Committee on Finance. - Agricultural Produce (Eggs) (No. 2) Bill, 1938—Money Resolution.

I move:—

That it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas of such expenses as are incurred in carrying into execution any Act of the present Session to make further and better provision in relation to the purchase and sale (including export) of eggs by way of trade, whether wholesale or retail, and for the registration and control of persons engaged by way of trade in purchasing, selling, exporting, preserving, or otherwise dealing in eggs and to make provision for divers matters connected with the matters aforesaid.

With regard to the present Eggs Acts the receipts to Appropriations-in-Aid as given in the Estimates this year were £4,500, and the estimated expenditure about £6,900. We believe that under this legislation there will be additional expenditure of roughly £10,000, which will principally be for the payment of the additional inspectorial staff. Additional receipts from fees will amount to about £10,000 in an average year. That will come from a levy of 2d. instead of 1d. on 30 dozen of eggs for export. The new levy will be 2d. for every 30 dozen of eggs either for export or for home sales. There will be an estimated additional receipt in the first year of about £3,000, but that will not be recurring. That will be fees for registration of dealers. The sum total is an additional expenditure of about £6,000.

I question as to whether this money is being well spent for the purpose set out in the Resolution, and I doubt if this House adverts at all to one of the inevitable consequences of the Bill, which the Resolution is designed to provide for. If this money is spent in accordance with the terms of the Bill now before the House, one of the effects is going to be entirely remote from the egg trade altogether because you are going to introduce a virtual revolution into the whole system of rural trading. At present eggs are used very largely as currency in the trade of what we, in rural Ireland, know as the country shop. There the shop is not one in a town or village but one on the roadside or outside the town. In towns and villages business is usually transacted on the ready cash or credit system. In country shops business is very largely conducted by payments made in kind and very frequently these payments are made in eggs. A great many of these country shops employ additional carts, and these carts, going from door to door, offer their merchandise to the farmers' wives. We, who live in the country, know that there is no ready money in the house, but the woman of the house buys what she requires and brings out whatever eggs are on the dresser and pays for her requirements with these eggs. That is the way trade is done. If the lady in Rathmines is entitled to get her groceries delivered to her twice daily, why should not a woman living in any townland in the country enjoy the same amenity, if she is prepared to pay for it? Why should we, by law, forbid the country woman, in effect, having her groceries delivered into her house, and compel her to go two or three miles over a country road to do her marketing in town, if she does not want to do so? Supposing we passed a law here that ladies in Donnybrook and Terenure must foot it to town and bring their requirements from Grafton Street in a basket, there would be a revolution, a revolution led by the wives of Ministers and, on this side, by the wives of people sitting on the Front Opposition Benches, and I would not blame them.

I am submitting that this Bill is going to impose that obligation, in effect, on every country woman. If you do it it is going to be worth £1,000 a year to me. I am a shopkeeper in a country town, and you are going to drive these people into me. You are going to make them deal in my shop. That is true of every shop in every country town. It is going to be an advantage to country towns, but do you think it is an advantage that you are entitled to impose on country people? I do not think it is. If the country shopkeeper is to justify his existence he must afford the country people the services they want. If he is not prepared to give them that service, then he ought to go out of business. If I am not prepared to compete with the services given to the country people by country shopkeepers—and I ask you to bear in mind the difference between the country shopkeeper and the town shopkeeper, in the rural sense of these terms—and to deliver my goods to their doors, if they want them so delivered, then I ought to go out of business. The only justification for the existence of the shopkeeper is that he gives to his customers a service that they otherwise could not get. If you want by the law of this House to force a customer to conduct his business on the terms that shopkeepers want, then the shopkeeper has no reasonable justification for existence. He is not giving service; he is imposing obligations. Is it the will of this House that no country woman can have her goods delivered to her door? If it is, this Bill will do it. I do not think that reasonable. I do not think it the right thing to do without weighing up the merits of the issue. This House should make up its mind as to whether the people are to get the services they now enjoy. I put it to the Minister that the obligation devolves upon him of confirming what I am saying, and I think he will be obliged to confirm it, that the regulations he intends to make are going to put an end, in effect, to the travelling shop. Does the Minister think that a right thing to do in all the circumstances?

It is true that it is going to result in a substantial addition of profits to shopkeepers in country towns. Although I know that many of my friends will disagree with me, on mature reflection I do not believe that it is an advantage to make these additional profits available to shopkeepers, who after all, are employers of labour, and valuable citizens in their own way. Nevertheless, I do not believe the advantage of affording them additional profits outweigh the disadvantage of denying the country woman the same amenities that she had been enjoying, if she is prepared and desires to pay for them. My second reason is that this Bill was designed—I believe, in consultation with egglers, people who deal in eggs as opposed to those who produce eggs—to lift off the dealers' shoulders the responsibilities they ought to carry. I do not think any man in this State, or in any other community, is entitled to a living if he is not prepared to give the community in which he lives some service in exchange. The man who deals in eggs can make a good living out of it, if the trade is not spoiled by Government interference, but if he makes a good living out of it he ought to give the community he serves some return for the living he gets. My submission is that the eggler's function, the thing he is being paid to do, is to sort out the bad eggs from the good eggs, to collect the eggs in a proper condition and sell them on the markets that are available to him. It is his job to see that the eggs come forward for consumption in a proper condition. I know from experience, for I was for years in the egg trade myself, how difficult a job that is to do, but, unless they have that job to do, what are they being paid for? They are the persons who come in contact with the producer and, if they want to give a fair return for the profits they are going to earn, it is their job to see that the eggs they take from the producer and put into consumption are good eggs and eggs presented in a clean and proper condition.

This Act is designed to enable the eggler to take in a woman's basket of eggs, put a docket on top of it and leave them there and, if the inspector does not come in and grab the basket or the container into which he has put them with the woman's name upon them and go out and prosecute the woman, the eggler seems to be substantially free from responsibility. I think that is a mistake. There is a third snag here. I will not deal with that yet because it is a technical matter which will arise later. I submit that a very much better method of achieving the purpose we all have in view, that is, getting the eggs on to the British market in a proper condition, is to suspend very largely the attempt to inspect eggs down the country because the attempt to inspector eggs exhaustively in every registered egg dealer's store and in every producer's home is simply going to multiply inspectors and produce very little results. I, therefore, suggest that, instead of wasting money on inspectors, you should create in every port in the country from which eggs normally pass on their way to Great Britain, a bottle neck through which every egg, no matter what part of the country it came from, would have to pass. I would let the registered dealer send up to that bottle neck, which I would describe as the registered exporter, any eggs he wanted to try and export and, when they got there, I would open his package, I would go through it, and any egg in that package that was not fit for export I would dispose of it and give him nothing for it. He would be paid only for the good eggs which he submitted for export and nothing for the bad ones, nothing for the dirty ones, nothing for the stale ones, and let him go and arrange in his own district not to get dirty eggs, or stale eggs or bad eggs. That is his business and if he is an egg dealer and if he knows his job he ought to be able to provide against that. And he can provide against it. I know because I was in the trade. I handled eggs for years, and I know perfectly well that if the egg dealers of this country are satisfied that you cannot get a bad egg or a dirty egg or a stale egg out of the country and sell it they will stop buying them. There is no other way in which you will stop the export of unsatisfactory eggs, except by making the eggler do his job or by putting an inspector sitting down beside every hen in Ireland.

There is no half-way house between Rome and Babylon. You have got to have an inspector for every hen or the bottle neck at the port, and you are simply wasting money by sending inspectors cruising around the country trying to enforce a code of law as envisaged by this Act. It will not work. But if you set the other scheme on foot, if you make it clear that no eggler is going to get away with a bad egg, you are going to make out of every eggler in this country an inspector on his own and he is going to be a much better inspector than the inspector who works for the Govern ment because the eggler is going to be an inspector who is working for himself and no man works as well for a master as he works for himself. It will be in his own interest. Many of the Deputies in this House will say: "Had not we all this kind of regulation before and still the egglers bought the bad eggs." I want to tell you why—because they thought they could get away with it, and what happened was—there would be five shopkeepers in an area and they would all be looking for custom. A customer would stop the travelling shop of the first shopkeeper and she would give her command whatever it was, and when it came to paying for that order she would tender him a basket of eggs. He would say: "I cannot take these eggs; they are dirty." She would say: "Go on, I never sent for you. It was yourself stopped me." She would give him his parcel back and he would drive away. The next fellow came along and would say to himself: "I never got an order from that woman before." He would stop his car and canvass an order, and, to his amazement, would get the order, although he knew she was a customer of the man in the car that had gone ahead of him, and when she would tender him the same basket of dirty eggs he would say to himself: "If I do not take these I will never get an order from her again," and he would bring them home and wash them. Half of them would be stale eggs, and he would trust to God that out of the forty-two consignments that went down to the ship that day the inspector would not happen to light on his. If he did light on his consignment it was just too bad. He lost a case of eggs or a pound, but he prayed God that he would not light on them, that he would light on some other fellow's, and that, in the rush and bustle of getting the eggs shipped, his consignment would slip through, and seven times out of ten it did. The only way to stop that is to make the eggler consign his eggs to the export agent in Dublin and to tell him: "It does not matter whether you send ten eggs or ten million eggs, every one will be handled and examined and repacked, and every bad egg will be smashed, any trade egg will will be disposed of and you will get nothing for it. We do not give two fiddle-de-dees what you do. We are not interested in your activities down the country. Do what you please, but, if we get a dirty egg, a trade egg or a stale egg, you will not get paid for it, and if you want to sell your groceries and the rest of it for eggs that you are not going to get paid for yourself you will not last long, you will quickly disappear from the trade." That, at first, will have little effect, because they will think of the grand old days when you could slip them through, but then they will begin to discover that if they take a dirty egg or a stale egg it is money thrown away. The country shopkeepers of this country are no fools. They do not throw away sixpence without the hope of getting nine-pence, and they are not going to buy dirty, stale or bad eggs if they know they will not get paid for them. You will make out of every eggler in this country a far more effective inspector and an inspector who is going to every house in the country. You are going to turn these five shopkeepers who go around looking for trade into five inspectors, with this difference, that they are not the kind of inspector who are a plague and persecution to the country woman. They are her neighbours. She does not mind them coming to her house when she is not prepared for a visitor, and, mind you, a lot of Deputies in this House think that is nonsense. It is not nonsense. It is a disagreeable thing for a country woman, who is busy about the house, not suitably attired for visitors, to have strangers dropping in on her. She does not mind neighbours, who know her position. If you send five shopkeepers to that woman's house every morning to look at her eggs and say if they are dirty: "No, ma'am. I cannot take them. They are dirty. You will have to eat them yourself", she will begin to say to herself: "Something will have to be done about this. I will have to get them clean and see that they are fresh." In that way, and in that way only, will you make the eggs of this country what we want them to be.

There are two other difficulties, Sir. One is, and mind you this Bill makes no provision for it, strict prohibition against any registered dealer washing an egg. There is this difficulty, and I see the difficulty in my own plan just as it is in the Minister's plan; that is, if you are too draconian about prohibiting the egg dealer from washing an egg you may get the country women washing them themselves. I can wash an egg and do it very little harm. Many hundreds of eggs have I washed in my day, and may wash them again if the occasion arises, because I know how to do it; but a country woman's idea of washing an egg usually is to get water at a temperature which will melt the dirt, but unfortunately water which is at a temperature to melt the dirt will also boil the egg. You very frequently get a lot of eggs, where a country woman is trying to wash them, half boiled, so that I am not quite sure that we ought to be so severe about the washing of eggs, at least in the early stages, though I admit this difficulty, that if you permit the eggler to wash eggs, it is practically impossible to stop dirty eggs. I mention the difficulty, not for the purpose of condemning the Minister's scheme in that particular case; I am not altogether sure that he is not right; but hear in mind that if a man goes to a country woman's door and she learns by experience that she cannot sell a dirty egg, she washes the eggs. When a man goes later on to the same door and she hands out the basket of eggs it is not easy to recognise a washed egg unless you candle it. You cannot candle every egg on the side of the road. Some eggs you will see are washed without candling them, but you cannot be certain until you do candle them.

The Minister may ask himself how is the registered dealer to know whether an egg is washed or not. If he cannot know, might it not be wiser to reconsider the position in regard to that problem now? Of course, I agree that under this measure there is a provision that the inspector may come in and examine a basket of eggs having on it the indication of whether they came from. In the store they could examine them and candle them, and they would be able to tell whether any individual egg was washed. But I think he would find it hard to satisfy any court that an egg was washed and came from an individual producer if that producer appeared in the court and swore that she never washed an egg. I put it that, if the Minister would consider the plan which I have outlined, we can get somewhere, and after we get that we can deal with the quality of the egg we want produced.

The tragedy of the present position is that we are not producing any eggs at all, that the egg business is practically finished. The worst of it is that it is the thriftiest housekeeper who has gone out of eggs. Here again I am speaking from my own experience. I have known country women, the very best housewives in the country, coming to my window and asking the price of 1 cwt. of meal. When I tell their husbands the price, I have seen those women touching them on the shoulders, saying, "Do not bring it; I will choke them first before I pay that for it." And they did choke them; they went home and choked the hens, boiled them or got rid of them in some way, and they stopped selling eggs because they made up their minds that hens could not be made pay with the cost of feeding stuffs.

We have to bring down the cost of feeding stuffs and, having done that, we have to bring home to the minds of the country women that the price has been reduced and that it is now an economic proposition to feed fowl. The next thing to do is to get those people selling eggs early next year. Personally, I consider the destruction of the fowl population is so awful at present that I would be prepared to get them next year to sell any eggs they can lay hands on. Then in the year to come we can build up the fowl population in the country. The important thing is to get back the trade that we have thrown away to Denmark, and to do that we ought to be prepared to sell any kind of egg. Let us get people back to the habit of dealing with fowl and selling eggs, because they are getting out of that habit.

The money here voted can be effectively used to put the industry back on its feet, first, by virtually abandoning the attempt to inspect egg production from the hen all the way up, and to concentrate attention on the ports and effectively stop every unsatisfactory egg there; and, secondly, to reduce the cost of the industry and bring home to the minds of the people that it is the fixed intention of this House to see that the cost of egg production will never be allowed to rise unduly again. I believe that if we do that we will get somewhere; that if we do not do it, we will get nowhere, that we are going to waste a lot of money under this Bill and achieve nothing.

The Minister knows quite well that the egg exporters to date have done very little to deserve his gratitude. They have achieved very little indeed to help the egg industry or do anything of a co-operative nature in order to improve the attractions of the egg business for the country people. It is an immensely important industry to the whole of rural Ireland and it is one for the revival of which I am in a position to offer the Minister the whole-hearted co-operation of the Opposition in this House.

I desire to remind the House and the Deputy who has just spoken that on the Second Stage of a Bill the House approves of the principle of the measure and that the purpose of the Money Resolution is to make provision for the Bill so approved, and not for such a Bill as a Deputy might desire to substitute. I am sure it was not with the deliberate intention of circumventing the Chair that Deputy Dillon set forth in his speech a scheme which he had submitted in the form of an amendment and which was considered out of order by the Chair as intimated in a note to the Deputy. That scheme is too wide a variation of the principle of the Bill as approved a Second Time. I should, therefore, like the House to realise that the Money Resolution deals with the financial provision for the Bill as already approved in its main terms. The scheme which the Deputy has outlined, even if it were adopted by the Minister, would necessitate the withdrawal of the Bill and its reintroduction in new form.

I apologise if I went outside the rules of order in the observations I made. I understood the Money Resolution was designed to carry into effect the purposes set out in the long title of the Bill and that the subsequent sections were the Minister's idea of how best to do that, and I understood also that those who desired to were entitled to refer to various matters on the Money Resolution. However, whatever is the ruling of the Chair, I accept it.

I have no desire to restrict debate, but the Deputy may be aware that here and in another place the whole question, place of and necessity for a Money Resolution has been discussed. It should certainly not be made an occasion for a Second Reading debate. It seems to me that the Deputy's speech to-day would have been appropriate on the Second Reading.

I am sure I appreciate the latitude granted me by the Chair.

It is quite evident from the speech which I have listened to with very great pleasure, and which has been delivered by Deputy Dillon, that he has benefited to a considerable extent by his recent contact with Commonwealth political friends and that a good deal of the valuable suggestions he has put before the House have emanated from the bag he has brought back from Australia.

Quite untrue.

I congratulate the Deputy, who, on many occasions, censured members of this Party for advocating and supporting socialistic schemes, for coming round so quickly to the Labour Party point of view in regard to propositions of this kind. Having delivered the speech to which I have listened with such pleasure, I daresay the Deputy will not repeat the offence of censuring members of this Party in the future in the same way as he has done with such eloquence in the past. However, the members of this Party have given very careful consideration to the matters mentioned by Deputy Dillon and, on behalf of this Party, we appeal to the Minister to withdraw it and by withdrawing the Bill for the present to consider carefully the proposals put forward by Deputy Dillon, proposals which are deserving of attention from his Department.

I do not want to repeat, and I will not attempt to repeat, in view of what you, Sir, have just decided, the points dealt with, nor will I go over the ground of the scheme outlined by Deputy Dillon. I submit, Sir, that on its merits that scheme is much better than the scheme outlined in the present Bill. I believe, with my limited knowledge of business of this kind, that Deputy Dillon has outlined a scheme that is likely to have greater effect towards increasing the export of eggs to the British market than the Minister's scheme as set forth in the Bill. No doubt the object of the Minister and his advisers is to increase the quantity of egg exports to the British market; to increase the quality of those exports, and in this way to increase the return to the producers. Personally, I am not very much concerned with the egg dealers, because in both schemes they are going to get profits out of the business in some way or another. What I am concerned with is getting better prices for the egg producers. I share the views of my colleagues in this Party in saying that the scheme put before the House by Deputy Dillon is more likely to bring that object about than the scheme set forth in the Bill. I ask the Minister to give his most favourable consideration to the scheme now set forth by Deputy Dillon. The scheme is one that is entitled to consideration.

I think it is a great pity that Deputy Dillon was not here for the Second Reading of this Bill, because if he had been he would have found from my speech, outlining the objects of the Bill, that he had an entirely wrong conception of what this Bill sets out to do. The Deputy spent a considerable amount of time to-day telling us that the Bill would make it impossible for the travelling shop to bring groceries, etc., to the country producer, collect eggs and bring them back again to his own place. There is nothing in the Bill to warrant that view. I am surprised that Deputy Dillon, who has the reputation of being intelligent, and who also has the reputation of being honest, should have that conception of what is in the Bill.

On a point of order, I wish to say that I do not want to get into any quarrel with the Minister. If I am mistaken in anything I said, I am quite prepared to withdraw it if the Minister corrects me. I referred to the provision in the Bill where the Minister has power to make orders as to the conditions under which a person will buy eggs; to protect them from the atmosphere and so forth. The Department and the Minister want to prevent a fellow handling eggs out in the rain and carrying them back in the same car with cheese, etc. That is what is in the minds of the Department.

Well, if I am wrong, correct me.

The Deputy can be assured he is wrong. If he will read Section 2 of the Bill he will see in the definition of the word "acquire" that "acquire" includes purchase and also purchase by barter, etc. Surely I would not put that in if I wanted to do what the Deputy suggests.

The Minister is going to make it impossible for the travelling shop to barter or to purchase eggs by barter.

No, we are not going to do that. We shall make regulations under this Bill, it is true, to see that the eggs are properly protected and that they are brought in by the dealer without being exposed to the weather and so on. But the taking out of groceries and the bringing back of eggs do not arise in this Bill at all.

The second point the Deputy made was that this Bill appeared to be drafted after consultation with the people in the egg trade. I do not think the Deputy can support that statement by quoting any section in the Bill. As a matter of fact, the only consultation I had was with the Consultative Council. That was with regard to what I was going to put into the Bill. Then, when the Bill was printed each member got a copy; the Consultative Council in general approved of the Bill unanimously.

Then I did not libel the Minister if I said he consulted the trade.

I consulted the trade as well. Deputy Dillon said I consulted the trade only.

I do not think I said that.

The Deputy made this point—that the eggs should come from the producer in proper condition. These are the words I used on the Second Reading—to see that they are brought forward in proper condition. And having them in proper condition means that we expect to get a better price for them and so increase profits to the producers. It is not true to say that the collector can take any eggs from the producer and leave them there. There is a section in the Bill which prohibits him doing that. He must deal with them in the time prescribed. That is a new regulation. Up to this what happened was that the collector brought in his eggs and kept them in his place for some time if the market were rising. When the exporter got them he, too, kept them for a little time if the market was rising. Then they were sent to Dublin or elsewhere and they were dealt with there.

The Minister hopes to stop that under this Bill?

He cannot do it under this Bill.

The Deputy is going to stop this by nationalisation. He said it could be done by an exporting agency at every port. He would have Government inspectors inspecting every egg. We would have an inspector there to inspect 300,000 eggs a day.

It does not mean inspecting every egg.

Yes, because every bad egg must go back. How can you do that without this inspection of every egg? The Government will carry on this agency to find a market for the eggs. Well, if that is not nationalisation, what is nationalisation?

What is Denmark doing?

If Denmark is doing that, it is nationalisation. I am not against nationalisation at all. I agree with Deputy Dillon and Deputy Davin in that.

Then, why eat the face off me so?

I will not examine the question of nationalisation now. I say it is quite possible that we would do the business better than the other exporters because where the Government have gone into business they have done business as well as the people in the trade. But we must face those facts. However, that would require a separate Bill. In the meantime while we examine that we ought to go on with the present measure.

Does not my proposal in fact amount to this, that the egglers in the country would be required by law to form a combination and export eggs through an export agency——

Who would manage the agency?

It should be carried on certainly under the supervision of the Minister. I have no hesitation in recommending that.

That is quite right. I do not say at all that the Deputy is wrong in that. I think it may be a very good scheme, but I want everybody to realise that what Deputy Davin says is, to a great extent, true—that is, that it amounts to nationalisation. I am not going to condemn the scheme merely because of that, because I do not think it is any the worse for being called that, but I am coming to the point of washing, which has been referred to. I do not know if the Deputy can wash eggs in a way that could be undetected.

Well, if so, he is one of the very few people who could do that.


However, apart from that, there is the other question. The Deputy objected, in a way, in one of his statements, to the docketing of the producer's eggs—at least, he disparaged that. Now, if we have the docket on, that docket goes along until the eggs are tested, and the person who tests the eggs—whether he be the collector, the wholesaler, or whoever it may be, knows whose eggs they are and, if there has been washing, he knows who is washing the eggs, and he replies back and says: "Do not take any more eggs from these people if they do not stop washing them." Accordingly, there is some reason for, and some advantage in, docketing. I do not exactly say that the person concerned should be prosecuted, but at least there is the advantage that such persons can be told that no more eggs will be taken from them unless they stop that practice.

Of course, the Deputy came back to the old trouble of dear feeding stuffs and so on, and about the decline in production. I made two observations in connection with that, on the Second Reading, which will not fit in with the Deputy's point. The first point I made was that the decline started in 1929, and that it was just as steep from 1929 to 1932 as it has been from 1932 up to the present. The second point I made was that the decline in Britain has been just as bad as it has been here.

What about Denmark?

I do not know about Denmark, but if the Deputy were asked by somebody in Great Britain to explain our decrease in production from 1929 to 1932 or from 1932 onwards, he would have to give some other reason, because the decline there has been just as bad as here. As a matter of fact this year, for the first time since 1932, our production is going up; so that none of these facts will fit in so easily with the point made by the Deputy. As I said on the Second Reading, and as I say again on this Bill, I wish the Deputy were right, because if the Deputy were right in saying that it was due entirely to the maize-meal mixture regulations, then we could help the situation by dropping these regulations.

I wish the Minister would do so.

But that does not explain the decline in Great Britain, for instance, nor does it explain the decline from 1929 to 1932. As I have said, if the Deputy were right, I should be very glad.

Will the Minister undertake to drop the maize-meal mixture scheme right away?

If the Minister would do that, I should be very glad.

The Deputy will go right over to Fianna Fáil, presumably, if the Minister does that.

Oh, we have quite a comfortable majority here. I think I have dealt with most of the points that have been raised. There are some other points that, I think, would arise more appropriately in connection with the sections of the Bill.

Will the Minister undertake to consider the scheme on its merits?


Everything that we propose will be swallowed in 12 months.

I should like to know from the Minister whether we will be in a position, when this Bill is passed, to export eggs under a Government guarantee. I understand that our competitors, the Danes, send their eggs to the British market under Government guarantee, but our eggs have not such a guarantee and, very often, our eggs arrive on the British market in anything but the condition which they are represented to be in. If we are going to compete in the British market against the Danes, we must be in a position to export our eggs under a Government guarantee. The only way to achieve that is the way in which Deputy Dillon suggested the work should be done. Under the present scheme, as I understand it, you cannot export, your eggs under Government guarantee.

We hope to do so, but it is a colossal job.

I think it is the right thing to do. If you handle this very important business in the way suggested by Deputy Dillon, you can export under Government guarantee. I have been told by people who are in the egg business on the other side that every create of Irish eggs is opened and examined, while Danish eggs, side by side with ours on the same market, are sold there without any examination whatever. My informant made it his business to inquire into the reason for this and he found that Danish eggs come in there under Government guarantee and that, therefore, the purchasers were quite satisfied, in purchasing Danish eggs, that the eggs were what they were represented to be. The Danish Government guaranteed their eggs. It is different in our case. When a crate of Irish eggs is opened, the first few layers may be all right, but when you go down further in the crate, the eggs are not so good, and the dirty and stale eggs are down at the bottom. That is what I have been informed, and that is an aspect of the case to which the Minister and his Department should give more attention. If you have not that Government guarantee, no useful purpose will be served by this.

I think the Deputy should realise what Deputy Dillon's scheme means. Leaving aside altogether the question of nationalisation, I should say, on a quick calculation—naturally, I cannot give exact figures—that such a scheme would require about 100 inspectors at each port.

Surely, the Minister does not wish to mislead the House, any more than I wish to mislead it?

Very well. I may inform the Minister that, during the busy time of the year, we do trade-testing in the egg trade. The Minister can ask his own officials about that. I have been working on this job for years, and I have exported millions of eggs. From March to July we do not candle individual eggs; we trade-test them. I know what I am talking about. I have exported millions of eggs under the Minister's supervision, and there is no obligation on me, as an individual, to candle eggs between March and July. When I was exporting eggs, during the peak period of the year we trade-tested the eggs, because eggs were falling in price and everybody wanted to get rid of them before prices fell, but during the slack period of the year we are obliged to test them individually. I know there are difficulties, and I am not minimising them, but do not exaggerate the difficulties. An organisation would be required, but after all it would be only about one-twentieth the size of the organisation that Denmark has in existence. Denmark is sending to the British market about 20 times as much as we are.

Oh, no.

I am not sure of the figures, but I really think so.

No. We are sending more than 5 per cent. of the British import of eggs.

At any rate, Denmark is sending a far larger quantity than we are, and it has a much bigger organisation than we would require to handle the situation. No matter what size the organisation might be, however, if it pays us, would it not be the right thing to have such an organisation?

That might be so. I do not want to misrepresent the Deputy, but my point is that if we were to ensure that every single egg going out should be Government guaranteed— and, by the way, I think that the home market is just as important, if not more important, in that connection—it would mean that we would have to candle every single egg. Otherwise, you could not have security.

During the busy season that would take practically 100 inspectors at every port.

That is a question we could argue about for a month.

It is a mathematical argument, if you like, but there is another argument, and that is the question of whether or not we could get a better price.

That is good.

I think it will be admitted that, if we have an exportable surplus, the price of that exportable surplus is bound to govern the price on the home market. If we are going to beat the Danes at this job, we must be in a position to give the same guarantees as they are giving. Otherwise, we can never beat them. We must go as far as they are going. I would say to the Minister that he ought to examine the position as far as possible, and export eggs under Government guarantee. We are not going to improve otherwise.

What is the comparative cost of the scheme enshrined in the Bill, and has the Minister made any calculation of the cost of the alternative scheme?

I cannot say. I do not know.

If the Deputy wants to beat the Danes, which is a big job, he will have to copy the methods adopted by the Danes.


Resolution agreed to.
Resolution reported and agreed to.