Does Section 3 do any more than give the Minister powers which he had under the previous Acts in respect to a contravention of the law?
Committee on Finance. - Agricultural Produce (Cereals) Bill, 1936—Committee.
No. They are the same powers.
Section 9 seems to go further than the sections in the original Act. The section provides that
"The Minister may, notwithstanding anything contained in the Agricultural Produce (Cereals) Acts, 1933 to 1935, in his absolute discretion refuse an application for registration in any register kept by him under the said Acts, whether such application is an original application or is made in respect of additional premises or is made by a person whose registration has previously been cancelled by the Minister."
Surely, heretofore, the Minister has had to assign some reason for rejecting the application?
Yes, and he will still have to assign a reason. The section amends the existing position in this way. In the original Act there was a qualification put in that the Minister could in the public interest, having regard to the number of mills in an area, and so on, refuse an application. That, in effect, confined the Minister to one reason. He could only refuse registration if there was sufficient capacity for milling already there. He could not refuse an application on the grounds that the person had been removed from another register, had been unsatisfactory about making returns under another register or had given a good deal of trouble in other ways. It is to cover that kind of case that this section is being introduced.
Does the House think that if a person, in the opinion of the Minister—and I am not referring particularly to the present Minister, but to any Minister who must be a politician with certain political views— is a generally unsatisfactory person, he is to be denied the right to earn a living in this country? Let me put it this way: The Minister would consider me to be a highly unsatisfactory person because if I were operating any commercial enterprise under the terms of one of his several Bills, I would be continually "bucking" against the restrictions contained in these Bills, which I thought to be unfair. I would be claiming the letter of the law, and I would be in constant conflict with his Department. The Minister would be, perhaps, interpreting a thing loosely in order to get the job done. I would be taking the view that the restrictions ought not to be there at all, but that I was obliged to obey the law, and while I was prepared to obey the law, I would do nothing but what the strict letter of the law compelled me to do. Similarly, I would take nothing less than that to which I was entitled under the strict letter of the law. I can well imagine a Minister anxious to put through whatever he felt to be for the good of the country, saying, "This man is a confirmed nuisance. This Bill has to be amended again, because of his attitude." I submit that I have the right to do that. If I feel that the Government is acting imprudently, while I am absolutely bound to comply with the law if I am a citizen of the country, I am entitled to stand on my rights and I will not be any more obedient to the law than the letter of the law demands. Why, in these circumstances, should we give the Minister a right to penalise me for claiming nothing more than my strict legal rights?
The Minister very ingenuously says: "The fact is I want these powers to put a troublesome person in his place." Does the Minister think that this is a power he should have? Let us suppose that a member of my Party held a Ministerial post, that the Minister was in Opposition, felt that a grave injustice was being done to a legitimate interest in this country and constituted himself the champion of that interest, and said: "I will go into this business with all the peculiar knowledge I possess as a member of Parliament and with all my experience as an ex-Minister I will test out every section of this oppressive measure in order to secure for citizens all the liberties that are left to them." The member of my Party, who is Minister, would say: "Dr. Ryan has got very troublesome bringing forward the claims of these persons that we think should not get licences or should not appear on the register. If we strike them off the register, he will discover some loophole because of his peculiar knowledge acquired while he was a Minister. These are very troublesome persons, and because they have been troublesome under the milling regulations, we shall not give them milling licences or an Indian meal licence. In fact, we shall not let their names appear in any register, not because they have done anything wrong, but because they are cantankerous people who claim all their rights."
Observe where that is leading. The Minister for Agriculture controls very few registers. The Minister for Industry and Commerce controls hundreds of registers in regard to licences and there are many people who are continually fighting the Department of Industry and Commerce to get what they believe to be their rights. There is another class of person who is continually going into the Department, kowtowing to everybody and being a good fellow, trying to get along as best he can, getting whatever he can and playing the ball generally with the Department. If the principle in Section 9 is to be enshrined in our legislation, the unfortunate man who takes up the position of asking for his statutory rights from the Department, asking for nothing more but refusing to take anything less, can be denied all his rights and told that he will not be allowed to do business at all. I think that is leading not only the present Minister but every man in the public life of this country up an alley. If that kind of business creeps in, corruption is inevitable. Unless my relations as a citizen vis-a-vis the Minister as a Minister of State, are strictly defined by law, it means that I am in the Minister's power to a certain extent and I have to try to conciliate him by whatever means I can employ. Therefore, I strenuously object to giving any Minister the right to refuse to allow a man on a register over which he has control on no other ground than that he is an undesirable person in the Minister's opinion. It astonishes me that the Minister for Agriculture does not see himself how wholly undesirable it is to confer such a power upon him. No matter how conscientiously the Minister may exercise that power himself, how can he rebut the charge, in connection with some individual he has found it necessary to refuse to register, that it was not done from personal spite? The ordinary person cannot understand the Minister's difficulties. The ordinary man in the street does not know the difficulty of Civil Service administration. He does not know how easy it is to throw a wrench, or perhaps I should have said to throw sand, into the machinery and make it difficult for that machinery to work smoothly. The Minister will be compelled to come out and say: “I would not allow that person to be put on the register because he is a nuisance.” The man's friends will say: “What nuisance was he?” And they will say if he was not a member of Fine Gael he would not be so dealt with. The Minister will be obliged to say that no matter what organisation the person belonged to he would put him off. If the person was a member of the Minister's Party that person would, I think, have a disposition to play ball with the Minister. If he was a member of another political Party he would not find it so easy to play ball with the Minister, and trouble and friction would occur. Surely, in face of these facts it is undesirable to give the Minister absolute discretion to refuse to put a man on the register on the grounds that he is an undesirable person. I think the Minister would be extremely imprudent in asking for such powers.
Supposing we had a person registered as a pig dealer who has been guilty of some irregularities under the Act. Supposing he was removed from the register, and again restored, and again removed, and seeing that he had no chance of continuing as a pig dealer he comes along and asks to be registered as a maize miller, it would be no use arguing that there is more maize available than is required. Would the Deputy say it would be a wise thing, where we had all that trouble, to put this man on the register? It is only a particular type of case that can be covered by this particular section. The Deputy may be right in what he says that allegations may be made that because a person was a member of the Fine Gael organisation he was not put on the register, and that because another person was a member of the Fianna Fáil organisation he was put on it. But the strange thing is that I find that persons who get licences are always supposed to be members of the Fianna Fáil organisation.
The Minister is so pleasingly ingenuous that I shall not make any comment upon the quality of his supporters. If this section were to read as from line 29: "Whether such application is made by a person whose registration has previously been cancelled by the Minister" then I think the case might be met. But to say: "Whether such application is an original application or, is made in respect of additional promises, or is made by a person whose registration has previously been cancelled by the Minister" is to give the Minister power quite beyond what he ought to have. If the Minister will agree to look into that, and see whether he might not accept the suggestion with regard to a person whose registration has previously been cancelled, I think a case might be made for it.
I quite see that. The matter can be reconsidered. But there is this also to be remembered that very often after a person's registration is cancelled there is immediately afterwards an application in, from a son or a brother, to be registered. There it is quite obvious it is the same person who would carry on. And that type of evasion should be covered also. If it is possible to cover that by an agreed section this section could be redrafted.
Perhaps the Minister would look into the matter between this and Report Stage.
Was it necessary to include the words "oat kernels"?
They should always have been included.
What is the purpose of "sub-section 4 of Section 6" in the section?
It was a section dealing with certain undertakings and I explained that on Second Reading. When this legislation started first we undertook to allow one miller to mill home-grown grain for another. But now that the percentage is high it is not availed of to any great extent. One miller may get another to mill a couple of hundred barrels for him but I do not think it is any hardship upon a miller to mill all his own grain.
I move amendment No. 1:
Before Section 13 to insert a new section as follows:—
Where the holder of a milling licence has, under and in accordance with a licence granted under Section 17 of the Amending Act of 1935, sold or disposed of for seed in any cereal year any home-grown wheat purchased by him in such cereal year, the amount of home-grown wheat which such holder is required, in pursuance of Section 6 of the Amending Act of 1935, to mill into wheat in such cereal year shall be reduced by an amount equal to the amount which he has so sold or disposed of for seed.
We have had considerable trouble in the last couple of years with regard to imported Red Marvel. The sort imported very often turns out not to be Red Marvel. The farmer sows it as Red Marvel expecting a good crop, but he finds it is not Red Marvel and that it never comes to maturity. That means a serious loss. We have tried, in our last amending Act, to get the greatest possible protection by getting a guarantee from the importer, and getting a guarantee right up to the sowing of the seed. But even so, it is no great advantage to the farmer to be able to take an action afterwards. He wants his crop. To get over this difficulty we thought it better to keep back a certain amount of our own Red Marvel seed. Millers have agreed to keep it over. If there is sale they will sell it, and if not they will mill it. If it is not possible for them to replace that by home-grown grain this will enable them to replace it by imported grain. No miller will have unlimited power to do this. He will get power to import a certain amount, and in this case he would be permitted to replace the particular quantity he required by importing wheat instead of compelling him to replace it by home grown.
Arising out of the Minister's statements, the difficulty he mentioned in connection with the importation of Red Marvel occurred before. Wheat, after it had been sold, was discovered not to be Red Marvel but another variety. Undoubtedly that has occurred. When the Minister was discussing the question as to how seed wheat might be dealt with to ensure that objectionable things might not occur again, I understood him to say that the millers would be the people concerned. Possibly the Minister might take into consideration those firms which have, in the past, carried out the Departmental experiments in regard to seed, particularly in connection with barley-growing. I am sure the Minister is aware that knowledge in connection with the buying of a particular type of grain for seed purposes, whether for barley, oats or wheat, is gained only after long experience. The grain requires very careful handling. It has got to be dried with the greatest care. It has got to be cleaned with the greatest of care, and it has to be separately stored with the greatest of care. Afterwards, it has to be properly treated with anti-smut dressing. Special dressing machines have to be used. There are firms which, in the past, have proved to the satisfaction of the Department of Agriculture that they have propagated, collected, stored and reissued a particular type of grain until, by their action, they introduced into their areas the best type of grain and, by degrees, got rid of the bad types. These firms should, in my opinion, be asked to implement the wheat scheme. Their experience and their storage are available. They can do very selective buying from individual farmers. They can guarantee the buying and they can do this work under the Department, as they have always done it, so far as. barley and oats are concerned.
I understand that the Glasnevin farm is at present experimenting as to the type of wheat which would be best suited for this country. It will take some years before sufficiently large crops of that seed can be raised to supply the demand. Those who have been in the seed line for a long time and who know the job should be asked to co-operate. They should be given the same opportunities as the millers. My view about the millers is—I have never hesitated to express it — that they have no experience whatever of seed wheat. It seemed to me that the millers should, possibly, have taken up sooner the question of seed wheat. If they had done so and if they had taken an interest in wheat growing, not from the time the wheat leaves the factory but from the time it goes into the ground and exercised the same supervision that the maltsters have done with regard to barley, the trouble which arose about seed wheat last year and the year before would not have been of such dimensions. Therefore, I ask the Minister to give power to those firms who have been handling the seed interests of the farmers in the past to go into this scheme, so that they can play the same part that they have been heretofore playing in the grain-growing areas.
I want to make another suggestion. If the millers are to be allowed to sell part of their wheat for seed and to use foreign wheat to replace it, two questions arise for consideration. One is, that there should be no avoidance of the law, and the second is that the seed wheat sold to farmers by millers should be sold in the form which will be most desirable from the community point of view. One naturally apprehends that if millers are reluctant to use Irish wheat and find it easier to handle foreign wheat, there will be a considerable temptation upon them to avail of Section 9, so far as they can. In addition, we have to bear in mind that smut is a very great menace to the wheat crop in this country, as it is to the wheat crop elsewhere. Smut can be effectively guarded against if seed wheat is properly dressed with disease preventive. If the millers and the grain dealers to whom Deputy Minch referred are to co-operate with the Minister in getting this spring seed wheat for farmers, I suggest that, in view of the fact that they are to be allowed to sell this wheat only for seed purposes and that it is very clearly understood that if they sell it for any other purpose they break the law, they should be directed, when preparing it for sale, to give it a dressing of ceresan or such other preparation as will render it immune from smut before it is sold to the farmer or retailed to the distributor. Admittedly that makes it a dangerous commodity if anybody attempted to grind it either for animal food or for household flour. I suggest that the container in which it is supplied should be clearly endorsed with a statement that that wheat is no longer fit for human consumption having been treated with a poisonous preparation designed to protect the seed in the ground.
Perhaps I might be able to help the Deputy on that point, if he will permit me.
I shall be very glad.
Already those handling seed wheat keep it in special sacks designed for the purpose and it is marked as "poisonous for animal foods or for any other type of food."
It is already being done?
Yes; the very closest attention is now being given to this matter whether the seed has been dressed with curvasine or with ceresan. All the firms dealing in seed wheat pay the very closest attention to this matter, so that, as far as this is concerned, I can assure Deputy Dillon that there is not the slightest fear of any seed wheat that has been dressed with this poisonous matter being sent out for either human or animal consumption.
Very well; as this very desirable practice is already being pursued by seed merchants and those people who supply seed wheat, then it is clear that if millers are going into the wheat seed business they should be put under a statutory obligation to give to the farmers the seed wheat in as good condition as the seed merchants are giving it at present. I detest monopolies and I detest any system which gives any one section. of the community a preference as against the rest of the community. I detest more especially that that should be done by the laws of this House. Here we are concerned with getting the best possible seed into the hands of the farmers. I suggest to the Minister that a way might be found out of this difficulty. Suppose the millers were authorised to send this seed wheat out to authorised seed dealers and allow them to do the seed business with the farmers, would not that give an assurance that none of the wheat was disposed of for any other purpose than for seed, and would there not be a further assurance that when the seed reached the farmer through the authorised seed dealer it would have passed through the hands of an experienced seed distributor who would not allow it to get into the hands of the farmers until it was properly graded, dressed and treated in every way with a view to producing the best crop?
There is just one final remark I have to make in connection with Deputy Dillon's useful contribution to this matter. It has been the practice of firms who deal in seed to make a very careful selection in the buying of the grain which they are going to put aside for the purpose of selling afterwards as seed to the farmers. In addition, they make germinating tests, and I am quite satisfied that in this business the one essential thing to aim at is that when you come around to the spring-time or to the winter sowing period, those merchants who deal direct with the farmers have that seed ready in sacks. They know the quantity available and they can guarantee to the farmers that they give them delivery. They help the farmer to budget for his winter or spring sowing of corn, as the case may be. From that it will be seen that it is possible for those who have their stores and premises distributed around the country to have the seed available in a particular district and ready for delivery to the farmers, properly dressed and with all the germinating tests that have been made. That being the case, the farmer can make arrangements for the sowing of his winter or spring wheat or barley or any other grain crop which he is interested in sowing.
This is a scheme that the millers are prepared to adopt. It is entirely voluntary, and this amendment is put in in order to relieve them of the danger of the seed not being available when needed. It is only as a reserve that the millers are holding a certain amount of wheat. It will be a very economic scheme, for if they can replace it by imported wheat it will save so much to them. Now I come to deal with Deputy Dillon's point, in the matter of the licence which was issued under Section 17 of the amending Act of 1935. I think that has been covered already. I think in practice most of this seed will go to the seed merchants. I do not think the millers will go in for selling seed to the farmers to any great extent, but I do not suppose they will refuse the farmers who are living near them. With regard to Deputy Minch's point, there is nothing at all to prevent other firms going into the wheat scheme. In the case of the miller this is necessary, because he has to take a certain percentage, but the wheat dealer or seed merchant is quite free to go into the business and no difficulty will be raised.
Suppose a certain dealer or, as I prefer to call him, factor buys wheat of a fine quality, say a very fine type of red marvel wheat, can he not put that aside without having to pass it on to the millers?
Yes. Is not the dealer at the present time quite free to hold wheat over until the end of the year if he wishes?
I move amendment No. 2:
In sub-section (1), page 5, line 8, to insert after the word "milling" and within the brackets the words "or than by sale or disposal for seed under and in accordance with a licence granted under Section 17 of the amending Act of 1935".
This is consequential.
I move amendment No. 3:
To insert at the end of the section a new sub-section as follows:—
Sub-section (4) of Section 10 of the amending Act of 1935 is hereby amended in the following respects and shall be construed and have effect accordingly, that is to say:—
(a) by the insertion of the words "in respect of any month in a cereal year" after the words "has become liable" now contained in the said sub-section, and
(b) by the insertion at the end of the said sub-section of the words "or, in case the quota for the mill to which such licence relates for such cereal year does not exceed ten thousand barrels, any part of such liability".
This deals with a different matter. It concerns the case of the small millers who are "permitted" millers and licensed millers. They take in a certain amount of wheat to mill and also buy a certain quantity of wheat for sale. As the law stands they would be compelled under their licences to purchase 25 per cent. or whatever it might be of home-grown wheat. This enables them to take the amount that they mill on commission as having been purchased and deduct it; it relieves them from the obligation of having to purchase a large amount of home-grown wheat. I think these small millers are at a disadvantage as compared with the ordinary licensed miller and this amendment is to put them on a level with the licensed miller.
What about the question of freight charges? In the case of a miller who has bought wheat and transported it, who has to pay the cost of the transport? I mean, would not, in certain cases, the small miller have to pay double charges for transport, or who would pay them?
If the miller mills on commission he is paid so much commission for milling. Under this amendment he will not be required to purchase home-grown wheat against the foreign wheat he purchases afterwards. He can take each month the amount he mills on commission into account and that gives him a chance of carrying on against the bigger miller.
That is not exactly the point. Take the miller in Dublin who purchases his supply of wheat in October and the miller in Donegal at the end of the season wants an additional quantity of wheat. You make arrangements that he buys that wheat from the miller in Dublin, the miller in Dublin having already paid freight charges on it from Tipperary to Dublin. Has not the Donegal miller to bear the cost of the second freight?
I think the Deputy is on the wrong section. That is not the point at issue in this amendment.
This amendment is designed, if I understand the Minister, to give the smaller miller credit in his quota of home-milled grain for any grain he mills on commission. Is not that the effect of the amendment?
I move amendment No. 4:
To insert at the end of the section a new sub-section as follows:—
Sub-section (1) of Section 10 of the Amending Act of 1935 is hereby amended by the deletion of the words "by order made" now contained therein.
This is to delete certain words which are not necessary. It is purely a drafting amendment. The sub-section is an amendment of the previous Act.
Has there been any abuse in connection with moisture in wheat offals?
There were complaints that these offals were not kept properly. There were complaints of excessive moisture. We did not, however, have an opportunity of investigating these complaints.
Did they arise in connection with white bran or red bran?
It was principally in connection with bran.
That is to say the bran heated?
That has been happening to my knowledge for the last 15 years.
I think it may be convenient for the House, in order to avoid repetition, to take Sections 15, 16 and 17 together as they all hang together. It is difficult to discuss any one in the absence of the others. This section is introducing an entirely new principle in legislation. It has been laid down by the courts on several occasions that the courts will not amend any contract made between two individuals. All the courts are prepared to do, if a written instrument is produced, is to read it and to interpret its meaning. They are not prepared to go into it bodily and alter the direction of it in order to convenience anybody concerned.
Equity has gone a little further and has, in certain cases, varied the terms of a contract where it believed it was just to do so. But a statute now proposes to go a step further and, where there is no contract at all, or where there is no relation between two parties, the Minister is prepared to step in between them and declare a contract between them, and himself to write the terms of the contract; then to hold that the contract is binding and, I think, not only to give the usual remedies in a contract to either of the parties which he has joined together, but to make it a statutory offence not to carry out the terms of the contract which the Minister has written.
The Minister can answer by saying: "The situation is that I require people to use a certain quantity of home-grown wheat. The total quantity of home-grown wheat is not so very great, and it would be possible for one individual to corner the whole lot; and where I am putting a statutory obligation on one individual to buy a certain quantity within a given time, I must protect him from having the whole market cornered against him." I admit that there is force in that reply, but I notice that when we come to this part of the Bill another figure has slipped into the House. The Minister for Industry and Commerce has arrived. The Minister for Industry and Commerce is notoriously a State socialist. He believes in State socialism. He believes that he ought to nationalise anything that the public will permit him to nationalise.
Part III of the Bill ultimately means the nationalisation of the flour industry here. If you are going to tell a miller what he is to mill, when he is to mill, what he is to buy, when he is to buy, how he is to buy, from whom he is to buy, and at what price he is to buy; and go on to say, as the Minister for Industry and Commerce proposes to go on to say at what price he will sell, how he will sell, to whom he will sell, what he will sell, and when he will sell, the difference between that and nationalisation is so narrow that I am becoming unable to see it. As the difference narrows, the smile on the countenance of the Minister for Industry and Commerce becomes broader and broader. Do we stand for State socialism in this country? Deputy Mrs. Concannon is a profound thinker in the ranks of the Fianna Fáil Party. That is a description I would apply, to very few members of that Party. Does she stand for State socialism, or does she not? Does she believe it is good to nationalise all the essential industries in this country? Bearing in mind that land is the greatest industry of all, does she think State socialism should go so far as to nationalise that as well? The members of the Labour Party are socialists. They believe in socialism. They cheerfully proclaim that they are socialists.
Deputy Norton said the object of the Labour Party is to secure a workers' republic for this country.
That has no relation to this Bill.
There is nothing socialistic in that.
Is he a socialist or not?
I am not a socialist.
I beg the Deputy's pardon. I am delighted to hear it. There are members of the Labour Party who are socialists. I think Deputy Norton is a socialist. I know that we are not, and I do not think the majority of the members of the Fianna Fáil Party are. I allege that the Minister for Industry and Commerce is a socialist.
The Minister responsible for this Bill is the Minister for Agriculture.
Yes. There is a very apt quotation which I cannot remember. The voice is the voice of the Minister for Agriculture, but the mind is the mind of the Minister for Industry and Commerce. It is all of a piece. The Minister for Industry and Commerce has come rambling in. If this is a matter associated exclusively with agriculture, what brought him on the scene?
The Deputy should deal with the matter before the House.
I say that Part III of the Bill is socialism, pure, unadulterated socialism. I want to know if the members of the Fianna Fáil Party are in favour of socialism, because, if they are, they ought to come out and say so. I had to rebuke the President recently for trying to be President Níl agus Tá, trying to keep a foot on both sides of the fence. Are we going to have the President a socialist——
The President is not conducting the Bill.
Ultimately he is, as head of the Government.
The Deputy's speech must be related to the Minister responsible for the Bill.
Are we now going to have the Minister for Agriculture a socialist and not a socialist? Are we going to have socialism in fact, but not in theory? We ought to know how far the Minister intends to go, and if the accumulated regulations of the four Cereals Bills prove ineffective for his purpose, does he intend to nationalise the industry?
I do not know much about socialism. I think it is a relative term. If the Deputy asks me how far we are going to go, I reply that we shall go as far as is necessary.
Even to nationalisation?
Whether to socialism or not I do not know.
That is perfectly true because you do not know.
Because I do not know what socialism is. To say a thing is socialism is surely not an argument against it. You must go further.
It is not an argument to a man who does not know what it is.
Perhaps the Deputy will inform me what is the argument against it.
I would know what the argument is if I knew the thing was socialism.
That is the point. I do not know whether it is socialism or not. The Deputy says it is and leaves it at that.
You introduced that without knowing whether it is or not.
I should like to know what socialism is.
What age are you?
Not as old as the Deputy.
You are not illiterate; you must have read a bit.
As a matter of fact, it is because I have read a few things about socialism that I do not know what it is. Fine Gael policy would be referred to as socialism by some people; our policy to others is socialism; perhaps other people might say that neither is socialism. That is why I find it difficult to know what socialism is. If Deputy Dillon would go further and, as well as saying it was socialism, tell me the reasons against this section, I might be able to deal with it.
I object to any policy which is leading rapidly to the point where the State is going to run everything in this country; where the State, in order to do what the Minister alleges it is his intention to do by statute, will have to take over the mills and operate them; where the Minister for Industry and Commerce will have to take over the railways; where, eventually, the Minister for Lands, who will then probably be Deputy Aiken, will take over the land of the country, on the ground that it is not being used in accordance with Government policy. The Minister takes upon himself to go in and order a miller to enter into a contract with a man that the miller has never heard of, and, having ordered him to enter into the contract, he goes on to say: "I am going to write the contract; you are going to enter into this contract, to execute the contract on a certain date, on certain terms." I say that it is running a man's business completely when you have got to that stage. I say that if, not to meet any extraordinary emergency that suddenly presents itself and requires a desperate and prompt remedy of a temporary character, but in the ordinary course of policy you nationalise the entire flour-milling industry, it is only a matter of time until the same principle forces you to nationalise the transport industry and a number of large enterprises in the country.
I think there are members of the Labour Party who want that, who believe that that would be a good plan. I do not. I think it is a bad plan. I do not think that Deputy Mrs. Concannon believes it is a good plan either. I do not think she is in favour of Socialism, but she is in the alarming position now of having in front of her a Minister who does not know whether it is a good plan or a bad plan. He says that he does not know where this is leading to, and he does not care. He has no principle in the matter at all. He is just rambling along, and I am trying to warn him that he is rambling on a trail that has been blazed by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, who knows well where he is going and wants to get there. He knows that if Deputy Mrs. Concannon begins to suspect where he is going that she will put the brakes on him.
No, I intend to follow him.
I would not like to think that Deputy Mrs. Concannon would follow everywhere that the Minister would wish to lead her. I want her to see down that alley that she is being led, so that before she is halfway down she will cry halt in good time.
It is up we are going, I think.
Well, every criminal that ever got hung from a scaffold had that experience, and I am anxious to keep Deputy Mrs. Concannon on terra firma, neither to bury her nor to levitate her, but to keep her amongst us on solid ground where she will never go astray. I am anxious that she should not be misled directly by the Minister for Industry and Commerce or vicariously by the Minister for Agriculture. It is humiliating to be led astray by a person who knows where he is leading you, but it is dreadful to be led astray by someone who is being led astray himself.
Deputy Dillon has given us a discourse on socialism, but I am sure that he does not take this thing seriously. He quoted the difficulty that may arise of one person cornering a considerable portion of wheat, holding on to it and then saying "I know you must take my wheat from me and I am going to hold on to it until you give me £2 or £2 10s. 0d. a barrel for it." That, of course, is a position that would have to be dealt with, and I do not see how that is going to lead to State socialism, State control or State ownership. It is a position that must be dealt with. In all probability it is one of those matters in connection with which it will be quite sufficient to have the power without exercising it. If a person attempts to make a corner in that way it is not going to do him any good.
That is the argument that will always be used; that greater evils will accrue if you do not resort to this undesirable remedy, and that is where you will be gradually sucked into the position that the safest thing is State socialism. I have deliberately chosen to discuss, by the leave of the Chair, Part III of the Bill on this section. I propose to challenge a division on the section, and to allow the others to pass.
- Aiken, Frank.
- Bartley, Gerald.
- Beegan, Patrick.
- Boland, Gerald.
- Brady, Brian.
- Brady, Seán.
- Briscoe, Robert.
- Carty, Frank.
- Cleary, Micheál.
- Concannon, Helena.
- Corbett, Edmond.
- Corish, Richard.
- Corkery, Daniel.
- Crowley, Timothy.
- Davin, William.
- Derrig, Thomas.
- Dowdall, Thomas P.
- Flynn, John.
- Flynn, Stephen.
- Fogarty, Andrew.
- Goulding, John.
- Harris, Thomas.
- Keely, Séamus P.
- Kelly, James Patrick.
- Kelly, Thomas.
- Kennedy, Michael Joseph.
- Killilea, Mark.
- Kilroy, Michael.
- Kissane, Eamonn.
- Lemass, Seán F.
- McEllistrim, Thomas.
- MacEntee, Seán.
- Maguire, Ben.
- Maguire, Conor Alexander.
- Moore, Séamus.
- Murphy, Patrick Stephen.
- O'Briain, Donnchadh.
- O Ceallaigh, Seán T.
- O'Grady, Seán.
- Pearse, Margaret Mary.
- Rice, Edward.
- Ryan, James.
- Ryan, Robert.
- Sheridan, Michael.
- Smith, Patrick.
- Traynor, Oscar.
- Victory, James.
- Walsh, Richard.
- Anthony, Richard.
- Beckett, James Walter.
- Bennett, George Cecil.
- Burke, James Michael.
- Cosgrave, William T.
- Costello, John Aloysius.
- Curran, Richard.
- Desmond, William.
- Dillon, James M.
- Dockrell, Henry Morgan.
- Doyle, Peader S.
- Fagan, Charles.
- Finlay, John.
- Fitzgerald-Kenney, James.
- Holohan, Richard.
- Keating, John.
- Lynch, Finian.
- McGilligan, Patrick.
- McGovern, Patrick.
- McMenamin, Daniel.
- Minch, Sydney B.
- Morrissey, Daniel.
- Mulcahy, Richard.
- Murphy, James Edward.
- O'Donovan, Timothy Joseph.
- O'Leary, Daniel.
- Redmond, Bridget Mary.
- Reidy, James.
- Rice, Vincent.
- Roddy, Martin.
- Rogers, Patrick James.
On Section 19, does the Minister think it is absolutely necessary to make it a statutory offence involving imprisonment not to comply with the terms of this part of the Act?
That is the usual procedure.
We have already discussed the whole question, but I would suggest to the Minister that a fine ought to be the limit of the penalty in a case of that kind.
On Section 21, I think the procedure might be adopted whereby we might be permitted to refer generally to a series of sections which more or less hang together.
Perhaps the Deputy's point would be more appropriate on Section 22. Section 21 deals with the appointed day.
On Section 22, I think I am right in saying that Sections 22, 23, 24 and 25 hang together and are jointly designed to restrict the purchase and sale of maize with a view to rendering more effective the maize meal mixture Orders. As I understand it, the Minister has found it quite impossible to ascertain whether people have been putting the proper quantity of home-grown cereals into the maize meal mixture because it was difficult to conduct any chemical test with a view to ascertaining whether a certain proportion of home-grown grain had been put in. I know that in the country certain millers were selling maize meal with not more than 10 or 15 per cent. home-grown cereals in the mixture. At the time there was an Order in force directing them to put in 50 per cent. It resulted this way, that one miller's maize meal was yellow, while the other miller, complying with the Minister's Order, was selling something indistinguishable from pollard. I can find no good reason for opposing any proposals which will ensure due observance of the law by everybody, but I would like to hear from the Minister if he has any purpose in mind further to restrict imports of maize.
No. It is merely to ensure compliance with the law. It is difficult, as the Deputy says, to ascertain the percentage by chemical or microscopic means, although I think an expert would be able to say, perhaps, that there was not definitely 50 per cent.
He could not prove it.
It is difficult to prove it, but suspicions would be aroused. We have to go to the miller's books in order to prove the case and it is an additional safeguard in examining the books that he had a licence to purchase so much maize. There is no intention of interfering with a miller's legitimate business under this section.
Again I should like to direct the attention of Deputy Mrs. Concannon to where she is being led. The Minister is now going to get power to licence so much stuff going into a mill. He has power to examine how much of that commodity there is in the mill and he has power to licence how much of that stuff will come out of the mill. Can Deputy Mrs. Concannon see much difference between that and the Minister going to the proprietor of the mill and saying: "I will give you a salary of so much per annum to do such and such a thing"? The difference is very narrow between the position in which you will leave the miller an independent person, doing everything he has to do in the ordinary course of his business, and the position in which you will say: "I am going to take over the mill and make you the mill manager and you will carry out my instructions." I invite Deputy Mrs. Concannon to brood on that question.
I would like to ask the Minister just how is it there can be such a difference at present between the price asked by millers for pure maize meal in 1 lb. packets? In the course of the last week I received two quotations from two millers operating within a comparatively short distance of each other. One quoted 10/6 a cwt. for pure maize meal in 1 lb. packets and the other 17/-. How can there be that difference?
The only thing I can say is that perhaps the second person was not keen on the business. The 10/6 was perhaps a fair price.
In view of the fact that the Minister has made this regulation, I find myself forced into the position of suggesting that the situation tion the Minister himself has created requires further interference by the Minister. Certain people in this country are ordered by their physicians to get maize meal to make maize-meal porridge. It is a food I do not care for, and I do not know whether the Minister himself likes it or not, but there are people who do like it, and who are recommended by their physicians to take it regularly. The Minister forbids the sale of pure maize meal in anything but 1 lb. packets. Surely he ought to forbid the millers from consistently quoting a price which makes it impossible to buy it. If the maize miller is too lazy to prepare this commodity in 1 lb. packets he can adopt the subterfuge of quoting a prohibitive price and saying: "Well, if you do not want it at that price I do not want to sell it." A situation might arise in which all the maize millers in my district would quote a prohibitive price, and if I wanted maize meal in 1 lb. packets I would have to buy it in Dublin, and pay the freight down to Ballaghaderreen. That, surely, is an abuse. Can the Minister see any way out of that dilemma?
I am afraid that would be a new principle altogether.
But the Minister sees the dilemma? It has actually arisen.
I do not think there is anything special in that. In every business you must have that difficulty.
If you make the terms under which a man may sell pure maize meal so onerous that the sale of that commodity becomes unattractive to the vast majority of persons handling maize meal, and if you then go on to say: "You may not bring in maize meal unless you are a licensed maize miller," you may create a situation in which it will be impossible to get pure maize meal at all.
I think there will be always at least a small number of maize millers who will see the advantages, and realise that there is good business in it.
In sub-section (2), page 8, line 14, to insert after the word "maize" the words "or maize meal."
This was purely an omission in the original draft.
By amendment 25 the Minister has inserted the words "maize meal." Is it not necessary to insert them twice?
They are already in the first time.
Is paragraph (b) designed to refer only to maize?
This section raises a new difficulty. Section 27 confers on the Minister the right to order a miller to use oats, either in the form of crushed oats or in the form of groats. A great many millers in this country, when this maize meal mixture scheme first came into force, started using crushed oats. They found that the majority of their customers strenuously objected because the hull of oats in maize meal is extremely unsightly; the customers did not like it. The tendency was, therefore, for the trade to go over entirely to barley maize meal mixture, where this unsightly hull does not appear. To meet that difficulty, as I understand it, the Minister for Agriculture said: "Well, where I prescribe 50 per cent. home-grown cereal content, the millers may use one-third less of de-hulled oats," and he pointed out that it would fit in with his plan better if the millers would try to use about equal quantities of oats and barley so that the two crops would move into consumption at approximately the same rate. To meet the Minister, a number of millers put in elaborate de-hulling machinery, which is pretty costly. Having put in that machinery, the Minister apparently claims the right to go back on that arrangement and to force them to use crushed oats where he deems it expedient to insist upon it. What is the object of this new power? Why does the Minister want to make people use crushed oats instead of groats?
The necessity for this arises more in sections that will come later. The Deputy is aware that a section will come on later which gives power to prescribe that barley only may be used, or oats only, or a certain percentage of oats and barley. The Deputy on the Second Reading of this Bill pointed out a difficulty that arose during the last two years where we had used up all the oats in the country and barley was left behind; then the price of oatmeal became higher than it otherwise would be if we had used barley first and left oats until afterwards. In order to get that matter settled it may be necessary at times in certain districts to prescribe the use of say two-thirds barley and one-third oats. It would be much more convenient at any rate —if I cannot put it any stronger than that—if in that case we were to prescribe that the whole oats would be used. I do not know if I can convince the Deputy that that convenience is sufficient to overcome any objection he might have. He has already stated that the millers have put in de-hulling plant and gone to considerable trouble and expense, and it would be unfair to them now if we were to ask them to put that, de-hulling plant aside. When I refer to convenience, of course I mean convenience in seeing that the Act is carried out, and that there is no evasion of putting in the amount of home-grown grain required.
Now, I must pass a stricture on the Minister, because this comes of "flutherin' " about. This is the fourth Cereal Bill——
It comes of experience.
But observe that the experience is bought at the expense of the unfortunate miller who has installed the de-hulling plant. We were told in the early stages of this legislation that everyone was going to work together. The Minister went out and said, "Now, look here, give me a hand. I want this job done. Buy this de-hulling plant." The millers very naturally said, "It is very expensive. What is going to happen, supposing something untoward arises and this scheme is not carried out?" The Minister said: "Now, trust me. Put in the de-hulling plant; that will help me and you will be all right." Now comes Section 27, and the de-hulling plant is going to be put on the scrap heap. I do not think that is sensible; I do not think that is prudent. I think there is a way out of this problem which would be just as effective if it were worked out. What we want to avoid is the creation of a famine of oats at the end of a given cereal season, while there is an abundance of barley, because in the months of May, June and July oats becomes a substantial item in human foodstuffs in the form of oatmeal.
Now, this year the price of oatmeal is being forced up by about £4 or £5 a ton owing to an artificial scarcity that is being created by the Minister allowing oats to be used almost exclusively in the early part of the year, thus creating a famine in oats, while Deputy Minch is grappling with the problem of barley. Surely some plan could be devised whereby barley would be used exclusively for the first quarter of the year and that then oats and barley might be used at the discretion of the miller. I see immediately that there is a difficulty there, because, of course, the moment you do that the oat-grower says: "Why should you put the barley-grower in a preferential position in regard to me? Why am I not allowed to get the advantage of the market? If I am left alone I shall get a better price in the back-end than I would otherwise get." If we force everybody to use barley, that will have its effect on the price of oats in the back-end. Of course, I believe that we are reaching the stage where we are going to go into every farmer's house and tell him what he is to plant, how to plant it, how to reap it, and what to do with it. If you once begin to slide down the slippery slope of universal regulation, I warn you that you will come to the time when you will have to regulate everything, and if that time comes, of course, you will have to run everything yourself. I feel that the Minister's scheme is a bad scheme. I should like to ask him did he consult the millers who put in the de-hulling plants before he introduced this scheme?
At any rate, the millers have not objected to it. They have spoken to me in regard to certain other provisions of this Bill, but not with regard to this particular one.
Well, perish the thought that I should become the champion of the millers. They are well able to look after themselves.
I move amendment No. 6:—
In sub-section (1), page 11, line 49, to insert after the word "package" the words "and there is printed on such package or on a label securely fixed thereto the name and address of the manufacturer".
These words were originally contained in the section already referred to, Section 83 of the 1933 Act. They refer to the package of maize meal, and the object is to see that the name and address of the manufacturer will be printed on the package or on a label securely fixed to it.
Is it a new proviso?
Oh, no. As I explained already, Part VI of the original Act is being deleted entirely, and these things are being brought back.
I see. Well, is it universally practised?
On Section 31, Sir, I should like to know from the Minister if the hull of oats will be described as fibre?
Well, that would depend, of course. If we were prescribing that the whole oats would be used, then the hull would be described as fibre; but if it were de-hulled oats, it would not.
If the Minister prescribes that whole oats is to be used, it would be fibre?
How can the Minister make an order forbidding people to have more than a given quantity of fibre in a maize meal mixture if the miller is in a position to prove that there is nothing in the maize meal mixture but the product of ground cats and ground maize?
I think that point would be all right, but the point we really want to get at is this: suppose one miller is using de-hulled oats and another miller is using whole oats, the latter may take some of the hulls from miller A and put them in, and the easiest way to deal with that would be to say that we will only allow a certain amount of fibre. It would be very hard to detect that particular kind of offence except in that way.
I do not see how you can possibly detect it in that way. Surely, however, that would be an offence against the existing law?
Yes, that is true, but we may find it very difficult to prove that the miller actually took the hulls from some other place and put them in.
In as much as he would be offending against the existing law or against some regulation under the Pure Food Acts or something of that nature, by deliberately introducing foreign matter, would that not cover the case?
I do not think so, because it would not be regarded as foreign matter.
No, I would not say so, because after all hulls are part of the oats, and it is only under an Order of this kind that it would be possible to stop the practice to which I have referred. Fortunately, it has not arisen so far.
But the Act as it stands prescribes that the maize meal mixture may only contain whatever amount the Minister prescribes?
Well, if you add hulls of oats now, the hull of an oat is not oats.
No. That would be illegal as the Act stands, because it must be the whole of the oats.
Yes, and if you put the hulls in you would be adding to the mixture something that you should not do under the law?
Well, then, this seems to be merely supererogation. There is this about it. The Minister might prescribe a limit for the fibre content. A miller, acting perfectly bona fide, by grinding a certain variety of oats may get from that variety an undue proportion of fibre. It would be a perfectly bona fide transaction, but yet the Minister might prosecute him and convict him for having an excessive quantity of fibre in the oats. Now, suppose the Minister tries to prescribe, he will have to find out from his experts what variety of oats carries the heaviest fibre content.
Yes, that is right.
And he will have to make his prescribed maximum a maximum which would permit of the inclusion of that variety of oats. Now, suppose I am grinding huskless oats. The Minister knows the varieties to which I refer —an oat with a very fine husk. such as Victory or some of the lighter kinds— if I get husks and put them in, this section will not operate to catch me at all——
——but it may operate to catch the fellow who is acting perfectly bona fide?
Surely that is a bad section. You have got the law to deal with that at the present. If you can prove that the person is putting in fibre, you have got him under the law.
As a matter of fact, this particular section has been the law for three years. This is only reviving part of the 1933 Act.
Well, the Minister never has prescribed the fibre content?
Does the Minister think this is a proper power to have?
Well, conceivably it might be useful on certain occasions.
I do not press the point, Sir.
Perhaps the Minister will expand a little on this new proviso.
On the Second Reading I dealt with this, as I regard it as one of the major provisions of the Bill. I explained that for the last two or three years we had to make a voluntary arrangement with dealers to buy oats and barley at a certain price, by guaranteeing that whatever they would have left on hands would be bought back at a price at the end of June. The merchants were allowed sufficient to cover storage, capital and other charges but were not given any profit. In effect, what that did was to give an opportunity to make a profit if things turned out well, and they were guaranteed against loss if things turned out badly. It would be better that the Minister should have the profit as well as the loss, and it is on that account that this section is inserted in the Bill. I do not say that the Minister would ever go out and buy all the oats and barley in the market, but it is quite possible that he might have to go to certain districts and buy, in order to get some competition going. In that way, by going into the business in a small way, he might do a considerable amount of good by getting other buyers to come out and pay the fixed price, whatever it might be.
One of the fathers of the Church said: "He that contemneth small things shall fall little by little." I should like Deputy Mrs. Concannon to examine this.
This is a question in which I am not interested.
I looked upon the Deputy as one of the intellects of the Fianna Fáil Party, and we are now going into business, as the Minister is going out to buy crops of barley and oats. Very shortly the Minister will tell Deputy Minch and other grain merchants that their room will be more welcome than their company, and that he will be able to do the whole job himself. From one point of view, he may be able to do the whole job, and in the old days we used to describe that as State Socialism. Is it State Socialism? Do Deputies in the Fianna Fáil Party think it right for the Minister to take over the grain trade and operate it? Do Deputies in the Fianna Fáil Party realise that in eliminating all the legitimate grain traders, a day will come which the farmers of this country will have to depend on the Department of Agriculture to provide them with the only market they have for their grain, and when that day comes what form of organisation can it be best described as? If there is no one to buy grain except the Government, will anyone charge me with crying "wolf" if I call that State Socialism? I do not want any Deputy in the Fianna Fáil Party to vote for these proposals in the dark.
I move amendment No. 7:—
In the third column opposite the mention in the second column of the Agricultural Produce (Cereals) Act, 1934, to delete the word and figures "Section 24" and to insert the words and figures "Sections 24, 25, and 26".