On the Fifth Stage, I do not want to repeat the arguments that were put forward on the Second Stage. In my view, this is the wrong way to do the job and I feel sure that eventually the Minister will be forced to my way of doing the job. In the meantime, however, the Minister and I, and all of us, have a common interest, and that is to increase the output of eggs. The maize-meal mixture scheme, of course, is a long-forgotten issue and we may take it that it is over between us. The only question now is when that scheme is to be wound up. Apart from that, I do seriously put it to the Minister that, if we are going to make a drive to get the people back into egg production in the coming year, which I think is a matter of considerable consequence, it would materially help if the price of maize meal came down on the 1st of the New Year. If we want to get people back into egg production next year we shall have to increase the production of fowl, and the only way to increase the number of egg-laying fowl next year is to persuade the people to set eggs in February. If they do not set them until April, the hens will not lay next year; they will not lay till the following year.
Now, a lot of people may say to themselves that the setting of eggs under hens does not matter very much. That is quite wrong. I think that people will find that all this business of battery brooders and intensive chicken production which has been going on in England for so long is going to be discarded as unsound and as very injurious, in the long run, to the egg production business. I believe that, as a permanent, normal practice, in the egg and fowl industry in this country, we should base the production of chickens and fowl on the hatching hen and on the small hatching unit in the individual farmer's house, and that we should discourage, if possible, the British mass production methods because they reduce stamina, promote disease, and create ultimately a far greater problem than the problem of scarcity with which we have to contend. However, that is a matter which, I think, might possibly arise more opportunely on the Agricultural Estimate. The only point I want to tackle now, is the immediate problem, and that problem is to increase the output at once. To do that, we have to have publicity and put up an attractive proposition, and the most attractive proposition you can put up now is that eggs will pay. Now, there has been the deuce of a lot of talk going on about "Wheat Will Pay," which, I think, will rather injure that slogan. A lot of people who accepted that slogan at its face value have been bitterly disillusioned. However, I think we may assume that very few of the people who grow wheat are the kind of people who are going to be induced to grow chickens and go in for egg production, because that ought to be primarily the purpose of the congested areas. Therefore, I would ask the Minister now to launch an intensive publicity campaign to persuade the people to get back into fowl, and I believe it would have really valuable results if the cost of feeding were reduced.
I am going to say now something that, at first glance, would appear to be a direct contradiction of what I have said already. There are two aspects of this, or two separate problems. One is what I might call the long-term problem, and the other is the short-term problem. Taking the long-term view, I am altogether opposed to mass production, but from the point of view of the short-term problem—that is, the business of getting back into the industry at once— I think the Minister should investigate the possibility of supplementing the number of hens of the farmers' wives who set in February by a large number of day-old chicks for February and March—only for this year. If that were done we should get back a substantial measure of production next autumn, and once we get back into the business, as we all know, it is very easy to expand the fowl population very rapidly.
I, therefore, ask the Minister to wind up the maize-meal mixture scheme as on the 1st January, tell the people that feeding stuffs will be back as cheap as ever they were, or as ever they can be, tell them that on the 1st January the Department are prepared to receive applications from anybody who wants to get back into the egg-production business, and that, in so far as they can, they will supply day-old chicks which will lay eggs this autumn and that they will encourage all and sundry to set eggs at the earliest possible moment, and produce the maximum number of fowl in the certain knowledge that if anything pays eggs will pay to export; lastly, that the Minister should apply at once to the Department of Finance for authority to extend the Gaeltacht scheme of loans for hen houses to all farmers in the country who wish to avail of it. It is not an uneconomic scheme. It is a scheme that will pay for itself. The people borrow the money, erect the hen houses and pay the money back. It is merely the provision of credit. I urge very strongly on the Minister to press forward with that scheme at once. I gathered from him that he himself approved of such a scheme, and thought that perhaps he had power to put it into operation. Well, if he has, the people do not know about it, and he should give it the widest possible publicity. If he will do those things we will at least get back into egg production. Then, when we have the eggs, and see the impact of this Act, as it then will be upon the eggs we have for sale in the British market, we can at leisure make up our minds whether the system I advocated for the control of the egg business or the system enshrined in the Bill is the better to secure the largest return for the producers of eggs in this country.