Slaughter of Cattle and Sheep Bill, 1934—Committee Stage.
Section 1 agreed to.
I move amendment No. 1:—
Section 2. To add at the end of the section a new sub-section as follows:—
(2) This Act shall remain in force until the 30th day of September, 1935, and shall then expire.
The Minister, in his Second Reading speech, stated that this Bill was a temporary measure and that it would remain in force only for a specific time for the specific purpose for which he was introducing it. In view of that statement, I do not think there will be any objection by the Minister to accept this amendment. It is giving sufficient time to experiment on the Bill, and if the purpose for which it was introduced has not then arrived, he can bring in an amending Bill or pass a resolution continuing this Act. We have passed in this House a good many Acts within the last 12 months, and before that time had expired, the Minister thought it necessary to bring in amending Bills. I am sure that he will have the experience that within less than 12 months of the working of this Bill, he will find it necessary to amend it in several very important clauses.
I opposed this Bill on the Second Reading. I opposed it because I thought it was an unworkable and a revolutionary measure. But the Seanad evidently thought differently. At all events, they disagreed with me and passed the Second Reading which was approving of the principle of the Bill. I have looked over the Bill in order to see what amendments could be made to it and I find that if the Minister wants to carry out the Bill in order to try out his plan, that it cannot be very well amended to give the Minister full power to try out his plan for the 12 months. Any amendments which I have put down are amendments which will not interfere with the working of the Bill, although it was rather difficult to resist putting in some amendments to the very drastic clauses which I consider the Bill contains. The Minister's acceptance of this amendment will possibly make the House agreeable to pass the Final Stage of the measure if its rejection is moved. At all events, none of the amendments I have put in interferes in any way with the Minister in trying his plan to the fullest extent.
I should like to support the amendment. The Minister will realise that many Senators are very uneasy about passing this Bill and do not at all like to be involved in responsibility for a Bill which embodies such principles as this, but they are voting for the Bill because they recognise that there is a real difficulty which has got to be dealt with somehow and that this is the Government's scheme for alleviating the sufferings of those people who are most affected by that difficulty. I think that the fact that they are passing the Bill for that reason, and not at all because they approve of the principles in a great deal of it, is a justification for asking the Minister to accept an amendment of this kind, because, after all, there is nothing compulsory about it. Another Bill can be brought in if the Government consider it necessary to carry on the scheme. On the other hand, if it fails, it can be dropped and before a Bill of such kind is passed in such circumstances, I think it reasonable to fix some time limit.
Reading over the Minister's speech on Second Reading, I cannot find anything which would suggest that 12 months' trial would allow the experiment to be tested at all. In fact, there are parts of the Bill, as the Minister explained, that may not be brought into effect before 12 months, and it strikes me, therefore, that this is in effect a mere attempt to destroy the Bill entirely.
I agree with Senator Johnson and I think it is ridiculous for Senator Counihan to press this amendment. If for no other reason than that he should not make himself look ridiculous to the country, I would ask him to withdraw the amendment. Anybody knows that a Bill which calls for so many arrangements as this measure does could not possibly be in operation until very nearly the date by which Senator Counihan proposes it should expire. I think if he has any sense, or if he wants the people of the country to believe that he has any sense at all left, he should withdraw the amendment.
I hope that Senator Counihan will not withdraw his amendment. This is a Bill which has created great anxiety amongst the agriculturists of this country. It is looked upon as a very dangerous Bill and as one which, I am afraid, will have far reaching effects on agriculturists in the country. Being a Bill of that class, the shorter the period of its operation, the better. Twelve months will, I think, give the people sufficient time to see the effects of the Bill and will also give the Government time for their experiment. If they think it is necessary, they can try to bring in an amending Bill at the end of the period. I hope that Senator Counihan will insist on his amendment because this is a Bill which, as I say, will have far reaching effects on the agricultural community.
The Minister was forced to introduce this measure by reason of events which have happened in the last two or three years. We all agree that it is necessary that the price of cattle consumed in the Free State should be brought up to a level which is fair and reasonable and that the artificial reduction in the price of cattle created by the tariffs should be remedied as much as possible, so far, at least, as it relates to cattle consumed by the inhabitants of this country—the people in the towns. We all agree that it was a necessary measure and if it was a necessary measure, why not give it a reasonable chance of success? It will be a difficult measure to administer but it will be rendered infinitely more difficult by the fact that you have a time limit of 12 months. Everything to be done under the Bill, in the offices and elsewhere, will be done under the shadow of that 12 months and the result, in the practical working out of the measure, will be that the Minister and his officials will be paralysed by this time limit of twelve months.
It is said that this Bill will need amendment. I am sure it will need amendment. A measure so difficult as this, in all human probability, will require to be amended in some particulars. If Solomon himself were to draw this Bill, I should say that 12 months' working of it would show that here and there amendments would be necessary. If an amendment becomes necessary, you can have an amending Bill, but do not throw over the Minister this shadow of the axe at the end of 12 months. It will prevent him carrying out his work effectually. As I said before, this is a courageous attempt to deal with the situation. You have, by approving the Second Reading of the Bill and by passing the principle of it, decided to give him fair play and a limitation of this measure to 12 months is not giving him fair play. For that reason, I think this amendment ought not to be pressed.
Senator Comyn is not quite right. The object of the Bill is not to raise the price of cattle to counteract the special tariffs of the British. The object of the Bill is to counteract the effects of the quota instituted by the British and the Bill ought to remain in force until the British take away the quota, if that ever occurs. If it achieves the purpose of nullifying the effects of the quota, it has secured its object but why it should be taken away and the quota allowed to remain, I cannot understand.
Is not this a very revolutionary measure? None of us can really foresee what it is going to do. At all events, we are not suggesting that it should be dropped at the end of 12 months.
"And shall then expire." Those are the words.
Which mean a renewal of it if it is useful. Surely nobody believes that, if the measure proves as successful as the Minister believes it will be, either the Dáil or this House would for a moment hesitate to renew it? There is no question about it that a new situation has arisen and the Bill will have to be drastically amended. The best way to deal with such a situation at the end of 12 months is to go line by line through the measure, drop the part that has not been found useful and to insert things that would make it very much more valuable to the community than is this measure as it stands. I think therefore that 12 months is quite enough to give the Minister in which to carry out this measure. We hope the measure will be a success.
He is doing his best to make it a failure.
I think the amendment is a reasonable one. I think underlying the discussion we may take it that the whole measure is of a temporary nature. It has arisen out of the conditions that have been brought about by the economic war and we must hope that the economic war will be of a temporary nature and consequently so must this measure. To my mind 12 months is a reasonable time in which to try the experiment. There are a number of things in the Bill temporary and experimental. One is the fixing of prices. I cannot agree with the section for the fixing of prices. The whole thing is an experiment and it must necessarily be so. Consequently, I think the Minister ought to accept the amendment as reasonable.
I wish to support the amendment making the Bill temporary. I think 12 months is a very fair limit. Personally, I am against the principle of the Bill and the Bill itself. I would prefer that the time limit should be fixed at six months. I do not wish to be the prophet of ill omen or to hear any statements made against the prosperity of the country. I think the whole Bill will lead to confusion. Indeed there is a universal opinion amongst the people to whom the Bill will apply that it is bound to be a failure and to lead to confusion. These people will be glad to have it ended within 12 months. The proposal in the amendment is quite a justifiable one. I regard the Bill as unworkable, especially the proposal regarding the fixing of prices. For that reason, I support the amendment.
I would like, before the Minister replies, to point out to him that on the Second Reading of the Bill his statement was that the Bill was a temporary measure, and that statement induced many Senators in this House to vote for the Second Reading. Now we have Senator Wilson saying that this Bill should be continued in force during the period of the quota. There is no reason why it should not be dropped when the dispute is settled with England. The whole necessity for the Bill can only be during the period of the dispute with England. I am sorry that Senators Comyn and Johnson and, I am afraid, Senator Wilson, judging from the tone of their speeches, do not believe that this dispute is to be settled within 12 months, or even to be settled at all. I would not like to hope that this dispute with England is going to last another 12 months.
It has nothing to do with it.
It certainly has. The whole question of the quota has to do with the dispute with England. If the quota is to be ended the Minister would not want this Bill. He could have the Bill extended by a resolution of both Houses of the Oireachtas.
I cannot understand the continual reference to the dispute with England. Even if Senator Counihan does not believe what we say on that question, he might at least accept the statement of the Minister for Agriculture for Great Britain that the quota has nothing to do with the dispute at all. I know that when the Minister in England says something that is against the Government here, he is telling the truth, but that when he says something that agrees with what the Government here is saying he is not telling the truth. A good many of these arguments here have arisen from the statement made by Senator Jameson on the Second Reading that the introduction of this Bill was a confession by the Government that their policy was a failure. It has nothing to do with the policy of the Government. This Bill is dealing with the quota, and it has nothing to do with the economic dispute in any shape or form.
It has, and everybody knows it has.
May I suggest to Senator Johnson that apparently in a very short time the Government themselves have seen the necessity for many variations in this measure? That is clear from the fact that since the Bill left the Dáil, Senator Robinson has put down, I think, two pages of amendments which apparently are afterthoughts. These afterthoughts have occurred to him in the short time since the Bill left the Dáil.
Is Senator Crosbie referring to me or to the other Senator Robinson?
I rather agree with Senator Robinson. I have been trying in this discussion to get away from what is called the economic war and to deal with the question on its merits. As regards the Bill itself, I think it is a courageous Bill, so courageous that I do not think the Minister for one moment is frightened by the shadows which were the only arguments so far as I could hear that were put in support of the throwing out of the Bill. I might admit that I find some difficulty in understanding Senator Quirke's Tipperary speech, but I could gather that his only argument was that Senator Counihan would make himself less ridiculous if he did not propose this amendment.
Personally, I think the time limit of one year is sufficiently long time to experiment with the Bill and this would give the Government time to do what they can in the way of negotiations on the question of the quota, not the economic war at all. We have our legislature here and we are standing in a position as regards England where we can negotiate. If the Government policy is one of self-sufficiency—and they say it is—they could use these powers and I think that one year would give sufficient time for the operations of the Bill and for an opportunity to put in force these powers.
I rise to speak again on this particular amendment because I think it is most undesirable that this debate should go on with any Senators here agreeing that the quota is an entirely separate question from the economic war. I for one do not believe anything of the kind. I am quite prepared to argue with anyone who says the quota is separate from the economic war, but I am afraid it would be waste of time. I firmly believe that had the Government of this country managed their business as they should have done they would not have got the country into the mess into which they have got it and there would not have been the necessity for this Bill, for the quota or for any quota at all.
I am sorry that Senator the McGillycuddy of the Reeks finds it difficult to follow my Tipperary tongue. I am not bothering about that. Anyone will recognise me far better as a Tipperary man than Senator The McGillycuddy of the Reeks as a Kerryman. I would point out to Senator Bagwell, another Tipperaryman, that this quota system is not the result of the economic war and that it is quite separate from the economic war. I would ask Senators who think it is, to account for the fact that every country in the world is turning towards the quota system at present. We trade with Germany on a quota system and we have no quarrel with Germany. Canada is trading with England on the quota system and so is the Argentine and so are various other countries. The fact that there has been what is called the economic war going on, is made an excuse for everything, but that is one argument that will not hold as far as the quotas are concerned. I believe that if the economic war were finished in the morning the quota would still exist.
I agree with the statement of Senator Bagwell. There is not the slightest doubt that if this Government had not gone out of its way to bring about this situation—they have done it deliberately; they have gone out of their way to throw every possible difficulty in the way of the country—the quota would not be what it is. If they had dealt with the British in a reasonable and honourable way the quota would be quite reasonable, and entirely different to what it is to-day.
Might we return to our muttons? There is no question but that what the House is anxious about is that it is asked to pass a measure dealing with many things in regard to which we have extreme doubts. The Minister has told us quite plainly that he is not at the present moment able to say how exactly this Bill will work out. I think everybody has come to the same conclusion. The House is evidently anxious about the fact that if we pass this Bill without imposing some time limit, or having some arrangement by which some review of its operations can be made, we may commit ourselves to something that may prove a very costly experiment. I would like to point out that there have been various statements as to the amount of money which will be expended under this Bill, but I have seen no figures from the Minister. I thought that, before this stage of the Bill would have arrived, we would have had a statement from the Minister showing what this Bill is going to cost the country. He may produce it later, and I should be very glad to see it, because it would clear the air considerably. At present, however, we have not got it.
We are all afraid that we may land the country into all sorts of troubles about which we know nothing at the present moment. We therefore want a period fixed at the end of which a report will be made to the House setting forth what has happened, the expenditure incurred, and how the Bill has worked generally. If we were dealing with the matter in an ordinary business way, say through the manager of a bank, we would ask that a report be furnished at the end of 12 months as to how the scheme had worked out. I think there is a good deal in what Senator Comyn says, that when you hit hard the thing must expire before that time. Long before that, however, the Minister will be in a position to arrange for that review, but he may be up against difficulties which Senators who have put forward this proposal are not taking fully into consideration. I think the Minister, however, could get over the difficulty if he would undertake to bring forward a full report at the end of, say, a year showing how the Bill had been operated, what its cost had been, what difficulties he had to meet and how he surmounted them. Of what avail would this amendment be if it were passed? If we pass it the Bill will go back to the Dáil and the amendment will be chucked at our heads so that we get nowhere. It would be far better if we could arrive at an agreement with the Minister under which he would undertake to make a report at a certain date. I think it would be far more advantageous if we got an undertaking from the Minister to tell us at the end of the year what had happened, than to pass an amendment limiting the operation of the Bill to a year.
The suggestion made by Senator Jameson could hardly be effective unless we introduce something in the nature of a time-limit. The promise of the Minister to review the situation, say this day twelve months, would, I think, be a somewhat precarious undertaking to give, because it is quite possible—I think, and hope, it is certain— that the present Government will be out of existence by that time and the Minister would be unable to fulfil his undertaking. Perhaps it would meet the situation if the amendment were amended to read as follows:—
This Act shall remain in force until the 30th day of September, 1935, and, if not renewed, shall then expire.
The necessity for reproducing the Bill or appealing to the House for its renewal, would necessitate such a review of the situation as Senator Jameson suggests, but merely to leave it to the good-will and discretion of the Minister to make such a review of the situation is, I think, a very unreliable and unsatisfactory way of meeting the point.
Senator Jameson, as he always is, is very reasonable, and I think the House ought to adopt the suggestion which he has made. We ought, of course, at the end of twelve months or eighteen months, to get some sort of account as to how the Bill is working. I would say that when the Appropriation Bill comes on, we would probably get most of these particulars, but what Senator Jameson has said cannot be contradicted, that if you limit the operation of this Bill to twelve months you may as well have no Bill at all. If there is to be any limitation I think it should be for a reasonable time, such time as the Minister would say would be sufficient to enable him to do his work efficiently. It is said that by making this Bill a permanent measure we are adding fuel to the economic war or the quota war. We do nothing of the kind, but if we limit it to twelve months our opponents will say: "You had better settle with us now, you have only twelve months to settle in any case." I think we should support our own Government in these matters as far as we reasonably may, and that if you are to have any time limit it will be such a time limit as will allow twelve months, eighteen months or two years effectual work. I do not know whether the Minister would agree to any time limit, but if he does, I am sure that the House ought to agree with him and not make this Bill like other Bills, a bone of contention between the two Houses, because if we say that the measure should expire in twelve months it is perfectly obvious that the Dáil will not accept that amendment.
Senators seem to forget that at the end of 12 months the Seanad, perhaps, will not be here at all. We shall have passed away. We shall not be in a position to discuss this measure which, I believe, is a very bad measure and one that will have far-reaching effects on the country. It has been represented here that the Bill is brought forward to meet the quota. I do not agree at all that it is brought forward to meet the quota because the trouble was there before the quota was imposed and it is the trouble that has caused the quota. Why have the exports of Canada not been limited under the quota? As far as I know Canada has increased her supplies to the English market. I do not see any reason, apart from the trouble, why Ireland should not have held at least her former supplies to the English market. The price fixed for beef under this Bill we are told is going to be 25/- and some people seem to think that that will mean a temporary improvement in the cattle trade. Some of the fattening counties seem to be very enthusiastic over the Bill, but I can assure you that counties like Donegal, Monaghan and Cavan are not so very enthusiastic about this Bill. We, in these counties, feel that this Bill will be very injurious to us. Even in the Belfast market yesterday the price paid for cattle was 40/6 per cwt. It is thought a great thing to fix a price here of 25/-. If the Seanad gives its consent to a Bill which, it believes, is a bad Bill for the country, it is a bad principle on which to act and we should limit the duration of the operation of the Bill to 12 months.
This Bill involves the voting by the Dáil of large sums of money. That will involve discussion on the procedure under the Bill, in the first instance about March, when the Vote on Account is asked for, and, later, on the Estimates. If Senator Toal says that there will be no Seanad in existence then, the Dáil will, at least, have power to prevent the further operation of the Bill by refusing to vote the necessary moneys. It is clearly contemplated that there will be delay in bringing into effect the different Parts of this Bill. The Minister pointed out on Second Reading that the price-fixing part might be brought into effect and that it might be found unnecessary to bring any other Part of the Bill into effect. I do not think that that is likely to happen but that is how the Bill is drafted. It is, however, contemplated that there will be delays between the bringing into effect of one Part of the Bill and the bringing into effect of another Part of the Bill. Taking these facts into account, to talk about the expiry of the Bill in 12 months is to attempt to nullify the effects of the Second Reading vote. From what has been said here to-day, I take it that the statement last week by the Minister, as to the purpose of the Bill, has had no effect. The Minister made very clear here and in the Dáil that the Bill was designed to meet the situation created by the quota. Senator Toal and others would evidently prefer that there should be no such Bill. Assuming that 25/-, which was indicated as the possible price, be the price under this Bill, then Senator Toal and others would prefer that the price should not be 25/- but should be, as at present, 18/-, 19/- or 20/-.
We should prefer an open market, where we would get the price which they are getting in Northern Ireland.
That is what the Senator would prefer but, as it happens, the absence of this Bill would not bring Northern Ireland prices and the presence of this Bill will ensure the difference between the present price of 18/- and the prospective price of 25/- or 26/-. That is the position in which Senators are asking the Seanad to place the farmers—that they should be without the Bill, because the limit of 12 months is in effect a nullification of the Second Reading approval. That is the position Senators are asking the House to agree to, a nullification of last week's vote. The operation of some portions of this Bill will certainly be delayed for some months. In the intervening time, between the bringing in of the final Part of the Bill and the end of September, Senators are asking the Minister to give a full and complete report of the effects of the test and experiment. Nobody seriously concerned with the carrying out of such an experiment could give a fair report at the end of that time. Consequently, I take it that the intention of this amendment is to recover from the shock of having given Second Reading support to this Bill.
When I saw the amendment put down by Senator Counihan, I regarded it as an absolutely frivolous amendment. I thought that Senator Counihan was only trying to undo what the Seanad had done in passing the Second Reading. I could not imagine any sensible Senator thinking that anything could be done, even in the way of giving the Bill a trial, within 12 months. Evidently, some Senators were afraid there might be some good in the Bill and, therefore, did not like to take the risk of voting against Second Reading, but, on the other hand, they want to give as much trouble as possible by making the Bill practically ineffective, because it could not be effective over a 12 months' period. I thought we had got a number of Senators to see that the quota was a different thing from the economic war measures but, evidently, the fact that other Dominions have to suffer quotas, same as ourselves, has no effect on certain Senators here.
I do not believe that I ever said this was a temporary measure, although Senator Counihan based his argument on that. Neither, I hope, is my position so temporary that I may not be here 12 months hence. I think that I am much more likely to be available 12 months hence than the Senator is. It was pointed out that, as we had brought in amendments to this Bill here, we had not drafted the Bill very well. The reason that we brought in amendments here was that a number of matters, raised on Committee Stage in the Dáil, had to be dealt with. On account of the time table at the end of the session, the Committee Stage and Report Stage of the Bill in the Dáil were taken on the same day and it was agreed that I should take amendments which I accepted in here.
I did explain the cost of the Bill twice—in opening the debate and in closing it. I gave all the figures, so far as they could be forecast. If Senator Jameson looks up the debate on Second Reading he will see that I gave the figures. Senator Counihan said here the other day that he approved of that part of the Bill which refers to the disposal of old cows. Does Senator Counihan, or even a more sensible Senator than he on his side of the House, think that any company is going to put £20,000 into a meat-meal factory which is to work only until next September? It is ridiculous to think that it would do such a thing and Senator Counihan knows that it is ridiculous. Senator Counihan is much more concerned with making this Bill a failure than with any report which may be made at the end of 12 months. However, Senator Wilson dealt with him sufficiently in that regard. Senator Counihan also approves of the tinning factory, which is going to cost more than £20,000 in all probability. We can give the tinning factory very good protection under this Bill but neither the company interested in the tinning factory nor the company interested in the meat-meal factory, which will take six months to build, is going to commence operation next April or May to conclude in September. They are not going to sink capital to the extent of £20,000, £30,000 or £40,000, as the case may be, in an undertaking subject to those conditions.
This amendment could have no other effect than to nullify the Bill. Even if the amendment is passed, that does not say that the Bill is not going to continue but the amendment gives a suggestion of uncertainty and instability with regard to it.
I was asked about a report at the end of 12 months. There can be practically nothing done under this Bill without an order so that, in effect, we shall be reporting to the Seanad practically every week. When the time comes to fix a price, we have to make an order, which will be laid on the Table and respecting which any Senator can raise a question. Any time we bring in the provision regarding the marking of cattle into operation, we must make an order and any Senator can draw attention to the matter. Everything done under this Bill is done by order, which must be laid on the Table of both Houses, so that there is a report, not at the end of 12 months but very frequently, with regard to every provision of the Bill. So far as the Government trading provisions are concerned, it is provided that the auditor's report must be laid before both Houses at the end of the year. The position is that we must make a report of Government trading at the end of the year. That is provided for in the Bill. In fact everything done under the Bill must be done by order. Nothing can be done without first coming to both Houses. If there is any matter that Senators wish to raise they can do so when these orders are laid before them. I find it very hard to understand Senator Toal's objection to the Bill. If the people in Monaghan, Cavan and Donegal object to the Bill I do not know what their objection can be because, as Senator Johnson put it very clearly, we hope to increase prices under it. We cannot depress prices, but we hope to increase them, and surely it is to the advantage of the people in Monaghan, Cavan and Donegal that prices should be increased.
And a guaranteed market as well.
At any rate, the Bill is designed to increase prices, and why the agricultural community in Monaghan or in any other county should object to it I cannot see. I can see Senator Counihan's objection all right, but I cannot see Senator Toal's objection on behalf of the agricultural community.
The Minister has stated that I am in agreement with the setting up of the two factories named in the Bill, the tinning factory and the meat-meal factory. I cannot see what these two factories have to do with this Bill. Why should they not be set up independently of this Bill? I will certainly object to their establishment if it means that this Bill, when it becomes an Act, will have to be continued in force in order to preserve their existence. I am sure that those who will be concerned in the establishment of these two factories will have some agreement with the Government, and that the Seanad believes that, so far as they are concerned, whatever Government comes into power, if the present Government goes out, it will continue to honour the bond given by this Government. Senator Comyn and Senator Wilson said that this Bill could not be tried out in 12 months. I would point out to them that we have several Acts on the statute book which are only continued from year to year under the Expiring Laws (Continuance) Act. Why not include this measure in the annual Expiring Laws (Continuance) Act? To limit the operation of this Bill to a period of 12 months does not mean that the Bill, when it becomes an Act, should cease to be operative after that date.
I do not want to refer to the economic war, but Senator Johnson and Senator Robinson have stated that the quota has been responsible for this Bill. I agree, but these Senators have tried to make the House and the country believe that if there was a settlement of the economic dispute to-morrow the quota would still continue to operate. Is there any sensible man in this House or in the country who believes that? If there was a settlement of it I believe that the quota would go. I do not propose to press this amendment to a division but rather to ask the House to leave it over for Report. In the meantime I will consult with the Minister with a view to submitting an amendment which would meet with his approval fixing some time limit for the Bill, because I think the House should not allow the Bill to pass without putting some limit on its duration.
Is Senator Counihan withdrawing his amendment?
Yes, to be introduced on Report Stage.
The House agrees to the withdrawal of the amendment.
Is the House agreed to give the Senator leave to withdraw his amendment?
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 2 agreed to.
In this Act—
the expression "the Minister" means the Minister for Agriculture;
the word "sheep" includes rams, ewes, wethers, and lambs;
the expression "registered premises." means premises registered in a register kept by the Minister in pursuance of this Act;
the expression "marketable product" includes meat preserved in a barrel, tin, jar, or other container, but does not include fresh meat or meat preserved and sold otherwise than in a container.
I move amendment No. 2:—
Section 3. After line 40 to insert the words "the word ‘meat' means meat derived from cattle or from sheep and includes all edible parts of the carcases of cattle and sheep."
The word "meat" has to be defined, because otherwise it would, of course, include hams, bacon, chicken and other things. In this Bill the word "meat" is only intended to mean the meat derived from cattle and sheep.
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment No. 3:—
Section 3. After the word "preserved" in line 1 to insert the words "and sold."
The object of this amendment is to bring the definition into line with other sections.
I suggest that the insertion of the words "and sold" where proposed would make the section read rather curiously. It would read "the expression ‘marketable product' includes meat preserved and sold in a barrel, tin, jar or other container." The words proposed to be inserted would, I think, come in better after the word "container."
I agree, and I ask the leave of the House to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move amendment No. 4:—
Section 3. To add at the end of the section the words: "references to the business of slaughtering animals of a particular kind or of particular kinds shall be construed as including the slaughter of animals of such particular kind or kinds by a person for use in or for the purposes of a business carried on by such person."
Without this amendment a person who sells meat by retail and who also slaughters cattle might hold that the slaughtering of cattle was not his business, but that his real business was selling meat by retail. There is the possibility, therefore, that a person who both slaughtered cattle and sold meat by retail might escape under some of the provisions of the Bill unless this matter was dealt with separately in the way proposed.
Does this mean that a person will not be allowed to kill a sheep and sell it to his workmen or to his neighbours? That has been the practice for some time and it has afforded much relief to farmers. This Bill is not going to relieve farmers to such an extent that it will not be necessary for them to continue that practice. Are farmers to be prohibited from killing a bullock, a heifer or a sheep and selling it to their workmen or neighbours?
This particular amendment has nothing whatever to do with the question that has been raised by Senator Miss Browne. A later section in the Bill deals with that. This amendment only deals with this point: we have two registers, one for victuallers and the other for slaughtering premises. In many cases the one person will be on both, that is where he kills and sells. This is to ensure that a person who both kills and sells cannot maintain that his real business is the selling of meat and that killing is only incidental to it. He must also be registered for killing.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 3, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 4 to 8, inclusive, agreed to.
(1) The Minister shall cause to be kept the following registers, that is to say:—
(a) a register (in this Act referred to as the register of slaughtering premises) of premises in which is carried on the business of slaughtering cattle or the business of slaughtering sheep or the business of slaughtering both cattle and sheep; and
I move amendment No. 5:—
Section 9, sub-section (1). After the word "cattle" in line 50 to insert the words "for human consumption in Saorstát Eireann."
The register, as defined, might possibly include knackers because they would probably be slaughtering diseased or injured cattle for meat meal. We do not want to include such people. There is also the factory that I mentioned on another occasion which would deal with old cows for making meal. That factory might possibly export some of the edible products, and therefore we are putting in the words in the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment No. 6:—
The Cathaoirleach resumed the Chair.
Section 9, sub-section (1). After the word "sheep" in line 51 and also in line 52 to insert the words "for human consumption in Saorstát Eireann".
Amendment agreed to.
Section 9, as amended, agreed to.
I move amendment No. 7:—
New section. Before Section 10 to insert a new section as follows:—
"10.—(1) It shall not be lawful for any person to carry on in any premises or place whatsoever other than registered slaughtering premises the business of slaughtering cattle for human consumption in Saorstát Eireann or the business of slaughtering sheep for human consumption in Saorstát Eireann or the business of slaughtering both cattle and sheep for human consumption in Saorstát Eireann.
(2) It shall not be lawful for any person to carry on in any premises or place whatsoever other than registered victualling premises the business of selling beef, veal, mutton, and lamb, or any of them.
(3) Every person who shall carry on any business in contravention of this section shall be guilty of an offence under this section and shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds or, at the discretion of the Court, to imprisonment for any term not exceeding three months or to both such fine and such imprisonment."
I do not want to oppose this amendment, but I should like to point out that if it is passed it will cause great hardship to many farmers. It has been a common practice for farmers to kill sheep and to sell portion of the carcases to their workmen or to neighbours. Many people kill their own sheep, and if they are not able to use the meat in their own households they would have to sell or to give some of it away. Farmers cannot afford to give anything away at present. They would be prohibited from slaughtering sheep unless the section is amended, by providing for licences or something of that kind. If the section is passed as it stands, the loss inflicted on farmers will be a serious one. From the Minister's point of view I can realise that in the working of the Bill a provision giving permission to slaughter should be restricted in its scope, but some amendment could be devised by which farmers, under licence, could slaughter one or two sheep weekly. I wish to call the Minister's attention to another matter, with a view to having this section amended on the Report Stage. Mental hospitals and other institutions kill sheep and cattle for use by the inmates. They also supply the attendants with meat. They will not be able to supply the attendants if the section passes in its present form, and as a result there would be a certain amount of hardship inflicted on the attendants in these institutions. The meat killed in these places is not sold to the public.
I wish to stress the views expressed regarding this section, which will be a great hardship on many farmers who, since the present difficulty regarding the sale of cattle arose, have been in the habit of slaughtering a heifer or one or two sheep occasionally. The poor people and workmen benefited by that arrangement. I do not see any occasion for smiles at that statement on the Labour Benches. It is much better and more honourable that a man should be able to work and earn the price of meat than that he should be made a beggar, or put on the level of a pauper by being given meat free for purposes that we know perfectly well are not meant to be genuinely charitable at all. I hope an amendment will be brought in, either by the Minister or by some Senator, so that exemptions can be made in the case of farmers who find it impossible to dispose of their cattle and who kill them and sell them very cheaply. These would be exceptional cases and could not be classed with butchers.
Will Senator Miss Browne name any Senators on these benches who she says were smiling?
It really does not arise. Smiles are very useful at times.
There is no mention in the Bill of any special rules or regulations in connection with certain religious communities. I imagine that the Minister knows that the Jewish community have very strict rules with regard to the slaughter of animals for consumption. I do not know if the Bill touches on or interferes with these rules in any respect. I should like the Minister to say if the position of religious communities that have special regulations with regard to the slaughter of cattle has been considered.
There appears to be a certain inconsistency between the proposed new section and Section 25. In the proposed new section there is a prohibition of slaughter in other than registered premises of any animals for human consumption. In Section 25 there is a prohibition, but only for the slaughter for sale for human consumption. These two sections are, to a certain extent, in conflict. The proposed section places a greater restriction on slaughter for any purpose, as against Section 25, which restricts slaughter for sale. That brings me to the point Senator Counihan made. Under this section a farmer could not slaughter sheep for consumption in his own household. Surely that is not intended? If it is intended, like a lot of other Acts on the Statute Book, it simply will not be enforced or will not be observed. I think we ought to have in legislation due respect for the law and for the power to enforce the law. It is astonishing the number of provisions on the Statute Book which are not enforced. It seems a great hardship that the present practice of slaughtering a sheep for a family or for neighbours shall not be allowed to continue. One of the earliest recollections of my youth was how families used to slaughter a sheep every week or so and divide it. When you come to tie all this up with regulations, it either makes life impossible or the regulations are not observed. I wish the Minister would show some hope of reconsidering the matter and allowing the latitude which at present exists with regard to sharing between friends to continue. There is no object in disguising the fact that money does pass, but it passes between a little circle of friends and relations. I think it would be intolerable if that were stopped by the heavy hand of regulation.
If what Senator Sir John Keane anticipates were to happen, I think a good deal could be said against this amendment. From my reading of Section 10 (1) I think that it relates only to the business of slaughter and not to the slaughter of cattle and sheep by a farmer for consumption by his family and workmen; or slaughter by a gentleman down the country at Christmas of a bullock or a sheep for the purpose of distribution amongst neighbours. I think that that could not be regarded as the business of slaughtering. I think the operative word in the proposed section is "business". The Minister I am sure will be able to explain the matter more fully than I can.
Most of the large colleges and religious educational establishments have farms attached to them and slaughter all their own meat. This would be a very serious matter for them.
They can do that under the Bill.
They cannot do it under the amendment. I should like the Minister to explain what "the business of slaughtering cattle" means.
I should say it means the trade or business of slaughtering cattle.
This amendment would seem to include those places where cattle are slaughtered on a fairly large scale.
Of course, the governing section is the section quoted by Senator Sir John Keane. The intention of the Bill is obvious. It says that it shall not be lawful for any cattle or sheep to be slaughtered for sale for human consumption in Saorstát Eireann other than in registered premises. That was the Bill as it stood before this amendment was brought in. I shall deal with the amendment in a minute. The Bill deals with slaughtering for sale for human consumption in Saorstát Eireann. That is that they are to be slaughtered for sale and to be consumed in Saorstát Eireann; so that these institutions that slaughter cattle and sheep for their inmates were exempt. As to the amendment, we consider that "the business of slaughtering cattle for human consumption" was really the phrase to be relied upon. I am quite prepared, however, if the Seanad wishes, to have it made clear and to put in the words "for sale" and make it read "the business of slaughtering cattle for sale for human consumption." That would go this far, at any rate, that where a farmer wants to kill a sheep for his own use or an institution wants to kill cattle or sheep for the use of the inmates they are exempt. It does not, however, exempt the farmer who kills either a beast or a sheep for sale amongst his neighbours. There is nothing whatever to prevent his coming under the Bill, because we have avoided taking any discretion with regard to registration. If any person applies to the Minister for registration he must register him unless the local authorities prevent it under some public health provision. Apart from that, if a farmer or anybody else applies to the Minister to be registered in the register of slaughtering premises, the Minister must register him. So that a farmer who kills a beast or three or four sheep every week or every month is automatically registered and comes under the Bill if he applies for admission to the register. He has no complaint therefore. I think that if the words "for sale" were put in there they should meet the difficulty.
Will that cover the institutions?
It will, because they are not killing for sale.
The point is that for various reasons some of these institutions do sell to their employees. Between this and the Report Stage the Minister ought to consider that in order to safeguard the position in that respect. Possibly they would not apply for a licence for sale because they do not sell for profit. It is a matter of convenience to the employees. Take the Portrane Mental Hospital, where there is a population of 2,000 people within the institution and where a large number of employees have houses within the precincts of the institution. For convenience sake, the public authority sells to its employees, not for profit but for convenience. Between this and the Report Stage the Minister ought to go into the matter and have a suitable amendment drafted to deal with it, as it is of importance.
The Minister did not reply to the point I raised about a farmer killing a sheep for his own use and selling portion to his workmen.
He will have to pay 5/- for every sheep he kills.
He must be a regular skinflint to sell meat to his workmen. He ought to give it to them.
He is only selling portion to his workmen.
You have great sympathy for the farmers.
The farmer who is going to sell a pound of mutton to his workman for 1/- is a skinflint.
I suggest to the Minister that he could give a licence for the killing of one sheep. The Labour Party say: "Let him pay the 5/-." If he pays the 5/- he will have to put that on the quarter or half sheep that he will sell to his agricultural labourers. Consequently the agricultural labourers, who were perhaps getting free meat, will under this have to pay. That is the sympathy they are getting from the Labour Party.
Perhaps the Senator will tell us where the agricultural labourers get free meat. I have not heard of it.
Would not those farmers who were registered have to have their premises inspected, and would they not have to submit to all kinds of regulations as if they were butchers? It is only hypocrisy for the Minister to say that they can be registered. Farmers will have all these inspectors coming about their places and directing them what to do.
The inspectors cannot tell the farmer to do anything about his premises. If he did his work in a pigsty the inspector cannot object. He will collect the 5/- fee, but he has nothing to say to the place where the work is done.
But the farmer will be only selling a very small quantity.
He may be competing with other traders.
They are competing on equal terms so far as the price of sheep is concerned.
I read this section, and the proposed new section in this way: Where it speaks of the business of slaughtering cattle, or the business of slaughtering sheep, it might be said to refer to the business of the slaughtering for money, not to an institution or a private person who might be selling the goods himself. But if a farmer came to slaughter, would that mean the business of slaughtering? Neither paragraph (a) Section 9, nor the new section would apply if my reading is correct. It does not refer to the actual killing. That is dealt with in Section 25 which states:—
(1) It shall not be lawful for any cattle or sheep to be slaughtered for sale for human consumption in Saorstát Eireann in any premises or place whatsoever other than registered slaughtering premises.
But this section and amendment deal with the business of slaughtering which I think is different from the act of slaughter.
May I ask the Minister a question in regard to the Jewish community; whether their rights are preserved under this Bill?
As far as the Jewish community are concerned, they may register; or, if they get their slaughtering done in a public abattoir, there is nothing in the Bill to interfere with them.
I wonder if when the Minister was drafting this Bill he realised its possible repercussions? A man is registered first of all and has to pay the registration fee. If he kills one sheep he has to pay 5/-. No one has a right to say that he is working on equal rights with the butcher. The farmer who kills one sheep may only sell one forequarter to his workers. The payment of the 5/- may be avoided by certain farmers but you may find a busy policeman or a labourer who does not like a particular farmer reporting him for not having registered. I think the way out of this difficulty would be to add a new section, with a separate definition of the business, and which would exclude killing for agricultural or domestic purposes connected with the farmer's holding. I think that would cover the ground.
It would be a very dangerous thing to define what is simple. To explain the obvious is the most difficult thing in the world. The word "business" has a clear meaning —everyone understands it. In my opinion, the killing of a sheep by a farmer for use in his own household, and for sale to his workmen, is not carrying on the business of slaughtering cattle or sheep. I am also of opinion—but I do not put it forward as of any greater worth than the opinion of any other Senator—that the killing of a sheep by a farmer and the selling of a quarter to his workmen is not killing for sale. It is much better to leave the meaning as it is without attempting all these little amendments, which would only make it worse. The Bill is all right as it stands. No one can say to the farmer that the killing of a sheep for his own use and the selling of a quarter of it could be regarded as killing for sale.
Put in an amendment exempting farmers who kill on their own premises not more than two sheep a week.
Two sheep a week would be carrying on business.
The Minister suggests inserting in the amendment the words "for sale." I would accept that amendment to the amendment, putting in the words in the three places in the section where they are necessary.
Amendment, as amended, put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 10 stand part of the Bill."
I would like to ask the Minister if he would give the committee some idea of what was in his mind with reference to sub-section (3) of Section 10:—
(3) The Minister shall not register any premises in a register kept in pursuance of this Act unless and until he is satisfied that such premises comply with all (if any) relevant regulations and bye-laws made by the local sanitary authority.
Complying with the regulations and bye-laws made by the local sanitary authority, on the face of it, would be pretty reasonable. There is no doubt that there are quite a number of premises in existence now which are not up to the standard of the regulations and bye-laws made by local authorities. It is quite conceivable that for years past there may have been premises in which work was being done which did not strictly comply with all the relevant regulations. It will be a great hardship now if the Minister comes along, in combination with the sanitary authorities, and says: "We are going to use this Act as a means to prevent you from registering or bringing your premises up to date." I hold that the sanitary authorities should be independent of this Act. If the premises are not right the sanitary authorities should be allowed to proceed as they always did in the past. Do not mix up the two authorities. Let the sanitary authority be quite independent. It will be a great injustice to take people summarily and unaware, so to speak.
Furthermore, how is this going to apply to those who casually slaughter? I mean such people as Senator Miss Browne and other Senators have referred to already. We all know that the premises in which farmers casually slaughter animals do not comply in any way with the sanitary conditions of the local sanitary authorities. So long as it is not a business, it does not matter. I think we ought to have some information as to how the Minister proposes to proceed under that sub-section and, if necessary, to safeguard the existing practice in so far as it can be safeguarded.
There was no intention whatsoever of objecting to any premises being registered where the sanitary authority did not object. I had no intention of administering this sub-section in a positive way but only in a negative way, so to speak. That is, if the sanitary authority objects, then we take the premises off the register. If they offer no objection, however, then we register automatically. It is necessary in some form at any rate, because it might appear a bit ridiculous if the sanitary authority actually had told a person to close down and if at the same time he came along and compelled me to register him and went on for some little time carrying on where the sanitary authority had condemned him. It is only where the sanitary authorities would request that the name be not admitted that we would disallow. It may be that the wording is not satisfactory to the Senator, but I can assure him that that is the intention.
I feel that the sanitary authority should be allowed to proceed as at present. If it can do that now satisfactorily, surely it can do it to-morrow under the various Acts. Why cannot the Minister act entirely independently and if there is in law an offence or a nuisance, let the sanitary authority proceed against them?
I have had some experience in this connection. I know of one gentleman, a farmer, who set up a butcher's shop, and before he was allowed to slaughter animals in the shop the sanitary authority sent an inspector and the place had to be inspected. Both the police and the sanitary authorities went there. You cannot set up a shop for slaughtering now without first having an inspection of the premises by the sanitary authority.
I suggest leaving the words "sanitary authority" out of it altogether.
I think it is very desirable that when the local authority object the Minister should not grant a licence, because it is important in the largely populated areas that every person should not be at liberty to get a licence to erect a slaughter house. As a matter of fact, in the City of Dublin for quite a large number of years this has been a most important matter, and the local authority have been considering as far as possible closing down slaughter houses instead of granting additional licences. It is most important, at least in the largely populated centres, that where the local authority have by-laws and regulations with regard to the granting of licences, they should be the authority on this particular matter, and that where they refuse a licence the Minister should not be empowered to grant a licence in such a case.
I really am not convinced by the arguments of Senator Farren. It is possible that we may have the same purpose in view, but I cannot see why the two authorities should be in any way mixed up one with the other. If the sanitary authority have power to prevent this being done, then let them proceed independently, but do not let it go on the Statute Book that the premises must be under all relevant regulations and by-laws made by the sanitary authority, and that the Minister also has power to act. I can picture an inspector going out and saying: "Look here. Here are all those regulations—concrete floor, certain amount of fresh air and so on. The sanitary authority have not refused you, but we will not register you." I hold that the effect of this is to make the Minister an additional sanitary authority.
This section, when passed, might have the effect of repealing the powers of the sanitary authorities, and on that point I think that Senator Sir John Keane ought to reconsider what he has said.
Is not the trouble in the wording of sub-section (3) of Section 10? The words: "until he is satisfied that such premises comply," etc., etc., mean that the Minister has to make an inquiry into the whole situation. Would it not meet the situation if, before he registered those premises, he informed the sanitary authority that he intended to register them? If he hears no more from them, then that ends the business.
That is what we would prefer, if the sanitary authority did not take too long to answer our letters; but that is one of the difficulties. What I wanted under this Bill was to get away from the provisions of the Fresh Meat Act, where the Minister's inspectors must act as inspectors from the sanitary point of view. We tried to avoid it here by leaving it to the sanitary authorities to decide. If they decide that it is all right, then we register; but we do not examine for that purpose at all. As I say, the wording may not be satisfactory to some of the Senators. The words "until he is satisfied" mean until he has satisfied himself that the sanitary authority has no objection.
That is what is causing the trouble.
Before registering, he should notify the sanitary authority. Perhaps that would be better.
Perhaps we could leave that matter over until the Report Stage.
Sections 10 and 11 agreed to.
(1) The Minister may at any time alter or cancel the registration of any premises under this Part of this Act upon the application in writing in the prescribed form and manner of the registered proprietor or, in the case of an individual, the personal representative, or in the case of a body corporate, the liquidator of the registered proprietor of such premises.
(2) The Minister may at any time, without any such application as aforesaid, alter the registration of any premises under this Part of this Act in any respect in which such registration appears to him to be erroneous or misleading.
(3) The Minister may at any time, without any such application as aforesaid, cancel the registration of any premises under this Part of this Act if he is satisfied—
(a) that the registration of such premises was obtained by fraud or by misrepresentation, whether fraudulent or innocent, or
(b) that the business in respect of which such premises are registered has ceased to be carried on in such premises or
(c) that the registered proprietor of such premises, if an individual, has died or, if a body corporate has been dissolved and, in either case, no other person has within one month after such death or dissolution been registered as proprietor of such premises in place of the registered proprietor so dead or dissolved, or
(d) that the registered proprietor of such premises has been adjudicated a bankrupt, or
(e) that the registered proprietor of such premises has been convicted of an offence under any section of this Act.
(4) Before altering or cancelling (otherwise than in accordance with an application in that behalf made under this section) the registration of any premises under this Part of this Act, the Minister shall give at least one month's notice in writing of his intention so to cancel or alter such registration to the registered proprietor of such premises or his personal representative (if any) or its liquidator (as the case may be) and shall consider any representations made within seven days after the service of such notice by such registered proprietor or personal representative or liquidator (as the case may be) or by any such registered licensee and may, if he thinks fit, cause an inquiry to be held in relation to the matter.
(5) A notice of the Minister's intention to cancel or alter the registration of premises under this Part of this Act may be served by delivering it to the person to whom it is addressed or by leaving it for him with a person over sixteen years of age on the premises to which it relates or by sending it by post to the person to whom it is addressed at his last known place of abode.
(6) Where the Minister has cancelled under this section the registration of any premises, the Minister may at any time thereafter refuse, subject to the provisions of this Act, to register such premises in any register kept in pursuance of this Part of this Act.
I move amendment No. 8:—
Section 12, sub-section (3). To delete in lines 12-13 the words "cancel the registration of any premises under this Part of this Act if he is satisfied" and to substitute therefor the words "apply to the Circuit Court of the circuit in which any premises are registered under this Part of this Act for an order cancelling the registration of such premises, and the court, after hearing the registered proprietor, may make an order cancelling such registration if it is satisfied."
I want to say that if the decision was left solely to the Minister, I do not believe he would do anything very drastic or unreasonable. Let us consider, however, the position that will occur when those inspectors go round. If the inspectors were permanent officials of the Department of Agriculture there might be something to be said for it, but we are appointing here hundreds of inspectors—temporary men—and it is difficult to know what sort of men they will be. They would be, I suppose, of all shades of political opinion, and it is terrible to put into the hands of temporary inspectors the power of cancelling the registration of a man's premises and the power of depriving such a man of his livelihood, because that is what it means. If all the regulations which are in this Bill are not complied with, the Minister takes power to cancel the slaughtering or selling licence of a butcher. We all know that the Minister, or any Minister in those cases, understands very little about the reports which come to him and that in nearly nine cases out of ten he just signs his name or his name is signed to the order. The report is made by the inspector. It goes through the officials. There is no possibility, up to the time the decision is given, of the proprietor having an opportunity of stating his case. I think the House will agree that the proper place for arriving at a decision as to whether a man has committed an offence or not is the court, where the accuser will be confronted by the accused and where it will be possible to cross-examine him as to whether the offence was committed or not. An impartial decision will be given by the judge, who will not be influenced by the reports of any inspector, but who will judge the case solely on its merits.
One provision in this clause is that a man may lose his licence by reason of not being able to meet his debts and claiming the protection of the court. There are cases of people who, through no fault of their own, are not able to meet their liabilities and become bankrupts. To become a bankrupt, as was said in the Dáil, is not a crime, and to become a bankrupt in any other walk of life except the victualling business up to the present did not prevent a man from continuing in his business if he was able to make a satisfactory settlement with his creditors. In this case, I think the Minister for his own sake should let it go to the court, because if a decision is taken by the Minister, cancelling a licence, he will have all sorts of political intrigues by members of his own Party and by Senators and T.D.'s of every Party, with a view to getting back the licence, and the decision he will have to give cannot but be to some extent prejudiced. For that reason, I ask the Minister and the House to accept the amendment.
I think Senator Counihan is under a complete misapprehension with regard to this particular section because it says that the Minister may at any time without any such application—that refers to the previous two sub-sections— cancel the registration of any premises under this Part of this Act if he is satisfied (a) that the registration of such premises was obtained by fraud or misrepresentation and (b) that the business in respect of which such premises are registered has ceased to be carried on. It does not say that an inspector can report some person on a frivolous point, for political motives, and that the Minister will cancel the registration. There is no provision in the section for that. The Minister, if he is satisfied that certain definite things mentioned in this particular section take place, has then power to cancel the registration. As far as I read the section, there does not appear to be any reason why the authority which granted the licence under certain specified conditions will not have power to revoke the licence without having to go through the procedure of applying to the Circuit Court. If a licensee does not comply with certain well-defined regulations, surely it is not necessary to go to the Circuit Court.
He is not going into any new business. The butcher is carrying on the business as he had been carrying it on.
But if a butcher carries on his business in a strictly lawful way, as he has done, there is no fear of his licence being cancelled.
If he becomes bankrupt—that is one instance.
If he becomes bankrupt, the question will be raised and the Minister has to be satisfied. I do not imagine that any Minister, no matter what Party he belongs to, would take advantage of a section of an Act to prevent a man continuing to earn his livelihood. If the Minister is satisfied that the Act has not been complied with in certain respects, he has power to revoke the licence, but not on the whim of an inspector. Therefore, I think the Senator is needlessly alarmed with regard to the whole procedure.
I think there would be great practical difficulty in carrying out what Senator Counihan suggests in this amendment, because the Circuit Court does not sit continuously. It certainly does not sit continuously in the same town, and a man who has obtained registration by fraud would be allowed to carry on for three months in despite of the Minister. I think there is very little also in the point made by Senator Counihan, that bankruptcy in itself should not be a reason for withdrawing registration. If a man becomes bankrupt, his premises vest in the assignee. There is another difficulty, that a bankrupt cannot lawfully enter into a contract imposing on him an obligation exceeding £20.
But he can trade at present.
He can do a cash trade in order to live, but his premises vest in the assignee. How can he carry on business in registered premises when they vest in the assignee? And why should a man who is bankrupt——
Not in this Act. It is one of the provisions in the various Bankruptcy Acts.
The phrase is "has been a bankrupt" and not "is a bankrupt."
It says "... the registered proprietor of the premises has been adjudicated a bankrupt." The words "has been" there mean adjudication after the passing of this Act. The Act is supposed to be operated in the future, and that is the reason the sentence is framed in that way. The registration can be withdrawn if the Minister finds that the registered proprietor of the premises has been adjudicated a bankrupt.
That applies to the past.
After registration has been made.
That applies to the past, limited to the time of registration.
I think that is the clear meaning of the section on the grammatical construction of sub-section (b). The Minister may withdraw the registration if he is satisfied that the registered proprietor has been adjudicated a bankrupt. The plain meaning of that is that if a person who has registered his premises becomes a bankrupt during the period when the premises are registered, the Minister can cancel the registration. That is all it means.
That is what the Senator says. It is his opinion, but it is not what is in the Bill.
With all respect to the opinion of Senator Jameson, I think that is what the Bill means.
Supposing a law was passed giving the Minister power to sentence a man to a fine of £100 or even to imprisonment, what would the Senator say? That is the principle that is absolutely enshrined in this Bill—power to cancel the registration of a premises. What is a more grievous punishment of a man than to be deprived of his licence? Surely, it is a principle of all justice that a man should not be deprived of his licence without due process of law. To deprive a man of his licence should involve the skilled interpretation of law and the examination of witnesses. Here is the Minister taking the power of a judge to decide the relevancy and the weight of evidence where in ordinary cases you would have counsel on both sides and learned judges—all men well versed in the law. I think the Minister should welcome any machinery which would take that responsibility out of his hands. You talk here of fraud and misrepresentation. Well, fraud and misrepresentation are very much a matter of evidence and the interpretation of the law. Senator Comyn appears to think that any layman could judge of fraud. The little knowledge that I have of the law shows me that cases have gone to court after court on the question as to whether certain acts constituted misrepresentation or not. The Minister should not be given power to ruin a man simply on his own judgment, no doubt interpreted honestly, without the protection that the ordinary machinery of the law gives to other citizens.
It seems to me that all these arguments mean that you are to refuse to give the Minister power that is already possessed with regard to these particular matters by local authorities all over the country. Senator Sir John Keane talked about a layman interpreting the law. It is a notorious fact that every day in the week under their by-laws the municipal authorities are making orders closing premises and refusing licences for premises. In such cases there is no appeal to the circuit courts because the by-laws are well defined. I tell Senator Sir John Keane what is a fact —that in Dublin every day, in the public health department, they are issuing closing orders against particular premises.
Yes, until they are put into proper repair.
They refuse licences for the opening of slaughterhouses and they are closing slaughterhouses. There is no appeal. Is not that putting men out of business just as much as doing it under this section to which objection is taken? There is a whole lot of talk about depriving a man of his licence but at present, under certain well-defined conditions, where a man does not comply with these conditions his licence will be taken away. That is doing no more than the public health authorities in every town in the country are doing already under their by-laws.
I beg your pardon. There is no appeal with regard to by-laws and the closing of premises.
Senator Farren must remember that we may have to endure the evils that are there. But why should this Bill, that is to confer so many blessings on the country, impose new penalties on the people? Are there not plenty of penalties on the people already? Here you are putting on new penalties under this Bill. And the question of sanitation that has been referred to has nothing to do with it. There are clauses about bankruptcy; clauses about misrepresentation and clauses about other things like that. I do not think that Senator Farren's statement that the sanitary authorities can disqualify premises under the sanitary laws has anything to do with what we are talking about. These things are there already and they are law, but the penalties under this Bill are not law yet.
The point I wanted to make is in reference to the statement about putting a man out of business. All over the country to-day orders are made by the sanitary authorities and from these orders there is no appeal to the Circuit Court. Senator Jameson may shake his head at that but I say it is a fact—that under the by-laws of the public health authorities all over the country the local authorities are entitled, through their sanitary officers, to make orders closing premises and refusing licences for opening premises for certain businesses. From these orders there is no appeal to the Circuit Courts and you are going to refuse the Minister power to make an order revoking a licence under certain well-defined conditions——
They were given this power for the public good.
Under the Sanitation Acts the power is not given that the Minister is asking for here. There is no question about bankruptcy or fraudulent misrepresentation or things like that. I ask Senator Farren are these conditions inserted under the Sanitation Acts?
No, but the same principle applies.
Is it in the Sanitation Acts that if a person becomes a bankrupt his licence is to be taken away from him?
Then really and truly we are arguing from a different standpoint. These are brand new things and a man's livelihood is to be taken away from him without any appeal. The Minister is to be put in as a judge of such things. That is what the whole argument is about.
What is the difference? If a man, through fraud or misrepresentation, obtains a licence from the Minister's Department, surely, the person granting that licence is entitled on evidence, if it is proved to the Minister's satisfaction that the licence was obtained by fraud and misrepresentation, to revoke the licence or cancel it.
That is the whole point. This is a question of the Minister exercising judicial functions; that is the whole point of it. We say that the Minister should not be put in the position of being a judge in a matter where he himself is interested. We say that where the individual is going to be deprived of the right of using his premises that that should not be done without the protection of the Circuit Judge being given him. The man should not be left at the Minister's mercy. The ordinary citizen is entitled to have such cases tried before a court and not have them decided by the Minister.
And the man is entitled to trade for six months until the appeal is adjudicated on, because he fraudulently obtained a licence?
Who said he got it fraudulently? That has to be proved.
His application is built on fraud and mainly fraud. He gets a licence through fraudulent misrepresentation, and then for six or 12 months he is entitled to trade until his case comes on for trial before the Circuit Judge.
Under Section 10 it is laid down that the application shall be in writing in the prescribed form. We do not know what the prescribed form is to be, or what the Minister will require to have stated on the application. The Minister then issues a certificate. Under sub-section (3) of this section, if the Minister finds that the business in respect of which the premises are registered has ceased to be carried on, he may cancel the registration. Surely that can be done without an appeal to the Circuit Court. Under paragraph (c) of sub-section (3) of Section 12, if the person has died there will be no need to go to the Circuit Court in order to cancel the registration. Then take (e) of sub-section (3)—"that the registered proprietor .... has been convicted of an offence under any section of this Act." That is not by the judgment of the Minister. The conviction is there. Surely there is no need to go to the Circuit Court. That is obvious. Then under (a) and (b) of sub-section (3), if there has been fraud or misrepresentation, presumably, there has been a conviction. I think it is not enough to say that the Minister should be satisfied that there has been fraud. I think there ought to be a conviction there as there has been in the case of (e) of (3). Certainly, if there has been fraud, there should be a conviction before the Minister would have power to revoke the licence on that ground.
Then there comes the question of a representation, whether fraudulent or innocent. I think if the representation has induced the Minister to issue a licence, and that he is satisfied that there has been misrepresentation, that is a good reason for the Minister to cancel the licence. But I would give the registered person an appeal in such a case as that, because once a place has been registered, there is more or less a valuable interest in it and the mere act of the Minister should not, I think, be sufficient to revoke registration on such grounds. Then, as to the question of bankruptcy, I do not know what the purpose there is except it is to protect the farming community from the risk that producers will not be paid for the cattle by the registered proprietor. The fact that a man is registered gives him a certain standing and he would claim: "Well, I am registered by the Minister as proprietor of the premises." Whether that be a justification or not, there would be a presumption that the Minister was satisfied as to his integrity. There may be justification there for cancellation at the Minister's discretion. I am not so sure on that point, but I think I would not be inclined to make it a penal offence for a man to be adjudicated a bankrupt. If Senator Comyn's contention be correct there may be no point in this, but I think the fact of being adjudicated a bankrupt should not involve, on the face of it, the further penalty of depriving a man of his business rights. I would ask the Minister to explain the justification for paragraphs (a) and (d).
Senator Johnson has analysed the reasons for which this registration can be cancelled. I think no Senator could object to paragraphs (b) and (c). It is quite obvious that (b) and (c) are cases where the Minister should have power without any further trouble. With regard to fraud or misrepresentation, I cannot see where any fraud or misrepresentation could be used in looking for registration under this Bill except in one instance, and that is where applicants represent to me that they are approved by the sanitary authority and that I find afterwards they are not so approved. That is the only reason for which I could refuse them registration. I could not refuse them for any other reason. If I cannot refuse them for any reason except that the sanitary authority does not want them, there cannot be misrepresentation or fraud except on that issue.
With regard to bankruptcy, there is the point that Senator Johnson made, that the fact that a person is included in the register kept by the Minister may be used by that person to prove to innocent people that he is all right. In cases where we have men going out buying produce from farmers we have to be careful that they will not deceive the farmer in that way. Senator Counihan says that the Minister cannot attend to these cases personally. There are Senators here, such as Senators Sir John Keane and Jameson, who, one would imagine, were the greatest champions of freedom who ever sat in any Parliament. Yet these Senators allowed three Acts of Parliament to pass through this House containing similar provisions when they were introduced by the former Government. They were not such champions of freedom when the Eggs Act, the Fresh Meat Act, or the Dairy Produce Act were going through this House. Take the fresh meat factory. Senator Sir John Keane knows that people might have thousands of pounds sunk in that factory and yet the Minister, by a stroke of his pen, could remove them from the register. Senator Jameson or Senator Sir John Keane did not use the microscope when these Acts were going through. They were not so active then in the cause of freedom. There was no question raised then. The Minister and the Government then were free to treat people as they liked. It is quite different now, however. The Minister may not now remove the name of any person from this register. They are not going to allow it. Experience has taught us that men become more conservative as they get older, but it would appear that in the case of these particular Senators, they are getting much more concerned about the freedom of the individual as they get older.
We criticised the Meat Act.
My grievance is really that this principle should have been criticised years ago—in the Acts of 1924, 1925, and 1929.
Two wrongs do not make a right.
That is quite true. My grievance is that these Senators did not do their duty as they should have done it at that time. They trusted anything that came before them. They will not trust anything now. That is the point. I have been administering these Acts since I came into office, although I am sure Senator Jameson and Senator Sir John Keane would not depend on me to administer these Acts as impartially as my predecessor. But I have not removed the names of men lightly from the register. First of all the cases have to be reported by the Department's inspector. I have never known a man to be removed from the register for one offence only. There are usually many offences. Before the case comes to me, there has been invariably a threat by the Department that they will report to the Minister. Before it comes to me, there is a first and perhaps, a second offence. Then if I decide to take action, as Senator Counihan knows, T.D.'s of all shades of opinion and Senators of all shades of opinion, come to me and say that this man has committed the offence for some reason over which he had no control at all and that he is really guilty of no offence. He is then usually allowed off until the inspector starts reporting again and then perhaps his name is struck off the register.
There is an appeal under this Bill as sub-section (4) provides that the Minister must give a month's notice and the person affected may appeal for an inquiry within seven days. At that inquiry, he can be represented in person, by a solicitor or by counsel. This inquiry is held by an officer appointed by the Minister who will be an independent person, a person who had nothing whatever to do with the inspection of that person's premises or who had nothing to do with the reports that came from that area. That independent person will hold the inquiry before the appellant's name is removed from the register.
As a matter of fact, I should go a little further than the powers given under this Bill. Paragraph (e) merely provides that cancellation shall take place after the registered proprietor has been convicted of an offence under any section of the Act. In the case of all the other Acts to which I referred —the Eggs Act, the Dairy Produce Act and the Fresh Meat Act—the Ministry were not so lenient. Yet the Senators who were here allowed these Acts to go through. In these cases paragraph (e) read that cancellation was to take place where the Minister was satisfied that the person was guilty of a breach of any of the regulations under the Acts. The judge had not to convict at all. The Minister might convict him and then remove his name. As a matter of fact when this Bill came forward I looked up that point and I said to the draftsman: "Why do you not make that provision the same as in the other Acts." He said to me that he thought that I might not look for such drastic powers, being a more reasonable man. I said that I would look for such provisions and that I would have an amendment ready for the Report Stage putting this provision on a par with the clause in the other Acts. However, judging by the attitude of Senators here, I do not know that they will accept that amendment. I do not know why there should be such partiality, why they should accept from my predecessor a clause giving him such full powers and why they will not give me the right to rule over an ordinary butcher's shop. That is what this amounts to. I do not think that Senators can evade the issue that there is prejudice in this case.
I can assure the Minister that my conscience is perfectly clear and that there is no personal bias at all. I have a distinct recollection of having frequently criticised the infringement of economic liberty in his predecessor's Acts. The records of the Seanad will, I think, show that I made myself rather a nuisance on that score. Whether I was absolutely consistent all through or whether I got worn down by attrition is another matter. After a bit, I may have given up my extra vigilance in despair. Are we to take it from the Minister that that power of cancellation for misrepresentation is in other Acts?
It is even stronger in other Acts.
I do not think that two wrongs should make a right. That is the only matter to which I object. The other matters are matters of fact— questions of sanitation and so on—but here we have a question of motive, which is different. I hope that some amendment will be brought in to deal with this matter on Report Stage.
I accept wholeheartedly Senator Johnson's analysis of the amendment and of the section. If I bring in an amendment framed on the lines suggested by Senator Johnson, I hope I shall have the support of the Labour Party.
The Senator would not have the support of the Labour Party under any conditions.
I ask leave to withdraw the amendment. I shall introduce, on Report Stage, an amendment on the lines suggested by Senator Johnson.
I should like to come back to Senator Comyn's comments on paragraph (d). The wording of that paragraph seems to include the case of a man who has been a bankrupt, but who has got a certificate. We know many people who have been through the Bankruptcy Courts, who have got over their troubles and who are now estimable people, worthy of all trust. Sub-section (d), as it is drawn, will deal with these people as if they were uncertificated bankrupts or had become bankrupt after registration. I think that the Minister intends only to deal with uncertificated bankrupts or people who become bankrupt after registration.
I think that the Minister could quite easily meet the objection of the Senator by inserting the words "after registration".
I do not know much about legal phraseology, but I have always noticed that, where it is desired to catch a person who has been guilty of an offence before the passing of the statute, the words are inserted "before or after the passing of this Act". Is it not understood that the offence under the Act must be after the Act is passed? However, I am not much concerned about sub-section (d).
The phraseology could be altered to read... "the registered proprietor of such premises has been adjudicated a bankrupt while so registered."
Senator Comyn, Senator Jameson and Senator Counihan could consult with the Minister as to the form the amendment should take.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 9 not moved.
I move amendment No. 10:—
Section 12, sub-section (5). To delete all after the word "addressed" in line 44 down to and including the word "relates" in line 46.
In the Dáil, my attention was drawn to this matter but I had not time to make the necessary amendment, although an amendment was made to Section 17. It was put to me that, as the section stands, we might carry out the law by serving notice on any person in the shop—even a customer, 16 years old. Under the amendment, we must either serve the notice on the person to whom it is addressed or send it by post to the person to whom it is addressed.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 12, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 13 and 14 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 15 stand part of the Bill."
I should like to know what the Minister contemplates in the way of record-keeping under this section. Some of these victuallers are very simple, small and primitive people, who have no large supplies of stationery. It would be very difficult for a butcher in a small country town to keep elaborate records. Will there have to be a record of the quantity of meat brought in and details of sale? There are references here to invoices and consignment notes. These terms are all right as applied to big shops but in the ordinary small butcher's shop a person walks in and buys a bit of meat and walks out again. Are these sales to be itemised? I think that we should have some general indication of what is in the mind of the Minister and his advisers as regards record keeping by these small people.
The records will be as simple as possible. In the case of a large abattoir we may want rather minute details, but in the case of the ordinary person slaughtering cattle in a small town for his own purposes or for those of two or three others, a record will be required of the people from whom he bought, the price he paid, and the weight—perhaps live weight and dead weight but, at all events, dead weight. We shall also require to know the retail shop to which the meat was consigned. Those particulars would probably be kept in any case. The victualler would be required to keep a record of where he got the meat—if from his own cattle he would state so—and an ordinary ledger showing the amount of sales. I do not think that we shall even ask the price at which he sells.
Will there be a record of the price he charges—the retail price at which he sells?
I do not think that will be necessary unless Senator Sir John Keane gets his amendment carried.
I would like to know what sort of outgoing entries will be necessary. Will the butcher have to set out every transaction? Will it be enough to say that he got 4 cwt. of meat and sold it, and is that all that it will be necessary to enter?
That will not be sufficient. We will try, of course, to put the butcher to as little trouble as possible. After all, is it not the custom for butchers to enter in their books at present that they sold 3 lbs., 4 lbs. or 5 lbs. of meat? We may have to ask him to do that. I think that will not be any great hardship on him.
And will he have to enter the price as well?
That can be discussed later.
The Minister, under this section, is taking power to publish details of the register.
Not of the register. The Senator is now referring to Section 16.
Sections 15 and 16 agreed to.
(1) The registered proprietor of every registered slaughterhouse premises shall, for every month beginning after the commencement of this Part of this Act in which any cattle or sheep are slaughtered in such premises, pay to the Minister in accordance with this section a levy at the prescribed rate on all cattle and sheep slaughtered during such month in such premises.
(2) The registered proprietor of every registered slaughtering premises shall, in every month after the first month beginning after the commencement of this Part of this Act, send in the prescribed manner, by post to the Minister, at such time as to reach the Minister in the ordinary course of post not later than the seventh day of such month, a return in the prescribed form showing the number of cattle and the number of sheep slaughtered in the said premises in the next preceding month.
(3) As soon as may be after the seventh day of every month, the Minister shall make in respect of every registered slaughtering premises in which any cattle or sheep were slaughtered during the next preceding month (whether the registered proprietor of such premises has or has not made the return required by the next preceding sub-section of this section) a certificate certifying the amount of the levy payable under this section by the registered proprietor of such premises in respect of such premises for the next preceding month.
I move amendment No. 11:—
New section. Before Section 17, and in Part 2, to insert a new section as follows:—
17.—(1) Every member of the Gárda Síochána and every inspector of the Minister is hereby authorised and empowered to do all or any of the following things, that is to say:—
(a) at all reasonable times to enter upon and have free access to the interior of any premises in which meat is or is believed to be sold, or kept, exposed, or stored for sale, or the premises of any person engaged in the business of carrying goods for reward, or any railway waggon, motor lorry, cart, or other vehicle used for the conveyance of goods;
(b) to examine all meat found in any place or vehicle to the interior of which he has access by virtue of this section, and for that purpose to open any package found in such place and containing or believed to contain meat;
(c) to ask of any person having the custody or possession of any meat found in the course of the exercise of any of the powers conferred by this section such questions in relation to such meat as such member or inspector shall think proper, and to demand and take the name and address of such person and also to demand and take from such person the name and address of the owner of such meat.
(2) In the exercise in or upon the premises of any railway or shipping company of the powers conferred on him by this section, every member of the Gárda Síochána and every inspector shall conform to such reasonable requirements of such company as are necessary to prevent the working of the traffic on such premises being obstructed or interfered with.
(3) Every person who shall do any of the following things, that is to say:—
(a) obstruct or impede any member of the Gárda Síochána or any inspector in the exercise of any of the powers conferred on such member or inspector by this section, or
(b) fail or refuse to answer to the best of his knowledge and ability any question asked of him by any such member or inspector in exercise of a power in that behalf conferred by this section, or
(c) give an answer to any such question which is to his knowledge false or misleading, or
(d) when his own or any other name or address is demanded of him by any such member or inspector in exercise of a power in that behalf conferred by this section fail or refuse to give such name, or fail or refuse to give such address, or give a name or an address which is false or misleading,
shall be guilty of an offence under this section and shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to a fine not exceeding twenty pounds.
(4) Any member of the Gárda Síochána may arrest without warrant any person who does in his presence any act (whether of commission or omission) the doing of which is declared by this section to be an offence under this section.
This is a section that appears in a number of other Acts: the Eggs Act, the Fresh Meat Act and the Dairy Produce Act. It is also in the Fisheries Act, but the powers taken under the Fisheries Act are much more drastic. It would appear from consultations that the officials of my Department have had with the draftsman that it is necessary that this section should be inserted in the Bill. At first we thought that it was not necessary, but to be on the safe side it is considered desirable to have it. Power is being taken under it to enable a Guard or an inspector to enter premises to make inquiries about the disposal of animals or for any other purpose considered necessary.
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendments Nos. 12, 13, 14 and 15:—
12.—Section 17, sub-section (1). After the word "slaughtered" in line 31 to insert the words "for human consumption in Saorstát Eireann".
13.—Section 17, sub-section (1). After the word "sheep" in line 33 to insert the word "so".
14.—Section 17, sub-section (2). After the word "slaughtered" in line 40 to insert the words "for human consumption in Saorstát Eireann".
15.—Section 17, sub-section (3). After the word "slaughtered" in line 44 to insert the words "for human consumption in Saorstát Eireann."
All these amendments are consequential.
Amendments agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 16 and 17 (Senator Counihan), by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed: "That Section 17, as amended, stand part of the Bill.
On the section, there are one or two questions which I want to ask the Minister. The section provides that the registered proprietor of every registered slaughtering premises shall pay to the Minister a levy at the prescribed rate on all cattle and sheep slaughtered. The levy is to be £1 for each beast slaughtered, and 5/- for each sheep. It is not to be less or more in any town. I want to get some information from the Minister in regard to that as it will have a considerable bearing on the cost. I would also like to have some information from the Minister as regards the levy. The Minister, in his reply on the Second Reading debate, spoke so rapidly that one did not quite understand a number of the things he dealt with. I would like to know what the Minister thinks the cost of this Bill is going to be. Speaking last week he said:—
"The levy was talked about by Senator The McGillycuddy of the Reeks, but that is really the other side of the balance sheet. A levy of £1 a head on 180,000 beasts and 5/- a head on 500,000 sheep will produce £305,000. That comes off the £400,000 and it leaves the remainder to be paid by the taxpayer. As to the total cost, we have £400,000 for free meat."
It is calculated that 40,000 cattle will be required for the free meat scheme. I cannot really follow that argument. Even though the butcher is in a separate class he is a consumer and a taxpayer the same as everybody else, and as far as I can gather he is being singled out for a tax on his consumption and a further tax for carrying on his business. Finally, of course, he is going to get all that back from the general consumer and the taxpayer. If I am right, and if the taxpayer is going to carry the burden of the cost of this Bill, then he will have to provide the £600,000 mentioned by the Minister, plus the £305,000 which it is expected the levy will realise. In the end all that is going to be borne by the taxpayer or the consumer.
Senator The McGillycuddy said that he found some difficulty in following my argument. I find myself in an equally difficult position in trying to follow his reasoning. Take it that we try to draw up a balance sheet. The cost of this Bill will appear on one side of it, but surely the amount realised by the levy will appear on the other side. That seems to me to be plain reasoning. You cannot, as the Senator would seem to suggest, put everything down as the cost. With regard to the rates, for the purposes of calculation the rates suggested were £1 on cattle and 5/- in the case of sheep. I did not deal in the Seanad with the point as to how we would regulate the rates. The rate of £1 per head on cattle may seem high but it is suggested until we see how things go. As regards sheep the rate will vary. If sheep are very dear—they are getting dear now—then we will have to lower the levy and not raise it. The butcher will buy sheep at whatever the export price is. The export price will regulate the price that the butcher will pay for the sheep required for home consumption. He cannot pay 5/- of a levy on sheep and in addition pass all that on to the consumers if sheep are getting very dear because obviously the price of mutton would become too high. Therefore, if sheep get very dear we will have to lower the levy. On the other hand, if the price of sheep comes down we can raise the levy because the consumer can still afford to pay a little more for his mutton and the butcher a little more for the sheep. The position, therefore, will be that if sheep are cheap we can have a big levy because it is the consumer who will pay for the sheep and the levy combined, but if sheep are dear we cannot keep the levy high.
Will the Minister charge the same price for a veal calf as for a bullock? How will that be managed?
No. We will have to make some regulation about that.
The Minister says there is to be a levy. If the price goes up or goes down, between that there is a point at which there will be no levy.
We might possibly reach the stage when there would be no levy on sheep.
There is a maximum and a minimum, and it varies according to the outside price of sheep.
As far as sheep are concerned the public might not have to pay anything extra, because there would be no levy; but in the case of cattle there is always the levy of £1 a head. Where does the money in your estimate of £600,000 come from?
The cost of the Bill would be, roughly, £600,000. If the Senator wants to know how we raise the money to meet that, half is from the levy and half from the Exchequer.
The money has to be raised, but who pays it?
The consumer of beef and mutton pays the levy, and the taxpayers pay the other half.
That is how we are going to make it up.
Where does the money come from? In his statement the Minister estimated £30,000 for the factory, £150,000 for 50,000 old cows, £30,000 for tinned meat, and £60,000 for administration. Then there is £400,000 for free meat. Why is not that on the balance sheet? Do the people not pay it?
As far as I am concerned the levy is a receipt for me. The levy is over and above the expenditure.
Senator The McGillycuddy contended that it should be added to the £600,000.
Where is the money to come from?
If I pay out £600,000 under the Bill, why should I add the £300,000, considering that it is part of what I pay? It is half of it. Why should I add on the other half?
It amounts to this, that the consumer really pays the levy of £600,000.
And over and above that, as the Minister says, the Exchequer pays the other moiety, which must be paid by the taxpayer. In one case what might be called the consumer pays a part, and the taxpayer pays the other part. Really the whole amount comes out of the pockets of the people.
The position is this, that the public are getting their cattle from £3 to £4 per head cheaper than if we had no economic war. Instead of paying £4 per beast more in case we had a settlement with England, they are only asked to pay £1 a head. As a matter of fact that money is being lost by the farmers. The public are gaining to the extent of £3 or £4 per beast.
Section 17, as amended, agreed to.
The Seanad adjourned at 7.5 p.m. and resumed at 8.5 p.m.
Sections 18 and 19 put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 20 stand part of the Bill."
The Minister says that it may not be necessary ever to bring in this marking arrangement under the Bill, but on the face of it I do not see where that permissive provision lies. If this Bill becomes law, under Section 20 it shall not be lawful for any person to slaughter for consumption any unmarked cattle. I do not see where the Minister has any power, and perhaps he will tell me.
I see. Assuming the marking provisions are in force, and an inspector comes along and marks a beast and says that beast will be fit to slaughter on 1st September. The 1st September comes and there is nobody to buy the beast. The grass is slackening and he is losing condition and perhaps quality. What is going to happen? Is there going to be a guarantee that on the date for which the beast is marked it will be taken by a butcher at the minimum price? That is very important, because if it cannot be taken there will be a loss. It would appear to me that the owner of the beast has at least a moral claim for compensation.
There is no guarantee, of course. There will, however, be at least a better chance of the person selling, because we intend to mark roughly the number of cattle that will be required—that is to have the supply equal to the demand as far as possible. We could not possibly operate it to such an extent that there might not be perhaps two or three cattle left over for which no butcher would be looking for three or four days or three or four weeks. I do not see that the owner would be in any worse position than he is at present. At least we are going to restrict the butchers to a certain number of cattle so that their choice is more limited than it would be without this Bill. The marked cattle, at any rate, have a better chance of sale than they otherwise would.
At present you at least have a chance of selling at some price, while under this scheme it will be an offence to sell at all.
It would be an offence to sell an unmarked beast.
You can sell it, but it cannot be slaughtered.
Question put and agreed to.
I beg to move amendment No. 18 standing in the name of Senator Seumas Robinson:—
Section 21. To delete all after the word "fix" in line 38 down to the end of the section.
The amendment is not of very much importance. It is fairly obvious that the Minister would communicate such orders to his inspectors. It is redundant to say in the Bill that the Minister shall instruct his inspectors as to what they are to do. That must be obvious.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 21, as amended, agreed to.
Section 22 agreed to.
(1) The Minister may by order make regulations for all or any of the following purposes, that is to say:—
(a) fixing the minimum price at which cattle may be bought by a registered proprietor of registered premises, including the fixing of different such minimum prices for different grades of cattle and for different areas or districts.
(b) fixing the minimum price at which sheep may be bought by a registered proprietor of registered premises, including the fixing of different such minimum prices for different grades of cattle and for different areas or districts;
(c) fixing the basis, whether by weight, by hand, or otherwise, on which the price of cattle is to be calculated on any sale or on any agreement or contract for the sale of cattle for slaughter, including the fixing of different such bases for different grades of cattle and for different areas or districts;
(d) fixing the basis, whether by weight, by hand, or otherwise, on which the price of sheep is to be calculated on any sale or on any agreement or contract for the sale of sheep for slaughter, including the fixing of different such bases for different grades of sheep and for different areas or districts...
I move amendment No. 19:—
New section. Before Section 23, and in Part 4, to insert a new section as follows:—
23. When any fat cattle have been marked or any unmarked cattle or sheep are prohibited from being sold by an order or regulation made by the Minister under this Act, no decree or warrant of any court shall be executed for the recovery of any debt due by the owner of such cattle or sheep until after the expiration of the date before which such cattle or sheep are prohibited from being sold.
Anyone can see the reasonableness of this amendment. If a farmer is prohibited from selling his cattle, by order or regulation of the Minister, no one should be allowed to take them from him. No one has a right to take any other part of his property for the recovery of that debt because the only means he would have of realising money to meet his obligations would be by selling his cattle. If he is prohibited from selling his cattle by order or by marking, then I say that no decree or warrant of the court should be operative until after the expiration of the time during which the farmer is prohibited from selling. I am sure the Minister will realise the justice of that amendment. I would like to hear what he has to say upon the matter before the Seanad wastes time in discussing it.
This amendment speaks of the Minister prohibiting cattle from being sold. The Minister cannot do that. The Minister can prevent marked cattle from being sold but that is quite a different thing from preventing all cattle from being sold. The amendment, therefore, has been moved under a misapprehension.
How does Senator Wilson know what the Minister can do? The Minister can issue any order or regulation he likes.
Is it not a fact that no cattle are marked for sale except at the request of the owner? Surely inspectors do not go all over the country marking cattle at their own sweet will? By this amendment it is suggested that the vendor is in fear of a warrant from the court. He would hardly take his cattle to the market if he was in terror of the King's writ.
The cattle can be marked whether the man likes it or not.
I think Senator Guinness is quite right. As a matter of fact I did not think that Senator Counihan was serious about this amendment. As I said to himself, I regard it as a political amendment.
I am not dealing with politics when I am dealing with the economic war.
Under this Bill, I cannot prevent anybody selling his cattle and I do not see how this amendment arises at all.
The Minister is inclined to turn down every reasonable amendment. In this he is backed up by Senator Wilson, who is tied to the couple of shillings extra and who thinks all the farmers should be satisfied because they might gain a few pounds. I think Senator Wilson has carried on in a most disgraceful way in this House in regard to these matters. However, as I do not seem to have any support, I will not further waste the time of the House on the amendment.
Surely the 2/- that Senator Wilson is getting will not come out of Senator Counihan's pocket?
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move amendment No. 20:
Section 23, sub-section (1). To add at the end of the sub-section a new paragraph as follows:—
"(e) fixing the maximum price for the sale by retail of various grades of beef and mutton."
The object of this amendment is to give the Minister power to fix maximum prices by retail. I must confess I do not like restrictions of this kind, but then I do not like the whole Bill, and in trying to urge a reconstruction you must try and make it more or less logical and straight. It would appear that you are going to put great temptation in the way of the retailer to profit by the whole of the machinery under this Bill. It may quite possibly happen that there will be considerable objection to undercutting of the contract prices for beef to the Minister for distribution relief. Then the butcher will have to make his profit and that will be made out of the ordinary purchaser as far as the ordinary purchaser will buy. If the ordinary purchaser does not buy, it will have to go back again to the various recipients and the Minister will have to get rid of the glut by bringing in other classes of people like old age pensioners. If the butcher cannot sell, and charges too much, more than the public will stand, the Minister will have to go further afield for people willing to eat it on getting it free. I think the consumer deserves certain protection. There will always be consumers that will have meat whatever they have to pay for it. The Minister on Second Reading said that this was unnecessary as there was the machinery of the Prices Tribunal. The Minister has talked about people joking. I feel that the Minister was joking when he said that. The Prices Tribunal has been sitting for over two years, and they have brought forth nothing. I cannot see a body of that kind, with all its delays, ever dealing effectively with the position that may arise under this Bill when it becomes an Act. I think, as the Minister is engaged in framing a number of regulations, this amendment might be necessary in the last resort for the protection of the consumer, as I suggest the present machinery is totally inadequate for that purpose.
As a member of the Prices Commission, I would like to say that Senator Sir John Keane is totally inaccurate in his reference to that body. If the Commission have produced nothing that Senator Sir John Keane could criticise, that is not the same thing as saying that the Commission had not produced anything.
If Senator Sir John Keane knew the effect of the activities of the Prices Commission he would not say what he has said. But that is by the way. I am very much interested in this amendment proposed by Senator Sir John Keane. He has criticised the provisions of the Bill because of the number of inspectors required and the powers given to the Minister. This is a very simple amendment, but it would give power to the Minister far exceeding anything in the Bill. It is giving the Minister power to fix the prices retail of the various grades of beef and mutton, by order, on his own initiative, not necessarily following an inquiry or any examination. As to the number of inspectors that would be required, well, the unemployment problem would be solved very rapidly if we could employ all the inspectors that would be required to give effect to this provision in this manner. According to the section, the Minister may by order make regulations to do certain things —fix the minimum price at which cattle and sheep may be bought and so on— but then, at the instigation of Senator Sir John Keane, he is to be given power to fix by order the maximum price for the sale by retail of various grades of beef and mutton. It would be interesting to know how many butchers there are in the City of Dublin and to add to these the number of butchers in Cork, Limerick and in Waterford, not to speak of all the butchers' shops throughout the country and all the people that would be buying beef or mutton by retail. The evidence that would be required to prove the fact that this provision had been disobeyed would require a tremendous machine to administer, but Senator Sir John Keane does not mind that. I do not know whether, in view of the £600,000 which caused some Senators to throw up their hands in abhorrence, they would be prepared to support the necessary increase in the staffs that would be required. It would be well to hear from Senator Sir John Keane whether he is prepared to make any estimate of the possible cost of administering this provision.
I think that something might be said for Senator Sir John Keane's amendment, but I should like to remind him that he should come to the conclusion that the Minister has put enough impossible jobs on himself without taking on another impossible job. It is all right to put this clause into the Bill, but the carrying out of it would be a different matter, and I think that it could not be carried out. I think that the Senator would be well advised to withdraw his amendment. I should like to ask the Minister a question with regard to fixing of minimum prices for cattle. Would the Minister give the House some indication of what sort of minimum prices the butcher would be compelled to pay for cattle? I think that he mentioned something around 25/- a cwt. in the Dáil. That price, at the present time, in comparison with what we are getting, would be certainly an increase of 3/- or 4/- a cwt., but 25/- is not an economic price, and if the Minister wants to give the farmer an economic price and give him an opportunity to live, he ought to consider a higher price than 25/-. Another point that I should like the Minister to consider, when he is fixing minimum prices during the stall-fed season, is the fixing of minimum prices and having a grading scale; that is to say, if he would give 25/- in December and then have a grading scale going on up till it comes to May or June, because any practical farmer should be well aware——
Is this relevant, Sir, to amendment No. 20? Senator Counihan has disposed of Senator Sir John Keane's amendment and he is now speaking on his own amendment.
This is Section 23 and is quite relevant.
But Senator Sir John Keane's amendment is not disposed of.
I am sorry if I have been irrelevant.
The Senator was opposing Senator Sir John Keane's amendment.
I thought that the Senator was rather wandering from the subject.
The Senator was opposing the amendment and I think he was trying to explain his reasons.
I was going to say that while Senator Counihan objected to the load we are trying to put on the Minister in this amendment, he is evidently piling other things on to the Minister. Really, however, the only individual in the whole country at the present time who would be able to tell us what the maximum price ought to be, is the Minister. He is going to buy this enormous number of cattle and he is going to settle the minimum price and the price for all the meat that is going to be given away. There is nobody else in the country who could settle, when a butcher is going to give away meat at a certain price, what that price ought to be. The only individual in the country who could do that is the Minister. He will know at what price the balance of that meat should be sold. The Minister might or might not be able to do the job but he is the only individual in the Free State who could do the job. There is no doubt of that. As to trusting to the Food Prices Commission individually, I have not met any case where we have a ruling of the Food Prices Commission on such a matter. If my butcher asks me a certain price for meat that he is sending to me, there is no use appealing to the Food Prices Commission, but the Minister would know whether the butcher is charging me too much or not. If people thought that they were being charged exorbitant prices by the butcher I think that it would be a very good thing if they were able to make complaints to the Minister. I think it would be a very valuable thing and would show to the Minister a lot of what was going on.
I do not think that the Minister ought to interfere with the freedom of contract more than is necessary. I should say that the consumer, in the past three or four years, has had nothing to complain of. He has been getting his beef £6 a beast too cheap and he did not ask that the price of the farmer's fat beast should be raised by £6. Now, when there is a prospect of his being put into the position that he will have a free contract Senator Sir John Keane complains. I am surprised that Senator Jameson complains, because he is a producer of fat cattle. I oppose the amendment on principle. Whether it could be enforced or not, I object to fixing a maximum price which the consumer has to pay. That will depend on the consumer's desire to get the meat and on the supply of meat which is there for him.
Senator Counihan, I think, was speaking on his own amendment and we can leave that over for the moment. With regard to this amendment in Senator Sir John Keane's name, personally I think that the Prices Commission should deal with this matter. We tried to divide those duties between the different Departments. It is really a duty for the Department of Industry and Commerce to look after the consumers. As far as the Minister for Agriculture is concerned, he is supposed to do the best he can for agriculture and let the consumers look after themselves. As Senator Johnson pointed out, this is giving very wide powers, because Senator Sir John Keane has not asked for an enquiry as would be the case with the Prices Commission. Personally, I do not mind whether the amendment is carried or not because it may be useful to have the powers, but I really think that the Seanad should not give those wide powers to the Minister.
I merely put down the amendment to show the inconsistency in the whole Act, and that was shown up by Senator Comyn, his attitude being: "I like freedom of contract where it suits my case and I do not like it where it does not suit my case." That is human, and I do not blame him. I see the difficulty, of course. I can see the difficulty of the whole Act and I thought that the Minister might like to have the thing a balanced structure. He does not mind very much how prices go and I must say that he has a callous disregard of the whole economics of the matter, as long as he, as a war politician, can say: "I can force up the price for the farmer and let somebody else look after the consumer." That is, of course, what is going on all along the line, and that in time will come home to roost. I am surprised at the Labour Party. Perhaps they are working on the argument that most of those they represent are indigent, but there are a certain number of those who have to buy their meat and I should have thought that Senator Johnson would have had at least some regard for them. I am not going to press the amendment, but I still wait hopefully for something substantial from the Food Prices Commission.
There is a part of the Act in respect of which I would hope Senator Sir John Keane would support any pressure that might be applied to the Minister which would have very much more effect than his amendment in the way of reducing the price. If he would support the Minister in any proposal to go into the business of selling meat retail, that would probably be the most effective way of keeping the price of private traders' meat down.
With my knowledge of Government trading, the result is just the reverse. There is nothing more extravagant or costly than Government trading. If prices are kept hidden away and not brought into the accounts, and a lot of overheads not carried into the transaction, I agree, but if the accounts are honest and comparable with business, private enterprise is cheaper every time.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move amendment No. 21:—
Section 23, sub-section (1). To add at the end of the sub-section the words "In fixing the minimum price at which cattle or sheep may be bought, the Minister shall take into consideration the cost of production of such cattle or sheep, as the case may be."
I was referring on Sir John Keane's amendment to the fixing of a minimum price for cattle bought
by a registered proprietor of registered premises, including the fixing of different such minimum prices for different grades of cattle and for different areas or districts.
That proposal is all right, but what I want to impress on the Minister is the necessity for taking into consideration the cost of production and particularly the cost of production of stall-fed cattle. The production of stall-fed cattle costs very much more than the production of grass-fed cattle, and when the Minister speaks of fixing a minimum price at which butchers may buy beef at around 25/- a cwt., I want to press on him that that is not an economic price. Stall-fed cattle cannot be produced at 25/- a cwt. It is all very well to say—but it is no argument—that we are getting very much less at present and we got much less last year. It does not follow at all that we are getting the amount of the cost of production, and if the Minister wants to have stall-fed cattle produced, he will have to give a reasonable price and will have to take into consideration the cost of production in the different months of the year. He will have to realise that stall-fed cattle cannot be produced in April and May at the same cost or the same price per cwt. as that at which they could be sold in November, December or the early weeks of January. The amendment is more or less only a pious hope and I cannot really hope that the Minister will accept it.
I take it that the Minister's minimum price will follow the raising or lowering of the export price and that in the periods of the year when beef is scarce and hard to produce, the export price will be raised and the minimum price will naturally follow that export price. The Minister's object is not to give a minimum price to the farmer at all. His object is simply to bring the price of cattle up to such a level as would operate if we had no quota, and, in fact, what will happen is that the minimum price will vary as the price in England varies, and naturally, as the price in England becomes higher in December, Senator Counihan for his stall-fed cattle will get a higher minimum price at that particular time.
Senator Wilson has explained this, I think, very clearly. We must follow the real value of cattle for export. We would not take what cattle are getting now for export, if we were making an order under this particular Part of the Bill to-morrow, because they are not getting what they should get. Cattle are selling, say, for 24/- a cwt., which may really be worth nearly 30/- a cwt. The exporter would have sufficient profit by paying 30/- instead of 24/-, and we will, therefore, fix the price at that level—at whatever he could pay while leaving himself the sufficient profit which he had before the quota came in and when there was fair competition. It we fix it higher we stop export, and then we will have too many cattle; and if we fix it lower, we give the trader bigger profits than he is entitled to, so that we really have to follow what the cattle would be worth if exported. As I said on Second Reading, I think Senator Counihan cannot get what he wants here. I know what he wants all right. At 28/- or 30/- they are uneconomic and the farmer cannot produce them at that price, but the only remedy for that is to increase the bounty. We cannot remedy it under this Bill because this must follow the export price, and there is no way out of it.
Might I remark that if the price of store cattle were so low, those people who bought at that low price would get a proper profit under this Bill because they will be selling them at the minimum price.
There is a point in this matter which I cannot understand. The Minister has stated clearly that the minimum price he intends to fix will be regulated by the export prices. The export price, as I know it, is 16/- to 22/- and, probably, 16/- to 21/- a cwt. Will he be governed by that price?
He said they were all wrong.
How will he discover what is the export value? Exporters here, as we know them, will not pay more than 16- to 21/- and I believe that if they could make a profit at a higher price, there would not be a beast left in the country, if they could get licences to export them. I cannot understand how the price can go to 25/- a cwt. if it is to be regulated by the export price, and I altogether disagree with Senator Wilson and the Minister, from my own experience, that the price cannot go past the export price if shippers cannot pay a higher price than they are paying at present.
"The real export value" was what the Minister said.
I should like to point out that unless there is a guaranteed price for stall-fed cattle in the months of April and May this year, there will be no stall-fed cattle. We cannot continue doing the same thing two or three years in succession. We did it last year, and what did we get for our stall-fed cattle? The Minister said that we got the British market price, but we got the British market price minus £4 10/- of tariffs. It is an impossible proposition to produce stall-fed cattle and keep them until the month of April and pay £4 10/- in tariffs together with ordinary expenses, but the Minister says he will give us that price at home, and Senator Wilson throws his hat up and says: "The Minister is a great man——
——and it is a wonderful price." If Senator Wilson will talk about tillage and dairying, and get out of discussing stall-fed cattle and the export of cattle, we will all listen to him, but when the Senator goes into the matter of stall-fed cattle he is talking about something about which he knows nothing.
From the Senator's remarks here to-day I am positive now that he does not.
We cannot enter into a discussion on that now.
The Minister says he knew what he could do with his increased bounty. Why not give an increased bounty now? The Minister has given a bounty to men engaged in the manufacture of tweeds, shirts, collars, and so on. The Minister knows what that is costing. Why not give a little back to the people who are stall-feeding cattle and are giving as much employment as are the manufacturers? I would ask the Minister again to consider whether he would give some hope to the farmers who have a great deal of tillage and who stall-feed their cattle. These are the men for whom he professes to have a great deal of consideration. Unless the Minister does that there will be no stall-fed cattle looking for export licences in March, April and May.
That is not a matter that can be done under this Bill. It admittedly does not arise. With regard to the point that Senator Dillon has raised, we do not intend to fix the export prices on what are the export prices now. If we did that the Bill would not be necessary. We would be satisfied to leave things as they are. Senator Dillon asks how are we to do it. We could go back from 1928 to 1932 before there was any tariff or bounty at all and take the prices in Manchester, Liverpool and Dublin and see what was a fair margin on which traders are working. Then we could fix the prices. There is no great trouble in fixing the price on a fair level and giving the producer the same profit as that with which he was satisfied when there was competition.
The assumption is that the butchers must be making an exorbitant profit. The statement has been made and not contradicted that the butchers are making from £2 to £5 per head profit. Speaking as a man who sold fat cattle for a great number of years, as a matter of fact I believe that I could give proof of where cattle were sold at £9, say 16/- to 17/- per cwt. I have good reason for saying that I made a loss at that figure. If the Minister fixes the home price at 25/-, the position will be that under present conditions the export price cannot be raised as high as 25/-.
Shall I put your amendment, Senator Counihan?
The Minister I suppose will accept it.
If I were to accept it I do not see how I could operate it.
Putting it in the Bill would not make any difference if the Minister is not willing to operate it.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
On the section I asked the Minister a question, on the last day. That was what will be the price to the consumer of 180,000 cattle slaughtered at home at the fixed price. The Minister said on the last day that he was not able to answer that question. I have given him a week now. I have also given myself a week to arrive at some of the figures concerned as to the cost to the consumer. So far as I can see it the Government in their policy of national reconstruction have created a certain position. I am not quarrelling with it. But they have created a position which has depreciated the price of cattle to a point where the Government, in order to readjust matters and provide some sort of a price for the producer, have had to increase the minimum price for cattle slaughtered at home for home consumption. Take my figures. They can be tested afterwards. The export price is 25/- a cwt. The price paid down the country is 15/- a cwt. There is a difference of 10/- a cwt. It may be a little less than that. A figure of 10/- a cwt. on 180,000 cattle weighing say 10 cwt. each would make about £900,000. The Minister gave some figures showing the cost to be £600,000. He admitted to Senator Jameson that the consumer and the taxpayer were going to pay for the benefits conferred on the farmers £305,000. I submit to the House that the actual effect of this section which we are discussing now is in the region of 10/- a cwt. I put it to the House that the cost of this particular section of the minimum price is going to be somewhere between £600,000 and £700,000 more than the Minister originally budgeted for, plus the £305,000 which he admitted himself. We would be very glad to hear an explanation of that.
Would the Minister show me the fallacy in this? There are 180,000 cattle estimated to come under the purview of this Bill. The Minister is going to raise the price of these cattle by £5 per head, that is £900,000. Then there are 180,000 cattle at £1 a head. That will work out at over £1,000,000. I suggest that that £1,000,000 is going to be the hidden tax on the consumer, assuming of course that he has not already got a big margin of fat up his sleeve. The Minister's argument is that the butcher is already profiteering and that he will not be able to pass on that to the consumer. On the face of it I cannot help feeling that if the butcher is going to pay £5 and £1 per head more that the bulk of £1,000,000 is going to be passed on to the consumer in some form or other.
That may be if we raised the price of cattle by £5 a head. But suppose we settled the economic war would Senators object to cattle going up to 40/-? Would they object on the score that the consumers are to pay so much more?
It is not a question as to what we would object to, or would not object to, but what the scheme is to cost. That is what we are talking about. We are not arguing about what we would like or would not like. What we would like to know is what the total cost on the citizens of the Free State will be? I think I might say without consulting anybody that part of the increase, at any rate, will come out of the butchers' present prices. That is all. The Minister himself admits that there is to be this charge, but he thinks he is going to get it back out of the profits of the butchers who will drop their prices, the very thing that Senator Keane was debating in the course of his last amendment—the maximum prices which consumers are going to pay. Then we come to the fact that the Minister undoubtedly admits that the figures are correct, and that that is what it is going to cost the country.
I am surprised that anybody should have any hesitation in admitting that this Bill is going to cost the consumers the difference between what the farmer is getting now and the price the farmer will get. I do not think anybody is suggesting, apart from perhaps the reduction in profit that some butchers will suffer, that anybody else will pay. But what are we to understand? Senator Sir John Keane and Senator the McGillycuddy are here representing the agricultural community to some degree.
And the consumer also, and on this Bill they are complaining because the consumer will have to pay a price which will be for the benefit of the farmer. That is to say, they are arguing that no matter what the farmer may get, no matter what may be the effect on the cattle trade, the consumer must get the meat he consumes at the very lowest price at which it is possible for him to get it and that there should be no State intervention. Similarly in regard to wheat, similarly in regard to butter and every other item of agricultural produce. Where are we getting? On another occasion we shall be told by the same Senators that agriculture is the basis of this country's economic activities. So we are getting to the stage when agriculture, the basis of the economic activities of the State, is to be carried on at a price which is not higher than the consumer, if he has any income, can buy in the cheapest market in the world. We, at any rate, in the Labour Party are favourable to a fair return for people in agriculture, as we are to a fair return for those people who are engaged in industry, because we realise that unless there is productive activity in the country, there will be no town population. But Senators who are professing to speak on behalf of agriculture, as well as the consuming citizen, would adopt a policy which would destroy agriculture and leave the consuming citizen to depend on the interest of his investments abroad.
We are not complaining for one second. All we want is to get a real figure which will tell the farmer, the labourer, the artisan and the producer—all the different people who make up the whole nation —what this Bill is going to cost each of them, what everybody is going to gain out of it, the figure that the Englishman should be paying instead of our paying it.
Sections 23 to 25, inclusive, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
I move amendment No. 22:
New section. Before Section 26, and in Part 5, to insert a new section as follows:—
26.—(1) Every registered proprietor of registered victualling premises who procures the slaughter of any cattle or sheep in any premises or place whatsoever other than registered slaughtering premises shall be guilty of an offence under this sub-section.
(2) Every registered proprietor of registered victualling premises who buys the carcase or any part of the carcase of any cattle or sheep slaughtered in any premises or place whatsoever other than registered slaughtering premises shall be guilty of an offence under this sub-section unless he proves that he did not know and could not reasonably have known that such cattle or sheep (as the case may be) had been so slaughtered.
(3) Every person who is guilty of an offence under either sub-section of this section shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to a fine not exceeding twenty-five pounds.
This is a new section which is also taken from the previous Acts, to which I referred to-day. It is not, of course, taken out of them word for word but there is a similar section in the other Acts. If we remove the name of a person from the register, there is nothing in the Bill as it stands which would make it illegal for a victualler to get that particular person to kill cattle for him. That would lead to a rather ridiculous position—that it would be an offence for a person to slaughter cattle on his own account and not an offence for other people to take cattle from him. This is put in for the purpose of making it illegal for any person to take cattle from a person whose name has been removed from the register.
Is not the wording of the amendment rather extraordinary? I always understood that it was a principle in law that a man was innocent until he was proved guilty, but in this case he is held to be guilty until he proves himself innocent. The section states:—
Every registered proprietor of registered victualling premises who buys the carcase or any part of the carcase of any cattle or sheep slaughtered in any part of the premises or place whatsoever other than registered slaughtering premises shall be guilty of an offence under this sub-section unless he proves that he did not know and could not reasonably have known that such cattle or sheep (as the case may be) had been so slaughtered.
I only want enlightenment as to the wording of the section which seems rather extraordinary. It says that every person who does these things shall be guilty of an offence unless he proves that he did not know. What is the meaning of that? Perhaps Senator Comyn would explain it.
As I have been asked, I shall oblige Senator Miss Browne, as I always do. I think the meaning of the section is that it is an offence to buy a carcase slaughtered any place other than in a licensed slaughterhouse, but that it shall be a good defence for the person to prove that he did not know.
It might be drafted in a better way.
Amendment put and agreed to.
Sections 26 and 27 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
I move amendment No. 23:—
New section. Before Section 28 to insert a new section as follows:—
28.—(1) Every person who shall carry by land or sea for reward any animal which is being or is intended to be exported in contravention of an export prohibition order shall, if such carrying is done in the course or for the purpose of the exportation of such animal, be guilty of an offence under this section, unless such person proves that he did not know and could not reasonably have known that such animal was being exported in contravention of such order.
(2) Every person who is guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on summary conviction thereof, in the case of a first offence to a fine not exceeding twenty pounds, and, in the case of a second or any subsequent offence, to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds.
This is a section which also appears in the other Acts to which I referred. It makes it illegal for any carrying company to deal in meat that would be illegally killed as coming from slaughtering premises which are illegal.
I wonder why Senator Robinson is so very strong-minded in the way of imposing penalties, because he seems to be the author of all these sections which impose penalties? I suppose his gentle character has been played on in some way or other.
Amendment put and agreed to.
Section 28 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
SECTION 29 (1).
No person shall carry on the business of manufacturing or preparing for human consumption or for any other purpose any marketable product from the carcases, offals, or other parts of cattle and sheep or either of them, save under and in accordance with a licence in that behalf granted to him under this Part of this Act.
I move amendment No. 24:—
Section 29, sub-section (1). To delete all after the word "on" in line 10 down to the end of the sub-section and to substitute therefor the words "otherwise than under and in accordance with a licence in that behalf granted to him under this Part of this Act, the business of preparing for sale for human consumption meat preserved and intended to be sold in a barrel, tin, jar, or other container or the business of manufacturing or preparing for sale for human consumption any essence, extract, or other preparation (whether liquid or solid) derived wholly or mainly from meat or both of those businesses."
Perhaps I had better read the sub-section as amended. It will read in this way:
"No person shall carry on, otherwise than under and in accordance with a licence in that behalf granted to him under this part of this Act, the business of preparing for sale for human consumption meat preserved and intended to be sold in a barrel, tin, jar or other container or the business of manufacturing or preparing for sale for human consumption any essence, extract, or other preparation (whether liquid or solid) derived wholly or mainly from meat or both of those businesses."
There was a similar amendment earlier and, as this Bill stands, if it were not amended, the business of manufacturing meat-meal or in fact the business of manufacturing any product of cattle or sheep, even a woollen factory, might come under this particular section. It is not contemplated that the Minister for Agriculture should control such businesses as woollen factories or even meat-meal factories. We want to deal only with edible products from cattle and sheep. This amendment is moved to restrict the provision to these edible products.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 29, as amended, agreed to.
Section 30 agreed to.
The Control of Manufactures Act, 1932 (No. 21 of 1932), shall not apply to any business which is carried on under and in accordance with a manufacturing licence.
I move amendment No. 25 on behalf of Senator Seumas Robinson:—
Section 31. Before the word "shall" in line 39 to insert the words "as amended or extended by any subsequent enactment,".
This amendment is obviously necessary, because there is an amending Bill going through at the present time.
On the section, why is this benefit—it is, undoubtedly, a benefit to be freed from the irksome provisions of the Control of Manufactures Act—conferred in this case? If it is in the national interest that manufactures should be controlled in the manner indicated in enactments which we have passed lately, why should cattle-slaughtering be exempt?
The Minister for Agriculture must give a permit to every factory operating and, in all these Acts, we try to avoid a possible clash between two Ministers. The Minister for Agriculture might give a permit to a company, and they might approach the Minister for Industry and Commerce to find that he would not allow them to operate. This provision is intended to put the onus on one Minister of dealing with a particular company.
Would the Minister have power to refuse a licence to anybody who does not come under the definition of "national"?
He would. This only refers to those who are to engage in the tinning process. It does not refer to ordinary victualling.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 31, as amended, agreed to.
(1) It shall be lawful for the Minister with the consent of the Minister for Finance to engage in and carry on all or any of the following businesses, that is to say—
(c) the sale, either in or outside Saorstát Eireann, of the carcases, offals, and other parts, edible or inedible, of slaughtered cattle and sheep;
(d) the treating, preparing and making suitable for sale (whether in their original or some other form or for further treatment or manufacture) of the carcases, offals and other parts, edible or inedible, of slaughtered cattle and sheep;
(4) It shall be lawful for the Minister to do anything which he is authorised by this section to do either, as he shall in each particular case think proper, through and by his own officers and other persons in the Civil Service of Saorstát Eireann, or through and by persons specially employed by him for the particular purpose in hand, or through and by agents, contractors, and other like persons, or partly in one and partly in another or others of those ways, but the Minister shall give to every such officer and person a statement in writing defining his duties and the extent of his authority.
On behalf of Senator Seumas Robinson, I move amendment Nos. 26 and 27 as follows:
26. Section 32, sub-section (1). To delete the word "slaughtered" in line 52.
27. Section 32, sub-section (1). To delete the word "slaughtered" in line 4.
The word "slaughtered" is redundant. It would hardly be possible for cattle and sheep to be tinned unless they were first slaughtered.
Amendments agreed to.
I move amendment No. 28:
Section 32 sub-section (4). To delete all after the word "ways" in line 39 down to the end of the sub-section.
It was at first thought that the Minister might protect himself and also the civil servant concerned by stating his duties in writing. On consideration, I think that it would be impossible to carry out that proposal. It would be very difficult to put in writing exactly what every person was to do. There might be a refusal to move a chair from one side of a room to the other. It would be difficult to administer the Act if we had to define in writing everybody's duty. I think that we should have an opportunity of carrying on the factory as anybody else would carry it on.
Is it the intention, when this Bill becomes law, that the Government should engage in production of meat-meal and also of tinned meat, or is it intended that companies should be licensed to undertake this work? Is the Government going in for the production of these commodities or are they going to get outsiders to put up money to establish these factories? If so, will these factories be under any form of subsidy or bounty from the Government?
I should rather license companies to do the work. Two things will have to be undertaken—the manufacture of meat-meal from old cows and, secondly, the tinning of meat and the making of meat extract from good cattle. It is almost certain that we will get a company to undertake the meat-meal business, but I do not know of any company which will engage in the other business. I should rather license a company than go into the business as a Government but, if necessary, the Government may have to go into the business.
Will they be open to receive bounty or subsidy, or will the manufacture be under control with regard to price? Will they be allowed to charge any price they like for the meat-meal and tinned meat?
They would come in under a very definite agreement with regard to the price at which they would get the cattle and at which they would sell their products.
When a company of this sort is starting, will there be any information published as to the agreement made with it?
We are not bound, under the Bill, to publish these agreements. If we are engaging in the business ourselves we have, at the end of the year, to publish a full statement of the trading. I do not think that we could possibly avoid stating what the agreements are because in every one of those cases they will have to get the cattle at a lower price than the fixed price. There would have to be some sort of subsidy and that means a Supplementary Estimate, which means that everything would have to be disclosed.
This is quite a big matter and surely the citizens ought to know something about it. It is a very dangerous thing to give a Government power to establish a company and make unknown conditions with that company as to the price they are to pay for cattle, the price they are to sell their products at and so forth. Surely, the citizens ought to get some information as to what is going on. Of course, this is an extremely honest country and nobody ever heard of graft in it. But if you were to make such a regulation in sundry countries which we know, I should like to be in one of those companies which could go to the Government officials and make an arrangement as to what they should pay for their raw material and charge for the finished product. That would be quite nice. In this, as in everything else, our people are absolutely above suspicion. Here, we never suggest that anybody we are dealing with is capable of such a thing. The conditions, however, under which these factories are established cannot be limited to a year, as proposed in the case of the Bill. The Minister must have power to make a long agreement with the company which is putting its capital into this sort of business. Other people may, eventually, be dealing with these companies under the conditions under which they are brought in. It would be advisable that some information should be given to the public as to the conditions under which any of these companies is licensed by agreement with the Government. The Minister of the day— whoever he may be—should give information about the agreement and everything connected with it to the Oireachtas.
I have no great objection to doing what Senator Jameson asks. It is a matter that did not perhaps strike me, the officials of my Department or the draftsman when the Bill was being drafted. I would like to have an opportunity of examining the point between this and Report Stage to see if anything can be done in the way the Senator suggests.
Amendment put and declared carried.
Section 32, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 33, 34, 35 and 36 agreed to.
(5) Whenever the Minister has lent any money under this section it shall be lawful for the Minister to do all or any of the following things, that is to say:—
(a) with the consent of the Minister for Finance, to vary in any manner all or any of the terms and conditions on which such money was so lent;
(6) This section applies to any business of manufacturing or preparing for human consumption or for any other purpose any marketable produce from the carcases, offals, or other parts, edible or inedible, of cattle and sheep or either of them.
On behalf of Senator Séumas Robinson I move amendment No. 29:—
Section 37, sub-section (5). After the word "manner" in line 32 to insert the words "by agreement."
This question was raised in the Dáil. Deputies said that the Minister for Agriculture, after consultation with the Minister for Finance, might vary an agreement that had been made, and suggested that it was very unfair for the Minister to have that power. Obviously, we meant to take power to vary "by agreement," because having once made an agreement a Government is in a rather difficult position as regards varying an agreement unless it actually takes power to do so. An ordinary person in business can, of course, vary an agreement, but in the case of a Government there may be trouble about it unless the other party is agreeable to the variation. I am putting in the words "by agreement" to make it quite sure that we do not want to do anything wrong under this section.
Amendment agreed to.
On behalf of Senator Séumas Robinson, I move amendment No. 30:—
Section 37, sub-section (6). To delete the word "produce" in line 46 and to substitute therefor the word "product."
Amendment agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 37, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
On the section, would the Minister say why it is necessary to take the special powers laid down in the section. Ordinarily, the Trade Loans Act and the Government's credit schemes deal with matters of this kind. For anybody who wants to engage in business there is State credit. There is regular machinery for dealing with matters of that kind. There is an Advisory Committee in existence; inquiries are made, and so on. Why should not that standard method apply in this case? Why should this be taken in a totally different manner without any preliminary inquiry and left entirely to the two Ministers?
The Trades Loan Committee will not, of course, recommend a loan unless there is a good prospect of the business concerned succeeding. The members of that committee have to see that all the conditions under which a business is working are possible of fulfilment and so on. Suppose, for instance, that a tinning factory is in question and that those connected with it put up a proposition for a loan, they would have to show that they required to get their cattle at less than the market price. If such a proposition as that were put up to the Trades Loan Committee they would turn it down at once on the ground that the business could not succeed. In the case of the Minister for Agriculture he could say: "There is a surplus of cattle in the country and for the purpose of keeping up prices, where, say, the ordinary price would be 25/- or 28/-, it would pay very well to give these people cattle at 20/- per cwt. in order to get rid of the surplus." He could say to them that he would guarantee to give them the cattle at that price for a period of four years. I think I am the only person who could give them a loan in these circumstances if they wanted a loan. If the matter were to go before the Advisory Committee, the members of it would say that they did not know how long the Minister for Agriculture was going to continue to give them cattle at that price, and that consequently they could not give them a loan. In such a case as that, I think the Minister for Agriculture would have to see the whole thing through, both with regard to the lending of the money and the supplying of the cattle.
Sub-section (6) of this section refers only to cattle and sheep. I would like to see it include horses, and if I thought I would get any support in the House I would move an amendment to that effect on the Report Stage. As a matter of fact, I understand that Senator Counihan is prepared to support me, but in view of the way things are going in connection with this Bill I am not so sure that he is a very safe support to rely on. There is a very considerable feeling about the export of old worn-out horses.
Perhaps, Senator, you would introduce an amendment dealing with this on the Report Stage.
If I felt that I would get any support in the House I would be prepared to do so, but if not, I do not think I would bother about it.
An amendment of that character would be outside the scope of the Bill. This is a Bill for the slaughter of cattle and sheep, and has nothing to do with horses.
That is my point, that it should include horses.
I think that Senator Robinson is quite within his rights in discussing this point. Certainly, on a few occasions motions have been moved in this House in favour of a prohibition being placed on the export of old worn-out horses.
The House is now considering Section 37 of the Slaughter of Cattle and Sheep Bill.
And I am urging a reason why the Bill should be amended to include horses.
I would need to have an amendment dealing with that before me before I could allow a debate on the question.
Arising out of the Minister's remarks, I am not at all satisfied that there is any justification for this exceptional treatment. The Trades Loan Guarantee Committee is composed of perfectly competent business men who are quite able to appraise and estimate any facts laid before them by the Minister. They, naturally, are vigilant and even a little bit suspicious when it comes to the handing out of public money. We know that a lot of public money has been lost in connection with a number of these loans. At this stage I want to protest against the method that is being followed in this section of giving the Minister these exceptional powers. The Trades Loan Committee would be quite competent to deal with all applications that came in. I do not see any difference between a factory for manufacturing edible products and a factory for the production of manufactured articles. I cannot see any justification for taking this out of the ordinary procedure laid down by Parliament in connection with State loans and giving the Minister these exceptional powers.
Would the Minister say whether it is the intention of the Government that the Agricultural Credit Corporation should act as the intermediary in connection with loans of money for these factories?
No, because what I have already said with regard to the Trades Loan Committee would apply to the Agricultural Credit Corporation. Before granting a loan the Agricultural Credit Corporation would require to have very good security. They would require to see that the concern was likely to succeed, apart altogether from whatever the Minister for Agriculture might do with regard to supplying the factories with cattle.
I can quite see that the Minister much prefers the Minister for Finance to the Corporation because, in cases of this kind, money of the State is going to be put into business, and lent to companies to start business, and the Minister tells them that they will have to buy at a value under the market price, in order to be able to make any money. If we had a watchdog, as Ministers who were at the head of the Exchequer were, we might say it was all right. Unfortunately, in the present state of affairs in this country, the Minister for Finance is himself promoting businesses and assisting them with lent money. That did not happen to-day. It is going on for some time, and a very considerable amount of money has already gone west by such an arrangement. We now want to put some control on an arrangement which has already sent a great deal of our money where it will never come back. Senator Sir John Keane is perfectly right in thinking that the Minister for Finance has not sufficient control over a Minister who is left to make arrangements of this kind with companies, or who lends our money to companies. If some restrictions were put on or if those appointed to look into such matters did so, it would be far better. The wish is undoubtedly there to establish a company, with no financial authority really to look into the question to see whether we are ever to get the money back or not. If this section is passed as it is, we are going to see a good deal more of our money than £600,000 going away.
I am quite sure Senator Jameson is right in saying that the wish to establish the company exists. But it is not for the sake of the company it exists. The object is to get rid of the old cows and the surplus stock. The company that will manufacture old cows into meal, and that will get rid of the surplus stock by tinning it, may have only a short life, because the time will come, in three or four years probably, when all the surplus cows will have been converted into meal. Although the company will probably be a successful one as long as it continues its operations, I do not see that its life can be a very long one. The object of the Minister is a very laudable one. What he desires to have done is very necessary, but, if you subject him to all the limitations that are imposed by boards which advance moneys for businesses which are intended to be permanent, you will probably get no company at all to deal with the old cows and the surplus cattle.
Can the Minister tell us approximately what the loss on these operations will be? Section 37 states:—
It shall be lawful for the Minister with the consent of the Minister for Finance to lend out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas any sum or sums of money.
In his own interests, and in that of the Government, I suggest that the words "not exceeding so many thousands of pounds" should be inserted. It is common knowledge that his predecessor and the officials of the Department of Agriculture went most carefully into the question of using up these old cows in a certain form, either as meat-meal or something like that, and found that it was entirely uneconomic and dropped the project. This is a temporary palliative to get rid of old cows. As regards the canning of this meat, any industry which starts here will have to compete with established canning factories elsewhere that could undersell it. There is the prospect of a very considerable loss on the whole project. What is going to happen to the factory after one or two years? It is just going to stand there. It may be used for some other industry or, like most things in this country that have been failures, it may become derelict. There is going to be a very considerable loss on the project.
No. It will have succeeded when all the old cows are disposed of.
Is it to be limited to old cows?
This section deals with the alternative to the Minister carryon business. Some Senator expressed the hope that the Minister would do this job by means of a concession to a company, and the Minister expressed a preference for that. If the Minister is going to hand this business to a company, and going to provide the company with at least some of the capital, if not all of it, it strikes me that he should have bigger control over the company's proceedings than the section provides. There is nothing in it to indicate that there is to be any report from the Comptroller and Auditor-General to the Oireachtas, as there would be if the Minister was carrying on the business. There is nothing to limit the profits of the company. So far as the Bill goes, the kind of company the Minister is going to provide capital for is too free, whatever agreements and regulations may be come to. I ask the Minister when discussing the question that was raised at an earlier stage by Sir John Keane, as to the disclosure of agreements, to consider whether such agreement should not apply to any company set up under this section and financed by the Minister. The amount of control that this section gives over the conduct of the affairs of the company is certainly not very secure.
May I point out that we are talking as if this part of the Bill is confined solely to the slaughter of old cows. We know that companies take very wide powers in their articles of association, and that a company that makes boots may also sell railways. Here there is provision for the purchase and sale of cattle and sheep and the sale of the carcases outside Saorstát Eireann. We cannot take a limited view of it. I am sure if Senator Comyn was advising professionally on the point he would see that it is a choice if the Minister does not like to go into trade, or does not lend other people money. I expect if he contracted with someone to take these cows that it would be better, and to let the Government get out of it. I think this proposal is most dangerous and I propose on the Report Stage to ask the House to take out this section.
Question put and agreed to.
I move amendment No. 31:—
Section 38. To add at the end of the section the words "but it shall not be lawful for the Minister or his agents or servants to export any live cattle or sheep to Great Britain or Northern Ireland."
A good deal of the discussion that has taken place on Section 37 would be in favour of this amendment. It is very objectionable at any time to have a Minister or a Department of State going into competition in trade against ordinary citizens. My amendment does not debar the Minister from going into trade in this country or going into any class of trade for the export of dead meat to any country. We do certainly object to the Minister, however, going into the trade of exporting live cattle and sheep to Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is the legitimate right of the people in that trade, who have been exporting live cattle all their lives, to be left their means of livelihood and the Minister should be precluded from going into that branch of the business. The only restriction put on the Minister by the amendment is that it will not be lawful for him to go into the export trade of live cattle or sheep.
As Senator Sir John Keane pointed out, he is taking power under this Bill to do everything which everybody can do, whether a farmer, a cattle exporter, a butcher, a feeder, or anything else. Section 32 states:—
(1) It shall be lawful for the Minister with the consent of the Minister for Finance to engage in and carry on all or any of the following businesses, that is to say:—
(a) the purchase, keeping, and slaughter of cattle and sheep;
(b) the sale of cattle and sheep, either in or outside Saorstát Eireann;
(c) the sale, either in or outside Saorstát Eireann, of the carcases, offals, and other parts, edible or inedible, of slaughtered cattle and sheep;
I do not want to refer to the experiments carried on by the Minister in the export of live cattle and sheep. He can still continue these experiments if they are for the purpose of trying to secure new markets; but I think the Seanad will agree that he should not go into the business and knock out the legitimate live stock exporter to Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
I wish to support this amendment very strongly as it is most reasonable. It is bad enough, as Senator Counihan said, that the Minister should go into competition with traders within the State; but it is much worse that he should compete in exporting. It is common knowledge that he has already engaged in a sort of subterranean trade of smuggling or exporting the seized cattle over the Border. That may have been done sub rosa, but it is common knowledge that it has been done. We do not want him now coming into the open and competing with the exporters of cattle.
I did not hear what the Senator said.
I said it was most objectionable to have the Minister going into trade within the State and competing with traders in any way: but that it would still be worse if he were to go into competition with exporters of cattle by exporting them to Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I also said that it is common knowledge that the Minister or the Government is engaged in trade across the Border with the cattle that have been seized and sold at auctions at which prices amounting to the debts have not been realised. I said that that was being done sub rosa, but that now he might come into the open and do it with cattle in the ordinary way.
I wish to oppose the amendment. Although I oppose it, I am very glad that Senator Counihan brought it forward, because in his remarks he gave expression to an idea that we have heard more than once around the country: that nobody has the right to export cattle except Senator Counihan and a few other people—the chosen few, I suppose they would like to call themselves. I should like to ask Senator Counihan if the export of cattle and agricultural produce is to stop when the present number of people forming that ring happen to pass out, for one reason or another? I believe it is absolutely necessary that the Minister should have this power if for no other reason than to deal with the situation suggested by Senator Miss Browne. It may arise at any time that the Minister may find a better market than the present market for seized cattle. If he can find such a market, I believe it would be a very useful thing, and that Senator Miss Browne or anybody else interested in farming should welcome such a move by the Minister.
Senator Counihan should at least be ashamed to pass any remarks about the Minister's previous attempts to find an alternative market. Time and again we have had Senator Counihan ridiculing the attempt to find a market in a certain country and he now comes along and makes similar remarks, notwithstanding the fact that several of us here know perfectly well that Senator Counihan is first in the rush to sell a few cattle for export to this particular market. I believe that there are very few people, except Senator Miss Browne, in sympathy with Senator Counihan in this amendment and I ask the Seanad not to support him.
Probably Senator Counihan is rather mistaken as to the object of this portion of the Bill. I cannot conceive it possible that any Government would embark on the export of cattle. Senator Quirke talks about a ring being formed by the cattle exporters, but I may point out to him that all these exporters are risking their own money and I believe firmly that a tremendous number of these exporters have not always been successful. They have not always made a profit on the cattle they export. We know perfectly well that these exporters have on more than one occasion lost, and lost heavily. Who has borne that loss but the exporters? When it comes to the Government exporting cattle the profits will, of course, go into the coffers of the State, but who is going to bear the loss? For instance, it is common knowledge that the Government bought butter extensively about this time last year. It would have been sold, I am assured, for about 10d. per lb. in October last. The Government held up that butter and eventually sold it at 5d. per lb. Who is going to bear the loss?
I am glad to hear it. But if they had sold that butter last October would there not have been an excellent profit?
I do not think there is anything at all in what the Senator said about butter.
I am only giving what was commonly accepted in Cork about the butter there. I do not suggest the Minister intends to go into the livestock trade, but I am with Senator Counihan in objecting to have such a provision in the Bill, and I hope the Minister will eliminate it.
I think these late sittings are responsible for a considerable amount of irrelevancy. Section 38 provides:—
Whenever, under a scheme whereby compensation is payable out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas for cattle slaughtered or surrendered for slaughter in pursuance of such scheme, the Minister becomes possessed of any cattle (whether alive or dead), it shall be lawful for the Minister, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, to dispose of such cattle in whatever manner he shall think proper.
Then comes Senator Counihan's amendment providing that
it shall not be lawful for the Minister or his agents or servants to export any live cattle or sheep to Great Britain or Northern Ireland.
That is to be an addendum to Section 38. The Minister gets cattle into his own hands by a scheme legislated for under this Bill, but he is not to be at liberty to dispose of them. What has that got to do with seizures or the sending of cattle across the Border? Nothing whatever. Suppose we pass Senator Counihan's amendment that it shall not be lawful for the Minister or his agents to export cattle. If it is not lawful for him to export cattle, can he not sell them to some person here to export them? The section says that it is only cattle that he finds on his hands as a result of the carrying out of this section.
We are dealing with Section 38.
Yes, but it is amending the whole of the Bill.
Let us deal with one section at a time. We are now dealing with Section 38, which contemplates that cattle will be left on the Minister's hands as a result of the scheme promulgated in this measure. The Minister asks for power to sell these cattle that might remain in his hands. He can sell them to a jobber. I do not see why he should be prohibited by statute from exporting them himself if he considers that the proper method of dealing with them. If a ring of jobbers will not buy from him, why should he not deal with them as he thinks best. The jobbers of cattle have a monopoly in this country. A good deal is said about what they lose. Senator Crosbie said that they might suffer loss. I think their gains have been greater than their losses, and I think they have gained up to £5 or £6 a head on licences that Senator Jameson could not get. I think they have been doing rather well, and I do not think they should be granted the privilege of a monopoly giving them power to prevent the Minister from doing what is just and reasonable in regard to surplus cattle on his hands. As to what Senator Miss Browne said, I do not like to answer her at all when she becomes irrelevant; but what this section has to do with the seizure of cattle is more than I can comprehend.
I agree with Senator Comyn when he referred to Section 38, that the amendment does not seem relevant to what one would naturally suppose would arise under Section 38. But the contention is made that it would be permissible for the Minister to go into the cattle jobbing trade and export to Great Britain, and compete with a legitimate and necessary body of traders in this country. I do not think that is a desirable thing. I do not think that the cattle traders in this country have a monopoly and can make a successful ring for themselves such as some people imagine. The fact is that this body of traders have built up a great industry which was very prosperous and I hope will be prosperous again. It does not seem to me fair or, in the long run, desirable to permit the Minister for Agriculture, with the resources of the State behind him, to go into this business and, possibly, affect the whole business in ways that we cannot foresee. I do not think it is fair or reasonable, and I do not think, in the long run, it is desirable. The cattle trade is not a monopoly. Anybody who likes can come into it, and new recruits have come into that trade from time to time. I do not think there is any necessity for this section. The effects might be most undesirable and I do not think it is at all reasonable or fair.
This section deals with cattle for slaughter for which compensation is paid out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas. That clearly applies to old or diseased cattle. Some of the remarks made would suggest that the section makes it possible for the Minister to engage in the purchase and sale and export of any other cattle but those for which the money has been provided under this section. If the animals are bought for slaughter are these old cattle; and if by chance the factory that is contemplated to be set up to deal with this class of cattle were not working, what does the Minister do with the cattle? Presumably, under the restriction, it is essential that the Minister should sell them or put them out on grass, but he cannot export them. He must, therefore, sell them to a dealer who will export them or kill them at home. To my mind, unless the Minister has power to find his market, he is putting himself entirely in the hands of those particular dealers who want to deal in this class of cattle; and this is merely a section giving the Minister the outlet which any Minister entering into the business would require to have.
Senator Counihan wants to go back to Section 32, but the amendment, if adopted, would have no relation whatever to Section 32. It would only have to deal with cattle surrendered for slaughter or for which compensation was paid out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas, which would be clearly for a particular class of cattle. Accordingly, Senator Counihan would have to do it by some other means and not by this section.
The Minister complained on a measure earlier to-day that his predecessor was permitted to do certain things and that when he wanted to do something comparable there was a great deal of objection. I certainly agree that the Minister has a legitimate ground for complaint in this matter. This is a measure to deal with a condition of affairs that has been forced on the Minister by reason of the quotas being imposed by the country to which the majority of our cattle were exported. Other considerations come into it also, which we all know and which I need not refer to here. The result of the quota system has been a surplus of cattle here and under this measure the Minister wants to deal with that, but in carrying it out he is now to be prevented from shipping a certain number of cattle if conditions are such that that would be the most favourable way of disposing of them. That is what the amendment means. The Minister's predecessor came along, at a time when no such emergency was forcing him, to take over a very considerable section of the butter trade in his Creamery Bill. No objection was raised to that and I think, therefore, that the Minister has reason to complain that he is not getting such a fair show in this House as his predecessor got.
My view is that Section 38 is unnecessary and that the Minister has already got the power. Under Section 32, it shall be lawful for the Minister to engage in and carry on all or any of the following businesses, that is to say:—
(a) the purchase, keeping, and slaughter of cattle and sheep;
(b) the sale of cattle and sheep, either in or outside Saorstát Eireann.
We have already passed that section; so the House has agreed to it and that being so, if we accepted this amendment in Senator Counihan's name, we would be really going back on what we have already decided to do.
Could the Minister tell us where is the question of compensation out of moneys payable by the Oireachtas dealt with in the Bill?
It is not mentioned. That is meant to provide so far only for the old cows scheme. Before that scheme would come into operation we would need an estimate of what it would cost and then this would refer to the Supplementary Estimate and the scheme under which that Supplementary Estimate was to be operated.
In connection with what Senator Guinness has said, it is quite true that the House has already given permission. This particular suggestion that has emanated from Senator Counihan and Senator Miss Browne obviously has not been put forward with the full and sincere desire of taking the powers from the Minister but has been put forward merely to gain a political point. Senator Crosbie, of course, supported it. I do not know that Senator Crosbie ever stood in a fair in his life. I do not believe he did, but still he talks about the shippers' losses. Everybody knows that the shipper gains in every way. The feeder who feeds cattle for five or six months knows that the shipper can always buy against a dropping market and can come down here to the City of Dublin although he is not a farmer at all and has never fed cattle in his life. Everybody knows that, since the quotas came into being, there is more criticism of the present Minister for Agriculture on that particular item alone than we have heard during the whole of the last ten years. Why? For the simple reason that anybody who can get hold of licences gets the profit and the people who get the licences are the recognised shippers and they get the licences according to the number of cattle they shipped last year.
They are actually buying cattle at the present time at as low a price as the bounty they receive. They are buying fat battle in the West of Ireland for 5/- or 10/- over the amount of the bounty they get. Then they have a licence and get 35/- a cwt. on the other side. Then we hear talk about their losses. It is all "bunk." The net result of it all is that what is already confined to them they want confined to them still further. Somebody must step in, and it would be far better for the Minister for Agriculture to come forward, keep all the licences and export the cattle himself, giving a guaranteed price per cwt. for beef, than to continue on the present system. If there were a referendum taken by the farming community to-day I know where the shippers would be. That is the plain fact. That is what every man down the country is saying.
In the face of all this, we have Senator Crosbie coming along here from the City of Cork to support this proposal. Senator Crosbie never in his life stood in a fair on a snowy morning, as I did often, waiting for a few buyers to come down—men living on the fat of the land who never worked a farm in their lives. That is what is amounts to. That ring should have been smashed long ago. This present Bill will smash it, and the sooner it is smashed the better.
I am afraid that this particular section will not smash that ring. I should like to make a correction in what Senator Guinness indicated. I think he is wrong in saying that the Minister will have powers under Section 32 to do what he seeks powers to do under this section, because the moneys that will be provided for the particular purpose would have to be spent for that purpose unless this permission were given in the section. That is to say, if the money were provided for the purpose of slaughtering, unless there was special provision there in the Act that cattle coming into his possession could be disposed of otherwise than by slaughter, Section 32 would not give him the power to do so.
A good many of us had grave doubts about this Bill, but after the speech of Senator MacEllin, I think we have cause for far greater alarm than we had before. Now we are beginning to see that, in one Senator's opinion at least, this Bill is going to give the Government power to enter into the cattle trade and, as he stated definitely, to smash one of our established systems of doing business in cattle at present. I wonder if that is the view of the Minister. If I thought it was his view, I would honestly get up and propose that the Seanad should not pass this Bill. It cannot be possible that the Minister will stand over the statement we have just heard from Senator MacEllin, and if it is a fact, there is no question whatever that Senator Counihan's amendment, altered to suit the situation, should be passed by the Seanad. I cannot follow Senator Johnson when he says that Section 38 deals only with old cattle and the compensation payable for them and I cannot find the clause which states that compensation is to be applied, and that it applies only to cattle that are not to be killed for human consumption. The section says: "Cattle slaughtered or surrendered for slaughter in pursuance of such scheme." There is nothing that I can find in the Bill which confines that to old cows and cattle unfit for human consumption.
If it could be proved that that is all Section 38 deals with I would agree with Senator Johnson, so far as these old cows are concerned, the schemes connected with the payment of compensation for them, and their use as food of some sort or another, that Senator Counihan's amendment would not be required. I think the Minister could quite easily on Report Stage deal with that part of the matter and make it perfectly clear that he is only going to sell in some way, either by export or in the country, such surplus cattle as come under the scheme. If he could give us that assurance and if the clause were drawn so that there would be no doubt about it, Section 38 would not require amendment and we would have to consider only what happens under Section 32, but there is nothing before the House at present to give that assurance.
Except the section itself. Under Section 38, the scheme must be a scheme whereby compensation is payable?
But where in the Bill is compensation payable?
Compensation is payable, as the Minister has informed us, under a scheme whereby old cows will be taken off the land and converted into meal. That is a scheme which will come before the Dáil on an Estimate.
Will the Minister put that into Section 38 so that there will be no doubt about it? If he will, the whole matter is settled. If the Minister will agree to make that section as clear as Senator Comyn describes, I think Senator Counihan's object will have been secured.
I want to deal with Section 32.
We cannot go back on Section 32.
The reason I put that amendment into Section 38 is that that section also dealt with the export of cattle, and by having it in Section 38 —and I thought it was a fairly definitely worded amendment—Sections 32, 33 and any other section which prevented the Minister from exporting any live cattle or sheep to Great Britain or Northern Ireland would be included. If that is definitely stated in the Bill, it will apply, in my view, to all the sections in the Bill.
Would it not be better to have Section 38 put into proper shape? The Minister can do that perfectly easily in accordance with what Senator Johnson and Senator Comyn has stated. The Minister has it in his power to make it perfectly clear that he is not going into the general cattle trade.
I am not very interested so far as Section 38 is concerned. I am more interested in the power given to the Minister under Section 32.
We cannot deal with that now.
Senator MacEllin and Senator Quirke wanted to start a discussion on the economic war, but I am not going to follow them. It is not so long ago that we had a very different tune when I stood up to talk about the difference in the price we were getting for fat cattle in this country and the price they were getting in Great Britain. Both Senator Quirke and Senator MacEllin quoted The Farmer and Stockbreeder and all the prices that the cattle were making in England, but Senator MacEllin comes here to-day and, thumping the desk, says that the jobbers and dealers are robbing the country. That is his statement. A man cannot blow hot and cold within a week or a month. He ought to be some way consistent. I am not here to defend the cattle trader or cattle exporter. I represent them and I am not ashamed to stand up and say that I was, and am still, a cattle trader and exporter. I have not, however, traded in any way in export for the last ten years except in the export of my own produce. I always recognised, and I recognise still, that if there is no producer, no cattle exporter or trader will be wanted and the most important man in any section of the community is the farmer who produces fat cattle and fat sheep, and the only man who produces any wealth which the country has.
We hear a lot of talk about exporters and I will give a little instance of their position. They are exporting at great risk, although Senator Quirke and Senator MacEllin may sneer. I know cases where out of 25 cattle exported, 12 were confiscated, or rather, they were not confiscated, but a fine of £4 per head imposed. If an exporter sends cattle which the British inspectors may regard as beef, the exporter is fined £4 a head and the beasts are slaughtered. The exporter gets what they return as beef but he is fined £4 and charged a duty of £6. That is not a very rosy prospect, and the man who takes such risks will want to get some profit or some compensation, because no one will take very big risks without a certain prospect of big profits.
What is an export licence worth here?
Those are the people Senator MacEllin denounces. I want to know what the Minister is going to do when he controls all the fat cattle in this country. As soon as this Bill becomes law, if it does become law, he may take all the licences himself, appoint a number of agents or exporters throughout the country and export all the cattle to Great Britain. I think it would be a very serious matter if the Minister appointed a number of exporters to export all the cattle to fill the quota. The idea of my amendment is to prevent that. The Minister may have no such intention in his mind, but he has taken power in the Bill to do it by Section 32. As Senator Comyn says this will not fix Section 32 or deprive the Minister of these powers, I withdraw the amendment at this stage. I will put in an amendment to Section 32 on the Report Stage.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Before you leave Part VIII of the Bill I would like to ask the Minister a question. He mentioned something about bringing in on Report a scheme in connection with the formation of these companies. Is that his intention?
No. With regard to Senator Jameson's question on Section 38, that section is drafted so as to provide for a scheme being brought before the Dáil for a Supplementary Estimate. The old cow scheme is the one we have in mind. There might also be cattle suffering from tuberculosis, and under such a scheme, if it were brought forward, compensation would have to be paid. There may be a need for other schemes later. At any rate, the procedure under this section would be that we would inaugurate a scheme and then seek money for compensation, going before the Dáil with it. I do not know exactly what Senator Jameson wants. I think he had in mind that we should elaborate this section.
But Senator Guinness was dealing with Section 37.
I did not know we were now dealing with Section 38.
Did I make it clear to the Minister that what I wanted was something added to Section 38 which would make it quite clear as to the class of cattle to which the section applied? That was my whole point, and I thought I made it clear.
If that is what the Senator wants I think that would be unreasonable because we might add another clause. We have in mind at the moment old cows. But we might add tubercular cattle. That is the thing I meant that we might turn to. If we could adopt a good scheme for clearing away tubercular cattle out of the country we might include such a scheme.
These are not matters connected with entering into the wholesale trade of selling cattle across the water?
If the Minister could put in words saying exactly to what things the clause applied there would be no question about it.
It says the cattle slaughtered or surrendered for slaughter in pursuance of such scheme.
It is quite unnecessary to enter into trade. I wonder why these could not be included in a definition.
This might possibly happen—suppose a strike occurred in a factory, or the machinery of the factory went wrong, the Minister would find himself in the position of having 500 or 1,000 cattle held up in the yards. Those cattle would have to be disposed of and the Minister would require to be in a position to dispose of them.
That is what we do not object to in the slightest, but we do want some declaration that the Minister is not going into the cattle trade under Section 32.
Section 32 makes it clear what the Minister may do.
The better thing to do would be to scrap Section 38 altogether and let Section 32 stand.
Question—"That Section 38 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 39 stand part of the Bill."
I want some information from the Minister as to what he has in mind when he is taking power to give free meat to "necessitous persons," other than those referred to as recipients of unemployment assistance and home assistance. Has the Minister this in mind, that if there is a glut of meat the recipients under Section 1 of the Bill may not be sufficient and that he could then call in additional classes such as old age pensioners so as to help to dispose of the surplus meat? Is that the idea? What I am concerned about is this—there is a moral obligation on the Minister to have those cattle slaughtered when matured. It would be very unjust to create a situation whereby the cattle cannot be slaughtered when they are matured, either because the consumers will not buy or that there are not enough recipients of the free meat to take all that is available.
It is true that the clause could be used in the terms which Senator Sir John Keane has suggested, but it was not what was in my mind in the drafting of (2) and having it inserted in the Bill. It was rather that some class of people might arise who could justly come under the Bill. I was looking at the matter more from the point of view of the recipients than from the point of view of surplus cattle. We have only two classes mentioned— people in receipt of home assistance and people in receipt of unemployment assistance. I do not know how these may grade in the future. Home assistance might be divided into two classes and unemployment assistance might also be divided into two classes. It is well to have the power here in the Bill.
A number of farmers themselves will soon be requiring home assistance.
Under this section the Minister can buy as many cattle as he likes and give them out to whomsoever he likes so long as they are poor persons. It is a splendid clause for poor people in the country and for the Minister too.
I do not think they need be poor.
Does a recipient here mean a man receiving unemployment assistance under the ordinary Unemployment Act?
I mean does the ordinary person who is insured under the ordinary Unemployment Insurance Act come in?
Persons insured under the National Health Insurance Act do not come in.
Section 39 agreed to.
(1) The Minister may, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, enter into contracts with registered proprietors of registered premises whereby the registered proprietor with whom any particular such contract is so made will agree to supply, free of charge, in accordance with this Act to recipients on demand so much beef of a specified kind and quality as shall be lawfully demanded of him under this Act by recipients in each week up to a specified maximum weekly quantity of such beef and the Minister will agree to pay in accordance with this Act to such registered proprietor a specified price or a price calculated at a specified rate for all beef so supplied by such registered proprietor.
I move amendment No. 32:—
Section 40, sub-section (1). Before the word "premises" in line 22 to insert the word "victualling".
This is merely from the point of view of clarity.
Would the Minister consider this point? It is very hard to know how this new class of legislation is going to work and one is rather suspicious. I can see these contractors putting in very low prices to the Minister in the hope that afterwards they would be able to recoup themselves from the general consumer. I feel that the Minister in this matter has a dual obligation, he has to protect the taxpayer and also to protect the consumer. Would not the Minister consider that he should have power to pay a fair price for the meat and not necessarily to accept the lowest tender? Because the effect of price cutting on the contract in the case of free meat will naturally mean that the ordinary consumer will have to pay it. I think the balance should be held between these two. I do not know whether the Minister will have tenders in every case or whether he will make a general offer to the contractors——
Senator, you are not speaking on the amendment. I will put the amendment first.
Amendment put and agreed to.
I take it I need not again go over what I have said. On the Second Reading we had a lot of talk as to whether the people in receipt of unemployment assistance and home assistance were to get the best joints. I took that seriously. I thought that now the poor would really live on the fat of the land. Will they have to take their share of the cheaper joints as well as the better joints? Perhaps the Minister would say how he expects that to work out and how he thinks it will be administered?
I think Senator Sir John Keane has joined with other Senators and Deputies in making this mistake as to what was spoken of with regard to the quality of the meat. As far as I read the speeches and heard them, they spoke of prime beef, meaning to say good quality cattle instead of old tubercular cows.
That is right. What I stated in the Dáil was that they would be compelled to supply beef from good quality cattle, but we did not specify what parts. With regard to contracts, in the ordinary way I would be bound to accept the lowest tender unless there were any good reasons against that. I must say that it never struck me that prospective contractors would tender too low and try to make up the loss on the price charged to the ordinary customer. I think the trouble will be the other way, that they will try to get a good price from the Government and sell as low as possible to the ordinary customer. If the other danger arises, that they quote a price which is far too low for the contract and charge an exorbitant price to the consumer, that would be a good reason for refusing to accept the lowest tender. I do not expect, however, that we shall be up against that danger.
Section put and agreed to.
SECTION 41 (1).
Whenever the Minister is satisfied in respect of any particular area that it is for any reason not practicable to make under this Part of this Act a contract for such area with a registered proprietor of registered premises for the free supply of beef to recipients, the Minister may with the consent of the Minister for Finance by order——
I move amendment No. 33, which is consequential:—
Section 41, sub-section (1). Before the word "premises" in line 43, to insert the word "victualling."
Amendment put and agreed to.
Section 41, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
SECTION 42 (2).
Regulations made under this section may provide for the distribution of beef vouchers to recipients in receipt of unemployment assistance by unemployment assistance officers and to recipients in receipt of outdoor relief or home assistance by relieving officers or assistance officers.
I move amendment No. 34:—
Section 42, sub-section (2). To delete all after the word "may" in line 39 down to the end of the sub-section and to substitute therefor the words "impose on unemployment assistance officers the duty of distributing beef vouchers to recipients who are in receipt of unemployment assistance and may impose on relieving officers and assistance officers the duty of distributing beef vouchers to recipients who are in receipt of outdoor relief or home assistance."
I should like leave to withdraw this amendment. It will have to be re-worded for the Report Stage.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 42 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Every person to whom a beef voucher has been issued under this Part of this Act, shall, on presenting, either personally or by his wife, child, or other dependant, such beef voucher during the period and at the premises named therein when such premises are open for the transaction of business, be entitled to receive in exchange for such beef voucher the quantity specified in such voucher of beef of the prescribed kind and quality.
I move amendments Nos. 35 and 36, which go together:—
Section 43, sub-section (1). After the word "quantity" in line 1 to insert the words "of beef".
Section 43, sub-section (1). To delete in line 2 the words "of beef of the prescribed kind and quality".
Amendments put and agreed to.
Section 43, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Every registered proprietor of registered premises with whom a contract made by the Minister under this Part of this Act is for the time being in force shall, at the prescribed times and in the prescribed manner, furnish to the Minister a return in the prescribed form and in respect of the prescribed period showing the quantity of beef supplied during such period by such registered proprietor in pursuance of such contract and stating the prescribed particulars of such beef.
I move amendment No. 37, which is consequential:—
Section 44, sub-section (1). Before the word "premises" in line 7 to insert the word "victualling".
Amendment put and agreed to.
Section 44, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Section 45 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Every person who sells, buys, barters, pawns, or takes in pawn, or offers to sell, buy, barter, pawn, or take in pawn a beef voucher shall be guilty of an offence under this section and shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to a fine not exceeding five pounds, or, at the discretion of the court, to imprisonment for any term not exceeding one month.
I move amendment No. 38:
Section 46, sub-section (1). After the word "voucher" in line 45 to insert the words "or the beef obtained in exchange for any beef voucher."
The Bill makes it an offence to sell, buy, barter, pawn or to take in pawn beef vouchers. It should surely be equally an offence to sell the beef itself. One practice is surely as objectionable as the other. This meat is, presumably, for personal consumption by the recipient or his family and he should not be allowed to trade for profit in it. Although it is easier to prevent a traffic in vouchers, it should be quite possible also to detect the sale of the beef itself and the Government should take power to do that.
If the Senator would change the wording of the amendment slightly, I would be prepared to accept it. The draftsman would prefer it in this form—"or any beef obtained in exchange for a beef voucher."
The Minister will accept it in this form:
After the word "voucher" to insert the words "or any beef obtained in exchange for a beef voucher."
Amendment, as amended, put and agreed to.
Section 46, as amended, put and agreed to.
Section 47 to 49, inclusive, and the Title ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Bill reported, with amendments.
Report Stage ordered for Wednesday, 5th September.