I move that this Report be referred back for reconsideration. I do so on the ground that the Report has been arrived at under false pretences.
Committee on Finance. - Livestock Marts Bill, 1967: Money Resolution on Report.
Before the Deputy goes on, I should like to point out to the House that it is most unusual to debate a Money Resolution to a Bill on Report. This has never been the practice, for the reason that an adequate opportunity for a debate has already been provided in Committee and points of detail which Deputies might like to raise can be raised more appropriately on the different sections of the Bill.
I am moving the reference back in the exceptional circumstances in which we find ourselves in this instance. There is provision in Standing Orders for this type of discussion, as you know, and I want to avail myself of the Standing Order in order to expose the fact that this Report has been arrived at under false pretences and on misrepresentations made to this House by the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries. He assured the House that in fact he had had discussions with the IAOS and the Cork Marts, and that arising out of those discussions, he had got general agreement on the Bill with his amendments.
At the time the Minister made that statement, I was in a position to deny it and refute it, and when I stood up to do that, the Minister moved the closure and I was denied that opportunity. Since that date, last Thursday, we have had further evidence—and a further denial by the people concerned —that in fact what the Minister said was not true so far as they were concerned. I feel it is my duty to quote what the Minister said and to quote also what has been said since by the IAOS and the Cork Marts, and with your permission, that is what I propose to do now. I am quoting from volume 229, column 1458 of the Official Report for 6th July, 1967. The Report reads:
Mr. Blaney: Just let us show the public how difficult the Opposition are trying to be in this matter for their own petty little reasons. That was not sufficient but when it was announced—remember and mark these meetings well—subsequent to my meeting the IAOS and the Cork Marts in a joint deputation and subsequent to that the meeting by me of the Associated Marts Association and subsequent to the NAC considering what we had considered at these meetings already, we had general agreement by the two associations, whose rights you people are now allegedly defending, that the Bill in this form with the amendments now produced is generally acceptable to them.
Mr. Clinton: That is not true, and I know it is not true.
At the time I had sufficient evidence to indicate that it was not even then true, and in order to prove that I want to quote now from The Farmers' Journal of 8th July. This is a statement by the President of the IAOS. The quotation reads:
Last week the Minister for Agriculture received both representatives of the Livestock Marts and a deputation from the IAOS. Mr. P.F. Quinlan, President of the IAOS, told the "Farmers' Journal" subsequently that his organisation would have to wait and see, when the Bill next came before the Dáil, how far vital interests of the co-operative movement had been safeguarded. He said that their crucial objections had yet to be dealt with. "Our major objection," said Mr. Quinlan, "was in regard to that part of the Bill which could limit expansion of co-op marts from the time licensing comes into force. We have seen nothing yet to allay our fears on that score."
As I say, I had that information at that time to refute what the Minister was in fact stating.
Since then, those people have met again but the Minister for Agriculture, during the debate on the Financial Resolution, went on to say:
Mr. Blaney: It is true. There is here in this House a circular from one of the groups I have mentioned. One of the groups have circulated their own members with a minute of the meeting held with the Minister to discuss this Bill and this minute will clearly indicate the position to any person who has any doubts whatever. Fine Gael, obviously, have a lot of doubts. They must have been in cuckooland in the last week when they did not know that the people whose rights they are allegedly defending had been with me and discussed the matter with me, that the two associations, including the Cork Marts with the IAOS, have had very cordial discussions with me and we have reached agreement, by and large, and the amendments circulated in the white print on Tuesday and the green print on Wednesday are amendments that now make that Bill by and large acceptable to these two groups.
Mr. Clinton: "By and large" is a great expression.
Mr. Blaney: There is no point in Fine Gael making out that they are the defenders of the co-operative movement in this country. Surely, they do not want to tell the House that they usurp the rights of the IAOS, the rights of the Cork Marts, which Deputy Creed was talking about here today? Surely he should know, if he is so closely associated with the Cork Marts, that they were represented on this deputation received by me last Friday and arising from which there was general agreement on the Bill, subject to a a few small amendments that have been circulated and which apparently Fine Gael have not read or, having read, do not understand or, having understood, do not want.
The Minister gave us much more on the same subject. This morning there was a report of a meeting held yesterday by the IAOS and the Cork Marts and I quote from the Irish Times of 13th July, 1967, under the heading “Minister's Amendments do not Satisfy”:
The committee appointed by the Co-operative Livestock Marts to look after their interests in connection with the Livestock Marts Bill, 1967, held a meeting in the Plunkett House, Merrion Square, Dublin, yesterday. The meeting was presided over by Mr. P.F. Quinlan, President of the IAOS.
Detailed consideration was given by the meeting to the Bill and in particular to the amendments to the Bill proposed by the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries which will be considered by the Dáil on the Committee Stage.
The committee reviewed the discussion with the Minister which took place on June 30th and the subsequent statement by the Minister in the Dáil in regard to the attitude of the IAOS to the proposed amendments as reported in the daily press on Friday July 7th.
"It appeared from these reports that the representatives of the Co-operative Marts and the IAOS were satisfied with the amendments to the Bill introduced by the Minister in the Dáil on Thursday July 6th, 1967," a statement from the committee said.
"The amendments introduced by the Minister to date do not cover adequately the case presented to him, and in particular nothing has so far appeared to assure the farmers that co-operative development by the farmers in their own interests will be safeguarded. In particular the committee was concerned that the rights of farmers to provide themselves with an up-to-date and efficient marketing service should be preserved.
"The Ministerial amendment proposed to Section 3 of the Bill dealing with the Minister's power to revoke licences was completely unacceptable to the Co-operative Livestock Marts. In their view all breaches of the Act or of the regulations under the Act should be a matter for independent arbitration.
"The Minister's amendments in regard to infringements of the regulations provided only for an inquiry in respect of certain technical breaches. The absolute powers conferred on the Minister by section 6 (subsection 2) Paragraphs a, b, c, and d, which concerned the manner in which the business of the marts should be conducted remained unchanged.
"The Ministerial amendment to section 6 is an unnecessary interference in the ordinary day-to-day business operations of a livestock mart and makes the Bill even more unacceptable. The Ministerial amendment to section 4 dealing with powers of exemption from the Act is still obscure.
"In general it is the view of the Co-operative Livestock Marts that the Bill appears to be designed for the remedy of evils and malpractices which in the case of Co-operative Livestock Marts have not existed, do not exist at present and which cannot exist under the principles by which the Co-operative Marts operate. These principles ensure fair play to individual members irrespective of class, creed, faction or politics."
I ask the House to judge whether this report was arrived at under false pretences and under misrepresentation on the part of the Minister that in fact he had got general agreement from all parties concerned, that the Bill, with his amendments, had met with general agreement. The reports of those meetings which have since been held bear out the statement I wanted to make— that in fact the objections of those parties were not met and that the ministerial amendments in fact did nothing more than to remove the member of the Garda Síochána whom it was proposed to have in the Bill originally. The other amendments brought in by the Minister were nothing more than eyewash. They guaranteed nothing and did nothing.
There is no appeals machinery provided and any reconsideration given was reconsideration practically by the Minister in one case—the reconsideration was to take place through a barrister of the Minister's selection, from years of experience, but he was not bound in any way to accept the new findings and in fact nothing proposed in that ministerial amendment was in any way binding or in any way altered the legislation which he proposes to put through the House, and which I hope will never get through the House. I hope that as time goes on he will realise that this is unwise, unwanted and bad. I sincerely hope that even at this late stage the Minister will abandon the whole idea of this Marts Bill and even if he is not prepared to go that far, will decide to leave its further consideration until after the summer recess, until, he has had time to give it further consideration and until all the parties concerned are satisfied that the legislation will do something for Irish farmers.
One of the statements made by the Minister in support of the Resolution and the Bill is that it is in the best interest of farmers themselves and that they know that. I ask the Minister which section of the farming community have sought this legislation, which organised section have said it will be of any benefit to them. Have the co-operatives said it, have any section of the farming community said it? If so, they have said it to themselves because there has been no publicity. In support of his statement, the Minister reverted to 1957 when there was some indication there might be a proliferation of marts. That was the only thing the Minister could tell the House about this Bill—that the farmers were looking for it in 1957.
At that time there were difficulties arising in connection with there being too many marts set up too close to each other and the then Minister for Agriculture and the Department refused to give any help or co-operation to overcome the difficulties which were overcome in a different way. They were overcome by the co-operation of the commercial banks simply refusing to give accommodation or to give credit where it was obvious to them that a new mart being set up was too near to another mart and that there would be overlapping.
That is a problem which has settled itself and I appeal to the Minister, even at this late stage, to realise that this legislation is undesirable, that it certainly is something that should not be at this late stage rushed through the House. I would strongly appeal to him, if he does nothing else, at least to hold this over until the autumn and in the meantime have discussions with all parties concerned and come back with fresh ideas about it then.
It appears likely that we will have a rather lengthy discussion on this Bill but what has transpired since it was discussed here a week ago should be sufficient to warrant the postponement of this measure. That was put to the Minister last week by this side of the House.
We are discussing the Money Resolution and the Deputy may not discuss anything else.
We are discussing the Report Stage of it. I am asking the Minister, as I asked him last week, where is the need for hurry? Why should we have this rushed through in the middle of July? Why must we rush this Money Resolution? Why must we rush this Bill through the Dáil? Surely there should be some compromise? That compromise would be to go back, as I indicated to the Minister on Wednesday last, and seek a discussion with the marts committees throughout the country. The Minister, as pointed out by Deputy Clinton, indicated that he had talks with the marts committees, and that the marts committees were in agreement with the Bill, as amended by the Minister. That is not so. To put it mildly, that statement is an untruth. I am not accusing the Minister of being deliberately untruthful. I assume some misunderstanding arose. That is what happened to put it in its mildest form.
Surely we are not going to be asked by the Minister on 13th July to go ahead and rush this measure through? This measure has given rise to great dissention among the farming community and among the marts committees throughout the country. As I say, it is not an urgent measure. I cannot see any urgency with regard to it. Why not postpone it until the autumn and in the meantime have discussions between the Department, the representatives of the marts committees, the farming organisations and others interested among all parties? If that were done, we would have a measure passed through this House which would have the approval of all sides.
I know the Minister feels he cannot back down. It is difficult for him. Despite this he should postpone this measure. If he does not scrap it altogether, he could come back with a measure which would be much better than this and which would have the approval of everybody. This measure is futile in its present terms. Possibly if the Minister had had his way, he would never have introduced this measure. The Minister may not be responsible for this measure. His advisers may not know what has happened down the country and they may have been responsible for the introduction of this measure. His advisers may not know the minds of farmers. They may not know the minds of the marts committees. All those marts committees know their own business and they provide regulations to govern that business. I do not think at this stage there was any need for ministerial intervention in regard to this matter. There was certainly no need for State money. I do not intend to delay the House at this stage but I would appeal to the Minister to make a statement here this evening in the Dáil—I do not think he will be backing down if he goes that far—agreeing to the suggestions from this side of the House that there are good grounds for adjourning this measure.
I remember here a week ago when another Minister on another matter was appealed to by Deputies on this side of the House to take a certain course and a certain line of action. The Minister refused to do that and said he was not going to be dictated to by this side of the House. We read in yesterday's papers that he has taken the course of action that he was actually asked to take by Members of this side of the House last week. He has changed his mind and he was big enough to do so. I appeal to the Minister for Agriculture to follow in the steps taken by Deputy Lenihan, the Minister for Justice, and to change his mind in regard to this measure.
It is a happy thing that the Standing Orders of this House are so apt and so applied that they provide Deputies with an opportunity of dealing with exceptional situations by exceptional remedies. It is unusual to move that the report of the Dáil in Committee on Finance to the Dáil be referred back. I do not think I ever remember a case in point where a specific undertaking given by a Minister in defence of a Money Resolution has been utterly and completely repudiated by those on whose behalf he professes to speak.
I do not think I am being unduly harsh if I ascribe such a situation as persuading the Dáil in Committee on Finance to pass a Money Resolution by fraud. The Minister, as the Leas-Cheann Comhairle will remember, last week listened with some impatience to a protracted debate on the Money Resolution. He then intervened hotly to rebuke the Opposition for obstruction and filibustering, and in pursuit of that rebuke, having concluded a two hours speech, the propriety of which I do not wish to question him on, when Deputy Clinton intervened to correct some of the assurances the Minister saw fit to give the House, the Minister moved the closure. Those undertakings were given in a very categorical form and they were not only for the purpose of informing the House and the country; they were for the purpose of demonstrating to this House and to the country that the Opposition in this House were acting irresponsibly.
The Minister, at column 1459, said:
There is no point in Fine Gael making out that they are the defenders of the co-operative movement in this country. Surely, they do not want to tell the House that they usurp the rights of the IAOS, the rights of the Cork Marts, which Deputy Creed was talking about here today? Surely he should know, if he is so closely associated with the Cork Marts, that they were represented on this deputation received by me last Friday and arising from which there was general agreement on the Bill, subject to a few small amendments that have been circulated and which apparently Fine Gael have not read or, having read, do not understand or, having understood, do not want.
We read in this morning's paper that the co-operative marts, the IAOS and, I think, also the Federated Independent Marts, have said that the Minister's amendments did not meet the points they raised with him, contrary to the Minister's asseveration in this House last week and the amendments which the Minister proposes to make to the Bill have thereby made it more objectionable than it was when they saw it at first view. Does anybody in this House remember that happening before? I certainly do not remember it.
It is quite clear that the Cork Marts did not agree with what the Minister said in this House.
I see the Minister in a position of some embarrassment. I recognise that he was speaking very heatedly at the time and his patience was well-nigh exhausted—he is notorious for his capacity for endurance. It is a very grave matter for the Minister to tell the House that he has met a certain representative body, that they have reached agreement and that the agreement is embodied in what he is now presenting to the House in his legislation. I think the appropriate course here is that this unfortunate development should be marked by the exceptional step of referring back this Report to Dáil Éireann in Committee on Finance so that it can be approached anew and the Minister may meet the House and explain to it the almost unbelievable discrepancy between what he reported to the House as having passed between him and the marts and what the marts and the IAOS report as their recollection of what transpired at this discussion.
I do not think much can be added on this score to what Deputy Clinton has already said, but there was another element introduced into this discussion on the Financial Resolution which drove the Minister into transports of indignation. He complained very bitterly that he was charged with bringing in a Bill which invoked harsh sanctions and that he would now astonish the House by producing a Bill for which Deputy Dillon has been responsible when he was Minister for Agriculture and he would show that the sanctions which he proposed to invoke were in some measure borrowed from that Bill and, although he proposed originally a fine of £1,000 where the Bill of 1955 spoke of £10, he had come half way by reducing the penalty to £500 and six months in prison.
I was made curious by the Minister's indignation, sufficiently curious, to turn back to the Official Report of Dáil Éireann. The House will, I think, be surprised to hear that the Bill which the Minister quoted as evidence of my ferocity consisted, in fact, as is recorded at column 998 of volume 148 of the Official Report of 24th February, 1955, of several Orders and Instruments. Here is what I said:
The lack of any effective power to prevent and suppress the passing off of inferior and worthless articles as fertilisers and feeding stuffs became a matter of major concern early in the "emergency" period. The widespread shortage, at that time, of good-quality fertilisers and feeding stuffs and of materials suitable for their manufacture created conditions favourable to the production of inferior fertilisers and feeding stuffs which could be readily disposed of at fancy prices. The situation necessitated the making of Emergency Powers Orders giving the Minister for Agriculture powers to control and regulate the manufacture and sale of fertilisers and feeding stuffs. Separate Orders were made in respect of fertilisers, feeding stuffs and mineral mixtures. The relevant Orders now in force are:
"1. Emergency Powers (Manufacture and Sale of Fertilisers) Order, 1944 [S.R. & O. No. 49 of 1944]
as amended by the
Emergency Powers (Manufacture and Sale of Fertilisers) Order, 1944 (Amendment) Order, 1950 [S.I. No. 263 of 1950].
2. Emergency Powers (Manufacture and Sale of Mineral Mixtures) Order, 1944 [S.R. & O. No. 50 of 1944].
3. Emergency Powers (Feeding Stuffs) Order, 1944 [S.R. & O. No. 196 of 1944].
as amended by the
(a) Emergency Powers (Feeding Stuffs) Order, 1944 (Amendment) Order, 1953 [S.I. No. 130 of 1953]
(b) Emergency Powers (Feeding Stuffs) Order, 1944 (Revocation of Article 6) Order, 1954 [S.I. No. 260 of 1954]."
The present Bill is designed to bring together in one enactment provisions replacing the Act of 1906 and provisions conferring on the Minister for Agriculture powers similar to those at present vested in him by the several Emergency Powers Orders cited. Those Orders are intended to be revoked when the Bill is brought into operation as an Act.
This dreadful instrument I was supposed to have presented was, in fact, the codification of five Orders made by the previous Fianna Fáil Administration during World War II, or the Emergency, as we described it in our circumstances.
I should like, too, to recall to the House that at column 1000 of volume 144 of the Official Report of 24th February, 1955, Deputy Thomas Walsh, who then spoke on behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party on matters relating to agriculture, said:
I welcome the Bill because I know how necessary it is for the farmers to know the analysis of feeding stuffs, and compound feeding stuffs particularly, and also the analysis of compound fertilisers.
He then went on to express his cordial congratulations to me for having brought in the Bill as his generous heart, God be good to him, very frequently prompted him to do. For the present Minister to attempt to justify himself when seeking finance under the Money Resolution to enforce the terms of his Cattle Marts Bill by referring to the Seeds and Fertilisers Act is, I think, almost as great a fraud as his assurance to the House that he had the consent and approval of the IAOS and of the Cork marts and the proprietary marts to his Bill and the amendments, something which today in their announcements they have categorically repudiated.
There is now another aspect of this to which I want to refer. We are asked to accept the Report of the Committee on Finance for this Cattle Marts Bill. Recently in this House we passed the Auctioneers Bill, 1966. That duly became an Act and it operated to amend the Principal Act, which was the 1947 Act. I should like the House to make this comparison. There, we were dealing with auctioneers who sell chattels, lands, grazing, agistments, etc., and auctioneers who sell livestock. Search the legislation in relation to auctioneers and find in any paragraph of it an arbitrary power vested in the Minister for Justice, the Minister named in the Bill, to grant or withhold a licence. In every case the auctioneer is directed to make his application to the courts and in every case the discretion of the courts is strictly limited. They can refer to the relevant Acts and determine the conditions under which an auctioneer is entitled to get a licence and, if there is to be any condition applying to the licence, the courts must impose it.
We are quite happy about that.
Both the 1947 and the 1966 Auctioneers Bills were welcomed. I heard Deputy Flanagan declare his interest and tell the House he was himself an auctioneer——
He is President of the Association.
I heard him tell the House he was himself a member of the profession and that he and his colleagues welcomed the Bill, and I remember Deputy Flanagan saying how much they appreciated the care and attention with which the Minister for Justice had listened to representations from their representative body and cordially admit that, though the Minister did not accept every recommendation the auctioneers' association made, did not concede every particular requisition the auctioneers' association made, they were bound to confess he met them fairly and went as far as he felt, in prudence, it was right to go.
My whole attitude to this business would be very radically changed if the Minister had been in a position to come to this House and truthfully tell us—the operative word is "truthfully"—that he had consulted the NFA, the ICMSA, the co-operative societies, the Proprietary Marts Association, and that, while they agreed on a great many subjects, he wanted the House to know that, instead of 1, 2, 3, one or other of these interested parties had pressed a certain view upon him and he had not accepted it and he was telling the House that, after protracted discussions, there had been an irreconcilable difference between himself and the interested parties and that he had his responsibilities, as a Minister, as well as they had, as interested parties, and he was telling the House that he was dissenting from urgent requisitions that had been made upon him for the reasons he then laid out. We might have agreed or disagreed with him but at least he would have said what he was constrained to say, namely, in effect: "I have consulted the Government and here are the Government proposals. Now let us argue them across the floor of the House."
In the last analysis, if it is a matter of going to the division lobbies, the majority must prevail. All would agree, however, that, in a matter of this kind, it would be infinitely preferable if we could get a general consensus of what it is expedient to do. What are the hazards in this situation of invoking unprecedented procedures? We have to go back a long way, to May, the great authority on parliamentary procedure, to find the appropriate and relevant interpretation of the Standing Orders indicating the propriety of discussing at length a report to the Dáil on a Money Resolution reported by the Dáil in Committee on Finance. Surely we are dealing here with a fantastically exceptional situation? I ask myself: "What has given rise to that?" I have debated with Ministers for Agriculture and Fisheries, and as a Minister for Agriculture in this House, in pretty stormy times. I have never yet been in a position to say to a Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries: "What you told us was not true and it demonstrably was not true" because that casts such a reflection either on the competence or the credibility of the Minister as to raise the question whether the man is fit for the post he holds.
None of us is perfect. The best of men may lose his temper and, if so, he is liable to say more than his prayers. The Minister may have lost his temper when he gave these undertakings to the House. If he says that, under the influence of strong emotion, he allowed his wish to be father to his thought and that, in reporting his conversation with the IAOS, the marts, and so on, he possibly went farther than the actual discussions would justify, nobody would have a more ready understanding of all that than myself and my colleagues. We will, however, press on him that, if such misfortune overtook him, understandable as it is, it arises from the fact that he has tried, for reasons well nigh incomprehensible, to stampede this Bill through the House in the last couple of weeks of the Parliamentary session. He knows, and everybody else knows, that it cannot make any material difference to anybody.
I ask the House to remember this, and it is very important that the House should remember it. It is something that the Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy Gibbons, said in this House on the Second Stage of the Bill when I was speaking. The Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries was not himself present: he was engaged in the Seanad. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries was present in the House and Deputy Gibbons, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance, came in to participate in the debate. I was asking: "What is the urgency of the Bill? Why did you not consult and discuss and try to see if a consensus can be found? Why do you want it now, particularly in view of the agitated and confused relations between the NFA and the Department of Agriculture?" Deputy Gibbons, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance, interjected: "It is because of that that we want it".
That is quite clear, is it not? That is why they want it.
I think possibly the Parliamentary Secretary regretted the frankness of his admission. I do not think he realised how revealing were the words he used. I want to put to the Minister and to our colleagues in the House that surely that is the root of all the trouble we are confronted with at the present time? Because this Bill was conceived in acrimony, because this Bill was designed to prove to a farming organisation that the Minister was prepared to throw down the gauntlet and fight out his difference with them to the bitter end, invoking any and every weapon requisite to destroy them, if needs be, he brought in a Bill of this kind. Surely, on reflection, that is madness?
I do not care what farming organisation exists in the country, it is surely in the national interest that it should be on speaking terms with the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, whoever he may be. One thing should be certain, that is, that, even if the Minister is perhaps subject to the human weakness of losing his temper, he is a member of a Government who will say to him: "Steady your guns, now. Even if they did this, you should not seek to use legislation for the purpose of reacting against them." I can remember very distinctly the farmers' organisation in my day outside the House in great numbers—I thought, most unjustly. I suppose, however, the truth is that I was too deeply committed to the farmers and to the service of the people who live on the land to feel vexed. I do not deny I felt disappointed that they should so far distrust me as to believe it was necessary to demonstrate outside the House but the last reaction they could extract from me was one of hatred and enmity because, if they did, then I should have thought they had established, beyond all question, that I was no longer fit for the job. I am quite sure that, if that situation had transpired, the Taoiseach of that day would have dismissed me without hard feelings. He would simply have said: "You are at loggerheads with the farmers whose interests you are supposed to protect. If none of them trusts you any longer, you better change places with somebody else."
Now, I am not saying that for the first time. Three years ago I was invited to a luncheon given by Macra na Feirme to celebrate their twentieth anniversary, or some such function. The then Taoiseach, Deputy Lemass, and the then Minister for Agriculture, Deputy Haughey, were among the guests of honour. I was asked to speak and, having made the usual suitable observations, I concluded by saying: "All of you know how earnestly I hope that Deputy Haughey will cease to be Minister for Agriculture at the earliest possible moment, but the one thing I want to say to you is that so long as he is Minister for Agriculture, do not be attacking him. If he does wrong, attack the Government, because the Minister for Agriculture ought to be, if he is fit to be Minister for Agriculture, the one voice in the Government that is defending and fighting for the interests of the agricultural community, within the Government. Therefore, if the Government make mistakes, attack the Government, but support the Minister for Agriculture."
I ask the House in what position are we today? The Government's own spokesman comes in here and tells us that the reason he wants the Livestock Marts Bill today is that relations between himself and the NFA have so gravely deteriorated. It is not in the interests of anybody in the House that this atmosphere should continue. I do not think it is in the interests of the country, or in the interests of the agricultural community, but the initiative to put an end to this situation can only come from one source and, mark you, it could come fruitfully at this time if the Minister would recognise now that in his own Party and in every other Party in Dáil Éireann, in the co-operative movement, in the Proprietary Marts Association and amongst a very large body of the farming community this Bill is detested and distrusted. Would it not be a sensible thing to say: "Well, let us throw our hats at it; let us leave it over to the autumn. I will talk it over with the various interested parties and come back in the autumn and tell the House what the fruits of those discussions have been." That ends the whole crisis. We cannot go on until autumn in a situation in which the NFA is at war with the Minister. I hope and pray that the misunderstandings that have given rise to the situation will be ended at the earliest possible moment and that the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries whoever he is, will be able to say in the autumn: "Whatever misunderstandings did exist have now been removed and at last we all know that we are in the service of a common interest, that is the rural community, agriculture and all that depends on it."
The Minister cannot say that now. He ought to be in a position to say it and until he is in a position to say it I do not think he is going to carry this House with him in this kind of legislation or anything approximating to it. This kind of legislation should not be passed by a bare majority of this House. Remember, this is the Bill that was carried on Second Stage by four votes, is that not so? There were a great many Deputies absent who, I believe, would have voted against this Bill if they had been here to record their votes. Every dictate of prudence and commonsense demands that the Minister should drop this Bill and let us look at the whole position again in the autumn. I ask the House to consider this, suppose we have to go on through the meat grinder, and it is going to be a meat grinder, of a long argumentative Committee Stage on this Bill——
Unless there is a change of heart on the other side.
It will certainly be a long and acrimonious discussion on Committee, full of misunderstandings, full of complexities, and it will be followed by Report Stage which will be fairly similar and then it will be followed by a most exhaustive and exhausting discussion on Fifth Stage. Then the Bill has to go to the Seanad where again it will be challenged vigorously and energetically and it cannot possibly reach the Statute Book until the middle of September. I expect the House will resume some time in October and there is only a month or six weeks between us, but in August, September and October there is every reason to hope that wiser counsels will prevail and if it is mutually agreed between all the Parties that some legislation along the lines of the Auctioneers Act, is requisite, then the Minister will be able to come back and say: "Here is a substantially new Bill". Now, if we are going to go through the legislative meat grinder that I forecast, through long experience of this House, it will do nothing but further increase the distrust between the Minister and those he is supposed to represent, whereas, if, on the other hand, the newspapers tomorrow carry headlines saying that the Minister, having reviewed the whole position and having seen from the statements made here today that his discussion with the IAOS and the cattle marts generally——
As the Minister for Justice did yesterday.
Then he could very happily provide for the whole country an evidence of a return to commonsense. He could provide some calm and give everybody time for more mature reflection. I do not think it is irrelevant to point out that when the Minister for Justice was first queried in this House about the matters which it is proposed to refer to a judicial tribunal, his attitude was one of pretty indignant repudiation. It is right that the House should know that the Minister for Justice was not taken unawares because I told the Minister, not directly, but through reliable and responsible intermediaries a week before, that the situation relating to the Cork situation was intolerable and if allowed continue would certainly give rise to a most undesirable situation which it was necessary and urgent to check in the bud, and the only way to check it in the bud was to set up a public judicial tribunal at which all rumourmongers could be challenged to produce any evidence they had and assist in clearing up whatever appeared to be a mystery. I do not think he behaved very handsomely in getting Deputy Wyse to put down a question which provided him with the occasion of making a long statement, but that is irrelevant. What is of interest is that having carefully prepared a question and drafted the answer and when he seemed to take up a very rigid, immovable position that he wanted no inquiry, that there had been enough inquiry and that all was clear and simple to all those who were not bent on mystery——
What this has to do with the Money Resolution I do not know.
I will tell you, Sir. If you read the Minister on the Money Resolution, you will find he said almost identically, word for word, about Deputy Clinton what the Minister for Justice pretended to say about Deputy Wyse—that nobody was being irresponsible but, having heard from various sides expressions of grave anxiety and assurances that nobody wanted trouble but on the contrary wanted to allay trouble, to squelch it, to nip it in the bud, he said, he would consider the matter and the day before yesterday he announced he had changed his mind and is now going to have an inquiry.
I put it to the Minister that if it is consistent with the dignity of the Minister for Justice to do that coram populo, it should not be inconsistent with him. In this Bill there is a new principle I have never seen adumbrated before in legislation in this House. The Minister prescribes in one of his proposed amendments that there should be an appeal from the refusal of a licence by him; but to whom is the appeal to be made? The appeal is to be made to a barrister of some years standing appointed ad hoc by the Minister.
Well, now, I yield to none in my respect and veneration for the high standards of the profession to which I nominally belong, but how many times can you imagine the Minister will be reversed by a lawyer of his own choosing, or, if he is reversed, how often can that barrister be expected to be re-appointed? I know of no case in which reference can be made to an appeal court consisting exclusively of personnel chosen by the man from whose decision the appeal is to be brought. There is no aspect of this Bill, legislatively or by way of the timing of its introduction or the grounds on which the House is persuaded to vote money in the Money Resolution, that do not call for reprobation.
The Auctioneers Act, as it now is, provides abundant evidence that if legislation in regard to one specialised branch or organisation is necessary or desirable there is no difficulty getting it through the House. I believe that Bill went through in one day.
It is a most sensible Act.
What is happening that we can pass all Stages of a Bill and of a Money Resolution which deals with the sale by auction of furniture, land, conacre, chattels, house property, of anything you care to mention, we can pass that Act in one day with the consensus of agreement from the Labour Benches, the Fine Gael Benches and the Fianna Fáil Benches and yet when a Bill comes before us dealing with the sale by auction of cattle and sheep the whole Legislature is thrown into chaos and wild charges are launched by the Minister against the Opposition that they are dead to their sense of duty and are concerned to prostitute the due process of legislation?
In the course of the discussion, it transpires that what the Minister has affirmed as a fact on Thursday has been categorically denied by those on whose behalf he professed to inform the Dáil. Could it be that the reason for this dramatic change of atmosphere is not that the whole of Dáil Éireann has changed, because that is unlikely and is contrary to the first principle of logic that one should not look for a remote explanation where an approximate explanation is readily available? It is much more likely, both under that general law and by what we ourselves have been witnesses of during the last few days, that there has been a radical change in the Minister.
I do not think I am too hard if I say he has gone berserk. Well, I suppose that is a human thing to do in certain circumstances with a certain temperament. But the best thing a man who has gone berserk can do is to get hold of himself and simply say, to an understanding and very forgiving assembly: "I should like three months' holidays before I tackle this topic again." There will be no derision; there will be no jeering; there will be hearty congratulations if the present Minister can display that measure of wisdom. I doubt his ability to do so, but despite his conviction that I preach vendetta against him, I warrant him in advance I shall be the first to praise him if he gives this evidence of wisdom.
I want to support the proposal that this report should be referred back for reconsideration. I do that on two grounds principally. The first is that the Minister is apparently not yet in a position to give the House any adequate estimate of the cost of the implementation of this Bill if it should become an Act. In dealing with the Money Resolution, I invited either the Minister or some other spokesman on his behalf to give that kind of information. I was unable to listen to the entire of the Minister's speech on the Money Resolution but I have endeavoured to read the most of it and I cannot find the Minister, in the course of the long speech he made on the Money Resolution, dealing with the financial implications of this proposed legislation. He certainly did not deal with them in the kind of concrete terms which are necessary when we are considering a Money Resolution suggesting that it is expedient that the Oireachtas should vote money for a particular purpose.
I propose saying a few words more on that topic before I finish, but I want to say at this stage that my second reason for supporting the proposal that this Report should be reconsidered is that since this House divided on the Money Resolution last week and passed the Money Resolution which is now before us on Report, a very important body in this country, who have no axe to grind, good, bad or indifferent, in this matter, have given their views with regard to this Bill and have stated bluntly their view that this Bill is a dangerous one. That view issuing, as it did, from the Council of the Incorporated Law Society of Ireland, is one that should be considered very carefully by this House before we proceed with any further Stages of this Bill. The warning given by the Council of the Incorporated Law Society in connection with the Bill certainly warrants the closest attention of Deputies, and to my mind, constitutes a justification for pausing, considering and reconsidering this matter. It is certainly, to my mind, a justification for the proposal that the Report on the Money Resolution should be referred back for further consideration. As I say, those are the two grounds on which I support the proposal made by Deputy Clinton.
It is important that Deputies should be given as adequate information regarding the financial implications of this legislation as it is possible to give. I said, when speaking on the Money Resolution, that I did not blame the Minister for not giving that kind of information when introducing the Resolution. I conceded, and I still do, that the ordinary practice in the House has been for Ministers simply to move Money Resolutions without making an introductory speech and without going into any detail but I suggested on that occasion that, having regard to the fact that there were strong feelings in connection with this Bill, that conflicting views had been expressed, I did not think it would be out of place for the Minister or his Parliamentary Secretary, or any other spokesman on his behalf, to intervene in the discussion on the Money Resolution and to endeavour in some way to estimate the cost of the proposals which the Minister has brought before the House.
The Minister, in fact, was the only spokesman from the Fianna Fáil benches who intervened in the discussion on the Money Resolution and virtually as soon as the Minister finished speaking, he moved a guillotine motion to end discussion on the Money Resolution. As I have indicated, I could not trace anywhere in the Minister's lengthy speech that he dealt with the financial implications of this legislation. I would again invite the Minister, if he proposes to intervene in this discussion here this evening or tomorrow if the discussion has not concluded this evening, to make the best effort he can to estimate the cost to the taxpayer of this Bill. I know his difficulty, or at least I think I do. It lies in relation to paragraph (f) of subsection (1) of section 7. Having regard to the existence of that paragraph, any estimate which the Minister may give with regard to the cost of these proposals can only be very approximate indeed.
I should like to correct something I said earlier because I understand now from Deputy Clinton that the Minister did, in fact, refer to the approximate cost of the Bill when he intervened last week. I must say that I did not hear that and I was unable to trace the reference in going through his speech.
The difficulty I see facing the Minister in connection with trying to arrive at any kind of reasonably accurate estimate of the cost is the existence of paragraph (f) of subsection (1) of section 7. Section 7 is the section in the Bill which relates to the powers to be given to an officer of the Minister. Subsection (1) starts:
An officer of the Minister shall for the purposes of the execution of this Act have power to do all or any of the following things, that is to say——
I would point out to the Deputy that he is now proceeding to the Committee Stage.
No, I am not. I think the point will become clear. I will not labour it at all if the Chair thinks it is out of order. We come then to paragraph (f) of that. The particular power to which I am referring is:
to exercise such other powers as may be necessary for carrying this Act into effect.
The point I want to make, Sir, is that so long as that provision remains in the Bill—and there has been no indication by the Minister that he intends deleting it or altering it in any way—I do not think it is open to the Minister to make a reasonable estimate as to what the total cost to the taxpayer of implementing this legislation would be because under that provision an officer of the Minister will be entitled to exercise virtually any power under the sun to implement the provisions of the Bill. He may call in the whole Garda Force; he may call in the Army, the Air Force; he may call to his assistance every civil servant in the country to implement the provisions of this Bill. So long as that power remains and so long as that power is open to an officer of the Minister, is it even reasonable to suggest that it is possible to arrive at an accurate estimate of the cost?
I think that is the Minister's difficulty and the Minister is in the position, so long as that section remains unaltered, that he must ask the House to take any estimate he gives merely as an act of faith without finding it possible to do more than give an approximation of what he hopes for in regard to expenditure. For that reason, since the Money Resolution which is before us on Report deals with the question of expediency in relation to money being voted by this House, I want to suggest again that it is not expedient to vote money with blinkers on.
A second ground of objection is, as I have mentioned, the importance that I attach and I think other Deputies should attach, to the pronouncements made in regard to this Bill by the Council of the Incorporated Law Society of Ireland. This body, as I said, has no axe to grind, good, bad or indifferent, with regard to the politics of this measure, with regard to the conflict between the Minister and the NFA or any matters of that sort. It is a body representing, I would say, something like 90 per cent or more of the solicitors' profession in this country. The Incorporated Law Society, I imagine, numbers among its members three members of the Government; at least, if they are not members of it, I suggest they should be, because we have three members of the Government who are, in their professional vocations, solicitors. If the Minister for Agriculture talks to his colleagues, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, the Minister for Lands, and the Minister for Health, he will probably find those Ministers prepared to give him absolute assurance of what I am saying with regard to the Incorporated Law Society, that they are quite independent in their judgment on an issue of this sort, that they are not motivated in any way by politics or by having any axe to grind. They issued a statement which appeared in the public press on Saturday, July 8th, just two days after this Money Resolution was passed on a division in this House. This report, which I am quoting from the Irish Independent of 8th July last, reads:
The Council of the Incorporated Law Society of Ireland, at a meeting held in Solicitors' Buildings, Four Courts, Dublin, criticised certain provisions of the Marts Bill, now before the Dáil, "as dangerous and possibly unconstitutional."
In view of a warning of that sort coming from a body of that sort, if the Bill is dangerous and possibly unconstitutional, surely it is reasonable to ask the House to pause and consider the matter further? Surely it is reasonable, in those circumstances, for the House to take seriously the proposition made by Deputy Clinton that this Report should be referred back for further consideration?
This report goes on:
Comparing the provisions of the Bill with statutory provisions requiring licences for activities such as auctioneering, running of dance halls and publichouses, the Council stated that the Marts Bill was different in as much as the proposed licence was not issued by the Courts and there was no right of appeal to the Courts.
The Secretary of the Society, Mr. Eric A. Plunkett, in a statement on behalf of the Council said: "What is sought in the present Bill is to enable the Minister for Agriculture to determine the rights of individual citizens without any appeal to the Courts. This is a dangerous power to entrust to any Minister or to any Department..."
I would ask the Minister to take it from me that when a statement such as that is made on behalf of the Council of the Incorporated Law Society of Ireland, they are not hitting at the Minister as Deputy Neil Blaney. They are not hitting at the particular Minister in office. They are talking about the general position that it would be a dangerous power to entrust to any Minister or to any Department either now or hereafter. That is a serious view taken by a serious body, and the report goes on:
It is apparently suggested that there should be a right of appeal to a lawyer appointed by the Minister. An appeal from a ministerial decision to a nameless person appointed by the Minister is no substitute for a right of appeal to the Courts where the facts will be examined openly and published in the press. Why is it thought necessary to incur additional State expenditure when there are already sufficient Justices and Judges who are paid to perform these functions?
The statement continues: "The right of appeal at present envisaged is given only to the marts in the event of a refusal. There is no appeal by a member of the public in the event of the granting of a licence. The Bill affects private citizens dealing with the cattle marts. There could well be cases of abuses in the conduct of livestock sales. An owner may have reason to suspect that his stock was sold at an under value at a collusive sale. Sales may be conducted in such a way as to cause a nuisance or annoyance to the public or there may be other abuses or breaches of the ministerial regulations.
"Under the Bill, the only remedy of a customer or a member of the public is to complain to the Minister who may revoke the licence. If the aggrieved party cannot prove his case up to the hilt, he may be faced with a ruinous action for defamation because the privilege of immunity which covers sworn evidence given before a Court of Justice will not extend to complaints made to the Minister or to his department."
That again is a serious and an important viewpoint expressed. It is not a viewpoint that was adverted to in the course of the discussions on this Bill which have taken place in the House already. It is a point of view that the Minister should now take into account. The appropriate way for the Minister to take it into account would be to agree to refer back this Report for reconsideration. I do not intend to read the whole of the statement, but there are two other short extracts from it which I think are well worthy of bringing to the attention of the Minister and of the House. According to this report which appeared in the Irish Independent, there is another part of the statement that reads as follows:
Of the nature of the Marts, Mr. Plunkett stated that they had a virtual monopoly of business in the areas in which they operate. Rules backed by legal sanctions were essential and the Minister was the proper authority to make them. "The courts of the country which must protect the citizens' rights without fear or favour are the proper authorities to interpret and enforce the rules,"he added.
The last part of the statement I want to quote appears at the very end where, under a subheading "No Immunity", this report continues:
Mr. Plunkett's statement continued: "It is better that grievances should be investigated in this way than by complaints to the Department from which there was no immunity and from which the only appeal was by the livestock mart to an anonymous person appointed by the Minister whose decision would be reached after an inquiry which might not be open to the public.
"The annual application for an auctioneer's or publican's licence costs practically nothing beyond the stamp revenue.
"The citizen needs the protection of the courts against possible invasion of his rights and the continued erosion of judicial safeguards is against the interests of the public and particularly of the weaker sections of the community."
There again is an important point, an important issue, raised in connection with this Bill which should give Deputies food for thought and should invite them to pause at this stage in their consideration of the Bill. I do not know to what extent the Minister feels that he and his Party are absolutely committed to the Bill in the form in which it is now composed, with the amendments that have been tabled by the Minister, but it is quite clear that this body, this non-political body who know what they are talking about, having considered the implications of the Bill, regard it as dangerous. They regard it as possibly unconstitutional and they point to various matters and issues arising on a consideration of the Bill. The Minister may take it that the consideration given to the Bill by that body would have been a fair, detailed and quite impartial one.
This body having studied the Bill in that manner and having found it necessary to issue a statement of this sort for publication in the public Press, the Minister need not feel that he requires even to save face if he adopts the attitude, that now that these matters have been brought to his attention, not by Deputies sitting opposite him here but by an independent impartial body such as the Incorporated Law Society, of saying that in view of that, he is prepared to reconsider and re-assess the whole situation and that in order to do so, he is prepared to accept Deputy Clinton's suggestion that the Report on the Money Resolution should be referred back for further consideration. Surely, the Minister should not feel any embarrassment about doing that.
I wish to join with other Deputies who have urged the Minister to accept this suggestion made by Deputy Clinton and reconsider the whole matter. I cannot remember when last a measure brought before this House aroused such a widespread feeling of anxiety as has this measure. We, on this side, and I believe Deputies throughout the House, regard the measure as being an example of bureaucracy in action. It appears to us to be a blatant display of the bureaucrat seeking more control and more power. I believe the Minister is being made a puppet of a group of bureaucrats who are seeking for themselves powers to control legitimate industry and legitimate trade and commerce.
This is not the proper forum to debate, in relation to legislation, whether the Constitution is being observed or not but it is certainly proper that Deputies should direct from time to time the attention of Ministers proposing legislation to what our Constitution lays down and provides. If that had been done more frequently in the past, I believe that we would not have had the dismal chronicle over the last two decades of so many items of legislation passing from here and being held unconstitutional.
Under this proposal a legitimate exercise in commerce, with legitimate use of private property, is sought to be controlled by bureaucracy and sought to be controlled not for any reason that has been put forward with any degree of credibility by the Minister but, sought to be controlled merely because the industry and the exercise in commerce has expanded and flourished. Our Constitution lays down as one of the fundamental rights of citizens their rights to property and their rights to use property and from that, their right to engage in trade and in industry and commerce. That is a fundamental right under the Constitution. I cannot see how this measure can be regarded subsequently by the courts as being anything but inimical and contrary to the provisions of the Constitution. I do not know whether that will affect the Minister's view or not.
I do not believe that Deputies who are charged with the obligation of legislating under a written Constitution and who are discharging the duty of one of the three organs of State, the legislative organ, are entitled to legislate on the basis that perhaps it will be all right and perhaps nobody will raise the question of whether it is Constitutional or not. We should not act in that way. Here there is a direct legislative interference with the exercise of one of the rights of private property and I believe it will not be regarded as being anything else but unconstitutional.
The matter goes much further. I believe this legislation is a direct result of the insidious growth of bureaucracy over the past ten years. The Minister is only a puppet behind these bureaucrats who advise him and, I believe, largely control him. They seek power to control cattle marts in this country, and if it were not cattle marts today, it would be something else tomorrow. I suppose the next bit of legislation will be power to control those who deal in cattle and I suppose we will have a licence to sell cattle and a licence to buy them.
At the moment in the front line are those who provide a facility whereby the vendor and the purchaser of cattle may meet and do business. Here we have a proposal that cattle marts may not operate unless they are licensed, and the proposal goes further—here again, Sir, our Constitution should be considered—and provides that if the Minister refuses the grant of the licence, that is the end of the matter; in other words, it is not the courts, it is not the other organ of State which is supposed to be independent under the Constitution and which is charged with the obligation under the Constitution to administer justice. The courts will be excluded from a decision as to whether a licence should be granted or not. The decision on this important matter, which may affect the citizens' right to engage in legitimate trade and commerce, will be made by nameless people in a Civil Service department, advising the Minister whose name will appear at the end of a document and whose reasons for his decision will never be announced. That is not only the most blatant example of bureaucracy in action but it is, in my view, not only undemocratic but clearly contrary to our Constitution.
We find in this Bill that when a person seeks a licence and is refused, there can be no review of that decision, no appeal against it. The person who is refused the licence will not be told the reasons and can go no further in the matter. That strikes me as being unjust; it strikes me as being unfair. I direct the Minister's attention to the fact that Article 34 of our Constitution lays down that:
Justice shall be administered in public courts established by law by judges appointed in the manner provided by this Constitution.
That is what our Constitution provides, that it is in the courts of justice that justice shall be administered, not by nameless people in Civil Service offices or in offices of a Department of State. The Constitution also provides that not only shall justice be administered in courts established by law by judges appointed in the manner provided by the Constitution but that justice shall at all times be administered in public, so that every citizen—and this is a fundamental right—in the country who seeks justice shall go to an independent judge, will have his application heard in public and will know in public, and so will everybody else, the reasons why he succeeds or why he fails. But the bureaucrat will not have that. What the bureaucrat wants is a situation in which the nameless person will give a decision, will never be forced to defend it before anyone and the only intimation will be the refusal given to the applicant. That, I believe, is not only unjust but I am happy to express the view that it is unconstitutional and will be so held.
We have a second provision in the suggested ministerial amendments to this measure, that in the event of the Minister revoking a licence, there will be an appeal or a review to be carried out by a barrister of at least ten years' standing appointed by the Minister. I do not know how absurd this legislature is asked to be by the Minister. He is going to revoke a licence and there is an objection to his revocation so he appoints a barrister to hear the objection to his decision.
He will not appoint you anyway.
I will not be appointed. And, this is supposed to be justice and this is supposed to meet what obviously has been regarded by the Minister as well-founded objection to this legislative proposal. We are given now a review of a ministerial decision by a barrister appointed by the Minister. I again direct the attention of the House to the fact that under the Constitution justice shall be administered not by barristers appointed by Ministers, not by people called in to give a veneer of legality to a capricious decision, but in courts established by law by judges appointed in the manner provided by the Constitution, and at all times administered in public. That is what our Constitution lays down and I want to prophesy that if this House legislates in accordance with the Minister's proposal to provide some kind of review or appeal from his decisions to any kind of barrister or lawyer, or whoever it may be, sooner or later our courts, the judges of which have duties in accordance with their office and their oath, will hold that that measure is unconstitutional.
In these circumstances, I would urge the Minister to count ten and think again. I believe this measure was introduced into this House by the Minister who got advice from the bureaucrats by whom he is surrounded, whose state of mind was full of anger and irritation with regard to the appalling mess in which out agricultural industry is, and the result was that in a fit of pique he announced this proposal. I do not believe that he can now be satisfied that the expression of pique led him to anything other than confusion and disorder. I am satisfied that most members of the Fianna Fáil Party, were they free to do it, would urge him to drop this hot potato. But, of course, they are not free to do it and they have to carry on behind the Minister as long apparently as the Minister himself decides not to alter his own mind.
It is an appalling situation that this House now is put in this absurd position, in the middle of the month of July, that we are kept here and we are going to remain here.
You are not being kept here.
We are kept here because the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, despite the advice he has got all over the country from his own Party—and I shall suggest probably also from his Parliamentary Secretary—is too small a man to change his mind.
The Deputy should not be suggesting anything he does not know.
We are a free country still. I am free to express my views, to make suggestions which are not unlawful, and I hope it is not unlawful and uncomplimentary to suggest that Deputy Davern, as a Parliamentary Secretary, is a man of sense. I have no doubt that very many members of the Fianna Fáil Party have urged the Minister to drop this measure, which was conceived in anger, produced in pique, and brought in at a time when the Minister was anxious to grab anything to hit the farmers around the ears. Now the tide has gone out from that. The farmers spoke last week and the result has been that many people on the opposite side of the House find it difficult, if they have seats, to sit upon them. The tide has gone out from that situation.
I would suggest that having regard to the legitimate indignation which many people feel to the NFA/Government controversy, people who are not concerned with that, who have not been involved in it, but who regard this measure as something inimical to recognised rights of ordinary people of this country, it certainly would make the Minister a much bigger man if he conceded that the measure should now be reconsidered by himself and the Government.
I suppose it has been said many times before—but its repetition makes it no more acceptable to some people —that Ministers and people in public life often act as if the end of their political existence comes about if they have to admit they were wrong. Frequently one has seen in this House, and in public life, a Minister who is clearly proven to be wrong, who is wrong to his friends as he is wrong to his enemies, but that man becomes more and more obstinately determined to persevere in his own personal conviction that he is right. That is a small man, that is a man who makes more noise than the effect he has. He is a man who is a nuisance to his friends, to his Government and to his Party. Very rarely one comes across a member of a Government, a Minister who admits that his initial approach or decision was wrong and then decides: "Well, I shall do something else." That is a man, possibly a big man, and occasionally one has opportunities to demonstrate into which category a person may be put. Here is such an example: the Minister—whether it was his decision, whether he was conditioned by those who advised him into it or whatever the reason may be—in a fit of pique and anger announced his intention to introduce this legislation.
The scene has changed. The implications of this measure are now known throughout the country. There are important principles involved in this. The stage has certainly been reached when the Minister can fairly say: "Well, I shall reconsider it." I would suggest that if the Minister did that, he would add enormously to his standing in the country. His prestige would be very much higher. He does not want to do it. He wants to act as a small little man, stubborn and obstinate in the mistake he has made, determined to carry it through, but-tressed by the tame majority he will lead by the nose through the Division Lobbies. Very well, he may prove some point to himself when he shaves in the morning and talks to himself but he will have added nothing to our standing as a democracy. He will have added nothing—not one iota—to the prestige of this Legislature. He will merely have made many people a great deal crosser.
(South Tipperary): I wish to support Deputy Clinton's motion on this matter, namely, to refer this Money Resolution back for reconsideration. “Reconsideration”, in the experience of some two years ago, is operative word here. We had the somewhat similar circumstances, where there was a pause. It was in the case of the Succession Bill, which was hotly debated in this House, introduced at that time by the present Minister for Finance as Minister for Justice. The universal feeling was against the Bill, as was produced here by the then Minister. It was postponed and ultimately the Bill was shelved. As a result, the present Minister, Deputy Lenihan ultimately brought in a Bill which met with a fair degree of approval from both sides of the House. I think we are all happy about it.
I would ask the Minister in all seriousness to adopt a similar attitude in the present case. I do not believe this Bill is really wanted by the majority of the people on the far side of the House. I do not believe it is wanted by the country at large in its present form and I feel that inadequate dialogue has taken place in respect of it A few days ago I was rather surprised to find the Minister stating that he had, in effect, reached substantial agreement with the particular organisations immediately concerned, namely, Co-operative Marts, the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society and the Federation of Independent Marts. These would be the people with a special vested interest in this Bill. At that time I thought he had severely punctured the arguments that were offered on this side of the House. However, as far as I can interpret the reports in the local newspapers and from what has been said here today by Deputy Clinton, the situation seems to have been severely altered. I find it hard to reconcile the statements made by the Minister and the statements subsequently made by these organisations as reported in the local press. For that reason I feel that adequate dialogue—may I use that fashionable term—has not yet taken place. I urge that this matter be postponed until after the recess. This will give an opportunity for tempers to cool down. I suppose there is only one temper really, that is, the Minister's. I do not think anybody else is very much bothered. They certainly are not, to judge by the attendance or contributions on the opposite side of the House.
We have more than you have at the moment.
(South Tipperary): Your contributions have so far been nil. However, I shall look forward to hearing the Deputy speak when I sit down. In fact I shall do him the honour of waiting to hear what he has to say.
I still offer my viewpoint that I doubt if many of the Deputies on the far side of the House are hot under the collar about this matter. For that reason, I am urging the Minister to consider postponing further consideration of it until after the recess. I am sure that he is as anxious for his holidays as all of us are.
This Bill should be opposed for many reasons. One is—as was mentioned here — that an unspecified amount of money will be required for this operation. We realise it would be difficult to form an estimate for the operation of a Bill of this nature but even a guess is not offered to us by the Minister. I do not think he has even asked for a token Vote. As far as I can see, he has left the matter wide open and we have no indication what it is likely to cost. We are entitled to ask him to give us some estimate, even a rough estimate, of what he thinks the operation of a Bill of this nature will cost the taxpaying community.
I feel it should be opposed because it is unnecessary. There has been no strong evidence down through the years since the marts were set up, either co-operative marts or private ones, that there has been any gross mismanagement, any breach of public regulations, any breach of health regulations, any fraudulent conduct except the ordinary little things that will happen in the best of societies. No matter how many laws are passed, people will commit acts of fraud now and again and I do not think this Bill will stop that. I therefore feel that, in relation to the general behaviour of the marts since they were instituted, there has been no demand, and there is no necessity, for introducing this type of legislation. As regards the public health aspect, we have sufficient legislation already to deal with all these matters under our Health Acts, our Pharmacy Acts and regulations drawn up under these various enactments. I therefore feel that points raised in this Bill in regard to health are a dishonest presentation. They are merely coverage to give body to the Bill and to give face to the Bill, to give the impression that the Bill is really necessary when we know that there is sufficient legislation there already to cover practically all these things.
My lawyer colleagues have stated that they believe it is unconstitutional. I am not a lawyer—I was going to say "Thank God"——
My non-legal advice would be: do not.
(South Tipperary):——but I can only take the view that if they say it is unconstitutional, it very probably is. There are a number of them, too, on the other side of the House but they have not as yet got up to say that it is constitutional, but, again, I shall wait to hear the Deputy make his speech when I have finished and perhaps he will give us his reasons for telling us how constitutional this particular measure is. It is sheer waste of the time of the House to be putting a measure of this type through if it is as patently unconstitutional as some of the lawyers, men of legal experience, have maintained it is and particularly after the Incorporated Law Society have given it as their opinion that this measure as drafted is unconstitutional. It seems to me that it is time that we should pause and look over the hill and see where the weakness is and remove it rather than having it removed later on at great expense to the community in the High Court and waste of our time here in the meantime dealing with this measure.
Now is the time for the Minister to examine the constitutionality of the Bill, particularly in view of the opinion expressed by the Incorporated Law Society. He is apparently not going to do that. He has given no evidence by amendments, by statements in the House or otherwise that he is going to do so. He is disregarding that. Therefore we should oppose it. We will merely be passing legislation which will later be declared to be unconstitutional and that is sheer waste of time and public money.
I think the Bill is broadly undemocratic. I fail to see why we must introduce a measure of this stringency to deal with marts when we have the auctioneering measure which is far better drafted, which has apparently received the approval of the auctioneers and with which apparently the public are satisfied. Neither the owners of the marts nor the public appear to be satisfied with the framework of this measure.
Again, there is the question of appeal. In the Bill, as originally drafted, the appeal was to the Minister and that was the end of it. He has introduced an amendment since which makes provision for a sworn inquiry. There are, I suppose, three types of appeal. There is appeal to the Minister, sworn inquiries of different types and appeal to the courts. Sworn inquiries were very fashionable in this country at one time. Deputy MacEntee loved them. In those days they were held by officials of his Department. This was later modified a bit in so far as Deputy O'Higgins introduced the notion that they should be conducted by a barrister. That was some improvement. It was better than having an untrained official from some Department holding an inquiry in which he might, perhaps, have a personal animosity. A sworn inquiry is a perfect instrument for any Minister who wishes to act in a mischievous, biased or even malignant fashion, safely entrenched behind a facade of objectivity to do what he likes. That is the fundamental weakness of a sworn inquiry.
Another of the difficulties about these inquiries is that when the faceless official or the nominated barrister makes his report back to the Minister, there and then the Minister considers it and makes his decision on the basis of that inquiry. He takes his decision and he may put his seal to it. In that event, the decision is irrevocable. It cannot be altered. We had this type of experience in my town of Cashel in regard to a public inquiry into the siting of a local hotel. If an appeal is in open court, before a judge, where the public can attend, and with legal people on both sides, one is in a better position to make a case and if something is shown to be not correct, the matter can be brought up.
As I say, a fundamental weakness is that when the inquiry is finished, the books are closed and the people concerned, and the public in general, know nothing whatsoever until the irrevocable decision of the Minister is passed on to them, and nothing can be done about it. That is my objection to this failure to allow appeals to be referred to the courts where a Minister refuses to grant a licence or wishes to revoke a licence. That type of appeal should be referable to the courts. The Minister's amendment, namely a sworn inquiry by a barrister of ten years' standing, is not a suitable alternative.
Most Deputies will have read the sub-leader in today's Irish Times dealing with the inherent dangers in this type of inquiry when the barrister is a ministerial nominee. There are inherent dangers. None of us is a saint and none of us ever will be a saint. I do not think the legal profession have a monopoly of all the virtues, in spite of what is said very often from both sides of the House. I do not think mere provision of appeal to a ministerially appointed barrister with ten years' experience, whose very future may depend on the Minister's approval or approbation, is clear evidence to the public that the decisions at all times will be completely free of pressure or entirely objective. That is too much to hope for. I believe the public should be relieved of any anxiety or doubts.
People who believe they are being disaffected should be able to appeal to someone who is absolutely independent and absolutely objective and who cannot be removed or pressurised in any way by a Minister or by the Government.
Those are my fundamental objections to this proposal in regard to the granting or revoking of licences and the method by which this should be done. I believe the Minister's amendment does not go far enough and does not meet the case. It is merely an excuse. In fact, it may well be that direct appeal to the Minister is a better system than a sworn inquiry. That gives him an opportunity of doing something he might not wish to do if he had to show his face. At least in a direct appeal to the Minister, if he is going to do the dirty, he has to do it in the open and that is probably better in the end than this pretence of legality and objectivity which a sworn inquiry often means.
I appeal to the Minister to take time off to reconsider this Livestock Marts Bill. It may be that there is a case for some form of licence. I do not dispute that. I have not dealt with this proposed legislation item by item as we will on Committee Stage. The majority are objectionable—the various types of inspections and the way they are carried out, but these are itemised matters. I have dealt with the Bill in its general broad principles. It does not commend itself to me, and I believe and hope that in its present form it will not commend itself to the House.
It is nice to see the sweet reasonableness of the Opposition today with appeals and pleas to the Minister all the way, the good example having been set by Deputy Dillon when he made a very mild speech. All the speeches so far from the Opposition have followed that line, in contrast to the position last week.
The main plank in the Opposition's case is that this is not the time to do it. That is typical Fine Gael policy, and has been all down the years. If there is any opposition to something, if something is unpopular, if there is any section of the people who may not like some piece of the proposed legislation, then, in Fine Gael eyes, that is good reason for putting it on the long finger. This they have been past-masters at all down the years. It is one of their trade marks that the first thing they look at in a piece of legislation, even when they were in government, is whether it will please everybody and if it does not, they decide to leave it on the long finger, to put it on the shelf. They even put a Budget on the shelf.
They never had two in one year.
The Deputy might be put on the shelf himself.
This is a money Resolution and I take it discussion on Budgets would be very appropriate.
It is very unfair that we should have this barrage from the Opposition.
I was invited to speak by a Member of the Opposition. I did not interrupt very much when he was speaking and I am surprised that a colleague from Donegal should be the first man to interrupt——
"To draw blood" would be the right expression.
This is a very poor argument if it is the only one— that now is not the time, that some tempers may be frayed. If the legislation is good, any time is a good time, whether the appropriate temperament prevails or whether some people or some section of the people are not in favour of it. If it is good legislation, now is the time to produce it.
On the question of an appeal, one of the Opposition speakers said it is a bad thing to have a barrister selected by the Minister holding a sworn inquiry. That point was raised by the last speaker, though ten or 15 minutes earlier the previous Opposition speaker quoted the example of the Minister for Justice who changed his mind on Opposition pressure, it was alleged, and ordered a sworn inquiry. That speaker said that was a good thing, that it was the proper thing, that the Minister was right.
A judicial inquiry.
A further speaker said it was the wrong thing to do. Apparently some of the Opposition speakers do not want a Marts Bill at all; apparently they do not want to have marts licensed.
Is Deputy Cunningham in favour of it? Just give a simple answer, "yes" or "no."
A vote will indicate that.
Is the Deputy in favour of it? The record will show whether he is behind the Minister or not. If he is behind the Minister, let him say "yes" or "no."
The Fine Gael people have said this is not the proper time, that it should not be done in this way. Some of them put down amendments and others say there is no need for the Bill at all. Can they make up their minds? If the Minister gave them three months, until after the recess, could they then make up their minds whether licensing of marts is a good thing or not? Would they be against any Bill, no matter how reasonable? Would they still speak with two tongues?
We are all against it.
Some of the Opposition speakers suggested leaving the Bill for three months.
Do not get confused. We are all against it on this side.
Now and in the future?
I am talking about now.
The Bill is providing for the future——
We are not all as experienced in looking into the future.
The Deputy's colleagues have said it should be brought back in three months.
They did not say that.
Deputy Cunningham must be allowed to make his speech.
Some of them said they would not have a Bill at any price but some others have asked to bring it back in the autumn, when it may go through as the Auctioneers Bill when through, all Stages in the one day.
I should like at this stage to ask Deputy Cunningham if he is in favour of the Bill as presented to the House. I should like an answer to that. If the Deputy is in favour, he may say so.
Is the Deputy speaking on the Resolution?
The Parliamentary Secretary has enough on his plate.
Ná bac leis. Tá mé ábalta é a dhéanamh.
I do not wish to be involved to any great extent on this Bill. I cannot see for the life of me, and Deputy Cunningham represents the same constituency and deals with the same people——
I am on the Money Resolution, which we are supposed to be speaking on.
This is not the Resolution.
It is the Report Stage of the Money Resolution. Is that not the Money Resolution?
What is wrong with half of the Fianna Fáil Deputies is that they do not know what they are talking about—they do not know what Stage we are on.
The Donegal fair.
I will not say anything to the Deputy.
I am sorry Deputy Cunningham is leaving the House because I meant to take him to task. I have been informed he was approached by people in the north of Donegal, in the Inishowen area, regarding this matter and that strong pressure was brought to bear on him to have the Minister withdraw the Bill. I see Deputy Cunningham has returned to the Chamber and I invite him to take his seat and listen. He meets the same type of people as I meet on my daily dozens and the same points will have been brought to his notice. I must say categorically that I have yet to meet a member of the agricultural community who had anything to say in favour of the Bill. I have spoken to members of Deputy Cunningham's Party who are close friends of mine, though we disagree politically; yet Deputy Cunningham does not wish to go on record. Those people have told me what they have told Deputy Cunningham and it is reasonable to conclude that they have made representations to him and it is interesting to suggest that they may have encouraged Deputy Cunningham either to desert the Minister or to persuade him. Perhaps the Minister has informed Deputy Cunningham that he has told the Taoiseach and the Cabinet that he will stand his ground, that he will defy the farming community in this matter. For the life of me, I do not know why Deputy Cunningham will not take his seat. I know he will bring me to order if I am wrong and I shall then withdraw any incorrect statement I have made.
As a member of a family with traditions in farming, cattle and livestock, if I could see any purpose, if I could see any demand by the agricultural community for a Bill such as this, I would compliment the Minister on introducing such legislation, but I, like every other member of my Party, have not noticed in the national press or in any other means of communication any suggestions that there is a demand for such legislation by any political organisation or from any other organised group inside or outside agriculture. Indeed, I have not come across any individual in the farming community who can see any good in a Bill such as the Bill the Minister is now introducing. I understand that the cost of this Bill will be anything in the region of £20,000. One could even see it could cost £500,000 if the Minister takes it into his head to close every mart in the country. As I live in the same constituency as the Minister, I do not trust him. May I add that there is no reason for trusting him when there are members of his own Party who do not trust him?
I know most of the farming community in Donegal—let us face facts— are affiliated to the Fianna Fáil Party and some of them supported the Fianna Fáil Party in the recent county council elections. Some of them are intimate friends of mine.
Some of them are very good judges of Parties.
Some of them, but unfortunately the people who do so do so for what they can get out of the Fianna Fáil Party.
They cannot all be right.
I would like to say that those people have supported the Fianna Fáil Party and they have done so because they believe the Fianna Fáil Party have control of the country for different reasons. Any individual with whom I have spoken—I say this categorically—in relation to this Bill has not expressed any desire whatsoever to have this Bill implemented. Nobody can see what good it will do. Everybody concludes that this is a row between the Minister and the NFA, between the Minister and certain members of the NFA. It has reached the stage now when the Minister cannot turn back. As I say, knowing the Minister as I do, he will not concede.
The thing I am most concerned about in this Bill is how it will affect the constituency of North-East Donegal which I represent. We have a very successful mart in the town of Carndonagh and also in my local town of Raphoe. It is now proposed to open another one in Milford and there is also a private enterprise mart in the town of Letterkenny. We serve the farming community very well. Those marts have been established by private enterprise and co-operative movements. The local farmers have come together. They have subscribed to the cost of those marts and have established them as a good and well-organised business unit. They are giving good service to the local farmers.
They have done this without grants from the Department of Agriculture and indeed without any help whatsoever from either the Government or the local authority. As a member of the local authority, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, like myself, you know that on many occasions councillors, including myself, have been pressing the county engineer at least to provide parking facilities in and around those marts. This can only be done after desperate pressure on the part of local councillors. There are not even parking facilities provided for farmers' tractors and trailers, motor cars and trailers and every means of transport they use. Now, after having established something successfully, having put it on a sound business footing, the Minister for Agriculture proposes to nationalise it. Of course, once he nationalises it, eventually it will be like CIE and we will be subsidising it.
I can see failure staring us in the face and I can see chaos in the not too distant future. This is a desperate reflection on the co-operative movement which was established by Horace Plunkett in this country 50 or 60 years ago, a movement which has served the country well. The whole concept of good agricultural relations is based on the co-operative movement. I am convinced that unless the Department of Agriculture preaches the gospel of co-operation, it will be a bad day for all of us. This will be a very bad day for Father McDyer, who has done such good work, not only in west Donegal, but in other parts of the West as well. Here we have the Minister for Agriculture who is too proud to admit that he was wrong and who is so desirous for gang warfare that he will sacrifice the whole agricultural community and good agricultural principles just to prove that he is a greater man than Richard Deasy or a man I do not wish to name in County Donegal.
I wonder, by the same token, if the Minister is successful in this Bill what he proposes to do with an industry such as the one Father McDyer has established in Glencolumbkille? I wonder if this will be the thin edge of the wedge for Father McDyer's venture? I wonder when Ministers of State find it desirous to move around the country in State cars paid for at the cost of the nation to open dancehalls——
This is nonsense.
I am making my protest.
Deputy Harte must relate his remarks to the Bill.
Dancehalls do not arise on the Marts Bill, I hope.
He is waltzing Matilda.
Deputy Clinton moved that the Money Resolution be referred back.
There is no such motion before the House. Deputies either vote for or against it.
Deputy Clinton has moved that it be referred back.
There is no such motion before the House.
In making my protest that this money is being misused, I am developing my argument and wondering what is in store for Father McDyer in Glencolumbkille if the Minister is successful in getting this Bill put through the House. This is money being poured down the drain. It has no good purpose other than the purpose of implementing the cynical designs of the Minister. If the marts were not being run well, then I would recommend such legislation, but as I know, particularly in Donegal, there are many marts which are doing a lot of good. If there is any genuine complaint made by any buyer or seller, that complaint is examined. There is usually a reasonable excuse why such a complaint was made.
This will happen in any organised business group. I am satisfied that the marts in Donegal—I dare say you are also satisfied, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle—are being well run. They are well-conducted. They were organised by farmers and they are run by farmers. The farmers are satisfied with them. The local business people are also satisfied. In other words, the idea that the man who produces the livestock is entitled to the best price is now being established through this marketing system. The Minister seems to think that if he has control of them —goodness knows, he made a bad enough hash of Local Government— that he can increase the efficiency of the marts. As I say, if I could see any purpose in the Minister's action, I would be the first to congratulate him and would probably support him but I see no such purpose. I cannot but ask myself what will happen, if the Minister gets his way here, and gets it without protest, to the industry Fr. McDyer has established in Glencolumbkille?
That has no relation to the matter before the House. The Deputy may not discuss the whole economic position of the country on this Resolution.
I am not doing that, but I beg leave to voice a thought which may scare even you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle. Suppose, as a result of this, the Minister is encouraged to take over Glencolumbkille, something which has been established——
Glencolumbkille does not enter into this Bill and I wish the Deputy would try to relate his remarks to the Bill. He seems to be wandering.
Is not Glencolumbkille a co-operative movement? What is the difference between a co-operative movement and a co-operative mart?
If the Deputy proceeds on these lines, I shall have to ask him to resume his seat. We are discussing the Money Resolution on the Marts Bill, not industries in any part of the country, in Glencolumbkille or anywhere else.
We are talking about the Marts Bill and, in talking about it, we are talking about the principles of co-operation. If agriculture is to develop faster and more efficiently——
I would advise the Deputy that, if he has nothing to say on the Resolution before the House, he should sit down and let someone else speak.
He is like a bad actor who forgets his lines and keeps going back for a prompt every so often.
The Parliamentary Secretary is in the unfortunate position that he has no prompters.
I do not want them.
Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted, and 20 Members being present,
Last week, when this matter was being discussed, Deputy Clinton pointed out to the Minister that he should have second thoughts on this and hesitate before he took the Bill any further. The Minister stated he had been in consultation with different organised bodies of the agricultural community and they were in agreement with what he was doing. The newspapers over the weekend carried statements by these different bodies which would suggest that the Minister was either telling an untruth or misunderstood the bodies when he was speaking to them.
I should like emphatically to deny that the Minister was telling an untruth, but the Minister can answer for himself.
I can assure the Parliamentary Secretary that the Minister's statement was not in accordance with the facts and I will dilate on that in a few minutes because it so happens that I went to see the Secretary of the Cork Marts.
If, as the Parliamentary Secretary says, the Minister is not telling an untruth, then he must not be in command of his office. The Minister was in consultation with these different bodies and he came to the House and told us that they were in agreement with what he proposed to do. Either the Minister told us an untruth or he did not understand what he was talking about. The Parliamentary Secretary says he did not tell an untruth and we must, therefore, conclude that he does not know what he is talking about.
Then he was telling an untruth. The Parliamentary Secretary cannot have it both ways. I should like the Minister to do what the Minister for Justice has sone—concede that he has been hasty and have second thoughts. Every member of the Fine Gael Party opposes this Bill. The Government have the majority to steamroll the Bill through the House and implement every section of it. We make no apology for our opposition. All we ask is that the Minister should have second thoughts about it. Let the Parliamentary Secretary go back to his constituency and talk to the people there about this piece of legislation. Let Deputy Cunningham do likewise in Inishowen; let him discuss this with the people who have talked to me about it. I asked Deputy Cunningham, with your permission, Sir, to say either "yes" or "no" and he hesitated. He hesitated because he was afraid I would get his answer on the record and show it to his supporters to prove that Deputy Cunningham is in favour of this Bill; politically that might do him an injury. That is the only reason he hesitated. The Minister has not really, I believe, got the majority support of his own Party for this Bill and it is only because the members of his Party are acting as "Yes men" that they will trot into the Lobbies after him when the Division Bell rings.
Walk through the Lobbies. Horses trot.
The Parliamentary Secretary can select whichever word he wants to use. I see no good in this Bill. The Government should withdraw it. If the Minister is successful in this venture at nationalising the co-operative marts, then what Fr. McDyer has created in Glencolumbkille will be the next nail in the coffin of co-operation in the agricultural economy of this country.
We must face in a realistic way the issues involved here. In the course of my remarks, I shall try to keep to what this Bill stands for. First of all, I want to say emphatically—let the Parliamentary Secretary say what he will—that after the meeting which the Minister had with organisations and after he had been joined by the representatives of Cork Co-operative Marts, as he said himself, they left him with no indication other than the vaguest generalities, with no suggestions of any type of amendment, and he made this statement afterwards before any of these people had got any type of draft amendment to the Bill. I can assure him that, at its very best, his statement was a bit of political slickness to try to cloud issues which are now being faced quite openly by these people who have said quite emphatically and positively that the Minister, intentionally or otherwise, certainly misled the public generally when he made this statement.
I happen to know that, even yet, these people are deeply perturbed and far from satisfied with the suggested ameliorations of the Bill. But it is the whole spirit that is behind this that is annoying me. I came in here during the debate on the Estimate for the Department of Agriculture and I told the Minister something which I sincerely believed, that is, that there was an atmosphere abroad that was not conducive to a deliberative and objective analysis of the purposes of the Marts Bill. I sincerely feel that legislation of this nature which will impinge on co-operative private enterprise, as this will, requires the most objective and deliberative consultation of Members of this House.
I view this Bill from three aspects, each relevantly important and each vital to be welded into the Bill if it is to create the effective type of control and usefulness that we would hope it could have. There is no doubt at all that, whether it is right or whether it is wrong, spite is largely given as the background to the forcing of this Bill through the House now. Believe you me, you are in for a long grind.
We are happy to stay here until Christmas, if necessary.
I suppose Deputy Crinion has nothing else to do.
More than Deputy Collins, anyway.
Indeed he has.
Fianna Fáil will get the measure through eventually, I suppose, by bludgeoning. They will get a Bill through, which should have been considered calmly and objectively, in the worst possible acrimony of political bitterness.
I suggest that Deputy Collins should consult with the representatives of the Cork Co-operative Marts so as to acquaint himself with the full picture.
Deputy Sheridan's suggestions are like himself, a bit airy-fairy. Deputy Sheridan is like Lannah Machree's dog. He goes a bit of the way with everybody but the length of the road with nobody. Bí ciúin : bí i do thost. I know Deputy Sheridan for many long years: I know the Deputy for a long time and, even though he buys a few cattle in my constituency——
You were glad to have me. I possess what none of you possesses. I shall put on my glasses to read it for you in case you would not know——
Deputy Collins is in possession.
He would have to read it. I was doubtful about his capacity to tell it to us.
We must have some order.
I challenge Deputy Collins to come down there and to——
The next time Deputy Sheridan is going to Aughadown, I shall go with him and introduce him to my cousins there and he might make a better bargain.
You were often glad to have me.
I would welcome the Deputy anywhere. He was a good man to stand his corner, anyway.
Thank you very much.
In the present atmosphere, we shall not get that deliberation which would be useful. I am terribly suspicious of the protests of the Independent Deputy, Deputy Sheridan. He must be slightly irritated. He must not have consulted the general manager of the co-operative marts. Let us get back to grips with reality. Is it not very much more in the interests of us all that we should gather together to have this discussion in an atmosphere of objectivity?
The Minister purported to suggest, in relation to this Bill, that one of the bases on which he is looking for the legislation is the protection of the person who will buy and sell in the marts. Would somebody tell me where the Bill proposes to ensure this type of protection? Could the Minister tell me if there is any basis on which he makes this suggestion? Has there been some hoofling, some irregularity, some criminal irregularity, in the marts that prompts this suggestion?
I feel myself, from such investigation as I have made, that the marts have been very successful particularly in my county and in the home area from Bandon back west. Is there some clear crisis arising behind the scenes and about which we know nothing? If there is, why is the House not frankly apprised of the information so that we can seek to arrest it? What has gone wrong with this effort which we all know to have been extremely successful? We saw it through the vicissitudes of cattle-trader opposition. We saw the marts settle down to become a very effective and useful adjunct to the disposal of their stock by farmers. As well as that, we saw the wider concept of the co-operation and association between these marts and selling outlets in Britain. All of us, in our own reasonable and rational way, were pleased. We saw the avenues improve and develop to the satisfaction of all. Has something gone wrong with all this so that we suddenly need this restrictive, vindictive type of legislation? If so, why have we not been told what has gone wrong and the justification for this measure? My belief is we are not told because that argument is not there and those facts cannot be revealed.
The more you delve into this problem, the more you become convinced that this is a vindictive, narrowmindness which is typical of the arrogance of a decadent Party who make mistakes and then try to laud them into some merit. The Parliamentary Secretary knows as well as I do that most of his colleagues would prefer to be out of here and that the Marts Bill should not be discussed until next November, in the hope that then we would be able to have a fairly substantially agreed measure under which an independent tribunal would assess the issuing of licences or certificates in the same way as other activities requiring licences are assessed. During the recess we might have found the type of legislation which would enable applications for certificates or licences to be considered and under which objections could be made and heard in a regular manner before a person would be denied the right of a licence. We felt that this could be done in an atmosphere removed from departmental interference. Let us not be naïve when facing up to what this Bill means. Again we have the bludgeoning tyranny of bureaucracy killing the last semblance of free will and the exercise of normal business acumen, whether co-operative or private, at the behest of some irrational thinking and of ill-conceived draftsmanship, springing from the esoteric delight which Departments apparently now take in being able to control every facet of the individual's liberty.
The success of the cattle mart trade was becoming phenomenal. We know, of course, that in the case of other State-run bodies, there has been an outstripping by each one of the others in so far as losses and difficulties are concerned. It is because of that that we in this Party are so critical and so determined to try to preserve for our agricultural community as much control of their own affairs and destinies as is possible and practicable While we do not want to delve into history, we do know the Fianna Fáil sorry record in regard to agriculture. It is most peculiar that this Bill should endeavour to bring in new techniques of oppression on the agricultural community. It is extraordinary that a Minister for Agriculture should seek the type of power envisaged in this Bill, should seek to have the iron hand all the time with no semblance of the velvet glove. To me, the son of a small farmer from west Cork, it is extraordinary that anyone who has had the same type of background would tolerate this type of legislation. I do not tolerate it but then I am fundamentally suspicious of a Fianna Fáil Government who try to cover vindictive action against one organisation by saying that everybody wants it. They do not, you know. The Minister will chew and regurgitate many of the things he has said, before this Bill is passed.
What is wrong that we had to rush in suddenly and direct here and direct there? Why has this to be done in a field of endeavour in which there has been very considerable success, where the farmers, with their own money, their initiative and co-operative effort, have been able to improve everything in relation to buying and selling cattle and where improving prices, up to the year before last, had enabled them to expand and develop their marts premises themselves? I can conceive that the necessity might arise where you had a plurality of marts. That could lead to embarrassment but that is not the reason for this legislation. If it was, surely the Minister would agree to having a period for reflection, a period during which to survey and review to what extent development would be practical and economical and to what extent it would be necessary to have licences decided on?
An independent tribunal would be far more likely to win the confidence of the people and to have the support of the agricultural community than a system under which decisions are made within the Department's walls. We have to take into account not only what is in the Bill but what the Minister is likely to do. Even though somebody tells me that A, B, C or D are in the form of a proposed amendment, how do I know that after this Report Stage they might not be withdrawn or scattered to the wind? The whole approach to this Bill is such that it has become a matter of prestige for the Minister to show the House he will take no nonsense and that when he wants something he will get it. That is not much help to the agricultural community.
This Bill is a very serious and definite invasion of the liberties and freedom of action of the agricultural community. We should make haste with it very slowly. We have heard Deputy Dillon make an impassioned plea that reason might enter into the deliberations at this stage and that we would say: "Right, we have the Second Reading and the Money Resolution through. Let us consider the matter from now on in an atmosphere of co-operation and understanding between all sides of the House to bring about the type of controls the House thinks necessary but which will leave to the agricultural community the widest possible freedom of action."
I do not know why we cannot do that. I do not know why we have to start thinking in terms of bludgeoning the farmer, why the Minister seeks to have his investigation officers bring guards with them for this and that, why we have to have punitive jail sentences suggested and why we have to have fines of tremendous magnitude imposed. Why all this has to be on the particular section of the community that carries the brunt of our economy, I do not know. But that is what this Bill is—another imposition on the farmers. Why? Because in the stupidity of ministerial statement, the cattle trade went wrong, agricultural impetus slowed down, economic development went off and the farmer had to make his organised protest. Because of that, and because of the Minister's cheap pride in the dispute with the NFA, we are having the deliberate pushing forward of a matter that is not urgent to that extent and only receives any persistent impetus because of the vindictiveness and petty pride of the proposer of this Bill and because of nothing else.
I am convinced that measures of this nature will mellow and become tremendously improved if only we give them a little time. I feel that some of the organisations—the IAOS and the Co-operative Marts—could sit down with the Department in a deliberative way and bring about an understanding between the Department and the cattle trade that would be welcome to all. The Minister sitting in with his officials on these conferences could learn an awful lot. If the matter were approached in that way, all of us here could learn of the difficulties to be overcome, the essential limitations and what the general area of development should be. If that kind of interchange of ideas were there for a couple of months, I am convinced we could have a good Bill, substantially approved by all of us in this House. There would not be any acrimony; no political sores would be opened and no unnecessary heat engendered in a matter which should be discussed objectively and deliberatively. Deputy Sheridan could make a very fine contribution.
Has the mart improved the cattle trade?
It is bettering relations between the cattle trade and the Department.
I am sorry Cork has gone over to the marts.
It has not gone over to the Sheridans any way, even though they buy a lot of horses there.
Has the mart improved the cattle?
In my area it certainly has, and I think it could improve it more if it had the co-operation of the cattle trade.
Did you consult the Cork cattle trade?
I consulted the Cork Marts. They are the people vitally involved in this.
We cannot have debate carried on in this fashion.
It is lovely.
It is not lovely. Would Deputy Collins please address the Chair?
I would not like to be offensive or hurtful to Deputy Sheridan. I suggest—and I am quite sure Deputy Sheridan in his heart of hearts agrees—we would be far better off discussing this Bill in a better atmosphere than what we have at present. That would improve the Bill, make for much better relations between everybody, allay much of the suspicion aroused and prevent a lot of unnecessary and infertile arguments.
In general, I question the sincerity of the motives behind this Bill. I think it is a cheap, vindictive measure, the whim and caprice of an indignant and unappreciative Minister who wants to treat this House churlishly without any appreciation of whatever contribution or help we might try to give him. A Bill in that spirit will get the opposition it deserves from this Party, and line by line the Minister will have to grind it through this House, if he does not learn the sense of having the co-operation and deliberation on controversial measures of this nature which he will get from this House, once he indicates his willingness to accept it. Until he does, we will treat this Bill as what it is, a little pride jerker for a Minister who does not know when not to be stubborn.
The Minister for Agriculture, speaking on the Money Resolution last Thursday, attempted to justify his introduction of this Bill. I have taken the trouble of reading through most of the Minister's two-hour speech last Thursday. Most of that speech was taken up with hurling political abuse at the Opposition Party and personal abuse at Deputy Dillon, but the Minister failed completely to put forward any concrete and acceptable argument in support of the Bill. Whatever argument the Minister was trying to make in support of the Bill, he destroyed it in his over-enthusiasm to hurl abuse at the Opposition and to impute all kinds of motives to us because we were daring to oppose this legislation.
The Minister walked into a trap when in the course of a long diatribe and castigation against Fine Gael, he referred to the fact that he had met the IAOS and the Associated Livestock Marts and the Cork Marts. I quote, with your permission, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, from the Official Report of 6th July, column 1459, where the Minister said that he was pleased to inform Fine Gael that he had met the IAOS and the Cork Marts and that he had also met the NAC. The Minister said—and in saying this he implied that Fine Gael were not fully briefed on the matter—
...the Fine Gael people should realise that I have met the IAOS, the Cork Marts the Associated Marts, which is the private element of the marts, and that their protestations
that is, our protestations——
on behalf of these people are completely hollow, empty, false and unnecessary.
The Minister deliberately conveyed to this House and to the country a false picture. He conveyed that following his meeting with the persons I have mentioned, agreement had been reached and that the Bill, with the Minister's amendments, would now be acceptable to these people.
The Minister said:
There is no point in Fine Gael making out that they are the defenders of the co-operative movement in this country. Surely, they do not want to tell the House that they usurp the rights of the IAOS, the rights of the Cork Marts...
Far from the IAOS and the Associated Livestock Marts and the Cork Marts being satisfied, we find the following statement in the Irish Times of Thursday, July 13th, from the President of the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society, Mr. P.F. Quinlan——
This statement has already been read out in full in the House and I hope the Deputy is not going to continue a long quotation.
Why not, Sir? He is making his argument.
The Deputy is not entitled to make long quotations. They are out of order in the House. The Deputy is entitled to make his own speech and, as I have already pointed out, the statement to which he has referred has been read in extenso in the House today and I think that is sufficient.
Am I to take it that because some other Deputy has quoted this statement, I am prohibited from quoting it?
Surely you cannot possibly rule——
We must have some order in the House. We cannot have this disorder, one Deputy after the other getting up quoting one statement.
On a point of order.
I will listen to the Deputy's point of order.
Surely, you are not going to rule that a Deputy is precluded from making his argument because somebody else in the House has made it? That would mean that one person would be allowed to make his speech from the Opposition benches and nobody else——
This is a very long point of order.
If Deputy O'Donnell wishes to contrast what the Minister said with what the other party to the conversation is reported as saying, surely he is entitled to do so?
With all respect to the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I quoted very short extracts from some of the points made by the Minister.
Yes, I agree, and the Deputy was in order.
I quoted some extracts from the Minister's speech which no other Deputy has quoted.
And the Chair did not disagree with the Deputy.
The Leas-Cheann Comhairle may be worried that I am about to quote this statement at length. I do not intend to do so.
Very well, then. I just want to point out to the Deputy that long quotations are not in order.
As I was saying, in his speech last Thursday, the Minister tried to make the Opposition look foolish but he failed singularly to do so. He stated categorically that agreement had now been reached between himself and the various people interested in the livestock marts. The people who pioneered the introduction of livestock marts in this country were the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society, and the following is an extract from a report contained in the Irish Times of Thursday, July 13th, 1967, of a meeting presided over by Mr. P. F. Quinlan, President of the IAOS:
The committee reviewed the discussion with the Minister which took place on June 30th and the subsequent statement by the Minister in the Dáil in regard to the attitude of the IAOS to the proposed amendments as reported in the daily press on Friday, July 7th.
It appeared from these reports that the representatives of the Co-operative Marts and the IAOS were satisfied with the amendments...
Then the statement goes on to show that, taking amendment after amendment and section after section, far from the IAOS being satisfied with the discussion held with the Minister, they were totally dissatisfied and still objected to this Bill.
I believe this Bill completely unnecessary. The longer it is discussed the more convinced most people are becoming that it is totally unnecessary. It certainly is not the matter of extreme urgency the Minister seems to think it is. It contains very little that will be of any benefit to the farmers. I am now absolutely convinced that the Bill is being used by the Minister to pursue his private vendetta against the organised farmers, particularly the National Farmers Association. In his two-hour speech last Thursday and in the speech on the Second Reading the Minister has failed completely to make a case for the urgency or necessity of introducing the Bill. It is extraordinary, if it is not a unique situation in this House, that we have a Minister for Agriculture introducing a Bill which nobody wants, which is completely unnecessary, while at the same time, at Question Time today, he was unable to make any definite forecast as to the prospects for cattle prices in the coming autumn. Surely there is legislation of much more urgent and necessary kind for Irish agriculture than this vindictive Bill? Is it not an extraordinary state of affairs for a Minister to expect the House to vote money for the implementation of a Bill for which nobody looked?
Another objection I take to this Bill is the fact that the Minister consulted nobody. Even on his own admission when introducing this Bill, he did not consult his own politically-dominated National Agricultural Council; he did, a few days after introducing the Bill, all right, but not beforehand. He refuses to accede to the appeals that have been made from this side of the House to go slow on this and to consult the various interests involved. I am convinced that the Minister was determined to bulldoze this legislation through the House so that he could have personal control over one of the most important sectors of the agricultural industry.
The Minister last Thursday made sneering references to the Fine Gael Party, and particularly to those members of this Party who have a special interest in the co-operative movement. He made sneering references to the effect that some members of this Party were posing as defenders of the co-operative movement. I make no apology to the Minister for being an enthusiastic supporter of the co-operative movement. I make no apology for trying to defend the co-operative movement from this brazen attempt by the Minister to take over control of the livestock marts. This is a bad piece of legislation, and we in Fine Gael are determined to oppose it by every means within our power. As I have said, it is a sad state of affairs that, at a time when co-operation is being preached as the only hope of the survival of the average family farm, the Minister for Agriculture should attempt, by means of this Livestock Marts Bill, to wreck what is perhaps the most outstanding example of successful co-operation in this country.
The Minister has attempted to put forward various arguments in support of this Bill. In concluding his speech on Thursday, he said this Bill was made necessary and urgent by our impending entry to the European Economic Community. I am reliably informed that our livestock marts, be they private or co-operative, compare favourably, and more than favourably, with the livestock marts in any other part of Europe, and that in the matter of buildings, in the matter of the standards of hygiene, and so forth, these marts leave very little to be desired.
One of the most objectionable features of this Bill is that, of its very nature, it implies that the marts of this country are being inefficiently run, that they are unhygienic, and that the management committees are incapable of controlling their own affairs. It has been said from this side of the House, and with every day that passes we are more and more convinced of it, that the Minister is being vindictive in introducing this Bill. I believe also he is perhaps a little bit jealous that the farmers, through private enterprise and through co-operative effort, have been able to do something for the marketing of the farmers' livestock which the Department and Minister for Agriculture, and certainly the present Minister, would not be capable of doing.
The livestock marts have been very conscious—and they have given remarkable evidence of this fact—of the need for modernising marketing facilities for livestock. They have shown, almost without exception, that private enterprise and co-operative effort have been able to do this job entirely successfully, without any assistance from the State and without any financial grant from the State. In some cases, as I have said, these marts are co-operatively owned; in other instances, they are privately owned. I believe, and all the evidence available confirms the fact, that these marts are being efficiently run by the committees of management, and the farmers who use these marts have not complained about any lack of facilities and certainly have not looked for assistance or for control.
They were started by themselves and are run by themselves.
And run efficiently: that is the important thing. If they were falling down or if there were any evidence that these livestock marts would be unable to gear themselves to meet the challenge of wider competition in the immediate future, then there would be a case for Government intervention.
I stated last week, and I want to repeat, as one who is keenly interested in and has been for long a student of the co-operative movement, that I have tried to do some research into this matter of State intervention in private enterprise and in co-operative organisations. It has been established as a basic principle of co-operation that the State should interfere only following a request or an invitation from the people who begin a co-operative. That is an established fundamental fact.
That is true.
In this case and by means of this Bill, the Minister is contravening all the internationally accepted principles regarding State intervention in co-operative effort and, to me at any rate, this is the most objectionable feature of this Bill. There was no demand for it. Goodness knows there are many sectors of the agricultural industry which, for the past 12 months, have been appealing to the Minister and crying out for help and the Minister has given them the deaf ear. He has done everything possible to insult them and now he comes along and tries, under the guise of the great benefactor of the co-operative movement and of the livestock industry, to take over control of the marts and gear up those marts so that farmers will get high prices for their cattle and that there will be better marketing facilities to avail of EEC markets.
This is the greatest bunk ever preached by any Minister for Agriculture in this House. The more I hear of it and the more I read this most vindictive and disgusting statement by the Minister on last Thursday, the more ashamed I am that we have a Minister who cares so very little for the agricultural community and who has so little faith in the ability of our farmers to manage their own affairs. A reasonable Minister for Agriculture would do what Deputy Dillon did some years ago when Muintir na Tíre introduced their parish plan. He met that organisation and encouraged them in their advancement of that idea and he provided parish agents for them. There are many ways in which the co-operative movement could further the advancement of Irish agriculture and many ways in which this movement could contribute to gearing up Irish agriculture to meet the challenge of competition within EEC.
But this Minister, as I have said, has no time for the co-operative movement. I condemned him before some weeks ago because of the fact that in his annual Estimate he never once mentioned the success of the co-operative movement or the plans his Department had for the expansion of that movement. He confirmed our suspicions that he did not care for the co-operative movement when he introduced this scandalous and vindictive Bill which was brought in here by a Minister for Agriculture who is not fit to be in charge of our agricultural industry. I sincerely hope, that for the sake of our farmers, he will be removed by some means from the Office.
(Cavan): The Fine Gael Party have adopted a rather unusual course in opposing strenuously the Money Resolution introduced in relation to this Bill. Admittedly, opposition on that motion is unusual but this is a very unusual Bill. The action of this Party in resisting it at all stages to date has been more than justified.
(Cavan): We believe that this measure was introduced hastily, in a fit of bad temper, for a narrow-minded purpose by the Minister for Agriculture in order to pursue a petty war which he is waging on certain agricultural organisations. There are 12 sections in the Bill but I really think that in one section, in one paragraph of one subsection, one can get the idea behind the Minister's introduction of the Bill. I refer to section 6 (2) (b) where it is laid down that the Minister may provide that entries for any auction shall not be refused except in circumstances prescribed in a regulation.
There has been a difference of opinion between the Minister and certain organised sections of the farming community for approximately 12 months. The Minister and his predecessor are responsible for that petty war. In the history of this country a similar state of affairs has never before existed. Never have we had a Minister in charge of the agricultural industry, on the one hand, and the people whom he is supposed to serve, on the other, the farmers, in open war until the Minister's predecessor, Deputy Haughey, began this dispute with the farmers by insulting them, refusing to meet them and refusing to listen to their difficulties and refusing to discuss their difficulties with them. That war, begun by the Minister's predecessor——
That is rubbish, anyway.
(Cavan):——has been continued by the Minister. We have heard very little from Deputy Allen on this measure or, indeed, on any other measure.
Wait a moment: we have been listening to tripe from that side of the House.
(Cavan): I do not know how long Deputy Allen has been in this House——
Longer than the Deputy has been.
(Cavan):——but I do know that young fellows who came in after him would not have passed him out for the position of Parliamentary Secretary if Deputy Allen had been prepared to pull his weight as a member of his Party and get up and talk, and not indulge in——
That is a very petty remark.
(Cavan): I am speaking to a petty Deputy.
I have spoken in this House and on this Bill, and further, I am a member of Associated Marts and I know what I am talking about.
Deputy Allen must cease interrupting.
(Cavan): That vendetta was begun by the Minister's predecessor and continued by the present Minister for Agriculture. He came to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly—I am satisfied it was wrongly, and I think recent events have proved it was wrongly—that he should pursue his war against the farmers to the bitter end. The only object of the introduction of this Bill by the Minister was to try to get his own back on the farming organisations, to try to stamp them out and drive them underground, to try to divide them.
Any Bill introduced in such an atmosphere, especially when it is a Bill that interferes with the ordinary public life of the country, should be resisted and opposed at all stages. That is why this Party decided to resist it at all stages. In my opinion, the Bill has been introduced in the atmosphere I have described and with the object in mind which I have described. We opposed this Bill last week for two days, and at the end of that period the Minister timed his intervention in the debate for the concluding hours of Thursday, the day on which the Dáil was to rise for the week. He came in here and made an attack on the Fine Gael Party, the principal Opposition Party, part of the Opposition charged with the duty of analysing in a critical way any measure introduced by the Government.
He made a political speech lasting for a couple of hours but, more important and more serious than that, he stated that the arguments put forward by this Party, and by the Labour Party who supported us, were without foundation, that we purported here to represent the IAOS, Cork Marts and other sections vitally interested in this Bill, and said that he had, in fact, cleared the Bill with all those people, that they had no objection to it and that we had come in here making a case that we had not been instructed to make——
It is quite true.
(Cavan):——that we were making a case on behalf of people who did not approve of it and who did not stand behind it. He said the IAOS had no substantial objection and that he had cleared the Bill with Cork Marts and that they had no objection to it. I state that our objection to this Bill has been worthwhile and justified. The people with whom the Minister stated he had cleared the Bill have come out and repudiated the Minister in public and stated that what the Minister said was not correct, that they still objected to the Bill and that it was not acceptable to them, notwithstanding the Minister's amendments.
Furthermore, every independent section of the free press, of the united press, has come out over the week-end in violent opposition to this Bill and in support of the opposition to it. That is why I say that our opposition to this Bill to date has been justified and has been very worthwhile.
I cannot for the life of me understand what the necessity for the rush and hurry is in putting this Bill through. Has there been any real demand for it? As I said at another time in this House, buying and selling of livestock has been going on in this country for much longer than the life of any Member. Probably, and possibly, there have been abuses. Possibly from time to time hordes of worthless cheques have been issued by odd cattle dealers, but that did not call for the introduction of a Bill to regulate fairs; that did not prompt the Minister for Agriculture of the day to try to put on the Statute Book a measure which would interfere in the ordinary legitimate day-to-day business of cattle dealers and farmers. No; as I say, the buying and selling of livestock has been going on here for centuries. This business has been going on, by and large, successfully for centuries and the business of cattle marts has been going on for quite a number of years without any Minister or any Government thinking it necessary to interfere. It was only when this dispute between the Minister and the farming community was allowed to develop that the Minister, believing that there was something in it for him, thought fit to introduce this measure for political purposes.
There is something else that we should not forget. It is the business of an Opposition, as I have said, to analyse critically every measure of this nature that is introduced, and to oppose it if they think it should be opposed. Let us look for a moment at the timing of this measure. It is introduced towards the end of a rather busy session, timed to go through its Second and Committee Stages in the dying days of a busy session during which the Members of this House were actively engaged in election work as well as Parliamentary duties, and at a time when Deputies were likely to be tired and likely to yield in order to get a rest. There is something sinister about the timing of this Bill. As long as this Party are in this House, they will never yield when there is a question of principle like this involved.
There is another reason why the Minister should have second thoughts about this Bill and should put his pride in his pocket and put the Bill on the shelf until the autumn of this year. Since the introduction of this Bill, the people vitally concerned with it, the farming community, have had an opportunity of expressing their views on it in the ballot boxes and they have done so and in no uncertain manner. They have repudiated the Minister who introduced the Bill and they have repudiated the Party of which he is a member in a way they have not done for some time.
It should be clear to the Minister, and to the Taoiseach who is responsible for the activities of his Ministers, that he has not a mandate, or the power, to steamroll this Bill through the House at the present time, in the face of the opposition of every Party in the House, but most important, in the face of the electorate who have changed control of practically every county council and in the face of the opposition of the national newspapers, who are not always sympathetic to this Party and who are not always critical of the Government but who on this occasion have come out over the week-end when this document was circulated and have spoken strenuously and openly against it.
The Taoiseach and the other members of the Government should be bigger than to put the prestige of one Minister against the rest of the House, against the rest of the country and against public opinion, and that is what is being done at the present time. Not one member—very few, anyway; it is probably an exaggeration to say not one member—of the Fianna Fáil Party has come in and spoken on this Bill. They may say as an excuse for not speaking that they want to save time. I can tell them that as far as this Party are concerned they will not save time.
As Deputy Collins said, we will fight this Bill line by line, and if there is any member of the Fianna Fáil Party representing the farming community, or representing industry and commerce, other than the Minister, who believes that the Minister is right and that this Bill is justified and is called for, that it is not an abuse of the rights of private individuals, the co-operative movement and the collective effort in this country, he should stand up here tonight, or tomorrow, and justify the Minister and the Bill in a coherent, reasoned speech and not by interruption.
We are told there is great haste for this Bill, that there is a necessity for it and that this House cannot go into recess until it has been passed. Yet, as we know, some Bills come into operation on the day on which they are signed by the President, and that is provided in the Bill. Other Bills which are not so vitally necessary come into operation on any old day the Minister decides. This is such a Bill, because section 2 is the meat in this Bill; it is the teeth of this Bill. Section 2 is the section which makes it obligatory on a person to get a licence before he operates a mart, and subsection (3) of section 2 provides that:
Subsections (1) and (2) of this section shall come into operation on such day as the Minister may appoint by order.
That does not seem to mean that there is very much urgency about it.
The more I think about the way this Bill is being rushed through this House, the more difficult I find it to understand. The Minister's colleague, the Minister for Local Government, introduced a Bill here a couple of months ago. I think I would not be unfair if I said he summarised the Road Traffic Bill as a Bill to put death off the road, as a Bill to make the roads safer for life and limb. That Bill got a First Reading; the Committee Stage of that Bill started; it has gone into cold storage and we are not going to hear another word about it until the end of this year. In its place, this petty, vindictive, oppressive, political measure is being brought in here and is sought to be steamrolled through this House.
I know prefectly well there are responsible people in the Fianna Fáil Party who are violently opposed to this Bill.
(Cavan): I ask the Deputy does he deny that. I ask the Deputy was there not a violent speech made against this Bill at a recent meeting of the Fianna Fáil Party? I ask Deputy Allen does he deny that a responsible member of his Party, in a position to know what he is talking about, invited the Minister to withdraw the Bill or to amend it drastically.
It is all rubbish the Deputy is talking.
(Cavan): This is a Bill being pushed through here. Deputy Allen does not sound convincing when he denies it at the behest of an older member of his Party; Deputy Allen had to be goaded into denying the truth of what I was saying.
The Deputy should not be drawing other people into the contest.
I have already spoken on the Bill. If the Deputy will look up the record, he will find it.
(Cavan): If the Deputy will let me speak on it, I will be much obliged.
I am a member of Associated Marts and I know what I am talking about.
Surely Deputy Allen does not repudiate what Associated Marts said in today's papers?
Deputy Fitzpatrick is in possession and should be allowed to speak.
(Cavan): Deputy Allen says he is a member of Associated Marts. Is it not a fact that the IAOS, who are charged with organising co-operative movements in this country, who have been handed, under the Second Programme for Economic Expansion, the task of advising the Government on certain important functions of agriculture, including rationalisation of the dairying industry, have come out in the public press, repudiated the Minister, and stated that they do not think the Bill is a satisfactory one, do not think the amendments put forward by the Minister are adequate to cure the defects in the Bill, and, in fact, believe that some of the amendments, instead of improving the Bill, render it a less desirable measure. That is what I am objecting to.
This Bill is now being discussed in an atmosphere which certainly is not calculated to provide a good measure. It is being discussed in an atmosphere of the Minister's prestige, on the one hand, and the rights of the farmers and operators of marts, on the other. I believe that although it is rather much to expect, the Minister should now, at last, recognise that he has gone too far in this Bill. He should be big enough—while retaining his portfolio which the Taoiseach thinks he should —to come in here and say: "It will take a month more to get this Bill through the House and I shall wait until the autumn". Mind you, there is a precedent for that; there is a precedent in recent parliamentary history here for a Minister running away from a Bill which he introduced. We had the Succession Bill introduced here a couple of years ago. It was an ill-considered Bill, unsuited to Irish conditions, unsuited to conditions in rural Ireland, a Bill transplanted here from some continental legal system which was entirely unsuitable, a Bill which would have subdivided and cut up Irish farms and families. It was introduced by the predecessor of the present Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries. But, fair play, once public opinion got going and made it absolutely clear it would not accept that Bill, before the Committee Stage was reached, the Minister introduced——
The relevancy of this seems very doubtful.
(Cavan): It may be if I go into it in detail.
Even in outline.
(Cavan): I stated that what is at stake here is the prestige of the Minister. The case I want to make to the Minister is that one of his colleagues in similar circumstances, ran away from a measure which he introduced and his prestige did not suffer as a result. As a matter of fact, he was promoted out of the Department in question in order to get him away from the Bill.
An old Spanish custom, that.
(Cavan): I would suggest that the Minister do this. He would not suffer anything as a result and his Party would not suffer as a result.
Is the Deputy worried about the Party?
(Cavan): No, but I think the Party should be very worried, in view of the national newspapers and the events of the past couple of weeks. It is not my business to worry about the Party. I suggest that the Minister should, even at this late stage, have another look at this whole business and decide to leave this over until October when we will all come back here, DV, and the atmosphere will be cooled and better calculated to have an unbiassed and openminded discussion on this matter. If the Minister is not prepared to do that, the Taoiseach should have a discussion with him and see that he does because I can tell him that unless that is done we in the Fine Gael Party will fight this Bill at every Stage and every section and if it is steamrolled through the House by a majority of the Fianna Fáil Party it can never be said that it was let slip through because we, as the principal Opposition Party, neglected our duty.
The Minister in this Bill is exercising the positivism that has bedevilled us in this country and which we inherited from the old Hobbensian theory in England that Parliament was all-powerful. No regard whatsoever is being paid in this Bill to the natural law which is enshrined to a great extent, with some slight limitations, in the Constitution. I would argue, therefore, that this Bill is not alone unconstitutional but is, indeed, very contrary to the natural law, apart altogether from its unconstitutionality.
Here last week we had a very full debate on the Money Resolution. Prior to that we had a very full debate on the Second Reading of this Bill. In the course of these debates it must have been abundantly clear to the Minister and, indeed, to all members of his Party supporting the Government that we in opposition were determined to fight this Bill, not as Deputy Collins said, line by line but comma by comma right to the very end. In the course of these debates public opinion was aroused and public opinion, curiously enough, does not appear to be on the side of the Minister nor do the utterances that come from responsible sources associated, on the one hand, with the agricultural industry and, on the other, with an independent body like the Incorporated Law Society appear to support the Minister for Agriculture.
It is not very often in Parliament that we find a motion for closure moved. Of course, a Minister in moving a motion to close the debate is acting perfectly within his rights, that is technically speaking, but there is much more involved here than the technical right because here is involved the right of Parliament to discuss something which is not challenging the supremacy of a Government but is acting in accordance with public opinion and furthermore supporting what they believe to be the constitutional position, the right of every mart owner and groups interested in marts to conduct their own business in a free country in pursuance of what we know to be free private enterprise.
This Bill is conceived and designed, and it is proposed to put it into execution, not for the purpose of promoting free enterprise, not for the purpose of helping the farming community but for the purpose of impeding them and surrounding this particular business and trade with all the trappings of bureaucracy. I am sure, indeed, that the bureaucrats, the civil servants, do not want this Bill. I am sure that the advice given to the Minister was against it and, like Deputy Fitzpatrick, I want to assert that I know that one important member of the Fianna Fáil Party has spoken strongly within the Party against this Bill and not alone invited but strongly urged the Minister to withdraw it or postpone it to a calmer time and that the same member of the Fianna Fáil Party has spoken in another place, making the same observations of condemnation of the provisions of this Bill.
I have referred, Sir, to the motion for closure of last week and I have referred to the circumstances under which it came about. The Minister spoke for approximately two hours in the course of which he travelled widely down the controversial laneways of Irish history, referred to almost everything that could be referred to except the cattle marts. Every Minister, or, indeed, every Deputy is entitled to speak for one hour, two hours, three hours or take any length of time within which he can stay relevant and within the rules of order but listening to the Minister during that two hours last Thursday I had, in the course of certain parts of his speech, some misgivings as to whether we had not been making a mistake of some kind. In particular I felt this when he talked of the friendly discussions which he had with the Associated Marts people, with the IAOS and with other interests and he said that by and large all their difficulties had been smoothed out and that amendments which he was introducing would meet the objections which these interested parties had to the provisions of this Bill. I had misgivings and when a responsible Minister, or a Minister who should be responsible—because one must necessarily accept the fact that every Minister should be responsible—makes a statement of that kind, it makes one feel that perhaps we have been overlooking something and that our objections to this Bill, while we still believe in the unconstitutionality of it, while we still believe that it goes too far in taking the rights of individuals away from the one arena where they can assert their rights and have their rights established and their entitlements protected, that is, the courts, are not valid. If the people vitally affected, that is, the farmers and the groups of people representing them, and particularly those associated with the marts are, according to the Minister, in the course of friendly discussions with him, satisfied that the provisions of this Bill are all right with them and adequate to meet their requirements, then we must have the feeling that perhaps we should not engage in this exercise because the people vitally interested do not appear to care. According to the Minister, they have assured him that everything is all right.
As I say, during the course of the Minister's speech last Thursday, I experienced some of those misgivings. In the intervening time, having read this speech, punctuated with interruptions and punctuated with political maladictions from the Minister himself, there is nevertheless in this speech a perfectly clear statement of these free, frank and friendly discussions which he says he had with the people concerned. I want to quote from what the Minister said during the debate last Thursday as reported in the Official Report, volume 229, column 1463:
Having hitched their wagon to propaganda against the Marts Bill without having read the Bill or knowing what it was about, and having tried to woo the elements of the NFA favourably disposed to them over the past nine or ten months, and indeed for years before that, in order to use those elements as a tool of the Party, having done those two things, the Fine Gael Party feel they must go through with their opposition to this Bill even though their opposition is based on misconception, misapprehension, and false propaganda put out by themselves and repeated so often by themselves and others that they now believe it. I would still say to the Members of the Opposition: Would you read the Bill? Read your own amendments and the amendments I am proposing. Consider well that I have met the IAOS and the Cork Co-operative Marts, representative of the entire co-operative marts of this country. I have also met the Associated Livestock Marts Association. I have discussed these matters with all those representatives. We had most cordial meetings. I know the Opposition will be very sorry to note, but nevertheless it may help them to come to a conclusion about this Bill. The draft regulations which will form a major part of the operations of the Bill will be discussed by me with each of the two associations in advance of their coming to this House for laying before the House, as is proposed in the Bill. I am glad to have the co-operation of these two associations who helped me to draft these regulations in a manner that will facilitate mart operations in the interests of the farmers.
I pause there. The Minister feeling buoyed up with great spirit, and feeling that he had knocked the bottom out of the Fine Gael case, continued at column 1464:
This will shock Fine Gael, who apparently are up in the clouds. They have not come down for a long time. They will get a hell of a bump when they arrive and find out what is going on. This Bill is being introduced in the interest of the farmers who buy and sell livestock. That is its primary purpose. If anybody along the way feels any part of it impinges on his interests, I shall try to avoid it if it is possible, but if we have got to tread on somebody's toes in the interest of the farmers whose business these marts are, then tread on those toes we shall. It is my job as Minister for Agriculture to spearhead that and to ensure that the farmers have their rights and that those rights are maintained.
Anyone listening to that and anyone reading it afterwards, once the fact was accepted that it was the statement of a responsible Minister, would be bound to have misgivings that his opposition to this Bill might have been misplaced, especially in view of what the Minister said about meeting the various interests involved, and especially when he accused the Fine Gael Party that their opposition "is based on misconception, misapprehension, and false propaganda put out by themselves and repeated so often by themselves and others that they now believe it."
Well, the interested people met and in today's Irish Times under the heading “Minister's Amendments do not Satisfy”, there is an account which I now quote:
The committee appointed by the Co-operative Livestock Marts to look after their interests in connection with the Livestock Marts Bill, 1967, held a meeting in the Plunkett House, Merrion Square, Dublin, yesterday. The meeting was presided over by Mr. P.F. Quinlan, president of the IAOS.
Detailed consideration was given by the meeting to the Bill and in particular to the amendments to the Bill proposed by the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries which will be considered by the Dáil on the Committee Stage.
The committee reviewed the discussion with the Minister which took place on June 30th——
——these were the cordial discussions to which the Minister referred and at which agreement, by and large, had been reached——
and the subsequent statement by the Minister in the Dáil in regard to the attitude of the IAOS to the proposed amendments as reported in the daily press on Friday, July 7th.
——and the report is given verbatim——
"It appeared from these reports that the representatives of the Co-operative Marts and the IAOS were satisfied with the amendments to the Bill introduced by the Minister in the Dáil on Thursday, July 6th, 1967," a statement from the committee said.
"The amendments introduced by the Minister to date do not cover adequately the case presented to him, and in particular nothing has so far appeared to assure the farmers that co-operative development by the farmers in their own interests will be safeguarded. In particular the committee was concerned that the rights of farmers to provide themselves with an up-to-date and efficient marketing service should be preserved.
"The ministerial amendment proposed to Section 3 of the Bill dealing with the Minister's power of revoking licences was completely unacceptable to the Co-operative Livestock Marts. In their view all breaches of the Act or of the regulations under the Act should be a matter for independent arbitration.
"The Minister's amendments in regard to infringements of the regulations provided only for an inquiry in respect of certain technical breaches. The absolute powers conferred on the Minister by section 6, (subsection 2), paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d), which concerned the manner in which the business of the marts should be conducted remained unchanged.
"The ministerial amendment to Section 6 is an unnecessary interference in the ordinary day-to-day business operations of a livestock mart and makes the Bill even more unacceptable. The ministerial amendment to Section 4 dealing with powers of exemption from the Act is still obscure.
"In general it is the view of the Co-operative Livestock Marts that the Bill appears to be designed for the remedy of evils and malpractices which in the case of Co-operative Livestock Marts have not existed, do not exist at present and which cannot exist under the principles by which the Co-operative Marts operate. These principles ensure fair play to individual members irrespective of class, creed, faction or politics."
These observations were solemnly issued by the vital interests concerned, the committee presided over by the President of the IAOS with whom the Minister says he has had cordial understanding and by and large agreement in the course of the discussions. These are some of the arguments we have been using against the Bill. They have been used by the interests vitally concerned. Are we, therefore, engaging in the exercise described by the Minister as misconception, misapprehension and false propaganda? Do they, on the other hand, represent what the Minister says when he threatens this House and tells us: "Consider well. I have met the IAOS and the Cork Co-operative Marts, the representatives of the entire co-operative marts of this country. I have also met the Associated Livestock Marts of Ireland. I have discussed these matters with all those representatives. We have had the most cordial understanding." Later we had the Minister tell us: "This Bill is being introduced in the interests of the farmers who buy and sell livestock. That is its primary purpose."
As far back as Saturday, 8th July, we had accounts in the Irish Times of what the Associated Livestock Marts of Ireland had to say. There is there an account headed “Marts Body on Talks with Blaney.” Let nobody misunderstand the nature of those talks.
They did not even call him "Mr. Blaney".
This is the matter we are concerned with. This is what they have to say; those were the cordial talks at which, by and large, understanding was reached and during which it became clear to the marts representatives and to the Minister that he was their great saviour, that he was protecting the interests vitally concerned by introducing this Bill. The Minister has told us it was clear to him from those talks that he was the real defender of the agricultural community and particularly the defender and protector of the marts' interests. Now, listen to the Associated Livestock Marts of Ireland expressing themselves. As I have said, in the Irish Times of 8th July, there is this account under the heading to which I referred:
The Associated Livestock Marts of Ireland expressed concern last night that its attitude to the Livestock Marts Bill might be misunderstood following references by the Minister for Agriculture, Mr. Blaney, to recent talks he had with the marts bodies.
"At the meeting with the Minister on Friday, June 30th, the association made clear its deep concern at the implications of the Bill", the statement said.
"The case presented by the marts can be summarised under three main headings: ALMI's great concern at the excessive power which the proposed legislation was giving to the Minister; that there was no appeal to the courts; that the marts' freedom to conduct their own business in their own way was being undermined".
The ALMI further expressed strong objections to the severity of the penalties as proposed in the Bill and asked that these penalties be reduced. The mart representatives also stressed the importance of having reasonable and realistic regulations and that there should be a general statement of conditions rather than that conditions attached to one licence should vary from that of another.
"The Minister expressed appreciation that the mart proprietors were the leading experts in the field of livestock marketing and that, consequently, he would welcome and value their advice in the drafting of the regulations.
"The delegation in discussion maintained its attitude on the right of appeal to law. ALMI's former decision to appeal to the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Bill will be discussed by members when the final shape of the Bill is known".
The Minister said they were cordial discussions, that there was full understanding, that there was by and large agreement. Here, however, we see a gulf gaping wide between the Associated Livestock Marts of Ireland and the Minister. Still, the Minister came in here and told us he had this by and large agreement.
In the same column of the Irish Times of the same date, under the heading “Not What the Co-operative Marts Want”, the report continues:
The statement made by the Minister for Agriculture in the Dáil on Thursday concerning the Marts Bill was referred to in Cork yesterday by Mr. P.F. Quinlan, President of the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society, and a member of the management committee of the Cork marts.
Mr. Quinlan said that the Bill was not welcomed by the co-operative marts. "Ten years ago," he asserted, "the Bill might have been of some value, when the co-operative marts were being started but, as of now, the present Bill is not what the co-operative marts want, and until further amendment it does not meet the wishes of the co-operative marts."
Mr. Quinlan pointed out that so far the co-operative marts had no opportunity of studying the Minister's amendment. At the meeting held in Dublin on June 30th the co-operative marts put forward their objections to sections of the Bill and suggested amendments to other sections. The co-operative marts could not accept amendments until such time as they had an opportunity of studying them.
Mr. Quinlan explained that objections to the Bill as set out by the co-operative marts, and of vital interest to them and to the co-operative movement, had yet to be dealt with but so far nothing had emerged to allay the fears of the co-operative marts.
Here are the people really concerned whose fears are not allayed, with whom agreement has not been reached, in spite of protestations by the Minister, who are not satisfied with the provisions of this Bill, who regard certainly some of the provisions as serious infringements on their rights, who want to have a right of appeal to a court of law and not to somebody appointed by the Minister, or to the Minister himself. All of those outstanding differences are between them. In spite of all that, the Minister, nevertheless, on 6th July, when all of this difference of opinion existed, and the existence of that difference of opinion was known to him from his meetings, came into this House and said that our opposition was based on misrepresentations, misconceptions and false propaganda when, in fact, our arguments are the arguments of the people vitally concerned.
Does the Minister think he can treat this House as utterly lacking in intelligence and understanding? Does he think he can treat this House even in a guillotine motion in a manner as to suppress our conceptions of what true principles are, what our conceptions of what justice is and what our conceptions of the natural law should be in its application and practice? We have no fears on this side of the House of those empty charges of misconception, misapprehension and false propaganda when they are supported by the vital interests concerned in subsequent statements and when, in fact, they repudiate utterly and bluntly the interests of the Minister who says as reported at column 1464:
This Bill is being introduced in the interest of the farmers who buy and sell livestock. That is its primary purpose.
Surely the people who buy and sell livestock, who have banded themselves to create marts in substitution for the old time fairs, who are promoting their own interests through those marts, are the people who know what is going on and the people who know how to conduct them?
Those are the people whose views we must respect, the truth of whose protests in public print must make very sad reading for the Irish people and must make very sad reading for people who believe in the truthful process of Parliament, who believe in the independence of Parliament and who believe that Parliament is not the last power, that power derives from some altogether different source and that power must not alone be exercised and applied by Parliament but that due regard must be had to the natural law for the individual rights of citizens at all times.
Was the Minister mad when he made those statements? Power makes some people mad. I am inclined to think that the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries at present is mad with power, that power has corrupted him. He is not satisfied with power. He wants absolute power so that he can corrupt absolutely. He is not going to corrupt us nor is he going to corrupt the people we represent nor is he going to corrupt the people of this country. I am glad to see that after he accused us of misconception, misapprehension and false propaganda that the people whose vital interest it is to protect those marts and their operations used the very same arguments themselves that we have been using and without any recourse to us.
Is the Minister mad? Where is the Taoiseach? Where is the Taoiseach in all this? There is collective responsibility. Surely it is high time in the face of palpable untruths in this House in the course of a two-hour speech that the Taoiseach should say: "Come on and take your trip and surrender your seal of office to the President."
What a hope!
You are surrendering your seal shortly.
Surely it is high time the Taoiseach took a firm stand in this and said: "Look, Mr. Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries,"—if they are not on any more cordial or friendlier terms—"the IAOS cannot be wrong; the Association of Livestock Marts cannot be wrong; the Cork Marts cannot be wrong. Now you have told the House that you have agreement with all those people and still they have come out and said `No, there is not any agreement; we are not satisfied. We want the provisions changed'." They name the provisions they want changed. Surely it is time in circumstances such as those that the Taoiseach should summon the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and say to him, if he does not want to inflict dire penalty on him, to at least postpone this Bill until after the recess and we will have another look at it.
Send him to the Donegal fair.
The Minister could then meet the people from the marts again, the Associated Livestock Marts, the Cork Marts, the IAOS, all those people and hammer it out. I am surprised that the Taoiseach has not taken this line over the week-end and all during this rather full week which he has had and in those days of his falling fortunes his stature would increase considerably if he were to show himself as the responsible headmaster who is going to see to it that his staff observe the rules.
The matter goes a little further because, as Deputy Fitzpatrick has said, the untied press has come to the assistance of farmers and the farming community but in coming to the assistance of farmers and the farming community they are coming to the assistance of the Irish people. They are coming to the assistance of people who want to be free and who do not want to be the victims of bullying and vindictive legislation. This legislation cannot be described as anything else but an attempt by the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries to chastise the farmers of this country for daring to oppose him in any measure. The Irish Times editorial of 8th July had a heading “Star Chamber”. I know what star chambers are and we know how despicable the operations of star chambers were. When a responsible newspaper is forced to regard those provisions as star chamber operations that is condemnation of the highest order and condemnation of the keenest kind. The Irish Times was writing that editorial as the result of a protest from another quarter altogether, the Incorporated Law Society, which is a free association of the solicitors of this country made up of members of all Parties. Its Presidents have been members of the Fianna Fáil Party, the Fine Gael Party and Independents right down the years.
We had not any.
I was trying to think: I think you had. When a society like the Incorporated Law Society takes up a matter of this kind, devotes a whole meeting to it and thinks fit to issue a statement afterwards, then it behoves all of us to take note. Mark you, I speak with a certain amount of authoritative knowledge here; there were many members of the Fianna Fáil Party at that meeting from which this statement emerged, a statement with which they agreed, and I am waiting now to see exactly how they will vote, when it comes to voting, because we can now identify the people who speak against this Bill behind closed doors and who, by their silence and inactivity, appear to support the Minister on those benches over there and on the benches of Seanad Éireann.
What did the Incorporated Law Society say? I quote from the Irish Times of Saturday, July 8:
The Secretary of the Incorporated Law Society issued a statement yesterday on behalf of the council drawing attention to certain provisions in the Marts Bill which the council regards as dangerous and possibly unconstitutional.
The council of the society suggests that it would be dangerous to give to any Minister or Department the power to determine the rights of individual citizens to engage in business, without any appeal to the courts.
The statement points out that there are certain activities which require statutory licences in the public interest.
Auctioneers, publicans, dance hall proprietors, for instance, must obtain annual certificates. Solicitors cannot practise without a certificate from the Law Society. The control is imposed in the interest of the public. The point is that the certificate is issued by the court or alternatively there is a right of appeal to a court against the refusal or granting of a licence.
What is sought in the present Bill is to enable the Minister for Agriculture to determine the rights of individual citizens to engage in business without any appeal to the courts. This is a dangerous power to entrust to any Minister or Department, the statement says. It is apparently suggested that there should be a right of appeal to a lawyer appointed by the Minister.
An appeal from a ministerial decision to a nameless person appointed by the Minister is no substitute for a right of appeal to the courts where the facts will be examined openly and published in the press. Why is it thought necessary to incur additional State expenditure when there are already sufficient justices and judges to perform these functions, the statement asks.
The right of appeal at present envisaged is given only to the marts in the event of a refusal. There is no appeal by a member of the public in the event of the granting of a licence. The Bill affects private citizens dealing with the cattle marts. There could well be cases of abuses in the conduct of livestock sales. An owner may have reason to suspect that his stock was sold at an under value at a collusive sale. Sales may be conducted in such a way as to cause a nuisance or annoyance to the public or there may be other abuses or breaches of the ministerial regulations.
Under the Bill the only remedy of a customer or a member of the public is to complain to the Minister who may revoke the licence. If the aggrieved party cannot prove his case up to the hilt he may be faced with a ruinous action for defamation because the privilege of immunity which covers sworn evidence given before a court of justice will not extend to complaints to the Minister or his department.
The farmer or a public representative may be morally certain of the truth of the case and it may in fact be true but only the most foolhardy would take the risk of ruinous proceedings for defamation in order to redress a grievance.
The cattle marts have a virtual monopoly of business in the areas in which they operate. Rules backed by legal sanctions are essential and the Minister is the proper authority to make them. The courts of the country which must protect the citizens' rights without fear or favour are the proper authorities to interpret and enforce the rules. Press publicity in court proceedings is a valuable safeguard against the possible abuses in the operation of the marts and the interests both of the marts and of their customers would be fully protected by the impartial decision of a court.
The Council suggested that the livestock marts should operate under licences issued annually by the District Court in the same manner as auctioneers', publicans' and dance hall licences. Any person with a grievance would have a right to object to the renewal of the licence with full legal immunity for evidence given on oaths in open court. It is better that grievances should be investigated in this way than by complaints to the Department for which there is no immunity and from which the only appeal is to an anonymous person appointed by the Minister whose decisions may be reached after an inquiry which may or may not be in public.
It should be added that the annual application for an auctioneer's, publican's, or dance proprietor's licence costs practically nothing beyond the revenue stamp on the licence so that there could be no objection to the council's proposal on the ground of expense.
"Swift said `that a man clad only in his shirt is no match for an opponent armed from head to foot. The citizen needs the protection of the courts against possible invasion of his rights and the continued erosion of judicial safeguards is against the interests of the public and particularly of the weaker sections of the community," the statement concluded.
In face of that, where is the Taoiseach? The Taoiseach is himself a lawyer. He enjoyed a considerable practice not alone here in Dublin but in his native city and county of Cork. He is conversant with the function of the courts in the protection of individual and community rights. Where is he? Why does he not take a hand in this sensless performance by the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries? Why cannot other members of the Government, who are probably not so interested in absolute power, and within whose breasts there remains a residue of the democratic process, why cannot some of them get together with the Taoiseach and support him against this megalomaniac rampage indulged in the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries? The man is gone mad. Everyone is his enemy. Fine Gael, he says, are engaging in misconceptions, misapprehensions and false propaganda when they resist the provisions of this Bill. He says, frothing, last Thursday evening: "I am the friend of the farmers."
Of the small farmer.
Of the small farmer, the big farmer—he is the friend of them all and we the enemies. But the IAOS, the Cork Marts, the Associated Livestock Marts, must have cut him down to size. That must be clear to him now, if anything can be clear to a man who is doing the bull in the china shop in his effort to secure power, to abuse it and to use it irrespective of what it is all about. Is there anyone at all over there on the Government benches who can talk to him? Is there anybody——
The Minister for Health, Deputy Flanagan, is sitting over there.
He could arrange for psychiatric service to be given.
I am obliged to Deputy O'Higgins. Of course, the Minister for Health is the man who could arrange for psychiatric service.
That is a marvellous performance. I wonder how much the Deputy gets for this sort of thing in the courts. This is a brilliant performance.
The psychiatric service is needed.
I hope the Minister for Health will not forget that the most immediate need is for some psychiatric service for the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and I do not mind if the assistant with the anaesthetic is his present Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy Davern. I feel he would possibly be delighted to assist in this terrible impasse in which we find ourselves in this Parliament and in the country with the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries gone stone daft, gone mad, in his efforts to destroy farmers, big and small, to destroy marts, to kill all associations connected with them, to get everybody out of the way in his mad rampage towards absolute power and absolute corruption. Will somebody try to save him? There is somebody left. There must be somebody left in the Fianna Fáil Party——
The Chairman of Cork Corporation is sitting over there.
Yes, Deputy Corry.
I am sure Deputy Corry would be glad to give his offices in this regard. However, I am inclined to the view that Deputy Corry is too sane and too old a practitioner not to be able to recognise that the symptoms in this case are the symptoms of the incurable. I think the Taoiseach is really the only person to take a hand in this and to lock up this Minister, lock him up in the back benches, get him out of power, get him out of ministerial responsibility. He does not appear to be fit for it.
This is the Fine Gael cure for any problems they have with their Minister for Agriculture: promote him to the back benches.
Oh. Do not draw me on that because 25 minutes would not do me.
What happened to Deputy Patrick Smith?
Tell him tomorrow.
Look at himself, all the way up from Killala Bay. Did you do the harbour yet?
Or the dog biscuit factory in Ballina.
Yes, indeed. Go down and tell the development association there that the work will begin in a few weeks' time. I do not know what the situation will be but we are all, I am sure, anxious. As somebody said, we are all tired and are getting weary. The dog days are approaching and, as my friend Horace of old has said, it is time for us to repair to our Sabine farms. Now that I am reminded by Deputy T.F. O'Higgins of Sir Hartley Shawcross, it was he who one time said that everything can be done by Parliament. He said the British House of Commons had the power to determine that all babies born with blue eyes could be destroyed at once. This is the power. This is taken from the old Hobbensian theory of the positivist that you can do anything in Parliament if you have authority or use the closure motion with the rapidity with which it was used the other day.
I hope somebody is left. If there is not, I hope that by the time the summer recess is over, we shall all be sufficiently refreshed to discuss this matter anew and that we shall be able to assist this mad rampager who has utterly lost his senses because, mind you, we have dared to oppose and who must feel considerably diminished since last Thursday now that he has found that the misconceptions, misapprehensions and false propaganda are the very arguments that the vitally-affected parties are using themselves.
Is there any shame left in anybody —is there any shame left anywhere— that you belong to a party, supporting the Government, whose Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries comes in here and tells palpable untruths and who has not at any time today withdrawn them or shown any sign that he is sorry? But then, of course, the political schizophrenic is never wrong. He is always able to dodge from one lie to another, there seeking some support for the assertions he makes. The political schizophrenic—that is what he is.
The Minister began a sentence here with the words "Consider well". That is what he was threatening us with last week. I wish to conclude with another sentence. Consider now the disservice he is doing to his Party, to his Government, to the country and consider, in particular, the disservice and the damage he is doing to the farming interests of this country under the guise of a protest that he is their friend. They have said in today's papers and in papers over the weekend that he is not their friend. They have repudiated him. They have implicitly dubbed what he has said as untrue— but he has not said he is sorry. He is not ashamed. In the course of the next few days, there may be somebody who will apologise on his behalf.
The legal community is very strongly represented here tonight in their fight as to whether, according to Deputy Lindsay, this will be an appeal to the courts or an appeal to somebody appointed by the Minister. That is Deputy Lindsay's whole argument: "Will we be tried; will the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries seize on our livelihood?" That is the whole of it. History is repeating itself. A number of years ago, I saw a matter here on all fours with this when the cattle trade association got up their own insurance in respect of cattle being exported and travelling to their destination. It happened then as it is happening in the marts today. Cattle were insured. There was one cattle trader whom we regarded as being worth £5 a head to us on any occasion he came to us to buy cattle because he did not join the ring. The association went to work on him and all that the man got for four or five cattle was the knackers' price and the cattle trade association insurance company refused to pay the insurance. I told him to insure the cattle. There was no valuation on the cattle at that time and I told him to insure the cattle for £1 a head and insure the rest with Coyle's. He did that and when the gentlemen found out what was happening, they took advantage of the fact that cattle were being exported through a Northern port and through their influence, succeeded in having a Bill brought in here which enabled them to fix a value on the cattle.
I put down an amendment to the Minister's Bill in regard to an appeal to the court. I had to get it through the Seanad through a friend of mine the late Senator O'Callaghan, and then bring it down to this House and get it through here. This is what Deputy Lindsay has been arguing for the past two hours. The Minister would not accept an appeal to the court but he accepted an appeal to a referee appointed by himself, and this was accepted by the House. I prepared the case for my man and from that referee, as proof of what happened that man over a nine months' period previously, he drew £2,600 in compensation through that one clause in the Bill.
I have cases of men who sold cattle in the marts and when the cattle were injured, they were told the insurance company was not liable. A man who bought over £2,000 worth of cattle sought compensation for one beast which had broken a leg and got £10 for the animal for which he had paid £45. He was told to apply to the insurance company and the insurance company were not liable. That is what this Bill is for, to protect the rights of the farmer sending his cattle to the mart for sale.
Let us be clear about the issues involved. They are fairly clouded over. This was the case that was fought out in this House by some of the kings of the cattle trade of that time sitting on those benches. The Minister at the time was the then Deputy Ryan. You can go back on the records and you will see that I am giving facts. We have had a lot of balderdash spoken here. Is a man whose animal is injured in a mart entitled to compensation or not? That is a simple question.
Can the Deputy tell us where that is in the Bill?
I have listened to the Deputy chattering for the past fortnight and now he should shut up. There was an appeal made by the man who has just left the House for some of us to speak. Now we are speaking and would you kindly pay attention?
I am trying to help the Deputy.
Deputies can go back on the records of this House and find out if what I have stated is correct or not. We hear a lot of nonsense being spoken here and the suggestion was made that the Minister should hand in his seal of office. I have seen the same team who are cursing and damning this Minister passing through a farmers' picket, something the members of the smallest trade union would not do.
Is the Deputy abusing the NFA now?
The smallest trade union in the country would not pass a picket in the way Deasy and company ran in looking for the previous Minister, Deputy Charlie Haughey, to ask him if he would give them the price for their milk, what the unfortunate fellows outside were walking up and down for. I always like to look at a team's record before I back it. Deputy Haughey, then Minister for Agriculture, would not give them everything they wanted and then it was a case of "Oh, get rid of him." We got a Taoiseach from Cork who knows his job and there was a change in the Cabinet, and apparently the man who came in is a bigger devil than the devil before him, as far as those boys are concerned.
He is, too.
Those are facts. This is to protect the farming community, and the farming community is about sick of the tailend of the Blueshirts being dragged around the country, trying to manoeuvre this and manoeuvre that, and trying to drag a lot of people after them as they did before. The ordinary farmer is sick of this kind of game. He does not want it. I can speak here as one who has represented the farming community for the past 30-odd years and on the Beet Growers' Association. This farming organisation looking for unity thought the one way they could get it was by travelling around with their little form saying "Mary, sign your name here. Your next door neighbour has signed it." That kind of game was tried. They tried it with particular vengeance down in my area, but they got their answer. They got their answer in the polling booth and, if that was not enough for them, they got it again yesterday. I told them from the public platforms not to come to me. I told them that during the 43 years I was in public life I never asked a man his politics. I told those creatures who signed those forms and who were not prepared to repudiate them not to come to me because I might give them a dose of No.4.
I kept out of this until I heard the kind of stuff dished out by Deputy Lindsay. In the name of heavens, what could you do with him? Himself and the Law Society. The poor Law Society, with I do not know how many lawyers of different types and stripes, lined up waiting for briefs. They are totally dependent on poor Deputy Lindsay, and the rest of them they send in here, to endeavour to put through their legislation so they will get plenty of free briefs. That is the sole purpose behind this manoeuvre here. There was no objection in the case I quoted a while ago when the Minister refused to allow the courts to decide the compensation a cattle trader was entitled to when his cattle were injured in transit. He refused me an appeal to the courts in that case and appointed a referee. I must say, as one who went through the mill, as one who had to fight in each case with the referee, that he was absolutely impartial. That was proved by the £3,000-odd compensation that cattle dealer got, which he had been robbed of by that insurance company.
Anyone who cares to go back on the records of this House can find what I have alluded to here, can find the arguments for and against, both in this House and in the Seanad, as to whether there should be an appeal to the courts or an appeal to the referee appointed by the Minister. Let them read it all. The facts are there. That unfortunate cattle dealer was driven out of business for the sole reason that he was prepared to come into a fair, pay a fair price to the farmer for his product, but he was not prepared to go into a ring where they decide: "You will buy that lot and I will buy this lot. If they are not satisfied with our prices, they can take them home." That was the sole reason for the vengeance that was being worked against that cattle dealer. I will not give names now because the men are dead, but I saw them opposing every step I took to get ordinary justice in that case. The result was that the referee decided that that man had been robbed of over £3,000 by the insurance company during the previous nine months.
He should have joined Taca.
The facts are there. At that time there was no objection to the Minister appointing a referee instead of an appeal to the courts, except my own. I do not know what the Deputies opposite expect to gain by the filibuster they are trying, but I have a pretty good idea. But, hang it, the local elections are over and it will be two or three years more before you are asked to face the music again. But, when you have faced the music again and I come in here, there will be a complete change in your faces over there as there was often before.
I was reading what you were saying during the Economic War.
Find a head of cabbage for that lovely animal you have down there, the puck goat.
Deputy Harte should allow Deputy Corry to speak.
I know the total amount of your livestock. It is the one puck goat.
What you said in 1932 is on record.
I have appealed to the Minister for Agriculture. He is from your own constituency.
That is not my fault.
You are crying and wailing here about our livestock. I have appealed to him that he go down and buy that puck goat from you.
He grows potatoes on his farm and does not dig them.
Deputy Harte should conduct himself.
Deputy Corry should conduct himself.
I am prepared to make another appeal to him to go down and buy that puck goat. If he buys that puck goat, everything in the whole country will be fixed and we will be rid of one voice over there. I am making that appeal. I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary will convey it to the Minister and that he will buy Deputy Harte's puck goat, whatever he will do with it.