I move amendment No. 1:—
To delete the section.
Unfortunately, I was not in the House on the occasion of the Second Reading of this Bill, but I may say that I put in an amendment, together with the two amendments on the Order Paper, suggesting that this Bill should be referred to a joint committee of both Houses for its further consideration, but in view of the Bill having got a Second Reading, that looked as if I were blocking its progress, and, although I think it was doubtful, the amendment was ruled out of order. I wish to move the deletion of Section 4. That section, though it does not say so, is I think, in effect an extension of the powers given under the Creamery Act, 1928. It is an amendment of Section 13 of the Principal Act which states:
it shall not be lawful for any person to acquire, by purchase or otherwise, a creamery which at the time of such acquisition is being worked and carried on as a creamery or to establish a creamery in any premises in which the business of a creamery is not being carried on at the time of such establishment.
There are a number of other provisions of a kindred restrictive nature of that sort. At no time was it an offence for a farmer to separate his own milk and make butter of it. That was a practice which was carried out pretty largely. Some farmers, prompted, I think by traders in the butter business, started some small class of power separator where the milk of a number of farmers was separated. Though that was not a creamery technically, by definition under the Creamery Act it came to be construed as a creamery. This section which I seek to delete gives most extraordinary powers to the Minister in the case of an offence under this section. Not only may a person be fined, but the court may order the seizure and forfeiture of the machinery, plant and equipment suitable for use in a creamery. My object in asking that this Bill be referred to a joint committee of both Houses was that less rather than more restriction should be required. I very well remember that when the Minister's predecessor was putting through the Creamery Act of 1928, I privately suggested criticism to him in connection with the Bill, and he put it to me, as he put it publicly in this House afterwards, that he should be treated as the managing director of a very big concern, and given a fair chance whether he succeeded or failed. I must confess that in view of the acquisition of a very large number of creameries and the establishment of the Dairy Disposals Board there was a great deal of reason in his contention at the time. I wish to point out to the House and to urge on Senators that these restrictions should be lessened and not increased, because the condition of things then in the dairy industry was very different from to-day. One fact was that the price of butter at the time was practically 80 per cent. more than it is now. These farmers who are utilising this method of separating their milk and making their butter are doing the work themselves, and doing it very economically, perhaps not quite as efficiently, but at a very much cheaper rate than that at which the creameries could do it. I have very little doubt that this section is put into this Bill purely and simply for the reason that these small separators are able to pay for the farmers' supplies considerably more than would otherwise be possible. They pay more for the butter fat than the creameries do. Now these separating and churning stations are to be called illegal creameries. Possibly they may be so by reason of the definition of the Dairy Produce Act. But in effect they are not creameries. They have none of the advantages from the Minister that the creamery has. They do not get the creamery bounty nor the creamery subsidy, nor is their produce to be sold as creamery butter. This is butter made by a number of farmers, and it is not and cannot properly be described as creamery butter. Within living memory, in fact within my own memory, the Cork butter market was the greatest butter market in the world. That was its position at a not very remote period. The merchants not only did a very big export trade with England, but they did a trade down the Mediterranean. Tinned butter for ships' use was shipped by the Cork merchants. That was sent to countries like India, Spain and China. Cork butter, tinned and packed so as to secure it against a very high temperature, went to every part of the world. Cork, because of the creameries, has gone down as a butter centre, but there is still a very considerable butter trade left in Cork, and this butter is being shipped to centres outside.
By reason of Great Britain going off the gold standard other markets have been opened up. These markets hitherto had been held by the Dutch, which had a very big business in that class of trade in past years. Now some of those exporters are associated with the farmers who produce this class of butter made in so-called illegal creameries. I hope the House will not give power to the Minister to make any restriction on that class of trade.
As a mere matter of detail, I may say that I have in my safe in Cork a passport to America which was issued in the year 1913 or 1914. Certain things happened then which entailed that I did not go to America. Now I took out that passport because in the previous year very large quantities of Danish and Siberian butter had been sent to the United States. I had an idea that I might open up this temporary market there for Irish butter. At one time I traded largely in Canadian butter. The last Canadian butter I bought from Canada I sold it back to Canada with some boxes of Irish butter. That was the class of trade that could be done by merchants and traders in butter but which the Irish creameries as constituted in this country will never do. Some correspondence was sent me in connection with this class of trade. I will not mention names but I will read for you the concluding letter of this correspondence. You must bear in mind that the Minister for Agriculture, through the Dairy Disposals Board, is, I think, by far the largest trader in the butter business in this country at the present time. I am not complaining of that. Circumstances have been such that the Dairy Disposals Board have not been able to part with the creameries that were acquired by the Minister's predecessor. I have no complaint to make of the trade or the manner of trading. But it is a fact which this House should take into consideration in considering the Bill. This letter which I am about to read for you was written by a firm in Cork. It was written obviously to the person who tried to help a Cork firm. It is quite recent; it is dated the 8th August, 1934. The letter says:—
"A Chara,—I thank you for yours of the 7th. The Irish Department of Agriculture have refused to do anything other than their previous decision. The position is that these people are direct sellers themselves and do not want anybody to do business direct, as success by a private individual in finding alternative markets would not be to their credit where they themselves have failed."
I am not giving this letter in full. Obviously the person to whom this letter was written failed to remedy the grievances from which the person who wrote it had suffered. The letter goes on:—
"My firm is not further interested, as trying to do business in conjunction with the Irish Department of Agriculture is practically impossible. On account of the drought in the States, Reeves"— Reeves, I may say, is a very big multiple shop trader in New York—"had an ideal opportunity of putting Irish butter on the market with success. His trade is 30 tons a week and he told me during dinner, which I had at his house, that two years ago he was in Dublin and got in touch with the Department whose treatment of him was such that he left in disgust. It seems a pity to me that matters of this kind should be so badly handled. Thanking you for your interest in the matter and also for your courtesy in New York, and hoping at some time to have the pleasure of renewing your acquaintanceship."
That is the letter of a trader who feels aggrieved at the treatment meted out to him. Yet it is sought to give the Minister further powers. If the Minister came out honestly and said that there should be no trading in dairy produce, except through the avenues permitted by the Ministry, I could understand it, but I cannot understand why, at the present time when the market is restricted and when alternative markets are very urgently wanted, any restrictions should be put in the way of those who are permitted to carry on the trade. There was a considerable amount of talk last night when it was even suggested that the Minister might trade in cattle. He is trading largely in dairy produce. As I have said I have no particular objection to his doing so, but I do object that any further restrictions should be put on private trading. I would ask the Seanad to support the amendment.