Public Business. - Agricultural Produce (Cereals) (Amendment) Bill, 1958—Report and Final Stages.

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

I want to make it clear that we oppose this Bill and we shall divide against it because we are satisfied that its purpose and its inevitable consequence are that the whole system of providing a guaranteed price for this crop is being swept away by this devise. Heretofore a price was guaranteed, if possible, in the month of September, and any farmer who desired to sow winter wheat or spring wheat was informed of the price he was entitled to get for the quality of wheat produced by his sowing. Under our Administration, it was our practice to give that guarantee, not for one year, but for two years, further to help farmers to arrange a programme of cropping of their land which would conform to the requirements of their particular system of husbandry.

Under the procedure envisaged in this Bill, it is proposed that the Minister should make a declaration as to the standard price for wheat but that, in the July following that declaration, he is to take counsel with the Minister for Industry and Commerce and determine, in the light of crop prospects then existing, what the surplus of wheat is going to be. I want to state positively that there is no means available to any Minister for Agriculture accurately to forecast the yield of the wheat crop in the month of July. Therefore, I believe that that pretence is fraudulent. No accurate estimate can be made in the month of July of what the wheat yield will be.

Nevertheless, the Bill requires the Minister to do that in consultation, not with An Bord Gráin, not with any farmers' organisation, but after consultation with the Minister for Industry and Commerce who, in this discussion, represents the millers and the bakers. Having determined this purely artificial concept of the surplus, he then hands over to An Bord Gráin the function of determining what levy is to be made per barrel of wheat on the farmers who grew it in order to meet the losses in which An Bord Gráin will involve themselves when disposing of the surplus which actually materialises when the wheat crop has been gathered. All this elaborate procedure, which is provided in a Bill of 25 sections and a Schedule, is, in fact, a smokescreen behind which the Minister wants to do that which he has not the moral courage to do openly and publicly.

I conceived it to be my duty when I was Minister for Agriculture to reduce the price of wheat. Having taken that decision and submitted it to the Government of which I was a member and having had their approval for it, I conceived it to be my duty to come to this House and to defend that decision in this House and explain the reasons why I had come to that decision and face the criticism that that decision involved. But, at least, those who were then concerned to criticise me knew the price farmers were going to get and were in a position to challenge it on the ground that, in their judgment, it was insufficient.

What Deputy to-day knows what the farmers will get for their wheat? The standard price is declared to be 78/6 per barrel for wheat bushelling 64 lb. wheat or over, with a moisture content not exceeding 20 per cent., but that is subject to a levy which is to be determined in the light of a surplus to be declared, according to the Minister, some time in the month of July but he declines to reveal yet, until Dáil Eireann has adjourned, what the amount of that surplus has been determined to be. I think this is disreputable fraud.

Now, Sir, the Minister may say to me and, in fact, has said across the House: "I gave my word that I would make a statement in regard to the question of surplus before the end of July. By that I regard myself as bound and I do not feel constrained to do more." I want to test that undertaking, Sir, by an undertaking I have had from another Minister in exactly the same circumstances.

The Minister for Industry and Commerce gave precisely the same undertaking in this House when we were discussing another Bill. Deputies will remember that on the occasion of the discussion of the Tea Bill we asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce: "Do you give us an undertaking that anybody who is not a member of this firm that you are setting up will enjoy equality with the members of the new tea importing firm if they bring in their own tea?" The Minister for Industry and Commerce said: "I pledge my word that that shall be so" and Deputies will remember that that pledge was most specifically repeated in the Seanad. I now assert that, in defiance of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, and with his consent, the tea importing body set up under the Tea Bill levies and proposes to levy 3d. per lb. on every lb. of tea brought in by somebody who is not a member of the firm and, on the Minister's attention being directed to that fact, he throws his hands in the air and says: "There is nothing I can do about it."

Am I to be asked to accept the undertakings of the Minister for Agriculture, which are not incorporated in the text of this Bill, in the same session that I have been asked by the Minister for Industry and Commerce to accept the most unqualified undertaking which has been recklessly and ruthlessly disregarded? On reference being made to the Minister who gave the undertaking, that Minister has said: "Whatever I undertook to do in the Dáil or in the Seanad I am not able to do. They are entitled to get 3d. per lb. for tea".

I do not know what the Minister for Agriculture is going to do or is not going to do under this Bill. I do not know who he will or will not put on An Bord Gráin but, so certainly as we are in this House, the purpose of this Bill was to create the impression in the country that the reduction in the price of wheat this year was due to the performance of the farmers themselves in disposing of the surplus wheat and not the responsibility of the Minister who makes it.

Now I understand that this year, before there was any estimate made of the crop, before there was any estimate of the levy requisite to cover the loss on the disposal of surplus wheat, the Minister for Finance went to his own constituency a month ago and announced that the levy this year was to be 6/- a barrel. I do not know whether or not that is to be honoured but, most significant, he did not go on to say "and next year it will be the same." I invite Deputies to recall that, when I conceived it to be my duty to come into this House to tell Deputies what the price of wheat would be, I told them what it would be this year and next year and I told them they would have two years' notice hereafter. All the information that we have to-day is that the Minister for Agriculture says he does not know, the Minister for Industry and Commerce says he has not been consulted and the Minister for Finance says it will be 6/- a barrel this year and there is no reference at all to next year.

That is the performance of a Government, of a Minister, and of Deputies notably Deputy Corry, who is here to-day and who assured the electors that if he were returned to this House as a member of the Fianna Fáil Party, he would see the price of 82/6 paid or he would know the reason why. Deputy Corry is to-day treated like a penny boy and he will be frogged into the Lobby to vote, not for an increase of 5/- a barrel in wheat, but for a reduction, the amount of which he does not know, this year, next year or the year after.

I would be the last in this House to denigrate the Party system. It is a good system and it helps to make Parliament function. It is a shocking thing when it is used to make a dishcloth of a representative of the people. There are several Deputies in the Fianna Fáil Party who pledged their word in public to their own constituents that they would see the price of wheat not only maintained at what it was but raised to the figure fixed by the late Deputy Tom Walsh when he was Minister for Agriculture, 82/6 a barrel. They are now going to participate in the lily-livered fraud of these proposals.

Let me make this clear because it is important that it should be made clear. I have been a Minister for Agriculture and the colleagues I have around me have had the responsibility of government upon them. I am not denying for a moment that a problem exists which has to be met. What I am repudiating with emphasis and contempt is the fraudulent device produced by this Government in the futile effort to cover their own tracks. They knew of this problem just as I knew of it three years ago, two years ago, last year. While it suited them they denied it existed and they sent out their dupes to purchase votes with the fraudulent representation that they could undertake the impossible. They got those votes and got these poor dupes elected to this House by fraudulent misrepresentation, which possibly their dupes did not themselves realise was fraudulent. I want to fix responsibility clearly where it belongs. Perhaps some of these unfortunate men went out and gave these undertakings believing that when they came into this House they would be able to redeem them and now discover they were being treated like fools, sent on the ignoble fool's errand of deceiving people who trusted them, being used to garner for this Government by fraud the votes they could not get honestly.

It is a shocking thing to see men who have spent a large part of their existence in the public life of this country reduced to the situation in which the members of the Fianna Fáil Party find themselves to-day. It is a shocking thing to see men experienced in the public life of this country driven into the Lobbies like cattle into a slaughterhouse because those who vote for these proposals with the Fianna Fáil Party to-day, if they do not surrender their lives, surrender their honour. They do it under compulsion and they do it under a compulsion that should not have been brought to bear upon them.

I deplore this Bill because it brings not only members of the Fianna Fáil Party into contempt and ridicule before the people but it brings this House into contempt. It disgraces us all and I was not surprised to hear the Minister for Agriculture say here yesterday when challenged on the merits of this Bill—having experienced what he must have experienced in the Fianna Fáil Party room, the abject submission to his arrogant insolence— that although it amused him to speak here he did not feel energetic and so he would not bother.

I want to sound this note of warning to the Minister. He can do that without detriment to this country in the seclusion of his Party room. If he can find Deputies to take it from him, he is free to do it there, but he cannot do it here. I begin to doubt if his Taoiseach is still capable of controlling the Government because there was a day when he, as Head of the Government, would not have allowed that to be said by a Minister of his Government. I recall that the present Minister for Agriculture was ejected from that post before for the language he used.

That does not arise on this Bill.

I am discussing what the Minister for Agriculture said yesterday.

On the Fifth Stage of the Bill only what is contained in the Bill may be discussed. Irrelevant matters do not arise.

I am discussing the conduct of the Minister.

The conduct of the Minister years ago certainly does not arise.

No, not years ago, yesterday. I doubt the capacity of the Taoiseach to control his Government if he allows a Minister to come to this House and use the language and assume the demeanour assumed by the present Minister for Agriculture yesterday. But he ought to be warned now and I charge the Taoiseach to warn the Minister that he will not be allowed to behave in that manner. If that behaviour is attempted further the procedures of this House are not yet exhausted but they will be exhausted to exact from any Minister, however crude and ignorant, the respect due not to any individual in this House but to the House itself. If the Taoiseach is no longer capable of exacting that from the Minister this House must assume that responsibility. We broke that kind of thing in this House before and we shall do it again.

We must realise the gravity of the course on which we are embarking. Unless Ministers respect the discipline of submitting themselves to interrogation as business passes through the Dáil and unless the Opposition discharge their duty on the various occasions upon which they are called upon to act, Parliament will not work. It is time you woke up to that. We have a Ceann Comhairle who directs us in our various duties here. If we do not function, Parliament will not function but be sure of this, this Opposition will never be a party to the fraud that Parliament is functioning, when, in fact, its officers have ceased to function.

We are now debating parliamentary procedure and parliamentary procedure does not arise on the Fifth Stage of this Bill.

If I get no better answer from the Minister to-day than I got yesterday Parliament is not functioning.

The Deputy is not entitled to pursue that matter any further. He may refer to matters contained in the Bill but not to parliamentary procedure. He will have another opportunity of making those remarks but they are completely out of order on the Fifth Stage of this Bill.

Apparently Standing Orders will be burst through now.

It is a bad Bill introduced by an incompetent Minister who, by his conduct yesterday, disgraced the office which it is his privilege to hold. I hope the House will vote against it. I look at some old, battle-scarred opponents in this House who are still here and I hope that they have not lost all the honesty which they profess to have. I shall give them an opportunity to save their souls, if not their seats, in the Division Lobby very shortly.

I think it is rather a joke to hear Deputy Dillon complain about what the unfortunate farmers who grow wheat are to get for it. I think it is more than a joke. Deputy Dillon and some other Deputies passed remarks in this debate about certain statements made by me. I make no bones about this. I told the people that they would get 82/6 per barrel for their wheat and they believed it. I was one of a deputation who went to see that gentleman over there when he was Minister for Agriculture in 1954 and he told me that he had had a headache for a month wondering what he would do with the surplus of wheat which he had in 1954.

He did nothing with it. He left it to me to sell it, because he had not the money to do anything with it.

There is not a syllable of truth in that statement.

On a point of order, Sir, since we have had not had the benefit of any contributions from Deputy Corry for some time would it not be better if the Minister listened to this contribution without interrupting him?

I looked on Deputy Dillon's statement at that time as a serious one because I thought he was a fairly responsible Minister. I did not know him as well then as I do now. I wondered what he would do with the surplus wheat and when the farmers were going to get the wallop about it. But 1954 passed, 1955 passed, and 1956 passed and we got no wallop about it. I told my people, on the strength of what Deputy Dillon said, that they would get 82/6 a barrel for their wheat, even though Deputy Dillon had once said that he would not be seen dead in a field of wheat.

That is what I believed. I celebrated my 31st year as a member of this House about a month ago and I did that by always telling my people what I believed. I have always told them the hard side as well as the soft side. Deputy Dillon asked what my attitude would be in the event of a vote. I was elected as a member of the Fianna Fáil Party and we all have to do things that may not be very nice.

Hear, hear!

I remember that gentleman over there saying that he would never take off his hat to the Soldier's Song. I remember him saying that he would never kow-tow to the Tricolour.


Is that in the Bill?

He had to swallow the Soldier's Song and he had to swallow the Tricolour.

Deputy Corry must come to the Bill.

He wants to be put out of the House so that he will not have to vote.

I am not worried about voting for this Bill in this House. I have always voted the way I felt was right. I would not grow wheat at Deputy Dillon's price and I am hanged if I would grow it at a lower price. That is my advice to the farmers. If the Government wants to have wheat grown by the ranching fraternity in this country, let them do it. It will pay the ranchers but it would not pay the ordinary tillage farmer to grow wheat at the price fixed by Deputy Dillon or by the present Minister. I am taking my own steps about the matter and I am advising my own people about it.

But you will vote for the Bill?

I will do what I think is right just as Deputy O'Higgins will do what he thinks right. I have seen a lot of strange faces come into this House since I came here first and I shall live to see a lot more.

Deputy Corry was in danger of becoming a revisionist of the Fianna Fáil Party. In another part of the world that might have had serious consequences for him but he has now conformed to the Party line. As is customary he has made open confession here to-day but Deputy Corry is not going to be allowed to get away with the performance in which he has indulged. Deputy Corry, or no other member of Fianna Fáil, ever admitted that there was a surplus of wheat as long as they were out of office and in Opposition in this country. Every time they were in Opposition they wailed and moaned around the country that not enough wheat was being sown. When they came back to power, the first action to be taken by Deputy Corry was to table a parliamentary question to the acting-Minister for Agriculture drawing his attention to the serious situation in relation to the amount of wheat grown and requesting an increase in the price of wheat.

The acting-Minister for Agriculture, who was Deputy Aiken, Minister for External Affairs, stated in reply that an increase in the price of wheat in March 1957 would not affect the acreage to be sown. There it was. The whole time that Deputy Dillon was in office we had every member of Fianna Fáil moaning and bewailing that our security was being threatened because enough wheat was not being grown. They went to the extent of tabling, in this House, a motion of no confidence because the Government at that time was following a policy which they said did not ensure a sufficient amount of wheat for the people of this country.

Among the leaders was Deputy Corry. He was the big band of Fianna Fáil shouting and braying about wheat. See what happened. Deputy Corry and the other wild wheat men of Fianna Fáil campaigned around Carlow-Kilkenny and Leix-Offaly wailing and moaning about wheat prices and assuring the decent farmers of these constituencies that if they got back to office the farmers would get 82/6 a barrel——

How many acres did you grow?

I have more farmers' votes than the number who voted for the Deputy. Many more of them supported this Party than supported Fianna Fáil.


The House should allow Deputy O'Higgins to make his speech.

The Deputy opposite would not work in a fit.

The Deputy ran away from the land.

This Bill contains the final chapter in the sordid story of the Fianna Fáil wheat ramp. This is the end of the story. In this Bill we come to the end of the period. Guaranteed prices are gone. No longer will Deputy Corry be able to talk about a particular price for wheat. That is gone, and instead of an increase of 5/- up to 82/6 a barrel farmers will now face a reduction under Fianna Fáil in the price of wheat. The Minister for Agriculture has not the courage to do this himself. He and his colleagues must create an elaborate body to do it; they have not the courage to face the consequences of their own decisions as Deputy Dillon did three years ago. He faced a "no confidence" motion but he stood by what he and his colleagues in the Government decided and said: "That is our decision." It was not An Bord Gráin or any other group or collection of supporters that were put together to whitewash us.

It appears that the end of this sordid story is now demonstrated to the farmers of the country. While Deputy Dillon was Minister for Agriculture, operating a tillage policy which was criticised by Fianna Fáil, instead of producing a shortage of wheat, his policy was so successful that we have grown more wheat than we can reasonably use ourselves.

I hope that as a result of this debate and the passage of this Bill, eyes will be opened up and down the country, and particularly in East Cork. I hope that the farmers who were fooled and "codded" by Deputy Dr. Ryan and the others—the farmers who were promised, and who believed they would get, an increase in the price of wheat—will now know who let them down and when Fianna Fáil next go to the public they will give them their answer and give it quickly.

Again the Deputies on this side of the House are constrained to speak on this measure because of the obvious reluctance of the Fianna Fáil Deputies and the embarrassment which is created in the ranks of those opposite. The Minister has not the moral support of any Deputy behind him in pushing this measure through the House. Deputy Corry came in to-day and admitted the truth of the statement I made a week ago about what I heard him say in the presence of the Taoiseach in the City of Kilkenny where he was presented —as he honestly believed—as the future Minister for Agriculture in the next Fianna Fáil Government. He was presented on that platform to the wheat growers of Carlow-Kilkenny and he told that large meeting that it was the intention of the Fianna Fáil Government—of which, presumably, he would be a valued member—on accession to office immediately to restore the price of wheat to the level of 82/6 a barrel.

How often have you made that statement?

Not often enough. We shall say this hundreds of times. So long as the Leas-Cheann Comhairle will permit me to do so, I shall say it 66 times more——


If Deputy Haughey did not have the protection of the city and was in the country he would hear it oftener.


The Deputy will get his answer down the country in the next election.

And the Deputy will be heard in North Tipperary Agricultural Committee again.

Sit down over there for another four or five years.

Seemingly the only contribution the Fianna Fáil farmers can give is by way of interruption. Perhaps they will rise later and give individual contributions and say they wholeheartedly support the Minister in his action.

Last evening the Minister described this measure as being somewhat similar to a child abandoned by its parents. I wonder if we are to interpret that as meaning that he apparently believes now that this child was conceived illegitimately? May I say to Deputies opposite that we are pleased Deputy Corry had the courage to come in and admit that his Party promised to restore the price to 82/6 per barrel. That is a very good development arising from this debate as conducted on this side of the House, even though Deputy Haughey may think the debate is over-protracted. It is a good contribution to the parliamentary life of the country when one Party can remind another Party of the fact that when they were at the hustings they made certain declarations and promises. It is a good thing that a Deputy like Deputy Corry, who is no neophyte, is forced to come in and admit——

Surely the House is not discussing Deputy Corry.

No, Sir, but what Deputy Corry said a few moments ago.

The Minister is not responsible for the utterances of Deputies at election meetings.

Surely, Sir, the Minister has been nominated by the Taoiseach as Minister for Agriculture in a strong Fianna Fáil Government which represents a very powerful Party, and surely when that Minister introduces an agricultural measure such as this he must command from the benches behind him the support of his Party to ensure that his Bill becomes an Act of the Oireachtas? When he does command that support he must line up behind him a number of Deputies such as Deputy Faulkner from Louth and the Deputies from the Midlands, both Deputies Egan from Laoighis-Offaly. Deputy Kieran Egan was elected specifically on wheat promises. We have all those Deputies in the Party but at this late stage of this measure we are still awaiting a contribution from them as to what they honestly think of it and, what is more important still, what their constituents think of this measure.

Deputy Fanning, for example, has had the embarrassment of having the Minister for Defence in his constituency in Nenagh——

That is not true; it was no embarrassment.

Deputy Fanning has been elected on the basis of having promised in the election at the various chapel gates and meetings, in the farmyards and at the people's doors in County Tipperary to restore the price of wheat——

What Deputy Fanning said in the election does not arise on the Bill. This is the Fifth Stage and the debate is confined to what is contained in the Bill.

I am advancing the reasons why the Bill should not now pass. The reasons are that the Party now in office has completely reneged on an assurance given specifically to the electorate as was pointed out by the delegates who attended the Party convention in Nenagh where they said: "Assuredly, we told the people that when our Government would again be returned, the price of wheat would be restored to 82/6 a barrel and it has not yet been done."

We opposed the establishment of An Bord Gráin, on the grounds that the Government and the Minister are not standing up to their responsibilities or facing the situation they were elected to face. Instead of that, they propose to set up a new board, with a monopoly of new officialdom behind it, with new expense on the Exchequer, to administer a scheme in which it is proposed not to define the extent of the surplus but to market that surplus and to face the odium that will result from the substantial reduction in the price of wheat that must ensue from the type of arrangement now thrown up by the Government. Let them allege in any way they will that the idea germinated in the mind of anybody else. Is a Government committed to accept each and every suggestion thrown up by any individual or group of individuals outside this House? When it appears in this House, before the members of this Assembly, is it not then the full responsibility of the Government, whoever thought of it?

It is now apparent—it is proved— that the people who, the Minister alleges, are the parents of this scheme were misled in the first instance. They have made it clear that they were not in agreement with the limit of 300,000 tons which the Government suggested. They said 380,000 tons. They are not now being given a voice in it because the Minister, in consultation with the Minister for Industry and Commerce, will determine what the amount will be. It is "as go bráth" with the all-Irish loaf. It is "as go bráth" with the price which existed when Deputy Dillon was Minister for Agriculture.

The Deputies who will trot into the Lobby to vote for this scheme will do so conscious of the fact that they are voting for a measure designed to work completely contrary to the principles on which they secured election. Their constituents will know that they were elected to do something quite different from what they vote for here to-day. However, they will do it, because if they do not, they know what will happen to them within the inner councils of that Party.

I want to thank Deputy Corry publicly for telling us what is in the Bill, when the Minister refused to do so.

Hear, hear!

Deputy Corry, in his usual direct way, has put his finger upon the key of this Bill. He tells us that the net result of this Bill will be that nobody will grow wheat in the future except the wheat ranchers. He told us that the advice that he, Deputy Corry, will give to the farmers of East Cork is that they are not to grow wheat. He also told us that Deputy Dillon said he would not be found dead in a Fianna Fáil field of wheat, but he did not tell us that the field of wheat in which Deputy Dillon would not be found dead was one producing six barrels to the acre. That was the field of wheat in which no Irishman ought to be found dead because the wheat would not cover his dead body.

The small farmer who is the lifeblood of this country, who is the key of the life of our country, will not grow wheat in future. The combine farmer—the fellow who Deputy Corry and Deputies on that side of the House say, is no advantage or benefit to the country—will rob the farms of whatever fertility is in them and then throw it overboard. I am grateful to Deputy Corry for that.

It comes badly from any Deputy with 31 years' parliamentary experience, or from any Deputy on that side of the House or on this side of the House, to start waving the flag. Those of us who loved, honoured and fought for that flag do not want to flaunt it in the face of our fellow-Irishmen who disagreed with us in the past. They had a right to disagree with us, if they wanted to. I challenge any man to take a better place than I did, myself, in that situation. In the case of somebody else—whether it be a Deputy Haughey, a General MacEoin or a General Mulcahy—if the flag is flaunted against them because they did not hold certain views at a certain time, I resent it and it should not be done.

We are all Irishmen trying to serve our country to the best of our ability. Let us do that. Let us criticise what is in the measure before us and ignore personalities because for too long this country has suffered denigration of its popular leaders and when the attempt is made, after 31 years, to continue it, no good purpose is being served.

This Bill is, as Deputy Dillon described it, a smokescreen to cover up the intentions of a Government which has not the courage to face this House and say exactly what they are doing in the Bill. They want to have a position like that of the Milk Costing Commission. They want to put the responsibility on the shoulders of somebody else. Do not do it. Do not start it. The Government will not come down, I presume, if it is defeated. However, even if they did, it is something which Deputy Corry and persons who have stood for the growing of wheat, as I have stood for it, object to. They should not support a measure of this type.

The main purpose of this Bill is to abolish any guaranteed price for wheat in future. The immediate purpose of the Bill will be to reduce the price in relation to the average figure of 78/6 per barrel last year. I shall follow Deputy General MacEoin's last remarks.

After the general election, ten or 12 Deputies came in here with wheat tags in their collars. They were elected on the wheat price issue. We had Deputies sent in here from Counties Louth, Kildare, Meath, Dublin, Wexford and Kilkenny and from East Cork with Deputy Corry leading the band and beating the drum. Every one of these extra Deputies was sent in here with a wheat label in his collar. Not one of them had the courage to criticise this Bill.

How many years did Fine Gael hold the seat in Louth in the past 20 years?

That does not answer the Wheat Bill.

The Deputy is talking pure nonsense about wheat tags and he knows it.

I am not. I challenge Deputy Faulkner to make the wheat price an issue in the next election in County Louth as he did in the last election when he was elected.

Could we have a by-election on it now?

We had two by-elections just recently.

Would I be in order in suggesting that Deputy Rooney be not more repetitious than he can help?

I am challenging those Deputies who came in here with labels in their collars from the wheat growing areas.

The Deputy has said that twice.

I am asking them to stand their ground and oppose this Bill. They were sent in here to support an increase in the price, which was promised by the Minister for Finance in his radio speech on the night before the general election. At that time the farmers were led to believe they would get a guaranteed price of 82/6 a barrel and that was the issue during that general election. Now we find those very Deputies monopolising a false position in the Government and voting against 82/6 and in favour of a drastic reduction in the price. This Bill proposes to set up a board which is to be used as a smokescreen for Government action in reducing the price of wheat and the acreage of wheat. We have often heard Fianna Fáil Deputies campaign for an increase in the wheat acreage, in addition to an extra price. This Bill will reduce the acreage and also reduce the price.

I must congratulate Deputy Corry on the stand he took here, but I shall not think much of him if he follows the Minister and his colleagues, who have reneged the wheat issue, into the Lobby to put this Bill through. It is designed purely and simply to abolish the guaranteed price, to abolish stability for the price of wheat and to reduce the acreage.

I very much deplore the heat displayed here during this debate. It is most unbecoming. No matter how emotional we get—and I could be as emotional as anyone else, as I am sure Deputy Corry would remember, if he were here, but I am glad he has the spirit of forgiveness which I also share—we should remember that this is a national Parliament and we should never lose respect for ourselves or for this House. Our missions abroad are often judged by our conduct in the national Parliament. One way we have of assessing other countries is by reading the proceedings in their Parliaments. Therefore, we should control ourselves; we should keep to the point at issue and not introduce personalities or abuse. We all stand for fair comment and hard hitting, but when it exceeds that, it is time for people to sit down and pause.

I certainly disagree with the Bill, for two or three reasons. One reason is that it transfers all responsibility from the Minister, the Department and the Government, to a new board, yet unknown, that is to be set up. There is a tendency to indulge in that sort of set-up and I think it is a bad system for this country. We have a Parliament here which is large enough and representative enough. We have Departments which are very well served with all sorts of facilities to deal with any emergency that may arise. I deplore the transfer of power from the Parliament and the Departments we have set up, to a new board of any kind. Secondly, this board will have a paid personnel. It will be empowered to rent or erect offices, to hire or buy machinery, and those costs will come out of the wheat levy which will be imposed on the producers of grain.

I oppose this Bill for another reason. I am afraid it will become a permanent institution of this State and that the board will be saddled with a responsibility which will be far beyond it. How can a board, not yet nominated, set about dealing with this problem of surplus wheat? How is it to dispose of that surplus, in the very limited time between now and the harvest, or between now and next October? Who are to constitute the board? Are they men who are producers? Are they men skilled in the handling of grain, men who have contacts abroad? Will they not have to come back to the Department for advice and help? Would it not be as well, then, for the Department, from the very initiation of this idea, to have taken responsibility for the handling of this serious situation?

We have to be reasonable about it. We know there is this problem and that the Government has to face it. I thought, at one time here in the last four years, that the question of wheat growing would be put outside the arena of politics for all time. I regret that we have a repetition here of the political element in this. Let us face the fact that the farmers are geared up to the production of wheat, that they have produced a surplus in recent years and will continue to produce it because they have the machinery and they have the techniques to do so. This is a problem which will face this country for many years to come. That is why I am afraid this board will be a permanent institution on this State.

That is all the more reason why the Minister should be very cautious, very circumspect and very careful in selecting the personnel of this board, in order to get the best results. If the board is a failure, he and his Government will be held responsible, no matter what the board does, because they in the first instance are primarily responsible for setting it up. We are not told how many will constitute the board—it must be more than three and under eight—and we are not told yet where the board is to be located, whether or not it is to be another added growth in Dublin. I should like the Minister to deal with this point when he rises to conclude. Let us be realistic in this matter. I would appeal once again to the House to remember that this is a national problem, that we have a national duty and that it is nauseating and soul-destroying to listen to the abuse which goes on in the House.

I do not know whether I have a right even to speak here about wheat. According to some people who have gone out of the House now, one must have been out in the fields growing wheat or thinning mangolds or something like that, in order to have the right to speak on wheat. A Deputy who spoke from these benches was asked how much wheat he was growing. There is a fine old front bench of Fianna Fáil growing a whole lot of it. This is a wretched Bill and a wretched business. Whenever wheat was mentioned here, it was always made a political plaything by Fianna Fáil.

If the Minister thinks he has the full support of his Party, I would remind him that, whenever wheat was mentioned during the terms of office of the previous Government, we had Deputies Corry, Cunningham, Blaney, Aiken, Ryan, Moher, and then the man who was even tipped to be Minister for Agriculture in those days, Deputy Childers; and, oh boy! we got some propaganda about wheat. Where are they all to-day? This scheme is going through and those Fianna Fáil Deputies are not showing that they are here on their constituents' behalf, or that they want to back their constituents. If I asked a lot of the experts over there straight out what county grows the most wheat, I am sure only about one of them could tell me. I notice that Wexford grew 47,000 acres last year and Tipperary grew 40,000. I did not hear the voice of Tipperary or the voice of Wexford to-day.

The Deputy heard it.

That is all you get, political claptrap again. I could say to the Deputy what Deputy Fanning said to me, but I would not say that, as I am not going to degrade this Parliament.

It runs off like water off a duck.

I do not care if the Deputy wants to compare himself to a duck or a donkey. It is all the same to me. This is not very edifying. I do not see why I should not be allowed to speak here, Sir. I do not want any instructions from Deputy Haughey, or anything but what is edifying. Whenever I rise to speak here, I do not do as Deputy Corry did; I restrain myself, yet when I get up to make a speech I am always interrupted.

This is a question of how much will be levied on the farmers by this board to be set up. I asked the Minister a question a couple of weeks ago about the other increased cost that is to be imposed on farmers and to which nobody here has referred. Up to last year, farmers were not charged for the hire of sacks. They will be charged this year. The Minister told me he was taking the matter up with the millers. We have heard nothing about that since. That means that, in addition to the levy, farmers will pay for the hire of sacks. None of the experts referred to that. It just might happen —I hope it will not happen—that there will not be a surplus. If we have not a surplus and there is a carry-over, what will happen the money?

I have heard Deputies say that this Parliament was being brought into disrepute. It is being brought into disrepute continually, for the simple reason that questions are not answered. The greatest parliamentary right Deputies have is to be able to ask a parliamentary question and to expect an answer or to ask a question in the course of a debate and to expect an answer. I have sat in the House during the debates on the Estimates and I would commend to the Minister his colleague, the Minister for Justice, for the manner in which he presented his Estimate and answered questions. I ask the Minister for Agriculture a question and he does not answer. Other Deputies ask him questions and he does not answer. He ignored the House yesterday evening when he said he just had not the energy at the time.

The Deputy should confine himself to the Bill.

I am confining myself to the Bill, Sir. Some Deputies over there do not like to take their medicine about the guarantees that were given. The guarantees were given. They were given on paper. I have one here that was issued in Laois-Offaly:—

"Fianna Fáil will devote every energy to ensuring that the necessary acreage will be maintained and the Party, as soon as it is in a position to do so, once again guarantee to the Irish farmers a fair and economic price for their wheat."

What is the guaranteed price for wheat?

There is no mention of 82/6 there.

What is the guaranteed price this year? Is it 65/-, 67/6, 75/-? What is it?

Where is the fraud in that?

What is it? I am asking a question of the Minister now. Name the guaranteed price.

Read that advertisement again.

I am reading it. "A guaranteed price"——

Of what amount?

That is all it says—"to the Irish farmer for his wheat".

Where is the fraud in that?

Where is the fraud in that? There is no farmer to-day who could tell you the price. You could nearly make a book on what the price of wheat will be. Nobody can tell. The Minister for Finance, Dr. Ryan, went like a tipster to Wexford and tipped 6/-. Whether or not the Minister for Agriculture will throw that overboard or whether the board will do it or not, we do not know. Whether the board will have the right to do it or will do it at the prompting of the Minister, we do not know. But, when this Bill is passed, there will be no man who can go out and sow an acre of wheat and say how much a barrel he expects to get for it. The guarantee is gone.

As far as Deputy Corry is concerned, I do not think it was very brave of him to come in here and say what his opinion was. I would like to have heard what he said in the Fianna Fáil Party room. It is a pity that we would not have men who would come in and say what is on their minds.

He was as nice as pie in the Party room.

That would be a queer old pie. That would be like the all-Irish loaf.

What is wrong with the all-Irish loaf?

Why do you not make it? That is another of the myths. The all-Irish loaf, Free Trade, the Shannon Free Port can all be bracketed together. They are fairy stories. As far as Fianna Fáil are concerned, they have no intention of going on with them. That is all a smokescreen.


Will the Deputy get back to the Bill?

Certainly, but would you mind, Sir, trying to control those gentlemen over there? My heart would bleed for people I see betrayed, but my heart would not bleed for Deputy Corry. I am sorry he is not here now.

Ah, it would now.

Nobody's heart would bleed for him. There is all this miserable political propaganda about wheat and reference to being dead in a field of wheat. What Deputy MacEoin said was true, that that would be a field of six barrels to the acre, when about 500,000 acres more than were sown in Deputy Dillon's time had to be sown to grow less wheat. There is too much being made of this. This Bill should be withdrawn even now if the Minister had any shame in him.

The House is freely delegating its powers to various boards, to one board after another. Deputies may put down a question to the Minister asking about some state of affairs that exists and the Minister says: "I have no authority at all." It means that this House is selling out its powers.

If there is a surplus of wheat, as I said before, the Irish wheat growers and the Irish feeder should be given the opportunity of buying it. They should be given the same opportunity as the biscuit manufacturers and as the Englishmen were given. The Irish farmer was offered the wheat at £26 a ton on the first offer, in six ton lots, and then at £23 a ton in six ton lots. That ruled out the small feeder.

I put it to the Minister that without setting up any board or any other organisation, if the surplus is offered at a fair price in ton lots, from a ton upwards, to the Irish feeder and to the Irish wheat grower, he will not have much of a surplus on his hands. I hope when the Minister is replying he will have the courtesy to answer at least some of the questions put to him mainly from this side of the House, because practically nobody spoke from the Government side of the House.

Deputies have been complaining all evening about my behaviour although I thought I was the best-behaved person all day, listening patiently to everything that every Deputy had to say. It has been charged against me that I am discourteous because I will not speak, because I will not explain and then those who charged me in that way proceeded to explain themselves.

The House knows what is in the Bill —that it provides for the setting up of a board, for the imposition of a levy and for placing upon the growers of wheat the responsibility for meeting the charges that may fall in the disposal of any surplus over an amount that is stated and known. It is not necessary to improve a person's knowledge if he is in possession of all the knowledge available. People have different views on this whole matter of good manners, and so on. I enjoy talking to people if they are in search of something I can assist them in securing and if I am satisfied they are genuinely looking for information. I am entitled from time to time to use my common sense and to ask myself the question as to whether a group of people or a political Party in a deliberative Assembly are trying to be helpful and whether are they seeking information in a legitimate way. If I feel they are engaged in what I might describe as political playacting—and maybe that, too, is to some extent legitimate —why should I enter into a discussion such as that?

It emerges from a remark by Deputy Dillon that everybody concedes that there was a problem here to be met. Once that is conceded, it is only a matter of how that problem is to be dealt with. There is reason for disagreement between political Parties as to how that task should be faced. I am prepared to concede there is reason for a difference of opinion. What is the purpose in my wasting public time trying to convince somebody, who knows what is in the scheme and disagrees with it, of the utility and advantages of the scheme, and who will say as a result of considered judgement: "We do not accept that and will vote against it"? I do not want to have the Taoiseach calling me to order— even though it may be suggested as it has been suggested that he is incapable of looking after people like me if we misbehave ourselves. We all have an idea, I hope, of the importance and necessity of behaving ourselves in responsible positions. I hope that no Taoiseach will have to exercise his right from time to time to see to it that we observe all the rules and regulations and conceptions of fair play. It is a pleasure in an Assembly like this to discuss the merits of a scheme, to try to explain it to those who may not have grasped the significance of any aspect of the scheme but I do not think it an unreasonable contention that there is no point in arguing with people who know its contents and who have announced their intentions not to accept it.

I want to make a few observations on this question and I want to make them without any attempt to deceive anybody inside this House or outside it, or to refuse to face up to the responsibility that I now have of implementing this scheme and making it work. However, one of the charges falsely levelled against me here is that I will not, and that I apparently do not propose, to have any consultations with anybody who may be affected as a result of the operation of these proposals.

I am sure that Deputies who have been Ministers, and indeed Deputies who have experience of public life in any shape or form, know what it is from time to time to meet the representatives of groups of people who are interested in some matter with which it is your responsibility to deal and who want to put to you a point of view as to how you should deal with it. Every time I get a group of people representing an interest like that and when, as a result of my discussions with them, I find them putting forward a way out of their difficulties, while in my judgment their approach to the matter may not be the wiser one, I always feel it best to give every consideration to the proposition they put before me. Where people who are interested in a matter like this become enthusiastic about it one would be very peculiar if one did not listen to them and listen with sympathy too. Even if one does not listen with sympathy to them, if one thinks their approach is wrong and if one thinks the machinery suggested is cumbersome, is it not a useful thing, having met those interests, to accept the recommendations which they had to make?

I am not saying that only in relation to this particular problem of the disposal of surplus wheat. I would apply that process to any other question that would come before me affecting any group of people who think it advisable to come to me as a Minister.

I was personally concerned when I came into the Department of Agriculture in November-December because of the amount of wheat that was there surplus to our requirements. I agree with Deputies who say that it is desirable that an announcement should be made as early as possible as to the conditions under which wheat or any crop is to be grown in the following year for which a guaranteed price is being offered. I was anxious to act in accordance with my thoughts on that matter but that surplus of 117,000 tons of wheat which lay there on 1st January, 1958, costing the taxpayer about £38 a ton had to be disposed of. No wheat had been disposed of up to that except a small consignment of 12,000 tons after we came into office and the carry-over from 1956 to 1957 was 75,000 tons.

It is all very well for Deputy Dillon and other Deputies to complain of the way in which this matter is being dealt with. That is part of the work here but I am really the first Minister for Agriculture who has faced up to the disposal of this surplus wheat. I must say that, since that time, the lofts have been cleared to make way for the new crop. That has been achieved in a matter of a few months.

If I am taking steps, whether they be right or wrong, I am taking them to ensure such a problem will not arise again. I am taking steps to ensure that the national policy which has been accepted by everybody who has been thinking in terms of national policy will be carried out. That policy is to pay a guaranteed price for the amount of wheat which we need to satisfy our requirements. I am dealing with a problem which has arisen for the first time. Do not think that I find any fault with the people who complain that the machinery provided for here is not perfect. When I consulted the growers' representatives about that machinery I opposed it far more strenuously than anybody else could because I wanted to search the minds of these people on this particular matter.

That is the time the Minister told them that they were wasting their time.

It is the worst thing in the world to advertise something as the truth when you were not there yourself. All my life I have been accused of not doing this or of failing in some important issue but that accusation should never be made by a person who was not present and who did not participate in whatever discussion or struggle was involved. The Deputy was not there. If he wants to believe that I said that he is free to believe it.

It was reported that the Minister said it.

Yes, I suppose it was whispered from mouth to mouth.

The Minister's supporters said it.

Perhaps I did say it and perhaps there might be justification for it, too. I do not know of any rule or standard that should deprive a Minister of saying from time to time to people who come to see him about any particular matter: "I am not in agreement with your point of view and you are not in agreement with mine. As long as you do not accept my point of view and I do not accept yours there is no use in us sitting here for another half an hour or an hour wasting time." I have seen deputations coming in with that point of view and I have tried to read what is in the backs of their minds. They have come to provoke and aggravate and I would not allow them to get away with that. You might be surprised at how careful I am when I feel that such a man is coming in in that frame of mind.

It is well to keep in mind the fact that representatives of these organisations are composed of men of every political viewpoint. Some would like to down the Minister, to provoke him and to get him to say something which they could take out and use afterwards to his detriment. I have always got that in the back of my mind and I always try to protect myself against such people. Some of these gentlemen come in in a very manly way. They feel free to use all sorts of language and be quite impertinent with Ministers of State, but when they meet business interests in regard to the same matter they can be the most meek and simple people going. What I said or did not say to a deputation does not really matter much. My advice to Deputy Hughes is: Do not ever be too anxious to repeat what a Minister, or anybody else, is supposed to have said unless you were present yourself.

Tell the Irish Press that.

I do not know if Deputy Corry will advise the farmers not to grow wheat. Of course he is entitled to advise them and entitled to pursue whatever line he wishes in that respect as is any other Deputy in the Party or in the House. Is it not strange, however, that in spite of all the howling we heard about this matter, while I have not yet got the official returns of the acreage under the wheat crop this year——

The Minister would need to have them if he is going to find the surplus.

I cannot get them until those who are responsible for advising me are ready to give them to me. But the strange thing is that according to the calculations we have made and notwithstanding this scheme and all it foreshadowed, the indications are that the acreage will be up. Apparently, the advice that was tendered and the action taken by Deputy Corry was not followed by others and apparently the advice he is tendering to his neighbours has not had that effect either.

At what time was the price announced?

Whatever we may think about the scheme or the burdens that are being imposed as a result of it, the great majority of those growing wheat this year knew the terms of the scheme long before they sowed spring wheat. Knowing that, they still apparently increased the acreage.

Does the Minister not think Deputy Corry's question is relevant?

If the "bould" Jamsie would keep quiet——

Deputy Corry must refer to Deputies as Deputies.

The one real complaint that the representatives of the growers had to make to me when I suggested a different way of handling this problem was: "Even if you cut prices you will not achieve the purpose you want to achieve, that is, reduce the acreage." Apparently, even their scheme will not reduce the acreage because, as far as we can gather, the acreage has gone up.

Further remarks have been made about my being unable to announce the names of the board, the conditions of service and the amount of the levy. The wheat is in the ground——

I hope it is above ground now.

It is growing, and I am not anxious to delay, provided I have the information necessary to enable me to make decisions, but what difference will it make whether the decisions are made inside the month of July or in August——

It is only a matter of the Minister's word.

I am as disciplined in the matter of keeping my word as Deputy Hughes.

The Minister gave us an assurance——


Deputies should allow the Minister to make his speech.

Perhaps when it comes to the point I shall observe any undertaking I give just as thoroughly as if I were a sworn member.

When I came into office in December this problem of the wheat surplus confronted me. When I was in another Department following the last election I found other problems left over there by my predecessor—problems of money, of schemes that were held up, problems that arose apparently as a result of the exertions of our predecessors, the Coalition Government. When I came to the Department of Agriculture I found the same problem. Deputies here, of course, are terribly concerned about wheat but 75,000 to 100,000 tons of wheat were lying there from 1956 to 1957 topped again by 75,000 tons more and there was nobody in that Government making any effort to solve the problem, neither the Minister for Agriculture——

Tut, tut, tut. Do not attack your own predecessor, the late Senator Moylan.

At the same time barley from abroad was being imported while the wheat was bursting the lofts and granaries of the country.

Do not attack the late Senator Moylan. Can you not let him rest?

The Deputy told me that he had a headache with it in 1954.

In 1956 about 35,000 tons or 40,000 tons of barley were imported. It was cheap and wheat was dear and money was scarce. The problems I had to deal with existed in this Department as in the Department I presided over previously in Local Government. It was a problem of money, the non-availability of money and as a result the inability of Deputy Dillon to dispose of surplus wheat at a fixed price of around £20 per ton that cost the taxpayer £38.


I am doing that, and the people outside understand the task. They understand that Deputy Dillon moved out of this House and away from the responsibility because the Coalition Government could not find ways and means of dealing with these matters. We have dealt with them successfully. The people understand us and we can go before them in that knowledge, now and in the future.

Question put.
The House divided: Tá, 67; Níl, 48.

Aiken, Frank.Allen, Denis.Bartley, Gerald.Blaney, Neal T.Boland, Gerald.Boland, Kevin.Booth, Lionel.Brady, Philip A.Brady, Seán.Brennan, Joseph.Breslin, Cormac.Briscoe, Robert.Burke, Patrick.Calleary, Phelim A.Carty, Michael.Childers, Erskine.Collins, James J.Corry, Martin J.Cotter, Edward.Crowley, Honor M.Cummins, Patrick J.Cunningham, Liam.Davern, Valera, Valera, Vivion.Doherty, Seán.Dooley, Patrick.Egan, Kieran P.Egan, Nicholas.Fanning, John.Faulkner, Padraig.Flynn, Stephen.Geoghegan, John.Gibbons, James.

Gilbride, Eugene.Gogan, Richard P.Griffin, James.Haughey, Charles.Healy, Augustine A.Hilliard, Michael.Humphreys, Francis.Kenneally, William.Kennedy, Michael J.Killilea, Mark.Kitt, Michael F.Lemass, Noel T.Lemass, Seán.Loughman, Frank.Lynch, Celia.Lynch, Jack.McEllistrim, Thomas.MacEntee, Seán.Maher, Peadar.Medlar, Martin.Millar, Anthony G.Moher, John W.Moloney, Daniel J.Mooney, Patrick.Moran, Michael.Ó Briain, Donnchadh.O'Malley, Donogh.Ormonde, John.O'Toole, James.Ryan, James.Ryan, Mary B.Smith, Patrick.Traynor, Oscar.


Barrett, Stephen D.Barry, Richard.Belton, Jack.Blowick, Joseph.Browne, Noel C.Burke, James.Byrne, Patrick.Carew, John.Coburn, George.Coogan, Fintan.Cosgrave, Liam.Costello, Declan D.Costello, John A.Crotty, Patrick J.Desmond, Daniel.Dillon, James M.Dockrell, Maurice E.Donnellan, Michael.Esmonde, Anthony C.Everett, James. O'Higgins, Michael J.O'Higgins, Thomas F.O'Reilly, Patrick.O'Sullivan, Denis J.

Fagan, Charles.Flanagan, Oliver J.Giles, Patrick.Hogan, Bridget.Hughes, Joseph.Jones, Denis F.Kenny, Henry.Kyne, Thomas A.Larkin, Denis.Lindsay, Patrick.Lynch, Thaddeus.MacEoin, Seán.McGilligan, Patrick.McMenamin, Daniel.McQuillan, John.Manley, Timothy.Mulcahy, Richard.Murphy, Michael P.Murphy, William.O'Donnell, Patrick. Palmer, Patrick W.Reynolds, Mary.Rooney, Eamonn.Sweetman, Gerard.

Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Ó Briain and Loughman; Níl: Deputies O'Sullivan and Kyne.
Question declared carried.