This Bill is very much by reference. Sections 2 and 3 first come up for mention. The experience gained in the administration of the Principal Act of 1935 showed that as far as creamery butter was concerned the Act fulfilled its purpose with little difficulty and at relatively small cost to the State. That part of the Act relating to the imposition and collection of levy on non-creamery butter proved in practice difficult to administer and so costly as to render its continuance undesirable. The collection of levy on non-creamery butter was suspended as from 1st January, 1937. The suspension of levy renders the registration of dealers in non-creamery butter unnecessary. Part II of the Principal Act makes it mandatory on the Minister to keep registers of dealers in non-creamery butter and makes it an offence for persons to carry on business unless registered. Paragraphs (d) and (e) of sub-section (1) of Section 17 of the Principal Act relate to the payment of levy by producers and distributors of non-creamery butter. The purpose of Sections 2 and 3 of the present Bill is to enable the Minister to suspend the operation of these provisions of the Principal Act as and when he considers it desirable. It will be noted that the power of suspension is made retrospective and it is the intention in due course to make suspension effective as from 1st January, 1937. The reason for that is that we have not been pressing these people to keep up registration, seeing there was no other cause for it, apart from the legal obligation under the Principal Act. We had intended to bring in this Bill sooner to do away with the obligation of keeping that register.
On Section 4, the power of the Minister to collect a levy on butter is confined to collecting such, in the case of creamery butter, from the manufacturer, and, in the case of non-creamery butter, from persons registered in the registers of butter factories or of non-manufacturing exporters kept under the Dairy Produce Acts or in the register of dealers in non-creamery butter provided for in Part II of the Principal Act. The latter register has not been kept since January 1937, and will not be kept during the period when Part II of the Act is suspended. The fact that a levy was collectible only from certain specified persons, namely creamery proprietors and registered factory owners, or non-manufacturing exporters and the dealers already referred to, has been a handicap on occasions in regulating the butter trade. Power is, therefore, being sought to recover levies, if and when necessary, in respect of butter which has left the manufacturer's hands in the case of creamery butter, or in the case of non-creamery butter, is in the possession of persons at present beyond reach. The object of the provision is to make speculation in butter unprofitable. For instance, if at any time it were found necessary to prescribe a higher minimum wholesale price for butter—distributors who had large quantities of butter in stock at the time the higher price came into operation would reap a profit to which they were not entitled. By imposing a levy equivalent approximately to the increase in value on the butter in stock when the rise takes place, the distributors would have the same margin of profit as if no increase had been effected.
On Section 5, I want to point out that Section 10 of the Principal Act enabling a registered person to obtain a certificate of registration, was not in practice available. It is proposed, therefore, to repeal it.
The objects of Section 6 are to enable the repayment of levy to persons who purchased cream, on which levy had been paid, and subsequently exported it, or who used the purchased cream for manufacture into butter on which levy was duly paid.
Section 7 gives power to amend a levy order as from a date prior to the making of the Amending Order but only by reducing the rate of levy prescribed in the original Order. For instance, if an Order were made fixing a rate of levy of 6/- from 1st May, we are taking power to make an Order, on say, 1st July, reducing the rate from 1st June, if we find it possible and desirable to do so.
Sections 8, 9 and 10 are designed to simplify procedure on occasions when butter is imported. At present levy has to be prescribed and paid prior to the issue of an import licence. It is impossible as a rule to determine the appropriate levy—i.e., levy at a rate that would producer no gain or loss on subsequent sale in the country—on imported butter accurately in advance; accordingly, it is proposed to take power to amend an import levy Order and to dispense with the necessity for prepayment of levy.
It would on occasions have been convenient in the past to have amended a bounty order so as to enable the payment of a bigger bounty on exports during a specified period. This course was not possible and it is now desired under Section 11 to obtain that power. Hitherto, only the seller of butter at less than the prescribed minimum price has committed an offence. It is desirable that the purchaser should also be made amenable.