Agricultural Produce (Meat) (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 1954—Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

This Bill proposes to amend in certain respects the Agricultural Produce (Fresh Meat) Acts, the Slaughter of Cattle and Sheep Acts and the Pigs and Bacon Acts, and, in addition, proposes to incorporate in permanent legislation some existing provisions under Emergency Powers Orders.

Premises at which cattle, sheep and pigs are slaughtered for export have to be registered under the Agricultural Produce (Fresh Meat) Acts, 1930 to 1938 and have to conform to certain standards before they may be so registered. Under the 1930 Act provisional registration of slaughtering premises might be granted within 12 months of the passing of the Act, this period being extended to 18 months under the 1931 Act. The purpose then was to give time to the proprietors of premises which did not fully meet all the requirements of the 1930 Act to improve their premises up to the necessary full standard. At the time of the foot and mouth disease outbreak in 1941, when exports of live stock had to cease and exports in carcase form only were possible a number of slaughtering premises not ordinarily engaged in the meat export trade had to be registered to engage in that trade. The power to grant provisional registration was accordingly reintroduced by an Emergency Powers Order. It is now proposed in Section 2 of the Bill to continue permanently the power to grant provisional registration. In addition to being available to meet contingencies in the future, this power will be useful in connection with efforts to improve standards at premises in the light of modern developments in the meat industry.

During the emergency when the canned beef export trade developed it became necessary to permit beef-canning firms who were not themselves the proprietors of registered slaughtering premises, but whose cattle were slaughtered at registered premises for them, to export the offals from the cattle slaughtered for such canning. The Fresh Meat Acts were accordingly amended by an Emergency Powers Order to enable special export licences under these Acts to be granted to firms holding manufacturing licences for meat-canning under the Slaughter of Cattle and Sheep Acts. The Emergency Powers Order also provided for the grant of special licences for the export of livers in a benign condition which were suitable for use for pharmaceutical purposes but which could not be permitted for export for edible purposes (these livers have been distinctively dyed before export to ensure against their use for edible purposes). It is now proposed to incorporate the provisions of the Order in question in permanent legislation (Section 3 of the Bill).

The Bill also provides (Section 8) for the salvaging, under supervision, of these livers in a benign condition, which should ordinarily be denatured. During the emergency a trade developed in such livers which although unsuitable for human consumption were fit for use for pharmaceutical purposes. Provision was made by an Emergency Powers Order for the salvaging of these livers under suitable supervision and this arrangement is now being put on a permanent basis. As already indicated, inedible livers are distinctively dyed before export to ensure against their use for edible purposes.

Under the Agricultural Produce (Fresh Meat) Act, 1930, certain fees are payable by carcase meat exporters in respect of the veterinary examination of the animals slaughtered by them for export. The fees at present payable are cattle 1/- per head, sheep 1½d. per head and pigs 3d. per head, and as matters stand these rates of fee cannot be altered in any way. The Pigs and Bacon Acts provide for charging of a veterinary examination fee not exceeding 6d. per pig in respect of pigs slaughtered at bacon factories and a fee of 5d. per pig has been charged under this authority since 1936. It is now proposed (Sections 4 and 6 of the Bill) that the rates of fee under both sets of Acts may in future be fixed by Statutory Regulations made by the Minister. Any such regulations will have to be approved by each House of the Oireachtas before becoming operative and the Oireachtas will accordingly have an opportunity of considering any proposed alterations in the fees before the alterations come into effect.

A manufacturing licence under the Slaughter of Cattle and Sheep Acts is required in respect of the manufacture of canned meat products and certain other meat preparations. At present the conditions attached to manufacturing licences can only be modified by revoking the existing licences, in each case after a month's notice. It is proposed in Section 5 of the Bill to take power to alter the conditions attached to a manufacturing licence by serving notice of the alteration on the licence holder; this power to modify the licence conditions in a less cumbersome manner is required to meet changes decided upon in consultation with the meat canners generally or necessitated by the requirements of importing countries. Any change would, of course, apply to all manufacturing licences and would not be confined to the licence held by a particular canner.

It was provided by an Emergency Powers Order in 1943 that certain classes of casualty pigs, viz. pigs that had been purchased by a bacon curer but died on the way to the factory or that died, otherwise than by slaughter, after arrival at a factory, would qualify for compensation out of the Insurance Fund under the Pigs and Bacon Acts. It is now proposed (Section 7 of the Bill) to include this technical amendment of the Acts in permanent legislation.

Having regard to the statement of the Minister, I welcome this Bill which is based on the necessity which arose during the emergency for a number of Emergency Powers Orders.

The purpose of this Bill, to be quite clear, is to embody in permanent legislation Orders that were made during the emergency, to do the things that they were designed to do during that period. The Bill is one which we might consider more in Committee, and I would like to have an assurance from the Minister particularly in relation to Section 5 which states:—

"(2a) The Minister may, by notice in writing given to the holder of the manufacturing licence—

(i) attach to the licence," etc.

I would like to have an assurance from the Minister, particularly in regard to this section, that there is not going to be any alteration in the licence given to a particular holder, except when it is an agreement made or arrived at in consultation with licence holders in that particular business. I think that is what the Minister has particularly in mind. I would like to have an assurance from the Minister that that was the real purpose of this amendment; otherwise we could have a position in which quite a number of organisations would be engaged in this particular activity, and where there could be some demand made on a particular associate, of the particular organisation, which would not be made on A or B. I want an assurance from the Minister that where a demand is going to be made, it is going to be, as it were, universal, and that it is not going to be applicable to any particular firm.

I should like to ask the Minister to consider one or two suggestions I have to make on this Bill. It deals with inspections and the conditions which will have to obtain in all factories, and I suggest that he might take powers to provide that his own officials will be sufficient to carry out these inspections. What takes place under the Fresh Meat Act at present is that these officials lay down the conditions on which a licence will be granted and plans have to be submitted to and approved by the Minister's officials. Very regularly—at least twice per year—these factories are inspected and if there are any things which require to be done, these officials point them out and they are attended to.

There is what strikes me as rather an anomaly in that these meat factories are also inspected by officials from the Department of Industry and Commerce, from the Department of Health, and from the Department of Local Government. The standards required by the Minister's Department are far higher and more stringent, and I think it is unnecessary that a meat factory, which is so efficiently taken care of by the Department of Agriculture, should be inspected by these various other Departments. The Acts under which the Department officials work in relation to these factories are Acts which have been enacted later than the Factories Acts, and I think it is a point the Minister should consider because there is a good deal of unnecessary overlapping.

A very good job is being done, I believe, in these meat factories, and to-day I was speaking to some insurance brokers who told me that they believe that next year the insurance rate in respect of Irish fresh meat being exported to Britain will be in the neighbourhood of 2/- per cent., which is a risk of 1,000 to one. That is the strongest proof that these factories are doing a very good job.

Why object, then, to so much inspection?

I have no objection to it. The Minister's officials are doing this inspection and doing it well. They are officials trained for the job and they make a study of meat factories all over the world. They insist on very high standards, but the officials who come in after them do not insist on standards nearly as high, but they are required to come in there because it is so provided in Acts passed before the Fresh Meat Act was passed in 1930. They are there as a residue, so to speak, of past Acts of Parliament which insist on factory inspection. We have reached the stage at which much of that inspection is unnecessary and the rate of 2/- per cent. gives an indication that a good job is being done as a result of the co-operation of the proprietors of the factories with the officials of the Department.

Perhaps the Minister might consider bringing the representatives of the trade and of the processors of pigs and meat in some advisory capacity under a Bill which he might frame. The farmers and the producers of meat have no way of meeting in common and putting their views to the Minister and it might be desirable to set up some form of body, a consultative council or board, which might help the Minister in framing policy and sometimes in explaining to the trade, the producing and processing end of it, the reasons for certain ministerial policy.

The Minister takes power to increase fees and I am the sort of person who, when he sees someone taking power to increase fees, says: "I hope he does not increase them too much." However, the Minister will have to lay them before both Houses of the Oireachtas to get them confirmed.

The only comment I have to make on this Bill is that it is again another example of legislation by reference to Acts which the majority of us know nothing about. I always think that, when a Bill of this nature is introduced, a White Paper should be circulated explanatory of the various references. In sub-section (2) of Section 4, there is a provision which defeats me. That sub-section sets out:—

"Where regulations are proposed to be made pursuant to paragraph (a), paragraph (b) or paragraph (c) of Rule 2 of the Schedule to the Act of 1930, as amended by sub-section (1) of this section, a draft of the regulations shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas and the regulations shall not be made until a resolution approving of the draft has been passed by each such House."

I do not know what paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of Rule 2 of the Schedule to the Act of 1930 are, and, if I am agreeing to the Bill as presented, I am agreeing to something of which I am entirely ignorant. I think that, when Ministers bring forward legislation of this nature, instead of covering itin globo by a sub-section of that sort, we should get some explanation of the references because these are outside the Bill and I do not know what the effect of them may be.

I should like to know also whether the draft regulations which shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas shall be so laid only once or whether they shall be laid each time a regualtion is altered. I understand that it is possible that a case might arise where a new regulation would be necessary. Is it proposed then to submit both regulations to the Oireachtas and does the Minister interpret these regulations before their application by the Civil Service? I ask that because it may arise on another Bill which we will be discussing later.

I have great sympathy with Senator O'Donnell's difficulty in the matter of these Bills by reference and I have often had experience myself of the very same difficulties with which the Senator now finds himself contending. I tried in so far as I could to anticipate his difficulty in the introductory remarks I made relevant to the Bill, when I informed the Seanad that it is now proposed in Sections 4 and 6 that the rates of fee in both sets of Acts may be in future fixed by Statutory Regulations made by the Minister. I went on to say that these new regulations will not have effect until they have been laid before each House of the Oireachtas and approved by both House of the Oireachtas. The regulations referred to by the Senator are the regulations dealing with the fixation of fees payable by bacon curers and fresh meat factories in respect of the actual volume of trade they happen to do.

Every regulation or an amendment of a regulation, will have to be laid on the Table of this House and of the Dáil and approved of before it becomes operative. I am proceeding backwards and so Senator Hawkins will excuse me if I deal with the point raised by him last. Senator Burke raised some points which I should like to refer to briefly. He said he thought it would be advantageous if it were possible for me to meet bodies representative of the trade from time to time and to discuss with them policy matters relating to the trade. I do.

I did not say that the Minister did not, but there is not any machinery.

Well, very often, I think arrangements of that kind work better without any machinery of that kind, but I have never had any difficulty either with the fresh meat industry or with the bacon curers. I have always found them ready and willing to meet me in a representative capacity, and that is a degree of co-operation which I—and I am sure my predecessors in office—greatly appreciate. It is not set in any rigid form, and I really think it is no worse for that. We do not feel reluctant to work with one another or to debate any matter very fully. I am not aware that any misunderstanding has ever arisen between these trades and the Department of Agriculture that has not been readily resolved by consulation.

That is so, but the point that I wanted to make was that the producer and the processor do not get an opportunity of discussing their problems and of putting them jointly to the Minister.

I am very happy to be in a position to endorse what Senator Burke says about the excellent reputation of our Irish meat exports, fresh and cured. It is largely with a view to maintaining that very high standard that all these Acts are enacted. I would ask the Seanad to remember this, that while in respect of probably 90 per cent. of the exporters of fresh and cured meat from this country supervision of this kind would not be required at all, it is in respect of the 10 per cent., where such supervision is required, that this whole system of supervision has to be established, because it has to be borne in mind that one unsatisfactory consignment of fresh or cured meat from this country can reflect on the whole output. It is the painful experience of us all that while there may be hundreds of tons of meat of first class quality passing into the market without comment, if one hundredweight of bad quality could be made the subject of complaint by jealous competitors abundant publicity will be forthcoming to describe that one unsatisfactory hundredweight while the hundreds of tons of first class meat will pass uncommented on into consumption.

I have great sympathy with Senator Burke when he feels that there is undue inspection. On the subject of inspection, I have had that feeling from time to time, but I am, however, in a position to assure him that every reasonable precaution is taken to prevent undue duplication of inspection. I think it is true to say that where the officers of my Department inspect a bacon factory or a fresh-meat factory and certify that the conditions there are satisfactory, the Department of Health will accept our certificate in that regard.

It is to the duplication that I object.

Here we are trying to avoid duplication between the Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture, but there are certain aspects in regard to factories which may not come within the ambit of our inspection at all: where it is necessary for the officers of the Department of Industry and Commerce to inspect a factory for the enforcement of the Factories Acts such as dangers to employees, conditions and so forth which are not properly taken into consideration by the officers in my Department at all. I can conceive a situation arising in which inspectors in the Department of Local Government may inspect a factory at the request of the local authority which alleged that there was some nuisance originating in the public sewerage system from some effluent from the factory. So far as we are concerned in the Department of Agriculture, provided the factory is in the condition in which it ought to be, provided the meat is handled properly and provided the place is kept clean and according to the standards which we set, it is not our function to determine what becomes of the effluent, provided it is satisfactorily removed from the factory premises. But it is not impossible for a local authority to complain that a factory is committing a nuisance and that they were unable to control it, and so would invoke the assistance of the Department of Local Government. That may account for their intervention.

The last matter mentioned by Senator Hawkins was one which I tried to deal with in my introductory statement. I gather that Senator Hawkins' solicitude is this, that there should be do danger of an amendment of conditions attaching to a manufacturer's licence in the future which will not be of universal application. The Senator may be assured that there is no such intention whatever, and I doubt if there is the power. There is no intention of attaching a condition to any manufacturer's licence which is not a universal application. I think the Senator did ask me that no new condition would be applied without the agreement of the licence holder. That is a promise I could not make because conditions can arise in which a licence holder may very vigorously resent a condition which it is my duty to attach to his licence, but the Senator can rest assured of this, that if a condition is attached to his licence it will attach to every licence held by every other citizen of the State.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 1st December, 1954.