Milk (Regulation of Supply and Price) (Amendment) Bill, 1967—Second and Subsequent Stages.

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

The Bill proposes to amend the Milk (Regulation of Supply and Price) Act, 1936, so that the election of members of the Dublin District Milk Board which is due to be held this year may be held in 1968 instead. The reason for this change is that the situation arising from the outbreaks of foot and mouth disease in Britain make it most desirable that the election should not take place at present.

Hitherto elections of members of milk boards have been conducted by postal ballot. I do not consider, however, that postal balloting is a satisfactory system for such elections. For example, secrecy cannot always be ensured and there is a risk of abuse through such occurrences as ballot papers getting into the hands of persons other than those entitled to vote. For these reasons I arranged for a change in the election system so that in future voting would be by secret ballot at polling stations provided by the milk board concerned. I might add that the question of making a similar change in the election of members of An Bord Bainne is being examined.

Because of the crisis created by the foot and mouth disease outbreaks in Britain it is very important that the congregation of voters at rural polling stations should be avoided at present, and, therefore, that the election for the Dublin Board should not be held until 1968. Section 1 of the Bill provides for this. It will not, however, affect subsequent elections to the Dublin Board which will, therefore, take place in 1970 and each third year thereafter. Neither will it affect elections to the Cork District Milk Board which is the only other board established under the principal Act.

As I have already indicated in the Dáil, an election of members of the Dublin Board will be held as soon as possible in 1968 after the risks arising from the foot and mouth disease outbreaks in Britain have passed.

There is some doubt as to whether the power under the principal Act to make an Order appointing an election day automatically includes power to revoke such an Order. Section 3 of the Bill is designed to remove any doubt that may exist in regard to the recent order revoking the 1967 election day Order for the Dublin Board.

I now commend the Bill to the House and ask that it be given a Second Reading.

I should like to know from the Minister whether he has any idea of the date. He has mentioned section 3 of the Bill, but could he tell me briefly what the probable date will be?

I am afraid I have not any clear idea at this stage.

I thought the Minister said that section 3 sets out the date on which the election takes place.

Apparently the election should have taken place some time now but owing to the national emergency in relation to the foot and mouth disease the Minister has decided that the election of members should be postponed. I should like to know whether it will be postponed for 12 months from the date on which the election should have taken place this year? In other words, will the members of the existing board have another year to serve on that board before the election takes place?

Having regard to the place of residence of many of these people who are entitled to vote, I think it is a fair enough suggestion that postal voting should be permitted, particularly under the kind of supervision I envisage will take place. I expect that, in future, people who have a vote will probably have to produce a ballot paper in the same manner as voters for Seanad elections are required to produce the ballot paper in a sealed envelope in the presence of a Superintendent of the Gardaí or a Sergeant for the district. He will see that the ballot paper is not marked. By reason of his office, he will ensure secrecy of the marking of the paper at that particular barracks or place where the voting will be supervised, of course, by a responsible person. When the voting takes place in that manner, I think we can feel satisfied that there will be no question of, if you like, bribery in the matter of casting votes or any undue influence on the persons who will have the right to vote in these elections.

It is a new principle, I think, apart from the system of voting in relation to the election of members of the Seanad. I welcome it because I think in future we must consider the possibility of making similar facilities available to electors who cannot be present at any particular polling station for the purpose of casting votes in ordinary Parliamentary elections. I feel this is one more step towards the achievement of that kind of aim. For instance, commercial travellers may have to be down the country on the day of a Parliamentary election. They will have a ballot paper which they can produce in the presence of a responsible person, show that the paper is blank, then vote, put it in a sealed envelope and address it to the place where the votes will be counted. I think this is a very practical suggestion. I think it is a move in the right direction in so far as concerns the casting of votes by people who cannot conveniently be in a certain place on a certain day for the purpose of casting their votes.

I should like to support this measure. I feel that the Minister and the Department should be supported in every individual step they may take to ensure that the dangers of the spread of foot and mouth disease will be minimised in this country. We assure the Minister that we shall afford him and his Department every possible co-operation. We shall advocate inasmuch as is humanly possible, that every section of the community do their share to ensure that unnecessary dangers and risks will not be allowed to aggravate the spread of the disease, particularly in so far as the milk and dairy industry is concerned. This is one section of the farming industry that would certainly take a very bad beating if the disease got any foothold at all in our country. Therefore, any regulation the Minister now sees fit to introduce cannot be regarded as too strict or too severe. What is at stake is of tremendous magnitude and we support the Minister in every step he takes.

It is obvious that the Minister wishes to postpone something that should happen this year until next year and is giving the reasons which are the existing foot and mouth disease dangers. Therefore, I am sure the whole House will support him.

There is just the one question asked by Senator Rooney, namely, whether the present board will continue for a further year. It will be my hope that they may not be called upon to do so. As to how much of that year they may yet be called upon to serve, neither I nor anyone else can say at this moment. The intention is that, within 1967, the election will be arranged by Order in the normal way as soon as it appears safe to do so.

It will be presumed safe to do so then. If it is not, the Minister must do something else.

That is right.

Agreed to take remaining Stages today.

Bill put through Committee, reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.