§ MR. MOORE
said, he wished to say a few words in reference to the following Motion which he had placed on the Paper:—After Second Reading of Cork Butter Market Bill, to move, 'That it be an Instruction to the Committee that the do provide that the Butter Inspectors shall not be accompanied by, or interfered with by, any Butter Merchant, or Broker, or other person, save and excepting the officials of the Market, during their inspection, and that the Trustees do frame bye-laws to protect the Inspectors from all pressure and undue influence in the discharge of their duly.'He desired to state what his object was in placing this Instruction upon the Paper, and to explain how far that object had already been accomplished. The principal object was to obtain a perfectly honest and independent inspection of the butter passing through Cork Market. He could assure the House that the matter was not one of small importance. It was a question of produce amounting in money value to about £1,500,000 per annum, and included the butter produced throughout the greater portion of the Province of Munster. His sole object was to secure that there should be a perfectly honest and reliable inspection of that butter. The facts of the case were these. For many years past great scandals and abuses had prevailed in connection with the Cork Butter Market, the chief and kernel of the whole being the system of inspection adopted in the classification of the butter; and it was in order to put an end to the system that he had put his Notice upon the Paper. To give the House some idea of what this inspection was, he might, state that the broker, or, in other words, the employer, stood at the elbow of the Inspector and exercised his influence upon him in assigning certain qualities to the butter under inspection. The result was that butter in many cases was classified above its value, and that there was no even and reliable standard laid clown. It was found, also, that among the brokers to whom the butter was consigned were persons who had seats upon the Governing Body of the Market, and by virtue of their position they were able to exercise a mys- 575 terious and improper influence over the Inspectors as rewarded the prices attached to the different qualities, by virtue of which all their butter got a high quality. The consequence of this was, that one broker was very often selected to consign butter to in preference to another, because he was supposed to have more influence with the inspector in fixing the prices. Other scandals had occurred from time to time, and very unpleasant rumours had gone forth. The reason why he had a locus standi, as representing the producers of the country, was that the prices which had been fixed for the butter inspected in this unsatisfactory manner governed the prices of the butter produced throughout the whole of the country. From Cork Market the Cork prices were sent by telegram to the different producing centres of Ireland, and the prices fixed by a butter inspection in which no confidence could be placed governed the prices in the whole of the local markets. Reports had been circulated of proceedings of an extraordinary character; but he did not propose to enter into any of them, except so far as they related to the system of inspection. It was not necessary that he should go through the whole story of the abuses which prevailed in the Cork Butter Market; but the system of procedure, which was peculiar, was this. The export purchaser wont to the market at 11 o'clock in the morning, and was shown into a large room, where he found the representatives of the farmers and the brokers to whom the butter had been consigned by the farmers throughout the country. Then, owing to the fact that certain of those brokers were well known to have more influence over the Inspector than others, they consented not to obtain the best and largest supply available, but to look upon certain lots as doubtful and shirk them, the result being that butter which had been included in one or two classes could not be disposed of until every bit of butter in another class had been sold. That was to say, that, these merchants and brokers were able to put up a price which was to rule one class of butter, whether of the first, second, or superfine class; but no butter was put out to be sold in that class until such a price was obtained from the purchasers as the merchants and brokers chose to fix. 576 This course was adopted in order to shirk competition in regard to other classes of butter. The result was that certain lots were passed round the room until they were disposed of. The purchaser was bound to give the price asked for them, and the whole operation had the effect of regulating the market by the prices obtained for doubtful and inferior lots, and rendering the system of inspection, which ought to regulate the prices, altogether unreliable. In what he had said he had alluded to the dangers which had surrounded the producer in Ireland in the past under a system of unreliable inspection. He would not detain the House further on that point, and the rest of his remarks would be very brief. Before quitting this particular point, he had only to add that the present system of inspection had been condemned in the strongest manner by many of the witnesses who were examined before the Richmond Commission. The matter was also brought before the Government last summer, by a deputation which waited upon the Lord Lieutenant, who was good enough to say that if the Corporation of Cork did not take the matter into their own hands, the interests involved were so great that it would be necessary for the Government themselves to deal with it. He (Mr. Moore) believed that the Inspectors themselves desired to be relieved from the odious position which they at present occupied, and the Corporation of Cork, during the recent inquiries, had arrived at a conclusion which reflected the highest credit upon thorn as a Municipal Body. They had taken up the question in the most high-minded manner, and, concealing nothing, had strongly condemned the practices connected with the inspection. They stated that the Inspectors themselves did not deny that attempts had been made to influence them unduly, and would prefer to be left wholly untrammelled in the performance of their duty. The Town Clerk himself—a gentleman of great ability, to whom the public were largely indebted for the measure now before the House, as was evident from the evidence given in the recent inquiry held by the Corporation of Cork—the Town Clerk himself mentioned a case in which a gentleman, who had been in the habit of sending butter to the market, found that he was never 577 able to succeed in getting beyond a certain price. Having mentioned the circumstance to another butter merchant, he was told that he never would succeed until he resorted to some broker who was in the habit of bullying the Inspector. The word "bullying" appeared in the evidence in inverted commas. The gentleman in question sent his butter in the way suggested, and the result was that it was classed as being of a higher quality than before. He (Mr. Moore) would not take upon himself the responsibility of opposing the measure which had been introduced by the Corporation of Cork, who, on a previous occasion, had introduced legislation in regard to the Butter Market. He was most anxious, however, that the present Bill should pass upon the lines of Lord Fitzgerald's very able and impartial award. He thought the Corporation would confer very great advantages upon the Public if the principles of that award were fairly, honourably, and honestly carried out. To meet the object of his (Mr. Moore's) Resolution Lord Fitzgerald had been good enough to draft an Amendment, which would render it unnecessary for him (Mr. Moore) to move the Instruction. The Amendment was to this effect—If the trustees shall not, within six months after the passing of this Act, make a code of by-laws such as may he necessary to carry this Act into operation, and have lodged the same with the Privy Council for allowance, it shall be lawful for the Privy Council, on the application of any person or body interested therein, to order and direct that the Local Government Board at Dublin or such other body as to the Privy Council shall seem fit, shall proceed forthwith to frame such code of by-laws, and the same, when made and approved of by the Privy Council, shall have the like effect and operation as if they had been made by the Trustees.Lord Fitzgerald, in his award, had provided very stringent provisions for the honest and reliable inspection of butter, and had ordered the Trustees to make regulations in this respect; but no limit of time was fixed within which the regulations were to be made. Lord Fitzgerald, as arbitrator in the matter, had now suggested an Amendment, fixing six months; and the agents for the Bill, Messrs. Holmes, Anton, and Greig, had given him (Mr. Moore) an undertaking that they would introduce into the measure such an Amendment, fixing a limit of time within which these by-laws should be made and submitted 578 for the approval of the Privy Council. In default of doing this, the Privy Council and the Lord Lieutenant would have power to direct such other Body as they might select to make such by-laws as they might deem necessary. Having received this very valuable recognition upon this important point, it was not necessary that he should insist further upon the Instruction which he had placed upon the Paper, which only touched one definite point. He trusted that proper and adequate by-laws would now be framed, and that the great abuses and scandals which had prevailed in the Cork Butter Market would in future be prevented. The result would be that the value of cattle and agricultural produce of all descriptions throughout Ireland would be enhanced to the advantage of that entire community. He had felt it his duty to make those remarks upon the present stage of the Bill; but if he found, upon the third reading, that Lord Fitzgerald's award was not being loyally carried out, it would be his imperative, although reluctant, duty to oppose the third reading of the measure. He begged now to withdraw the Motion for the Instruction which he had placed upon the Paper.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Then, if the Motion is not moved, there is no Question before the House, and the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Gray) will not be entitled to continue the discussion.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Cork Butter Market Bill that they do provide that the Butter Inspectors shall not be accompanied by, or interfered with by, any Butter Merchant or Broker, or other person,
save and excepting the officials of the Market, during their inspection, and that the Trustees do frame by-laws to protect the Inspectors from all pressure and undue influence in the discharge of their duty."—(Mr. Moore.)
§ MR. GRAY
said, that when He first road the Bill he came to the conclusion that it would be something worse than useless. Although the Corporation of Cork deserved credit for introducing the Bill, it must be remembered that they had not taken the initiative in the matter; because, if they had not introduced a Bill, his impression was that the Irish Executive were pledged to bring in a measure dealing with the acknowledged abuses of the Cork Butter Market. [Mr. TREVELYAN dissented.] The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland shook his head; but although the words used, when the deputation, waited upon the Lord Lieutenant, might be looked upon as being of the usual common-place character—namely, that the matter was important, and required further consideration—the answer of Lord Spencer came very near to what he (Mr. Gray) had stated. Indeed, the matter was one of such paramount importance, that the Government would have felt themselves necessitated to deal with it if the Local Authorities did not. It was manifest that if the present Bill did not put an end to the abuses which were so loudly complained of, it would be better to have no legislation at all until the Government had fully considered the matter, and were themselves prepared to introduce a Bill. This was not at all a question in regard to which the interest was confined to Cork, or to those who used the Cork Market. The Cork Market was so important that it governed the price of butter throughout the whole of Ireland; and if the produce sent to Cork was depreciated, as it had been now for some years, it reacted upon the whole of the butter produced throughout Ireland. The consequence was that, unfortunately, Irish butter did not stand as high in the Continental Markets as it formerly did; and this was due, not to any deterioration of the produce of the dairy farms of Minister, but to the atrocious system followed in the Cork Market, which caused a competition downwards in the standard of Cork butter, rather than a competition upwards. This result was brought about 580 by the Inspectors being practically under the thumb of the brokers, and being compelled to put a higher standard upon certain classes of butter than they deserved. There were a great number of other abuses connected with the system, such as the fixing of an artificial price which did not represent the bonâ fide value as between the buyer and seller. That bonâ fide value was by no means fixed; but a lower price was fixed by the combination of the brokers than individual brokers would be willing to give for a certain quantity of the same article. He did not think he should feel justified in addressing the House further, seeing that the Motion was about to be withdrawn. The hon. Member for Clonmel (Mr. Moore), who had taken such a deep interest in the matter, was apparently satisfied with the concessions which had been drafted by Lord Fitzgerald. He (Mr. Gray) was by no means so well satisfied with them; but he had no objection whatever to the Bill going to a Select Committee; and he trusted that the Irish Members generally would watch, with a very jealous eye, the character of the provisions of the Bill when it emerged from that ordeal, and would resist the third reading, if necessary, unless the measure really provided thoroughly efficient safeguards to prevent a continuance of the present abuses, by which a few individuals had secured a profit for themselves, while the rest of the country had suffered.
§ MR. HEALY
said, he presumed, from the fact that the hon. Member for Clonmel (Mr. Moore) did not think it necessary to proceed with his Motion, it might be accepted as settled that the hon. Member considered that the second Amendment which had been drafted by Lord Fitzgerald would be satisfactory to all parties. Although he (Mr. Healy) was the first person to raise the question of the Cork Butter Market in that House, by means of a Question three years ago, he should be very reluctant to disturb the award which Lord Fitzgerald had made after so much pains and investigation, and disinterested pains and investigation on his Lordship's part. He thought the willingness manifested by his Lordship to meet the objections of the hon. Member for Clonmel (Mr. Moore) was a still further proof of the bona fides of the award, and the desire 581 of Lord Fitzgerald to carry out what was required for the good of the Market. He hoped that the Corporation of Cork and the Trustees of the Butter Market would now turn round and endeavour to put their house in order. There was only one point he would like to draw the attention of the House to with regard to the award, and it was that the whole of the better working of the Market would depend upon the character of the Trustees. If the Trustees were prepared to carry out Lord Fitzgerald's award in the spirit in which it was made, he had not the smallest doubt that the Bill would be a complete success; but he regretted to say that there had already been some symptoms of an attempt to rig the Board of Trustees, by putting upon it persons who did not represent the general voice of those into whose hands Lord Fitzgerald desired to place the election of Trustees. He wished especially to call attention to the fact that there was to be an attempt to put on the Board, as members of it, six Trustees nominated by the butter brokers, who really had no claim or title to be on the Board at all. When the Bill was before a Committee; whether, if unopposed, a Committee presided over by the Chairman of Ways and Means; or, if opposed, an ordinary Select Committee, he hoped the Irish Members would be induced to take care that the Trustees were elected by the unfettered voice of the general body. If brokers were to be the persons whose names were to be put into the Bill, or any attempt was made to put into the Bill, against the award, persons of a different class from those provided by the award, the Irish Members ought to resist it by every means in their power.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.