Agricultural Produce (Eggs) (No. 2) Bill, 1938—Committee.
Sections 1 to 27 inclusive ordered to stand part of the Bill.
SECTION 28 (1).
(1) It shall not be lawful for any registered proprietor (other than a registered retailer) to make or permit to be made, without the previous approval of the Minister, any structural alterations in any registered premises of which he is the registered proprietor.
I move amendment No. 1:—
To delete sub-section (1).
I want to raise this matter with the Minister because it seems to me that this sub-section is not in a desirable form. I feel that it is a very difficult position if the owner of premises cannot, as we say in the country, stir hand or foot without the leave of the Minister. I might have registered premises and might be prepared to spend money on them to enlarge and improve them, and yet I cannot do that without the permission of the Minister. I feel that the Minister would be amply safeguarding his powers, without that sub-section at all. It is really going beyond all reasonable limits to put the proprietor of premises in the position that he can do nothing to alter his premises without the permission or the previous approval of the Minister. If the owner of premises wants to alter them, I would prefer that he should be allowed to do so. There are certain disabilities provided if the premises are not satisfactory after the alteration. I imagine that no owner of a premises who has had his premises already registered or no retailer whose premises are registered will, in fact, make any alteration without discussion with the inspector.
I presume that would be so, but I think it is going to extremes to say that he cannot alter his premises without committing an offence. The whole structure of the section, in my view, is wrong. It is enunciating a principle that is undesirable and is an extraordinary restriction. I realise that the Minister and his officials will act with discretion, but if you have an unpleasant or disagreeable inspector you may have a prosecution. This is a matter on which, I suggest, the House should express the opinion that the principle is undesirable.
I should like to support the amendment. I think it is an extraordinary thing that, if a man carries out an alteration which he thinks might be useful, he makes himself liable to a penalty of £10. I think the Minister has sufficient powers under the Bill to prevent any injury being done to the premises. The section, in my view, is not necessary and I would appeal to the Minister to accept the amendment. Possibly traders might leave premises, which they might easily improve, in their existing condition rather than have to put in applications and specifications. It might mean a simple matter to improve the premises and yet they might be afraid to start on the work unless they had got permission from an inspector. I think the Minister should consider the acceptance of the amendment.
I should like to support the remarks of the two previous speakers. I think all this excessive regulation is very bad. It gets people's backs up, and does not win the co-operation of the community. I think the Minister would do well to have regard to the psychological effect of all these regulations. They only defeat their own purpose in the long run. Surely the power to cancel registration should be sufficient? It is unthinkable that a man is going to alter his premises to his own detriment. You cannot possibly allow too much liberty in matters of this kind in this over-regulated world.
Senator Baxter has only dealt with sub-section (1) in his amendment, but I think sub-section (2) should go as well. I certainly agree with the sentiments expressed by the previous speakers.
Is not the effect of the section as it stands that a man can alter his premises, if he is willing to pay £10 extra?
I think Senator Baxter referred to the retailer. As I read it, the retailer is exempted.
It only deals with wholesalers or with bigger men in the business. They would necessarily be the class who would require greater supervision by inspection as well as by advice. Once the retailer is exempt, I think the section is all right.
This section, of course, applies to wholesalers in particular and, under the new legislation, it would apply to dealers. It has applied to wholesalers ever since 1930. Section 14 of the Act of 1930, sub-section (1), is practically framed in the same words. The wholesalers have been carrying on under this system since 1930 and they have not complained. As a matter of fact, I met the wholesalers and other interests in regard to this Bill, after it was printed and before it was brought before the Dáil, and the wholesalers approved of this section because they felt it was for their own protection. They did not want to spend a certain amount of money in making alterations and then be told that the alterations were all wrong, that they would have to undo them and do something else instead. They felt that it was a protection to them to know that they had the approval of the Minister before they proceeded with the alterations so that they would not be spending money foolishly from their point of view. I think that Senator the McGillycuddy is right in his view that if sub-section (1) is wrong, sub-section (2) is also wrong. If sub-sections (1) and (2) go, sub-section (3) should go also so that the whole section would then be removed. I do not think that the view expressed by Senator Douglas is correct, that if a wholesaler is prepared to pay £10 he can carry out the alterations without approval. In addition, he might also lose his registration. If he made alterations that would render his premises unsuitable as registered premises, he might possibly lose his registration so that the penalty is very much greater than £10. I should like to see this sub-section retained because, in the first place, the wholesalers themselves have approved of it. Secondly, it has been in operation since 1930. They have had experience of it ever since and, in the light of that experience, they have approved of it. Thirdly, I think it is fairly obvious that even for their protection it should be there because any wholesaler who has sense will consult an inspector before he makes alterations so as to make sure that the alterations will be approved. It refers to premises that are altogether concerned with eggs, that is, wholesalers' premises. It does not refer to retailers. It might be unfair to apply it to retailers because they might have other business such as groceries, etc. It refers only to a room or premises entirely devoted to the business of grading and packing eggs.
If what the Minister says is correct, that he is liable to lose registration, surely that is a sufficient penalty? If you leave sub-section (2) by itself, it gives the proprietor an opportunity of sending a request to the Minister, and if he gets approval obviously he cannot lose registration. That would be quite sufficient. If you provide machinery by which he can protect himself, I do not think that sub-sections (2) and (3) should go.
We are very often satisfied with a fine rather than that a man should lose his registration. We ask for a fine in most cases as the cancellation of registration is a very severe penalty. It would be wrong to leave it as the only penalty.
I still hold that the construction of this sub-section is undesirable, but as the Minister has told us that he has discussed this matter with the trade, and that the people who would be liable to be penalised are satisfied with it, I suppose there is no use in my pressing the amendment, and I therefore withdraw it.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 28 and 29 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Question proposed: "That Section 30 stand part of the Bill."
Paragraph (f) of sub-section (1) of this section reads:—
By being transported by a farmer or his servant from Ireland into Northern Ireland.
I thought Northern Ireland was Ireland. I do not understand that, and I should like somebody to explain it.
It is not part of the State called Ireland.
Before we pass from this, it is treated as a joke, but I suggest it is anything but a joke if you put it in your Bill. I suggest that the Minister should have it examined.
That is what the Constitution says.
I agree with Senator Douglas that this clause requires to be looked into.
Ireland is the island bounded by the four seas, and it includes Northern Ireland. That terminology is definitely incorrect.
I have sympathy with the Minister, because, in business, owing to the wording of the Constitution, there is no short-cut for describing a particular area. The only suitable phrase I know is "that part of the national territory which is under the control of the Oireachtas". That is one phrase which, according to my legal friends, would perfectly describe what is known as the Twenty-Six Counties, and which was previously Saorstát Eireann. I understand that there have been certain protests because Great Britain has adopted the word "Eire", which, in English, is Ireland, and then we proceed to adopt it in our own Bills. If we do, we are admitting that our area is the Six Counties, which I thought we were all agreed is not the case.
I agree with Senator Douglas.
We recognise Eire, 32 counties, and legislation of this sort applies to Eire, but unfortunately we can enforce the law in only 26 counties at present.
The Constitution calls the country "Ireland" in English.
I suggest that we pass on from this section. It can come up again on the Report Stage.
I will bring the Constitution with me next day.
Get it into your head instead; you need not bring it.
Question put and agreed to.
Section 31 agreed to.
(5) Where an inspector gives a direction under this section to a carrier prohibiting the further carriage of any package of eggs, it shall be the duty of such inspector, if the carrier is not the owner of the package, to notify the consignor of the package that such direction was given.
I move amendment No. 2:—
In sub-section (5), to insert after the word "consignor", in line 4, page 20, the word "immediately".
It is possible for a carrier, in taking a package of eggs to the railway station, to be stopped anywhere, and if the inspector orders that he is not to take the package any further, the inspector has to notify the owner of the package. I want the owner notified immediately. A packet of eggs on a summer day might, in the judgment of the inspector, be unsuitable for export. It may not, however, be absolutely worthless, but if it is left for a day or two, pending the time when it is convenient for the inspector to notify the owner, it would be absolutely worthless. I think there is an obligation on him to inform the owner immediately that he has stopped the packet. I think it obvious that the owner ought not to be in the position of having his produce stoppeden route. He has issued his consignment note, with the quantity for export; one packet is taken away, and he may get notification a day or two afterwards. Only then does he become aware that the full consignment has not gone.
I support Senator Baxter's amendment. I would suggest that the words "with all practicable speed" be inserted. It would not do to leave the matter to hang over for a day or two days. As it is, there is nothing definite, and he may notify the owner in a week or a month. There should be some qualifying adjective or adverb, so as to put the onus on him to notify the owner with all practicable speed. The word "immediately" might mean possiblyinstanter, but at any rate, some obligation should be placed on the inspector to notify the consignor within a reasonable time, and I think 24 hours should be the limit.
I do not know exactly what the word "immediately" would imply in law. I expect it implies instantaneous action on the part of the inspector. It might not, as Senator O'Donovan has evidently realised, allow practical difficulties, in the way of giving notice, to be got over. In practice, of course, the inspector would give notice, to the consignor as soon as he possibly could. In the Agricultural Produce Acts of 1930, the words were something like this:
"Whenever an inspector gives a direction under this section to a carrier prohibiting the export of any packet of eggs, it shall be the duty of such inspector, where such carrier is not the owner, to notify the consignor of the giving of such direction".
That is the practice which has been carried on for the last eight years and the word "immediately" was not mentioned. The practice was that as soon as an inspector had served written notice on the carrier company, he sent word to the consignor of the action he had taken. Offences of the kind are not common, but I do not think an inspector has been accused of being dilatory in giving the required notification to the consignor. As Senator Baxter says, if the eggs are not fit for further transit, they are not going to be improved by being kept for another day, but, in practice, the consignor has been notified with the greatest possible speed. I dislike very much putting in the word "immediately" because I do not know what its legal implication may be.
All the Minister's inspectors are not beloved by all the people to whom they go, and, when this becomes law, it will have to be administered. The owner of a packet of eggs, I believe, will get the full rigour of the law. I know that some of these inspectors are, as I say, not beloved by the people and I have had quite a number of complaints over the years. If a particular inspector does not care a great deal about a particular exporter, he is quite within his rights in notifying him two or three days after. He can argue that that was the earliest possible date. I think that is not fair. It ought not to be left to the whim of an inspector, or to his convenience either, in the sense that he might go when it is convenient. The majority of these people, of course, are considerate and understanding and they do their work satisfactorily. I realise the difficulty with regard to the word "immediately" and I was confronted with it when I was trying to get a form of words. If the Minister can get something better than the words I suggest, I shall be quite satisfied but I would not be satisfied to let the section pass as it stands.
That is a reflection on the inspectors, and I do not agree with him. They have done their duty very well up to the present. Some remarks were made here recently about Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland, and, for the last two years, the inspectors have found cases and lorry loads of dirty and stale eggs being shipped and sold here. I think the inspectors have done their duty very well and they are quite competent to do it.
On general principles I feel that I should agree with Senator Baxter that everything possible should be done to expedite the transport of these eggs. Except in isolated cases, or where there are different people to deal with, there are not such hold ups. I am aware that in certain ports in this country there is a well-known principle worked on by which some exporters who put through a small number of packets for examination by the inspector, the remainder being in the local depot beside the port. These are rushed through on the same consignment, when the few cases have been passed, and, in that way, they have succeeded in putting stale, and sometimes dirty, eggs through. It is very difficult to deal with the case of the rushing of a consignment, and to deal with the individual who has most of his consignment right, and who puts the remainder, which is doubtful and lying in the local depot, through with the consignment already passed. Generally speaking, the trade as a whole, the men who are prepared to abide by the law and anxious to raise the standard of eggs on the market abroad, are getting facilities from the inspectors.
Is the amendment withdrawn?
I am not prepared to withdraw the amendment. I am prepared to have it negatived.
The Senator could bring it up on Report Stage.
I have no reason to think that anything unjust is going to be done. I am only concerned to protect the man who wants to obey the law. I have no respect for lawbreakers, or for people who want to get around the law, and we know there are such people. I am concerned merely about the man who is really doing his best to obey the law, but who may break the law because of circumstances over which he has no control. I want to see that, when that happens, the inspector will not be so all-powerful that he can do things when he likes. I think it would not be good for the inspectors who will have extraordinary powers over people's business, and there ought to be certain restrictions upon them.
I think the best suggestion is that we ask the Minister to review this matter before Report Stage. As an inspector myself, I know that a phrase similar to that which I have suggested is contained in the Contagious Diseases of Animals Acts. The phrase in that case is, "with all practicable speed." I disagree with the word "immediately," but, at the same time, I agree that the inspector is safeguarded by some indication that he shall not leave it over for two days, but should make the notification, if not immediately, with all practicable speed. I suggest that the Minister should get some amendment to make the section more definite. If he does so, Senator Baxter would probably withdraw his amendment.
That would be satisfactory.
If he withdraws it, he can bring it up again on Report Stage.
I should like to consider it further. We could put in words like "as soon as may be," but I do not think those words mean a lot. I think Senator Baxter need have no fears of an inspector being allowed to act on his own whims, because he would not hold his job if he attempted to do so.
If a consignment of eggs is held up and there is such a phrase, as Senator O'Donovan suggests, inserted in the Bill, then I think the consignor would have some protection and could complain to the Minister that he had not been notified in time. Under the section as it stands, I do not think he would have any such right.
I think there are legal decisions on the meaning of the words "as soon as may be." Perhaps if the Minister had time to look into the matter he would be able to suggest a form of words to meet the case put forward by the Senator.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 32 to 35, inclusive, agreed to.
(1) It shall be lawful for the Minister, by notice in writing served on a registered wholesaler, to require such registered wholesaler to do both or either of the following things, that is to say:—
(a) to export eggs only by the route or one of the routes specified in that behalf in such notice;
(b) to present all eggs intended to be exported by him for examination at the place and time similarly specified.
(2) Every registered wholesaler on whom a notice is served under this section shall comply with such notice and if he fails so to do he shall be guilty of an offence under this section and shall be liable on summary conviction thereof, in the case of a first such offence, to a fine not exceeding £25 or, in the case of a second or any subsequent such offence, to a fine not exceeding £50.
I move amendment No. 3:—
In sub-section (1), after the word "Minister", in line 18, to insert the following words: "if and when he is satisfied that it is essential to do so in order to facilitate the inspection of consignments of eggs".
The object of this is to make it clear that the section does not give the Minister an absolute discretion to choose any carrier he wishes. I take it that the idea of the section is to facilitate the examination of eggs. Representations have been made to me that the section gives the Minister power to differentiate between one carrier and another, quite apart from any other object.
Although it ought not be necessary, it does seem desirable to limit the discretion of Ministers in the exercise of powers of this kind. As the thing stands, it would be quite possible for the Minister, without reason given, to direct that eggs which would naturally and more economically be exported through that part of geographical Ireland which we may callHibernia Irridenta, should instead of going through Hibernia Irridenta, be diverted to leave by another route, say, Dublin. I think that the exercise of such powers is vexatious and in the highest sense impolitic. I mention the point because I have studied the exercise of similar powers in connection with the bounties. In that case the powers were exercised in order to induce the goods to go by one route rather than by another, and in order to prevent them from going out by Northern Ireland ports. I distinctly remember noticing that the bounties given on the export of pigs and pig products were much less when the pigs were exported through a Northern Ireland port than when through a Saorstát port. In case the Minister should yield to a similar temptation in this matter, I think we should do everything possible to limit the exercise of his discretion.
As to what Senator Johnston has said with regard to the bounties being used to discriminate against traffic through Northern Ireland ports, there was a reason for that other than the one which may have occurred to the Senator. We had a particular difficulty with regard to live pigs. We knew that any live pig going through our ports here direct to England was a mature or a fat pig, whereas the majority of pigs going across the Border were small pigs. We had to give a different bounty on small pigs to that which we gave on fat pigs. There was nothing political in what the Senator has referred to. It was entirely economic and did not, I think, hit Northern Ireland in any way. The number of fat pigs which went through the Northern Ireland ports was negligible.
The real object of this section is to stop the practice referred to by Senator McEllin—that is, of exporters of eggs presenting large consignments a short time before a boat or a train is due to leave. It is to deal with exporters who put it up to inspectors, more or less, to examine large consignments of eggs in half an hour or so, or otherwise to leave the eggs lying there for the next boat at a port where there may be only weekly sailings. Such exporters put inspectors in the position of saying: "Well, I will either have to reject the whole lot" which would be a very severe thing to do, or "Well, I will have to let the consignment through by examining perhaps one case out of 300 or 400 cases." The section is intended to deal with that kind of thing. In future the intention is to serve notice on exporters notifying them they must export their eggsvia a certain route—through a port at which we know we will have daily sailings, so that if it should happen that a consignment comes late on a particular evening it will be no great hardship to keep it over until the following evening and have it properly examined.
In practice we do not think that this section will ever have to be resorted to. If exporters know that we have this power, then I think once will be enough to use it. If they offend once they are not likely to do so again. As a matter of fact, I think that we will get their co-operation in presenting the eggs at a reasonable time at the ports so that they can be properly examined. I may mention that there is a similar power in the Dairies Produce Act of 1924. That Act has now been 14 years in operation, and the power in it has never been used, principally, I believe, because exporters know that the power is there for dealing with butter. Therefore, they have never been unreasonable in presenting large consignments of butter immediately before a boat was due to sail. The section in this Bill has the same end in view. With regard to the amendment put in by Senator Douglas, I do not think there is very much objection to it. All that I can say is that sections of this kind are obviously put in to deal with the most tricky and clever people in the trade. If there is a loophole at all in a section they are so clever and able that they are sure to find it out. Sections such as this are drafted in a very simple, but in a very drastic, way if you like.
I am very glad to have the Minister's explanation of the real reason for the differential treatment as regards bounties on pigs. If I appeared to impute any motives to him I am very glad indeed to be able to say that there was no foundation whatever for such imputations, and I accept the Minister's explanation without reservation.
I do not see how the amendment could limit the Minister. The wording that I have put down is not quite the same as that which was suggested to me. I drafted it purposely so as to leave a discretion to the Minister. Having listened to the Minister, I do not think that the acceptance of the amendment would limit his discretion in any way.
Perhaps if the amendment is left over I may be able to suggest an alternative for the next stage.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move amendment No. 4:—
In sub-section (2), line 29, to delete the words "twenty-five" and substitute the word "ten".
In my opinion a fine of £10 would be quite ample for a first offence. The amendment is one that I do not wish to press.
Our experience of these sections dealing with fines is that as a rule it is very hard to get anything like the maximum fine. The district justices are very kind-hearted and just men, and I am sure they do not like imposing very heavy fines. Our object in putting the fines rather high in Bills of this kind is to try to get something reasonable in the nature of a fine when a conviction is obtained.
I am not pressing the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 36 to 43, inclusive, agreed to.
(6) The Minister may grant to any person any one or more of the following licences, that is to say:—
(a) a licence to acquire eggs for sale by wholesale, or
(b) a licence to sell eggs by wholesale and to consign, offer and expose eggs for sale by wholesale, or
(c) where the grantee of the licence is a registered wholesaler, a licence to sell eggs to another wholesaler.
and the Minister may attach to any such licence such conditions as he shall think proper and shall specify in such licence, and the Minister may at any time revoke any such licence.
I move amendment No. 5:—
In sub-section (6), to add at the end of the sub-section, line 35, the words: "He shall however be obliged to state his reasons for such revocation."
I think it is only fair to ask that, when the Minister decided to take away a man's licence, he should give his reasons in writing. After all, the holder of a licence may feel that he has been dealt with unjustly by an inspector.
There are two things that a person must get before he can become a wholesaler. He must get registration and a licence. The registration is, of course, the more important thing. He must have properly constructed premises. If he loses his registration, it is a very serious thing for him. The licence is not the major thing, although, of course, the person must have a licence to operate in the registered premises. The Minister has a discretion to grant a licence. Where the premises are suitable, unless there is something specifically wrong about an applicant—such, for instance, as the contravention of regulations—the Minister will grant a licence. As the Minister has a discretion to grant a licence he should naturally have a discretion with regard to the withdrawal of a licence. In practice, the Minister does notify a licensee who has committed an offence. I think it would be an unheard of thing to write to a person saying that you were withdrawing his licence without giving a reason for it. A reason is always given. I cannot argue very strongly against the amendment except to say that in practice what it aims at is already covered. If the Senator likes to withdraw the amendment, I undertake to look into the matter before the next stage.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 44 to 48, inclusive, agreed to.
(1) The Minister may by order make regulations for either or both of the following purposes, that is to say:—
(a) prohibiting the sale or offering or exposing for sale or keeping or storing pending sale of eggs in any building, vehicle, or other place or under conditions which does or do not afford adequate protection to the eggs against wet, damp, dirt, and heat and against adverse weather conditions and against contamination of any sort;
I move amendment No. 6:—
In sub-section (1), immediately after paragraph (a), to insert a new paragraph as follows:—
(b) Prohibiting any vehicle ordinarily used for the transport (otherwise than by a producer) of eggs intended for sale to be used at the same time for the transport of any articles other than the ordinary fittings and equipment of such vehicles and packages, appliances and apparatus ordinarily used in connection with the sale or purchase of eggs.
This amendment deals with applying to lorries the general principle that applies to stores in a town. For the purpose of having eggs exported in proper condition it is necessary in the stores in towns to provide against wet, damp, dirt, adverse weather conditions, and contamination of the eggs. My amendment is to bring that principle a step further and to provide that an exporter bringing eggs in a lorry shall not carry with them such commodities as manures, bacon, paraffin oil, onions, and others which are certainly going to affect materially the eggs which are in the lorry. I hold that eggs are much more liable under existing conditions to suffer from adverse weather conditions and contamination in such a lorry than they are in any store in a town. If the making of all these regulations is necessary in connection with a house in a town, they are more necessary in connection with lorries. My amendment proposes that a lorry used for the collection of eggs by an exporter should be confined solely to carrying the necessary materials for the handling of these eggs, such as straw, boxes, or other articles necessary for carrying out the work satisfactorily.
I am satisfied that it is absolutely essential that we should go the whole way in providing properly for the collection of eggs from a producer. In many cases the contamination of the eggs occurs, not in the store, but on the roadside, because the exporter has not the necessary appliances with him. Owing to the groceries and other things which he is carrying, he has not room for the machines for the grading and testing of eggs. When on the roadside, he may think that he is buying fresh eggs, and find when he comes to examine them in the store that he has a large number of stale eggs. That man is not going to suffer the loss of his eggs. By some means or method he is going to circumvent the Act and get these eggs away. In these circumstances, I think the House would be well advised to adopt the principle of this amendment. The Minister is not compelled, according to the Bill, to enforce this particular section immediately. He is taking power to make use of it, if he so desires, at a later date. The section is such that the Minister may, by order, make regulations, so that he is not necessarily compelled to enforce it. He may enforce it later. I think that he should take such powers as these and use them at his discretion as time goes on.
I think the Senator has done a disservice to the community generally by putting such an idea into the Minister's head. I am not in the egg trade, but it seems to me intolerable that a wholesaler, who presumably does other classes of business as well, should lock up all his capital in a lorry which can be used for one purpose only. I do not see why a lorry should not be allowed to deliver feeding stuffs, or whatever it may be, and bring back eggs. It seems like regulation gone completely mad. The Senator, from the way he talks, seems to regard this thing as being so simple that it will impose no burden on the trade. I should very much like to know if the trade approves of this. It certainly seems to put an unfair advantage into the hands of the big man whose trade as a wholesaler is sufficiently big that he is able to be a wholesaler for eggs and eggs only. The country is not constructed that way and business is not done on these terms. There must be a large number of people in general trade. It seems intolerable that the amount of capital locked up in transport should be confined merely to one class of trade. I hope that the Minister will not take the power and, even if he does take it, that he will not use it in the way suggested.
I think it is intolerable that the Senator would not read the terms of the amendment before speaking in this way, or else I must be intolerably ignorant if I cannot see the meaning of the words "at the same time" which are in the amendment.
It may be intolerable, but it is not uncommon.
I think the amendment, in proposing to impose this restriction, is going much further than the section at any rate. The section deals with adverse weather conditions, damp, contamination and so on. I do not know very much about the technical side of this matter, but I imagine that, if it were proved, for instance, to the technical side of my Department that the carrying of paraffin oil, or at any rate a leaking vessel of paraffin oil, was dangerous to eggs, then a regulation would be made prohibiting a person from carrying paraffin oil, or anything else which might be dangerous in that way, at the same time as eggs. But I do not think I should like to go as far as is suggested by the amendment and to insist that nothing else should be carried in the lorry or the conveyor at the same time as eggs.
There is a class of trade done, especially in the West of Ireland, by itinerant collectors. I understand that they bring out groceries, etc., which they sell to the people from whom they procure the eggs, and, of course, they will have eggs, groceries, and provisions in the lorry at the same time. I do not know whether that is desirable or undesirable. I am only concerned with whether it injures the eggs or not. I am not concerned with the economic side of it in connection with an Eggs Bill. If we are going to deal with the economic facts of that type of business, I think it should be dealt with in a separate Bill and not in a Bill like this. I should, therefore, like to ease the fears of Senator Sir John Keane by saying that, if the Senator does insist on the passing of the amendment, I will not ever adopt it under the word "may."
The Minister is very strong in his point of view. It does not affect me one way or another, but I should like to point out, in answer to Sir John Keane, who talks about the capital invested in lorries, and that this is all in favour of the big man, that I am not at all sure that it would not be a good thing for this country if one big man handled the eggs in one district and handled nothing else but eggs; that they would not be better handled and reach the foreign market in a better condition, so that the producer will get a better price, rather than have the huxtering methods we have to-day forcing the present exporters into the position that they are doing everything they possibly can to get at the blind side of the inspector so as to send out eggs which are not fit to be sent out. That is the position of the egg trade and it is not a desirable position. I am satisfied that it would be in a far healthier position if the amendment were adopted and, as time goes on, I believe that the Minister and his Department will see that.
There are powers being taken by the Minister not alone for the marking of eggs, the general control of the trade, and tightening it up by regulations, but, in actual fact, they can actually go back to the producer, under Section 52, which states:—
To place in or on every such container the note, docket, or mark specified in that behalf by such regulations indicating the producer from whom and the date on which the eggs in such container were acquired, and such other particulars in relation to such eggs as may be so specified.
Therefore, under these conditions, the producer might be held liable in the long run for eggs which he might have sold in good condition and which afterwards, through adverse weather conditions or being thrown into the lorry with all sorts of produce, may become contaminated between the time when they leave the producer and the time they are exported. The producer can be held liable for something for which he is not responsible. Senator Sir John Keane threw up his hands and talked about regulations and the big man, etc. It is easy to talk in that way. The fact of the matter is that it is a difficult job to handle. It is difficult to give satisfaction to the men on the other side of the channel and the only way it can be done is to isolate the eggs. It will have to come sooner or later. In my opinion, it would satisfy both the producers and exporters generally if people were confined to the egg trade and it would make a success of it.
I rise to point out that the amendment seems to me to be out of order. The Minister has suggested the same thing. This Bill deals with the purchase and transport of eggs, etc. Senator McEllin seemed to me not to refer to the implications in his amendment. I think that the amendment is getting after what is known as the "shop on wheels," and he has not referred to that. I do not think it would be popular if he did. He would not like to come up against the idea of the greatest good to the greatest number, and certainly the "shop on wheels" is one of the greatest advantages that the small farmers have at their disposal. I submit that it is out of order and, on the other hand, I submit that, on its merits, it ought not to be adopted. The people of the country have been accustomed to this facility for 40 years. Formerly, a donkey and cart came along and, latterly, small lorries are used and they are a very great benefit. Men from the country districts know what an advantage this is to a housewife who may be resident five or six miles from a market town. She can dispose of her eggs at her door. I do not believe that any objection has been made to the condition of the lorries used for this purpose. They also carry groceries to the people. I oppose the amendment because it would have the effect of taking away this benefit from the majority of the people.
Ní raibh mé i lathair nuair a bhí an leas rún so 'a phlé ach ba mhaith liom cupla focal a rá ar an gceist. I am sorry I was called out during the debate and had not the advantage of hearing the discussion on Senator McEllin's amendment. It is an amendment which might have very wide significance. I do not know whether Senator McEllin had in mind the question of the travelling shop or not. If he had in mind the question of the travelling shop, I should very much like——
It would not be in order on this amendment.
If it is not in order, I shall abide by your ruling. I think the amendment would place great restrictions on the user of eggs. Senator Conlon has said that these eggs are used for various purposes. We have in the city a regulation by which if a farmer's cart brings cabbage into the city in the morning and brings home a load of manure in the evening, the cart must be washed before bringing in vegetables the following morning. There is a certain system of barter in connection with the collection of eggs. A collector may get three dozen of eggs at 1/2 a dozen. That means 3/6. The person from whom he is collecting the eggs obtains from him a pound of tea at 2/6 and a quarter stone of sugar at 1/-. That can be regarded as a system of barter. If Senator McEllin's amendment would prevent that person from taking that pound of tea and quarter pound of sugar to the person from whom he is buying the eggs, it would be very unwise to adopt it. I am sorry I was not here during the debate because I might have been more enlightened on the subject.
Senator McEllin has questioned whether it would not be better, as applied to eggs alone, to have only one organisation dealing with them. I agree with him if you look at the matter in terms of eggs, apart from the restriction of liberty which would be involved. It might be much better for our produce if we had the totalitarian methods of dictator States. But surely we are not thinking in those terms. If we have totalitarian methods applied to eggs, we may have them applied to other things as well. We have to work within the scope afforded by a democratic country and it is not fair to attack people merely because they wish to preserve the few remaining rights we have as regards freedom of trade and commercial liberty.
Senator Sir John Keane has spoken about totalitarian States. I did not suggest anything on the lines of the totalitarian State. That system of organisation is most objectionable to me. The best form of organisation is co-operative organisation. It is also the best form of democracy because the people concerned have confidence in one another. It was such an organisation which I had in mind when I suggested that our eggs should be handled by one body. Senator Healy spoke about the travelling shop. If the cap fits, they can wear it. What I had in mind was some organisation to handle the egg question as a form of produce efficiently and well and to follow up the regulations already applied to houses in the town which are confined to the sorting of eggs. I want to follow that up to its logical conclusion and apply it to the lorries handling the eggs. I think we should be benefiting the producer if we had an organisation such as Senator O'Dwyer suggested the last day. The co-operative movement could do the work.
Amendment put and declared lost.
Section 50 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Question proposed: "That Section 51 stand part of the Bill."
I should like to have some information as to what "washing" includes. Does it include "wiping"? What is the technical application of that section?
If we wanted to reach perfection, we should require to have the eggs produced perfectly clean, and collected from the nest in that state. If, by any chance, external dirt should adhere to them, they can be cleaned with a wet cloth but not washed.
Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 52 stand part of the Bill."
This section is going to make a radical change in the purchasing of eggs in future. I should like to know what notice the Minister proposes to give producers and the trade generally before this section is made applicable. He will remember that, when the Pigs and Bacon Bill was going through, we tried to warn him of the confusion which would arise from certain sections in that measure which altered the method of trading to which the people had been accustomed. If the Minister is going to apply this section in a very short time, the people who have not been accustomed to produce eggs for sale by weight will have such unpleasant experiences and disappointments that it is very questionable whether we shall not have a drop in production rather than an increase. Those of us who trouble about these things know that a large proportion of our eggs would be classified as "small." They have been bought by the dozen in the past, but if they are to be bought by weight in the future, the housewife who takes in her basket of eggs to the town or to the travelling shop will, if the scales go against her, hesitate to continue bringing in her basket of eggs. This section should be made applicable only after fairly long notice both to the producers and to the trade. If we are to sell by weight, we shall have to produce a larger egg than we have been accustomed to produce. That cannot be done in a day. It is necessary to breed the poultry so as to get the larger egg. If the experience of the operation of this Bill is to raise the price in the case of a small proportion of our egg production and to lower the price in the case of the greater proportion of our egg production, the consequences, from the point of view of total production, will be very disappointing. I should like to have some information from the Minister as to when he proposes to make this section operative. I think it would be time enough to do so in 12 months.
It is not the intention to make a regulation for sale by weight immediately. In fact, it could not be done immediately. When this Bill passes, it cannot come into operation for a couple of months because various things have to be done before it can be brought into operation. It is not intended that the sale of eggs by weight should be made obligatory for some time after that. It may be 12 months before that is done. Under Section 4, any order like that must be laid on the Table of both Houses and can be debated, if thought desirable. I could not give the Senator at this stage a definite indication of the time at which this section will be brought into operation, but it will not be brought into operation immediately.
As soon as the Bill passes, I urge the Minister to make known through county committees and all other means at his disposal that this is going to be done, so that the people will be cognisant of it.
I undertake to give good notice to all concerned before it comes into operation.
The Minister said the dealer must pack the eggs in a standard box with a docket of identification, showing the producer from whom they came. This is dealt with in Section 52 (1) (b) (ii) (quoted). I should like to know from the Minister how he expects to have that particular provision carried out. The dealer is going about purchasing eggs. He probably purchases a dozen eggs from one person and a score of eggs from another, and if he must have a docket for each small portion of eggs like that, I do not know how it is intended to have the regulations carried out.
I discussed that matter with some collectors and they explained to me how they could do it. They did not raise any difficulty whatever about it. They explained that in these boxes the eggs are placed in a row. It is not necessary to have a separate container. They proceed with their collection in rows, and after the last egg from each producer a docket is put in containing his name. That container goes on to the wholesaler and the wholesaler when he is testing these eggs knows the persons from whom the eggs come in the first instance. I should like to assure the Senator that the collectors I met did not raise any difficulty whatever about this section.
This is obviously a section about which there is probably going to be a great deal of dissatisfaction after a while. The eggs are sold by me to-day and they appear fresh. After a fortnight I get a notification that I am going to be prosecuted.
I begin to wonder immediately whether they were my eggs or my neighbour's eggs. These eggs were mixed up when they went into the packing house. I am afraid if the eggs are going to be handled as the Minister says, in rows without their being packed in a separate container or a separate portion of the box, this system will be similar to the grading of the pigs in the factory under which it was impossible to get the farmer to believe that the grade for which he was paid was the proper grade of his pig. Unless the eggs are packed in containers so that there can be no question of their becoming mixed in the rehandling in the dealer's premises, whenever a prosecution has to be taken, there will be grave doubts in the mind of the people about the mixing of the eggs. I think it will be necessary to have more stringent conditions with regard to packing than the Minister seems to anticipate.
I did not visualise under this Bill that producers would be prosecuted on a large scale. In fact, I do not think there will be any prosecution against producers in the way Senator Baxter has suggested, at least for a long time, until we have given several warnings. The intention is that the wholesaler will notify the dealer that he had so many bad eggs when tested and that they came from such-and-such a producer. If the dealer finds from these reports that he is continually getting bad eggs from a producer—he will not know until after the eggs have been tested— he will naturally say: "I will not take any more eggs from him until he mends his way."
In view of the fact that the collectors did not object to this provision, I cannot very well persist in my objection to it, but I think it will be very difficult to operate.
Sections 52 to 58, inclusive, and the Title ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Report Stage ordered for Wednesday, 14th December.