Skip to main content
Normal View

Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 30 Jan 1952

Vol. 40 No. 10

Milk (Regulation of Supply and Price) (Amendment) Bill, 1952—Second Stage.

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

The main purpose of this Bill, which is not a contentious measure, having no connection with such matters as price —and was, in fact, originally prepared by the previous Government—is to empower milk boards to use their funds to operate schemes designed to encourage increased production of milk in their areas. As the introduction of the Bill to give boards this additional power is essential, the opportunity is being taken to include a few other necessary amendments of the Milk (Regulation of Supply and Price) Acts, 1936 and 1941, and to embody in statutory form certain Emergency Powers Orders relating to the functions of milk boards.

The Act of 1936 enables milk boards to use their funds, with the consent of the Minister for Agriculture, to contribute to any scheme designed to encourage increased utilisation (but not production) of milk. A typical scheme of this kind is the "Drink More Milk Campaign", operated from year to year by the Dublin District Milk Board, which is aimed at stimulating increased consumption of liquid milk.

In view of the general trend towards decline in milk production in recent years and the difficulty, particularly in the Dublin area, in maintaining adequate supplies for domestic consumption during periods of lowest production, such as the late summer and early spring months, it is considered desirable that boards should also be allowed, with the Minister's approval, to contribute from their funds to schemes for the encouragement of milk production. The schemes visualised include an artificial insemination service, milk recording, soil testing and veterinary facilities.

The most beneficial of these schemes would be that related to artificial insemination. It is intended that the two existing milk boards—at Dublin and Cork—will, on enactment of this Bill, establish sub-centres to two of the existing main artificial insemination stations, providing the necessary capital and running expenses. Both of the main stations in question are run by the Department of Agriculture—one at Grange, County Meath, and one at Clonakilty Agricultural School, and the semen for insemination would be obtained from them. An adequate artificial insemination service in the area of the Dublin board would involve about four sub-centres to the existing main station at Grange, and in the Cork board area one sub-centre to the station at Clonakilty.

The Dublin board already arrange, with the co-operation of the Department of Agriculture, a certain amount of service for producers by way of soil testing, silage demonstrations, etc., but such services cannot be put on a proper basis and fully developed without statutory authority. The Bill will enable the board to meet the cost of these and other such services out of its own funds and to expand or intensify them if the need arises. It is also envisaged that the board may, in time, undertake the provision of milk recording and veterinary facilities for milk producers as a further contribution towards increased and more efficient methods of milk production.

The funds of milk boards are derived solely from levies on sales of milk for liquid consumption in their sale areas and the utilisation of these funds for the purpose of stimulating milk production would undoubtedly be to the advantage of producer and consumer alike.

The opportunity is also being availed of in the Bill to embody in permanent legislation certain provisions already being operated by means of Statutory Orders made under the Emergency Powers Act. The first of these is the power of the Dublin Board to engage in the business of dairyman, including the buying and selling of milk and the laying in of reserve stocks of condensed and powdered milk. The Dublin board has had these powers under Emergency Powers Orders since 1942 and the Cork board passed a unanimous resolution in 1948 asking for similar powers. The object of the section in question (4) is to enable milk boards to deal with acute surpluses or shortages of milk. Such powers are necessary from the point of view of both producer and consumer. I will come back to this in a few moments.

Another power of the Dublin board which is being transferred into permanent legislation is the regulation of the supply of creamery milk to Dublin so that such milk may be utilised to the best advantage over the year. Finally the emergency provision, under which creameries which supply milk to a milk board area are relieved of the obligation imposed by the main Act of entering into yearly contracts, is being made permanent in this Bill. Since the quantity of milk required from creameries from time to time varies, it is not practicable for creameries to make long-term contracts in relation to such milk.

The only other provision of the Bill to which attention might be called is that relating to highest grade milk. Milk boards have already power to license the purchase by wholesalers and retailers of highest grade milk from producers who reside outside the area from which milk supplies can normally be drawn. Such licences, however, can at present only relate to specific quantities of milk at specific periods and it is proposed to extend this power to enable licences to be granted without limitation as to quantity or period. The purpose of this is to give certain producesrs of highest grade milk a measure of permanency of supply and, in the interests of public health, to encourage them to continue and expand production of such milk.

Recent Press reports suggest that Section 4 and other provisions of the Bill have either been completely misunderstood or deliberately misinterpreted in certain quarters. As I have already mentioned, the Dublin board has had these powers for ten years and the Cork board asked for them four years ago. Milk boards are democratically elected and the producers have the majority representation on them. It is abundantly clear, therefore, that the powers in question could not be used to the detriment of producers and could, in fact, be very much to their advantage in periods of surplus, and I deprecate strongly the manner in which the true purpose has been misrepresented.

If this Bill were as simple as the Minister represents it to be there would not be very much need for discussion. He has dealt with what he sets out as the main purpose of the Bill under Section 3. This section will give powers to the board to do a number of things with the ultimate object of increasing milk production. I think everybody will welcome any steps which any Minister for Agriculture may take in this country for the purpose of increasing milk production, but it is important that these steps should be wisely directed and that we should be reasonably certain that good results will accrue as a result of the policy enunciated by the Minister.

The problem of milk production to-day, as the Minister has very good reason to appreciate, is not the most simple one confronting him. Fortunately or unfortunately we have all got a past and sometimes it makes our present very unhappy. I am afraid that the Minister at the moment, because of his statements in the past, must find himself really up against a difficult situation in trying to resolve this very contentious problem of milk supplies, prices and production in the country. In so far as this Bill is going to make provision to secure our milk supplies and increase them, I am ready to give the Minister all the facilities he needs.

I thought that, when the Minister was referring to how the powers under Section 3 were to be operated, he would have given some indication as to whether any action was going to be taken to ensure that the number of attested herds in the areas under the jurisdiction of these boards was going to be increased. I expected him to tell us what was being done and what his ministerial policy would be in that respect. What are we doing to get a clean bill of health in the milk yields within the Dublin and Cork areas and then throughout the country as a whole? I think that is a most important matter. I think it is an urgent and vital problem. It is an aspect of milk production upon which we should have to-day a clear-cut and progressive policy.

Of course, a great deal will require to be done with our soil if we are going to make progress from the point of view of milk yields and costs. What is the Minister going to do in regard to the broadening out of the artificial insemination stations which he found operating when he came into office? We have experience in many parts of the country of what can be done operating from Grange in County Meath. As far as I am concerned, I am prepared to back the Minister or any Minister for Agriculture in the extension of that policy to the whole country if needed. Facts will be the most effective method of propaganda for the farmers in order to create this atmosphere and this mental attitude towards the question.

With regard to Section 4 of the Bill, I have seen some criticisms of it and of the powers that are going to be taken under it. I have heard what the Minister said to-day but at the moment I do not know whether he is right or wrong. The Minister will have to clarify the position for me somewhat more in order to convince me that there is not real danger in this section; that it is not an unwise section to begin with and if operated in a particular way it could just have disastrous consequences from the point of view of milk production. To begin with, I want to say these are Emergency Powers Orders which were conceded to the Dublin Milk Board, but these powers were given to the Minister in those days in a period of emergency but that is not an argument for embodying these powers in this legislation. We must be convinced on the reasons as they exist at the moment and not on emergency conditions.

In a time of crisis sensible democrats are always prepared to concede to the Minister, who has the power and responsibility, power and authority to deal with an emergency in the only way which is effective—that is, by giving him powers which are practically absolute. It seems to be that under this section, if I have read it aright, the board for a joint district, that is, the Dublin or Cork Milk Board —the Cork Milk Board, apparently, has not got these powers but sought by a resolution to have these powers conceded to them in 1948, but they were not extended to them; the powers have been conceded to the Dublin Milk Board—can go down to a milk depôt in Athlone, Mullingar, Cavan, Ballina or Buncrana. I speak subject to correction. The Dublin Milk Board is a board drawn from an area of the country where there are registered suppliers within the jurisdiction of the board's authority, mainly Dublin, Kildare, Louth, Meath, Wicklow. I do not know if it extends any farther. I want to be told by the Minister the purpose of giving to this board authority to go down to open shops for the sale of milk in parts of the country maybe 100 miles from Dublin City. If that is the position I am all against it.

The Minister may tell me there is no intention to do that. If he tells me that that is not what is meant, then I do not understand English. At any rate, that is how the matter looks to me and I want clarification on the matter as I do not want to go on building up a case against the Bill under a misconception. It is the implications in the section with which I am in conflict. Section 4 states:—

"(1) The board for a joint district with the consent of the Minister may, within and without the joint district, engage in the business of selling milk and for that purpose may purchase, prepare and sell milk and milk products, acquire premises and equipment, establish depôts for the sale of milk and milk products, accumulate and maintain a reserve of dried and condensed milk and milk containers and do all such things as may be necessary for the purposes of carrying on such business."

Unless I cannot understand English, it seems to me that this board operating in Dublin can come down and open a business in the town of Cavan, secure a premises, store milk, establish a milk depôt and build up reserves of dried and condensed milk. I am not for giving the board these powers and I am suspicious of the purpose for which these powers are put in the Bill. The board, as I understand it, is at the moment, as the Minister said, a democratic board and will not do anything against the farmers. But let it be understood that this board covers the areas which may be classified as the registered areas. In the areas run by this Dublin body the producers, retailers and all the people concerned in the milk trade are registered by this board. Now the board may step into other parts of the country altogether and open a business.

People in Athlone or Mullingar decided recently that they were not getting a sufficiently high price for milk. If they decided to withhold their milk —I am not passing judgment on that decision at all—under this section of the Bill the Dublin Milk Board could go there, open its depôt and supply milk, and I am not prepared to give it that authority at all. I am not prepared to see the State vest a group of people who have jurisdiction over a certain area with authority to go into another area to trade milk under conditions that are at the least open to question. I do not want them to get these powers in the form in which we might very easily agree to pass them to-day without a full understanding of their implications.

Things are happening in dairying at present that are, from any point of view, very unsatisfactory. I can speak with the experience of a farmer engaged in dairying. I realise that there are many people who quarrel with those farmers in certain districts who say that the price of milk is too low. There is the producer's point of view and the consumer's point of view, but the producer is not always wrong; and while the Minister's point of view at the moment may be somewhat different from what it was this day 12 months, conditions are no more favourable to dairy farmers to-day than they were 12 months ago, but more difficult— perhaps, however, they are not more difficult, because this time last year the weather was truly appalling. Suppose that a Minister were in control—I do not suggest that the present Minister would do this sort of thing—so rash as to try to use these powers in a district such as I have mentioned, what would happen?

The difficulty of keeping people in dairying to-day is very considerable. It is no exaggeration to say that. There are people from dairying districts here who can speak with the same knowledge as I have. I am not going into all the conditions that weigh with dairy farmers, but the difficulty is there and I do not see that difficulty resolved by setting up an authority with powers regarding prices. You are holding a big stick over the farmers who supply towns 50 or 100 miles from Dublin by saying that you can take a store of dried milk which has been built up in Dublin and supply the people with it and if those farmers do not keep in production they will not have any markets at all. Instead of all that what the Minister and his colleagues in the Government should apply their minds to is keeping people in production and encouraging them by every means. It is very difficult to keep people in this business around our towns. It is a seven-day-a-week job and the people who work in towns do not work seven days a week. We do not want to see dried milk taking the place of liquid milk in these areas. If there are wise people in the Civil Service who want these powers to be there so that they can be used on some particular day, then I am not prepared to give them to them.

I put this aspect of the question because things are going too far in this direction, not only in agriculture but in other fields as well. I see signs of a threat to the dairying industry as a whole from this sort of ministerial or Government policy, which is used in a subtle way and which can be very effective for the time being but in the end is disastrous. I am arguing this case because I dislike that policy intensely. I do not think that boards set up under State authority should have the right to go into business as retailers. I would leave the people who are in the retail trade in milk alone. I do not see why the Dublin Milk Board should have authority to register people, collect sums of money from them for registration and then go into competition with the people from whom those sums were collected. I do not see any justification at all for that.

I can see another development and that is why I am stressing this. I saw recently that the Dairy Disposals Board, which was called by that name because it was established to dispose of creameries and is a semi-Government or perhaps wholly Government institution, took over a co-operative society in the Midlands—not a dairy society but a shop.

I do not know what the circumstances are, but no matter what they are it is inadvisable. It is all wrong that Government institutions should be set up under privilege and allowed to use the funds at their disposal for competition with men and women who have to earn their daily bread by the services they can give the public, and who have nothing to fall back on but these services, who have not the State behind them or funds upon which they can make a levy if their business is not as well managed as it might be. I just do not know what Government policy in this regard is. I have no intention of spreading myself on this at all, but there are things which seem to me to hang together on which I wish to question ministerial policy, and on which I want clarification.

I understand that we are paying £2,000,000 for imports of butter, much more than we spent last year. My information is that we will have in the City of Dublin enough foreign butter to supply the people of the city for the summer and perhaps into the autumn. Working on that line our dairy farmers will not sell any of this season's butter to Dublin citizens until the tourist season is well under way. Are we then to be in a position to stock up supplies, store a reserve, and say this time 12 months to the dairy farmers: "We have actually a surplus. You may talk of higher prices for milk, but look at what we have got: more butter than our people are able to eat. The best thing for you people is not to talk too much of an increase in price because we may be in a position to export"?

That may be the technique which has been carefully thought out in order to level out matters as far as the dairy farmers are concerned. That, however, will not resolve all the problems which confront our dairy farmers. While I hold no brief for the people who pursue a policy, one might say, of unwise agitation that may almost threaten the children, the hospitals and people who require milk every couple of hours in the day, at the same time we must be wise and read the signs.

From what I can gather, unless I completely misunderstand the situation, the Minister is getting powers in this Bill which would enable him or his successor to break a strike of farmers, if farmers decided that they could not afford to do so and so at the price. These powers are there as I see it, and I am not prepared to give this or any other Minister authority which he can pass on to a board and so put that board in any such position. There are plenty of people withdrawing their services in this State, day after day and week after week, and no extravagant measures are adopted to get them to go back to their work.

I do not know any dairy farmer who does not want to continue his traditional way of life. These men have been brought up on the land and are accustomed to live stock. They take a pride in them and they are not living in their natural way when separated from them. Only conditions of the most difficult type will turn these men from the traditional type of farming to which they are accustomed, but dairy farmers to-day are up against problems of labour and costs of every kind which make their work much more difficult, and if the Minister or any civil servant or anybody else thinks that we will get an increase in milk production, that we will encourage milk production, by taking powers such as these for use in a moment of emergency, they completely misunderstand the situation.

I agree with the Minister that there are a number of things we can do to help the dairy farmers, but it seems to me that we have got a coated pill in this document. I do not know whether I misunderstand it, or whether the Bill, as it is drafted, gives power to do much more than is the intention, but so far as I am concerned that section, as it stands in the Bill, cannot have my support for the reasons I have given, and I hope the Minister will clarify the position and will be prepared to indicate that no board for the setting up of which he seeks this power will be set up to do trading in the small towns against those who have been doing that job for the people in those urban areas from one generation to another.

Senator Baxter has set himself a rather serious job, so far as I could interpret his remarks. His entire speech suggested that he was out to save the dairying industry from the milk producers. That is as near as I could get to it. It was fairly obvious, however, that he wanted to cover himself in case he might be wrong, and, in dealing with Section 4, he said that he did not want to make a case on a misconception and that he would like to have a few questions answered by the Minister. I must say that if I had not been brought to my senses I probably would have come in here without sufficient knowledge of the subject either, just as Senator Baxter has come in to-day. I cannot at all understand how any man could come in here and set himself up before this or the other House or outside as the representative of the milk producers, as the man who was protecting the milk producers from themselves, from Ministers and from all comers, without at least making himself conversant with the situation before making a speech.

It is a very simple matter to have a few of these questions answered, and, having got answers to them, there need be very little controversy about a measure of this kind. A few days ago we had another section of people setting themselves up as the people who were going to save the milk producers from the Government. I quote now from the Irish Independent of 23rd January last:—

"The Midland Milk Producers' Association, meeting in Portlaoighise, condemned an amendment to the Milk Acts (1936 and 1941), which has been tabled in the Seanad by Senator W. Quirke, and urged all producers to agitate for its withdrawal.

This Bill gives milk boards for joint districts the power, subject to the Minister's consent, to ‘acquire premises and equip them, and establish depots for the sale of milk and milk products.'

Colonel McGuinness (Sallins) told the meeting: ‘This gives the Government the right to set up depots and sell milk in competition with you.'

Mr. A. Marry, secretary of the Meath Branch of the Leinster Association, said they had an ‘economic bomb' and they should be prepared to use it if necessary by withholding milk from the market until their just demands were met."

All I can say is that if they are, as I suspect—I do not know either of these men—paid officials of the milk suppliers, I feel sorry for the milk suppliers. First, the least they should have known, if they were keeping in contact with the situation at all, is that this is a Government measure and that it is the duty of whatever person happens to be in my position as Leader of the House to introduce it—not that I am making any apologies at all for it; on the contrary, I am delighted that the question has arisen, because it is about time that such matters were cleared up. It is a monstrous situation that we should have people going around the country, touring the country at public expense, who know so little about their own business that they will make statements of this kind.

We have had Senator Baxter to-day speaking on, more or less, the same lines and obviously with very little knowledge of the subject. He criticises Section 4 for various reasons and suggests that under this measure the Government can set up shops in Cavan. The fact is that this organisation is probably one of the most democratically-elected organisations in the country. The milk boards are representative of the suppliers and the distributors, elected on a proportional basis. I am not quite clear as to what the basis is, but the Minister has the right of veto, if there is anything seriously wrong. The boards will work automatically and, in my opinion, and in the opinion of anybody who knows anything about the business, will help the dairying industry very considerably.

On this question of surplus milk, Senator Baxter, I take it, is quite agreeable that there should be some organisation to deal with surplus milk. In other words, if farmers find themselves in possession of thousands of gallons of milk in surplus in Cavan, Meath, Dublin, Wicklow, Kildare or anywhere else, there should be an organisation to deal with it, and surely the Senator cannot have it both ways. If there is an organisation to deal with surplus milk, is it not only commonsense to utilise the same organisation to deal with a scarcity?

The criticism of this Bill here and such criticism as there has been in public is, to my mind, the weakest I have heard for a long time. Senator Baxter suggests that the Minister has power to do this, that and the other, to open shops in Mullingar, Cavan and Athlone. Under this Bill, as under practically every other Bill, the Minister is given powers to do things which he never intends to do, for the doing of which it was never intended to give power.

The board, not the Minister.

The board or the Minister.

It is not the Minister; it is the board.

It was never the intention of the Government or the Minister for Agriculture to let the board set up shops in Cavan or Waterford or anywhere like that. If any Minister were to utilise all the powers given under practically any Bill, life would be made impossible for the people of the country. We have had a fairly good trial of what Governments can be like, and I do not believe the people will ever put into power in this country again such people as they did in the previous Government. I refuse to believe that the people will ever again vote in a bunch of people such as were in charge of government during the last Administration.

The Senator might keep to Section 4.

Senator Baxter refers to this organisation as a group of Dublin people—the Dublin board. If he inquires, he will find that the representatives are drawn from an area very much greater.

I said Kildare, Meath and Louth were included.

And Wicklow, down to the borders of Wexford.

I am not saying anything against that at all.

It goes as far in other directions as well, yet he refers to it as a Dublin body—just as, when it suits them, some of those two by four politicians refer to the Government as the Dublin Government. Deputy Walsh, the Minister for Agriculture, would be no more properly described as a Dublin man than is the milk board described properly as the Dublin Milk Board. It is lamentable that people should try to make political capital out of a Bill of this kind. It has been said here that an effort should be made to try to keep the farmers in production. That is the point: the whole Bill is designed to try to keep the dairy farmers in production and facilitate them in every way. Most of the provisions of the Bill have come about as a result of pressure from the milk suppliers themselves.

Senator Baxter quoted one of them himself in connection with the artificial insemination station.

That is another thing.

I suspected this news report I have read of being politics when I saw it at first, but on examination I came to the conclusion that these people had not even commonsense enough to belong to the Coalition politicians. One fellow there——

Who was it?

——says there is no necessity whatever for this Bill as they already have an artificial insemination centre in County Meath. He forgets that there are people in Kildare anxiously waiting for a similar station to be set up there. In Wicklow and other places they also want the same service. Furthermore, provision is made for the extension of the veterinary services for the milk producers of these areas. That has not been taken into consideration at all.

The Senator is not suggesting that I am in conflict with that? I think I made myself clear on that point.

Senator Baxter then says we should leave the distribution in the hands of the people doing it at present. I do not know that there is any suggestion whatever of interfering with the people in the milk business at present. I went to the trouble of finding out something about the whole position and I found that the relations between the milk producers and the suppliers and the milk boards are 100 per cent. perfect, better than ever they were before. I believe they will continue in that way, despite any attempts which may be made by politicians to bring about a different situation.

After we have been threatened practically with starvation, now we are threatened with a surplus of butter. The less we hear from the representatives of the Coalition about the importation of foreign butter the better. Butter was imported in the past and its importation would not stand very much investigation. Butter is being imported now largely because of the neglect of the Coalition——

The present Coalition?

——in regard to the dairying industry. Because of their neglect of that industry, it is necessary to import now. Even Senator Baxter should know that it would be impossible for the present Minister to bring about in a couple of months such a drastic change in the dairying industry as would make it unnecessary to import butter again this year. Senator Baxter thinks we are going to have a surplus of butter from home-produced milk. That would be an ideal situation, but when we get to that situation it will be very easy to find a market for it.

I cannot entertain the House in such a funny manner as Senator Quirke did so successfully. I have a perfectly open mind on this matter, and whether I am a politician or not I would like to express my views on the Bill. I cannot understand why the Minister, when he has had to bring in a Bill at all, did not go back to the first Bill, that of 1936, and to that of 1941 and give us one new Bill to deal fully and completely with milk prices. Frequenty we hear grave and serious complaints from sensible people about the number of Acts of Parliament through which we must wade. I have no objection to going through them, but some people have, possibly for very good reasons.

We hear a good deal about the codification of the law and very responsible Deputies and Senators and, indeed, Ministers, have suggested that whenever an opportunity is presented to a Minister he should endeavour to have some codification. For some reason or another he will not apply himself to that and instead of bringing the law up to date in one Bill we have several Bills, one following the other, so that nothing whatever is done towards codification of the law. I do not think that the Minister can give us any satisfactory reason for not bringing in one complete Bill in this case, doing away with the two previous Acts, as he seeks to do in regard to some emergency powers. This question of codification of the law is of great importance and I feel I should express my views strongly on it, and I hope the Minister will consider those views.

I have a perfectly open mind on this Bill. Although I may not have got all my facts correctly, I must confess to having the view that the milk producers are not paid sufficiently well for their produce. The Minister may have a good case against that. I am not quite sure if I am right in my view, but I still think the producers do not get enough. I do not suggest that I agree with the attitude taken by parties throughout the country in connection with endeavours to obtain an increased price. However, I would welcome the Bill if it gives us an opportunity of providing for better payments to the milk farmers. There is no doubt whatever—and no Senator could seriously suggest to the contrary—that the farmers throughout the country are going out of milk production. In my view that is so because they are not getting a fair profit out of the production of milk. I do not think anyone here will deny that.

I object to Section 4 of the Bill and I will continue my objection to it unless the Minister will give me a more satisfactory explanation as to why he seeks to embody in a permanent form the power given to the board. Senator Baxter was quite right in describing one of the boards as the Dublin District Milk Board, or, if he was wrong, the Minister was also wrong, because he described the board thus in his explanatory memorandum. Senator Quirke used the wrong description. I object to this section, as I have said, unless the Minister gives us good reason for seeking to incorporate in this Bill in permanent form something intended to provide for an emergency.

Certain Emergency Powers Orders were brought into force because a state of emergency existed at the time. I would like the Minister to tell us what state of emergency he imagines exists now. I should also like to be told what the milk boards have done —I think there are two of them—towards improving in a substantial way the supply of milk throughout the country. We have heard something about these centres, but I am not aware of the results with which they have been attended. The Minister feels these centres have met with success, but I should like him to give us more details.

I do not think that the board will be able to control milk producing simply by going into the business of milk retailing, nor do I think they will attain any degree of success, because if any serious difficulties arise with the producers of the milk, the milk would not be available for sale.

If the Minister is seeking power for the board to set up retail establishments he should go the whole hog and give the board power to become milk producers. The Minister is not going far enough, I repeat, by merely seeking power for the board to retail. Senator Quirke has told us that the section is meant to deal with surplus milk only and is not intended for any other purpose. If the Minister will satisfy me on this matter I will support the Bill, subject to one or two matters which can be dealt with on the Report Stage.

It has been brought to my notice that the staff of one of the boards has a grievance because a party other than the board controls and has to approve their salaries. The board set up under the Pigs and Bacon Act was given absolute authority to deal with the wages, terms of employment and salaries of their staffs. Under the Milk Act, 1936, there is a provision that the Minister for Agriculture and not the board shall decide the question of salaries and, in some cases, the terms of employment. Perhaps the Minister would look into the grievance of the staff of one of the milk boards and give to the board and not to an outside body full power to deal with staff matters. It should be remembered, as the Minister has already pointed out, that the board is a paying body. It does not, I understand, obtain any revenue from the State. It pays its way solely by means of a levy.

I would like to assure the Minister that I have not any preconceived notions about this Bill and that I am not in any way influenced by politicians or by anybody else. Senator Quirke has suggested that some Senators are subject to this influence. However, I have an open mind in the matter. I hope the Minister will satisfy me that Section 4 should be included in the Bill and I hope that he will give me some satisfactory reason as to why he now seeks to incorporate permanently legislation which was brought into force solely to deal with emergency conditions which do not exist to-day. I trust the Minister will not say that there is a possibility that such emergency conditions will shortly come into being.

Before the Minister replies, I would like to say that it is not quite clear to me what is meant by Section 4 (1) when it speaks of the consent of the Minister. Does it mean, in effect, that the Minister's consent is meant solely to give permission to engage in the business of selling milk? I think the position is that, once he gives that consent, the board can do anything that is provided for under the section. Alternatively, is it the intention that the Minister can say to the board: "You can engage in the selling of milk within the joint district but you cannot do so outside it"? I do not think that the Minister should have that power, and I think the section requires amendment on that score. Has the Minister power to say: "You can engage in the business of selling milk, but you must get my permission to buy premises"? If such is intended, I feel that the section needs amendment. I think it is provided in the section, but I am not quite clear on the point, that the Minister should give permission to the board to engage in the selling of milk and that, thereafter, they should have a carte blanche.

I would like to say, at the outset, that any facility that would increase milk production will be wholeheartedly welcomed by me. If any measure is adopted here which would have the opposite effect, I would, like Senator Baxter, be entirely opposed to it. If the Minister assures us that there is no danger of competition with milk suppliers down the country—competition which would create any amount of ill-will—I will be perfectly satisfied to back his efforts. I come from an area where there are a good many creameries and where the people are engaged in mixed farming. Up to two years ago milk suppliers were, generally speaking, pretty well satisfied with the prices, but last year, for instance, even with the increased price, creameries found it difficult, due to increased costs, to give the price that they gave the year before and, according to how things are going up to the present this year, I understand from the creameries I am connected with that they find it difficult to maintain last year's price.

While we are dealing with milk production, I want to refer to a matter on which I have spoken on various occasions. It may not come within the scope of the Bill, but it covers milk production and I take the opportunity now of saying it while the Minister is here. I have held for a long time that any amount of money has been spent on premium bulls for the last 20 or 30 years with the intention of having increased milk production. I have no hesitation in saying that a very large number of those must have been pretty good animals. Still, after 20 years, everybody, at least everybody in the West of Ireland, realises—and I think it will not be disputed all over the country—that that has not had the desired effect; if you like, it has been money wasted. I have held, whether I am right or wrong, that the chief reason for that is that the heifers from those noted bulls have never been earmarked and have been allowed to be shipped out of the country. We have not reaped the benefit.

I have suggested on various occasions on the Estimate for Agriculture every year when it has been before us, that the Department should devise some scheme whereby the female progeny from those good bulls would be earmarked. Even if poor people, say, in the West of Ireland, had not a place for some extra animals and had to sell them as sucking calves—if those animals were earmarked and remained in the country instead of being exported— you would have good shorthorn heifers and good cows at fairs to buy. The vast majority of them have been exported. In the last 20 years any amount of public money has been spent although, generally speaking, the milk suppliers attending creameries and any creamery manager will tell you that production has not gone up as it ought to.

I am sorry that anybody on any side of the House would try to give a political slant to this because it is certainly a very serious problem. I am sure that no member of this House and no decent person in the country would like to see hospitals, children or anybody else short of milk. I am a farmer and I would not ask an unreasonable price. The producers, the farmers, are definitely entitled to an economic price. The sensible thing would be for a board or commission to sit and consider what is an economic price. There was a good deal of sympathy with the idea that was in the former Minister's mind and which, I think, the present Minister is following up, with regard to increasing the milk supply of our cows, doing away with the uneconomic cows and having them replaced by better milkers.

On the question of artificial insemination, I would be very glad if it was possible to establish other centres, especially in the poorer districts and in creamery districts. In this way we would have an opportunity of reaping good results in those centres. As I said, the heifers from those good bulls should be earmarked and some scheme devised whereby they can be retained in the country, even if they have to be sold by western farmers to somebody else, for instance, Leinster farmers. They would thus remain in the country and eventually when people wanted a good cow they would be able to get one. This is very hard at the present time owing to the terrible crossing that has taken place in the last 20 years.

I hope the Minister will be able to assure us that he realises that this is a very serious problem, and that in trying to do things on a basis of fair play and justice to everybody concerned, he will not do something to retard progress. I say very sincerely that if producers get it into their minds—I am not saying that is the idea of the Bill, but if they get a strong suspicion—that something was being set up to rile them instead of doing good, it will do great harm. The Minister may say that there is no such intention, but it is necessary not alone to say that but to show to the country and to the producers that that is not so.

You hear comments that milk producers are unreasonable. Although people in other sections of the community make exaggerated statements you never hear much comment being made or any exception taken to them. No matter how small a percentage of the farming community make unreasonable or exaggerated statements, you have everybody talking about it, and you have the whole community put down for that. I have no sympathy with any member of the farming community who makes exaggerated and wild statements, but I think that if people are driven to desperation, some allowance should be made for them if they have reason to make those statements.

My interest in this Bill is this. Every Bill we deal with now refers to some new invasion by the State into realms in which it did not enter in the past. The last time we sat we were dealing with ministerial powers to govern by Order, and the delegation of those powers.

Now we have a Bill enabling the State to set up a board to engage in the business of selling milk, and so on, as outlined in Section 4. The board can acquire premises. In other words, engage in the milk business. The milk business has been carried on in this country for many hundreds of years and has always been carried on very successfully. In recent years—in our lifetime—we have had this business of State planning. Everything was going to be planned. I would like to say, in the first instance, that I am not blaming the present Minister for Agriculture. I am talking about something that has been going on for some time. I can see the necessity for this Bill but what has happened is that we have planning and controlling of industry. This has caused industry to be run uneconomically, with consequent failure.

We had the same thing in the transport industry. The railways of this country were wiped out because the industry was made uneconomic for private enterprise to run it, and since private enterprise had failed the industry had to be taken over by the State. The same thing is happening with regard to milk. State planning has failed and it has made it uneconomic for people to engage in the sale of milk. There is not now sufficient milk being produced and the person who has ruined milk production has now got to come in and organise the sale of milk. How are we to assume that this personality in the State, which has failed in its planning, is now going to be successful in the milk business? We are going to have either cheaper milk which will have to be paid for by the taxpayers or, when the State has got a monopoly of milk production and sale in this country, we are going to have dearer milk, just as we have now to pay dearer railway fares. We have either to like it or lump it. That is the bald picture. That is the danger in the whole thing.

I feel it is again coming back to the point I made that we should seriously examine our consciences about controls. We have people filling the newspapers —they are the only people who seem to do so—about the high prices of everything. According to these people, everybody's prices should be controlled. What they really want is to have prices made uneconomic for private enterprise. The Minister for Industry and Commerce made a speech in Cork with which I agree on this particular point, that what a lot of people want in this country is uneconomic prices. The idea prevalent seems to be that people should even sell goods if they can be made to do so, below what the goods cost them. I believe that these people are not so much interested in getting lower prices as they are in destroying private enterprise, because when a business is made entirely uneconomic, the State will have to come in and take over. You will then have the Socialist State coming in to save the citizens from the failure of private enterprise. That is what it amounts to. Powers will be given to the State to rescue the citizens from the awful plight they have been put into by private enterprise, although the whole thing has been created by the State itself.

As I say, I do not think the Minister for Agriculture is to blame. I think this Bill is merely a sort of patchwork. We will all be forced to say: "This is the only thing we can do." Even people like myself have got to say it is the only thing that can be done now. Why? Because, as Senator O'Reilly says, the production and sale of milk at present is uneconomic. We must, if we are going to have private enterprise which means individual freedom in the economy of this country, leave prices to find a fair level and not fool people into believing they are getting cheap this and that when it is at the expense of the business community and the taxpayer.

I do not pretend to have any great knowledge regarding the condition of milk supplies in the city. I have read this Bill. There is nothing extraordinary in giving this board, which is like a co-operative society, certain powers. There is nothing in this Bill that anybody need be afraid of.

I do not know much about the production of milk in the city. We know it it very dear and it is very scarce. I often thought that one of the reasons for the high price of milk in the cities and the scarcity of milk is that the conditions under which milk has to be produced are more exaggerated. We must all agree that cleanliness is very essential in the production of milk for cities. Dairy herds should be reasonably free of disease. I think that the health authorities enforce conditions that are impossible to be complied with by ordinary farmers. There could be many more supplying milk in cities if the regulations were not so rigid. I know several people who have to spend a great deal of money —more than they can afford—in order to comply with the Dairy and Cowsheds Order.

It is difficult to produce milk down the country. It is becoming more and more difficult for dairy farmers every day. I can readily understand how much more difficult it is to produce milk in winter time. Health regulations and inspections by health authorities are matters which the Minister should look into and see whether or not these conditions could be relaxed so as to enable, in some degree, more people to get into milk production for the cities.

Very few points have been raised in connection with this Bill but Senator O'Reilly asked me why I did not cover the 1936 and 1941 Bill. He wanted codification of them. If I did anything like that I might have brought in something that might be really contentious. I came into this House with what I considered to be a non-contentious Bill, a Bill which, as a matter of fact, my predecessor had prepared to bring into this House. I have not changed the dotting of one "i" or the crossing of a "t" in it. We have been forced to bring in this Bill by the producers themselves. It is not a Government measure; it is a measure that has come in from the producers themselves, and when I say the producers I mean the boards because in both cases the boards are controlled by the producers. For instance, the Dublin board consists of seven producers' representatives, three wholesalers and three retailers with an independent chairman. The Cork board is also anxious that the Bill should be introduced and as a matter of fact as recently as yesterday the following letter was addressed to the Secretary of my Department asking that this Bill be put through:—


My board is apprehensive that it may not be in a position to have its projected A.I. facilities established in time for the present season, and has directed me to ask you to convey to the Minister its earnest appeal for the use of his good offices with the Government towards ensuring priority in Dáil Éireann for all stages of the enabling legislation— the Milk (Regulation of Supply and Price) (Amendment) Bill, 1952."

That is from the Cork producers.

They are fools to lean on the State.

It goes on:—

"The board greatly appreciates the attention which the Minister has so far given to the need for this legislation, and feels that the Bill in its present form will enable the best handling of the Cork milk supply problem."

That is the position.

That is in connection with Section 3?

It is in connection with the whole Bill. No question has been raised by the Dublin or Cork boards with regard to Section 4. We sent out an explanatory note to the members of this House so that there would be no question or dispute with regard to sections when we came in here. If some Senators who have spoken had read the Bill they would not have made the statements which they did make. They did not even read the Bill. Senator McGuire said that this was a Government measure.

I did not. I said that it was giving powers to the Government.

When private enterprise fails it must fall back on the State— those were the terms he used. Nobody is falling back on the State. This is not a Government measure in so far as the Government will operate the measure. It will be operated by individuals outside Government control.

The Minister makes the Order.

On the recommendation of the board he makes the Order. With regard to Section 4, the big trouble in the Dublin district is that there is a surplus of milk at periods. If the board were not there to deal with that surplus it would fall back on the hands of the producers. I wonder whether Senator Baxter would take the responsibility of handling the producers' milk next summer. I wonder whether he would stand up in the House and say that he refused Section 4 or refused to pass the Bill or asked the Government not to introduce the emergency Order that enables the board to sell that milk at that time. Will any Senator take that responsibility?

I will. If you put into the Bill "the sale and distribution of surplus milk" I will have no objection to it.

I am asking: Will you take responsibility for disposing of the milk?

If you put in a qualification such as I have suggested the board will have full power.

That is what we are asking—full power to deal with the surplus.

It is not confined to the surplus.

They must also deal with the question of scarcity of milk such as we had last year in Mullingar, not through any fault of the suppliers but because the suppliers were unable to fulfil their contract with the people in Mullingar. No question arises of supplying milk; nothing else.

The more you go into the question of supplying milk the less you will get from Mullingar.

This Government has not any intention—no Government would have any intention—of going into competition with ordinary producers. The recommendation must come from the board and the board itself consists of a majority of milk producers in the country.

Not a majority of the country.

There is a majority on that board.

They are from a limited area in the country.

It is not a limited area. As far as Dublin City is concerned they come from Westmeath to Wexford on one side and from Carlow to Dublin on the other. It takes in almost the whole of Leinster. Take the Cork board: How much does that take in? This is a Bill which has been asked for by the producers of milk, particularly the suppliers to Dublin City, yet we have Senators with the temerity to oppose it—people who knew nothing about it ——

That is not true.

——for the sake of making political propaganda.

We understand it as well as the Minister.

In the explanatory note we have covered every point and every section in the Bill, and if anyone can read anything else into any section then I make him a present of it.

I want to ask——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

When the Minister is finished. Put the questions then.

The report of the tribunal of inquiry into milk supplies for Dublin and district also asked for such an authority as was asked for by the producers. At the moment there is an accumulation of funds in the Dublin Milk Board. That money can only be spent on a drink more milk campaign or something like that. It is now intended by members of the board to utilise that money in another fashion. One suggestion is to extend artificial insemination throughout the whole area of the board, and the same thing applies to Cork. We are giving them all assistance. There is a station in County Meath at Grange and that can be extended by the establishment of a sub-station, say, in Wicklow. The money can be utilised for that purpose. There is also the question of soil testing and other matters that will be of some benefit to the farmers who are supplying the milk and, again, the same thing applies to Cork. We would give an extension of artificial insemination from Clonakilty. That is what they are looking for. We would give it immediately because this is the beginning of the season.

There is no quarrel with that.

If you want to hold them up you can by delaying the passing of the Bill. There is nothing to talk about in Section 4 and even Senator Baxter does not believe there is.

I do believe it. If I did not believe it I would not say it.

I came in here with the intention of going out in an hour with the Bill in my pocket because it is non-contentious. Yet we hear Senators talking.

You do not understand it.

There is no point with regard to Section 4. If I could give any other information to Senators I would be too delighted to give it but I do not think there is and Senator Baxter knows that as well as I do.

I am glad that the Minister is so enthusiastic about a Bill of his predecessor's.

Senator Douglas asked one question. I would like to give him an assurance that there is no intention on the part of the board to go into competition with any producer.

I did not ask that. I was concerned purely with the meaning of the section and to see whether the wording was correct. If the Minister examines it he will see, I think, that it is not clear. Under the section, the Minister could refuse power to sell outside the area or give power inside it. Has he any control over the powers exercised? I am only trying to find out what is intended under Section 4 which is not clear. The Minister may only say "yes" or "no," whether they are to sell milk or not. If he says "yes," they can do everything and the Minister has no restrictive power. Maybe that is what is intended.

His consent is required under every section of the Bill with regard to any business they may do.

Under Section 4?

The Minister must first consent.

I would suggest that the Minister should have that carefully examined. If he does, he will find that he has not such power, but only power to sell.

The Minister did not answer my question. Will there be attested herds and may money be spent on that?

That is only one of the matters that will be dealt with. I am sure that they are going to give attention to that matter, because, as we know, it is becoming very important so far as this country is concerned, and, having regard to our store trade in the future, it would be well if it were started in some place. I am sure it is one of the matters which is engaging the attention of the Dublin Milk Board and such boards as that. At the moment, the immediate matter that concerns them most is the building up of an artificial insemination sub-station and a lot depends on the amount of money they may have at their disposal in the future, but at the moment they are in a position to set the sub-station going.

I do not want the Minister to misunderstand me. I have no desire to hold him up on this Bill, and I want to say that what I said I believe or I would not have said it. It does not matter what anybody on the other side thinks about the political inflection I gave to what I had to say. I am not clear with regard to Section 4 and why the Minister wants powers to engage in the sale of milk outside the district when it is merely a question of scarcity. I think that it is there he is falling into error. I want time to study the point and to amend it, if necessary. If the Minister could see his way to agree to an amendment making provision for a period of shortage, it would relieve people of the feeling that the Minister proposed to pour milk which is surplus in Dublin down the country.

That can be done tomorrow morning without any reference to this Bill under the Emergency Powers Act. We are asking the House for authority to put into the statute something which we can already do by Emergency Powers Order.

We do not want you to have these Emergency Powers Orders.

We can retain these emergency powers if you do not wish to put it into the statute.

Then we shall have to change the Minister or the Government.

The question of tested herds has been raised and I should like——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

This is a question, Senator, and not a speech?

Not a speech—only a few words.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

A question, Senator.

I think it important that the Minister should direct his mind to the point. There are many people——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I am afraid that is not a question, Senator.

Question put and agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Next stage?

No, nothing of the sort. I am not satisfied about this section and I want information on it.

You are holding up the Bill on the producers.

You should have brought your Bill in earlier. Next stage this day fortnight.

This day week?

This day fortnight, and we will not hold up the Bill then.

Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 13th February.
The Seanad adjourned at 4.45 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 13th February, 1952.