This Bill was introduced in the Seanad in 1988. It was left in abeyance until the staff of the Dublin and Cork District Milk Boards worked out an agreement under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission. Earlier this year an agreement was reached which satisfied all concerned. The Bill has since been passed by the Dáil and it is before the Seanad with some minor and purely technical amendments.
The Bill provides for the dissolution of the Dublin and Cork District Milk Boards, for the sales of their ancillary business and for the establishment of a new National Milk Agency. It was necessary to make a number of minor and technical amendments to the text of the Bill as passed by Seanad Éireann on 5 July last. The amendments to the text of the Bill were as follows.
In section 1 (1) the definition of "heat-treated milk" was amended by the deletion of the word "substances" in line 35 and the substitution of the words "food ingredients"; and in line 36 by the deletion of the word "substances" and the substitution of the word "ingredients". These amendments were necessary because the words "other substances" and "substances", respectively, render the definition too wide and therefore inappropriate in the definition of a product intended for human consumption.
In section 1 (1) the definition of producer was amended by deleting the words "an establishment" and substituting the words "a holding". The amendment was necessary because "an establishment" is more appropriate to a processing establishment or other industrial premises whereas it is intended to refer to a dairy farm.
In section 2 (2) the words "or elected" were inserted after the word "appointed". This is a simple technical amendment. The Bill provides that all members of the agency will at the start be appointed by the Minister but within the first year an election will be organised so registered producers can elect representatives from among themselves. Thus the agency will soon have both elected and appointed members and section 2 must reflect this.
At section 5 (1) the words "or supplied" were inserted after the word "sold" and at section 5 (4) the word "supplies" was inserted after the word "sells". These amendments were necessary to ensure milk delivered from one part to another on a sale or return basis comes within the provisions of this section. Furthermore, in the event of legal proceedings being brought under this section, it will not be necessary to prove a sale was completed; it will be sufficient to demonstrate a change in possession of the milk involved.
In section 5 (5) the words "in respect of each day of such contravention" were inserted after "£200". This is a technical amendment to make it absolutely clear that a person guilty of contravening the provisions of this section will be liable to a fine of £200 for each day the contravention continues.
In section 5 (6) the words "two months" were deleted and replaced by "on a date laid down by order of the Minister". The amendment was necessary because two months may not allow for adequate time for the work which will have to be undertaken by the agency before the provisions of this section can be brought into full effect. The amended wording allows for the section to be brought into effect whenever the agency signifies it is ready to commence operations, be that a longer or shorter period than two months after its establishment.
In section 8 (2) (a) the following was inserted:
(ii) the total quantity of milk acquired for the production of milk for liquid consumption, and [.]
This amendment increases the amount of information which processors will be required to furnish to the agency. The agency will therefore have to be made aware of the quantity of milk obtained by a processor under an exemption licence granted by the Minister. This will greatly facilitate the agency in determining whether processors' acquisitions of raw milk balance with their sales of heat-treated milk and whether they are paying the correct amount of levy.
In section 8 (7) the following was inserted after "register":
of producers or processors as the case may be and the registration of any and all contracts to which that person is a party [.]
The amendment ensures there is no ambiguity in that once a registered person loses his registration with the agency, any registered contracts to which he is a party become null and void in the eyes of the agency.
In section 10 (3) the following subparagraph was inserted:
(d) prevents the inspector from taking copies of records or documents or extracts therefrom in accordance with subsection (2) (b), or [.]
The amendment protects the inspector's authority by making any person who impeded an inspector in the exercise of his powers under subsection (2)(b) guilty of an offence.
In section 12 (2) the phrase "at registered premises" was deleted and replaced with "by a registered person". The amendment was necessary to improve the clarity of the text since the Bill provides for the registration of persons, whether natural or legal, rather than on premises.
In section 13 (3) (f) the word "Directive" was deleted and the words "Directive, or" were substituted; and the following subparagraph was inserted:
(g) in the case of a registered producer, that producer fails to supply the quantities of milk specified in a registered contract as being due for supply during the winter months.
These amendments enable the agency to take effective action against a producer who may attempt to exploit the situation created by the operations of the agency by supplying only in the summer months when production costs are low while ceasing to supply in the winter, so undermining the objective of the Bill.
In section 13 (4) (a) the word "receiver" was inserted after "liquidator". This was a simple technical amendment which corrects an omission. In setting down the possible parties which might be in charge of a business and on which the agency would be obliged to serve notice of its intention to alter or cancel registration, reference to a receiver was accidentally omitted.
After section 13 (8) the following subsection was inserted:
(9) A producer whose registration is cancelled in pursuance of subsection (3) (g) shall not be eligible for re-registration by the agency for a period of at least two years from the date of such cancellation.
The amendment provides for a penalty of two years prohibition on renewing the registration of any producer whose registration is cancelled by the agency for failing to supply the contractual quantity of milk during the winter months.
A new section was inserted before section 21 entitled "Prosecution of Offences", which reads:
21.—Offences under sections 5, 8, 9, 10 and 15 shall be brought and prosecuted by the Agency.
The amendment facilitates the more effective implementation of the legislation by bestowing on the agency itself the power to prosecute offences. In the absence of this provision, the duty of taking proceedings for offences would fall on the Director of Public Prosecutions.
The following amendments were made to the Schedule to the Bill. First, at paragraph 1 (4) the word "absence" was inserted after the word "through". This amendment widens the circumstances in which the Minister may appoint an acting chairman in order to facilitate the conduct of agency business. Second, after the word "proper" the phrase "and references to the Chairman in the subsequent provisions of this Schedule shall include the person so acting" was inserted. The purpose of this amendment is to ensure the acting chairman will be empowered to carry out the duties otherwise carried out by the chairman if the chairman was not absent.
I trust I have given a clear report of the amendments to the Bill passed by Dáil Éireann and I commend them to the House.