Committee on Finance. - Sea Fisheries Bill, 1952—Committee.
Sections 1 to 7, inclusive, put and agreed to.
I move amendment No. 1:—
In line 31 before "make" to insert the following words "after consultation with the board and the association as hereinafter defined".
The reason for this amendment is quite obvious and I need not speak at length on it. I feel that the Minister is taking very great power under this section to deal with the fishing industry and I think we should ensure that that power is, as far as possible, not left open to abuse. This amendment will not bind the Minister in any way to follow the wishes either of the board or the association. All I have suggested is that, before making any regulations, the Minister should consult the board and the association so that the wishes and views of both of these bodies can be had on the proposed regulations. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to accept the amendment because, as I said, I do not think it will bind the Minister when making regulations in any fashion and will ensure that the body which is to work the regulations and the association which is vitally concerned with the industry will have had an opportunity of putting their views before the Minister prior to the regulations being made.
Under this Bill we are setting up a board and an association to advise the board and we shall stultify any advice which the association may give the board if we give the Minister power to make regulations without doing so in consultation with both the board and the association. After all, the association is merely advisory and if we are tying the hands of the board in advance by the Minister making the regulations himself, then the association will be absolutely useless and will not serve the purpose which the Parliamentary Secretary intends. I therefore support the amendment and ask the Parliamentary Secretary to accept it.
I should also like to support the amendment. As far as I can see, the only vocational representative body left will be the Sea Fisheries Association here and the board have more or less complete authority. Unless the amendment is accepted the Sea Fisheries Association might as well not exist. We do not know who will constitute the board, whether it will be a team of civil servants or land lubbers who will constitute it. The only people who are in a position to advise the Minister and tell him what to do are the people associated with catching, distributing and selling fish. Therefore I support the amendment.
The first observation I want to make about this section is that it is in common form. If you examine any other provision for the making of regulations, you will find that it is worded exactly as this one is. I have no objection to making an exception in this case if the Dáil or any considerable section of the Dáil so wishes, but I should like to observe that it is possible to visualise, particularly in relation to the fishing industry, that it may be necessary to make a regulation without having sufficient time to have the consultation provided for in the amendment and we could allow an abuse to develop simply because we are hamstrung by the necessity for calling the association together and consulting them, especially as I am not bound to accept the advice given at the consultation.
I have no objection to accepting the amendment, but I think that Deputies will agree that it would be most unreasonable to ask me to accept a provision imposing compulsory consultation with the board and the association upon me. The association will have to be called together. I do not know how many hundred or thousand members there will be. If I have to call them together and consult them to deal with an unforeseen contingency of an urgent character, it is quite conceivable that the industry may be placed in a difficult position.
Surely the Parliamentary Secretary cannot logically maintain that position. What is the terrible hurry about all this? Is there not a body already existing and which will exist until the machinery is set up under this Bill and can they not be called together as soon as possible? There is not such a hurry as that about this matter.
If there is a contingency that requires speedy action?
This is one of the most important things we are doing. These regulations are to bind the board and those who are under the board, the body of fishermen in this country, and they will not have any say in regard to these regulations which will affect them in their daily lives. I think it is a very unwise thing to do. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to accept this amendment. We have no reason for putting down this amendment except the practicability of the matter. I see no hurry and the Parliamentary Secretary has made no case for hurry with regard to the operation of this Bill. If there was some urgency about the matter that would place him in difficulty, it would be a different story.
Has the Deputy considered the safeguard that is provided in Section 4 where every regulation made must be placed before each House of the Oireachtas?
The members of the Oireachtas will never be affected by these regulations. It is the unfortunate fishermen who will be affected.
It is not anticipated that the Minister is going to make regulations without submitting the regulations to those concerned. I had suggested the Minister should not be compelled to call the whole association together. If the committee were mentioned instead of the association it would make a difference.
Would the Parliamentary Secretary accept the amendment if it were worded "after consultation with the board and where possible the association".
Is the amendment withdrawn?
We will bring it up on the Report Stage.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed: "That Section 8 stand part of the Bill."
My point was that the section, as it is, gives absolute power to the Minister. It seems to me to be inequitable to hand over every advantage to the board or any member of the board. For example, it might happen that the transport would be put under the care of Córas Iompair Éireann and the storage put in the board's premises. It is not very easy to procure Córas Iompair Éireann transport without prior arrangement, for instance, in places like Helvick Head, Dunmore Passage and parts of County Cork and along the Cork coast. If such a decision were made it would put off the road private hauliers who are now hired to carry out the work. I think that that should be prevented. However, in view of the assurance now given, that the board will be consulted before any regulations will be made by the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister and that any regulations made will have to go before both Houses of the Oireachtas I am satisfied. Once I have drawn attention to the wide scope of the Section I feel I have done my duty by it.
Question put and agreed to.
I move amendment No. 2:—
In sub-section (3), paragraph (a), line 48, after "citizens" to add "or a company incorporated prior to the 1st day of February, 1952, under the Companies Acts, 1908 to 1924, whose objects are connected with sea fishing or unless the vessel is replacing, substituting or in exchange for a vessel which on the 1st day of February, 1952, is registered in the State under the Merchant Shipping Acts, 1894 to 1947."
My reason for putting down this amendment was to ensure that, should a company with a certain number of shares held outside Irish control be operating in Ireland on a given date, it will have power to continue its boats in operation here. Should any boat be lost or damaged in such a way as to be capable of replacement by the insurance company, I would like that the company would have the power to continue operating a boat which would be substituted for an existing boat and which comes within the scope of the Act. I think it is not intended that the outside companies who are operating here at present and whose boats are damaged or rendered unseaworthy will be provided with any new boats. I feel that the result of this amendment would be that a good deal of the boats which are financed by outside interests would be kept in operation. It is in the interest of Irish nationals that the boats should operate. I think the Parliamentary Secretary will agree that it was unintentional that this section should operate to prevent these boats being replaced.
I feel that what the Deputy seeks to achieve might be achieved by another method. We want to secure full Irish ownership for our fishing fleet in this country. It appears to me that there are very few cases that can be put forward that would be affected by this section. The question should be resolved rather by tackling the problem from the point of view of ownership and qualifying a company to come within this section. If this amendment were accepted it would open the door fully to the exploitation of our fishing industry by foreigners. I do not know whether the Deputy has had the same experience in this matter as I have had. There were a great many foreign companies having shares who were doing simple people out of large sums of money and the operation was repeated many times. While I have no obligation upon me to safeguard the money of private English citizens, I think it is desirable, from an Irish point of view, that the ownership of our boats should be 100 per cent. Irish. I do not think the Deputy can make a case of real hardship arising from the operation of this section.
I have no intention or no wish to promote the operation of boats in this country other than those under Irish control. However, in so far as certain boats operated by outside concerns have been introduced into this country it does seem proper that if those boats continue to operate for the next 30 years they should be replaced should one of them become useless or be lost at sea. If the boats are allowed to operate the Irish market will be supplied and employment given to Irish fishermen. We are not asking for additional boats for these companies, only just that the same number of boats as there are operating at present will be allowed to them.
Unless the Deputy anticipates some early loss to one of these boats, I feel that any company affected by this provision will have ample time for putting their houses in order and be in a position to continue fishing operations as they are at the present time. The Deputy's method of meeting the problem, which he seems to think is a serious problem would open the door wide and would defeat the purpose of the section. If he could find any less dangerous method of meeting the problem we might accept it. However, his present method is quite unacceptable.
My object in putting down this amendment was to draw the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to the matter so that he would put in some provision that would cover the amendment I have in mind.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move amendment No. 3:—
To delete sub-section (6).
This amendment does away with a good deal of competitive business elements in fishing. If a person who is the owner or part owner of a vessel is directly engaged in the sale of fish then, although he can buy fish or obtain it from any other vessel he cannot get it from the one in which he has got a financial interest. He would be most anxious to have his fish at the market by the quickest means possible and would take an interest in his own business by endeavouring to sell fish at the highest competitive price possible. Business would be seriously affected. The word "shall" makes the law imperative and drastic. It is believed that this clause is mainly inserted because there was in Dublin during the emergency a certain trawling business, I will not mention its name, which gave all the fish they had to their own retail shops. If it is the intention to prevent such a thing happening again, I would like to point out to the Parliamentary Secretary that there is another section which defines the keel length of a boat which would automatically put that particular firm out of business. There seems no justification for that.
Take the case of the southern areas and those along the west coast of Ireland where a good fisherman induces a number of people to finance a boat. Most of the people in the area take shares primarily to have an industry established there with very little hope of ever getting a very substantial profit from their shares. The man most interested in a boat in the fishing areas is the man who sells fish in the area. He is interested not so much in getting profit from the shares but rather in the fact that if the fish comes in he has the first claim. If you are going to prevent anybody engaged in the fishing industry from having shares, you are going to put a stop to a good many boats engaging in fishing at all. I must, in all fairness and in protection of the interests of the people concerned, oppose such a section.
Before speaking to the amendment, may I ask the Parliamentary Secretary does the section apply to firms which, to increase their business, procure boats of their own and are supplying their own retail shops with fish?
Yes. They can be brought in.
Is it the intention to bring them in?
Not generally. This is dealing with a specific problem that has been pressed very much home upon us, since I came to the Department in any event, and we are making an attempt to deal with it.
Would the Parliamentary Secretary say that this is dealing with a particular problem? If I could get an assurance that it did not apply to the rest of the industry, I would be satisfied.
I can give the Deputy an assurance that this is a Dublin problem.
It does not apply to firms who have procured their own boats for the purpose of increasing their business in their retail shops?
No, but that type of person can be dealt with. The section was devised to deal with the problem that exists in Dublin. The Department approached this question from two angles. A case was submitted by the retailers in the course of repeated representations that the retailers in Dublin were not getting a fair share— I think they stated in regard to prime fish—and that some of their competitors were in a very privileged position. Apart from representations from retailers, we also received representations on behalf of the inshore fishermen mainly on the east coast that a part of the market was excluded from them and that a certain part of the market was already supplied before their fish appeared on the public market. These two interests are being served or can be served by this provision.
If the wording of it will be examined closely, it will be noticed that two alternatives are given to the board which are set out under (a) and (b):—
"The catches of the vessel shall be delivered for sale to the board."
The alternative is:—
"Or disposed of according to the directions of the board."
If no problem exists to be solved the board does not have to give any directions and those concerned can go ahead and market.
Yes. I suppose that would cover it.
It is not intended that this will be operated in any vexatious manner. It will be used sparingly and only to the extent necessary to meet a problem that we feel is real.
There is one other matter to which the Parliamentary Secretary has not adverted. Under sub-section (6) the fish must be sold through the board but under Section 34 any person who is engaged in the sale of fish must obtain a licence. If all fish are going to be sold through the board, who is going to take out a licence? What is he going to sell?
I suppose my explanation should have gone a little further and have indicated that sub-section (6) of Section 9 will be operated in this way. The people who are affected by it will probably get a direction to auction fish in the public market.
There will be a very limited supply and you will have required them to take out a licence for the sale of a very limited supply of fish. I take it that the agent of the board would not be required to take out a licence.
So long as the fish finds its way to the public market the board will be satisfied.
Why the necessity for Section 36?
Section 36 is the section that covers the right to sell fish by auction.
But you have taken the fish away from the men, and given it to the board.
You cannot have it both ways.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed: "That Section 9 stand part of the Bill."
The section covers the entire industry and there are various aspects of it that require considerable attention lest we do an injustice in this regard. As distinct from people who had boats to increase their supply of fish for their own retail shops, there are people in this country who have boats of their own and deal with fish wholesale, that is to say, supply it to the local markets in Dublin and elsewhere and export it to England. What is their position under this section? It would be really unworkable. I assume that these people are allowed to remain in business because I take it that under sub-section (6) (b) they may be empowered as follows:
"The catches of the vessel shall be delivered for sale to the board or disposed of according to the directions of the board."
There is an implied alternative in that sub-section of disposing of the fish otherwise than giving them to the board. Does that imply that people who are private owners at the moment, who have landed fish in their private boats having put considerable sums of money into their purchase, and have been supplying fish wholesale to Dublin and other towns and exporting them abroad, will be adversely affected? Will they be allowed to operate and to remain independent? I would like to know what is the meaning implied in the alternative in the sub-section? That is to say, there is an alternative. What is meant by the alternative? Are you going to allow other people to land fish and deal with them and dispose of them in whatever way they find suitable to their trade and which they have been carrying on always over years in the past? This is not a question of to-day or yesterday. We are handicapping those people. Are the fish to be sold to the board or disposed of otherwise? That seems to me to create an impossible situation from every point of view. If these people are allowed to land fish at all, will they have to wait until instructions come from the board by which time the fish will be unsaleable and unfit for human food?
This thing will have to be done in a matter of hours. It would be a drawback to any business organisation if one were required to go back to get authority. You might have to go for authority to "A" and if you could not get authority from him you would have to go to "B". That procedure would be all right where the goods involved were of an unperishable nature but we are dealing with highly perishable goods which must be packed and iced immediately they are landed and put on the train in order to catch the boat that evening if the fish is for export.
I should like to have that matter fully explained and I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to be candid about it. I should also like that this thing be made as flexible as possible so that the men in question would be in no way handicapped and that the machine would work automatically. It should so work that the moment the fish are landed they could be packed and iced, put into a lorry and brought to the train which would catch the boat that night. It must be the evening of the morning on which the fish are landed. How is one going to consult a board sitting somewhere in Dublin on a matter of that kind? You cannot do it. The thing is utterly impracticable. It would mean, in practice, putting these men out of business; they could not carry on the fish business under conditions of that kind. As I say, that cannot be done because it would wipe the floor with them immediately.
Apart from the section, perhaps thé Parliamentary Secretary might give us information on these matters. I thought we could have heard his reply on Second Reading but, as the Parliamentary Secretary wanted to have the Second Reading gone through, we wished to accommodate him on that matter, but we are up against it now and this is the only opportunity we have of dealing with the matter. I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to elaborate fully the implications of this entire section, particularly sub-section (6) (b).
This section, to my mind, is the section which differentiates this Bill completely from the Bill introduced by the last Government. Under the last Government the scheme proposed was that only sea fishermen would be allowed to land fish. Under the present Bill it is proposed to allow sea fishermen to land fish plus licensees who are going to be allowed to land fish. I understand that the position was that the Parliamentary Secretary did not reply on the Second Reading. I would like the Parliamentary Secretary, at this stage, to give the principles, if any, under which licences are going to be granted under this Bill.
This is the section which is giving the most concern to inshore fishermen. The whole purpose of this section is to safeguard, as far as possible, the rights of the inshore fishermen. It is well known that the trawlers can be a great source of danger to the rights of the inshore fishermen. Under this section, the Minister is going to give power to grant licences which could, if the rights were abused, invalidate all the safeguards given under this Bill to inshore fishermen. I would be glad, when the Parliamentary Secretary is replying, if he would state the principles under which these licences are going to be granted.
And the application of licences when granted.
My point is different from that of Deputy Costello because, on Section 5, my worry is not in regard to abuse of the licences but I feel that somebody following in the Parliamentary Secretary's place might take it into his head to impose some impossible restrictions or impossible conditions before granting the licences. I believe there should be some safeguard for the public. I believe that the Parliamentary Secretary should consider altering that and give the right of appeal to some higher authority, such as the district justice.
I am not suggesting that the Parliamentary Secretary will impose impossible restrictions but is it not our duty to have a safeguard and are not the courts the proper authority to which a right of appeal should be made? If impossible conditions and restrictions are put in, it would be wise that the right of appeal should be inserted in this clause.
It is quite true that there was a previous Bill before the House and the intention was to limit the actual catching of fish to sea fishermen. Everybody was aware that the problem adverted to by the Parliamentary Secretary a few moments ago was one that was creating trouble at that time. It was quite clear to anyone familiar with the problem that the Parliamentary Secretary referred to that and that the whole of Section 9 is an attempt to get round that particular problem. We are dealing with the question that we desire to have the catching of sea fish confined to Irish sea fishermen. We know we have already got within the country an Irish trawler company which under the operation of the previous Bill was going out of existence. The provision in respect of licences appeared to me to be fairly rigid. I gathered from the Parliamentary Secretary that was designed to meet a particular problem that revolves around the existence of Irish owned trawlers.
Sub-section (6) deals with the special problem that exists in Dublin. The fish are brought in and the pick of the catch is reserved for a particular section and the remainder is made available on the public market. Quite clearly, one of the purposes of the Bill is to ensure, in respect of the operations of any trawlers in this country, if they are going to operate, that they are going to operate under control and that the catch is made available for the distribution trade and the general public.
Section 9 has been evolved to meet a problem and it seems to me that it was a very fair attempt to deal with the problem. It does ensure that, in respect of the operation of Irish trawlers, there will be safeguards for the disposal of fish and that the disposal of fish will be on a certain basis. Under certain conditions it must be landed and controlled by the board to which we are giging the general supervisory powers in respect of fishing.
With regard to the question raised by Deputy McMenamin on Section 9, sub-section (6) (b), line 15—"... or disposed of according to the directions of the board"—I take it that the direction of the board will be given in advance as to the disposal of fish at particular ports during particular periods and that there will not be a question of obtaining the direction of the board on the morning the fish are landed, as Deputy McMenamin stated. I take it that the direction will be given in advance?
The direction of the board will be given in advance to cover a particular period and the board may direct that fish be sold to private enterprise.
Or they might direct these people to keep it themselves and do what they have been doing up to the present.
Exactly. It will be completely discretionary so far as the board are concerned. I wish to make a few remarks on sub-section (7) of this section. The sub-section reads as follows:—
"A licence for a vessel shall be valid only if and so long as no person, other than a person named in the licence or his legal personal representative, is the owner, charterer or hirer of the vessel."
I take it that when the licence lapses on the death of the owner of the vessel only the legal personal representative may obtain a new licence. Pending the rearrangement of the estate of the late owner, what is to become of the vessel? She cannot be used for fishing purposes as there is no licence in existence to qualify her for use for that purpose. Could the Parliamentary Secretary amend the sub-section to enable anad interim or temporary licence to be granted in respect of the vessel pending the giving of an annual licence to the legal personal representative so as to enable the vessel to get back to sea and join the fishing fleet immediately?
As I see the section, the board appears to be empowered to give a licence to anybody for the purpose of fishing. I do not say they would do it but there is nothing in the Bill to stop them from licensing anybody to have maybe half a dozen fishing boats and thus to create vested interests. This Bill is supposed to protect the interests of the inshore fisherman. Surely, if the board is the sole arbiter in the matter of the issue of licences to all and sundry there is nothing to stop the development of the state of affairs which exists at present whereby you have a fleet of trawlers, operated maybe by one person, doing all the fishing. That person may have plenty of capital behind him and may be in a position to wipe out the inshore fisherman.
I was not dealing with trawlers at all. I am dealing with the inshore fisherman. The Parliamentary Secretary's reply to Deputy O'Donnell does not meet my objections. According to him, the directions should be given in advance but, of course, the directions will be discretionary. Surely this House will not ask anybody in this country to invest money to get boats built to land fish and then tell them that it will be discretionary whether they can land fish or not. Such a person should have the right to land fish—either that, or we dispose of his existence altogether. I am talking of the type of man who has been traditionally fishing with his own boats and landing fish and disposing of them wholesale. That covers the expression "whether he disposes of them internally or exports them." It should be his right to do so and it should be clearly understood. There should be no discretion about that. That discretion should not be allowed to obtain because no man could be asked to carry on business under such conditions. I should like a clear and explicit statement from the Parliamentary Secretary that these men who have put years of saving and of work and of the landing and selling of fish into getting another boat built so that they may now have a fleet of 6, 8 or 10 boats—having built up their own organisation efficiently and successfully—will have their rights. I am concerned about their rights. The position must be clear and explicit. I should like it to be definitely stated here so that people of that kind round the coast of Ireland would have their position clearly laid down.
I am prepared to accept a statement by the Parliamentary Secretary on the matter provided it safeguards the interests of people of that type. These men have had standing crews all over the years and have a considerable amount of money invested in their industry. They have been doing their work efficiently and effectively. It would be a very bad thing to let these men down now. Are we now, under this Bill, going to convert them into mere fishermen and break up their organisation? As I say, they have their boats and crews and even in a small way—though that does not matter because it is only a question of degree—they have their own lorries at the small landing places around the coast. At these points they land the fish and transport them immediately to trains for Dublin and elsewhere. Even at night, when a catch of fish is landed and packed, the lorries rush off to Dublin with the fish. What is to happen to all these people? I should like an explicit statement from the Parliamentary Secretary that these men will not be left in the air when this Bill becomes law but that they will know whether they are in or out or under it.
This is a restriction that I dislike as much as any Deputy who has spoken. It is only the sheer necessity of trying to meet this problem in some reasonable way that compels us to use this form of words in the Bill. Another solution of this problem was contained in the 1950 Bill. If this can be termed "drastic" there is not a word in the language to describe the other provision because it simply swept them off the sea and put them out of business completely and without compensation. We felt that— particularly in view of the fact that we are importing fresh fish—to put out of business with one stroke a fleet of boats which contribute to the national supply of fish, thereby reducing the home landings and increasing the imports, could not be justified on any grounds. If this is an interference with the rights of private citizens surely it is very pale in comparison with the provision which it replaces. We retain these other boats in operation and the employment which they give. We retain for the Irish people their catches of fish. The limited restriction which we place upon them has, in fact, been approved by some of those people who are affected by it. Only yesterday I met a delegation of some of those people affected by it and when I explained the provision they said it was all right.
So long as we have that on record—not for the Parliamentary Secretary but for his successors —I am satisfied.
Yes. That is the purpose of it—to meet a problem which I have already outlined. With regard to the point raised by Deputy O'Donnell on sub-section (7)—to cover the delay between the death of the licensee and the identification of the legal personal representative—there is possibly a point there which I shall have to examine.
It is a small matter and it can easily be arranged.
Deputy D. Costello raised the matter of the general principles on which this section is based. I do not know exactly what type of information he wants when he asks me about the principle which is involved. If he wishes me to make a comparison between it and the 1950 measure I would say that one principle enshrined in this Bill is to allow the greatest possible amount of personal freedom and initiative. We are restricting only to the minimum the initiative of Irish citizens who want to engage in the fishing industry. We have, as a fundamental objective, in any event, the maintenance of the present inshore fleet on the most profitable basis possible. That presents a very complex problem. We feel that by acting fairly by all interests, including the consumer and the public who are going to finance the whole project, we are adopting the fairest and least hurtful method of achieving that objective.
We have a problem now, which is becoming characteristic of the fishing industry in peace time, when fish is being marketed in Western Europe on a fairly plentiful scale. That is that we find there is a decline here at home. The numbers engaged drop, and the quantity of landings drops. We are now attempting to ensure that there will be some method of checking that decline and of putting the industry on its feet. It is hardly to be expected that the inshore fishermen will be able to engage in the various fields of development such as the exploration of new fishing grounds, the trying out of new methods of fishing and various new methods of handling, fish refrigeration, fish meal, canning and all these other things and it is felt that a central authority should be established to do that work. When they have carried out the experimental work, if private enterprise is prepared to come into the field and take over, the board will be only too pleased to hand over to them and give them the benefit of the experience they have gained.
Are licences to be granted only to deal with the special problem in Dublin?
Every fisherman who wants to use a boat over 35 feet will have to apply for a licence.
How will the Minister decide to grant a licence or not? Will the Minister grant a licence to anybody who applies for a boat over 35 feet?
On what principle will he refuse a licence or grant it?
I do not know exactly how a district justice decides whether a man should get an auctioneering licence, a licence to take bets or any other type of licence. I take it that some method has been discovered to find out how a person is fit and suitable to hold a licence. I imagine that if a youngster who has no experience of fishing boats were to apply for a licence, I would, if I had the powers, think twice before granting him a licence to ensure his own safety, otherwise he might drown.
It is then decided on the personality of the applicant?
I imagine that a number of considerations will be taken into account. We have agents all around the coast and these applications will come in the main from those who reside along the coast. If there is any lack of information as to the desirability of giving a licence to an applicant, I take it that we shall have local contacts.
Assuming you do grant a licence with certain restrictions which the applicant feels are unjust or unfair, has the applicant any right of appeal? There may for instance be some unfair distinction drawn between individuals and surely there should be some right of appeal to somebody.
Will Deputy Kyne not agree with me that the position is more likely to be that we shall have the committee of the Fisheries Association making representations against the granting of licences where we are a little bit too liberal?
Does the Parliamentary Secretary not agree that there is a danger, assuming that different conditions are put into different licences, that hardship may be imposed on an individual or a section of individuals in favour of some other section and surely the elementary right of appeal to a court should be enshrined in the Bill? I would prefer to see the rights of an applicant safeguarded by giving him the right of appeal against a refusal of a licence to a district justice or to the Circuit Court.
I think the point raised by the Deputy is a very important one and I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to meet the point.
If Deputy Costello will look at the Bill, I think he will see that it is met already. I do not think that we have the right at all to refuse a licence.
It is purely discretionary. The word "may" is used in sub-section (2).
If the Deputy will read Section 10, I do not think he will find it as restrictive as the Deputy thinks. Section 10 says that the Minister may refuse to grant a licence to an applicant "(a) if a former licence granted to him has been revoked or (b) if the applicant or any other person who if the licence were granted, would be concerned in the management of a vessel, whether as owner, charterer, hirer or master, was concerned in the management of a vessel in any such capacity at a time when an offence was committed by reason of which a licence for that vessel was revoked." That gives a very limited field of refusal.
If you put in the words: "the Minister may only refuse"——
If the Minister is permitted to refuse in these two limited categories, is not his power to refuse in all other circumstances nonexistent?
Would it not relieve the position if "only" were added?
Section 10 is not the section in which the Minister will have the greatest power to impose conditions on applicants. That power will arise principally under sub-section (5) of Section 9. He has only to lay down conditions which will make it impossible for the applicant to carry on his licence. I support the Parliamentary Secretary in so far as the section is generally concerned but I do think he might have said that the purpose of the section was to retain control over the question of trawlers and to prevent the intrusion of too great a number into the fishing industry and, secondly, to deal with the local problem in Dublin. Having got these powers, I think he should bear in mind that, much as we have regard for him, he may not be always there to administer sub-section (5) and that it would be possible for his successor to lay down all sorts of conditions in regard to methods of sea fishing, places of disposal of catches, etc. I would suggest that there should be some provision that if an applicant complies with the opening conditions that are required for the protection of the inshore fishermen and to restrict the undue engagement of sea trawlers in the industry, the applicant should be afforded some protection against arbitrary discrimination. He is entitled to the right of an appeal to the court or to some other body that would measure whether or not the application of the section was fair or otherwise.
I still think that the Minister's power to refuse is limited by Section 10. With regard to sub-section (5) of Section 9 perhaps I ought to explain to Deputy Larkin what is intended to be achieved by it. Occasionally, you get complaints from fishermen around the coast that a particular bay is being over-fished. You say to the fisherman: "Why do you not go out fishing elsewhere and give the place a rest?" The reply you get is, why should they do so when their neighbours will not do so. They say to you then: "Make a general prohibition that will keep the whole lot of us out and we will agree." It will be a hardship, if you like, but it will be applied all round. That is the type of thing that is sought in sub-section (5). Take Dingle Bay with, say, ten boats in it. You give those people a licence along the Kerry coast to fish, but you say to them: "You are not to fish for the next 12 months in Dingle Bay." That gives the bay a rest and it revives as a fishing ground. The next year, if you think that the place can be profitably fished, you give a licence subject to the prohibition on fishing in Dingle Bay being removed.
This licensing power may be required for the benefit of fishing in any particular place. Sub-section (5) does not empower the Minister to refuse a licence. I know that it does seem to give the right to put so many vexatious conditions in the licence, such as those suggested by Deputy Larkin, as to make the licence practically useless. I submit, even though it is not specifically set out, that what any Minister would do would be to consult the board. If there are any safeguards, in reason, which the Dáil wants I am prepared to give them, but I do not think that an injustice is being inflicted on anyone.
Would the Parliamentary Secretary say what objection he has to giving the right of appeal to the District Court?
What would a district justice know about this?
There are a good many things on which a district justice gives a decision and on which he may not be an expert. I think that on an appeal of this kind he would give an unbiassed and a fair view. There is a good lot to be said for our courts. They have been impartial during all the stresses of the times we have gone through.
In a general way, I would be inclined to agree with the Deputies who suggest that there should be the right of appeal to the court. I can see, however, that as regards the type of provision which the Parliamentary Secretary is thinking of, the courts would probably be useless to deal with it. I cannot see, for example, how the court could decide on such a matter as the Parliamentary Secretary mentioned —the restriction of fishing in Dingle Bay. I think that you would get a better decision on that from the Minister or the board. At the same time, I think that the wording of the sub-section is very wide, and that it is a matter that the Parliamentary Secretary might look into. If he would agree to do so, it might help to remove some of the objections which have been raised. I take it that the objection is not to the type of conditions which the Parliamentary Secretary referred to but rather to the phrase which says: "a licence may be granted subject to such conditions as the Minister thinks fit". It then goes on to include certain things. There is no limitation as to what the Minister may think a fit and proper condition. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary would have the section redrafted limiting the type of condition to be laid down.
The section also says that the Minister may vary the conditions or impose new conditions.
We all know that in practice it would be impossible to specify all the conditions. Here we are dealing with an industry which produces new circumstances every other year.
We are satisfied that the Parliamentary Secretary intends well. We want fair conditions. As Deputy Larkin has pointed out, there is no guarantee that the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister will be there always. We do not know what is going to happen in the future.
The Dáil is always here and I suggest that it is a much better court of appeal than any district justice in a matter of this sort. I cannot see what help a district justice would be on a matter of this kind. If the Dáil thinks that an appeal to the district justice is going to be a help, I am prepared to accept that.
You will amend Section 10, therefore, with the addition of the word "only".
"The Minister may only refuse to grant a licence to an applicant...."
I think I can accept that.
Question put and agreed to.
Section 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 agreed to.
I move amendment No. 4:—
In sub-section (2) to delete paragraph (c).
This paragraph reads:—
"to purchase, store or sell fuel and lubricating and other oils for use in the running of sea fishing boats."
The board is being given the power to do what is set out in that paragraph. For the past 20 years sea fishing boats have been run on fuel, lubricating and other oils and people have set up businesses along our sea-board for the purpose of supplying oils to these fishing vessels. In this paragraph it is proposed to give the board power to set up a rival business and to wipe out long established businesses which have been obliging fishermen in this way. There is no proposal to give compensation to the people whose businesses are being wiped out overnight. I think it should be no concern of the board to sell fuel and lubricating oils for boats. I know of a case on an island off the Donegal coast where a gentleman fought for years for the right to obtain a licence to sell petrol. It was only after considerable trouble that he obtained the licence or, rather, a quota of petrol from one of the distributing companies, and then he established his business. That man's business will be wiped out overnight if the board set up an opposition store without compensating such an individual in some way or another. I think that the amendment should be accepted.
I take it that this is not absolute, that it is only in cases where it would be required that storage for fuel would be erected by the board. I am not assuming that they will proceed on a commercial basis to erect fuel pumps all round the coast of Ireland. Will the Parliamentary Secretary say that in cases of the kind dealt with in this amendment these people would not be interfered with by way of competition from the board; that they only propose to do this where there are no supplies at present or where new stations would be erected under the direction of the board where there is no accommodation for the storage of petrol and oil for fishing boats?
The fact is that this power has been available to the Sea Fisheries Association as at present constituted and has been there since 1931, and I do not think that they have given any cause for objection by any trader interested in this trade. It is not proposed that the new board will do anything more than the Sea Fisheries Association has being doing in the past in relation to this power. As a matter of fact, the list of powers given to the new board I believe is very common and there is nothing unusual in what is set out here in comparison with any other board being set up for the purpose of carrying on business. In any event, there is an omnibus clause at the bottom which I believe is meant to cover everything that the draftsmen forgot to mention, or perhaps it was because the alphabet was exhausted and they decided they would have to put in an omnibus clause to cover all the other powers which it is usual to give. Let us take the type of case for which this power might be required. It is only to cover remote possibilities. Let us assume that you develop fishing in some part of the coast in which these facilities were not available. If these facilities were not available, would it not be a pity if your activities in that remote place were held up because the board could not supply them?
Some enterprising merchant will very soon open up a business.
You could not wait for him to come along. I want to assure Deputies McMenamin and O'Donnell that it is not intended to operate this section to the detriment of any trader.
That being so, I withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move amendment No. 5:—
In sub-section (2), paragraph (n), to add at the end of the paragraph the words "provided same shall not be altered or varied after execution without the agreement of all parties thereto."
The paragraph is intended to give the new board the same rights to vary the contract, alter the contract or renew the contract as the old body had. Is the Parliamentary Secretary satisfied that, without the addition of the words I propose to add, they would not be given power to do so without the consent of the other party to the contract? I suggest that this amendment would be a safeguard for these people. With this addition, no alteration could be made without the agreement of all parties after its execution. If the matter were allowed to stand as at present, the board could alter any binding contract or agreement as and when they wished and no contractor would have any security. For example, the board could enter into a contract for the building of a boat and when the boat was built they could say they were altering the contract and not taking it. The addition of these words which I suggest as an amendment would safeguard the right of the individual.
I think that the words "alter and vary" must be read in the same way as you read the words "enter into" and the word "maintain". The power given here is to prepare and enter into a contract, and what is understood there, of course, is to enter into a contract with somebody else and, in conjunction with somebody else, to maintain the contract and from time to time also, in conjunction with the other person, to alter the contract or vary it. I think it is understood that the consent of the other party is required.
It could not be done legally otherwise.
You would be seeking to abolish the law of contract.
If the Parliamentary Secretary is satisfied, I shall withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move amendment No. 6:—
In sub-section (2), paragraph (o), line 14, before "as" to insert "and to provide cinematograph films".
I think there is no better method of advertising and no better method of education than the cinematograph. I am merely asking the Parliamentary Secretary to add these words so as to provide for the use of films for the purpose: (1) of educating the people in the cooking of fish, and (2) of advertising fish as it should be advertised in this country. It would be a very good thing if the Parliamentary Secretary could see his way to accept the amendment.
I support the amendment. On the Second Reading, I made the point that the cinematograph should be used for this purpose.
I agree with both Deputies that if, as the section is worded, we were denied the right to use the cinema, it would be necessary to change it. I suggest, however, that under the omnibus clause we would have this power. If the Deputies insist on its going in, I have no objection. Perhaps they would agree to add the radio as well as the cinema. I submit, however, that the omnibus clause covers it.
It will keep it more before the minds of the board if they see it in the Bill.
I shall bring forward an amendment to cover the point.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 15 agreed to.
I move amendment No. 7:—
Before Section 16 to insert a new section as follows:—
(1) During the period of five years beginning on the commencement of this Part a licence shall not be granted for a fishing boat unless the following requirements are satisfied:—
(a) that it is not less than 40 feet or more than 70 feet over all in length, and
(b) that neither the owner, charterer, hirer or master is engaged in any other business connected with the sea fishing industry.
(2) The requirements stated in paragraph (b) of sub-section (1) shall not apply to the board.
(3) The requirements of sub-section (1) shall during the period specified in that sub-section attach as conditions to a licence for a fishing boat.
(4) (a) The Minister may, if he thinks fit, issue in favour of the owner, charterer or hirer of a fishing boat a certificate exempting him during a specified period from compliance with the requirements of paragraph (b) of sub-section (1),
(b) a certificate shall not be issued in favour of a person who is engaged in the distributive fish trade,
(c) the Minister may at any time revoke a certificate.
I submit this amendment because a large number of people fear that the operation of this Bill giving powers to trawlers to fish will destroy their livelihood. For that purpose I put down this amendment confining the largest size boat to 70 feet in length so that we will definitely exclude anything of the trawler type which could go out further to sea and could land as many fish in one day, if it were lucky, as would do a countryside for a week or a fortnight. I should like to hear the Parliamentary Secretary's views on the matter. These people fear this encroachment on their livelihood.
This amendment, if accepted, will destroy the usefulness of this Bill in my opinion. I must say that I am surprised Deputy McMenamin put down this amendment, because on the Second Reading he opposed the Bill because it goes against private enterprise. He says that the fishing industry in Ireland will never be given a chance to develop properly unless it is put in the hands of private enterprise. This amendment of his would certainly discourage private enterprise in a very effective way. He said also that we were voting the taxpayers' money for what should be a huge industry able to acquire capital and stand on its own legs as a private industry. I feel that if Deputy McMenamin's amendment were accepted that the objective which he indicated in his Second Reading speech could not by any means be achieved.
Deputy Palmer followed him on the same lines eulogising private enterprise. He told us that there was a plentiful supply of fish when we had no Sea Fisheries Association and that possibly our own native Government interfered so much that the fish turned tail and went elsewhere. In this Bill we have sought to keep out State interference as much as possible consistent with the interests of the inshore fishermen so that we will get the best possible return from the fishing industry as it is organised in this country. I cannot on any account accept this amendment because it would destroy the whole structure of the measure. In any event it is not quite clear to me as to how this amendment could be operated. I suggest that instead of being inserted before Section 16, this amendment should have been inserted before Section 10. Section 9 makes licences for boats of 35 feet and over a necessity. This amendment would require that boats over 40 feet should be licensed. I wonder what would happen a boat of 38 feet in length if this amendment were to be accepted. However, that is a detail.
What I am puzzled by is that in sub-section (4), paragraph (a), the Minister would be authorised, if he thought fit, to give an exemption certificate to an owner, charterer or hirer, that is, exempting him during a specific time from compliance with the requirements set out in sub-section (1) of the section. It indicates in paragraph (b) of sub-section (4) that a certificate shall not be issued in favour of a person who is engaged in the distributive trade. The people who are in the distributive trade, for the purposes of this measure, are set out in the description of the first page and when you exclude them, what I am interested to ascertain is what categories of people associated with the fishing industry could qualify for an exemption certificate. However, these are difficulties which would arise if the amendment were accepted. It is a measure that would put people who are already in the industry and who have, to use Deputy McMenamin's and Deputy Palmer's own words: "Brought their private enterprise into play in this industry and have for long years been producing fish and giving employment," out of business and their employees out of employment and would reduce considerably the home landings of fish, necessitating an increase in the importation of foreign fish. I do not think anybody in the position in which I find myself could accept that amendment and the consequences which would flow from it.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed: "That Section 16 stand part of the Bill."
My opposition to the section is mainly that I feel that there are ample powers in the present codes of the country to deal with any question of people, particularly fishermen, not keeping their contracts and committing sins of omission rather than anything else. I feel that the gravity which is implied by the imposition, on a first offence, of a fine not exceeding £20, and on a second offence, a fine not exceeding £60, is an attempt to make the sins of the fishermen——
It does not fix a minimum.
It does not, I know, but even so, while I quite agree that a district justice may decide that a minimum meets the case, is it not quite true that, to give these powers, is an indication of an incitement to the district justice to take cognisance of the fact that the board take a very serious view of such an offence? I think the ordinary courts are quite sufficient to deal with the fishermen.
I would support the objection for two reasons. Here we are endeavouring to create a criminal offence for the breach of a civil contract and I question very much if the board could come into the civil courts and sue for breach of contract on foot of a contract entered into by them without first invoking the criminal law. I think it is a well-known principle of law that, before one can proceed on the civil side, one must come in on the criminal side, and bring the criminal to justice. A case would first of all be required to be brought under Section 16 prior to bringing any legal proceedings on the civil side. Our civil courts are quite capable of dealing with breaches of contract. Why should the board be placed in a superior position to the ordinary citizen who may only invoke the civil law when there is a breach of the civil law? Here we are giving the board the power—I would not say giving them the power because we are making it compulsory for them—to invoke the criminal law prior to the operation of the civil law. It may be that it is essential that the criminal side should be brought under Section 16 before the board is sued on the civil side.
This section seems to me to be cockeyed. When did it become law that a civil contract becomes a criminal offence? Is the board going to seek a criminal and civil remedy for the same offence? Can they found a criminal action on a civil contract? If they can it is quite new to me and I have never heard of it before and I have had a lot to do with this sort of thing for quite a considerable time. I certainly would like to know if the board can ask for a conviction on the criminal side for a matter arising out of a civil contract. In whose brain did that originate, because I have never heard of such a proposal? Can a person be brought into court on a criminal conviction on a civil matter? The whole thing seems preposterous. A double remedy is being sought for the same thing. In no other law can one get a double remedy arising out of a single cause. You must elect what you are going to take and when you have elected, you are bound by the one you elect and cannot proceed with the other one.
I cannot see the object of this thing at all, nor can I understand it. I have never seen nor heard of such a thing. I feel it is quite an innovation in the law. Take a case arising under the Workmen's Compensation Act, which would seem analogous, and which is a case of a dual remedy. You can take action on the civil side of the court or you can take proceedings under the Workmen's Compensation Act, but the moment you have elected you are bound thereby and you have only one remedy. What is remarkable about the matter is that a civil action is taken for a man, or a woman who suffers an accident. However, under this Act the board is to have one criminal action and another civil action arising out of a civil matter—the recovery of a sum of money. How are we going to link that up with the criminal law, or how are we going to justify it? How are we going to get alocus standi in the court to initiate these proceedings on the criminal side? I would like to see it tried out but, in my opinion, you could not get into court proceedings of that kind.
You can after this section is passed.
It does seem to me that a mistake has got into this section. I cannot speak as one who has a wide knowledge as to the difference between criminal and civil law, but I would like to know the basis on which the board is given this privilege. We are dealing with an agreement in this case between the board and the people who purchase boats and gear. If the people who get the boats and gear fail to carry out the terms of the agreement they are liable to criminal prosecution and to a fairly heavy fine. What are the special circumstances in which the board should be protected in its ordinary civil relationship? Take the question of local authorities who have to dispose of the houses they build under a hire-purchase agreement. If the tenant fails to keep the contract the local authority cannot bring him into court. The Electricity Supply Board enters into a hire-purchase agreement with a person who buys an electric fire or an electric cooker, but if the person who gets these articles does not honour the agreement, he cannot be brought into court.
Why is it that the board should be placed in a different position from the bodies I have mentioned above and why should it be given a special advantage? Why is it that a body of citizens who are engaged in a very hazardous occupation and in very arduous work and who are making a contribution to the development of one of our most important native industries should be looked upon as criminal if they fail to keep a civil contract? I suppose everyone in this House has broken a civil contract from time to time—in other words, the payment of an ordinary commercial debt within the powers laid down by the person to whom we owe the debt. That seems to me to be extraordinary and there must be very strong reasons for it.
The Civil Service mind is at the back of it.
The Civil Service mind is all right, but it should not operate so as to discriminate against one section of the community, especially a section who are engaged in a very hazardous work. The ordinary tenant who enters into a tenant purchase house or the consumer of electricity who buys an electric fire for his own comfort and convenience is in a very different position from the fisherman. Everybody is aware that the difficulties are enormous in the fishing industry. It is, therefore, peculiar that we should set out under this Bill to make them liable to a criminal offence if they fail to honour the terms of their agreement with the board. If they are convicted, an even greater fine is imposed on them than is imposed on other sections of the community who may have committed a more grievous and more detrimental offence against the State. The fines imposed on them range from £20 to £60 as against £5, £10 and £15 on other offenders. There is a definite discrimination there. The Parliamentary Secretary should try to justify this marked discrimination before the section can be accepted in its present form.
I think the Deputy asked who was the genius who was responsible for this. I can assure him I am not the genius. As a matter of fact this is taken word for word out of the 1931 Fisheries Act. Deputy McMenamin said that it was an innovation—that it was never heard of before. Actually it was passed by Dáil Éireann and was taken word for word out of the 1931 Act and has been available to the Sea Fisheries Association for the past 21 years. We may be blamed for being bad copyists but, in fact, we are very poor inventors in so far as this charge is concerned. It has been described as being quite novel, but I do not think it is quite as new as Deputies suggest. I remember as a young lad road contractors being prosecuted in a civil court.
They were sued on their bond.
I would like to give some justification for the viewpoint of people of 21 years ago. I have not examined this particular section very closely in connection with this Bill.
Did the Department ever take any proceedings against any individual in the State?
I want Deputy McMenamin to stand on the rock of principle on which he objects to this very idea in his opening remarks. The question the Deputy has asked is beside the point.
Even if the Department had used it, Deputy McMenamin would have had a stronger case. I want to state that I have not examined the implications of this very closely. I assumed that when it was done 21 years ago power of this sort was necessary. Suppose you give £5,000 worth of a boat—and that is not a very big boat nowadays—to a fisherman in any part of the coast and he enters into a contract with you to fish that boat. Suppose you turn over his fish to the board so that they can make appropriations from the sale of that fish against the boat. Then suppose he uses that boat for some other purpose and is making money hand over fist, but is doing it in such a way that you cannot make any appropriations. In that case, he uses the boat almost in a criminal way and, as far as public money is concerned, what remedy has the board?
Could he not be sued for conversion?
We cannot take the boat as the law stands and there is no remedy to get some part of his earnings.
You can collect them by way of a penal fine.
Does Deputy O'Donnell believe that a fine, in a set of circumstances such as I have outlined, is such a heinous procedure?
No, but I think it is a much better remedy to sue for your money.
There are places in the country where it is very difficult to enforce a court decision and it takes some time to give effect to them.
Are we trying to get at the islanders by means of this section?
No, but if there is misuse of a boat I can see a justification for the section but perhaps the Dáil has strong views about it, on the principle of clapping on a penalty in addition to the civil remedy open to the board. I have a very strong feeling on that. Whatever the views may have been 21 years ago I would be prepared myself to concede this. Is there a strong objection to it?
Very definitely. I feel it is odious to hold the fishing people under this particular ban. I feel that the fishing people should be protected.
Deputy Kyne knows that a man can misuse a fitting which he gets from the Electricity Supply Board.
You can misuse a house, too.
You are going to revoke his licence under the Bill.
But the man does not want the licence because he is using the boat for some other purpose.
Once he has got a licence you can revoke it.
If there is strong opposition to it, I will not force it on the House.
Question declared lost; Section 16 accordingly deleted.
Sections 17 and 18 agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 not moved.
Sections 19 to 22, inclusive, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 23 stand part of the Bill."
From whom is the board going to borrow? They have not any assets.
They have a lot of boats.
I suppose it will be by way of overdraft from the bank. I do not know exactly what matter is troubling Deputy McMenamin in relation to this.
If the bankers are satisfied, we will be satisfied.
I imagine they would have to have temporary accommodation.
The board must have to borrow money.
Question put and agreed to.
Sections 24 to 33, inclusive, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 34 stand part of the Bill."
This section deals with licences to sell fresh fish by auction. Does that mean that the board purports to have set up a panel of auctioneers on their own and issue licences to them, lay people other than auctioneers? There is an Auctioneers Act now by which only people who comply with the law laid down can be auctioneers. I want to know whether this section means that the board can select anybody at all, such as a person who is not a licensed auctioneer, to sell fish? Is that the meaning?
No. This section requires people who carry on the business of auctioning fish to apply for a licence. It is intended to be a protection to fishermen who send their fish from Donegal, Galway or Kerry, say, to the Dublin market so that they will have a reasonable guarantee that the person who takes that fish and auctions it will be a credit-worthy person.
That is all that is intended by it.
Question put and agreed to.
Section 35 agreed to.
I move amendment No. 10:—
To add a new sub-section as follows:—
(2) This section shall not apply to any person holding a licence by virtue of the provisions of the Auctioneers and House Agents Act, 1947.
Under the Auctioneers Act, 1947, any person wishing to engage in the business of auctioneering must go to the trouble and expense of applying to the District Court. First of all, he advertises his intention in the Press. Then he goes to court, employs a solicitor to act on his behalf, and obtains from the district justice a certificate of fitness to enable him to carry on the business of auctioneering. He then must obtain a £10 licence from the Revenue Commissioners and must enter into a bond with an insurance company and pay a premium thereon.
Under the 1947 Act, all those things are necessary and successful applicants are put to that trouble and expense but the sale of fish is excluded from the 1947 Act. It has been the custom in this country, on the first sale of fresh fish landed, that an auctioneer's licence is not required by any person who may auction the fish. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to exempt successful applicants under the 1947 Act and people who have obtained licences under the 1947 Act from the further necessity of coming to the Minister and applying for a further certificate of fitness and a further licence to comply with Section 34 (1) of the Act. Even if that is done it will still make it necessary for such applicants to register under Section 39 (1). It will be necessary for him to register under Section 39 (1) but he will be exempted from the expense and the necessity of applying for a licence under Section 34 (1).
I will accept the Deputy's amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Section, as amended, put and agreed to.
Section 37 and 38 agreed to.
Amendment No. 11, which relates to this section, is consequential on an earlier amendment.
I do not think it is necessary.
Amendment No. 11 not moved.
Question proposed: "That Section 39 stand part of the Bill."
Question put and agreed to.
Sections 40, 41 and 42 agreed to.
I move amendment No. 12:—
In paragraph 2, sub-paragraph (1), lines 35 and 36, to delete "one of whom shall be chairman" and substitute "five of whom shall be ordinary members (one of whom shall be chairman) and one a managing director,".
The First Schedule is one of the parts of this Bill to which I have a very strong objection. I indicated on the Second Reading of this Bill that I could not see how a body of men, constituted as this board will be constituted, could, under any circumstances, make a success of this industry. The more I reflect on it the stronger is my conviction that my opinion is true.
It will be clear to anybody who is acquainted with business affairs that no man of any business standing, and with any regard for his reputation as a businessman, will undertake this project for a period of two years because, no matter who he is or what ability he may have as a businessman, he cannot make a success of the project in such a short time as a period of two years. Therefore, a good businessman will avoid accepting this position because it will only diminish his reputation as a businessman. One feels, therefore, that the Department will be driven to the appointment of gentlemen who are utterly reckless as to whether they succeed or fail but from whose record it will be obvious from the beginning that the matter will end in failure. That is my thesis or this matter and, though it may be argued against, my argument cannot be displaced. Experience proves that it is true and that there is no exception to it. For these reasons I am fundamentally opposed to the provisions of this Schedule.
I was rather taken with a similar provision in the 1950 Bill which struck me as having the essence of success. It provided for a board and for continuity in the person of a managing director. That man should get a permanent appointment. He should be selected after close scrutiny and examination of his reputation and character as a businessman. Then he should get a substantial period of ten or 15 years —subject to good conduct and the efficient carrying on of the business— and be paid a good salary. Let the Parliamentary Secretary make no mistake, he will not make a success of this project and he will not get a good man for the job unless he offers him a good salary—and a good man will be cheap at a good salary. Cheap men are no use for anything and certainly they will be no use for this industry which this House and the country in general hopes will be put on its feet and made a success of.
It is regrettable that, after all the chopping and changing, we do not put this industry in a position to enable it to be successful. We cannot and will not make a success of it unless the machinery that operates it has in it the ingredients of success. In my opinion you cannot make a success of the industry without appointing a good man—call him what you like: he was called a "managing director" in the 1950 Bill—and giving him a good salary and the prospect of continuity of employment. Such a man cannot be got under the present procedure. No man of any standing or ability in the business life of the country would take on that job for two years and then relinquish it because he knows that he could not make a success of it in that time. He would require at least five years and, I should say ten years, to do his job well.
What will the members of this board be? They will be a collection of junior apprentices—not apprentices at all but junior apprentices. When they go, at the end of two years, another bunch of junior apprentices will be marched in. We are trying to fool ourselves in this House that, under such machinery, it will be possible to make a success of this industry. There is not an earthly hope that, under such conditions, it will be a success. Whether or not I am a member of this House, or whether I have passed from this orb altogether, I can guarantee that this Act will prove a fiasco unless the board is constituted on some other basis and unless you have some person there in a permanent position—some person who has outstanding ability though not necessarily in the business of handling fish. What we require is a man of outstanding ability who understands thoroughly the importance of organisation, advertisement, distribution and all the other branches of the fishing industry, which is a very extensive business and which could prove of real value to the country.
I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that between now and the Report Stage there should be further consultation on this matter with a view to setting up some other form of machinery in respect of this industry. There is not a million-to-one chance that the machine to be established under this Bill will make a success of this industry.
The only thing I see wrong with the matter is that the period of two years may prove to be too long. If we get weeds on the board, we may be very anxious to get rid of them at the end of two years. The Parliamentary Secretary could amend this sub-section (3) to read: "...each member shall be appointed for a period of two years or more." That will give the Parliamentary Secretary an opportunity of retaining good men on the board and of getting rid of the weeds.
What about changes of government?
We hope we shall not change them every two years. If, as Deputy McMenamin says, you change your board every two years, you will not tend to attract the best people and the best brains to the board.
The suggestion of a two-year period is ridiculous.
If we could amend this section in the manner I have suggested, the Parliamentary Secretary would be in a position to retain those members of the board whom he considers suitable. I am aware of the fact that under the Bill as it stands the members of the board can be reappointed, but it would be far better if they were given some fixity of tenure and if they knew that appreciation would be shown for the work they have done on the board. If you said two years or more it would avoid the necessity of the Parliamentary Secretary reappointing for two years.
I am amused at Deputy McMenamin's arguments because he was one of the people who put me on the spot on Second Reading in regard to the dictatorial board that I was setting up—not he alone but others too. I think I fairly anticipated that type of criticism when I did not include the managing director in this set-up. It is bad enough to have a dictatorial board of six people but six dictators are not as bad as one, if they have equal authority. I am requested now, having set up the dictatorial board, to canalise all power through the medium of a managing director into the hands of one person. It is for the purpose of ensuring that no one man will dominate the board that a managing director is not being appointed. I do not think it possible to get all the requirements in the possession of one individual to meet the fishing problems that one meets with from month to month in the fishing industry. There is an arrangement at present whereby there is a manager. He is, in fact, a member of the committee of the Sea Fisheries Association. The manager will not be in this case a member of the board. He will be there, I take it, on occasions when the board require his presence to take part in their deliberations but he will not have the right to vote. We are not going to set up any one individual person as a Pooh-Bah to override the others. We want to ensure that the six people will be equally independent, having nobody to overawe them in the deliberations of the board. I am convinced personally that it is a far better arrangement to ensure that you will have six such people on the board rather than to try to dominate it by a person who is placed in a superior position.
Where is the manager coming from? There is no provision for him in this Bill.
The manager can be appointed. Paragraph 7, sub-paragraph (4), says that the officers of the board may, with the consent of the Minister, include a manager whose appointment and terms of office shall be subject to the approval of the Minister. We think that type of management is quite adequate to the task and we do not want to enlarge the importance of the manager so that he will, in fact, dwarf the other members of the board.
Does the Parliamentary Secretary suggest that he will be a civil servant?
The manager is not being made a civil servant under this section. What will happen in practice is, as the Deputy knows, that the board will take over the existing officials. So far as I know there is not any good reason why the board should not appoint the existing manager. So far as I know he has given good service.
It will be a case of "as you were."
In so far as the manager is concerned, I have indicated that so far as my knowledge goes, he has proved himself quite satisfactory as manager. However, it will be for the board to decide themselves whether they will reappoint him or appoint somebody else. In any event, I think of the two alternatives, the one adopted here, whereby the manager will not dominate the board, is much better than what is suggested in the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move amendment No. 13:—
In paragraph 2, sub-paragraph (1), line 36, after "chairman" to add the following "and not more than two of whom shall be members of the Civil Service or former members of the Civil Service".
In this matter some people thought that this board might be dominated by civil servants. While it may be advisable to have some civil servants on the board, they should not dominate the board and it is felt that there should be a guarantee that half of them will be lay men.
I support the amendment. The Parliamentary Secretary a few moments ago paid a compliment to the chairman of the Sea Fisheries Association. I should like to join with him in that. I have some experience of the manager to whom he refers and I think he was a most efficient gentleman. I should like to pay tribute also to the civil servants who have served as directors of the Sea Fisheries Association but I am going to attack them, not in their personal or individual capacities, but on account of the official view which they bring into the associations and boards of which they become members. I say that the Sea Fisheries Association since its inception has been stifled by official directors and that any good work that has been done has been done by the directors elected by the fishermen. Unfortunately, the official point of view and the majority point of view has offset anything which could have been done by the directors elected to the Sea Fisheries Association. If you are now going to appoint a board, the majority of whom will consist of civil servants, I say you will be as far back as ever. After all, what practical experience has a civil servant of sea fishing? Has one ever stood on board ship, other than on a short tour of inspection? Has he ever fished or handled a seine net or a drift net? One requires practical experience of all these things to become a director of an association dealing with fishing.
It may be that the board will consist of representatives of fishermen and of representatives of the wholesale and retail trade. Is there an official who has practical experience of the retail or wholesale fish trade? I would respectfully ask the Minister to accept the amendment and to confine the Civil Service members of the board to not more than two. By doing that he will have a liaison between himself and the board. At the same time these members will be able to report to him the various steps which are being taken by the board but they will not have power to overawe and curb the good work which the directors elected by the fishermen are endeavouring to carry out.
I support the amendment because, in the next amendment, I am trying to deal with the same problem in a more general way. I repeat what Deputy O'Donnell has said that I have no personal animus against the civil servants who have been associated with the Sea Fisheries Board, but I do think it is a dishonest practice for Governments and Ministers to establish what are intended to be, in the main, independent boards to carry out specific functions and then retain complete control over the day to day working of those boards by virtue of the nature of the appointments which they make. Now, the work of the Sea Fisheries Association at the moment is, as everybody knows, largely determined by the civil servants who are associated with its work in one way or another. I do not question for a moment their efficiency so far as the discharge of their duties is concerned, but it is well known that no decision will be taken by them unless they already know what the mind of the Minister is. If that is the case, why not let the Minister do the job himself? As a result of the present position we have endless circumlocution, delays and annoyances created because we have a board charged with authority and responsibility which, time after time, waits to see how it should make a decision.
That is my main objection in regard to the way in which the board is to be constituted under the First Schedule. The other point made by Deputy O'Donnell in regard to the need for members of the board having practical knowledge of the commercial distribution of fish, seems to me to be equally important. May I point out that, in the whole framework of the organisation which this Bill is setting up, it is quite clear that a most important part of the machinery is found in the Second Schedule when we come to deal with the composition of the committee of the association? We there go to great pains to determine that not merely will the members be representative of the various interests in the practical carrying on of the fishing industry but we determine their actual numerical proportions. In a further amendment, the Minister is taking steps to ensure that the thing is exact. If it is important that, in respect of the association, there should be adequate and proper representation for the persons who are engaged in and have a practical knowledge of the industry, it is surely more important that the personnel of the board, which is to direct and govern the main machinery of the whole Bill, should in its composition equally reflect the practical working of the industry.
I agree that there should be associated with the board, on the basis of the viewpoint of the Minister regarding their capabilities, individuals who have a knowledge of administration. From that point of view, possibly civil servants or former civil servants cannot be excelled. I think, however, that there should be some limit placed on that type of representation. The matter should not be left open, as it is in the Schedule at the moment. We know from actual experience, not in relation to the Sea Fisheries but of other boards, that while we have honest and sincere members appointed to them, by reason of their whole background or their official position in other spheres, they find themselves not free to exercise their judgment or to apply their capabilities in the manner required. I would urge on the Parliamentary Secretary to consider this amendment.
I take it that I am being asked to approach the question of the selection of members of the board entirely on the basis of representative capacity. I do not know that that is essentially sound. It may, by chance, work out all right, but it is not an unerring guide to the selection of the best people. I have known people whom I have tried to induce to go forward for election to the committee of the Sea Fisheries Association because of their practical knowledge of some aspect of the fishing industry.
Do you not agree that one of the reasons why they would not go forward was that they knew the officials had a majority of the directorships, and so could out-vote and outrule them on every occasion?
What I wanted to put to the Deputy was this, that the men were honest enough, they were good men and knew the fishing industry, but, as they put it frankly to me, they felt that they would make the poorest possible administrators. A man who is a good fisherman does not always make the best administrator. I do not think there is any possible class of representative that could be suggested in this House that someone would not criticise. We have heard that already. Somebody gets on, he has no intimate association with the fishing industry but, possibly, he is a good administrator. You are then told that he knew nothing about the industry, that he would not know a herring from a cod. That was one type of criticism. The other was of a person who had been associated with the industry all his life, and what was said of him was this, that he was a fellow who had an axe to grind and that he was playing his own hand. That has always been so. When a civil servant was appointed, you were told that his only interest was to draw his pay. If you approach this from the point of view of representative capacity, I cannot see any type suggested that will not be subject to some criticism. We are going to have people associated with the industry on the advisory committee. They will be there as watch dogs. We certainly do require good administrators.
I think the best approach to the selection of members of the board is that we should try and get people who are best qualified to make good administrators. As regards specialised knowledge, for example as to the best type of net for use in the Irish Sea or the best type of engine to put into a 36-foot boat, or what sort of engine you would put into a 50-foot or an 80-foot boat, I do not think that specialised knowledge of that sort is absolutely necessary. If civil servants were to be ruled out from appointment to this board it is possible that the very best person we have in the country for membership of the board would be disqualified.
We are not ruling them out. We are giving them two seats.
I do not think that I should accept the principle of selection on a representative basis. In any event, this two-year period of office is, I think, a pretty good safeguard and if, in fact, we put any duds on the board we will not have to wait too long to get rid of them. I myself have, for a number of years, been on the committee of directors of the Sea Fisheries Association. I have also had experience as a member of the local authority. Therefore, I know that it is necessary to ensure that you will not have too much delegation of business to officials, that in fact the board will be able to deal with the largest volume of business to be done by the board, and therefore it is necessary that we should have people available for meetings not less frequently than once a week. Very often the business of this board may necessitate meetings more frequently than once a week. Therefore I do not want to tie my hands in such a way that the board will have to delegate a lot of its business to officials or postpone its business to other meetings. For that reason I think the Minister should retain the power to select the people on their personal merits rather than on their representative capacity.
Progress reported; Committee to sit again this evening.