The citizens were shocked when they heard the news of the savage increase in the price of butter announced this week. First, I should like to quote from a leading article in the Irish Independent of Tuesday, December 10, which gives a clear indication of what is involved and the manner in which the increases took place. The editorial states:
—the increase in the price of butter has been sneaked into the pipeline and will emerge later on this week to further infuriate and depress the shopper. The size of the increase is iniquitous (it was 5p last month) and the manner of allowing the news to get out reprehensible in the extreme.
—an increase in its price will be felt immediately, especially by those who already have to budget carefully to make their wages, pensions and salaries go round. For such people there is no choice, given a further rise except to cut down on the amount of butter consumed. And winter-time is hardly the right moment for this kind of rationing.
But this kind of clinical manipulation of subsidies and prices is only done at the expense of the public which indeed, has long ago given up the task of understanding what agriculture is all about.
The decision to remove the subsidy was made by someone utterly out of contact with the public and its problems. It is a demoralising decision, too.... But ordinary humanity should demand that the Government hold up for the moment its latest increase.
They are the words of the Irish Independent, a paper that is normally sympathetic to the Government.
We now have a situation where the political con-men now in Government who presented to the people 20 months ago a 14-point plan to control prices and to reduce the price of foodstuffs use a backdoor method to increase the price of butter. This was made known to some people on Saturday and it meant that the shopkeepers who became aware of the decision withdrew their stocks from sale and people who could afford to pay were unable to obtain butter. People are unable to obtain butter until such time as the Minister makes an order.
I am surprised that the Minister for Industry and Commerce is not here to answer this debate. Was there some difference of opinion with the Minister for Industry and Commerce who is normally called upon to answer questions raised in relation to prices? For some unknown reason the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries will be replying to this debate. However, the political con-men are here in some form or another. The housewives were shocked and horrified at this increase in the price of butter. If taken with the increase imposed in October of 5½p, an increase of 17 per cent, this increase brings the price of butter to 41½p. This December increase amounts to 11 per cent. In February the price will increase again by 2p, an increase of 6½ per cent, bringing the price to 43½p while in September there will be a further increase of 1½p or 4 per cent, bringing the price to 45p. This all amounts to an increase over a 12-month period of 41 per cent.
Is this what the Government calls price stabilisation? Is this the type of price stabilisation we have been promised? The Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries has not been here for some time and it is probable that he is not aware of the arguments put forward in relation to Government policy in the recent debate on the petrol price increase. In that debate many Ministers indicated that it was Government policy to increase the price to cut demand. We have a situation now where not alone have they endeavoured to cut demand for petrol but also to cut the demand for one of the necessities of life, butter. The Government want to take butter from the table of the ordinary person.
On the occasion of the debate on the increase in the price of petrol we were told by the Minister for Industry and Commerce that there was something else involved other than the cutting of demand; there was also the question of reducing the speed limit. However, as the Minister cannot reduce the speed limit in this regard, I wonder what his alternative is. The alternative appears to be that if people cannot buy butter they must buy margarine. The price of butter has been put beyond the reach of the average worker and, with so many people unemployed, there is no doubt that many will be without butter over Christmas and in the future.
We are told by the National Dairy Council that there will be a drop in domestic butter consumption of 10 per cent. We will probably have a build-up of this butter mountain we heard so much about in the past. It may well be that this was done by design; it may be a feed the Russian campaign. It is probably the intention to feed the Russians at 12p per lb. while depriving our housewives of one of the necessities of life. It may be that the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries may have a suggestion to make, just as the Minister for Industry and Commerce had in relation to the conserving of fuel by the reduction of the speed limit. Will the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries now suggest that people should eat fried bread now that butter will not be available?
It is obvious that the Government wish to curtail by price increases the necessities of life. In the past we heard a lot about the 14-point plan but can the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries explain how the Government aim to control prices and reduce the price of foodstuffs?
The Minister may say that this is as a result of the green £. This party supported the green £ with the proviso that essential foodstuffs would be subsidised and some portion of the £50 million would go towards subsidising the necessities of life. The Government have no desire to subsidise or to alleviate the distressed people, many of whom are unemployed, with many more to become unemployed over Christmas. This ever-increasing spiral of people on the dole, the lengthening of dole queues——