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Seanad Éireann debate -
Friday, 19 Dec 1947

Vol. 34 No. 21

Poultry Hatcheries Bill, 1947—Report and Final Stages.

On behalf of Senator Professor Johnston, I move amendment No. 1:—

In page 2, Section 3, after line 36, to insert a new definition as follows:

Commercial poultry hatchery: the expression "commercial poultry hatchery" means any premises for the hatching by artificial means of eggs primarily with a view to the sale of day-old chicks.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 go together.

I discussed these two amendments privately last night with Senator Johnston. I could not see his point of view. I cannot see it yet. I indicated to him that I could not accept these amendments. He seems to take exception to the fact that in the Bill I am proposing to make it impossible to work any hatchery or incubator without a licence. He objects to the method that I propose to follow by making a regulation excluding from the general scope of the Bill a certain type of hatchery. The distinction between the amendments which he is asking me to accept and what is in the Bill is so fine that I can barely see it. I think my method is the best from my point of view and I cannot, therefore, accept either of these two amendments.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 2 not moved.

I move amendment No. 3:—

In page 4, Section 10, sub-section (2), line 7, after the word "intention" to insert the words "together with his reasons therefor".

This is my last attempt to get some very slight element of justice into this power to revoke licences. I am sorry to say that we failed in this House to relate the revocation of a licence to a conviction. In trying to do so, we stood on good ground. We had a good precedent in the Milk Prices Act whereby the board, in effect, must have a conviction before it can revoke a dairy licence. There are certain formal cases such as bankruptcy, debt and so on, but the only substantial ground for revoking a licence which is likely to cause hardship, has to be supported by a conviction. I tried to embody the provisions for a conviction in the amendment, but it would be too complicated and I failed to do so. It is only reasonable that the Minister should give his reasons if he is going to revoke a licence, which practically means ruin to a man. He has not to produce evidence. He is not bound to hear counsel on behalf of the party. I know he does hear representations, but he only announces his bald intention. He does not say: "I am going to revoke your licence because you have done this and that. I told you about it on two occasions and you refused to obey." There is nothing of that kind. There is simply the bald statement: "You are to have your licence revoked." The object of the amendment is that, accompanying the Minister's intention, should be his reasons for it.

I can understand the point made by the Senator and I would be inclined to say that, in most cases, in the ordinary way I would give the reasons on which I had based my decision. But I would not like to accept the amendment for this reason. I admit that in saying this I am perhaps putting into the hands of the Senator a weapon which he can use against me in argument. There may be just one case in a hundred in which it might not be easy to give the reasons on paper. If I were asked to cite the type of case I have in mind, I confess that I would find some difficulty in citing it. I have a notion, however, that there are some such cases. While I do not want to appear to be headstrong, I think it is not a wise policy to accept amendments, not because you believe in them, but because you want to give the impression that you are meeting those who move them.

In the ordinary course of the discussions which will take place between the owner of a hatchery and the officials of the department, there is bound to result from the conversations evidence as to the reasons why the Minister will take action. It is much easier to convey these reasons in that fashion than to proceed to set them down on paper. It is because I fear that occasions would arise in which it would be desirable to revoke licences while at the same time it might be desperately awkward to state the reasons on paper, that I feel obliged to resist the amendment in this case also. It will be the practice in the ordinary way to make the possessor of the licence in most cases conversant with the reasons. It will be possible to state these reasons in writing but I do not want to be obliged to do that because, as I say, cases will arise in which that will not be possible. You are only limiting in an unreasonable degree, by an amendment of this kind, the freedom that a Minister and his Department should have in handling a very complicated problem of this nature.

All I can say is that it is not freedom the Minister is concerned about but absolute, complete power. Here he admits that only one case might arise in a hundred where he could fail to give his reasons. He allows that to tip the scale against elementary justice. I am very disappointed at the Minister's outlook and the Minister's lack of a sense of proportion with regard to the administration of pure, elementary justice. I can only leave it there.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 4 not moved.
Question—"That the Bill be received for final consideration"—put and agreed to.
Agreed to take the Fifth Stage now.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

One word, if I may, on the Final Stage. The House may feel that I have been very persistent with regard to this Bill. I feel, especially in these times, a strong obligation to watch these encroachments of Government power. The tendency nowadays is increasingly to take power away from the people and give it to the Executive. I used the word "totalitarian." I am going to use it again and I am going to explain the sense in which I mean it because I am not using it loosely, with a sort of East European application. In a free country the functions of political power are divided into three sections—legislative, executive, and judicial. They are by old-established custom, each to provide for the protection of the citizen.

They are all here present.

We have by Order largely abrogated this power of control of the people over legislation. We know how slender is the control which can be exercised by Parliament nowadays. Its power has been largely whittled away. I leave the section of the Executive; that is the proper function of Government. What about the judiciary? The functions of the judiciary to hear a citizen and to give a fair trial on evidence are gone now too. Here we have the Ministry in this Bill empowered to give far greater punishment than would probably be imposed by the courts. That is why I used the word "totalitarian". I used it for good reasons stated. I must say that I am very disappointed at the opening appearances of the Minister in this House. He has shown, no doubt, a commendable zeal but I am afraid he has shown a desire to have his way and to push his schemes through irrespective of the people he is there to serve. I do think that it is an unhappy omen for the future of agriculture that the Minister is so lacking in conciliation in his first legislative measures.

Question put and agreed to.
Ordered: That the Bill be returned to the Dáil without amendment.

Go dtugaidh Dia Nollag fe shona dhibh go léir.

The Seanad adjourned at 6.40 p.m. until Wednesday, 7th January, at 3 p.m.