I move amendment No. 1:—
In page 3, line 39, to delete the word "one" and substitute the word "two."
This amendment merely effects a change in grammar.
I move amendment No. 1:—
In page 3, line 39, to delete the word "one" and substitute the word "two."
This amendment merely effects a change in grammar.
I move amendment No. 2:—
In page 4, line 38, to insert after the word "sale" the words "eggs sold but not delivered,".
There are two points in this. I think as the section stood, if an inspector were to go into a shop and point to a certain lot of eggs saying, "look at these," the shopkeeper might say that those eggs had already been sold to some customer but not delivered. The amendment is just to cover a possible evasion in that way.
Why do you put in "but not delivered"? Why do you not simply say "eggs sold"? Suppose an inspector comes into my store and I say: "Those are not my eggs at all. I have sold them to Patrick McNulty, and he took them, but just left them in again. I did deliver them, and I am just obliging him." Why do you want to say "but not delivered"? If the eggs are in a man's store I think he is liable for them.
I will examine the matter again. I think perhaps another amendment may be necessary on the Report Stage.
The Minister can change it on the Report Stage?
Does not this go substantially beyond the existing position? I do not think there was an obligation on us heretofore to employ nobody except a person who had a certificate from the Minister. We were urged to employ only such persons, but if there were good men available who had never taken the examination or never applied for the certificate they could earn money at this job too. Is it not rather harsh, considering the conditions under which the trade is normally done, that those individuals must go through some from of examination, or that it should be in the power of an inspector to put a fellow out of his job? Surely, if you are going to settle the responsibility on the registered dealer or the exporter, it is up to him to determine whether a member of his staff is inefficient or not, and power should not be handed over to a Government inspector so to say?
Under the 1924 Act there was no such provision, but under the 1930 Act that was one of the principal provisions brought in—that the proprietor himself or the person employed by him must be competent, proficient, and so on.
That is all right. I do not mind saying that there must be some such competent person in the store.
The position is exactly the same as it is here. We have not gone further than in the 1930 Act.
The section says that no person shall be deemed for the purposes of this Act to be skilled in the business of testing, grading and packing eggs, unless he holds a certificate or has satisfied the Minister that he is so skilled. Does that preclude him from working in a store and earning his living at packing eggs?
No. The manner in which this would be administered is that the person who has been carrying on and recognised up to this will, of course, continue to carry on, but it has been the practice for a few years that no new person is allowed in without a certificate. That certificate is got by attending classes arranged by the Department and sitting for an examination.
That practice is being continued.
I think I passed the examination myself.
The Deputy would not have the slightest difficulty. It is an easy examination.
I was very proud of myself when I got the certificate.
I move amendment No. 3:—
In page 5, to add a new sub-section as follows:—
(2) Nothing in this Act shall prejudice or restrict the powers conferred on sanitary authorities by or under the Public Health Acts, 1878 to 1931.
This was put in at the request of the Minister for Local Government, who thought that perhaps he would not be sufficiently safeguarded by the section as it stands. It is just to ensure that there will be no interference with the public health law.
I move amendment No. 4:—
In sub-section (1), page 5, to insert after paragraph (a), line 36, a new paragraph as follows:—
(b) by delivering the document to any person, of not less than 16 years of age, who is in the employment of the said person; or
The principle here has been adopted in many Acts. It was not put into the Bill as originally drafted. I think that all those Agricultural Produce Acts passed within the last four or five years at any rate contained this provision, in order to prevent the proprietor of a premises from evading the inspector any time he might come along, so that he would be able to say no document had been served on him. This amendment provides that when the proprietor is not there the document can be served on whoever happens to be in charge of the premises at the time.
Is not the original paragraph (b) a sufficient safeguard?
I am afraid not.
It is not a matter about which I would care to kick up a fuss, but if documents out of which statutory offences can arise are going to be served on those people, precautions ought to be taken to ensure that the people do in fact get the documents.
I quite agree.
Suppose an inspector comes into my establishment and hands a document of that character to a lad of 16 or 17 years, who is a messenger in my employment, there is no guarantee as to what will become of it.
I quite agree, but I think the Deputy will agree with me that where there is no attempt to evade accepting the document of course the document will be served on the proprietor, but we do not want to be put in the position of taking months and months to find the proprietor on the premises.
Paragraph (b) entitles you to go to the premises and on failing to find the proprietor to walk straight away to the local post office, put your notice in a registered envelope, and address it to the proprietor at his registered address.
That is so. I quite admit that. Perhaps neither the Deputy nor I have in mind the little details that are important. Very often when an inspector calls he has with him one of those loose-leaf books on which he writes a direction in regard to some small matter which he would like to have put right. He likes to hand it to the proprietor before he leaves the premises. I suppose when he goes back he has other things to think about than the posting of that document to the proprietor. Perhaps it is as well that he should serve it on somebody before he leaves the premises. It is not a big point, and I can assure the Deputy that it is not going to be abused.
If the Minister presses for it I will not divide the House, but I would sooner he did not press for it. I do not think it is in any other Act.
Oh, yes; I think it is in all the other Acts. I am positive, anyway, that it is in some of them. I remember having the point discussed here before.
I will not press it further.
I move amendment No. 5:—
In sub-section (1) (b), page 5, line 37, to delete the word "registered".
The word "registered" is being taken out here because there are cases where notices are sent out to proprietors giving them some new regulation with regard to stamping or dating, and so on, and in sending out a very big number of notices like that—for instance, to the collectors of eggs, where the number may run up to 2,000 or 3,000— it is an immense job to register all the letters, and I think it is quite sufficient that they should be sent out by post. As a matter of fact, I am told that in the Interpretation Act the sending out by ordinary post is interpreted as being the serving of a document. I should say, perhaps, that in practice if it is in regard to a serious matter such as threatening a man that we will withdraw his registration, we make full sure that he receives the document before we do anything serious.
May I congratulate the Minister on the fact that he has not legislated in this case by reference. He has repealed the two Principal Acts and re-enacted.
It would be much more satisfactory if we could always do it.
I entirely agree.
I move amendment No. 6:—
Before Section 11, page 6, to insert a new section as follows:—
(1) Notwithstanding the repeal by this Act of the Agricultural Produce (Eggs) Act, 1924 (No. 35 of 1924), an annual fee under Section 9 of that Act shall be payable in respect of the period beginning on the 1st day of January next before the commencement of this Act and ending on the day before such commencement by the registered proprietor (within the meaning of the said Section 9) of every premises which are registered in the register of exporters under that Act during the whole or any part of the said period.
(2) Every fee payable by virtue of the next preceding sub-section of this section shall—
(a) be payable to the Minister, and
(b) be calculated in accordance with Section 9 of the Agricultural Produce (Eggs) Act, 1924, as if the period mentioned in the said preceding sub-section were a year, and
(c) shall become due immediately upon the commencement of this Act and shall be paid not later than one month after such commencement, and
(d) may be recovered by the Minister from the person by whom it is payable as a simple contract debt in any court of competent jurisdiction.
(3) Every annual fee which became due under Section 9 of the Agricultural Produce (Eggs) Act, 1924, on the 31st day of December next preceding the commencement of this Act shall, if not paid before such commencement, be payable in accordance with the said Section 9 (notwithstanding the repeal thereof by this Act) and shall be recoverable by the Minister from the person by whom it is payable as a simple contract debt in any court of competent jurisdiction.
(4) Sub-sections (5) and (6) of Section 9 of the Agricultural Produce (Eggs) Act, 1924, shall, notwithstanding the repeal of that Act by this Act, continue in force for the purposes of all fees which are, by virtue of this section, payable under the said Section 9 after the commencement of this Act.
Supposing this Act were to come into force on February 1, any fees due to the 31st December would be collectible because the present legislation would be in force, but any fees due in the interval between the coming into operation of the Act, would not be collected because there would not be any legislation available. This provision means that anything due in the interval would be collectible within the month.
Is it proposed to allow the orders to lie on the Table?
I am not sure. I can have an amendment brought in, if necessary.
I refer to the revocation order in sub-section (2) which gives the Minister power to amend.
Section 4 (2) provides for all orders being laid on the Table.
It covers all the orders envisaged in Section 11.
Under this section every egg dealer has to pay the Minister a fee.
He will have to pay a yearly fee. It is not a fee on the trade done.
What is the amount of the fee?
£1 a year. At present he pays one penny per 30 dozen but, under the new regulation, it will be threepence.
The fee was one penny on a case of 300. That sounds very little, but if the amount is increased to twopence now, it means in the case of an egg wholesaler handling, say, 450 cases a week, an increase of nearly £2 a week. That is a lot of money in such cases. I wonder if Deputies realise the margin of profit made by egg wholesalers, and the amount of eggs that are lost. I should say that three weeks out of ten there is a loss on the shipping of eggs, and during the remaining weeks the wholesaler hopes to make up the loss. The wholesaler thinks himself lucky if he makes a net profit of two- pence or threepence a case on cases that might be worth 27/-. If selling 300 eggs of all types at 9/-, after debiting overhead expenses, he might only make threepence a case. Of that threepence, one penny is going to be taken away now. While it seems very little, taking the average wholesaler in the country, the question is: how many of them are making £4 a week? How many people handling 450 quarter cases are making a net profit of £4 a week? A fee of twopence a case represents £4. Of course it will be said that the wholesaler passes the charge on to the producer. It is not so easy to pass it on to the producer. I should like the Minister to explain why he wants this extra penny to be levied. I assure the Minister that if he looks into it from the point of view of the weekly charge, rather than from the microscopic point of view, the charge is going to amount to a big thing to a man in a small way. What is the urgent necessity for doubling the fee?
The principle has been adopted in all the Agricultural Produce Acts by which a certain amount, roughly, 50 per cent. is contributed by the produce, and the other 50 per cent. by the State for the cost of administering the Act. That is how this scheme is being carried on.
Are we to assume that the expense of administering this Bill will be twice as great as the expense of administering previous Acts?
It will be. It is altogether in connection with inspection.
I had 80 inspectors on my premises in one day, including the warble fly inspector, and also the inspector over the warble fly inspector. The pair arrived the same day. I am out of the egg trade now.
If they were not doing that, what would they be doing?
They would be doing what they ought to be doing, shipping the eggs and showing they know something about the business, working at the ports and turning the eggs out in proper condition for the foreign market. That would be a damn sight better than poking their noses into their neighbours' business.
I expect the Minister to advise us if there is enshrined in any of these sections a revolutionary departure from the Acts in which they have appeared heretofore.
These particular sections we are dealing with now are practically re-writing the old ones.
Does the Minister take any new powers under that section?
No, I do not think so.
Surely it is a new power to say that the Minister has power to withdraw the licence if, in his opinion, the registered proprietor has done anything prejudical to the reputation of Irish eggs? Do you mean to say that if I have a licence to export eggs and rise in this House and say that the rubbish that is being dumped in Manchester at present is a scandal that my licence may be withdrawn on the grounds I have said something prejudicial to the reputation of Irish eggs?
The Deputy would be privileged in the House.
I might turn to the Chair for protection but suppose I said that at Carrickmacross or Castleblayney could the Minister hold under that section that I had done something prejudicial to the reputation of Irish eggs and withdraw my licence? That is surely taking wider powers than he has had heretofore.
I think the Deputy should read the whole paragraph:
...in the case of premises registered in the register of wholesalers, that the registered proprietor has caused or knowingly permitted the marks placed in pursuance of this Act on any eggs, or on any package of eggs, exported from the said premises to be altered (whether in or outside Ireland)——
——or has in any other way acted, in relation to eggs or packages of eggs so exported, in a manner which is, in the opinion of the Minister, prejudicial to the reputation of Irish eggs.
Yes, but in relation to the packages.
I remember telling the Minister on one occasion that the wood which he prescribed as being proper wood for packing eggs was bluemoulded and had bluemoulded the eggs, that it was a public scandal, and that the condition of the eggs delivered into the Glasgow cold stores was notoriously scandalous. I was then a registered egg exporter. Could the Minister withdraw my licence on the ground that I had done something which was prejudicial to the reputation of Irish eggs?
If the Deputy had been right, I should have lost my licence.
I was right. Let us not be drawn into acrimony, but surely that is too wide a power.
The Deputy knows very well that is not the case. It means that if in the act of exporting his eggs he does something prejudicial to the reputation of Irish eggs.
That is not in the Act, Sir. What it says here is:
...or has in any other way acted, in relation to eggs or packages of eggs so exported, in a manner which is, in the opinion of the Minister, prejudicial to the reputation of Irish eggs.
The Minister has under the Act power to make any regulations he likes from time to time. He can make any regulation controlling the export of eggs, lay it on the Table, and it has statutory effect as from the date it lies on the Table, and yet he wants power to withdraw the licence from anybody who acts in a manner which is, in the opinion of the Minister, prejudicial, not to the eggs, but to the reputation of the eggs. That is going too far.
He must act, remember, not talk.
I know. Surely that is going too far. That was not in the previous Act.
That was not; that is true.
It ought to come out. That has been put in by some zealous bureaucrat in Government Buildings who is sick and tired of wrangling with solicitors and who wants a blunderbuss to level at the head of anybody who dares to assert his statutory or constitutional rights. That is what that is. If any man says, "Summon me to court." He will say, "If I cannot catch you under paragraphs (a), (b), (c), (d), (e), (f), (g), (h), I will catch you under (i). Because all I will do is to produce a certificate from the Minister that you have acted in a manner which is prejudicial to the reputation of Irish eggs." That ought to come out, Sir. I do not want to stickle over details in a complicated measure of this kind, but that is bad principle and ought to come out and I would be glad if the Minister would signify that, if I put down an amendment for the Report Stage to delete the words after the brackets in line 32, he will consider accepting it.
Very well, we will discuss that on the Report Stage.
Will the Minister not agree with me that an omnibus clause of that kind, when he has the power to makead hoc regulations is undesirable? The Minister is not going to exercise that power; it is some individual inspector down the country.
Oh, yes but the Deputy must remember that the Minister does always come into it when there is cancellation of a licence.
That could be used as a threat down the country. It could be used as a threat to any citizen of this State. In fact, it operates to take away all his rights because, if he presumes to meet the Minister in court he will be met by paragraph (i).
I can assure the Deputy that no notice ever went out threatening to withdraw a licence that did not come before me.
I can assure the Minister that many inspectors came into me and tried to put one over on me and discovered that they could not.
But the ordinary statutory threat to withdraw must come from me personally.
But do you imagine the inspector never threatens to withdraw?
That may be. Whatever the Act is he can do that.
I was in the position to say to him, "You cannot; I am within the law." If this provision had been there he could have said, "But you are not within the ambit of Dr. Ryan's bosom, and he does not love you, and he may declare that you have said something in respect of the packages or done something in respect of the packages of the eggs which, in his opinion, was prejudicial to the reputation of Irish eggs." If I were Minister for Agriculture it might just as well be said that Mr. Dillon availed of that provision to take the licence from Fianna Fáil supporters. That is not a desirable position. I believe in giving the Minister the widest scope in such a highly technical and complex measure, to make regulations subject to their being subsequently corrected by Parliament, but I do not believe in blunderbuss sections of that kind and, remember, that section will be quoted as a precedent to us in a variety of other statutes if it is passed now. It ought to come out. It is not necessary.
I suggest we might discuss it on the Report Stage.
I know, but I suggest you might give me some undertaking I am giving you lots of co-operation.
I admit that. I want to consider it further.
These are all similar regulations to the ones in the Principal Act, aren't they?
(1) Any inspector shall be entitled at all reasonable times to enter any premises registered in a register kept in pursuance of this Act or in respect of which an application for registration in any such register has been made, and there do all or any of the following things, that is to say:—
(a) inspect all or any part of such premises and the equipment, appliances, and fittings therein;
(b) observe all or any of the processes of testing, grading, and packing eggs conducted on such premises;
(c) examine all or any eggs, packages, and packing materials on such premises, and take reasonable samples of all or any of such eggs, packages, and packing materials;
(d) search for and inspect eggs on such premises;
(e) require the registered proprietor or any person employed by the registered proprietor on such premises to furnish the inspector with such information as the inspector may deem necessary for the purposes of the administration of this Act.
I move amendment No. 7:—
In sub-section (1) (e), line 33, after the word "Act" to insert the following proviso:—
provided that nothing contained in this section shall require a person to furnish the inspector with information tending to incriminate such person.
The wording of the proposed amendment, I think, ought to convey pretty clearly the defect which it is intended to cure. In other legislation objection has been raised by members of this Party and the suggested amendments have been accepted on the lines, for instance, of the Shop Assistants Bill. I think it is wrong for an inspector to be given the power to compel a person to give such information as is likely to incriminate himself, and I hope the Minister will accept the amendment for that reason. I would point out that amendments of the same kind have been accepted by other Ministers in connection with legislation of a similar nature.
Again, this is practically a redraft of the section we have been working on since 1924, and I do not think it has ever been abused, because an inspector would be very foolish to abuse that. The courts naturally will not convict. In fact, they would be very prejudiced against any case if they found the inspector had tried to incriminate a man on his own word and, of course, the higher authorities in the Department and the Minister would be naturally against the inspector trying anything like that because, if for no other motive, they would not get a conviction. The courts would not give the inspector a conviction if he tried to incriminate the man on his own word. It would make it extremely difficult, on the other hand, to administer this Act if that amendment were put in, because the proprietor, if he is any sort of a smart man, will probably inveigle the inspector into asking him a question which would incriminate him, and the case would be dropped if it came before the court. I think the Deputy would be better advised to leave it as it is. I am afraid we would almost have to give our inspectors a legal training if that amendment were put in.
If an officer or a member of the Guards cannot exercise power of this kind in dealing with proposed criminal proceedings and cannot ask a person to incriminate himself, why should a civilian inspector attached to a Government Department be given such power?
What happens if an officer of the Guards does do that? He does not succeed in court, and the same would apply to the inspector.
Is the Minister giving an undertaking that what I am suggesting is not likely to happen?
We will instruct the inspectors not to do that; they would not get any conviction if they do.
Have you the powers under paragraph (e) of Section 26 all the time?
We have. It is practically the same. I do not know that there is really any change. I remember comparing those sections and they were practically the same all through.
Am I to take it the necessary instructions will be issued to the inspectors along the lines mentioned by the Minister?
Yes, you may.
On the section, it seems to me to be a power which should not be vested in any inspector, to require the registered proprietor or any person employed by the registered proprietor of a premises to furnish the inspector with such information as the inspector may deem necessary for the purpose of the administration of this measure. It is bad enough to give a junior inspector of the Department of Agriculture the right to walk in and ask certain questions, with full statutory authority to prosecute the persons if he fails to answer them; but it is worse to give him power to go to a man's servants and apply the interrogatories to them, and it is still worse to vest the discretion of a junior inspector with full statutory effect. Remember it is any question that he thinks and not any question that the Minister thinks. This applies to any young lad going out as a new inspector, and perhaps appointed the day before yesterday. If he thinks it necessary for the due administration of the Act, it becomes a statutory offence if a man does not answer. Does the Minister not think that that is going a bit far?
I think the general principle remains that if the proprietor refuses to answer a question which he thinks is altogether unreasonable and if the inspector went to the court, the district justice is certain to stand by the proprietor if the question is unreasonable. I think from experience that the district justices do always give the benefit of the doubt to the person who is against the Government, whoever that person may be, and there need be no fears whatever that this thing is going to be used in an unreasonable manner. The real difficulty arises when you start limiting the inspector. The proprietor may get a legal tag that he will catch on to and when a proprietor goes to the court he will prove that this person has no right to ask such a question and the case is dismissed.
I do not want to be considered offensive, but does the Minister realise what he is saying, that the important thing, when drafting, an Act of this kind, is to strip the citizen of all his rights?
I did not say that.
That is what it amounts to. What the Minister suggests is that if you try to limit the inspector the registered exporter raises some legal quibble in court, proves the question to beultra vires, and upsets the prosecution. Is not this what the Constitution was written for, that I have certain rights which may not be taken from me?
Try to avoid quibbles if you can.
Surely that is for the judge to determine, whether I am quibbling?
And if you want to override any personal right which I enjoy, there is machinery at your disposal. There is a certain right vested in the citizens, but if, in the interests of the public, it is necessary to override that, the Minister may present, a Bill or an order for that purpose, and he may challenge a debate upon it. What you must not do is to delegate that immense power to a young chap whom you appoint an egg inspector, power to be exercised 24 hours after he is appointed. The Minister says that if the registered exporter is brought into court, the district justice will take a very lenient view. I do not like being brought into the District Court. I do not enjoy having to apply to a district justice of this country to take a lenient view. I do not want any leniency from any district justice. I want the letter of the law, and I want to know what my legal rights are. If an inspector calls on me, I want to receive him with civility, and go the limit of his jurisdiction.
I want to know my rightsvis-a-vis that inspector, and I want to know his rights vis-a-vis me. I do not want to be told, if he thinks it is expedient in any given case to sweep away my constitutional rights for the due administration of the Egg Act, that I commit a statutory offence in refusing to agree with him, and I must apply for leniency to the district justice if the inspector prosecutes. Surely that is not right. Surely individuals have some right as against the Government. We all know where this section comes from, and I sympathise with the man who wrote it, some exasperated permanent official who has got two or three bad upsets in the District Court, who is trying to persuade the Department of Finance that the legal costs were not excessive, and who is determined the next time he throws his lasso that he lands his man. That is just what happens. I can see the unfortunate man imploring the officer responsible for this Bill to insert this paragraph, and licking his chops anticipating the time he meets the next cute attorney down the country. It is great fun for the official and for the cute attorney, but between the upper and the nether mill stones the unfortunate individual will be crushed. I look upon this as an unnecessary intrusion, and it ought to be withdrawn.
I withdrew a previous amendment because the Minister said that if it were inserted it would upset the whole administration of the Act. The administration of this will depend, largely, on the experience and judgment of the inspectors. If you have inexperienced men—and I suppose a lot of them will be inexperienced—if you have the busybody type, they may bring a person into court on a very flimsy case. As Deputy Dillon says, it is no satisfaction to go through court proceedings, and even, in the end, if you find a district justice on your side, you will be put to unnecessary trouble all the same. There ought to be some method of meeting reasonable objections of this kind. That was the reason I put forward the amendment.
I quite realise that. I think Deputies ought not to argue this matter so much from the point of view of theory. They ought to have some regard for realities. They know there is no junior inspector connected with any Department who can bring a person into court on his own initiative. The action must be sanctioned by a higher officer and a case will not be permitted unless there is some justification for it. Deputy Dillon says he knows what happens here, and he painted a very fine picture of the man who failed in actions in the court and who put forward these proposals so as to get his man some time or other, and they find their way into a Bill. Of course that is all nonsense. I might as well suggest to the Deputy that the exporters, or importers, or dealers, got on to him and put their viewpoint before him.
There is no use in arguing in theory about this measure. Of course every citizen has his rights and we do not alter the Constitution for the purpose of a Bill like this. We think that if any cases go to the court they should be argued on their merits before the district justice. The fundamental right of the citizen will remain in any case, whatever we do here.
It appears to me to be a bad thing to make the refusal to answer a question asked by a minor official of a Department in this State a statutory offence.
The Deputy knows that in practice that is not going to be brought into court.
Then why is it being put into the Bill?
Inspectors are human beings. Take potato inspectors. Does the Minister get reports about what potato inspectors are doing down the country? Is he aware what happens in the country under these Bills? Deputy Dillon has mentioned about these young men who write reports from the country and we all know what happens. I was down in the country during the harvest and I heard there what some of the young inspectors said. I knew a case where the inspector described potatoes that he was shown as potatoes that came out of a black scab area. He made most violent threats against the farmer. If he made them against me I would take very drastic action against him.
That would be illegal.
It would be illegal. I have known cases where the inspector is sent down and he asks what sort of potatoes are these, and then he threatens the farmer with all sorts of things. I do not want to restrict the powers of inspectors, but there are inspectors and inspectors.
Amendment No. 8 covers amendment No. 9. We may take No. 8 and No. 9 together.
I move amendment No. 8:—
Before sub-section (2), page 15, to insert a new sub-section as follows:—
(2) Whenever the registered proprietor of registered premises desires to make structural alterations in those premises, he may apply to the Minister in the prescribed form for the approval thereof in accordance with this section, and the Minister shall, as soon as may be after the receipt of the application, intimate in writing to such registered proprietor his approval or disapproval of the proposed alterations.
I think this amendment covers the point raised by Deputy Davin in amendment No. 9. The point of Deputy Davin's amendment is that a person might make structural alterations and find when these structural alterations were completed that they were unsuitable or insufficient and that they would have to be pulled down again. However, it is no harm to put in the amendment I am moving. In practice we have always done this. The proprietor would be sensible enough to consult one of the senior inspectors before involving himself in any expenditure. We are now putting it in the Bill so that the Minister will have the right to get the opinion of the inspectors.
The Minister has not given any opinion as to what is the meaning of the words "as soon as may be——" There should be some reasonable period.
The Deputy put in a period of 14 days. In my amendment it is "as soon as may be". That is the usual thing in Government Departments. It will be as soon as possible. Naturally it will not be delayed, because the inspector will be pressing the matter.
What is in the Minister's mind? The Minister would not deny a statement made by any Deputy that some Government Departments are very slow in giving decision.
In most cases this will be done inside 14 days.
That is what is in the Minister's mind, anyway.
What does the Minister say "as soon as may be" would mean in the matter of time?
Deputy Davin put in 14 days, and I think 14 days would be quite sufficient, but a certain case may arise where, for one reason or another, there might be large delays. I think it is unwise to be tied to a time limit. The inspectors would be pressing those people to make alterations.
Would the Minister consider the difficulties of the proprietors if they are held up?
I do not think they will be held up beyond 14 days.
The proprietor might require information very speedily.
We will not delay him unduly.
I move amendment No. 10:—
In sub-section (2), page 16, line 7, to delete the words "or a registered dealer".
I think the powers sought by the Minister in this section so far as they apply to registered dealers are very severe and likely if enforced, or if the Minister gets the power to put the Bill through in its present form, to drive the smaller dealers out of business. This might be all right in the case of the wholesaler, but the Minister is going farther than he intends in seeking to extend this section to registered dealers, to prevent registered dealers from doing any kind of business except in connection with the administration of the measure. I think the Minister should look into this and say whether he intends to drive people now in the business out of business or else confine them solely to this particular side of the trade.
This is a very drastic sub-section. Of course, the Minister can give his consent to carrying on the business, but again you introduce this question of influence and pull, and the torturing of the Minister by politicians and so on. I think that is a power that should not exist, and I think the House should agree that this part of the Bill cannot be operated so far as the local merchant is concerned who is carrying on this as a collateral part of his business. All these types of shop are a part of the machinery for the selling of eggs. You cannot get a small shopkeeper down the country in a business purely confined to eggs alone. It would not pay him. In the second place, suppose that such a man applies to the Minister. In that case, perhaps, somebody may object to him and, on the other hand, somebody may support him, and again the wangling goes on. I think that this business of the permission of the Minister should be done away with. The Minister knows that it is the local grocers that carry on this business. It can be said, of course, that a man could have the egg-packing business away from his premises—in his yard, for instance— but that is not right, because anything in his store or yard is legally part of the premises. I think that sub-section should be modified.
I don't think the Deputy is right about the matter of the premises. The premises need not be a separate building. What I have in mind is that a man can carry on his ordinary grocery or hardware business, or whatever it might be, and that if he had a separate room, under the same roof, but preferably with a separate entry, for the egg business, that would cover the point.
Does the Minister know the conditions under which a country shopkeeper carries on his business?
Indeed I do. I was reared in the country just the same as the Deputy was, and I know that it is not unusual to have a separate room. You cannot have this business properly carried on if it is to be mixed up with paraffin oil and so on. I say that a separate room under the same roof will be sufficient, and that it can be regarded as separate premises. Perhaps that clarifies the matter for Deputy McMenamin.
No. If it is within the same curtilage, within the yard, or within the walls, no court of justice would listen to you on that point. That is the real weakness here. I am anticipating that the eggs will be packed in a loft or a store of some kind out in the yard. That might not matter so much, because the eggs would be collected in a van out in the country and taken into the store. The point, however, is that the moment that is done, even though the eggs are in a store outside the shop itself, they are legally within the premises. That is my objection. What the Minister has in his head is quite simple, I know, but it is not law.
We are making it law. This House can make the laws.
You are making it law, but it is not the law you intend to make. What you intend is to make it the law that he can pack in any premises other than the shop.
But you are not doing that, because the moment you do that it is legally within part of the premises. It is the same premises, and no district justice would listen to you for a moment if it were contended that that was not part of the same premises. Take the licensing laws. I do not know whether the Minister has any experience of them or not, but does he suggest that if he is caught in the stable or the yard of a public house he is not on the licensed premises? Of course he is, Even if you are in the stable with a horse, you are on licensed premises.
I was never as bad as that.
Well, it does not matter. Perhaps it is absurd and extreme, but it is the law, and I am only pointing out what the Minister is doing here.
It may be bad law. I cannot help that. The point is that it is the law. I think the Minister should modify this, because what will happen is that, if we let these things go through this House an inspector will go down the country and stand on his rights, and if you go to court the district justice will say: "That is the law, and if you object to it you must go back to the Legislature, but it is not for me to make the laws." How many times do you not see that kind of thing happening? The district justice says: "That is the law and I must administer it; go back to the Legislature if you want the law changed."
Does anybody in this House seriously believe that the average small shopkeeper in rural Ireland is in a position to provide separate apartments to accommodate the few dozen eggs he takes in the course of the day in his business?
I said one compartment.
What is he going to do? Is he to put the aspidistra in his parlour somewhere else?
Only one compartment is necessary.
Surely the Minister has been in small shops in rural Ireland. He knows that there is generally the kitchen and the shop in front, and perhaps there is a parlour, bedroom, and so on. Where will the man put the eggs? Will he put them in the parlour? There may not be a parlour. Will he put them in the bedroom or the kitchen? Where does the Minister expect the man to transact his business? Does he expect him to build a new apartment? If he does, he is going to put that man out of trade. If these regulations are to be enforced, the small shopkeeper will be put out of trade. You are going to have a development here of the Danish kind, of which I do not approve. I know, of course, what is in the Department's mind. They want to make the collection of eggs a separate thing from the distribution of merchandise. They want a man either to be in the egg business or in the general grocery business, and they are leading up to segregating the two business to a point in which it will become virtually impossible for anybody in a small way to engage in this business. I admit that there is a good deal for that point of view. I admit that it is arguable, but I think that there is a good deal more to be said against that point of view. I think the Minister does not realise what this means, or else he is not telling the House. Surely he must realise that the powers given under this sub-section are all designed to make it impossible for the small shopkeeper to handle eggs? Does he agree with that?
I do not.
Is not that the Minister's policy?
Surely to goodness I made it perfectly clear, when replying to Deputy McMenamin, if Deputy Dillon was listening to me. I said that we must have a separate compartment.
Yes, that is so.
Well, the Deputy need not ask what I meant by that. We must have a separate compartment, but I said to Deputy McMenamin that it may be under the same roof of the shop. Deputy McMenamin says that I might find myself in the stable with the horse. That does not arise at all. I hold that —whatever the rule may be about publichouses or anything else—as long as we keep within the Constitution we can make our own laws here as far as premises are concerned.
But you have not defined them in the Bill.
We have. If the Deputy will go back to the definitions, and put them all together, perhaps he will find we are all right. I quite admit that what Deputy Dillon says is right; there may be cases of a very small shopkeepers where the amount of business they are doing in eggs would not pay them to construct a separate premises for the business. That may be, but Deputy Dillon started off by saying that I ought to beware of the people in the egg trade, and that I thought of nobody except those in the egg trade, and did not think of the producers at all. Now, in every amendment that is brought in here, his one concern is to save the exporter a certain amount of trouble, or to save the dealer a certain amount of trouble. If we do that, we cannot do anything for the producer, and that is the end of it. I think if a man is doing a trade in eggs, he can either acquire a room and have it fitted up properly, and have it registered as a premises for the egg business, or build another room if it is worth his while. If he is doing a good business in eggs, I presume it would be worth his while.
Deputy McMenamin said the Minister should not have discretion to allow them to use that premises for other purposes. I cannot oppose that very strongly. Personally, I find that those discretions which the Minister has are a nuisance, because, as Deputy McMenamin says, when a person writes up and wants permission to do something, he points out that the Minister has the discretion. It is really a nuisance. I will tell the House why it is put in, and if the House wishes me to bring in an amendment to take out that discretion, I am quite satisfied when, I know what the position is. The position put up to me is this: take the small man again. He sets a room aside for the egg business, and he does that egg business for perhaps seven or eight months of the year, and not for the remainder of the year. He engages, say, in the poultry trade at Christmas, and if there is no discretion there, we come along and say: "You must not use that room; you must get another room for your poultry." We may find it impossible to give permission, in a case like that, to a man who is not using his premises for eggs at a certain time, to use them for a purpose of that kind. I do not know whether I could mention anything else; poultry is the only thing I have in mind. Certainly, there is no question of using that discretion to say to any shopkeeper: "You can carry out your egg business in the shop without constructing a separate room." The only question is to allow them to use a room or premises, which they might have for the egg trade, for another purpose at a time when they would not be in the egg trade, that is, at a slack time.
All I want the House to do is this: to act with their eyes open. I do not think the Minister is treating us as ingenuously as he might. I think the Minister has a studied purpose. Why does he not say it quite plainly? That purpose is to put the small man out of the egg business, and to leave nobody in the egg business who is not going to be primarily an egg merchant. All I want the House to understand is this: if you are going to do that, you are going to make a revolutionary change in the rural system of economy, and I do not believe half of them know what is the significance of that. I do not think they are even adverting to it at all. I want them to advert to it because they are going quite casually to do something which will have very considerable repercussions on the everyday life of the people. I should say that seven out of ten of the existing small shops which provide an outlet for eggs at the present time will go out of business now. They will have to, because it would not be worth their while to build a new room and equip it to meet the Minister's requirements. That means that a woman living in Tibohine may have an outlet for her eggs because there is a man living near her who finds it worth while to build that room or house. But take the case of a person living in Redbridge who normally dealt with a cross-road shop, and that cross-road shopkeeper drove his cart into the town twice a week and bought supplies and sold the eggs. That woman in Redbridge hereafter will have four miles to walk into the town to dispose of her eggs. If you think that is the right thing to do, well do it, but do it with your eyes open. You are going to make a fundamental change in that woman's whole way of life. You are going to do something else. That small shop depends for its existence on the fact that the woman in Redbridge can dispose of her eggs there. If she has got to come into the town to dispose of her eggs she will buy her requirements in the town. That is into my barrow. That is worth £1,000 a year to me. If you drive all the people around Ballaghaderreen into the town of Ballaghaderreen it is worth a lot of money to me, because I will get their custom, but it is not fair in my judgment, because you are going to destroy a number of small shopkeepers who are half farmers and half shopkeepers—people of the kind we all know. You are going to take their livelihood away from them. I do not think you are right in doing that. I think you are making a mistake, the same kind of mistake as you made when you tried to put trawlers on the sea instead of inshore fishermen.
It is an absolute misrepresentation to make such a statement.
To say that we put trawlers on the sea instead of inshore fishermen. We put trawlers to help the inshore fishermen. However, we cannot discuss that here.
What I am trying to say is that there are a lot of occupations in this country which are really half time. The economy of the rural area depends on people dividing their time between two occupations. Destroy one and you reduce them to the level of peasant penury. They raised themselves from peasant penury by keeping a little shop, doing a little fishing, or by having some little ancillary occupation. Do not destroy that. If the House makes up its mind that it is for the common good, that that should be swept away for this new state of affairs, that is the business of the House. But do not sweep it away without adverting to it. There is no need to quarrel about this. We may differ on fundamentals without getting vexed, but I ask the Minister, if a stipulation is made for regulating egg dealers by requiring them to have a separate room and putting them on anything like a parity with the standard required of the wholesalers, does it not occur to him that seven out of 70 shops of the roadside character will chuck the business?
I will deal with the Deputy's point later. Does the Minister think that the majority of small wayside shops are going to build a special room for this business?
80 per cent. of them have a room already.
A separate room for the egg business?
Yes, they can provide it.
There is no use arguing on that basis, because we are not agreed on fundamentals.
Deputy Dillon seems to think that if these people had to build a room the sale of eggs is going to disappear. I do not agree with that.
I did not say that.
I believe the Minister intends to have this Bill administered in such a way, as to make it possible, in future, for the wife of the farmer or the agricultural labourer to sell eggs for cash, and to get a better price from whatever egg dealer is in the district, rather than, as in the past, having to bring in eggs and sell them at a lower figure, in order to get tea, sugar and other necessaries.
That abuse does not exist.
Probably there is a different system in some parts, but if the Deputy knew the country as a whole, he would know that that has been going on.
I want to see egg producers getting a better cash price, and I want that policy developed in other directions, as far as farmers are concerned, because it is the only policy which will make farmers independent, and not dependent, as in the past, on the goodwill of some local trader or pawnbroker. While I am with the Minister in pressing for a rigid enforcement of the section as it stands in the case of all new dealers looking for registration, I think rigid enforcement of the measure, worded as it now is, would have the effect of driving some small business people out of the egg trade. I am at one with the Minister when he says that he is not going to allow licences to be issued to old or to new dealers who store eggs where petrol was previously stored.
They could not do that.
The Minister mentioned when dealing with an amendment that that kind of thing has been going on. It has been going on to the knowledge of some Deputies. All kinds of commodities are stored in one room in some small shops in country districts. Deputy Dillon knows that.
I never saw anyone storing eggs with paraffin oil.
I do not think it is reasonable for the Minister to expect a man dealing in eggs in the country to provide a small room for storing eggs. I do not want to have the power that the Minister asked for enforced in such a way as to drive out of the egg business existing traders who are prepared to comply with the reasonable requirements of the Bill. It is a reasonable requirement to see if a small room could not be specially set aside for the proper storing of eggs, apart from other commodities sold on the premises, or that are likely to injure the selling price of eggs on the home or the foreign markets.
The Minister and the Deputy appear to be overlooking an important point. The Minister talked about the provision of a room for eggs. I know of people engaged in the egg trade who could not possibly provide an extra room, for the simple reason that their premises are so situated that there is no space on which to build. The houses are so small that they could not afford to give one room for that purpose. From the discussion that took place it seems to me that they may be driven out of business. If that is so it should be stated. There is no use pretending that these people will comply with such a requirement because, in many cases, it is impossible to do so. Deputy Davin wants to ensure that producers will get better prices. It seems to me to be a new way of ensuring better prices by reducing competition. That is what is going to happen. If this section is enforced, it will mean in many cases giving a complete monopoly in the egg trade to one buyer in a district covering a wide area. I am not dealing with the type of shop referred to by Deputy Dillon, the roadside shop. I refer to the ordinary country village where the small shop is generally hemmed in on both sides of the street, and where it would be utterly impossible in many cases to provide a separate room for eggs. I think the Minister will agree with me there. The other point is that this Bill may succeed in reducing producers to the position that there will be only one buyer in a district. I do not know if that would be desirable. I think it would lead to much greater abuse than Deputy Davin had in mind. Speaking for the part of the country that I know, I do not think the system of barter that the Deputy spoke of exists. As far as I am aware people take their eggs and sell them at the highest price in the shops and, on being paid in cash, purchase groceries. What Deputy Davin mentioned may prevail in other parts. I am sure the Minister appreciates the fact that many people engaged in the egg business, even with the best desire to provide an additional room would, if compelled by law, find it impossible to do so.
What do they do with the eggs now?
They have them in the shop with other commodities.
What do they do with them?
Do they sell wholesale?
If they do not, then they do not come under this at all. I think there has been confusion about this matter.
The Minister knows that there are shops that buy eggs and sell some to the public, and utilise the balance for trade. That balance may not be sufficiently great to enable them to become wholesalers. There is that type of person.
Then they have to store them.
The type of persons I refer to are numerous, and if it was impossible for them to provide rooms, they would have to go out of business.
Deputy Davin should realise that the vast majority of people in the egg trade are in it as a sideline, and that grocers must buy eggs if they are to retain their trade. If a country woman goes into a shop with a basket of eggs, and is prepared to barter them for a certain price, it is on the understanding that she is going to buy groceries. That is different from the position mentioned by Deputy Davin. In order to secure the order for tea and sugar, the shopkeeper must be prepared to give a good price for the eggs; otherwise the owner would go elsewhere. In other words, she is going to use the order she places in the shop as a lever to force the shopkeeper to pay a good price for the eggs. Under this Bill, that type of competition is going to be done away with. Such competition was healthy, and was necessary in the interests of the producers of eggs. If you are going to do away with that competition, all I can say is that it is typical of the policy of the Government Party to destroy any competition without hesitation. You cannot have healthy trade and good prices for produce if there is not competition. This is a matter that should receive serious attention. The business done by the type of dealer to which I refer would not be sufficient to justify him building a separate room for the handling of eggs, but the bulk of the eggs come through those people in the first instance before they go to a wholesaler. Then they sell back again for local consumption, and anything that is left over and above goes to the wholesaler. It is through that type of people that the eggs are bought from the producer in the first instance.
And get the bad name, too.
If you insist on this section, you are certainly going to eliminate a great deal of competition.
If an ordinary shopkeeper in any provincial town can sell 40 dozen eggs in a week to a customer, he is not coming under the scheme?
Under Section 28, if there is a small shopkeeper concerned who buys the eggs in a small little shop, he packs those eggs into a special egg case and they may be stored in a clean part of the house. In the majority of cases—90 per cent. of the cases—they are properly stored in these registered places and, in the ordinary way, taken to the wholesaler. I come from a county where there are at least 60 registered shopkeepers, and in general the quality of the eggs, as far as cleanliness is concerned, is well up to the standard and the responsibility of receiving those eggs from those small shopkeepers rests with the registered proprietor. If he accepts any eggs that are not clean he is responsible at the port and when the eggs are being shipped. I think the small shopkeeper will be badly treated under this section of the Act. I agree with Deputy Dillon and Deputy Morrissey that these people ought not to be put out of existence. In regard to Section 48—that section, too, will be more or less on the same lines as far as the purchase of eggs is concerned. In the purchase of eggs under Section 48 I take it that those people who do business on the road may do the ordinary travelling business on the road as far as groceries are concerned, and it may be they will have to have a separate lorry for the eggs.
Do I take it that in the ordinary way they can carry on as usual, that is, buy and sell off the same lorry?
As long as he packs the eggs in proper packages it does not matter.
On the same lorry?
If they were to be put out of business it would certainly be drifting very much towards monopoly. If the eggs had to be put on a separate lorry, apart from the lorry used in the ordinary way, he would be put out of business, because no trader could afford to use two lorries —one for the sale of goods and the other for the collection of eggs.
A point I raise has quite a different aspect from what the other Deputies have put. What I fear is this—I only want the Minister to get his legal adviser to look into it —I am thinking of competing merchants. One man has registered premises, and he has quite an efficient storeroom, a place to which nobody could take exception, but not a separate premises. A competitor wants to put this small man out of business because he is using a room in the house for storing the eggs. The Minister is quite prepared to give a licence as long as he has a room apart from the room in which the oil and all the other things which are sold in the shop are kept. But what I feel is that some competitor will come along and say that, under the law of property, that place is not a separate premises, that it is part of the house, and he institutes proceedings on the grounds that he is carrying on egg dealing in premises in which he is carrying on other business also, that is to say, in a room in the same house. What I fear is that if that case went to the court, the court would have to hold that that room in the same house was part of the premises, and he will get an order condemning it. The Minister registering it looks at it from a different angle. This is another angle, getting an outsider in through the back door to put a person out of business.
I think that perhaps if the Deputy would read Section 12 it will make it more clear.
I would like the Minister to see whether his definition would cover that.
I want to answer first of all the question raised by Deputy Davin. We cannot, I beg to assure Deputy Davin, make any distinction between existing dealers and newcomers. We do not know who they are. They were not registered up to this. If we had a register of dealers under the old Act we might be a bit more easy on them than we would be on those who are coming in now. I think that Deputies, however, are giving a little bit too much importance to this section. I think the majority of these shops the Deputies have spoken of are shops taking goods from their customers and selling retail. As a matter of fact if they do otherwise they are a nuisance. That is all. They are the very type of people who are ruining the egg trade. Take the grocer who takes in five or six dozen eggs and he hopes to sell them to his customers on a Saturday and he does not sell them, and on Monday or Tuesday sells them to a wholesaler.
I am coming to a bit of nonsense from the other side. I am just saying those are the people that we do not want to have any regard for whatever. Deputy Dillon and Deputy Morrissey tried to put me in the position of saying that I am out to kill the retail trader. I say that unless the retail trader carries on his business in separate premises, he cannot go on in the egg trade. I do not see why, in a Bill like this, Deputy Dillon and Deputy Morrissey could not forget about politics for a while. What good is it going to do? They tried to get me to say, "Yes, I am going to destroy the retail trade of eggs," and then Deputy Dillon would go down the country and quote this to his constituents, that I was out to destroy the retail trade of eggs. What I am going to do is—I say it again—under this section, not allow any persons to be dealers in eggs unless they have separate premises. Deputy Dillon says that is 70 per cent. Deputy Browne, from an adjoining county, says in his speech that when these people get the eggs 90 per cent. Put them into store. The figures do not agree. So there are only 10 per cent. that have not got a store of the 100 per cent. at present, and we are dealing with that 10 per cent. Some of them, perhaps, will be able to provide a store or room, and the rest of the 10 per cent. may have to go out of business; and, if they do, it will be, if you like, as a result of this Bill, and as a result of my compelling the Fine Gael Party to put it through against their will because they have such pity for these poor retailers. They get all the kudos with the retailers all over the country; that they stood by them, but what could they do—they were beaten. Let them have all that political victory, and all the kudos if they like; but I want to ask them this; what would they do for the egg trade? They welcomed the Bill on the Second Reading, but everything we tried to do so far they said we were interfering with the rights of the retailers and the rights of the wholesalers; that we should not do anything to affect them, and so on. Deputy Dillon goes so far as to say that we must not interfere with the egg dealer—let them put the eggs in on top of the paraffin oil if they like—why should they be interfered with? Why should Deputy Dillon not have an opportunity of saying to the country: "I did my best for you, but the Fianna Fáil Party, as usual, put it through in spite of us"? I say that is the position. I thought that on this Bill, at least, we could forget about these political questions, and forget the kudos and see what could best be done for the egg trade in this country in all the circumstances, but I see now that it was too much to hope, and, if you like, you may put it to a division——
There is no need to be vexed or to get violent. If Deputy Browne says that 90 per cent. of the egg dealers in this country have store rooms, he is a very knowledgeable man, he knows the country, and I am greatly consoled to hear that is Deputy Browne's view. I may be wrong and he may be right. If he is right then I do not think this section is as objectionable as it appears now to me to be. But we can find common ground. There is no need to get violent about it. Suppose the Minister finds that my estimate is right and that Deputy Browne is a bit optimistic in thinking nine out of ten have this separate accommodation——
Wait until you get him at the Party meeting.
I am grateful to Deputy Browne for his information, but suppose I prove to be right and he proves to be mistaken, will the Minister meet me then?
How am I to meet you?
I will tell you. There is no difficulty about it, and there is no need to get vexed about it at all. Permit the egg collector to collect his eggs more or less as he is doing at the present time, and place on the exporter the obligation of seeing that the eggs are despatched for export in a fit and proper condition.
That is the present law.
But you are taking power to impose upon the eggler, as distinguished from the egg wholesaler, the standard of equipment that used to be stipulated for with the egg exporters. The egg exporter represented perhaps 40 egglers. The egglers came into him and he was in a fairly large way of business, and it was worth his while to build a separate egg store, and he could do it. If my information is right, it is not worth while for seven out of ten of the egglers to establish separate premises for handling their eggs. Maybe I am wrong, and, if I am, my action falls to the ground. But if I am right——
You were never right.
——is it the Minister's desire to put seven out of ten of the egglers out of business? I fully sympathise with the Minister's difficulty. I do not want to make political capital out of his difficulty. If I were in his position I would be in the same difficulty. I put down on paper what my solution of that difficulty is, but the Ceann Comhairle has ruled my amendment out as being too wide, and therefore, I cannot debate it. It is not true to say that I have carped at and criticised the Minister without putting up an alternative plan. I did put up an alternative plan. I do not want to minimise the Minister's difficulties or suggest that he is acting precipitately or carelessly or without examining the situation.
The Minister came to this House to hear what we have to say. If we do not say it here, where are we to say it? I am telling him of the difficulties which I believe exist. I am asking him if his advisers have suggested these difficulties to him and if he has considered them. Perhaps the Minister's advisers would be prepared to accept Deputy Browne's view? Perhaps they consider that nine out of ten, or even more, of these people have the necessary accommodation and that this section will not be a hardship. If that is the case, then the Minister's information, or the information of his advisers, does not coincide with mine, but all the same I am prepared to accept his word. I merely ask the House not to make a decision without facing what is going to happen. My advice is that that section will put seven out of every ten existing egglers out of business.
Deputies have heard Deputy Browne's advice and the Minister's view, and now they can make up their minds, but I ask them not to go into this business without thinking. Deputy Smith intervened, and he has some knowledge of Cavan, a large egg-producing area. Does Deputy Smith tell us that in his experience of his own county nine out of ten egglers, the small men handling a few hundred of eggs every week as distinguished from the exporter who ships the eggs—is it his experience that the average eggler keeps the eggs in a separate room away from the general business he carries on?
I disagree with the Deputy when he says that this section will put seven out of every ten of those people out of the business in the future.
I am only asking for information with a view to co-operating with the Minister. Deputy Smith knows Cavan; he is bound to, as we all get to know our counties when going around our constituencies. Is it his experience that nine out of ten egglers keep their eggs in a separate department away from that in which they do their ordinary shop business?
I am dealing with the claim you have made, that if this section is put into operation seven out of every ten of the egg dealers will have to go out of business. I say, with whatever little experience I have, that I entirely disagree with that estimate and I believe that, while it may not be the case at the present time, it would not be an exaggeration to say that nine out of every ten can and will provide the accommodation that is demanded by this section.
I think Deputy Smith agrees with me that at the present time the average eggler does not put his eggs in one apartment and conduct his general business in another department. At present the eggs and the business are all kept together. Deputy Smith confirms my experience of the existing position, not of what is going to happen. He takes the view that it will be worth their while to clear out a room and equip it in accordance with the Minister's requirements.
And they will do it.
That is the Deputy's view. My view is that where a man has an average of 500 eggs a week it would not be worth his while to equip a special apartment to deal with that trade and he must drop it.
If he keeps his eggs in an unsatisfactory place where they are likely to be contaminated, is it fair to allow him to continue doing so?
I do not think the danger of that arises, because no egg wholesaler will accept contaminated eggs. These men have a lot of experience. Their families have been handling eggs, perhaps, for generations. No eggler will allow eggs to be contaminated, because he wants to sell at the best price he can get and he will not be careless or indifferent. This subsection requires him to have a separate apartment equipped in accordance with the Minister's regulations. I have some experience of the Minister's regulations and I may say they are a bit stiff. I say that it is not economically possible for the eggler to carry out what is prescribed here. If the House says it is, then in my opinion the majority of those people must get out of eggling and make way for those who can afford to have their premises equipped in the manner specified by the Minister. I say that the change wrought here is altogether out of proportion to the objective in view and that there is just as effective a way of achieving our purpose, which is to get the eggs on the British market in a condition which will command high prices without smashing the livelihood of thousands of people engaged in this trade. In this House we get, evidently, to some degree divorced from the life of the people. I remember on one occasion hearing the Prime Minister say that you cannot make omelettes without breaking eggs. I know something about breaking eggs——
Were there any chickens in them?
I do not know what the Deputy is saying; I can never understand him. You see a man in a comfortable way of business. On Monday some new regulation comes into operation and that tiny microscopic business stops. Michael Tuohy is put out of business. He does not come into the town for two or three weeks. You ask what has become of him and then somebody casually says: "He has not the shop any more." Then you see Michael Tuohy coming into the town. A few weeks ago he was a comfortable man. He had a shop. He is now a poor little farmer, living on an uneconomic holding. It was because he had an uneconomic holding that he added the keeping of a little shop to his livelihood. That is what drove him into shopkeeping. He is now out of the shop and the man who was a comparatively prosperous fellow becomes overnight an uneconomic holder. That may be necessary if a great good is to be achieved. But are you achieving a great good in this? I do not think so. That is not the only way to do it. I do not think you have inquired far enough into the question of whether you are going to swipe these small fellows out of business altogether.
Have we any figure to prove that all these small men are there?
I am only telling you my own experience and I speak only for a very limited area. There are farmer Deputies sitting behind me. Why do they not tell you?
Deputy Smith has told us his experiences. Deputy Browne has told us his experiences. All I want is that Deputies should know what they are doing. They can make up their minds when they understand what they are doing. I have carefully considered what the Minister wants and in my opinion, on balance, I think I am right and he is wrong. The method suggested by me is better and would not injure these people, but it is for this House to decide.
I can speak as having some experience in the County Cavan. I do not pretend to know the exact proportions of those likely to be put out of business, but I am satisfied that the proportion will be a large one. The more you go into the rural districts the smaller and the more mixed the shops are. You cannot have specialists where the population is thin and the people poor. Generally, you would get these small shops that cater for the people around the neighbourhood. These shops provide a useful service. If these people were made throw up part of their business the other business would be scarcely worth carrying on. When a woman near a village shop wants to sell eggs she finds it very convenient to send to that shop and to buy things in return. I say it would be a very bad thing for these people to be driven out of business. I suggest that this section should be amended, and the Minister should give himself power to allow these little shops to carry on. I have heard a good many people speak about this, and they all seem to think it is going too far to restrict the right of people to carry on this business. There is nobody interested in the egg trade who is not anxious to see the business carried on under proper conditions. I do not know of any shop that is unsuitable for storing eggs. Nobody keeps oil in a shop. It is kept in an outside house, not in any part of the shop. I think it is a slander on shopkeepers to say that these shops are badly kept. Shops, as a rule, are clean and suitable places in which to store eggs. The Minister should not make his rules so drastic.
In very many rural areas the eggs are disposed of at a convenient shop in the neighbourhood. They are put into sectional cases and stored in the shop, which is usually separated from the dwelling-house. That is the case in a large percentage of the shops, anyway. The eggs are kept there for a day or two and then sent out to the wholesaler or shipper. In February, March, April and May the eggs are sent to the wholesaler three or four times a week, at least twice a week. The people could not afford to keep them any longer. Now it will not pay those small shopkeepers to go to the cost of erecting stores. I agree with Deputy Dillon that it will put these people out of business; competition will not be there. I speak on this matter from experience. I know numbers of small shopkeepers who take in eggs and deliver them in a day or two to the larger traders. That is the case as far as my district is concerned. I am connected with the egg trade myself; I know something about the egg export trade and about these small shops. I certainly say this section will put some of them out of business, and their being put out of business will lessen competition and thereby create a monopoly.
I cannot agree with Deputy Dillon that this section, if put into force, would put a very large proportion of the small shopkeepers out of business. But I do hold that if it put one out of every ten retailers out of business it would be a drastic and hard step and a step that would require considerable justification, more justification indeed than the Minister has adduced in his statement. The Minister has not established a strong case for compelling the retailers to provide a separate apartment for the storage of eggs. I think, having regard to the fact that there are a certain number of small shopkeepers engaged in dealing with eggs—people whose premises are small and whose means are limited— there should be some provision in the Bill which would enable these people to carry on and continue their business, provided, of course, that they did not store the eggs in such circumstances as would lead to contamination.
My point is that the Minister should bear in mind that the private citizen in this country, whether farmer or small shopkeeper, has certain rights, and these rights should be interfered with only as little as may be necessary. I do not think it is absolutely necessary for the purpose of this Act to compel dealers to keep their eggs in a separate apartment. The Minister has stated that he will be prepared to allow those who have separate apartments registered for the storage of eggs to use part of their premises for other purposes. He did not specify what these other purposes are. He only mentioned poultry. At times poultry may be as likely to contaminate eggs as anything else. However, from what we have heard, the Minister has not established a case for compelling these people to provide separate apartments for storing the eggs.
Any doubts I had as to whether this section would drive a considerable section of the people out of business or not was removed when the Minister spoke. He resented very strongly that anybody on this side of the House should put this interpretation upon the section. The Minister seemed to resent that we should ask information from him. The House should be informed what they were about to do before passing a section of this kind. But the Minister lost his temper; he even accused Deputy Dillon and myself of playing politics, trying to make political capital out of this Bill, and then he made, as he can make, a very nice Party political speech himself. He admitted quite frankly in his speech, whether he intended it or not, that this Bill was going to drive a considerable number of people out of business.
The Minister says, in effect: "I am not saying that I am driving them out of business, but I admit that this section, if put into operation, will drive people out of business." Does he admit that there are premises where, because of their size and situation, it would be impossible to provide an alternative room or store? Would he deny that is so? Certainly, as far as I am concerned, the Minister admitted, by the attitude he took up in getting angry about the matter, that there were dangers here. He seemed to resent that the danger of his section was being exposed to the House and he seemed to be afraid that that exposure would find its way out from this House to the people affected by this Bill. What is the House for it not to examine Bills and to have views and opinions expressed on them? I am satisfied that if those views were not expressed on this side of the House, the Minister, if he thought it would suit his purpose, would afterwards twist the views of this side of the House in another way altogether and give them a different direction. The Minister does that often, and does it very effectively.
The Deputy never knew me to twist.
I did not say that the Minister twisted. I said that he could give a twist of views from this side of the House into a particular direction if he so desired. He is a keen enough politician not to be beyond that, as we know. I think you will agree, however, that this is a serious matter for these people, even if there are only 10 per cent. affected. I do not think there is anybody in any part of the House who wants to embarrass the Minister merely for the sake of embarrassing him. I do not think that there is any question of Party politics in the minds of anybody in this matter. Certainly, there is no question of Party politics in my mind at all. I simply gave the facts as I know them in my own district, and I think I am in duty bound to give these facts, knowing them as I do. In putting these facts forward, I am merely thinking of the interests of those people whose livelihoods are at stake, as the result of the section the Minister has in the Bill. That is my only interest in the matter.
With regard to the general opposition to this section, it appears to me that all the arguments that have been advanced, if put together, are very illogical. Let us put Deputy Dillon's argument together. First of all, he speaks about the small trader, and the difficulty of getting so many hundreds of eggs, and I presume that the small people on the average would not make more than a trader of the magnitude of Deputy Dillon.
Why does the Minister say that?
The small trader usually makes less, does he not?
The next thing the Deputy says is that we are going to smash the livelihoods of hundreds of people. That is a piece of rhetoric if you like. I take it that it was put in for effect in order to influence voters and get them to look on that picture of people being ruined if this section is passed. Take sixpence, however, as profit, and Deputy Dillon says that the majority of these people could not afford to make the alteration because they only deal with three or four great hundreds a week. Let us take a maximum of five great hundreds.
I do not wish to interrupt the Minister but it is not the deprival of the profit that I am concerned with. What I am concerned with is the fact that these people cannot take eggs, and their business depends on their ability to take eggs in barter.
Yes, and if you deprive them of that you deprive them of their livelihood.
All right, let us take it further. Let us suppose that all these people are put out of business, as the Deputy has in mind, and we are prepared to take the blame for it if you like, naturally, the small farmer could then freely deal with the small shopkeeper with whom he has been dealing already, because the other people would have no interest in barter at all. The big dealer is not interested in exchange or barter. The man will bring in his eggs, and he will get cash.
Where will he get the cash?
From the big egg dealer.
When he brings the eggs in to him?
In the town where he spends his money?
At any rate, we are not going to do a great deal of harm to the small shopkeeper, and even if we did drive them out of business we have only the big dealers left, and they give cash. I am only putting the Deputy's statements together with a view to showing that there is not a lot in his argument, but suppose we come down to the worst and suppose there is a loss and that Deputy Dillon is able to impress a majority here sufficient to agree with him that the hardship inflicted on that class is out of all proportion to the benefits that might be conferred by going ahead with the Bill. That means that we leave things exactly as they are.
Not at all. Look at Amendment No. 11.
Yes, but apart from that.
Why apart from that?
We have dealt with that on the Committee Stage.
That is my alternative.
We cannot go back on that. I am quite prepared to consider a nationalisation scheme, and already I have got the support of the Labour Party for it.
And of Deputy Dillon.
No—not if I call it nationalisation.
A licensing scheme.
My scheme, if you like.
Well, let us say, the Dillon Scheme of Nationalisation.
It will be called the Ryan Scheme within 12 months if it should prove to be successful. I am used to that kind of thing.
At any rate, I think that a scheme of combined marketing, or whatever it is, should come later, and that it would require a separate measure.
But you will have all those poor devils knocked out in the meantime.
No. We want to improve the price of eggs in the meantime, and to see that that improvement goes back beyond the dealer to the producer as far as possible, and if we do inflict any hardship on certain people, well, I think I have proved from the statements made by Deputy Dillon and others that the greatest hardship on any man, whoever he may be, would be about half-a-crown a week.
It is hard to keep patience with the Minister when he says that kind of thing. I have tried to explain to him that the profit is not the fundamental question—that the real question is the business these people carry on. That man's business depends—hisraison d'être—is that he is there at the people's door to barter for eggs, and they will be sent into Ballaghaderreen, where they will be paid for in cash. They will come into my shop, or the shops of my competitors, and my stock is 40 times as big as that of a man out in the country.
There is the question of carting and the saving of money in cartage. If the Minister is going to adopt my scheme —and it seems to be clear now that he is going to adopt it—do not wipe these people out and then, when they are all gone, introduce a scheme to save them. It is a hard thing to say to a horse: "Live horse and you will get grass," but it is a great deal harder to poleaxe the horse, and then produce grass six months after he is rotting in his grave. Do not wipe these people out if you are afterwards going to take a course which would not have wiped them out. Turn the matter over in your minds. Put in force the scheme which I suggest and you will achieve the purpose you have in mind, namely, getting good eggs, far more effectively than by all the abracadabra contained in this Bill.
I remember a time here in this House when the Opposition in this Dáil——
The Deputy might move the adjournment of the debate.
Fortunately. She was getting reminiscent.
I move the adjournment of the debate.
Until 7.30. It was decided to take items 8, 9, 10 and 11 at 6.30.