may soon come when your share of the home production quota will fall so low that you will have to close your little factory, because you will not be able to get enough pigs to keep it open."
What I want to do is to say to all these small curers: We will give you 100 pigs per week, because we think that is about the lowest figure that will keep a good little factory going that can afford to give good employment, that can afford to put in proper equipment and keep the business in proper trim. If the exigencies for any quota period call for a reduction in your production quota, say, to 80 pigs, you will get 100 pigs. If you are a man who was in the habit of doing 150 pigs, and the exigencies of the situation calls for a reduction of your quota to 130 pigs, you will get only 130 pigs. But if the exigencies of the situation should ever operate to reduce you below 100, then you will get ex gratia an allocation of so many pigs as will bring your production quota up to 100. Therefore you can go ahead now in the certainty that in every production week you will get 100 pigs at least, and if the pig population rises and the market for bacon develops you will increase pari passu with the other licensed curers in Saorstát Eireann.
I am glad to learn that in the course of the last few days, so far as certain smaller curers are concerned, the Minister has met them in this regard. I ask him now to extend the guarantee that he has given these small curers to the rest of the minor curers who graduate into the class of small curers under this Bill. If such a guarantee is given, then I think that a great deal of the anxiety which was felt when this Bill was first introduced will be allayed, because not only will these small curers enjoy an assurance of adequate weekly supplies, but they will also know from the Minister's guarantee to them that they will enjoy his protection hereafter in the event of any attempt being made to swallow them up by the larger curers, and I do not think they can be under any doubt as to where this Party stands if, at any time, we should be made responsible for their future welfare.
I should like to support Mr. Dillon in his plea for special protection for the minor curers and the small licensees. Deputy Dillon has not, however, been quite fair in his description of the problem. When he represents the minor curer as being absolutely at the mercy of the larger curer, he is overlooking the fact that the objection of even one member of the Bacon Marketing Board puts the whole situation in the hands of the Chairman of the Board, who is entirely independent of any interest, big or small. Under the original Bill it is provided that, if there is not absolute unanimity on the Bacon Marketing Board, then the Chairman of the Board comes to his own decision. I do not know why Deputy Dillon thinks that provision so contemptible that he leaves it out of his description. He makes it appear that on the Bacon Marketing Board the small curer is absolutely at the mercy of the big man.
There is obviously going to be a rather serious situation for certain minor curers as soon as they come under the Bacon Marketing Board. Several of them have increased their plant and, rather blindly in a way, have provided equipment for much more extensive manufacture than should have seemed likely to come their way. If he had studied the provisions of the principal Act, it should have been plain, of course, to any minor curer that when he became a licensee he would be subject to quotas and that his quota would have to be a very limited one—would have to be the very minimum if injustice were not to be done to those who were licensees from the start.
But, whether from indifference, or because certain minor curers did not foresee the full consequences, or from some other cause, several of them have, with an enterprise that would ordinarily be very laudable and very commendable, equipped themselves for the production of a much greater quantity of bacon than they were likely to get if the Minister were not prepared to deal with them on some such lines as Deputy Dillon suggested. At the moment, undoubtedly there is a good deal of anxiety amongst them on that question, and whether the problem would be best met in the manner in which Deputy Dillon suggests, I would not like to venture an opinion.
At all events, I appeal to the Minister to make some concession, because these men are of very great use to their localities from every point of view— from the point of view of employment, from the point of view of their service to the farmers of their district; and also from the point of view of maintaining independent, decentralised industries. I am sure everyone would regret if, by any chance, even one of them were to be eliminated from the business. I hope the Minister will see his way to make some concession on the basis of a minimum supply of pigs. What the quantity should be is, of course, a matter for himself and those with whom he is negotiating; but, at all events, some such concession should be given.
I wish to support Deputy Dillon's plea to the Minister. I am not aware of the agreement which has been made with the minor curers, but I am interested in connection with the employment of a number of men in Hacketstown, County Carlow, where a minor curer has developed a big trade and is killing over 250 pigs at the present time and giving employment to over 25 men. I understand the minor curers have no representation on the Bacon Marketing Board and, therefore, are at the mercy of the other curers. I should like to get an assurance from the Minister that, whatever arrangement is come to, this minor factory in Hacketstown will receive a quota for not less than are being killed there at the present time, because there is practically no other employment given in that particular area. This curer gives a much higher price for pigs than some of the other curers, such as Messrs. Denny, who have a fixed price. This man pays a higher price to the farmers in the area for their pigs and has sunk a large amount of capital in the development of the factory.
It would be a great loss to the labourers employed in a rural district if any Act were passed interfering with these minor curers. I appeal to the Minister to make arrangements so that these little industries will not be in any way interfered with. I know of one minor curer who kills up to 250 pigs a week and the Minister knows him too. I trust that any arrangements made will not worsen his position. That man is operating in a scattered area and any reduction in his business would mean a loss in employment to the working people in that area as well as a loss to the surrounding farmers. I hope that this man, and curers who are in the same position as he is, will be given security under this Bill when it passes.
I urge the acceptance of the principle of this amendment on the Minister. The case has been pretty well presented by Deputy Dillon and there seems to be unanimity amongst all Parties in the House on the question of protection for the small curer. When this Bill was before the House recently much was said on the importance of preserving the minor curer in the different areas where he operates. These afford a convenient and a very satisfactory market to the local pig producers. Another advantage is that local traders are supplied with bacon for sale over the counter at reasonably low prices and there is a custom by which offals are sold at very reasonable prices too. In my county there are two licensed curers. Their present quota is about 80 pigs a week but until very recently they were killing 100 pigs. I am aware they are down now to slightly half that figure and they are threatened with a still further reduction if some concession is not given to them under this Bill. With regard to the minor curers, there is one in my constituency. From what the Minister has stated in reply to Deputy Dillon, there is a likelihood that the small curers will, on the Report Stage of this Bill, have their positions safeguarded. I assume as a corollary to that, that the minor curers will continue to operate without any restrictions. They will have 12 months in which to qualify for a licence and when they are duly licensed, they will have the same protection as the existing licensed curers will have when this Bill passes through the House. For these reasons I am supporting the case made by Deputies Dillon, Moore and Everett on behalf of the small curers.
I wish also to support the amendment. The case has been well put for the small curers. I would not stand for anything that would in any way prejudice the position of the small curers or that would in any way affect their interests. I would not like in any Bill to see any section that would make for interference with their livelihood. These small curers give a good deal of employment and they afford the local farmers a convenient market. It is clear from what has been said by Deputies on all sides of the House that the country is in favour of helping these curers in every possible way. I am sure all Deputies here are against anything that would interfere with their business.
I want to preface my remarks on this amendment by repeating that there was no reason why any minor curer should have felt any anxiety as to the result of the operations of this Bill. This Bill does not alter their position in any respect except to provide them with compensation if they wish to go out of business and only if they wish to go out. I would like to say this—I agree with what Deputies have said about the small curer fulfilling a useful function in many ways. It will not make so much difference to the farmers whether the small curers are there or not, but it will always make a great difference to the consumers who live in the vicinity. In the first place they are able to purchase offals at a reduced rate. I have just one word to say with regard to the export quota. Deputy Dillon has spoken on this matter. I would not like that we would ask for a smaller quota. The quota we asked for was on the assumption that we would have an increase of 5 per cent. or 10 per cent.
As a matter of fact, you did not get that.
We were probably wrong in our assumption. It is easier to make this thing clear by dealing first with the small licensed curers. When I went into the case I asked for the figures of 1934. That was before the Pigs and Bacon Bill was being discussed in any way. I got from the Revenue Commissioners the information I asked for, and I found that amongst five small curers there were a great many months throughout the year, in the case of each one of the five, whose names were indicated, when their actual production was under 200 cwts. per month. That may be due to various causes. Some of the small curers who came to me gave me cases why that was so, and the reasons they gave me were very convincing. I think it would be unfair to stick to the strict letter of the law, as it were, and say to them: "When you had free competition, no restriction whatsoever, you did not, in fact, do more than 200 cwts. per month, and why ask for a guarantee now?" They gave very good reasons why it was not done at the time. The reasons were convincing, and therefore we should try to do something on the lines suggested. It would appear at first sight to be fair on these figures if we were to put into this Bill that no small curer should be asked to go below 200 cwts. per month. In that way we would have brought them up in these five cases to as good a position as they themselves held in 1934 when there was free competition.
Are we dealing now with the small curer and the minor curer as two separate cases?
I am dealing with the five smallest licenced curers. It will be easy to deal with the minor curers afterwards. I said we would have done them justice if we put into this Bill that we would guarantee them at least 200 pigs per month. I am accepting the argument put up by Deputy Dillon, as everybody appears to accept it, that it is much harder on a small man to go down 30 per cent. on his production than it would be in the case of the big man. They cannot lay off part of their staff the same as the big man could. In the case of the small man he would have to lay them all off or none. That is largely true, and, therefore, it is a great hardship on these small men. On the other hand, what would appear to be just on paper is often not the case when you hear all the circumstances stated. I did meet some of the small curers and had talks with them and, as a result, I would be inclined to ask the Dáil to agree to an amendment on the Report Stage that would compel the Bacon Board to allocate at least 300 cwts. of bacon to each curer, whatever the circumstances might be. That would mean, in fact, that during the months of scarcity they would be guaranteed 300 cwts. During the good months, the months of plenty, they would get more. Their output would not be 3,600 cwts. per year, but it would probably come somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 cwts.
Then 3,600 would be the minimum guarantee?
Yes. If we put such an amendment into this Bill the minor curers, when they become qualified on the 1st of April, 1938, would automatically come under the same ruling. If we put that amendment in, then under the Principal Act the minor curer who becomes a licensee must get the same allocation as the smallest licensee. Each minor curer, therefore, automatically comes under the same rule. If we put the amendment in, each licensed curer would get at least 300 cwts. per month. Perhaps he would get a little more. For the present year I think they would all have at least a little more than the 300 cwts. during the autumn and the minor curers would come in for the same allocation as the rest.
Let me now come to the minor curers. We have 18 of them. I do not know if they will all qualify and become licensed curers. It is quite possible some of them will say that they have not the necessary capital to equip factories and become licensed curers, and they may decide to go out. Suppose they were all to come in, I will give you an idea of what would happen. In 1934, before there was any restriction, these 18 minor curers produced 11,800 cwts. of bacon between them. In 1936, when they were unrestricted in the buying of pigs and when the licensed curers were restricted, the figure went to 33,800. They trebled the business between 1934 and 1936.
And you know why.
There are many reasons why. If we apply the rule of 300 cwts., and if they all come in, that will go to at least double. They did three times as much business last year as when there was no restriction, and if we apply the minimum rule to them all we would automatically give them double what they had in 1936. I think that is pretty generous treatment and I do not think they could have any complaint to make against us if we were to provide that for them. I think the small licensed curers would be at least happier than they were with the knowledge that we would guarantee them 300 cwts. per month. I do not say they are satisfied; it is very hard to satisfy everyone; but they are very much happier than they were, and they would be, I think, justly treated we agreed to that amendment. C tainly, the minor curers will have complaint when they get six ti as much in 1938 as they had in when they could do as much as they liked. I suggest that if the Deputy will withdraw his amendment, I could undertake to introduce an amendment on Report to guarantee a minimum of 300 cwts. per month to all licensed curers.
That is to say, that every minor curer who opts to become a licensed small curer will be guaranteed a minimum allocation of 300 cwts. a month? I am prepared to accept that undertaking. It might be well to consider whether the form of my amendment is not better. My amendment allows the Minister to fix the minimum from time to time by Order and lay the Order on the Table of the House. If you incorporate the minimum in the Bill you might want to change it some other time and that would mean an amending Bill, whereas if you take power to fix it by Order, to fix the minimum at a certain figure, it amounts to the same thing and it provides an easier procedure to meet the changes of commerce. However, that is a minor point. As regards the Minister's undertaking, I consider he has now done substantial justice to the minor curers and, so far as I am concerned, I accept it as a reasonable guarantee to the minor curer of security and permanence in the industry.
Does the Deputy seriously suggest that the subject-matter of his amendment is a minor matter? Is it not a matter of maintaining control by the Dáil over the Minister's activities?
No. I am saying to the Minister that he would be wise to take my plan. If he fixes the minimum by Act of Parliament it cannot be changed except by an amending Bill. The Minister might want to raise the minimum hereafter, and if he wants to raise it by just a few pigs he will have to bring in an amending Bill to do so, whereas if he adopts my amendment the procedure will mean merely the laying of an Order on the Table of the House. If Deputy Davin wants to tie up the Minister, then let him support the Minister's method of fixing the minimum. The method the Minister proposes is much more rigid than the way I propose. If you want to tie up the Minister, support the Minister's method of doing it. I see that difficulties might arise but, as I say, I am quite content with my method with the Minister's public undertaking.