Committee on Finance. - Agricultural Produce (Cereals) (Amendment) Bill, 1958—Committee Stage.

Sections 1 to 6, inclusive, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 7 stand part of the Bill."

As I understand it, this Bill is specifically designed to set up a board to deal with surplus wheat. This section seems to depart to quite a degree from that purpose. It seems to me to infringe on the functions of normal trading sections of the community in importing cereal products and animal feeding stuffs. I wonder why the Minister thought it necessary to include such a section in a Bill of this kind. Are there not sufficient agencies at present in the normal milling and grain trades and similar trades, to provide sufficient facilities to import the cereal products and animal feeding mentioned in this section?

I am not speaking on the merits or otherwise of the Bill, but just on this section. I do not think the section should be included in the Bill at all, if the Bill is specifically to provide for dealing with surplus wheat. Under this section, the Minister can authorise the board to import feeding stuffs of any description which are normally imported through existing trade channels —is that not correct?—and in competition with existing trade channels. I suggest that this is an infringement of existing rights people have built up over a long number of years and should not be included in the Bill.

It may be an infringement of the rights to which the Deputy has referred, but at the same time, if the board is to be charged with the responsibility of disposing of surplus wheat, naturally it should have some responsibility for decisions relating to the importation of coarse grain which could affect very detrimentally their whole interest in the task given to them.

Has the Minister not sufficient powers in his own Department to control the import and export of coarse grains, without giving to a new State-sponsored board power to interfere with the normal trading organisations in the State?

There is nobody, even in my Department, who would be in a better position to know just what the position was. There is no body of people who would be in a better position to make a decision on a matter of that kind, that is, a matter as to whether there should be importation or not at any particular time.

I am sorry, but I do not follow the Minister. As I understand it, this board is being set up by the Minister to deal with what is described as surplus wheat. I maintain that the board should confine its activities to that and not obtrude itself on the normal commercial activities of organisations and traders who have built up their business over a long number of years. If the Minister, as he said, finds it necessary to restrict the import or export of coarse grain and feeding stuffs, I suggest he has already sufficient power as Minister to do that, without giving these very wide powers to a semi-State board.

This is a very wide section indeed. It says: "The Minister may assign to the board such additional functions as he thinks fit in relation to cereals." That may be fair enough, but then it goes on to say: "Cereal products and animal feeding stuffs." I do not think it requires any great stretch of the imagination to visualise a situation in which the board could argue that, in the interests of the community, they had to compete with normal traders and business people in the importation of feeding stuffs. The traders concerned would have absolutely no redress because there would be an Act of the Oireachtas to support the board's transactions. I feel very strongly on this point because the Bill is going very far from what I assumed was to be its purpose, the disposal of surplus wheat.

There has been no such thing as private trading in coarse grain for almost 20 years.

I said it was fair enough as regards that, but this also covers cereal products and animal feeding stuffs.

There has been no private trading for 20 years.


What about linseed cakes?

Imports have been controlled since 1939.

Not of feedings stuffs.


Grain Importers Ltd. have controlled the import of coarse grain since 1929.

I was talking about cereal products and animal feeding stuffs which means everything that a cow, a pig, or poultry consume.

I myself think the board should have that power. Applications have been made, since I was placed in charge of the Department of Agriculture four or five months ago, for permission to import grain, bran, pollard, barley, oats and other feeding stuffs, and the Department had to have regard to the position of surplus wheat and its disposal. Surely, if we are setting up a board to look after the disposal of wheat, and to dispose of a levy which will be contributed by the growers, we are entitled to give to that board the same responsibility and the same powers as were previously possessed by Grain Importers Ltd.

Grain Importers Ltd. had not that power. I may be completely wrong, but I believe other Deputies will agree with me. Why not continue the procedure whereby applications to import feeding stuffs, outside of coarse grains, were made to the Department?

This board would be in a better position to know whether a licence should be issued or not. They will be the people charged with the disposal of surplus wheat.

In actual fact, the Department has been exercising that power because, from time to time, the Minister has cut down on the imports of wheat and offals when he considered there was alternative feeding stuff in the country, such as unmillable wheat. I am asking only that the Department continue to exercise that function.

I understand the point which the Deputy is making, but I consider that would not be fair to the producers. According to the scheme in this Bill, the producers will be called upon to pay a levy to meet the cost of the disposal of any wheat produced in excess of 300,000 tons of dried wheat. A board has been set up to handle that levy and that surplus, and do Deputies think it would be fair to that board and to the producers to say, on the one hand: "We make you responsible for financing the disposal of any wheat," while at the same time somebody else is to retain the right to grant permission for imports of coarse grain? I do not think that would be fair. I believe the provision here is entirely justifiable and I do not believe any other provision would be justifiable.

To my mind, there is no reason why this board cannot advise the Minister to restrict the importation of any type of feeding stuff, but I do object to handing over such sweeping powers to a board of this kind set up to deal specifically with one thing, that is, the disposal of surplus wheat. I do not see how the producers would be treated unfairly by continuing the practice which has hitherto been effective in the Department of Agriculture, which must have an overall knowledge of the position. This board may be a very transitory one. The appointment of its directors is only for a term of two years and that does not seem to give it any permanence at all. I think it would be wrong to hand over to-it a job that has been done quite well under the aegis of the Minister's Department.

Deputy Russell has the merchants' point of view in this matter and I cannot convince him. I suppose he would prefer that the position remain as he has stated it to be, but I do not believe that would be right. I believe that those who will be called upon to make contributions, to accept deductions from the stated price to enable this board to dispose of surplus wheat, should have a right to determine what amount of coarse grain should be imported into the country, and that is what I am providing for here. I do not suppose I can force Deputy Russell to accept that point of view, but, from the point of view of the producers, it is entirely defensible.

I agree with the last part of the Minister's statement because it is confined to coarse grains. I am talking about cereal products and animal feeding stuffs, and I do not want the Minister to think that I am taking the merchants' point of view. I am dealing with a principle. This matter has been handled very efficiently by the Department and I do not see why it should not continue to handle it.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 8 to 19, inclusive, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 20 stand part of the Bill".

Is the Minister in a position to tell us what fees and remuneration it is proposed to pay to the members of this board?

I have made no decision on that matter.

Consider the position. The Minister has made no decision. This is evidence of diligence in regard to this legislation.

The Bill must become an Act before I make a decision under it.

Is it the thing for the Minister to say that this is a marvellous enterprise, the issue of which no one can pursue, the cost of which no one can assess, whilst at the same time he asks the consent of Dáil Éireann? I do not think any Minister ever asked authority to set up a board without being in a position to inform Dáil Éireann what the character of the board was to be, what the remuneration was to be and what terms of employment it was proposed to stipulate. The Minister says that he has not had time to consider it. My only comment is to direct further the attention of the House to the shocking prostitution of the procedures of Parliament which the Minister for Agriculture is now attempting.

Although I have been as long in the House as the Deputy, I never knew it was the practice to announce in advance of the passage of a measure of this kind providing for the establishment of a board the personnel, the conditions of service and all the rest. In fact, I have been abused because, as Minister, I am using a parliamentary majority to deprive the House of its legitimate rights and stifling discussion. I am twitted because I do not assume the passage of this Bill and proceed to make announcements and decisions on that assumption. That would surely be an abuse of which I hope I shall not be guilty. The normal practice will be followed. When the Bill becomes an Act, I shall take all these steps and make any announcement that is called for.

The procedure is like turning Dáil Éireann into a mad-house. An analogous procedure would be for the Minister to come in with a blank sheet of paper and say he wanted to pass that blank sheet. He says, when we pass this Bill, we will know what is in it. We will be told that a board will be appointed and that they will hold office for two years, if the Minister so intends and this Bill becomes an Act.

That is a little bit of information.

He has written that on one side of the paper. The other side has been left blank. I suggest that if the Minister has made up his mind it will hold office for two years, he must have some idea of the terms he is going to propose to the persons who will be appointed for that term of two years. I am virtually certain that he knows with reasonable precision what recommendation he intends to make in that respect, but he does not want to say so. He does not want to say what fees they are to get because he is at the moment smarting under the regulation whereby the fees of the chairman of the Agricultural Credit Corporation have been increased by 50 per cent. He has not yet told us what fees are being paid to Dr. Maguire, as chairman of the Greyhound Board.

That does not arise.

The Deputy introduced that Bill and did not mention the remuneration, either.

The Minister remembers distinctly——

He does.

——how far that Bill got.

I remember that the Deputy did not mention what these people would get.

I was not aware that I was ever asked. The Minister is being asked now. Ours is a diligent Opposition. It asks the questions which require to be asked—questions which the Government will not answer. The Minister for Health and Deputies Briscoe and O'Malley were blathering here for three weeks, but they never asked the question the Minister thinks was the one that should be asked. The reason is not far to seek. They were obstructing the Bill. They knew that if my Bill had passed, there would have been a decent Greyhound Board appointed.

I am afraid we are back on the Greyhound Bill.

I want to find out what the members of this board will get and who they will be. Are we in the position that nobody knows and that as far as members of Fianna Fáil are concerned, they do not give a damn, provided that, if the fee is fat enough, the appointee will be a member of Fianna Fáil, ex or present?

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 21 to 25, inclusive, agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Report Stage ordered for Wednesday, 16th July, 1958.