Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Meat Trade Prices.

asked the Minister for Agriculture if he is aware that because of a ring between buyers of certain stock in the meat trade the price to the farmers has been fixed at figures well below the market value of the animals; and, if so, if he will refer the matter to the Fair Trade Commission or have it otherwise investigated.

Mr. Walsh

The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative and the second part does not therefore arise.

Will the Minister inquire of the Dead Meat Exporters' Association whether or not a meeting, representative of the canning and dead meat processers of the country, was held on or about the 17th March at which a decision was taken to bid no more than 110/- per cwt. for bull beef on the Dublin market, a decision which was rigidly observed by the buyers on behalf of every single canner and meat processer in this country? Further, if such an agreement was arrived at, would the Minister not consider referring the matter of that procedure to the Fair Trade Commission with a view to preventing the formation of rings in our market?

Mr. Walsh

As I have said, I have no knowledge of any such meeting as the Deputy refers to. Further, I know that any farmer or any shipper is at perfect liberty to export his cattle on the hoof.

I am now giving the Minister a clear point. I am suggesting that a meeting of those interests was held. At that meeting, they jointly agreed not to bid against one another in an open market and they jointly agreed that the maximum price any one of them would offer for a specific commodity would be 110/- per cwt. Is that not true? Would the Minister not inquire——

Where was the meeting held?

——and, if that is true, would the Minister not refer that practice to the Fair Trade Commission for the purpose of considering whether or not it is a ring within the meaning of what this House has declared to be unfair trading?

Mr. Walsh

If there were such an agreement between the people engaged in the processing of meat, it would not have any effect on the market because any farmer or any shipper is at perfect liberty to send out his cattle on the hoof.

Would the Minister not agree that the formation of a ring for the purpose of controlling prices is bad?

Mr. Walsh

Absolutely, yes.

Then, would the Minister not refer the matter to the Fair Trade Commission?

Mr. Walsh

I have no knowledge that what the Deputy says it true and I do not believe everything the Deputy says in this House or outside it.

Will the Minister inquire of the body which represents the meat canners and packers if such a meeting took place and whether they made that agreement? If he finds that they did, will he refer the matter to the Fair Trade Commission?

That is hypothetical.

Question No. 92.

Is the Minister aware that one bull was sold last week on the Dublin market for which a member of the federation paid 112/6 per cwt.? Payment at the rate of only 110/-was made by way of cheque and afterwards an agent came along and paid the remaining 2/6 per cwt. in cash.

Mr. Walsh

I have no such information.

Will the Minister make inquiries about it?

Would it not be the public duty of any person who has evidence on this matter to bring it before the Fair Trade Commission?

What the heck are we doing? Is that not what we are doing here?

Order! Question No. 92.

Are we not bringing all the evidence we have before Parliament, not before the police courts?