This amendment seeks to insert after the word "adapted" in the definition of the business of a livestock mart, the words "and habitually used". To that amendment the Minister has objected on the ground that the words "and habitually used" are too vague. There is a fundamental flaw in this whole Bill which derives from the fact that this Bill was not drafted with deliberation to achieve a certain purpose. It was drafted precipitately in pursuit of a silly personal vendetta by the Minister against the National Farmers Association. Therefore, at the crucial point of preparing a definition section the matter of defining what exactly it was sought to control under this vendetta Bill presented a problem which had to be solved by the draftsman in a very limited time and so we have the business of a livestock mart defined as the business of selling livestock by auction or providing, for the holding of sales of livestock by auction or otherwise, a place adapted for the sale of livestock by auction. If you adapt a place for that purpose you automatically are deemed to be a person engaged in the business of a livestock mart and thus come under the control of sections 2, 3 and the subsequent sections of this Bill.
The problem arises at once as to what the word "adapted", in fact, covers and we have heard it suggested from the Fianna Fáil benches that it might cover a field. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach pointed out that you could not construct or reconstruct a field and for that reason he argued strongly against a previous amendment suggesting the insertion of these words. But, remember that if you are deemed to have adapted a field, you are prohibited thereafter from selling cattle not only by auction but otherwise, that is, by hand, in that field.
We have had an analogous piece of legislation in this House relating to auctioneers but that piece of legislation was drafted prudently and after due deliberation. Do not let the House forget that, as a result of that, the Auctioneers Bill, which covered a vast business which is represented in every town and city in the country, passed through the House virtually without any division. There was some discussion in Committee but in each case any amendment proposed by the Opposition resulted in a substantial consensus where it was adopted in part or in whole by the Government, and at the conclusion of the debate, there were mutual congratulations that the discussion here had provided a better Bill.
When we come to ask ourselves, under the Auctioneers and House Agents Act of 1947, what is a licensed auctioneer, we find in section 2 the expression " `licensed auctioneer' means a holder of an auctioneer's licence", and nobody comes under the scope of this Act or the subsequent Act which was recently passed in the House except a person holding an auctioneer's licence.
Most of the Deputies, even those who came into Dáil Éireann only at the last general election, will remember that when the Auctioneers Bill of 1967 came before the House, the Second Stage passed in an hour and a half. On the Committee Stage, no dissension or prolonged argumentation arose, and the Bill took three hours of the House's time in totality. The reasons were obvious. Everybody knew precisely the scope of the business with which we were dealing, the people who would become subject to the Bill. There was only one issue in doubt and that was whether the Bill would include control of what then was coming to be known pretty generally in 1947 as an evil institution. We removed that doubt very simply by the first paragraph of section 2 which stated:
(i) In this Act—
the word "auction" includes a Dutch auction and the word "auctioneer" shall be construed accordingly.
Here in this Marts Bill we face the situation that nobody in the House knows, including the Minister, who will be deemed to be a person engaged in the business of a livestock mart or what premises will be deemed to have been adapted in such a way as to make the owner thereof a person engaged in the business of a livestock mart. We regard the Bill as evil and we shall repeal it in due course. Butad interim we think it is very unfortunate that a piece of legislation of this kind pours petrol on an inflammable situation which we have consistently worked to damp down and control.
Is there anybody in Ireland who wants this Bill in its present form? There may be odd individuals in the country who think that the business of a cattle mart, as we understand it, should be in some measure controlled or directed by the Department of Agriculture. I doubt very much if there is anybody in Ireland who wants a situation created in which virtually everybody who buys or sells a beast may be brought under the control of this Bill, depending on whether the Minister will make exemption orders subsequently under a later section of the Bill. I do not believe there is any living creature in the country who wants this Bill on its merits, or that there is any member of the Fianna Fáil Party who wants it on its merits. I believe the Minister wants it because he has got thick, in the North of Ireland sense of that word, and certain members of his Party feel that once a member of the Fianna Fáil Government has brought a Bill before the House, they have an obligation to fight it out and support him through thick and thin, right or wrong.
We have sought in the definition section to limit effectively and by the words of the statute the scope of the expression "the business of a livestock mart". Some new Deputies who are unfamiliar with the procedure of legislation may take scandal in the fact that a responsible Opposition should spend days debating a definition section; they may have the feeling that even if something is wrong here it can be put right hereafter. They ought to realise—this is as good a time as any for them to learn — that the whole purpose of a vigilant legislator is to secure that the Bill, when it leaves this House, will give the Executive, that is, the Government for the time being, the powers the Oireachtas thinks the Government ought to have and no more. It is the function of the Oireachtas to be vigilant to see that the Government do not come in here and get the omnibus general authorisation to do as they please, even though they give an assurance: "We intend to be good boys and to use this with prudence and discretion." I do not believe this Government are capable of using anything with prudence or discretion, but even if I thought they were a Government who were both prudent and discreet, we would be abdicating our function if we left them with powers we do not think they ought to have or they ought to exercise.
The Minister makes the case: "You cannot give me the powers I ought to have and that I need to have to implement the Bill unless you give them to me in the omnibus terms of the definition section I have submitted to the House." We have proposed seven alternative methods of limiting the omnibus character of the definition section, not in the hope of improving the Bill, because we do not think it can be improved, but in the hope of giving the people the certainty as to who is subject to its provisions and, what is much more important, in order to make it as clear as crystal to the judiciary who is subject to the penalties and sanctions of the subsequent sections if hereafter the Minister should bring proceedings against any individual under the terms of this legislation.
The Bill at present reads:
"business of a livestock mart" means the business of selling livestock by auction or providing, for the holding of sales of livestock by auction or otherwise, a place adapted for the sale of livestock by auction;
Does anybody here believe the Minister or the Executive should exercise the powers under this Bill against anybody who does not provide, for the holding of sales of livestock by auction or otherwise, a place adapted and "habitually used" for the sale of livestock by auction? I do not believe there is a Deputy here who thinks the powers of this Bill should be used against anybody except somebody whose place could be properly described by the phrase "habitually used". The Minister says it is vague. Can it be as vague as the words "providing, for the holding of sales of livestock by auction or otherwise, a place adapted for the sale of livestock by auction"?