Milk (Regulation of Supply and Price) (Amendment) Bill, 1952—Committee and Final Stages.

Sections 1 and 2 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 3 stand part of the Bill."

Would the Minister enlighten us, to some further extent than he did on the last day, as to what the intention is with regard to the expenditure of money under this section? He has indicated that the board will be entitled, with the consent of the Minister, to bear the whole or part of the cost of any scheme designed to secure the increased production of milk in the production districts. Would the Minister tell us if he has actually any proposals before him at the moment, apart from the one he has mentioned, with regard to facilities for the establishment of artificial insemination centres? Are there any other proposals under this section to which the Minister has given consideration or to which he is prepared to give approval, because there are obviously other steps which can and ought to be taken.

I raised, on the last day, the question as to what is being done towards the eradication of tuberculosis, and whether any facilities or any moneys are being made available to assist farmers, either by themselves or in conjunction with the officials of the board, to take action for the eradication of tuberculosis in their herds.

I would like to find out what study has been given to that and what plans are being developed towards that end. It is a number of years now since Senator Seán O'Donovan gave vent to opinions on this problem of tuberculosis in our cattle herds and the necessity for taking action for the elimination of this disease.

While I am in support of the powers sought under this amendment, I think that there are means other than those specifically mentioned by the Minister the other day which are just as important from the point of view of increasing our milk yields as those proposed to be undertaken. I would like to have from the Minister some indication of what is being thought out.

At the moment the matter which is agitating the minds of the members of the District Milk Board is the setting up of a sub-station for artificial insemination. That is No. 1. Then there is the question of soil-testing. Also, arrangements are being made for giving lectures. All these things are, of course, just being thought out at the moment because up to the present there were no moneys available for the purpose of extending the schemes which the District Milk Board has in mind. It will be only when the Bill goes through that schemes can be formulated and put into effect.

I agree with Senator Baxter when he mentions the desirability of the eradication of tuberculosis. That is one very serious matter that must agitate the minds of the members of the Dublin and Cork District Milk Boards. I am sure that provision will be made for the purpose of having that dreadful disease eradicated. But all these things must be left until the Bill is passed and it can then be decided what are the best means of building up the production of milk in the Dublin and Cork areas.

Question put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 1:—

To delete Section 4 and substitute a new section as follows:—

"The board for a joint district, with the consent of the Minister, may within the joint district engage in the sale of surplus milk for manufacturing purpose and for that purpose may acquire premises and equipment and do all such things as may be necessary for the purpose of carrying on such business."

When the Second Reading of this Bill was going through the House, I expressed some doubts about the wisdom of conferring powers on the milk boards—powers which would certainly be conferred if we were to agree to pass this section in the form in which it stands. I had not had, up to then, time to understand the implications of this section. Previous Acts and Orders were not, in fact, then available to me, but I gave the Minister and the House my views on the section as it then appeared to me.

I have had an opportunity since of studying the implications of this section and, as a result, I have put an amendment down. I would like the Minister and the House to approach my amendment as objectively and as dispassionately as possible. I assure the Minister that I have no desire whatever to hinder or obstruct the Dublin Milk Board in improving the milk supply and the provision of milk within their area.

I do not propose to stand in the way of progress or in the way of whatever reasonable facilities are required for the purpose of improving the milk supply. I submit to the Minister and to the House that, as I see them, the powers which are sought in Section 4 are such as ought not to be conferred on the Dublin District Milk Board, the Cork District Milk Board or on any other board in this country at the present time. Before we decide that such powers as these are necessary, we ought to examine every other aspect of the problem for which this section is drafted to provide.

The section provides that, with the consent of the Minister, the board, that is, the board for a joint district, may 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 depots 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. When I raised this matter on the Second Reading, I understood the Minister to say that the demand for this section came from the Dublin District Milk Board and that it was necessary, because one had to make provision against periods of shortage and the possibility of supplies not being available within the areas of the Dublin or Cork District Milk Boards, and that the milk boards ought to have the power to go out and sell milk in any other areas where there were shortages. I think the Minister also indicated that there were periods of the year when there was a surplus of milk in particular areas and that some provision ought to be made under this Bill to meet such a situation. It is generally indicated that nothing is being achieved under these powers which was not already achieved under emergency Orders in 1945 or 1946.

I submit to the House and to the Minister that it appears to me to be out of place that the Oireachtas should vest authority in a body such as the Dublin District Milk Board to set up shop either within or outside its area for the purpose of selling milk. I cannot claim to have very much knowledge of how the trade is conducted within the city boundary; that is governed by legislation and by regulation. I do not understand why it is that a board consisting of producers, retailers and wholesalers should require powers to set up shop within the city to sell milk against their own members. I think that is something which ought not to be encouraged. The Dublin and Cork District Milk Boards have power to make levies on their members and have power to collect milk. If they want to do this kind of thing they would be financed in a certain way and, with the milk at their disposal, I could visualise their ability to put a number of people who are at present engaged in the sale of milk in the city out of business. I feel that this is something which we must guard against—this sort of socialism in the milk trade. I trust that the House will not lightly commit itself to a situation such as that.

There is the other point also that the milk board may go outside its own area. The section says:

"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..."

As I said in this House on the last occasion on which I spoke, the Dublin District Milk Board are free to sell milk in towns such as Tullamore, Mullingar, Cavan or Navan—though perhaps Navan is within the joint district—where milk may be scarce on certain occasions.

The problem of milk production in this country at the moment is one which has agitated everybody concerned with the future of the live-stock and the dairying industries. It is a problem which is going to prove a considerable headache for the Minister for a long time to come. I think it is very important that any approach which is being made by the Minister or by any of his ministerial colleagues to the problem of trying to get increased milk production will not be such as actually to have the effect of cutting down production.

I submit that the Minister should give very careful thought to that aspect of this section under which powers are going to be utilised in a particular way. Let us say that milk producers in an area such as Athlone decide that the price of milk is too low. They get together and they threaten to withhold supplies if the price is not raised. Such a situation came about recently. I do not recall whether it happened in Athlone, but anyhow it came about in some part of that district. The ministerial answer to a situation like that could very well be that the milk which would be stored up within the Dublin District Milk Board area could be transported to an area like that and the Dublin District Milk Board could set up shop there and proceed with the sale of milk.

The Minister is well acquainted with farming and has a knowledge of the ways of farmers. I wonder is that the position in which he would like to put himself or any of his successors? Anyhow, the powers sought under this section would put the Minister in the position that he might very well be forced to give his consent to the opening of milk shops in remote areas. If such powers as these were available recently when the people in the Athlone district threatened to withdraw the supplies of milk, I wonder would they be used. That is the fear of the farmers.

While you hear a great deal of talk about the farmers being compelled to do this, that and the other thing, there are other people in the country whom one, at times, would love to apply compulsion to also, but nobody ever thinks of applying it to them. Our problems would not be half as difficult if something could be done with these others, but I am not going into that matter. I am submitting to the Minister and the House that there ought not to be any fear on the part of milk producers anywhere in the country that there was authority vested in the Dublin Milk Board which, in certain circumstances, could be utilised against farmers in another part of the district to compel them to sell milk at a price under production costs. I do not know what the Minister's view is about the price of milk or about the just price of milk. He is going to have that determined in the Bill and he is going to find an answer—I hope.

Apparently the Minister for Industry and Commerce himself felt that there was something in the farmers' case recently, because, when the threat was made to withhold supplies, the Minister revoked the Order fixing prices. But suppose these other powers were there and suppose you had stored up quantities of milk, tinned, condensed or anything else, I wonder what might happen? I think there might be the temptation to utilise the Dublin Milk Board and the powers with which it is vested to go into these districts and open up businesses against local people. I think that is very undesirable, not for one reason alone, but for a variety of reasons, not the least being once you do that sort of thing you are going to dam up completely the production of milk in these areas. Any of us who have any experience and any of us who are engaged in milk production know the difficulty of maintaining milk production to-day. It is becoming more difficult as the days and years pass. Unless we are going to cut down the production of milk in the country as a whole it is absolutely essential that we keep people as much as possible in production in the traditional dairying areas.

What, then, is going to happen if, say, quite legitimately, in a period of shortage, the Dublin Milk Board go into a district to provide milk? When will they go out of that district? At what time will they determine to close up their business and take their departure? Once they go in, my view is that they are going to stay. To the extent which the Dublin Milk Board or the Cork Milk Board could open up a business in an area outside their own areas and go into the trade of selling milk, I think you are going to cut down on milk production. That is speaking from the point of view of the effect of these powers in this particular way on the production of milk.

On the wider issue, the Dublin Milk Board should not be vested with such powers as these at all. That is something which is not open to argument. I do not think there is any necessity for these powers to be given to them at all. There is one other point. I think the Minister said on the last occasion that this board was a democratically elected body and that we could trust them. Perhaps. I do not know the people on the board at all and I am not particularly interested from that point of view. My information is that the board has not been consulted on this matter; they have not asked for these powers; the producers have not asked for them, and that rather than seek these powers they are totally opposed to them being vested in the board at all. That is my understanding of how the matter stands.

I want to say, finally, that I regard the whole problem of milk production in the country to-day as one of our most critical, if not the most critical, farming problem. The Minister has his hands more than full at the moment. He has any number of critics and I do not want to be amongst them. I want to see greater production of everything in the country but I particularly want to see greater production of milk in every field, on every farm and from every cow. I want to see greater production per man engaged in dairying. If the Minister is after the same thing he will have to approach this whole problem very cautiously indeed. There is no use in the Minister saying to me that I want to stir up agitation; that I want to head an agitation or to engage in an agitation on behalf of the milk producers.

That is not my view or attitude in this matter. I want to put the Minister wise. I do not think he is wise. I think the Minister ought to take counsel with the producers of milk in Dublin, Cork and other areas and see what their reaction is to the powers which he is trying to pass on to the Dublin and Cork Milk Boards. I could go out into a wider debate in regard to the bigger problem which is facing the country in regard to dairying in the country generally, but I will not do so. I am putting this amendment, which reads:—

The board for a joint district with the consent of the Minister may within the joint district engage in the sale of surplus milk for manufacturing purpose and for that purpose may acquire premises and equipment and do all such things as may be necessary for the purpose of carrying on such business.

I know that at certain periods of the year there is, within the Dublin and Cork milk district, a surplus of milk. Years ago, when the Dublin milk suppliers were faced with this problem, many in the old farmers' organisation discussed the possibility of erecting a creamery in those days to handle surplus milk at certain periods of the year. I realised that there must be some power in the hands of somebody to take over the milk which the farmers offered and make good use of it. Milk is a very expensive product nowadays and we cannot afford to let it go to waste in the farmers' cans along the roadsides. It must be taken over by somebody and it must be processed or manufactured.

I suggest to the Minister that the Dublin Milk Board has done everything that there is any obligation upon it to do. If there is a shortage of milk outside Dublin, the way to make up for that shortage is not by taking the milk out of the Dublin areas but by going in among the local people, encouraging them, getting them together and trying to stimulate greater interest on the part of producers locally and try to get the local need for milk supplied by local people. I have tried to approach this whole problem in a reasonable way. I have no particular bee in my bonnet.

It is not going to affect me or the part of the country in which I am mainly interested, but fundamental principles are involved in the proposition embodied in Section 4 of the Bill. My information is that the producers, and especially the producers' represenatives on the Dublin Milk Board, have not sought these powers for the board at all. I would urge upon the Minister that a wise course to adopt would be to reconsider this before putting it to the House.

I have listened to Senator Baxter on this amendment and I think he is under a misapprehension regarding many facets of the Bill. We are not looking for any powers which we have not got already for the Dublin Milk Board. If there were an emergency in the morning, powers exist for the Dublin Board to go anywhere in the country to sell milk. If there is a shortage of milk in Dublin the board can go outside and buy milk; that is number one. If there is a surplus of milk, as often happens during the year, we may be able to sell the milk outside Dublin. If there were a surplus of milk in Dublin, and we had accepted the amendment to which Senator Baxter has spoken, we would find ourselves in a position where we must sell to the manufacturers, and the manufacturers govern the price of milk which we would get; then the Dublin Board might have to sell milk cheaper than the price at which it was purchased from the producers.

If, on the other hand, they are permitted to set up a depot, as they are under the Bill and under the Emergency Powers Act, we will be able to dispose of that milk. That is one fact. In that regard Senator Baxter knows as well as anyone here that you may have shortages in the month of August if you have very warm weather for a period, and very acute shortages, with the result that the Dublin Board must go outside the area where they normally purchase milk. You are trying to prevent that and restrict them to the area around Dublin. In case of a surplus we are seeking power to sell outside.

With regard to the suggestion that these powers might be used for the purpose of breaking a strike or preventing people from getting a higher price for milk, on the face of it you will agree that there is no foundation for a statement like that, having regard to the composition of boards. The Dublin Board is composed of seven producers' representatives, three wholesalers and three retailers and, therefore, the producers have the majority of one. The representatives are elected every three years by the producers supplying milk in the Dublin area. The Cork Board is composed of five producers' representatives, one wholesaler and two retailers, so that the producers are a majority of two over the wholesalers and retailers. I cannot see for the life of me, therefore, how anybody can visualise the situation where the producers' representatives on the Dublin Board would use the board's powers to break a strike in any part of the country—and the same thing applies to Cork. It is impossible for anybody to think that such a thing would happen, having regard to the composition of these committees. I cannot see how there can be any objection. The producers are in command, in the majority, and they will prevent any such thing as the Senator fears.

The Senator also stated that there has not been any request for this. There has been, both from the Dublin and the Cork boards. As recently as two weeks ago we had a letter from the Cork Board asking us to have the Bill put through. My predecessor in office had the Bill prepared and regarded it as a non-contentious one which would go through the Seanad without any opposition whatever.

Did it contain Section 4?

It contained every section in this Bill. We did not cross a "t" or dot an "i" in the Bill since my predecessor had it. This is the letter from the Cork Board:


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 Eireann for all stages of the enabling legislation— the Milk (Regulation of Supply and Price) (Amendment) Bill, 1952. The board greatly appreciates the attention which the Minister has so far given to the need of this legislation, and feels that the Bill in its present form will enable the best handling of the Cork milk supply problem."

What is the date?

The 29th of January, and it is signed "M. Corcoran". I did meet a deputation from the Dublin Milk Board on the night of the debate a fortnight ago. Apparently they had a meeting here in Dublin and came across to me afterwards. They had the same objection as the Senator has. I thought that I had explained, as I am pointing out now, the difficulty of any such thing happening. As I pointed out, with the producers' representation as it is, there is no danger that the powers might be used to do any harm whatever to the producers' interests. For that reason I cannot see any objection to the Bill or to that section. You may be perfectly satisfied that it will not be used for the purpose the Senator has in mind.

The Minister may be a much more innocent man than I think he is. He is very simple if he thinks that the only thing in this section is the power of which he spoke in his short reply to me. My information is that the producers' representatives on the Dublin Milk Board are most emphatically against the powers sought in the Bill. That is my information from the producers' representatives and the Minister can easily determine whether my statement is in accordance with the facts or not. There are seven producers' representatives on the Dublin Board. In the election for members of the board 1,300 votes were cast and the producers' representatives polled 90 per cent. of them. The original legislation was introduced to regulate the supply in such a way as to make certain that the producers would have security. It was framed in that way and that was its real purpose. Apparently we are going to do something entirely different.

The Minister said that in a period of shortage they wanted to be free to go outside the district and buy milk, but there is not a single word as far as I can see in Section 4 dealing with the purchase of milk at all. It reads:

"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..."

It is for the purpose of selling milk. The Minister appears to believe that this is something which is being sought in the first place by the Dublin and Cork Milk Boards. He read out a letter which he received from the Cork board, but I suggest to the House that what the Cork Milk Board are mainly concerned with is the section of the Bill which gives power to promote the facilities for an artificial insemination station. I suggest that the Cork people are so interested in that aspect of it that they have probably not taken cognisance of the powers being conferred in Section 4. It is possible to gild a pill and that is probably what is being done in this Bill.

I do not accept that the powers which the Minister seeks are powers which we ought to confer on the board, and, while the Minister may tell me that these powers will not be used by these people, because it is a democratically constituted organisation, what are the facts? The facts are that there is a permanent chairman, together with a number of people representing producers, retailers and wholesalers, none of whom is paid, but all of whom give their time gratis. If they come from the country, I presume they get some expenses for travelling, but you have these people just coming to a meeting.

You have an executive in the person of a chairman who just gets on with the job, so that we are really passing these powers over to the chairman who, under the Minister, will carry out policy. While I know it can be argued that the producers are not going to stand for this kind of thing, I want to say that my information is that the producers are not standing for it now and do not want it. That situation ought to be clarified before the Minister carries the point any further, because there is going to be much more discussion about this.

I know that producers are greatly concerned, and they are not concerned because there is any political slant in the approach they make to it. I do not want to discuss it on that basis, because, if these powers are there, they are there for this and succeeding Ministers. I do not think they ought to be there. It is entirely wrong, and I do not like all this development under ministerial Order of setting up bodies to trade in this, that and the other. As I said in the previous debate, we have too much of it in dairying already. The Dublin Milk Board obtruding itself down into Mullingar, Athlone, Longford and other parts of the country is very undesirable. It is going to take away from local people the initiative they ought to have in respect of their own needs and to destroy that spirit of independence and sense of responsibility which local people ought to have in their capacity to improvise and organise. That is what you are going to do if this octopus organisation is to spread itself far and wide. The Dairy Disposals Board is doing the same thing—I do not propose to enter into a discussion on it—and I dislike it all.

The net result of it is that, instead of farmers taking responsibility for developing their own production scheme and thinking out for themselves what they will do, we are to have this head body here planning everything and putting every service on a plate. In these circumstances, where are we to get with our milk production? It is definitely not increasing, and rather than making more milk available in the country and encouraging other people to go into the production of milk, you are going to stifle it at the source. I suggest that before the Minister carries the point any further he should discover what are the wishes of the people in dairying. In the Dublin milk district, my information is that they are very strongly against this, and I do not think that any of us at present can afford to antagonise the men in dairying. It is not wise.

I am not standing here as their champion, because for and against can be argued in respect of many of the things we are doing and have not done, but I submit to the Minister that he is getting involved in a controversy unnecessarily, a controversy which, in the last analysis, will do nothing to increase milk yields and total milk production, but which is going to make farmers suspicious and unfriendly. I submit that, before proceeding along the line of enunciating such a policy in legislation, the Minister should be careful and should take counsel with these people and see what they think. I know that they are concerned to advise the Minister and to let him know what they feel about it all. If such a situation confronts the Minister, the time to do that is now and not later.

It is interesting to hear Senator Baxter protecting the milk producers from the milk board which has a majority of representatives of producers. It is also interesting to hear him suggesting that the Minister must be a very simple man, but I would ask him to treat this matter seriously. He started off by telling us that he has no bees in his bonnet. I suggest that if he has not got bees in his bonnet, he must have bats in the belfry. He goes to great rounds and works himself up into a terrible state about the milk producers. The Minister tries, so far as it is possible, to assure him that this section was suggested by the milk producers themselves, and he reads a letter from the Cork Milk Board, which again has a majority of producers. Senator Baxter's only reply is again that the Cork farmers must be simple people, that they did not understand what was in a section which has been discussed in public and private for the past three or four weeks, that they did not understand what they were doing, and that they thought it was something else they were asking for.

It is not necessary for me to point out that the milk producers in Cork, and Cork farmers generally, are as up-to-date as the farmers of any other part of the country. They are quite capable of looking after their own interests and if there were anything wrong with Section 4 we would have heard about it from some of the Cork representatives here. It should not be necessary for Senator Baxter to defend the Cork men from anybody. The fact is also of some importance that this Bill was handed to the Minister cut and dried when he went into office, and I ask any member of the Seanad if, in his wildest moments, he could imagine Senator Baxter getting up here to attack the Bill if it happened to be produced by the previous Minister. By an act of God, the previous Minister having been removed from office, the present Minister handled the Bill left on his table by the Minister who had left office and Senator Baxter finds everything possible wrong with it.

Senator Baxter suggested that some desperate things were going to happen under Section 4—shops were going to be set up here, there and everywhere. Nobody believes that any Minister— even the previous Minister, who was capable of doing a lot of queer things —would be capable of doing what he suggests this or a future Minister would have power to do. Even the previous Minister would not do it.

What, then, is the need to take powers to do it?

If Ministers were to use the powers they have under this and other legislation there would be no trouble—and I would not be in the least surprised if the previous Minister had done it if he had been in power long enough—in setting up an insemination centre in St. Stephen's Green or something of the kind. The powers given to various Governments under various Acts of Parliament would make life impossible for the people if they were fully used, but the people take the necessary measures to remove people they think are likely to misuse the powers given to them under this or any other legislation.

It is fairly obvious that Senator Baxter is not speaking for the Cork farmers—he is wasting his sympathy on them. It is suggested that he is speaking for some other group of milk suppliers in the country. I have gone to the trouble—largely because I was misrepresented when speaking on the Second Reading — of interviewing several of these milk producers, and while I am prepared to agree that if Senator Baxter had taken the trouble, as I did, to find someone not in agreement with the section, I am sure he would find also he could produce a man and say he was a genuine milk producer and was not in favour of this. However, as far as I can find out, the majority are in favour.

A book was handed to me by one milk producer, the report of the evidence given by the Association of Milk Producers before the Dublin Milk Tribunal. It is a written memorandum which was read out by the representative of the milk producers on oath before that tribunal. This is given on page 35:—

"It is our view that to make any really effective progress the functions and powers of the present board should be enlarged and replaced by a representative marketing board. At present, its functions are more in the nature of policing the sale and production area. The board should be in the position of an active participant in the milk trade."

Senator Baxter pretends that he is representing a substantial number of people when he puts up his argument against the section. I doubt very much if Senator Baxter has considered the matter seriously at all, other than to consult some two or three people who would naturally be swarming around the Senator if they thought he wanted to try to give any bit of trouble in the House or be contrary with the Minister. I suggest that the Senator should withdraw the amendment gracefully and admit he is really not speaking here on behalf of any substantial number of milk suppliers.

It is quite evident from the evidence produced here by the Minister, from letters he has read and statements he has made, that the Minister has gone very carefully into the matter. I would not blame him for doing that, to make quite sure that the previous Minister had not gone on another wild streak, as he did in the past. The Minister has examined the matter very carefully, he is supported by both milk boards and there is not the slightest danger that this is an instrument for the destruction of the milk suppliers either in the north, south, east or west. I suggest that the amendment should be withdrawn.

I suppose Senator Quirke never gets up to try to convince me.

I am sure I never could.

I did not interrupt the Senator. I do not know if he has convinced anyone; it did not seem as if he had convinced even himself before he rose. He told us the Minister or the board does not intend to do so and so, but I simply ask why then they are taking the powers. That is the net point. The Minister said earlier that these powers were already there under the Emergency Powers Act during the emergency. I know that but, of course, they were there at a time when no one knew when communications might be broken up or what the situation was going to be in the country, and I presume they were deemed necessary at that time. I am talking about what we are about to embody in permanent legislation. My information is that what is in this section does not represent the views of the producers in the Dublin milk district. That is something which can be tested.

I do not know to whom Senator Quirke was talking. Even if no one had ever said anything to me about this, I am against the principle enshrined in the Bill that would give power to the Dublin Milk Board to open milk shops all over the country. I say that that is wrong in principle. These semi-State monopolies are the kind of thing we must do our best to stand against. I suppose we are fighting, in the main, a rearguard action in this battle. When proposals come in this form I certainly could not accept them. This section can be carried, but that does not prove that it is right. I do not know what the Minister's predecessor was going to do, but if he came here with the same proposal I would be against it. I would say so in private and in public and would not mind a bit what he said, whether he be pleased or not.

I know the Minister has had these proposals passed on to him, but I would expect him to weigh them and balance them himself. I am not trying to make difficulties for the Minister. If he were an ordinary Deputy and saw the Dublin Milk Board going down to open milk depots in Kilkenny or in towns in his own constituency, while the farmers there were not supplying, either because of a shortage of milk or because the prices were so low that production was falling, the Minister himself would say that that was not the right way to encourage production. If we are to encourage production locally, it will not be achieved by taking milk out of the Dublin milk district which may come in from Navan, Louth or somewhere else.

Senator Baxter is very strong on that point, as to whether we have any authority or permission or sanction to introduce the Bill. I have already given the Cork one. I have said that the Dublin representatives were in with me and, with the exception of that one section, they were agreeable to the Bill and they wanted it. Under the Emergency Powers Act, we had no need to put that section in at all. We still have the powers, but no one has asked us to revoke them— because of the chaotic conditions one would have amongst producers. No one thought that those powers would be used to go out and set up shops all over the country. For instance, if there is a surplus of milk in Dublin, how is it to be disposed of? No one has given a solution of that yet. Others have suggested a way of disposing of it.

By selling it wherever it can be sold. The amendment introduced by Senator Baxter would restrict the movement of that milk and confine its sale to the Dublin area. The possibilities are that it might have to be sold at a loss, if the milk board were prevented from going outside the area to sell milk. In the case of a shortage, it could restrict the area from which milk could be brought. The Senator is concerned about an emergency, but if there were a threatened strike or if there were any such emergency in the country, you may readily accept that the whole country would be thrown open for the supply of milk to Dublin, as was done in the past, when creameries were compelled in one way or another to supply the milk. The powers are already there and what is contained here is nothing more than the powers we have already.

Representations have been made from Cork to have this Bill put through in its present form. They want every section or otherwise they would have told us so. In the letter given to me from the Cork Milk Board, it is stated "in its present form," and I have heard no complaint from anyone. Also, in the evidence submitted to the tribunal in Dublin, there was a member of the committee there who supported it, and that member was also with me when the representatives of the Dublin Milk Board came to see me a fortnight ago. Although Senator Baxter states here that they are not in agreement with me, the person who made that statement offered no objection when he was with me. I cannot understand where Senator Baxter got his information or his instructions to oppose this. It was not from the members of the Dublin Milk Board, in so far as I was speaking to them. I had a representative body of them there—the producers and the distributors—and as far as the Bill is concerned they were anxious that the Bill should go through. I do say they objected to Section 4.

That is the point.

But as for the Bill itself, they were anxious it should go through.

So am I.

I offered to withdraw the Bill but they did not tell me to withdraw it, and I have been waiting a fortnight since. I said that if they wished I would withdraw itin globo. Why have they not come along to tell me to withdraw it?

The Bill is going to go through with Section 4 or it is not going through at all. I cannot find any legitimate excuse for Senator Baxter getting up here and opposing the section. He is reading into it something which is not meant to be in it, and something which is not meant to be applied under the section. As I have said, the powers are there, and they can be used in the morning, and I cannot see for the life of me how this board as at present constituted, and as it must be constituted in the future, with a majority of producer representatives, can ever be used for the purpose of damaging the producers' interests.

Having listened to what Senator Baxter has said to-day and repeated so often, I must say that I do not take it seriously, and I would suggest to the House also not to take his amendment seriously, because if I can read into what he has said and interpret it properly, he will allow only the Dublin District Milk Board to engage in the sale of surplus milk, and will not give them the power of buying surplus milk. He will only make an auctioneer of the board to sell surplus milk when there is a surplus. He then decides that he would give them the right to provide out of their revenue premises and equipment to dispose of surplus milk, but they will have to sell it by auction. He does not allow them to buy it.

Senator Baxter's amendment is ridiculous in my view, and I do not intend to go into all that he has said and all he has repeated so often about what is in force at present under emergency regulations. Goodness knows, we never know when emergency conditions may arise again. I am aware that on previous occasions the Dublin District Board had to buy milk and had to enter into districts where there was a surplus of milk and, certainly, that can be termed cooperation. It amazes me that Senator Baxter should make such an appalling accusation against the members of the Dublin District Milk Board. He rebuked the members of the board because they were volunteers. Because they were not being paid, he considered that they were ineffective. He said that the chairman of the board was a dictator and could do what he liked. That is a terrible accusation against the chairman of the Dublin District Milk Board.

That is a very extravagant statement.

It is not a very extravagant statement, and when his statement appears in print he will find that I am materially correct. Indeed, it appalled me to hear Senator Baxter make such a statement. He made many other statements which I consider to be equally ridiculous, but I feel that an accusation against people who are giving their time, energies and services voluntarily—an accusation because they were volunteers—merits my contradiction. I think it an extraordinary attitude by any responsible Senator in this House.

As I said previously, I do not wish to go over the ground covered by Senator Baxter as it would take too long. I cannot see anything whatsoever against the items in the legislation to which he objects. If there is a surplus the Dublin District Milk Board are empowered to buy up the surplus and if there is a shortage they are empowered to go as far as West Cork so as to supplement supplies of milk in Dublin. Creameries in West Cork are registered for the supply of milk to Dublin, the Dublin districts when the counties scheduled in the Dublin board have not sufficient to supply the needs. Therefore there is provision in the Bill for scarcity and provision for disposing of a surplus. Surely we as legislators could not object to give the Dublin and Cork District Milk Boards —there is no mention of the Louth district—full power to supplement a deficiency of milk or to dispose of a surplus of the product. I do not wish to delay the House any longer in pointing to the ridiculous statements made by Senator Baxter.

I am interested primarily in the principle involved both in the section and in the amendment. I have read the amendment put down to the section and I listened to the Minister replying a moment ago. He said, if I interpret him rightly, that there was a restriction implied in Senator Baxter's amendment—a restriction implied in the movement of milk as it were—a restriction whereby the board operating within either the Cork or Dublin areas could not move milk elsewhere. Maybe I am very dense to-day and not as interpretative as usual, but I do not see the restriction. That is the main difference. The restriction is not stated in the amendment and it seems to me, having read both the section and the amendment that——

It is within the area. It cannot go outside it.

Within the area is not within the amendment.

Within the joint district.

Is a joint district within the area? There is a good deal of tweedledum and tweedledee in the whole argument. It deals with a very fundamental commodity and, for myself, I do not think there is very much between the Minister and Senator Baxter except that Senator Baxter's amendment deals entirely with surplus milk whereas the section mentions milk generally. However, I am much more interested in the principle involved, and that is the extension of State-sponsored distribution of goods. I think we ought to be very careful in this House as well as very watchful of the activities of State enterprise in that direction. We are dealing now with a fundamental commodity and we will have to go the whole hog and not adopt the hypocritical attitude of the opposite side of the House when talking about private enterprise. One cannot have it both ways. If we want State enterprise, let us have it, or if we want private enterprise, let us have that. I think there is a very clear-cut division between our points of view in that matter and one which I would ask you to reconsider.

Senator O'Donnell has mentioned a State enterprise. This is not a State enterprise. The Department of Agriculture has no jurisdiction whatever over the members of this board. They are re-elected every three years and run their own business. They have only asked us to give them legislation to empower them to do so.

I apologise if I misinterpreted. I understood Senator Baxter to say that it was State-controlled. There is a more important fundamental principle involved here and that is the provision of milk in times of scarcity for people who could not otherwise get it. That, I submit, is what is envisaged in this Bill. After all, if, in times of scarcity, there are people here in Dublin, in Cork and even in other big centres of population, who cannot get milk in the ordinary way, is it not the duty of the State to come along and ensure that they will get it? I am very sure that if such a development occurred and if the State fell down on that particular issue, the condemnation that would ensue would be very loud and very great indeed. There is a fundamental issue and that is it.

Senator Baxter, I presume, was speaking on behalf of the producers of milk and I am sure if he would reconsider this amendment of his he would find that instead of operating in favour of the milk producers it would work the other way, because everybody knows that a restricted market for the sale of any commodity makes for the cheaper sale of the commodity. In this case of the sale of milk if, as is envisaged in the amendment, the sale of the producers' milk were confined to a certain area, the joint district of the board, that would mean that the price the farmers would get would not be as great for their milk as it would be if there were a wider area.

Where does the Senator suggest it should be sold?


In all the other towns all over the country?

Anywhere it would be feasible to do so.

I support Senator's Baxter's amendment. Perhaps I would not be so keen on supporting it if the Minister were not so adamant in insisting on Section 4. I would be disposed to go somewhat towards the Minister by an extension of Senator Baxter's amendment. But as the position is at the moment I feel that I must support the amendment because of the Minister's stand in regard to Section 4. The Minister and his supporters have told us that in regard to Section 4 they are concerned only with surplus milk. Perhaps I may be mistaken, but I understood all along that the Minister was concerned only with surplus milk and that he wished to be able to dispose of that.

I would give him the right in the Act to deal with surplus milk but I would not give him the right to deal with anything other than surplus milk because I do not feel that the board should enter, in normal times, into normal dealings in the sale of milk with the ordinary retailers. The board would be, not State subsidised, but to a degree nationally subsidised. They would be subsidised and helped by the people in the milk business.

I think it would be entirely wrong to give power to the board to retail milk, to operate in opposition to the ordinary retailers, unless there was something in the nature of a crisis, whereby, as the Minister and some of his colleagues have said, there would be a surplus of milk. In such a case I certainly would give the board the power to sell surplus milk within or without their district. I would give them the power in the case of a shortage to buy within or without their district milk to deal with the shortage, but, certainly, I do not think that the Seanad should help the board to deal or enter into competition with milk retailers in normal times.

We have been told in regard to this board how very representative it is. I am sure it is. The Act of 1936 provides as to its setting up, and it is apparently a very democratic body, but no decision can be made without the approval of the chairman of the board, and the chairman of the board may himself constitute a quorum. The chairman may decide matters himself, but I wish to make it clear now that the chairman, whilst he may decide matters, may only do so after properly convened board meetings. But if only the chairman of the board attended a meeting of the board properly called, the chairman's decision would be the decision of the board. No meetings of the board can be held unless the chairman of the board is present—a very democratically constituted board, but, as you will see, the chairman of that board has very particular powers.

Again, unless I am wrong—the Minister has indicated that I am—the Minister is concerned in the board only in regard to surplus milk. If that is so, he has simply to take Senator Baxter's amendment, deal with it to meet the right to sell within or without the district, and the boards, or whatever other boards may be set up later on—there are two now—will be quite in order, under the Act, in dealing with surplus milk within or without their district.

Why the Minister has brought in this particular section to deal with surplus milk I do not know. It may be that, as another Minister told us, this particular section came out of a pigeon hole. If that is so it is a normal explanation, normal, perhaps, for us to hear. But I think I must support Senator Baxter's amendment against the Minister's Section 4 of the Bill. As I say, if the Minister would give way somewhat on his Section 4, Senator Baxter's amendment might be extended to meet the situation in regard to surplus milk, but only surplus milk. I do not agree that a board such as this, a powerful and well-off board, should go into competition with the ordinary retailers.

I would say this to the Minister, that, if he gets some of the powers he requires under Section 4, the board must have additional staff. I understand that the staff of the board is not at all happy or comfortable at present in their position. They are dealt with and controlled by the Minister. Because the staff is controlled by the Minister the Labour Court are unable to deal with them in regard to conditions of employment and the Minister may find that he cannot deal with them because they are civil servants. He could not deal with them in the way their employers, the board, would like to do because they are civil servants. I understand that the staff of the board recently approached the Labour Court with a view to having an investigation as to their conditions. I am not suggesting in any way that their conditions are very unsatisfactory. At any rate, they approached the board with a view to having a case presented to the Labour Court. They were informed by the court that because of the——

I am afraid the Senator is out of order in pursuing that line.

I will not pursue that point any further. I just made the point. I would press the Minister not to insist upon Section 4, and to accept Senator Baxter's amendment. Perhaps the Minister might meet the wishes of Senator Baxter if he provides that it would deal only with surplus milk. We were told this evening that we had bats and bees. I do not think that any Senator who would preface his remarks in that way is really serious. I think he should take this matter seriously. This is a serious matter. It is serious for milk producers and for the milk retailers and it is very serious for the milk consumers.

I have listened with an open mind to the debate on this matter, not having any previous views about it myself one way or the other. I think that on the whole the Minister has made a case for enabling the Dublin Milk Board to operate freely throughout the country in so far as its function is to equalise supply and demand of milk at all times of the year. I also think that Senator Baxter seems to anticipate the areas outside the Dublin Milk Board being flooded with milk produced in the Dublin areas. This fear is entirely unreal and imaginative, for we know that the great bulk of the milk produced in Ireland is produced in the dairying areas of the south-west. It is only with considerable effort that the Dublin district is able to produce enough milk to provide for the necessities of the huge population in Dublin. There are times of the year when the Dublin district is unable to produce enough milk for the people living in the metropolitan area and arrangements have to be made to bring milk from places as far away as West Cork. The powers to do these things should be regularised and put on a permanent basis and these powers must include the power to buy as well as the power to sell. If the board has the power to remedy a shortage by drawing milk from other areas it equally must have the power to dispose of a surplus of milk if it should find a surplus of milk on its hands.

I think there is one point in which the country is interested and that is, what will be the normal way in which the board disposes of its surplus of milk whenever it may arise? It would be quite irregular and undesirable if the board, acquiring a surplus of milk, say, in Athlone, should attempt to dispose of it at a price lower than that at which it is supplied to regular customers of regular retailers in Athlone. I think that is something that Senator Baxter rightly opposes and objects to.

I should like to know whether, in fact, the board contemplates using its surplus in that kind of way. My own feeling is, while the board, on the one hand, ought to be facilitated in acquiring milk in times of scarcity from creameries in other parts of the country, they should also, when having a surplus to dispose of, dispose of it in such a way as not to inconvenience the business of producers and retailers in the country who deal with the whole milk trade. One possible way of disposing of a surplus of milk is by having it made into butter or cheese. In order to do that, they would have to sell the milk back to some creamery. I want to know from the Minister whether it is contemplated selling a surplus, when it arises, back to an existing creamery, or providing a mechanism of their own to deal with that surplus, or by cutting in on existing customers who get their milk from local retailers?

Might I suggest, before the Minister replies, that we are dealing with something which is a constant problem with regard to the drafting of Bills. I suppose it would be regarded as rash to the point of temerity for a person like myself to interfere between two farmers like the Minister and Senator Baxter. I was amused at the description of a farmer as a simple person, whether he is a Minister or not. The Minister is wise. He seems to be wise, because he is convinced he is wise.

This particular section, apart from its merits and what it proposes to do, makes permanent an Emergency Powers Order. It is different from an Emergency Powers Order in that it does not need to be renewed. It is no argument to say that the previous Minister drafted it and was satisfied with it. Whether one had a bee in one's bonnet or not, one can have an independent mind and not go in for that type of thing. The Minister wants to give certain powers to the Milk Board to remedy a situation which has arisen, but in the giving of these powers a section is drafted which the Minister stands over and which apparently his predecessor was prepared to stand over, and which most Ministers would stand over, but it gives the board immense power, far greater than the Minister makes out. Therefore, the Minister cannot answer Professor Johnston's question. He cannot tell him what the Milk Board is going to do. Nobody can.

What the Minister—not only a Fianna Fáil Minister but every other kind of Minister—can do is to say that he is a reasonable man; that he has a remedy for a very difficult problem and that the board will deal with the matter in a most reasonable way and will act properly. I have no doubt they will but whether they do or not Senator Baxter's amendment is restrictive. The section of the Bill is far too wide. It provides for powers far beyond the powers described to us. The Minister told us in his own deceptively simple way what the board intends to do. The board may be only going to do simple things but the section gives them all the powers to retail milk in the uttermost corners of the country. Perhaps they will not do it but they have the power to do it and nothing that the Minister says about what he thinks about it can take the power from them.

I am not simple but in this particular case I am ignorant. I do not know anything about milk or the production or sale thereof. Therefore, I cannot make any suggestions but I am perfectly certain, having read a great number of Bills, that this particular power which is to be given to the board is enormous and far greater than the Minister, in his own simple way, claims. Whatever he may say to Professor Johnston—I do not intend any disrespect to the Minister—he may speak to Professor Johnston with the greatest possible sincerity of an angel but it does not matter.

In reply to Professor Johnston, who has expressed his fears that the section, when implemented, will operate to the detriment of the farmers and the producers in the country, I may say that the powers have been there for ten years under the Emergency Powers Act and they have not been used to the detriment of the farmers in that period. I do not see any reason why anybody should come along now and suggest that it would be used to the detriment of farmers in the future. I think that Senators need have no fears and I should like to allay any fears Senator Johnston may have with regard to the use that will be made of that section when the Bill is passed.

Senator P.F. O'Reilly raised the question of the chairman's powers. I think he must have been misinformed or that he is suffering under a misapprehension. The chairman has no power in respect of decisions regarding what the board may do. The board, by a majority vote, makes its own decisions. The only case in which the chairman may make a decision is in regard to the payment of a price recommendation. As far as the ordinary voting of the board is concerned, the board itself makes its own decision by a majority vote. The chairman is not there in the form of a dictator, as some people might try to suggest.

I did not wish to suggest that.

It might have been suggested. I think that this section has been pretty well discussed and from the discussion that has taken place I see no reason in the world why it should be withdrawn or why I should accept the amendment. There is no danger in the section. Any fears the Senator may have are, I think, very wrongly conceived.

Where is the Minister going to sell the surplus milk?

The practice up to the present has been to transfer it from one district to another. The board must be the buyer. One distributor may have a shortage. The board may buy, say, from Merville and sell to Lucan; that is within the area. It may be disposed of to a chocolate crumb factory. It may be sent down the country to a creamery. There may be a shortage of milk in some town through unforeseen circumstances and the milk may be sent there. That is all that is needed: that it may be disposed of in that fashion. The board is not looking for any extraordinary powers under that section or anything beyond what they have already. With the representation as it is, I do not see how the powers can be used against the producers. Surely the producers' representatives are not going to use their own powers in a manner detrimental to other producers. Therefore, there is no reason why the Senator should not withdraw.

I would like to be clear as to what the Minister's argument is. I did not hear his initial contribution——

I am not going to repeat it.

That is certainly a very courteous attitude for the Minister to adopt. As far as I can gather the Minister's suggestion is this: "I am introducing a section in a Bill; that section is not going to be used; the powers contained in the section have, in fact, been there for the past ten years under Emergency Powers Orders and have not been used. Therefore neither Senator Johnston nor any other Senator need have the slightest fear." That, I take it, is the Minister's argument in a nutshell.

I have been speaking here for an hour. If the Senator had been here he would have learned more than he has said in the last five minutes.

I am taking it that the Minister, like Irish produce, is consistently excellent and that the latter portion of his remarks and the earlier portion of his remarks are at least consistent. That is the case the Minister made in reply to Senators O'Reilly, Johnston and Hayes. It is not a case that impresses me. Senator Hayes was quite right. Whether or not that position obtained if the section were introduced into permanent legislation as the Minister seeks, powers are being given. Those powers are enormous powers. The Minister or his successor or his successor's successor may come up against a situation where he would not want to see those powers used but the powers have been given and he can do nothing to stop them.

In connection with a point made by Senator O'Reilly, the Minister seemed to indicate that the chairman of the Milk Board is not a person who has any great powers. He may be right in that, but I want to refer the Minister to Section 23 of the 1936 Act. As far as I can see, Senator O'Reilly is quite right. Senator O'Reilly claimed that at meetings of the board the chairman alone can constitute a quorum. Section 23 of the 1936 Act reads:—

"(1) Every board shall hold its first meeting on such day and at such time and place as the Minister shall appoint.

(2) Subject to the provisions of this section, every board shall hold such and so many meetings and at such times as may be necessary for the proper discharge of its functions under this Act.

(3) The chairman of a board alone shall constitute a quorum at a meeting of such board."

At a meeting which, under the section, is for the proper discharge of the functions of the board, the chairman may be the only person present. Presumably, in such a set of circumstances, the 1936 Act having provided for the chairman alone to constitute a quorum, the chairman will constitute a quorum and discharge the proper functions of the board. That being so, it certainly seems to me, at any rate, that Senator O'Reilly is perfectly right in the point he made and that there is certainly no need for him to defer on that to the Minister's suggestion that he was wrong. I think that Senator O'Reilly was quite right.

The meeting must be properly convened, and in the event of the members not turning up, the chairman constitutes a quorum.

I would suggest, if it can possibly be managed, that a few lawyers be put on the board. They would all turn up for practice because they like talking when they know nothing about the subject.

And for better practice have a few auctioneers.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Shall I put the amendment?

Put the amendment, please.

Amendment put and declared negatived.

Question—"That Section 4 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
Sections 5 to 10, inclusive, and Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Agreed to take remaining stages now.
Question—"That the Bill be received for final consideration"—put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I would like to ask the Minister, at the risk of being out of order—I will be very brief—whether he can hold out any hope for the staffs of the Dublin Board who are definitely dissatisfied at the manner in which they have been received. Their case does not seem to have got any consideration and cannot be considered by the Labour Court.

It can be considered all right.

That is all they want the Minister to do—to undertake to consider it.

Question put and agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The motion in the names of Senators O'Brien and Douglas is not being moved to-day.

The Seanad adjourned at 4.35 p.m.sine die.