Veterinary Surgeons Bill, 1930.

Message from the Dáil: "Dáil Eireann has agreed to amendment No. 1 made by Seanad Eireann to the Veterinary Surgeons Bill, 1930; it has disagreed to amendments Nos. 2 and 3."

Cathaoirleach

It will be in order on this Message from the Dáil to move either that we accept or do not accept the decision of the Dáil. There is a further course which Senator Johnson is taking. I propose to allow Senator Johnson to move his motion, because those in favour of accepting the decision of the Dáil will probably vote against his motion, and Senators will be able to say whether they are for or against agreeing with the decision of the Dáil.

I move—

"That it is desirable that a conference be held between members of the Seanad and the Dáil upon amendments Nos. 2 and 3 made by the Seanad to the Veterinary Surgeons Bill, 1930, with which the Dáil has disagreed;

That five Senators represent the Seanad at the proposed conference;

That a Message be sent to the Dáil acquainting them accordingly and requesting their concurrence."

The Seanad took a certain line upon this Bill, and the Dáil has disagreed in part with what the Seanad decided in favour of. Since the Seanad decision I had an interview with the representatives of the College of Veterinary Surgeons, and they put a certain case to me. The two points on which they laid stress can be, and should be, met quite readily. From what I can gather from their statement, the Seanad would agree to insert in the Bill such amendments as would ensure that their point of view in these respects would be met, but the amendments would require some consideration. In one case it would be a drafting amendment and in the other case it would be a little more than a drafting amendment. I think the point of view they put forward could be readily agreed to by the Seanad. That cannot be done without consultation, and it is with a view to that kind of accommodation that I think there should be an agreement by conference between the two Houses. There will be nothing prejudiced by such a conference. The Bill cannot become effective until a similar Bill, as regards the status and organisation of the College, has been passed in the British House of Commons. That is because of paragraph 10 of the First Schedule, which points out that the two Governments "shall as soon as possible introduce into their respective Parliaments such legislation as may be necessary to give statutory effect to this Agreement, and this Agreement shall not take effect until such legislation in both such Parliaments shall have been passed into law." Nothing like that has been done in the British Parliament. They are adjourning this week, and obviously we are not going to prejudice or delay anything by deferring this matter until the Dáil meets again. I think that the real issues between the two Houses could be met if there was a discussion by a joint committee.

I beg to second the motion.

I wish to speak against the motion, and to suggest that the matter be dealt with in a different way. Under Standing Order 104 I think I can move that the Seanad do not insist on the amendments.

Cathaoirleach

It is better to vote on this first, and if it is defeated then the Senator can move the other motion.

The same arguments apply in both cases.

Cathaoirleach

If you are in favour of the Dáil's decision you can vote against this.

Yes, but the reasons will be the same in both cases, and I might as well state them now. I should first like to explain that I am perfectly aware that in the earlier stages of this Bill I did not intervene in the debate on either of these amendments. The reason was that I did not feel at that time that I knew enough of the subject. I do not wish to give the impression that I know nothing about the subject, because I am concerned with cattle and horses and all kinds of live stock, and consequently with veterinary surgeons to a certain extent. I did not feel at the time, however, that I knew enough to intervene in the debate. Since then this matter has been in my mind, and I have had an exceptional opportunity of improving my knowledge of the question involved, and I find there is general agreement among the class of persons whom one would listen to as being authorities on the subject that there are not sufficient veterinary surgeons in this country, and especially that there are not sufficient good veterinary surgeons. I understand, for example, that the Civil Service Selection Boards find the greatest difficulty at various times in obtaining men with sufficient veterinary qualifications for appointments under various Acts, such as the Fresh Meat Act, the Diseases of Animals Act, and so on. What is the reason for this? The reason simply is that veterinary surgeons cannot earn a living, or at least find it very difficult to do so, and the prospects of the profession are not sufficient to cause young men to go into it, or parents to favour their children, who are likely to make good veterinary surgeons going into a profession which offers so little to them. That is a position which is very detrimental to farmers, horse breeders, and owners of all kinds of live-stock. It will not be remedied unless the veterinary surgeons' profession is protected somewhat more than it would be by the Bill with these amendments. Sections 46 and 47 in their original form would remedy the position undoubtedly, and I believe, without any serious detriment or inconvenience to farmers or horse owners. A scarcity of veterinary surgeons is really a very bad thing for the country, and one which it is most desirable to remedy, and the extent to which the prohibition of unregistered quasi-veterinary practice will cause a loss is quite trifling as compared with the other matter. These are my main reasons for opposing the motion, and were it defeated I would be prepared to move the alternative which I have mentioned.

I should like to ask the Seanad not to agree with the motion moved by Senator Johnson. I should like to make this point to the House, and I make it in no attitude of contempt to this House. But where there is a definite conflict between the two Houses as to a piece of legislation I think it must be recognised that the Dáil is the superior body. There is a complete conflict in this. The two amendments completely destroy the Bill. I do not know what the suggestions are which come from certain veterinary people. I do not think I have got them. Certainly I have not got them personally.

The President of the College.

At any rate I am not concerned very much with what these people may suggest in the particular position in which they find themselves. There was a Bill brought forward and very thoroughly discussed in the Dáil. Enlargements were made in Sections 45 and 46, and I offered to have further enlargements made here. Instead of that the Seanad decided to cut the heart out of the Bill. The Bill went back in that condition, and the Dáil unanimously disagreed with these amendments. If I am asked to speak on this matter when it gets back to the Dáil, I shall ask the Dáil not to agree to amendments 2 and 3 made by the Seanad. That would be putting the Seanad into a superior position. The Bill goes back in a form which the Dáil unanimously rejected, and the Dáil is asked to discuss the Bill in that rejected form with the disagreed amendments as its terms of reference. I certainly shall ask the Dáil not to do anything of the kind. I do not know whether I would succeed in persuading them, but I certainly will oppose that resolution. The Veterinary College or some President of the College suggests something now which is unknown to me, and which I cannot consider. I will oppose anything which will ask the Dáil to discuss the Bill with Sections 45 and 46 as amended by the Seanad and rejected by the Dáil as the matter for consideration.

I do not agree with the Minister that in Bills such as this the other House is the complete master because I think the Seanad is of equal importance with the Dáil in matters of this kind. In the concluding stages of this Bill I said that I hoped the Dáil would reject the amendments inserted by the Seanad for the simple reason that they were to my mind very foolish amendments and because they were inserted by the votes of the people who did not rightly consider what the results of these amendments would be on the Bill. If the Bill as it stands now becomes law it would place the veterinary profession in a very much worse position than it was at any time. The Council to be set up under this Bill would have no authority, practically, over any veterinary surgeon, because no veterinary surgeon would register, as he would have nothing to gain by it. You would only fill the country with quacks. Every veterinary surgeon who got a diploma or any qualification in any other country would be able to come over here and practise. The only thing necessary for him would be to have a diploma. For that reason, I think, the amendments inserted by the seanad should be rejected and that we should accept the Bill as it came back here.

It is a very important matter that we should have a veterinary profession in this country second to none. It has been said recently in England by a number of very important people interested in livestock that this country is full of foot-and-mouth disease, and if you have not veterinary surgeons of the highest standing and qualifications, it would be hard to get the idea out of the heads of the rank and file of the English people. They think your inspectors at the ports might be all right, but they would ask: "What about your veterinary surgeons down the country? We cannot depend upon their reports."

Senator Bagwell stated, as I stated in a previous speech, that at the present moment we are short of veterinary surgeons in this country and that there is no encouragement for parents or guardians to put their children into the veterinary profession, because veterinary surgeons in this country cannot earn a livelihood except they have some local appointment. All the work is done by quacks, and for that reason there should be some protection, and therefore I shall vote against this motion.

It seems to me that the question of the merits of this motion has rather dwindled in comparison with the doctrine the Minister has laid down as to the inferiority of this House to the Dáil in matters of this kind. I think if we are to accept what the Minister says, then really the functions of the Seanad as a Revising Chamber would practically disappear. If every time we insert an amendment which the Dáil rejects, we swallow our amendment when the Bill comes back here, as the Minister has asked us to do now, especially without any real argument being advanced in the Dáil in favour of the Dáil's action, then, I think, we are stultifying ourselves and reducing ourselves to a cipher.

Senator Hooper has said, much better than I could, what I would like to have said with regard to the position in which the Minister would place this House, and in which Senator Counihan would back him, that this is a Bill that should not be dealt with by the Seanad, and that obviously the Seanad is a subordinate Chamber in respect of this kind of Bill. This is not a Money Bill and if the Seanad, on the advice of the Minister, and with the assistance of Senator Counihan, is going to say that the Dáil, having done a certain thing in opposition to the Seanad, then obviously and inevitably the Seanad must lie down——

The Seanad must take the question on its merits.

That is the position the Minister, backed by Senator Counihan, is taking up. I quite understand the Minister's taking that view, but I cannot understand Senator Counihan's taking that view. I think it is practically a challenge to the House to say whether that is to be the normal procedure; that the House is to spend its time in considering on their merits certain proposals, insert these proposals in a Bill, and that when that Bill goes to the Dáil for reconsideration the Dáil simply accepts the advice of the Minister and refuses to accept the Seanad amendments or consider them, and that then the Seanad must automatically acquiesce.

My proposal is one which asks this House to meet the other House in consultation on certain matters of detail— obviously the kind of thing the Seanad ought to do. I do not want to rediscuss the merits, but I believe I am right in saying that the Seanad did take the view that, important as the veterinary profession might be, the farming community of the country is even still more important. Senator Counihan, to draw attention to the prevalent opinion amongst the rank and file of the English population that foot-and-mouth disease is rife in this country, said that that wrong conception can only be dissipated by the enlargement of the veterinary profession. At the best the veterinary profession is going to take quite a long time to have any considerable enlargement, and if that misconception in England is to remain until the veterinary profession is sufficiently large and important and sufficiently well established, then I am afraid that the situation of this country in the minds of the British public is going to be rather pitiable.

On a point of explanation——

Cathaoirleach

I will let the Senator explain at the finish.

I thought I was winding up.

Cathaoirleach

The Senator wishes to explain. He thinks he is being misinterpreted.

I quite agree. I am misinterpreting what he would now think, but I only interpreted what he said. Senator Bagwell has pointed out very rightly the insufficiency in numbers of the veterinary profession. That is exactly the case I made—that they are grossly and lamentably insufficient to supply the needs of the country, and because of that insufficiency, or paucity of numbers, it is necessary to allow those people who are not qualified practitioners to do what they are doing to the extent that the farmers require and which is at present necessary. One of the points made by the veterinary representatives to me was that they do not want to allow to grow up in this country a new body of whole-time, unqualified practitioners. I am entirely with them in that. But I want to safeguard the present rights of the farming community to approach the type of man who has been up to now advising and assisting in the treatment of sick animals. I want to make quite sure that it will not be an offence for a druggist or a chemist to advise a farmer that a particular medicine is suitable for an animal suffering from a particular malady.

Cathaoirleach

Is the Senator not doing the work of the conference now by dealing with these points?

I am following the lead which was given me and discussing the merits of the Bill.

Cathaoirleach

The Senator should confine his observations to the motion.

I merely wanted to counteract some of the evil effects of the speeches of Senators Counihan and Bagwell.

I do not understand the position at all as it is described by Senator Johnson. I do not understand the attitude of the Minister either, as he has described it.

Shall I be allowed to reply to this speech?

Cathaoirleach

The position of Senator Johnson is quite clear. He wants a conference of the two Houses.

I thought I was closing the debate. I would have waited if I had thought that Senator Sir Walter Nugent desired to speak.

I am merely making a personal explanation. I do not understand the position as Senator Johnson has described it. Senator Hooper very fairly stated his views, that it was not the magnitude of the amendments that counted, that it was simply a question of challenging this House. I am very glad that it was Senator Hooper said that, because with regard to the question of challenging the House——

Cathaoirleach

The Senator should understand that technically the debate is closed.

Perhaps I will be allowed to finish my argument. My point is that it is a mistake for the Seanad always to be looking for challenges from the other House. When I was in the House of Commons, if you wanted to attract popular attention to a matter, all you had to urge was that the privileges of the House were being encroached upon by the other House. The same tendency is showing itself here, and for that reason I ask the Seanad not to allow itself to be carried away by that sort of suggestion.

May I make a personal explanation?

Cathaoirleach

No. The debate is closed.

Question put and declared lost.

I move that the Seanad do not insist upon amendments 2 and 3 made to the Veterinary Surgeons Bill, 1930, with which the Dáil has disagreed.

I second that.

Question put and declared carried.