Private Business. - Agricultural Produce (Eggs) Bill, 1930—Second Stage.

This is a rather complex Bill and perhaps the best procedure would be to explain a few of the principal sections. Section 3 is the first of any importance. Under the original Agricultural Produce (Eggs) Act the maximum quantity of eggs that could be taken by a farmer across the border without being tested, graded and packed, in accordance with the regulations, was 11 lbs. We are, under this Bill, removing that disability and the farmer can now take any quantity of eggs he likes over the border. Section 4 is also an important section It gives the inspector power to detain a package or a consignment for a reasonable period to allow of examination. We found that there was a practice growing up at the North Wall whereby shippers rushed consignments of eggs to the ship-side at the last moment so as to avoid inspection. In order to get over that practice we are giving the inspector power to detain the consignments when contraventions of the regulations are observed. In the event of five per cent. of any package being wrong, the inspector may detain the whole consignment. This section aims at overcoming the difficulty we were in by reason of the fact that the shippers used to take advantage of the original Act. A number of them would combine in bringing large quantities of eggs to the dockside at the last moment.

Another important section is Section 6. It empowers the Minister to refuse to re-register a registered owner who has been taken off the register. Under the original Act if the registered owner of a premises committed certain offences his registration was cancelled. After a bit the practice grew up of the registered owner applying immediately for re-registration after his first registration had been cancelled, and we found we were coerced into agreeing to the re-registration. The position was we could not refuse to re-register the premises when they were suitable and properly equipped; if the premises were suitable in the matter of equipment and plant, we had no option but to grant the application. Under the original Act certain persons were registered as owners and, no matter how suitable the premises or the plant or equipment might be, they would persist in breaking the regulations. We are taking power under Section 6 to refuse to re-register the person whose registration has been cancelled. Section 5 makes it essential that the registered owner, or one of his employees, is technically qualified and competent to test, grade and pack eggs properly.

The object of Section 9 is to safeguard the home consumer. Under Section 15 of the original Act all packages of eggs exported from registered premises had to bear a brand consisting of an ellipse with the letters "S.E.," and the identification letter and number assigned to the particular premises. We had to withdraw the right to use these letters in a case of certain exporters. Registered proprietors whose registration would be withdrawn might continue to use this brand on packages of eggs for home consumption. To some extent that would be a fraud on the consumer. When people see the mark they might think he was still a registered exporter or dealer, because they would know it to be the national mark, and they would buy the eggs on that basis. The point is that that man might have had his registration cancelled. Under the section we take power to prevent any registered owner whose registration is cancelled from using these particular letters.

Section 10 is a somewhat important section. At the present time eggs are graded into certain weights. Each great hundred of extra selected eggs must weigh not less than 16lbs. There is a minimum weight for each egg. Selected eggs would be a lesser weight, and medium eggs would be a lesser weight still. We found a practice growing up of shippers exporting eggs as extra selected, and putting on the box a notice that the eggs weighed 17lbs. That conveyed that not only were the eggs over 16lbs. in weight and extra selected, but that they were, in fact, 17lbs. In some cases we found that this particular mark was not a fair description of the article inside. There is no necessity for anybody to grade eggs in that way. If they grade them as extra selected they must weigh 16lbs. It was properly open to anybody to obtain a higher standard and to say that the eggs per hundred weighed 17lbs., but we want to ensure that the eggs shall be up to the description applied to them.

Section 12 deals with the sale of dirty eggs. In Part II of the Bill the register of preservers is dealt with. There were certain provisions in the original Act for preservers, but for some reason they were inoperative. We have met with a certain amount of trouble in the administration of the original Act by reason of the possibility of mixing preserved eggs with fresh eggs. Under this Bill we will be in a position to trace preserved eggs into the stores, and from there to the markets. We are establishing a register of preservers, and all persons exporting preserved eggs must be registered. Part III. of the Bill is not of very much importance.

Sub-section 4 of Section 20 refers to eggs intended to be preserved by a particular process or processes.

We want to deal with eggs preserved for a commercial purpose. There may be other purposes for which eggs would be preserved, and we would like to make exceptions in that case. This Bill will regulate dealings with eggs meant for commercial purposes. There may be other purposes for which eggs would be preserved which would not be commercial. We will not be in a position to deal with them. Part III. empowers the Guards to assist in the detection of dirty eggs, and gives them the same powers as the inspectors of the Department formerly had. These are the main provisions of the Bill. It is an endeavour to make the original Act water-tight. While the provisions are in no sense revolutionary, they are nevertheless necessary, and we believe that when we have obtained them we will be in a position to get after any abuses that occurred under the original Act.

Coming from a county that I may claim to be the most important poultry-raising centre in the Free State, I welcome this Bill and these new regulations. The regulations in the original Agricultural Produce (Eggs) Act have helped to improve the Irish poultry business, and the regulations in the Bill now before us are to remedy what is defective in that Act. It is regulations such as these that have made Denmark what it is. I am sure that every poultry raiser in the Free State will welcome the Bill, and I am sure the Seanad will gladly pass it.

There is no doubt about it, this Bill is very severe.

It cannot be too severe.

Oh, yes, it can. I have no objection personally to severity where it is needed, and I say this much, that no honest trader has any objection to the severity in the Bill. Mayo is one of the counties most interested in the poultry business, and it is one of the counties most interested in legislation dealing with eggs. As the figures will show, it is one of the leading counties in egg production. I believe it exports almost a third of all the eggs exported from the Free State. I would like to quote some of the figures which affect my own county. Last year we produced in Mayo 98.6 million of hen eggs and 38.5 million duck eggs. That, approximately, works out at one-third of the egg production of the Free State in Mayo, or about £600,000, so that it is a very big industry in our county.

Realising that fact, a lot of people met recently in Mayo with a view to seeing what they could do towards increasing egg production in our county. This was aimed, not so much at an increase in the number of hens, but towards increasing the number of eggs per hen. A deputation from that meeting was received by the Minister, and I think what they had to say was appreciated by him. I do, not, however, want to prejudice what he said there. At the present time it is very essential, and I would like to impress upon the House and the Minister that it would be almost criminal on the part of the Minister and the Government if they do not meet the case put up by the deputation, as it is only a matter of a few thousand pounds. It is a demand that should not be turned down, because the people interested are representative of all sections of the community, and in this matter they are sufficiently enthusiastic to make the scheme they are putting forward a success.

Cathaoirleach

Has this any connection with the Bill? It seems to me to be extraneous.

What I am speaking about is not, I submit, extraneous to the egg trade and egg production. I do not want to go outside the scope of the Bill, but there are numbers of matters that I would like to bring before the notice of the Minister in connection with it. One aspect of the matter that was put before the Minister is very important, and will be very important in the near future in our county in view of the fact that emigration is stopped, and girls must find some other means of livelihood in the country. For that reason it would be most essential to set up the Institution that we are talking about, so that girls can go into that Institution to be trained with the object of getting employment in egg farms and poultry farms throughout the country. There is no reason why farmers should not departmentalise their farms in the same way as shopkeepers and others do it, and thus let this department of egg production work out its own salvation. I believe myself that if the farmers departmentalised their farms and secured the services of girls sufficiently trained in the egg and poultry industry, they would find that these girls would be able to prove that they would be entitled to whatever salary they would get, because, in my opinion, they would show a profit for the farmer at the end of the season. Employment would be found for large numbers of girls in that way. Girls would be more inclined to take up such work than ordinary domestic or household work.

There is another matter that is not generally known or spoken of, and I do not know if the Minister could give us any information on it in connection with the production of eggs. It is only recently that I heard of this system myself. It works out in this way: that in mid-summer the hens are locked up for a month or six weeks. They get no exercise in that period, and they go off laying. They get a considerable reduction in their food, too. At the end of a month or six weeks they are let go round again, and given plenty exercise, and they go back to the production of eggs. In this way those hens are made lay during the winter months when eggs are scarce. I do not know if there is any scientific reason for this, or whether what I have mentioned has been well established. In any case I have seen this thing tried out and worked out by two farmers who were interested. There is one man at present who is supplying 200 to 300 eggs a week to the market, while his neighbour next door has no eggs to sell. I think there must be something in it.

As far as this Bill and this legislation are concerned I must say that while it is doing good, and it has done good, as far as the egg trade is concerned, it has tended enormously to increase the overhead charges on the people in the trade. The traders had to go in for building enormous stores which cost them a lot of money. All that has increased the overhead charges and an increase in the overhead charges means less price to the producer. In any way it tends to knock the poorer people out of the trade altogether. It has limited to a great extent the number of people in the trade and it has limited competition amongst the egglers in the trade.

There is another aspect in connection with this matter of handling eggs. It is this, that these eggs must be kept in the stores separate from all other goods and materials. No other materials or goods are allowed to be put into the store with them. The reason alleged for that is that the eggs become contaminated if they get in contact with other goods. If that is so I think myself that the danger of contamination applies not only when the eggs are in the store but when the eggs are being collected around the country. If it is absolutely necessary to have these separate stores for eggs it is also necessary that no other goods should be kept in the vehicle in which the eggs are collected around the country. At present it works out in practice that the collectors of these eggs keep them in these vehicles with other goods. As often as not the eggs are kept in the lorries or carts from morning until midnight until the collector arrives home. Sometimes, indeed, the eggs are kept in the lorries until the following day and all the time they are lying in contact with other goods and materials, more in contact in fact than they would be in the stores in the towns where such elaborate arrangements have now to be made to keep them separate. If it is necessary to go ahead with all these elaborate buildings in the towns, it must be far more necessary to separate the eggs from other goods in these vehicles. I should like to know what the Minister has to say about it. I believe myself that if the other legislation was justified, they should go the whole hog or else scrap the regulations dealing with the houses in the towns which have put many traders out of business owing to the expense they would be obliged to incur on these new buildings. I even go further and say that if it were feasible or desirable vehicles that could be confined to that trade should be relieved of the road tax and of the hawker's tax so as to compensate these people for having their vehicles confined to that trade. The general principle I am going upon is that anything which tends to reduce overhead charges will naturally come back to the producer. Competition will do that. The legislation so far has all tended towards increasing the costs. The result of it is that the prices of eggs are not what they ought to be.

There is another matter I should like to mention, and that is our market on the other side. I believe that that market could be considerably increased and that our prices there could be considerably increased. There is some neglect somewhere so far as our prices are concerned when we compare them with the prices received for Northern Ireland eggs. There is no doubt that our prices are very much lower. In some measure that may be deemed to be the result of the difference in marking between the Irish Free State eggs and Northern Ireland eggs. I believe that is the only reason, because our eggs are as good as, if not better and fresher at present than, the Northern Ireland eggs on the British market. There is, therefore, only one thing to do, and that is to popularise the trade mark of the Free State eggs, to make the consumers in England believe that they will not get fresh eggs unless our mark is on them. At present their idea is that eggs are not fresh if they bear any mark. I believe it is the Government's business to popularise the mark and to get back on the people who have no mark. It is not actually that the eggs want advertising. I believe it is the mark that wants advertising. If we go in for an intensive campaign of advertising the mark the consumers will have more faith in the mark; it will give them security for the future and they will look for the mark on eggs, rather than for eggs without the mark. It is important that the matter should be dealt with immediately. I have not very much further to say with regard to the Bill. I may have some amendments to bring forward in Committee, but I should like to know what the Minister has to say generally on the Bill before I decide what I shall do.

There is just another point I should like to mention, although it may not be altogether relevant to the Bill, and that is in regard to the egg grading, testing and packing machine that my brother invented, and which was exhibited at the Spring Show last year. I am glad to say that we shall be in a position to put that machine on the market within the next few months. It has been perfected, and although it has been considerably changed it is now much more efficient than it was when first placed before the public. We have done away with the straw-packing end of it. The machine now automatically packs into these cubicle cases and, although the box is slightly changed, it is a better box all round. As I say, the machine itself is packing into cubicles. Not only is each row filled, but the machine itself will automatically push forward the case, so that the next row of cubicles will be on the machine for receiving the next line of eggs. It is a very efficient machine at present. It is a machine which will be practicable and workable, lend to efficiency and help further to improve the grading, testing and packing of eggs in this country. Although, as I say, the box is different to the regulation box, it is a better box all round. It will be acceptable on the other side and, I have no doubt, judging from the enthusiasm and anxiety for its success shown by the Minister at the last Spring Show, that we will not find much difficulty in getting the Department here to adopt the box that will be necessary. As I say, we hope within the next couple of months to place it on the market.

Senator MacEllin has very properly said that Mayo is a very important county in this matter of egg production. He says that the value of the eggs exported from that county amounts to £600,000 per annum, being, as he said, one-third of the actual value of the eggs exported from the country. That is not, however, quite correct. Our egg exports amount to about £3,000,000, so that Mayo actually does, to its credit, produce one-fifth of the amount of eggs exported from the country. It is satisfactory to have the statement made by the Senator, whose opinion must be valued in this regard, being as he is a farmer and trader, and a member of a family that has given very considerable time and attention to the development of a certain article which may make for the better grading and packing of eggs in every country as well as our own. I hope we shall apply it to our own advantage in this country. When he, more or less, welcomes the Bill, I think it is reasonably certain that we are likely to accept it. His few criticisms were not very severe. He did say that the regulations which are to be imposed by this measure are severe. He said, as well as that, that the honest trader was not likely to be affected. That takes all the bite out of the word " severe," as applied to the regulations. If the honest trader is not to be affected, we in no way, I take it; are going to set ourselves out to cater for or to make things easy for the dishonest trader. He is the one type of trader that we must in no way attempt to cater for. It is an indication of the time that no great plea has been made in either House on behalf of the dishonest trader.

Senator MacEllin gave us a picture of opening up a new line for the employment of girls who otherwise would emigrate. He spoke of the departmentalisation of farms. That, I am afraid, is not going to be such an easy matter. I have often heard it said, and have not yet heard it contradicted on the basis of any sound argument or reason in logic, that a farm could be run on factory lines, but I am afraid that the question of the departmentalisation of farms is going to provide difficulties that will have to be analysed much further than merely being referred to in such a discussion as this. Senator MacEllin said that overhead charges are likely to be increased as a result of the imposition and extension of these regulations. I think he might more fairly say that the imposition and the extension of these regulations might seem to increase them, but that really they did not do so. He very properly said that where you have to erect new buildings and to add equipment that entails increased expenditure without giving adequate results you might seem to be going backwards somewhat. But the fact is that this increased expenditure is going to be incurred in the production of a better article which, if the ordinary economic doctrine applies, is going to command a better price in the world's markets, and if that better price is to be secured for that article, the return from the sale of that article is going to give back to our people something more than counterbalancing their expenditure. So that you cannot refer to the added expenditure without referring also to the increased monetary returns for our own people which will be actually for their good.

Senator MacEllin referred to the circumstance that the price obtained for Northern Ireland eggs, and for British eggs, in the British Market is something greater than that obtained for Irish Free State eggs within recent months. It is obvious to all of us that the British Government brought in legislation, entitled " The British Merchandise Marks Act," in which it was enacted that all eggs imported from countries outside Great Britain and Northern Ireland should bear some mark. Because eggs were to bear that mark, whether they are our own, Chinese, Danish, French, or from any other country except Great Britain and Northern Ireland, it was an obvious deduction for the British housewife to assume that that domestic article which bore no mark was a fresher egg than that from other countries. It was obvious that these eggs should command a higher price than eggs that were marked, and the result is that the domestic egg secured for the producer a slightly better price than the other eggs, including our own. That is the position, and the main purpose of our Minister is to counter that position, and he is endeavouring to counter it by the introduction of this very Bill, which will make for the production of an article which will secure such a reputation that the British housewife will come to the conclusion that our egg is as good as the egg of the English producer.

That, I take it, is his main purpose. Senator MacEllin says we will not do that without advertising our mark. But the very first thing before we enter on a campaign of advertising is to endeavour to build up our reputation and to put on the market a high-class egg, which is the purpose of this Bill, that will stand up to the reputation that we hope to establish, which will be uniform in quality, and then let us advertise it and make it known. When we have done that it will be soon enough to embark upon a big campaign of advertising, and when that day comes I hope we will support the Senator if he puts forward such a plea.

One word about the measure itself. I take it this Bill will amend the Agricultural Produce (Eggs) Act of 1924. In attempting to attain this ultimate object it confers upon the Minister and his officers greater power. Probably the Minister when introducing the Bill of 1924 himself had in mind that it might be necessary to go the " whole hog," as some people describe it, in discussing this matter and to secure for himself such powers as are going to be given to him in this Bill. Whatever his mind may have been in that direction certain developments in the last year must have made the Minister make up his mind that this legislation is absolutely necessary. The facts are that until a year ago many of the Minister's inspectors were employed visiting premises of certain Irish traders. For some reason, with which I am not acquainted, these inspectors were removed to the ports for the inspection of goods in actual transit, with the result that, I think, they were not able to give the same attention which they had previously given to the goods on the premises of traders; with the further result that many dishonest traders took advantage of the position and placed on the market a very inferior quality of article for which they got a fairly high price which was secured as a result of the reputation which has been built up by honest traders in other areas. The dishonest traders reaped the reward. It was not a question of the innocent suffering with the guilty; it was a question of the innocent suffering for the guilty. That condition of things had to be altered, and I take it that this Bill is to prevent any repetition of this and to ensure that a better article is put on the market in future.

There is a lot of talk about development at the present time and in the face of world competition it is rather difficult to hold our own even in the matter of the export of eggs. But to develop the market requires that we put a better quality of egg on the market. We should aim to secure quality as well as quantity. Quantity brings its own reward sometimes, but one thing is certain that quality always brings its own reward. If we want to get quantity we should first aim at quality. By securing quality we will get a better price and as a natural corollary quantity will follow. There is a big field for development in the egg and poultry trade. We export to the extent of £5,000,000. There is practically no limit we cannot reach in that respect. It is in a way a home industry because the farmer's wife and the woman in the cottage can produce eggs and poultry just as economically as they can be produced in the highly equipped poultry farm. There would be very little extra trouble on the housewife to produce at least 10 per cent. more eggs. If by these regulations we instil into the minds of the people that there must be greater care in the production of eggs and perhaps introduce better breeds of fowl, feed them more scientifically and produce a cleaner article, it is not asking too much. I do not think these regulations will be in any way unnecessarily severe. If they are a little bit severe and if they do bring the reward of increased prices and better reputation in the market then I think we should be actually glad to see such a measure put into force. There is very little to be said against this Bill. I could have said a whole lot more in its favour but I think it is unnecessary because I am sure the House will welcome it.

There is one aspect of the question that I would like the Minister to deal with. There have been very serious complaints in England recently about the quality and the condition of Irish eggs when they are placed on that market. I think everyone was astounded at the complaints because of the very great efforts that were made to ensure consistently good quality. I am reliably informed that the principal cause of the complaints is the delay in placing the eggs on the market. There is delay in transport. Certain shipping agencies are canvassing egg dealers in various parts of the country, particularly in the west, and they get them to route their goods by Limerick, Galway, Sligo or some western port via a long sea route. The eggs are taken at intermittent periods by the owners of lorries to these seaports, where the sailings are of a very irregular character, and where it is often necessary to store the eggs for a week, or maybe longer, to await a sailing. Then they go at a snail's pace around the coast, with the result that by the time they reach an English port they are, in all fairness, unfit for human consumption. I do not know whether the Minister has any power to insist that perishable traffic of that kind, which is being worked under State supervision, to an extent, should go by the quickest and shortest route, in order to be marketed in proper condition to the consumer in Great Britain. I know that the attention of the Department has been drawn to the matter and that the complaint is being made that the inspectors are not doing anything in that respect. The expectation is that these complaints from the other side will become more numerous and more serious as a result of this very serious development. Above all, quick transport is of the first importance for a perishable commodity. If eggs are allowed to be dragged along a road at a very slow rate, then have to wait at the seaport for a steamer before they proceed by a slow route instead of a quick land route and a short sea route, they are going to be unfit for human consumption or in an inferior condition when they reach the consumer in Great Britain or anywhere else. I hope that if it is in the Minister's power he will see that the inspectors pay some attention to the route by which eggs are consigned.

There is no clause in the Bill referring to the marketing of eggs and other Irish produce. I have been residing in London for the last three or four months, and I made it my business to visit several stores to ascertain if Irish goods, more particularly eggs and butter, were for sale. I very much regret to say that my experience was almost entirely that they are not to be had. If Irish eggs or Irish butter are asked for, I was invariably told that they could not be obtained. They were not exposed for sale as other produce was, such as butter from New Zealand, and eggs, the country of origin of which was not specified. Irish butter or Irish eggs as such were practically unobtainable. I do not exactly know what was the reason. I do not think very much advertising is done; I do not think there are many people pushing the Irish trade. We have a very efficient Trade Commissioner in London, I believe, but for some reason or other Irish produce is not to be had. I think it would be a good thing if sufficient money were available to spend some of it on advertising and pushing, as far as possible, Irish produce of that description, at any rate, in London.

I would like to ask the Minister if the regulations for disposing of stale eggs, or of eggs that are not fit for export, could be strengthened, so that such eggs would be destroyed. From my experience, travelling through the country during the last few months, it is becoming quite a customary thing to have stale or bad eggs served at meals. I am afraid we will have the same experience in regard to meat. I put that up to the Minister, but he said that was not for his Department. I am afraid our legislation in regard to the export of eggs has tended to have all the small and the stale eggs used on the home market. I find that it is almost impossible to get fresh eggs for sale, even by paying as much as 3s. 6d. a dozen for them. In my opinion that matter should be looked into by the Minister, and if eggs are found to be stale, or not fit for export, they should be destroyed, so that they would not reach the home market. It is quite possible they do a great deal more damage to the people in that way than is gained by the amount of money brought into the country by the sale of exported eggs.

I intend to support this Bill, as I have consistently supported every Act which has been passed in this House for the improvement and better marketing of agricultural produce. I am convinced that the slipshod methods which prevailed in the past must be scrapped if we are going to hold our own in the British market in future. The poultry industry is a very valuable one. Senator O'Hanlon pointed out that our poultry and egg exports are value for £5,000,000 a year. If we take into consideration the amount consumed in this country the production would possibly be value for £10,000,000. Any industry that produces £10,000,000 worth yearly is worthy of consideration. The Department of Agriculture has certainly done a great deal to promote the production of eggs and poultry but I contend that it can do a good deal more. The production could be doubled if the people of the country gave a little more attention to the proper feeding and housing of poultry and the breeding of proper laying strains. I would recommend the Minister to employ more instructresses to go amongst the farmers' and the labourers' wives to point out the necessity of having fowl fed and housed properly. If I might make a suggestion to the Minister he should put it up to the Minister for local Government to give him a grant to supply houses for poultry in every cottage. All the Acts and marketing regulations that have been passed have been all to the good. My complaint is that we are not going fast enough. On the other hand, the Minister has neglected to some extent, the most important branch of the agricultural industry—the cattle trade.

Cathaoirleach

Is not that outside the scope of this Bill?

We are discussing the Agricultural Produce (Eggs) Bill and I think I should be entitled to discuss all agricultural produce.

Cathaoirleach

This is a Bill to amend the Agricultural Produce (Eggs) Bill, 1924, and to make further and better provision in relation to certain premises. There is nothing about increased production or provision for teaching in the Bill. I allowed that to be referred to but I cannot allow it to be discussed indefinitely.

The marketing of livestock is——

Cathaoirleach

That is absolutely outside the scope of the Bill.

My complaint is that the Minister has not given the same attention to the representations that were made by the livestock trade.

Cathaoirleach

Surely that is outside the scope of the Bill.

On the marketing question——

Cathaoirleach

It does not arise on this Bill. I must ask you to desist.

There are certain sections dealing with eggs that are not exported but which are sold in the home market. Section 18 of the Principal Act provides that:

"Any person who sells, exchanges or barters or offers or exposes for sale, exchange or barter any eggs which are externally dirty or which are unfit for human consumption, shall be guilty of an offence under this section and shall be punishable accordingly."

There is power also given under that Act to make regulations to deal with the sale, exchange or barter of eggs which are dirty or unfit for human consumption.

Have you made the regulations?

No. I was coming to that. Section 13 of the amending Bill provides:—

Any person who—

(a) sells, exchanges, or barters, or offers or exposes for sale, exchange, or barter any eggs which are externally dirty or which are unfit for human consumption. whether such sale, exchange, or barter is or is not made subject to the condition that the eggs shall pass a particular test; or

(b) being a person engaged in the egg trade, buys or has in his possession on premises on which he carries on such trade any eggs which are externally dirty or which are unfit for human consumption; or

(c) being a person engaged in the egg trade, deposits in any place any eggs which are externally dirty or which are unfit for human consumption; or

(d) consigns for sale on commission or otherwise eggs which are externally dirty or which are unfit for human consumption

shall be guilty of an offence under this section and shall be punishable accordingly.

Under the amending Bill, we give powers to the Gárda Síochána which the inspectors had formerly, and we are enabled to make regulations dealing with dirty eggs. In fact, it is almost impossible to regulate the home trade. What can the Gárda or inspectors do when eggs are sold which are bad, but which are not externally dirty and which look quite well in the shop window? No inspection can be sufficiently comprehensive to reach every retail shop in the country. On the other hand, an exporter whose foreign trade is being rigorously controlled is under a great temptation to deflect eggs which are not good enough for the export trade to the home market. Up to a point, I am afraid that that is inevitable. We can control the sale of dirty eggs but we cannot get away from that particular tendency.

Cathaoirleach

What about the eggs that are rejected for export?

Those are the eggs that I am referring to—eggs that are stale or doubtful. If the exporter cannot export them, the temptation is to sell them at home. It is extremely difficult to control the sale of eggs at home because you would have to control every shop in the country. We have pressed the Gárda Síochána into our service in so far as dirty eggs are concerned, but I do not know that we will ever be very successful in controlling the home trade so far as stale eggs are concerned.

Will not the customer control them?

That is the point. I was in Copenhagen for two days, and each morning I got a bad egg. That was in one of the best hotels in Copenhagen. I take it that the reason for that was the same as the reason here.

Would it not be possible to have eggs that are rejected for export destroyed instead of being put on the market here?

When eggs are rejected as unfit for human consumption they are confiscated.

What becomes of the eggs that are dirty or not up to the standard for export?

We do not know, but if we confiscate eggs that is the end of them.

An egg might be eatable at the moment but not fit for export, because that would mean that it would have to be kept for a week or ten days further. I think that if an egg is not fit to be exported, it ought not to be allowed on the home market. I admit that it is difficult to deal with the matter, but it should be possible to make regulations to meet the case.

If you make regulations dealing with the home market, you must regulate every shop in the country. How are you going to do that?

The situation is there, and something should be done about it.

I agree that something should be done if it is possible to do it. How you are to do it is the question. There are different grades of stale eggs. There are eggs that are good in parts, as the curate said. Then there are trade eggs. They are eggs that are not exactly fresh, but they are excellent eggs to eat. We eat trade eggs every day in the year. Anybody accustomed to eating fresh eggs will know the difference between a perfectly fresh egg and an egg laid a few days previously. You will get eggs that are not perfectly fresh but which are quite eatable. When we take bacon and eggs in any hotel, we eat those eggs. You could not describe them as bad eggs. They are somewhat cheaper than fresh eggs, and they are bought by the poor and for confectionery purposes, and so on. We cannot stop that. The tendency of all this legislation will be to get the best eggs out of the country and leave the worst. That, I am afraid, is inevitable. The only way of dealing with the situation is, as Senator Wilson suggested, to let the customer try to get better eggs. It is practically impossible to control the sale of eggs in the home market. We have provisions here which give us all the powers which we would want to deal with the sale of dirty or bad eggs, but it is impossible to exercise them unless you proceed to make regulations governing the sale of eggs in every shop in the country and proceed to appoint officials to inspect every shop in the country. What we have done in this Bill is, I think, a step in the right direction. We have given powers to the Gárda Siochána to confiscate dirty eggs.

Senator MacEllin said that we have taken powers under this Bill to prevent export premises from being used for any purpose except the grading, packing and export of eggs, and he assumed that that was because the eggs might be contaminated by other goods. That is not exactly the question. You might have eggs and butter in the same shop window and the butter would not contaminate the eggs, nor would the eggs contaminate the butter. Again, eggs and bacon would not contaminate each other. It is not because a couple of pounds of butter might contaminate the eggs in the store that we prevent butter from being stored there. It is a matter of convenience. We want to have used a commodious store, with plant and equipment to deal with the eggs in such a way that they can be properly graded and packed, and to do that we find it necessary to confine the store to eggs exclusively. That is the reason why we do not allow an egg store which is registered to be at the same time a bacon store or a butter store. It is a matter of convenience— not because we are afraid the eggs would be tainted. Certain things will taint eggs—onions, for instance, or anything which is contaminated itself, or odours or exhalations. But you could have bacon and eggs and groceries in a shop and the eggs would not be in any way contaminated. We cannot make any regulation with regard to lorries collecting eggs that we could not make with regard to a shop. I agree that a lot of harm is done by these lorries. The eggs are collected sometimes under unsuitable conditions —perhaps in wet weather. The lorry or the straw may not be extra clean, and there is no proper inspection. It would be desirable if we could control the collection of eggs by these lorries, and it would be a step in the right direction if we could make a regulation that a lorry used for collecting eggs should not be used for any other purpose. But, again, can we do that? To be effective, it would require an immense amount of inspection. There are hundreds of lorries of one kind or another—motor or horse-drawn—engaged in the transport of eggs or transferring eggs from the store to the shipper or exporter. Can we control them? I do not think we can. There are quite enough inspectors being paid for by the taxpayer to administer these two measures.

What are the Guards doing?

The Guards, after all, have certain duties in connection with law and order which they must perform. From the point of view of the civilian or the man in the street, it might be that the Guards could do a certain amount of this work.

I do not think, when it is examined, that it is possible that they could do very much. I always find, when new legislation of this sort is suggested and when I mention the difficulty about employing a large number of inspectors, that people generally say, " What about the Guards?" The same remark applies to such matters as drainage. It is well-known that people do not clean their drains as thoroughly as they should, and that drainage in this country is not in as good a condition as it should be. When legislation is introduced in that direction, and when it is suggested that it should be compulsory, people say, " The Guards will look after that."

That is not our drainage proposition at all.

I am not talking about arterial drainage now but about small drainage. There are a hundred and one things which people do not do, but which they ought to do in their own interests, and it is suggested that we should introduce legislation and make them do these things. At that rate we would have to employ every man in the country as an inspector, and people would still say, " What about the Guards?" The Guards, for all I know, might do more inspection, but we must have some general principles in such matters. It is debatable whether the Guards could do more inspection or not. Even if the Guards did all the work that a man could do in twelve hours in the day, you must contemplate the employment of a tremendous number of extra inspectors, and in that event we would become an over-inspected country. In this country everybody is inclined to improve everything except the morale and character of the people. Something must, however, be left to the people themselves. Inspection will be no good if it tends to sap the character of the people and give them the point of view that they are entitled to do anything provided they are not caught. Over-inspection would lead to that, and would be bad from that point of view.

I think that the form of inspection which we have at present is drastie enough. What I would like to do would be to devote our attention to the export of eggs; let us finish that and make it effective. Let us confine our work within narrow limits and, having finished it, let us see where we are. At some future date perhaps some other Minister for Agriculture or some other Department of Agriculture, heartened by the results of this particular experiment, may go a little further and introduce further drastic Draconian legislation. Senator O'Hanlon really put my point of view and said things which I wanted to say on this Bill in a way in which I would like to say them. He made one point, however, with which I would like to deal. He said that I had in mind in introducing this Bill certain incidents which happened last year. Of course I had. Things were in an unsatisfactory condition in England. Complaints were made by certain merchants in England with regard to our eggs. We examined the complaints and found that certain merchants on the other side were to some extent to blame because they held the eggs and did other things which they should not do.

We also found—and this prevents us from making complaints against anyone outside—that a small number of shippers on this side traded on the good name which our eggs had established and were taking advantage of the fact that we had taken our inspectors off premises and put them on the ports. Incidentally, the ports are the proper place to examine anything. I may say that to my mind a small number of inspectors at the port are more effective than a large number diffused over a large area. As I say, when we took a number of inspectors off premises and put them on the ports a certain limited number of traders took advantage of the good name which we had established for Irish eggs. Of course, we hear all about their depredations and the results of their operations, but we hear practically nothing about the big majority of conscientious traders who still keep supplying a good article. There was, as I say, nothing about them, because people in England expect to get value when they purchase an article. When they get what the seller professes to deliver, they say nothing about it. They just take it because that is their standard. When, however, they get something worse than what the seller professes to deliver, they go to the Press and avail themselves of any publicity they can get. They make open complaints to the Press concerning the operations of a small number of Irish traders who were not supplying what they ought to supply and what they professed to supply.

I think that with the added strength which this Bill gives us, we will be able to get after those few traders. In any event, I think we have had sufficient powers under the original Act. It is a question of exercising them, and so far as the Department are concerned, we intend to exercise them drastically. The Act was passed in 1924, and when it was pointed out that these powers might be used, it was said that it was bureaucratic to give powers of this sort. Nevertheless, there has not been a single case raised, either in the Dáil or Seanad, in which it was alleged that any individual or organisation was penalised unjustly by any administrative act of the Department, and that notwithstanding the fact that we administered the Act fairly drastically. I think that that shows that if you administer an Act fairly all round, without favouritism of any kind, people will co-operate with you, even though it is drastic. We propose to administer the Act of 1925 even more drastically, but also equally, in future. We propose to avail of the added powers which we will get under this Bill.

Senators O'Hanlon and MacEllin are right in thinking that it will be necessary to overcome the particular difficulty we were in by reason of the fact that English housewives have come to the conclusion that an egg without a stamp is fresher than one which bears a stamp. There is only one way of getting over that difficulty, and that is to get a better reputation for our eggs. When people constantly buy eggs marked "S.E." and find that they are invariably good value, then our eggs will get as good a reputation as those that are unmarked. It is when we reach that point that we can advertise. I think we have nearly reached that point now. It is important when you advertise eggs to ensure that you can deliver them. I think, for instance, it would have been a mistake to have advertised our eggs extensively in 1925. The thing to do is to make the eggs perfect and then talk about them. We want to be sure that we are in a position to deliver a standardised article, and when we are in that position, we can go in for advertising in a big way. I am not saying that we have not done any advertising.

We have done some advertising. What I mean is, that we have refrained deliberately from doing more advertising for fear our eggs would not be up to standard. We have done some advertising through the Empire Marketing Board, and our trade representative in England has advertised in different ways, namely, through various exhibitions and by getting the cooperation of firms like Harrod's and Selfridge's to give displays of Irish produce. All the big multiple stores have lent their windows for advertising purposes. We have done a considerable amount of effective advertising, but, on the other hand, I admit that if we were sure of the consistent quality of our eggs we could afford to spend more money in that direction, and we would probably get increased dividends. We intend to advertise in a big way the moment we are certain that we can deliver the goods.

I have not received any serious complaints about delays in transit. That is the point to which Senator O'Farrell referred. Shippers try to get out eggs by the shortest route and as a rule succeed. There may be something in what Senator O'Farrell says to the effect that eggs are taken by long routes but such cases have not been brought to my notice so far. Another point is that when eggs arrived on the other side they were held up by shippers and left in the English stores. We have information of that sort. There is no doubt that a certain number of English shippers acted unfairly by holding our eggs up and selling them later as fresh. We are precluded from dealing with that particular situation as we would deal with it, owing to the action of some of our shippers who have put us in the wrong. We have adopted the principle that the man who seeks equity must do equity. We have not been in a position to deal with English shippers some of whom, I may say, can be as tricky as anyone else. We cannot deal with these people until we put our own house in order and when we do that we can talk big and effectively.

In regard to the point made by Senator Guinness I may point out that we do not sell much produce in London. The Senator should remember two things in that connection. If he walks into an ordinary shop in London at present he will not find our butter there as this is the off season. Even if there was no prohibition on imported butter here there would be very little of our butter on the other side just now. To a large extent the same remark applies to eggs. For these reasons you will not find Irish produce in England at present. London, at any rate, is not one of our principal markets. Our market generally is along the west coast but this year we got on the east coast. This year, in fact, our butter went further in that way than last year. It has got to the east coast and into quarters of England where it never got before. This was due to two causes. One reason was that the price was particularly low and that the discrepancy between Danish and Irish butter was particularly great this year. In that state of affairs, especially in England where the consumer has not too much money to spend at present, people were willing to make experiments with Irish butter and big stores which never handled it before bought it. I am glad to say that their experience of Irish butter has been extremely good. There has been nothing in the Irish Press during the past few months except lamentations and wailings about the butter industry. While all that has been going on, I can state definitely that Irish butter got a reputation in the English market this year which it never got before. It got into places where it never was before by reason, as I have pointed out, of the low prices, of the discrepancy between Danish and Irish butter, and owing to economic conditions in England. I am assured by English buyers that Irish butter this year was better than in any year since 1924. They had not a single complaint to make and I was told by some of the most important men in the trade that it had come to stay and that people who bought it for the first time would continue to buy it.

Is that the reason for the difference in price between Danish and Irish butter?

No. That is the reason why, as I said, it has gone into parts of England in which it was never used before. I might say that, taking prices as a whole, there is not anything like the big discrepancy in the price of Irish and Danish butter that formerly existed. This year the discrepancy fell in favour of Irish butter as compared with last year by a couple of shillings. Towards the end of the season there was a big difference in the price of Irish and Danish butter by reason of the fact that a large quantity of Colonial butter, which had been kept in cold storage, was released in London, and that brought about a big surplus.

You cannot get it in London.

You would get it more in the West of England, but you cannot get it anywhere at present, as this is the off-season both for eggs and butter. I think I have dealt with all the points that called to be dealt with in this Bill and that I have been sufficiently irrelevant.

Question—"That the Bill be read a Second Time"—put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Thursday, December 18.