I propose asking the Committee to agree with all the amendments sent down by the Seanad.
Slaughter of Cattle and Sheep Bill, 1934—From the Seanad. - In Committee.
Including amendment 1?
That was a Government amendment.
I thought the Government amendment mentioned the year 1937?
I made a compromise on the three months.
I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 7:—
New section. Before Section 10 a new section inserted as follows:— 10.—(1) It shall not be lawful for any person to carry on in any premises or place whatsoever other than registered slaughtering premises the business of slaughtering cattle for sale for human consumption in Saorstát Eireann or the business of slaughtering sheep for sale for human consumption in Saorstát Eireann or the business of slaughtering both cattle and sheep for sale for human consumption in Saorstát Eireann.
(2) It shall not be lawful for any person to carry on in any premises or place whatsoever other than registered victualling premises the business of selling beef, veal, mutton, and lamb, or any of them.
(3) Every person who shall carry on any business in contravention of this section shall be guilty of an offence under this section and shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to a fine not exceeding £50 or, at the discretion of the court, to imprisonment for any term not exceeding three months or to both such fine and such imprisonment.
I should like to ask if this amendment is going to affect persons in country districts, who, as a result of the small prices obtaining for cattle and sheep, have begun on their own farm premises the slaughter of cattle and sheep and the retailing of the meat in the neighbouring towns.
No, this has nothing to do with that. As a matter of fact, although the Bill did lay down certain regulations with regard to people registering and prescribed penalties for contravention of the Act and so on, there was nothing in the Bill compelling a person to register before he can carry on business. This section does make it quite clear that a person in the business of slaughtering cattle or selling meat must be registered.
The section which the Minister proposes to insert here would appear to apply to a farmer who, on his own farm, had undertaken the slaughter of sheep, the treatment of the carcases as a butcher, and the retailing of the meat either to his neighbours or in some of the neighbouring towns. As that is so, a farmer would be prevented under this section from carrying on that business. I should like to ask if the Minister has taken that into consideration, and whether farmers, generally, who have undertaken, or whom the economic circumstances in the country may drive into undertaking, the treatment of their cattle in that particular way, will automatically get a licence to carry on both the slaughter of animals on their farm premises and the retailing of the meat?
I now see what the Deputy wants. As a matter of fact, we cannot refuse to register under this Bill.
But they must register.
They must register if they are in the business of slaughtering cattle, but a farmer who kills a sheep for his own use and who, perhaps, even sells a small part occasionally is not in the business of slaughtering sheep and he would not come under it.
Suppose he kills ten sheep?
I think he would then be regarded as being in the business and would have to register. He can, however, insist on being registered, as we have no power to refuse registration.
Do I take it now from the Minister that a farmer can slaughter a sheep and sell a little of it?
Will the same thing apply to a bullock or a heifer?
It depends on how the court interprets the phrase "the business of slaughtering cattle". He must be in the business of slaughtering cattle for sale, and I take it that if a man slaughters a bullock or heifer two or three times a year, he is not in that business.
If he slaughters a beast for sale, is he not in the business?
If he does it only occasionally, he would not be.
But the amendment does not say "occasionally". It says "slaughtering cattle or sheep for sale."
That is right.
If he slaughters one beast for sale and his premises are not registered, is he not in conflict with the Act right away?
That is true.
And, of course, the Minister is aware that there are other Acts governing slaughter houses. He cannot give a licence in respect of a ramshackle place for the slaughtering of animals. It is the local authority administers these Acts, and once it becomes a recognised slaughtering place under this Act, other Acts will start to operate by which certain requirements must be met, so that the Minister cannot say he believes that if a person slaughters ten sheep, he becomes a slaughterer of animals. It would be interesting to know at what point a man becomes a recognised slaughterer of animals. I take it from my reading of this that if he kills one sheep and offers one pound of it for sale, he is in the business.
What about killing the calves?
They are not saleable. I am talking about something that is saleable. You have to be paid for taking them away.
Quite possibly the term "the business of selling beef veal, mutton or lamb" will get them out of it. Even if he were to do it only one day it might be held by the court that it was not a regular business.
That is quite right. With regard to what Deputy Belton has said, sub-section (3) of Section 10 states that we cannot register unless the premises comply with all the relevant regulations and by-laws made by the local sanitary authority. He must comply with those first before we can register him.
Even if he kills only one beast he commits an offence under this Act. If he comes to you for a licence to kill you send him to the local sanitary authority. They prescribe certain regulations and he has to have a fully-equipped slaughterhouse.
That is their business.
Then, I submit that Deputy Mulcahy's question is very pertinent. This really precludes a farmer from killing a sheep, bullock, heifer or anything in the shape of beef or mutton for sale, however small the quantity.
We do not unless the local sanitary authority does it.
You want a certain thing, and having that certain thing brings into operation a volume of law over which you have no control and with which you are not concerned in this Bill. I submit that the effect of all the Acts if put into operation would mean that a farmer cannot kill a sheep and sell a quarter of it to his neighbour.
Does the Minister intend to see that the sanitary authorities will effectively administer this sub-section of Section 10? If he does, he will cut out a lot of the hawkers who may be entitled to licences under this Bill.
No; in some areas the local sanitary authority has no restrictions at all, but where there are restrictions they must prove to us that they have licences from the sanitary authority before we can register them.
I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 9:—
Section 12, sub-section (3). The words "been convicted of" deleted in lines 28-29 and the word "committed" substituted therefor.
Surely the Minister is not recommending this for our adoption? Who is to decide whether he has committed an offence? Most of the provisions of this Bill provide for dealing with offences in court and where they are not dealt with in court, I presume the Minister has not a second category in which he would file a number of commissions of offences for which people were not prosecuted? If it is to be amended in this fashion, it would follow that if the Minister kept a file of commissions of offences in respect of which no convictions in court were obtained penalties would operate which I do not think the Minister had in mind. I think the words "has been convicted of" were more in accordance with the general acceptance of a court decision than merely the commission of offences. I presume that quite a number of offences of one sort or another are committed in respect of which no convictions in court are obtained. Will it be considered then that if a complaint is made in respect of any departure from grace on the part of a butcher or farmer or any other person concerned in this Bill, or if there is a list on which there is a complaint regarding the commission of an offence, the licence will be withdrawn?
There is rather an interesting history connected with this section. In the Acts which dealt with agricultural produce—the Eggs Act and so on—passed by the previous Government, of which Deputy Cosgrave was the head, the wording that I am proposing to adopt now is the wording that was used. It is the wording in the Eggs Act, the Dairy Produce Act and the Fresh Meat Act. When the Cereals Act was being drafted, I told the draftsman that I thought that wording was too drastic and that I did not agree with the Cumann na nGaedheal Government in being so drastic. The draftsman changed the wording then to its original form here, in order to allow the courts to determine these charges, but, from experience, we found that the Cumann na nGaedheal Government were right for once, and we had to bring in an amendment to the Cereals Act to deal with the matter.
People who commit an offence under these Acts, and who are, perhaps, making a good profit out of it, are quite prepared to continue the offence while we are preparing to bring them into court, which takes about six months. They may make quite a lot of money in the meantime. We found from experience that we had to amend the Cereals Bill. It was amended in this House and even by the Seanad. When I explained the position in regard to the present Bill, the Seanad unanimously agreed that it should be changed. I thought that there was, perhaps, much more reason to have these drastic powers in the Cattle Bill than in any of the other Acts because any offence, if prolonged under this Bill, might have very disastrous consequences. Very big profits might be made from an offence under the free meat scheme for instance. The person who was committing the offence would probably have regard to the fact that it would take us some time to bring him into court, that there could be an appeal from the decision of the court, and possibly another appeal after that. He would probably calculate that it would take us six months to get the conviction we sought and in the meantime a lot of damage might be done. Under the next amendment, however, the Minister may hold an enquiry if he is requested to do so.
It might be better if the Minister, in considering a measure of this sort would remember the fact that this is a Bill of the Oireachtas as a whole and will be an Act of Parliament eventually, not an Act of either the Fianna Fáil or the Cumann na nGaedheal Governments. The whole of the Parliament is responsible for the Act. It is a responsibility that we all share and that we should shoulder. We have not got any of the Acts which the Minister mentioned before us at the moment, but I should like to see the particular clause in them on which the Minister is relying Certain businesess are being regimented under this Act and power is being taken to deprive a man of his business completely by an act of the administration—a political act. That is a very great power to take under any circumstances. I have very grave doubts that any such power was taken under the previous Acts. The Minister may at any time alter or cancel the registration of any premises. A man may have been in business for 40 or 50 years. He is suddenly called upon under this Bill to fill up a great number of forms. In fact his business premises becomes, as was said in the Seanad, something like a distiller's or a brewer's premises. If he makes a mistake in respect of one of these forms he has committed an offence. He may make one or two or three mistakes and the whole of his business may be destroyed. The only saving feature is that inquiry may be instituted, but let us understand about this inquiry. The Department which makes the complaint is the Department that is going to hold the inquiry. They are both the prosecutors and the judge.
Does the Minister say that there is no distinction between "an offence" and "convicted of an offence"?
There is a big distinction.
Who is to decide whether the alleged Act is an offence or is not an offence? I thought it was the courts decided that. If the Minister through his officials makes an order saying "John Brown has committed an offence; we shall cancel the registration of his premises," has John Brown no appeal?
Under what section?
Under sub-section (4).
Yes, but he will never get a chance of putting it before a judicial tribunal.
I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 18:
Section 23. A new sub-section added at the end of the section as follows:—
(5) When fixing a minimum price under this section the Minister shall have regard to the cost of production of the animals to which such price applies.
I should like to hear the Minister on this amendment. How does he propose to take in the cost of production?
I think, Sir, we had a great deal of discussion in this House on other stages of the Bill with regard to the basis on which the price is to be fixed.
The Chair has some recollection of the discussion.
My question was how the Minister would have regard to the cost of production, not as to the basis on which the price would be fixed.
By way of introduction, I was saying that there was a lot of discussion, both here and in the Seanad, with regard to the basis on which the price should be fixed and I tried to point out that the export price was going to rule the fixed price. The Seanad also asked me to have regard to the cost of production in fixing the price and I agreed to that.
Are we to take it from the Minister—and I shall be satisfied if he says "yes"—that in fixing his minimum price he will take into account the cost of production of beef and mutton? Will he give us the assurance that he gave on some stages of the Cereals Bill, that he would take into account the cost of production in fixing the price and leave a little margin of profit also for the producer? Will he adopt the same principle in fixing the minimum price for beef and mutton?
I am only asked to have regard to the cost of production.
Will the Minister do with beef and mutton what he said several times he would do with cereals? He has fixed the price of cereals. He is now going to use the cereals, the price of which he has fixed, based on the cost of production, plus a certain margin of profit. Is he going to use these cereals to produce beef and mutton at a price based on the cost of production, fixed by the price of these cereals, plus a margin of profit. If he says "yes" to that I shall be perfectly satisfied, but I say the Minister is a great man, a superman, if he is able to carry it out. Will he say "yes?"
I am afraid he cannot.
I am sure he cannot.
I am afraid I cannot earn the title which the Deputy has just promised me.
Not on those conditions.
This fixed price has to be based on the price ruling for export. It is possible the farmer may make huge profits under this system or it is possible that he may have losses, but as far as this Bill is concerned we cannot absolutely go on the cost of production.
The Minister adopted a very different attitude when dealing with the cost of production of cereals. He promised to fix a price, allowing a margin of profit. Is he not aware that beef and mutton are really the market for the cereals, and that the export price regulates the price of beef and mutton. Follow that back. The price of beef and mutton must regulate and standardise the price of cereals or the whole scheme cracks up. The Minister said that he cannot guarantee what I am asking him to do. I want to emphasise this aspect of the question. The Minister fixes the price of cereals at a certain figure in order, as he alleges, to make tillage pay. Will the Minister fix a price for beef and mutton that will pay the cost of the cereals used, the labour involved and leave a little margin of profit? If he does not do that, I say, without fear of contradiction, that the whole scheme of fixing prices for cereals and beef and mutton is a farce. Will the Minister fix a standard price for beef and mutton which will pay the cost of production and leave a little profit. Let us get away from Great Britain for once. The-export-market, according to the Minister, should not regulate the price of our beef and mutton. I suggest that the price is going to be regulated by the export market, "which has gone for ever, thank God." The British market will dictate in connection with all these matters the Minister has been talking of in relation to these two Bills. It is the British market price that is going to rule the price of our agricultural produce right down the line.
I am at a loss to understand why the Minister accepted this amendment at all. The Minister, evidently, intends to fix the price at the export price. Any regard the Minister will have to the cost of production will only arise if, by any chance, the export price is greater than the cost of production. In that event, the Minister might like to save money by reducing the price. Otherwise, the Minister's regard for the cost of production means nothing.
Is the Minister not going to explain whether or not he proposes to fix a price that will cover the cost of production and allow a little profit? Otherwise, what does he mean by saying he will have regard to the cost of production. Surely, the country is entitled to an explanation.
It must, of course, be taken into account.
Surely the Deputy himself knows what must be done.
The Deputy knows, but he is trying to educate the Minister and Deputy Davin.
If the Minister does not give a better explanation than he has given in connection with this matter, we shall have to delay him somewhat longer over this measure. The least we are entitled to is some idea of the price he is going to fix.
He does not know.
I do not think that there is much use in trying to explain to Deputies opposite the principle on which prices are fixed. I have explained it on several occasions and any person taking an interest in the Bill who wanted to understand it would understand it by now. The price must be fixed on the export value. As this Bill is framed, we cannot fix it otherwise. Whether we can raise the export price by other means, is another question but the price must be based on the export value. As regards cost of production, when that amendment was being inserted, I told the mover and the Seanad, as a whole, that I was quite prepared to have regard to the cost of production but that I did not see it could in any way influence the fixing of the price under this Bill.
The cost of production cannot influence it?
The cost of production cannot influence the price of beef and mutton? It is the export market that standardises the price for our beef and mutton both inside and outside the country. The Minister now accepts that. That is what we have been trying to convince the Minister of both on this Bill and on the Cereals Bill.
It is different in the case of the cereals.
Because there is no export of cereals.
Beef and mutton are the export of your cereals. Have you not got that in yet? Cattle, pigs and poultry are the market for our cereals and the price of poultry, eggs, beef, mutton and pork standardises the price of cereals precisely as the export market standardises the price of beef and mutton. The Minister has admitted that he cannot have regard to the cost of production in fixing the price of beef and mutton; that he must base his standard price on the wholesale price. We agree, and we are glad the Minister is learning. Similarly, he cannot have regard to the cost of the production of cereals. The price of cereals is based on the price of beef, mutton, eggs and poultry and the price of these is, in turn, based on the export market. Carry that down the line and we find that the price of beef, mutton, eggs, poultry, pork and cereals, except the amount of cereals used for human consumption, is based on the export market.
The Deputy has got away from the amendment.
I am trying to show the Minister the absurdity of his statement, in the one case, that he will standardise the price according to the cost of production, allowing a little profit, and, in the other case, that he cannot standardise the price according to the cost of production, the commodities in the first case being used for production in the second case. I say that he must start at the final market for his finished article and that all the raw materials down to the bottom must be regulated on the market price which, in these cases, is the world wholesale price.
The Deputy may not urge the standardising of prices on this amendment.
I have said what I wanted to say. If I have been out of order, I am sorry.
If the Minister is interested in easing the situation in respect of cattle and fixing the price, why not communicate with the British Government on a subject which has no relation to the dispute whatsoever. The Ottawa agreements had nothing to do with the dispute. Under the Ottawa agreements, New Zealand was entitled to export 400,000 cwts. of frozen or chilled beef to Great Britain in 1933. She actually exported 700,000 cwts., which is, probably, the equivalent of 50,000 head of cattle. This year she is exporting to Great Britain the equivalent of 100,000 head of cattle. Why not ask them to keep to their agreements?
We did ask them, but they would not keep them with us.
Ask them to keep them with the others.
The others will look after themselves. If we got a little more help we might be able to do something. There are people in this country more interested in the others than they are in our side.
Can you not do your own job?
The people will know more when they have finished with the Minister.
When you block a few more railway lines it will teach them. I am trying to get some of the Deputies opposite to understand that under this Bill the price must be fixed on the export value. If you want that price raised, it is a different matter; that must be done by bounties or something else like that.
Does the Minister not think that it deserves to be raised?
That does not arise under this Bill.
That is another way of putting it off.
Will the Minister indicate in what way we have interfered with him in getting the price?
The Minister will not do so.
The Minister has made a statement which I say is not true, and I am giving him an opportunity of explaining.
Supposing we have no export, how does the Minister propose to fix the price?
We will being in another Bill then.
I am afraid you are going to live on Bills.
Question agreed to.
I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 19:—
New section. Before Section 26, and in Part V, a new section inserted as follows:—
26.—(1) Every registered proprietor of registered victualling premises who procures the slaughter of any cattle or sheep in any premises or place whatsoever other than registered slaughtering premises shall be guilty of an offence under this sub-section.
(2) Every registered proprietor of registered victualling premises who buys the carcase or any part of the carcase of any cattle or sheep slaughtered in any premises or place whatsoever other than registered slaughtering premises shall be guilty of an offence under this sub-section unless he proves that he did not know or could not reasonably have known that such cattle or sheep (as the case may be) had been so slaughtered.
(3) Every person who is guilty of an offence under either sub-section of this section shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to a fine not exceeding twenty-five pounds.
The first impression one gets after reading this amendment is that it is out of order. If you look at the Title of the Bill, you observe that it is an Act to make provision for the regulation and control of the slaughter of cattle and sheep for human consumption.
The Deputy is aware of the fact that the Ceann Comhairle has no jurisdiction in the matter of amendments sent down from the Seanad.
I quite understand. Anyhow, that was my first impression. If the Minister means the case of an animal damaged on a railway line or on the road—that it cannot be slaughtered on the spot—it is ridiculous. Surely it is not intended that animals when injured should be brought to a slaughterhouse to be slaughtered? This amendment runs: "Every registered proprietor of registered victualling premises who procures the slaughter of any cattle or sheep in any premises or place whatsoever..." Surely it is not the Minister's intention to prevent the slaughter of injured animals except in a slaughterhouse? As I read this amendment, that is what it would seem to mean. If the Minister means that registered proprietors cannot slaughter and sell ordinary cattle for human consumption, that ought to be stated. This is open to two or three interpretations.
I think the Deputy might have read the Title in full, but that point has been ruled out. This new section applies to a victualler getting cattle slaughtered in a non-registered premises or a premises removed from the register. It compels him to get the animals slaughtered on registered premises. Section 25 (3) provides for cattle that are suffering pain caused by injury or disease and, if they are slaughtered in order to avoid unnecessary suffering, they are exempt. There is provision there for exempting cattle injured or suffering from disease.
Will the Minister observe this, that that refers to individuals, but this specifically precludes persons who are registered proprietors? In the other case it is a person who has not a licence, but in this case it would appear that a proprietor of a registered victualling premises cannot do it. Why were the words "for human consumption" left out of this? I take it that is what was intended. Those words are in practically every other part of the Bill. The Seanad put in quite a number of amendments, I suppose on the Minister's suggestion regarding that point, and I would like to know why the words are left out of this. Was it simply through inadvertence?
A registered person would not be getting cattle slaughtered except for human consumption. This means a registered victualling premises, and I do not see why we would want to slaughter cattle and sheep except for human consumption.
In furtherance of the point raised by Deputy Cosgrave, suppose a farmer has a beast that gets badly injured and has to be slaughtered on the land, this practically precludes the farmer from selling the meat. It very often happens that there are accidents to cattle, and immediate slaughter is necessary if the flesh is to be preserved for food.
He can do that under Section 25 (3). This relates to a registered premises.
The Minister will note that under Part III, though there is a reference to registered premises, it is set out that the cattle are to be slaughtered for human consumption. Why is it left out of this? What is the reason for all the amendments if it is not necessary to have the words in this section?
It never struck me that an ordinary butcher would get the cattle slaughtered for anything else but human consumption.
Is the Minister quite certain of that? If the butcher gets an animal affected with tuberculosis, is that slaughtered for human consumption?
Portions of it would not be fit for human consumption.
Notwithstanding what is in this section it would appear that a butcher can still go to a farmer and slaughter an animal there if necessary or buy the beast that has to be slaughtered. In the circumstances I think a portion of this section could well have been deleted because it would have the effect of annulling the provisions of another section.
Question agreed to.
I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad amendment No. 20:—
New section. Before Section 28 a new section inserted as follows:—
28. —(1) Every person who shall carry by land or sea for reward any animal which is being or is intended to be exported in contravention of an export prohibition order shall, if such carrying is done in the course or for the purpose of the exportation of such animal, be guilty of an offence under this section, unless such person proves that he did not know and could not reasonably have known that such animal was being exported in contravention of such order.
(2) Every person who is guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on summary conviction thereof, in the case of a first offence to a fine not exceeding twenty pounds, and, in the case of a second or any subsequent offence, to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds.
I think this imposes unnecessarily heavy restrictions. The Minister has never given us any sound reasons why he should restrict the export of cattle at all. The real trouble is that we cannot export enough livestock. I do not think he has fully explained to the House why these restrictions should be imposed.
I think this matter was very fully discussed when the Bill was before the Dáil. I refer to the reasons for restricting the export of cattle and sheep. There are penalties here for a person contravening an export order. There is no reason why the carrying company should not be held liable for a contravention of the section.
I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 30:—
Section 37, sub-section (6). A new sub-section inserted before the sub-section as follows:—
(6) Whenever the Minister lends money under this section, he shall, within one month after making such loan, cause to be published in the Iris Oifigiúil a notice stating the fact of the making of such loan and also stating all material particulars of such loan.
The Minister proposes to give notice in Iris Oifigiúil of moneys lent under this section, but he takes power to vary the terms under which the advances are to be paid in future. He also takes power to compound for in respect of moneys already lent. Are we to understand from the Minister that it is proposed, where money has been lent, that all the details will be inserted in Iris Oifigiúil, but that when the terms are varied in respect of any transaction there will be no notice in Iris Oifigiúil as regards that; and that when moneys lent are compounded for there will be no notice in Iris Oifigiúil? It would seem as if the insertion in Iris Oifigiúil is intended to be a record of the circumstances under which money was lent under this section, and it should also be indicated when there is a change in the terms under which the money is repaid, and when moneys lent are compounded for.
I have been advised that I am bound under this section also to insert in Iris Oifigiúil variations of the rate or terms.
I move that the committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 43:—
New section. Before Section 48 a new section inserted as follows:—
48. —(1) It shall not be lawful for any person who is not for the time being a recipient to apply for or to receive a beef voucher.
(2) Every person who applies for or receives or applies for and receives a beef voucher in contravention of this section shall be guilty of an offence under this section and shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to a fine not exceeding two pounds or, at the discretion of the court, to imprisonment for any term not exceeding fourteen days.
I would like to hear from the Minister the reason for putting in this extraordinary new section. The Bill provides that a recipient, as defined in Section 39, is a person who is in receipt of unemployment assistance or home assistance, or of both such unemployment assistance, or and outdoor relief. The amendment provides that it shall not be lawful for any person other than those in receipt of home assistance or unemployment assistance to apply for any of the free beef which it is proposed to distribute. These people are going to be liable to a fine of £2 or imprisonment not exceeding 14 days if they do so. When this part of the Bill was discussed in the Dáil previously, the Minister appreciated the fact that there were people, other than those in receipt of home assistance, whose condition would entitle them to unemployment assistance, and who might be in such circumstances as would warrant them receiving some of this meat. The Minister accepted an amendment that made it possible to extend the provisions of the Bill to persons other than those mentioned. Surely the Minister does not mean to suggest that in any area where people are in poor circumstances the very fact of applying for some of the free beef should render them liable to a fine not exceeding £2 or to imprisonment.
There is a clause in the previous section under which the court may impose a fine not exceeding £5 or imprisonment on any person who shall be guilty of bartering the beef vouchers. I suppose the normal distribution of this beef would be about three lbs., which would be worth about 9d. or 1/-, as was stated in the Seanad. Under that section a person would be liable to a fine of £5 for an offence committed under it. In the majority of cases the persons receiving this meat do not understand the law, and it would be a hardship if they were to be hauled before a court for a technical offence. How does the present amendment affect a recipient? He must make an application at some time. Surely it is not intended to debar any persons who might apply. I take it it is not the Minister's intention that such persons would be liable to a fine of 40/- for making application. Will the fact of applying qualify for prosecution? Surely not. If persons who think they are entitled to beef vouchers make application, does that render them liable to prosecution? I do not think that was the Minister's intention.
There are only two classes who are recipients but, under Section 39, the Minister may by order include any other classes. Sub-section (2) says:—
The Minister may, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, at any time by order declare any particular class or description of necessitous persons to be recipients for the purpose of this part of this Act....
If there is any other class, whoever they may be, in need of free meat they can be made recipients by order, and once they are recipients they are entitled to the meat.
My point is that the Minister cannot get any information that would enable him to take a decision under sub-section (2) of Section 39, except people go to where the beef vouchers are given out and ask for them. There is an implication that there are other classes than those receiving home assistance and unemployment assistance who might be entitled to free beef, because of their circumstances. If these people exist, the natural way they will show up is by approaching those who have the giving out of the beef vouchers. The Minister proposes to put a section into the Bill now which would make persons who make such an approach guilty of an offence and liable to a fine.
Arising out of Deputy Cosgrave's remarks, it is quite obvious that a person who thinks he is genuinely entitled to free meat, and who applied to the relieving officer or the unemployment officer and is told he is not entitled, would not be guilty of an offence. As the Bill stood, supposing a person did succeed in getting a voucher from, if you like, some corrupt officer, nothing could be done to him without having this section in the Bill. Such an officer might do a very big trade in the giving out of beef vouchers to people who were not entitled to them. As Deputies will realise, it is not always possible to catch the persons at that stage. It may be only possible to catch them actually coming in and applying for the vouchers. It is useful, therefore, to have the power even to bring them to court for applying for the voucher when it is plain that they knew they were not entitled. As to the classes referred to, the necessitous people who are as badly off as those in receipt of home assistance or unemployment assistance, who genuinely come along asking to be included, I am sure no District Justice would inflict a penalty on such people. It is only where there is fraud intended.
Assuming what the Minister says is correct, let us go a step further. A corrupt officer advises, let us say, me to apply, and I apply, having been told by that officer that he will give it to me. I am the person who is punished, while the person really responsible is the officer.
We can deal with him apart from this Bill.
If you have not got some means of dealing with him in this Bill, I doubt very much that you can deal with him under anything else. This is not co-ordinated with the poor law—it is something over and above it—unless amendment No. 34, which deals with the Minister for Local Government and states: "if made with the concurrence of the Minister for Local Government and Public Health may impose on relieving officers and assistance officers the duty of distributing beef vouchers to recipients who are in receipt of outdoor relief or home assistance," covers it. I have very great doubt that it imposes anything else but that duty. The Minister is responsible for whatever other duties he performs in connection with poor law administration, but this is not poor law. It is not co-ordinated with the Poor Law Acts. If the real sinner in the case is the official, I do not believe you will be able to catch him under this.
The Minister intimated that he did not really mean the penalty for the persons who apply— that he really intended it in the case of officers who were themselves committing offences.
I did not say that.
In any case, as far as officers are concerned, the only officer who would be likely to bring to the Minister's notice that a certain person had applied for beef without being qualified would be an officer who is doing his duty. Therefore, the officer would not do it in any case. That is beside the point, however. When we were discussing the Bill some of us on this side of the House suggested to the Minister that there were other classes outside the two classes mentioned deserving of free beef and the Minister said that he would make provision for it. He stated a moment ago that he has taken power to include any other classes. Until he does that certain people will be in a very dangerous position. Somebody suggested that the recipients of relief from the St. Vincent de Paul Society should be included in this Bill. They are not so far. Until the Minister does declare them one of the classes that come under the Bill the mere fact of any of these people applying to anybody for free beef or for any of the other purposes dealt with by the Bill will make them liable to a fine of £2. The Minister may take a long time to define them. Until the Minister sets up something that they will come under any unfortunate person who applies to anybody for free beef is liable to a penalty of £2.
If you can get a District Justice to take that view he is, but you will not, I am afraid.