Committee on Finance. - Slaughter of Cattle and Sheep (Amendment) Bill, 1936—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. It is provided, Sir, in the Slaughter of Cattle and Sheep Acts, 1934 and 1935, that the Acts will expire on 31st December next. The Acts were designed to provide additional outlets for surplus stocks of cattle which had accumulated as a result of adverse market conditions. One such outlet was afforded by the provisions, firstly, in Part IX of the Principal Act for the distribution of beef free, and later, in the Amendment Act, for the sale of beef at a prescribed price, to recipients. Considerable reductions have been made in stocks as a result of improved markets, and the steps taken under the Acts, and the necessity for the beef distribution scheme as an agricultural measure has to a great extent disappeared. Power is, therefore, sought to enable the scheme to be determined at any time before the 31st December, 1936, if the Executive Council so decide. I might mention, in passing, however, that although the necessity for the distribution of cheap beef or free beef has disappeared as an agricultural measure, a new scheme was foreshadowed by the Minister for Finance, in his Budget speech, under which meat will be distributed more as a social measure when this scheme is discontinued.

With the cessation of the beef distribution scheme, the operation of certain other Parts of the Principal Act which are complementary to Part IX may also cease; for instance. Part II, registration of premises; Part III, levy on cattle and sheep slaughtered for home consumption; Part IV, restrictions on the slaughter of cattle and sheep, and Part V, restrictions on the price of cattle and sheep. Similar power of determination is sought regarding these Parts and also regarding the provisions —with the exception of Section 17, which dealt with the manufacture of meat—of the Amendment Act of 1935, which are either amendments or extensions of the powers given under Parts II, III, IV, V and IX of the Principal Act. Section 5 of this Bill preserves the power to institute proceedings and to continue proceedings already taken and to recover levy which may have become due at the expiry or at the cesser by Order of the Executive Council of any part of the Principal Act or any provision of the Amending Act.

Under Parts VII and VIII of the Principal Act agreements have been made with the Roscrea Meat Company, Ltd., and the Irish Co-operative Meat, Ltd., of Waterford, for dealing, in the first case, with old cows, and, in the second case, for canning meat and the manufacture of meat extracts and so on. These agreements will not expire in the case of Boscrea, until 1939, and in the case of the Waterford Company until 1940, and it will be necessary, therefore, to continue in operation Parts VII and VIII of the Principal Act. It is proposed in this Bill that these Parts, and Section 17 of the Amending Act which amends Part VII of the Principal Act, shall remain in operation until the Oireachtas otherwise determines. It is proposed also to retain the powers, given in Part VI of the Principal Act, to restrict export of cattle and sheep. These powers have not been used, but it is felt that it might become necessary, owing to the changing conditions in continental markets and so on, to use these powers at any time. The inspection powers sought in Section 7 of the Bill are required for the purpose of ensuring that persons will not carry on the manufacture of cattle and sheep products without a licence under Part VII of the Principal Act.

I do not think the Bill requires any further explanation. Whatever views Deputies may have on it, the Bill is at least rather simple to follow and to find out what the provisions are. I should like however, to give some few figures on the working of these Acts since they first came into operation. It was estimated that a sum of £100,000 would be payable in respect of levy during the financial year, 1934-35. This was a slight over-estimate, the actual figure being £98,328. During that period the numbers of animals slaughtered were: Cattle, 58,878; calves, 2,292; sheep, 157,345.

In the following year it was estimated that we would have an income of £285,000 from the levy, but this was also an under-estimation to the extent of £9,000. In the financial year 1935-36 there were 167,839 cattle slaughtered, 9,503 calves, 469,691 sheep, and 59,433 lambs, for the year. With regard to the elimination scheme of old cows which were sent to the factory at Roscrea, the number of cattle collected from 29th July, 1935, to 31st March, 1936, was 23,344, and the number collected in this financial year, from 1st April, 1936, to 27th June, 1936, was 10,524. The total to the end of June was 33,868. The Waterford canning factory was in operation to some extent during last winter, but not to the full capacity, and dealt with 2,347 cattle. Of course that factory is capable of dealing with very many more cattle in future, but a great deal will depend on the relative price of cattle, the demand for canned beef, and the price of meat extract. It will be dealing with more cattle this year, but at present it is hard to say what the numbers will be. It is rather a seasonal business in this way, that cattle are not suitable until July or August, and only suitable then up to the month of January. Under the free beef scheme for the financial year 1934-35 we distributed 10,745,044 lbs. of beef at a cost to the Exchequer of £173,629, and for the financial year 1935-36 we distributed 19,675,145 lbs. at a cost to the Exchequer of £301,380. That is a summary of the figures dealt with under this Act, and I have only to say that it is hoped when this Bill goes through the Dáil to determine some parts of the Principal Act by August 1st. It may be possible to discontinue the levies from that date. From that time it will be possible to discharge part of the staff and to transfer the permanent officers from that business into other Departments where they may be required, so that a considerable saving may be made in administration during this year. There will be no change, practically, in the amount of meat that will be distributed under the new scheme as compared with the present one, and it is estimated that it will cost in or about the same amount in future. That is, the cost of the meat will be the same, but it will have this very big advantage, that the cost of administration will be considerably less.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 14th July.