In page 4, Section 3 (e), line 53, to delete the words "for all such purposes."
Vol. 8 No. 18
In page 4, Section 3 (e), line 53, to delete the words "for all such purposes."
This amendment is being accepted. Apart altogether from the fact that the clause means nothing, it is not, I think, good grammar, and I am accepting the amendment. We argued this question at great length when the Bill was re-committed.
In page 14, line 57, to add at the end of Section 16 (2) the words "provided always that while a licence under this sub-section is current in respect of any premises, any licence then in force for the use of the national mark in respect of butter manufactured in those premises shall be suspended."
This amendment is also being accepted. Sub-section 2, Section 16, provides that a special licence may be granted to a creamery to bring on the premises butter, which is not Irish creamery butter, and it was previously pointed out that while any such licence is current the creamery should not be allowed to use the national brand. We debated that at length when the Bill was re-committed. The suggestion was made by Deputy Heffernan, but we did not come to any final decision, and I promised to consider the matter. I now agree that the amendment is desirable. If this amendment is adopted no creamery can bring in other than Irish creamery butter and at the same time use the Irish national brand.
In page 16, line 3, to add at the end of Section 18 (2) the words "provided always that while a licence under this sub-section is current in respect of any premises, any licence then in force for the use of the national mark in respect to butter manufactured in those premises shall be suspended."
This applies to butter manufactured for export, whereas the amendment we have just passed only applies to creamery butter.
In page 16 to add at the end of Section 19 a new paragraph (e) as follows:—
"Butter to which the word `creamery' has been applied, or which is described as, or represented to be `creamery butter' or which is contained in packages marked with the word `creamery' or any colourable imitation of the word `creamery' shall not be packed for sale, or sold or offered or consigned for sale or for export from the premises."
I have been looking through the Bill as amended, and the purpose of this is to prevent a butter factory purchasing a consignment of creamery butter, bringing it into the creamery, taking the wrappers off it, blending it with factory butter, repacking it, and then sending it out. I have not been able to find any effective safeguard in the Bill against such a thing, and I think it is a point which requires some consideration.
If Deputy Milroy reads sub-section 2 of Section 42 he will find it covers the point which he wishes to have covered, and I would point out to him if his amendment were accepted, it would prevent the owner of a butter factory from purchasing creamery butter, and from re-blending and selling it, even without the word `creamery." That would prevent the owner of a butter factory from buying creamery butter, re-blending it, and then selling it as factory butter, because it is butter to which the word "creamery" has been applied. The Deputy's purpose has been covered by sub-section 2 of 42.
I am glad to have the assurance from the Minister. I had already studied that sub-section, and I can see the weakness of the drafting of the amendment. The defect in that sub-section as it stands is that there is no guarantee that such an operation will be detected at all, and what is stated here as the product using the word creamery, would be using a false trade description. There is no evidence there, as far as I can see, that the operation would be detected, and where it is impossible to detect such an operation, the best thing is definitely to prohibit it. That is the defect. I quite see that my own amendment is defective in some ways, but that is the defect in that particular sub-section, that there is no guarantee that this illegitimate operation would be detected. I do not wish to press the amendment if the Minister says the contentions I made are met in this.
The Bill will come up on report this time three months.
In page 21, before Section 31, to insert a new section as follows:—
(1) The Minister may by order make regulations prescribing the nature and general character of the plant and machinery with which premises registered in any specified register kept in pursuance of this Act (other than the register of non-manufacturing exporters) are to be equipped in addition to or substitution for all or any of the plant and machinery with which such premises are required by or under any other provision of this Act to be equipped.
(2) All premises registered in any of the registers aforesaid shall be equipped with the plant and machinery with which such premises are required by or under any other provision of this Act to be equipped, with such (if any) additions thereto or substitutions therefor as may for the time being be prescribed under this section.
I think this amendment meets the objections that were made to the amendment previously suggested. It makes it quite clear that the provision can only be made as to the general character of the machinery, and obviates any possibility of misuse of the powers which the Department has under the Bill on the lines of prescribing the machine of any particular manufacture. The only regulations that can be made under that are regulations of a general nature prescribing the general character of the machinery. It was agreed in Special Committee that it would be necessary that the Ministry should have power to vary the Schedule, or to substitute other machinery for the machinery prescribed in the Schedule. The only point at issue was whether the Ministry should be in a position to prescribe definite specific machinery, say, the machinery of one as against another manufacturer, or of one particular type of machine as against another. This amendment empowers us merely to make regulations as to the nature and general character of the machinery.
In page 22, Section 33 (3), line 57, to add after the word "exporters" the words "or the register of butter factories."
This amendment is consequential on the changes introduced into the Bill since it was drafted. A new class has been introduced, and this amendment is to meet that particular class.
In page 29, Section 45 (3), lines 22-23, delete the words "but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done under such regulations."
I think this is a reasonable amendment. The sub-section as it stands means that even though this Dáil may annual some of these regulations the decisions taken prior to that annulment would still remain in force. I think that is rather a dangerous provision, and I suggest that the words "but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done under such regulations" be deleted.
I could not accept that amendment under any circumstances. This particular sub-section of Section 45 is common form; it is inserted in every Bill; it is common to every Bill which we have introduced up to the present time. It provides that the regulations shall be made and laid on the Table of each House, and may be annulled within 21 days by either House. It must be remembered that it is within 21 sitting days that the annulment may take place, but it is to be "without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done under such regulations." If Deputy Milroy's amendment were accepted it would mean that the Ministry could not possibly take the risk of making regulations and acting on them, in face of the warning that if the House thinks fit not to endorse the regulations they might leave themselves open to penalties. In any event they would have to reverse the whole policy. It should be made quite clear that if the urgency of the situation demanded it they should have power to make such regulations as they thought necessary, and should be in a position to go ahead and put them into operation, and they should not be faced with a threat, that either House failing within twenty-one days to endorse the regulations, they might leave themselves open to penalties.
Deputies will have to remember that the Seanad might not meet for, say, three months. The Seanad does not meet as regularly as the Dáil. We cannot say how often the Seanad or the Dáil will meet five or six or seven years hence. There may be an interval of three months during which one of the Houses might not meet; and if the amendment were accepted, it might mean that the Department, after making regulations, would have to sit down and do nothing until after the Seanad and the Dáil had met. There is no particular reason why we should make an exception in this case. The Deputy has not suggested any particular reason why, if the regulations in this Bill, as in every other Bill, are to be laid before the two Houses, the form that is being followed in regard to every other Bill, should not be applied here.
The object of the Deputy may be attained in another way. There are two forms regarding regulations made by a Minister and laid before the Dáil and Seanad. One is the form in which it is essential that there should be the conclusion contained in this sub-section. To that Deputy Milroy objects. The other form provides that the Minister should make regulations, but that they should not come into operation until they are approved of. It is by the adoption of that form that Deputy Milroy would get what he wants. The procedure might be to delete the sub-section altogether and put it in the other form which provides that the Minister may make regulations, that he must submit them to the two Houses, and that they do not become operative until they are approved of.
I think that would be much the better way, because I can quite see that it would be a rather serious decision for this House to annul any regulations that may have been made. There should be very strong grounds for taking such action. But it seems to be a rather serious state of affairs that if this Dáil came to the conclusion that a regulation did a serious wrong or injury to any person or service, that yet such a regulation should continue to have force. I think the way that has been suggested by you, A Chinn Comhairle, of getting the regulations operative, is the better alternative.
I am not making a suggestion to the Minister. I am rather suggesting that Deputy Milroy should withdraw this amendment, and that he should, since this is coming up again, consider the introduction of an amendment in the other form.
Amendment, by leave, withrawn.
In page 30, Third Schedule, line 35, to delete the words "one halfpenny," and in line 37, after the word "butter" to insert the words "such fee, not exceeding one penny, as may be prescribed."
This matter was debated at some length in the Special Committee, and an amendment to the original form of the Bill was carried. This is a compromise proposed by the Minister.
Deputies seem to be amused at the suggestion that this is a compromise. Obviously the clause as it stands is objectionable from a great many points of view—a rigid halfpenny without any elasticity whatever, without any opportunity of going above it or below it under any circumstances. If instead of one halfpenny you had sixpence, there would be some chance of cutting it down, and of providing a smaller fee by regulation; but as to simply prescribing a halfpenny under all circumstances, a rigid regulation of that kind is undoubtedly objectionable. Deputy Johnson and other Deputies may suggest that I fell into that very error myself in the original draft of the Bill. I did. I quite admit it. I am quite well aware now that it would have been better to leave some discretion in the matter. I admit that. This Bill has been changed in a great many respects. In a great many respects it has been left, I may say, to a free vote in the Dáil; and it certainly has been improved by that particular process. While on the first draft of the Bill I myself inserted the provision which was just as rigid as this, I am quite convinced on consideration of the matter that that was a mistake. Apart altogether from the amount of the fee, it is a mistake to have it rigid.
I think the Minister might get agreement to a compromise on this line—to put in the words "not exceeding one halfpenny." That is a fair compromise.
I could not accept that under any circumstances.
Will you leave it to a free vote of the Dáil?
The administration of this Bill will cost £16,000, nearer to £18,000. That is not due to any mistakes in calculation at the beginning, but is due to the fact that amendments have been inserted which have thrown more duty on the Ministry. These amendments mean far more inspection, and as the Bill has been debated it has become quite plain that more inspection will be necessary from many points of view and for a great many reasons. I am satisfied myself that it will take about £18,000 to administer this Bill. One halfpenny would bring in about £4,000. My suggestion, if the maximum fee were charged, would bring in £8,000. One penny on every 28 lbs. is about 1d. on every two guineas on the turnover, or one-fifth of a penny per cent. That is the fee.
With butter at what price?
One and sixpence per pound, the average for last year. Certainly the price is not too high. Deputies should remember that that is what the dispute is about, as to whether the fees under this Bill should be one-fifth of a penny per cent. or one penny on every two guineas, that is 4s. on every £100 of turnover. I suppose it will take ten minutes to debate this, and every Deputy knows that the difference between £4,000 and £8,000 on a trade of £4,000,000, which with anything like efficiency should develop into a trade of £8,000,000, is not worth talking about. Deputies may say, "If that is so why not accept the £4,000 "? Simply because farmers should realise that they ought to pay a fair contribution towards the expenses of the Act, the sole purpose of which is to increase their trade and to increase their wealth. This particular clause will get more debate not only here but amongst the creameries and amongst trade generally than any other clause, and yet it is the least important clause in the Bill. I challenge any Deputy to say that is not the fact—that it is the least important clause—but that is the way we have of looking at things. We concentrate on the unessentials and ignore the essentials. Here we are arguing about some £4,000 on a trade which is worth £4,000,000 and which should be worth £8,000,000. There certainly will be more argument, debate and contention about this £4,000 than all the measures which are to be taken in a Bill which we hope will double the trade. I do not want to pander to that point of view. I think anyone who has the interests of the country at heart should get up and tell those concerned the truth, and the truth is that this difference of £4,000 does not matter compared with the immense benefits that the Bill, if properly and efficiently worked, is going to confer on the trade. I am willing to meet the trade on any of the other clauses, and I am willing to discuss with them any of the contentious and highly important issues that arise on the Bill. It is absurd that the interests of the trade should apparently be concentrated entirely on a comparatively unimportant detail like this.
I say for Deputy Gorey that he went down and bearded the lions in their dens, and told them clearly what every go-ahead farmer knows, that this 4d. on every cwt. does not matter, but what matters is to do their business better. Deputy Johnson is fond of reading lectures occasionally to people, telling them what they ought to do, and I should like to read him a little lecture as some return for the various lectures he has given to me. I want Deputy Johnson to say what he knows is right about this matter—all the farmers of Ireland are not on these Benches. He is constantly advising them as to what they should do and should not do. I want him to say here what he knows to be perfectly correct, that this charge does not matter and is of no importance compared with the other provisions of the Bill, and that the difference between £4,000 and £8,000 on a turnover of £4,000,000 which may develop into £8,000,000, is of no importance. What they ought to concentrate on really is to co-operate with the Ministry in carrying out the provisions of the Bill, and making it work efficiently. He knows that is true, and I ask him to support me in this matter here and now. I might mention that this is the exact fee that we charge under the Bill. It is little less than the fee we charge under the Egg Bill. The fee under that Bill is 1d. on every £2 worth of eggs, and in the case of this Bill it is one penny for every two guineas worth of butter. There are half a dozen organisations in the egg trade, and every one of them, without exception, have agreed that that is a fair charge, and the people connected with a few organisations in the butter trade agreed that this is a fair charge. They were even suggesting that it should be increased. Some of these suggestions that the charge should be increased may have been for reasons not stated, but which we may suspect, but they all agreed that it is a fair charge. The average turnover, if you can deal in averages, would be about £10,000. I ask the Dáil to accept this amendment.
I beg to support strongly the Minister for Agriculture. Here we are haggling unduly and unfairly. By this Bill we hope to reach, at all events, the price of the Danish butter, and, roughly speaking, the price of the Danish butter is 20/- a cwt. over that of Irish butter. It means, at all events, that we aim by this Bill to increase the value of our butter by over 2d. per pound. What is the cost at which this result is to be realised? It is .038 of a penny per lb., against the 2d. per lb. increase that we hope to realise. Any person except Deputy Johnson would agree, and I do not wish to be in any way rude, that this is a distinct advantage to Ireland. If we are not going to gain a serious advantage by raising the standard of our butter, we do not require a Bill at all. Then why do we discuss the whole Bill? In our humble-mindedness we think that we will not gain more than 20/- but we may gain 30/-; even if we only gain 20/-, and come up to the Danish standard, we are going to gain that 2d. per lb.
We are haggling over .038, a thing that is so small that we can hardly see it. There are a few creamery managers who may think that £25 does not matter. They would sooner gain £25, or have their overhead charges £25 under what is estimated every year, and produce a bad butter, than get twenty shillings a hundredweight more. That does not matter. We are equivocating with regard to this. We are going to discuss a gain of 2d. per pound in butter at a loss of .038. The difference is so great that we are hardly able to subtract .038 from 2d. I beg heartily to support the Minister for Lands and Agriculture.
I oppose this amendment. From the Minister's point of view of the value of the butter exported, the fees may seem light, but you must also consider the very low price the farmers receive for milk. Last year they received an average of 6?d. per gallon, a very small price, notwithstanding that all profits retained by the creameries on their capital were a little over a half per cent. There is no margin left in the business on which any further burden can be placed without running the grave risk of the smaller creameries being knocked out with the consequence that they would be replaced by stores. Consequently there would be less employment for the rural workers. At the present price of milk it does not pay to send it any considerable distance to a creamery, and in my opinion the fees should be left as they are until the farmers reap the results of the Bill.
And then propose a new Bill.
After all, the sum involved is very small to the State, considering that you are dealing with the chief industry of the country, dairying, which is the key of the store cattle, the fat cattle, and, indirectly, the bacon, poultry and egg trades.
The Minister for Lands and Agriculture asked me to take up the role of lecturer to the farmers. Perhaps it may come to that, but not yet.
The Deputy has made a mistake. What I said was to repeat the role.
The Minister, I am quite certain, is very anxious that this Bill should run smoothly, and he desires to get the general assistance of the farmers in regard to its working, with a view to the improvement of the butter trade. It is because of that that I oppose the amendment. I suppose the Minister would agree that it is a bad practice to turn down committees. Usually when we have passed amendments in a Committee Stage the Dáil supports and confirms the amendment. Now the Minister comes forward and asks us to refute what was done in Committee. I ask the Dáil to agree with the Committee and to leave the Bill as it stands in this respect. The halfpenny per 28lbs. applies to all butter that is exported, not merely to creamery butter. It is hoped that the effect of the Bill will be to improve the quality of the butter, improve its standing in the British market, and improve its relative position as compared with the Danish and other imported butters. But that is not going to be a very quick process. It is going to be imperceptible. It will not be recognised perhaps at all by anybody until in a general way there will be an assertion. "Well, we are at least equal to the Danish," and it may be that a considerable section of the population will agree that the result has been obtained by the action of this legislation. But if you want easy working I say that you ought not to put in these small obstacles which will be of so little value in cash. You want to save for the State a maximum sum of £4,000, that is between the halfpenny and the penny, and for the sake of £4,000 you are going to irritate a very large number of people interested in the butter trade. I would say that it would be better still to abolish this fee altogether, and that for the sake of £8,000 you are much more likely to get the general assent, the goodwill, and the assistance of the trade. Bear in mind that for a couple of years exporters will have to pay this fee, without realising any benefit. They will not see that there is any benefit. They will be told by people who are undertaking the role of lecturers to the farmers, that if they look ahead their prices will be advanced and they will get better value in the market.
In the meantime, they are to pay this penny per quarter. I say that you are increasing difficulties for the Government and for the administration. You know that the Bill is not enthusiastically received by considerable, closely interested sections, and they will have to be persuaded that it is going to be valuable to them. In my opinion, it will be better to forego the total £8,000 rather than to add this little irritant in the working of this machine. I think the benefits that will accrue will be much more easily attained by having no such imposition. I believe that the irritation will be only half as much if the Bill is kept as it emerged from Committee, and that only one halfpenny is charged as a maximum. It is for these reasons that I think the amendment ought not to be accepted. If you could go to the farmers and say: "You, the individual farmer, are sending so many gallons of milk to the creamery which has to be turned into butter, and you will get the benefit in the price of your milk"—if you could demonstrate to him that he was going to get a personal benefit, no doubt you would have no opposition. But you cannot do that. You are dealing with institutions, and the managers of those institutions will be asked to give accounts to their suppliers of their busines, and they will point to the various charges. They will point to this charge of a penny per quarter, and it will be put into the indictment against the administration of this Bill. The manager may be opposed to the Bill; he may say that it is not satisfactory; that it is not going to do any good, and he will simply use its monetary effect amongst the suppliers as an illustration of the inutility of this Bill. He will say that it is not doing any good, but that it is costing them a penny per quarter. I say that it is not worth it, and it would be very much better to abandon this charge altogether. Certainly the increase from a halfpenny to a penny will add to the difficulties of the administration of the Bill.
The Minister said that the passage of the Bill in Committee was left to a free vote, and that it was improved by that process. I hope the Minister will have the good sense to see that the Bill will get the same chance in its final stages, and that the decision on this amendment will be left to a free vote of the Dáil. If the Minister desires that it should be amended and improved as much as possible, I think he will follow the course pursued so far. This is all a question of £4,000, and the question is whether the State shall pay this £4,000 or whether a particular branch of the farming industry shall be taxed to pay it. The Minister's argument amounts to something like this: that because there is to be an improvement and an increased income for the dairy farmers they should pay the greater portion of the tax that is to bring this improvement.
I am inclined to agree with Deputy Johnson that it would be much better if the Minister abolished this charge altogether. If he is not prepared to do that he ought to be prepared to do the next best thing; and the Minister should not forget that this Bill is certainly giving the Department authority to interfere in private business—a very considerable authority and going very far indeed. We accept that because we recognise that perhaps it is inevitable at this stage, but if the State is to interfere, the State should not tax those people whose business they are interfering in, for the right to interfere— tax them to a higher extent and the State to pay a lower proportion. It is not a fair or just basis. The interference is all on the part of the State. We are not questioning the right of the State to interfere at this juncture, but if the State does take such a step it is the business of the State to pay, at least, the greater proportion of the sum that is required to enable the State to interfere. It is all right for the Minister to argue that the dairying industry will benefit and that the farmers who will have increased revenues, should pay the bigger portion of the tax contribution, but when will the benefit come and will the benefit come to all? Now, I do say there are dairying concerns in this country to-day that will not benefit very considerably from the passing into law of this measure. There are concerns which are producing an article of as high a standard as they will produce under this Bill and which are to-day getting as good a market as they will have when the Bill is law, from the improvements which we hope will be in existence for other concerns, and yet these concerns, some of them the most prosperous in the country, with the biggest turn-over, will pay a tax to bring about improvements in other concerns. That is the position and after all if the Minister agrees that this industry should pay in order that there may be improvements in the industry itself, and believes that is fair and just, I do suggest that it would be much fairer for the State to contribute their portion for the right to interfere with some concerns and not to put a heavy tax on other businesses that will not benefit very much, if at all, by the passing of this measure. Deputy Beamish talked about .038 of a penny per pound as being the amount of the tax. While it is true that some of the concerns will have to pay, the butter factors particularly will be in the fortunate position of being able to pass on the tax to the farmers from whom they will procure the butter. These businesses will not pay; the farmers will pay everything. Many of our cooperative creameries, as Deputy Hogan said, are in an unsatisfactory condition and the money will have to come out of their pockets before any of it will come in. Along with that, the Minister must recognise that none of the improvements he hopes for can be brought about without a further very considerable expenditure on the part of a great many creamery concerns. They have all got to proceed at once to instal machinery, perhaps in some of them, complete fittings, in others, parts, but many of them will have to instal at considerable expense portions of new machinery. That will be a further handicap on their trade. The Minister may suggest that a penny on 28 pounds will not be very much but that, along with further difficulties they will have to meet in procuring new machinery that will enable them to benefit—if there is to be a benefit as I hope there is—will be a serious handicap and the Minister would be well advised if he is not prepared to accept Deputy Johnson's suggestion to withdraw the charge altogether, at least to accept the Bill as it is passed through Committee. If he is not prepared to do that the least he should do is to give the Bill the same chance it has been given so far and to leave it to a free vote of the House.
I rise to oppose this amendment. I do not know whether Deputy Gorey's announcement on the industry can be taken as infallible, but I doubt if the Minister would have called attention to it unless he said something with which he agrees himself. This was very much discussed in Committee and the majority of the Committee opposed the Minister then. I hope the majority of the Dáil will agree with the Committee. Those who have studied this Bill and analysed its provisions will recognise that it has about as comprehensive a scheme of interference with private business as it is possible to condense in a measure. The arguments I used in Committee I propose to refer to again because they still hold good. This Bill only stops short of nationalisation of the industry. There is not a single person connected with the industry who is not met with some aspect of officialdom somewhere in every phase of every department. This is not being done for that very altruistic purpose that the Minister would like us to believe, that is, making more profits for the people in the industry. Nothing of the kind. I think that would be a most illegal operation for the State to engage in. This comprehensive scheme of supervision and interference is mildly directed rather to the advantage and safeguarding of the public than to the advantage of the industry itself. It is rather a curious doctrine to preach that the industry must bear the cost of the administration of the statute. We might adopt that theory and be landed into a most peculiar situation. The licensed trade would have to pay for the administration of the Liquor Act, and so on. Take factory laws, which were for the securing of proper conditions of work and the safeguarding against accidents—the particular industry concerned would have to bear the cost of the administration of the Factory Act if this principle that the Minister enunciates is accepted. As some Deputy has said, there is considerable doubt amongst those who are concerned in this industry as to the value of the measure to the industry, very considerable doubt, and very emphatic opinions are expressed that the industry will get no benefit whatever and that the only result will be to have an additional crop of officials interfering with the course of trade.
Undoubtedly there are some enterprises connected with this industry that will not receive any advantage. They have an excellent market, and the quality of their products will not be improved by this measure. Yet they will have to bear the heavy costs under this Bill. I oppose this amendment. I would like to know who is responsible for the particular fee that the Minister urges us to accept. Is it fixed after consultation with those who are representative of the industry, or is this the expression of the official mind pure and simple? The Minister may say that it is only a very insignificant tax, but it may in some cases be like the last straw that breaks the camel's back. This is not the only expense that will be put upon the industry as a result of this measure. The regulations that they will have to comply with will mean a considerable expenditure of money for the equipping of the dairies or premises and the putting of them into a suitable condition. It is not fair when the State takes such a sweeping measure of control over the industry that that particular industry should be compelled to foot the bill for the carrying out of that interference which the industry itself has not sought. It cannot be said that this Bill is the outcome of a demand from the industry. If it has any objective at all, this Bill is for the protection of the public interests, and the public have the right to pay for that which safeguards them. I know the Minister's reply will be that he is glad to hear Deputy Milroy say that anything that benefits the farmers should be paid for by the general taxpayer. That is the contention he put forward before— a most fallacious one. I say it is the general body of the community that will really benefit by this measure, not the industry itself. It is doubtful, I say, if the industry itself will profit much from it at all, but the general body of the community will profit by it, and it is they who should pay for the expense of the administration.
Deputy Milroy finds himself in a dilemma. I pointed out to him in Special Committee that his position amounted to this, that any measure for the benefit of farmers should be paid for by everybody in general. He finds himself in that dilemma. Now he states that this measure is not really for the benefit of the farmers at all, but for the benefit of the general public. The Bill is to regulate the export of butter. So the "general public" must be on the other side of the water.
That makes it all the worse. It is the general public in another country you are safeguarding.
This Bill, we are told, is not for the benefit of the farmers. They have nothing to do with the dairy business. It is no advantage whatever to them. If they can get a better price for their butter it is no advantage to the farmers. If they get a better market in England it is no advantage to them. This Bill was brought in expressly for doing a good turn to the English consumer. It is a lamentable position that Deputy Milroy is driven to in order to defend his attitude to this amendment, but I must say it is just about as rational as the position of some other Deputies in the matter. Not a single Deputy ventured to address himself to the merits of the question. Not a single Deputy ventured to deny that the charge is absolutely unimportant as compared with the benefits that are going to accrue.
Who brought in the amendment?
Why, if it is unimportant?
Perhaps the Deputy would allow me to continue. Not a single Deputy addressed himself to the merits of the question. I want to point out that this £4,000 is relatively unimportant. It is unimportant as compared with any of the benefits that may be conferred by other sections of the Bill. Not a single Deputy addressed himself to the merits. They all took up an entirely different line. Even though it was unimportant, even though it did not matter, they asked what would the farmers think about it? Deputy Johnson went so far as to point out that even though this charge is extremely small, it is irksome. Farmers, we are told, will not like it. They have to pay out money; for that reason we would drop the charge if we were wise. That doctrine may be all very fine; but where does its lead? It might be all right if we were considering this measure alone and if we were perfectly certain that we would not have similar measures in other directions afterwards. Are we, on this particular Bill, to adopt the principle not to charge any industry any fees for any benefits that may be conferred on that particular industry by any legislation? That is what it comes to. If Deputy Johnson is correct, then the same principle will apply to the Egg Bill, to any Bill that is brought in for the purpose of regulating the bacon trade, to any similar Bill introduced for the purpose of standardising produce by another Minister. Nothing is to be charged. Do Deputies think that is sound? Do they realise where that will lead them if carried to its logical conclusion? I will not put it any further than that.
I heard, to my surprise, for the first time that this was simply interference by the State for the pleasure of interference. I remember having been asked by Deputies from every party in the Dáil as to when the Bill would be introduced and what the reasons were for the delay in introducing it. The farmer Deputies were very much interested in it. They wanted to know why this Bill was not introduced long ago. Similarly, I was asked from the Labour benches as to why the Bill was not introduced. The same questions were put to me from the benches of the party which supports the Government. Now, I learn that this measure is simply a gratuitous piece of interference on the part of the State with a particular industry. I learn that for the first time. All this sort of argument is used for the purpose of dealing with this extremely small charge on the industry for the benefits it is believed the Bill will confer. For the last four years practically every organisation connected with the industry has been asking for the Bill. The creamery managers have asked for a Bill. They suggested a different type of Bill, but a Bill that would give the Department of Agriculture at least as much power of interference. The Farmers' Union asked for this Bill, and pointed out the necessity of it. The I.A.O.S. pointed out the necessity for a similar Bill. Every organisation of farmers asked for a Bill. There may have been differences in detail between them but they all asked for a Bill regulating the trade, and regulating it just as much as this Bill proposes to do. Now, I learn that this is purely a wanton act on the part of the Minister for Agriculture, that he simply loves to interfere with trade, and that the Bill is not going to do any benefit to the trade. That is the sort of argument put up to support opposition to this amendment. Deputy Baxter wants to know will we leave this question to the free vote of the House. Deputy Baxter should have addressed himself to the merits of the question. He is in the happy position that he is not on the Government benches and hence can afford to have all the advantages of opposing this halfpenny in the pound.
I leave the merits to the Dáil.
He kept very far away from the merits, and the point of view is to let one party take all the disadvantages and all the odium, if there is any—and I do not believe there is any —of doing the right thing and they will take all the rest of the advantages.
I do not want to pander to the point of view of the farmer who believes he should never put any fertilizers on his land, because he would have to spend money on them, that he should never make any improvements in connection with his holding, because he would have to spend a certain amount of money, and that he should never add to the equipment of his farm, because it means the spending of money. That is the point of view behind the opposition to this amendment. That is the point of view of many farmers in the country. The sooner they get away from that point of view, look at their business rationally as business men, and think of their business along the lines of getting a good return for the money spent, the better. Deputies who have the interest of the farmers at heart should endeavour to turn their point of view in that direction—to show that money well spent and economically spent, after full consideration, may be well worth spending and may be far better for their business than keeping that money in their pockets. If any Deputy has the interest of the farmers at heart, that is the point of view he should put to them, and I would have expected more support on this amendment than I have got.
I beg to move:—
In page 30, Third Schedule, lines 42 and 43, to delete the words "one halfpenny" and substitute therefor the words "such fee, not exceeding one penny, as may be prescribed," and in line 46 to delete the words "one halfpenny" and after the word "butter" in line 49 to insert the words "such fee, not exceeding one penny, as may be prescribed."
This follows on the last amendment.