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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 22 Aug 1934

Vol. 19 No. 1

Public Business. - Agricultural Produce (Cereals) Bill, 1934—Second Stage.

Question proposed:—"That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

This Bill is rather a comprehensive measure, and perhaps I should give some explanation of the main features first, and afterwards deal with some of the details. The Principal Act brought in two years ago dealt with a guaranteed price and a guaranteed market for wheat, and it also gave a guaranteed market for feeding stuffs such as oats and barley, but did not give a guaranteed price. We are dealing principally with feeding stuffs in this Bill, and for the moment I would like to deal with barley and oats. We are all familiar with what happened last year with regard to barley and oats, particularly with regard to oats. Oats were sold very cheaply after the harvest, and the average price per barrel was something below 8/-; in some cases it went to 6/- and perhaps 5/- a barrel. During the late Spring and the early summer oats were worth 16/- a barrel.

Somebody, of course, got the benefit of that huge increase in price but it was not the producer. Neither did it go to the feeder. He was at the disadvantage of having to pay the increased prices, while the producer was at the disadvantage of getting a very low price for his oats. We have to try and make that right. It was never intended, under the Agricultural Cereals Bill of 1932, that these benefits should go to the maize miller and the oat miller. The farmers who produced oats last year had the oats left on their hands. They wanted to get rid of it. Some of them wanted money, and some of them had no storage, and they had no confidence in the future. They were encouraged by a considerable Press propaganda into the belief that there would be no market for their corn since we lost the British market. We tried to reassure the farmers and the merchants and the maize millers that the corn would be used in this country. The merchants were in the habit of buying a considerable amount of oats in the country. They bought up the harvest sometimes and stored it for twelve months and sometimes for longer periods, but last year they were not willing to continue to store it. We approached the merchants to agree to a price and the position was somewhat improved. The merchants did not all agree, and in some parts of the country there were no merchants to buy at any price. The result was that the producers lost, while at the same time the feeders had to pay more; but after that prices were somewhat regulated. Oats is very dear at the present time. Some time ago we reduced the percentage from 33? to 15; still it did not reduce the price of oats to any great extent.

We have been asked: Why not drop the percentage altogether so that oats might come down? It would be unfair to do so. There were maize millers last year who bought up the whole supplies for the year and it would be very unfair to those millers who did their duty if there was to be no further mixing of oats and barley from this date. That would leave them with their oats on hand and would mean to them a very considerable loss. It would give the impression to those who were not prepared to buy their full requirements that they need only buy what they choose, and that buying only what they want they can turn round and say that those who bought the full complement were foolish to do so. There is some suffering inflicted upon the consumer and the feeder at the present time in order to make this policy secure and stable.

We are taking power under this part of the Bill, in the first instance, to fix prices. The Minister for Agriculture may make an order at any time saying that oats is such and such a price, and barley such and such a price. That will be based on quality rather than quantity; the price would be for the bushel of oats. We take oats bushelling 40 lbs. and fix the price. For every bushel above that 2d. a barrel more, and below that 2d. a barrel less. In that way, we give encouragement to the farmer who grows good quality oats, gets it properly threshed and cleaned before sending it to the market. It is important to him to have the price fixed on quality. The fixing of prices will entail registration and so on. We must register the dealers who buy oats or barley and we must compel the maize miller and the oat miller to buy from them, so that the dealers will have a ready market for what they buy —that is, as far as the fixed price is concerned.

Will the Minister say what is to be the basis? Will it be a cheap price or a good price? Would it be anything like 12/- a barrel?

Our idea will be to encourage the consumption of home grown corn but we must keep in mind the feeder who can only pay a certain amount. If the feeder drops out, we destroy the whole scheme. We are not compelled to fix a price. The Minister may by order, fix a price, but he is not compelled to do so. In fact, this year if the market was to open at a fair price, we might not have to fix any price at all.

Does this apply to all buyers of oats and barley?

No, it does not apply to all. There are three classes. There are the maize millers, the oat meal millers and the compound feeding manufacturers. If the buyer buys oats and barley for the brewer or for the feeding of horses or such things he does not come in.

Will there be a fixed minimum price?

The buyer coming into the market to buy barley, for the purposes of brewing, cattle feeding and so on can do so at any price he can arrange.

And these clauses in the Bill do not apply to him?

But that is not in the Bill.

No, it is not in the Bill, but mention is made of certain classes that you must buy from the dealers. That is not compelling all people to buy from the dealers. They can buy where they like.

And at what price they like?

There may be an understanding to that effect, but it is not in the Bill.

If a person is not compelled by the Bill to do so, it is more than an understanding.

It is merely an inference or an understanding.

The second point we are dealing with is the point of mixing oaten flour with wheaten flour. There is not a considerable surplus of oats even if we were to mix the minimum amount that ought to be used in compound feeding stuffs. An order may be made compelling the flour millers to mix oaten flour with wheaten flour, and as soon as that is done the usual regulation and registration would follow. But that is not likely to be done this year. Our acreage of oats is down a considerable amount on what it was last year. If we have the same percentage of oats and barley in the feeding stuffs this year, we would have none to spare for wheaten flour. I think that is a great pity for the sake of the health of the people, but it cannot be helped for another year. We have made tests, as a matter of fact, with 5, 10 and 15 per cent. of this oaten flour in the wheaten flour. Some of the loaves made were on exhibition at the Spring Show in Ballsbridge, and there was rather a puzzle there put to everybody to say which was the loaf with the oaten flour and which with the wheaten flour. The colour was the same, in spite of the talk about black bread, but if one were to taste it I think it was quite easy to know which had the oaten flour, because it was a much nicer loaf.

The third matter which is dealt with in this Bill is the mixing of dried milk with flour for bread. This has been adopted compulsorily in a number of countries, and has been adopted, as a matter of fact, in this country to some extent by a number of our bakers for certain varieties of bread. If any Senator is interested enough, I think he will find that there are milk pan loaves sold by various bakers here, and that dried milk is mixed with what are considered to be the superior types of bread by our own bakers, and certainly the dearer loaves have dried milk in them. Again, from the point of view of taste, we have tested it for about three months on certain individuals, and they have not complained of the taste of the bread, nor have they noticed the colour. Apart from that, it should naturally be a more healthy bread than ordinary wheat bread, because wheat with dried milk would appear to supply the entire requirements of a person in the way of food. In other words, you have a balanced ration with a loaf of that sort. I am not supposed to be interested in the health of the people as Minister for Agriculture, but my desire is to get rid of the surplus skimmed milk. There is a surplus always here, and that surplus is likely to increase, because the market for condensed skimmed milk is all the time declining, while the market for condensed whole milk is improving. Four or five years ago, I think that if anybody would get particulars of the output in Limerick it would be found that about 95 per cent. was condensed skimmed milk, while at the present time it is less than fifty per cent. This is one instance where we have a number of markets. We are exporting milk from that factory to fifty countries, and in every single instance they are increasing their purchases of condensed whole milk. That could not come into operation this year, because the surplus skimmed milk would not be there till June.

In working any scheme like this, such as fixed prices, there is always the danger that if we fix a price a number of merchants in any district might say that they will not work it. Therefore, we always have to have power—although we do not want to use it unless it is necessary, and have never used it as far as I know—to take over stores and go into business. We have those powers, as the Seanad is aware, in regard to maize-milling and flour-milling. The Seanad, I think, was very reluctant to give us those powers, but we never had to think of using them. It was probably very useful, however to have the powers, because a flour-miller or a maize-miller who, for any reason, objected to carry out any Government regulation, might not like the idea of the Government coming along and serving the dreaded notice that the mill was being taken over. We have not the same powers here with regard to taking over corn stores. If a merchant is using his corn store, and refuses to buy oats, say, under the fixed price, and if he buys a small quantity, not under the fixed price, and sells it to brewers and so on, we cannot take over his store; but we have the power to take over stores in the same place, and either to let or sell those stores to other persons—perhaps a co-operative society or a society formed of the farmers themselves, to store their oats there; or the Minister for Agriculture himself may carry on the business of dealing in oats or barley.

It does prevent, at any rate, what I might refer to as the dog-in-the-manger attitude of a merchant if he says: "I will not buy or let anybody else buy as far as I am concerned." It is possible that we might be up against such an event. The stores and kilns go together here, but they are not exactly the same. We would not take over stores or kilns under the same conditions. We might have to take over kilns where business was not going normally, and all merchants buying under the fixed price and millers buying from them. Even so, we might be compelled to take over kilns, because if our corn crop increases very much—if we have, say, seven or eight times as much wheat as we have now, or a little more oats or a little more barley—and if we were to come up against a really wet harvest, there would be great difficulty in having the grain dried, and we might have to take all the drying kilns that were not being used and get them into use immediately. Apart from that, however, I think the Government would have no intention of going into business with regard to kilns except in the case of a crisis such as that. Of course, I need hardly say that adequate compensation is being provided for the owners of stores and kilns where these are taken over.

Senators, I am sure, will find it rather difficult to follow all those various sections in the beginning with regard to amendments, and if the Seanad wishes, I could give a few words on each section to show what each section is dealing with. Section 5 is the first section that amends. It is amending the definition of the word "flour" in Section 3 of the Principal Act, and it is necessary in case the mixing of oat flour is brought in. Section 6 gives the Minister power to vary the quota for the preliminary quota period. Section 7 amends Section 28 of the Principal Act. There are certain mills in the country which do all wholemeal milling, but in order to be permitted to import foreign wheat for their business the Minister for Industry and Commerce had to give them a quota, and as the Principal Act was worded he could only give a proportion of that quota to wholemeal.

The Minister for Industry and Commerce by this amendment can give them 100 per cent. quota for wholemeal and no flour at all. Section 8 makes it an offence to mill more than the quota. Section 9 amends the Principal Act. Under the Principal Act the fine was 3/- on 400 lbs. This increases the maximum to 30/-. The small miller is fined a smaller sum. Section 10 amends Section 31 of the Principal Act. Under the Principal Act the person who fails to make returns is guilty of an offence, but it was not an offence to make misleading returns. We are making that an offence now under this section. Section 11 gives the Minister for Industry and Commerce power to make different regulations in relation to mills, the quota for which does not exceed 1,000 barrels. There are certain small mills which do commissioned milling for farmers in the matter of wheat, oats or barley, and these mills like to fulfil small orders and they import, say, 1,000 barrels a year. The Minister does not want to have these small mills bound by the regulations that are made by the larger millers. This Bill gives him power to do that.

Section 12 amends Section 32 of the Principal Act with regard to the keeping of records. The Principal Act could only deal with the wheat brought to the mill; it took no account of the wheat purchased and kept in a store not owned by the miller. Section 14 amends Section 34 of the Principal Act. Under the Principal Act notice is issued that the licence will be revoked. It cannot be revoked for one month. But now, if the miller wants to make reports he gets seven days to do so, and if he asks for an inquiry the inquiry must be held. Section 16 amends Section 36 of the Principal Act. Under the Principal Act the holder of a licence could not get a permit to mill wheat. That was rather an anomaly. It had the effect that if a miller had a licence he could not also own a mill—a "permitted" mill for grinding farmers' own wheat. There are cases where a licensed miller also owns a small mill.

Section 17 amends Section 54 of the Principal Act. Under Section 54 the appropriate Minister could register the personal representative in lieu of the person who died. But we are amending that to read that he can register the name of a person in lieu of the person previously registered. It is the same now as in the case of death. Amendment 18 amends Section 55 of the Principal Act. It exempts persons registered in the register of manufacturers of compound feeding stuffs and premises entered in such register as well as registered manufacturers of compound feeding stuffs. We found it almost impossible—at least, they claimed it was impossible—to keep returns of the many concoctions in the mixture. There might be a very small quantity, say, of salt. It was difficult to keep a whole return of the mixtures and now we have exempted them.

Can they exempt everything?

No, they must supply the formula. The inspector must be satisfied that they are putting into the mixture what they say it contains.

But this formula is a trade secret sometimes.

That is not interfered with. Section 19 is an amendment of Section 58 of the Principal Act which gave the Minister power to cancel registration if there had been contravention of the Act. That is a section with which I will have to deal more fully another time. Section 21 amends Section 68 of the Principal Act. It will be unlawful for a farmer to effect a nominal sale with the miller and at the same time draw the bounty. He cannot bring in wheat and say to the miller: "I will sell you that wheat at 17/6 per barrel; you sell it back again to me at 17/6 a barrel." He must make a genuine sale before he gets the bounty. Section 22 amends Section 70 of the Principal Act. That is when calculating the quota prices of homegrown wheat a fraction of a penny will be disregarded. That makes it much more easy for calculations in the office and also for totting up in the record checks and so on. In future no bounty will be paid on any fraction of a penny per barrel. Section 24 amends Section 80 of the Principal Act. It was not unlawful to sell maize, though some illegality may have been committed by the person who had it. In other words, it would be illegal for the importer to sell to anybody maize meal, but if anybody had maize he would be entitled to sell it. Section 25 amends Section 82 of the Principal Act. That provision is desirable for the protection of the manufacturers themselves. Sections 26 and 27 are dealing with the importation of flour and flour products; there is some relaxation there. If a person from outside the country sends a present of buns or cakes made from flour, and if they are sent as a present, they are allowed in free of duty. Up to this they would not be allowed.

This Bill calls for many criticisms. To begin with, we seem to be getting more and more into the bog and mire of blunderdom. We are being so tied up by State control that soon we will not be able to call our souls our own. The Minister is taking more and more power to himself. Every Bill that is brought before us takes more and more control of the people's business into the Minister's hands. That is all to the bad. The independence of the people is being destroyed in many ways. I have just noted in connection with this Bill a few points with which I am going to deal. There are a great many others which call for criticism. The mixture of oats and wheat is a very important matter for the health of the people. I happen to know an expert on this matter, a man who was engaged during the Great War in making experiments to see how far flour could be adulterated with other matters and still remain eatable. This expert assures me that what will happen will be this: When oaten flour and wheaten flour are baked together, the oaten flour will cook in half the time it will take the wheaten flour to cook. As a result of that whatever vitamins are in the oats will be largely destroyed in the baking. That shows that what the Minister said is contrary to the fact. The loaf produced will be of far poorer food value. It will be less digestible, not to mention its food values. I do not think that the appearance of the loaf where 50 per cent. is of oaten-meal will be as good either. Wheaten flour is of great value. It is one of the principal necessaries of life and any attempt to interfere with it in order to prop up the fantastic idea of increasing tillage is very bad and ought not to be attempted.

With regard to the amount of milk used in making bread, I might say that in every country house milk is used in making bread, but it produces a heavier and less digestible bread than that made with yeast. I cannot say anything in regard to milk powder, or whether it gives any better results than liquid milk. I need add nothing to what I said here recently about the maize admixture. It has done serious injury to the country, and the opinion which I expressed here in regard to its effects when fed to stock has been backed up by some leading agriculturists in the country. The number of all stock in the country is decreasing. The latest figures issued by the Department show that poultry is decreasing, pigs are decreasing and, of course, owing to the Minister's orders regarding the slaughter of cattle, cattle are decreasing. I think it would be much better if we went back to the rearing of cattle, and used the skim milk for that purpose, and abandon all these fantastic schemes of trying to use it in the making of bread. All this tinkering with the agricultural economy of the country is doing a great injury.

In regard to the question of oats and the effect of all these Cereals Bills on the tillage of the country, the area under oats this year is down by almost 50,000 acres. According to the figures issued by the Departments, there has been a decrease of between 48,000 and 50,000 acres in the area under oats. The area under wheat has increased by 39,000 acres. The area under barley has shown a small increase also. I really do not know why, but probably it is because people are going out of tillage and it is well known that barley is the best nurse crop for grass. The fact is that there is not one additional acre of corn in the country, notwithstanding all these Bills. The acreage under turnips has decreased, because of people rushing into the growing of sugar beet. They are growing it, even at an uneconomic price, in order to get any little ready money that is offering. The people are in the desperate position that they will grasp at any straw. That is why they are growing beet— because they must get some little ready money somehow. We can safely leave wheat to its fate. We have two exceptionally dry years, but two wet years will finish it without any trouble on our part. Meanwhile a great deal of valuable land will have been ruined. I know a land myself which has been utterly ruined by continuous cropping of wheat. It will grow nothing but weeds for the next ten years.

With reference to what the Minister said to cover up the terrible blunders that were made in regard to the oat crop last year, the Minister has the effrontery to blame Press propaganda to cover up his own blunders. That is not good enough. He said a number of extraordinary things. He said that the feeders of the country did not suffer owing to the price of oats last year. If the feeders of the country had got oats for nothing—and many of them got it for very little—they could not have made money in feeding their stock. Any person who fed stock last year—with the one exception of pigs on which they might have made their expenses—lost heavily. The feeders who stall-fed cattle are ruined. I wonder if there is any use in once more calling the attention of the Minister and the Seanad to this patent fact— that you canot have, and will not have, increased tillage without maintaining the numbers of stock in the country? As I have said the figures show that the numbers of stock are decreasing. In my county which had a larger acreage under corn and other crops than any other county in Ireland, with the exception of the barley sold for malting, all the corn was used for feeding, principally for feeding cattle. As I have said before, more barley would be used in feeding ten stall-fed cattle than would be used in a whole parish otherwise.

We have heard a lot about this fetish of increased tillage but anyone who examines the latest figures will see that there is not one single acre more under tillage than there was last year. With a subsidy in operation, inducing the people to go in for new crops like wheat and beet, it will simply mean that they will decrease the area previously devoted to other crops. When the Beet Bill was being discussed here before, I pointed out that what would happen, when the sugar pulp was returned to the farmers, was that they would sow less root crops. As we have seen there has been a very large decrease in the acreage under turnips. I think the whole thing is fatal to the economy of the country and that it will leave the country in a much poorer condition, gradually going back to the conditions which prevailed here before the great famine. It must have the effect of lowering the standard of living for everybody. That can be its only effect even if this scheme succeeds. It will not succeed. It cannot succeed. and I, for one, hope it will not.

I am always pleased to hear Senator Miss Browne speak on these subjects because it is well to know what it is possible to say on the other side, but I was very much distressed at hearing her express the hope and wish that the organisation of agriculture will not succeed in this country.

The false economy of agriculture.

I am glad of the correction, although at present I do not understand the exact difference in meaning between the two things. I have taken the trouble of examining all the regulations and arrangements that have been made in other countries, including Great Britain, in reference to this question of tillage, and I find that the arrangements made by the Minister, both in his principal Act and in this measure, are milder than the regulations and arrangements made even in Great Britain. Whether for good or ill, the people of the world seem to be coming to the conclusion that the food supplies of a nation should, as far as possible, be provided within the nation. The outstanding example of that is France. France produces all the wheat that is required by the people of the Republic and by the other peoples in the French dependencies. Great Britain is making a great advance towards securing that as much as possible of the food of the people shall be provided within the shores of England, including wheat, oats and barley. I do not think that anybody could object to that. It is a sound policy for the people of Great Britain, who are a great carrying people, who have ships. Why should it not be a sound policy for us who have very few ships? Why should the Minister for Agriculture, who has a very serious responsibility, not guard against a condition or a possibility in which the people of this country might be starved?

If I may say so, the Minister in the principal measure acted wisely. This Bill shows that he has carefully studied the effect of the principal measure, because here we have a series of 15 or 20 amendments to the Principal Act. Every one of these amendments shows that he has considered the particular question which is the subject of the amendment. Why should he not bring in a measure to perfect his legislation? Senator Miss Browne has said that she objects to every proposal in the Bill. I was surprised that she should be objecting to every proposal in the Bill until I heard her in the end saying: "I hope it will not succeed." It is the hope that it will not succeed which makes her object to every proposal in this Bill. Let me take her objections one by one. What is her objection to using oaten flour with wheaten flour for bread? She says an astonishing thing that if oaten flour is mixed with wheaten flour, kneaded and baked, the oaten part will cook sooner than the wheaten part.

Quite true.

I want to ask Senator Miss Browne, as a housewife, and a very good housewife, if that is a bad thing. I have always heard that the better you bake wheat, oats or anything else, the better for the person who consumes it. I think that the Senator will have to reconsider that part of her criticism. Senator Miss Browne next says that milk is used in the kneading of wheaten flour. So it is, but she says further that milk is not as good as yeast.

I did not say that it was not as good as yeast. What I said was that it made heavier bread.

Senator Miss Browne said that milk bread is less digestible than yeast bread.

Of course it is, but I did not say that it was not as good.

Milk bread is not less digestible than yeast bread if the milk bread is properly baked. If however, instead of understanding how to make and bake a loaf, you talk about it, then you, or your brother or cousin, gets stuff as bread that an elephant could not digest. Then, again, we had the question of poultry. Poultry have decreased in numbers because the price of eggs has gone down. I am sorry to say that a lot of very deserving and useful members of the community who keep hen runs about the City of Dublin and elsewhere are not doing as well as I should wish.

What about fat poultry?

I am coming to another point in Senator Miss Browne's speech. With great, apparent delight, she says that the acreage under oats is down. The acreage under oats is down because in order to smash this scheme of tillage——

I never say, in this House, anything as to the accuracy of which I am not prepared to satisfy the House. Why is the acreage under oats down? Because——

They have grown wheat.

Because there was no price last year.

Senator Wilson always says the right thing. There was no price in the early part of last year and that was because the merchants would not buy. I hope that those who did not buy for any indirect reason will have to pay through the nose now. It was very wrong to organise that drive against oats in the early part of last season.

A scandalous thing.

It was a scandalous thing to do, because the people who could least afford it suffered most. The poor people were obliged by this piece of trickery—it was nothing else— to sell their oats at a price at which they could not afford to sell and which was very much under the true value. There is another difficulty in the way of restoring a proper balance of agriculture in this country. I am not against grazing or anything else and I am not in favour of tillage, but it is absolutely essential that there be a proper balance of agriculture. There are several difficulties in the way. There is the difficulty of arranging it. That was manifested in the Principal Bill and it is manifested in this very skilfully-drawn amending Bill. The difficulties are great even if we had the co-operation of everybody, much less having people who hope the scheme will fail. Another difficulty in the way of tillage is fertilisers.

If I may say so with respect, Senator Miss Browne has very great knowledge on these subjects and a point of view which I like to hear expressed. With her knowledge, she ought to be a little more careful in what she says. I should like to know where the farm is which has been destroyed by continuous cropping of wheat. How many crops were taken off it? Were they taken year after year? This farm must have been in the moon, in the Steppes of Russia or, perhaps, in that rich land that can produce crops for 100 years without any diminution of quality. All I say is that is a very exceptional farm and that he is a very exceptional farmer. I am surprised that he has not something else on his farm worse than wheat.

I welcome this measure. It is a Bill which, so far as I, as a person with some experience of agriculture, can ascertain, manifests remarkable care and remarkable research on the part of the Minister and the Department responsible for it. The Minister was not ashamed to inquire into the deficiencies which were to be expected in the original measure. He brings in a measure to rectify and amend everything which was found to be wrong in the original Act. I think that we ought to welcome the Bill instead of criticising it and hoping that the policy of mixed agriculture will be a failure.

Since I became a member of the House I have rarely seen a Bill that, in my opinion, is a worse one than this. I wish to speak in criticism of it in this Second Reading debate. I have no technical knowledge of the manufacturing processes or of the trades affected by this legislation. I have some slight knowledge of the production of the raw material. I represent, and I speak on behalf of, a very much larger number than all those interests taken together, namely, the consumers of bread. I propose to devote my remarks to the Bill as it affects the consumers. This is a very big Bill. I do not propose, for the reason that my knowledge is not sufficient, to take up the time of the House with a general criticism of the Bill. I propose to devote my remarks to that part of the Bill which affects consumers. In effect, the object of the Bill is the regulation and control by the Minister of the production, sale and consumption of the most important article of food in this nation—bread, the staff of life, as it is called, and the poor man's food. In a normal state of affairs, wheaten bread should be the cheapest food for the labouring man in this country. You cannot expect such a state of affairs when you have quite good beef selling at 3d. a pound, but that is only because of extraordinary Governmental mismanagement, the effects of which cannot last for ever. The reason is that the thing is economically impossible. Therefore, bread is an article of food of very great importance to our life here.

I am naturally a person of free trade predilections. That is well known to members of this House, and I am sure some members will discount what I have to say on this Bill for that reason. But I recognise that it is not always possible to follow the principles of free trade. You are forced by the actions and the circumstances of people in other countries to protect yourself. I do not hold, however, that this Bill can be excused on such ground as that. I am amazed at the temerity, the courage, the rashness if you like, of the Minister and of the Government in rushing into the control of the principal article of diet for the people of this country and at their proposal to regulate it from top to bottom. The complete restriction on all liberty, and such confusing complications as regards distribution as we find in this Bill, are really amazing. We are accustomed to compulsion in this free country. Now we are going to get accustomed to it in an increasing degree under this measure. We are accustomed to being told how we could produce, whom we shall buy from, how much we shall pay, and all that sort of thing, but now we are practically being told what we shall eat—bread—and, at that, what sort of bread we shall eat. Hitherto we have been able to settle that for ourselves. It ought to be a natural process between the miller, the baker and the consumer. If the consumer does not like the bread he is being supplied with, he tells the baker. If the baker is doing his best and finds that it is the fault of the flour, he goes to another miller and gets better flour. Now we are to have regulated for us what the flour is to consist of. It is possible that one man's meat may be another man's poison, and the average consumer is better able to find out by trial what is good for him than any Minister.

Parts V, VI and VII of the Bill are, in my opinion, the most objectionable from the consumer's point of view. Perhaps, as this is not the Committee Stage, I ought not to draw attention to Sections 61 and 63, 73 and 74. But in my opinion all these sections involve a most extraordinary curtailment of liberty in all its forms. Section 28 is a most amazing section. The Minister referred to it. The section provides that it shall not be lawful for any person to import into this country any commodity in the preparation of which wheat or any product of wheat is used unless it is imported under licence given by the Minister—the power to import will rest entirely in the hands of the Minister—or unless the commodity is imported by parcel post or is a present from somebody outside the country. I consider that it is almost fruitless to put such a provision in a Bill of this character. There are a great many things which come in under the head of patent foods. I am not, if I may so put it, very much of a patent food person. I can eat all kinds of ordinary food, and these do me for the most part. But some of these patent foods are very important for certain people, so that it is to depend on the decision of the Minister whether they are to have them or not. People may consider it of vital importance to their health to have these foods, and even though the Minister may be right about that and such people wrong, yet because they believe these things do them good, they should be able, in my opinion, to get them without any kind of restriction.

I must say that it disgusts me to think that in this late period of time power should be given to a Government in this country to light-heartedly deteriorate the quality of our bread, because I maintain that is what this Bill is going to do. The bread we have been accustomed to may be the most palatable and the most wholesome to be obtained anywhere in the world, and I am inclined to think that it is. I have travelled through a great many countries. Speaking for my own district, hitherto we have had bread produced there the equal of which I have rarely been served with anywhere outside the country. I think I can say that I have never got better bread anywhere. If that bread is going to be mixed up with oatmeal, with various forms of milk and all that kind of thing, well the Lord knows what will be the result. It will not be as good bread as we have had up to now. I like oatmeal, and I have nothing to say against it. I like milk, but I like to take them separately. I should like to have preserved to me the liberty that enables me to take them separately. If our bread supply in the future is to be a mixture of all sorts of things, I consider that tyranny. Bread, as I have said, is one of our most important articles of food. I am speaking here on behalf of a great many people who, I feel, do not quite realise all that this Bill means. This like some other measures introduced by the Government, is, in my opinion, an interference with the liberty of the subject. In spite of what Senator Comyn has said, I can say with an absolutely free conscience that I am not criticising this measure for any political reason. I am speaking principally on behalf of the consumers of bread. They are not going to benefit by this Bill, and that is why I consider it my duty to criticise. I think that this is a very bad piece of legislation. It involves an extraordinary curtailment of liberty.

There is one suggestion I have to make. I think that the Minister should bring before the House some authoritative statement to convince us that this bread which is made of wheat, oatmeal, barley, milk and other things is going to be as wholesome as the bread that we have been accustomed to. Let us have that from, say, the Irish Medical Association, but that the Minister himself should be the judge as to whether it is good for me to eat my porridge, milk and bread all messed up together I do not agree with that at all. I know far better than he does what is good for me, and so do very many other people. They know that far better than the Minister. These are the principal grounds on which I base my criticism of this Bill.

I am not going to criticise this measure, because I believe it is necessary, in order to put the Bill which was passed last year into good working order. Senator Miss Browne has dealt with the mixture question. I think she is under a misapprehension. Some five or six months ago, when the mixture of maize meal consisted of 33? per cent., a good many of the millers did not understand how to use that 33? per cent. They had no experience of such work, and, as a result, the hulls of the oats and barley were not properly ground. Young animals and some old animals to which it was given were injured. In my area a number of young turkeys were killed by it. That was unfortunate, but I think it will not occur again. In some districts, principally in the south and west, millers were not in the habit of handling that class of work and had no experience of it. I think the complaint will not arise again, and that it will not be necessary for the Minister to enforce in future a mixture of 33? per cent. The result of having a mixture of 33? per cent. is that oats are at present selling at 17/- a barrel. There is an artificial scarcity of the crop, which is not good for anyone. I take exception to Senator Comyn's remarks about the price of oats last year, that it was arranged by an organisation which is out to smash the Government's policy; that it was done by trickery, and that sort of thing. There is no ground whatever for that statement. The position is that when the season opened last October the majority of the dealers north, south, east and west had in their stores practically all the oats and barley they had bought the previous year, when they bought large quantities at very long prices. Then the Government's policy was changed, and they were ordered to export no more oats, while at the same time England put a tariff against oats and barley, so that the crop could not be exported, even if the Government was anxious to export it. There was no demand for it in this country, and dealers started the new season with the old crop in hands. Last year we had the biggest oat crop that we had for a number of years. It was much larger than we will have this year. In fact we are not likely to have such a good crop for ten years. Having that quantity on hands oats were sold at 5/- a barrel last year. Nothing else could happen. In this country we were always accustomed to buy oats and to keep it for a month or two, and then to send it to England, to France, or wherever a market could be got. Owing to Government policy, and to England putting a tariff against our agricultural produce, that trade was killed. The dealers could not see any outlet anywhere to sell stocks, and as a result they could not buy.

They were bad business men.

They may have been, but when you have a change from one policy to another it is difficult to foresee what is going to happen. The merchants' money was locked up in existing stocks and their stores were full. The Senator says they were bad business men not to continue buying. The bulk of them would be unable to buy even if they were anxious to do so. There was a glut. The Minister then raised the mixture to 33? per cent., which I think was unwise, because that makes a bad feed. It may not have that effect in two or three years, but last summer you had a mixture which was very objectionable. Practical farmers like Senator Miss Browne considered that the scheme was wrong. I believe that a mixture of 10 per cent. or 15 per cent. will make a good feed. I am a farmer and a miller, and I have no hesitation in saying that a mixture of 10 per cent. or 15 per cent. of oats or barley will not have an injurious effect. I claim that the other mixture was not a success because it increased the price of feed that farmers require for their stock by 1/- a cwt., and in some districts by 1/3 or by 1/6, owing to the exceptionally high price of oats. What benefit is it to a farmer in Mayo to have to pay 1/3 per cwt. extra for maize meal, so that farmers in Wexford, Louth, Westmeath or Carlow, who grow grain extensively for cash purposes, should get an extra price? A better way to encourage tillage, and to carry out the Government's policy, would be to put an import tax on maize and to use the money collected as a bounty for oats and barley. That is quite as justifiable as giving extravagant bounties to bacon, beef, butter or eggs. I think if we had the same treatment for oats and barley there would not be much to be exported. If the price for oats was something in the neighbourhood of 11/—not 16/—it would be easy to fix the export bounty so as to keep the price of oats at that level. The money could be found by an import duty on maize and the Minister for Finance would not be asked to provide any money beyond what came from feeders.

If farmers were guaranteed a price they would grow more oats. Instead of doing that, the Minister proposes to fix a price, and to see that that price is paid. He can do so. I presume it will be a wise proceeding, but, as far as I can see, it will not be necessary to do it this year, as there will be good prices for oats and barley. The position at present is that there are no stocks of native grain in the country, and we have small crops, with less acreage than previously. The weather is bad, and some of the crop will be damaged. I hope the Minister will not ask to have a fixed price this year, unless there is some justification for it. If the market gives 11/- for oats, and 13/- for barley, I think the Minister would be foolish to step in, and not allow the ordinary law of supply and demand to operate. Senator Miss Browne, Senator Comyn, and Senator Bagwell talked about the oat flour. I do not think the Minister will ever put the section dealing with that into force. He is asking for permission, and he will get it, to mix oat flour with wheat flour, but I do not think that stage will ever be reached. There is always the maize-meal mixture at hand. I believe that a mixture of 7½ per cent in flour would not be injurious. It would be quite good food, and no one would be injured by using it. There might be a mixture of 7½ per cent. in flour and people would not know anything about it. If the Minister works the maize-meal mixture properly there will be no necessity for any other mixture. The Minister's object should be to work towards reasonable prices, and not to have what occurred last year, oats selling at the opening of the season at 7/- and at the close of the season at 16/- a barrel. These prices are objectionable from every point of view. Oats at 7/- or 8/- are uneconomic, and when the price reaches 16/- a barrel that is an indication that there are no oats in the country. That is bad for farmers who have to pay extra for feeding stuffs. It was because the Minister put 33? into the mixture in the summer months that oats went to 16/- a barrel. I felt that that was unwise. There is no justification for that this year.

I hope before making the mixture 33? per cent. the Minister will consider some other system of getting rid of the surplus. The way I suggest is the way the surplus pigs and bacon were got rid of, by an export bounty. It is much better to export 100 tons of oats in November than to hold it and send it across the country to farmers later, after paying the cost of storage. It would be better to export it earlier and to let farmers buy pure maize-meal in July and August when it is better to do so than at any other time of the year. A small export bounty of 2/- or 3/- a barrel on oats and barley would simplify the whole thing, would do away with the necessity for the mixture, would cheapen the price of maize-meal to the farmer; and would do away with all this Government inspection which we have in this Bill. It is a most elaborate scheme under which every man buying oats will have to be registered and keep a new set of books; the millers also will have to get a different set of books with auditors and all that. All that can be simplified by having a small export bounty on oats and barley.

I should like to refer to what happened at the beginning of last year's harvest. It has been stated that the Minister for Industry and Commerce issued an order to all the millers to export and clear out their stocks of bran and pollard. I am not sure if that is a fact; but at all events all the pollard and bran in the country was exported. It has been stated that the mills were subsidised to export it. The fact remains that at this time last year the price of bran and pollard went up 60 or 70 per cent. in about a fortnight and the whole of the stocks were cleared out. The idea I understand was to make room for the oats to have a market. I think it was very bad policy that the producers of bacon and the feeders of poultry should have had to pay such a high price for their feeding stuffs. I hope the Minister will look into the matter and see that it will not occur this year.

I should also like to ask the Minister if he would consider the possibility of granting a licence for whole-meal to people feeding young pigs, and in some cases poultry. I can speak from experience when I say that when the admixture is fed to young pigs it is most injurious, particularly if it is anything like it was last year. I myself lost a number of young pigs who died from being fed on an admixture of Indian meal and oats. As Senator O'Rourke has pointed out, the oats was milled with the hulls, and there was too large a proportion of hulls in the mixture, which was most injurious to young pigs. From a post mortem examination I found that that was the cause of the death of the young pigs.

What age were they?

Three or four months old. Senator Comyn referred to an organisation amongst farmers last year to keep down the price of oats. That was a ridiculous statement to make. It shows that the Senator did not know anything of the real cause. Senator O'Rourke has explained the real cause. Anybody who knows anything about the matter should see what was the real cause. There was no propaganda to depress the price of oats in 1932. From the first buying of oats in 1932 the price continually kept going down until the harvest of 1933. One of the things which contributed to raise the price of oats last year was that the admixture was raised to 33? per cent., but that was not wholly responsible. What contributed mostly to the rise in the consumption of oats was that in December last year a quota was put on our fat stock at a time when most of the farmers had their stock in the stalls. They had to keep them for several months longer than they intended, and the cheapest food they could get for them was their own oats. The result was that nearly all the corn was used in feeding stock, and very little was put on the market. That was an important contributory cause and helped to raise the price. This is an amending Bill, and the Minister and his advisers have found it necessary to bring it in, and I am of opinion that the Seanad should let the Minister have his Bill.

I should like, in the first instance, to say that I think the Seanad is very much indebted to Senator O'Rourke for his speech. He certainly cleared up a great many points that I did not understand. I hope he also enlightened a good many Senators. Senator Comyn was rather severe with regard to a remark made by Senator Miss Browne in connection with a mixture of wheat-meal and oatmeal in baking bread. I think there is a good deal in what Senator Miss Browne mentioned. The Minister has had a scientific training, I believe, and he knows well that when you bring two or three constituents together and subject them to treatment such as they would get in baking or in any other way there may be great variations in the result. You cannot tell, except by a very careful scientific experiment, what the result really will be. There is hardly an industry to-day the product of which is not very carefully scrutinised, biologically and chemically, and in many other ways. Where the whole feeding of the country is concerned, as in the case of bread, I think it would be advisable to have that done. Possibly the Minister has already got a department for that purpose. We have an agricultural college here and we have a veterinary college, and I hope the matter will be considered.

On the subject of mixtures, we have had from two Senators comments on the result of what I may call ad hoc mixtures. Senator O'Rourke mentioned the case of turkeys which had died from the effects of being fed on what I call an ad hoc mixture. Senator O'Rourke has told us that he lost a number of young pigs through using a mixture recommended by the Ministry. If careful scientific experiments had been made in connection with these matters we would not have had these losses which have occurred.

Senator Bagwell referred to a section in the Bill under which wheat preparations or other preparations cannot be imported except under strict rules and probably heavy duties. I should like to know if that would apply to two very well-known articles which are largely consumed elsewhere and are also consumed in this country —quaker oats and shredded wheat. There are a great many others of a similar nature which are used and which are most excellent foodstuffs. Bemax is one. That is not a simple mixture, it is a compound; but quaker oats and shredded wheat, and similar foods, largely used for children, are pure wheat or oats treated in a certain way and are extremely valuable as foodstuffs. Are these to be kept out of the country or are they to be allowed to come in? I should like if the Minister would give an assurance on the points I raised.

There were several points raised, but I think they are mostly points suited to the Committee Stage. As regards the mixture of oats with wheat in bread, that has been commented on a good deal. I do not know if there is very much use in saying again that I believe bread made from wheat mixed with oats is superior to wheaten bread alone. There are Senators who will not agree with that, and we will have to agree to differ on that matter. I have eaten bread several times that was baked by way of experiment. It was baked both by the baker in the ordinary baker's loaf and baked also as household bread with buttermilk and soda. In both cases the bread was very nice, and it appeared to be properly cooked. I agree with Senator Guinness that it would require scientific research in order to see if everything is right. Of course, that is being done, and it will be done before this order will be brought into force. I quite agree with Senator O'Rourke that it will probably be a good while before this order is considered necessary. I think Senator Miss Browne's speech might be left with the comment that she appeared to bank on two wet years finishing the wheat scheme. I think a somewhat similar expression, or rather a hope, was indicated in the course of the discussion in the Dáil by a member of the Senator's Party.

I said I hoped we would not go back to the famine period or the period that immediately preceded the great famine, because that would seem to be what we are aiming at. I said I hoped this scheme would not succeed, because that is what it would lead to.

So the cure is not to provide sufficient food for the people?

Senator Miss Browne said that two wet years would finish the wheat scheme and I said that was an expression from Senator Miss Browne, but it almost amounted to a hope, and I heard a similar expression amounting almost to a hope coming from a person belonging to Senator Miss Browne's Party during the discussion in the Dáil. The expression was that two wet years would finish the scheme. God grant that we will not get the two wet years. Senator Miss Browne said that we would require more cattle if we are to increase our tillage. We do not want more cattle in order to increase tillage. We have enough human beings in the country to consume the wheat produced on 800,000 acres and if we had that much tillage it would mean a very big increase. If we had just the same number of cattle, pigs, sheep and poultry and so on as we have at present, and if we stopped the import of 6,000,000 cwts. of maize, and if we relied upon home produce it would mean a big increase in the production of wheat, oats and barley. There is room for a huge increase in tillage without increasing the number of our people or the number of our livestock. Of course, I hope the number of people will increase.

Senator Bagwell made a vigorous speech against this Bill. He would not be so vigorous in his opposition if he knew what this Bill really meant. He made a most violent attack on the powers the Minister for Industry and Commerce is taking to stop people getting buns made from wheat unless they come through the post. At present the Minister for Industry and Commerce can stop any product of wheat coming in and I can stop any wheat coming in. We have that power. I can stop the wheat and he can stop the wheat products. The point is we want to relax those powers and give the people a little more freedom. Senator Bagwell vigorously attacked what really is a relaxation. We are giving the people a little more freedom. We have used those powers in a very mild way. Those things that Senator Bagwell speaks about, such as medicinal cereals and all those things, are allowed in. We do not try to inflict our opinion on people that certain things are bad or good for them. If a person thinks he wants a thing, if his doctor thinks he wants it, he gets a permit and we do not try to override those decisions.

There were certain things mentioned by Senator Guinness such as quaker oats, which are not now allowed in. So far as we can find out quaker oats are ordinary rolled oats, and that can be done in the Free State by our own millers. They can afford to sell them more cheaply because they do not advertise like the quaker oats people. They can give the Irish people as good an article for a lower price, and that is the result. Senator O'Rourke said we ought not to fix the price unless it is necessary. I quite agree. If the price of oats is reasonable, if it is 11/- or 12/- a barrel, we would consider that reasonable, and we would not fix a price. If the price of barley is reasonable we would not interfere. It is only in such a case as occurred last year when we were approaching a collapse that we fix a price. The Minister for Industry and Commerce had to exercise certain powers in regard to the millers. Since the Cereals Act was passed we have been saying that we would bring in an order to prohibit the export of offals. The millers said that they themselves would stop the export of offals. Eventually, two or three months ago an order was issued, and mill offals are not permitted to be exported. We never encouraged the export of offals at all.

With regard to whole maize meal, the college in Glasnevin and other agricultural colleges have carried out experiments for many years with an inclusion of home-grown grain. There may be something in what Senator O'Rourke says, that the oats in some mixtures were badly ground and included the hulls. The greater portion of the mixture now contains dehulled oats, and there should be no trouble in getting the mixture for young animals. Many of the points that were raised could, I think, be more conveniently discussed on the Committee Stage.

Question put and agreed to. Committee Stage fixed for Wednesday, 29th August.