Tribunal on Supply and Distribution of Milk in Dublin Area—Motion.

I move on behalf of Senator Quirke:—

That it is expedient that a tribunal be established for inquiring into the following definite matter of urgent public importance, that is to say:—

the supply of milk to distributors and consumers in the area consisting of the County Borough of Dublin, the County of Dublin and the Urban District of Bray, including in particular:—

(a) the existing arrangements—

(i) for securing that such supply is adequate, pure and wholesome,

(ii) for the economical and efficient marketing and distribution of such supply,

(iii) for making such supply available to consumers at reasonable prices, and

(iv) for safeguarding the interests of the persons (including consumers) concerned in such supply, marketing and distribution; and

(b) the improvements (if any) which are practicable and desirable in such arrangements.

The terms of the motion, as the House will see, are widely drawn—to inquire into the existing arrangements as to adequacy, purity and wholesomeness, conditions of marketing, distribution and prices regarding the milk supply in the Dublin area and to recommend the improvements, if any, that can be made, or that it is desirable to make, under these various headings. I am particularly concerned with the purity and wholesomeness of the milk supply in the Dublin area. When I say that, I do not wish to suggest that adequacy of the supply is not an important consideration or that the arrangements for marketing, distribution, or prices, are not important considerations but, from the point of view of health, I have had more concern regarding purity and wholesomeness than I have had under the other headings. It is not intended that the personnel of the tribunal will be representative of the various interests concerned in the supply of milk. The tribunal will be a tribunal of inquiry. It will be open to any interest to put forward evidence before the tribunal but, clearly, if results are to be got expeditiously and in the most satisfactory manner, it is better that the various interests should be afforded an opportunity of presenting their case to such a tribunal than that an effort should be made to have them directly represented.

As to the number that will constitute the tribunal, no firm decision has been reached. I would say that five would be the maximum and three the minimum number. On account of the nature and the scope of the inquiry and the fact that such a tribunal has the power of the High Court, I think it would be desirable that we should have the services, if possible, of a judge of the High Court on the tribunal. Failing that, it would be necessary that at least one member of the tribunal should be a person possessed of considerable legal knowledge. It will also be necessary to secure, if possible, the services of a bacteriologist on the tribunal. I merely mention the general considerations I have in mind. If we are to confine the personnel of the tribunal to three, the third member might be an accountant or other suitably qualified person. At any rate, no firm decisions have been reached on that matter. What I want the House to appreciate is that it is not intended to have the interests concerned directly represented on the tribunal. The function of the tribunal will be to inquire into the matters set out in the motion and to afford the various interests concerned an opportunity of presenting their case before it.

While I agree that the tribunal should not be representative of the various interests concerned, might I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that there is necessity for having somebody on the tribunal who will be a consumer but who will not be a technical person at all? I rather agree with the Parliamentary Secretary's view that there should be a bacteriologist on it. The distributors and the suppliers are organised and could appear before the tribunal, but the consumer is a notoriously unorganised person. I should like to suggest that there should be on the tribunal an ordinary non-technical person who lives in Dublin city, and who is familiar with the ordinary conditions in Dublin and more particularly with the conditions in what are called the working-class areas. That is the kind of person who will not appear before the tribunal as a witness. It has been suggested that that person should be a married woman; I am not particular whether the person is a man or a women, but I suggest that there should be some person on the tribunal who will be able to keep the tribunal informed as to ordinary conditions. Such a person would be very necessary, apart from the technically qualified experts on the tribunal.

I should like to suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that, when he is constituting the tribunal, he might meet the suggestion made by Senator Hayes, with which I agree, by looking for one of his members among people who have gained great experience in such work as infant aid societies and babies' clubs. When the present Government came into office they set aside a large sum of money for milk for distribution to the poor. The infant aid societies, who had themselves drawn up most admirable rules and had gone to the greatest pains to secure that there should be only good, tuberculin-tested milk given to the people with whose interests they were charged, did tremendous work. They accumulated a great deal of useful experience, which I think the Parliamentary Secretary could profitably use.

I support this motion. I do not think there is very much to be said about it. More than 12 months ago I drafted a motion with the same object in view. I was then advised that, before I put down the motion, I should see the chairman of the Milk Supply Board. I saw him, and he was not very encouraging. I think he informed me that they already had power to do everything which I suggested in the motion. I discussed the matter afterwards with an official of the Department of Agriculture, and he was in through agreement with the suggestion which I made. The only other person whom I consulted was Senator M. Hayes, and he was thoroughly in agreement with me. He would be in agreement with anything that would reduce the cost to the consumer.

Hear, hear.

I was quite as much concerned with the producer as with the consumer. My proposal was that the Dublin milk suppliers should be organised in one body, that a central depôt or depôts should be set up and the milk delivered in bulk to those depôts; that a manager should be appointed who would be responsible for the handling and distribution of the milk, and the collection of accounts; and that the organisation should be run on the same lines as those on which the co-operative creameries are run at present, not for the making of profit for any company, but in order that the suppliers would get the full return after the deduction of expenses.

I also suggest that the milk of every cow in the herd of the suppliers should be tested periodically to see that it is free from tuberculosis. I suggest that it is the milk which should be tested and not the cows, because a number of quite healthy cows might be slightly affected and would not pass the tuberculin tests, but if we started to kill off every cow that did not pass the tuberculin test I am afraid there would be a shortage of milk for a long time. It has been proved that less than 2 per cent. of tubercular cows give tubercular milk. I think Senator O'Donovan says that, as far as Dublin is concerned, it is a very much smaller percentage. When a cow that has been giving tubercular milk is detected under test, that cow should be immediately slaughtered.

I dislike interrupting the Senator, but I am afraid those will be matters for the proposed tribunal.

I am sorry you did not pull me up before. I am afraid some of my friends on the opposite side will lose their bets, because I understand that, every time I stand up to speak, a number of people on the other side are betting as to how many minutes I will be allowed to continue.

I have a certain sympathy with the suggestion made by Senator Hayes, that is, that there should be an intelligent representative of the consumers on the tribunal.

A Dublin person, for preference, to make sure of the intelligence.

I should like to know what the Senator means by a Dublin person.

He does not mean a Kerry person.

Some of us have been in Dublin longer than Senator Hayes. I have a certain sympathy with the suggestion that a representative of the consumers should be on the tribunal. This question has been a burning one here in this city. I hope I am not going outside the rules of debate, and that you, Sir, will have no need for hauling me over the coals as in the case of my friend and county man, Senator Counihan. As everybody is aware, this is a big question in the City of Dublin. The Dublin Corporation is providing milk for a great number of citizens. The infant aid societies have been mentioned by Senator Mrs. Concannon; there are school meals, and people in necessitous circumstances are supplied with milk by the Dublin Corporation. Some people seem to be a bit mixed up as regards the quality of the milk. They talk about supplies of bottled milk. I know people who are not enamoured of milk merely because it is bottled. I hope I am not going outside the scope of the debate?

Just a little.

Then possibly I will have an opportunity at some future time to deal with this burning question as regards the superiority of bottled milk to loose milk.

Go before the tribunal.

Well, perhaps that is a sensible suggestion and I may avail of it. Since the discussion is to be so limited, and Senator Counihan has already been hauled over the coals, I will not detain the House further, except to repeat that I am in entire sympathy with the suggestion made by Senator Hayes that a representative of the consumers be placed on this tribunal.

I should like to have heard the Parliamentary Secretary give the House more information as to the reasons for setting up this tribunal. I am not quite clear as to what difficulties are being encountered in the Dublin area, with regard either to the supply of milk, the purity of it, or the method of marketing, which forced the Parliamentary Secretary to take this step. I do not know to what extent the problem of supply is a matter for examination. I have no doubt that the question of the purity and wholesomeness of milk is of major concern to the head of the Department, but I would imagine that the quantity of milk available for consumption in the city should be of primary importance.

Apparently, there is a good deal of concern as to the personnel of the tribunal. Senator Hayes wants a representative of the consumers. There ought to be a representative of the consumers. I am certain that the point of view of an accountant, a bacteriologist or a judge would be that of the consumer. If the question of supply forms any part of the problem, I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that, while he may be reluctant to have a producer from the Dublin area or from any area which supplies the city with milk, it would be very advisable to have a producer of milk on the tribunal. Such representative need not necessarily be from the area which is concerned about the price of milk, but if the tribunal are to report on the problem of supplying milk to the city it is of first importance to have on the tribunal somebody who will understand all the difficulties that the bacteriologist, the accountant and the judge will have to deal with in making a report. If there is not such a person on the tribunal the report will not be made in that knowledge of conditions requisite to meet all the points that the Parliamentary Secretary desires to have covered. I think that is of primary importance.

Again, is there much point in the bacteriologist discussing the purity of the milk supply in the absence of the producer? I know no better way of making a report acceptable to the producers than to have the report signed by a producer. That is my approach to the question and I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that it is of major importance. I believe the first concern for Dublin City is to get sufficient milk. I do not believe the people in Dublin to-day are getting 25 per cent. of the quantity of milk they would be able to consume. That is the first point to be dealt with.

That is my point of view. While I do not suggest that you should invite people who are supplying milk under the Dublin Milk Board or even people from areas in which creameries are supplying milk to Dublin, I think it is of considerable importance to get somebody on the tribunal who understands the economics and difficulties of the problem. There are veterinary and breeding problems bound up with the question of milk production.

I presume from the wording of the motion that the Milk and Dairies Act, 1935, and the working of the Dublin and District Milk Board, will come within the ambit of this tribunal. One deals with the purity and wholesomeness of the milk. The other deals entirely with the adequacy of the supply of milk to the citizens of Dublin. I presume the tribunal will deal with both these matters and that it would not be in order to-day to discuss anything beyond the necessity for the tribunal. I could delay the House considerably if I were allowed to discuss points which I should like to have raised before the tribunal arising out of the operation of the Milk and Dairies Act and the numerous Orders which have been made under that Act. There is a greater volume of legislation made by Order under the Milk and Dairies Act, 1935, than is contained in the Act itself and there are numerous difficulties in the administration of the Act and the Orders. Therefore, I hope the Act and the Orders may be discussed before the tribunal and evidence given.

I entirely agree with Senator Baxter that there should be a producer on the tribunal, whether he represents the farmer producer or communal producers. There is an enormous quantity of milk supplied to Dublin from the creamery districts. I should prefer a farmer producer, but failing that, there should be some representative of co-operative societies which supply milk to Dublin. If it is not intended that all the members of the tribunal should be outside State Departments, I think there should be on the tribunal somebody who has experience of the executive work in connection with the Milk and Dairies Act, 1935, and the subsequent Orders, say, a civil servant from the Department of Local Government. Failing that, I think the authority upon which the greatest onus is thrown is the veterinary department of the Dublin Corporation. That department has to supervise the purity and wholesomeness of the milk sup— plied to the city, and I would suggest somebody like the chief veterinary officer of the corporation having experience of the administration of the legislation under the 1935 Act.

I do not wish to deal with the suggestion as to the scope of the inquiry beyond expressing the hope that the operation of the 1935 Act and subsequent Orders will be brought before the tribunal and that there will be a representative of the farmers, a representative of the local authority or even a representative of the Parliamentary Secretary's Department on the tribunal.

And the consumers.

The consumers have been suggested by other Senators. We are all consumers, if we are not wasters.

Some of us are both.

May I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that, perhaps, it is not so much a bacteriologist as a biochemist who should be appointed? Bacteriology of milk is a comparatively simple thing. The tests are well known and there is not very much scope for either research or difference of opinion but, along the lines of biochemistry and dietetics, I think there is a good deal more opportunity for contribution to be made by an expert. There is the question, for instance, of the relative advantages and disadvantages of pasteurisation and of similar treatment. I rise to make that point and, at the same time, having in mind that we have in this House one of the world's leading dieticians and biochemists, to ask whether this tribunal will be one on which members of the Oireachtas will be eligible for appointment.

The House does not appear to have grasped clearly the purposes of this motion. I would again emphasise that it deals with a tribunal of inquiry. When Senators talk about the desirability of securing the particular views of various sections of the community—the producer, the administrator in the local authority service or in the central authority service, the distributor, consumer, and so on—they fail to grasp the fundamental purpose of the motion, that is, to set up a tribunal of inquiry to inquire into every conceivable aspect of the problem of the milk supply in the City of Dublin or the Dublin milk area, the adequacy of supply, the purity and wholesomeness of the supply, marketing and distribution and so on, as set out in the Order Paper. The conception is entirely different from the conception that some Senators seem to have in mind.

The idea of a commission of inquiry which members of the House have in mind is entirely different from the proposal before the House. It is hoped that all interests that have been mentioned, consumers and those with specialised knowledge, will put that knowledge at the disposal of the tribunal for its information and guidance, so that when they come to report the result of their investigations, every aspect of the question will have been fully before them.

Senator Baxter raised a question as to the need for this inquiry. In fact there is a shortage of milk in the Dublin area, particularly in the winter months, and, in order to make good the supply, creameries in outlying areas had to be called upon to augment it. Some of these creameries have up-to-date pasteurising plant and, in that way, the milk supply for human consumption may be reasonably safe from the health point of view, but other creameries that have had to be called upon in outside areas, have not the pasteurising facilities that completely comply with health requirements. Senators will appreciate that milk supplied to creameries is not produced under conditions as stringent as we try to enforce with regard to the production of milk for direct human consumption. We now have to call upon milk that has been produced for manufacturing purposes, and we are naturally somewhat uneasy from the public health point of view. There is no doubt that the whole of the milk supplied in the City of Dublin for human consumption is not safe from that point of view. It is very difficult to see how the problem is going to be solved, but it is because it is difficult and intricate, that we propose to set up this tribunal to see what light and guidance we can get from the joint wisdom of the people interested.

From the investigations of the tribunal we will, probably, learn something as to what improvements we can make in the milk supply for human consumption in areas outside Dublin. For the present the functions of the tribunal will be confined to the Dublin supply area. I hope Senator Counihan will go before the tribunal. He certainly seems to have given a good deal of thought to the problem and perhaps, if Senator Hayes, as a consumer, could give evidence it would be useful. Consumers as such will not be represented on the tribunal any more than producers, distributors, wholesalers, retailers or other interests concerned. I would be inclined to agree with Senator O'Donovan that we are all consumers. If I were on the tribunal perhaps I would be particularly biassed from the consumers' point of view, as I would look upon myself as a consumer. Similarly, I think from whatever section we draw the personnel, all will be primarily consumers.

If I may say so, the Parliamentary Secretary will realise that "consumer" covers a great variety of things. The well-off male head of a household knows very little about milk. I think the Parliamentary Secretary knows very little about it from that point of view, probably as little as I do. I put it to the Parliamentary Secretary that a woman who has to manage money and to buy milk might be a very suitable person to be on the tribunal, without being either an accountant, a bacteriologist or a judge.

I do not think it is fair for the Senator to suggest that the Parliamentary Secretary shares his ignorance in regard to milk.

I meant as head of a household.

Question put and agreed to.