Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 9 May 1934

Vol. 18 No. 18

Finance (Customs Duties) Bill, 1934 (Certified Money Bill)—Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be read a Second Time."

This is a Bill to confirm a duty of 8d. per lb. on butter. The duty up to 1st April was 4d. per lb. The duty is not increased, nor is this Bill necessary as a protective measure. It becomes necessary merely to fulfil certain provisions of the Butter (Stabilisation of Prices) Act, 1932. In that Act it is laid down that the levy must not be more than half the duty existing at the time, and the bounty must not exceed the duty existing at the time. The levy and duty in force at present are 3½d. and 6½d. respectively. We should, therefore, to fulfil the provisions of that Act, need to have a duty of at least 7d. Looking forward to the possibility that the levy might be increased somewhat, or that the bounty might be increased somewhat, it is proposed to make the duty 8d. per lb. This Bill in itself will have no influence on the price of butter, because there is a surplus of butter in the country. A duty on butter coming into the country would, therefore, have no influence. In the second place, under the Butter (Stabilisation of Prices) Act, 1932, the importation of butter is prohibited, so that it would not matter in the least to the price of butter whether the duty was 8d. or 8/- as matters stand at present. Last year, we had a similar problem to face, and we imposed this duty of 8d. under the Emergency (Imposition of Duties) Act, 1932. When I approached the draftsman this year, I was informed that that could not be done a second time. A duty can be imposed under the Emergency (Imposition of Duties) Act only for eight months. If it is desired to renew the duty, authority has to come from the Oireachtas. Therefore, we come forward with this Bill to confirm the duty of 8d. per lb. on butter.

Does the Minister give us an assurance that this Bill will not affect farmers' butter, and that no levy such as the 2d. per lb. levy proposed will be made on farmers' butter?

I should like to take this opportunity to raise a question incidental to this measure. I hope you, Sir, will not rule that I am out of order. The whole of this policy of butter restriction and levy depends on the cost of production. I have frequently asked the Minister what machinery he has for ascertaining the cost of production. I know that, at one time, there was a costings department in the Department of Agriculture. That department published its results, which were exceedingly instructive. If that work had been continued up to these hard times, the continuous record would have been doubly instructive. I have been unable, in spite of several inquiries, to get any clear statement from the Government as to what is being done in this regard. At one time, I was told that there remained the skeleton of a costings department. If one thing is more pressing than another, it is the ascertaining of the fundamental data of the cost of the farmers' production. I should like the Minister to say whether or not he appreciates that urgency and, if he does, to state what is being done at present.

As to the question asked by Senator Miss Browne, this Bill, as I explained, has no influence on the price of butter. Neither has it anything to do directly with the raising of a levy on farmers' butter. The proposal to put a levy on farmers' butter would have been possible without this Bill, because the levy would not, in all probability, have exceeded more than 2d. per lb. We could have put a levy of 2d. per lb. on farmers' butter under the old duty of 4d. It is not by any means proposed to drop the idea of putting a levy on farmers' butter, but it would be extremely difficult to administer that levy and to rope in all the people dealing in farmers' butter. I may say that it was never the intention to put a levy on farmers' butter at the source. It was not the intention to put a levy on the two or three lbs. of butter which the farmer might supply to a private customer. It was, however, the intention to levy traders and grocers doing a large trade in farmers' butter. Now that proposition will come before this House again, so that there is no need for me to go into it in detail at this stage. I can assure Senators that this Bill has nothing to do with it, and that it would be possible to do it without this Bill. We mean to do it if at all possible.

With regard to the question raised by Senator Sir John Keane as to costs of production, we have had no regular costings officer in the Department of Agriculture for some time. I think about six or seven years ago—it may be longer—there was an officer in the Department of Agriculture who dealt with costings, but that particular post was then abolished owing to economy measures taken in the Civil Service at the time. Since I came into the Department of Agriculture I have thought the matter a very important one, and I have been agitating for the appointment of a costings officer with, of course, a small staff to help him. It was only within the last four months that I got the necessary authority. An officer has been appointed, but it will take some time before he can produce any figures. Apart from that, the Dairy Faculty in University College, Cork, has been doing some work on the costings of butter. I had hoped that the results of that work would be published about Easter but that was not found to be possible. They will be published in the near future. I have gone through the figures furnished, and I have come to the conclusion that they were prepared with great care by the Faculty in Cork. I think the figures made available will afford a reliable basis to go on when dealing in the future with such measures as butter prices. I agree with the Senator that it is a most important thing to have costings available at the present time, not only in the case of butter but of all the other products that we have to deal with. In the near future we hope to be bringing a measure before the Oireachtas with regard to bacon when this question will again arise. In the case of bacon, as Senators know the Tribunal appointed sat and took evidence and went into the question of costings in great detail. Apart from that, these costings may vary from time to time, so that it will be very useful when that Act comes to be administered to have a costings officer to guide the person responsible for its administration, particularly as it is probable that he will be someone outside the Department.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 16th May.