The Exported Live Stock (Insurance) Bill is a Bill to amend the original Acts which were passed in 1940 and 1943. These Acts together with the present Bill, if it is passed, constitute the framework of a mutual insurance system operated by the live stock exporters in this country to indemnify themselves against the ordinary hazards of that trade by way of injury to the live stock in transit and by way of compensation for carcases or parts of carcases which are condemend at slaughter as a result of some defect which is revealed subsequent to slaughter and which has not been perceptible until the carcase is dressed. In view of the character of this legislation I thought it proper, and I am sure the Seanad will agree with me, to consult constantly and exhaustively with the Live Stock Exporters' Organisation and as a result of protracted discussions in which every conceivable contingency was carefully envisaged a draft was arrived at for submission to the Government in respect of which the National Executive of the Irish Live-stock Trade addressed the following letter to me on the 9th February:—
"In reference to your letter of the 7th inst. in regard to the revised draft of the Exported Live Stock (Insurance) Bill, 1950, I am to inform you that at a special meeting of the National Executive held on the 8th February the Bill has been approved and I have been asked to impress upon you that this Bill should be passed with all possible speed."
The Seanad will naturally wonder why the last paragraph appeared in the letter, but I think will readily understand the difficulty when they realise that the infirmities from which the previous Acts suffered made it impossible to compensate cattle exporters for certain losses for which quite manifestly it was intended that they should be covered but which had not been foreseen at the time of the drafting of the original legislation.
In addition to that, since the original legislation was passed a new liability has arisen of which I wish to tell the Seanad. At the time of the Trade Agreement in 1948 a new price scale for fact cattle was agreed between ourselves and the British Government. In connection with that agreement a new basis of delivery was at the same time arranged. Prior to 1948 in respect of fat cattle delivered for slaughter at Birkenhead the consignor was liable for defects of any kind only up to the point where the beast was finally examined on the hoof by an inspector on behalf of the Ministry of Food in Birkenhead. That was an arrangement arrived at during the war. Under the new agreement it was provided that any defect which became manifest in the carcase after it had been dressed was the liability of the consignor and therefore a beast which appeared on the hoof to be perfectly all right but which on being dressed revealed a bruise of serious dimensions or disease would suffer condemnation in proportion to the defect and the price payable for the carcase would be abated by that amount. That was a new liability on the consignor.
I am glad to tell the Seanad that over a period of six months, from June to December, 1949, out of exports of fat cattle to the value of £4,513,265 the total liability for all forms of loss through disease, bruising or otherwise has amounted to no more than .62 of 1 per cent. Nevertheless .62 of 1 per cent. appeared to me to be a matter for consideration and I therefore stipulated with the British Government that in consideration of the Irish consignor undertaking that liability there should be a corresponding concession from them. Heretofore—and I apologise to the Seanad for inflicting on them such technicalities of the dead meat trade— the kidneys of a beast were deemed to be offal and therefore were not paid for by the consignee. Subsequent to this agreement it was determined that these kidneys should be weighed with the carcase with their attendant fat and paid for at the price of the carcase. The average receipt on a beast works out in the order of 5/- and the average liability undertaken works out at something in our judgment— although this is a figure about which we cannot be precise—between 5/- and 5/9. But in that figure of 5/9 there is provision for a new hazard which did not exist prior to the agreement of 1948 but for which it is thought expedient to make provision now.
Inasmuch as this new liability with corresponding measures to meet it arises out of the agreement of 1948 it is perhaps appropriate to give the Seanad a short sketch of the other relevant consequences of that agreement on the trade. Prior to the agreement there were three grades of cattle: A, B and what was called "manufactured". Subsequent to the agreement there were four grades: "special", A, B, and "manufactured." In the six months to which I have already referred, from June to December, 1949, of all the steers and heifers, fat, going to Great Britain for immediate slaughter, 99.1 were graded "special", or A; .8 of 1 per cent. were graded B and .1 per cent. were graded "manufactured." This, on the whole, I think the Seanad will agree, indicates an informed appreciation by the British Ministry of Food of the quality of Irish cattle. The price for A grade cattle prior to the agreement was 1/1½d., falling to 1/- according to the season. The price of special quality to-day is 1/8¾d. and of A quality 1s. 8¼d. per lb., falling to 1s. 5¾d. and 1s. 5¼d. respectively according to the season. The number of fat cattle exported in 1947 was 110,000; in 1948, 66,000; and in 1949, 134,000. The rates of levy made under this insurance code began in 1940 at 2 per cent., declined to ½ per cent. on 19th October, 1942, and have remained at that level since then.
There are certain minor matters to which I should like to draw the attention of the Seanad and which are provided for in this Bill. Section 6 enables travelling expenses to be paid to authorised officers of the insurance board who, for the purposes and business of the fund, are directed by the executive to undertake travelling in Ireland or Great Britain. Section 7 allows a differentiation between the rate of levy for different types of cattle, but that, of course, would only be operated after careful consideration and where it was deemed by the trade and by the Minister to be a proper and prudent course to pursue.
Section 8 removes an anomaly. Under the existing law, if the board wanted to reinvestigate one item in a large claim, they had no power to do so but were constrained to reopen a reinvestigation of the whole claim. Now if an award calls for re-examination, or if an investigation calls for reexamination, and the two parties to the claim are agreed as to 95 per cent. of it, the board can confine its attention to the remaining 5 per cent., without reopening the merits of the rest.
I think that covers the substance and purpose of the Bill. Before I conclude, I ask a favour of the Seanad. Senators will remember that the last paragraph of the letter I read spoke of the urgency which the live stock trade attach to the passing of this Bill. The reason for that is that a number of men in a modest way of business have what are, for them, substantial claims against the fund which cannot be paid unless and until this amending Bill is passed into law. They, therefore, naturally hope that it can be passed into law at the earliest possible date, so that their claims may be passed upon and, if found justified, liquidated. If, on reflection, the Seanad feels free to facilitate me in that, I shall be much obliged. I am at the service of the Seanad to give Senators any further information they may require and which I may have overlooked providing at this stage.