Livestock Marts Bill, 1967: Committee Stage (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following amendment:
In line 16 to add "but does not include the leasing or letting of any such place".
—(Deputy Clinton).

The amendment which we have been discussing for some time past is an amendment to the definition section of the Bill. The House will recall that the case has been made on a number of occasions that the definition section is the important section because on it depends the entire scope of the operation of the Bill.

This amendment seeks to add to the definition of the "business of a livestock mart" the words "but does not include the leasing or letting of any such place". If amended the definition would read:

"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 but does not include the leasing or letting of any such place.

I do not know if the Minister and the Government, or Deputies sitting behind the Minister, appreciate the importance of this amendment. The Minister rose on two occasions to give his views but, for some reason or another, when a House was called and a quorum obtained, he decided to refrain from speaking, so we are in the position at the moment that we have not the benefit of the Government's view in relation to the amendment.

From the point of view of the Deputies who are supporting this amendment the import of this amendment is to bring some sense of reality into this definition section. Speaking earlier, I made it clear that I regard this entire definition as requiring drastic alteration, as requiring such drastic alteration that the preferable way of dealing with it would be to scrap entirely the proposed definition of "business of a livestock mart".

In case the Leas-Cheann Comhairle or the Deputies opposite may feel like saying to me, and possibly regard themselves as justified in saying it: "Well, if you hold those views, why did you not propose that this entire definition section should be taken out and replaced by something else?" I should like to claim the indulgence of the Chair in order to explain to the House that I did, in fact, endeavour to make such a proposition. Having listened to the discussion on the various amendments tabled in order to try to remedy defects we suggested were to be found in this definition section, I came to the conclusion that the best thing to do would be to get completely away from the definition section and propose a completely new section. I handed in an amendment, therefore, suggesting that we delete entirely lines 13 to 16 and substitute instead:

"business of a livestock mart" means the business of operating a livestock mart and includes the conducting of all sales of livestock at such mart.

The Ceann Comhairle notified me that he could not accept the amendment because it affects inter alia amendment No. 1. He pointed out that it should have been moved at the commencement of the Committee Stage. I see the validity of that argument because the House has already given a decision on the words involved in amendment No. 1, which was to delete the words “or otherwise” in the definition section. I refer to the matter simply because Deputies might feel there was some lack of consistency in my remarks when I am critical of the entire definition section. If the Government decide to refrain from the guillotine motion they have proposed in relation to this Bill, and if they allow the Bill to continue through the normal stages of Committee discussion to be followed by a Report Stage, it will be my intention on the Report Stage to submit an amendment on similar lines for acceptance by the House. Whether or not I get that opportunity rests with the Government, who command a majority of votes in this House and who are, therefore, in a position to apply closure motions and guillotine motions and to rule out, by such motions, discussions on further stages of the Bill.

At the moment we are concerned to modify to some extent the provisions of the Bill in a manner which should, I think, command the support of Deputies. It should at least command that support if I am right in the proposition I put to the House earlier, in relation to which I said a reply as to whether I was right or wrong in the assumption that it was not the intention of the Government in drafting this amendment to deal with places or transactions that do not constitute any part of a livestock mart in the ordinary sense of those words, which are known and understood by everyone interested in the sale of livestock at marts, certainly for the last decade or so during which marts have become a reasonably common feature of rural life and reasonably well known to people who are concerned with rural or agricultural affairs, irrespective of whether or not they themselves engage in the agricultural industry, if this Bill is intended to be concerned only with livestock marts, then, as I said earlier, we should try to ensure, when we say something, that we say what we mean.

We have here a Bill which, according to its Title, is supposed to deal with livestock marts. The Long Title reads:

An Act to provide for the control and regulation by the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries of livestock marts and the sale of livestock at such marts and to provide for other matters connected with the matters aforesaid.

That is to provide for other matters connected with the regulation and control of livestock marts and the sale of livestock at such marts. As the discussion here has proceeded, it has become quite clear that the definition of the business of a livestock mart can in the circumstances which have been discussed be extended to cover places and transactions which have little or nothing to do with livestock marts, as we know them, and if the Bill is designed to deal with livestock marts, then we should confine its scope to dealing with livestock marts.

The definition section of this Bill makes no attempt, good, bad or indifferent, to define what a livestock mart is, but it does set out to define the business of a livestock mart and it provides that no person shall be entitled to carry on the business of a livestock mart at any place unless a licence in respect of that place has been obtained from the Minister for Agriculture. Because of the way in which the definition section of the Bill proceeds to deal not with physical livestock marts but with an artificial definition of the business of a livestock mart we have run into considerable difficulty in finding out and understanding exactly what is intended to be covered by this Bill.

In Deputy Clinton's amendment under discussion now it is suggested that we should at least try to ensure, in considering this definition, that people who lease or let property, which property comes to be used as a livestock mart, should not thereby be deemed to be engaged in the business of a livestock mart merely because they are the lessors of the property concerned. If it is not the intention of the Government to deem such people as being engaged in the business of a livestock mart, there should be no objection on the part of the Government then to this amendment. I do not believe it is the intention of the Government to extend the operations of this Bill, to cast their net so widely that lessors of the type of property to which I have referred would be captured and would be deemed, simply because they have made a lease or a letting of their property, to be carrying on the business of a livestock mart. If I am wrong in that, and if it is the intention of the Government that these people should be included, then I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary, who is occupying the Front Bench at the moment, to make that clear to the House. So far it has not been made clear.

I have given some examples of the type of odd situation which can arise if this definition section is left unaltered and if the words proposed by Deputy Clinton are not, in fact, added to the definition section. We may, for instance, find a situation in which a trustee who is dealing with trust property wants to make a letting to the best advantage of the beneficiaries of the trust.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted, and 20 Members being present,

I suppose I had better start again for the benefit of the Deputies who were not here.

Start again, if you like.

If the Fianna Fáil Deputies will give me a solemn undertaking that they will read in the Official Report what I have said, then I shall continue without going over it again.

It would give us a happy weekend.

Would it not be a good idea to consider whether it would be in order, or does it really matter?

I do not want to enter into a discussion on order.

It is a good thing to consider.

Deputy Cunningham is not looking for a job, by any chance? There might be one vacant.

If this definition section remains unaltered and if the House refuses to accept the amendment proposed by Deputy Clinton in relation to the addition of these words designed to exclude from the scope of the Bill property which is leased or let when that property is, for example, adapted for the sale of livestock by auction, I was about to point out the types of transactions which could be captured. I have no doubt that Deputy Booth will be fully with me in respect of the examples I shall mention. The first example is that of a person who is a trustee and who is under an obligation to turn the trust property to the best account for the benefit of the——

Is this a mart?

Listen carefully. If that trustee, having sounded out the market, decides that the way to turn the property in his hands to best account—I am using "property" not in the sense of securities but in the sense of land or premises—is to make a letting and if, having advertised the property for letting or leasing, he finds that the best offer, the best rent and the best terms he can obtain come from a person who wishes to operate the place as a livestock mart and if he makes a lease of that property then it seems to me that, under this definition section as it stands, the trustee has then provided a place adapted for the sale of livestock by auction.

Was it adapted before——

It does not matter whether it was before or after. Let us assume, for the purpose of argument, that it was adapted before. He has then provided such a place, a place adapted for the sale of livestock by auction. This is a serious matter.

Like the owner of a motor car. Is he not responsible, too?

The owner of a motor car may have certain responsibilities but he has no responsibility to obtain a licence under the Livestock Marts Bill, 1967. However, hold the solemn thought for a few moments because this is a serious matter. Deputy Booth will understand its importance. The trustee, having endeavoured to discharge his obligations conscientiously under the trust, has provided a place adapted for the sale of livestock by auction and, because he has provided that place, he is in danger of coming within the definition here of "business of a livestock mart". I am saying—I assume this to be true—that it was not ever the intention of the Government to bring that kind of transaction within the ambit of this Bill. If I am right in that, surely the right thing to do now is to exclude it and we can do so by adding the words proposed here by Deputy Clinton that this definition should not include the leasing or letting of any such place. That is one example.

Another example would be the position of the committee appointed to deal with the estate of a person of unsound mind. Possibly even the general solicitor for wards of court or the President of the High Court, in his capacity as a person responsible for dealing with the estates of wards of court, could be captured under this definition if they agreed to the leasing of a place adapted for the sale of livestock by auction——

What would be the objection?

The requirement here is the provision of such a place and if you provide the place then, as I see it, according to this definition, you are deemed by statute, once this Bill is enacted, to be engaged in the business of a livestock mart. The whole thing seems quite farcical when viewed in that way. I do not think Deputy Cunningham or Deputy Booth intended to stand over farcical legislation. That is not what they are sent into this House to do.

Why would that be such a tremendous burden for a trustee——

I shall tell the Deputy the reason.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted, and 20 Members being present,

I hope they are all attentive. Deputy Booth was asking me why would any hardship be created—I am summarising this—if a person found that this Bill was being applied to him when it was not intended to be applied to him.

In his capacity as trustee.

Yes. The reason is that if a person by virtue of this Bill is deemed to engage in the business of a livestock mart, then all the subsequent provisions of the Bill apply to that person. If the particular place concerned in the example I have given, the property leased or let, is not licensed under the Bill, and remember that under the Bill, if it becomes an Act, the Minister will be the only person having any say as to whether or not a licence is to be obtained—that is in the original draft of the Bill; do not make any point about the amendment to provide an appeal to the nominee of the Minister, take the position as the Bill was proposed—the Minister would have the——

The Minister is responsible to the House.

He would be the only person who could grant a licence. If he withholds a licence or grants a licence and then decides to revoke the licence, what would happen then?

He could be answerable to the House by way of Parliamentary question.

The unfortunate trustee of whom I speak would then be a person deemed to be engaging in the business of a livestock mart at an unlicensed place and thereby he would be guilty of an offence under this Bill. If he is guilty of an offence he is liable to severe penalties. He may be liable to a fine of £1,000, six months' imprisonment or both. That is the danger as I see it. That is the difficulty of a trustee who makes a leasing or a letting in the circumstances of which I speak. Was that intended? Is that the intention of the Deputies supporting the Minister——

It is not the intention——

——or the intention of the Minister?

Quite apart from the intention it is not what is going to happen under the——

If we do not know what the intention is, how can we claim to say what is going to happen in the future?

Intention does not arise; it is what is in the Bill as interpreted eventually by the courts.

That is splendid. We have Deputy Booth furthering the argument we have been making here, that what counts is what is in the Bill.

The intention of the Minister, even what the Minister says in this House, or what Deputy Booth or Deputy Cunningham or anyone else says, is not going to matter a thraneen when this Bill comes to be interpreted in the courts but what does count is what is in the definition section. So long as we leave that definition section unaltered, then the examples I have given are examples that can be captured by that section. Deputy Booth will understand the importance of trying to be precise in our definitions. Deputy Booth and Deputy Cunningham will now agree with me that this Bill is not a Bill which is conferring benefits, that it is a Bill which might have very serious consequences if a person is found to be in breach of the regulations made by the Minister thereunder, if he is found to be in a position of having committed an offence, an offence, mark you, which this Legislature would be creating when it passes this measure.

It is important, as Deputy Booth points out, that we should remember that the intention does not matter later on when the Bill becomes an Act, but it does matter at this stage because if it is not the intention to include the kinds of places and kinds of persons I have been talking about, then now is our opportunity to make that clear. We can make that clear by amending this definition section. The examples I have been talking about, of the trustee lessor dealing with the trust property, can be dealt with now and can be dealt with by accepting amendment No. 3.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.