Committee on Finance. - Bread (Regulation of Prices) Bill, 1936—Committee.
I move amendment No. 1:—
To insert at the end of the section the words: "the word ‘flour' means any flour obtained wholly or mainly from wheat."
Throughout the Bill the word "flour" is used without reference to wheat, and it is considered desirable to have this definition of "flour" in order to make it clear that the flour referred to has been obtained wholly or mainly from wheat. It is purely a matter of definition.
Amendment agreed to.
On behalf of Deputy O'Neill I move amendment No. 2:—
After line 13 to add the following words:—
For the purposes of this Act "bread" shall be deemed to be of two kinds (a) plain or batch bread and (b) fancy bread;
"plain bread" or "batch bread" means the baked product of wheaten flour or meal, with the elementary ingredients of water, salt, yeast and not baked in a tin or container;
"fancy bread" means bread containing other added ingredients such as fats, malt, milk, fruit, spice or sugar and baked in tins or containers;
"a loaf of bread" means an integral portion of bread weighing not less than two pounds.
The object is to have discussion and some enlightenment from the Minister. Really the amendment is relevant to a later section that Deputy O'Neill proposes to add about a certain further definition, that bread shall be of two types, either plain or fancy, and a definition of these types. The definition as given will have to be the subject of some modification as it is limited in a particular way by the use of the phrase "baked in tins or containers." The purpose of the amendment is really to be seen by reference to amendment No. 3. In the Bill as it stands the Minister takes power, whenever he thinks fit by order which is to be referred to as a bread (price) order, to fix the maximum price of bread of a specified kind, which has this definition for the Minister's use, "defined in such manner and by reference to such things as the Minister shall think proper." That means that when making a price order he can make it vary according to the list of things set out and, in addition, whatever else enters into his head. Deputy O'Neill proposes to remove that. If there is to be any distinction between a maximum price order it shall have reference only to classification between plain bread and fancy bread, instead of having the multitudinous things that the Minister might put in.
I think it is better to leave the Bill as it stands. It is not necessary to have the first part of this amendment, which states that bread shall be plain or fancy bread because bread can be defined under the provisions of Section 3 (2). We gave consideration to the desirability of having in the Bill a definition of plain bread and fancy bread, as is now proposed by Deputy O'Neill's amendment, but it was decided, from the point of view of securing the effectiveness of the measure, and good administration generally, that it was better not to insert that definition in the Bill, but to take power to define the particular class of bread to which any order made would relate. I am disposed to maintain that position, because the Bill has been framed on that basis, and to attempt the change which Deputy O'Neill suggests would require an alteration of the whole framework and, in addition, we feel would prove a matter of administrative difficulty. In relation to this Bill it is necessary to bear in mind that we have already come up against considerable legal difficulties in giving effect to the report of the Prices Commission. Despite the fairly wide provisions of the Control of Prices Act it became impossible to control the price of bread under that Act, and it is in relation to these matters that difficulties arose, and in a very special way on matters of definition. If we were to put into the Bill what purported to be clear-cut definitions of plain bread and fancy bread, it might be found subsequently that these definitions could be avoided, or orders made under the Bill rendered inoperative, in consequence of some failure to link up these orders with the definitions, or to relate them to the particular class of bread which would be considered as coming within the scope of the definitions. It was considered a better arrangement, from the point of view of drafting the measure, as well as of administering it when it becomes an Act, that each Order should have within it a definition of the class of bread to which it relates. I, therefore, think no difficulty would arise.
With regard to the definition of classes of bread, to get back to the basic position of the matter, we have been discussing a Bill regarding bread prices, but nobody has been able to define what bread is. We are talking about something the definition of which is not known. The Minister will recollect that in some prosecutions under the Bread Act of 1838, a lot of trouble arose over the definition of what was bread. That Act rightly said that all bread should be sold by weight, except fancy bread and French rolls, but it never defined what bread was or what fancy bread or French rolls were. My idea in furnishing a definition is to avoid similar trouble in future. I am with the Minister in saying that, as far as possible, people who are buying bread should know what they are going to get. With regard to the classification, the object of this Act and the Minister's primary idea, were to see that the public got bread at a fair price. The object of the Prices Commission was to see that the public got what constituted good wholesome bread at a fair price commensurate with the cost of materials and the cost of production. I want if possible to define what bread is, and let the Minister confine his legislation altogether to bread. What I consider as bread is a product made up of the elementary ingredients of flour, water, salt and yeast. I am quite prepared to fall in with the Minister's idea that in legislating for a matter of this kind we ought to confine ourselves to bread, and it is to help the Minister that I have put forward this definition.
The Deputy put his finger on the trouble when he mentioned that in previous legislation of this kind the fault lay in the definition of the article.
That was not what was reported.
I put it this way. There is an anticipated difficulty that a definition of bread in the Bill might prove to be, in some respects, an incomplete definition, that certain bread sold as ordinary bread might be outside the definition, and consequently not subject to control.
That is why prosecutions broke down in years past.
We are trying to avoid that by having no definition in the Bill, and by fixing the price in an Order which prescribes the type of bread to which it relates. We would then have the position that if that description should prove to be incomplete or ineffective, it could be remedied by new legislation. You get precisely the same result by the procedure in the Bill which sets out that the Minister shall make an Order fixing the price, and in that Order shall state the class of bread to which it relates.
That is what I want to have. I have been trying to find a definition of bread, and I have discussed this matter with several people well up in the law. I have found that there was no actual definition of bread in previous legislation. The most elementary definition I could find was that bread was a product made from corn, but that definition would include stirabout and rice pudding. I would ask the Minister to define the class of bread and to confine his operations under the Act to nothing else but bread. The Minister may say that there is no necessity to define bread any more than there is to define water. Perhaps not, but bread is something that is manufactured and sold. Water is not manufactured and sold, though bread, like water, is an elementary necessary of life. I would ask the Minister to confine himself to legislating for bread, and let the fancy bread take care of itself.
It is in relation to ordinary batch bread that the powers are required, but the Deputy knows that what was regarded as ordinary bread was considered to be fancy bread on occasions. Therefore, we are taking power to define bread——
——in the Orders fixing the price.
You are taking power to define the kind of bread for which a price is fixed, but not what bread is. Let me put this to the Minister. So far as the Minister's Orders with regard to price may have widespread effect, he has got in a number of provisions that ensure that. He may make even conditions in regard to the element of price relating them to where the bread is sold, whether it is sold at the place where it is got out, at the bakery, or some other place. He can make a variety of conditions regarding the maximum price in, relation to different types of bread, in areas, and in relation to variations dependent upon the price of flour. But the Minister seems to think that he is going to be handicapped if he has got to say somewhere or other what bread is or what it is not. If it is possible to add something to the ordinary ingredients named in the definition, then bread to which that addition is made is taken out of the category to which the Order applies. What he is entitled to do is to fix the price at which bread of a specified kind is to be sold. If by adding something doubt may be cast on whether the article sold is in the category of bread or not, by putting that something in, you take that article out of the control of this measure altogether. Very good. Deputy O'Neill puts forward this definition, which I think is closing in on the problem. There are going to be two types of bread. You can limit one and say that everything else is over the top. Deputy O'Neill defines plain bread or batch bread as the baked product of wheaten flour or meal with the elementary ingredients of water, salt, yeast, and not baked in a container. I am not sure about that last phrase, but let that pass. Fancy bread is defined as bread containing other added ingredients. If you have a definition of that type, it is very hard to say that something which is usually called bread can no longer be called bread because there is something which is not ordinarily found in bread added to it. I do not know the Minister's difficulty in this. So far as his statement indicated it, he suggested that there may be something added to ordinary bread, and then the whole measure fails because that bread contains something which was not in the definition. All apparently he can do is to define the kinds of bread to which an Order relates, and if bread does not come within these categories it escapes.
We are taking power to describe the type of bread to which an Order relates.
I am still very insistent on this amendment, because I am acquainted with this business. I am surprised the Minister did not retort on me and ask me when did bread cease to be fancy bread and come into the region of cake. There was a very important case decided here some years ago when bread control was in force during the war years, and it was then proved that any baked product in which flour was the chief ingredient and to which there was added any sweetening matter in the form of sugar, or other sweetening substance, came into the region of cake. I want to insist and to impress upon the Minister that if he wants to make this Bill a success he must begin with an elementary definition of bread and confine it to bread and not mind about different kinds of bread and shapes of bread. The more elementary he can make his order the better. I am now talking of the main principle, which is the control of prices and the giving to the people of a sound loaf at the lowest possible price.
I am satisfied that the procedure adopted in the Bill is the best. Deputy Mulcahy on the Second Reading complained of the delay in introducing this measure. A large part of the delay arose out of the consideration of this particular point. It arose out of the very question the Deputy has raised whether there should be a definition of bread and if so, what definition.
Can the Minister now define bread so as to bring in cakes and pastry?
We can define bread if the commodity is within either of the definitions set out by Deputy O'Neill.
Can you not go further than that? There might come a time when the commodity might be held by a court not to be bread at all.
We are not defining it at all.
You are defining it "In such manner and by reference to such things as the Minister shall think proper."
We have to describe the article that the Order relates to. We take that procedure because we recognise the possibility of a definition not covering the particular article we want to cover.
You may want to cover pastry but you should not be allowed to do that in a Bread Bill.
No, we want bread, and anything that would be held not to be bread cannot come within that scope.
Is there anything that can be described as bread in the definition?
Things that may possibly be conceived as bread would come in.
Let me confine myself to some definition. If the Minister confines himself to the dictionary definition he will find himself at sea. The dictionary says ordinary bread which might mean currant bread or corned bread or stirabout. I think the Minister would be well advised to take an ordinary elementary definition. Bread is a very elementary article made from flour with ingredients of water, salt and yeast. That is bread. The Minister has shown a great deal of bravery by attacking this question at all. The last Act passed in relation to bread was in 1838. There has been nothing done since. The Minister is aware there were a lot of abuses in the bread trade because of this want of definition. If there was a little more definition, of an elementary character, the matter would become clear and the Minister will find that everyone wants to work in with him. He should stick to an elementary, clear, fundamental definition. That would be the proper course to take.
The best course is not to make a definition at all.
That is what I object to. Since the Act of 1838 we have gone on for nearly 100 years. Two commissions were set up here but not a single individual came before them to say that there was any abuse. For over 100 years people have been content with the Act as it stood. Some seem to think it failed, and two commissions were set up; yet as I said they could not get a single consumer to come before them and say that anything was wrong. Here now we have a Bill with a definite purpose and the Minister takes power under it to define bread in a manner in which he could bring in things that are not bread at all.
We could not bring in anything that obviously is not bread.
No, of course you could not bring in vegetables, but there are things on the border line. There can be no great difficulty in saying what bread is. You are going to define prices, and the maximum prices that are to be charged in relation to bread. You may have an Order in operation as to where bread is to be sold; the price of flour and any number of things are set out, but nothing in relation to what bread is. Let us know what it is. Let us know what is what we call in the Free State plain bread. If not you will be calling other things, such as fancy bread which contains other ingredients not contained in plain bread, bread.
If we fix a price for fancy bread at all—and that may not be done, because according to the recent Commission's report they had no evidence of an undue price for fancy bread—but if there was a price fixed for fancy bread the baker would have very little difficulty in getting outside the definition to which the Deputy referred. The Deputy will remember that a baker in the South of Ireland added a little fat and described the product as cake or fancy bread, and was deemed to be outside the Order.
The Minister is suggesting that the bakers of this country are going to put fat into their bread in order to get outside the order.
No, I suggest it was done once.
Why not call this a fat regulation of prices Bill?
Because it is a bread regulation of prices Bill.
And you do not know what bread is.
We will describe it in the Order. If that does not describe all classes of bread that we want to catch, then a new Order will be made bringing within its scope all that is outside and should be. That is the simple method of administration.
Yes, but it is not necessarily a bread prices Bill. It may be a fat and beet prices Bill. When we are dealing with bread we ought to know what the commodity is. I am asking the Minister to tell me something that is going to happen and to tell me what is bread. He has not done so. I do not know what complaint there was of delay in bringing in this measure here. For my part there was not enough delay in bringing it in. I think it would have been better postponed for another five years. We were promised a report from the commission in May, 1933, but we did not get that report until August, 1935.
Meantime they reported on flour.
That commission, although sitting for two years, could not get a solitary consumer in the Irish Free State to come before them.
That there was no complaint with regard to bread.
But with regard to prices.
The Minister thinks that, in order to get out of the Price Order, bakers are going to upset the whole tradition of their trade and are going to try to make the public take something else to which their taste is not accustomed. They are to do that in order to get out of the Price Order. That is folly.
The Minister says he is not going to define "bread" but is going to define different kinds of bread. Bread is bread. There cannot be different kinds of an elementary article like bread.
There can be plain bread and fancy bread.
They are not different kinds of bread.
Even under the Deputy's definition there could be different classes of bread.
There is salt water and there is fresh water, but they are the same elemental article.
And there is hot water and cold water.
If the Minister is going to define "classes of bread" in this way, he is going to define things that are not bread.
Does not the Deputy's amendment provide for two classes of bread?
He says "shall be deemed to be".
I want to make the matter easy for the Minister, and, if he takes my advice, he will accept my definition.
I have gone into this matter very thoroughly and, if we provide a definition, some particular baker is going to take advantage of his competitors by devising a method of getting out of the definition. In these circumstances, we should have to be coming back with an amending Bill each time a difficulty arose. It is better to leave this question of what constitutes bread to be determined when making the Order. If there is any doubt as to what the Order covers, it can be resolved by the court.
It is extraordinary to have to wait for the courts to define bread. For a hundred years and upwards the courts have been pointing out that there is no legal definition of bread. We have the power now to provide a definition in simple terms and, if we do so, it will be in the interest of the trade, of the public and of our legislation. It will make the job of the Minister much easier than it would be.
The absence of a definition in previous legislation was not without cause. It was owing to the fact that previous Governments had the same difficulty.
Owing to the absence of a definition, there has been confusion regarding both the sale of bread and the manufacture of bread. If the Minister is going to make Orders without first having defined what bread is, he is going to lead himself into a lot of trouble.
I think that, to make the Bill effective, we should avoid a definition.
I have more experience of the matter than the Minister has.
This is a question of devising an effective method of fixing prices.
You may know more than I do. But I have 40 years' experience.
If we put in the Deputy's definition, we shall be staking the effectiveness of this Bill, when it becomes an Act, on the accuracy of the definition. If the definition is wrong or if, by any device, it can be evaded, the whole Act will fall to the ground.
It is so elementary that it could not be evaded.
The Deputy admitted a short time ago that it was done.
Because there was no definition.
Is the addition the Minister thinks will take place something that will make the article not bread?
It might make it fancy bread or plain bread.
Is it something that will make the article to be sold not bread?
I am not thinking about that.
I am thinking of the difficulty that will arise if you have a higher price for fancy bread than for plain bread. If, by the addition of fat, sugar or any of the things mentioned in Deputy O'Neill's amendment, a baker could get his plain bread outside Deputy O'Neill's definition of plain bread and into the category of fancy bread, he would be entitled to charge a higher price or, perhaps, any price he liked.
But the public would be assured of getting wholesome, plain bread at a reasonable price.
Because you properly define bread. If the public want fancy articles, let them pay fancy prices for them.
I am considering a case in which there might be only one baker in a town. A combination of bakers in a town might also upset the definition of plain bread and give the public no choice but to buy an article which was, in fact, plain bread, but which came within the legal definition of "fancy bread." To guard against that, it is necessary to have this device and to avoid a rigid definition of "bread," while giving the Minister power to define in the Order the classes of bread to which it relates.
Not merely the classes of bread but the classes of anything other than bread.
You are back again to the same difficulty.
I should like to ask the Minister as to whether he proposes to accept the definition of "loaf." I suppose there is no use in asking him to accept these definitions in any form.
I propose to define "loaf' under the description of "bread." The Deputy's definition would exclude from the operation of the Bill the 1-lb. loaf, which is not uncommon in many parts of the country.
You have set your face against accepting the definition?
I have been considering the question for six months.
I have been at it for 40 years, and I want you to avail of my experience. I think it is even more important to define "loaf" than to define "bread." I am not going to exclude the small loaf or 1-lb. loaf. I want to go back to what the Minister and his advisers are aiming at—that is, that the public should get in all cases what they want. When a man asks for a loaf of bread from a vanman or in a shop, it is generally accepted that he wants 2 lbs. of bread. This definition would ensure that where a person sells a loaf he sells an integral portion of bread weighing 2 lbs. That is intended to avoid some of the tricks the Minister alluded to a little while ago. The Minister is aware that under the old Acts a person could go into a shop and ask for a loaf of bread. If it were a plain loaf it should, under the Act of 1838, weigh 2 lbs. If there were a suspicion that the loaf did not weigh that amount, the shopkeeper could put it on the scales, and if the weight were short he could cut a chunk off another loaf and put it into the scales to make up the weight. That is capable of great abuse, because nobody buying bread is going to ask to have it weighed. I want to have it settled that when a person sells a loaf of bread, whether in a shop or from a van in the street, the person purchasing it will get 2 lbs. of bread.
I am taking power under Section 4 to make it illegal for bread to be sold save in weight of 1 lb. or multiples of 1 lb. That provision will be enforced by the inspectors of weights and measures.
That does not prevent your accepting my definition of the word "loaf".
The word "loaf" does not appear in the Bill.
It will have to appear in your Order.
The price will be fixed per lb. and the loaf must be 1 lb. or multiples thereof.
The "loaf," the Minister says, must be that weight. You make an Order and say that bread must be sold by weight. A person goes into a shop and asks for a loaf of bread. He takes that loaf home. The loaf is 2 lbs. weight and he pays the standard price—5d.—for it. When he goes home, he finds that the loaf does not weigh 2 lbs. An inspector is appointed, and under the Minister's order he goes into a shop next day and buys a loaf of bread. According to the Minister's order he asks the shopkeeper for a loaf; he weighs it and finds it only weighs 1 lb. 12 ozs., and he then says to the shopkeeper: "I will prosecute you," and the shopkeeper says: "No; you asked for a loaf and I gave you a loaf." There was no question of the weight. That is what will happen.
As the law stands at present that would be the position. If this Bill becomes law there will be no such thing as a loaf. The bread must be sold as a 1 lb., a 2 lb., a 3 lb. or a 4 lb. loaf or some multiple of a lb. If somebody sells anything that is not a 1 lb. or a multiple of a 1 lb. loaf he is acting illegally.
What is a multiple of 1 lb.? Is not 1 lb. 12 ozs. a multiple of 1 lb.?
Does the Minister really mean by that that if the loaf is a ½ oz. over the 1 lb. weight, it will be an offence on the part of the baker?
It will not be an offence, but it will be an offence to sell as a 2-lb. loaf a loaf that is less than 2 lbs.
That is not what is in this section.
I ask the Minister to accept that definition of a loaf.
I am satisfied that the way to avoid this trouble is to leave out the word loaf altogether and to sell it by weight.
In spite of the Minister's orders they can have any weight they like, and he will afterwards find out that.
The fairest thing is to relate your price to the weight.
A person goes in for a loaf of bread and he gets 1 lb. 12 ozs. He has no case because he asked for a loaf of bread. He did not ask for 2 lbs. of bread. That is what will always happen.
I agree with Deputy O'Neill. If people come in and ask for a loaf or for two loaves of bread and they are given a certain quantity it is difficult to say that a shopkeeper has done anything wrong. The custom is they always ask for a loaf.
It is evident that the Minister is not going to use my wisdom at all. He is set against my amendment.
I think it is better to put the obligation on the baker.
When the Minister issues his orders he will find that I am right.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 1 and 2 put and agreed to.
(2) The following provisions shall apply in respect of bread (price) orders, that is to say:—
(a) a bread (price) order may relate to more than one kind of bread, and in that case may contain different provisions in relation to each such kind of bread;
(b) any maximum price fixed by a bread (price) order may be a variable price dependent, in such manner as may be provided by such order, on the standard price of flour for the area to which such order applies;
(c) a bread (price) order shall specify the area to which such order is to apply, and such area may be either the whole of Saorstát Eireann or any specified part thereof;
(d) every bread (price) order shall be published in theIris Oifigiúil as soon as may be after it is made;
(e) every bread (price) order shall specify the date on which it is to come into force, and such date shall not be earlier than the date of publication thereof in theIris Oifigiúil;
(f) the Minister may by order under this paragraph revoke or amend a bread (price) order, and the provisions of paragraphs (d) and (e) of this sub-section shall apply to every order made under this paragraph.
(a) a bread (price) order is for the time being in force, and
(b) such order fixes a maximum price at which bread of the kind specified in such order may be sold or offered for sale in the area to which such order applies when sold or offered for sale under a particular set of conditions,
every person who sells or offers for sale any such bread in such area under such set of conditions at a price in excess of such maximum price shall be guilty of an offence under this section.
Amendment No. 3 is consequential on amendment No. 2 and it goes out.
I move amendment No. 4:—
In sub-section (2) (b) to delete all after the word "price" in line 20 to the end of the paragraph, and substitute the words "and where such variable price is fixed it shall be in accordance with a scale, made in relation to the standard price of flour by the Minister, after consultation with four representatives nominated by the Irish Association of Master Bakers.
This is an amendment that gives the Minister power whether he uses it or not to fix the price after consultation with four representatives nominated by the Irish Association of Master Bakers. The Minister may say the millers' representatives are a statutory body. I think that in the working of his orders he should have an understanding with the people concerned. That would be the usual thing to do.
When the Minister consults the Flour Millers' Association he does not do it for the purpose of determining what should be the proper price of flour. When the Minister comes to fix the price of bread he is carrying out a different function altogether. If you put on him the obligation to consult with the Master Bakers before fixing the price of bread then in effect you are putting on him an obligation to carry out a new investigation. We have set up a Prices Commission. They have heard evidence and they have given their opinion as to the prices of bread and, in consequence of their report that an excessive price had been charged in particular areas, this Bill is being brought forward. In operating the Bill we mean to take their report and recommendations as our basis and not before making our order to carry out a new investigation covering which they have already covered. If provision were put in the Bill whereby the price of bread would be again investigated in relation to any change in the circumstances that might alter the Prices Commission's findings.
It is the Prices Commission that will be investigating this matter and not the Minister for Industry and Commerce. He will act upon the conclusions of the Prices Commission. They will send their report to him. This report will have regard only to the prices prevailing for bread throughout the country. Therefore, although the Minister would be available at any time to consider representations made to him by the Master Bakers' Association, he should not be under a statutory obligation to consult them, because, if so, that would mean that he would have to investigate the Prices Commission's report and carry out a new investigation himself.
I take it that amendments Nos. 4 and 5 are being discussed together.
No. Amendment No. 5 has reference to a specified area, and No. 4 has to do with the price of flour. There is a difference.
The millers are a statutorily defined body, and the Minister is going to approach them, not only about what the price of flour should be, but what it is. I think he should be bound by statute to do so. Bread is related to the price of flour, but flour enters into the price of bread to less than 50 per cent. of the cost. There are other matters that enter into the production costs to a greater extent than 50 per cent., and these matters vary in different areas. That is the reason why I ask the Minister to take cognisance of the particular costs in these areas.
If the situation should arise in which there was reason to believe that the other elements entering into the cost of bread referred to in the Prices Commission Report had changed, I think the Minister should ask the Prices Commission to inquire into the circumstances and report, and he should act upon this report.
How long did the Commission spend in investigating the price of bread?
The report on the price of flour was not completed until the end of 1934, and it was only after that that they took up the price of bread.
They reported on the prices charged, but never took any action with regard to flour.
I did not make any statutory order.
The Minister did not take any steps to investigate the price of flour. Flour here is 11/- a sack higher than in Great Britain or Northern Ireland.
It is not right to say I took no action. I will not say that the action was effective, but when we came to see what effective action should be taken we were up against other problems. I think Deputy Dillon, if Deputy McGilligan listened to him, was not very far from the mark when indicating the only possible line of action, if we cannot get the voluntary adjustment which I hope to get.
To make the efficient people pay for the inefficient people is a most preposterous and shocking proposal.
I want to protest in connection with this measure at the idea that bakers are a frightful lot of unscrupulous and unconscionable profiteers, and that the flour millers are not, because they are protecting a great industry and carrying out a great cereal policy. The bakery industry is a much more important industry than the flour industry, and there are nearly twice as many people employed in it. The bakers have no say with regard to the price or the quality of flour that they buy. They are restricted in their market. They must buy flour in their own area, and buy it at any price the miller likes to charge. because there is no competition. When this Bill was being brought in the Irish Press came out with a shout about bread profiteers before there was any investigation. Anyone who looks at the prices will see that the bakers are not charging unreasonable prices.
In fact, I will go further and say that the bakers in some areas are charging less than the maximum price that the Prices Commission recommended.
Cork was aimed at especially as a terrible place, while Dublin was said to be a grand place— they were doing what the Prices Commission wanted. At that time there was bread being sold in Dublin at more than 2d. per pair above the Cork price, and there was no talk about it, and they were producing a low price bread to put dust in the eyes of the Prices Commission. The Minister should consult with some of the representatives of the bakery trade with regard to this matter. I want to deprecate any antagonism between the trade and the Minister. It would be better for them to work together. Both the Minister and the bakery trade seem to be in the hands of the millers.
It would, I think, be quite reasonable to expect whoever is Minister for Industry and Commerce to give consideration to whatever representations are made to him by bakers in one form or another, but I think it would be a mistake to put upon him that statutory obligation to consult, because I think that would, in fact, come to mean an obligation to carry out personally, or through his own officers, an investigation which has been already conducted by the Prices Commission.
The difficulty is that the Prices Commission at the time they made the Order, which is the basis of this legislation, in August, 1935, had investigated the price of bread all over the country and they found that different conditions prevailed as regards costings and the production of bread. Still they wanted to make an Order applicable to the whole country, irrespective of districts. That shows the foolish things the Prices Commission are likely to do.
They are fixing the maximum price.
Yes, and the maximum was not fixed on the maximum condition of costs.
I know for a fact that it was not, because they fixed the same price for places other than Cork, and Cork makes the best bread in the world. It is bread that costs the most to produce, and costs and wages are higher in Cork than in any part of Ireland, Great Britain, or even the world. Still the Commission took no cognisance of that fact. They fixed the price for bread made on the smallest little turf oven in Connemara or Kerry on the same level as bread made in Cork, where the highest quality of bread is produced. The Minister is going to alter that to some extent by fixing prices for different areas, but he says he will not consult the bakers in the different areas, only the Prices Commission. We have the mentality of the Prices Commission. They think in a straight line. It is a good thing to do that sometimes, but they ought to have regard to the circumstances that obtain in various areas where different conditions prevail. If the Minister is only going to consult the Prices Commission, he ought to try to get some better advice than he got hitherto. He would find it much easier to deal with some intelligent body like the representatives of the master bakers, whose intelligence is very much higher.
After all, there exists an organisation which has now become highly developed and really efficient in the matter of carrying out an investigation of this kind.
I do. They have built up a machine under their control which is an effective machine, and if there is to be any question of investigation into prices or costs generally, or in a particular area, surely it is that machine that should be utilised rather than a new one to be improvised for the purpose.
In dealing with the master bakers, the Minister will be dealing with men who are masters of their business, and not road makers or furniture makers or anything like that.
I should like to get this on to another plane. In Section 2 the Minister takes power to fix the price of flour. He binds himself, in the most rigid way, that before making any order under this section with regard to flour he is to consult the Milling Advisory Committee. He is going to take power to fix the price of flour, and before he fixes the price, or as often as he changes it, he has to consult the Milling Advisory Committee. He is going to fix a maximum price for bread. It is suggested to him, in a limited way, far too limited in regard to one sub-paragraph, that he should consult with the Association of Master Bakers. He says: "No, it is wrong to put the statutory obligation on me to consult that body." Why? He has already put upon himself the obligation statutorily to consult the Milling Advisory Committee before he fixes the price for flour.
I am not fixing the price of flour, that is the point; at least, not fixing it in the same sense as prescribing a maximum price.
Let me read what the Minister proposes to do. Section 2 reads: "Subject to the provisions of this section, the Minister may, whenever and so often as he thinks fit, by order under this sub-section fix, for the purposes of this Act, the price of flour for any specified area, and the price so fixed shall, so long as such order remains in force, be, for the purposes of this Act, the standard price of flour for such area."
That means ascertain and declare.
I do not care what it means. The Minister is going to fix the price of flour. It may be ascertaining and declaring. But before he fixes, ascertains and declares, or fixes in technical language, before making any order, he has to consult the Milling Advisory Committee. When we turn to bread, he is going to fix a maximum price for bread. He is taking power to fix it with regard to bread of specified kinds. He is going to fix it with a series of variations regarding places, regarding different kinds of bread, and having regard, possibly, to variations in the price of flour. Deputy O'Neill says, and I think with too much limitation, that before he fixes the price, where that price is to vary according to the price of flour, he should consult the Irish Association of Master Bakers, not get an agreement with, or go into a long investigation with them, not insist on the master bakers going through an investigation that the Minister may think the Prices Commission had better be told to do; not any of these things, but to consult with the Irish Association of Master Bakers. The Minister thinks it is a hardship to have that imposed on him by statute. Why? He is going to fix the price of bread. A later amendment asks the Minister that, in case he is going to fix a maximum price for bread, he should consult, not get agreement with, but consult with the Irish Association of Master Bakers.
What will be the object of the consultation?
That those people who are in the trade, and who may see reactions from a special prices order that the Minister may not see, may be allowed to put the educated view of people in the trade before him, and only that. There is no question of getting agreement.
I want to put this: The Minister either takes the Prices Commission's report and says "There is the Prices Commission's report; I am acting upon that," or else he proceeds to turn down the Prices Commission's report.
Or may say to himself, as any reasonable or sane man might say, that a report made in August, 1935, may not hold good for ever.
Nobody is claiming that it will hold good for ever.
Why not give the master bakers an opportunity of stating that the circumstances have changed and that a scale fixed at a particular time was not a proper one now?
They can say that to the Prices Commission.
Well, get the Prices Commission to consult the master bakers before making the order. I do not care how it is done. I would rather have it done in the way set out here, because the Prices Commission is a body which I have always derided. It was given an impossible task to do, and it has failed even to approach that task. It has not got any public confidence. The Prices Commission has been in being now for almost three years. It has made, I think, three reports. The only thing it has done is to help to bring down the price at which coal was to be sold to two bellmen. It made a fatuous report on flour which the Minister has definitely put aside. The Minister does not even accept that in his measure—to a great extent it is not accepted. One of the things that it did explicitly say was that a price order should be made for the whole of the Saorstát and not for any area. The Minister will not accept that. One of its reports, the one about flour, the Minister is ashamed to have mentioned in the House. He will not act on it. The Commission will be subjected to complete derision if he ever does act on the lines recommended in its report.
I think that the report of the Prices Commission on flour is a very valuable one, and if the flour millers had acted on it we would have had no complaints.
It has been in the Minister's possession for over a year, and it is so valuable that I have never heard him, until this evening, even attempt to defend it.
I told the House long ago that I had an assurance from the Flour Millers' Association that they were going to fix their prices in accordance with that report.
What they said was to rob the efficient people and to elevate the inefficient people.
That was only one part of it.
That is a principle that the Minister will not get across this House. Although I think it is a bad intermediary, let the Minister if he likes say that, before making an order fixing the price of bread, he will consult the Master Bakers via the Prices Commission. Let him if he likes cloak himself behind the Prices Commission. I should prefer that the Minister would consult the Master Bakers directly. All that Deputy O'Neill's amendment asks is that if a prices order is going to be made varying the price of bread in accordance with the price of flour, that then there will be consultation with the Master Bakers. The Minister thinks that is a handicap that should not be imposed on him.
That it is an obligation that should not be imposed on me.
The obligation to meet people in the business and to allow them to say, whatever may have been the rights or wrongs in the past, that the standard fixed by the Prices Commission and reported on in August, 1935, should be altered, and to suggest that that standard should not operate. The Minister thinks that there should not be an obligation on him to listen to the Master Bakers.
That is not the point. There is no difficulty about listening to them. The Minister has got to do one of two things at the end of the audition. He has got to decide that their representations are right or that the Prices Commission is wrong, or else he has got to turn them down and act on the report of the Prices Commission.
Or there is the third alternative which should not be there, namely, that the Minister has got to carry out a second investigation of his own.
The Minister need not say that the Prices Commission was wrong. He may hold that it was right in the circumstances in which it reported, but if since that report was made the Master Bakers can show that conditions have changed then it may come to the question of carrying out a new investigation if it be shown that the situation has fundamentally changed. If the situation has changed, let that be shown by direct intervention on the part of the Master Bakers to the Minister.
I would prefer to see the Master Bakers going to the Prices Commission.
Because it will take a year before the information will get to your office.
Is it not much better to keep that protection there for the public even though there is delay for a year?
Suppose the Prices Commission report after a year that the standard is wrong and that an order has been made in the meantime? I think the Minister ought to meet the people who are in the business and have consultation with them.
The Master Bakers can have consultation with the Prices Commission any time they want it.
When will the Prices Commission report?
The trouble in this matter is to get the Prices Commission to understand the point of view of the Master Bakers. There is no member of the Commission who has any intimate knowledge of the trade.
I am accepting their report, and I am sustained in that action by the judicial commission which produced a similar report in 1926.
The members of the Prices Commission know nothing about this business. It is a very hard thing to drive anything into their heads. They may know something about accountancy, but they know nothing about the intricacies or technique of the trade. What can anyone engaged in laying asphalt roads be expected to know about the bakery trade?
The Deputy cannot discuss the personnel of the Commission.
Surely he is entitled to say that the members of the Commission are not experts in bakery matters.
If the Deputy were allowed to pursue the particular line he was on, it would mean discussing the personnel of the Commission.
A very important point in this is that the Minister is taking power to make what he calls a variable order. I take it that he has in mind the suggestion made in the Prices Commission report that the price of bread should vary in accordance with the price of flour. I think the procedure that has been adopted in England should be followed here. The system that is in practice there has worked out very smoothly, and I do not see any reason why the Minister should not do something on the same lines here.
The price of bread will vary with the standard price of flour.
It is one of the matters on which the Minister might consult with the Master Bakers. So far as I understand, the Minister is not going to consult the Master Bakers in fixing that variable standard.
It is fixed, and there is no reason why it should be changed. We have the recommendation of the Commission of ½d. in the loaf for every 4/- in the sack of flour.
Our point is that that should be fixed in agreement with the Master Bakers. Once that is done there need not be any further consultation. I would appeal to the Minister to agree to have this consultation with the Master takers. If he agrees to do that it does not mean that he will suffer in any way in his Ministerial dignity.
There is no question of dignity in this at all. If the Master Bakers came to me and said that a reduction of a ½d. for every 4/- in the sack of flour was not a fair calculation, the only answer I can give them is that the Prices Commission report that that is a fair calculation. The Prices Commission that sat in 1926 made a similar report, and I am accepting their conclusions. No Minister can give any other answer to that except he was prepared to carry out a separate and a new investigation on his own, and I do not think he should do that.
It would not take half-an-hour—possibly an hour altogether.
In any event, if there is in existence a body with the powers of the High Court to require the production of evidence on oath, and a staff of trained accountants to investigate that evidence, and if they submit a report, it is obviously much better to accept it rather than that a Minister should again, say in the space of half-an-hour, carry out an investigation and reverse their conclusions. Consequently, we have got to the position that what the standard to be fixed will be, is already known. There will be added to that 4½d. or 5d., as the case may be, certain other amounts as set out in the Commission's report to cover costs other than the costs of flour. There you will get the price of bread which has emerged as the result of a protracted investigation by the Commission, and which is confirmed by reference to the report of the Food Prices Tribunal of 1926 which brought a precisely similar recommendation.
I have already pointed out that there was not a baker in Ireland who could produce bread on the figures laid down. I proved it up to the hilt that no baker could bake bread at the price laid down, not to speak of the selling of it at that price.
Will the Deputy ex-. plain to me why, on a day when the price of bread in Dublin was 9d. or 8½d., in Cork it was 10d., in Clonmel 10d., in Cavan 8½d., in Carlow 9d., and in another place 7d.? Why was there that variation in price when they were all using the same flour?
I will take Dublin as an example. The price of bread in Dublin was 11d. on that very day when the Minister says it was down to 8½d. That one fact controverts everything he says.
Is the amendment being withdrawn?
I suppose, as the Minister will not budge, I had better withdraw it.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 5, relates to the same point.
It is entirely different—areas.
It deals with the same principle, and it is asking the Minister to apply it to different areas. For instance, if he wanted to make an order affecting Dublin he would not consult the master bakers in Cork. It is the same point.
I think there is another point in it. This Commission, about whose efficiency the Minister is so satisfied, reported distinctly that there was no reason for area discrimination. They deal with the matter on page 17, under the heading "Question of Uniform Prices":
"Under present conditions, in many parts of the country the smaller bakery has to meet the competition of the larger city bakery."
Here is what that efficient body, who have made such a thorough-going investigation so pleasing to the Minister, report:
"A close examination of the economics of baking units, of various sizes and locations, disclosed the following interesting facts:—
"(A) Purchase of Flour.—The larger unit has the advantage of favourable terms for large quantities and, being generally adjacent to mills, its transport costs are lower."
That is one point in favour of the higher unit.
"(B) Output.—The information we have obtained regarding typical units goes to show that the larger concerns have little, if any, advantage over their smaller competitors as a direct result of larger turnover."
You can call that a draw, I suppose.
"(C) Labour.—The country unit (and, generally, therefore, the smaller), as distinct from the city unit, has a decided advantage as regards both the cost of labour and its adjustability to day-to-day conditions."
They are all square at that point.
"(D) Management and Overhead Expenses: The smaller bakery is, generally, part of a mixed general trading unit. The consequent saving on overhead expenses offsets, to some extent, advantages in other respects accruing to the larger unit, which, generally, is confined to baking.
That is something to the advantage of the country unit that the city one has not got.
(E) Distribution: The very high distribution costs disclosed in the accounts submitted to us by large scale bakeries indicate a further advantage, under this head, for the smaller unit.
So they weight the thing in favour of the smaller unit and they draw a conclusion that there should be uniform prices, that there should be a standard price for the Saorstát.
Where do they draw that conclusion?
They say that distinctly.
They at least say that the maximum price that they fix for Dublin is equally applicable in any other area.
They say what I have indicated, distinctly.
They do not make a definite recommendation that there should be only one price.
Does the Minister say that they make a definite recommendation in favour of an area price?
Does the Minister say they do not recommend a uniform price for the Saorstát?
What they have concluded is that the maximum prices fixed on the basis of the Dublin or the Cork costs are applicable in all areas.
Is there a recommendation in favour of varying prices for different areas?
I do not think they deal with that at all.
Does the Minister not realise, under the heading I have read out about uniform prices, that this is not dealing with the matter of the price for the Saorstát or for areas?
What is the Deputy's point?
That they do not recommend in favour of an area price.
I do not think they recommend against it, either.
Will the Minister tell me that they do not? Will the Minister tell me that this is founded upon the Commission's report?
The Commission pointed out in their report that on a day appointed in accordance with their calculations a certain price would be fixed as the maximum price for bread, that in certain areas the price of bread would be below that price and, consequently, there obviously would be no need to fix a maximum price in respect of these areas, if they could be clearly defined.
Will the Minister say, without any quibbling, does he regard that prices report as being in favour of area orders?
No. I regard the prices report as an indication of the Commission's conclusions that the price of bread should be uniform throughout the whole country if the same quality flour in bread was used.
And the same cost of production?
They say the costs of production weigh definitely in favour of the smaller units.
There is one factor in favour of the larger unit. Does the Minister say that anywhere they indicate a conclusion in favour of area orders?
Amendment No. 5, by leave, withdrawn.
Is the Minister accepting amendment No. 6?
I do not quite see what the Deputy's point is.
It brings us back again to the definition of the word "loaf".
I am proposing to work on the basis of the pound units. If the Deputy will notice, in Section 4 we are taking power to prohibit the sale or offering for sale in the area to which an Order affecting bread applies, bread covered by the Order unless such bread is so sold or offered for sale either in units of less than eight ounces or in units of one pound or multiples of a pound. That is the test, and the price of bread will be fixed in relation to the pound weight and not in relation to any other unit.
Bread is always taken as quoted per 4 lb. quartern or per 2 lbs. Is the Minister going to depart from that? The reason I brought in the amendment is that in some parts of the country the trade in bread is not in the 2 lb. or 4 lb. unit. In some places the trade is practically all in 1 lb. units, and the making of 1 lb. units is a very much more expensive process than the making of 4 lb. units. In the first place, to get the proper weight you have to weigh each loaf separately, and you will not get the same output from the sack of flour in weighing small units.
I gather that the Deputy's point—I did not understand his amendment—is that you should not fix the price for 1 lb. units at all?
I wanted it to be permissible to charge a higher rate for bread in 1 lb. units than in 4 lb. units.
There is power to do that under Section 3.
But the Minister is going to take the 1 lb. unit, and I want him to take the 4 lb. unit.
The lb. or multiples of the lb.
Where the price of bread is, say, 10d. a pair or quartern, I want it to be permissible for a person to charge more than 2½d. for the single lb. loaf. He will not get four 1 lb. units out of the same amount of flour as he can get a 4 lb. unit.
There is power to do that.
I know there is power, but will the Minister see my point? Will the Minister keep that in view when making his Order?
I have the same thing in mind in relation to fancy bread. He has already dealt with that in regard to the definition of fancy bread. You can charge practically what you like, because he is not going to define fancy bread.
The price can be fixed. There is a recommendation of the Commission in one respect concerning fancy bread.
If the Minister refuses to accept the definitions, I cannot proceed any further with this point.
Amendment No. 6, by leave, with drawn.
Question proposed: "That Section 3 stand part of the Bill."
The Minister on a particular amendment refused to be absolutely precise with regard to those variations which he may make. There is not the slightest doubt in the world that the Minister takes power to make and has the intention of making Bread (Price) Orders, varying according to the area. The Minister does intend that. The Minister tells me that he has accepted the Commission's report. The Minister will, I am sure, tell me that he has read, thoroughly understood, and gone through the Commission's report. He has already told me in this House that he cannot find anywhere that they recommended in favour of uniform prices for the Saorstát.
I do not think they dealt with that point in a specific way at all.
May I read the Minister one phrase which could not be misunderstood? It is as follows: "We are of opinion that the Minister should make Orders fixing the maximum retail and wholesale prices of the commodity in question, and that such Orders should apply to the entire area of Saorstát Eireann." Can there be any quibbling about that?
There can be refutation of the Deputy's argument.
Possibly, but at any rate that is the Commission's recommendation. The Minister did not know it was there until now. It is the last paragraph above the signatures—"...such Orders should apply to the entire area of Saorstát Eireann." That is after they had in detail gone through the points which I read before. They examined them under the headings of flour purchase, output, labour, management and overhead expenses, and distribution, and having done that, they recommended in the most wholehearted way, in a flatfooted phrase which I do not think anybody could misunderstand, that those uniform prices "should apply to the entire area of Saorstát Eireann." The Minister thinks he is accepting the report when he brings in area Orders. He announced here earlier that he intends to make area Orders. Why? This is a case where the Prices Commission, that expert body to whom the Association of Master Bakers have referred, recommend something to the Minister that the Minister does not entirely believe in.
Who said I was not going to make an Order based on the Commission's recommendations?
I read paragraph (c), sub-paragraph (2), Section 3, which deals with a bread (price) order for areas.
This is permanent legislation.
I went further and asked him—quibbling will not get over this—was it his intention to make Orders for areas, and he said "Yes." He did that on foot of the Commission's recommendations. And the Commission recommended uniform prices for Saorstát Eireann. Yet, the Minister thinks that is a great body, and its report has been so carefully considered that he will not allow the Master Bakers to consult with him to suggest that possibly their recommendation may have gone wrong under changed conditions. That is one thing. Will the Minister answer another question? Under sub-section (1) of Section 3 prices are to be fixed or may be fixed varying according to different sets of conditions,—and then we get a variety of clauses with regard to the place of sale. There is, at any rate, a distinction between sale at the place where the bread is kept by the vendor, and sale by the vendor at some place other than where it is kept by the vendor. There are two balancing clauses there. There is first "that the bread is sold or offered for sale by the baker thereof in a shop owned by him, delivery being taken by the purchaser at such shop." Then there is the varying one: "that the bread is sold or offered for sale retail by a person other than the baker thereof in a shop owned by such person...." There is a distinction, at any rate, permissible there between bread sold by a baker at his own premises and bread sold by somebody other than a baker in that person's own premises. Is the Minister going to make any distinction between sale by a baker at the place where the loaf is baked and sale by a baker at a shop owned by the baker? There will be delivery cost there, and there will be distribution cost. It may not be as great as the distribution cost of a person other than a baker owning a shop from which bread is sold. But there is a differentiation. Does the Minister recognise it or will he allow for it?
Of course the first point raised by the Deputy is, in a sense, a minor point. The Commission undoubtedly recommended on 21st August, 1935, having completed their investigation, that an Order should be made under the Control of Prices Act, 1932, fixing the maximum retail and wholesale price for bread, and that such Order should apply to the whole of the Saorstát. We did not make those Orders. We proposed to do so but we came up against legal difficulties, and because of those legal difficulties we are not acting under the Control of Prices Act at all. We are introducing here a Bill to put on the Statute Book new power to act in relation to the price of bread. It is under this Act and not under the Control of Prices Act that any Orders will be made. We are taking power to make Orders to apply to the whole of the Saorstát or part of the Saorstát, because the new Act is designed to provide permanent legislation for the regulation of the price of bread—not the regulation as at 21st August, 1935, but the regulation of its price at any time the Executive Council considers it is desirable that such legislation should be effected. The various circumstances dealt with in the paragraph under which different prices can be fixed in respect of bread are all those recommended by the Commission, and all those in respect of which I think we should have that power, that is in accordance with the paragraph which the Deputy read out.
That is the sale the Minister is referring to now?
Does the Minister not recognise any possibilities of difference in the price of bread sold by a baker across the counter of the bakery, so to speak, or on premises attached to the bakery, and the price of that same loaf sold by the baker in a shop away from the bakery which is still owned by the baker? Would there not be a distribution or delivery cost attached there, and would there not be necessity for differentiation? The Commission has made recommendations with regard to what they call "sale over the baker's counter." Will the Minister recognise that "the baker's counter" might be either the counter of the place where the bread is baked or the counter of some shop owned by the baker which is not the bakery? Will the Minister recognise any difference in costs, or will he recognise the possibility of a variation in price being necessary? The Commission have only reported on this matter in connection with the sale of bread by the baker as opposed to sale by a retailer who is not a baker. There is delivery to the householder or delivery by a baker to the shop of a retailer, such retailer not being a baker, and so on. Surely the Minister must recognise the difference? Why should there be an allowance for an extra item when the bread is sold in a shop that belongs to a retailer who is not a baker, and why will that cost disappear when the shop is owned by the baker? If there is to be a transfer some distance to other premises owned by the baker, will there not be some difference? My point is that there is no allowance for it in the Bill.
I am introducing legislation hereto give effect to the report of the Prices Commission, and when they made their recommendations there were four circumstances under which variations in the price of bread might be permitted.
The first heading in their report has to do with sale over the baker's counter.
No, sold in his own shop.
Well, over the counter may seem over the counter of the bakery or over the counter of a shop owned by a baker. Does the Minister say that they are the same thing? Will there not be a difference in the cost? Surely there must be.
Perhaps, since I am more familiar with the conditions in this trade, I might be permitted to put Deputy McGilligan's point in concrete form. I have a shop, say, 30 miles from my bakery. That shop is in my possession and I work there and retail bread in that shop. The bakery also has a retail shop. Deputy McGilligan's point is that it is a stupid thing to ask the same price for bread sold over the counter of the shop in the bakery as in the shop 30 miles away.
That is the point. Take it from another angle. Let us take it from the point of view of the four special heads set out at the bottom of page 19 and the top of page 20 of the report—sale over the baker's counter, delivery to a householder, delivery by a baker to a shop of a retailer, such retailer not being a baker, and sale by a retailer. What is the difference in price as between the retailer being a baker and the retailer not being a baker?
That refers to the customer of the baker, and a 10 per cent. discount is provided for.
There will be a 10 per cent. discount from the No. 2 price, but the No. 2 price is delivery to the householder. There is, however, a differentiation made between the sale across the counter where the retailer is a baker and where the retailer is not a baker. Why must there be a distinction and an extra item of cost allowed for a sale across the counter in a shop by a retailer where the retailer is, in the one case, the baker and, in the other case, not a baker? If there is a separate shop there will be separate overhead expenses in connection with the shop. Will they differ if he is the owner, and, if so, will they so far differ as to make it equivalent to the sale across the bakery counter?
It is the custom in the trade.
Indeed, it is not. Deputy O'Neill is one practical example.
Would not an awkward situation arise in connection with Deputy O'Neill's point? Must you not have one price for the bread, as otherwise people will all flock to the baker's shop?
They do not do it at the moment.
Because the price is the same.
The baker only sells bread wholesale.
He sells it retail, too. In the city of Dublin the customer can get it cheaper by going to the baker's shop.
Is there any difference between the price of the bread sold in the baker's own shop apart from another retailer?
But there is a difference between the sale at the bakery and the sale at the shop owned by the baker?
I am speaking from my experience of my own town, and there is a flat rate for the price of bread whether it is sold in a bakery shop or a retail shop. Otherwise, the retailers might not expect to sell bread at all.
We have a report that the price in the baker's shop is much too high.
Again, does the Minister mean the shop owned by the baker or the bakery itself?
Well, you will not improve the matter by making a different price.
I should like to have that attended to. Surely there is a point there for consideration.
There is a point I have been considering, following representations from traders' associations in certain small towns where, in order to enable certain retailers to continue to sell bread, the baker marked up his price to the price at which the retailer could sell the bread at a profit. Undoubtedly, the bakers, when selling bread in competition with the retailers, get too large a profit, according to the Commission's calculations. Sometimes the baker did not sell bread in competition with the retailers, and the point advanced by the retailers is that if we insist on the baker selling bread over the counter at a reasonable profit, no retailer will have a chance. I have been looking into that point, with a view to seeing if we could allow a certain amount of elasticity there. But the only practical way to do that is to allow the baker, in respect of that type of bread, to get a higher profit.
Both Commissions have reported that it is desirable to give a fresh impetus to the tendency already observable to have more bread sold in bakers' own premises, whether in the bakery or in a shop owned by the baker, because one Commission definitely reported, and the other rather backed it up, that there are too many people engaged in retailing bread.
But the Deputy can see the point of view of the retailers when they see the trade for other groceries going to the shop owned by the baker who may also be a grocer?
Yes. While the baker bakes bread, he can sell that across the counter or in a part of the premises attached to the bakery. He has very little distribution costs and there should be something for that. That is taken and given to a retailer who is not a baker, but when the baker takes that bread and delivers it to a shop of his own so far away as 30 miles there should be some difference in the price as between the sale in his own bakery and in the shop 30 miles away. That is the only point I am making.
I think it is a point worth considering.
Of course, we have the practice in Dublin where they sell in their own shops at the same price as in their bakery.
In connection with this question of the variable price, the Minister will remember the scale to which I referred previously, inserted by the Prices Commission, on which the prices should be regulated on a sliding scale having relation to the prices of flour. The only thing there is the price of flour, but other things may vary from time to time in such a way as to affect seriously the price of bread. For instance, the Minister has put a very serious tariff on yeast, and I hope he will take into account the increased cost of yeast, which he has increased himself, and also the increased cost of other matters which go into the production of bread. The cost of yeast has become a very serious charge.
Surely this must be looked at in the same way as any other commodity, and it has to be remembered that there are two prices, wholesale and retail. A baker sells to a retailer at a wholesale price because he has no expense. This is the same as any other trade in which there is a wholesale list. Otherwise the baker would have to bring bread into a shop, put paper and twine on it, and record the sale. Was it not better, to have one price?
He should be a retailer, and that is what the Commission does not recommend.
Question put and agreed to.
(1) The Minister may by any bread (price) order prohibit the sale or offering for sale in the area to which such order applies of bread of any kind to which such order applies, unless such bread is so sold or offered for sale either (i) in units of less than eight ounces or (ii) in units of one pound or multiples of one pound, and if any person acts in contravention of such prohibition such person shall be guilty of an offence under this section.
There is a printer's error in the numbering of the amendments. On page 2 amendments Nos. 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 should be 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11.
I move amendment No. 7:—
In sub-section (1), page 3, line 46, to insert after the word "ounces" and after the words "multiples of one pound" the words "in weight".
Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 4, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
The Minister said that what he wanted to achieve was that if a loaf weighing, say, 1 lb. and a few ounces was sold as a 2-lb. loaf there would be an offence. If the Minister looks at the section he will see that he may prohibit the sale, by any price order, of bread of any kind unless sold in units of less than 8 ozs. or units of 1 lb. or multiples of 1 lb.
Supposing you sell a loaf weighing one pound one ounce is that a multiple of a pound? Surely not. I think what the Minister means is not less than a pound. I went through the Commission's report and I think most bread is scaled in such a way that it comes out a little in excess of the pound. The Minister does not intend to have it an offence to sell one or two-pound loaves some fraction over that weight. The section makes it an offence to sell unless in units of a pound or multiples of a pound. Supposing a loaf weighed one pound two ounces, surely that is not an offence.
There may be some necessity to recast the wording of the section. The intention is to secure that in the administration of the order the Civic Guards will be able to assume that a loaf is one, two, three or four pounds in weight, and report on the price charged as the price per pound, without having to undertake any of the obligations of weights and measures inspectors in relation to the weight of the loaf, and in order to prevent traders offering for sale a loaf of indeterminate weight in order to evade the obligation to charge a price per pound.
If you accept my definition of a loaf it will make that easy.
A loaf is too wide a term unless you put in that it must be one, two, three or four pounds. Sales of bread take place in one, two, three or four-pound lots, when the obligation of the Bill is complied with.
You could have half or quarter of a loaf. Half a loaf is better than no bread.
Question put and agreed to.
I understand the Minister is going to amend this section further.
There may be some recasting.
Take the word "loaf" and you will be all right.
I wanted to ask why insert "ounces." Other legislation has 12 ounces.
It is not intended to fix the price of bread under 12 ounces as that would be too near a pound weight.
Some other countries have taken a smaller unit as being less than 12 ounces.
Twelve ounces would be too near a pound and there would be deception. No one would mistake eight ounces, but a person might mistake 12 ounces.
With regard to sub-section 2, is it the Minister's idea that this Bill will repeal the Act of 1838?
It will still operate with regard to the sale of bread.
We are providing in relation to this section that it will have effect, notwithstanding anything in the Act of 1838.
So far as weight is concerned.
So that all bread shall be sold by weight.
(b) any person sells in the area to which such order applies any such bread under any set of conditions specified in such order, such person shall, if so required by the purchaser, give to the purchaser a receipt showing the amount paid for such bread and the weight thereof.
I move amendment No. 8:—
In sub-section (1) (b), line 1, to delete all after the word "shall" to the end of the sub-section and substitute the words "if the sale takes place in a shop and if the purchaser so requires, weigh in the purchaser's presence the bread that is being purchased."
The conditions laid down by the Minister are intolerable and I think he will find that, in practice, they will be unworkable. It might become an intolerable practice if people could insist on getting a printed receipt or a written receipt when sold a loaf of bread, or if a van-man was stopped on the road in some remote district or at a cross-roads. If they took it into their heads to ask for receipts van-men would have a very difficult job giving receipts for every loaf or half loaf of bread they sold. The Minister's idea would be achieved by insisting wherever a sale takes place in a shop that the bread should be weighed in the presence of the purchaser. I am sure the Minister's idea is to see that the public get full weight. The amendment would protect the public effectively, and would give less trouble, while there would not be intolerable conditions imposed.
If the Deputy's concern is due to the fact that the purchaser appears to be given the right to demand a receipt the amendment would cover that right, because the purchaser has a legal right to demand a receipt setting out the commodity and the price. If the Deputy's intention is to avoid the obligation to give a receipt in the case of a sale of bread from a van it does not achieve that, because I understand a baker's van has been deemed to be a, shop—a travelling shop undoubtedly—in the definition of the Act. Consequently the amendment does not avoid that. If we are going to fix the maximum price of bread, we must provide that the purchaser of bread will get, when making the purchase, some document from the seller, if he desires it, indicating the weight and the price of the bread.
What is the object when all the bread will be defined as a certain weight under the Minister's order?
There is not always that compliance with Minister's orders that the Deputy hopes. So far as this is concerned the purchaser has the right in common law.
Yes, but it is not insisted upon.
It is essential that it should be made clear, where the maximum price or weight of the article is fixed by law, and where the customer has some doubts as to whether he is getting the benefit of the enactment. In that case he can satisfy himself by getting the trader to put down on paper what weight of bread is sold and what the price is.
If the trader is selling 100 loaves at 2½d. each, you cannot expect him to make out 100 receipts at 2½d.
It has been the law for a long time.
There is no necessity for putting it into this Bill.
We are making him specify the quantity of bread by weight.
Still you could accept my amendment. All you want to insist upon is that a sale in the shop shall be by weight. I merely want to make it simpler for the Minister.
I think that this is an essential safeguard. The only change the Deputy's amendment would make would be to exempt the trader from giving a receipt where the bread is sold from a van, but it does not even do that, because a van is, in fact, a travelling shop.
The Minister will remember that under the original Act every baker was supposed to carry scales and to weigh the bread in the presence of the purchaser. That practice ceased to be operative. The thing was dropped because it was impracticable. Why does the Minister wish to introduce it again?
Because we have a report from two Commissions that the price of bread is excessively high.
That has nothing to do with the weight.
It has. It is only when the bread is weighed that a person can determine whether he has been charged an excessive price.
I quite agree that prices are high, too high in many cases, because dishonest traders were not giving the full weight. They have been undercutting honest traders by reducing the weight of the loaf.
Is not this a protection to the honest baker?
There is no necessity to go to extremes.
I think it is essential that we should provide that the purchaser of bread is entitled to demand a receipt showing the quantity of bread supplied and the price charged. The Deputy knows quite well that there is not one customer in 1,000 who is going to exercise that right unless he thinks he is being "done," and if he thinks he is being "done" he will kick up a bigger row than to demand a receipt.
Amendment declared lost.
Section 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
SECTION 6 (3).
(3) In this section the expression "Inspector of Weights and Measures" means an inspector of weights and measures under the Weights and Measures Acts, 1878 to 1936.
I move amendment No. 9:—
In sub-section (3), page 4, line 21, to insert before the word "under" the words and brackets "(including an ex-officio inspector of weights and measures)".
This is a drafting amendment.
Amendment put and agreed to.
I move amendment No. 10:—
At the end of the section to add a new sub-section as follows:—
When weighing plain or batch bread or loaves joined together in the process of baking, the inspector shall weigh not less than six loaves, either together or singly, and take the average of such weight as representing the true weight of each of the loaves.
I do not think I need go into detail in opposing this amendment, because there are obvious arguments against it. I think, however, what the Deputy desires to provide will be the practice. The Deputy can see that there are obvious objections, however, to putting it into the Bill. In fact, the weights and measures inspectors will weigh six loaves as the Deputy suggests, and take an average.
I am satisfied, if that will be the practice. The Minister will realise it would be unfair to take a loaf off a batch, the end of which might have been torn away in removing another loaf.
I agree that it is a reasonable practice, but there are obvious objections in making it a statutory requirement.
How then does the Minister propose to deal with it?
In the form of an instruction to the weights and measures inspectors.
Would the Minister not consider the amendment further on Report?
I should like that the law should stand that the loaf must be of the weight stated.
But if the inspector took a single loaf off the batch, it might easily happen that that loaf would be under weight, while the average of six loaves would give true weight.
It is quite a reasonable thing to ask, but I think the Deputy will see at once that if you put in that proviso it might be used in certain circumstances to defeat the purposes of the Act.
If the Minister says that what I seek to achieve will be the practice, I am quite satisfied.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 6, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Sections 7 and 8 put and agreed to
Every order made under this Act shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is made, and if a resolution annulling such order is passed by either such House, within the next subsequent twenty-one days on which that House has sat after such order is so laid before it, such order shall be annulled accordingly, but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done under such order.
I move amendment No. 11:—
In page 5, lines 21 and 22, to delete the words "each House of the Oireachtas" and substitute the words "Dáil Eireann"; in line 23, to delete the words "either such House" and substitute the words "Dáil Eireann"; in line 24, to delete the words "that House" and substitute the words "Dáil Eireann"; in line 25, to delete the word "it" and substitute the words "Dáil Eireann".
This is an obvious amendment. The Bill was drafted before the recent constitutional change in the matter to which the amendment refers.
Amendment put and agreed to.
Section 9, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Sections 10, 11, 12 and the Title put and agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
When is it proposed to take the Fourth Stage?
I would suggest that it be fixed for Tuesday though I do not think we shall be able to take it on Tuesday. There are one or two matters into which I promised to look.
Report Stage ordered for Tuesday, 7th July.