Diseases of Animals Bill, 1960: Second and Subsequent Stages.

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

This Bill contains two main provisions. The first provision abolishes a fund which has been in existence since 1878 and which has long since outlived its usefulness. The general cattle diseases fund was set up in an attempt to spread equitably over all local authorities the cost of dealing with outbreaks of animal disease or, in other words, to prevent all the cost of a local outbreak of disease from falling on one or on a very few local authorities at the time of the outbreak.

At the time the fund was set up local bodies had smaller areas to administer than the present counties and they also had functions in relation to diseases such as cattle plague and pleuro-pneumonia which have since been eradicated, or diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease, swine fever, etc., which are now dealt with directly by the Department of Agriculture. The functions of local authorities in relation to animal diseases are now confined to (1) the appointment of local veterinary inspectors; (2) the administration of the Bovine Tuberculosis Order of 1926; and (3) the enforcement of sheep dipping regulations.

I should perhaps make it clear that the Bovine Tuberculosis Order of 1926 is not connected with the general bovine tuberculosis eradication scheme. This order deals with clinical or open cases of tuberculosis. The local authority veterinary inspector visits, inspects and arranges for slaughter in such cases (which are relatively small in number) but the compensation which is now at the full market value is recouped from the Exchequer. With the development of the bovine tuberculosis eradication scheme generally the need for this Order will diminish in due course.

Local authorities contribute to the fund by means of a halfpenny in the £ on the rates assessed from time to time. They receive from the fund one-half of their expenses—that is a total of about £25,000 at present—for disease control functions, and they pay the other £25,000 directly from their own resources. I have indicated what these functions are and it will be apparent that the nature and volume of the work and the expenses incurred will be relatively the same in all counties. The position has been for a number of years that most local authorities received from the fund about the same amount as they contributed to it. The fund was thus serving no effective purpose and a complicated and rather expensive process of collecting money from local authorities and paying it back to them was being kept up unnecessarily.

The Bill provides that after the 31st March, 1961, local authorities will meet all their expenses for disease control directly from the rates. As I have already indicated these expenses total about £50,000 annually which is a negligible proportion of total local authority revenue expenditure. The change will mean no additional charge on local authorities as a whole.

The Fund is now almost exhausted and provision is made for further contributions to enable outstanding claims to be paid. While provision is made for an overall assessment of 4d. in the £, in fact it is expected that no more than 2d. in the £ will be necessary. The Fund is being kept open until the 31st March, 1963, so that the outstanding claims and the claims arising up to the 1st April, 1961, can be met. Any balance on the 31st March, 1963 will be paid to the Exchequer but the last assessment necessary can be fairly closely estimated and so the amount left in the Fund will be very small. Fines for offences under the Diseases of Animals Acts which were hitherto paid into the Fund will also be paid directly into the Exchequer from that date. These fines have represented only an insignificant part of the income of the Fund. To sum up this part of the Bill, I may say it is no more than a change in accountancy procedure made in the interests of simplicity and economy of administration.

The second main provision in the Bill substitutes the word "attested" for the word "accredited" in our Bovine Tuberculosis Eradication Scheme. What we describe as "accredited cattle" under our legislation are called "attested cattle" under the British Regulations. I have had strong representations both from farmers' representatives and trade interests to adopt the description which has long been used in Britain. It has been represented to me that describing Irish cattle as "accredited" instead of "attested" would have an adverse effect on their sale in Britain since British buyers may wonder whether the difference in description connotes some difference also in status. In fact, of course, there is no such difference and in view of the representations I received and because of the necessity to ensure that no obstacle is placed in the way of our cattle export trade I thought it well that we should adopt the word "attested."

When the Diseases of Animals (Bovine Tuberculosis) Bill was before this House in 1957 Senators discussed the relative merits of the words "accredited" and "attested" and it was indicated at the time that the change would be made at a later stage if circumstances justified it. I feel that that time has now come.

Both parts of this Bill are to be welcomed, although I regret the demise of an old friend, the General Cattle Diseases Fund, which as the Minister pointed out originated in relation to pleuro-pneumonia. If I might ask the Minister a question which is perhaps not strictly relevant to the Bill, and which he may or may not be able to answer—if he cannot answer it, I will not blame him—has he or his Department succeeded in persuading the American Government that pleuro-pneumonia is not endemic in our cattle? I understand it is one of the difficulties which arose when the export trade in beef started here. Ireland was listed in regulations of the United States as one of the countries in which pleuro-pneumonia was endemic. To the best of my recollection, the last outbreak of pleuro-pneumonia was in 1875 or some time like that.

In regard to the other part of the Bill, many of these funds were wound up in 1923 and 1924 and those that survived continued for a long time. This was a British method of doing things and it is not in accord with the modern desire for uniformity about which we heard so much in this House recently, although there are occasions when uniformity does not always bring the desired results.

The other part of the Bill is more important. It is a sensible proposal and I do not want to say anything more about it than that. Otherwise I might be tempted to make very strong observations. The Minister said that it had been represented to him that describing Irish cattle as "accredited" instead of "attested" would have an adverse effect on their sale in Britain. There is not the slightest doubt that certain deficiencies—to use a moderate Civil Service kind of word—have been found in the system that operated I do not agree with the Minister's attitude in relation to the action which he took. I do not agree with his refusal to publish the names of the people who do not do their duty in regard to bovine tuberculosis. The names of such people should be published. If the State will not point out people who are not doing their duty, who else can do it? I do not want to say anything more about it, but, as I say, the Bill in both parts is to be welcomed.

I do not think the Seanad will delay discussing this Bill and even if my namesake calls the fund an old friend, I have had some experience of it and I regard it as an old difficulty. I should like to refer to the Bovine Tuberculosis Order which was originally brought in as a public health measure in the interest of human beings rather than animals. With the eradication of bovine tuberculosis, there is no necessity for the Bovine Tuberculosis Order. I remember in this House many years ago trying to get an alteration in the Order to make it operate more easily, but the opinion I wish to express now is that in a very short time there will be no necessity for the Bovine Tuberculosis Order, 1956, and the responsibilities of local authorities in connection with contagious diseases of animals will be practically eliminated.

The fact that we are remarkably clear of any of these major diseases— and let us hope the country will continue to be clear of them—means that the necessity for the Central Fund to expend large sums of money on the eradication of cattle diseases will no longer exist. What we require in this country today is to eradicate bovine tuberculosis and I am sure that everyone, including the veterinary surgeons and those in charge of the animals, will co-operate to the fullest extent in bringing this tuberculosis eradication scheme to a conclusion as quickly as possible. Even when it is approaching a conclusion, expenditure will be necessitated to safeguard the livestock.

Surely it would be all right to change the word "accredited" to "attested" simply for the sake of uniformity. Those words were discussed in the Seanad before and we accepted the definition "accredited" here when the definition in England was "attested". They both mean the same thing but I can see that it would be better if we agreed on the term employed in the country to which we export the greater number of cattle in order that the British owner will know that the cattle we are exporting have been tested for tuberculosis and certified as "attested" rather than "accredited". The fact that the word "attested" would be associated with the word "tested" would convey a definite meaning to any British or foreign stock owner more quickly than would the word "accredited".

I hope the House will pass this Bill in toto tonight. In passing, I should like to make a slightly facetious remark about the fact that I notice in subsection (2) of Section 5 the phrase “shall come into operation on such day as the Minister by Order appoints”. I notice that other Senators seem to object to any Minister using Orders for the implementation of legislation. Surely this Bill becomes a law on the day it is signed by An tUachtaráin?

I notice that the Minister states the local authority is contributing a halfpenny in the £ to the fund and they are receiving half of their expenditure from it. In other words, at the present time it is costing the local authority a penny in the £. Further on, the Minister states that it was not expected that there would be any increase in claims and he made the statement that:

While provision is made for an over-all assessment of 4d. in the £, in fact it is expected that no more than 2d. in the £ will be necessary.

I was just wondering about the jump from a penny to 2d. Does the State at present make a contribution to this fund we are now abolishing?

In that case my question probably does not arise. I was wondering was it only in a single county it would go up to 2d. and that in another it would be a penny. I was concerned that there would not be any transfer of money or financial responsibility from the central authority to the local authority but I do not think there is.

Most public men are concerned about the same matter.

I should have hoped that possibly the Minister could have got rid of some of the expenditure under this fund. I understand from the debate in the Dáil that the only expenditure now which is being met out of the fund is in regard to veterinary inspectors and inspection of slaughter houses. I am not quite sure where the overlapping could occur. Of course, there is a certain amount of overlapping between county council health inspectors and veterinary inspectors because both are entitled to inspect slaughter houses. Perhaps the Minister would look into that question at some future date. Inspectors under this Bill can inspect slaughter houses and health inspectors under the Health Acts can inspect slaughter houses also.

According to what the Minister said in the Dáil veterinary inspectors will inspect slaughter houses. There was at one time a certain amount of overlapping. I do not know whether there still is. Sheep-dipping regulations seem to be the only thing which will be left to the fund after 1963.

There is one other question I should like to ask with regard to the changing of the word "accredited" to "attested". Will that entail any difficulty with regard to cattle in transit when the Bill becomes law? Will there be any necessity to change forms that might be used in connection with the transport of cattle? Nothing occurs to me but there might be something.

According to my information, the disease referred to by Senator O'Donovan, pleuro-pneumonia, last occurred in this country in 1892. I do not know what the American attitude is or whether they have kept themselves informed as to the progress we have been making since that time. We were very far away from them then but in fact in some senses. I suppose today as in those early times, the Americans are fairly hard to convince in matters——

Sixty years is a long time.

——of disease and perhaps it was that our contacts with them in the cattle trading sense were not of a nature that would produce an understanding of the progress we had made.

There is no reason, I think, why I should refer to the point made by Senator Quinlan. The question he addressed to me was in fact one which I asked myself when this matter was first mooted to me by my officials. I knew well, of course, that if there was any question of breaking up a fund that was designed to assist the local bodies in the State, most Deputies and Senators and public men would take a very poor view of that proposition. It is easy to understand why the fund was created when local bodies were responsible for paying compensation for losses sustained as a result of the outbreak of any of the diseases then controlled by them. I should also like to say that with the passage of time this payment of compensation was taken over by the State and the need for an arrangement which was a fairly vital matter in those early days did not appear to exist any longer. Such a fund, created in this cumbersome way, was bound to cause considerable waste of official time at the local authority level and at the central level. There was, therefore, a very convincing reason for bringing to an end this arrangement and making the local authority directly responsible for meeting whatever costs are incurred in the administration of the Diseases of Animals Acts. It is not very much.

Senator Cole made a point about the printing of booklets, and so on. We are taking power to make an Order to enable us to look after the point to which the Senator referred.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining Stages today.
Bill put through Committee; reported without amendment; received for final consideration and passed.