Senators will recall the undertaking which I gave to the House on the question of temporary legislation. I undertook that such legislation would be carefully examined to see the extent to which it is still required and that, where it was necessary to retain certain powers, permanent legislation would be introduced to replace the temporary provisions. This is the permanent legislation relating to the production and price of flour and wheatenmeal.
This Bill seeks to give extended life to Orders which, in the normal way, would lapse with the expiry of the Supplies and Services Act. The Orders under which the controls are at present exercised are the Flour and Wheatenmeal Order, 1955, and the Flour and Wheatenmeal Order, 1955 (Amendment) Order, 1956. The main provisions of these Orders are:—
(a) When wheat is being cleaned preparatory to milling not more than 2½ per cent. of the wheat may be removed as screenings.
(b) Millers may not make or sell any flour or wheatenmeal other than "straight run" flour and standard wheatenmeal.
(c) Flour and wheatenmeal of different kinds may not be sold in excess of fixed maximum prices.
(d) Flour and wheatenmeal may not be sieved by bakers and others who use flour and wheatenmeal for the purposes of their business.
(e) Wheatenmeal and flour other than flour of a certain extraction may not be used in the manufacture of biscuits and confectionery. This restriction makes it illegal to use subsidised flour for the manufacture of biscuits and confectionery.
(f) The Minister may, by permit, give relief from any of the prohibitions contained in the Orders and may attach to the permits such conditions as he thinks fit.
A difference (but not a difference in principle) between the provisions of the Bill and the provisions of the Orders which will be allowed to expire is that the prices for "straight run" flour and standard wheatenmeal are specified in the Orders, while the Bill provides that the Minister may make regulations to prescribe the prices which may be charged.
It has been the practice, in administering the flour subsidy, to settle the proportions of native and imported wheat to be contained in the grist which is milled into flour and to prescribe the extraction rates at which the grist is to be milled, that is to say, how much of the products of the milling is to be taken off as flour and how much to be taken off as offal. It is proposed in the Bill to take power to prescribe these matters.
The remaining provisions are ancillary to the main provisions I have indicated. As well as the usual clauses relating to enforcement, the Bill provides that any regulations which may be made shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas, and if a resolution annulling the regulation is passed by either House within the next 21 sitting days the regulation shall be annualled, but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done thereunder.
This Bill is doing in a permanent way what is at present done by Orders under the Supplies and Services Act, which is normally due to expire in March next.