The tribunal, as I say, went exhaustively into the question in such important centres as Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Waterford, and elsewhere, and they made certain recommendations. On page 49 of the Report they say: "Dealing with the case of Dublin and elsewhere, we find that an excessive profit must have accrued to master bakers in the Saorstát over the years 1926-27, owing to the decline in flour prices not being reflected quickly enough in the price of the loaf."
They were dealing there with certain figures submitted to them by the Dublin master bakers for 1925-26. During these years the prices ruling were—In 1925, 48/- to 54/6; in 1926, from 47/- to 50/-, and the price of the loaf to the consumer varied from 11d. to one shilling. On these prices the Tribunal said that they found that an excessive profit must have accrued to the master bakers. Lower down in the Report they say: "We are satisfied that there is an urgent need for early intervention on the part of the proposed Prices Board in the matter." The Prices Board is in one of the recommendations. They recommend that a Prices Board should be set up, and that there should be a scale of standard flour prices to which the price of bread should correspond. What is the position to-day? If the Tribunal found that on the figures submitted to them by the master bakers and the flour millers the prices charged for bread are excessive, what change is there in the position to-day? Can any person, examining the thing impersonally, arrive at any other conclusion than that the same state of things exists to-day? That is my contention. I have made some study of the figures, and anybody looking in the papers from day to day will see the prices quoted for the London markets. During the last three or four weeks I notice that the price of flour has been falling; recently, I think last week, the price quoted was 42/-, and I think it is down now to 41/-. The quotations here of 41/- and 42/- refer, of course, to the British quotation. I may say in passing that these are quotations for the very best flour. We must reasonably assume that there are quotations, if we could find them, for the surplus flour that they export to this country, because we know that 60 per cent. of their surplus is exported to this country. Anyway, we must assume that these quotations are very much lower than the quotations we find in the newspapers. The prices of the Irish flour millers are usually from 2/ to 3/- over the prices quoted in the Press by the British millers. I have some figures from December to June indicating that the price ruling here to the master bakers was from 44/- to 48/-. The price of 48/- was for a short time, I think it was two weeks. In December, January, and February the prices stood at 44/-. In March it stood at 45/, and in June, that is, at the present month, the price is 44/-. The Tribunal discovered that similar prices were ruling for the years 1925-26, and on these they definitely and clearly stated that excessive profits accrued to the master bakers.
I maintain that on the prices ruling since December excessive profits have accrued to the master bakers. No Deputy will object to any particular factor in this country getting a reasonable return for the money he invested in a particular concern. But the consumer in this State, as in every other State, is surely entitled to some protection. It is little wonder that we find that our development, no matter what phase of activity we pursue, is retarded or obstructed by the cost-of-living figures as we find them to-day. There is a wrangle to-day about wages or something else, and very naturally, for I maintain that although we get statistics from the Department showing the index figures as to the cost of living, they are not quite accurate as they work out in practice. If any Deputy or any other person wishes to take me to task upon that particular matter, I invite him, particularly if he is a married man, to take up the home budget for a month or two, and find out by practical experience the purchasing value of the pound. If he does he will come back to this House assured and reassured that the index figure for practical purposes is of little or no value.
What exactly is my purpose in raising this question to-night? It is to obtain, if I can, some information from the Minister as to what he proposes to do with the recommendations contained in the Food Prices Report. These recommendations apply generally not only to bread, but also to articles of general consumption.