Agricultural Produce (Fresh Meat) Bill, 1929—Report Stage.

I move:

In page 19, section 33 (d), line 13, to insert after the word "viscera" the words "or, where the offals only are intended to be exported, the viscera"

It will then read (d): "that the carcase and viscera, or where the offals only are intended to be exported, the viscera of such animal were examined by him in accordance with the veterinary examination regulations and on such examination were found free from disease, and." That is a drafting amendment. It was agreed upon in Committee.

Amendment put and agreed to.

I move

In page 27, Schedule, line 38, to add at the end of Rule 2, the following paragraph—


(f) the appropriate sum for the licence of an exporter of offals or plucks from animals where such offals or plucks are the only parts of such animals exported as fresh meat shall be one halfpenny."

I raised this matter on two stages of the Bill and I put down this amendment, but I notice another amendment has been put down on the same subject by the Minister, although he does not go very far. In effect he proposes to reduce the fee on offals from 3d. to 1½d. while my amendment proposes to reduce the amount from 3d. to ½d. I do not think the Minister has gone far enough, because as I mentioned on another stage, the amount realised by the exporter for the offals of, say, a pig would not be more than 2s. 6d. or 3s., so that a fee of 3d. would be roughly 10 per cent. Dividing the amount in half only brings it down to 5 per cent., whereas in the case of the other amendment that the Minister has, which relates to calves, he is reducing the fee, which could not have amounted to more than 1 per cent. The only explanation I can see is that representations were made to the Minister from sources to which he paid more attention in the case of calves, because he was reluctant to meet us on this side of the House when we made representations. I think the Minister should really agree to the amendment. Even one halfpenny is going to be a large percentage of the amount realised from the export of offals.

Mr. Hogan:

I got no representations from any source since the Committee Stage of the Bill. I knew Deputy Ryan had an amendment down to reduce 3d. to ½d. I examined the thing on the merits and I decided to go a fair distance to meet him. It is a long way, and I think on the merits of the case I can go no farther. I met representatives of the exporters and they made no real objection to the original fee. I have gone a long way to meet the Deputy; and I cut down my own figures to half.

It appears very unfair that in the case of a calf you cut it to a quarter.

Mr. Hogan:

A quarter of a shilling.

That is 3d. You are cutting it down to one-fourth. Even if the 1s. remained it would not have been more than 1 per cent. of the offal value of the calf when exported, whereas the amount charged for these offals is about 10 per cent.

Mr. Hogan:

The Deputy must remember that if we lose in this we must make it up in taxation.

The Minister gave as an excuse the fact that the exporters did not press their representations too strongly. The Minister must know very well that the exporters pass the charges on to the farmers.

Mr. Hogan:

To a great extent.

Not alone do they pass the actual charges on but they pass a little more. That is the usual thing, and the Minister should realise it. It is no argument to say that the exporters did not press their representations.

Mr. Hogan:

I examined these representations since the last day and I have come to the conclusion that that is fair, and it goes a long way to meet the Deputy.

One exporter made strong representations to me to press this amendment.

Mr. Hogan:

I think I know the person referred to and I think his representative was at the meeting.

He might have been shy about talking to the Minister.

Mr. Hogan:

I was not there at the time.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I will allow amendments 3 and 4 to be taken together. Both raise the question of the minimum fee. If amendment 3 were carried I could not put amendment 4. Amendment 3 preserves rule 3 whereas amendment 4 proposes to delete it.

Amendments 3 and 4 deal with two different questions. One deals with the minimum fee and the other with the per capita fees. I think it would be well to take them separately. If we fail in one we might succeed in the other.

That is so. If the Deputy fails with 3 he might get 4, but if he succeeds in 3 he could not get 4.

I move:—

In page 27, Schedule, line 38, to add at the end of Rule 2 the words:—

"This Rule, in so far as it applies or relates to beef, pork, or mutton, shall not come into operation until the expiration of a period of five years from the date fixed for that purpose by order of the Minister and during such period of five years Rule 3 hereof shall apply."

This is another effort to get the Minister to allow the industry to develop before he puts on an export tax. The Minister claimed very vehemently recently that all tariffs put on for the protection of industry fell heavily on farmers. In this Bill the Minister proposes to put a further tax on farmers, an export tax before the industry has been built up. Everyone knows that the export of fresh meat has not attained such a stage of development that it would stand an export tax. It will be time enough to tax it, if we are ever going to tax it, in five years. That is the object of the amendment. We failed in this on the last stage, but we are moving it again, as we do not believe that an export tax should be put on. If a tax is to be put on it should not be put on for five years. This is an export tax per capita on each beast exported as dressed meat. If the Minister were going to put on an export tax at all. I think it should be on the export of live meat in order to force exporters to kill it here, and give whatever employment that could be given in the dressing of meat. Speaking on 3rd December, 1929, the Minister, according to the “Irish Independent,” said:—

More than half the community are living directly out of agriculture, and in the nature of the case they must pay a big proportion of any levy which results from increased prices due to tariffs.

Again he said:—

It is obvious that agriculture cannot go on indefinitely making contributions towards the cost of developing non-agricultural industry without getting some immediate compensations in return.

We believe, of course, that an industrial tariff will give a return to the agricultural population, but the Minister referred to some immediate compensation in return. There will undoubtedly be a lag in the compensation which the farmers will get in most instances from tariffs on industrial products. For a certain time, until our industries are built up, the tariff will simply operate more or less as a revenue tax, and the farmers will have to pay a portion of that until the industry tariffed is built up and the amount collected in tariffs is reduced. The Minister realises the situation; these extracts which I have quoted go to show that he does realise the situation, and surely he should meet it in this case and allow the industry to be built up before putting an export tax on it. Purely from the point of view of administration it will be a very costly and a very difficult thing to carry out a per capita tax. A number of books will have to be kept and a number of returns will have to be made, there will have to be inspections and all that, and that will increase the cost of the operation of this Bill. If it is to be a success, and if we are not to have wasted our time in discussing it and getting it into shape, these difficulties of operation should be reduced to a minimum.

Several go-ahead concerns have tried this dead meat business and have found innumerable difficulties, both in the organisation of their industry here and in the organisation of their sales in England, and instead of putting impediments in their way we should encourage them by every means in our power. The levying of any per capita fees, however small, will discourage the further organisation of the industry, and the levying of per capita fees such as those proposed by the Minister will certainly operate as a great handicap. The Minister agreed with me just now that any per capita fees that are levied on an exporter will be deducted by the exporter from the price he pays to the farmer, and we all know from experience that not alone will these per capita fees be deducted, but that some additional amount will be deducted in order that the exporter may compensate himself for the trouble of paying these per capita fees. The Minister should realise that he ought to give the industry a chance for five years before he puts on this burden. Let it at least find its feet, and then we can discuss further whether it can bear an export tax or not.

Mr. Hogan:

There is no doubt that this is a tax on exports, but there is no analogy between this and an industrial tariff. In the case of an industrial tariff the farmer pays and the other man gets the benefit. In the case of this, the farmer pays and gets the benefit himself in increased prices. The Deputy quoted a statement of mine to the effect that farmers could not continue to pay without some immediate compensation. I claim that he will get immediate compensations. I claim that from the very first year of the administration of the Bill it ought to improve the reputation of our fresh meat on the British market, and consequently to enable the exporter, and through the exporter the farmer, to get better prices at once. These industries are not new industries; there has been an export of pork from this country for a very long time, and it cannot be regarded as a new industry in any sense of the word. The pork exporters know all about the industry; they do not suffer from any lack of experience. There is nothing either technical or otherwise in connection with marketing that our exporters do not know all about, and their fathers before them. The same applies to the mutton exporters. In so far as there is anyone in the country killing and exporting beef it is not a new trade; it has gone on for a long time, and it is entirely inaccurate for the Deputy to describe this as a new business, as if the people did not know the complexities of it. It is an old business, well established in the country, and people engaged in it know all about it. Moreover, I think it is perfectly clear that immediately this Bill is put into operation when the meat goes over to England with a certificate of an Irish veterinary surgeon behind it as to soundness, and when the English consumer sees the improvement which ought to be shown, that improvement should show itself in increased prices, and in these circumstances, I think it is only fair that the people who will get the benefit should pay a substantial proportion of the cost of administration. As it is, especially after the acceptance of the amendment reducing the 3d. to 1½d., the general taxpayer will be asked to pay a very big proportion of the cost of administering this Bill. The proportion that will be left to the exporters themselves is, to my mind, a reasonable proportion, and I would press the Dáil to refuse this amendment.

I do not know how the Minister can possibly hold that there is going to be an immediate benefit in the case of fresh meat exported under this Bill. Can the Minister say that there has been an improvement in the price of butter relative to the prices got by other countries in the English markets, or in the price of eggs? They were an old-established list of industries; for years and years we had been producing butter and eggs, and yet, after three or four years' working of the Acts in connection with these two types of exports, we appear to be just as far as ever from the prices got by other countries on the British market for these two commodities. I was surprised to hear the Minister say that by agreeing to amend the fee on the export of offals that would turn the working of the Bill into a liability rather than a gain to the taxpayer.

Mr. Hogan:

Obviously the difference between 1½d. and 3d. must be found by somebody, and it will be found by the taxpayer.

But there will be a surplus.

Mr. Hogan:

There will be nothing in the way of a surplus. I do not know whether I would be in order in answering the question that the Deputy put, that is to say, whether, as a result of the various Acts, the price of butter or the price of eggs had improved. But there again, I suggest, the Deputy knows as well as I do that it is not correct to say that the price of butter was so much in 1923, that it is now so much, and hence there has been no improvement. I am sure that the Deputy read the published statistics for the year 1929, in which it was shown that the fall in the price of Irish eggs since, let us say, 1928, was considerably less than the fall in the price of any other eggs imported into England. That appeared in all the papers. It was a statistical statement based on the actual prices. I forget the exact figures, but I should say in connection with the fall in the price of our eggs, that the relative figures would be something like 2 to express the fall in the price of our eggs as against 9 to express the fall in Danish eggs.

It is idle to compare prices now with prices three or four years ago. The question is not whether we can get higher prices now than we could get three or four years ago. The real question is compare the prices now with the prices we would get if the Acts had not been passed. The question of eggs is clear. There is no question about the figures. The Agricultural Produce (Eggs) Act has in the real sense of the word, immensely increased the price of eggs, because the figures show that something has intervened to counterbalance in Ireland the world fall in prices to an extent not seen anywhere else in the world. The figures prove that with regard to butter. In 1925 when we passed the Dairy Produce Act I say Irish butter was being completely beaten off the market. I do not know what the price of Irish butter is compared with 1925. I am sure it is much lower. Whether Irish butter is better than Danish is not the point. The point is what position our butter would have if we were producing the same quality now as in 1925. I have no doubt whatever but that it would have been beaten off the market.

The way I put it to the Minister was our prices compared with Danish prices.

Mr. Hogan:

I would say that we have not improved our prices as compared with Danish prices. It must be remembered that the Danes have also improved their prices. There are other people in the world besides ourselves. Also the Danes have improved without these Acts. In fact, there are such Acts in operation in Denmark, but there are other countries where the individuals themselves, realising that they have to meet world competition and that it is getting more intense every day, took steps themselves to improve their produce every year. That has happened in Denmark. It is happening in every country in the world, and we have only to improve our produce in an absolute way too relatively to the improvement that has taken place in every other country of the world.

If the Deputy wants a perfectly candid opinion I have not the slightest doubt that the operations of these Acts have not only steadied but in the real sense of the word increased the price of the produce. Equally I have not the slightest doubt but that this Act will increase the real price of Irish dead meat. It must do it in the nature of the case if it is properly administered. If we say that no dead meat not entirely sound leaves this country it must do it. Deputy Aiken's point that the increased prices must go into the pockets of the exporters is a question for the farmers themselves. If the farmers are organised that will not happen. Anyway, I could not agree to that. It may upset the finance of the whole Bill.

I take it that the Minister has more in mind the question of pork and lamb than fresh meat.

Mr. Hogan:


Mr. O'Reilly:

I do not know what is the position exactly. Live meat is worth a great deal more than dead meat at present.

Mr. Hogan:

It depends on the meat.

Mr. O'Reilly:

Therefore, meat has very definite competition, and the point here would seem to be that you put an extra handicap on it to start with. I think there is pretty fair agreement on the point that the dead meat industry has a very uphill fight. It has a good deal of vested interests to fight against, and actually at the present time live meat is worth more per lb. than dead meat.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment 4;

"In page 27 to delete Rule 3 of the Schedule."

It is, perhaps, different from the last amendment. I do not see how the Minister could claim that there would be any appreciable loss under this amendment if it is carried because, as he claimed at another stage of the Bill, where he would have a loss is from the big factory if the capitation fee were removed and only the minimum fee were left. Under this amendment in the case of a few small factories there would be lesser amounts collected than if the Bill remained as it is. It is only those few small factories that would benefit, and the loss to the Exchequer would not be great. If there is anything in what the Minister said, that the factories are going to survive and reap the benefit of this Bill within the first year, it certainly applies to the bigger factories and not to the smaller ones. If there is anything in what we say, that the factories are going to feel the effects of this Bill for the first few years, I think it is going to be felt by the smaller factories. I think the Minister might at least agree to give these smaller factories a chance of becoming efficient. There are all sorts of rules and regulations which give the Minister power to deal with these factories if they are not carrying on their business in a proper manner, and if they are not well constructed, well equipped and likely to become efficient factories, and I think he should agree to this minimum fee, at least for a few years, until they are able to survive. I think the Minister cannot possibly claim that he is going to meet with any substantial loss if this amendment is carried.

Mr. Hogan:

If this amendment is carried it will mean a big increase in the cost of administration. It is undesirable from two points of view. If small factories should be started in back yards they are bound to be inefficient and that is what would happen if there was no minimum fee. On the other hand, I agree that the minimum fee should not be so large that even the small factories will be able to meet it. I reduced the minimum fee from £175 to £75, in some cases to £50 and in other cases to £25. I think I can claim that I fairly met the case that the minimum fee should not be so high as to crush out the small man entirely. It will not crush any legitimate small trader, but it will stop the establishment of small factories in back yards when there is a rise in the markets in England. Then, again, these factories will have to be inspected by factory inspectors. I consider, having regard to all the circumstances, having regard to the big decrease that has taken place in the minimum fee, that Deputy Ryan should not press the amendment.

I do not see how the Minister can contend that factories would be started in every back yard in the country.

Mr. Hogan:

They were.

When this Bill becomes an Act, I do not see how they could do it.

Mr. Hogan:

If the minimum fee be not there there is nothing to stop them.

There are many things in this Bill to be complied with. They have to comply with a list of regulations that runs into about 28 pages. If the Minister has not taken enough powers on himself in these 28 pages to preclude people from starting factories in every back yard in the country, then we have been wasting our time. I think the Minister will see that there is no point in that argument, that he has sufficient power to ensure that every factory that is established from now on will be run on proper lines. Efficiency, after all, is not a question of the size of a particular factory.

Mr. Hogan:

I never said it was.

I know. But if the back yard were clean and roofed over properly it might become an efficient factory. The Minister has every power to regulate the size of the factories and everything connected with them, and there is no point in putting a fine on them. These minimum fees will not be borne by the exporters; they will be passed on to the farmers.

Debate adjourned until Friday morning.
The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Friday.