Deputy Booth has been at pains to point out on some occasions that this Bill in its definition section, requires that a business be carried on before a transaction is captured by the section. There is fair ground for making that statement but Deputy Cunningham has given his views with regard to the type of transaction which will require to be licensed, if the Bill goes through. I want an answer from the Minister as to whether the type of farmyard auction Deputy Hogan and others have referred to is a transaction which requires a licence or an exemption order under the Bill.
When we were discussing another matter on Friday of last week, Deputy Clinton referred to the type of farmyard sale other Deputies have in mind and on which Deputy Cunningham has given his views. In column 1807 of volume 229 of the Dáil Debates of 14th July last, Deputy Clinton said:
There is no limitation on the words "adaptation" or "adapted". I have seen hundreds of cows, and hundreds of calves sold in a farmer's yard where the only adaptation was the placing of a few bales of straw to make comfortable seating under cover for people who were there to bid.
Here Deputy Cunningham intervened to say:
It must be licensed.
I wonder is that the answer to the question we have been asking. If it is, then, to my mind, the position is extremely serious. If the Dáil, having been alerted by Deputy Cunningham to the danger, allows this definition to pass without amendment or alteration we have then arrived at a situation where the farmyard sale requires a licence under this legislation, or else has to cease operation.
The Minister, on an earlier occasion, I think, quite properly, invited consideration of the exemption provisions in conjuncton with the definition section. As the last speaker has said, it might be the intention of the Minister to make exemption orders in respect of the farmyard sales which Deputy Cunningham says require a licence. Deputy Cunningham later on adverted to the fact that if they were not licensed, they could get an exemption. I do not think that is a proper answer to the problem. We do not know yet what the machinery is to be, what the requirements are to be for obtaining an exemption order.
If either through inadvertence on the part of the farmer or for any other reason, an exemption order is not made and the farmer conducts a farmyard sale, he is then going to be put in peril of his liberty under the Bill and can find himself in the position in which, by not getting such licence or exemption order, he has committed an offence under the Bill for which the penalty may be as high as a fine of £1,000 or six months in prison. Is it good enough that the House should contemplate quite blatantly passing legislation that may have that result for the farmer who has done nothing other than continue to carry on his occupation and his business in the way in which he has traditionally done it?
I started by saying that Deputy Booth had referred to the condition of business in this definition. I do not know where you end when you talk of one incident and another, where the question links up or where it ends in order to constitute a business, but take the example for the farmer who regularly each year conducts a farmyard sale. He collects his cattle or sheep, as the case may be, and arranges with a local auctioneer to sell them off. If he does that year after year, is it not fair to suggest to the Minister that in those circumstances there is no question of one isolated incident? It is a regular pattern year after year and surely, in those circumstances, it is open to a Deputy to argue that this constitutes a business? It is certainly part of the man's business and Deputy Cunningham thinks that requires to be licensed. I do not think there is any doubt about it. Deputy Cunningham is here now, and if I am doing him an injustice or misinterpreting his views on the subject, he is free to correct me.
I understand the position to be that Deputy Cunningham regards this Bill, regards the adaptation referred to by Deputy Clinton in the example he gave, as bringing the farmyard sale into the category of transactions for which licences will be required. I want to get, if I can, a positive answer from the Minister as to whether that transaction is one for which a licence is contemplated in the Bill. I do not think the exemption provision would constitute a sufficient protection if the definition section captures transactions such as that. Remember that, in line with other provisions in the Bill, the definition section leaves it entirely discretionary to the Minister whether exemption will be granted or not in any case—it does not matter what the case is—and if the Minister in his wisdom decides he wants to stamp out any particular type of trading in livestock, he can do so by refusing to exempt the transaction from the provisions of the Bill. If transactions are not exempted, then a licence is required and it is then discretionary, entirely at the discretion of the Minister, whether licences will be granted.
Therefore, any particular pattern of trade in livestock can be shattered and stamped out by the Minister if we allow the Bill to go through unaltered. We are endeavouring in this amendment to afford some measure of protection to the farming community from the all-embracing net being cast by the Bill. Certainly, if the amendment I am supporting now is carried. the picture will be completely different: it will be a completely different situation as far as farmyard sales are concerned.
I am suggesting that the Minister should get away completely from the word "adapted" in the definition section because I believe it is vague in the context in which it is used and can lead to accidental adaptations which will bring a person within the ambit of the Bill when he should not be and I believe it will apply to cases Deputy Cunningham referred to of farmyard sales, if anything is done to adapt the farmyards to make them suitable for sale by auction. If the Minister agrees to delete the word "adapted" and to insert "constructed or reconstructed" a completely different situation arises. Then we are making it clear to all the world that we intend this Bill to apply only to properly constructed and established livestock marts, that we do not intend the Bill to apply to the ordinary farmer conducting his business in the traditional manner in his own premises, in his own farmyard.
It is important that we should make that distinction. It is important that we should set at rest any doubts that exist either in the House or outside it With regard to the possibilities in relation to the operation of this measure. Therefore, I again urge on the Minister to let us have his mind with regard to farmyard sales and in doing that, to forget for the moment about his proposal in section 4 to take to himself power to decide which transactions will or will not be exempt from the provisions of the Bill.
Would it not be far better that the House should not take any chance on this? Would it not be far better that in dealing with the definition section we should exclude specifically the transactions which are not intended to be included in the operation of this Bill? I do not know what machinery the Minister will find it necessary to establish, if this Bill goes through unaltered. I do not know whether he proposes to set up some sort of register whereby certain places, certain people or certain transactions will automatically be exempt from the provisions of the Bill. It does not seem to me that that can be done because if the Bill is passed as it stands, there will be an obligation on the Minister to exercise his authority and discretion under the exemption provision. I think a mass of applications are likely to be made to the Minister and it will be the Minister's responsibility to decide whether they are proper for exemption under the Bill.
All that kind of thing can be avoided at this stage by being clear, definite, precise in our definition. It can all be avoided by taking out this word "adapted", by accepting the amendment and making it necessary that something concrete in the nature of construction or reconstruction be done before a place will require to be licensed under the provisions of the Bill.
Deputy Cunningham, as I have said, has given his views on a farmyard sale. I think he is right in saying that as the Bill stands, a licence or an exemption order is likely to be required. Certainly, bearing in mind Deputy Booth's contribution about a business—that it should not be one isolated transaction merely—one must regard Deputy Cunningham's view as correct. It is likely to be correct anyhow where an annual sale is the pattern in a particular place or locality.
Deputy Hogan also referred to the question of fairs and raised the query as to whether local authorities would require either to obtain licences or exemption orders if they habitually, down through the years, have been putting particular places at the disposal of local people in which to hold fairs. That point also requires clarification. Is it intended in this legislation to give some kind of legislative disapproval of the continuance of fairs throughout the country? I know the tendency is away from fairs and towards marts, but do we intend this legislation to carry with it legislative disapproval of the continuance of fairs? Do we intend this legislation to mean that in future if a fair is to be held, a licence or an exemption order must be obtained? That seems to be on the cards so long as the definition remains as it is with the use of the word "adapted".
It would not be on the cards and it would not be necessary to consider fairs in terms of either licences or exemption orders, if this amendment is accepted. The fair green may be fenced off as a temporary measure once a month whenever the fair is held. The square in the town where the fair is to be held can quite safely have its ropes, its fences and its various divisions erected on a temporary basis once a month if my amendment is accepted because those types of adaptation could not be construed as constructing or reconstructing the place for the sale of livestock by auction. If we are content to leave the definition as it is in the Bill, if we are content to carry on with the use of the word "adapted", then those temporary measures, the erection of fences, the roping off of a section of a town, the placing of divisions in a fair green, all those things are steps which, according to the definition, amount to adapting the place.
The Minister has stated that "adapting" means making the place fit or suitable so any of those temporary measures would in those circumstances make the place fit or suitable for the sale of livestock by auction. That being so, if it is not merely one isolated transaction, if it is a fair held—I do not care whether it is once a year or once a month—if the pattern is there and if that is the ordinary thinking, then it seems to me that the element of business has been established, so that you have the element of business, you have the adaptation, you have the making of the place fit and suitable for the sale of livestock by auction. In all those circumstances, it seems to me that you then have the requirement that that place can only continue in business, that that transaction can only continue to be held, provided a licence is obtained or an exemption is made under the Bill.
I do not think the Minister intended that but it has become clear in the course of the discussion that those results are likely to ensue. I do not think, as I say, that the Minister intended it and if I am right in believing that, the Minister did not intend it, surely now is the time to get the record clear, to straighten the matter out, to be precise in our definition and to exclude what was not intended to be included?