Since Deputy Corry would not let us hear the Minister, I suppose he does not want us to listen to himself.
Private Members' Business. - Price of Wheat Offals—Motion (Resumed).
I did not catch that.
I am asking the Deputy does he want us to listen to him?
It is amazing that an important motion of this nature should have dragged out for such a lengthy period. There has been an interval of over seven months since it was last discussed in this House. It is a most important motion and, in dealing with this motion, the Government have something very serious to consider-that is, if they are consistent in their appeal for an expansion of agricultural production. I take it the Government are sincere in that appeal, but I feel they have not approached the matter in the proper manner. This is one of the instances to which we can point wherein the Government, and the Minister for Agriculture in particular, seem very lax and remiss in encouraging the agricultural community to increase production.
The Government should ask themselves certain questions when they find that production of any commodity, be it agricultural or industrial, has diminished, and the first question the Government and the Minister for Agriculture should ask themselves is: Is pig production a worth-while element in our agricultural economy? It is agreed by everybody with any knowledge of agriculture and the general position of our economy that pig production is a very vital part of our agricultural economy, particularly from the point of view of the small farmers. If that is so, there is no reason why any burdens or impediments should be placed on the essential requirements for the expansion of that product or commodity.
Consciously, or otherwise, a tax has been put on pig production by charging to pig producers an increased price for home-produced wheat offals, thereby bringing up the price to the level of the price paid for imported wheat offals. Pig production, in my opinion, can be made profitable, provided the proper steps are taken. The best profit of all, in a sense, as far as the farmer is concerned, is not altogether the amount that he nets in gross profits, but the fact that the money is collected periodically about every four months. We know that, in recent times, for a considerable number of years back, it is possible to put out a set of pigs in a period of four months. That money comes in regularly and is of very great assistance to the farmer in helping him to pay some pressing bills. It also enables him, of course, to increase the number of young pigs he undertakes to fatten in the succeeding period.
Is it desirable then to impede expansion along that line of our agricultural industry? That has been done; there is no denying the fact that it has been done. So far as I know, there has been no denial of that. The Government should examine the reason for the decline in pig production from the period September, 1954, to September, 1955. Statistical returns show that in that short period of 12 months there was a total reduction in our pig population of over 80,000.
Why did that occur? Surely it is not suggested that this decline was as a result of our farmers getting lazy, careless, or disinterested in pig production? In my opinion, the reason is quite obvious. The reason is that the feeding stuffs required for pig production have not been kept at the level at which they could and should have been kept. This imposition, and it is an imposition, whereunder the farmer is charged for wheat offals a price equivalent to the price of imported offals is, in my opinion, a very great mistake. It was a very retrograde step to take. However, it seems to be in line with a considerable amount of Government policy in the past. That policy was, of course, sponsored by the present Minister for Agriculture, who showed what I could term only as callous indifference to the problems and difficulties of the farmers.
The Minister showed that indifference very clearly when, on certain pretexts about what he called wheat ranchers and all the rest of them, he struck at the price of wheat and reduced it in the 1955 harvest by 12/6 a barrel. On top of that, he did something which, in my opinion, was even more fatal as far as curbing production was concerned: he increased the bushelling of wheat from 60 to 63. Perhaps this is all beside the point, but I should like to ask why should the farmer not get the benefit of having the reduced price of wheat related to the price of offals? Such a benefit might have encouraged farmers to make further and greater efforts to produce not only the requirements within the country but requirements for export as well.
There was no great sense or reason in giving the benefit to certain people —I do not grudge them provided they get that benefit without injuring the farmers. Some people who got it would not go within a half mile of a pig sty. These people talk a great deal about how we could increase production of pigs and bacon by more efficient methods and by reducing our costs of production. The farmers, I feel sure, would be very anxious to apply more efficient methods and also to reduce their costs of production, but they have not the determining of that.
The efficient methods can perhaps be brought about by the farmers being educated into that position, but no matter what education a farmer gets —the same applies to industrialists—it is of little use, unless a considerable amount of capital expenditure is made in order to bring the efficient methods about. The farmers did not get the benefit of a reduction in the price of wheat offals. Some heed may be paid to what the experts and the theorists tell us and to what they put on paper, but when a Government make an appeal for greater production and at the same time take steps to curb that production by a deliberate policy of placing an impediment and a burden on the producers, I doubt if the appeal for greater production will get the heed we would all like it to get at the present time and that we all hope it will get.
Plans for higher production, we are told, are now being formulated. Consultative councils have been formed.
Perhaps they are all right in their own way, but our experience of such commissions and councils in the past has been that they put things very much on the long finger. What we want is something that will give immediate results. I believe the handing back or the discontinuance of collecting the higher rate for wheat offals from pig producers would be an indication on the part of the Government that they are sincere in their appeal for greater agricultural production.
It was stated here last March, when this motion was before the House, that the amount taken by the Exchequer from the pig producers was £617,000. That would be at the rate of about £40,000 a month. If we calculate it for the period that has elapsed since then, over £1,000,000 has been taken. That is a very big setback to the farming community. They have had many things to contend with. This very harvest they have to contend with the elements; the weather was almost as bad as in the terrible harvest of 1954.
Despite all that, I did not hear many words of sympathy for them expressed by members of the Government during the period, nor did I hear of any steps being taken to organise some assistance for the farmers. It is idle to say it could not be organised. I believe that in this country at the moment we have about 31,000 tractors—a tractor for every ten farmers. It would not have been so difficult—and it should have been attempted—to organise help in such a way that every advantage would be taken everywhere throughout the country of every hour of sunshine.
I have said that pig production is a vital part of the small farmers' economy. It applies to the small farmers in fact even more than the larger farmers. It absorbs their unused potatoes, their skim milk, and, if they have land capable of growing barley or oats, they can use those as well. However, wheat offal is a very essential part of pig raising.
I have also mentioned the necessity for periodic income for farmers. Small farmers particularly are severely handicapped if they have to depend entirely on what they get for their live stock in October, again in April and again in October. They have to survive very long periods. They are spending money all the time or incurring debts by way of getting credit over those periods. The rearing of pigs, even in a small way, provided a very handy periodic income for small farmers. The small income over the shorter period is of very great value and advantage to the small farmers; it is of far more value than the larger income that comes in the other way. The small farmers require that periodic income.
Progeny testing and research are very important matters, but at the same time I think something should be done to give a speedy return to the farmers, particularly in the circumstances of the prevailing financial crisis. This is one of the ways in which it can be done, and it would be an indication of the sincerity of the Minister for Agriculture and the Government.
A debate on the lines to which I have often listened and which has often disgusted me in this House is the one in which there are interjections like "What did you do?", and in which the mistakes of previous Ministers or Governments are pointed out. That will not get us very far, and I think that something practical is much better and will give better results and give the people greater confidence in democratic government. Arguing about the merits of the Landrace and the White York is all very well in its own-way, but in a situation such as the present, it is largely, in my opinion, a waste of time.
The terms of the motion before us state:
That the Dáil disapproves of the action of the Minister for Industry and Commerce in increasing the price of home-produced wheat offals to that of imported offals, thus imposing, since September, 1954, an additional burden on pig feeders of over £600,000, to the detriment of the pig industry.
That has been directed at the Minister for Industry and Commerce, but I doubt if he should be arraigned at all.
I think the person who should defend the agricultural community and say that they will not be deprived of what, in my opinion, is their just right is the Minister for Agriculture or, at least, he should be arraigned as co-defendant with the Minister for Industry and Commerce.
There is nothing wrong with this motion and I think the Government should accede to it now and do something in a practical way to give the people confidence and give confidence to the farmers' organisations in advising their members as to the line they should take up. I would appeal to the Minister for Industry and Commerce, if he is the person solely responsible —but I do not hold him solely responsible in this case—to agree to this motion. It would be a good gesture on his part and other things will follow in due course. Here is something that can give a very speedy return as far as the pig producers are concerned. After all, pig producers are a very important section of the community, a section which is prepared to do work of a pretty arduous nature. They are not work-shy, and they have to give great attention to their stock. Even if they have only one pig, it demands great care as regards housing conditions, feeding and everything else.
If we want bacon for export we should, in the first place, ensure that we have sufficient for ourselves and then if we can export it, we should be in a position to do so as cheaply as possible in order to compete on the foreign market; but by putting a burden of this kind on the farmers, we are not giving them a fair deal. It is up to the Minister for Industry and Commerce and to the Minister for Agriculture to humble themselves a little and say: "Through my fault," and at the same time be big enough to do the proper thing and at least restore to the pig producers the £1,000,000 of which they have been deprived.
As, no doubt, you will have observed, A Cheann Comhairle, the discussion on this motion has rambled over a very wide field.
Progeny-testing has been raised: the best diet for pigs has been discussed. The number of pigs in the country has been the subject of profound observations. The birth rate of pigs has been discussed from a variety of angles and the Statistics Office has been brought into the forum by one speaker to prove that pigs are a dying race, the same statistics being used by another speaker to prove that, far from being a dying race, pigs are a really flourishing tribe at the moment. All this has been hung on a motion which has been submitted to the House in the name of Deputy Corry.
I do not want to wander over that wide field in discussing this motion because many of the matters raised are completely outside the functions of my Department and are clearly and unmistakably identified with the work of the Department of Agriculture. Indeed many of the observations made on this motion are observations which might usefully be made in a discussion on the Estimate for the Department of Agriculture. Nobody seriously attempted to say that I had anything to do with the matters raised. In fact, Deputy Corry's motion is based on a deliberate falsehood.
Deputy Corry's motion accuses me of increasing the prices of home-produced wheat offals. I did no such thing and I propose to do no such thing. I think I shall prove to any fair-minded member of the House that, so far as I am concerned, I come into this matter in the most incidental and accidental way. I come into it from the standpoint of fixing the price of offals as food for animals, not from the standpoint of deciding what kind of food pigs should eat. I come into it purely from the point of view of making sure that people do not get money twice over. I come into this matter only from the angle of regulating what should be paid to the millers as subsidy, I have nothing whatever to do with the fixation of prices of offals, either imported or home-produced, but judging by the speeches which we have heard, one would think that I had deliberately set out on a policy of making the prices of animal feeding stuffs high. I did no such thing. No such thing has been done and this whole motion is based on a complete misconception of the facts of the situation.
My function in this matter is to operate in one rôle only, that is, to supervise a simple bookkeeping transaction affecting millers and to see that the public interest in respect of that bookkeeping transaction is fully protected against the possibility of the indiscriminate use or waste of public money. What are the facts? Nobody has attempted to describe the facts in this House; instead this motion has been looked at from the standpoint of what political propaganda could be squeezed out of it. Here are the facts: the total user of wheat offal in this country is approximately 160,000 tons. Of that, 90,000 tons, or 45 per cent., is home-produced, and the balance of 70,000 tons is imported. The imports that come in here from Britain come in free of all duty. If anybody thinks he can buy offal in Britain cheaper than he can buy offal here or in any other part of the world, he can buy all the offal he wants at the price prevailing in Britain, if he thinks that is a good bargain for him.
Imports from other countries are permitted, subject to licensing, but licences are freely granted to anybody who wants to import offal from any country in the world. In other words, if a pig feeder believes that he knows a place in the world where he can buy offal cheaper than he can get home-produced offal in Ireland, all he has to do is to apply for a licence to the Minister for Agriculture and then he can buy that offal at the lowest possible price, and will not be coerced, as was alleged by those sponsoring the motion, into buying Irish offal at a higher price than he wants to pay for it.
There is no price control over offal. Price control over offal existed between 1943 and 1951 and it was abolished in 1951. I do not fix the price of offal, either native or imported. Here there is a free market for offal for our own home-produced offal and a free market for the offal that comes from any other part of the world. Is it not as clear as daylight to anybody who is not blinded by prejudice that if you have a free market for offal here, it is the world price of offal that will determine the price on the Irish market?
Nobody will attempt to deny that. The world price of offal determines the price which can be got for Irish produced offal on the Irish market and offals here to-day as last year, the year before and the years before that, have been sold at any price they will fetch on the market. What price can they fetch on the market? Is it not clear that the price they can fetch on the market will be determined almost exclusively by the price at which foreign offal is imported? Is there any other way in which the price of home produced offalvis-a-vis imported offal could be determined?
Let us take an example. In the case of the miller here trying to sell Irish produced offal above world prices, would the goods not be left on his hands? If, for example, a miller here wanted £25 per ton for Irish produced offal when you could buy world offal at £20 per ton, is it not clear that world offal would be bought and that the miller would be left with the offal at £25 per ton on his hands? Let us take the opposite to that. Suppose he sold the Irish produced offal here below the world price, is it likely that his action in doing so would confer any benefit on the consumer here? Is it not much more likely that if a miller sold offal here below the world price, the offal would go to a wholesaler or some other middleman and would probably be sold by him at the world price, the middleman or wholesaler probably selling native offal and imported offal in the same store at the uniform price?
As I said, I have nothing to do with the fixation of offal prices, but the receipts from the sales of offals are an important factor in relation to the profits of flour millers and it is only at that point that I come into this transaction. In computing the flour subsidy, we have to take into consideration the variations in the price of offal. Offal prices may change two or three times a year and in calculating what amount should be paid to the miller in the form of subsidy, we have to ascertain what he gets for the offal which he sells in the Irish market. What is the best way in which we can make that calculation?
We know from experience that the price which the flour miller gets for offal in this market is determined by the price at which the imported offal is sold. Therefore, we say to the miller: "Look here! so far as the offal from Irish wheat is concerned, you get for it the world price on the Irish market." We, therefore, say to him that, in calculating the amount of subsidy to be paid to him, we must take cognisance of the fact that he gets the world price on the Irish market. Does anybody suggest that we should say to him that he gets £5 less than the world price, when we know, in fact, that he gets the world price? Why should we only debit him with getting, say, £15 per ton if, in fact, we know he is getting £20 per ton?
To do that would be to make an unjustifiable grant to the miller, and, so far as the Department of Industry and Commerce are concerned, we simply say to him that on the Irish market this year he, according to his own records, sold X tons of offal and we assume—this assumption is accepted by the miller. He does not question it. He does not quarrel with it because he knows it is true—he gets the world price on the Irish market for the offal. Therefore, in considering what amount of subsidy he gets, we debit him with the fact that, by his sales on the Irish market, he has got into his own exchequer a sum of money related to the world price of offal.
Would anybody attempt to deny that these are the facts? These are indisputably the facts and they cannot be denied. This whole arrangement is discussed with the Millers' Advisory Council. This whole arrangement is known to the millers. They know that we debit them with what we know they get for the offal on the Irish market, and that is the world price. Why should we make a gift to the millers by charging them £5 less than they get for offal on the Irish market? If we were asked in the House to approve of a proposal of that kind, I imagine that I should see Deputy Corry in his well-known affection for millers cast in a role different from the role he is cast in, so far as this motion is concerned.
Why should we assume that the miller gets less for the offal on the Irish market than we know he gets? If we assume he gets £3, £4, or £5 less than he does, that is an uncovenanted benefit we are giving to the miller and I am not prepared to give it to the miller. I should like to know if Deputies want that money given to the miller. Unless we do what we are doing now—I will come back to the origin of the scheme in a minute—and continue to debit the miller with what he gets on the market, we are going to put substantial cheques in the pockets of the millers.
I am not going to do that nor am I going to be dissuaded from doing what we are doing by the misrepresentation contained in this particular motion. Our whole calculation rests on the basis that we must make the miller pay or we must take credit on behalf of the State for what the miller gets for his offal. In a situation in which 50 per cent. of the offal used in the country comes in at the world price, is it not clear that it is the world price that determines what the miller will get on the Irish market?
The very substantial subsidy which we pay to the miller is based on the assumption that he gets a certain price per ton. Why should we let the miller say that he gets less than he does? He does not want to say it—that must be said in his favour. He has never pleaded for this. Those who are supporting the motion are saying: "Do not charge him. Do not charge him what he is getting. Hope that he will be able to sell it at this lower price." If you have wholesalers and middlemen in the country and if the imported price of offal is £20 a ton, if you go to look for a ton of Irish offal from them for £15 per ton, do you think you will get it? Do you think you will have a uniform price or an Irish price and a foreign price in this respect? There are simple people still extant in this country if you imagine that.
Even if the miller were allowed to sell offal at £1 or £5 below the price which he could get for it, that would never reach the consumer. There are a lot of gentlemen in between the miller and the consumer who would live by working their heads and, in the long run, the consumer would pay the uniform and international price for offal of that kind. That fact, of course, was not thought of or adverted to by the people stampeded into putting down a motion of this kind without giving any thought to it or to any consequences of the way in which they would dissipate the State's money and make to the millers a present which they themselves—to their credit, it must be said—never asked for.
The net position is this. For the purpose of estimating more precisely what is due to be paid to the miller in the form of subsidy, for the purpose of making sure that the State does not pay twice, for the purpose of making sure that the public's money is adequately safeguarded, we say to the miller: "If we have to pay you a subsidy on flour, because you mill wheat, then we are entitled to take into account all you get in the form of an income from the offal you sell." That is all we do in this matter and that is all the Department of Industry and Commerce does in this matter. As I said earlier, it goes into this whole transaction simply from the point of view of ensuring that the nation's money is not wasted or dissipated as it would be if we were to take the advice of some of our friends opposite.
Deputy Beegan was right when he said he does not think the Minister for Industry and Commerce has the responsibility in this transaction. The Minister for Industry and Commerce comes into this thing purely from an accountancy point of view to say to the millers: "If you get £25 a ton for offal, you pay that into the kitty. That will be taken into consideration when the subsidy is being paid to you." To let him pay in anything less, as presumably this motion wants him to do, is to deprive the Exchequer of money in the interests of giving a benefit to the miller. To allow him to sell or presume he can sell offal at a price below the international price and that that sale, passing through a few hands,, will ultimately confer a benefit on the consumer—well, the person who believes that is a strong rival of Alice in Wonderland. It would not happen, and everybody knows it would not happen.
Listening to the speeches opposite, one would think that all this was something that happened last week, last year, in 1954, or that it was devised in 1948-49, 1950 or 1951 when the inter-Party Government was previously in office. This is a Fianna Fáil formula. It was devised by the Fianna Fáil Party. It saw the light of day under the Fianna Fáil Government. It has been administered by Fianna Fáil Ministers. Yet we get an attitude of injured innocence put on here by Deputy Corry and the now missing Deputy Allen, who say this was some Machiavellian thought of mine that deprived the pig feeders of £617,000 a year.
I altered no prices of offal. My predecessor, Deputy Lemass, who discharged the same function as I do, altered no prices of offal. No prices of offal have ever been altered or have ever been fixed. The miller has been asked: "Pay in, lad, what you have got." He has never disputed that that is a right method and he has paid in what he got. Every one of the Deputies opposite should bear in mind that when they go to the Division Lobby on this motion they are voting against a piece of machinery that was conceived and given birth to by the Fianna Fáil Party. It first saw the light of day with Fianna Fáil parents standing beside it. It was used by the Fianna Fáil Government every year since it was first introduced and it was operated by the Fianna Fáil Government the last day it was in office. Let us have some honesty in political life in Ireland.
I do not wonder at your laughing at the mention of honesty: you do not know what the word means. I bet that half of you could not spell "political honesty". However, the notion of all these brothers opposite going into the Division Lobby against this practice which was conceived and operated by the Fianna Fáil Party down through the years is a circus act which would have done a trapeze artist a good deal of credit.
It is quite a good act to be able to go into the lobby to-night and vote against this piece of Fianna Fáil work. Deputy Corry forgot all about the fact that this was a piece of Fianna Fáil machinery. We are operating it. Fianna Fáil conceived and operated it. This is one of the things they did all right. This would be a different country if they were as right in a whole lot of other things as they were in this. They wanted to prevent the millers from getting money twice and I want to do the same thing. I am operating it with the same purpose. It does not matter to the miller if he sells the offal for £1 a ton or for £31 a ton. The miller is quite unconcerned with the price he gets for the offal. It has nothing to do with him at all. We deal on this basis—whatever you get, put it into the "kitty". If he gets a high price, well and good. If he gets a low price, he says to us: "Remember I got very little for the offal". As far as the miller is concerned, he gets nothing out of a low or a high price, so far as the offal is concerned.
As I said at the outset, this is purely an accountancy transaction. A lot of the arguments made on this motion were in favour of providing the pig feeders and the cattle raisers with feeding stuffs at special prices. There may be a case for that. It has got to be argued on its own merits. I can quite see that somebody might want to discuss the wisdom of subsidising pig-feeding or the question of making offals available at lower prices for farmers. That is a case that could be argued and argued on its merits.
I have nothing to do with the fixing of offal prices. The millers get what they can on an open market and whatever they get they put into a "kitty" and we take cognisance of what they get, and the payments of subsidies are based accordingly. If we did not take full cognisance of what the miller gets, then he would be putting concealed profit into his pocket.
This scheme operated in 1948 and from 1951 to 1954, and I think it is a good scheme, designed to prevent waste of public money. If there are people in the country who think this scheme is not working fairly or that they would get better value by buying offal elsewhere, then there is a simple answer. The whole world is open to them. They can go to any place from Poland to Peru and buy offal at the lowest possible price and import it here and they will get a licence to do so. There is no compulsion to use the Irish offal. Five continents are available to the pig producers in which to buy their offal, if they think it is better to buy it in any part of the world instead of in Ireland. They can buy wherever they think the price is lowest, if they are not satisfied with the value here in Ireland. If they want to take this course, then they can get their feeding stuff anywhere in the world and they need not buy Irish produced offal, the price of which they decry so much.
I am satisfied, however, that the arrangement now operating here is a good one, even though, I concede, it is a Fianna Fáil arrangement. It is one way of ensuring that the public money is utilised to the best possible advantage. As far as this motion is concerned, anybody who permits himself to think freely and intelligently must, in the light of the facts I have given to the House, realise that it is a silly and inappropriate motion put down for the purpose of trying to get petty Party political advantage from this discussion. I think that there is a red light on the horizon for the Irish people, and for the farmers, if, in face of the facts which I have disclosed, people allow themselves to be deceived by a motion of this sort.
I would like to remind the Minister for Industry and Commerce, who now acts as Pontius Pilate, of his words on this matter. Speaking in this House on March the 23rd, 1955, in Volume 149, column 515, the Minister for Industry and Commerce stated:—
"It was originally calculated that the reduction in flour and bread prices as from the 1st May, 1954, would add approximately £900,000 to the bill for subsidy for the financial year 1954-55. In actual fact, the reduction will cost £927,000, against which, however, can be offset items amounting to about £555,000, leaving a balance of £372,000 to be provided for under this sub-head."
The chief offsetting items, of which I shall give details in a moment, are:—
"(a) Increased receipts by flour millers from sales of wheaten offals over and above the amount originnally estimated;"
The Minister then goes on:—
"Increases in the price of offals, from £20 to £23 per ton in September, 1954, to £24 10s. in December, 1954, and to £26 a ton in January, 1955, account for increased receipts by millers of approximately £170,000. These increases followed similar increases in the prices of imported offals reflecting changes in the world price."
That was the Minister's statement on that date. In that very short period, the millers had collected from the pig feeders of this country a sum of £170,000, by the simple expedient of bringing the price of home offals up to the price of imported offals. I was rather curious to see the position over a longer period and I went after it. I asked a question in this House on 15th February of this year, and, due to the manner in which the reply was made, I was compelled to raise that part of my question on the Adjournment. It was due to the fact that the acting Minister for Industry and Commerce stated that the information was not available in his Department.
The information given there by the Minister for Industry and Commerce in March, 1955, was not available in February of 1956. However, we squeezed out the following information from the Minister for Social Welfare, who was deputising for the Minister for Industry and Commerce, and in column 494 of the 15th February, 1956, the Minister stated:—
"Adopting the same basis as that used in estimating the probable amount of subsidy payments in the financial year 1954-55 the increased receipts by millers from sales of wheaten offals from September, 1954, to August, 1955, have been calculated to amount to £431,000; and for the period from September, 1955, to the 1st February, 1956, to £186,000."
That makes £617,000 which has been dragged out of the pockets of the unfortunate pig feeders in this country by increasing the price of home offals, as the Minister says, to the price of imported offals, and as a result that much money has been extracted from the pig feeders of this country and we have the results in pig production.
On the same basis, since the 1st February, 1956, to the present day he has extracted at least £320,000 more. That is 1,000,000 of money contributed by the pig feeders of this country to pay the flour subsidy for the Minister for the past 18 months. Let us see the class of people from whom this money has been taken. I happened to be a member of the deputation that called on the Minister for Agriculture—the Minister who has a mind like a sewer.
The Deputy should not refer to the Minister in that manner.
I do not think it is any more derogatory than the statements made by the Minister about me this evening.
The Deputy must withdraw the statement that the Minister has a mind like a sewer.
Withdrawn. If the Minister has any doubts of what I think of him I can tell him another time. When that Minister reduced the price of feeding barley to the farmers by £4 per ton he was waited on by a deputation from the Beet Growers' Organisation and this is what he told us: "The small farmer in the west, the man with the ten acres and the wife and six children, feeds pigs. Am I going to increase the price of feeding stuffs to him for the big farmer with the two motor cars who grows barley?" That was his statement, but the same Minister now sits as mute as a mouse while his colleague comes along and robs those pig feeders of over £900,000 in 18 months.
What have been the results of the activities of this Minister on production? Mark you, it is rather an extraordinary thing that whole wheat is bought at the present day from 60/- to 65/- a barrel while offals, bran and pollard are at present £28 10s. per ton in Cork, £27 10s. per ton in Dublin, £30 per ton in Dundalk, and £28 10s. in County Sligo. The economic price of those offals is somewhere around £17 per ton. If they were worth £20 per ton in September, 1954, when this Minister came into office and when the price paid for Irish wheat was £32 per ton, what are they worth to-day? What are they worth to-day when we have the penal taxation on home produced wheat in this country of £5 per ton imposed by that Minister and his colleagues? By increasing the price from the economic price of £17 per ton to the £28 per ton paid to-day, this Minister has collected, by dragging from every hole and corner in this country, every penny he could gather. The Minister says it would not go to the pig feeders anyway and he says this is a Fianna Fáil proposal. I wish to tell him it is not. It came in with himself.
That is a falsehood.
That is absolutely true.
It is a falsehood.
It is absolutely true and the Minister knows it.
The file here says it.
It is true and the Minister knows it is true. I am not worrying about the rags the Minister has there. I saw rags brought into this House before—rags of agreements— and I know the activities of the Minister. The Minister comes here and robs those unfortunate men of £1,000,000 in a year and a half. This is the Minister who to-day has to go over to the Canadians and borrow the price of the bread that we eat——
The Deputy does not want to see it on the file.
——100,000 tons of wheat brought in here to feed the Irish people and the price of which was borrowed from the Canadian Government. Why do you not get out? A handful of beggars! Those are some of the activities that we hear all about. What is the result of that extraction from the Irish farmer? You had a reduction last year of 159,476 pigs in this country. That is the "increased production" caused by the Minister as a result of this penal tax on pig feeders.
On top of that activity we find, in June of this year, a further reduction of 58,700 pigs. That is 200,000 pigs—a drop in production of 200,000 pigs as a result of penal taxation on the unfortunate pig feeder in this country. Then the Minister comes along, like Pontius Pilate, and says: "It is not I." Is there any decency left over there at all? Is this nation, for which our comrades died, to be bankrupted by a parcel of lawyers and a parcel of nitwits? Is that what we are coming to, or are they going to get out decently? I understood that when a Government looked to a nation for credit in the shape of a loan and when that nation had not trust enough in that Government to give the loan that, as a result of the lack of confidence shown, the least those gentlemen would do would be to go out of office.
The motion relates to the price of offals.
Yes, Sir. I am asking the Minister is he going to stop there until the pig population of this country and the pig industry have completely disappeared?
The pigs' company would be more welcome than yours.
The Minister looks like an overweight, Grade 3.
These personalities must cease.
There was a time when he was sizable.
Deputy Corry must relate his remarks to the motion or else sit down.
I cannot help the disorderly remarks of the Minister. One would expect that, when attention was called to the facts, those people who go out shouting "more production" to the unfortunate farmers would remove this penal tax of £8 a ton. When this money is collected by the millers, as the Minister pretends, there should be a very simple way of utilising that money for the reduction of the price of offals for pig-feeding.
If imported bran and pollard are to-day costing £28 10s. a ton—we were told last year that wheat should not be grown in this country because it could be imported cheaper—and if they are importing wheat cheaper than £28 10s., why buy the skin of the wheat for £28 10s.? That is a very simple question if there were any brains at all over there but there are not. That is only one item but it is in common with the whole policy of those people over there as regards agriculture.
The ordinary farmer in this country working on any basis whatever does not know where he is from morning until night. When he grew wheat this monstrosity of a Minister came along and slashed it by £5 a ton. When he grew feeding barley he was slashed £4 a ton on that. Then we go over to the Canadians with our hat in our hand and ask for 100,000 tons of wheat and the Canadian Government had to guarantee the price of it, to feed the Irish people to-day. That is what we are brought to. These are the "better times" that we heard all about and this is the "cheaper food". The townspeople and the city people have told you to get out. The country people of Leix-Offaly have told you to get out. Cork City has told you to get out. When are you going out? Even the pigs are emigrating now; 200,000 of them have emigrated in the last two years, through the activities of our Minister for Industry and Commerce. We got nothing for them. That is the worst of it.
There should not be the slightest difficulty in transferring that money, when collected, from the pockets of the miller or rather the bottomless pocket of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, into the pockets of the pig-feeders. It, should not be beyond the wisdom of the Minister for Industry and Commerce; it should not be beyond the ability of all the civil servants in his Department to devise a scheme by which, if imported offals are costing £28 and the economic price of the home-produced offals is £17, one could be placed beside the other and a dividing line arrived at and that price be charged all round. Instead of that, we have the activities of those gentlemen over there who are concerned only with where they will get money and do not give a hang whom they rob to get it. That is not what I think but what every decent-minded man in this country thinks of them to-day.
I do not want to prolong the debate or to hold up the House. I am prepared to have the decision of the House now, knowing that there is a majority of five there but I promise you there will not be a majority of five there this day month.
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