Committee on Finance. - Agricultural Produce (Cereals) (Amendment) Bill, 1958—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. The Government decided in January last, as the House is aware, that if the estimated quantity of native wheat likely to be delivered to the mills from the 1958 crop exceeded 300,000 tons dried, it would be necessary to introduce a scheme which would spread fairly over all wheat growers the difference between the prices realised for the surplus and the cost of the wheat in the purchasers' stores.

From the information at present available, it appears that there will be a surplus of wheat from the 1958 crop and the purpose of this Bill is to empower the Minister for Agriculture to implement the proposals already announced and discussed in this House. Briefly, these proposals are that a levy will be deducted by the purchasers from the price of all millable wheat marketed; this levy will be paid into a fund to be managed by a board to be set up under this Bill and will be used to meet the cost of the disposal of the surplus wheat.

Before going on to the terms of the Bill, I think I should mention that the requirement of 300,000 tons of dried native wheat was related to a higher rate of consumption of flour than the present rate. The production of flour during the current cereal year is approximately 10 per cent. less than in the same period last year and in the circumstances there is little likelihood that the requirement of 300,000 tons will be increased.

The most important sections of the Bill are Sections 2, 3 and 4.

Section 2 provides for the deduction of the wheat levy from the standard price by the purchasers and for the transmission of the sums involved to the board which is to be set up under the Act. This section also provides for a payment of the levy to the Minister in the event of the board not being in operation before the commencement of the 1958 harvest.

Section 3 provides for the fixing of the rate of wheat levy by the Minister. It is intended that before fixing the levy the Minister should consult with the board to be set up, but provision is also made for consultation with representatives of the growers in the event of the board not being in operation before the levy appropriate to the 1958 crop is determined.

Section 4 provides for the establishment of a board to be known as An Bord Gráin. The primary function of this board will be to collect the wheat levies and to arrange for the disposal of surplus wheat to the best advantage. It is intended that the board shall consist of a chairman and not less than four or more than eight other members to be appointed by the Minister for Agriculture. It is intended that wheat growers and other interests concerned will be represented on the board. I may mention at this stage that I have had consultations with representatives of the flour millers, who have indicated to me that they are not disposed to be represented on the proposed board. They have, however, informed me that they will be prepared to co-operate in the purchase, handling, drying and storage of any surplus wheat on behalf of the board provided moneys are advanced to them to enable such purchases to be made.

It will be noted that in addition to the general powers being given to the board to purchase and sell surplus home-grown millable wheat and to collect the wheat levy it will also be empowered—

(a) to invest moneys under its control; (b) to arrange for the carriage, drying, handling and storage of wheat either by providing itself with the necessary facilities or by arranging with the owners of such facilities to use them on behalf of the board; (c) to provide itself with such offices and premises as it considers necessary and to equip and maintain such offices and premises; (d) to borrow, with the consent of the Minister, from time to time such moneys as it considers necessary; provision is also made for the guaranteeing of a loan to the board by the Minister with the consent of the Minister for Finance up to a maximum of £3,500,000; (e) to appoint such and so many persons to be its officers and servants as it thinks fit (an officer of the board will be authorised to inspect and to make copies of records of all purchases of wheat. This power is necessary in order that the board may ensure that levy is paid on all purchases); (f) to require wheat purchasers by notice in writing to furnish to the board in such form and at such time or times as it may specify returns disclosing the date of purchase of any wheat and the quantity, quality and condition of wheat purchased.

It is provided in Sections 20 and 21 that the board shall submit to the Minister each year a copy of its accounts, including the balance sheet, certified by the Comptroller and Auditor-General, together with an annual report, and that such accounts and report shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas.

As I have indicated already, the primary function of the board is to collect the levy and arrange for the disposal to the best advantage of the surplus wheat which may arise. I would like, however, to direct the attention of the House to Section 7 of the Bill, which provides that the Minister for Agriculture may, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, from time to time by Order—

(a) assign to the board such additional functions as he thinks fit in relation to cereals (excluding wheat imported for milling), cereal products and animal feeding stuffs; (b) make such provision as he considers desirable or necessary in relation to matters ancillary to, or arising out of, the assignment to or fulfilment by the board of functions assigned to it under this section.

This provision is being included in the Bill in view of the fact that Grain Importers (Éire) Limited will probably be wound up in the near future. As the House is aware, that company has fulfilled a very useful function since 1939 in arranging for imports of wheat and coarse grains and also in operating various schemes introduced for the purchase and disposal of home-grown cereals. When this company was set up in 1939, it was intended that it should operate only for the emergency period. Due to various circumstances, however, it has been continued in operation and its directors, who have given their services without fee, are anxious to be relieved of their responsibilities in this regard.

It is now proposed that the business of importing wheat for milling will revert to the usual trade channels. There is no serious difficulty involved in this proposal as the quantity of wheat to be imported can be estimated with reasonable accuracy and may be restricted by licence issued under the Cereals Act. The position in regard to coarse grains presents a more difficult problem having regard to the difficulty in determining from time to time the quantities to be imported and in regulating the price of imported grain in relation to the price of home-grown cereals. While it may be possible, in consultation with the interests concerned, to arrange for the import through the usual trade channels, of such limited quantities of coarse grain as may be required, it is most desirable that some central organisation should be available to implement such schemes as may be devised for the marketing of home-grown cereals.

Finally, I should like to mention that the board will be concerned only with millable wheat. Wheat which is not up to milling standard by existing regulations will not be purchased by or on behalf of the board.

This Bill ends the guaranteed price for wheat. It was the object of the Government of which I was a member to try to extend as far as possible the principle that if industrialists were to get the benefit of security for their profits by the high tariff system in operation here and if industrial workers were to secure the benefit of fixed wages as a result of industrial agreements entered into by their trade unions and employers—all of which must ultimately be paid by the farmers—the farmers would get on their side some assurance that if they laboured for 14 hours a day for seven days a week in a good many cases, commonly six days a week, they would get a sure and certain price for what they produced.

We extended that guarantee from wheat to beet, barley, pigs and milk. It is now, by this Bill, being swept away in respect of wheat, for no man knows what the price of wheat will be this year. I gather that the price is to be reduced from the price fixed by our Government of 78/6 per barrel for wheat of 64 lb. bushel weight and 22 per cent. moisture or less by 6/- a barrel, but no one can tell what the reduction will be next year when the deficit on the realisation of what is described as surplus wheat in this Bill has been completed.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted, and 20 Members being present.

When I think, Sir, of the policy of Fianna Fáil, proclaimed in the streets of Killeagh, County Cork, by Deputy Corry, proclaimed by Deputy Maher in Laois-Offaly and proclaimed by Deputy Medlar in Kilkenny, that they were straining at the leash to get back into Dáil Éireann as the Government of the country, so that they could increase the price of wheat to 82/6 without delay and when I picture them lined up to-day to tramp through the lobby—as they assuredly will be made to do—to force through the House a Bill to sweep away all guarantee in respect of wheat and to declare that from henceforth no one will know what is to be paid for wheat grown in this country, I begin to understand those who, in their folly, denigrate parliamentary institutions in this country. There are many people coming to say that the preservation of parliamentary democracy here is no longer possible, because the suffrage of the people is sought by falsehood, that what ought to be a universally respected institution is founded on lies.

I believe it is a bad principle to set up here a system whereunder the industrial employer, the industrial worker, the civil servant, the Civic Guard and the soldier, are all guaranteed an income related to the cost of living, on the assumption that the farmer who works the land will make his contribution to each of those charges; and that each of those types of person—the industrialist, the industrial worker, the civil servant, the soldier and the Guard—is to be guaranteed a limited working day for a wage strictly related to the cost of living; but that the farmer, and the farmer alone, is to be told that he must work an unrestricted day, for a reward the dimensions of which he does not know. Having worked 14 hours a day for six days of the week, in the belief that his product will realise 78/6 a barrel, the farmer is to discover, when the time comes to harvest it, that by an arbitrary decision taken by the Minister for Agriculture, after consulting the Minister for Industry and Commerce, the price of 78/6 can be reduced by any amount—nobody knows how much. That is wrong; that is unjust. That in itself is bad enough, but what is peculiarly gross in this Bill is that it represents a shameless and disgraceful repudiation of the pledged word of the majority Party in this country to the voters at the last election.

Produce the pledge, please.

Now listen to him. Let the people judge between us. They know.

Produce the pledge. I am asking the Deputy to produce the pledge.

It is like asking a burglar to produce his tools. They went by stealth from chapel gate to chapel gate to make their promises and to pledge their word and now they are exposed as a fraud in town and country.

Is this a demonstration now?

The people are beginning to turn against the Fianna Fáil Party. What is worse is that the people are turning against Parliament, because they identify us all with their disgusting standards. That is what is wrong. Parliament is being made a by-word in this country by treachery of this kind.

The Deputy is widening the discussion. The Bill deals with wheat.

It deals with the undertakings given by Government.

The question of election promises or the fighting of the election may not be discussed on the Bill.

I beg your pardon, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle. I cannot refer to what Fianna Fáil pledged itself to do?

Not in any great detail.

Those opposite came in and went out; they came in again and then they went out of office for ever.

I want to listen to Deputy Killilea, so that we can mark well the sentiments which inspire the Fianna Fáil Party. On the face of this Bill, there appear the words "Schedule—An Bord Gráin." The Minister has gone all Gaelic in his middle age. "Gráin" in this context, I gather, is the genitive of "grán". But the word "gráin" has another meaning and it can be translated by many suitable words in English. Here is a selection of some of them. It makes this word peculiarly suitable for endorsement on the cover of this Bill. "Gráin" means disgust, dislike, abhorrence, aversion, hatred, shame, horror, ugliness and reproach. Was it ever better chosen for endorsement on the cover of a Bill? "Gráin ort!" means "Shame on you!""Tá gráin agam ort" means "I loathe you." And it is the Minister who chose that word.

Indeed he did not.

It was an inspired choice, for it most aptly describes this shameless transaction. Let it be remembered as the policy of hatred, shame, ugliness and reproach, and it will be that to Fianna Fáil so long as it is there. For what is the purpose of this board? The purpose of this board is to do the dirty thing that the Minister has not the courage to do himself. There is only one purpose in setting up this board and that is to cut the price of wheat. When I had to cut the price of wheat, as I believed it to be my duty to do, I did it and I faced the music and I set the price and told the farmers that was all we could afford to pay. I told my own Government the price would have to be paid and that the Exchequer would have to meet the cost; that and no more. But what is this disgusting instrument aimed at doing? It aims to say that the Minister for agriculture has set the price at 78/6 a barrel and that he and the Minister for Industry and Commerce will arbitrarily determine that 300,000 tons of wheat are what are required and that any wheat over and above that becomes the responsibility of the board.

The board is constituted, not of representatives freely chosen by the producers of wheat, but chosen by the Minister for Agriculture and he commits to their care the disposal of what he declares to be a surplus. When they have disposed of that surplus, they will report to him the loss and he will lend them the money to meet the loss, with the proviso that he will then fix a levy and at that stage he extends to them the courtesy of consultation. He will consult with them as to how much the price of wheat must be cut in order to pay the loss they made on the sale of wheat, until eventually the farmers are forced into the position of saying that it was they who cut the price of wheat; that it was they who lost the money on the sale of the wheat. And it is to meet the loss they made that the Minister must put the levy on in order to recoup the loss made, not by the Minister, but by the farmers into whose hands he committed the sale of the surplus wheat.

When I contemplate the despicable fraud of which the Fianna Fáil Party is capable, I so well remember the Milk Costings Commission; I so well remember the unfortunate creamery farmers being called in by the late Deputy Tom Walsh who was the Minister's predecessor and mine, and being told that all their troubles were over, that he was going to place their affairs in the hands of the Milk Costings Commission which would resolve the problems and settle the difficulties for evermore. And they swallowed it and the whole dirty, fraudulent farce of the Milk Costings Commission dragged its nauseating course along, until eventually the report emerged informing us that milk could be produced in this country at anything from 2½d. to 1/9 a gallon.

The farmers were then told to read that and then come back and make their representations. We have not heard a word from them since. When that disgusting device was first conceived in the minds of Fianna Fáil, I remember saying to our dairy farmers: "You are being fraudulently dealt with; you are being led up the garden; this is a completely fraudulent device to betray you." But they accepted it and they believed it was going to confer a benefit upon them, but the end result has been that the price of milk has been reduced by 1¼d. officially, but it is common knowledge throughout the creameries of the country——

Surely we cannot discuss the price of milk on this Bill which deals with wheat.

It is common knowledge that there is another 1/2d. a gallon coming off the price at the instance of the creameries, in order to meet the conditions imposed on them by the Minister for Agriculture.

In exactly the same way, a board is being established here which wipes away all certainty about the price of wheat and which transfers on to the farmer the obligation of realising the losses so that in fact they may be told, when the levy is fixed next year, that they cut their own throats and that the Minister for Agriculture had nothing to do with it. If my summing up of the situation is correct, the proposal this year is to underestimate the crop and the deduction this year will be relatively trivial; relatively, I say, because if it is 6/- a barrel this year, it is nothing compared with what it will be next year. But if they can be persuaded to accept the principle this year, the responsibility is squarely fixed on them in the years that lie ahead.

I hate that kind of dirty fraud. I hate the kind of Government that treats the people with contemptuous indifference, that jeers at them as they do them injury. I hate the Government that treats the farmers as if they were hewers of wood and drawers of water in their own land. I hate a Government supported by an absolute majority in this House that tramples on the rights of people who cannot defend themselves. It is true that the entire requirements of wheat can be produced on 3 per cent. of the arable land of Ireland, but let no Deputy deceive himself. The evil element in this Bill is not its direct impact on 3 per cent. of our agricultural land; it is the shameful principle that you defraud the people and trample on their rights.

That is what is being done to the farmers and if the Government had the honesty and decency to come out in public and say: "This is what we propose to do and you can lump it or like it", I would have respect for them. At least, there is something to be said in defence of the Minister's action in declaring that he was going to reduce the price of pigs. I thought he was wrong in doing it; I was sure he was wrong, but he did it honestly. If he made up his mind it was the requisite thing to do, he did it honestly and he told his own constituents, some of them the most intensive pig producers in Ireland, that it had to be done and that he would stand over it. That is decent and can never injure public life in this country. You may agree with him or disagree with him, but it was honest and decent and judgment can be passed upon it without the feeling that you are struggling in a dirty mess of fraud and deceit.

This Bill is dishonest, rotten and shameful, because in fact it is the production of a Bill of 25 sections and a Schedule as a smokescreen to cover up the fact that the Government are determined to reduce the price of wheat and to go on reducing it until it reaches a level which will evoke no more than the 300,000 tons they have made up their minds are all they will pay the farmer for. It is not honest in my judgment. That was what their policy was, to tell the farmers what prices would be and to say if they were not on the right level then they would be adjusted again, but it is disreputable to employ machinery of this kind in the futile hope that by this you can spare the blushes of Deputy Medlar, Deputy Maher and Deputy Moher not to speak of poor Deputy Corry. I have never known him to blush and there was no need to spare his blushes. Coming down to the details of this Bill I have certain comments to make.

How does anyone defend the proposition that if this surplus of wheat is the property of the farmers, of the growers, they are not to be the people to choose the board charged with the responsibility of dealing with it? Surely, if they are fit to grow the wheat they are fit to choose the people who will dispose of their own property? How is it that the Minister binds himself to consult about the size of the levy but not about the size of the surplus? He says that he will consult the National Farmers' Association some time this month to determine what the likely dimension of the surplus will be. That is a laughable and grotesque decision because there is no living man who can tell to-day what the yield of the wheat crop will be next September.

Some arbitrary figure will be arrived at which will justify a levy of 6/- a barrel on wheat this year, but next year there will be the ascertained deficit of this year's transactions, plus the informed estimate that is to be made in the light of this year's experience, and that will have to be met by the levy to be put on the price of wheat next year, which no one will know the extent of until July has been reached when all the wheat is grown. Did Deputies hear this interesting pronouncement by the Minister: "It is intended that wheat growers and other interests concerned will be represented on the board. I may mention at this stage that I have had consultations with representatives of the flour millers, who have indicated to me that they are not disposed to be represented on the proposed board." They did not come down in yesterday's shower. They will have nothing to do with the proceedings of this board. They are washing their hands for all the world to see declaring before the whole country: "We have no responsibility for this. It is the farmers unaided who have been elected to cut their own throats and we want no hand in the operation." Why should they? If their own Minister is prepared to sharpen the knife, why should the millers accept the odium of whetting the blade?

We now come, as far as we can, to what the Minister's intentions are and to what the functions of the board shall be. Of course, the Minister is adopting the technique of his colleague, the Minister for Finance, and that is to come in here and tell the House nothing; then sit back and see what is going to happen. He says: "It will be noted that in addition to the general powers being given to the board to purchase and sell surplus home-grown millable wheat and to collect the wheat levy"—mark you—"to collect the wheat levy!" Just imagine setting up a board of farmers, one of whose principal functions is to collect the levy which is to be determined by the Minister in consultation with them. There is nothing like rubbing it in is there? There is something almost sadistic in that arrangement.

"It will also be empowered," this paragraph goes on to read, "(a) to invest moneys under its control; (b) to arrange for the carriage, drying, handling and storage of wheat by providing itself with the necessary facilities or by arranging with the owners of such facilities to use them on behalf of the board.""To invest moneys under its control"—that will be a very entertaining occupation for them. See the picture, see them rolling in dough with nowhere to put it, and so being given powers not only to put it in the bank, but to invest it so that they may have the income from their surplus earnings.

Who owns all the facilities in this country for drying, handling and the storage of wheat? The owners are the boys who announced so graciously, who indicated to the Minister, that they were not disposed to be represented on the board. They will be represented when it comes to drying, to storing, to handling, to housing and to unhousing. That is a very favourite occupation of grain storage companies in this country. You get paid for putting in each sack and you get paid for taking out each sack. That is called housing and unhousing, and there is a fee payable every time it is done. These people are standing ready to correspond with this power of Bord Gráin—"to arrange with the owners of such facilities to use them on behalf of the board." It does not go on to say "at a suitable fee". That is understood.

I remember when I was responsible for cold-storing butter in this country. I notice that procedure has been dropped now and the creameries are to go and make what bargain they can with the consumers in Dublin and Bray. I remember what it meant to me, when I was the only authority in the country to negotiate with the proprietors of cold stores for the storage of butter. On one occasion I was told that the poor cold-storage proprietors could not keep the power on if the price was not put up, that if the price was not raised the next day somebody would have to turn off the power. When you have some hundreds or thousands of tons of butter on hands you pay and look pleasant, but I wonder what this board will do in negotiating with the owners of such facilities to use them on behalf of the board. They can console themselves with this knowledge, that whatever the charges made by the proprietors of this accommodation may be, they will not compare with the levy which the Minister will make upon them after consultation with themselves.

The board have power to borrow with the consent of the Minister. They are to have the obligation to repay it. I notice that the importation of coarse grain is to be returned to the normal channels; the importation of wheat is to be returned to the normal channels. I wonder what that means? Does it mean that anyone can import wheat or that anyone can get a licence to do so, or does it mean that we will confine the importation of wheat to those firms engaged in the trade prior to 1939? I invite Deputies to read the Flour and Milling Report.

There is an interesting final paragraph in the Minister's speech which says:—

"Finally, I should like to mention that the board will be concerned only with millable wheat. Wheat which is not up to milling standard by existing regulations will not be purchased by or on behalf of the board."

What will be done with the unmillable wheat? Who is going to determine what is millable and what is unmillable? The board is going to have nothing to do with it. There has been an argument going on in this country for quite some time as to whether wheat which had in it the potentialities of sprouting was millable or not. The millers said it was not; the growers said it was and I said it was. The millers bought it and milled it.

I think many Deputies imagine that this board was set up to take the whole wheat crop which was not used to fill the 300,000 tons required by the Government's policy. That is not so. This board is charged with responsibility only for so much of the wheat crop as it is agreed is millable and nobody will define what millable means. It largely depends upon what millers say it is. Will the Minister enforce or prescribe a definition of millable, and, if not, what are we going to do with the unmillable wheat?

Remember that this board is to be charged with the responsibility of selling the surplus millable wheat as animal feed. What is the farmer going to do whose wheat is declared to be unmillable? These are questions to which we have no answer. I do not believe we are meant to have an answer, but all this taken together means this: The whole principle of guaranteed prices for farmers is in the process of going down the drain. I believe it is studied Fianna Fáil policy to send it down the drain.

They no longer believe that the farmers are entitled to any guarantee. They believe it is too much of a nuisance. It might prove too costly and in any case the farmers will not fight. They avoided industrial strife by providing an all-round increase of 10/-; they avoided an upheaval in the public services by conceding the same thing to the Civil Service, the Army and the Garda. They notified every industrial producer in this country that price control was ended and every distributor in Ireland knows that thereupon there issued a shower of notices from every protected industry in this country telling us that because of the increased cost of production prices must be adjusted upwards.

The biscuit manufacturers were informed that they would get an annual subvention of from £80,000 to £100,000 a year out of the surplus wheat in order to help them to compete on the home market. Every section of the community was given security at a higher level than they had hitherto enjoyed, except the farmers, who were told that they would take a certain cut in the price of pigs and who have learned to their cost that they are now required to take an indeterminate cut in the price of milk and wheat. They are fixed with notice by the Minister that he has no intention hereafter of providing any minimum guarantee for barley.

I wonder what Fianna Fáil Deputies themselves think. I shall listen with interest to Deputy Allen who for years championed the principle of guaranteed prices in this House and who boasted that he was concerned and dismayed to see any interference with it. I shall be most interested to hear what Deputy Allen has to say now. Oh, he will say something! He is a hardened old warrior. He gets up and fights his corners as best he can. He is not like the others who are afraid to show their faces. At least Deputy Allen is here. He will do his stuff and I shall be interested to hear what he has to say——

It was a great many years before Deputy Dillon accepted the idea of any guaranteed prices.

That cock will not fight. The plain truth is that we provided guaranteed prices for pigs, barley, milk, wheat and beet, and, while admitting freely that there certainly was not unanimity of opinion between me and other Deputies on the question of wheat and beet, I often said in this House that the test of a sound democratic Parliament was that a Government in office should have due regard to the feelings of the minority for the time being. In deference to those feelings the first thing I ever did, as Minister for Agriculture, was to provide a five year guarantee for the price of wheat. No Deputy can deny that.

For what?

The first thing I did in 1948 was to declare a five year guarantee for wheat.

You cut it by 12/-.

When I did that, I answered to the people for it. This Bill is designed to do that and more than that, with this distinction: It does not fix a price which can be argued on the merits in this House. It fixes an unascertainable price level which nobody can discuss because nobody knows what it is. It sweeps away the whole principle of security which we sought to establish and did with success establish in every branch of agriculture.

Yes, and I submit to the House that the effect of that is easy to see. We fixed a price for pigs and at the present moment we are exporting approximately £4,000,000 worth of pig meat and the output is rising. It is rising because the price was fixed. We provided the Minister for Agriculture with powers under the 1956 Pigs and Bacon Act, if the curers try to smash down the price of Grades B and C pigs, to take steps which would compel them to pay a price properly related to the Grade A price fixed by the Minister for Agriculture for the time being. The result of that stability in prices has been expanding production. We secured a high minimum level for cattle prices in this country and the result of that guarantee has been an immense expansion in the output of live stock. We linked the price of sheep to the guaranteed price of sheep in Great Britain and the result has been an immense increase in the numbers of sheep.

The Deputy is getting away from the Bill. We cannot have a debate on agriculture on this Bill, which deals with the price of wheat. I have pointed that out several times to the Deputy.

We fixed the price of barley and the result has been that we have reached a stage at which imports of coarse grain have practically ceased because we are producing our own.

The Deputy has said that at least three times. Repetition in the House is disorderly. The Deputy should come to the Bill.

A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I am dealing with this Bill. I know all about this Bill and there is not a word that I have said that is not directly related to this Bill.

I do not agree that everything the Deputy has said is related to the Bill. I am pointing out to the Deputy that he has repeated himself at least three times.

I do not think I have repeated myself in the slightest degree. I claim a certain right to speak here on a matter of this kind with the same forbearance from the Chair that other Deputies are entitled to receive.

The Deputy will get the same facilities as any other Deputy. Repetition is disorderly and the Deputy knows it.

That I ask and intend to secure. I want to suggest to the Minister for Agriculture that, instead of persisting in this dishonest repudiation of all the principles of price security for the agricultural community which we have sought to establish here, he should withdraw this Bill, fix a fair price for wheat and stand over it. Naturally, that price must be related to the burden which the Exchequer can be reasonably asked to bear associated with the burden that the production of domestic wheat imposes on the consumer in this country. Let that responsibility be faced. Let the liability be estimated with reasonable accuracy, as it can be, in this year and with virtually certain accuracy in the years thereafter and let us restore to the producers of this crop the certainty which has proved so salutary in the production of every other category of agricultural produce under our Administration. Take away from this and other crops the degree of certainty and security they have hitherto enjoyed and I warn you that you will see an immediate decline in production.

It should not be necessary to remind this House that but for the fact that there was an expansion of production last year which enabled us to increase our total exports, the bulk of which are agricultural products, by over £20,000,000, we would now be in the middle of an acute financial crisis. I direct the attention of Dáil Éireann to the fact that the trend in the balance of payments for the first five months of this year is in no degree reassuring. If, by the policy of this Government, the total output of agriculture is beaten down, we may well find ourselves in very acute financial difficulties 12 months from to-day and we will have no recourse open to us to meet them if and when they should recur.

Confidence is the basis of expanding production. Uncertainty is the one thing that can destroy confidence. I ask any Fianna Fáil Deputy in this House, can he tell me with any degree of precision what will be paid for wheat 12 months from next September? We know with reasonable precision what the Government intend to pay for it this year but, when the full loss is realised on this year's crop, can any Deputy tell me what is the likely price in 12 months' time?

We used to provide the farmers, not with one year's guarantee, but with two years' guarantee of a minimum price, on the understanding that it might be adjusted upwards if international circumstances required. That was done in 1956 when transport charges for foreign wheat rose so steeply that the Government came to the conclusion that it was equitable and just that we should increase the price of domestic wheat by 5/- a barrel but there was the certainty that it would not come below the price that had been guaranteed at the beginning of a two-year period. Is there any Fianna Fáil Deputy who can speculate as to what the price of wheat will be in 12 months' time? Does any Deputy know with certainty what will be paid for it this year? Does any Deputy believe that that board, as at present constituted and with the powers conferred upon it by this Government, can do anything for the agricultural community to relieve the situation in which they now find themselves?

I want to go on record as saying that that board is set up for the purpose of deceiving our people and misleading them and I want to go on record as saying that it is rightly named "An Bord Gráin," if we take the second meaning of that word, which is, "disgust, dislike, abhorrence, aversion, hatred, shame, horror, ugliness and reproach." I end as I began. In respect of this Bill, I have to say to the Minister responsible for it: Is gráin ort é—it is a shame on him— and, on behalf of this Party, tá gráin againn air.

When the Minister has left off reading the evening paper, perhaps he will hearken to some of the comments in this House in relation to the contents of the Bill that he introduced this evening. As Deputy Dillon has pointed out, this is a face-saving effort on behalf of the Government similar to the setting up of a Milk Costings Commission on an occasion when the same Government was considerably embarrassed by the demands of farmers in relation to the price of milk. Time proved the shame which was behind the setting up of that commission and the complete abandonment of hope for those who thought that in that commission there was some advantage to the milk producer. A similar policy of passing the buck is being followed on this occasion. The buck is being passed to a board which the Minister is to appoint.

We must consider this in the light of the conditions that prevailed in the country generally in the past number of years. All Parties in the House appealed to the agricultural community to increase production. By increasing production they have brought the country out of considerable difficulties in relation to the balance of payments. The people who responded to that call issued by all Parties in this House and by everybody in public life are to-day very critical when they find a fine imposed upon them for having increased production to the point that we now have a surplus of wheat.

It is true that the dramatic increase in production has contributed greatly to the conditions that now exist. The most stringent measures would have had to be introduced to protect the entire economy, were it not for the fact that our agriculturists responded to the appeal made so that not alone are we in a position to fulfil the requirements of our home market but to export the commodities we are now able to produce in abundance.

These results were forthcoming only after the producers were given certain guarantees in relation to prices. It was a natural development from the fact that farmers realised that they had an assurance from the Government in office that prices would be maintained at a certain level. It is now asserted by way of interruption by some of the Deputies sitting behind the Minister that they did not indicate 15 or 16 months ago to the electorate that it was any part of their policy to restore the price of wheat to the 80/- level which, particularly in by-election areas, they were very fond of naming to the electorate as the price which they thought was a fair price for wheat.

During the Carlow-Kilkenny by-election campaign, I was present in the City of Kilkenny on the occasion on which the Taoiseach spoke in support of Deputy Medlar. Most of the mystery that attended the campaign of the Fianna Fáil Party then was in relation to the identity of the future Minister for Agriculture. The man who was presented at the chapel gates on every occasion in that constituency as the shadow Minister for Agriculture was Deputy Corry. I was present that night in the City of Kilkenny when Deputy Corry was introduced as the next speaker to the Taoiseach.

I wish to direct the attention of the House to the fact that the Minister is reading the evening paper. Is that in order? He was reading it during the speech of the former Minister for Agriculture and is continuing to do so during Deputy O'Sullivan's speech.

It is not in order for the Minister to read a newspaper in the House.

Tá go maith, a Cheann Comhairle

I regret that on the occasion I mention I had not got a tape recorder with me so that I would have a recording of the solemn assurance given by Deputy Corry on that occasion, in the hearing of the Taoiseach. It was naturally well received by the farmers of Carlow-Kilkenny, many of whom travelled considerable distances to hear these wonderful words of assurance from the man whom they thought then would become Minister for Agriculture, if Fianna Fáil were returned to office. All the speakers on behalf of the Government Party were giving assurances to the people all over the country who were interested in the maintenance of wheat prices that a new dawn would break for the grain growers and in particular for the wheat growers, should there be a change of Government.

To-day, we witness the complete jettisoning of all the assurances that were given by Party representatives throughout the country in the by-elections in Laois-Offaly, in Carlow-Kilkenny and in the subsequent general election. There was a discussion in this House in relation to the wheat price, following the Minister's decision to introduce the married price. We have information now that we did not have then. We pointed out that this was a very strong Government, a Government that had assured all sections of the community that it was its intention to get cracking immediately on election to office. The Minister then introduced this married price in relation to wheat. On this occasion, I must say he did not speak with the confidence which he can display on occasions, but claimed that this was to some extent something that was advanced to him by the National Farmers' Association and which he thought should get a trial. He did not then formally assert that this was the considered policy by the Government which the Government were sponsoring in entirety, but it was something to which they were committed because they had certain consultations with the National Farmers' Association in connection with the married price.

It now transpires that the presentation of that proposal in the House was misleading to Deputies inasmuch as the National Farmers' Association were left under the impression that the extent of home-grown wheat they considered would be required for home consumption was at the level of 380,000 tons of dried Irish wheat. Since then, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, speaking for the Minister for Agriculture and his colleagues, has indicated that they are formally wedded to the level of 300,000 tons, the level beyond which the Minister for Agriculture will not go. Consequently in this Bill, the Minister has ensured that he will be the person to indicate to An Bord Gráin what the level will be. They will have no voice in it. He is the doctor who will examine the patient and decide where the trouble is. He will merely give to the patient the doubtful privilege of wielding the scalpel.

Who can say what this board can achieve more than other organisations have been endeavouring to do in relation to the disposal of wheat? The wheat producers in this instance are the body of people primarily concerned because if the efforts of this board do not succeed, it will react upon the producers who will suffer the consequent reduction in the price they will receive for their grain. Yet, the Minister, in the appointing of this board, does not permit the direct voice of the wheat producers. Surely if he is transferring to them the adminstrative responsibilities which will be transferred if this Bill goes through, he should have given them some voice in the determination of the extent of the surplus.

It is true that this is a problem which has captured the interest of very many people in the country, and in particular, farmers' organisations. Different suggestions have been put forward to cope with the problem. They have not been given a trial and the people concerned have not been given a complete explanation as to why their ideas are not practicable, but they are presented with this proposal which presents an easy way for the Government to get rid of a commodity which is too hot to handle.

The Minister and the Government could very well destroy the arrangements that exist at the moment for consultation with these bodies if they are to be recognised by this Government only as bodies which can be put forward as being the organisations which initiated particular schemes which the Government later adopted. This would give the Government an opportunity to say: "We did not think of it. It was this organisation and that organisation that thought it up." Are they being fair to these organisations in unloading upon their shoulders the tremendous responsibility that is involved in the administration of these schemes? If the board is set up and runs into serious difficulty, it will be an easy thing for the Government to say: "We are not the people who made a mess of it. It was those people who took on this responsibility."

Are we being fair to them in inviting them into this situation and is there any danger that the Minister, or whoever succeeds him in the Ministry of Agriculture, may not obtain in years to come the same degree of co-operation as exists to-day because of the fact that a few years ago an organisation such as N.F.A. was invited into being by the previous Minister for Agriculture, Deputy Dillon. The farmers, particularly the young farmers, have advanced far beyond the stage of permitting themselves to be used as dupes in any such transaction.

In relation to the various commodities farmers produce, I am far more perturbed by what is being done about the price of milk than wheat: I am more directly concerned with it. The degree of confidence which existed as to the price farmers would receive is being entirely destroyed as regards the milk commodity and this proposal is to extend that uncertainty to wheat growing. Whatever was expected by the dairy farmers in Fianna Fáil, there is no doubt that very much was expected of them by the wheat growers in consequence of the assurances they received throughout the country on so many occasions.

The whole principle of the establishment of this board is wrong. The method it is proposed to employ in its appointment is wrong, inasmuch as the producers have not the opportunity of directly electing the members of the board. This board is being saddled with an immense responsibility. We can look back on previous occurrences such as those in relation to the Milk Costings Commission to view the whole of this transaction at least with some scepticism.

There is no doubt that the people who have answered the call for increased production are already beginning to complain very bitterly of the fact that, having done so, the security they enjoyed in relation to milk has been removed and that the sum of a 1¼d. per gallon reduction in the price of milk has now been followed up by the reduction by another 1/2d. per gallon——

Surely the Deputy should not introduce that now.

Increased production flowed from the guarantees given by the previous Government in relation to a number of commodities, including milk, beet, bacon, wheat and such like. In this Bill, the Government are now removing the certainty which farmers enjoyed in relation to the price they would get for their wheat when the harvest came. There is not a grower in the country to-day who knows what the price will be. Even when he does, even when the price is indicated, he will not know that he will not, the following year, have to face a still greater reduction. The Minister for Finance went down to his own constituency, and that of Deputy Allen, and mentioned that, we must accept ing mentioned that, we must accept that it is the Government's intention to do it.

We see from the indications in this Bill that, over a two-year period, this board, when it is established and if it is established, must at the end of that period bring in a balanced budget, as it were. There is no indication that the intention will be that the farmers will be assured, when they are paid for one year's crop, that they will not have a carry over to meet in the subsequent year's crop.

If it is the expressed intention of the Government, by this means, considerably to reduce the production of wheat, as they are deliberately doing in relation to milk, would it not be better to say it? They are not saying it. They want to slide into the position where they can point to some outside body and say: "We have washed our hands of it. It was the responsibility of someone else. If they have not succeeded, it is not the fault of the Minister for Agriculture." It is an invidious position in which to put a responsible group of people and that is what the Minister wants to do.

Last week, or the week before, the Minister indicated that there were also some minor additions to the blisters that the wheat grower is now asked to suffer. He is asked to pay 6d. per bag per week in relation to the handling of wheat. That is something he was not asked to pay heretofore. When the previous Government gave 78/6 for wheat the costs of production-the rates they had to pay, the charges the normal person on a small farm had to meet—were considerably lower than they are to-day. Since that figure was decided, this Government and private employers have come to the conclusion that, in consequence of an increased cost of living, in consequence of the reduced value of money, it was desirable that so many people in the community should get increases in their incomes to meet that increase in the cost of living.

Here, this Government are singling out the farming community so that not alone are they not to receive anything to meet the increase in the cost of living but they are to suffer reductions —the wheat growers, the milk producers and everybody, seemingly, engaged in agriculture. Consequently, we are vigorously opposing the passage of this Bill. We regard it merely as a face-saver. The Government are trying to wriggle out of a hot problem. They look to this method of ridding themselves of this responsibility. They are thinking of the day when there may be a considerable mess. When it comes, they want to be in a position to wash their hands of any responsibility for it.

The few remarks I wish to offer in relation to this Bill will be offered, as much as possible, in a non-partisan way as regards the political past. We are faced with the problem in connection with this Bill of whether we are sincere in our efforts to improve the status of agriculture. Whether we call it the Grain Board or An Bord Gráin to-day, we must face the problem in a realistic way. I am sorry that, when an important Bill such as this could be brought before the House, the Minister was not more realistic about what was necessary and about what should be done as regards the problem of surplus wheat and other grain.

I believe the first mistake the Minister makes in this Bill concerns Section 3, sub-section (3). The sub-section reads as follows:—

"Before making an Order under this section the Minister shall consult with the board or, in the case of an Order made before the appointed day, with such person or persons, being a person or persons whom the Minister considers to be representative of wheat growers, as the Minister may select."

That is the first step which is not helping what could be a good measure. Why should it be solely, as it were, that under sub-section (3) of Section 3, the Minister will decide whether or not these people are suitable to consult with? We in the Labour Party believe that is wrong. We believe that when dealing with this problem, whether it be surplus or other wheat, the Minister should be prepared to discuss the matter with representatives of the growers. I feel it would be fair and proper to leave it to the organised agricultural community to send their representatives to meet the Minister and not that the Minister should decide who is fit and proper to discuss the problem with him. In my opinion, that is the first weak link showing the weakness in the chain.

Then, we come to Section 6. Surely I do not have to read it out. In this section, the Minister mentions the purchase and sale of wheat by the board. I believe we are on the wrong track because the whole thing depends on the purchase of surplus wheat by the board. It is our opinion in the Labour Party that it is vitally necessary that we have a grain board operating in such a way that a true spirit of co-operation can exist between all concerned, the growers, the Department and the millers. In this case, the members of the board, whoever they may be, are certainly going to be put in a wrong position, because they are allowed to purchase only surplus wheat. It must, therefore, be admitted that this board is coming to life under most extraordinary circumstances and being handicapped in not being allowed to trade in wheat as a paying proposition, but only in surplus wheat which the Minister cannot get the millers to take. Therefore, I consider Section 6 shows the drastic weakness enshrined in this Bill.

Section 8 goes much further and covers "carriage, drying, handling and storage" of wheat by the board and of course in sub-section (2) (c) it states the board "with the consent of the Minister, may purchase or take on hire machinery, vehicles and equipment". If we could believe that the time might come when An Bord Gráin, or the Grain Board, would be in a position to erect its own suitable establishments and buy the necessary machinery, then I think it might be said that the Bill in itself might warrant sincere and genuine discussion in relation to its ultimate success. However, I cannot be convinced that the Minister has even in his mind, let alone any intention of putting into operation, a system whereby the board will, at any time, buy its own machinery with the ultimate aim of operating in the same way as other State boards are able to operate. Therefore, I consider that Section 8 shows a further weakness in the board.

In my opinion, there is no necessity to discuss, at any length, the other sections of the Bill. There are 25 sections in it and most of them are what I would consider a "dressing up". I am very sorry that the Minister should introduce this Bill in such a way. We would have thought, with the introduction of this Bill, that at least we would be going somewhere towards bringing agriculture into a true perspective whereby the organised agriculturists would be enabled to play a greater part in the improvement of agriculture than they are at present. The tragedy is, however, that this Bill is, more or less, telling the organised agriculturists that they are not to interfere, that the Minister may consult but only with people whom he considers suitable as grain buyers. Surely the Minister must be satisfied when we say that this Bill cannot give us the return we hope for. I am very sorry that such should be the position.

I do not believe it is necessary to discuss further any other details. I always believe that it would be much more helpful to the economy of the country if, when discussing anything pertaining to agriculture, we could leave out politics, leave out election promises and everything connected with them, and be more realistic in our approach. The fact that the Minister, with the introduction of this Bill, makes it clear that it is he and he alone who will say who are to be members of such an important agricultural board, shows, perhaps without meaning it, a sense of complete irresponsibility towards these organised sections of the agricultural community.

If such a board is to be set up, surely it is only right that the onus should be placed on the growers themselves to nominate persons on behalf of their organisations, and that they should have the responsibility of acting on such a board and by reporting back to their own organisations be in the position, as representatives of the agricultural community, of having a full sense of their own responsibilities to their organisations, and above all, to the community as a whole. We know, and the people outside know, that very often the setting up of boards means only appointing some people to the board. I am not throwing that in the Minister's face. We all know that it applies to all Government in this country. The setting up of a board means selecting these people.

Why could we not change that system? Why not say to the organisations concerned: "The board is being set up; we want so many representatives and you may name yours." If the Minister approached this Bill in that manner, I believe he would then have the support of the Labour members in this House. Unfortunately, in present circumstances, we could not give that support. We could not find any pleasure in taking part in a discussion which will not help agriculture, any more than the passing of this Bill will help the grain growers in the future.

The problem of surplus wheat which the Government, and the growers generally, have to face this year was brought about, I believe, by the Fianna Fáil Party; by the way they dealt with that problem during the last general election and by what has happened since. At the last general election, the wheat growers were told by the Fianna Fáil people that if they were returned to power, the price of wheat would be restored to 82/6. The Government was formed and by last autumn and the early part of 1958 had still made no announcement. As a result, the growers believed that they were going to get a price of 82/6. Naturally, they could not be expected to think anything else. Some time in the middle of January, this new scheme was announced and quite an amount of wheat was put in, on account of that line being taken, that would not normally have been put in.

Then came the announcement that the price for top quality wheat was to be 78/6 up to a tonnage of 300,000 tons. The Minister has told us, and has said outside the House, that he is not too keen on this scheme. He is, more or less, trying to put the responsibility on the National Farmers' Association which negotiated the scheme, but there is quite a difference between the scheme put up by the National Farmers' Association and the scheme we are to operate now. The National Farmers' Association felt that our requirements in millable wheat were 380,000 tons. Now it appears that agreement has been reached between the Minister for Industry and Commerce and the Minister for Agriculture for 300,000 tons and the Minister says there is to be a reduction in that. The reduction which is to take place will have a very serious effect on the actual requirements.

One of my biggest objections to this board is that it is to be asked to do only the most difficult things. It is to be asked to do the unpopular things and it is to have responsibility for collecting this levy and for selling the surplus wheat. If the Minister were sincere about this board, he would give it much greater power. With the Minister for Industry and Commerce, the board should have a say in what the mixture of Irish wheat will be in the future.

That is a matter that has been much discussed here and there were different opinions about it. An all-Irish loaf was produced here. It was received very well and the people believed it was successful. We know the millers and the bakers do not want that. The millers will have a free hand with the Minister for Industry and Commerce and this new board will have no say in the problem. The problem is a very big one and depends a lot on our surplus. If we can add more Irish wheat to the mixture, it will lessen our surplus. No attempt has been made in this Bill to meet that situation.

There is another point in dealing with this surplus wheat. In the present year, all the wheat purchased by the millers was naturally converted into millable wheat. It was at a very high price by the time the millers were finished with it. I think the Minister for Industry and Commerce gave us the price some time ago. The average price for Irish wheat was 96/6 per barrel on the mill floor. Although the average price for the farmer was 72/- per barrel, by the time the millers had got their costs for drying, storage and so on it had amounted to 96/6 per barrel. Some of that wheat has been sold for as low as £18 per ton; the loss has been as much as £20 per ton. Some of it was sold in England for animal feed for £18 per ton. If the new board has to face a problem like that, within two years there will be no problem of surplus wheat because the price will be so low that nobody will purchase it. Perhaps that is the intention of the Bill? I do not know.

This wheat-growing problem should be tackled in a different way. The high quality wheat should be handed over to the millers to convert into flour, while wheat which is not of millable quality should be converted into animal feed. The purchase price for the farmer would be a lower price on the bushel weight and moisture content. It could be converted by the board and people in the trade at a much lower rate than that at which it would be handled by the millers. There is nothing in the Bill to ensure that will be done. I hope it will be done because it would reduce the levy considerably.

Another problem that should be tackled is the growing of wheat in large acreages on the conacre system. No attempt has been made to put people growing such wheat on to a normal acreage. With the type of farming they do, they can take a poor price but a farmer with land in proper rotation is entitled to a fair return. It is these other people who are giving us the surplus we have to deal with.

I am fully in agreement with Deputy Desmond in what he says about how the board should be appointed, If the Minister were sincere about the work of this board, he would have left its appointment to the farmers' organisations, to the wheat growers or the N.F.A. They are the people responsible for producing this wheat. They are the people who should nominate the board. Yet it is the Minister who will nominate the chairman and members of the board. I think it is a bad approach. If the Minister were really anxious to see this board work, he would have left it to the wheat growers' organisations to elect the board.

I do not believe the Minister is sincere in this at all. As Deputy Dillon and Deputy O'Sullivan said, this is a way out of a very difficult problem for him. Having promised the farmers that they would have no reduction, any reduction that takes place now will be the responsibility of the board. The board will have two functions—the function of collecting the levy and the function of selling the surplus wheat. They will have nothing to do with how the levy is being calculated. That is extraordinary. It is clear the Minister is in no way sincere about this. It is just a way out for him, and the farmers can put up with the consequences.

We all realise that the Government has a problem to face. I sympathise very sincerely with this Government or any other Government facing the situation that confronts them at the moment. In fairness to the previous Government, when they were faced with the wheat problem in 1954 and when, after the experience of the 1954 harvest, the then Minister for Agriculture came in here and drastically reduced the price of wheat, we felt very concerned about it. But we must admit he did it in a courageous way, in a way damaging to his own prestige as Minister for Agriculture. Nevertheless, he faced the issue realistically and bravely. The Government has faced this problem now but I do not think the present method is the best method of dealing with it.

People abroad are very suspicious of boards and committees. They feel, as I feel, that they are simply a way of evading responsibility and, perhaps, of sharing responsibility. I do not know whether that was the motive behind the setting up of this board. Certainly, some boards have given great results, like Bord na Móna and the E.S.B. We cannot say the same of C.I.E. but then that body was faced with very involved and perhaps insurmountable difficulties. My approach to this Bill is on the principle that boards do not appeal to the Irish people. There is a Government in office and there is a Parliament, and the people expect that that Government and Parliament will deal with every problem confronting the nation without having to set up a special board.

The Government would have been well advised to wait for another year, gain the experience of another year, then put it on trial and error and try to evolve some plan. The Bill presupposes that this will be a permanent problem, that we shall be faced with a wheat surplus over a period of years. Is it wise or sound economics for the producers of this country to produce a surplus and then be levied on that very surplus in order to maintain a price for the surplus? That is very debatable and controversial. If the Bill is necessary, it is really premature at the moment. We should allow some further time elapse and realise where we stand.

The board will be set up shortly. The time is very short. That board will have to provide drying and storage facilities and try to get contacts abroad for markets for our surplus wheat. The Minister has not told us how the board will be constituted. He will nominate the board. Like Deputy Desmond and Deputy Hughes, I think that, at least, the board should be composed entirely of people who are responsible for the production of wheat in this country. If they are willing to act on the board, they should have full representation. It is their problem and they might eventually be in a position to control the growing of wheat. I am at one with Deputy Hughes on that.

Cereal growing of that nature should be confined at least to farmers, to people already in possession of land. I do not see why other interests should be allowed to operate in the farmer's activity. Over the years, there have been paid agents of wheat assemblers or of millers. That is all unnecessary now, though in the early days there might have been some justification for it. I do not see why agents should come along now and be paid agents' fees, as all that must come out of the pockets of the producers. These agents' fees come to a considerable amount at the end of the cereal year.

Going back to conacre, if a person has the activity, the ambition and the initiative to take conacre land, he should be compelled to grow the cereal which is in short supply and his activity should be diverted from the growing of wheat, of which we already have a surplus.

This House is now being asked to set up another State body. I presume that the manager, whoever he is, will be a paid official of the State, and that his officers will be paid. I suppose it is common sense and prudence that the members of the board will have their expenses paid. That cost will come out of the levy which will be put on the producers here who produce that cereal. It is contradictory and I do not think it is the right way to approach it. Some other means should have been devised to control the supply of wheat to the point that would produce our own requirements, either through restricting the conacre people in their choice or by having some sort of contract system. There should be some means other than the present one—which I think will not be successful. If it is successful, it will impact very heavily on the pockets of the producers.

Coming from the Party opposite— they can take all the credit they like for it, as they have been the great protagonists of wheat over the years— no one will be more disappointed than their own followers. They would expect more sympathy and more realism in a situation like this that confronts the Government now. They would expect a better and simpler method of dealing with such a problem affecting the agricultural community.

I think I am about the seventh speaker on the Opposition side to speak in relation to this Bill. It seems that the Deputies on the Government side have gone out of the House and run away from this Bill. They are afraid to come in and hear the debate in relation to the effects it is bound to have very soon on the wheat growers. They seem to have left the House with a guilty conscience. We can understand that they have guilty consciences in relation to the adjustment of wheat prices, when we consider the mean, dishonest campaigns which were run, up and down the country, wherever it suited them, in relation to wheat prices at various times in years past. It is only right now that I should challenge Deputy Allen and ask him if he is prepared to stand up here to-day to support this Bill. Does he intend to offer any argument in opposition to the points made by speakers on this side of the House? Will he stand up and offer any excuses for the decision of the Minister and the Government to bring in a shameful piece of legislation such as this?

This piece of legislation is designed purely and simply to set up a price-cutting board. The Party opposite are ashamed and afraid to cut the price of wheat themselves, if they consider that the cut is necessary. Instead, they come to the Dáil and ask for approval here for the establishment of a wheat marketing board, but in effect it will be a price-cutting board. It is obvious that the Government have decided to run away from this question of wheat prices, which they made a very live issue in the past.

Let us take the case of the present Minister for Finance. No doubt, he has a lot to say in relation to the effects which obviously can be expected from this legislation. Only on the eve of the general election, he shed crocodile tears in relation to a reduction of the wheat price. Any foolish farmers who believed what they heard him say, believed that if the Fianna Fáil Party succeeded in forming a Government, the 1954 maximum price would be restored. After the general election, the present Government had a clear majority. I remember that they were asked then if they would declare the price for wheat which they advocated during the election and in the years between 1954 and 1957. Their reply was —and it was a lame excuse, since most of the wheat had not yet been planted —that the question of price fixing would not be decided until the following year.

The Minister for Finance at that time went to the trouble of bringing in the name of the great Deputy Corry, pointing out that the Fianna Fáil Party and the Government realised the national importance of growing wheat and that no doubt, having regard to the views of Deputy Corry, an adjustment of the price could be expected. But it did not happen. Instead, every sneaky device which could be conjured up was used to depress the price of wheat and to discourage the growing of wheat. It appears also that on this occasion the Minister disregarded any representations or views which the National Farmers' Association were prepared to submit for his consideration. It seems that he was consulting with advisers in relation to price-cutting on the one hand and carrying on communications with the N.F.A. without telling them what was happening behind the scenes.

We have no undertaking that this proposed board will be a board comprising producers. Let us remember that it is the producers who want to sell the wheat and that they ought to have a marketing board, but if there is to be one, let the producers do the marketing. It is obvious from the attitude of the Minister and the general trend of this Bill, that it is not intended to give the producers a full hand in selling the wheat surplus through this board. Fianna Fáil have claimed down through the years that they were the protagonists of wheat growing as a national policy for this country. It is strange that any advantages which came to the wheat growers came to them during the years when Deputy Dillon was in office. When he came into office first——

This is not relevant to the Bill.

This is in relation to prices——

The Deputy is very far away from prices now.

I have said this board is to be set up and it is obvious that its primary purpose is to cut the price. It is a price-cutting board. It seems to have no further effective function and I have tried to mention prices. That is why I mentioned the price of 52/6 per barrel. When Deputy Dillon first came into office as Minister for Agriculture the price was increased in accordance with rising costs during those years until eventually the Fianna Fáil Party put 5/- on to the ceiling price of 77/6 and called the maximum price 82/6. When Deputy Dillon on this occasion was leaving office the maximum price, as a general rule, was 78/6. There were also opportunities for producers to get more than 77/6——

The administration of Deputy Dillon is not in question on this Bill.

Surely for purposes of comparison——

Administration is not relevant in the manner in which Deputy Rooney is proceeding at the moment.

Surely we are entitled to compare the past with the present?

I am ruling this out of order.

I do not know what you are ruling, but I am making the submission that the past, present and future can be compared.

My ruling is that Deputy Rooney is not in order.

Previously we had a system whereby if farmers kept wheat until after the 31st December they got a rise in January and a rise in February. They will not get that rise under the new system and those rises added to the 78/6 left it at a fairly substantial figure. It is obvious that growers will not get 78/6. It is obvious they will start well below £3 a barrel now for the price-building.

I have calculated this year the farmers will be cut by approximately £1,000,000 under this new system. Apparently, the Government is not prepared to take £1,000,000 away from the farmers but they are setting up a board to take it away from them. Not alone that, but we will have financial adjustments to be met next year and the years following. Not alone will farmers have to take an immediate cut resulting from the levy machinery but they will also have to meet retrospectively the financial adjustments because of the cuts in preceding years in increasing as the board functions over the period.

It is obvious that the Government is not prepared to approve of the baking of an all-Irish loaf. A sample loaf was sent to all Deputies and probably to other people interested in the problem of producing such a loaf. I think most Deputies will agree that it was a perfectly-baked loaf. I think it was only 1 lb. weight and it was probably high quality flour but certainly, if it was baked from average flour, it was very palatable. It is very desirable that every effort should be made to have an all-Irish loaf.

If we want such a loaf and if the Government want it, why should we come in here to try to set up a price-cutting board instead of trying to see a way of producing an all-Irish loaf? I know there will be distribution problems particularly in relation to a loaf of only one lb. Apparently it is not possible to make a larger loaf with the native wheat, but my complaint is that no attempt has been made to provide an all-Irish loaf instead of imposing this cut now—and this board—without seeing if there is any alternative.

I think it very unfair and a brazen fraud on the growers to have this done at a time when the crop is actually beginning to mature. The Minister should not have brought in this Bill this year. If there was any Fianna Fáil Deputy with any backbone he would stand up here or in the Party room and ask the Minister not to bring it to the Dáil, and seek approval for it, this year.

The Government seem to be preparing to divest themselves of all responsibility in regard to wheat prices. We recall the very great efforts Deputy Dillon made in 1954 to sell every barrel of wheat grown that year. He had a very tough battle with the millers and bakers but at least he fought on the side of the farmers and tried to get that wheat sold, used and cashed. The Minister is not taking the side of the farmers. He throws them—if I may so describe it—to the wolves in the matter of price-cutting boards such as this. It is just a barefaced swindle but the farmers will not be fooled by it. It is certain the Minister will hear more about it in the country. The farmers will not be so foolish as to blame the board for the drastic cut in prices that will take place. They know quite well that the Government has decided to cut the price of wheat but are ashamed and afraid to do it. They have set up the board and this machinery to carry out an underhand method of cutting the price.

I want to mention the valuable contribution to the national wheat-growing policy made by people who used conacre. They were enterprising people, particularly during the emergency years. They saw the need for growing wheat here and saw opportunities to make profit from it. In the present situation those people are being abandoned to the mercies of this board and it will not be economic for them to continue growing wheat in the future in an organised way as they did in the past. We shall have a situation now in which the growing of wheat will be killed and discouraged, according as the price to be fixed goes down. A quota system might have been a fairer way to deal with wheat growers and keep the price level in relation to previous years. A wheat grower who can prove a record over the past ten years, five years, or even three years, should be recognised by the Government for the contributions which he made in producing native wheat, but now such a grower will be completely abandoned to the mercy of this board.

I feel the price should be based on the cost of production. When we consider the price increases for wheat which were given since 1948, we must realise they were sanctioned because a case was made for each rise. Each increase was necessary to meet various rising costs, but no regard is now being paid to the existing levels of cost. The price of wheat is to be cut, regardless of the cost of production. It will be related to a set quota to be delivered to the mills. In conclusion, I should like to challenge Deputy Allen, Deputy Corry, Deputy Egan and other Deputies here who gave tongue on wheat prices on various occasions in this House, when it was politically profitable to do so. Now, when it is not politically profitable, I challenge them to stand up and defend this Bill.

Good man; I will accept the challenge.

At least we got one of them to stand up.

I remember standing in this House many times, advocating the growing of wheat to the same Opposition as is there to-day, though it may not have exactly the same personnel. When I first came into this House, only 21,000 acres of wheat were grown in this country but, thanks be to God, and to the Fianna Fáil efforts and the help of the farmers—thanks to their goodwill when Fianna Fáil taught them it was in their own interests and the interests of the nation to grow wheat—we now have 360,000 or 380,000 acres of wheat grown here. That is a big change in approximately 30 years, a very big change altogether. At that time, I would say Deputy Rooney was in swaddling clothes.

He could not be accused of not growing wheat then. Maybe some of the Fianna Fáil Deputies could be accused of not growing wheat at that time.

I am not accusing any Deputy, but I am delighted that, as a result of the efforts of Fianna Fáil, of the Fianna Fáil Government and its agricultural policy, the acreage of wheat grown now is roughly 400,000 acres compared with 21,000 acres 30 years ago. We on this side of the House always believed that the land of this country was capable of feeding the human beings and animals of the country. We still believe that, and it is because of that fact that the Minister for Agriculture has introduced this Bill to-day, to help the farmers to dispose of wheat grown surplus to the milling requirements of this country. That is the objective of this Bill and its only objective.

There has been much talk about the cut that may take place in this year's crop and about the price of wheat. The main reason for the introduction of the Bill is that during the cereal years 1956 and 1957, a large surplus quantity of wheat was left to be disposed of in some way or another. Deputy Dillon, when he left office, left a legacy to his successor of some 70,000 tons of dried wheat to be disposed of as best be could. Last year, we produced an additional 70,000 tons and the Government, early this year, were faced with the problem of disposing of 140,000 tons of dried wheat remaining in the stores on which rent had to be paid. The farmers and wheat growers were fully conversant with the problem, and they were concerned to know in what way those stores could be cleared so as to make room for the 1958 wheat crop.

There has been much criticism, both inside and outside this House, during the past few months by members of the Opposition about what the Government were doing with that surplus wheat. They were exporting some of it and selling some of it at home at a price which was a considerable loss to the community. That was the line of the criticism. Wheat costs approximately £37 or £38 a ton. I may be wrong in the figure, as I did not get it from the Minister or anybody else, and I am subject to correction on that.

The Deputy should know the price of wheat.

I am not far wrong. It was being sold at home and abroad and the average price was less than £20 a ton. Is that not so? The question then arose of what was to be done with this year's surplus wheat. It is estimated that there may be a surplus this year, and I hope the crop will be so good that it will give a surplus, whatever may be done about it. Assuming there will be some surplus, the cut in last year's price of 78/6 a barrel will be approximately 6/-, or 10 per cent. We should be grateful, because it could be more. A few years ago, a cut of 12/6 a barrel was made by Deputy Dillon when he was Minister for Agriculture at a time when we were not growing sufficient wheat and when there was no surplus whatever. We were not producing 300,000 tons of dried wheat, in 1953 or 1954, when he made that cut, and it was far more severe on the farmers at that time than the 6/- cut is now on the basis of their income to-day. Their income has gone up considerably and we are all glad to know it. Income from animals, cereals, milk and from all other things produced by agriculture has gone up.

The Deputy is a valiant man.

Their income has gone up very sharply. The Fianna Fáil Government cannot be accused of ever advocating the growing of wheat to an unlimited amount in this country. Immediately after the emergency in 1947, when they issued a policy statement, amongst other things, on agriculture, we were very often twitted across the floor of the House by Deputy Dillon and his colleagues that the aim of the Fianna Fáil Government in 1947 was to produce 300,000 tons of dried wheat of 75 per cent. extraction. Can that be denied?

Categorically. That decision was taken in 1955.

It happened in 1947.

In 1955.

In 1947, that policy was announced and published by Fianna Fáil.

Nonsense.

There can be no doubt about it. The records of this House will show that. The proposals in this Bill are to set up a board. Boards are objected to. There are many boards in operation in this country which have been doing good work. They give good service to the community. You have the Sugar Board, Bord na Móna and a number of other boards which have given very good service. I have no doubt that the board set up by the Minister will be weighted very well with representatives of the growers—at least I hope it will. I am sure it will. I hope they will succeed in getting a good price for the surplus wheat. The better the price they get, the less will be the reduction on the fixed price.

The lower the price they get, the bigger the levy will be.

It will be quite simple. Deputy Rooney suggested a quota basis. If much thought were given to that, it might be found difficult to operate. This may not be the best scheme in the world but wheat growing has become popular over the years. All of us remember the emergency years. It is true that we lack artificial manures but the same 12,000,000 acres of arable land are here to-day. We know the furore created in this House and outside it very often because compulsory powers were operated in an effort to compel a very small minority of the farmers who had very good wheat-growing land to help feed the community at that time.

If the same landowners who refused to grow even an acre of wheat during the emergency to help out the population of this country stayed out of wheat growing to-day—nobody invited them into it—we would not have any trouble. They are free to grow it, if they like, but our memories are not so short that they cannot go back a few short years. Many of the worst growers in this country and the growers who created all the problems for the mills by bringing in most of the sprouting and seed wheat are those growers who would not grow an ounce of wheat on their land during the war. They would not be got dead on it. Some of them tilled their land.

We remember all those things quite well. I do not suggest that any member of the Opposition is responsible for that. If we have a surplus of a cereal that must be sold out of the way of the coming harvest, that is what this Bill is for. I believe the Bill is a useful and necessary Bill. An announcement was made by the Minister for Agriculture in January last of the proposals that are in the Bill now before us. Despite that fact, they grew the wheat.

What did the Deputy want them to do—plant gooseberries?

It was announced in this House and all over the country that there was a surplus to our requirements and that there might be a reduction in price. Despite that fact, they grew the wheat. They ploughed the land, bought the seed, grew the wheat—more power to their elbows. They did not go out of the business at all. They estimated that with the increased yields and the handy way of harvesting with combine harvesters and all the rest of it, there was still a profit. We hope there is.

Does the Deputy only hope there is a profit?

Every farmer and every wheat grower who has an acre of wheat was fully aware of the facts. They were announced in this House and there was a debate in the House. They even went out to take conacre. Even after the estimated price of the wheat was announced, prices were given which were greater than the selling value of the land. There is no doubt about that.

There is a lot of talk about guarantees given by Fianna Fáil Deputies during the general election and the by-elections. I happened to take part in two by-elections in Leinster, prior to the last general election. I went through the general election in my own constituency and to a small extent in neighbouring constituencies, and I doubt if I ever mentioned the price of wheat.

That was a wonder.

It was not made an issue at all. I was on several occasions in Laois-Offaly and in Carlow-Kilkenny and I never heard it once made an issue by any person who spoke with me on any Fianna Fáil platform. We did not think it necessary and I doubt if it had any influence on the voting.

It did not appear in the literature, either.

It did not. We have it available still, and I will send the Deputy a copy. We never even mentioned wheat at all in the general election and as for its having an influence on the Government who are here to-day in a majority, it had not any influence whatever. Take the case of the recent Galway by-election. They do not grow much wheat there, but whatever wheat they grow there, it was not the wheat which influenced the people to vote for the Government. It is time that kind of talk stopped.

If Deputies opposite have any suggestion to make in regard to a better policy in connection with the selling of the wheat surplus to our requirements which will result in a better price for the farmers, such a suggestion will be considered. All this nonsense was talked by Deputy Dillon. It was a pity that distinguished strangers happened to come into the House at the time the Deputy got up to speak. He might have spoken more to the point or to the Bill, instead of talking about corruption, dishonesty and so on. That was not for the benefit of the House, because we have heard Deputy Dillon too often on that. He speaks for the edification of distinguished strangers who may be in the House. It is a damn shame.

That does not arise.

It is lowering the dignity of the country for a Deputy to charge Governments with corruption, fraud and dishonesty. These are stock phrases of Deputy Dillon. We know them quite well and regard them as faint praise but strangers coming to the country who happen to be in the House at the time might take a different view and wonder where they had landed.

We are not a bit ashamed at the contents of this Bill. We are quite proud of the fact that because of Fianna Fáil policy over the years, there is more wheat being grown in this country than is needed to-day. There were three days' supply of wheat being grown in the country when Fianna Fáil first took office and, because of their efforts and sound national policy and agricultural policy over the years, there are almost 400,000 acres of wheat grown to-day and I say thanks be to God for that.

I did not think we would have any political claptrap this evening on a Bill like this.

A Deputy

Was the Deputy here?

I was here, but I noticed all the wheat moguls were not here, the Deputies who were screaming their heads off about wheat for the past few years. There is Deputy Allen running away now. There are 47,000 acres of wheat grown in County Wexford. Deputy Allen hardly knew that. He did not know what the price of wheat was.

It is nearer to 60,000 this year.

I have the figures. I do not say "nearer to this or nearer to that". That is the kind of speech we get from the Deputies over there. We will deal with the facts. When I came into the House, I heard Deputy Allen saying that Deputy Dillon had left a legacy of 70,000 tons of wheat, as if the fact of having a surplus of 70,000 tons of wheat was a crime. That proved beyond doubt that anything Deputy Dillon had done about the growing of wheat in the previous year and the years before that was met by the wheat growers, who responded with the greatest amount of wheat that has ever been grown in this country. Now we find ourselves with that surplus. That should be dealt with instead of all this claptrap about what happened in County Kilkenny, when Deputy Corry, on the Taoiseach's platform, shrieked out: "We did it before and we will do it again. We will give you 80/- for wheat." I do not know what the farmers were to get for barley.

Deputy Allen referred to the shocking price for conacre. Many people bought conacre because they wanted to produce wheat, for the simple reason that they had contracted for combines and wanted to make sure that they would have plenty to cut, at least for themselves.

Deputy Allen said that it was never the policy of Fianna Fáil to grow a surplus of wheat. I suppose Fianna Fáil put up more bills with "Grow more wheat" on them than would cover all the land in Ireland ten times. Deputy Allen said it was a very severe blow when Deputy Dillon reduced the price of wheat. Of course, it was a much more severe blow when Deputy Dillon reduced the price of wheat than it was when Fianna Fáil were reducing the price of wheat. When Deputy Dillon reduced the price of wheat, he took responsibility for it and the Government to which he belonged took responsibility.

If there are any reductions in the price of wheat in future, they are going to try to get the National Farmers' Association and this board to carry the baby. The Minister can say: "As far as I am concerned, I will give 72/6 and up to 77/6 and up to 80/- for bonus wheat, but, of course, as far as the surplus is concerned, that is not my affair; that is the affair of the board." This board will be set up; the members will be appointed by the Minister. A press release from the Government Information Bureau referred to a committee to be set up representing growers and other interests concerned. Deputy Dillon mentioned that the millers did not want any of this.

What I am concerned with is the surplus. In disposing of this surplus, will they follow the policy carried out this year and give a whole lot of people a chance of making a good deal of money in England out of this wheat and will they give the biscuit manufacturers wheat? Wheat was sold in England at £17 15s. a ton while the best that could be done for the Irish farmer was to give it to him at £23 a ton in six-ton lots. I should like to know the percentage of Irish feeders who could buy and store a six-ton lot of wheat.

"Fianna Fáil will devote every energy to ensure that the necessary acreage will be maintained. The Party will, as soon as it is in a position to do so, once again guarantee to the Irish farmer a fair and economic price for his wheat." I have heard Deputies saying that the price paid by Deputy Dillon—72/6 up to 82/6—was not an economic price. Now, in face of rising rates, rising costs and so on, this year's price is an economic price because it is fixed by the sacred bulls of Fianna Fáil.

There has always been a political aspect and a political tinge about wheat. Wheat has been taken to heart by Fianna Fáil. It is their baby and they love it. Three per cent. of the land of this country can grow all the wheat we need. At last year's price, farmers could get £14,000,000 or £15,000,000 out of it. They can get £50,000,000 to £55,000,000 out of live stock. I have said before in the House that I am a live-stock man. The test of time has shown that live stock have done more to improve the farmers' income than the wheat crop, but the two can be developed side by side. It has been said that it was the people who did not grow wheat when it was required who are growing it now. This State has been growing beet for some time under contract and I do not see why there should not be something done about growing wheat under contract. They could cut out some of the 700-acre, 800-acre and 1,000-acre wheat growers.

When the Cumann na nGaedheal Government were in power, it was said: "There is the fellow with his 1,000 acres, the rancher, his man and his dog", and that man was not allowed to stay there with his 1,000 acres, his man or his dog, but now we hear it said: "We will have this man, his 1,000 acres, his man and his combine." How much work is that giving? If the working farmer wants to grow wheat as a cash crop, that is a different proposition altogether, but it should be done in such a way that both the ordinary wheat grower and the ordinary taxpayer will not have to subsidise these gentlemen. However, that is not a matter for this board. It is one for the Minister, but if the Minister could bring about the situation that this board did not have to function, it would be a happy ending for him and for the Government.

Deputy Allen said that this board would be able to get a proper price for the surplus. From whom? There is no need for the Minister to set up this board. The proper thing to do when this surplus, whatever it is, comes in, is to offer it cheaply enough in ton lots to the Irish feeder. If there is money to be lost on it by the State let it be gained by the hard-working farmers who are feeding pigs, fowl, calves, and so on.

Everybody on the Government side denies that Fianna Fáil ever said they would not reduce the price of wheat. Deputy Allen must never have been within three miles of Deputy Corry's meetings in Kilkenny because otherwise he would have heard what Deputy Corry said there. He was able to echo to the top of Tory Hill one Sunday morning I was there.

I do not think anything Deputy Corry said on that occasion is relevant to the Bill.

Deputy Corry said there would not be any reduction in the price of wheat, but that it would be increased. Now we find ourselves with a Bill the whole purpose of which is to set up a board which will impose a levy on the price of wheat. That is in direct contradiction of what Deputy Corry said. Fianna Fáil should be a little fair to themselves. They should be a Government and say: "We shall have to take responsibility for this. We have a surplus; we have to face realities and cut the price." No, they will not do that. They are doing a mean thing.

Deputy Allen resented my calling that kind of thing corruption and fraud. It is a fraud they are putting over on the farmers. They are going to appoint representatives of the farmers to this board and those are the men who will have to do the dirty work. If the members of Fianna Fáil are satisfied with that, I shall keep these Dáil Debates for another day and another time and I shall produce them against them. Deputy Allen was quite satisfied and expressed great hopes to-day. He would serve his farmer constituents better if he were brave enough to come in and say what is in his mind. We had some of that on the Finance Bill from Deputies over there and the sooner we have a little more of it in relation to agricultural prices, the better.

This Bill is a red light for which the farmer should watch out. He will get a cut this year and he will get a cut next year. Other boards will be set up to do the same thing. He has already suffered a cut in relation to pigs and other items. I am not afraid to make a prophecy, if Deputy Allen was able to make a prophecy. If he thinks everything in the garden is rosy, I do not think so. I am fully convinced the Government will underestimate this year and the following year the Minister will tell the board: "You owe so much and you will have to raise so much to sell the crop that is coming in." I am speaking about the year after this harvest. There will be nothing for the board to do but mulct the farmers or themselves in nearly three times the money that will be stopped this year. If money is to be levied on the farmer to dispose of this surplus, let the surplus go back to the farmer.

It appears that we are now witnessing the end of a very unsavoury episode in our political life. This Bill is introduced by the Fianna Fáil Party as the Government, and in doing so they are, in effect, wearing sackcloth and ashes. Some 15 or 18 months ago farmers in my constituency and elsewhere throughout the country were led to believe that voting for a Fianna Fáil candidate was an assurance of bringing up the price of wheat which would be no less than 82/6 per barrel.

I notice that, earlier this evening, when Deputy Dillon was speaking, the Minister for Agriculture questioned whether any pledge had been given by Fianna Fáil to increase the price of wheat. The Minister for Agriculture represents a constituency in which he can afford to reduce the price of wheat. I should like to remind him and other Deputies that in my constituency, and in Carlow-Kilkenny and other constituencies, 18 months ago there was not a farmer anywhere who had any doubt that Fianna Fáil stood for and pledged themselves, if elected, to increase the price of wheat from the maximum of 78/6 back to 82/6 per barrel.

In the course of the last election campaign, the present Minister for Finance went on the radio, speaking on behalf of his Party, to tell the people that Fianna Fáil regarded the reduction in the price of wheat as unjust and that a Fianna Fáil Government would see that Irish farmers would get a remunerative price for wheat and other crops. I would understand any Minister representing the Government if he came in here and honestly and candidly told this House that what he and his colleagues promised was not possible. It is disedifying for any Deputy in the Fianna Fáil Party to try to brazen out what in fact was a false pretence perpetrated on the people of this country just 18 months ago.

The Minister asked to-day: "Where are the pledges? "Here is a document with the bold heading "Facts for Voters". This document helped to elect a third Fianna Fáil Deputy in my constituency just 18 months or two years ago. In this document the people of Laois-Offaly—particularly the wheat farmers—were told that a vote for Egan was a vote in protest against the reduction in the price of wheat. I do not know whether there is any capacity for being ashamed still left in Fianna Fáil but if there is, every Deputy in Fianna Fáil should blush profusely at the introduction of this Bill.

This Bill is intended to end the system for which Deputy Dillon fought consistently as Minister and succeeded in maintaining and extending—guaranteed prices to farmers for their produce. On the enactment of this Bill, there will be no guaranteed price for wheat. The farmers of Laois-Offaly were told 18 months ago that the Irish farmers had lost millions—that is the word which was used, "millions"— because of the price of wheat. The people who told them that are now asking them to suffer gladly a measure which sweeps aside any guarantee for wheat prices and, in fact, tells them that the price they may expect this year—and it may get worse—will be a price substantially less than the "unjust price" fixed by the former Government.

I thought the spokesman of the Fianna Fáil Party on this measure, the Minister for Agriculture, would give some explanation through this House to the country as to why Fianna Fáil and his colleagues have so speedily forgotten the reason they sought and got so many farmers' votes 18 months ago. But no. We are just told by the Minister that this is a Government plan which must be accepted. We are told that the price for wheat, which is 6/- at least less, must be accepted now. It is no longer unjust although the rates the farmer has to pay have increased in the past 18 months; although the money he has to pay for his sack of flour has gone up; although the price he has to pay for any of the commodities he must buy has advanced. Nevertheless, the price of at least 6/- less is, according to the Fianna Fáil Party, no longer unjust.

I do not know just how Deputies in the Government Party who represent areas in the country that produce wheat will face those to whom they promised so much 18 months ago. It is significant that there has been a remarkable reluctance on the part of Fianna Fáil Deputies representing different wheat constituencies to contribute to the debate. It is significant that none of them is now in the House. I am sure it will be noted in their constituencies that they have absented themselves from this debate. I am not surprised. One reason is that they pledged themselves to provide a price for wheat this year of at least 82/6 a barrel.

Deputies will remember that, immediately the present Government was elected in March of last year, not surprisingly a parliamentary question was tabled to the then Minister for Agriculture. It was tabled not by a Deputy from the Fine Gael Party, not by a Deputy officially in Opposition. It was tabled by a Government Deputy— Deputy Martin Corry. He asked the acting Minister for Agriculture, shortly after the Government came into office, when the increase in the price of wheat was to be announced. Deputy Aiken stated, in reply, that the Government were satisfied that no announcement of an increase in the price of wheat, at that stage, could increase the acreage under wheat, because, as he said, all the wheat that was likely to be sown was already in the ground. Did that indicate that the Government felt there was a surplus of wheat, or was it merely an effort to buy time and push off the evil day, to postpone the hour of decision? That hour is now upon Fianna Fáil because they find now that all that was said in criticism of Deputy Dillon's tillage policy has been proven to be so much moonshine and nonsense.

It is now clearly established that under Deputy Dillon, as Minister for Agriculture, a balanced tillage policy was in operation. We were growing as much wheat as this country could economically afford. At the same time, our farmers were being encouraged to grow their own feeding stuffs, and if that policy had continued, we would have reached some sanity in relation to our agricultural policy. Of course, Fianna Fáil Deputies opposing Deputy Dillon, were told to say, and got into the habit of saying, that the country's security was endangered because sufficient wheat was not being grown. Cant and nonsense, if practised consistently, always lead to absurdity.

Fianna Fáil find now that having made all these speeches, they are embarrassed by the fact that Deputy Dillon's policy was so successful; they have to say it was never the policy of Fianna Fáil to produce a surplus in wheat. I do not know what the policy of Fianna Fáil has been in relation to wheat. I suppose Fianna Fáil Deputies are expert in that, if in nothing else. They at least should know what the Fianna Fáil policy has been and what it is now. Certainly the people of this country do not know it. They thought they did and it is because they thought they did that so many Fianna Fáil Deputies in rural constituencies were elected to this House 18 months ago. However, we have now come to the end of what, as I say, is a very unsavoury episode in the public life of this country. This Bill is introduced by a Minister who was pledged to increase the price of wheat. That is why he is Minister for Agriculture; that is why Fianna Fáil are in Government at the moment, in so far as rural constituencies could bring that about. This is a Bill to end all guarantees for the price of wheat. It is a Bill which will result in a reduction in the price of wheat in the next four or five weeks. It ends, I believe, for all time, the kind of propaganda that was so freely used some 18 months or two years ago. To the extent that it ends an unsavoury episode it may be a good thing, but because it prevents, or seeks to end, the guaranteed price for the farmers, a policy which was successfully operated by Deputy Dillon, we, on this side of the House, will oppose it.

One would be inclined to think, listening to the debate on this Bill, that, as I said here on a previous occasion when this matter was being discussed, there was no problem at all to be met in this regard. This House, I know, is an excellent place for repetition. Many of the arguments advanced in the course of the speeches on a motion put down by the Opposition, and some of the contributions made on my Estimate, covered about the same ground as we have covered in this debate.

As I said, one would think there was not a problem to be met, and yet the very people who are most concerned about this matter, because it affects them most intimately, recognised and freely admitted—not to please me, or to please the Government—that there was a problem. Let us just think over some of the things that have been said during the course of this discussion, in regard to some of the provisions in this Bill. The case has been made that I am going to appoint the board. The allegation has been hurled that there has not been consultation with the interested parties. Is that not all very strange indeed, when one comes to consider the occasions on which there has been consultation and there has been acceptance by the Minister, as a result of consultation, of the propositions put to him by those whose interests were most acutely affected?

The parties interested in this matter recognised there was a problem. Any sensible person would have recognised it. Not only did they recognise it, but they had been thinking of ways and means to find a solution for it. I am sure they would not deny that. Apparently, they had discussed every aspect of it and every approach towards the solution of the problem, and the scheme announced here is the scheme that came from their considered judgment. It was suggested to me but was not looked upon with favour by me. Simply because on that occasion I accepted the advice of those whom I consulted, I am blamed.

In regard to the setting up of the board to implement the scheme, I am told that I should leave it to them. I have left the scheme to them and I am blamed for it. I suppose, if I were to leave the election of the members of the board to them, I would be blamed for it also. It could be said, and rightly so, that while the farming organisations represent the majority of the growers and would be fundamentally interested in the composition of the board, there are also other interests who would be vitally concerned in its personnel. Some member of the Labour Party made a criticism that the election of the board should be left to the wheat growers. Even if that decision were made, there is no register of wheat growers. There are no means by which a board could be selected from the wheat growers, even if it were thought to be a wise policy to do so.

Deputy Dillon accused me of being lacking in courage—lacking in courage because I accepted the scheme put up to me by those whom I recognised as being vitally interested in the matter. I did so irrespective of what I thought of the scheme. It was a reasonably well thought out scheme all right—I do not wish to tear the heart out of it because it is the scheme to which the Bill will give effect—but it had its defects. I saw them; I know them now. Personally, I would have preferred a more direct approach. It is not because of any lack of courage or any fear of the consequences to myself or anybody else that I would hesitate to make a clear-cut decision in a matter of that kind or in any other matter. I made the decision because of the importance of maintaining the best possible relationship between the organised agricultural community and myself and my Department and because of my desire to endeavour to maintain that relationship.

Neither is it true to say, as has been suggested, that the figures mentioned in the course of my speech here were not mentioned in the course of the discussions. They were. That figure of 300,000 tons of dried wheat was mentioned many times. It is the proper figure, but, apart altogether from any criticism that may be levelled against it, I cannot be criticised for having misled people by not making it known to them during the course of these discussions. Some Deputies who spoke saw it all; they saw the whole plan in advance. They saw the 1958 plan and the 1959 plan. They saw the intentions of the Government and the Minister for Agriculture. It would be easy in 1958; harsh in 1959. I was selecting the board merely for the purpose of transferring the baby. The figure of 6/- per barrel was given here as the reduction that would probably be effected in 1958—it is not a case of probably; but that will be the reduction, according to their argument. Why was that figure ever mentioned?

Because the Minister for Finance gave it in Wexford.

I am talking about myself. I had not the opportunity of seeing or reading any speech made by the Minister for Finance on this subject in recent times at all. I am talking about the speeches I made on this matter and of the announcement I made when the scheme was announced. In order to make the position as clear as possible to landowners and those who had taken conacre, I directed the officials of my Department to make a calculation, based on last year's acreage and yield, for the purpose of guiding those who intended to grow wheat. I did that in the most deliberate fashion. If you look up that statement, you will see it was clearly set out in one paragraph that, in the event of the acreage sown in 1958 not exceeding the acreage in 1957 and the yield therefrom being more or less the same as that of the 1957 crop, then, on that basis, according to this scheme, the reduction would be in the neighbourhood of 6/- per barrel. If the acreage and yield were more, then the reduction would be greater; if it were less, then the reduction would be less. What ambiguity or doubt could there be in the public mind as a result of that calculation? It would have been unnecessary if I had the slightest intention of deceiving anybody in this regard.

What difference is there between them?

There is this difference. The Deputy made a statement to show that the reduction had been positively fixed for this year at 6/- per barrel. That is entirely incorrect.

The Minister for Finance said it about a month ago in Wexford.

It might be 4/-, 8/- or 10/-.

The Minister for Finance said it.

That is the interpretation of the statement which I issued in the most deliberate fashion at the time. That is the statement of policy. As a matter of fact, that is the basis of the whole scheme as recommended to me by those who represent the growers and who knew there was a problem to be met.

It will not be going up, anyway.

Deputy O'Higgins could intervene more appropriately in a debate on finance—not because he is a financial expert but because he likes the subject.

I think I have disposed of all this —not that it really matters. We hear a good deal of talk here that Deputies think is good politics. I never thought that and I am here a long time. I listened with interest to Deputy Dillon talking on the effect of political propaganda, when designed in a certain fashion, on the public mind and on parliamentary institutions. I am not pleading with the Opposition on this matter. If they want to be harsh and rough, I shall take it as they want it and try to give back my best. A subject like this does not call for that approach from any section here. Even from the political point of view, it does not serve Deputies to make statements here to the effect that a political Party has given such and such an assurance and, when they are asked to produce that assurance simply to say: "Sure, we know you did it."

If I may give political advice or a political lecture, I do not think it enhances the chances or opportunities of Deputies, to talk parrot-like about broken promises, saying they heard this Deputy and that Deputy say this and that at certain crossroads. That amounts to using this House and the local papers down the country for the propagation of what I would call and what the intelligent public—that is, the whole public—would call real tripe. If Deputy Dillon wants to use this discussion to give a lecture on parliamentary democracy and the effect of public men making certain pronouncements, or being accused of making them whether they made them or not, I would say to him that the best test in the long run is this. I think it was in 1932 that Deputy Dillon came into this House first; I heard his first speech and I could almost repeat it. This Party here first became a Government in 1932. That is a long time ago. It is 26 years ago. Broadly, we have maintained and retained the confidence of the majority of the people of the country over the greater portion of that long spell.

You codded them, all right.

That is the real test. We see now the attitude of Fine Gael—or Cumann na nGaedheal, as it was then.

Look at Deputy Egan. His face is red; he is blushing.

There is the attitude of Cumann na nGaedheal. I knew Deputy O'Higgins could not resist. That Party is over there now because they were always imbued with the spirit to which Deputy O'Higgins has given expression. They did not trust the people; they did not believe the people had any intelligence. The people had and they leathered them for the last 26 years and will do it for the next 26. That is parliamentary democracy. It is based upon discussion, argument and publicity of the widest kind and fair and open elections. That is the test I apply.

I wonder could we get back to wheat?

The Minister does not like wheat. It is an embarrassing subject.

I sympathise very fully with the Chair's suggestion. I am referring to it now as an expression of opinion. Even then, I would say it was perfectly justified. A lot of ground has been covered in the discussion which to my mind had no direct application to the measure before us. As regards the criticism of the manner in which the board will be selected, after all, someone has to make the selection. I can assure the House the members will be selected in consultation with the National Farmers' Association and with any other interest which is vital in operations and decisions of this kind.

Including the local Fianna Fáil cumann.

I am not putting Deputy O'Higgins on it, anyway. They would take over the Exchequer if they got it.

This is a silly little man.

I do not think I have anything more to say.

You said nothing.

It is purely a machinery measure and provides the organisation——

You are a great crowd of cods. You said nothing. You might as well sit down.

Is he going out for another O'Higgins? This is a machinery measure which will give effect in the fullest sense to the scheme put forward as a result of consultations between the Department and all those interested.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 60; Níl, 39.

  • Allen, Denis.
  • Bartley, Gerald.
  • Blaney, Neal T.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Boland, Kevin.
  • Booth, Lionel.
  • Brady, Philip A.
  • Brady, Seán.
  • Breen, Dan.
  • Brennan, Joseph.
  • Brennan, Paudge.
  • Breslin, Cormac.
  • Briscoe, Robert.
  • Browne, Seán.
  • Burke, Patrick.
  • Calleary, Phelim A.
  • Carty, Michael.
  • Collins, James J.
  • Corry, Martin J.
  • Cotter, Edward.
  • Kenneally, William.
  • Kennedy, Michael J.
  • Kitt, Michael F.
  • Lemass, Seán.
  • Loughman, Frank.
  • Lynch, Celia.
  • MacCarthy, Seán.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • MacEntee, Seán.
  • Maher, Peadar.
  • Crowley, Honor M.
  • Cummins, Patrick J.
  • Cunningham, Liam.
  • Davern, Mick.
  • de Valera, Eamon.
  • Doherty, Seán.
  • Donegan, Batt.
  • Dooley, Patrick.
  • Egan, Nicholas.
  • Fanning, John.
  • Flynn, Stephen.
  • Geoghegan, John.
  • Gilbride, Eugene.
  • Gogan, Richard P.
  • Griffin, James.
  • Haughey, Charles.
  • Healy, Augustine A.
  • Hillery, Patrick J.
  • Hilliard, Michael.
  • Humphreys, Francis.
  • Medlar, Martin.
  • Millar, Anthony G.
  • Moloney, Daniel J.
  • Mooney, Patrick.
  • O'Malley, Donogh.
  • O'Toole, James.
  • Ryan, James.
  • Ryan, Mary B.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Traynor, Oscar.

Níl

  • Barrett, Stephen D.
  • Barry, Richard.
  • Burke, James.
  • Byrne, Tom.
  • Carew, John.
  • Carroll, James.
  • Casey, Seán.
  • Coburn, George.
  • Coogan, Fintan.
  • Corish, Brendan.
  • Costello, Declan D.
  • Costello, John A.
  • Crotty, Patrick J.
  • Desmond, Daniel.
  • Dillon, James M.
  • Everett, James.
  • Fagan, Charles.
  • Giles, Patrick.
  • Hogan, Bridget.
  • Hughes, Joseph.
  • Jones, Denis F.
  • Kenny, Henry.
  • Kyne, Thomas A.
  • Larkin, Denis.
  • Lindsay, Patrick.
  • Lynch, Thaddeus.
  • MacEoin, Seán.
  • McMenamin, Daniel.
  • Manley, Timothy.
  • Mulcahy, Richard.
  • Murphy, William.
  • O'Donnell, Patrick.
  • O'Higgins, Michael J.
  • O'Higgins, Thomas F.
  • O'Reilly, Patrick.
  • O'Sullivan, Denis J.
  • Palmer, Patrick W.
  • Rooney, Eamonn.
  • Sweetman, Gerard.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Ó Briain and Loughman; Níl: Deputies O'Sullivan and Kyne.
Question declared carried.
Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, July 15th, 1958.