Committee on Finance. - Milk (Regulation of Supply and Price) (Amendment) Bill, 1952—Report and Final Stages.

Question—"That the Bill be received for final consideration"—put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I am opposing the passing of this Bill for the reason that the Minister has made no effort whatever to meet the wishes of the citizens of Cork in the matter of giving them a clean milk supply.

May I point out that this Bill has nothing whatever to do with a clean milk supply? It simply deals with the question of expending moneys which are held by the boards.

Is not Deputy Hickey entitled to develop his point?

The Deputy is entitled to speak on the Final Stage on what is in the measure.

Or on what should be in it?

I claim that I am entitled to speak on the milk supply to Cork City. The reason I am speaking at all is because of the report which we have had from our medical officer of health dated the 3rd of last month. This report states that 1,857 milk samples were tested for dirt content, and that of that number 871 were clean, 626 were fairly clean, 125 were dirty, and that one was very dirty.

Will the Deputy refer me to any section in the Bill which refers to the condition of milk? There is no reference to the condition of milk in the Bill.

I am objecting to the citizens of Cork having to pay the same price for dirty milk as for good milk.

The Bill deals with milk; anyway.

I also want to make this point clear, that the citizens of Cork and suburbs are paying over £500,000 per year for milk. In view of that, I submit the matter is one which should be regarded by the Minister for Agriculture as being worthy of serious consideration.

I wonder could the Deputy help me, because I cannot find anything in the Bill which deals with the conditions under which milk is sold?

It is because the position is, as I have stated, that I am objecting to the passing of the Bill.

On a point of order. There is a section in the Bill which deliberately gives power to the Cork and Dublin boards to incur expenditure for the taking in of additional T.T. areas or T.T. herds. Surely that covers the point made by Deputy Hickey?

I cannot see that there is anything in this Bill about the conditions under which milk is sold.

I am complaining to the Minister that in the area of the milk board for the Cork area, on the report of the medical officer of health, 55 summonses were issued because of the abuse of the regulations in regard to the milk supply to Cork City. I want to know if the Minister has any knowledge as to whether any of these 55 milk suppliers have been refused a licence to supply milk to Cork City. What I am objecting to is that the citizens of Cork should be asked to pay the same price for dirty milk, for dangerous milk and for tubercular milk as they are expected to pay for milk produced under the best conditions.

Can the Deputy say whether these summonses were issued under an Act of Parliament?

Mr. Walsh

I imagine the prosecutions were under the Dairies Act of 1936.

On a point of order. If the board, or the Minister through the agency of the board, cannot get a pure milk supply for Cork City, surely Deputy Hickey is entitled to make the case that it should be able to get it outside its present boundary or area?

I am prepared to hear what the Minister has to say as to what is contained in the Bill.

Mr. Walsh

This Bill has nothing whatever to do with a clean milk supply. It deals with the expenditure of money that is now held by the Cork and Dublin district boards. The question of dirty milk, or unclean milk, is one for the local authorities. The summonses to which the Deputy has referred, were, I take it, issued under the Dairies Act of 1936.

But, surely, this Bill is intended to provide a pure milk supply.

Mr. Walsh

No. This Bill simply relates to the expenditure of moneys which have accumulated for the benefit of the milk suppliers.

But, surely, the people who are being supplied with the class of milk dealt with in the report of the city medical officer of health are entitled to some protection from the Minister.

Unless there is something explicit in the Bill dealing with that, that question cannot arise. As far as I understand, there is nothing in the Bill dealing with the condition of milk or with how it should be supplied.

On a point of order. I submit that, as this Bill proposes to give money for the purchase of milk, clean or dirty, Deputy Hickey is entitled to make the assertion now to the Minister that only clean milk should be purchased and not dirty milk, because it is for the purchase of clean milk only that the House is voting this money.

Mr. Walsh

That is wrong. This Bill does not purport to give money for the purchase of milk. It gives it for the production of milk, but not for the purchase of it.

What about Section 4?

Mr. Walsh

The question of clean or dirty milk does not arise under this Bill. That is one to be dealt with under the 1936 Act, and the responsibility there is with the local authorities and not with the board. The question of a clean milk supply is not a function of the board.

May I say, in reply to the Minister, that the local authorities are powerless under the present regulations, in the matter of securing a clean milk supply? The fact is that nearly 96 per cent. of the milk supplied to Cork City is produced outside the Cork City area. The Minister knows that is the difficulty.

This Bill does not empower the local authority to do anything about it. Therefore, the question does not arise.

My point is that it should.

It is not what the Bill should do that we are concerned with now, but with what is in the Bill. The Deputy might have raised that on the Second Stage.

I did raise it on every stage of the Bill, and was told that I was not in order. I am raising it now on the Final Stage, and I have given my reasons for objecting to the Bill being passed.

The Deputy may object to the passing of the Bill, but he can only discuss what is in the Bill.

This is an adulterated Milk Bill then. Is that what it is?

Can I get any guarantee that the Minister will introduce a Bill which will give the people of Cork a decent milk supply?

Mr. Walsh

I understand it is intended to have such a Bill introduced.

It is intended?

I suggest that the whole of this matter could be settled if a few lectures were given in the cinema halls to some of Deputy Hickey's housewives to teach them to keep their milk receptacles clean.

This matter is of supreme importance.

The Minister apparently approves of Deputy Corry.

This matter is much more serious than what Deputy Corry wants to convey to the House. This is a matter where people are asked to pay for milk 5 per cent. of which has been proved to be tubercular and so much of it dirty. The Cork Milk Board should be empowered to tell the people supplying that milk that such will not be permitted. Deputy McGrath stated that there was no complaint from the Cork Deputies about the milk supply to Cork City. I repudiate that because I have been continually objecting. I have personally complained, and I now complain, that the milk supply we are getting in Cork should be dealt with. I blame the Minister for not doing that when introducing this Bill.

I am opposed to this Bill because, in effect, it is a big stick held over the producers of milk. It threatens them that if they do not produce the milk in the way the Government wants them to do, the Government will use State money for the purpose of competing with the suppliers. That will have the effect of putting them out of business. At the present time the Irish creamery milk suppliers are completely dissatisfied with the position regarding the price of milk. This Bill, when put into effect, will actually worsen the position of the creamery milk suppliers because they will find themselves in competition with State funds.

We have the milk suppliers trying to put before the Minister a set of costings and just when these costings are being compiled we have this Bill going through. It is nothing short of a threat. I can say that the Dublin and district milk suppliers are very bitterly opposed to this Bill because they consider that it will definitely interfere with the ordinary free trading and free sale of milk. It is going to operate as a threat against them. They will not be in the position of being able to show a set of costings and then ask for some remedy for the position.

It is well known at the present time that supplies of milk are dwindling. They are dwindling particularly in the creamery areas because the price being paid to the producers of milk in those areas is not regarded as being sufficient to meet the ordinary cost of production. If we put through a Bill of this nature we are just telling the farmers in the creamery milk areas to go out of business. We are telling them that we are not going to recognise their claim for fair play and their claim to have a proper set of costings compiled.

I think it is sheer hypocrisy on the part of the Minister to make statements to the effect that he is awaiting with interest the findings of this Milk Costings Commission while at the same time he tries to put through the Dáil a Bill which will have very farreaching effects. I believe myself that it will worsen the position as far as milk production in this country is concerned.

I am glad to see Deputy Corry opposite because he will confirm that the suppliers of creamery milk in his area are going out of business. They are feeding calves instead of sending their milk to the creameries because they were deceived by Deputy Corry and his Fianna Fáil Party before the last general election regarding prices. They were led to believe at that time that they were going to get a substantial increase. They were led to believe they were going to get the increase having regard to the statements made by the Minister himself when he indicated that the summer price should be at least 1/6 and the winter price at least 2/-. Now they have lost confidence and, feeling that the present cost of production is not giving them a living, they are changing over to a different economy.

We are now importing more butter than ever because the suppliers of creamery milk are feeding calves instead of sending the milk to the creameries for the purpose of butter production. The production of Irish creamery butter has fallen and will continue to fall in spite of the fact that the Minister for Agriculture, when he came into office, calmly informed the general public that in February and March of this year there would not be an ounce of imported butter used in this country. He thought that he was going to convince the producers of milk for the creameries that his 1d. per gallon was going to make all the difference to the economy of their farms. It is quite clear that these suppliers have now lost all confidence. We are in the position where a predominantly agricultural country such as we have must import butter from the four corners of the earth and land it here at 3/1 per lb. to be retailed in the near future for 3/10.

The Deputy is travelling a bit.

I will not pursue that line then.

Mr. Walsh

The Deputy ought not to pursue it any further.

I want to impress upon the Minister that the passing of this Bill is a retrograde step at this particular time when the producers of milk in the creamery areas are going out of business and changing their economy as fast as they can. A Bill of this nature is absolutely out of time. We know that, even since the change of Government, the costs for people engaged in the production of milk have increased considerably. Certainly, the miserable 1d. per gallon which was given to the producers of milk in order to keep them quiet and in order to make them believe that they had the goodwill of the Fianna Fáil Party has not had the desired effect which the Fianna Fáil Party had expected.

This Bill, in my view, Sir, will worsen their position and will make sure that, not alone will we be importing butter, but we will soon be importing milk if this Bill goes through.

Listening to the speeches made by Deputies Hickey and Rooney, I do not know how the unfortunate farmers are going to exist, with Deputy Hickey charging them with supplying dirty milk and Deputy Rooney stating that this Bill is going to persecute them further.

I am prepared to help the farmer.

Listening to Deputy Rooney, one would think that all you had to do was to turn on a tap and you got all the milk you required. Deputy Rooney quite forgets that he stood behind a Minister for Agriculture who laid down the dictum to the farmers that he was going to give 1/- a gallon for their milk for five years. He guaranteed 1/- a gallon for milk for five years, or 2d. less than they were getting before. Then the farmers, not being as hopeful as we were that we would succeed in getting rid of this old man of the sea, in despair got rid of some 50,000 cows that year and 50,000 cows more the following year. Between cows and in-calf heifers, in two years there was a reduction of 104,000. That is the situation.

Owing to the beef policy carried out by the Department of Agriculture, as long as I know it, anyway, we have been left with cows producing only one and a half gallons of milk per day. When we were faced with that situation and that policy as it worked out, certain measures had to be taken. At any rate, you will not get as much milk as you were getting before, as you are 104,000 cows short. That is what we have to face. To remedy that position, the Minister, under this Bill, proposes to give the farmers the right to use the money that they have accumulated in the two milk boards, the Dublin District Milk Board and the Cork District Milk Board, to increase the production of milk by getting proper dairy bulls. That will mean that in about four years' time we will reach the turning point in the changing of the policy which has been carried out, unfortunately, in this country for a number of years in regard to dairy herds. It will take four years. You cannot, as Deputy Rooney seems to imagine, get one of these 1,000-gallon bulls for your cow and expect to be able to milk the calf the following morning. That seems to be the idea that Deputy Rooney has. The evil that men do lives after them.

There is a lot of evil living after you.

The evil that that Party did is, unfortunately, living after them in more ways than one. We can see the result of it in the reduction of the milk supply. Deputy Dillon made no allegation that the cost of the production of milk had been reduced. He admitted that the cost of production had gone up, but, he said, "the old farmer is so well off to-day he can afford to sell his milk at 2d. per gallon less than he did when Fianna Fáil were in office." He went further and guaranteed that 2d. reduction for five years, while every two or three months we had Deputy Dunne and his team increasing the cost of production by increasing the cost of labour. I do not, of course, consider that the skilled workers on the land are getting enough yet—they are not. The skilled worker on the land is entitled to as good a wage as the skilled worker in any other industry.

There is nothing about him in this Bill.

In order to meet that position, the main object of this Bill is to provide that this money can now be used for improving the production of milk in the milk board area. Deputy Hickey knows very well that there is a law in this country under which any individual selling dirty milk can be prosecuted and, if he offends a second time, his licence to sell milk in the area is taken from him by the city authorities.

The suppliers are outside the Cork Corporation area.

That is the fault of the Deputy's corporation.

They are all outside the city area.

If the authorities in Cork City are not prepared to carry out the law as it is laid down, that is not our fault. You cannot expect to do it under this Bill.

Nor can it be discussed on this Bill.

I claim that the officers of the Cork Corporation are equal to any other staff in the country in looking after these matters.

Deputy Corry will allow me. The condition of the milk supply in Cork does not arise on this Bill.

I am only replying to certain statements made in connection with this.

I did not allow Deputy Hickey to proceed and I will not allow Deputy Corry to proceed either.

He got a fairly long way.

If Deputy Corry wants to make a charge against the Chair he can find a way to do it. I did not give Deputy Hickey any greater latitude than I am giving Deputy Corry. I stopped Deputy Hickey.

I entirely agree. I would not challenge your ruling for a moment. I agree that you have been most fair. Deputy Hickey claims that there were 1,800 samples taken. The vast bulk of these were found to be clean and in good order. There was one very dirty sample out of 1,800. I do not know whether that particular sample——

I rule out defifinitely and decisively any discussion on the condition of the supply of milk in Cork on this Bill.

I have given the reasons why this Bill is necessary and essential. Further than that I do not wish to go. I consider that we are already too late, if anything, in endeavouring to get in this country the yield of milk from our cows that is essential if we are not to have this continual clearing out of milch cows that we have had up to the present. It is not for nothing that the farmers decided to get rid of 50,000 cows in 12 months or 104,000 in two years. They did not do it for fun. We got rid of the biggest menace to them when we got rid of Deputy Dillon. We are now under a different Minister, who is proceeding to get back to a decent milk yielding cow. We claim our right to use the funds that we have accumulated in the different milk boards for the purpose of getting that good yielding cow. That is the main object of the Bill. We do not care whether Deputy Dillon, in his enlightened way, alluded to them as "Pekinese cows".

That has nothing to do with the Bill.

We will endeavour to get the "Pekinese cows" so that we can provide milk for our people and in order that the production of milk per cow will be the same as it is in other countries where the "Pekinese cows" are being used and where they are getting 800 gallons of milk per cow per year as against our 400 gallons here.

Far be it from me to follow Deputy Corry and Deputy Hickey down the paths of disorder about the milk supply of Cork, nor have I any intention of following Deputy Corry in his efforts to turn Deputy Walsh into an 800-gallon Minister which is, I understand, what his line was a second ago. I want to say only about three sentences on this Bill. I do not like Section 4 as it is at present. I will make a present of this to the Minister that I find it difficult to amend it in a way that would meet the exigencies of a situation that arises when there is a surplus and yet would protect the interests of the farmers from the other difficulties that are obviously there. It seems to me that the Minister would have been better advised—I understand it was not in order for us to submit an amendment to the Bill—to amend this Bill himself, to create what he stated was the position and which, after a little exercise of simple mathematics, he agreed was untrue.

If the Minister provided a board in Dublin—I know nothing about the Cork board—that had a majority of producers, none of the anxieties that were experienced in regard to Section 4 would have arisen. The fact is, of course, that the producers have not a majority on the Dublin board. The Minister came to this House and he went to the other House and stated what was untrue, that the producers had a majority.

Mr. Walsh

They have a majority.

They have not. There are 14——

Mr. Walsh

On a point of order. I said the producers represented a majority of the members of the board. It is quite true.

That is not a point of order, but the fact is that I am sorry the Minister is unable, but it would be a very good thing if he would try, to take a little exercise in mathematics and then it would help him not merely to count up what a majority out of 14 on a milk board is, but it would help him to count up the very large sum that the farmers of Ireland have lost through the machinations or lack of machinations of the Minister and Deputy Corry in regard to the barley price. There are 14 members on this board. Seven of those members are producers; that leaves seven others. Fourteen minus seven is seven. I think even the Minister can appreciate that—seven farmers and seven others —and if there is a tie one of the seven non-farmers has the casting vote. Under those circumstances there never can be a majority in favour of the producers.

Deputy Corry has a majority of producers on the Cork Milk Board. There are five producers, two retailers and the secretary of the board.

I do not know what the position is in Cork. I do not wish to step in there.

He will keep as far away as he can.

I know my limitations. Every one of the Cork Deputies, regardless of what side of the House they come from, will unite against the poor foreigner from Leinster. We know that of old, so I am not going to fall into that mistake. However, the chairman is the person who has the casting vote.

The constitution of the board does not arise.

It arises to this extent that the Minister has said that sub-section (1) of Section 4 of this Bill was entirely harmless because the producers had a majority on the board and because, therefore, that sub-section could never be used against the producers. That contention of the Minister is simply untrue and the more the Minister repeats it the more he will do to create bad feeling.

Mr. Walsh

On a point of order. The Deputy has already said that I have made untrue statements in this House. That is wrong. The position of the board is: seven producers, three retailers and three wholesalers.

That is not a point of order.

Mr. Walsh

You do a little calculation on that.

It seems to me extraordinary to think that we have a person occupying the position of a Minister of State who stands up and says that there are seven producers, three wholesalers, three retailers and a chairman, and that he cannot add up that three and three and one are seven. No wonder agriculture is going to the devil under this Government. The reason for all the anxiety about this section is that the Minister has gone out of his way, publicly and privately, to be deliberately insulting to the people who are producing milk in the Dublin sales area. He went out of his way publicly in the Seanad and publicly in this House, and he went out of his way privately by eating the deputation that went to see him to be insulting. Of course, it is only natural that the Minister would act in this way in regard to the Dublin sales area, when one considers that he has probably been advised by a person who can only be described as being the nearest thing to a bull in a china shop that has ever existed in any board in this country. That is the real thing that is wrong with Section 4 and with the working of this Bill, and there will never be peace in the board as long as you keep the chairman that is there at present.

Mr. Walsh

I am not going to follow Deputy Sweetman at this stage. I will reserve it for a later opportunity. However, the discussion on this Bill has centred around matters that we should not have been asked to listen to. Even the question of a clean milk supply does not enter into the Bill. If there is a dispute between the Cork milk suppliers and consumers it is a matter that the Cork Deputies can settle.

Deputy Hickey has raised a question with other Cork Deputies and the only assurance I can give Deputy Hickey is that under the 1935 Dairies Act there are provisions made for the pasteurisation of milk. It is a question for the local authorities to have pasteurisation brought in. I understand the Cork Corporation has been agitating for some time to have the milk pasteurised and there is nothing to prevent them doing that. If that is going to solve the difficulty it is a matter for the Deputy. I understand that he is a member of the Cork Corporation and he can see that it is done.

Deputy Rooney meandered around the country as far as the creameries and talked about the milk prices, and so forth. The price of milk has nothing to do with this Bill. The question to be discussed here is in what way the moneys that are being collected by the Dublin and Cork District Boards can be most usefully spent in the interests of the producers. Considerable sums have been accumulated and it is proposed that this money should be spent. In Dublin, for instance, there is something like £26,000 and in Cork something in the region of £2,500——

Cork only got £2,500?

Mr. Walsh

Yes, the reason for that being——

I am surprised that Deputy Corry has allowed it to be so small.

Mr. Walsh

I should have said the Cork figure is £8,000. We understand that this money will be spent so as to increase the production of milk in one form or another. One way in which the production is to be increased in the Dublin district is by the establishment of an artificial insemination centre. There are other ways also in which milk production can be improved; for instance, the giving of lectures, better housing conditions, better food, and so forth. Money is going to be very usefully spent in those directions.

Deputy Sweetman in that venomous way of his, when dealing with subjects such as this and true to his suspicious mind, believes that there was something ulterior in my mind when I introduced this Bill. However, it is only a mind like Deputy Sweetman's that could conceive an idea like this. I am not surprised at it, as we have had experience of it before. Section 4 has nothing whatsoever to do with putting any pressure on the board. As I have already pointed out here, the majority of the Dublin board is composed of producers. Why should the chairman interfere in any discussions that may take place between retailers and producers?

Why does he interfere?

Mr. Walsh

Why should Deputy Sweetman come into this House and state that he has interfered and would interfere in any question in which he would be asked to give advice or in any case in which he would give a casting vote? Deputy Sweetman is reading something into this which is not in it. If Deputy Sweetman is prejudiced against the chairman, he had better take that prejudice somewhere else rather than try to foist it on the people of this House. I do not know what personal reasons he has — they must be personal — for coming along here and vilifying the chairman of the Dublin Milk Board.

Only in the case of an emergency would there ever be any necessity for that board to raise any objections to any decisions which the Minister might make. In the case of an emergency, there might be a possibility of the Minister having to take some step. However, there is no reason why we should even suggest any emergency in that direction. Milk producers are quite capable of looking after their own business and nobody is going to interfere with them in that direction. Therefore, it is quite wrong for Deputy Sweetman to assume that there is any ulterior motive behind this Bill, or that I had any such motive when introducing it. The Bill is being introduced for the simple purpose of utilising the money collected from the producers over a period of years and using this money for the benefit of the producers themselves. I do not think any question has been raised with which I must deal and, in that case, I would ask the House to pass the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.
Ordered: That the Bill be returned to the Seanad.