In relation to what Senator Burke said, I am afraid that despite the fact that he is not absent, and was not absent when I spoke, he did not seem to hear what I said, because I asked Senators who were going to oppose the amendment not merely to oppose it on the grounds that profits were very necessary but on the grounds that excessive profits were necessary. I did not hear Senator Burke support the right to excessive profits. In fact, I heard him say that there is no such thing as excessive profits in this country.
If he believes that, I see no reason for his indignation that the Advisory Committee should be permitted should the occasion arise to consider among the factors for too high a price the possibility of an excessive profit. He does not believe it exists. That is all right, but in that case when the Advisory Committee examines the possibility of there being such a factor as that, they will presumably say there is not. Similarly, one might say there is no such thing as undue labour costs. A labour representative might say to Senator Burke that the phrase "undue labour costs" should not be put in the Act because we all know there is no such thing; that workers are not paid too much; and that they never get too much wages.
Nevertheless, the phrase "undue labour costs" is there, and there is no reference to profits at all. I suggest that the subconscious implication behind that is that it is important not to interfere at all with profit margins, but that if the workers start asking for too much wages then the Advisory Committee must point to that as a factor which affects price.
In regard to what Senator O'Brien says, it is quite true that for an individual firm it is not possible to speak in exact terms of profits until the end of a year. Nevertheless, if we are considering the present price of an article of which we know the cost to the manufacturer and the rate of profit he took on it, we can assess in terms related to what we think to be in present circumstances a fair return for money whether, perhaps, in the past year the manufacturer has or has not been a little bit too grasping in relation to the profit he sought, or whether he might not be influenced to reduce his prices.
I am encouraged in this view by the statement made not so long ago by the British Chancellor who said in relation to all these rounds of wage demands that he would appeal to employers not to be whining so much about the five or six rounds of wage demands, but to bring about the first round of price reduction. I should like to see some spokesman of the Irish manufacturers and traders show a good example in that way and ask for the first round of price reduction. It is quite obvious that price reduction does not necessarily mean a reduction in profit.
When the Advisory Committee is asked to report to the Minister on prices or charges, and to find out whether these prices are unduly high, I ask that they be allowed, under this section—which mentions the possibility that these prices may be unduly high due to undue labour costs, this section which should also mention the possibility, however remote, with all due respect to what is suggested by Senator Burke—that they be permitted, nevertheless, to go into the possibility of even Irish manufacturers and Irish traders and middlemen occasionally taking a profit which might be regarded as "undue", that is to say, excessive in the same way as this clause actually refers to labour costs as being perhaps unduly high. If, in other words, we are prepared to imply in our Bill "We think that possibly prices are too high because wages are too high" we should not be afraid to say also "Prices may be too high because the estimated, sought-after profit margin is excessive".