I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. This Bill is primarily a permissive Bill to enable county committees of agriculture to requisition the local authority to levy a rate up to 7d. in the £ instead of 4d., as is at present the case, but there is no provision in this Bill placing any mandatory duty on the local authority to adjust its rate up to 7d. in the £. It merely provides permission for a local authority that wishes to raise its rate to raise if now to 7d. if it so desires. There is a further provision in the Bill to permit county committees of agriculture to pay their members' expenses for attending meetings and sub-committee meetings on a basis analogous to that in the Vocational Education Act for the members of vocational education committees of local authorities.
Agriculture (Amendment) Bill, 1948—Second Stage.
How much is that?
The provision that Deputy Corry inquires about provides that, where heretofore a county committee of agriculture was permitted to pay its members only what I think may be described as vouched expenses, they can now fix a mileage rate and pay a member of the county committee 5d. a mile, or whatever rate they fix, for travelling to and from the place of meeting, and that whereas, heretofore, a member of a county committee of agriculture could not receive any subsistence allowance if his attendance at a meeting involved his absence from home throughout the whole day, here-after he will be entitled to recover a subsistence allowance where the local authority elects to provide it within the same limitations as control a subsistence allowance made for members of vocational education committees.
In every case, the rates provided by the county committee must be approved by the Minister. That applies also to any rates of compensation for travelling which are proposed where a member is elected to a meeting of a sub-committee of the county committee and is required to travel to the meeting of that sub-committee as distinguished from a meeting of the committee as a whole. Deputies should remember that the provision made for vocational education committees is that travelling expenses can only be paid to a member who lives more than five statute miles from the place of meeting, and that a subsistence allowance can only be provided for where the member's absence from home is greater than three hours. The rules applicable to vocational education committees provide that if the absence be from three to seven hours, 4/6 may be allowed, and if the absence is more than seven hours from home, up to 7/- may be allowed.
There is another provision in this Bill to which the attention of the House should be specially directed. It is contained in Section 4, a section designed to remove doubts which might arise in the interpretation of an earlier Act. Under the original Act, it was intended to include, under some new provisions, all the officers of an agricultural committee. Some doubts subsequently arose as to whether certain categories of officers were clearly made subject to the new general proviso. Whatever doubt may have arisen in that connection is finally laid by Section 4 of this Bill which is intended to be and is, in fact, no more than a declaratory section. I say that in order to reassure Deputies that it is not intended by Section 4 of this Bill to create any new situation, but, in fact, to make sure that the situation which it was intended to create under the original Act has, in effect, been created beyond all doubt, and that those who are guaranteed rights under the original Act, even if there had been a flaw in it, will now be retrospectively confirmed in those rights, and that where there had been duties or liabilities imposed on them, that similarly, retrospectively, they will be deemed to have been effectively imposed by the original Act. I do not think that there is anything I can profitably add to what I have said, at this stage. I need hardly say that if there are any matters on which Deputies want further information I shall be very happy to provide it.
Can the Minister give some more information, while he is speaking, as to the necessity that has arisen for an increase in the present agricultural rate from 4d. to 7d.
The Deputy wants that by way of a question with a view to debating?
Provision is made in the Bill to allow the county council to increase the rate. How has the necessity arisen or on what is it proposed to spend this money? Can the Minister give us some information on that? It will help us in the debate.
Perhaps I did not make it clear that the Bill is a purely permissive one.
I know that.
Representations have reached us from several county committees of agriculture that the revenue made available to them by the local authorities is insufficient and that the local authorities desire to make a fuller provision but are restrained from doing so by the existing limitation of 4d. Now it is for the local authority to decide for itself whether it wishes to avail of the additional power provided under this Bill. I think there are districts where the number of poultry instructors and agricultural instructors may be insufficient but, where the county committee of agriculture believes that it would be a profitable and a prudent thing to strengthen these services in their area, that is a thing for them to decide. I am quite prepared to recommend to the House that, in the financing of the county agriculture committees of the country, local authorities are not asking for any extravagant discretion if they are asking for permission, where necessary, to raise the rate to 7d. as their contribution to the functions of the county committee of agriculture of their area. I am not making the case here—I do not think it is any part of my duty to do so—that the local authority should levy any particular figure but I am making the case that the local authority, when considering appropriate provision for the county committee of agriculture, should have discretion to raise a rate not in excess of 7d.
I asked the question of the Minister because we want some more information. He has very cleverly evaded telling us how the position has arisen in which local authorities—in this case the county committee of agriculture—need a higher rate.
With the general provisions of this Bill I am sure that we on this side of the House will have no objection. The provision in regard to the travelling expenses of members is long overdue. It has been awaiting legislation for about two years because it was promised to bring that point into step with vocational education committees and county councils.
Members of county committees of agriculture have a fairly shrewd idea, and in fact they have very full knowledge, of the reason why it is necessary to increase the rate. Within the past 12 months, owing to the scheme for the increase in poultry and egg production in this country, the work of the county committees of agriculture has been greatly increased, with the result that it is necessary to increase their staffs in order to carry out the scheme. We were told, when the scheme was being introduced, that all the expense would be met by the Department of Agriculture out of a special fund. The county committees of agriculture now find that their ordinary staffs of poultry instructresses are working double time looking after hatcheries and supply farms in order to promote this scheme. I would point out that, as a result, the private small poultry keeper, the ordinary farmer and the workers' wives in the different counties have a big grievance. They are not getting any service at the present time. This is a very important matter and I want the Minister to give special consideration to it. The only way county committees of agriculture can provide the normal service they were accustomed to give to those who live in a particular county or half county, or whatever the area may be, is by doubling their existing staffs.
You do not do that on the county council.
Allow me to continue, please. That is the reason why it is necessary for the Minister to make provision to allow local authorities to increase the rate. They must increase the rate if the county committees of agriculture are to give the service in the future that they gave in the past. That is only one of the reasons. I want the Minister to give very special attention to the second reason. For the past six months the ordinary staffs of the county committees of agriculture have been fully engaged at supply farms and hatcheries, with the result that they could not give any service to the ordinary members of the community. I want to stress that because, with my intimate knowledge of the whole matter, I know it to be true.
A short time after the Minister took office, when he was young and green, he told the House and the country, with a flourish of trumpets, that he was proposing to have a soil survey of every acre of land in this country carried out. That is a very desirable thing and it is something to which none of us has any objection. We were also told that the Department of Agriculture of this State would make provision for the carrying out of that soil survey. Is that being done? The position now is that, when a soil survey is requested, the appropriate county committee of agriculture must provide the officer to do so. Every county committee of agriculture has, according to the size of the county, two, three or four agricultural instructors. If any farmer needs to have a thorough survey of the soil of his farm carried out the only person to whom he can turn is an officer of his county committee of agriculture. The result has been, I am glad to say, a generally increasing demand from farmers to have a general soil survey of their farms.
The only officers to whom they can turn are the officers of the county committees of agriculture. These agricultural instructors have given good service in regard to live stock and thousands of other matters of interest to the agricultural community. If there is to be a soil survey carried out these instructors will not be available for the duties they have performed up to this. I want to stress that to the Minister. Even if the present staffs were increased by 100 per cent. in order to carry out a soil survey the work could not be done in less than 15 years. With the best goodwill in the world and the best possible staff the work could not be done in less than that time. I think it is very unfair to the farmers that the agricultural instructors should be taken away from the work they are doing at the moment of giving lectures and holding classes and demonstrations, advising upon live stock and the hundred and one other functions they are called on to perform. Soil survey is not work on which these instructors should be engaged. The Minister has a staff at his disposal for such work. He has a number of the officers who were engaged during the emergency in the enforcement of the tillage regulations. Some of those are engaged at the moment on taking a survey to see what crops the farmers may grow in the next emergency. To my mind that is ridiculous.
It is purely a matter for the Minister.
We will discuss it on another occasion. I shall have something strong to say about it then. The Minister has the machinery at his disposal. The staff employed on the farm improvements scheme have been idle for many months of this year because no schemes were sanctioned. With training they should be competent to take a soil survey. In most counties there are only two agricultural instructors. There are at least eight to ten of the others. Instead of asking the farmers to bear the additional burden of providing more staff for the purpose of a soil survey, which the Minister promised to have done at State expense, it is the Minister's duty to provide the staff. The Minister is taking advantage of the fact that it was necessary to introduce a short Bill in order to permit the committees to pay the same travelling expenses as the county councils to insert this particular provision thereunder. He did that for the purpose of relieving the Exchequer of its liability.
What was in your Bill two years ago.
Nothing, except a blank sheet of paper.
Giving £5 a ton for potatoes like you got the other day.
Deputy Davin occasionally lets the cat out of the bag when agricultural matters are raised in this House. Quite recently on a vote of no confidence he made a most blackguardly speech as a member of a Government Party.
Is blackguardly in order?
I would say a blackguardly speech would not be a very orderly one and the Deputy should not be accused of making it.
It was very vigorous.
The Deputy will be very vigorous now on this measure.
17/- a barrel for oats.
If Deputy Davin does not interrupt I shall not make any reference to him. If he continues to interrupt me he will have very red cheeks before I finish with him.
I accept the word vigorous.
And I am keeping to the other one whether he likes it or not.
The Deputy will keep to the Bill.
I admit there is nothing compulsory in this Bill. At the present moment in the country the poultry instructors are required by the Department to organise supply farms and hatcheries. No service whatever is being given to the ordinary poultry keepers. I know that is the case from my own experience. If this work has to be carried out by the county committees the staffs will have to be increased. But I hold that this work is outside the jurisdiction of the county committees. The imposition of this work will entail an increase in the rates. I do not object to the increase in rates but I do object to the cost being placed on the already overburdened farmers. This is work which should normally be paid for by the Exchequer. This is another experiment of the Minister for Finance to reduce taxation while putting a bigger burden on the farmers. I am surprised at the Minister for Agriculture agreeing to this.
Is not your own committee on strike?
You stay quiet.
You are on strike for more travelling allowances.
We will put Deputy O'Leary on the soil survey.
Put him on grass.
The Minister for Agriculture, instead of seeing to it that sufficient funds were provided to carry out the soil survey and to organise the poultry industry, is trying under this Bill to saddle the already overburdened farmers with additional taxation in order to have these two functions of the Department of Agriculture carried out. That is what the Bill is for and what the increase in the rate provided for in this Bill will be spent on.
As I understand it, the purpose of this Bill is to provide additional finances for committees of agriculture. I did not quite follow the point raised by Deputy Allen, but I do know that a number of committees of agriculture have reached the limit of their revenue-raising powers and will be unable to continue their existing activities unless provided with additional power to requisition money from the county councils. In this connection, there is a big anomaly, inasmuch as county councils are restricted by statute to a limited rate in the £ for agricultural purposes, whereas for all other purposes the sky is the limit.
The farming community contributes the greater portion of the rate, and it is rather surprising that the county councils should be restricted in their power of finance for the purpose of assisting the industry upon which they mainly depend, while there is no restriction upon them for other purposes. If an agriculturally-minded county council, with an agriculturally-minded committee of agriculture, decided to spend money fairly lavishly on the development of agriculture, they would find themselves definitely outside the law. But, if an extravagant county council wishes to spend unlimited sums upon roads or the creation of palatial urban centres or amenities, there is no restriction upon them. That is just one of the many anomalies which exist in our present set-up.
In addition to providing the county councils with additional power to raise money for committees of agriculture, the Bill provides that members of committees of agriculture shall have additional travelling and subsistence allowances. Before we decide to give this Bill a Second Reading, we ought to examine our individual and collective consciences as to whether this expenditure is providing any useful result or not. These committees of agriculture have been functioning for 50 years. It is over 50 years since the late Mr. Tim Healy declared this country was provided with enough boards——
I should like to point out to the Deputy that this is a very limited Bill and the principle or the purpose for which county committees of agriculture were established or why they were established 50 years ago does not arise.
This Bill provides for increasing the finances of these bodies and, before we decide to increase the finances of these bodies, we have to consider whether or not they are serving a useful purpose.
I say that the principle of these bodies does not arise. The increase, presumably, rests with the body itself—the county council.
At the same time, this Bill would give them power to increase the expenditure and the allowance to their members. Just as the late Mr. Tim Healy described the boards in this country as being sufficient to make a coffin for the nation, I think there are enough boards at present surrounding the agricultural industry to make a coffin for that particular industry. Before we decide to provide additional money for decent farmers and decent agricultural workers to come away from their farms and their natural avocations and sit around a table at committee meetings, we have a right to decide whether their deliberations at committee meetings are serving any useful purpose to the nation.
That is absurd.
Some Deputy has said said that is absurd and I think I am entitled to reply.
The Chair does not for a moment agree that an interruption from a Deputy furnishes the basis for opening up further discussion.
I do not think the Deputy should say that I made an absurd statement.
I have heard worse terms used.
I am entitled to ask whether we should provide this increase in the financial resources of local authorities. I am entitled to ask are these county committees serving any useful purpose.
The Deputy is not entitled to develop that. This Bill has nothing to do with the establishment or the finances of these bodies. It permits them to increase the rate.
I shall come to the question of how this increased rate may be utilised. Deputy Allen made the suggestion that this additional power to the local authorities was an attempt to place on the local authorities certain expenditure that should be borne by the central authority. I do not agree with that view. There is a very useful purpose to which this money could be devoted, namely, to enable county committees of agriculture in each county to acquire a farm and work it as a demonstration to farmers——
That is outside this Bill. Demonstration farms do not come into this.
In addition to——
That is out of order and we will not have any more of it.
I suggest that there ought to be in this Bill additional borrowing power——
That is also out of order.
May I respectfully submit a point of order. Reluctant as I am to seek your indulgence to widen the scope of the debate, one section of this Bill is designed to permit local authorities additional revenues for county committees of agriculture. In those circumstances, may I respectfully submit that it is relevant to the provisions which I recommend to this House to consider what they would spend this revenue on if they got it and that it is relevant to make submissions to the House as to how that revenue is likely to be used bearing in mind the use to which existing revenue has been put? I respectfully submit that if the House is asked to pass a Bill authorising the raising of revenue, the House is entitled to consider what that revenue is raised for and whether there is any reason to hope that it will be properly used.
I think that the suggestions of the Minister are equally out of order as the suggestions of the Deputy. County councils being permitted to increase certain rates or raise certain moneys is a matter for county councils or county committees of agriculture to decide. Otherwise, every activity of county committees of agriculture or the entire agricultural policy of the Minister might be discussed.
I have made my submission.
The line the Minister has taken is in line with the viewpoint I took with regard to this, but I respectfully accept the ruling of the Chair which narrows down the scope of debate on this important Bill.
The Bill itself narrows the scope of the debate, not the Ceann Comhairle. I am going by the terms of the Bill.
I think that the terms of the Bill are wide inasmuch as they almost double the revenue of the local authority——
You might make enough to buy a farm.
——and that it gives Deputies reason to ask for what purpose the money is to be used.
I would be sorry to ask the Deputy to resume his seat, but if he persists in defying the Chair——
There are a lot of aspects of this matter which occur to a Deputy when he is called upon to provide additional revenue and they would almost compel him to vote against this Bill. As I know a considerable amount of county committees of agriculture, however, being a member of a county committee of agriculture for a long number of years, and as I know the useful purpose they serve, I was hoping that the Chair would be a little more lenient. I want to say now, since I was not allowed develop the point, that I do not consider the money devoted to county committees of agriculture to be a complete waste of money. I merely made that submission in order to raise further points.
I object to this increase because I think that as far as the ratepayers are concerned, we have more than reached saturation point. The rates in my county for 1946-47 were 13/4d. in the £. In 1947-48, they were 15/1d. and in 1948-49 they were 19/1d. and judging by all the demands we have got from various Ministers during the past five, six or seven months. I will be very much surprised if they are not raised by at least 10/- in the £ next year.
That does not arise either.
That is one of the many objections to this Bill. It was rather a surprise to hear Deputy Cogan wondering whether county committees of agriculture serve any useful purpose or not ——
And he was not allowed to discuss the matter. Neither will the Deputy.
I am quite satisfied. Restrictions are put on county committees of agriculture as to the manner in which their present money is being spent. We are prevented, for instance, from giving a subsidy on ground limestone, although the Minister has been shouting in this House and not alone the Minister but every Deputy has been complaining and saying that if there is one thing the land of this country wants, it is lime. The Minister has refused Cork Committee of Agriculture to give any subsidy on ground lime.
That is not correct.
Deputy Lehane was missing from the meeting when the Minister's letter was read. I regret it, but he can have the information now from me. Another thing the Minister has refused is the subsidy on dried lime. There are hundreds of thousands of tons of dried lime lying in Tuam factory, in Carlow factory and in Thurles and the Minister has refused to give a subsidy on it which would enable that lime to be distributed immediately to farmers. The Sugar Company has done a very good job in Cork County. They are purchasing plant and machinery to produce ground limestone for the benefit of the farmers of the county, but the Minister steps in saying that he will not give any subsidy for that, though he is looking to enable us to get more money. I have a definite objection as to the manner in which a large portion of this money is being spent. I think that when the ratepayers and the taxpayers with them have been asked for the past 25 or 26 years to pay each year premiums on bulls, the result of which has been that you cannot get a decent milch cow in the country to-day——
That does not arise.
Here is where the money is going now, the money which we are told is going to be increased.
Where the present money is going does not arise. That is the policy of the county committees of agriculture. The question is whether this rate should be raised.
The policy of the Minister who is looking now for permission to get more money should be to look after the money which is largely ill-spent at present. Whatever argument might be put up with regard to dairy bulls, I can see no justification whatever for providing premiums for Hereford or Polled Angus bulls.
That does not arise.
A Chinn Comhairle, we are dealing here with a Bill to enable more money to be raised off the rate-payers——
If they so desire.
Yes, if they so desire, but we all know where the desire comes in and from where—for the purpose of further extending bad schemes. Premiums have been given to dairy bulls——
I am not allowing the Deputy to discuss premiums on bulls of any description. It does not arise.
I want to be very careful about what is being ruled out. The Ceann Comhairle has ruled out any discussion as to how the money is being spent at present. We are now discussing a Bill to increase that expenditure, to levy further moneys off the ratepayers for this purpose. What is the 3d. in the £ for?
That is for the committee to decide.
If it was for the committee to decide, I would say very little, but the committee cannot use that money for extending its lime scheme.
Without the sanction of the Minister.
The Minister has already said no and the Minister previously refused both Deputy Lehane and myself in regard to the subsidy on dried lime. Surely I have the right to give the reasons for my objection to this further levy on the ratepayers?
The Deputy has not the right to discuss agricultural policy in the guise of discussing this Bill. That is what he is endeavouring to do.
All I am trying to discuss is the actual spending of the money which is being raised, the manner in which it is being spent at present and the manner in which this 3d. in the £ is to be spent after the rest, and no more than that. When you take portion of that levy and tell the man who keeps a Hereford bull that he will get so much a year for keeping that bull——
The Deputy will resume his seat. I said he could not discuss premiums on bulls.
I am afraid this is a Bill which seeks to empower the county councils to increase the rates by 3d. in the £. Even though I believe it is vitally essential that agricultural advisory services and various other services which the agricultural committees could undertake should be provided, I feel, at the same time, that the ratepayers are being called upon to bear a burden which is more than they can bear. Already we have to face an increase of 4/- in the £ this year and goodness only knows what the rates will be next year. That is one thing that is upsetting me and it is something which is going to reduce and hamper production in the future.
I do not like to see this Legislature adopting a policy which will enable the rates to be increased when we have in operation a system of adult suffrage and most of the voters at local elections free from the burden of these rates. I suppose that, like Deputy Corry, I shall be ruled out of order, but in the past, voting at local elections was confined to ratepayers. That system was changed some time ago and a system of adult suffrage adopted which meant that those not paying rates could vote and appoint people to spend their money for them.
The Deputy does not want a discussion on adult suffrage, I hope.
I do not, Sir. What I was going to say was that the position was such that even the Party in favour of adult suffrage had to bring in county managers to curb the extravagance of those who were elected on the basis of adult suffrage. I believe it is vitally necessary that we should have more instructors, more advisers in agriculture and I think it is a wrong thing to shove every new service on to the rates, as is happening at present. The rates are increasing and everybody who pays rates knows that he has to pay an increase of 4/- in the £ this year and will have to pay considerably more next year. I am opposed to passing any other burden on to the ratepayers.
We read in the papers yesterday that the Minister for Health is passing on another burden to the ratepayers, because the sweepstakes are paying three-quarters of the costs. There is an old saying about the last straw breaking the camel's back, and, even though this is a very laudable object, it may be the cause of breaking the camel's back. For that reason, I think the Bill is inadvisable and I suggest that these very necessary services should be provided by the national Exchequer.
I have no objection to permission being given to local authorities to make provision for paying reasonable travelling expenses to members of agricultural committees, because, if there is one important committee subsidiary to the county council, it is the agricultural committee, and in fact I think the differences between the agricultural committee and, for instance, the visiting committee of the mental hospital and the vocational education committee should long ago have been removed. The previous Government should have given permission to county councils to pay the expenses of agricultural committees before taking any of the others into consideration.
My only objection to this proposal is that the permission to be given is tantamount to a request to county councils to increase the rates for the purpose of a soil survey. The Minister is very keen on a soil survey, and to a large extent, I am with him, but, if a national soil survey is to be carried out properly and systematically, the expenses connected with carrying it out should not be borne, either in whole or in part, by the local authorities. Taking the agricultural instructors away from other spheres of work in which they are engaged and putting them on to a soil survey may be all right; it will require a very much increased staff; but, when the rates are soaring as they are soaring, I believe it would be sound and good policy that the expenses of that survey should be borne not by the local authorities but by the Central Exchequer. Domestic economy instructresses' time is now taken up largely on advancing the poultry scheme and paying attention to hatcheries and supply stations. That is going to mean a great increase, if it is to be done properly, in the existing staff and anything in excess of what was being paid previously by the local committees of agriculture, and which was raised by the local rate, should also be borne by the State.
In that connection, I do not think this Bill should be presented in the form it is. I would have no objection to a Bill for paying reasonable expenses to members of committees. If the county council is judicious in the selection, many members of the committees will not be members of the council itself. In County Galway, we have a number of members of the agricultural committee who have not been elected to the county council at all, men such as Brother Jarlath of the Agricultural College in Mountbellew and like our Chairman, Mr. Christie Kerins of Oranmore. Of course, expense would not matter very much to him, as he is within a fairly short distance of Galway and I feel that he would not take any expenses at all. Such men's services are very valuable. It is possible that such a man would have to come from near Ballinasloe, a distance of 60 miles and it would be very unfair to ask him to travel at his own expense. That is why I think the part of this Bill that refers to members of agricultural committees should have been given precedence over similar Bills that have been brought in in regard to members of vocational education committees and mental hospital committees. As far as the other matters are concerned, they are national schemes and, as such, any increase in staff should be borne by the Central Funds. There will have to be an increase, if they are to be carried out properly, and I am sure the Minister would wish them to be carried out properly. That is all I have to say in criticism of the Bill.
Deputy Allen rejoiced that that which should have been done two years ago was being done now.
I rejoiced also.
I hope, to the Deputy's alleluia, he will add aTe Deum of gratitude to Providence that he has a change in Ministers, and that the two years of lonely waiting has not been succeeded by the prospect of another two years. I am astonished to hear Deputy Allen say that the farmers are getting no service at all from the poultry instructresses in County Wexford. I shall have that matter closely investigated at once. However, I am bound to say that, so far as my information goes, the poultry instructresses of the County Wexford Committee of Agriculture are giving excellent services to the farmers of County Wexford; but I can assure the Deputy that careful note will be taken of his complaint and an exhaustive enquiry made into the abuse he alleges.
I am afraid the Minister is misrepresenting.
The Deputy is on strike for more pay, and the committee of agriculture as well.
It was never held that a soil survey could be undertaken or that the Supply Services Vote would be charged with it. In fact, no soil survey is in progress, except in that area of the country which will be scheduled as a tillage area in the event of an emergency analogous to war—which I do not believe will recur. Whether it recurs or not, we are making preparations to meet it, lest it should. In the restricted area, the soil survey will be made at the expense of the Exchequer.
In regard to the soil testing services to which Deputy Allen referred, I cannot imagine any more appropriate occupation for an agricultural instructor in any county in Ireland than, on request by a farmer, to go on his farm and take a soil sample and send it to the soil testing station at Johnstown and, on the receipt of the analysis and advice provided by Johnstown, to bring that back to the farmer and help him effectively to put into practice the advice that Johnstown has provided. If that is not part of the work of the county agricultural instructors, I do not know what their work is.
They had no work before now.
It is true, as Deputy Allen says, that until recently facilities to get testings done were not available. They have been made available and agricultural instructors need no longer apprehend that, if they take soil samples to oblige farmers, the samples, when sent to the testing station, will be forgotten and never returned. I am glad to be able to report to the House that the agricultural instructors of almost every local authority are doing admirable work in taking soil samples from those farmers who invite them to do so and that their zeal has been such that I have recently had to direct that the accommodation at Johnstown for soil testing be doubled.
I can assure the House that it will be doubled again and again and again, if that necessity should arise, to give prompt service to every farmer who asks the county instructor to take a sample of the soils of his land. I do not think I need put it to the House how urgently necessary it is that full advantage should be taken of these services. Artificial fertilisers are getting cheaper each year and they will continue to get cheaper each year, not as result of subsidies levied on the taxpayer but as a result of good healthy competition in the trade. There are going to be no more millionaires in the artificial fertilisers industry in this country. Yet even as the price goes down, they are still relatively expensive; and it is necessary that they should be used to the very best advantage. That cannot be done unless the farmer has reliable information as to the chemical analysis of his soil. Every farmer is entitled to expect that that will be provided for him by the co-operation of the county committee and the Department, free, gratis and for nothing, in the shortest possible space of time. I regard it as an achievement of which I may legitimately boast that, for the first time in the history of this country, such a service has been made available as from last June and that, though from time to time demand catches up on the expanded service we provide, I am in a position to assure the House that no matter how great the demand becomes, as fast as it is physically possible, the service will be expanded at the expense of the Exchequer to maintain this expedition and efficiency.
Deputy Cogan seemed to inquire by implication how many counties had reached the limit of their rating right and how many still have a margin in hand. Seventeen county committees are receiving from their respective councils the full 4d. rate; nine are receiving between 3d. and 4d. and one less than 3d. Deputy Corry managed, before he could be stopped, to repeat the grotesque misrepresentation that this Government was responsible for the disgusting robbery of the barley growers of this country which continued for seven weary years under our predecessors.
Is that under this Bill?
He hoped that, being out of order, he could repeat that misrepresentation and then invoke the Rules of Order to prevent my correcting it. It is not easy, I frankly confess if somebody with a loud and brassy voice bellows the same misrepresentation sufficiently often and, having little else to do, has the opportunity of bellowing more frequently than most citizens of the State, to catch up on the misrepresentation, and there are some simple people in this country who will be deluded by the bellowings of anything fit to bellow.
But I do avail of this opportunity to say that after seven years' robbery, daylight, open robbery, of the barley growers of this country by the Fianna Fáil Party, of which Deputy Corry was a member, after we were three weeks in office——
On a point of order. What has barley-growing to do with this Bill?
God only knows.
I am not looking for protection from the bashaw over there. I can deal with him anywhere and everywhere as quickly as he was run out of Donegal.
I understand the Minister is replying to some statement.
There was no statement made whatever on barley here. We were stopped here by the Ceann Comhairle from dealing with what was in the Bill. There was no mention of barley here.
All right. I pass from the point.
You got away with it.
There was nothing about barley. If you want to know anything about barley go down to East Cork.
Deputy Corry inquired as to why it was decided that no part of the funds of the county committees of agriculture should be used for the subsidisation of ground limestone. In any part of Ireland, it is not intended hereafter that ground limestone should be subsidised from the funds provided for the county committees of agriculture. The reason is this, that ground limestone in this country is being produced, sold and distributed at a price substantially less than that being charged in Great Britain and will be less and less. There is no intention of lifting the burden of distributing this commodity at an economic price from the shoulders of those who have undertaken its production.
I want to say quite clearly that I hope the firms that have undertaken and are about to undertake the production and distribution of ground limestone will make a good profit. I would be glad to see them profiting but they will get no chance of exploiting the public or of battening on the public funds. But, I am bound to add, from what I know of the firms engaged in the industry, they have never shown the slightest inclination to try. On the contrary, in all their operations to date they have done their best to bring down the cost to the farmer to the lowest possible penny that the development of their industry would permit. I look forward to the distribution of ground limestone of suitable fineness spread upon the farmers' land at 25/- per ton. It may take a little while to reach that low figure. That is where we are going, without any subsidy at all, and if there are obscurantist and antiquarian farmers who would prefer to draw it from the pit, they can go and draw it at 16/- per ton and spread it themselves and get themselves and their labouring men to swallow half of it in the process. The sensible farmer, who values his time and skill more highly than the man who thinks it is worth nothing at all or that it is well spent tramping the five miles to the lime pit and five miles back, will get the lime spread on his land by mechanical spreaders at 25/- per ton, and if he cannot afford to do more than one acre, he will get one acre done right and wait until the next year to do one or two more. I am prepared to say that, in existing circumstances, ground limestone at that rate is a good bargain and any farmer who forbears from getting it will be a great fool.
I ask the House especially to remember that I mention the figure of 25/- as a target towards which we are proceeding. At the moment it may be that in certain areas farmers who wish to avail of that service have to pay 3/- or 4/- more, because we are only at the beginning but, as we get all the plant fully employed and all the facilities, which have not been easy to secure, by way of automatic distributors and so forth, I am satisfied that we shall be able to guarantee farmers supplies of ground limestone at that price spread all over Ireland.
May I ask the Minister one question? Does the Minister realise that burnt lime——
May I say a word about burnt lime before the Deputy speaks? In regard to burnt lime, I am authorising county committees of agriculture to continue to pay the subsidy, for this reason, that we will not have sufficient supplies of lime to meet our requirements for some years to come. Lime-burning is a traditional occupation and a living for a lot of very decent people in rural Ireland. I am a great believer in efficiency and up-to-date methods but I do not believe in depriving my neighbour of his living. I do not believe people want to ensure that, as they have recourse to more efficient methods, an inevitable sequel shall be the elimination overnight of people who have made a decent living at a useful occupation and who are not in a position now suddenly to metamorphose their whole lives and turn their hands to something entirely new.
Burned lime is an excellent product, as good in every particular as ground limestone. A great many people are earning their livings out of it. I believe efficiency and money are not the only things that count in this world, and I believe I am correctly interpreting the feelings of most people in rural Ireland when I consent to county committees of agriculture, where they think it prudent, subsidising burned lime, so that our joint undertaking to the lime burners may be effectively redeemed. I believe that they will have plenty to do so long as they want to continue burning lime. I want to say explicitly to the House now that so long as I am what I am, any county committee of agriculture desiring to maintain the subsidy on burned lime and preserve that modest industry in the area they cater for will have my consent for their proposal, but the initiative naturally, inasmuch as the funds are locally raised, is a matter for the local authority itself.
There is an aspect that the Minister appears to have overlooked, that a ton of burned lime is equal to two tons of ground limestone. It appears to me that with the subsidy on the burned lime it will become cheaper than the ground limestone, and that will have the effect of bringing the ground limestone industry to a standstill, or handicapping it severely.
The Deputy's point is well taken. I can assure him that there will be a demand for the next 20 years far in excess of any equipment I can hope to see installed here for both products. If, however, there is the slightest danger of the situation developing to which the Deputy refers, he can rest assured I shall lose no time in coming to the Dáil to consult Deputies as to the best methods to relieve it.
Deputy Corry is scandalised because there was no subsidy provided by the Galway County Committee of Agriculture for the lime available at Tuam. The poor Galway people would not be enabled by the county committee of agriculture to acquire lime which was offered to them for nothing. How can you subsidise nothing? I will ask the Deputy this question. Perhaps he could tell the House what became of the lime that the people in Galway were encouraged by members of the Beet Growers' Association not to buy? Where did it go? Did any of it go to the County Cork and, if it went to Cork, who bought it?
Perhaps the Minister will now give way. The Minister asked me a question.
Well, go on, answer it.
The Beet Growers' Association never advised anybody in Galway or elsewhere not to take factory lime.
Perhaps the Deputy will tell us did any of it go to Cork; and, if it did, who bought it?
I bought it. Does the Minister see anything wrong in that? I did not even buy it. I paid the freight on it, plus the cost of loading it, because the Galway people, like others, had to be educated into using it. Is that clear enough to the Minister? If the Minister wants to prove all that, he can go down to Cork, to Mallow factory, and see there every pound of lime taken out from the filters and thousands of tons of it lying in the other three factories. But, of course, the Minister is looking for some cheap gibe.
The facts then are these, that the Deputy deplores that the County Council of Galway, through its county committee of agriculture, did not subsidise this lime. That failure he attributes to lack of knowledge how to use the lime. The fact is that the lime was offered to the people of Galway for nothing. The fact is that members of the Beet Growers' Association encouraged the people not to take it, and it was left at the factory to be shifted later to Cork to Deputy Corry, who bought it.
That is wrong, anyhow.
I know it is true.
It is not; it is quite incorrect.
That statement is false, and I demand its withdrawal by the Minister here and now.
Did the Deputy buy the lime or did he not?
The Beet Growers' Association advised the people to use the factory waste lime.
That statement about me is false, and I am asking its withdrawal.
Did the Deputy not say that he bought the lime?
The Chair is not the judge of the truth or otherwise of the statement.
In that case I say that the Minister is a liar and a louse.
That statement should be withdrawn.
Could anyone blame the poor little fellow after he finds himself exposed?
The Deputy's remark should be withdrawn. Language of that kind should not be allowed to pass and no member of the House should be allowed to get away with it by simply leaving the House as Deputy Corry has done—uttering these words as he leaves.
The Chair has no means at its disposal beyond asking the Deputy to leave the House when he uses these words.
I respectfully submit that at the next sitting of the House the Deputy should be made to apologise and be punished for that.
That is a matter for the Chair.
I am submitting that to the Chair.
I want to object to the Minister's statement misrepresenting the Beet Growers' Association. Deputy Donnellan, the Parliamentary Secretary, can verify my statement that the Beet Growers' Association, at a very early stage, advised the farmers to use factory waste lime.
Deputy Beegan in dealing with this matter said that he thought that appropriate and similar expenses should be provided for members of agricultural committees as were provided for other subsidiary committees of the local authorities. I fully agree with the Deputy that there has grown up in this country a tendency to treat anything associated with agriculture as being something of an inferior breed. I have always propounded the proposition that agriculture, and those who belong to that industry, are in fact carrying the rest of the community on their backs and that they and their representatives are entitled to the same respect, at least, as that accorded to the representatives of any other section of our society. So long as I am Minister for Agriculture I intend to see that they get it.
These are all the matters I have to deal with except to remind the House again that this Bill levies rates and taxes on nobody. This Bill places an increased burden on nobody. This Bill does not add a fraction of a farthing to the rates on any county in Ireland. This Bill simply permits such local authorities, as consider it expedient, to raise another penny, 2d. or 3d., as they think fit for the service of the farmers of the county.
It is suggested that the poultry instructresses are being prevented from doing their regular work, and also that money levied under the authority of this Bill might be money wasted. If all this money is as well spent as the money that was spent on poultry instructresses in the last nine months I do not think any Deputy need search his conscience in supporting this Bill.
Let me conclude with the record of the results of the exertions of the poultry instructresses in the last six months. In March of last year we shipped 153,223 great hundreds to England and we got for them £214,055. In March of this year we shipped 433,123 great hundreds and for them we got £746,785. In April of last year we shipped 376,312 great hundreds for which we got £512,469. In April of this year we shipped 549,826 great hundreds for which we got £946,981. In May of last year we shipped 392,020 great hundreds for which we got £529,375. In May of this year we shipped 423,738 great hundreds for which we got £729,033. In June of last year we shipped 214,705 great hundreds for which we got £290,214. In June of this year we shipped 286,132 great hundreds for which we got £416,686. In July of last year we shipped 86,702 great hundreds for which we got £126,532. In July of this year we shipped 180,263 great hundreds for which we got £261,398. In August of last year we shipped 1,826 great hundreds for which we got £2,674. In August of this year we shipped 80,319 great hundreds for which we got £129,183. In September of last year we shipped 195 great hundreds for which we got £308. In September of this year we shipped 38,819 great hundreds for which we got £62,436. In October of last year we shipped 1,091 great hundreds for which we got £1,739. In October of this year we shipped 11,694 great hundreds for which we got £18,808. If every penny of this increase produces results commensurate with that, no money ever spent in this country will have given better value.
I want to ask the Minister three questions arising out of the Bill and his recent statement. Is it not a fact that all the increases in the quantity of eggs shipped this year were the result of the organisation brought about in 1945, 1946 and 1947 by Deputies Dr. Ryan and Smith?
I suggest the Deputy might appropriately address that question to the hens.
Another question is: did the Minister produce what he boasted about, a six weeks' hen, a hen laying in six weeks or not? Leaving that aside and coming to the question of lime, the Minister told us that ground limestone was being produced at 16/- at the quarry or wherever it is being ground, and that it is being distributed in parts of the country on the fields at 25/-.
I said that that is our ultimate aim, but that until we have full production, you will have to go to 30/- a ton.
Does the Minister think that where the nearest lime quarry is 30 miles from areas that require lime, it will be possible to have it spread at 25/-?
I am hoping to have it spread on lands within 40 miles of the quarry at 25/- a ton. I want to make it clear, and I said so explicitly, that that is the target. At present it may be quite fair to charge 28/- or 29/- until we get 100 per cent. user of the equipment or 100 per cent. consumption of the product.
It may be information for the Minister that it is costing as much as 50/-, spread 30 miles away.
Only to very silly farmers.
They are all silly, I know.
No, they are not. Most of them are by far the most intelligent men in the country.
The Minister in the course of his reply misrepresented what I said in regard to the poultry instructresses. I did not say that the poultry instructresses in Wexford were giving no service to the farmers. What I did say was that their services were being fully taken up in organising supply services and hatcheries.
That means that they are giving no services to the farmers.
They cannot do it.
I shall have an inquiry made into that. That is what I am going to investigate.
Is it the Minister's intention in future in the matter of the organisation of these supply farms and hatcheries that the committees of agriculture must supply the personnel in organising and looking after those farms?
I do not know what the Deputy means by organising and looking after.
You know it quite well, and I want a definite answer. Is it the Minister's intention that the committees of agriculture will provide the personnel for looking after those hatcheries? The Minister should answer that question.
I do not think the Deputy knows what he means. I certainly do not.