Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Milk Acts.

12.

asked the Minister for Agriculture if he will press for the EC Commission to expedite their finding on the validity of the 1936 and 1941 Milk Acts.

The EC Commission have now indicated that they consider the aspects of this legislation which relate to the restriction of free access to the liquid milk market and the fixing of a statutory minimum price for producers, together with the prohibition on imports, as contrary to the principles of the common organisation of the market in milk and to the Treaty of Rome. They have given until 10 June for us to reply to their comments and the reply is now being prepared in consultation with the trade interests invloved.

Will the Minister ensure that in his reply to the Commission he will insist on equal treatment for all dairies and that they will have access to all markets?

I am very concerned that that would be the case. The Deputy can be assured we will bear that point in mind.

The EC gave an opinion last November against the continuation of this monopoly. Is it not embarrassing for the Department that this matter should be replied to only now, six months later, in view of the impending case by Bord Bainne against the Milk Marketing Board?

It was not six months ago that we got the opinion. I agree there were remours about it six months ago but officially we got the opinion quite recently. We have until 10 June to reply and we are preparing that reply.

Will the Minister not agree that they got the reply by telephone in November 1985? It may not have been a written reply but it was known then. The dairies were well aware of it and it was an open secret since last November.

It was not an official communication until we got it in writing.

Will the Minister assure the House that the cartel arrangement that operated will be discountinued? Will he use his influence to see that this is done? Is he aware that a select group of farmers have a special price for milk as against the vast majority of farmers?

I have said we are preparing our reply. The original complaint was made by certain interests, some of whom are represented in this House and whom I shall not name.

Take a bow, Joe.

Joe, and Jimmy also. I think they may have done a public service.