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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 12 May 1943

Vol. 27 No. 22

Creameries (Acquisition) Bill, 1943—Second Stage.

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

In asking the Seanad to give a Second Reading to this Bill, I think it well to give a little bit of the history of the policy that we are now seeking to complete. About 16 years ago a motion was brought into the Dáil to deal with the proprietary creameries at that time, resulting from a sort of war between the proprietors and the co-operatives. As a result of that war the co-operatives were compelled to pay a higher figure than the economic price for milk, and some of them were hardly able to continue. Some of them, as a matter of fact, failed. Some of the proprietors, of course, failed also.

A scheme was introduced at the time for the taking over of these properties by a holding body and the intention was to hand them over to the Dairy Disposals Board as it is now known. It was formed for the purpose of holding these properties and it took over the Newmarket Company and the Condensed Milk Company and also a toffee factory. The Condensed Milk Company comprises not only the condensery in Limerick but also a condensery in Drumkeen and two creameries in Tipperary. The greater part of the properties were handed over to co-operative societies but for one reason or another some were held by the Dairy Disposals Board. In the case of the Condensed Milk Company there was no body of people here, whether co-operative society or company, prepared to take over the condensery and work it. In other cases, for reasons of re-organisation and so on, the creameries were held. Now, as time went on, the Dairy Disposals Board was more or less forced into the position, or at any rate it accepted the position of taking over co-operative societies that were in a bad way financially and of reorganising them and handing them over to other co-operatives, dividing them or retaining some of them.

Later still, the Dairy Disposals Board went into the business of developing new areas. Now the development of new areas was a very interesting development of this body, and I think that everybody will agree that these areas would never have been developed were it not for a body of that kind. If you take areas like West Cork and South Kerry where farmers were getting very poor prices, it was not possible to get any co-operative society to develop them because the chances of success looked so poor. The only hope of getting development in these areas was by some big company, a financially backed company of this kind, that was encouraged to do so by the Government and insured against loss, if loss there would be. I remember, as a matter of fact, going before the Dáil with an estimate for the areas of Cahirciveen, Kenmare and Castletownbere and asking for £40,000 for the purpose. I stated in the Dáil that I could give no guarantee whatever that the money would ever be returned to the Exchequer, and that it was quite possible it might be a loss. As a matter of fact, these areas turned out to be a great success. I think they are probably on a paying basis by now. The Dairy Disposals Board now hold a large number of concerns, a large number of creamery units and so on. A question that will have to be dealt with on another day is, what is to be the future of the Dairy Disposals Board. Well, the organisation that I refer to that commenced in 1927, was, in my opinion, well-timed because the world depression in butter prices came about 1929, and it was a great thing that the competition between one society and another and the competition between co-operative societies and proprietors had to a large extent ceased by 1929, because the creamery industry as a whole could never have withstood the world depression if it had been organised as it was organised prior to 1929. The Dairy Disposals Board since 1927 has taken over 182 private concerns, 114 of which were owned by one firm.

It was always intended, of course, that this policy of taking over the proprietors would be completed, and it is proposed now in this Bill to complete the business. What we are doing here is not by any means original. The history of the co-operative movement in other countries will at least give us some precedent to go upon. In most countries, as far as I have read about co-operation, there are actually laws which compel the minority to come in when there is a substantial majority already in the co-operative movement. That majority is defined by different percentages in different countries but usually where, say, two-thirds of the producers in a particular agricultural industry agree to co-operate, then the other third must come in and join the co-operative movement. In the particular case we are dealing with here I think that there is only about 4 per cent. remaining outside the co-operative movement, that is, if we regard the property held by the Disposals Board as being co-operative, as I think we must for this particular purpose, because the Dairy Disposals Board is holding these properties in trust for some future co-operative societies. The Bill gives me power to compel the remaining proprietors to sell. As the Bill is set out, it gives first an opportunity for agreement with regard to sale. When the Bill is passed the proprietors that are there will make returns of the properties and then the Dairy Disposals Board and the proprietors will try to come to agreement. If they fail to come to agreement, then an arbitrator will be appointed to determine the price and the proprietors will then have to accept that price and hand over the properties to the Dairy Disposals Board. I am not, unfortunately, in a position to give an estimate of what this is going to cost, because I cannot naturally determine what an arbitrator is likely to decide. Whatever the cost may be, there will be in this, as in all these transactions, an element of subsidy.

I want to explain what this element of subsidy is to Senators who may not have given detailed attention to the activities of the Dairy Disposals Board. The Dairy Disposals Board takes over a property, let us say, a creamery which is an individual unit. They buy the goodwill which includes the milk supply and the premises. The Board, if they come to agreement, buy at the best price they can, but if it goes to arbitration they have to accept whatever the arbitrator decides. The Dairy Disposals Board will make an estimate of what the co-operative society will ask them to pay, but there may be this difference, they may only want the milk, and may not want the premises. As they cannot sell the premises for a creamery it will have to be sold for some other purpose. Possibly, it will not be worth as much to another person as it would be to a creamery proprietor. Therefore, there will be a loss and that loss will be put down in the estimate to be met by subsidy.

Now, another question that may be asked is whether this is going to finish all competition between one society and another, or between one buyer of milk and another. Well, this Bill will go a long way towards the elimination of any such thing as competition. After all, the co-operative societies seldom carry on what has come to be called a milk-war. On a few occasions such a thing has happened but, so far, we have succeeded—although there is no law to stop such disputes occurring— in making peace between the people concerned.

It is intended, at some future time —in fact, before very long, I think—to bring in a Bill dealing with the question of co-operation in general, and I expect that in that Bill there will be provisions dealing with the question of competition as between one co-operative society and another. For instance, I take it that there will be spheres of influence laid down and that there will be no necessity or, indeed, even an opportunity, for competition between such societies. That Bill, however, has not yet seen the light of day, but when it appears, the question of competition between co-operative societies, as well as many other questions in regard to this matter, will be dealt with.

Another point that has been raised was whether the Dairy Disposals Board are competent to carry out this business, and whether we can come to any conclusion, as a result of the working of that Board in the past, as to how they are likely to fare in the future. I should like to give the Seanad some general idea of the finances surrounding the operations of the Dairy Disposals Board from the beginning of their operations up to the present time. I have said already that the Dairy Disposals Board have been dealing, up to the present, with four separate concerns—the Newmarket Dairy Company—which was the first big group of creameries taken over in County Cork in 1927—the Condensed Milk Company—which comprised a condensery in Limerick, a condensery in Drumkean, and two creameries, Tipperary and Knocklong—also the toffee factory in Limerick, which was a separate entity and, in addition, something like 17 or 18 groups of creameries—some of them held since they were taken over from other proprietors, but mostly such creameries as were developed by the Board in new areas. The Board operate all these concerns and, in discussing the finances of the Board, I am taking the finances of all these concerns together, without going into the details of one concern or another. The total amount of capital voted by the Dáil since 1937 is, roughly, £1,172,000. Now, the Dáil, in voting that money from time to time, were made aware of certain facts that I have mentioned here already in regard to expenses, subsidies, and so on, and therefore we must deduct certain sums from that amount in order to find out how much money is due to the State by the Dairy Disposals Board. First of all, there is an item of £53,000, which was voted by the Dáil for expenses in connection with the taking over of these concerns, and with the provision of compensation for redundant staffs and so on. That sum of £53,000, therefore, is not held as a liability against the Dairy Disposals Board, because it was felt that that ought to be a State charge. In every deal that is undertaken the Dairy Disposals Board give an estimate to my Department, and it is more or less to the following effect: "We estimate that we can buy this concern at such-and-such a price, and resell it to a co-operative at such-and-such a price." The difference is put down by us as a subsidy. The total amount of subsidy, estimated on that basis, since the Dairy Disposals Board started operations, was £215,000, but actually they have only utilised, by way of subsidy, £90,000 so far. They have repaid to the State, £187,000 of the capital.

Now, I am sure that Senators will recollect that, about nine or ten years ago, there was a good deal of talk about what was often referred to at that time as the £3 per cow. When the Dairy Disposals Board took over the proprietary concerns they did not ask for cash down, because many of these proprietary or co-operative concerns had not cash in reserve, and they were given eight years in which to pay. The price was £1 per gallon for the milk, and there was also 2/6 per year to be paid. That was raised, usually, by the co-operative societies, on the basis of the £3 per cow. Sometimes, of course, it was lower than that, but at any rate a good deal of money has been collected in that way by the Dairy Disposals Board from the co-operative societies, and they make repayments each year to the Exchequer. They have repaid to the State excluding certain interest £187,000 of the capital. We have three sums to be taken into account here, which I have already given to the House. First of all there is the compensation to be paid to redundant staffs, which amounts to £53,000; then there is the sum of £215,000 regarded as a subsidy, estimated on the difference between what the Dairy Disposals Board buy a concern at, and the figure at which they can resell it—of which they have only utilised £90,000 so far; and finally the sum of £187,000 repaid. If you subtract these three sums from the amount originally advanced you get a total, up to date, of £717,000 which might be regarded as legitimately due by the Dairy Disposals Board to the Minister for Finance.

The next point that I might be asked about is whether there are any assets there to meet this. I cannot go into that question in any great detail, but I think I can satisfy any Senator that there are at least sufficient assets to meet the amount involved. In looking through the balance sheet, the first item to be noticed is that in connection with liquid assets— and, in speaking of liquid assets, I am excluding the matter of travelling creameries, transport, and so on—the amounts due on foot of sales of property, milk supplies of co-operative creameries, and so on, amount to £428,000. In addition to that, we have the amount due on foot of sales of properties, milk supplies, co-operative creameries, and so on, amounting to something like £30,000; and then we have transport and travelling creameries. We have fixed assets in connection with such companies as the Lansdowne Creameries, the Condensed Milk Company, the Toffee Factory, and also miscellaneous small proprietors down through the country, attached to these units. At any rate, there is certainly more than sufficient to meet the liabilities to the State.

There is one other item that I should like to mention. I think that Senators will remember that, in or about 1933 or 1934, I came before the Dáil and asked for an Estimate of £112,000. The condensery had been losing money from the time it was taken over up to 1932 or 1933, and I was pressed by the Minister for Finance to regularise the position by making the Dáil aware that this Government-owned property was losing money. I came before the Dáil with an Estimate of £112,000 to cover trading losses. That sum was voted. The trading losses went on increasing and, by the end of 1933, the losses had reached £137,000, including the £112,000 already voted. Then, the tide turned and things began to look better. In the balance sheet for the year ended 31st December, 1941—I have not yet seen the figure for 1942, but it is not any worse—that loss of £137,000 had been converted into a profit of £51,000. The years from 1933 to 1941 were very good and the condensery had recovered all its losses and had a trading profit of £51,000 at that time.

That is, perhaps, all the financial information that it is necessary to give of a general nature. If any Senator wants more detailed information, I shall try to give it to him so far as possible. However, we have to keep in mind that these properties are held by the State, the intention being to sell them at some future time. When asked for information with regard to the value of any of the properties concerned, we must have regard to that fact. Before concluding, I want to say that the Bill is a very simple one. It may be a far-reaching Bill but it is easy to understand. It provides for the possibility of agreement between the present proprietors and the Dairy Disposal Company with regard to the taking over of the properties. If that agreement is not forthcoming, then an arbitrator will be appointed and the properties will be taken over on the valuation of the arbitrator. That is the big point in this Bill. Everything else is subsidiary to the taking over of the creameries.

Ordinarily, one would be expected to welcome this measure or, at least, to give it what would be termed a favourable reception but, if there is one aspect of the Minister's policy with which I and a number of others are gravely dissatisfied, it is the aspect with which we are confronted in this Bill. I was a member of the other House when the late Mr. Hogan introduced the original Act. I refreshed my memory recently by reading his very interesting and, indeed, quite remarkable speech on that occasion. His view in 1927, when the original Act was introduced, was that it was essential to the progress and development of the creamery industry that all the creameries should be put upon a solid, economic basis by bringing them all under co-operative control, eliminating redundant creameries and creating a situation in which competition for milk amongst creameries would cease. That was his first aim. He went on, then, to say that the next move in the situation would have to be the introduction of a Co-operative Bill to bring all the co-operatives within one federated organisation, compulsorily if need be. After that, he considered that the passing of an Agricultural Credit Act for the purpose of financing farming generally would give the whole agricultural industry a fair field and an opportunity for development which, at least at that stage in its growth, was not available to it.

That was in 1927. This is 1943. The Minister indicated somewhere recently that during the period from 1927— before he came into office—until 1932, about 46 creameries were taken over and that in the ten succeeding years, to date, only nine creameries had been handed over to co-operative societies. If my figures are not correct, the Minister will, I hope, set them right. My quarrel with the Minister—it is not my quarrel only, but it is the point of view of members of the co-operative societies—is that, while his predecessor obtained and while he is getting in this measure powers compulsorily to acquire certain properties and purchase certain vested interests, he has, in fact, submitted to the establishment of other vested interests and has permitted a situation to grow up which is very undesirable and which has been a rock on the road to progress by the co-operative movement. The truth of that statement may be challenged. That is my opinion after many years rather intimate experience of the movement and knowing the position we had hoped to see brought about under the original Act.

I read the Minister's speech in the other House and I have listened to him now. I do not think that the original Bill would have got through the Oireachtas if members were of opinion that we were merely buying out Newmarket Dairy Company and Lovell and Christmas to set up a number of civil servants, however admirable and competent, to run a very large branch of the dairying business, as they have been doing and are doing. Apparently, we are satisfied that that position should continue. To-day, the Minister gives no evidence of how or when these people's responsibilities are to be taken from them and handed over to a group of co-operators. If that picture had been presented to us in those early days, it would not be one which we would have welcomed and the situation would not be one which we would have attempted to create. Now, a holding body was necessary. That has not been disputed at all. There was a period of transition and considerable reorganisation had to be carried out, but a stage was reached in the development of the reorganisation plan when that was completed. However, the holding body that was thought to be a holding body merely for the purpose of taking over and passing on these concerns, has literally become a holding body and has held on so firmly that we have no evidence to-day that the 17 creamery groups which they hold are any nearer passing into the hands of the organised, or to-be-organised, co-operatives than they were when the Minister took them over ten years ago.

The Minister speaks of the introduction of a Co-operative Bill. I have raised this matter on, at least, a couple of occasions. It must be eight or nine years ago since a deputation went from the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society to the Minister's Department. At that time I remember discussing the matter with an official, who has long since gone to his grave, and to-day we see no evidence whatever that we are any nearer the introduction of that Bill than we were seven or eight years ago. There is no question about it that, throughout the co-operative movement generally, there is grave concern at the policy that the Minister has tolerated in the continuance for so long of these creameries in the hands of the Dairy Disposals Board. Co-operatives feel that until they are all brought together in one solid whole, organised with a common purpose, their development along certain well-defined lines is not really a practical proposition. The Minister has said I think that the Dairy Disposals Board are holding for future co-operative societies 4 per cent. of the creameries.

I said that the proprietors have 4 per cent.

I beg your pardon. It may be said that these 17 creamery groups are no very considerable factor in holding up the forward march of the co-operative movement generally but, if there are members of the House who think along these lines, I should like to disabuse their minds of that idea because the amount of milk they collect and the quantity of butter they handle is a very considerable proportion of the total produced in the State. My quarrel with the Minister is that he has permitted this to continue far too long. Generally the co-operative movement is inclined to believe that he is persuaded that the present plan is a better way to run the dairying industry than the transference of these concerns into the hands of organised farmers. It may be that that is not arguable, but that is the general impression and judging from the facts as we see them, we must accept it as being arguable. We know that approaches have been made on various occasions to the Dairy Disposals Board for the purchase of the concerns which they hold.

The Minister gave us some figures with regard to the finances of the Dairy Disposals Board. It is, perhaps, one of the disadvantages of this form of organisation that these figures are not available to the public. We have heard a great deal—perhaps the statements are untrue—about losses that have been sustained by the Dairy Disposals Board. The Minister gave us the figures of the amount unpaid to the Exchequer as being £718,000. He told us that there were liquid assets to the amount of £428,000 and that generally there was sufficient in the hands of the Dairy Disposals Board to meet all liabilities to the State. When the Minister makes that statement, I should like to know whether it is made on the basis of certain values put on the properties which the company hold at the moment as the price at which they are prepared to sell to the farmer because I have some experience of the figures quoted to co-operative societies when offers were made to purchase some of these properties and some of the figures were regarded as quite unreasonable. Those who were externally interested, apart from those who were actually interested in the purchase, were never able to judge by what precise calculation the Dairy Disposals Board arrived at the figures which they set down as being the value of these properties. I should like to have some clarification of that matter from the Minister.

When the Minister first came into office—I presume he has not changed his views since, although some of us think he has—we were quite satisfied that he was a very ardent co-operator. That was so in the early days, even before he came into the Dáil at all. We feel now that he is divided in his allegiance between what is a concept of a semi-State organisation and the form of co-operative development which we think is best. Perhaps I should not call it a semi-State organisation; it is altogether a State organisation, and we think that the running of a business like the production and sale of butter, if there is any other way of conducting it, is not a matter for the State. While the men in charge of this enterprise may be very competent men in a particular way, they are men who have not been trained in the kind of business world in which they must work and operate that business. There are bound to be, in commercial circles, questions that are rather disturbing when one sees a rather powerful organisation with the finances of the State behind it engaging in an enterprise of this kind, one might say financed by the State, under the wing of the Minister carrying on business in a sphere which business men believe is their domain. All these things have been said before to the Minister. They have been said by deputations, across tables and in every other way. The truth about the matter is that very good work was done by the Dairy Disposals Board in its early days in organising creameries in Clare. That was before the Minister's time. The work done in Kerry was also of value; we are not disputing that fact.

The Minister tells us that he asked the Dáil for £40,000 to develop dairying. He expected to lose it. I do not mind whether you are prepared to put £40,000 at the disposal of the Dairy Disposals Company or any other body for the organisation of dairying. I think you would have got another body to do it equally well, but that is not a reflection on the way it was done. If you are prepared to lose money on the organisation of farmers and the development of a particular branch of the industry, I think you would increase production and the capacity to produce more and to sell quite well.

What is holding up the transfer of these properties? When does the Minister visualise the coming of the time when they are to be handed over? I do not know whether the Minister will say that there has been no demand among the farmers to have these creameries transferred. Some of the creameries could have been bought by co-operative concerns. There was considerable reluctance to sell and the prices put on them were such as to make it very difficult to buy. In the districts where those creameries are, who is going to create a demand on the part of the farmers? Is there a desire on the part of the Minister and the Dairy Disposals Board to see the farmers organised co-operatively?

I feel that the result of this policy is that productive effort will not be increased. It will not be more effective from the point of view of production, nor will it be intelligently directed if we absolve the farmers from the organisation of production in their own districts. Far from holding back and making excuses that there is no demand in the district, a vigorous effort ought to be made, either by the Minister or through some channels which he can control, to place on the shoulders of these people the responsibility of taking over these concerns, handling them, increasing their production and doing the management of the business themselves.

I say definitely that that is the Minister's responsibility. It is the finale of this whole plan, which was developed by the Minister's predecessor in office. From what the Minister has said to-day, I am no more satisfied that we are coming nearer to the liquidation of the Dairy Disposals Board than we were in 1932. I believe we were nearer to it in that year than we are to-day. At least, the Minister is no more positive and no more definite. That, I think, is very undesirable. I feel very strongly that this is not the way in which the farmers' business should be done. If there are certain branches of the business which may be described as technical and commercial, it can easily be pointed out that some of our creameries have engaged and are engaging in a type of production that might be termed commercial or industrial and are doing it quite well. As the Minister knows, a few of our creameries are blossoming out into other forms of agricultural production, all of which ought to be welcomed, but I think it can be said, and with truth, that development of co-operative effort —certainly from the point of view of dairying—and the advantages that could flow from the proper organisation of co-operative effort are being impeded and held up by this sort of enterprise on its flank, which is never really going to be part of it and can never be part of it until the Dairy Disposals Board has ceased to exist.

It would be inconsistent of me to stand against the passing of this Bill, because I strongly supported the original measure when it was introduced. I should have liked, however, to have had something more definite from the Minister than anything he said to us. I should like to know when and how these 17 creameries are to be handed over to co-operative groups of farmers. Who is going to organise them? Are they to be told by the board that they are to get out and that the farmers themselves can organise and take over these enterprises as other groups of farmers are doing in the same counties? These creameries are in the country side by side with co-operative creameries, and are we to be told that what one group of farmers can do efficiently in one parish cannot be done by another group of farmers in an adjoining parish? We have the example of Knockmeal, of Mitchelstown, and of Dungarvan. Why should this body on the flank of the co-operative movement hold up this kind of development which a number of us visualise as the proper function of the co-operative movement in the future?

I hope the Minister will have much more specific and definite information as to when we may expect to see the winding up of the Dairy Disposals Board in so far as it operates as the owner and manager of co-operative creameries where milk is converted into butter. I would like to know from him when he gives us these figures whether sufficient resources are in the hands of the Dairy Disposals Board along with their liquid assets to meet all their liabilities to the State? Are there certain fixed sums placed on every creamery group which they hold and must get before they pass over to co-operators, and is it because of this situation that it has not been possible or practicable to pass them over to the management of co-operative groups of farmers?

I take it that the Dairy Disposals Board is purely a holding body and that it is in possession of these assets until such time as it can get rid of them without loss to the State. I am sure that it will be of interest to many people in the country to learn that this money which was advanced from time to time for the purchase of the various proprietary creameries has been lent and not given as a grant. Many people in the country believe that it is money advanced by the State for all time as a gift to co-operative societies and has not to be repaid. At the time there was a rather strong feeling of unrest that the co-operative societies were being unduly favoured at the expense of the rest of the community.

Senator Baxter is very anxious to know when the Dairy Disposals Board holdings are to be finally handed over to co-operative societies. Is it possible that these groups of farmers for whom Senator Baxter speaks are endeavouring to get these assets at a sacrifice value? It is the duty of the board to get fair value for the assets they hold and not to give them away at a sacrifice and, perhaps, if those co-operative societies were prepared to meet the board more favourably, it is quite possible that the holdings could have been handed over long ago. We will hear from the Minister, probably later on, what the difficulty is. In the meantime, there is this question of the co-operative societies branching out into other forms of industry. Senator Baxter has adverted to the fact that some of these creameries have gone a long way in that direction, and have taken over other work or other business which is not usually connected with the farming industry. I am in touch with the areas served by the creameries spoken of by Senator Baxter, and I can assure the Senator that there is a very grave feeling of unrest in many of the towns in County Waterford as a result of the activities of those creameries. The old question of the cobbler minding his last enters into this. The various traders in the towns in the South are taxpayers of this State——


I am very doubtful as to whether either the cobbler or the last has anything to do with this Bill.

Perhaps I am slightly out of order. We are dealing with the creamery industry, and Senator Baxter adverted to the fact that the creameries are now engaged in activities outside their immediate work.

Producing pigs for instance.

It may impress Senator Baxter to learn that the co-operative societies are now going into the licensed trade, and that is, I think, slightly outside the scope of their work. Of course the result will be that the creamery societies will eventually own practically all the industries in the country. I think it was the Minister who pointed out that the creamery societies have now practically got rid of competition. I do not know that they have. There is a certain amount of jealousy between the creamery companies. For instance, if a farmer had been supplying one of the creamery companies, and if, as a result of the transport difficulties at the moment, that particular creamery company is unable to take his milk, the neighbouring creamery company refuses to take it. I am thinking of a particular case at the moment, and there probably are other cases throughout the country. In this particular case, that farmer is now left without a market for his milk, although I understand that a neighbouring creamery could take it, but will not do so. I think pressure should be brought to bear on those creameries to ensure that they will not allow that sort of jealousy to interfere with their main work, which is the protection of the suppliers of milk in this country. If co-operation means anything at all, it should mean that if a farmer supplies milk to creamery A, and if for the moment he is precluded from supplying that particular creamery as a result of transport difficulties, creamery B should accept his milk.

As I said at the outset, I am very glad to learn that those various sums advanced by the Exchequer from time to time are to be repaid. I take it that the delay in the handing over of the assets—of which Senator Baxter complains—by the Dairy Disposals Board is due to the fact that the board is endeavouring to get the best terms it possibly can for those assets, in order to ensure that the amounts advanced by the State from time to time are refunded to the Exchequer. I am sure there is no other explanation. What reason has the Dairy Disposals Board for holding on to those assets? Is it possible that the people in the places served by it are quite satisfied with its work, and quite satisfied with the way in which the board is treating them? It is quite possible that the farmers have no anxiety to take over those places, and that they are quite satisfied. If they are, how does Senator Baxter make out that it is the Minister's fault that they will not take them over? Is the Minister supposed to compel those people to form a society and take over the assets of the Dairy Disposals Board? However, I take it that the Minister will explain the whole situation.

For many years I have followed closely the development of the co-operative movement, and I have certain special knowledge of the activities of the societies which I think Senator Goulding had in mind when he was speaking. Perhaps I would not be in order in pursuing that, but, speaking generally, I do say that the co-operative movement has conferred an enormous boon upon the country. It has put more money into the hands of the primary producers. It has established financial reserves which enable purchases to be made in bulk at the best price. It has made the system of distribution very much more economical, and, although certain vested interests may have suffered, that is inevitable under any efficient system. With those few general remarks, I will pass on to deal more particularly with the matters affected by this Bill.

The House no doubt is aware of what was in the minds of the Government when this Dairy Disposals Company was founded. I have here an extract from their articles of association. It was founded as a private company under the Companies Acts, with a share capital of £10. The objects of the company were chiefly to facilitate and promote the disposal and distribution of all or any of the undertakings, property and assets of the Condensed Milk Company of Ireland, and the Newmarket Dairy Company to and amongst co-operative creamery societies, whether then in existence or thereafter formed, and to dispose of such of said undertakings as should not be transferred to co-operative creameries; to carry on the business of said companies during such time as the Minister for Agriculture should think fit; to facilitate the establishment of co-operative creameries with a view to sale to such societies of properties of the said companies. This then was a body intended to acquire certain proprietary interests which were working in competition with and against the interests of co-operation generally, and in the course of time to transfer those interests to the co-operative movement. I would suggest that that has not been carried out to anything approaching a satisfactory extent. I realise that some creameries were transferred, and that other redundant creameries were closed. But 15 years or more have now passed since this company was formed, and not only has it been dilatory in the disposal of certain assets which essentially, under the Government's policy, should be embodied in the co-operative movement, but it has, I suggest, gone entirely outside its articles of association by starting to promote creameries in new districts. In fact it has usurped the functions of the I.A.O.S., which body receives a Government grant for that purpose.

Of course, the Minister will say that that society could not promote creameries in West Kerry and Clare like the Dairy Disposals Board has done. That statement would not bear examination if the society had the funds, and the State finances, that the Dairy Disposals Board had. The I.A.O.S. was eminently more fitted for that. It was its job and it had years and years of experience in the business of promoting creameries. There is no evidence that the Government is taking this matter seriously. There is involved something much more than these specific transactions. There is the principle of education, and there is the essential purpose for which the whole movement was founded. Even assuming that it was necessary to bring in outside money in the formation of societies in Kerry and Clare and even assuming that this work was done—I suggest wrongly done, and I would go so far as to say that it was outside their powers—by the Dairy Disposals Company, the time has now come when the Government should make an honest effort, in co-operation with the I.A.O.S., to get local societies to take over these concerns. In principle, this element of State trading is most undesirable. I do not say that there may not be exceptions and, to a certain extent, the Dáil sanctioned the establishment of the Dairy Disposals Board as an exception, but with clear and express intentions of the handing over of their assets to the co-operative movement as soon as possible. I do not intend to make an attack on persons, as when one mentions civil servants who cannot defend themselves it is always said that one is acting improperly. The position now is that where a few civil servants have got a taste of power they do not want to give it up. It is a nice position to be in—to be autocrats in a specially sheltered capacity—and be able to carry on trade. I do not say that they are not doing it quite well but, naturally, what they have like to cling on to.

I do not know to what extent the Minister is serious in this matter, but the results are unsatisfactory. More should have been done to carry out the original intentions and liquidate the assets of the Dairy Disposals Company. I come first of all to the very belated figures that have been given us. Here we have for years past a Government company with the directorate entirely civil servants, operating without any accounts whatever, obtaining over £1,000,000 of Government money and giving to Parliament no information whatever about its operations. That is an undesirable position and it is one that the Dáil—if I may say so without attempting to dictate to the other House—should have long since taken notice of. Now, as the result of a good deal of pressure in connection with this Bill, the Minister has caused to be produced a consolidated balance sheet and suggested that is all we need want. It is far from being all we want to know. It was merely a consolidated balance sheet of about five undertakings. I think we had only £10 of the capital held by the Dairy Disposals Board and there is a sum £21,000 paid-up capital. What company is that held by? There is a credit balance of profit and loss of some £64,000. To which concerns does that credit balance apply? I do not think it is treating Parliament in a proper manner to give us this omnibus information when £1,000,000 of State money is involved and tell us that is all we want to know. We should have that information all along as Parliament and the country should have information as to the financial activities of these companies. There should be accounts as there are accounts of the Electricity Supply Board and most Government trading concerns. I do not say there was not Parliamentary sanction, but it did not require legislation inasmuch as these properties were acquired by agreement. We have this company proceeding to go on trading for 15 years and not telling a single thing about it. Now we are in the position that the co-operative movement wishes to acquire the Newmarket Dairy Group. That is essentially a business which should fall to the lot of the co-operative creameries. For reasons best known to itself the Government is holding up the transfer.

I do not think it is right that there should be rivalry and antagonism for 15 years between local co-operative societies and the Dairy Disposals Board. There should be an honest attempt to get this done, even let it go to arbitration. I have no doubt whatever that the societies wishing to acquire this property are quite prepared to go to arbitration and if the Minister were serious and if the Dairy Disposals Board really wanted—I think that is the fly in the ointment— to divest itself of its powers and functions it would put up a scheme of arbitration and let the matter be settled. As it is the Minister is holding out for a certain sum of money and also for a plebiscite of societies as if the co-operative movement would have ever been founded at all if it was based on a plebiscite of farmers. The co-operative movement is recognised. Why can it not go on instead of setting up rivals, the co-operative movement on one side and bureaucracy, a Government Department, on the other? Implicit in the whole thing is a warning not only in this particular case but for the future, that if the Government is going into business, which God forbid, it ought to make public what it is doing. Here we have a Government company operating for 15 years and the public knows practically nothing about it. The public has been given a balance sheet that some of those financial magnates who are criticised for not giving information might well have given. I remember in other days in the P. and O. Company there was criticism of the information that Lord Inchcape used to give shareholders. The Government has given us no more information than the P. and O. Company gave to the public. That is what is likely to happen when the Government gets itself into business, and I should like to ask the House to impress on the Minister the desirability of getting out of this business as soon as possible, so as not to have people regarding such organisations as the Dairy Disposals Board as a rival organisation to their own. I think it would be better for the Minister to get out of this business and carry out the original intention which brought this board into existence. I may not be right in this, but I understood the Minister to say that he proposes to introduce legislation in the near future with regard to the Dairy Disposals Board. Did I understand the Minister aright in saying that such a Bill is coming along?

Well, I hope that when the proposed Bill comes along it will carry out some of the suggestions of the late Mr. Hogan, and the original purpose—repeated again and again—was that this particular body would be only a transitory body. It seems now, that, instead of this being a transitory body, it is entrenched here, with a debt to the State of over £700,000. In such circumstances, nobody could compete with them, particularly when no interest is being paid on the capital. I think that it is a very wrong form of government to permit no competition in such a case as that, and I hope that the Minister will give the House some assurance that the original intentions in regard to the operation of the Dairy Disposals Board will be carried out.

I wish to congratulate the Minister on the introduction of this Bill. I feel that it was absolutely necessary to introduce this Bill at the present moment, and I am confident that the milk suppliers, the shareholders, and the guarantors of the creameries that are now to be taken over, will also welcome this Bill. A certain amount of criticism has been directed against the Dairy Disposals Board with regard to the holding up of the matter of the transfer of certain co-operative societies, but I did not hear the Minister state on any occasion that he wanted to hold down any of these creameries for an indefinite period. On several occasions, as a matter of fact, it was made known to the farmers that, when they were in a position to take over those creameries, and pay whatever liabilities were due, the Minister was willing to hand them over. The trouble, unfortunately, that we have had in this country, so far as the dairying industry is concerned, was that we had too many small creameries starting off in one district or the other every year. The result was that there was a good number of creameries which had not sufficient milk with which to continue in business. Eventually they went into debt with the bank, and had to close down rather than continue incurring debts with the bank year after year. The only body that was prepared to come to the rescue of such creameries was the Dairy Disposals Board, and that board relieved a large number— perhaps 90 per cent.—of the farmers in such areas.

Now, the question has been raised of the taking over by a fairly large co-operative creamery of the milk supply of a small creamery, which might be a redundant creamery that has been closed down. I do not think it would be any compliment to pay such a creamery a substantial sum so as to enable them to repay the State for the money originally advanced. There is also, of course, the question of the money advanced by the Dairy Disposals Board, and, in that connection, I should like to say that in my conversations with farmers down the country and with other people concerned in this industry, I have been informed that they are quite satisfied with the price and they also say that there is no difficulty with regard to management. Therefore, it would appear that, so far as these people are concerned, there is no real anxiety to take over these creameries. I do not think we would be justified in dictating to these people what they should do with regard to the control of the creameries, if they are satisfied themselves. If they feel that they can take over these creameries and run them, then I think that nobody should interfere with them and, certainly, I do not think the Government should interfere with them. While I would not agree that the Government should hold on at all times to these creameries, I do say that the State is entitled to see that these creameries are run in a proper way until such time as the farmers can carry them on for themselves.

I am in favour of this Bill. I think it is a step in the right direction and that it will be a real help to the dairying industry in this country. Certain criticisms have been directed against the Bill by people on the other side of the House, particularly with regard to the taking over of creameries by the Dairy Disposals Board. I think Senator Baxter said that from 1927 to 1932, 46 creameries had been handed over, whereas, since 1932 only 19 had been handed over. Again, in that connection, the Minister has pointed out that there was a levy of £3 per cow in those districts, and I think we ought to realise that that was a serious barrier to production in many districts and that it imposed a great hardship on farmers in such districts. I wonder whether it is the lack of the co-operative spirit on the part of our farmers that is the cause of the delay in the handing over of these creameries. I do not think it is due to any lack of goodwill on the part of the Minister. I am convinced, from what the Minister has said, and from his attitude generally, that he is a faithful disciple of the previous Minister for Agriculture, the late Mr. Hogan. Senator Sir John Keane said that the I.A.O.S. would be a more suitable body than the Dairy Disposals Board for dealing with this work, but I do not think that the late Mr. Hogan shared that view. If so, I am sure he would have mentioned it.

The previous Minister for Agriculture, the late Mr. Hogan, did not suggest the initiation by the Dairy Disposals Board of creameries in new areas.

The work of the late Mr. Hogan has been praised by Senator Baxter and other Senators. I have met people from County Clare, County Cork, County Kerry and other counties, and they all praise the work that was done. It was never the intention that the Dairy Disposals Board would go on ad infinitum, but, when people are ready to take over these creameries, they should be given the opportunity of doing so, and I think that that is the spirit in which the board are acting.

Senator Goulding referred, I think, to Mitchelstown, Dungarvan, and other districts, that have gone into co-operative farming. I think that that is a very good suggestion, and that these farmers should be encouraged to carry on with that. I think the Senator was referring to the question of pig-feeding, and so on.

It might have something to do with the licensed trade.

Well, I do not know much about the licensed trade, but I think we can all agree that our farmers do not spend much time in licensed premises. I should like, however, to refer to the matter of our dairy cows. At the present time, the milk yield is less than 400 gallons. In continental countries, the average is between 600 and 800 gallons. I think that that is a matter to which the Minister and everybody else in this country should direct their attention. The cow-testing movement is aiming at a better type of cow and better winter feeding. I am satisfied that the Dairy Disposals Company has been sympathetic and helpful to the cow-testing movement wherever it is operating in their areas.

My reason for intervening in the debate is that I live in the centre of three groups of creameries. I may say, incidentally, that I fully approve of the Bill. I am surprised to find that Senators like Senator Baxter and others are of opinion that the I.A.O.S. would be a more efficient organisation for running the creameries than the Dairy Disposals Company.

Nobody said that. Certainly, I did not say it.

It was said by somebody. I exonerate the Senator. We had some experience of both the I.A.O.S. and the Dairy Disposals Company in Clare. The Kilrush creamery is under the control of the Dairy Disposals Company, and it is supposed to have the biggest output in Europe. It has gone from strength to strength. The North Clare creameries, with a manufacturing unit at Ennistymon, have also been wonderfully successful under the Dairy Disposals Company. On the eastern side—in the Scariff area—there was a manufacturing unit and four or five auxiliaries run as a co-operative concern. That was a pronounced failure. It was run co-operatively under the I.A.O.S. It was going down and down until they had, ultimately, to appeal to the Dairy Disposals Company to take it over, which they did. They had to pay their debts.

I am surprised to hear it suggested that it would be a good idea to transfer these creameries from the Dairy Disposals Company to the I.A.O.S. Late in 1941, the Dairy Disposals Company conceived the idea that there was money in fowl and eggs. About September, they commenced to organise that end of the business. It was very successful up to the end of the year, but 1942 was the first complete year in which they dealt with those two minor industries. They bought eggs and fowl through the auxiliaries and brought them into the creamery at Kilrush. The eggs were tested and graded and expeditiously exported. The price was very remunerative for the farmers, with the result that, in addition to their butter export in the year 1942, the manager of that single unit at Kilrush paid out £37,000 to the farmers who were supplying his creameries with eggs and fowl. I do not believe that any co-operative system we could have organised in Clare would have given that result.

The co-operatives have been doing that for 30 years—Ballyragget, for instance.

And Mitchelstown.

You have not given me any figures in connection with those creameries. We had co-operative creameries established in Clare prior to the establishment of the Dairy Disposals Company and every one of them was a failure. The people of Clare are as intelligent as those of any other county. At any rate, they have that reputation. If the farmers of Clare were asked to put up money in order to take these creameries from the control of the Dairy Disposals Company, I do not think that £200 would be invested, whereas £200,000 would be required. I hope that, if the idea of Senator Baxter and Senator Sir John Keane is ever put into force, it will not be compulsory to have creameries transferred from the Dairy Disposals Company to the I.A.O.S. or any other co-operative concern. I know for certain that the farmers of Clare would not take any part in such a move. They are thoroughly satisfied that the Dairy Disposals Company is disposing of their products at very good prices —much better prices than they could get themselves. So long as they are not forced to change, I do not think that they will ever change from the administration of the Dairy Disposals Company.

Business suspended at 6 p.m. and resumed at 7 p.m.

As a co-operator, I have been extremely interested in the debate on this Bill which has revealed certain aspects of thought, altogether apart from the Bill itself, that are very interesting. The Minister has been severely indicated because of the tardiness shown by the Dairy Disposals Board, which took over these creameries, in returning them again to co-operative societies as was the original intention of the people who framed this scheme. Having listened to the debate, it seems to me that there is probably some satisfactory reason, apart from those alleged by Senator Baxter and Senator Sir John Keane, why there has been some tardiness in dealing with this matter in the manner originally intended. Sufficient information is certainly not at my disposal this evening to enable me to say whether the Minister has been unduly tardy or whether he has not been as efficient in carrying out this scheme as he should be but, I presume, by the time the debate is ended, those who have rather severely indicated him may be satisfied that the indictment was not well founded. I think, however, that to meet the views expressed here we should have infinitely more information as to why there has not been this return to co-operatives of the creameries, as appears to be desirable. To my own personal knowledge, there is some public opinion on that matter and I think it well that that public opinion should be satisfied.

Senator Baxter and Senator Sir John Keane seem to be of one mind in dealing with this question. Senator Baxter stated that a holding by the State of 15 years was not the best method of carrying on this industry. Senator Sir John Keane, although he did rather apologise for the remark, alleged that perhaps civil servants who have been for some time accustomed to control this industry, were rather reluctant to yield up that control. That, in my opinion, is a rather superficial view. The question as to whether the State should hold on to these properties for some lengthy period, or perhaps for an indefinite period, is one that requires, in my opinion, some very serious examination. The question whether the State or co-operatives should run this industry is one of supreme and paramount importance, not alone to those who are engaged in the industry, but perhaps to the country as a whole. In this matter we are dealing with a vital food and its efficient production. We are also dealing, perhaps, with a certain ideal in industry. Senator Baxter and Senator Sir John Keane heartily approved of the method of control by co-operative societies. I have some experience as chairman of a co-operative society for a number of years and although that was an urban society, nevertheless, through that society, I had rather close contact for many years with the I.A.O.S. in Thomas Street and attended many of the conferences of the movement throughout the country.

Therefore, I make plain in speaking here in relation to the principle of co-operation that I have had actual contacts and administrative association with the co-operative movement, and during the number of years in which I was associated with that movement, I naturally got some idea as to the desire, as well as the capacity, perhaps, of our people as a whole for the purpose and principle of co-operation. That experience leads me now to view this question, as to whether the State should be permitted to continue the control which it now exercises, or whether we should advise immediately, and without further ado, the return of these creameries to the co-operative societies, as one requiring close examination, and if they are to be returned, in my opinion the Minister would be well advised—and I am sure he is already well advised—to see whether or not there are that capacity and desire for the return of these organisations to be carried on co-operatively.

In indicting the board, Senator Sir John Keane stated that one of the grave objections was the lack of information about its activities. I am one of those who believe that the greatest possible information should be given on all matters where the State is dealing with the citizen, but I would remind Senator Sir John Keane that other organisations are rather reluctant to give information of the same character. I could not help remembering that on one occasion when the late Sir Walter Leaf told Mr. Montague Norman, Governor of the Bank of England, that there was only one item on the balance sheet of the bank which he understood and that was the monetary value of the bullion, Mr. Norman said he was not quite sure that he himself understood even that item. You see that people in great positions like that of the Governor of the Bank of England can be equally reluctant to give information of a very necessary and vital character. Senator O'Callaghan, who has intimate associations with the agricultural community, also gave us the impression that he was not quite satisfied as to whether the farmers in these areas desired the return of these organisations in the industry to their control, and one has to be impressed by that view.

A co-operative society can, unquestionably, be of the greatest value and importance to the rural community. In fact, things are developing to-day in such a manner as to cause them to think co-operatively, and as to whether co-operative societies may not be the agent for integrating the rural community and perhaps keeping it from falling asunder. Objections have been urged by Senator Goulding to-day and on previous occasions, as to the extended activities of the co-operative societies. Naturally, they are affecting, and must affect to some extent, private enterprise and private control, but only to the extent that private enterprise and control fails to satisfy necessary social needs can the co-operative society advance and perform its necessary functions. The State, then, versus the co-operative society in this industry, seems to me to be the outstanding idea which developed in this debate. Naturally, we hear many objections to the State performing industrial functions, but we see that, in time of war in all countries where the State is menaced by an external enemy, it has to step in very largely and to take control of nearly all vital industries. Without extending that precedent too far in peace time, it still seems that when the State or the country is menaced by economic insecurity or external enemies, the State is the only authority which is capable of coming forward and meeting the adverse circumstances or the external enemy.

Briefly, the objections urged against State intervention are that the State should not enter into competition with its citizens; that those who perform those services for the State are civil servants and that they have not the training in commerce necessary to carry out their functions satisfactorily; that there is a tendency—we had that thought expressed here this evening—on the part of such persons to become bureaucratic. The last objection is that the whole thing becomes inefficient. We have had State organisations—the Army, the Navy, the police, the sheriffs and so on—for a long time, and we have the State setting up organisations such as the Electricity Supply Board and even semi-State organisations like the Sugar Board. It is inevitable in such circumstances that the State is compelled to intervene. Such large-scale industries, when they receive this support, only do so because it has become necessary, and perhaps in the case of the Dairy Disposals Board—where the board has not performed what probably is its original and paramount function—there is a good and substantial reason as to why it has not performed that function. I cannot say whether it has been unduly tardy in this; whether it has failed to do it; whether it is bureaucratic or whether it is not. But I certainly think there must be some sound and substantial reason why it has continued in that position for 15 years. The Minister has told us, in reply to a question, that there is a Bill forthcoming to deal with this whole matter. It may be that, on the information at the disposal of the Minister, he is satisfied that there is not a sufficient demand for those societies to be run co-operatively. If that were so, and if it could be proved that there are not that necessary demand and desire in the rural community for the taking over and running of what is a commercially difficult and sufficiently onerous proposition, then it seems to me that festina lente is the motto which we should adopt in such circumstances.

If I were asked to decide in a moment as to whether the State should continue to carry on this industry in the manner in which it has carried it on up to the present, or whether it should hand it over to the farming community, I would say that I should have to be very much further informed on the whole issue. My view is that, if there is not that desire in the rural communities to take and hold this industry, I think it were better that the Dairy Disposals Board should continue to act in the nature of a mandatory authority towards the industry, at all times watching and waiting to see how it may fulfil the original purpose, but at the same time not fulfilling that purpose before there is complete evidence that the purpose should be fulfilled. If the local organisations were compelled to take over and run the industries before they were capable and competent to do so, then perhaps our last state might be worse than our first. It may be undesirable that things should continue as they are, but at the same time perhaps it were better to bear the ills we have than fly to those we know not of.

Another point, apart from the general purposes of this Bill, to which I desire to refer is the question of compensation for employees disturbed by any transfer. I see that this matter has been debated in the other House, and I think the Minister has continued the assurance given by his predecessor in office that compensation to the extent of one month's salary multiplied by the years of service will be given to any employee of a proprietary creamery taken over, but in my opinion that amount of money, especially in the case of an employee of long years' service, is entirely inadequate. At the end of 20 or 25 or 30 years' service, a person is not in a position to enter into the service of any other employer, and that amount of compensation would not in my opinion be sufficiently large, say, to buy an annuity, so that he might continue in some degree of security for the rest of his life.

I rather favour dealing with such an employee on a pension basis. I think that in such cases, where there are redundant employees, a gratuity is not adequate to the circumstances, nor is it equitable having regard to the period of service which the worker has given to the industry, and to the likelihood that he will not be absorbed into any other employment. Consequently such a person would probably be destitute when the amount of compensation is exhausted. In those circumstances I think that the provision of a pension is the only adequate and proper means of dealing with such an employee.

The main object of this Bill is to take over the remaining creameries that are in the hands of proprietors. A good deal has been said about co-operation, and the good work it has done. It undoubtedly has done a lot of good work in some parts of the country, but it is also true that a lot of the co-operative societies have failed and have had to be taken over by the Dairy Disposals Board. That failure, in my opinion, was due to the fact that they paid little attention to the dairy industry which they were primarily supposed to guard, and devoted most of their attention to looking after other business. Senator Sir John Keane said that the work of development should have been done by the I.A.O.S. Well, the work was not done by anybody in South Kerry, in West Kerry or in West Cork until the Dairy Disposals Board came along. There is a big undeveloped area in West Cork where those proprietary creameries are about to be taken over. There is a very strong co-operative society in that area. That society has made no effort whatever to develop the district, except the richer portions of it. They go into the good districts and start an auxiliary creamery, but the poor areas are left undeveloped. The farmers in the poor districts can do whatever they like with their milk, and in most cases they are in a fairly bad way. I am sure that the Dairy Disposals Board, when they do take over those creameries, will develop the whole district, the poor areas as well as the rich ones.

They will find a market for the poor farmers as well as for the man who is able to look after himself. In this way I do not think that there will be so many workers out of employment. There is room for development in the area, and redundant workers can be absorbed. I am glad to know that the Minister is introducing a Co-operative Bill. I hope that Bill will make clear what co-operation really is. Co-operation is not understood in some places. In some places when a group gets together that is called co-operation, when it is no such thing. If we are to have co-operation it should mean co-operation in such a way that everybody will be helped and nobody will suffer. At present some co-operative societies are out to make their own societies stronger, no matter who may suffer, and I hope the Minister will bring in a Bill to make clear what we really are aiming at. The Dairy Disposals Board are doing excellent work and will continue to do so until the country and the dairy industry are properly organised.

I want to express my support of this Bill. With regard to the point made by Senator Lynch in regard to the existing co-operatives, I think the case made for this Bill came, in the first instance, from concerns affected by the continued existence of proprietary creameries. For a number of years there was a sort of cut-throat competition in these areas in regard to prices. That competition was not for the good of the dairying industry. This Bill will eliminate that. It is our duty to do what we can to help the Minister to put the dairy industry on a more prosperous basis. This year dairy farmers are going to be in a very difficult position, as the problem of finding labour is increasing. There is great reluctance on the part of paid hands to milk cows. I heard recently where a dairy farmer hired a boy who said he would do no Sunday work. When the farmer asked: "Do you feed on milk and butter on Sundays?" the boy said: "I suppose I do." The farmer then remarked: "You might as well refuse to do so to spite the poor old cow." That is the position dairy farmers are confronted with now. The same thing happened during the last war. There was difficulty in finding hands to milk cows. At that time a great many milking plants were available. I installed a milking plant in my home in 1918, because of the impossibility of finding hands. I suppose in war time people get high notions that they do not have in normal times. For that reason I feel that we should give the Minister the assistance he requires in making it easier for farmers to carry on their business. In regard to the big question of a Co-operative Bill there are many things that require attention. Creamery managers have no security at present. They should be placed on the same footing as people in equally important positions in other walks of life. Creamery managers should be entitled to pensions. That is one of the things that will, I am sure, be dealt with in the wider Bill that is to be introduced. I would like the Dairy Disposals Board to continue for the purpose of developing areas that are more or less not looked after by existing co-operative concerns. I wish to express my support of this Bill and I hope the House will give it a speedy passage.

I am rather disappointed that the Bill was ignored in the debate. I think that the only person who referred to the Bill was Senator Colbert. There are provisions in this Bill that I thought might have been discussed, the taking over of the proprietary concerns and the terms and so on, but evidently there is no Senator interested in that. We had a very interesting discussion, however, of a wider nature, a sort of economic philosophy, principally around the benefits or merits of the co-operative system. On that matter Senator Lynch took at least a more practical view than Senator Baxter or Senator Sir John Keane, both of whom are keen co-operators. I am afraid that if they were to get their way they would ruin the co-operative movement in this country. Do they expect me to go down to Clare and Kerry and force co-operation on people who do not want it, or to force a creamery on people who do not want it? I think that would do more harm to co-operation than anything else. In the case of Clare, as Senator Honan pointed out, co-operation was there. Co-operation was, as a matter of fact, in Kilrush before we came there. In Scariff there was co-operation before the Dairy Disposals Board came. Co-operation failed in County Clare, and if we were to attempt to organise a co-operative society, and if that co-operative society failed it would take centuries before the movement could succeed. That is what Senator Baxter wants. He says we should go and organise it and make them take over the place. If we really are in favour of co-operation I think we should not push it in that way.

A question arose about the Newmarket group of creameries, for instance, as a test, and it was suggested that neither I nor the Dairy Disposals Board was inclined to give co-operation a chance. It was suggested that a co-operative society had been formed there, that they were anxious to take the creamery over, but that we would not give it to them. Well, the Dairy Disposals Board thought that the creamery concerned was worth a certain price, which the other people would not pay. The Dairy Disposals Board came down a little in their price, but still the others would not give it. Now, I think it is a great thing to see the farmers in a district prepared to carry on their own business, and able to compete against the proprietary interests or anybody else, and if they are prepared to stand on their own feet, why not let them do so?

However, if the Dairy Disposals Board thinks that a creamery is worth a certain amount, I think they should be entitled to hold out for that price. You can calculate the price on various bases or according to various circumstances. For instance, you can take the capital value of the creamery as it stands on the books, allowing for depreciation, additions, and so on, or one might take, as a basis of valuing a creamery, the milk supply during a period of years—since, let us say, 1937. Thirdly, you might try to estimate the value as an ordinary businessman would, and say: "Here is a business that is making a certain profit, and I must decide what I should pay for the taking over of that business." I think that if you take the prices offered by the Dairy Disposals Board on any of these three bases, you will find that the price offered is a reasonable one, and if the co-operative society concerned thinks that it can run the business as well as the Dairy Disposals Board, and that they can make the same profit as the Dairy Disposals Board were making, then the price asked is not too much, and they should be prepared to pay it.

I have also been asked when will these creameries be given over. I think that a person like Senator Lynch should see the difficulty there. If I were to reply to that question, I would have to reply in the same terms as Senator Lynch suggested, because in some places there are no co-operative societies, whereas in other areas the co-operative societies that existed have failed, but they will have to remain until a new group comes along and forms a co-operative society. In some of these new areas a co-operative society will not be formed until the people see whether it can be run on a paying basis. If you take certain areas, such as Castletownbere, Cahirciveen, and similar districts, if the people do not want a co-operative society, no body of men with any idea of business will come along and buy up that business if it has paid only for the last two or three years. They would want to see it paying for a little longer. Accordingly, there are various reasons why some of these creameries should be held over for a certain period.

I do not know how long that period will be, but I am sure that Senators will take the view expressed by Senator Lynch as to the desirability of State ownership. I do not know why Senator Sir John Keane says that State trading is not a desirable principle. I do not know what he has in mind, but I expect that we will hear more about that when the Bill in connection with the Dairy Disposals Board comes on for discussion. It is not true to say, as Senator Sir John Keane said, that I am insisting on a plebiscite, but when I am convinced that a small group, and I do not mean the Newmarket group, were trying to exploit the situation, not in the interests of co-operation, but in their own interests, and when it was fairly evident that they had not 5 per cent. of the milk suppliers with them, surely, then, it was only a matter of ordinary common sense for the proprietors to ask whether there was a majority of the producers behind the society in taking over the creamery. I do not think we could possibly have a plebiscite in a case like that, but I think we should have some assurance from the majority of the suppliers that they want to take over the creamery as a co-operative society.

I agree with Senator Sir John Keane that the co-operative movement has conferred a great boon on the community generally, and that it has given great advantages to the country in many areas where co-operative societies were properly organised and well run. Where such societies have been properly organised and well run they have put the farmers in a much better and stronger position than that in which they were formerly. It is a peculiar thing, however, that co-operative societies succeed more in some parts of the country than in others. In fact, it is quite noticeable. There are some counties in Ireland where such societies will succeed, whereas in other areas co-operative societies will always fail. Perhaps it is something in the character of the people that accounts for that. I do not know how you will explain it, but it is a fact nevertheless. However, as far as we are concerned in this Bill with that aspect of the case, I would like to tell Senators that we propose taking over, under this Bill, if it becomes an Act, certain proprietary concerns. I do not think Senator Baxter quite understood my point, but I estimate that the remaining proprietors are doing only about 4 per cent. of the business, and that is not very much. Most of those will go over to the co-operatives, and in most cases they will give over any milk supplies that they have.

There is one district, Skibbereen, where they may have to be held over because a reorganisation is necessary, but as soon as that reorganisation is completed it will be open to a local co-operative society to take over the group as organised. Co-operative societies in that district seem to do very well, and I think that in a short time—whether it be six months or a year and a half, I cannot say—these properties will go over to the co-operatives and not be held by the Dairy Disposals Board. In any event, the greater part of the properties we are dealing with in this Bill will go over to co-operatives immediately and will not be held by the Dairy Disposal Company at all.

Senator Lynch referred to redundant employees. I did mention in the Dáil that there is nothing in this Bill dealing with redundant employees. Neither was there anything in previous legislation dealing with this point. But I did say that we were going to be more generous this time than was the case in the past so far as redundant employees were concerned. In 1927, the scale of compensation was from 13 to 26 weeks' pay. A person could not get more than six months of his retiring salary, or wages, as the case might be. In 1934 there were about 13 or 14 men, left after the 1927 reorganisation, who had failed to get new posts. I succeeded at that time in getting the Minister for Finance to revise the compensation offered in 1927, bringing it up to a year's salary for those under 50, one and a half year's salary for those between 50 and 60, and two years' salary for those of 60 and over. On this occasion, we are doing better still. It is proposed to give one-twelfth of the retiring yearly salary or wages for every year's service. That, in the case of men with long service, will amount to three or four years' salary or wages, as the case may be. I admit that nothing in the way of compensation makes up for the loss of employment, but I am fairly confident that very few men will be redundant. Most of them will get employment under the reorganisation that will take place. The number that will prove redundant will, in my opinion, be very small. The Creamery Managers' Association, which is the association dealing with men who will more likely prove redundant than the lower-paid men, are, I think, satisfied with that scale. What they asked for was one- of the yearly salary for every year of service, but they were satisfied to have a three-year limit. I propose to give one-twelfth, with no limit, so that any man with more than 36 years service will do better under what I propose than he would under the scheme which the Creamery Managers' Association suggested.

I have heard only of three cases of probable redundancy and in these, three cases the men, who have long service, will do better under the scale proposed than they would under the scheme put forward by their own association. The scale of compensation is as good as has been given in similar circumstances. As Senators know, there have been many cases in which the Government, by legislation, caused redundancy. For instance, the Railway Acts, the National Health Insurance Act and, I think, the Electricity Supply Act, involved redundancy. Various scales of compensation were laid down in all these Acts. What I propose to do in this case is as good as the scale laid down in any of these Acts. On the whole, it should prove satisfactory.

A number of Senators spoke about the Co-operative Bill which is to come along. That Bill has been many years in preparation but it is not right to say, as Senator Baxter did, that we are as far away from it now as we were in 1932. The difference between Senator Baxter and myself is that I think it will come and he does not. If I am right, we must be nearer to it. It should be introduced in the course of the coming year. It has reached a stage now which it had not reached in 1932; it is with the draftsmen.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 19th May, 1943.