Thursday, 29 July 1948
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. Corry: I put a question last week to the Minister for Agriculture asking him if he was prepared to remove the control from the price of barley this season and to fix the price as promised by him in the Dáil. I expected to get a definite answer to that and not the rigmarole that I did get from the Minister, and not an evasion of the answer with the partial reply that appeared in the Press this morning. The reply was given here:—
“I want the farmers to produce next year 700,000 barrels of malting barley at least, for which I guarantee them a higher price than they received in any year for the last ten years. It will not be less than 55/- and it might be more. In that connection I want solemnly to register a protest against what seems to have been the cruel iniquity of having fixed prices of malting barley in this country at a figure ranging from 35/- to 45/-, less cartage from the farm to the maltster, when the world price of barley was 60/- and over and when the brewers of this country were ready and willing to pay 60/- and over and were prevented from doing so by our own Government, with the consequence that, in the last five years, the barley farmers of this country were fined by our own Government £2,000,000 sterling which passed into the coffers of Arthur Guinness, Son and Company, and were then extracted by the British Treasury in excess profits tax collected in Britain.”
And he wound up by saying: “That will never happen again.” The reference is in column 2595 of Dáil Debates, 9th July of this year. That is the statement made by the Minister. I take it it is a responsible statement. Several Deputies of this House congratulated the Minister on the statement. The Minister went even further than that in column 295 of the 14th July, 1948, when interrupting Deputy Maguire:—
“I do not blame the Deputy. The last Government made the brewers pay our farmers 15/- to 20/- per barrel less than the brewers wanted to pay them. I am now going to allow the brewers to pay the barley  growers what they have always wanted to pay, but the last Government would not let them do it. The British Government collected the surplus profits and put them into their Treasury.”
“I admit quite frankly that the Minister is entitled to the grateful thanks of the people of my constituency for the increased prices he is offering the farmers for their barley during the coming season.”
And he even went further. He said he saluted the Minister and took off his hat to him for doing that. Other Deputies congratulated the Minister in a like manner. The Minister left any ordinary intelligent man in this House under the impression that Messrs. Arthur Guinness were no longer going to get barley at 15/- to 20/- per barrel less than they were prepared to pay for it. The Minister and I are on the one word there. What does 15/- to 20/-a barrel mean on 150,000 acres of barley growing in this country? It means over £1,000,000 that will not be taken out of the pockets of the taxpayers, that can go towards farm improvements and the improvement of farm buildings and other things. Look at the benefit that that £1,000,000 could bring to our farmers. It would be given to us by people who, in the Minister's own words, are anxious and willing to give it to us. He stated here that Messrs. Guinness were anxious and willing to give us this money. I asked him to-day, in the middle of the famous harangue we had——
Mr. Corry: I want to know where we stand, honestly and above board, and I think I am entitled to know that as a member of the agricultural community. I have the Minister's statement here and I want to know what he means by it and what the position is. I can assure the Minister that I have been dealing with Messrs. Guinness for the past 18 years—that may surprise him. Each year I happened to be a member of an association that meets Messrs. Guinness about barley and that meets the millers' association on the price of wheat. I have on several occasions fought previous Ministers for Agriculture on this matter.
Mr. Corry: The Minister was on holidays when I was at it; he was not too interested, apparently. However, previous Ministers put up the same argument as the present Minister has put up about the cheese. It was the very same policy for wheat, for bread and for butter—no difference.
Mr. Corry: We will have something to say about the cheese later on and the Minister might not be too thankful. He tried the trick and then he ran away from it. I am sticking to the barley for the one reason that if the Minister stands to his word as given here, that he is not going to keep the fixed price on barley, I guarantee to the farmers that I can get them over £1,000,000 in a week, and I know exactly what I am speaking about. Is this Minister for Agriculture going to prevent the farmers who are growing 150,000 acres of barley this year from getting £1,000,000 for that barley? That is a fair, straight and honest question. That is the position of affairs that exists between the Minister  and myself and I expect fair play and an honest answer from the Minister. If there was any bargain made behind the scenes which prevents the Minister from decontrolling barley, as he decontrolled the farmers' butter, let us thrash it out and have it out in the open and above board. My committee will be meeting Messrs. Guinness.
“The barley farmers of this  country were taxed in the sum of £2,000,000 sterling for the benefit of the British Exchequer over a period of five years—between £400,000 and £500,000 per annum for five years for the benefit of the British Treasury. That will never happen again.”
Mr. Corry: If it is not to happen again, then it is the Minister's bounden duty to remove the control from barley. If there is any reason why he cannot remove the control from barley let him tell us what it is. If there is any reason why he is going to prevent the Irish farmers from getting £1,000,000 extra for their barley this year we want to hear what it is from the Minister who is responsible for the Department of Agriculture in this House.
Mr. Corry: Then I ask that the Minister should not be allowed to interrupt me. If there is any reason for the Minister's change of front now, after making that public statement in this House, when that change of front is going to deprive the farmers of this country of £1,000,000 we want to hear it and we are entitled to hear it.
Mr. Corry: I want to be very clear on this and I want a definite straight statement from the Minister. I am not worrying about what Ministers did in previous years; it does not matter to me. I am here as a representative of the agricultural community fighting my corner and to get for them the last 1d. that I can extract.
Mr. Corry: In conclusion, I say that this should be a straight, honest issue. I have no intention of depriving the Minister of his right to reply. When we came into office the price of barley was 13/- a barrel.
Mr. Dillon: I still believe in Parliamentary democracy. It sometimes is hard to believe that there could be found a quota of voters in County Cork to elect a Deputy like Deputy Corry, but so long as there is, and so long as I occupy the position of Minister for Agriculture as I do, it is my Parliamentary duty to attend here and to go through the disgusting experience of having to listen to him. For a piece of brazen effrontery, it would be hard to match his performance to-night. The Party which he disgraces, if that is possible, fixed the price of barley at 35/- per barrel in 1943, 1944, 1945 and 1946 and at 40/-in 1947. In each of those years they robbed our people of 10/- to 20/- per barrel on that price. The brewers were prepared to pay more. They wanted to pay more and they would not be allowed to do so by our own Government. The reason assigned by  our own Government was that they wanted to make the price of wheat look more attractive than it actually was. If the farmers were allowed to get a proper price for barley, neither coercion nor persuasion would induce them to grow the quantity of wheat they were supposed to grow. During all that time this collection of Deputies were here in this House and they were all parties to that transaction. The brewers of this country wanted to pay more for the barley because they knew perfectly well that unless something more approaching an economic price were paid for it, the acreage of barley would so far decline that it would be impossible for them to get the raw materials of their industry within the country, and they were perfectly right, with the astonishing result that last year when the price of barley was fixed by our Government at 40/- a barrel, at the end of the season the brewers of this country were obliged to import barley from Australia which cost them 82/- to 85/- per barrel and to import malt from Chile which, expressed in terms of barley, cost 110/-per barrel. Our farmers were getting 40/-; a similar product was being brought from abroad at 110/-.
When I came into office I was confronted with the situation that if I were to take the control off barley, when manifestly there was not enough barley to meet the requirements of the country, there must be famine prices for barley at the end of this year. God knows what levels it would go to. Nothing could be more disastrous to the agricultural community than that you should have famine prices this year and a surplus next year, with fantastic prices for a comparatively small number of farmers in this autumn and bankruptcy prices for large numbers of farmers at the end of next year. After mature reflection I came to the conclusion that although the barley crop was sown and was growing, the most equitable course to take this year was to increase the price of barley to 50/-and that I have done.
I told this House and I told this country when I came into office that I did not propose to tear up the cereal  programme laid down by my predecessor as I did not believe it was in the best interests of the country to introduce revolutionary changes of that kind within a month of coming into office. I did tell the farmers of this country that they will never be robbed again. I reiterate that promise now, not, I need hardly say, for the sake of Deputy Corry, who has taken part in their robbery for the past four or five years because he was too cowardly to stand up and refuse to participate in it. It was open to him to denounce this disgusting scandal and express his readiness to dissociate himself with the Party responsible for it—if he had wanted to—for the last five years, but he never did it. To-night, however, he expresses himself as being distracted with solicitude for the barley growers.
I do not know whether any Deputies in this House are under any illusion as to why we should have to listen to this farrago of rubbish of which Deputy Corry has delivered himself to-night. If they are, they should disabuse themselves of it as quickly as possible. Barley was raised on the Adjournment to-night because, if it was not, cheese would have to be raised and he was afraid to raise cheese. He came in here maliciously and mendaciously to create all the trouble, annoyance, confusion and alarm he was able to, as he did last week in relation to the production of cheese and butter in the cheese-making creameries of the South of Ireland. That having been done,  he announced his intention of ventilating the matter further on the Adjournment, but he arrived this week back from the country, after they had been “at” him and told him to keep out of Mitchelstown for the rest of his life, with a query about barley. When he got a perfectly plain answer to his question, he announced his intention of raising the matter on the Adjournment. I asked him then had he forgotten about cheese. He said no, that he had exercised his constitutional right to change his mind. He changed his mind—if he had a mind to change. He has something inside his head which functions, but it is not what I recognise as a human mind. It is a mischievous, vicious, mendacious instrument designed to make trouble wherever he can, but not, under any circumstances, ever to take an honest course. He has never had the courage and honesty to do anything in defence of the people he has been exploiting for the last five years. The row he has raised this week about barley has no more validity or honesty than the row he raised last week about cheese. I advise him to take this week the journey to the barley growing districts of the country that he made to the cheese districts last week. If he does, he will have to retire to Rathlin Island as there will not be any other part of the country that will receive him.
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