Committee on Finance. - Diseases of Animals Bill, 1944— Committee Stage.

Sections 1 and 2 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 1:—

To delete in each sub-section the words "being so slaughtered, and the said sub-section shall apply and have effect accordingly in relation to such animals" and to substitute in such sub-section for the words so deleted the words "they can be slaughtered and also to carcases which, consequent upon an outbreak of disease, have been seized on behalf of the Minister, and the said sub-section shall apply and have effect accordingly in relation to such animals and carcases".

In the Principle Act it is not laid down that compensation should be paid except where an animal is slaughtered. In the recent outbreak here of foot-and-mouth disease we did pay compensation in the case of carcases that were discovered, either in the abattoir or the butcher's shop, to be diseased. We paid that compensationex gratia, after receiving the permission of the Department of Finance. There is no reason why carcases should not be put on the same level as animals that were to be slaughtered. That is one point in the amendment. It merely brings carcases on to the same plane, as it were, with animals. There is another point in the amendment. In the four sub-sections of the section in the Principal Act there are words used—“before being so slaughtered”. That is, where the animal dies before being so slaughtered. Of course, if the animal dies it is not “slaughtered” and so we say in the amendment “before it can be slaughtered”, which looks better.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 3, as amended, agreed to.

I move amendment No. 2:—

Before Section 4 to insert a new section as follows:—

The power vested in the Minister by virtue of sub-section (7) of Section 20 of the Principal Act to withhold, either wholly or partially, compensation or other payment shall

(a) extend to animals which have been directed to be slaughtered under the Principal Act and have been valued for that purpose but die before they can be slaughtered, and

(b) be exercisable in relation to an animal slaughtered or directed to be slaughtered whether such animal was or was not diseased, and

(c) be exercisable in relation to an animal slaughtered or directed to be slaughtered (in addition to the cases mentioned in the said sub-section) where the Minister is of opinion that the owner or person in charge of such animal did not take, in relation to the relevant outbreak of disease, adequate precautions to prevent the spread of disease, and

(d) extend to every case in which compensation could be paid by virtue of Section 3 of this Act in respect of a carcase (whether diseased or not diseased) where the Minister is of opinion that the owner or person in charge of the carcase has been guilty, in relation to the carcase, of an offence against the Principal Act or any Act amending that Act or did not take, in relation to the relevant outbreak of disease, adequate precautions to prevent the spread of disease.

This proposed new section is to replace the present Section 4. There is not very much difference until we come to paragraph (d). Paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) are practically the same as in the original section. Paragraph (d) is additional to Section 4 in the Bill as introduced. Part of that paragraph is necessary in view of the amendment we have just passed because logically we must cover the case of carcases. The difference between this proposed new Section 4 and the Principal Act is that in the Principal Act compensation could be withheld in relation to slaughtered animals. The effective words in the Principal Act are contained in Section 20, sub-section (7), which give the Minister or the local authority power to withhold compensation where, in the judgment of the board— that is the Board of Agriculture—or the local authority, as the case may be, a person has been guilty "in relation to the animal" of an offence against the Act. We want to alter those words "in relation to the animal". As a matter of fact that is the whole point of this amendment. We are changing that to the words "in relation to the outbreak". There is no reason why a man should get compensation because he could say "in relation to the animal I was careful but not in relation to the outbreak." For instance, there could be negligence —as we had in the last outbreak—in connection with the removal of farmyard manure from the city to the country or in relation to the removal of hay or straw. That is not in relation to the animal but it is in relation to the outbreak. The whole purpose of this amendment is to make it in relation to the outbreak rather than in relation to the animal and we can withhold compensation if the person has been negligent in any way in relation to the outbreak.

Deputy Hughes has an amendment on the Order Paper to the Minister's amendment. We will take a decision on that first.

I move amendment No. 3:—

To delete paragraph (c), lines 22 to 27.

I move this amendment really to give an opportunity of discussing a certain aspect of this whole matter. The principle contained in this paragraph (c) is, as the Minister knows, embodied in the Principal Act, and of course I could not table an amendment to delete part of the Principal Act. You, Sir, would rule it out of order.

Possibly, yes.

I refer to the principle of authorising a Minister to make what I regard as a judicial decision. The practice is creeping into our affairs in this country of having a further judicial inquiry by a Minister or a Department of State, and a further penalty imposed after a person has been brought into court and after a decision has been given by a judge qualified to sit in judgment, to measure the offence and to fix a penalty. That is what I object to. In my view, the only tribunal that should try an offence is the court of justice, and the person best qualified to make a decision as to the magnitude of the offence and of the punishment that is due is a judge. That power should not be arrogated by a Minister or anyone else.

I want to remind the Minister that during the last outbreak one particular case occurred in connection with the stock of Mr. Flood, of New Hall, near Newbridge. An outbreak occurred there and was detected by a Guard. He saw cattle on the land that were dripping from the mouth. Mr. Flood was very ill, in bed, at the time, and he had as steward in charge of the farm a man who had passed through Ballyhaise. Mr. Flood is now dead. So far as Mr. Flood's responsibility was concerned, he did his best to ensure that his stock was being properly looked after by employing a qualified man. He was prosecuted, severe penalties were fixed by the court, his cattle were destroyed, and the normal operations of trying to fight and eradicate the disease occurred on his farm. Afterwards the Minister, in the exercise of his right under the parent Act, withheld a very substantial sum of money in that case. I personally approached the Minister, and other people as well made representations to the Minister, because it was a very hard and unjust position.

So far as Mr. Flood was concerned, he did everything he possibly could in the matter. He had employed what appeared to him, to other persons and to me, to be a competent person, a man qualified in the manner shown. The Minister thought otherwise. We argued that Mr. Flood was unable to look after his stock because he was in bed ill. Indeed the proof that he was ill and unable to be personally responsible was that he died afterwards. Notwithstanding all the pressing representations made to the Minister he was not prepared to budge in the matter. It is merely to bring that principle before the House, and to show how unwise the law is in that respect—and it is being extended here in a small way—that I have tabled this amendment. Standing Orders of the House do not permit me to amend the parent Acts, but I have tabled this amendment to draw the attention of the House to these facts. In the event of any future outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease the Minister would be well advised in any inquiry as to an offence committed by an individual in looking after his stock, and taking the safeguards that are essential and vital to ensure that the outbreak is eradicated at the earliest possible moment, to see that justice is done in all cases. That should be the fundamental principle in all events. No matter how essential or vital it is in the interests of the health of the cattle population, and in the slaughter and destruction of cattle on an individual farm a man should feel that he has rights, and that he has a right to justice and fair play. Two different types of courts ought not to operate, in my opinion. There should be a proper place to have an impartial decision made so that a man can rest assured that justice is done, and that he is tried for his offence in the courts of the country by men qualified to judge and to devise a penalty according to the merits of the case.

I think that on the purely academic aspect of the case Deputy Hughes will get a good deal of support, but when we come down to practical points dealing with an outbreak like that I am afraid that this power, which the Minister has had under this Act for 50 years, was considered by all legislators, both in the British House of Commons and here, necessary to deal with an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

It is rather strange to read the powers given in the 1896 Act not to the Minister alone, but to the Board of Agriculture and the local authorities as well. I do not want to read the whole sub-section, but the words I refer to are "that the person in the judgment of the board or of the local authority, as the case may be, has been guilty in relation to animals of an offence against this Act". Mind you, it does not say found guilty by the court, but guilty in the judgment of the board or the local authority, so that the power is there all the time. Academically, perhaps we could argue like Deputy Hughes that the power should never have been there but that so far as this amendment is concerned, it is only making another logical provision —that if a person is going to be victimised because he exposed his animals to danger, then he should be equally victimised if he took hay or straw from an affected farm or if he went to the affected farm himself without any need to do so—as people did here in the last outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease—and so bring back the disease from the affected farm. These things should be all arranged whatever way we do it, but I think it is necessary to have very drastic powers to deal with an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. It is like a case where there is turmoil in a country and where you have practically martial law. You would, practically, need to have martial law to deal with this disease or at least it would be necessary to quell an outbreak when it becomes very, very bad, as it did here in 1941. Remembering what Deputy Hughes has said, I must say I think this power is necessary, and apart from the particular circumstances concerned in this case, it is only merely following logically what was the law all the time in making all offenders equally liable to certain penalties.

I agree with what the Minister has said about the whole matter being brought in line and about the need for drastic powers if you want to fight a dangerous disease. Dangerous diseases require desperate remedies. You want the drastic powers, but when you give the Department those drastic powers it is our duty as legislators here to provide safeguards so that the man operating the drastic powers will not overlook that fact. It is merely an academic discussion because we cannot amend the Principal Act. It is for the purpose of drawing the Minister's attention to these matters that I raise them. I am glad that the Minister has admitted there is a principle here. This decision to which he has referred was made 50 years ago, but it does not follow that if the people who made this decision were right 40 or 50 years ago, that we should not consider amending the Act in this respect. I am glad the Minister has met me to that extent and that there is room for discussion on the principle because it is a very big principle.

It is, certainly.

Is 2 (a) withdrawn?

Amendment No. 2 agreed to.

That, of course, will delete Section 4.


I move amendment No. 4:—

In sub-section (1), page 3, line 29, to insert before the words "no such ground" the words "a veterinary inspector is satisfied that".

There are five similar amendments to this section and Section 6—4, 6, 7, 10 and 12. The idea in amendment No. 4 is to change the word "inspector" into "veterinary inspector". Inspectors of local authorities acted last time, but I am not sure whether we might not be challenged in court on the grounds that they were not actual inspectors of the Minister. I move that we make the change.

Amendment put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 5:—

To delete sub-section (2) and substitute therefor the following new sub-section:—

No ground shall be acquired for the reception and slaughter of animals other than on the land or premises on which the animals existed prior to the order to slaughter until the inspector of the Minister has satisfied himself by a thorough inspection made by himself or on his behalf that no suitable ground for burial is available on such lands or premises.

It is merely to point out that for the purpose of convenience it might be a very objectionable thing to have a burial place and a slaughter place created on another man's farm where there was no outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease at all. That might be done for the purpose of convenience, but the amendment is designed to ensure that the ground for slaughter and burial should be on the land or premises on which the animals were prior to slaughter, that the inspector will satisfy himself that there are no facilities there before he operates the section. I think it is reasonable.

I made a mistake with regard to amendment No. 4. That amendment was really to meet Deputy Hughes' point to some extent. It more or less embodies what Deputy Hughes has in mind.

I should like to see it a little stronger.

Perhaps the Deputy would allow the amendment to pass and see how it looks before Report Stage.

Would the Minister promise to draft it a little more strongly?

I would prefer the Deputy to do it. I have no objection to his bringing it up again on Report Stage, if the Ceann Comhairle has no objection.

The Chair would not object.

It is not altogether as strong as the Deputy wants.

I suggest that the Minister ought to put in the safeguard there again.

The Deputy may submit an amendment to amend it.

To be frank, I do not want the bother of doing it.

That is a matter between the Minister and the Deputy.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 6:—

In sub-section (2), page 3, line 35, to delete the words "inspector of the Minister" and substitute the words "veterinary inspector".

Amendment put and agreed to.
Section 5, as amended, agreed to.

I move amendment No. 7:—

In sub-section (1), page 3, lines 37 and 38, to delete the words "an inspector of the Minister" and substitute the words "a veterinary inspector".

Amendment put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 8:—

In sub-section (1), page 3, to delete in lines 42 and 43 the words "isolated, and to be placed and kept for the purposes of such isolation" and substitute the words "placed and kept in isolation therein or to be removed therefrom and placed and kept in isolation".

As the section stands, it would appear as if, on the discovery of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease at a fair or market, the inspector would have to find a place in which these animals could be isolated. It may be necessary to isolate them where they are, without moving them, and this amendment gives the inspector that power.

Amendment put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 9:—

In sub-section (2) (a), at the end of line 51, to add the following words:—"and shall use such suitable place which in the opinion of the owner causes the least inconvenience".

This is merely to ensure that the least inconvenient place will be used, with the consent of the owner. There might be two or three convenient places available, but the selection of one might be a great inconvenience to an owner. The amendment would enable the inspector to say: "There are two or three places which would suit me; which is the least inconvenient for you?"

The Deputy will understand that the insertion of this amendment might cause trouble, because the owner might claim that he should have been consulted. He may not be easily accessible at the time. Secondly, under the amendment, he would have the last word; in other words, he could say: "Why should you put them there? It would be more convenient to put them elsewhere."

"Such suitable place" implies that the inspector is satisfied. Obviously, the inspector will decide whether it is suitable or not.

I was reading the amendment on the basis of the owner having the last word.

He would, after the inspector has pointed out three places which are suitable. The inspector would say: "I want to isolate an animal which I suspect, and I want to use one of three places. Which is the least inconvenient for you?" This merely gives the owner the option of saying: "You can use that place; I want the other house for some other purpose."

We might put in some such words as these: if the owner is accessible, his views should be given way to.

I am satisfied.

We shall have to say "if the owner is accessible", because we cannot wait to look for him.

I agree.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 10:—

In sub-section (2), to delete in line 56, page 3, and line 1, page 4, the words "an inspector of the Minister" and substitute the words "a veterinary inspector".

Amendment put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 11:—

To delete sub-section (3).

The Minister is given ample powers to do certain things and again I urge the principle of the right of the individual his right, if he feels aggrieved, to take you into court and see whether you have exceeded your powers. If he fails to win his case, he has to pay the piper. I grant that it may be inconvenient without it, but I am concerned for the preservation of a big principle. There is no use in paying mere lip-service to that principle. Let us embody it in our legislation and provide an ample safeguard. We agree that certain powers are necessary in fighting a dreadful disease, but the individual is entitled to ample safeguards and it is our duty as legislators to provide those safeguards. If the Minister does not see eye to eye with me, I shall have to divide the House.

I am not very particular about it. The history of it is that there was a principle at one time that the king could do no wrong. That came down later to the principle that a Minister could do no wrong.

I hope we are going to bury that.

Under the new Constitution, that was done away with, so it must be put into each Act now that a Minister can do no wrong. I am not a bit particular about it, as I say, because if a person has a grievance, even with this section in, I am told that he has his remedy, if we do anything wrong. It is merely inserted as a deterrent against bringing forward trivial claims.

I congratulate the Minister on his attitude. I have been fighting it for the last two days and could not get a budge out of the Parliamentary Secretary.

It might be more important in that case—I do not know.

I am glad the Minister is setting a headline.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 12:—

In sub-section (3), page 4, line 5, to delete the words "inspector of the Minister" and substitute the words "veterinary inspector".

Amendment agreed to.
Section 6, as amended, agreed to.
Section 7 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 13:—

In page 4, to delete paragraph (c) of sub-section (3) and substitute the following paragraph:—

(c) the appeal shall be referred by the Minister to such person as may be agreed upon by the applicant and the Minister or, in default of agreement, to an official arbitrator for the purposes of the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919, and the person to whom the appeal is so referred shall report on the matter to the Minister and shall send a copy of the report to the applicant.

The Minister meets my point there, and I am satisfied.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 14 not moved.
Section 8, as amended, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 9 stand part of the Bill."

This is grabbing the little bit of money that is in the Cattle Diseases Fund. In the interests of the farmers I would expect the Minister to resist that and not let the Minister for Finance rake it into the Exchequer. At least he should have left a little bit to the credit of the farmers. Perhaps the Minister is in a generous mood and might still do it. I expect that a man defending the agricultural interests here would do that and not let the Minister for Finance get hold of every little capital sum available.

I want to remind the Deputy that under the Principal Act the finances necessary in connection with outbreaks of disease were supposed to come out of the Cattle Diseases Fund. That would have meant, even if we had to go back to 1941, a very heavy charge on all the counties to make up the deficiency. When I did persuade the Minister for Finance, he said it had to be one way or the other. As we got him to foot the £450,000, if he says that as against that we must give this £3,000 or £4,000, I think it is not unreasonable.

What happened in connection with the second last outbreak of disease?

I am not sure. It may have been done at that time, too. I know that on the last occasion it was said: "This is supposed to be done out of local funds, but if we do it at least let us get whatever is coming in". I think that is reasonable.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 10, 11 and Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Ordered: "That the Report Stage be taken on Wednesday, 29th November."