Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 24 May 1928

Vol. 23 No. 17


The necessity for this Bill arises out of the passage of an Act in the British Parliament called the Importation of Animals Act, 1922. Under that Act cattle exported to England from Ireland, and slaughtered at quarantine stations at the ports in England, because of foot and mouth disease, were slaughtered without compensation. This Bill is to make provision for that state of affairs. It should be clear that Irish cattle, or any other cattle slaughtered in England because of foot and mouth disease, except slaughtered at a port, are paid for by the British Ministry out of British taxation. Any cattle slaughtered in Ireland because of foot and mouth disease are paid for by the Irish Government. Since 1922 and until this Bill there was no provision anywhere for paying compensation for cattle slaughtered in England in quarantine stations at a port. This Bill is to make provision for that purpose. The idea of the Bill is to create a fund and vest it in trustees. The particular fund contemplated by the Bill will be established in accordance with certain regulations laid down in the statute. It will be fed from per capita charges made in respect of cattle, sheep and pigs exported. The calculation shows that at the rates suggested in the Bill, 2½d. for cattle, 1d. for pigs and ½d. for sheep that method of raising money will bring in about £7,000 yearly, so that after two years there will be a fund there of about £14,000. This particular method has been agreed on after consultation with the National Executive of the cattle trade. The Executive consists of representatives from the various organisations which control the cattle trade at the present time. There are exporters' and other organisations of that sort—two in Dublin, one in Cork, and I think there is another. The live stock trade has a national executive which, I think, is representative of every organisation dealing—directly or indirectly—with the cattle trade. This Bill has been prepared in consultation with them, and in its general outlines has their agreement, so that to that extent it is an agreed Bill. The Bill provides that after a certain time arrangements can be made under which these particular charges shall be no longer levied. The machinery for levying the charges is set out in the Bill. It is quite simple. Trustees will be appointed by the National Executive of the live stock trade, and these trustees will have for sale certain stamps, which will be purchased by the shippers and put on the forms which they hand to the shipping companies when shipping live stock. There will be very little book-keeping. The fund will accumulate in that way. After a while it is expected, in fact it is almost absolutely certain, that £15,000 or £20,000 will have accumulated, and that will be quite sufficient money, in my view, and in the view of the trade, to meet this particular contingency.

There were, I think, in 1922 two or three cases where cattle were slaughtered at a quarantine station at a port because of foot-and-mouth disease. These cattle were owned by people in Donegal and, I think, by some people in County Dublin. At any rate, they were owned by people in the Saorstát. No compensation was paid to them. This Bill will be retrospective as far as these cattle are concerned. These were the only cases that have arisen since 1922. Such cases could not arise before 1922, as before that any cattle slaughtered anywhere in England, because of the foot-and-mouth disease, were paid for by the British Ministry of Lands and Agriculture. Since 1922 there were these two or three cases, and the value of the animals would be about five or six thousand pounds. The owners are without compensation since, and it is felt that, as we are making this provision, we should in all equity include the cases of people who were unfortunate enough to have cattle slaughtered three or four years ago. This Bill provides for that. Personally, I think it is most unlikely that this particular contingency will arise again. Under the present arrangements at the other side, I think it is most unlikely that cattle will be slaughtered in quarantine stations. The most elaborate precautions are taken to see that cattle leaving this country are free from disease. The quarantine stations on the other side are water-tight, if I might use the expression, and it is not likely in the future that disease could possibly get into a quarantine station. In view of that state of affairs, I think it is most unlikely that there will be in future any slaughter of cattle in quarantine stations. At the same time, in view of the fact that there is foot-and-mouth disease in England, and that outbreaks of the disease occur at times very near the ports, there is considerable insecurity amongst the cattle trade by reason of the fact that some shipment of 400 or 500 cattle, representing property to the value of eight or ten thousand pounds, might have the misfortune while in a quarantine station to develop foot-and-mouth disease and be slaughtered, with no liability on anybody for compensation. I think the cattle trade agree with that point of view. At the same time it is easy to understand the insecurity that the existing state of affairs causes in the minds of cattle shippers. They want to provide against the possibility in the future that cattle will be slaughtered in a quarantine station in England, and the live-stock executive have agreed that this is a suitable way of doing it. As I said, the fund will fill up at the rate of about £7,000 a year, and consequently at the end of two years there will be a fund of £14,000 or thereabouts. I should think if they have any luck that that fund will lie there for a considerable time without any very big call on it, and the accumulated interest on that money, I should say, would provide funds for all time for this particular purpose.

I want to make the position clear again. If cattle are slaughtered in the Saorstát because of foot and mouth disease there is provision for paying for them. If cattle are slaughtered anywhere in England, except in a quarantine station, there is provision to pay for them; they are paid for by the British Government. This Bill deals with a case where cattle are slaughtered in England in a quarantine station at a port. As far as we are concerned, we want to hand over this fund to the trade itself, with as little control as possible. We believe that it can be administered more effectively, more efficiently, more cheaply, and more satisfactorily in that way, and this Bill provides in a regular way for the appointment of trustees, sets out and limits their powers, appoints assessors, and so on, to value the cattle in the event of cattle being slaughtered, and my point of view is that the less the Government has to do with the matter the better.

No doubt this Bill will be very welcome, but it has, perhaps, come a little late. There are just a few points that the Minister did not make any mention of, and which, I believe, would require attention if the Bill is to be made completely satisfactory. The Minister made no mention of compensation in the case of extra long periods of detention. Cattle deteriorate a great deal under those conditions, and, as I understand the terms of the assessment, the valuation of the cattle, pigs or sheep will be at or previous to the time of slaughter. I think it will be necessary in cases where they are detained under suspicion and where the disease is not found amongst them, to give some form of compensation to the owners of these animals. Another case is with regard to veterinary examination at the ports of embarkation. I hope that that will be perhaps a little bit more intensive than it has been. No doubt, numerous cases of tubercular animals have got through. The veterinary inspectors evidently failed to notice them, and in the case of the fat cattle trade it is very detrimental in the markets in England to find these animals getting through. Evidently under this Bill the veterinary inspectors will have to hand over a clean Bill of health to the shipowners.


I think the Deputy is under a slight misapprehension. This Bill only deals with foot and mouth disease, and the slaughtering of cattle suffering from foot and mouth disease. There has always been an inspection at the ports.

Quite so. As I understand it, animals will require to have a clean bill of health——



—which, I take it, will be in all circumstances, whether from foot and mouth or any other disease, and I hope that the examination will be a little more strict than it has been. The Minister did not say what the position in Northern Ireland will be. Will the Government in Northern Ireland take steps to introduce a Bill on the same lines as this? He said that this would be retrospective with regard to cattle. As far as I can recollect, about the year 1922 shippers of pigs had some losses. If that is the case, I believe that the Bill should apply to pigs as well as to cattle.


I do not think that is so.

I have certain information. Losses occurred through the detention of pigs for a very lengthy period. When the Bill comes up later perhaps amendments will be put in to include such losses as occurred owing to extra periods of detention. This largely affects the question of store cattle. Beef cattle can always be slaughtered at the port, and for beef cattle, if any compensation has to be paid, it will naturally be less than what will have to be paid for store cattle. The Bill might require a few amendments to make it a little more acceptable than it is.

I welcome this Bill. I have been directly interested in the cattle export trade, and I speak on behalf of the trade. For the past three or four years we had been endeavouring to get some security with regard to cattle exported from this country. Time out of mind we came to the Minister. I think in 1922 a good deal of cattle were held up at the ports and slaughtered during the ten hours' detention, and some were held in quarantine for nearly a fortnight. After a good deal of consultation with the trade the Minister has introduced this Bill. We are satisfied. We have consulted everybody connected with the trade, and I believe that if the Bill passes through in its present form it will cover our case, and it will be a very welcome Bill.

As one of those who advocated the taking of measures with a view to making provision for the existing circumstances in regard to the slaughter of cattle in quarantine stations, I wish to express appreciation of the fact that the Minister has at last been able to come to an agreement with the trade, as a result of which this measure has been introduced. We recognised, from the efforts that were being made to introduce a Bill by means of which the Government would take responsibility for compensation, that it was very difficult to deal with this matter. It did not seem desirable that the Government should accept responsibility for compensation for losses of live stock which were slaughtered when outside its control, and the cattle which are slaughtered in British quarantine stations are slaughtered out of the control of the Irish Government. Therefore a difficulty arises with regard to a method of securing compensation. I am glad to see by this Bill that the Minister has, by an arrangement with the cattle trade, arrived at a compromise, and I believe that this will work out to the satisfaction of everybody concerned. It is a fact that every form of insecurity which may exist in regard to the ultimate sale of cattle which are shipped from this country has a reaction on the prices which are paid to the farmers. Dealers in cattle must ensure in the prices which they pay that they have a margin of safety, with the result that any element of uncertainty which exists in the disposal of our cattle between the time of buying from the farmers and the time of selling to the English butcher reacts to the disadvantage of the farmers. Therefore, I feel that the introduction and passing of this Bill will have a certain effect in improving the condition and the sale of Irish cattle and for that reason it is welcome.

I am glad also that the Minister has seen fit to introduce the retrospective clause. The agitation which existed at one time, and which we gave voice to in the Dáil, resulted from the slaughter of a considerable number of cattle in quarantine stations in 1924, I think. As a result of that slaughter several cattle dealers lost very severely. In certain cases some of the smaller cattle shippers were almost placed in a bankrupt position. We felt that they suffered a grave injustice and we are glad that this opportunity has arisen whereby that injustice may be remedied. On behalf of those who in the past advocated a measure of this kind, I welcome the Bill.

As Deputy O'Reilly pointed out, I understand that no provision is made in connection with cattle shipped from ports situated in the Six Counties. As far as some of the northern ports are concerned, as the Minister for Agriculture knows, there are numbers of cattle sent through them from the Saorstát and they are shipped from those ports to England and Scotland. In the event of these cattle contracting foot and mouth disease or being slaughtered in quarantine there is no provision made in this Bill to compensate the owners of cattle who live in the Saorstát. The Minister referred to the fact that when cattle are being shipped from a port certain stamps will be put on the consignment note to the shipping companies. In the case of cattle shipped from the Saorstát through a port in the Six Counties it might be possible to make a similar arrangement at the station where the cattle are first booked. Possibly the Minister will take that matter into consideration at a later stage so that the shippers situated in the Saorstát and in the border counties may not be deprived of the benefits of this Bill. I would like the Minister to give consideration to that matter.


I am not as enthusiastic as some Deputies in regard to this matter. I regard it as a second best. I regret that it ever had to be introduced, but I see the necessity for it. If Deputies will think over it, they will see the reasons. This is a Bill for the purpose of providing compensation for cattle slaughtered because of foot and mouth disease. If you take the Bill and consider its object, it seems to be a perfectly legitimate Bill and a perfectly legitimate object. You will see it is a very regrettable necessity. The minute this Bill is introduced, however, it opens another prospect and Deputy O'Reilly underlined that prospect at once by saying that this Bill deals with cattle slaughtered because of foot and mouth disease, but there is no provision to deal with cattle that deteriorate because they were kept for commercial or disease reasons at a port in England. Other Deputies say it is a pity that this Bill does not cover the case of animals slaughtered because of tuberculosis. Even in Ireland we will have to be careful that this Bill does not lead us very much further than we intend to be led. It is a bad thing to interfere with trade in that way. Here you have suggestions made that this Bill should cover compensation for animals that deteriorate in England because of an outbreak of foot and mouth disease or for any of the other reasons that the importing country, England, thinks fit to keep them at the port. Cattle may be kept at the port for a certain length of time, they deteriorate, and the owner wants compensation. Look at the prospect that that opens up at once—all sorts of claims. Look at the way that could be abused by exporters on this side and abused on the other side by English officials. Any business man, and anyone in the trade, can see at once a hundred and one ways in which that could be abused. Yet it is quite a reasonable thing to suggest, and it shows you the danger of introducing a Bill like that.

I hope Deputies will confine this Bill to one purpose only, and that is the paying of compensation for cattle slaughtered because of foot and mouth disease. Deputies here and interested people in this country think they are going to improve this Bill in their own interests. We will be asked to pay compensation for cows slaughtered because an English official diagnoses indurated udder due to tuberculosis. The people who ship such animals would consider that a very beneficent provision. It is suggested that there should be such arrangements made in this Bill. Remember there is an interest on the other side also. There are the buyers on the other side and the officials of another Ministry to be considered. They will all take into account that certain contingencies are being covered by a levy on the trade here. It will colour any risks that may be taken here and it will colour the point of view on the other side in the way in which they administer Acts and, on the whole, you will be doing an extremely dangerous thing if you extend this Bill. The mere fact that certain things are suggested is a justification of the attitude that I have always taken. If at all possible this is a problem that should be dealt with voluntarily by the trade themselves. I realised the difficulties of the trade dealing with the matter voluntarily and in the end I decided to take the step of introducing this measure.


I did not for a moment think that the Bill should cover tubercular disease.


I did not say you did, but you suggested that it should be extended to cover depreciation brought about by cattle being detained for an extended period.


Through foot and mouth disease.


That is one thing. There are other interests that think it should cover losses sustained through other reasons, and the whole thing would go along that way. There are interests on the other side also quite ready to use this Bill for their own purposes. My advice is that the Bill should be confined strictly to the one point. Northern Ireland is in the same position as we are in in regard to cattle leaving Northern ports and being slaughtered in the quarantine stations in England. No compensation is paid. We have not provided here for cattle leaving through Belfast or Derry. The Deputy is right; a lot of Northern cattle leave through Belfast and Derry, including a lot of Donegal cattle, but the problem is not confined to Donegal cattle. Cattle leave Cork and leave places all over the country and pass through Belfast. They come through Belfast, not for any reasons connected with their location on this side, but because of their destination on the other side. The fact is that the cattle going to Glasgow go through Belfast. I have no definite information as to what is intended in Northern Ireland, but I have reason to believe that this question is being considered there, and our business at the moment is to provide compensation for cattle leaving our ports and to wait and see.

I am not quite clear as to the exact form of the amendments suggested, but it appears to me that the principle of this Bill is contained in Section 8; that would be the establishment, maintenance and management of a fund to be called the Slaughtered Animals Compensation Fund. With regard to the amendments in Committee, it seems to me it would be very difficult to move amendments covering the case of cattle that deteriorate during periods of detention.

Question—"That the Bill be now read a Second Time"—put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Friday, 1st June.