Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 3 Jul 1979

Vol. 315 No. 10

Milk (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 1979: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

In the White Paper on National Development the Government indicated their intention of revising the fees charged for dairy inspection services provided by the Department of Agriculture in order to meet the growing cost of such services. The Bill is to give effect to this.

No new principle is involved in the Bill. The fee at present charged for dairy inspection services was fixed by the Dairy Produce (Amendment) Act of 1941 and has not been increased since. despite the fact that the cost of the inspection services has increased very significantly in the meantime. The current fee brings in only about £14,000 per annum in revenue against an estimated cost of the inspection service in 1979 of about £900,000. As indicated in the White Paper the Government consider that a continuation of this situation whereby the shortfall in financing the service is met by the general taxpayer is undesirable and should be corrected.

As butter is now only one of a number of dairy products manufactured in this country the fee on butter fixed in 1941 is to be abolished and replaced by a comprehensive fee on all milk sold for manufacturing purposes. The inspection services provided by the Department cover all dairy products manufactured for the home or export trade. The Bill will also apply to milk sold for the liquid trade in respect of which my Department also provides an inspection service.

The Bill provides that the fee will be payable by the first purchaser of the milk so there is no possibility of the fee being payable more than once on any particular lot of milk. Thus for example under section 2 butter factories will not be liable. The immediate reason is that they do not purchase milk. But the basic reason is that the butter they blend will have been made at a creamery from milk on which the fee will have been charged. Viewed in this light butter factories will be in no different position from any dairy produce manufacturers who take in milk on which the fee has previously been charged at other premises.

Likewise farmers with highest grade licences are exempt though the Department provides an inspection service for them. Such licensees account for only a very small fraction of the total milk processed and in any event about half their annual production is bought by pasteurisers who will pay the fee on it.

Among other sections of the Bill are those providing for the keeping of records, section 4, recovery of fees, section 5, inspection of records by officers of the Minister, section 6, and cancellation, revocation or suspension of registrations or licences in case of refusal to pay the fee, section 7.

As to the rate of fee being provided for at section 3 (1), one-tenth of a penny per gallon can only be described as a very modest imposition. In terms of the current milk prices it represents less than 0.2 per cent of the price paid for manufacturing milk and even less for milk purchased for the liquid milk trade.

I commend this Bill to the House.

This piece of legislation is very much mistimed. It proposes a very dramatic increase in the amount to be deducted from the price being paid to farmers for milk. It is stated that the reason for raising the levy is to pay for the inspection of creameries. However, this change is being made at a time when the price being paid to the farmer for milk is being reduced by reason of a number of other factors such as the 2 per cent levy, the bovine diseases levy and the co-responsibility levy imposed by the EEC, to mention but a few. The change is being made at a time also when the price of milk has been frozen by the EEC Commission. The net effect of this Bill, taken with the other bills which will mean reductions in the price of milk as paid to dairy producers, is to reduce severely the income of farmers at a time when the costs being borne by those same farmers are being increased greatly. One might not have objected to the principle of this Bill if it had been introduced in isolation and if the Minister had come in two years ago and said, for instance, "I wish to pay for a larger share of the cost of dairy inspection from the fees which are imposed under the Dairy Produce Act, 1941", but the whole situation is different now.

That is why the Bill could not have been more mistimed. Indeed, its introduction now gives credence to an impression that there is a belief on the part of the Government that the right and proper way of raising revenue to pay for services is by means of levies whether the levy be in respect of dairy produce, of bovine diseases or whether what is involved is a 2 per cent levy on sales. I do not wish to argue at length on the question of the levies. Though the levy proposed here is small at this stage it is to be paid regardless of whether there is a loss or a profit situation on the part of the producer and regardless of whether there is involved a small producer or a big producer.

I have some objections to the Bill. Section 3, subsection (1), provides that a fee shall be paid at the rate of one-tenth of one new penny for every gallon of milk produced but the subsection provides further that this proportion of one-tenth of a penny can be increased by way of regulation. In other words, it would not be necessary to have the approval of the House for any further increase so that the levy could be increased to a full penny or even to ten pence per gallon simply by way of a regulation. All the Minister would have to do would be to lodge an order in the Library of the House to the effect that the levy was being increased and the increase would be effective immediately unless some Deputy moved a motion to annual the regulation and was supported by a majority of the House. In effect, therefore, there are no proper means for parliamentary supervision of any increase in the levy at a future stage. There is no statutory guarantee in the Bill that the levy would not be increased to a figure that would be out of relation to the cost of the services for which it was supposed to be paying.

The services concerned cost about £900,000 annually and we are told that the levy proposed will bring in about that amount or perhaps a little more. However, there would be nothing to prevent the Minister next year saying that the cost for these services had increased to, say, £1.1 million but that because there was a shortage of money, he might as well as increase the levy so as to bring in £2 million, thereby having a little to spare. In such circumstances there would be no obligation on him to keep any extra money for the purpose of dairy inspection improvement because it is stated clearly in section 9 that all fees payable under this Act shall be disposed of for the benefit of the Exchequer in accordance with the direction of the Minister for Finance.

There is nothing to prevent the raising of a surplus by means of this levy and the Minister for Finance could say in the event of a surplus situation that the money should be used for the upkeep of the National Museum or for the provision of grants for industrialists or for more boats for fishermen. It is incorrect to describe as a fee what we are concerned with in this Bill. The normal understanding of a fee is that it is a payment for a specific service but that if the service is not provided, the fee is not paid. There is no guarantee in this Bill that the service concerned will be provided. If the Department discontinued providing the service at certain creameries the fee would continue to be paid. In addition there is no guarantee that the money paid in the form of a fee will not be used for purposes quite unrelated to dairy inspection.

I also object to the excessive powers contained in sections 4, 5 and 6 which allow authorised officers to enter creameries to ensure that fees are being collected. They can inspect premises at any time, inspect records and take them away. It seems that these officers are being given too much power. The Bill gives authorised officers the possibility of engaging in what can only be described as harassment, if they so wish. There should be some check on the excessive use of these powers and to this end I shall be introducing amendments during the debate.

The Minister has been reluctant to give us information about the inspectors. It is unfortunate that the Minister chose to leave the House so soon after he introduced the Bill.

, Dublin South-Central): He asked me to explain that he had to attend a meeting which was arranged some time ago.

With respect, there is not much point in talking to Deputy Fitzpatrick. It is difficult to assess the Bill without knowing the extent of the responsibilities of the inspectors for whom we are being asked to pay. If it is purely an inspection for the benefit of the farmer, there is a case for it being borne by the cost of the produce. If it is something which has a public health dimension, then it is a matter of national concern. Therefore, the producer should not be asked to bear the entire cost of the inspection. If that were the case, a levy should be charged on all food sold for the entire cost of the inspection of all premises.

I made a number of points during the debate on Second Stage of the Bovine Diseases (Levies) Bill in relation to dangers to health from the consumption of unpasteurised milk. I should like to know if the powers of inspectors under this Bill will extend to checking on the sale of unpasteurised milk. The Minister failed to answer the case I made that approximately 25 per cent of the milk on sale for human consumption is unpasteurised and that a large quantity of this milk is potentially infected with a variety of diseases. If it came from a herd in which brucellosis is endemic there could be brucellosis in the milk. There is also the risk of salmonella being in the milk. I understand that local authorities can make an order requiring that all milk sold for human consumption in their areas be pasteurised and that some local authorities have not exercised this discretion. I believe that the responsibility for ensuring that all milk sold for human consumption be pasteurised should be centralised.

In his reply to the debate on the Bovine Diseases (Levies) Bill the Minister did not reply to this point beyond a passing reference to the need for protection against diseases which were endemic in animals. I hope that the Minister will answer the point when he is replying to this debate. I should also like to know if requirements exist for the regular inspection of machinery used in the pasteurisation of milk. There are references to the subject in the report of the Joint Services Committee on zoonoses in milk which are common to animals and humans. This report was presented to the then Minister for Health, Deputy Erskine Childers, and the then Minister for Agriculture, Deputy James Gibbons in 1972. The committee recommended that to be sure that the pasteurising of milk was efficient one needed to inspect the machinery being used at least once every hour. According to the committee there was no legal requirement to ensure that inspections took place every hour or with any degree of frequency. The committee also referred to the sale of what was described as the highest grade milk. I understand that there are only 16 registered producers of highest grade milk. The committee felt that this category had outlived its usefulness and should be abolished because there was no requirement that it be pasteurised. That would seem to be a reasonable recommendation. It is unfortunate that this report, which covers the whole range of public health, was never published by either the present or previous Ministers for Health and Agriculture.

I believe that we must be vigilant in regard to the cost to be borne by farmers for the dairy inspection service. One must bear in mind that the number of premises which have to be inspected is declining and this should lead to a reduction in the cost of inspection in the sense that there will be less ground to be covered.

Perhaps I could illustrate the extent of the decline by pointing out that between 1975 and 1977 the number of premises registered under the Dairy Produce Act fell from 389 to 245. In other words the number of premises at which milk was being dealt with, creameries, cream-separating stations and butter factories, was reduced by almost half in two years. This should surely lead to economies in the cost of the dairy inspection service. If the Minister says that this service is costing £900,000 a year to operate, I take it that he is telling the truth. But if this is the rate at which the number of premises that have to be inspected is being reduced, almost half in the two-year period for which the figures are available, far from expecting this levy of .10p per gallon of milk to be increased in the future, we should expect that it would be reduced because as the number of premises which have to be inspected declines, the number of inspections and the number of inspectors and hence the cost of providing the service should also decline.

Does the Minister expect that this figure will be at least stable and possibly declining in the years ahead? I believe that the proper manner of dealing with these fees would be to set up a separate fund called the dairy inspection fund and all fees received under this Bill should be paid into that fund and that fund should be used solely for the purposes of dairy inspection. If the cost of dairy inspection is less than the amount in the fund the levies or fees for the subsequent year could be reduced. This fund should be jointly managed by the creameries, the farmers and the Department of Agriculture. If that were built into the legislation it would be far more acceptable. But at the moment it is quite possible for the fees contained in this Bill to be increased out of all relation to the actual cost of the service they are supposed to be paying for and for those moneys to be applied for purposes not related to dairy inspection or even to agriculture. Therefore the setting up of a fund such as I have mentioned would be a much needed safeguard in this legislation and would make it acceptable. As it stands at the moment it is unacceptable because of the lack of safeguards as to the use of the money and because it is mistimed in that it is yet another load on the farming community at a time when so many other levies, must less justified perhaps than this one, are also being imposed upon it.

I am opposed to this levy for the same reasons as I am opposed to all kinds of levies. Levies are unfair and unjust. Because this levy is so small it may seem that it is something not worth bothering about. But the principle is the same whether the levy is 2 per cent, 1 per cent or .10p on a gallon of milk. The idea behind the levy is the same and on those grounds it is not right.

These levies usually end up being paid by the consumer. I know it is a levy on milk but the argument will be made later on for price increases. This levy is an extra cost and will in the long term be borne by the consumer because the profitability in milk is being eroded by the various levies so that a case can be made for an increase in the price of milk.

The principle of introducing levies is a wrong method of collecting fees for the services provided. That is not the way they should be collected. It is unfair to the smaller producer. If a person puts in a small amount of milk they will only pay a small amount but it is unfair that his small profit should be eroded while the bigger producers with a larger amount of profit have only the same minimal amount to pay. The levy bears no relation to the person's ability to pay and that is where all levies fall down and I oppose it for that reason.

There are some other things in the Bill which the Minister could claim as being reasonable. For instance, he could say it is reasonable to increase a levy which has not been increased for 40 years. If this was done in isolation it is something we could accept but it is being done now in addition to the other levies which are being brought in. This is the second one we have been discussing and we will be discussing the third one before too long. We have the 2 per cent levy, the beef levy, the bovine TB eradication levy and now we have this levy. Together they are fairly substantial. They are unjust and unfair because they do not take into account the ability of the producer to pay and in the long run these costs will be taken into account when a case is being made for price increases and ultimately they will be paid by the consumer because it is known that the cost of production of any item is, in the long term, paid for by the consumer.

In regard to the question of inspection it is not quite clear to me what exactly will be inspected. This point has been made already but it is a very important one.

It is important that all our milk be pasteurised. I believe that only pasteurised milk should be available to the public. Proper supervision of pasteurisation plants is necessary because I have been told by people who have had reason to examine some of the milk available to the public and which is alleged to be pasteurised that it was found not to be so and not to be disease-free as it should have been if it was pasteurised. So I would hope that there would be full inspection of creameries and dairies to ensure that what is alleged to be pasteurised is in fact pasteurised. From information I have received from people who are in a position to examine pasteurised milk under a microscope I know that this is not the case at present. If this Bill does something to improve that situation I will be very happy.

I hope this Bill will do something to improve that situation. Every effort should be made to ensure that milk is fully pasteurised. I do not believe that this is the right way to pay for it. The Department of Health should surely be involved more in this very intricate business than the Department of Agriculture. The Department of Agriculture should be involved a lot more in ensuring that pasteurised milk is what it is claimed to be. Some of the funds necessary to carry out this work should come from the Department of Health. It is a well-known fact that unpasteurised milk carries brucellosis and bovine TB and that there is serious danger to the health of the people.

The inspection of those premises should be the concern of the Department of Health and funds for this purpose should be contributed from that Department. It could be said that it is reasonable for the Minister to increase those charges, which have been the same since 1941. I believe that a system which is not equal, because it bears no relation to a person's ability to pay, is a wrong system. The imposition of levies has to be paid for by the consumer. I believe this one will be no different. While the levy being asked for at the moment is small, there is no guarantee that it will not be increased at any time or that the money which the Exchequer gets from this levy will all be used for the purpose stated by the Minister. We hope that more money will be received from the levy when there is an increase in the production of milk. If there is a surplus will the money be used to improve the quality of the inspections and the service to the public in general?

Those are important points in the Bill. The imposition of a levy is not the proper way to finance anything. I believe that eventually the consumer will be contributing to the payment of this levy. I feel, in regard to the inspection of dairies, that where there is a serious health hazard, as there is in all sales of milk if it is not pasteurised, a contribution should come from the Department of Health to pay at least some of the cost. The inspection should be very thorough in order to protect people from the various diseases that can be carried and passed on through milk.

I again voice my objection to the principle of levies. They bear no relation whatsoever to the income of the person paying them. It seems clear to me, as it is to many others, that the policy of the Government to extract money from the agricultural community to pay for all services will be implemented by levy. The Government are failing to ask the stronger sections of the farming community, the large farmers, to pay income tax. They go back then to the system of levies. I feel very sorry for the small farmers. It is clear to me, when we see so many levies introduced in the one year, that this is an attempt to get the people used to the levy system.

We have already had a 2 per cent levy for which there was no need. All the Government had to do was to deduct the 1 per cent VAT and it would practically realise the same amount of money. There was the .5p levy for disease eradication and now we have the .10p per gallon levy. The timing of all those levies is the important thing we should look at. I do not mind what the Minister said in reply to the last debate. The confidence of farmers is cracked by all those levies which they find in the reductions from their milk cheques.

When I tried to get some information from a very large creamery this morning they told me that the increase in milk production this year would be very small. They said that their plans for the extension of their factories must now be put back for another year or two so that they can have a look at the situation. I believe that the introduction of those levies will seriously set back the growth of agriculture. The Minister said at the end of his speech:

As to the rate of fee being provided for at section 3 (1), one-tenth of a penny per gallon can only be described as a very modest imposition.

When we add up all the levies we find that 2.57p per gallon is being charged in levies this year. The Minister cannot fool anybody by saying that those levies are small or that farmers can afford to pay them. How can they afford to pay them in a year when they have had the most expensive spring ever as far as feeding stuffs is concerned and when there was no increase in the actual price per gallon for milk? When those figures are added up we find that as far as profits are concerned farmers will be in the region of 25 per cent short on last year. This is the year the Government have chosen to introduce all those levies one after the other. If a reduction of 25 per cent in profits will not crack any person's confidence, what will? If the Minister goes into any firm or any enterprise in the country and tells them that they will have 25 per cent less profits next year, will that encourage confidence for expansion? It will not, and the same will apply to the farming community especially after a year where their expenses were very high for feeding stuffs.

This Bill is an attack on private enterprise. We are giving powers to the Revenue Commissioners to enter premises and to take away books for inspection. Why are we having such huge bureaucratic controls at all levels? I come from a county where the farmers are not afraid to farm the land, where they are prepared to invest and to expand. This is the mid-term of the present Government and I presume they want to get as many of the unpopular jobs done as quickly as possible in order to smooth over things in the latter part of their term of office. However, let us be clear about this—farmers will not forget what has happened.

In his reply to this debate I should like the Minister of state to give us a breakdown of the £900,000. I hope he will give us more information than we got from the Minister for Agriculture in the previous debate. He treated the House with contempt. He complained that we did not given any concrete suggestions. That is not so. The Minister did not reply to the points we raised: he just picked out a few points here and there about which he could quibble. I should like to know how the £900,000 is being spent. Is it being spent on sending health inspectors to creameries? If so, I should like to know how many inspectors are involved. I should like to know what equipment is being used and what level of salary is being paid to these people. If farmers are being asked to pay for the services, at the very least they are entitled to know how the money is being spent.

It appears to me that there must be considerable duplication with regard to collection of the levies. The Board Bainne levy will be collected by the semi-State organisation; I am not sure who collects the EEC levy; the 2 per cent levy will be collected by the Minister for Finance. I presume the Department of Agriculture will collect the disease eradication levy and this levy will be collected by the Department of Finance. How many sets of officials will visit creameries and study the books? How much duplication will there be? If we are so fond of the whole levy system, why not have one levy to cover all matters? Instead, there may be four groups of officials going to the creameries and demanding the books, each group trying to get its own share of the spoils, to get its share of the profits from agriculture. I am prepared to accept that probably the same figures will apply to everyone, but I know that in each Bill provision is made to remove the books for inspection if necessary. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that certain powers are being given to the people who are entitled to collect the levies.

I should like to know the cost of collection of the levies. Is it being borne out of the £900,000 provided? If £1 million is collected and if there is an increase in milk production, will the remaining £100,000 be given back to the producers or to the Minister for Finance to finance some other scheme? It is high time that the farmers were given information about these matters. They are the only section asked to pay. The Dublin District Milk Board is a semi-State organisation but it includes producer members. Many of the functions that are being paid for by agriculture should be handed over to semi-State organisations where there is farmer participation. When the farmers are being asked to pay for services they should have a say in how the money is being spent.

I appeal to the Minister of State to give us this information rather than picking out minor political points. We are interested in this debate and want to know the answers. In the previous debate the Minister for Agriculture treated us with contempt. The debate was of no benefit to anyone.

I would remind the Minister of State and the Government that it is the opinion of many people that they are killing the goose that laid the golden eggs. We are now discussing another levy having disposed of several other levies. No matter how it is described it is a system of taxation imposed on the farming community. Nobody denies that farmers must pay their fair share of tax. What has bedevilled farming and the agricultural industry in the past has been uncertainty with regard to planning. This planning is necessary if a farmer is to succeed in making a profit at the end of the year.

In the past week a number of levies have been introduced. Although it is difficult to estimate accurately, my guess is that a farmer supplying milk to a creamery or a co-operative will have to pay six different levies out of his cheque. He is at the mercy of the Government as to whether the levies will be increased in the years ahead. It is a very dangerous precedent to allow a Minister, at the stroke of a pen, to adjust a levy upwards. I can see here a general reluctance on the part of the Minister and the Government to face the real issue, namely, farmer taxation. If one goes back over the record of this Government on this issue one finds that the Minister for Finance a year ago introduced a budget that imposed a 2 per cent tax on produce which was amended at the Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis. Further pressure was brought to bear on the Minister, the tax was dropped and then it was reintroduced. It appears to everyone that the Government, because of political consequences, are afraid to face the problem of farmer taxation and to introduce a fair and equitable system. The Minister of State understands the problems of the farming community. If he has any influence with his Government he should tell them to scrap the levies and to introduce a fair and equitable system of farmer taxation. The Government are not going to get away with this kind of subtle taxation. At election times they can talk to the farmers about the taxation they are paying and they can do the same to the PAYE sector.

The proposals of the Government will create many problems. They will create havoc particularly with the dairy industry and the farming industry as a whole. In the past any time we had a serious economic crisis, it was the farming community who responded and got us out of our difficulties. We are killing the goose that lays the golden egg by imposing levy after levy because this is bound to militate against the increased production needed to absorb the people looking for jobs. Jobs will be available if we give the farmers an incentive to expand their enterprise. That fact cannot be denied.

Anybody with knowledge of farming knows that if vast areas of land lying idle could be brought into production, that would create employment. This would enable us to deal with the social problem which exists at present. I want the Minister to bear in mind that he is striking a deadly blow at the farming community and the agricultural industry who are contributing considerably to the economy. He should consider dropping all levies and introducing a fair and equitable system of taxation for the farming community.

I like to think that when I speak in this House I am being fair. When in opposition in the past if something good was introduced I was not slow to praise it. I am very disappointed with what happened over the last few weeks. Like previous Deputies I condemn this levy. This is another way of extracting money from the man who is up and doing. We are taxing the man who is doing most to help the economy. This has been a tough year for the dairy industry. It has been a long harsh winter. Until recently cows were being hand fed. It is only within the last few months that we had any sign of real growth in grass. This has been an expensive difficult year for farmers, especially dairy farmers. It is not only the amount that is involved in this levy that we are complaining about; not only are we again asking these people for still more money but are asking them to pay for a service which should be provided by the Department.

The Minister tried to score political points in the previous debate. He said I was hindering the eradication of disease. This was reported in the media but my reply was not reported. He asked how I proposed to pay for disease eradication. I repeat what I said then—that is his job. In the 1977 general election Fianna Fáil squandered money right, left and centre; they spent money as if they had the right to print it. They wanted to get into Government at any cost. That decision put our farmers in the position they are in now. They have to find this money. The Minister got himself into this difficulty and it is not my job to get him out of it. If a party deliberately jump into a pit from which there is no exit, they do not have the right to ask anybody, especially an opposition party, to get them out of it. That is my message to the Minister.

The Government must not expect the farmers to come up with new payments week after week to get them out of their difficulties. Since Fianna Fáil came into power we had to pay for 30-day tests, the 2 per cent levy, the multiplier has been raised to £120, valuation has been reduced to £40, agricultural grants have been removed over £40, lime subsidies have been removed, fertiliser subsidies have been removed; we have had increased levies at factories, bovine disease levies and this levy. If we carry on like this, where will we finish? Are we trying to discourage milk production? Are we trying to do what some of the EEC people would like us to do—slow down? They talk about butter mountains and so on, but we did not contribute even one pound of butter towards that mountain. We always sold our produce in the market place. Even if we had a surplus, it would not create as much as a pimple in the European market.

I appeal to the Minister of State who is a most reasonable man to work on his colleagues and point out that in his own part of the world especially, dairying is the one industry that can take Ireland out of her troubles. If we expand the dairying industry and encourage farmers, the spin-off will be far greater than from any levy that could be conceived. The amount of revenue to this State and additional employment created will be far greater than from any penalty imposed on a dairy producer. I appeal to the Minister of State to do as I ask—to shelve all these levies and have a good think about them during the recess. I am sure that, given time, the Government will come up with a much more satisfactory solution.

I am afraid that the people in dairying will slow down. As I have said previously, they cannot afford to get out of it but they may slow down their production. Young people contemplating going into dairying may have second thoughts. That is a pity, because Irish land could not be put to better use. These young farmers should be encouraged to expand, to borrow and to spend money in developing their dairy herds and improving the quality of their milk. We should be giving them incentives. You can lead an Irish farmer but you cannot drive him. Leadership is needed at the moment and leadership is not being given by the present Government to the young farmers. The man at the helm in agriculture should encourage them to advance, give them the necessary incentives and, more than anything else, initiate a long-term programme indicating to them what would be in it for them at the end of the day. At the moment they do not know whether they are coming or going.

It is all-important to put a stop to these levies and to tell the farmers that henceforth there will be no more levies and that on the contrary we will adopt a new approach. We should give them every possible encouragement within our financial constraints. We are limited in what we can do. We must go to the lending agencies and encourage them to make money available to the young farmers for developing their dairy herds at a reasonable charge. For those having difficulties with the present high interest rates we should endeavour to subsidise this interest until they get over the initial hump. Even talk about things like that from a Minister or a Minister of State would give encouragement. Instead of making political speeches, as he has done, the Minister should give some indication that this is the end of the line, and henceforth the coin will turn and that he is prepared as Minister to do X, Y and Z to help the dairy farmers along the road to success.

There is job potential in dairying and the industrial jobs that could be created therein cannot be measured. There could be numerous jobs in co-operatives, creameries, processing plants, transport, fertilisers and marketing. As well as that the number of extra people will mean additional consumption of the products. Therefore, I appeal to the Minister that, instead of discouraging, he will use his influence and adopt a positive approach because that is what is needed.

For goodness sake, do not ask us where the money is to come from if we do not impose levies. The Government are the people who spent it in 1977. It is their business to remedy the mistakes they have made. But let them not remedy them at the expense of the people who are working seven days a week for 12 months of the year to produce milk so that they can make enough money to pay their bills, to raise their families and also to create substantial employment in this land. I appeal to the Minister of State to use his influence with the Minister to stop all these levies now and, in God's name, to adopt a positive approach for the future for the Irish farmer before we end up in disaster.

I thank the Deputies opposite for the contributions they have made on this Bill. I would love to comply with the request to abolish this levy and all other levies if it were possible, but I am sure the Deputies would not expect me to do that, even though they have said they would in their speeches here this afternoon. Nobody likes tax. That is obvious from the speeches we have heard on both this Bill and the other Bill which was before the House earlier today. That is only natural. Whether we are farmers, business people or workers, nobody wants to pay tax. That is the unfortunate situation in this country. Perhaps our history conditions us to that, because in the past we have not been used to earning the same as industrial workers in England and other developed countries.

This levy is a very small one. It is not a new levy, and possibly the biggest mistake here is that this levy has not been increased over the years. As I said in my opening remarks, it has been in operation since 1941 and it has never changed since then even though the cost of the service provided has increased substantially over those years. It is still a necessary part of the whole system and naturally it has to be paid for. I was sorry to hear Deputy Hegarty state that he would not be prepared to co-operate in trying to find the answer to any of those thorny questions of farmer taxation, levies and so on. It is a pity that the farming organisations, the politicians and everybody else concerned could not come together and hammer out a system that would be fair, equitable and acceptable to everybody. We hear from both sides of the House, from the Opposition and the Government, that farmers are prepared to pay their fair share of tax, but nobody seems to be able to say what that fair share is.

The Minister of State knows that my views on farm taxation are on the record of this House and have had great publicity.

I am sure they did. It is a pity that the Deputies, the farming organisations and everybody concerned could not come together to hammer out a system satisfactory to everybody. Then we might be able to cut out a lot of the political cross-fire in the House about farmers' tax and so on. However, politics being what they are in this country, that will not be possible because what would be acceptable to the Opposition I cannot see as acceptable to the party in Government, nor to the farming organisations for that matter.

I will answer briefly some of the points raised by the Deputies. Probably I will not be able to satisfy them in full but I will do the best I can to refer to some of the matters they raised in the course of the debate.

Deputy Bruton and Deputy Bermingham both stressed the need for pasteurisation of all liquid milk. I agree that this would be very desirable but, unfortunately, it is not relevant under this Bill so there is nothing we can do about it at this stage.

How does the Minister come to the conclusion that it is not relevant?

There is nothing in this Bill about the pasteurisation of milk. The Bill deals with the increase in the levy.

What are the fees for? Do they include pasteurisation?

I might be able to give a breakdown on that later on.

More grist to the mill.

More grist to the mill.

Do they not include pasteurisation?

Let the Minister make his own speech.

With regard to the levy, Deputy Bruton suggested that it can be increased and used for Exchequer purposes. This is not the intention and the safeguard for this is provided in section 3 (3). The fee can be increased only by order which can be annulled by either House of the Oireachtas. That is the safeguard.

That is no safeguard at all. The Government have a majority and could hammer through anything they liked.

A Deputy as observant as Deputy Bruton would not be prepared to let that go through without putting up a strong fight.

Deputy Bruton also raised the question of what inspectors do and suggested that it should be less than in 1975 when there were 389 creamery plants as compared with 245 in 1977. A continuous official inspection service of dairy premises, plant and equipment is provided together with continuous monitoring of the quality of a wide range of dairy products manufactured. More sophisticated dairy plant is now used and a much wider range of dairy products manufactured than when the fee was introduced in 1941. It is necessary to ensure compliance with the quality standards demanded by purchasers of dairy produce on export markets and for this and other purposes two extra dairy science laboratories were established in recent years. The volume of dairy produce for inspection has also increased considerably in recent years. For instance, milk intake in 1978 amounted to nearly 1,000 million gallons as compared with about 380 million gallons in 1957. Considering that list of duties there does not seem to be any danger that those people would be idle at any time.

Deputy D'Arcy raised the question of the cost of the service and how the £900,000 is broken up. This figure was mentioned in the White Paper and is based on the average of the salary scales involved plus the supplementary costs, travelling and subsistence expenses. I cannot give a more detailed breakdown at this time. I hope I have answered all the points raised by Deputies.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 67; Níl, 37.

  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Kit.
  • Andrews, David.
  • Andrews, Niall.
  • Aylward, Liam.
  • Barrett, Sylvester.
  • Brady, Gerard.
  • Brady, Vincent.
  • Briscoe, Ben.
  • Browne, Seán.
  • Burke, Raphael P.
  • Callanan, John.
  • Calleary, Seán.
  • Colley, George.
  • Collins, Gerard.
  • Conaghan, Hugh.
  • Cowen, Bernard.
  • Cronin, Jerry.
  • Daly, Brendan.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • de Valera, Sile.
  • Doherty, Seán.
  • Fahey, Jackie.
  • Farrell, Joe.
  • Faulkner, Pádraig.
  • Fitzpatrick, Tom. Dublin South-Central).
  • O'Connor,Timothy C.
  • O'Donoghue, Martin.
  • O'Hanlon, Rory.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Malley, Desmond.
  • Power, Paddy.
  • Reynolds, Albert.
  • Flynn, Pádraig.
  • French, Seán.
  • Gallagher, Dennis.
  • Gibbons, Jim.
  • Haughey, Charles J.
  • Hussey, Thomas.
  • Keegan, Seán.
  • Kenneally, William.
  • Killeen, Tim.
  • Killilea, Mark.
  • Lalor, Patrick J.
  • Lemass, Eileen.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Leonard, Jimmy.
  • Leonard, Tom.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Loughnane, William.
  • Lynch, Jack.
  • McCreevy, Charlie.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • MacSharry, Ray.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Moore, Seán.
  • Morley, P. J.
  • Murphy, Ciarán P.
  • Nolan, Tom.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • Smith, Michael
  • Tunney, Jim.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Walsh, Seán.
  • Wilson, John P.
  • Woods, Michael J.
  • Wyse, Pearse.


  • Barry, Peter.
  • Begley, Michael.
  • Belton, Luke.
  • Bermingham, Joseph.
  • Bruton, John.
  • Burke, Joan.
  • Clinton, Mark.
  • Conlan, John F.
  • Corish, Brendan.
  • Cosgrave, Michael J.
  • Creed, Donal.
  • Crotty, Kieran.
  • D'Arcy, Michael J.
  • Desmond, Barry.
  • Donegan, Patrick S.
  • Enright, Thomas W.
  • FitzGerald, Garrett.
  • Fitzpatrick, Tom. (Cavan-Monaghan).
  • Gilhawley, Eugene.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harte, Patrick D.
  • Hegarty, Paddy.
  • Keating, Michael.
  • L'Estrange, Gerry.
  • Lipper, Mick.
  • Mannion, John M.
  • Mitchell, Jim.
  • O'Brien, Fergus.
  • O'Brien, William.
  • O'Donnell, Tom.
  • O'Keeffe, Jim.
  • O'Toole, Paddy.
  • Ryan, John J.
  • Ryan, Richie.
  • Taylor, Frank.
  • Timmins, Godfrey.
  • White, James.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Woods and Briscoe; Níl, Deputies L'Estrange and B. Desmond.
Question declared carried.

When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 10 July 1979.