This is a rather complex Bill and perhaps the best procedure would be to explain a few of the principal sections. Section 3 is the first of any importance. Under the original Agricultural Produce (Eggs) Act the maximum quantity of eggs that could be taken by a farmer across the border without being tested, graded and packed, in accordance with the regulations, was 11 lbs. We are, under this Bill, removing that disability and the farmer can now take any quantity of eggs he likes over the border. Section 4 is also an important section It gives the inspector power to detain a package or a consignment for a reasonable period to allow of examination. We found that there was a practice growing up at the North Wall whereby shippers rushed consignments of eggs to the ship-side at the last moment so as to avoid inspection. In order to get over that practice we are giving the inspector power to detain the consignments when contraventions of the regulations are observed. In the event of five per cent. of any package being wrong, the inspector may detain the whole consignment. This section aims at overcoming the difficulty we were in by reason of the fact that the shippers used to take advantage of the original Act. A number of them would combine in bringing large quantities of eggs to the dockside at the last moment.
Another important section is Section 6. It empowers the Minister to refuse to re-register a registered owner who has been taken off the register. Under the original Act if the registered owner of a premises committed certain offences his registration was cancelled. After a bit the practice grew up of the registered owner applying immediately for re-registration after his first registration had been cancelled, and we found we were coerced into agreeing to the re-registration. The position was we could not refuse to re-register the premises when they were suitable and properly equipped; if the premises were suitable in the matter of equipment and plant, we had no option but to grant the application. Under the original Act certain persons were registered as owners and, no matter how suitable the premises or the plant or equipment might be, they would persist in breaking the regulations. We are taking power under Section 6 to refuse to re-register the person whose registration has been cancelled. Section 5 makes it essential that the registered owner, or one of his employees, is technically qualified and competent to test, grade and pack eggs properly.
The object of Section 9 is to safeguard the home consumer. Under Section 15 of the original Act all packages of eggs exported from registered premises had to bear a brand consisting of an ellipse with the letters "S.E.," and the identification letter and number assigned to the particular premises. We had to withdraw the right to use these letters in a case of certain exporters. Registered proprietors whose registration would be withdrawn might continue to use this brand on packages of eggs for home consumption. To some extent that would be a fraud on the consumer. When people see the mark they might think he was still a registered exporter or dealer, because they would know it to be the national mark, and they would buy the eggs on that basis. The point is that that man might have had his registration cancelled. Under the section we take power to prevent any registered owner whose registration is cancelled from using these particular letters.
Section 10 is a somewhat important section. At the present time eggs are graded into certain weights. Each great hundred of extra selected eggs must weigh not less than 16lbs. There is a minimum weight for each egg. Selected eggs would be a lesser weight, and medium eggs would be a lesser weight still. We found a practice growing up of shippers exporting eggs as extra selected, and putting on the box a notice that the eggs weighed 17lbs. That conveyed that not only were the eggs over 16lbs. in weight and extra selected, but that they were, in fact, 17lbs. In some cases we found that this particular mark was not a fair description of the article inside. There is no necessity for anybody to grade eggs in that way. If they grade them as extra selected they must weigh 16lbs. It was properly open to anybody to obtain a higher standard and to say that the eggs per hundred weighed 17lbs., but we want to ensure that the eggs shall be up to the description applied to them.
Section 12 deals with the sale of dirty eggs. In Part II of the Bill the register of preservers is dealt with. There were certain provisions in the original Act for preservers, but for some reason they were inoperative. We have met with a certain amount of trouble in the administration of the original Act by reason of the possibility of mixing preserved eggs with fresh eggs. Under this Bill we will be in a position to trace preserved eggs into the stores, and from there to the markets. We are establishing a register of preservers, and all persons exporting preserved eggs must be registered. Part III. of the Bill is not of very much importance.