Committee on Finance. - Seeds and Fertilisers Supply Bill, 1941—Second Stage.

Wednesday, 5 March 1941

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 82 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 39 Next Page Last Page

Minister for Local Government and Public Health (Mr. Ruttledge): Information on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  Zoom on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. The purpose of this Bill is to extend the Seeds and Fertilisers Act passed last year to the provision of seeds and fertilisers by county councils during the present season. The [60] Bill contains the necessary adaptations of last year's Act. At the commencement of the season suggestions came from several quarters that the same facilities that were provided last year should be made available this year. There is even greater necessity this year to do whatever can be done to help those who are able and willing to engage in food production, and it was decided to instruct county councils to consider the adoption of schemes. These instructions were issued on 20th December last, and in the meantime all but two county councils have taken action. Applications for seeds are, I understand, more numerous than last year.

The Bill is necessary in order to validate the action taken by the county councils. These bodies can proceed in two ways. They can sell seed on loan terms or give guarantees to seed merchants. In either case the recipient is required to repay after the harvest the cost of the seed supplied. Where guarantees are given, they become operative only when the merchants supplying the seed are unable to collect the cost. Seed schemes are of special value in counties where small holdings predominate. Past experience has shown that where precautions are taken to ensure that recipients are trustworthy and are genuinely in need of credit, county councils would be at very little loss. In several counties that had schemes in former years there has been no loss whatever—every penny was repaid. For that reason I do not think there is any necessity for Government guarantees in connection with these schemes.

Mr. D. Morrissey: Information on Daniel Morrissey  Zoom on Daniel Morrissey  Would the Minister name the two counties which have not adopted the scheme?

Mr. Ruttledge: Information on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  Zoom on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  Sligo and Donegal. Sligo has been asked to reconsider their decision.

Mr. Morrissey:  They will want to hurry up.

Mr. Linehan: Information on Timothy Linehan  Zoom on Timothy Linehan  Under the Bill last year was there any real demand in general throughout all the county councils for the application of this scheme [61] for giving seeds on credit? I have a feeling that the very people to whom the Minister is referring, the labourers and small holders, are rather doubtful of the advantages of the scheme, and are slow about making applications at all. Deputy Hurley was blaming the Minister for not expediting things, but I should say that the county councils do not always seem to expedite them either. There is one point which I want to make. You are passing a Bill this year to provide the same terms as last year, and the Minister's whole case is that it provides seeds for people who otherwise would not be able to get them. That will affect a lot of people in this country, cottage holders, labourers, and possibly unemployed people who have allotments.

Has the Minister taken any steps to see that they will have seeds to distribute? The Minister must be aware that, as far as seeds and manures are concerned, a case has been made in this House, as in the case of everything else the supplies of which are short. I suppose that, at the present time, they are available in large quantities to cash customers, and not at all for credit customers. It is a perfectly reasonable assumption that, if a man has to pay cash for his goods, as in the case of seeds and manures, he will sell them to the cash customers, because he cannot afford to wait for payment. Nobody can blame the retailer for doing that, because otherwise he could not carry on at all. When this Bill is passed, does the Minister really believe that the county councils, having adopted the scheme, will be able to induce seed merchants to supply seeds on terms like these? Last year, and the year before, and the year before that and the year before that, seeds and manures were supplied by the wholesalers to the retailers on terms which gave the retailers credit until the harvest. If they paid sooner, they got a very good discount. The position this year is that the retailers are paying cash in advance for seeds, and they are paying cash within ten days for manures. Will the county councils be able to ask the seed retailers in the country to supply these seeds on those terms? If [62] the Minister wants to make the Bill effective in providing seeds for poor people who want to get credit for the purchase of their seeds, I think he should consult the Minister for Agriculture and find out whether such seeds will be available, because I think it is a great pity that anything should happen to put this Bill out of action. I am quite sure the Minister will realise that if, in any particular town or county or district there is a certain amount of seeds available, he will not be in a position to ask any wholesaler or retailer to hold those seeds for the credit scheme when they can sell them for cash.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  I should like to ask the Minister to explain Section 4 of this Bill, which says:

(1) Section 3 of the Principal Act is hereby amended by the insertion therein of the words and figures “or, in the case of a sale in the year 1941, before the first day of January, 1942,” immediately after the words and figures “January, 1941,”.

Mr. Ruttledge: Information on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  Zoom on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  It is really extending last year's Act for another year.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  I was wondering whether it was intended—I am not satisfied that it fills the gap—to repair a hiatus that was in the original Act. The original Act and this Act begin to operate on 1st January and expire on 31st July. As I read the Principal Act and this Supplementary Act, there is no Seeds and Fertilisers Act in operation from 1st August to 31st December in any year. Will that be the position still? If so, the Minister is depriving the staff of life in this country of fertilisers and seeds at the sowing period. It does not make seeds or fertilisers available for the sowing of winter wheat. No county council can help a farmer when he is sowing winter wheat, and, despite all the authorities and scribes we have now telling us when we can sow winter wheat with success, we all know that winter wheat must be green overground by Christmas Day if there is to be any hope of a full crop. If we are going to sow winter wheat at the right period and have it green [63] overground on Christmas Day, well then the Seeds and Fertilisers Act will not help us, and I am sure if this Act is intended to help any crop it is intended to help winter wheat.

This matter arose in County Dublin last year when we were sowing the present season's winter wheat, and we were confronted with legal opinion that the county council could not help the farmers to buy fertilisers or seed for winter wheat in October, November and December, because they had no Act. The question was put up to the Minister's Department, and I must say that every promise was held out that it was safe, but in law we had not the power. Speaking from memory, I think an assurance was given that the county council would be indemnified for anything it would do. If that is the spirit, why not have the substance? Why not have an Act to cover the period from 31st July to 31st December? Why have a broken period at all? If it is going to be an annual affair, why not have it from 1st January to 31st December instead of to 31st July?

I should like the Minister to deal with that. I do not see any insuperable obstacle in the way of my suggestion—to make it the 31st December instead of 31st July. I was very strongly in favour of the Act that was passed through here last year. We applied it in County Dublin with good results. I think the Minister is more in favour of it this year than he was last year.

Mr. Ruttledge: Information on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  Zoom on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  I am surprised to hear the Deputy was in favour of it last year.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  If the Minister reads the speeches I made last year he will find that I had practically to drag him along in favour of it.

Mr. Ruttledge: Information on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  Zoom on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  Did the Deputy not say that that sort of thing was of very little use, if any?

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  Yes, your notion of it, but our interpretation of it was a very different thing. The Minister fell in with our interpretation.

Mr. Ruttledge: Information on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  Zoom on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  Did I?

[64]Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  There was no surcharge, anyway, and no attempt at one.

Mr. D. Morrissey: Information on Daniel Morrissey  Zoom on Daniel Morrissey  Do not tempt the Minister now.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  I did not quite follow Deputy Linehan when he talked about retailers helping farmers by giving them seeds and fertilisers and now, when they have to pay cash and they are not getting the same terms from the wholesalers or manufacturers, they cannot pass on the same facilities to their customers. I do not see how that statement affects the situation. When we operated this Act in County Dublin we paid cash; we did not ask the merchants to give any credit. We arranged with our bankers to advance the money immediately that the order was certified.

Mr. Hughes: Information on James Hughes  Zoom on James Hughes  Is there any limit to the amount?

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  I do not think so. We went out purely for food production; we did not penalise people who had not a clean sheet in connection with annuities or rates, as we considered that these were the people who most needed assistance over the stile. We gave it to them, and I do not think the results were bad. I could not understand the point made by Deputy Linehan. Our operation of the Act involved paying cash to the merchants. We arranged a certain rate of interest for an overdraft, and we charged the people to whom we gave the seeds, and we charged the merchants 1 per cent. over what we borrowed at—that was to cover working expenses.

Mr. Linehan: Information on Timothy Linehan  Zoom on Timothy Linehan  When did you send the trader his cheque?

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  The moment we got the certificate from the merchant that the order was placed and the price was indicated, he had the cheque by return. I will give the Deputy the names of Dublin merchants with whom he can verify that. I have nothing further to say to the Bill. I should like the Minister to have the best possible results from the operation of this legislation. If it is good for portion of the year it should be good for all the [65] year, especially the early portion of it. I suggest that the period between 31st July and 1st January should be filled in and let the Act run for the whole year.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  I am in agreement with Deputy Belton on this matter. There does not seem to be any reason why the period should end in July of any year. I come from an area where numbers of people are interested in sowing winter wheat, and they may want credit at that time. I do not see why this should not be made a three or five year Act, and so avoid bringing it forward every year. There does not seem to be any necessity for many amendments to last year's Act, and why the legislation should not be made a permanent feature I do not quite understand. It really should be extended to cover the whole year.

I think the Minister should insert some safeguard to cover a possible failure of the crop. There is a need for such a safeguard. Under the Act councils may give a loan or supply seeds, but there is nothing to safeguard them against the failure of a crop. They should not be held responsible for the crop, for the fertility of the seed supplied, or the manner in which the seed was sown.

Mr. Linehan: Information on Timothy Linehan  Zoom on Timothy Linehan  Would there not be a liability on the trader in the ordinary way, and would not the person who bought the seeds have some remedy?

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  The county council should not be asked to carry any part of the responsibility.

Mr. Linehan: Information on Timothy Linehan  Zoom on Timothy Linehan  If the county councils act as retailers, why should they not carry a retailer's liability?

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  There is no reason why they should. They give certain facilities in the form of money and credit, and there is no reason why they should carry liability for the failure of the crop. I do not think they should, and I suggest they should be given some safeguard. Deputy Linehan was talking through his hat when he said that merchants would not supply seeds under this Act. As Deputy Belton pointed out, most county councils pay [66] cash on delivery, or even before delivery.

Mr. Linehan: Information on Timothy Linehan  Zoom on Timothy Linehan  I know that.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  The cash is as good from the county council as from the best-off man who can buy seeds over the counter

Mr. Linehan: Information on Timothy Linehan  Zoom on Timothy Linehan  Has the Deputy not enough intelligence to see that if a man walks into a shop with £10 he will get the seeds right away, and the shopkeeper will not wait until someone writes to the county council to get a loan sanctioned?

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  The merchant gets his money from the county council.

Mr. Linehan: Information on Timothy Linehan  Zoom on Timothy Linehan  But not before the application is sent in.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  The Deputy is talking pure nonsense. The farmer to whom facilities are given is in the same position as the best-off man in the county.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  I will guarantee to Deputy Linehan that the farmer under the council scheme will get just as good terms as anyone with cash in his hands.

Mr. Allen: Information on Denis Allen  Zoom on Denis Allen  The main object is to give facilities to the people who cannot otherwise get credit. The results so far show that 98 or 99 per cent. of the people have paid up within the period.

Mr. D. Morrissey: Information on Daniel Morrissey  Zoom on Daniel Morrissey  The Minister mentioned that with two exceptions all the county councils in the State were working this scheme.

Mr. Ruttledge: Information on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  Zoom on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  They have taken action this year—they have indicated that they intend to operate the Act.

Mr. D. Morrissey: Information on Daniel Morrissey  Zoom on Daniel Morrissey  In view of the absolute necessity for getting all the food that can be grown in the country grown this year, I should like to know from the Minister whether there are any steps he could take to compel those two county councils to grant facilities to the people in their areas? In a county like Donegal, where there are so many smallholders, and where, perhaps, this scheme would be of as [67] much benefit, if not greater benefit, than most other counties, it seems an extraordinary thing that the county council there have made no effort to provide facilities for those who are anxious to take advantage of them. If there are any means at the Minister's disposal whereby he can ensure that these facilities will be given to people in Sligo and Donegal, I suggest that he ought to put them into operation very quickly.

Mr. Broderick:  I welcome this Bill. Nothing that I know of has contributed so much to the security and welfare of the people as this Seeds and Fertilisers Supply Act. Men who a few years ago were very much in arrear with their annuities and rates, whose credit was gone, and whose lands were to a great extent derelict, are now, largely because of the operation of the Act, in a reasonably affluent position. I hold strongly that in our area the one thing which has contributed to our financial position and to its remedying in the last five or six years was the introduction of this Bill; but, like other Deputies, I hold that it ought not to wait until February or March, or even as late as the announcement of the Minister for Agriculture in January that people could be sure that the Bill was to come into operation. The Minister for Agriculture, who I am sorry is not here, twitted us and said that if there was any delay in the scheme—he was referring to the Cork County Council—it was our own fault. As a matter of fact, the Minister was notified last November that our scheme was ready and awaiting his sanction, but we had to wait until the middle of January for it. I support the point of view put forward here, and held, I think, very strongly here, that the Bill ought not to be of an intermittent nature, and that there ought not to be any uncertainty as to when it would come into operation. The people who want to avail of it ought to have a reasonable assurance that the measure will be available at a particular time.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  All the time.

Mr. Broderick:  There is no doubt that Deputy Belton made a very strong [68] point, that if one is to be reasonably successful in wheat growing, one has to consider having the wheat well over the ground in the early days of December. Without a Bill such as this, many people cannot do so.

I do not know whether the other point to which I want to refer is appropriate at this stage, but, a few years ago, local authorities were induced to take up this scheme on the undertaking that 50 per cent. of any deficiency would be met by the State. In those years, production was merely of a local nature and the production of food had not the same degree of importance it has to-day. The State has called strongly through its Ministers for production and, speaking a short time ago, I referred to the Minister for Agriculture as the most important man in the State, and said that he had far and away the most important job, with or without invasion, that is, the feeding of the people. How he has carried out that job is a question which can be debated on another occasion, but to show how far the people have gone in support of the Minister in his drive for increased production, how far they have realised the necessity of producing food, our normal advances to assist people in former times ranged from approximately £900 to £1,100 a year, whereas we have advanced up to this £6,700 odd and we expect that by the time all the seeds are planted and we have met our full liability, it will be not less than £10,000.

That liability is being incurred because of the earnest demands and requests by the State and because of our very acute sense of our responsibility. In doing so, we had to take certain risks, in the belief that, even if we were never paid, it was essential in the interests of the State to produce food, and because we realised that by penalising or refusing the man whose credit was bad, who, as Deputy Belton pointed out, might not have a clean slate in respect of either annuities or rates, we were denying the State the productivity of whatever holding he had. We took that risk in the interests of the State, and I think the State has its responsibilities also. It is only right that the State should revert to [69] the original form of the Bill and undertake the 50 per cent. liability which they formerly undertook. I hold that this Bill has done more to make people solvent who, a few years ago, were practically destitute, and has done more to produce revenue, to produce food for the State and to meet normal liabilities of annuities and rates than any other activity of the State, and I welcome it strongly. I will possibly, however, put down an amendment to deal with the matter of the 50 per cent. liability, on the ground that we have incurred this liability and we expect the State in return to incorporate in the Bill the clause which formerly appeared in it.

Mr. O'Reilly: Information on Matthew O'Reilly  Zoom on Matthew O'Reilly  I welcome this Bill, and I agree fully with what Deputy Belton, and especially Deputy Allen, said in connection with the degree of permanency which this Bill has not got. Farmers, like merchants and other people, have to do a considerable amount of budgeting, and it is not when the operation of sowing seeds should take place that they should make their arrangements. Last season, for example, winter seed wheat was purchased at very reasonable prices, and I think the desirability of having winter seed wheat in the ground at least during the month of October is now fairly obvious. If a measure such as this, giving credit for the purchase of seeds, is not made permanent, a number of farmers, and especially those who have not got credit, whom we want to assist, will be in great difficulty as to what exactly to do. If the Bill became a permanent measure, these people would be able to purchase seed possibly at a much lower price. They would certainly be able to put seed in the ground at the proper time.

I agree with the last speaker when he says that this measure has done quite a lot of good and is likely to do an immense amount of good in putting farmers on their feet who otherwise would not have been put on their feet. I believe that if it were made permanent for a period of three, four or five years, the farmers would be in a position to take full advantage of it. [70] I think they have not been able to take the advantage I should like to see them taking of it this year mainly because there was a good deal of uncertainty and because county councils introduced their schemes rather late. The spring has not been very favourable so far for the sowing of spring wheat and I know quite a number of farmers who, if they had had the opportunity last October or August, would have made preparations and we would have had a great deal more winter wheat in the ground, with extremely good results, than we have to-day. Consequently, I suggest that the question of permanency should be examined.

Mr. Hughes: Information on James Hughes  Zoom on James Hughes  I have always felt, and I still feel, that this is not the type of work which should be the responsibility of a local authority. I feel that it does not go to the root of the problem of credit facilities for agriculture at all. While I admit that it is of some benefit in a very limited way, it does not touch the real problem of credit. The information at my disposal is that in most counties the amount of credit is limited to £5 per applicant. If there is talk of financing the seed wheat scheme or the early sowing of wheat, the amount of credit should not be limited to £5.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  That is the responsibility of the county councils.

Mr. Hughes: Information on James Hughes  Zoom on James Hughes  I am informing the House of what obtains throughout the country. The reason that that is so is that normally a man who is credit-worthy can go to local merchants and obtain certain facilities. I do not agree with Deputy Belton that such facilities will be more costly when dealing with local merchants than with local authorities. In the majority of cases local merchants extend reasonable credit facilities to most people.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  I know others that do not.

Mr. Hughes: Information on James Hughes  Zoom on James Hughes  Such facilities are available, and it is only people who cannot get credit from local merchants [71] who have to go to local authorities, where they are up against the problem of finding sureties.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  One in the case of Dublin.

Mr. Hughes: Information on James Hughes  Zoom on James Hughes  County Dublin is not the only county in Ireland. A man who is not credit-worthy has to go to the local authorities for a loan and has to provide solvent sureties. For that reason I say that this proposal only provides credit in a very limited way, and not for the type of people who require it to sow early winter wheat. It only deals with credit for a small farmer to secure seed potatoes or a barrel or two of seed grain. I should like to have information as to the limit set in the different counties or if there is an average limit. Taking into account the limit laid down in most counties, the amount available does not really provide the credit that is essential for agriculture, if we are to make use of our productive capacity during this emergency. It really does not attempt to deal with the problem of credit in the proper way. The House will appreciate that as local authorities have to shoulder heavy burdens at the present time, many of them working on overdrafts, they will be slow to shouder any further financial liability. I should like to join with Deputy Broderick in asking for the insertion of a provision that was omitted last year, whereby 50 per cent. of the repayments would be guaranteed by the State. The State should finance the tillage drive in that limited way. It is unreasonable to ask local ratepayers to shoulder the full burden.

Mr. Daly: Information on Patrick Daly  Zoom on Patrick Daly  I support this Bill, as I believe it will do more to increase the area under tillage than any other measure or appeal made to the people. It is a good Bill. I appeal to the Minister to make it a permanent measure. The point raised by Deputy Belton was an important one, that winter wheat should be sown early in November or late in October, and should be grass corn by Christmas. If this Bill was made permanent it would enable people to have winter wheat sown at [72] the proper time. Deputy Hughes referred to the case of a man—one of many at the present time—who is not credit-worthy. Unfortunately, large numbers of farmers are not credit-worthy through no fault of their own. They have gone through very bad times. It is not because a man is not credit-worthy that he should not be helped.

That is the type of man who should be helped. If a man has not his annuities paid to date or if he is in arrears with rates he should not be deprived of credit either by county councils or by a State Department. If this Bill is operated by local authorities in the proper way it will help such people. I believe they will be helped this year and, as a result, I hope they will not need further assistance in other years. Deputy Broderick mentioned men who are now in fairly comfortable circumstances, because for the past three or four years they availed of this Bill and had good harvests. Like the majority of farmers, if they get any chance they always make good and pay their way. I know farmers who availed of this measure and of loans from the Agricultural Credit Corporation. All of them have done well and paid back the amounts they owed. That is why I appeal to the Minister and to local authorities to see to it that the man who is not credit-worthy, but who can be depended upon, is helped if he tries to avail of the advantages of this Bill. I believe this is a good Bill and that it will do very good work for the country. I ask the Minister to have the clause that was withdrawn from the Bill re-inserted whereby the State would bear part of the financial responsibility involved.

Mr. Keyes: Information on Michael J. Keyes  Zoom on Michael J. Keyes  I wish to endorse the remarks of previous speakers particularly with regard to people who have been described as not credit-worthy. In the emergency that we are passing through I do not think the country can afford to ignore the services of any section that is capable of producing food. There are, however, other people than the farmers who have been spoken of, who are not credit-worthy this year, nor were they any year, [73] and these are unemployed persons in towns and villages. I appeal to the Minister to think of that section of the community. Boards of health have certain functions and certain authority, enabling them to procure loans to provide plots and allotments. County councils have schemes by which they are able to make loans for seeds, but sureties have to be secured. The people I am referring to, in conjunction with non-credit-worthy farmers, are non-credit-worthy labourers. How will they fare under this Bill? Is there any possibility that they will be covered by it? Provision is made for rated occupiers of land and for cottiers in my county, but I am appealing on behalf of people in the villages and towns for whom provision has been made under the board of health scheme, but who do not seem to be covered with regard to free seeds or loans for seeds. In municipal areas we are able to provide seeds, manures and implements free, and a plot for the nominal rent of 1/-.

Certain efforts are being made to provide plots for people in the rural areas. I want to know if any provision is being made for free seeds or loans for seeds. I have an idea that under some old measure it is possible for the Minister for Agriculture to come to the rescue of those people, but I am not sure about that. I should like the Minister to say if there are any means by which the unemployed labourers in the villages who are anxious to participate in food production this year can be assisted by free seeds, or loans for seeds without having to procure security which they cannot get, to enable them to take the part which they are willing to take in this very necessary food drive.

Mr. Cogan: Information on Patrick Cogan  Zoom on Patrick Cogan  I should like to support the appeal made to the Minister to provide in this Bill a guarantee to the local authorities that at least 50 per cent. of the liability incurred will be borne by the State. Most of the criticism of the Bill last year was based on the fact that local authorities have not the financial strength to operate a measure so comprehensive as this. We all know how difficult local authorities find it to meet their current demands, [74] and even to collect their current rates. Therefore, anyone can understand how reluctant local authorities are to take big risks in order to finance a scheme of this kind. If, even now, the Minister is prepared to say that the Government will guarantee half the liability incurred, I have no doubt that local authorities would be prepared to say: “We will go further than we intended, and we will make this scheme available to more people who are not credit-worthy.” The position at present is that local authorities, having regard to the difficulty they find in meeting their obligations, have been forced in common prudence to restrict their schemes to a very great extent. They have been compelled to restrict the amount advanced to any individual applicant, and to impose very stringent restrictions in regard to solvent securities. If the Government were prepared to come forward and bear half the risk I have no doubt that, even where schemes have been drawn up, the local authorities would be prepared to amend those schemes so that they would be available to a larger number of people, and would have the effect of bringing larger areas under cultivation.

I am disappointed that the Minister did not state the number of applicants who availed of this scheme last year. He did not state the amount advanced in each county; neither did he state the amount of the advances made last year which has been collected. This information, if it had been given by the Minister, would be very useful to the House in deciding its attitude towards this Bill. I hope when he is replying that the Minister will be able to supply that information. There is a natural inclination on the part of local authorities to go all out in order to help in increasing production. At the same time, there is a feeling amongst local councils that they should not be compelled to bear the entire burden. If the State were to meet them by bearing half the burden, I am sure they would go much further and make this scheme available to every person who requires credit facilities.

In my opinion this scheme was not availed of to a great extent last year [75] in a great number of counties because the county councils found the risks they were asked to take were too great. Therefore, they imposed restrictions in regard to the amount they would advance and the security which they would require. The result was that the scheme was only availed of to a very limited extent. It would be a generous gesture on the part of the Government to say now: “There are two bodies interested in this matter, the local bodies and the central body. We, as the central body, are prepared to bear half the burden and we expect that the local bodies will bear the other half.” I am sure the local authorities would have no hesitation in doing so. I think it is only right and proper that this Bill should be extended to cover the full 12 months of the year. The springtime has always been looked upon as sowing time. But events have rather altered the conditions, and now the main crop, the crop upon which we have to rely for our bread supplies, must be sown in the autumn. For that reason I am sure the Minister will have no objection to extending the scheme so as to cover the full 12 months of the year.

Mr. M. Brennan: Information on Michael Brennan  Zoom on Michael Brennan  This measure is not really an emergency or food production measure, and there is no use pretending that it is. I hope it will not be regarded as the comprehensive measure which some Deputies referred to. It is really a kind of stop gap to assist people in poor circumstances. To that extent it has been successful. I am glad to be able to give Deputy Cogan the information that in Roscommon it was operated last year and the year before. Its operation the year before last was only on a small scale; it only amounted to a few hundred pounds. But when the secretary was asked the following year what the bad debts were, he said there were none. This year, when putting it into operation, the secretary was asked how did the council stand in regard to the matter, and he said that all the money was paid with the exception of a few pounds, which were safe.

Mr. Cogan: Information on Patrick Cogan  Zoom on Patrick Cogan  What was the extent of the scheme?

[76]Mr. Brennan:  About £500. There is no need for county councils to be afraid of operating the scheme. They are not asked to finance it; it is only a question of a guarantee.

Mr. Ruttledge: Information on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  Zoom on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  The amount in Roscommon was £715.

Mr. Brennan:  That money has been paid with the exception of a few pounds which, according to the Secretary, are quite safe. If we are to take the figures for Roscommon and place them against the speeches made by Deputy Broderick and Deputy Daly asking for a refund of the losses, the case made by these Deputies peters out completely, because we had not any losses. Before I came into the House I understand that some Deputy mentioned that the Bill was brought in too late in the year. This is the month of March and a Bill like this should have been brought in last August.

Mr. Ruttledge: Information on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  Zoom on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  The local bodies were circularised last December.

Mr. Brennan:  And we took advantage of it. At the same time, the Bill was not there. The Government ought not to have a time lag in matters of this kind. The people ought to know where they are. Let us not pretend that this measure is going to bridge any credit difficulties that may exist. It is true that it will enable people, in poor circumstances, to get seeds and manures that they otherwise could not get. To that extent it is useful, and I hope it will continue, because, I suppose it is true to say, you will always have people who will want assistance of this kind. If the measure were made a permanent one it would, possibly, be all to the good. Let us not, however, delude ourselves into thinking that we are doing something very big. We are not. I agree that we are doing something useful, but if there has to be any big credit system established in this country it is through the Government that should be done and not through the ratepayers.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  I say it is through the banks it should be done.

[77]Mr. Brennan:  The people, at any rate, should not have to bear the cost of it.

Mr. Ruttledge: Information on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  Zoom on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  Deputy Brennan is right in saying that this measure was never intended to be the big comprehensive one that some Deputies seem to have in mind. I do not want to be guilty of misquoting what any Deputy has said. I think, however, it is correct to say that the speech we had from Deputy Hughes this evening was more or less on the lines of the speech made last year on a similar Bill by Deputy Belton. The Deputy's speech was to the effect that this was not a comprehensive measure, that it could not deal with the position, and was, in fact, practically useless. Bills of this sort originated away back in 1880. They were passed into law in what were considered to be bad years. There was no such Act in operation here from 1933 to 1939. I said last year that the Bill was not intended to be what some Deputies had described as a comprehensive measure to deal with credit for farmers. Its purpose simply is to enable people to procure seeds and fertilisers, people whose circumstances would not permit them to do that immediately out of their own resources. Its operation in the congested areas is of considerable benefit to small farmers. No restrictions are imposed with regard to the type of securities to be provided for the sums advanced. It is for the local authority to devise the type of security required. Losses have been small except, I think, in one county. The position there is that whatever the loss is it can be collected in the rates next year. But, except in the case of that county, the losses under measures similar to this have been inconsiderable.

Mr. Hughes: Information on James Hughes  Zoom on James Hughes  Would the Minister say what county that is?

Mr. Ruttledge: Information on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  Zoom on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  I would prefer not to. That county has still the opportunity of collecting whatever sum may be outstanding. Therefore, I do not think it would be right to utter any criticism of it. It has been urged that we should advance 50 per cent. against the losses in the various counties. I [78] have already pointed out that there has been very little loss. If counties were to be given a guarantee of recoupment of losses, they might not be as vigilant as they are when they have to meet the full amount of whatever loss there is. I do not suggest that if the guarantee were given there would be any relaxation on their part, but still there is the danger that they might not be as careful as they have to be under the present arrangement. I have no evidence from any public body that difficulty has been experienced by trustworthy applicants in obtaining the guarantees required by the local body.

As regards the cost of the seeds and fertilisers supplied to applicants, a limitation has been put on the amount of the advances by various counties. The Carlow County Council, for instance, decided, one member dissenting, that the advance should not exceed £10 in each case, and that defaulters under the 1940 scheme, or ratepayers who had failed to pay their rates by the 31st March, 1941, should be ineligible under the scheme. There was a similar sort of scheme adopted in County Wicklow. There various conditions were laid down. They decided that the maximum amount of a loan to any one applicant should be £15, that the amount advanced should vary according to the amount of land in the possession of an applicant; that persons with under five acres, cottiers and others, should be able to secure seeds to the value of £1, and so on. In Cork it was decided that the maximum quantity of seeds and fertilisers obtainable under the scheme should be 12 cwt. of seed potatoes, 16 cwt. seed oats, 16 cwt. of seed barley, 16 cwt. of seed wheat, and 5 cwt. of fertilisers.

Mr. Brennan:  To what extent was the scheme availed of in the County Cork?

Mr. Ruttledge: Information on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  Zoom on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  The following are the particulars with regard to the various counties: Carlow, cost £265, number of recipients, 36; Cavan, £1,476, recipients, 348; Cork, £1,474, recipients, 168; Dublin, £1,839, recipients, 104; Kerry, £223, recipients, 69; Kildare, £228, recipients, 30; Kilkenny, £182, recipients, [79] 11; Laoighis, £253, recipients, 57; Leitrim, £831, recipients, 487; Mayo, £2,090, recipients, 762; Meath, £1,152, recipients, 168; Monaghan, £1,227 recipients, 202; Offaly, £799, recipients, 76; Roscommon, £715, recipients, 163; Tipperary N.R., £152, recipients, 27; Tipperary S.R., £221, recipients, 26; Waterford, £661, recipients, 42; Westmeath, £704, recipients, 115. In Wexford the cost was £207, and the number of recipients 21. For the guarantee scheme in operation in Galway the cost was £100, and the number of recipients 15. In Louth the cost was £40, and the number of recipients 5. In Wexford the cost was £696, and the number of recipients 78. In Wicklow the cost was £1,424, and the number of recipients 250.

Mr. Hughes: Information on James Hughes  Zoom on James Hughes  Would the Minister give the figure for Cork again?

Mr. Ruttledge: Information on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  Zoom on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  The figure for Cork is £1,474, and the number of recipients 168. The reason that the period from July to December was regarded as closed was the reason for which those Acts were brought in originally, that is that the people who had to avail of it were the small farmers who were trying to provide food for themselves and were trying to get credit. There is no objection whatever to advising or directing or communicating with the county councils to ask them to enable this thing to be done if conditions warrant it.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  Is the Minister prepared to put that in the Bill?

Mr. Ruttledge: Information on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  Zoom on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  It is not necessary to put it in the Bill.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  Then there is no authority for credit during that period?

Mr. Ruttledge: Information on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  Zoom on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  If there is any necessity for it, when we come to July or August that can be provided for. We will try to deal with it if it is necessary. Against that, I do not believe there is any necessity for it.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  What is the objection to its being in the Act?

[80]Mr. Ruttledge: Information on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  Zoom on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  The objection to its being dealt with at all is that this form of legislation was never intended to deal with the sort of credit that the Deputy has in mind. The small farmers and other people who are not farmers, cottiers and so on, who had difficulty in getting credit in the ordinary way, will be able to make arrangements with the county councils, but there is nothing to prevent the county council from borrowing the money and paying the merchants immediately they get delivery of the seeds.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  They have no authority to do it from July to January.

Mr. Ruttledge: Information on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  Zoom on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  As I said, that matter can be considered, but it will depend on what we are advised as to the position then.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  But, while you are considering it, time marches on.

Mr. Ruttledge: Information on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  Zoom on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  It is probably a good thing that it does keep marching on. Some question was raised here as to the warranty of seeds. That is a matter, I think, that can always be dealt with by the county council getting a warranty from the person who supplies the seed. There are only, I think, four or five counties which used the authority they had to any reasonable extent at all until last year. There was considerable improvement last year. I think the total cost that I mentioned was £14,699, and the number of recipients was 2,912. Any person who is credit-worthy can get credit from his merchant in the ordinary way. It is only people who are not able to get credit in that way that this Bill is intended to meet. Otherwise, it should come from the Department of Agriculture and not from the Department of Local Government. This is to deal with a matter that may be regarded as a matter of distress. I agree that, in the present circumstances, it may be extended, that it is being extended in those circumstances, and that this year we have urged the county councils more strongly to avail of its provisions than we have in other years. Deputy Morrissey asked me [81] about Donegal. So far as Donegal is concerned, we have not got any indications that they have difficulty there in procuring seeds. We have communicated with them and we have communicated with Sligo, which are the two counties which have failed to put the scheme into operation this year. The Sligo County Council, we understand, are considering the matter again. It is a matter for themselves, and I do not think we can take any effective steps to make them do it.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  Will the Minister accept an amendment to make the Act continuous for 12 months?

Mr. Ruttledge: Information on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  Zoom on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  I will not accept an amendment to make it continuous.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  Will he accept an amendment to substitute 31st December for 31st July? I would not ask to have it made continuous until amended by the Oireachtas.

Mr. Ruttledge: Information on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  Zoom on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  I would prefer to consider this matter when we see what is the position in July.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  We might modify our opinions a bit. I will put down an amendment for the Committee Stage.

Mr. Ruttledge: Information on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  Zoom on Patrick Joseph Ruttledge  The Deputy can do that in any case.

Mr. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  The Minister might be in a better humour then. He is not bad now either.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee Stage ordered, provisionally, for Wednesday, 12th March.


Last Updated: 19/05/2011 02:47:32 First Page Previous Page Page of 39 Next Page Last Page