Supplementary Estimate. - Noxious Weeds Bill, 1936—Final Stages.

I move amendment No. 1:—

In page 3, at the end of Section 2, to add a new sub-section as follows:—

(5) Every order made by the Minister under this section shall be laid before Dáil Eireann as soon as may be after it is made, and if a resolution annulling such order is passed by Dáil Eireann within the next subsequent twenty-one days on which Dáil Eireann has sat after such order is so laid before Dáil Eireann, such order shall be annulled accordingly but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done under such order.

This is the usual amendment as to laying Orders on the Table, which I agreed to bring forward at this stage at the request of some Deputies.

Amendment agreed to.

Dr. Ryan

I move amendments Nos. 2 and 3:—

2. In page 3, line 19, Section 5 (1), to delete the words "within a time", and substitute the words "in such manner and within such time as may be".

3. In page 3, line 23, Section 5 (2), to delete all from the word "in" to the word "land", and substitute the words "therein have not been destroyed in accordance with such notice".

These amendments are slight alterations with regard to the method of serving notices that weeds must be destroyed within a certain time and by a certain method.

The notice in this case does not come before the Dáil?

Dr. Ryan

No, only the Order; but the Order, of course, must specify the weeds that can be named in the notice.

What is now aimed at is the destruction of such noxious weeds in such manner as may be specified. Surely that is a completely new matter to introduce at this stage? Previously, the situation was that, on notice being given, the person had to destroy in whatever manner suited him and pleased him best. All that was incumbent on him was to keep within a certain time limit. It is now proposed that not merely must he destroy within a certain time limit, but according to instructions as to destruction given to him. Is that not a substantial matter to bring in on the Fourth Stage of a Bill?

Dr. Ryan

I do not know that it is substantial in effect. It may theoretically be substantial but, in practice, the weeds have always been destroyed by cutting, and it might arise that a person had destroyed weeds not by cutting but by some other method that would not be considered satisfactory.

If it turns out not to be destruction, is he not liable?

Dr. Ryan

There might be considerable difficulty in arguing a case in court as to whether they were destroyed or not.

As the Bill stood, an Order was made for destruction which had to be complied with inside a certain period. A man might adopt his own methods of destroying these growths. If it did not appear to the Department or to the Minister running this Bill that he had made destruction according to the Act, the Minister had to bring him to court, and then the decision lay with some judicial person as to whether destruction, in the proper sense and application of this measure, had taken place. The Minister now wants to ease himself in regard to these matters and to say: "I order you to destroy by a specified method". Surely that is a substantial matter to raise at this stage of the Bill? Was this matter raised on Committee?

Dr. Ryan

No.

It is a completely new matter. As the Bill stood, an Order for destruction was made, and, if a person did not comply with it, there was liability. Surely that is enough penalty to impose upon people? The object of this, I understand, is wholly good, but why not leave it to prosecution?

Dr. Ryan

Does the Deputy think there is anything to be gained by preserving in the Bill a position under which a person who is just seeking to make trouble can come along and argue that he had actually destroyed weeds when he had not?

He will not make much trouble if the court decides that he has not, in fact, carried out instructions. You can easily kill that sort of noxious person by one court prosecution.

Dr. Ryan

We can, but why should we have prosecutions if they are not necessary?

Because that is what the courts are for—to stand between Ministers making arbitrary rulings outside their power and the citizen.

Dr. Ryan

Yes, if there was any point in the Deputy's contention.

The net point between us is that it is clear that people want to give somebody authority to order the destruction of weeds that are called noxious. I understand this Bill met with general approval. Power is given to the Minister to prescribe what are noxious weeds and, once he so prescribes, the growth, whatever it is, stands as a noxious weed. It then comes to the serving of notice for their destruction. As the Bill stands, if a person does not destroy within a certain time he may be prosecuted. That is surely a secure position for the Ministry to have. They have the power to prescribe what is a noxious weed and then to serve a notice saying "Get that destroyed," whatever the term may mean, inside a certain period. At the end of the period, if there has not been what they think is destruction under the terms of the Act, they can prosecute. That is the position as it was, and I think it is a sound, good and very secure position. The Government want to go a bit further and to order not merely destruction, but destruction in a specified way, and that is the way which they will prescribe by private notice to the individual. The House will have no say in that order. Is there not something to be said for a court, and for leaving other people to decide whether a prosecution lies or not, and whether, in fact, an order has been obeyed achieving destruction? It is not worth having a fight about, but I do not see any reason for it. Is it being pressed?

Dr. Ryan

I can foresee a considerable amount of trouble on a court being asked whether the weeds were destroyed or not. After all, they must be destroyed within a certain time. As far as I can recollect, weeds are always destroyed by pulling or cutting. A person might say that he sprayed, which might have the effect of reducing vitality for the time being, but there could be a long argument as to whether the weeds were destroyed or not.

And an independent person will decide. If an independent person decides that there has been destruction within the meaning of the Act, why do you prescribe the form? That independent outside judicial authority may say that there was destruction and that the notice was complied with. Some other Minister might have a fad for spraying.

Amendments agreed to.
Question—"That the Bill, as amended, be received for final consideration"—put and agreed to.

Dr. Ryan

If there is no objection, the Final Stage might be taken now.

Agreed.

Question—"That the Bill do now pass"—put and agreed to.