With your permission, a Cheann Comhairle, I propose to take Questions Nos. 6 and 7 together.
As I explained to the House on 12th November last in reply to questions in connection with the B & I Company's announcement of its decision to increase freight charges for cattle from 47s per head to 72s as from 1st January, 1969, the company had sustained heavy losses on their livestock carrying. These losses are still continuing. The proposed increase of 25s per head at that time was that calculated by the company to be necessary to enable the revised livestock services to be operated on a break-even basis without profit or loss. The decision was taken by the company in pursuance of their mandate to operate on a sound commercial basis and my approval was not required. However, in order to mitigate the impact of the increase on the livestock trade, I asked the company to examine the possibility of phasing the increase. The company in the circumstances deferred implementation of the proposed increase. The increase effected as from 21st April amounts to 16s per head. The company has decided to defer further the implementation of the full increase of 25s a head originally proposed.
I should point out that of the increase of 16s per head effected as from 21st April, 10s was the re-imposition of a reduction of that amount made by the company on 1st April, 1968. The overall increase as compared with the rate operative in March, 1968 is therefore 6s per head.
I should also point out that a comparison of the home market price and freight rates for store cattle shows that as between December, 1966, and the present time, market prices have increased by 39 per cent as against an increase of 21 per cent in the Company's freight rates.