Public Business. - Agricultural Produce (Cereals) (Amendment) Bill, 1958—Second Stage.

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

The purpose of this Bill is to implement the arrangements in relation to surplus wheat which were announced in January last and subsequently discussed in this House. The proposal is to spread fairly over all wheat growers the cost of disposing of such quantity of millable wheat as may be produced in excess of requirements. For this purpose a levy will be deducted by the purchasers from the price of all millable wheat marketed; this levy will be paid into a fund to be managed by a board to be set up under this Bill and will be used to meet the cost of the disposal of the surplus wheat. In respect of the 1958 crop the surplus will be that quantity of wheat marketed for milling in excess of 300,000 tons dried.

The most important sections of the Bill are Sections 2, 3 and 4. Section 2 provides for the deduction of the wheat levy from the standard price by the purchasers and for the transmission of the sums involved to the board which is to be set up under the Act. This section also provides for a payment of the levy to the Minister in the event of the board not being in operation before the commencement of the 1958 harvest.

Section 3 provides for the fixing of the rate of wheat levy by the Minister. It is intended that before fixing the levy the Minister should consult with the board to be set up but provision is also made for consultation with representatives of the growers in the event of the board not being in operation before the levy appropriate to the 1958 crop is determined.

Section 4 provides for the establishment of a board to be known as An Bord Gráin. The primary function of this board will be to collect the wheat levies and to arrange for the disposal of surplus wheat to the best advantage. It is intended that the board shall consist of a chairman and not less than four or more than eight other members to be appointed by the Minister for Agriculture. I may say here that before making appointments to the board, I propose to have consultations with the interests concerned. These interests include not only the growers of the wheat but the pig feeders and the manufacturers of animal feeding stuffs who will be concerned in the disposal of the surplus wheat for feed.

It will be noted that in addition to the general powers being given to the board to purchase and sell surplus home-grown millable wheat and to collect the wheat levy it will also be empowered—

(a) to invest moneys under its control;

(b) to arrange for the carriage, drying, handling and storage of wheat either by providing itself with the necessary facilities or by arranging with the owners of such facilities to use them on behalf of the board;

(c) to provide itself with such offices and premises as it considers necessary and to equip and maintain such offices and premises;

(d) to borrow, with the consent of the Minister, from time to time such moneys as it considers necessary; provision is also made for the guaranteeing of a loan to the board by the Minister with the consent of the Minister for Finance up to a maximum of £3,500,000;

(e) to appoint such and so many persons to be its officers and servants as it thinks fit; (an officer of the board will be authorised to inspect and to make copies of records of all purchases of wheat. This power is necessary in order that the board may ensure that levy is paid on all purchases).

(f) to require wheat purchasers by notice in writing to furnish to the board in such form and at such time or times as it may specify returns disclosing the date of purchase of any wheat and the quantity, quality and condition of wheat purchased.

It is provided in Sections 20 and 21 that the board shall submit to the Minister each year a copy of its accounts (including the balance sheet) certified by the Comptroller and Auditor-General, together with an annual report, and that such accounts and report shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas.

As I have indicated already, the primary function of the board is to collect the levy and arrange for the disposal to the best advantage of the surplus wheat which may arise. I would like, however, to direct the attention of the House to Section 7 of the Bill, which provides that the Minister for Agriculture may, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, from time to time by Order (a) assign to the board such additional functions as he thinks fit in relation to cereals (excluding wheat imported for milling), cereal products and animal feeding stuffs; (b) make such provision as he considers desirable or necessary in relation to matters ancillary to, or arising out of, the assignment to or fulfilment by the board of functions assigned to it under this section.

This provision is being included in the Bill in view of the fact that Grain Importers (Eire) Limited will probably be wound up in the near future. As the House is aware, that company has fulfilled a very useful function since 1939 in arranging for imports of wheat and coarse grains and also in operating various schemes introduced for the purchase and disposal of home-grown cereals. When this company was set up in 1939, it was intended that it should operate only for the emergency period. Due to various circumstances, however, it has been continued in operation and its directors, who have given their services without fee, are anxious to be relieved of their responsibilities in this regard. It is now proposed that the business of importing wheat for milling will revert to the usual trade channels and while it may be possible, in consultation with the interests concerned, to arrange for the import through the usual trade channels, of such limited quantities of coarse grain as may be required, it is most desirable that some central organisation should be available to implement such schemes as may be devised for the marketing of home-grown cereals.

Finally, I should like to say that the arrangements now proposed for the marketing of surplus millable wheat are experimental; they have been accepted by the Government following consideration of the various proposals put forward by interested parties and if they do not operate satisfactorily some other arrangement will have to be devised.

This Bill, in my view, crystallises an action by a Party now in Government who refused to accept the difficulties that existed with regard to the marketing of what and are now asking the wheat growers to accept those difficulties themselves. Everything is now being cast back into the hands of the wheat growers to look after them. This Government went into office after constantly and repetitively refusing to accept the difficulties that existed and refusing to consult with the then Government in their efforts to do their best for the wheat growers.

Lest anybody should think that this was the first time there was a surplus of wheat and the first time there was a major difficulty, one has only to address oneself to the figures of mill intake. In 1953, there was an intake of 2,600,000 brls; in 1954, 3,286,000 brls.; and in 1957, last year, we had a mill intake of 2,781,000 brls., approximately the same as 1953. This year we have approximately the same intake as we had in 1954. The difficulties in 1954 were largely magnified by the fact that because of the very wet year, our wheat was such that less could be used in the grist. Much less of that wheat could be used in the the grist then.

The principle of the married price which was regarded as a satisfactory principle by such organisations as N.F.A. and which is adopted in this Bill is merely a principle. It has absolutely no relation to the mathematical calculations and the decisions that are arrived at after study and which are to be carried out under this Bill. The principle of the married price is merely a principle.

It is well that we should now look on wheat growing from the point of view of the policy in regard to wheat growing of the various Parties in the two Houses of the Oireachtas. The former Taoiseach, Deputy Costello, before the last election, said that the best he could do was that for five years he would guarantee that he would name a price before the wheat was sown. His words were received with derision. He was regarded as somebody who was merely saying he would reduce the price. Everybody saw a difficulty arising at that time. It was perfectly easy to say to Deputy Costello that he was being cagey, but if the arrangement had stood, the farmers would have known the price before they sowed the crop. This year, they did not know and next year if this Bill is bulldozed through Parliament, they will not know. "Bulldozed" is the operative word. This Bill is being bulldozed through Parliament, with no regard for the interests concerned and for the opinions of people, such as Deputy Russell in the Dáil, who raised their voices on the matter. There was no spirit of co-operation. This Bill is being bulldozed through Parliament. It is a case of like it or lump it.

In the implementation of the principle of the married price, a figure of 300,000 tons was taken. It is well we should consider this figure and where it came from. In December, 1953, before the last election, when it was a fact that there was going to be a difficulty with regard to the marketing of wheat, the Fianna Fáil Cabinet took a decision. That decision, if one has regard to the Dáil Debates, was mentioned not once but four and five times by them since. That decision was that the aim was a production of 300,000 tons of wheat. That aim is still there enshrined in the married price, but the only difference now is that it represents a forced reduction of 100,000 tons in the production of wheat. This is the Government which, when out of office, talked in a headline in theSunday Press of October 23, 1955, like this: “Farmers count their losses in millions; wheat, beet, potatoes incentive is gone”, in an article by the late Deputy Walsh, Minister for Agriculture, God rest his soul. Even the drop of 100,000 tons was still some tens of thousands above the Fianna Fáil aim at that time. “The drop represents some £800,000 loss to the wheat growers.” Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! The pot is surely calling the kettle black to-day!

The Bill is a clumsy Bill. I do not know how it got through the Department of Agriculture because I think there are men there who know the trade, men who know wheat growing and who should have made some better contribution than this clumsy effort before us.

Quality and standards of wheat are completely ignored. Be it known that the flour millers of this country to-day employ a milling consultant who has a laboratory with 50 laboratory assistants testing every possible thing about wheat, flour and bread. What has the Department of Agriculture to compare with this? Have they tried? Is there anything in the Bill to let us know that they will try? This is a most important thing because it must be remembered that for the first time we will have this year at least 400,000 tons of wheat on the market and there will be a market at full price for 300,000 tons of it. The millers know that and they know that quite a lot of it will be set aside for animal feeding.

I do not know if any provision is to be made for segregation or anything else, but I know that a flour miller will not buy wheat for the colour of anybody's bright blue eyes. Milling is not a nationalised industry and the miller will behave exactly the way that best suits himself. Some years ago, this was not so because there was a subsidy. If millers then behaved in a similar manner, there was a similar subsidy and the whole thing worked out normally, but now it is different. If a miller on the north side of Dublin can take in excellent wheat for milling which will give better and more flour per barrel of wheat, he will do better than his neighbour on the south side who takes wheat which is millable, but of which a certain proportion is mediocre.

If you go to the fair to buy ten cattle and 15 are on offer, if prices in relation to quality, bulk and all the rest can be roughly standardised, what do you do? You pick out the ten best cattle and leave the five worst behind. That happened in regard to wheat last year in Dublin City, where you had seven or eight or nine intake points and each intake point was trying as hard as it could to get the best wheat. They wanted the others to get the mediocre wheat, while they got excellent millable wheat. This was because for the first time the price of the loaf and the price of the bag of flour was going to fix their profits. They wanted to see to it that they got the better wheat so as to make the better profits. There is no safeguard to see that the farmer will not have more of his wheat rejected than is necessary. "Rejection" can be "selection" and "rejection" can well become "selection" next harvest, if the Bill goes through.

Talking about the reduction in price, the people who get the price will be lucky because they must have top quality wheat. Everybody cannot have the best quality of the wheat tendered at intake points. Everybody cannot have the best best at the fair and everybody every year cannot have the best wheat. Everybody, if he is a good farmer, can produce good millable wheat. Maybe one year it will be a week later than the year before, but perhaps that suits that year. You will have the situation whereby those decent men producing wheat over ten years may next year or the year following find that they are selling, not on the basis of rejection, if the wheat is not millable, but on a basis of selection even though it is millable. If it is possible for the intake point to select enough wheat of better quality than a farmer's wheat and put it aside for milling then that farmer will have his wheat rejected, even though it is millable.

I had rather thought when there was to be a new approach to wheat intake, a new approach to wheat drying, a new approach to wheat milling and a new approach to wheat growing, that at least some little promise would be given to farmers that the practice of other countries would be followed and that some effort would be made to blend Irish wheat. Up to the moment it was a fact that no such effort was made because Irish millers', the port millers', viewpoint was that if they had the "cure-all" of foreign wheat to mix with Irish wheat in sufficient quantity, they did not need to blend their Irish wheats. Irish wheat could be of any sort and quality so long as it was barely millable because the millers could use the "cure-all" of foreign wheat and forget the blending of Irish wheat.

In England, where as little as 15 per cent. of English wheat is used in the grist—though it is as high as 35 on certain occasions—ships carry wheat from East Anglia to the Port of Liverpool for use in the mills and wheat from the Manchester area makes its way to mills along the Welsh border which is quite a considerable distance from where it is grown. Here where the price of wheat is fixed there is a problem to be faced. With a proper blending of Irish wheat, it is possible to use a greater amount in the grist. Fianna Fáil have decided that 300,000 tons are the amount they can use. They are happy if they can use that amount, but I am not happy. I want to see more of it used. I am not naïve enough to say that with a wave of a wand, you can use 100 per cent. Irish wheat, but I am brave enough to say that I hope efforts will be made. This is one effort which can be made. To give an example of blending and how it works, we had this year at various intake points in Louth wheat which is more acceptable to millers for inclusion in their grist at the moment than other wheat which the millers had.

I have heard the miller in a very large mill in Waterford say that he was very sorry that he could not get down to Waterford some of the wheat of his own firm from Ardee in County Louth for the admixture, and in my own business, a miller for whom I buy wheat has refused to allow me to take even a very small quantity for animal foodstuffs because he wants to admix it with wheat from another area which has certain characteristics. These are things which should be investigated but are not to be investigated and are not envisaged in this Bill. If the Department of Agriculture has not at present the facilities to enable it to know what is wanted, there are a couple of milling consultants, very large firms, in England which will gladly give them all the reports and information about Irish wheat they want. If we are only groping before we walk, if the Industrial Research Institute is not supplying as complex and complete figures as we would like or doing all the tests, let us see to it that we get the information by going further.

Section 7 was referred to in the Dáil the day before yesterday by Deputy Russell. I do not like it. I realise that during and after the war there was the necessity for the purchase of coarse grains by Grain Importers, Ltd., yet any of those large State-sponsored organisations are liable to be expensive and I would prefer if the disposal of millable and unmillable coarse grain and other feeding stuffs was left to the ordinary trade channels. To give an example of what can happen, I have seen wheat being consigned from Louth for animal feeding stuffs to points very far away, at the same time as compound millers in Louth were having it sent to them from as far away as Wexford. Imagine the loss there in freight alone.

The flour miller could not care less, nor could Grain Importers, but the unfortunate man buying a bag of meal in Monaghan, Louth or Meath was paying possibly 6d., 9d., or 1/- more for his bag. That is what we do not want. We want to get away from organised purchasing. We have one of the finest grain markets in the world not very far away from us, in Liverpool, and most of our grain comes from there, anyway. While it is necessary in the case of large shipments to see that large combines within this country which are controlled from outside do not fix prices and create a ring and, while at the same time not wishing to exclude Section 7, I would hope that month by month and year by year there would be a reversion to the ordinary trade channels in purchasing coarse grains from outside this country.

Hear, hear! I approve of that emphatically.

Finally, I would say that I still have hope that the Minister will see a little bit of light, that he will not bulldoze the Bill through but will listen to the various opinions expressed in this House and by farming organisations outside. I would prefer that he would have such matters discussed here to-day because, as the Bill is, it is clumsy and various things that have been mentioned by me, for instance, should be considered at least a little.

There is a point about Irish flour milling which is obvious but never discussed or mentioned. It seems to be unmentionable. That is the fact that the two large milling combines which own the port mills derive fantastic, colossal benefit from the fact that they can suck foreign wheat into their mills and their own store and mill it there without further movement. Imagine the difference between sucking wheat at the North Wall in Dublin or at Limerick or Waterford direct from the boat and milling it, with no extra charges except the port dues, and a miller in Carlow, Sligo or various other places who has to have the wheat taken in at Dublin port, Limerick, Waterford or elsewhere, stored for him by firms like the Merchants' Warehousing Company, bagged off or put into bulk lorries and driven to his mill.

Perhaps the Senator would now relate this to the question of the disposal of surplus wheat.

The relation is that this is a Bill designed to dispose of surplus wheat and also to look after the purchase of the wheat crop in the future, and here is a considerable extra profit that could be looked to in the Bill and should in fact be considered when the framework of financial legislation under Sections 2 and 3 is being considered. The Minister should consult with the millers on this point and, if possible, see to it that there is more equity in the milling trade. If the intake of foreign wheat was even punitively treated, it would be far better. Imagine a situation where a flour miller knows in his approach to the purchase of Irish wheat that if he can import 10 per cent. more foreign wheat, he will gain a fabulous sum of money! This should not be allowed to continue. Those millers with these facilities should be encouraged, even by punitive measures, to see to it that more Irish wheat is used, because the more Irish wheat used, the higher the price will be to the farmers.

I would ask the Minister if he can to give us the price of Irish wheat for the coming year before the Dáil and Seanad rise. After all, the elected representatives, no matter what political side they come from, are entitled to know. Even though the Minister has arrangements made that he will not make the announcement until the end of the month, it is a cheap thing not to have an opportunity of discussing the price of wheat here. I at least have not approached this in a very political way, and the Minister would find that the matter would be discussed amicably and fairly, if he would make the announcement now.

The purpose of this Bill, to my mind, is legally to rob the farmers of this country and to enable the Government to evade the responsibility which rests on nobody but themselves. When they were not in power, by speeches from back-benchers and innuendoes from Front Bench Fianna Fáil Deputies in the Dáil, they tried to put over to the people that if they were re-elected, they would increase the price of wheat. This Bill is nothing more than complete and absolute deceit.

I have seldom got up in this House feeling so badly about any Bill in my four years as a member of the Seanad, and I think that the Minister by this Bill has done irreparable harm to his own Party. He has taken what I would consider the cowardly way out, not facing up to the responsibilities and promises made by both Fianna Fáil front-benchers and back-benchers in election speeches and speeches made during their term in Opposition. This is a very undemocratic way of taking advantage of the farmers of this country. They have been robbed by the millers for the past 20 years and now a Bill is being introduced to rob them still further. I protest against this Bill and feel very strongly about it.

After hearing the rather sensible speech of Senator Donegan, I felt that it might not be necessary to say anything on this measure; but having heard Senator Prendergast, I feel that it is necessary to say something.

So much has been said on this question of wheat, here and elsewhere, that it is time we became sensible and objective in our treatment of it. Therefore, it is a pity that Senator Prendergast, without apparently having anything to contribute, should rise and make what were—may I say, without offence to the Chair?—rather unparliamentary statements.

I agree substantially with the speech made by Senator Donegan on the scheme—since he, apparently, is agreeing substantially with the Bill.

I am not.

I must have misinterpreted the Senator. I take it he agrees that some scheme must be found for dealing with surplus wheat. We are agreed that we have arrived at the stage where more than the 300,000 tons will be available to us each year, as an excess over and above the amount decided by the Government to be necessary for milling to make bread and flour for our people. Since we are to have that surplus, it is obvious that some organised scheme must be found.

Apparently the Minister is not very tied to the present scheme, as he indicated that it is of an experimental nature and that, as a result of experience, amendments of the scheme or some other scheme may be found necessary to deal with this matter. We are all agreed that we will continue to have that surplus of home-grown wheat and that some organised scheme, reasonably fair and equitable to all parties, must be found.

The Bill is a reasonable, a fair and an honest effort on the part of the Minister to devise a scheme which will be reasonably fair to everybody. No one of us, and certainly no one representing the farming interests, would like to see a position whereby a certain number of wheat-growing farmers could get 75/- or 80/- a barrel for selected millable wheat and that the remainder, the not so lucky ones, should be forced to sell the amount not required for milling purposes, but still millable wheat, at a much lower price as animal feed. It is quite obvious that it would be very unfair to those people who were unlucky or who could not manage to be first in, in supplying wheat to the millers, that they should be forced to accept a relatively low price. It is to avoid that situation that the Minister has brought in this Bill. Senator Donegan knows that that is so and I suggest that it is because he knows and realises it that he made the rather objective speech he made on this measure.

I think the scheme is worth a trial. It will prevent some of our farmers getting a good price while others are forced to accept the price of animal feeding. In view of all that, it is very hard indeed to understand why Senator Prendergast should see fit to get up, without making any reference to the Bill, except to say he regarded it as legalised robbery of the farmers, saying that under the Bill the Government were going to legalise robbery.

That is what they are going to do.

He said the motive behind it was deceit on the part of the Government and he concluded by suggesting that the millers had robbed the country over a long time. I suggest to the Senator that that is not the way to deal with a Bill of this nature. He should have listened more carefully to Senator Donegan, so as to get a better idea of what the Bill is about, since Senator Donegan obviously knew what he was talking about. I hope that, in future, on any measure of this sort, the Senator will not see fit to indulge in these rather extravagant statements, which really mean nothing in the long run.

They hurt too much.

I hope the measure will be a success. I know it will be hard to work it in practice and that many snags will arise. I know it will be hard to ensure the collection of the levy and, human nature being what it is, there will always be the desire of some to be first, whereupon others will have to be last. I wish the measure every success. I hope it will succeed in being fair to all parties, that it will ensure that some farmers will not be forced to sell millable wheat at the price of animal feeding stuffs.

The Minister was asked to indicate the price of wheat. I should not like to be in the Minister's position in answering that question. I know Senator Donegan realises how hard it is to make forecasts on that point and that is why he is asking the Minister, rather innocently, to forecast it. I do not suggest that Senator Donegan is a very innocent man; he is an able man and he realises that—at this stage, or indeed at any time—there is some element of guesswork, as one is dealing with an unharvested crop and one has not a very accurate record of the acreage involved. It is at best an approximation. It is on the amount of wheat harvested that the Minister must gauge his price. Therefore, it is rather soon to ask the Minister to commit himself on this matter of price, if he sees fit to hazard an opinion—perhaps he will; I do not know—but I think it is rather soon to ask him to forecast the price, since he is not faced with that responsibility at the moment.

I hope the board will succeed in ensuring the smooth running of its scheme to deal with surplus wheat and that it will ensure that we will not always be faced with this problem of having debates here about the disposal of wheat.

The Minister said the Bill is experimental. I find it very hard to reconcile that with the elaborate machinery set up in the Bill. This is the first year that we have had the problem of the sale of surplus wheat, but it seems that that matter is to be committed to permanent officers and the board being set up may be a bit premature. The question at issue seems to be what is to be our wheat policy for the future. I, like many others, have been hoping for an announcement of some date for the realisation of our goal of a 100 per cent. Irish loaf. I know the Minister desires that as much as each and every one of us. It would give great hope and confidence to the country if a date could be set for that.

I have been reading about what took place in 1928-29 when there was a campaign being waged for the use of 5 per cent. or 10 per cent. of Irish wheat in bread and the millers asserted at that time that it would absolutely ruin the flour. The same excuse has been used against increasing the percentage. Many people are disturbed by the increasing tendency to monopoly in flour-milling and in the South, especially, there has been a very undesirable development of amalgamation of flour-mills and bakeries with detrimental effects on many small bakeries in local towns. I doubt if such practices would be tolerated even in America where anti-trust laws are in operation to curb such growth in monopolies.

It is doubtful whether such practices can be discussed on this Bill.

Yes, except in so far as the growing of wheat is creating a function for the board. The board is to be appointed by the Minister. I had hoped that the time was coming when our organisations would carry their share of responsibility for development. I should like to have seen in the section a recognition of our organisations and a provision that a certain number of the members of the board should be nominated by the organisations concerned. It is quite easy to define what organisations are. Not every body that put up a placard and say that they represent the farmers are entitled to be called an organisation. They must have the outward marks of an organisation. They must have offices and premises and adequate staff. If that criterion is applied, there are only a few organisations worthy to be so called. Perhaps on Committee Stage the Minister may see fit to amend certain sections to give more direct responsibility to the organisations, especially to the National Farmers' Association, which has been doing a great deal of very valuable uphill work.

I should like a statement from the Minister as to whether we want surplus wheat in future. Wheat growing is not a very profitable business, from an export point of view. It is profitable only in so far as we can use a certain amount at home. I venture to suggest that the economics of the situation would indicate coarse grains rather than the production of an unnecessary surplus of wheat.

The question of surplus can be controlled by some system of contracts. I do not think the board has power to do any such contracting. There are brilliant examples of beet growers handling their problem on a contract basis. Any wheat policy should give proper help to the smaller grower, the man who uses wheat as a valuable part of his rotation, and any surplus should come through the larger grower or should be avoided as far as possible by a workable system of contract wheat growing.

This Bill is a retrograde step and may have far-reaching effects. The Bill ends the Government's guaranteed price for wheat and may be only the thin edge of the wedge to end the guaranteed price for beet, barley and other commodities produced by farmers. All Parties and all Governments have indicated the importance of fair prices, stability and guaranteed prices for farm produce. This Bill wipes away any guaranteed price for wheat. At the present time, when wheat has been in the ground for over four months and within a short time of being harvested, no farmer knows what he will get per barrel.

Various Governments have called for increased production and have got increased production. The farmers answered the call, not because the fields were filled with inspectors, but because there were inducements given and because they had faith in the past Government. No matter what may be said or was said here on the last occasion by Senator Lenihan about the anti-wheat policy of Fine Gael, it was during the Fine Gael Party's term of office, when Deputy Dillon was Minister for Agriculture, that we got a surplus of wheat. The farmers deserve better from the present Government and from the present Minister than the setting up of a board to do the dirty work which the Minister is not man enough to do.

The position that exists to-day is of the present Government's own making. That cannot be denied. The members of the Government when they were in Opposition went around the country and fooled the farmers by promising them that, if they were returned to office, they would give 82/6 per barrel for wheat. Even after the election, even last year, they were content to mislead and fool the farmers.

At column 43, Volume 161, of the Dáil Debates of April, 1957, Deputy Corry put down a question:—

"To ask the Minister for Agriculture if, in view of the absolute necessity for increasing the wheat acreage this year, and in view of the endorsement of the wheat policy by the people..."

——That, of course, was because of the inducement that they would get 82/6 per barrel——

"he will state what steps he intends to take to secure by financial inducement an increased wheat acreage this season; and if, in view of the lateness of the season, he will make an immediate statement on the matter."

The Acting Minister for Agriculture, Deputy Aiken, in reply, said:—

"No alteration in the price of wheat in these last days of March could appreciably affect the acreage of wheat this year."

If the Minister wanted to tell the truth, he could have told it at that time. Instead of trying to fool the farmers, he could have told them that he believed there was enough wheat sown and that there was no reason to give any further financial inducement to get wheat grown. He was not prepared to do that, but he was prepared to give the answer which he gave and to continue still to fool the farmers. If he had told the truth even at that time, the farmers would have been prepared. If he had said, as in all probability the farmers knew, that we would have a surplus of wheat and that it might be necessary to reduce the price of wheat last year, then the farmers would not have ploughed up all the land which they ploughed up last October, November and December and we would not have the position that exists to-day.

In the Dáil, when Deputy Dillon was mentioning the promises made about wheat, the present Minister asked him to produce evidence. I happened to be in Leighlinbridge on a very cold morning during the by-election for Carlow-Kilkenny and the present Minister strutted up and down outside the chapel gate and one thing is certain, he warmed the cockles of the farmers' hearts there that day. I remember, and I wrote it down at the time, that he promised he would give them a price of 82/6 for wheat.

Produce that, sir.

I wrote it down immediately after the Minister said it.

Sir, I am quite clear that during that speech I never mentioned the price of wheat.

The Senator will give the reference.

I do not mind what I am accused of, but I will not allow any Senator or Deputy to get away with that sort of thing.

The Minister is completely wrong; he spoke about the price of wheat.

That is not right.

I am telling the truth. The Minister said it outside the——

The Senator will give the reference.

I wrote it down.

On a point of order——

The Senator will give the reference.

I stayed to hear the Minister and I took a note of it.

The Minister has questioned that statement. The Senator will withdraw the statement, if the reference is not available.

Is my word not as good as the Minister's?

The Senator will withdraw the statement unless he can give the reference.

Withdraw the statement? I have no intention of withdrawing the statement, which I heard the Minister deliberately make outside the chapel gates. I have no intention, good, bad or indifferent, of withdrawing it. There is too much of that kind of thing in this country, promises being made and then broken.

The Senator will resume his seat.

Throw him out.

I have no intention of withdrawing the remark which is quite true.

Is there no procedure in Standing Orders to deal with a Senator who deliberately flouts the Chair? There must be something to cover such a situation in the Standing Orders.

Is the Senator accepting the Minister's statement?

No, Sir; I cannot accept it.

The Senator will resume his seat.

I am very sorry that this situation should arise to-day when we are debating this very important question. It is a very important question for the farmers throughout the country and I am very surprised that any member of the Fianna Fáil Party should say that they made no promises regarding the price of wheat. Any honest member of the Party will recall that they spoke about wheat, about the price of wheat and about the growing of it, from every platform during the by-elections. I have a certain amount of sympathy with the Fianna Fáil Party on this question. I have a good deal of sympathy with them.

There must be one reference. Has the Senator got it?

The Senator should keep calm. The wheat is sown and I hope we will have a bumper crop, even though we will not get the price for it. Not even the Minister can tell the farmers what price they will get for it. However, in the past we took harder knocks than that and the farmers will survive it, with God's help. I should like to support what Senator Quinlan said with regard to a contract price for wheat. It has worked very satisfactorily as far as the growing of beet is concerned and there have been no complaints up and down the country. I do not believe anybody should get a monopoly of the good land of this country and growing a cash crop of wheat on it at the expense of the ordinary farmer who sows his quota of wheat each year on the land he has prepared for it; on the tillage land after sowing his potato and beet crop. If he is breaking up land for beet and potatoes next year, he can grow a nice crop from it, too.

Anybody travelling through the country can see whole farms broken up by conacre men. I believe it is time for the Department to step in, especially since this critical situation has developed with regard to the growing of wheat. I hope next year the Minister and the Department will make an effort to channel the growing of wheat on the same lines as beet is contracted for to-day. I hope the board when it is selling the wheat will make a better effort next year in the selling of it than this year.

In reply to a question in the Dáil recently, we were informed that so many hundred tons of wheat had been sold to British and Six-County farmers and millers at a price of £18 per ton, while the Irish farmer was being charged £26 per ton for it. After that question, the price of wheat was reduced to the Irish farmer from £26 per ton to £23. There is no food more suitable for poultry than wheat. If we have a surplus of wheat, why not give the farmer's wife the benefit of the price we are giving to our competitors in the persons of the British and North of Ireland housewives? I think it is a very unfair thing.

Another unfair thing is that nobody can buy wheat except in six-ton lots. The Minister is well aware that the farmer in County Cavan which is his own area and the farmer in West Cork from which I come cannot always afford to buy in such big lots. He is paying the very extreme price that is being asked for it now by the Department or by whoever is responsible for the sale of it. They should at least be given the wheat in small parcels at the same price as that at which it is exported to the British and Six-County farmers.

The object of this Bill has been discussed up and down the country. There is no member on the Opposition Benches who has not been asked in his own area why the board is being formed. The Department has handled the situation to the best of its ability in the years past. I am sure that the cost of running this board will also fall on the shoulders of the wheat growers.

They will get a Fianna Fáil bank manager as chairman.

The Senator should not be here at all.

It will also in the course of time reduce the price that will be paid to the farmers for this year's wheat crop. There is no other way out of it. In conclusion, I would appeal to the Minister to consider the contract system next year and try to bring some order into the chaos created by the policy of wheat growing pursued by the Fianna Fáil Party and give some sense of security to the farmers who invest in seed in order to grow their field of wheat, plough their ground and pay the rent and rates and all the overheads so that they can at least, before their crop is harvested, know the price they will get for it.

If this Bill is being brought in by way of an experiment, I consider the machinery too elaborate. As a matter of fact, I do not like too many boards at all. I imagine there are too many in the country. They are costly. Some time ago I met the Minister in Clonmel at a meeting of the agricultural committee. I told him that I did not consider it was good policy at the time to export the surplus wheat at £19 a ton and import foreign offals. I explained my view as well as I could. I was very glad to see some few days later that he had decided to sell the surplus wheat at home at £23 or £24 a ton. It works out at 28/- a cwt. ground at the present time. He changed his mind that time. I appeal to him again to change his mind this time.

I do not want to be a pessimist at all. I have a kind of an idea that after a bad season, we may not have the great surplus of wheat at all that people think or about which they talk.

I think it was Senator Donegan who stated that the surplus wheat was not of recent origin. He also stated, if my memory serves me aright, that there was little evidence of co-operation by us as a Party in providing some means of disposing of it. I want to tell the House that, when I became Minister, nobody appeared to have done anything about the surplus wheat.

The amount of surplus wheat which then existed grew up and was a carryover from 1955 into 1956 and from 1956 into 1957. It was exactly 145,000 tons of dried wheat on the 1st January last. The only amount of that surplus wheat disposed of was a small quantity following our return to office. I want to tell the House and the world at large that I would not remain in office in any Government looking on at 120,000 tons of dried wheat bulging in the lofts and the granaries of the country, paid for by the millers using their overdraft arrangements to do so.

Poor fellows!

It was being stored on these lofts and granaries at a cost of 5/- per month per ton, irrespective of all the other charges.

We should weep for them.

If I made a speech during any by-election, there is one thing of which I am sure. It was not on the subject of wheat. It was not on the subject of barley but it was on the subject of the inability, apparently, of those who were in office to find the money to handle that problem. The money was not there. The wheat was there. It cost a very substantial sum of money. If it were to be sold at animal feed prices, it would have to be sold at a loss of £20 per ton. Of course, the caretakers who were in Government at the time would not face up to that responsibility.

When did the Minister come into office?

Your own figures were over 175,000 tons.

You do not want to take your medicine.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Senator Ahern will please allow the Chair to conduct the business.

The plea was made to me here by Senator Donegan that I was not to bulldoze this measure through the House. Apparently his understanding of bulldozing is that all the freedom will be given to him, to his colleagues and to all the critics to talk —as they are entitled to talk so long as they remain within the rules of order—on the subject, but that when the Minister stands up to reply and hits out hard, they are free to smother him if they can. But with the assistance of the Chair, I have a suspicion that that is not going to happen.

On a point of order, I have been accused of annoying the Minister while he was speaking. I did ask the Minister, through you, Sir, a simple question. If I have transgressed, you can rule that I have transgressed. The simple question I asked was when he came into office. That was all.

I cannot remember dates. You can find it out easily from the records of the House. I do not mind being asked a question, but when a Minister or indeed a Senator is making a speech, while a question might be all right at a certain time, it does have a disturbing effect, even if he has the answer on his lips. It is not right; it is not fair. It should not be addressed to him in that way.

I am dealing with a remark made here by the Senator on what he called lack of co-operation in disposing of a problem that was there, he said, as far back as 1954. I am saying—what I am saying is true and the records will establish the truth of it—that nobody really attempted to face that problem but me. In the course of a few months, one way or another, I have been able to get from the Government the means and the money to dispose of that surplus wheat, to refund to those who paid for it the moneys they were out of pocket and sell that surplus wheat so that the lofts and granaries of the country will be available for the harvest to which we are looking forward now. I think that was the first and essential step in order to clear up this whole matter.

Let me tell the House, too, that as far as the price at which this has been disposed of is concerned, I actually called the compound millers together for the purpose of discussing conditions under which they might agree to take over all this wheat. If the compound millers had said to me in the course of those discussions that they were prepared to take over all this surplus wheat at a stated price, I can assure you that they would have got it. But the compound millers, as I explained to Senator Crowe at that meeting in Tipperary, want to make a compound and in order to make a compound, they must have the ingredients to make it. This was their problem. This was their business. They knew more about it than I did. They knew more about it than most of us here. They knew what was value and what was not value. They knew what was a good investment and they knew what was not a good investment. Anyway, I assume they did, being businessmen as keen as mustard.

If I then interested myself in wheat or became in any way vocal about wheat, it certainly was since I came back into office as Minister in the month of November, 1957. This is the task I set myself and this was the concern which I felt: In view of what we suspected would be a large harvest this year, to get the situation clear and to have the machinery ready to move off so that those who had grown this crop would find a customer and so that we would have the means of buying and paying for it, storing and drying it. Whatever other arrangements were agreed upon between the growers and myself could work out afterwards.

There have been references here to the production of an all-Irish loaf and the difference that it would make if we were able to provide an all-Irish loaf. It is not very far back to 1956 and in 1956 the Almighty decided on giving us a certain type of harvest and during portion of that year the percentage of Irish wheat being used was reduced to 50. Indeed, when the millers at that time were being pressed to buy the wheat, to dry it, store it and pay for it, they insisted on freedom to reduce for a time the percentage of Irish wheat used for conversion into flour. It was as a result of that policy in 1956 that I had in 1957-58 the surplus of wheat to dispose of about which I am talking.

Would the Minister allow me for a moment on that point?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

What point?

I am making a speech. I am not in the witness box.

I do not want to have to do what Senator L'Estrange did.

I am in possession here——

The Minister is afraid of the truth.

——and I will certainly hold it. Do not be one bit afraid of that. I know I am disturbing Senator Donegan. I know I am disturbing a number of people.

The Minister knows I cannot make a charge against him.

I know that this is a mild and mellow place but you can get under the political skin of people here just as much as in other places. This is a political case that has been made here and very much like the stuff that has been passed over on us by some of the Senators who have spoken on this.

The Minister is completely mistaken in what he has said.

I say again to those who have been talking in terms of an all-Irish loaf that I am inviting them to take their minds back about a year and a half. A year and a half ago, the millers were permitted by the Minister at the time and the Government of the day to reduce the use of Irish wheat to 50 per cent., and that assurance was given to them on the understanding that they would purchase the wheat coming on the market, and if they did not get that freedom, they were not prepared to purchase that wheat.

It was purchased at full price.

Anybody knows that it surely is not the fault of any Government or Minister that a harvest should be unfavourable. We have, unfortunately, from time to time, had those fairly bad harvests. In fact, as Senator Quinlan has rightly pointed out, we had to drag ourselves along and drag the public minds along from the point where we were not using any Irish wheat to a point where we were coaxing them to take 10 per cent.; and we have gone from 10 per cent. to 20 per cent., to 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 and to 80 per cent. That does not appear to be a bad result at all.

I have been accused here, too, of producing a figure of 300,000 tons of dried millable wheat as the quantity required for our own purposes. It has been said here and in other places that this figure was never agreed upon, was never understood to be the figure by those who discussed this whole scheme provided for in this Bill with the Minister. As far back as 1947, when I was in the Department of Agriculture, we were required as a Government then to make application to the Grain Committee of F.A.O. setting out our requirements in years ahead of imported wheat, and in that application the amount of dried millable wheat at which we aimed here at home was in the neighbourhood of 300,000 tons.

In fact, we were castigated in the Dáil on several occasions by our opponents and critics in the years that followed because we had committed ourselves to that figure and because, as it was said, we were not really aiming at what Fianna Fáil had been claiming it was aiming at. Now, of course, for the convenience of political argument, it comes as a shock and surprise to people to find that even with the fall in the consumption of flour which we are told has taken place here and in other countries, the 300,000 tons figure mentioned is something that is just suddenly and swiftly pulled out of a hat by the Minister for Agriculture or some person who has some design of hurting the interests of the growers.

I have said before, and I will say it again and again because it is true, that the scheme provided for in this Bill for the disposal of any surplus wheat that should arise out of this year's crop is not and was not the sort of scheme that would appeal to me personally. As I said yesterday evening in the Dáil, in a matter of this nature, no one, no matter how well informed or how intelligently advised, can be sure that a particular approach to a problem that has existed for the first time is the right approach. There is always that element of doubt as to whether the approach you have in mind is the right one as against the approach suggested by some others.

I am quite truthfully saying this, because those with whom I discussed this, thanks be to God, are all alive and well and can always meet me face to face, and if I tell an untruth in this matter, then they should be able to establish that; but in the course of my discussions with them, as I said yesterday evening, I devoted quite a considerable time to a very severe criticism of that scheme, because I wanted to give to those who designed it, or in whose mind it was formed, a chance of convincing me that they had been thoughtful about it, that they had applied their minds to it and analysed it carefully. I said to them, too: "Once you hand this to me and once I undertake as Minister to implement this, it is not your scheme any longer. It is mine. I make myself responsible for it, for bringing in proposals to set up this machinery and for endeavouring to make it work."

Who is it who would not when meeting a number of farmers who were so keenly affected as they were, naturally, and meeting the Minister whose duty it was to be concerned, who would not say: "Well, I do not feel any enthusiasm about what you are urging on me and the course you are asking me to take, but you are the people, after all, who will feel this most one way or another, and why should I not try to meet you?"

Senator Quinlan has been inviting me to do all sorts of things in this Bill, to give the right to organisations to build up the board themselves and supply the personnel and all the rest of it; but here I was taking the first step along the road that he has been urging me to continue, without giving me any recognition for the fact that I have taken the first one. I have, then—and no emphasis of mine will be sufficient to make it as clear as I would want to have it—that I am not trying in any way to shirk because in fact the means by which I would have done this myself were entirely different. In the political world, you have to be prepared to take everything. Although I met them quite recently on these matters, I am afraid that the poor farmers—I mean the representatives of the National Farmers' Association—are not as tough as the politicians and indeed it is a good job they are not.

Did the Minister cod them?

The Minister changed his mind.

There you are. There is no end to the abuse I have been getting all my political life, because I am supposed to be a rigid man. Here was one occasion on which I was going to meet these men's case reasonably and sensibly and accept what they were saying.

And cod them. Put in 380,000 tons of Irish wheat.

I met them to-day and I believe they now realise that on the occasion of my first meeting with them I mentioned the figure of 300,000 tons.

They will not withdraw one word they said before.

I have the documentary evidence to prove I did not use that other figure. I have the evidence that so far, from the first day I met them——

I invite the Minister——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

We should be able to discuss what is in the Bill and keep close to the Bill.

The Bill is based upon the scheme and it is hard to talk about the Bill without talking about the scheme. If we had not the scheme we would not have the Bill at all. But I will do whatever I am obliged to do. Anyhow, I really want to make this point. It is not, I suppose, that it matters that much, if some Senator or some Deputy or some group of Senators or Deputies say: "We do not take your word." What can one do about it? There is no way of bringing that to finality. I am anxious, all the same, to put on record this statement, that I have proof that, from the first day I met the representatives of the growers, I used one figure and that was 300,000 tons of dried millable wheat.

Has the Minister proof they accepted it?

I said that for the scheme to be accepted by me it must be based on that figure.

Did they accept it at that figure?

The next time Senator Donegan is speaking, we will have it by putting question and answer, and see how he likes it.

I do not wish to plead for protection or mercy of any kind, as I have a sort of confidence in myself that tells me I will steer fairly safely over all the difficulties. It is only right that I should make my position clear, whether others accept it or not.

Senator Donegan asked me to give whatever information I could, if I had any, as to what the price would be. He wants it before the Dáil and Seanad rise. I am very sorry I cannot oblige him. First of all—and this is a very excellent reason—I do not know what acreage of wheat is in the country at all at present. I have got only the sort of rough estimate that we ourselves are able to refer to, certain calculations we are able to make on the basis of certain figures. Whether it be the middle of July or the third or fourth week of July, the determination which is provided for in this Bill should be made in consultation with the board to be set up—or failing its being in existence, should take place with the representatives of the growers. That consultation need not take place and could not serve any useful purpose, until such time as we have the returns from the people whose duty it is to make these returns. Therefore, I cannot make any guess, nor would it be advisable to start guessing at this stage.

At the time of the announcement of the scheme, the officials in my Department at my request, placed in black and white before the public, and especially before those interested in wheat growing, a clear idea of how that scheme would work and what effect it would have in certain eventualities. I said that if the wheat acreage were as it was this year, if the yield from the wheat acreage were the same as this year, on the basis of a 300,000 tons usage of dried wheat, that would result, according to our calculations, in a reduction of 6/- per barrel.

I said further that if the acreage and the yield should increase or decrease, the reduction figure of 6/- would go up or go down. Now, I could not go any further than that. I was anxious to do that in order that people would at least have that as a sort of guide.

I do not know if I told this in this House, in the course of the discussion which we had here. I met a County Louth man on my way home from this city one night, before the announcement was made at all. I was sitting in the car and I saw this young man standing, as I detected, on his way towards Navan. I pulled up the car and said: "Where are you going?" and he said he was going to Navan and could I give him a lift. I did so and immediately he opened his mouth, I knew he was a County Louth man. I knew by his accent and I said: "You do not belong to here?""No," he says, "I am a Louthman.""What are you doing over here, so far away from home," I asked; and he said: "Well, we have taken land over here for wheat."

So the conversation developed and I was quizzing him about his activities and his employer's activities and the acreage grown and general business and I said: "That is a lot of land to take so far away from home for wheat.""Aye," he said, "and it is going to be down 10/- a barrel.""Is that so?" I said, "it is a thing about which I do not know very much." I said: "I am not a farmer myself; I read the papers fairly closely and I did not see any announcement on that particular subject. I suppose this is the time of the year that it would be made?""Yes," he says, "we are waiting for it, but they all say it is going to be down 10/- a barrel."

The forecast made on the basis that the acreage remained as it was and the yield was the same was of little value, apparently, to my County Louth friend because he was prepared to take greater risks than that. Indeed, there must have been very many County Louth men of the same mind, because in spite of the devastation that has been done to the whole wheat policy by the announcement of this scheme, while I cannot speak authoritatively as to the acreage that has been grown this year, according to calculations based on the limited information we have, the acreage will be substantially higher than it was last year. Therefore, my County Louth friend was prepared to take a chance and so were thousands of others. They have their own reasons for taking these chances.

Senator O'Sullivan has shown a great deal of concern about wheat growers. He is like myself in that. I thought I would have a friend in him, in the sense that I thought he would be thinking of the West Cork pig feeders and cheap grains and the sort of free import of coarse grains that Senator Donegan seems to have a notion of also, but it would not suit the book if he came out too clearly or too strongly on that subject.

I deny that I said "free importation". What I spoke about was importation through the ordinary channels.

There are other books that it might suit but it would not suit the political book to advocate the free importation of coarse grain.

Take out the word "free".

Let the Senator remember that, in the expression of opinion in that regard for which he has been responsible in this House to-night, he has one who is in 100 per cent. agreement with him.

On a point of explanation——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

We had better try to carry on the debate in as orderly a way as possible and the Minister would want to make his contribution to this.

Senator Donegan referred to Section 7 of this Bill and another section. Provision is made for giving to this board certain powers in relation to the importation of coarse grain and feeding stuff of all kinds. I am making the point that the Senator, having commented, as he did, and expressed, as he did, the wish that these controls be relaxed and removed was really expressing my point of view. In fact, at the time he expressed those sentiments I said, for the first and only time that I had reason to say so since I came to know the Senator as a Deputy and as a Senator, that I felt like saying "hear, hear". I said it on that occasion.

The Minister used the word "free" importation. I did not use that word. I said importation through the ordinary trade channels, instead of through an organisation such as Grain Importers. That is what I said.

I am getting more converts to my policy every day of the week, apparently. I have Fine Gael and Cumann na nGaedheal Senators— of course, there are no Fine Gael or Cumann na nGaedheal Senators in this House—running ahead of me as far as these very worthy national pursuits are concerned. When I look at Senator L'Estrange, I think of his contributions during the war years and how critical he was of anybody being asked to grow wheat and the unkindly reception he used to give Ministers when they found it necessary to go before the body of which he was a member, the County Committee of Agriculture of Westmeath.

We asked them in Westmeath by resolution.

He was the most truculent and most unco-operative member of any public body at that time. Now, when we have wheat in abundance and more than we want and more than we can consume, he and some of the other Fine Gael Senators are the people who want to do even more than the National Farmers.

You wanted it to feed John Bull at £18 a ton.

They want to be braver than the National Farmers. The National Farmers knew very well that the taxpayer was not going to continue to give a price for wheat that would result in the sale of, say, 75,000 tons or 100,000 tons of surplus wheat at a price around £20, £21, £22 or £18, while at the same time paying for that wheat £38 of the taxpayers' money. The National Farmers knew that. They were very wise to arrive at that conclusion, as they did. Do you think that would be good enough for the new-found converts to this national policy? Not at all. They would pave the roads and surface the boreens of Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal with surplus wheat at £40 a ton at the expense of the taxpayer about whom they make so many wails from time to time.

It is a pity you did not say that two years ago and you would not be back in power. You were different when you were speaking in Carlow and Kilkenny.

I was a powerful speaker was I not?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

We ought to attempt to consider this Bill in an orderly intelligent way. Let us concentrate on the Bill and leave out the asides, please, on both sides.

A wee bit of fun is no harm.

Put Senator L'Estrange out, if he cannot conduct himself.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I will order the conduct of the House and members as far as possible and I would ask the co-operation of the House from the Minister down.

I was thinking of a comment that was made in regard to what I thought was a very good effort at a place on the borders of Carlow-Kilkenny. The Senator apparently saw fit to refer to it. I am not regarding myself as the judge.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I do not think that is in order on the Bill. If there is no section in the Bill to which that can be related, it does not arise. The Minister must try to keep in order.

That could be right.

We will take it that the Chair will now keep these gentlemen in order.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I am doing my utmost.

You keep them in order and we will keep ourselves in order.

I like to liven up a debate.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I hope, with credit to the House and to everybody, we will continue the discussion.

I am terribly concerned about that, for my own sake. I do think that a wee bit of diversion is no harm. As I stated yesterday, whatever may be the conclusion of people who have not had the opportunity of knowing, there is no person who would be as anxious as I or more anxious than I when discussing a measure of this nature to give any information that I could, to meet any reasoned argument that is advanced, provided, in my judgment, as a result of my experience of dealing with public men, they were genuinely trying to be helpful and constructive and to improve the machinery provided in the Bill or to make suggestions, the adoption of which might effect an amendment of it. That not only applies in this case but it applies in all other matters and that is as it should be, more especially I would say where a Minister for Agriculture is concerned, rather than any other Minister.

As far as the request made by Senator Quinlan is concerned, I appoint the board. Somebody must have the responsibility of making the appointment. The representatives of the organisation that speaks for grain growers know that I will consult them. I have told them that I will consult them. No Minister, if he is a responsible person, wants to be tied down, so long as the responsibility is his, by a provision that he will do something on the recommendation of So-and-So. A board dealing with a matter of this sort should be substantially representative of growers, but as I say there are also the compounders, the cooperatives, the pig-feeders and other such interests, as well as those who produce the grain.

When I approved the inclusion of a section like Section 7, I was thinking in terms of this board, if it appeared to work, as a replacement for Grain Importers entirely, and a board to which I could refer questions such as the ones I have had to decide since I became Minister. I must say I was reluctant to decide such questions because I did feel, even with the advice of my best officials in the Department, that I was not the person who should make these decisions. Questions which I have to decide are those such as whether in view of the fact that we are trying to dispose of 120,000 tons of wheat, I should give a licence for the import of pollard; whether we should import any additional barley, or any or all of these things, at a time when there was a surplus of wheat.

I would prefer questions of that nature to come before a board composed of all these interested parties, so that the different points of view would be expressed at board meetings, that the representatives of each interest would see the others' difficulties, and that the decision arrived at would be more likely to receive wider approval than if the matter were decided in the political sense.

I want to say that I met the farmers this morning, the representatives of the grain growers, and I am very pleased to announce that they are prepared to co-operate fully in the implementation of the machinery provided for here, when this Bill becomes an Act. The Bill has to pass here; it has to be signed; I have to appoint the board; the returns have to be got and the amount of the deduction will have to be determined—and this is what I do not like—when I say I do not like it it is because I made a statement that in the month of July, I would announce what this deduction was to be. I made that statement in good faith and it still could be possible that I would not be able to make the announcement in July. I would make it in an hour if I was in a position to make it. To those who want to accuse a Minister, or any person, of deceit on that basis, well, I make them a present of it.

I was being pressed in the Dáil to give this information. I was reminded that the month was slipping by. I know that myself and I can see the steps which lie ahead and which have to be taken and that in all probability I will not be able to make this announcement for some time. Anyhow, the wheat is growing and no announcement I can make now will affect in the slightest degree what the grower will receive. The calculation will have to be based on certain factors, and if I were to know the acreage now, and to make a calculation as to what the possible yield would be, and to announce that to-night, what would be the difference to the grower, whether he is in County Louth or any other place? What would be the difference to him whether he hears the announcement now or in the first or second week of August? It would not make one bit of difference to him.

However, some people think they can embarrass you if you commit yourself, genuinely, to a date and claim that you are not keeping your word. I do not think—and I am a fairly good politician in these matters—that that works at all. I do not think there is any kudos due to any individual who approaches his responsibilities in that way. I think his judgment is entirely at fault.

Senators who talked about the way I have "codded" the farmers offered the greatest insult they could level against the people who own the land in this country. Anybody who is familiar with the farmers, and with rural Ireland, knows that you cannot fool those people, if ever you are stupid enough to attempt it. They are far too intelligent and their judgement is far too dependable and in many cases they will keep that judgment to themselves. I only say this by way of advice, that when we use the expression "codding the farmers" we are really offering an insult, and a very great insult, to the most intelligent section of the community and one of the main reasons I say that is that they have supported this Party and this Government in regard to its wheat policy, and every other policy, for many years.

So they are tough after all.

Question put and agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Next stage?

Is there any objection to taking it now?

No, we cannot agree to it now.

The Whips agreed that the Committee Stage should be taken next Wednesday.

Senator L'Estrange should realise that he was already asked to withdraw a remark and to sit down and shut up.

I was asked to resume my seat.

I must object, A Leas-Chathaoirleach. I think it is very wrong of Senator Ó Maoláin to use a phrase like that: "to withdraw and shut up". The Senator did resume his seat. There is no point——

There is every point when Senator L'Estrange continues to interfere in the proceedings.

He has every right to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

When is the Committee Stage to be taken?

If any agreement has been made, I do not want anybody to break it. This is purely and simply a machinery measure and there were no amendments to it. It would facilitate me if I could get the other stages of the Bill now, but that is a matter for the House.

I understand that some Senators do want to put down amendments to the Bill.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

If there is not agreement on the matter, it must remain over until next week.

Senator Hayes said that he had got agreement in regard to taking the Second Stage to-day and the Committee Stage next Wednesday.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

That matter does not arise now.

Is the Seanad not meeting on Tuesday?

We could meet on Tuesday.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

That is another matter.

If the Seanad meets on Tuesday, I should like to have the Bill considered but if not then on Wednesday.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

We fixed the Committee Stage of the Finance Bill for Wednesday.

Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 23rd July.