Destructive Insects and Pests (Amendment) Bill, 1990: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be read a Second Time." The purpose of the amendments being proposed in this Bill fall under two headings: first, the penalties provided in the original Act for offences are being brought up to date; and second, certain provisions in the Act as regards the making of Orders are being strengthened.

There is no basic change in the main thrust and purpose of the Act of 1958. That Act is serving its purpose well. It is interesting to note that the 1958 Act was itself a Consolidation Act which put into one piece of legislation a number of old Acts going back as far as 1877. The 1958 Act is still quite satisfactory for the controls we need in order to keep the country free from damage to crops through insects or pests which may be imported or which may be found within the country.

It would be as well to sketch out broadly for Deputies how the Act of 1958 operates. The Act gives wide power to the Minister by way of orders to be made by him to prevent the bringing into the State of destructive insects and pests. That is the first main aim of the Act.

The second aim is the extensive powers given to the Minister, again by orders, to prevent the spread of destructive insects or pests found in the country. Many orders of course, have already, been made under the 1958 Act and are operative.

There is a specific provision in the Act of 1958 in regard to the spraying of potatoes. This deals with the situation where a destructive pest, Colorado beetle for example, is found in a potato crop. There is provision to make sure the crop and surrounding at risk crops are sprayed in order to get rid of or prevent the establishment of the pest.

These controls have served us well. This country is fortunate in having a very good standard of plant health. Thankfully we have remained free from a number of destructive insects and pests which are to be found on mainland Europe and elsewhere abroad. This fortunate position is attributable primarily to our island situation which forms a barrier against the natural migratory movements of destructive insects and pests. Of great importance also is the fact that for many years we have operated strict controls on imports of plants and plant products. This is only as it should be. The maintenance of high health standards over the whole range of livestock, crop and horticultural products is of immense importance to our entire economy. We must do all we can to maintain and to improve these standards as much as possible.

I would like at this point to explain to the House that since our entry into the European Community in 1973 there has been a change in the legislative provisions under which we operate as regards importations of plant material from member states of the Community. The Community system no longer allowed us to insist on licensing control on imports from other member states. However, under the EC system we continue to insist on health certificates issued by the authorities of the exporting member state. We also have the right to check a proportion of imports at the point of import. In addition, there are a number of Community provisions which safeguard individual member states from particular destructive insects and pests of which they are free.

At the present time the Community is considering the plant health controls which will operate in the Internal Market after 1992. A good deal of negotiations has yet to be gone through before the post-1992 control system will take final shape. Our objective in these negotiations is, of course, that while having full regard to the implications of 1992 and afterwards we will be striving to ensure that any changes in procedures will not leave us open to unacceptable risks.

The explanatory and financial memorandum circulated with the Bill gives information about the provisions of the different sections. I would, however, like to make some comments on what is being provided.

Section 2 provides that a person who does not respect the provisions of an order made under certain sections of the 1958 Act shall be guilty of an offence. This provision remedies a deficiency in the earlier Act which did not specify that such an offence would be created. Section 2 of the Bill also strengthens the Minister's powers to make orders under sections 2 and 3 of the original Act.

Section 3 of the Bill extends the area of offence in section 8 of the 1958 Act; that is the section dealing with the spraying of potatoes.

We now come to section 4 where it is proposed to update the provisions for fines in the 1958 Act. The 1958 Act provided for fines of £10 in some cases and £20 in others. These amounts are now very much out of date considering change in the value of money in the meantime. On the advice of the Attorney General we are now providing for fines on summary conviction up to a maximum of £1,000 or for imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or to a combination of both fine and imprisonment.

It is well to take note that these are serious punishments, but we are dealing with a serious matter. Untold damage could be done by the illegal bringing into this country of matter contaminated by insects or pests which could ruin a particular sector of our economy with great damage to the producers and traders involved in that business. There could also be costs by way of compensation and the cost of maintaining elaborate controls which the State may have to set up where outbreaks of this kind take place. I hope that these increases in fines and the provision of imprisonment in the Bill will be given wide publicity but I would also like to stress at this point that with the overall increases in commerce and the great increases in movement of people and goods all around us today that we should be more conscious of the need to have full regard to what this legislation is setting out to do. A better informed and responsible public attitude can do an immense amount of good in areas like those with which this Bill is dealing and indeed in other areas involving disease control in the agriculture sector. Of great value also is the attitudes seen to be coming from the people directly involved in the product area to which the disease control measures apply. I am referring here to farming and trading organisations as well as to groups concerned with the supply of services and materials to producers.

Section 5 of the Bill deals with the extension of responsibility for offences to corporate bodies.

These are the main points which I would like to make in recommending this Bill to the House. It is a short Bill but an important one. The Bill has a particular significance for me because of my responsibilities in regard to the horticulture industry. The Oireachtas has given An Bord Glas the task of developing the horticulture industry so that we can greatly reduce our dependence on imports and thereby create a better situation for horticulture producers, for the whole economy and for employment.

Very important also in the work of An Bord Glas is the development of the export trade and we already have in horticulture some very valuable export sectors. We also have the possibility of extending greatly our export trade in other sectors. I just would like to mention, simply as an example, the possibilities which we have in increasing our trade in hardy nursery stock; that is the business of growing shrubs and trees for resale to garden centres, to public authorities and indeed to large scale private users of this material in other countries. For all of this export trade, it is of vital importance that we retain a high and continuing reputation for standards of plant health which are second to none and also we should be seen to keep right up to date our efforts to maintain our controls at the highest possible level of efficiency.

Finally I would like to pay tribute to the various staffs in the Department of Agriculture and Food and in other State organisations who are involved in the formualtion and operation of these very important controls. They are doing a good job and I would like to compliment them.

I commend the Bill to the House for a Second Reading.

I welcome this Bill. It is appropriate to amend and update any Act that has been around since 1959. The changes in the industry both at home and abroad make it very important that controls in this area should be introduced and implemented. Will the Minister inform the House whether there has ever been a prosecution under the original Act and if any fines of the order of £10 or £20 were imposed on any person who broke the law? The main sections of the Bill propose an increase in the fines from £10 or £20 to £1,000. It always amuses me when discussing new legislation that we always talk in substantial figures and hope they act as a deterrent. Is the Minister trying to tell us that with this £1,000 fine in place we can be almost guaranteed that nobody will ever break the law? We are all aware of the serious damage that any of the diseases mentioned by the Minister can cause. The Colorado Beatle in particular has been the source of a great worry for potato growers. Given the growth which has taken place in recent years in the nursery industry and plant sales the spread of such diseases could do untold harm.

The Minister said in his address that much work remains to be done before 1992 and the completion of the internal market. I hope this Bill does not amount to a cosmetic exercise and that he is trying to deal with the problem. I am disappointed that he has not indicated what the trend has been, how many, if any, cases have arisen — I am sure the officials of his Department have the information I require — and in what way the industry has been affected. There may have been the odd case but the problem 99.9 per cent of the time is that we never hear about such cases. It might be just as well that we do not, because the last thing any of us want to do is make people think that we have a problem.

The Minister referred to the horticultural sector and An Bord Glas. We debated the Bill setting up that board about a year or so ago and I would have to say that they are working away without a great deal of success. Indeed, the Minister outlined in that debate that this board would be the greatest thing since sliced pan, but having listened to my contacts in the industry I have my doubts about that. I ask the Minister to outline just how effective the board have been, what successes they have achieved and if he believes that they are anywhere near attaining the targets they set themselves.

From talking to people in the industry it is clear that the industry is facing a large number of problems and a substantial amount of work remains to be done in developing markets and the home industry. Needless to say no further development can take place without money being made available. This is the time of year when the Government put together their Estimates. Only two days ago we were informed in the House by the Minister for Finance that the Estimates for 1991 will be presented before the Christmas recess. I hope the Minister will try to ensure that an allocation will be made available to that organisation who were set up to develop markets for our products. We all hope that a large amount of imports can be replaced with home produce, in particular from the horticultural sector.

One matter which is a source of great concern for me is the way the major supermarkets have been carrying on during the past two weeks and the effects this will have in the long term on the suppliers to those supermarkets. If payments to the suppliers are delayed by the supermarket chains involved in the trade war I would worry a great deal about the effect this will have on their cash flow and their ability to survive. Each and every one of us is aware of just how powerful the Ben Dunnes, the Superquinns and Crazy Prices are and that the loss of a very small amount of money will not put them out of business. However, such a loss could ruin small suppliers in the horticultural sector. It is well known that they have been responsible for putting people out of business in other areas.

Deputy Farrelly is a man of great ability and much imagination but I think he will appreciate that, in extending the Destructive Insects and Pests (Amendment) Bill to supermarkets and whatever rivalry exists between them at the moment, he is pulling a rather long hook.

I ask you to bear with me for a moment and allow me to express the hope that those people will not continue to operate at the expense of very small producers. We are trying to bring forward legislation to try to ensure that they continue to exist. I am sure, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, that you would agree with me——

Deputy Farrelly appreciates that when making a point he is required by Standing Orders to establish its validity on the legislation before the House.

I will get back to dealing with pests then. Indeed, these producers may have to face a different kind of pest.

The Deputy should ensure that he does not become a pest.

Our one consolation in relation to the recent changes is that one party leader has got rid of one pest for the agricultural community. I understand Deputy Stagg will no longer be with us but I am sure the honourable gentleman from Wicklow will bring the party concerned back to the centre stage.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to make these few points and would appreciate it if the Minister would indicate if any problems have been encountered in this area and if any one has had to be brought to justice in this regard. Does he consider it necessary to bring in a proposal to impose fines of £1,000, imprisonment and so on? Has a breach occurred? Is the Minister trying to ensure that nobody will import illegally? We have no problem with this short Bill and we want to ensure that it passes through the House quickly. This reminds me that in the nights prior to last Christmas we passed legislation dealing with horticulture. I wonder whether this is a trick by the Government to have us in the House in the run-up to Christmas when nobody wants to be around.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill which, on the face of it, simply provides for the updating of the Destructive Insects and Pests (Consolidation) Act, 1958. This further underlines the continuing attitude in Irish agriculture of using chemicals as the main stay of production. The Bill is positive in a number of respects particularly in relation to the fines that can be imposed and the attempts to make corporate bodies directly responsible for their actions.

It is important that the Bill be seen as a move to protect and enhance the good image of Irish agriculture and the food industry. In the past number of years Irish agriculture faced a number of crises, not least from the methods and practices employed in pursuance of the Common Agricultural Policy. European policy makers have encouraged greater agricultural production and efficiency at the expense of the environment. That policy is geared to production and not the consumer. People, quite rightly, are demanding a safe and pure food production process and the Bill will go some way to addressing that desire.

Section 3 of the Principal Act enables the Minister to direct and authorise the removal or destruction of any crop or substance. This is a necessary and important element of any Bill which seeks to protect Irish agriculture.

We must all bear in mind the warnings given by the renowned environmentalist, Eamon de Buitléar, who has been arguing for some time that there is a need for farming and environment to work hand in glove. The drive to meet the demands of the CAP has proved to be completely unsympathetic to the environment. He stated that almost a quarter of our rivers are suffering from long term pollution due to agricultural waste and that 20 major lakes are polluted due to fertiliser run-off and farm effluent. It follows, therefore, that there is a glaring need, when we are considering this important legislation, to take decisive action against anything which destroys the environment and farming. This, and any other Bill, must be implemented in a manner which seeks to fully protect the future of Irish agriculture and the food industry.

I welcome, in particular, section 5 which represents a further tightening of the deterrent provisions to include not only individuals but the corporate bodies and their directors who wilfully, or by neglect of their position, break the provisions of this Bill. Too often in the past individuals have been fall-guys for the connivance of their companies for whom they have acted. I welcome this section as it might instil in the many corporate bodies involved in the agricultural sector, a wider sense of public responsibility for their actions.

Today, in Ireland, the agri-food business is big business amounting to the huge sum of £3.3 billion, or 21.3 per cent of total exports in 1989, and provides 19 per cent of total employment in Ireland. We must be very conscious of the standard of food production and of the absolute requirement to maintain the image of Ireland as a green island producing pure and wholesome food.

I would like to point out also that it is in all our interests not only to protect the image but the reality of Irish agriculture and the food industry. I would like to draw attention to section 8 of the Principal Act which deals with the spraying of potatoes. I fully realise that at times the owner of a potato crop may endanger the crop and plants of the geographical location and that the Minister may be required to act in the public interest and have the crop destroyed. I am concerned about the type of pesticides used. In recent months there has been great concern about the use of some sprays used in agriculture and in the control of potato blight in particular. The use of the pesticide alar, also marketed as dazide, contains an active ingredient known as deminozide.

In April 1989The Guardian quoted a US environmental protection agency report which showed that this pesticide had “an inescapable and direct correlation” between the use of the chemical and “the development of life-threatening tumours”. Another agricultural pesticide brand which is giving cause for concern is the EBDC group of fungicide which is used most often on potatoes. The use of such pesticides, or other types being used under the direction of the Minister from this Bill, causes me some unease.

The Workers' Party do not advocate turning the clock back on the many positive developments to obtain greater efficiency and understanding of the needs of modern consumers but we are deeply concerned at the continuing post-war attitudes in the reliance of chemicals rather than on natural or organic farming methods. There is a need for agriculture to use the best and most recent scientific and technical data available and to move away from the destructive work practices which are destroying the environment and the farm landscape.

The Workers' Party support the Bill in principle as it attempts to put in place realistic penalties to stop the harmful spread of insects and pests but subject to the reservations I have outlined.

As previous speakers have said this is a very short Bill but that does not take away from its importance. Disease control, and disease prevention in all forms, in humans, livestock and crops, must be taken seriously. This Bill could be called a technical Bill. It does not set out any new principles. The principles of control in the 1958 Act, which we are proposing to amend, are sound. These principles are that we do all we can to keep diseases from entering the country. If one is unfortunate enough to have an outbreak of a disease proper measures on how to deal with it are contained in the Bill. This Bill brings up to date the fines which may be imposed by a court for an offence which is proved in court. That is only as it should be. People laugh at convictions that result in, the maximum fine of £20 being imposed.

I agree fully with the Minister's wish that there should be a better attitude to disease prevention by people whose business is badly affected by disease. In my county many people depend on the poultry industry and disease prevention and proper hygiene is important to them. Once there is an outbreak of a disease tremors go through the industry because most producers have massive borrowings and they could be left in very bad financial circumstances. They export a substantial amount of their produce and provide great employment. Therefore, the curtailment of any disease is very important.

Even though the mushroom industry is not referred to in the Bill the curtailment of disease in this area is very important also. It is very important that proper hygiene standards are maintained by those who work in this industry. It has been proven by the more progressive growers that if high hygiene standards are maintained the better returns a producer will get. Even in difficult times, for example, when the exchange rate between the punt and sterling was bad, producers in the mushroom area who maintained proper hygiene standards were able to weather the storm without any difficulty.

Difficulties arose recently in the poultry sector but the Department of Agriculture and Food were able to confine this outbreak not only to the one area but to the one building. They have now lifted all restrictions. Some times public representatives and others can be very quick to criticise public officials but we have to recognise that they have been very effective in dealing with every outbreak of disease down through the years. We should pay tribute to them for this. At times we may not be satisfied with the way in which they deal with these outbreaks — they may take short cuts, etc — but they have proved to be very successful at the end of the day. I should like to pay tribute to them for the way they have dealt with these outbreaks and, in particular, the most recent outbreak.

At present farmers are worried about falling incomes and the outcome of the GATT negotiations. Hopefully their fears are exaggerated. Many people tend to forget that our agricultural sector is in a very good state of health. As an island nation we are in a better position than most to retain our disease free status in many areas. I am not saying that our status in relation to disease is perfect — it never will be until the TB eradication scheme is completed. A more informed and responsible attitude should be adopted by all people involved in this scheme. County Monaghan which was a clear area for many years now has a serious TB problem. For that reason, I support the Minister's appeal to farming organisations to actively promote among their members the measures necessary to clear up various forms of diseases. It is the farmers who will gain at the end of the day. I often wonder if the farming organisations should place more emphasis on hygiene and health. These organisations are in a better position than most to instil in their members the need for proper standards in all areas of agriculture.

As I have said, the fines under the Act are out of date. The problem with many of the cases which come before the District Court is not the maximum fine which may be imposed, the jail term or whatever but the attitude of the courts. It is galling for the State to bring someone who is not adhering to the regulations to court only to have a low fine imposed on him by the court. These fines may have been in order 40 or 50 years ago but they certainly are not in order today when so much depends on hygiene in agricultural production, processing, etc. If someone in the agricultural sector is careless it can have a devastating effect on many people.

I welcome the Bill and I look forward to its speedy passage through the House. I thank the Minister of State for explaining the background to the Bill and what it proposes to do. The Minister referred to the effect the Colorado beetle can have on the potato crop. This has caused great concern to those involved in the agricultural sector for many years. The potato crop is very important and the Minister of State, Deputy Kirk, has turned his attention to improving the situation in this sector so that we will have less imports and be more self-sufficient. This sector has great potential for the development of our exports at a time when good quality potatoes have to be provided for the manufacture of crisps and other prepared foods.

The Minister referred to the possibilities in the hardy nurseries area. One has only to drive through the remotest parts of the country to see the great improvements the planting of shrubs and nursery stock has had on houses, whether they are new bungalows or old style farm houses. I am glad the Minister has attached so much importance to the nursery stock sector. For many years there were enormous imports in this area but nurseries have now opened up all over the countryside which are providing this stock. Not alone do these plants make the countryside more beautiful but the nurseries are also providing many necessary jobs.

I, too, support this Bill. While its introduction by the Minister of State may not be regarded as an earth shattering move, I hope the reference in the Bill to the various insects and pests will not distort the importance given to the horticultural industry in this legislation. The fact that it is a minor Bill should not deflect us from giving the attention to this industry which it deserves. None of us can foresee the future and certainly in the context of 1922 nobody can foresee the exports and imports which will damage the industry to an extent none of us would wish for. I hope this Bill will deter people from being careless for one reason or another in the handling or verifying of goods so that they do not allow destructive insects and pests into this country which would do enormous damage to our food industry.

I am not too sure about the motivation behind the Bill. I hope the Department of Agriculture and Food did not see a need for it because they are worried we might not be able to deal with pests and insects in the future, because of the cases going to the courts or that the penalties do not act as a deterrent.

Over the past number or years those involved in the agricultural sector in rural Ireland have had to deal with the problem of the warble fly. Much time and effort was expended by the Department of Agriculture and Food in seeking to eradicate that insect. Their success in this area can be seen to the extent that no national scheme is now required to eliminate the warble fly. The efforts by the Department to eliminate this pest caused great inconvenience to the farming community at the time but, as in the case of many other schemes, particularly in relation to disease control, the farming community understood that it was necessary to have quality food for export to the European mainland in order to maintain their livelihood. We can never be complacent about the food industry, particularly because it generates such a large proportion of our exports. The market expects high quality and is sensitive to health and hygiene, making it essential to maintain our high reputation. The export of quality products is most important and, as a food importing country, we must exploit the aspects of purity and quality. We must also exploit the unique opportunities on the European mainland, expecially in the context of 1992.

The Chernobyl disaster some years ago brought home to everybody involved in the food industry the reality of the market which is ready for exploitation, provided we are geared to it. A disaster which can be magnified in such global terms to devastate an industry cannot be taken lightly. We must be aware of the danger which could be caused to our food industry by insects or pests.

I support Deputy Byrne's view on the control of sprays. We as a nation have become obsessed with the environment. Whether we are doing a small spraying job in a garden on a housing estate or spraying crops on a farm, we must be conscious of the quality and quantity of the spray being used. Rigorous attention is being given by the Department of Agriculture and Food to controlling the type and quality of sprays which can do untold damage to neighbouring properties and to the environment. The use of sprays and insecticides for the control of insects and pests goes in tandem with this Bill and I hope the Minister will be able to indicate further controls in this area.

In recent years we have developed a market niche in some areas of horticulture. It has become fashionable for many small farmers to develop alternative enterprises, particularly relating to the horticultural industry. Hardy nursery stock, mushrooms and various other horticulture products has been used to supplement incomes which have been declining in relation to mainstream enterprises.

It must be emphasised that there is a conflict between the type of Bill we are discussing here and the market niche for organic farming, which is gaining momentum. I know the Minister has received many representations and is well aware of the conflict between the organic and non-organic sectors, but ultimately, the market price for the product and the return to the farmer will be decisive. Supermarkets are demanding chemical-free organic food in order to respond to the market need. The question of food irradiation and associated matters will become more important in the years ahead.

I welcome the Bill because it is important that we should be ready to face whatever disaster might befall us. The fact that the fines have been increased is an indication of concern that we might be unable to meet the challenge posed by destructive insects and pests. The taxpayer has always been asked to foot the bill for disease eradication programmes but I hope taxpayers will not be asked to contribute to the same extent again. The disease eradication schemes are not deemed to be very successful. If problems arise regarding the destruction of insects and pests I hope they will be nipped in the bud in the interests of the country and of the taxpayers. We have a habit of throwing money at a problem without doing the proper research and planning. I hope this will not arise in this case. I welcome the Bill and hope it will have a speedy passage.

Whether the Bill is big or small, I always seem to be heading for the tape with very little time at my disposal. I also welcome this necessary Bill, small though it may be. The Government must leave no stone unturned to ensure that we retain a very high national and international reputation for our agricultural products. We already have a good health status.

This Bill updates an Act of 1958. It is very important that we increase the returns to agriculture through a more developed food industry. The Government are doing much to improve agriculture and the food industry generally. Our basic task is the maintenance of our health status in regard to livestock and crops and producers have a major role to play in that regard.

This Bill is very important in that it covers an area which does not normally receive much publicity. More people are aware today of the need to exercise choice before they partake of food. There is a greater awareness of organic food, for which there is a growing demand, whereas, in former days, organic food was the order of the day and there was nothing else available. That pattern has been changed considerably, the main reason being advanced technology and the fact that a large variety of plant life can now be imported, when all producers and horticulturalists are endeavouring to improve the quality and quantity of their output. Obviously the greater the level of importation the greater the need for control.

Importation has increased considerably, probably occasioned by advanced communications networks with more people travelling abroad than ever and more and more tourists visiting this country.

The Minister had this to say in the course of his introductory remarks:

However under the EC system we continue to insist on health certificates issued by the authorities of the exporting member state. We also have the right to check a proportion of imports at the point of import.

While we may accept health certificates issued by authorities of exporting member states, it is equally important that we have effective control at the point of entry here. However, bearing in mind our peripheral position in Europe, we should not experience any problem enforcing such control. The conditions obtaining at present leave our people subject to certain dangers and there is an awareness on the part of the general public that they should not be subjected to such potential dangers. Indeed, it behoves the Government and An Bord Glas to ensure that they are not subjected to such hazards.

As the Minister has said, the provisions of the Bill have a bearing also on the work of An Bord Glas which has contributed enormously to our economy by way of horticulture. I am pleased also to note the provision in respect of increased fines. There is no point maintaining laws on our Statute Book liable to be laughed at because they are so outdated nobody takes them seriously. The fines provided for in the Principal Act of 1958 were appropriate to those times, but it is time they were updated to cater for the circumstances prevailing in the nineties.

I have said there is an awareness of the dangers of the use of destructive insecticides and pesticides on the part of the public. Therefore, it is all the more regrettable that the main farming body —at a time when we have been endeavouring to eradicate disease and have a disease-free herd — refused to serve on the board of ERAD, indeed resigned from that board, over a testing period which was designed to lead to the eradication of animal disease. That so-called responsible body now has representatives protesting at every chapel gate about the behaviour of our Minister for Agriculture and Food while the same Minister and his Minister of State endeavour to protect the lives of our people and plant life in the same way as we have been endeavouring to protect our animal herd. Nonetheless, the IFA removed their two representatives from the board of ERAD, protesting because they wanted a 60-day rather than a 45-day test. That difference of 15 days did not warrant a national protest or the resignation of farmer representatives from that board. We must act responsibily if we are to eradicate disease and protect our plant life.

I must compliment An Bord Glas on having identified the problem as it pertains to plant life, leading to the introduction of this Bill because, without their intervention, this problem might have gone unnoticed. Had An Bord Glas not taken the initiative, in 1992 those people representing the farming community, now protesting from various platforms, — would be saying the same thing — contending that we had not protected our plant life or made any provision therefor. We should remember that, had not corrective action been taken, our Government would be blamed once again. I compliment An Bord Glas on having alerted public awareness of the problem and advocated the introduction of this Bill. Since their formation An Bord Glas have undertaken a wonderful job in respect of our interests generally in horticulture.

I welcome the Bill on behalf of my party. I am sure there will be other opportunities available to me, in my new position as spokesman on Agriculture, to discuss with the Minister this and other facets of his Department for which he is responsible. According to the Central Bank the value of the pound now, in 1968 terms, is eight-tenths. Therefore, it is time these provisions were updated. I also welcome the extension of persons who may be guilty of offences under these provisions.

Talking of pesticides, since 1958 many of our people have become more wary of the use of chemicals and pesticides. The Minister might comment briefly on the areas in which he means those offences to obtain and on the types of pesticides and insecticides used which will be covered by the provisions of this Bill.

I thank those Deputies who contributed to this debate and Deputy Kavanagh for his co-operation in endeavouring to have the Second Reading completed by 5 p.m. I take this opportunity of wishing him well in his new position as spokesman on Agriculture.

I will endeavour to deal with the various points Deputies raised. First, Deputy Farrelly asked the number of prosecutions there have been over the years. I do not have that specific information but, for Committee Stage, I will endeavour to make it available to him. Deputy Farrelly mentioned also the relationship between producers and supermarkets. It goes without saying that producers' cash flows are vital to their enterprises. We are very anxious that their cash flows be adeqauate for their survival and indeed the prosperity of their businesses.

Deputy Byrne referred to the environment, the importance of crops and farming practices being in harmony with the essential needs of our environment. The fact that we have established a new organic unit within my Department clearly underlines the fact that the Government are very conscious of that need. There was significant budgetary provision for this purpose last year. A figure of £450,000 was provided for the work of that unit and I am glad to say it is making steady progress.

One or two Deputies raised the question of specific detail on the number of disease outbreaks. In 1988 we had an outbreak of Bemisia tabaci, the tobacco white fly. It was in a glasshouse nursery in Leinster. I am glad to report it was successfully eradicated. In the early eighties we had an outbreak of Liriomyza trifolii, the American serpentine leaf miner, in a glasshouse nursery in Leinster and it was successfully eradicated. In the late eighties we had another outbreak of this pest and it was successfully eradicated also. We had the bark beetles of coniferous trees which were intercepted on a few occasions on imported coniferous timber that had not been properly debarked. Strict measures were taken of fumigation and impregnation with chemicals. Some assignments were refused entry and returned. I think it is now widely accepted that we have a very high health status in this country and that the phyto sanitary certification and the import checks have played a vital role in the protection of that high health status. We are naturally very anxious for the long term wellbeing of the plant sector that that status be maintained.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take Committee Stage of this Bill?

Wednesday next, subject to agreement between the Whips.

Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 28 November 1990.