This is a Bill to regulate the export of fresh meat from this country. In 1925 the British Ministry of Agriculture made an order, after legislation previously passed, prohibiting the import of fresh meat from countries on the Continent. This prohibition mainly applied to pork, and as a result there was a very big increase in the export of fresh meat from this country. I have here before me figures showing the export of fresh beef, veal and mutton, and lamb and pork between the years 1925 and 1928. We exported 3,250 cwts. of fresh beef and veal in 1925. In 1928 we exported 85,815 cwts. of fresh beef and veal. That 85,815 cwts. is a very illusory figure if applied to this year. To some extent the big increase is due to the re-opening of the Drogheda factory. That is now closed again, and the comparable figures would be something like 40,000 cwts., so that really the increase would be from 3,250 cwts. to 40,000 cwts. In regard to mutton and lamb, we exported in 1925 344 cwts. In 1928, 20,812 cwts., or practically 21,000 cwts. In 1925 our pork export was 4,165 cwts., and our export in 1928 was 168,725 cwts. All that was due very largely to this order made by the British Minister prohibiting the import into Great Britain of fresh meat from countries like Holland and France. That gave a great chance to the Irish exporters, especially to the exporters of pork, and to a great extent the farmers and other exporters took that chance, but, unfortunately, the organisation to deal with that grew up very quickly, and I can only describe it as imperfect. People got into the business quickly without the technical skill and, equipment, and the result was that at the present moment there are in the country a very large number of slaughter-houses manned by people who are lacking in technical skill, and as a result you have meat, occasionally a poor quality and very often very badly packed and handled, going to England. For the last three years we have received representations from the British Ministry of Agriculture in regard to the export, especially of beef and to some extent pork, from this country, and particularly from certain districts of the country which for the purposes of this debate I shall not mention. The British Ministry pointed out it would be quite open to them to-apply the regulations to our meat exports that apply to foreign fresh meat coming into their country. Deputies opposite will be glad to know that from that point of view we are a foreign country, and the legal position is that the British are entitled to apply to us the regulations that apply to foreign meat.
Public Business. - Agricultural Produce (Fresh Meat) Bill, 1929—Second Stage.
We get all the disadvantages.
But at our suggestion they have decided not to treat us as a foreign country up to the present. In any communication I have had with the British Ministers, and I have had some, I stated that it was our object, as soon as possible, to introduce and pass legislation which would enable us to do here what they could do on the other side if they wished to do it. That is the purpose of this Bill. When dealing with fresh meat, especially pork, it is of primary importance to the country that it should reach the market as quickly as possible, not only from the point of view of quality, but of getting an early market. If the regulations that apply to all other fresh meat were applied on the other side to meat exported from this country they would be applied at Holyhead or Fishguard, and that would certainly ruin the pork trade. We propose to apply these regulations here. We propose to see to it that the pork; and beef, mutton and lamb, but especially the pork, will be such as to be at least a credit to the reputation of the Saorstát for agricultural export. There is one point specifically dealt with in the Bill here. The commonest disease from which fresh meat suffers is tuberculosis. There is, of course, swine erysipelas and other diseases, but none so important as this. Tuberculosis is the main disease we are trying to deal with. It was the habit in the past to cut out tubercular lesions from the pork prepared for export, and to export the balance. The British Ministry drew our attention to this, and pointed out it was extremely difficult for the officers of their local authorities to decide whether, in fact, beef or pork going over with these glands obviously taken away was, or was not, tuberculous.
We are dealing with that specially in this Bill. We propose to introduce regulations under which no pork from which any glands have been removed shall be exported to England. I have no doubt, as a result of this Bill, that not only will we consolidate our present position, but that there will be an improvement in the reputation of Irish fresh meat in the British market and, hence, an improvement on present prices. The Bill though long is simple. Under it all slaughtering premises must be registered. A register will be kept by the Minister. There will be a register for beef and veal and their offals, for mutton and lamb and their offals, and for pork and the pig offals. We are dealing in the Bill, I suppose out of extreme caution, with horses. There is no slaughter of horses at the moment, but possibly a trade might develop in old horses, and we also deal with goats arid rabbits, in which there is a slight trade. The Bill mainly deals with beef, pork and mutton. Slaughter-houses must be registered, and the proprietors of such houses must be licensed. A separate register will be kept for beef slaughter-houses, for mutton slaughter-houses and for pork slaughter-houses. There is a provision under which premises must be registered in the case of proprietors who let their slaughter-houses as, for instance, in the case of the Dublin Corporation. There will be another register under which lessees of these premises must be registered as licensed holders. It is a common thing for public bodies and private individuals to let their premises to butchers and others for the purpose of slaughtering animals. We will also have a register of registered premises and registered licensed holders of premises whether they slaughter cattle, sheep or pigs. Before registering minimum condtions in regard to cleanliness and equipment will be enforced by the Department in regard to each premises. There will be general requirements in regard to cleanliness and equipment. There may be other requirements as to the slaughtering of beef, pork and mutton.
Every licensed holder and registered owner must pay a sum of £1. Every animal slaughtered must be examined before and after death by a veterinary surgeon and must be certified by a veterinary surgeon. Every animal leaving the country in the shape of a carcase or dead meat must be examined by a veterinary surgeon. We provide in the schedule a system of fees, namely, 1/- for beef, 3d. for pigs, and 1½d. for sheep and goats. The cost of administering the Bill is estimated at £19,000 and we estimate that we will receive in fees about £16,000. We think that the taxpayer will get good value for the difference. There are at present about 106 exporters of these products and there are about 76 premises. As I indicated in my opening statement, these premises are far from satisfactory and only a small proportion of them could be regarded, after this Bill has become an Act, as being sufficiently equipped for their purpose. About one-third are entirely unfit for the purposes for which they are used. The balance can be fairly readily made fit for these purposes. It is proposed to bring the Bill into operation by stages. It may be brought into operation for, beef and offals at one date and for pork at another date. I beg to move that the Bill be read a Second Time.
As the Minister has stated, this is a Bill to help the export industry of fresh meat from this country. Whether it is advisable that we should legislate, apart from the trade point of view, for sending cleaner food to the foreigner and not pay the same attention to our own people is in fact hardly debatable. No one can deny that we should be more careful about our own people than about the foreigner. Up to this point, as the Minister has stated, we have succeeded in passing some diseased meat to England hut in future it appears that we will have to eat it ourselves. Leaving out the public health point of view and looking at it from the trade standpoint, I am not sure that the Bill is going to improve the fresh meat industry. It is stated in the Bill that meat factories will have to pay a certain fee for each animal that is slaughtered for export and the Minister stated that the estimated amount of fees to be collected in a year is about £16,000. That is going to put a very serious drain on an industry which is doing very badly at present.
There are at present two ways of disposing of surplus animals: one, that they be exported alive, and the other that they be killed and exported as dead meat. The advantages appear to be all in favour of the man who exports live animals. This will be a further burden on the dead meat industry. A man exporting dead meat will have to pay a fee which looks very small when counted per head, and an ordinary person would say that if meat factories pay £23 or £24 for a beast it will not be much of an impost on them to have to pay in future £23 1s. 0d. or £24 1s. 0d. There is, however, more than that in it. This regulation about having diseased meat condemned is going to make it more difficult for the factories to carry on because anyone with a knowledge of the inspection of meat will realise that it is much easier to detect disease post-mortem, than ante-mortem, so that the exporter of live stock for shipment will be able to take risks which a dead meat exporter cannot take. According to an Act recently passed, if an exporter of live stock happens to export diseased animals he is compensated more or less through a scheme enacted here some time ago.
Only in the case of foot-and-mouth disease.
There is one thing in it at least. On the other hand, the factory, knowing that it must be more particular about the animals it is buying, will have to buy them at the farmer's risk and tell the farmer that if a beast is condemned he will not be paid for it, or else the factory will have to buy at its own risk. In either case the Bill will make it more difficult for factories to compete with buyers of live stock for export. In addition to that, we have learned recently that meat factories in England which slaughter live animals exported from here have not to pay the same taxes as our factories, so that, taking everything into account, the factories here will be at a serious disadvantage as a result of the Bill. It may be, as the Minister stated, that after some time the quality of exported meat will be improved and that after a few years our factories will get better prices for exported meat; but for the next few years I do not know whether they will be able to survive the burdens placed upon them, as some of them are finding it very difficult to survive even as things are at present.
There is another thing running through this Bill, and it has run through most of the Bills that have come before us for some time past. I refer to the giving of powers to the Minister to make regulations which are unreasonable. This is a Bill under which we would expect that the Minister would have power to make certain regulations, but if officials of the Minister's Department had their minds made up that this Bill was really required, there are certain matters upon which they should have come to a decision. If we take Sections 24, 26, 27 and 28, they deal with the kernel of the subject. Section 24 deals with the preparation of the meat for export. Surely the Department should be in a position to state in this Bill what they want in regard to the preparation of meat for export. They should be able to state in Section 26 in what condition they wanted the meat before export. In the next section they should state how they want it packed, and again, how they want it conveyed. These four sections are put there merely to give the Minister power to make regulations on these matters, matters upon which the Department should have their minds made up. If they had not their minds made up they should have waited a little longer and then come before us and tell us what they wanted.
The factories will not know where they arc exactly under certain clauses of the Bill. For instance, one factory put the point to me that a veterinary surgeon in one place may not be nearly as strict as a veterinary surgeon in another, and if the owners of a factory think that the veterinary surgeon is far too exacting, in their particular factory, there should be some means of appealing against the decision of that particular veterinary surgeon. At present there is no way out left to the factories. They will have to put up with whatever decision the veterinary surgeon comes to and have the particular carcase destroyed. The Minister, under this Bill, can also refuse to register any particular premises he wishes, and there is no appeal. Again, having registered a premises he may revoke that licence on a later date, and there is no appeal against it.
There are matters in the Bill which require a good deal of elucidation before we know exactly what the Bill is going to lead us into. For instance the Wexford Bacon Factory exports a certain amount of porkers, beef, and mutton. In addition to that they kill a large number of pigs for bacon, but the viscera of these pigs are exported and the bacon kept for home consumption. The pigs killed for home consumption would not come under the Bill, but the viscera exported would. If they are charged 3d. for the viscera of each pig exported, when the viscera is only worth a few shillings, it means that they will have to stop that particular trade. They find that there is no market for the viscera in this country and the result will be that they will have to lose three or four shillings per pig, which is an enormous loss to any factory in this country. There is no provision for dealing with cases such as that so far as I can see in the Bill. I do not know if there is any provision for dealing with a bacon factory such as we have in Wexford, where a certain number of animals are killed for home consumption and a certain number for export, or whether such a factory will be allowed to mark off a certain number for home consumption, or whether they will have to. pay fees for all animals killed, although all are not being killed for export. There is no mention of what is to be done with condemned carcases. There is no mention of sterilisation such as is done in this country with carcases which are only affected to a certain extent and which can be safely used for home consumption after sterilisation. There is no mention of anything of that kind, or whether the carcases will have to be totally destroyed.
The Minister, in introducing the Bill, said that it was simple enough. I do not know if it is really so simple. For instance. Section 4 of the Schedule occupies a considerable amount of space. Having read it again and again, I came to the conclusion that what is meant is that a factory will have to pay a minimum of £75 per year. That is the best I can make out of it. That could be stated in a line instead of in a page, if that is all that is provided. The minimum fee is £75. In the case of a small factory such as Wexford, they kill a certain number of beef, mutton and porkers. Does the Bill mean that they will have to pay a minimum of £75 for each of the items, or does that £75 cover the whole three? If it means that they have to pay £75 for each item it is going to be a very serious burden on the factories. It is a small factory and exported last year only 1,500 porkers, some beef and some mutton.
Under this Bill the Minister will be empowered to cancel the registration of any factory which is not exporting more than 3,000 porkers per year. I do not know why that number should be put in. This factory is situated in a town where there is much need of employment. Last year. I am informed, it paid £5,800 in salaries and wages. If this provision was enforced, to cancel registration unless they export at least 3,000 porkers, it means that they will be in a worse position than they are at present. A few more regulations of that sort may mean the closing of the factory. If the Bill also means that the factory will have to pay £75 each for beef, mutton and porkers, it will mean a very serious burden on them. Further, if the Bill means that the factory must pay 3d. for the viscera of each pig killed, all these things put together may mean the closing down of the factory. I would like to have this point explained by the Minister in his reply. I visited that particular factory a few months ago, and the manager showed me how he was saving every single part of the animal to try to make ends meet. He told me that he went so far as to collect the hair and the bristles of each pig to sell them at the end of the year, and the profit that was realised from that was one farthing per pig. If they think it worth while in a factory like that to go to all that trouble to try to make one extra farthing on the pigs slaughtered, it is certainly not going to be a trivial matter for them to have to pay 3d. per pig under this Bill.
As this Bill is perhaps going on the right lines, that is, to try and get clean food both for export and for home consumption — we hope that the home consumption part will follow before long — I would not like to oppose it on Second Reading. But, unless the Bill is very drastically amended in Committee, I certainly would be inclined to vote against it when it comes out of Committee. The proposal in the Bill asking the factories, and particularly the small factories — of course we must make the same rule for all — to pay those fees, is going to retard the fresh meat industry. During the first three or four years, until those factories begin to realise the benefits of legislation in the way of getting better prices for their meat on the foreign markets I would suggest to the Minister that he should reconsider this matter in the light of recommending that the expenses under the Bill be borne by the Exchequer.
Personally, what I would like to see is that the exporters of live stock be made pay for this scheme. I realise that you cannot make them pay, because naturally they will make the farmer from whom they buy live stock pay. If you ask the Government to pay, they will make the farmer pay, but still I feel that you would have a more equitable distribution if the money were taken from the Exchequer rather than from the buyers of live stock or the factories themselves. These meat factories not only give the amount of employment that I have already mentioned, but the small factories are also very useful in promoting subsidiary industries. We have almost lost some of these subsidiary industries. Such of them as we have we would like to see worked up. There is the tanning industry, for instance. There is no hope of working up the tanning industry, or any of these subsidiary industries that we still have in the country, if we are to lose the few meat factories that we have. Therefore, I think that we ought to try to save them. It is not going to be a very serious thing for the Exchequer if it has to bear the cost of inspection in those cases. I think that the Minister for Agriculture should ask the Minister for Finance, or whatever Minister is responsible, that that should be done.
I should also like if the Minister would be more specific, when we come to deal with the Bill in Committee, with regard to certain provisions in it. I hope that he will agree to amend the Bill in Committee and make certain provisions in it more specific than they are at present. Every Deputy in the House would like to see groups of farmers all over the country starting this meat industry. They have already done it in a few places, but I am afraid they have not done too well. I am afraid that if the Bill goes through as it is it will discourage farmers in other places from going into the industry. Surely groups of farmers throughout the country could not be expected to risk their capital in such an insecure industry as this particularly if the Minister is to take power to cancel the registration if he wishes, or to make regulations about the transit of their meat and so on. That will be a hardship on these men, and no one could expect any group of farmers, either co-operatively or otherwise, to start out on this industry unless the provisions in the Bill are made more specific. These groups of farmers should know exactly what they will be up against before they start the industry.
Then there is a provision in the Bill that contains what I might call a threat. It proposes to give power to the Minister to cancel a licence unless 3,000 porkers are slaughtered. There is that threat in the Bill that unless they keep up the number to or over the 3,000 mark, their licence will be cancelled. What is going to be the effect of that? If, say, a small factory is doing 1,500 or 2,000 porkers, and that those concerned in it are afraid that the Minister is going to use his powers under this particular section, they will have to go out and compete perhaps uneconomically in order to bring the number over the 3,000 mark and in order to hold their licence. That, I suggest, is not fair to the small factories which are trying to live against the big factories. I believe that we certainly should not agree to this Bill unless we are assured that we are going to have legislation in the near future — I believe it is not the Minister for Agriculture but another Minister will be responsible for this — in regard to food for home consumption. At the present moment there is a small amount of beef and mutton coming into this country from abroad. There is no doubt that if the people here begin to realise that all our good meat—I should say not all our good meat but nothing but good meat — is going out of the country to England and to other countries, and that the meat left here for home consumption is not as good, they probably will begin to say that it would be safer for them to buy the foreign meat than to take the stuff killed at home. Therefore, I think that we should be more particular, both from the point of view of the trade at home as well as from the public health point of view, about the food that is given to our own people. There is another point that I wish to refer to. It is as to what we have been told about the simplicity of this Bill. Why should any official, except through some particular form of laziness or something of the sort, or why should we by legislation, say that the first six months of the year shall be from the 1st July to the end of December, instead of saying that they shall be from the 1st of January to the end of June? Why should it be necessary to pass a law saying that? Why not, leave it the 1st January to the end of June?
Because it docs not suit the trade.
This Bill has twofold object: first, the killing of fresh meat for export, and secondly, an enlargement of the paradise which at present exists for veterinary inspectors. I think we will soon come to the day when there will be a veterinary inspector appointed for each farmer, to be paid, of course, out of the farmer's supposed profits. This Bill provides, in the first place, for the payment of a minimum sum of £225 in the case of each exporter of cattle, sheer and pigs. That is to say, a small exporter exporting cattle, sheep and pips will have to pay a licence duty of £225 — that is, three sums of £75. I would like to know from the Minister if I am correct in that.
I do not know where I am wrong.
It is one shilling a beast, or a minimum of £75.
It is threepence for a pig, a shilling or cattle, threepence halfpenny for sheep, with a minimum of £75.
Would the Minister add up these three minima and say what they amount to? The effect of this Bill would be that the meat export of this country would be placed in the hands of a few and the small exporters driven out.
That might be no harm.
I cannot sec any other way out of it. It is necessary to export 1,500 head of cattle, 6,000 pigs and 12,000 sheep at the rates laid down in order to make up the minimum fee, I think that clearly indicates the Minister's idea that there should be no small exporters and that the dead meat industry should be handed over into the hands of a couple who will pay what they like. The only safeguard the farming community have is competition in trade, and if that is not going to be killed why put this industry into the hands of a couple of large exporter, which, in my opinion, would mean the finish of the trade? With regard to this £225, we know very well that it is not the exporter but the farmer whose cattle are bought who will have to pay in the long run for all this — for the vets that are going around inspecting each carcase both before and after being killed. I have in mind another order that was made here. Only last week at a meeting of the Cork County Council Finance Committee I went into the list of people who have been paid compensation, and actually half the cattle slaughtered were not suffering from any disease whatever. That means that the County Council or the Department paid compensation for animals that were killed and that were not suffering from any disease. I think there is such a thing as overdoing it. A farmer loses a perfectly sound and good cow because a vet has the idea that in order to keep his post he must condemn so many cows a month, or a year, and that if he does not the Department will say he is doing nothing and will dismiss him.
The vet. does not come in unless the farmer sends for him.
Yes. I have an idea that there is a trade going on in it, and I do not think I am far out. Is it the Department that sends down a vet to inspect an animal? I think this Bill should be drastically amended. I suggest that the licence duty should be £20 altogether instead of £225. That would give an opportunity to the small exporter. As the Bill stands it is going to kill the small exporters of fresh meat. I think the Minister should consider it from that point of view, and from the point of view of how many veterinary inspectors can be paid out of the usual 25-acre farms in the country. If the Minister would consider that point of view he would revise his ideas on this matter.
This Bill affects very many traders in the city and county of Cork. These traders are carrying on a legitimate trade, and one that should be encouraged. The effect of this Bill, if it passes as it stands, on, those traders will be to drive at least 80 per cent. of them out of trade, and unless the Bill is very considerably altered in Committee it will be impossible for me to support it. But, while saying that, I would also like to say, and I think I speak on behalf of the large majority of these traders, that the traders thoroughly approve of the principle of the Bill, but in detail they do not approve of it. As it will have the effect of driving them out of trade, one can hardly expect them to approve of it. The Bill, as I take it, provides for separate licences for cattle and sheep. I take it that the minimum licence for each is £75 for carrying on the trade of exporter, and for all three classes it will come to £225 a year. Taking it at that, and without going into these mathematical calculations which appear to have disturbed Deputy Corry so much, the effect of having to pay a minimum of £225 a year would be to drive these traders out of trade. What I would ask the Minister to do would be to provide, if possible, that only one licence should be issued for all three. Take the £75 for cattle, the shilling a head rate provided in the Bill would mean that traders would have to export at least 1,500 head of cattle, 6,000 pigs, and 12,000 sheep. I do not think any one of these traders would come up to the minimum in all three classes. I would ask the Minister, when this Bill readies Committee, to yield to the representations which will be put before him on behalf of these traders, and so amend the Bill that it would be possible for them to conform to the principles of the Bill, which they are glad to see introduced — to have it so altered that it would be possible for them to carry on their trade without having to pay a licence duty which, under the existing circumstances it would be entirely impossible for them to pay.
So far as the Bill applies to small factories for porkers around the country it would be fatal. I am not sure whether it is intended that each licensed premises should have to pay a fee of £75, or whether it is intended that the licensed exporter would have the right to export from two or more licensed premises at the same fee. It appears to be intended that each licensed premises should pay a fee of £75. The efforts made in the western part of the country in the last few years to develop the London pork market will be of no avail, and those engaged in that business in these parts of the country will be inevitably closed down. The result will be that a considerable increase will take place in the export of live pigs. I do not think there is any provision in the Bill to prevent the export of live pigs. In my opinion what will happen is that the small factories will have to close down. The outlet for them in the London market in the pork trade being stopped would make it impossible for them to continue in business. These people will, instead of killing their pigs at home, export them to England or Scotland or across the Border as they are doing in the case of eggs that are similarly hampered by excessive overhead charges. Some drastic alterations should be made here to improve the possibilities of the continuation of these factories that are confined to the pig trade alone, and some encouragement should be given to them to continue their efforts. You could say that the industry has been nipped in the bud and that it was done by excessive overhead charges. The Minister himself a few weeks ago, speaking in Longford, said that no kind of legislation could increase the price of our exports. If that is so, he should be very careful on the other hand not to destroy our exports by legislation.
I would like to say a few words in support of what Deputy Ryan said concerning not so much the purpose as the form of the Bill. The Minister has described it as a Bill to regulate the fresh meat export trade. I think it should be more fairly described as a Bill to give the Minister power to regulate the export trade. It is, in fact, the bureaucrat's dream. Every second section of the Bill provides nothing except that the Minister shall have power to enact legislation by regulation. I think it would be very unwise for members of the Dáil to permit a Bill of this kind to pass without protest, because it is quite obvious that the whole tendency of the present Ministry is in this direction, and repeatedly the Dáil has surrendered its powers to the permanent officials of various Government Departments. Deputy Ryan made reference to certain sections, to Section 16, which concerns returns to be made by registered proprietors and registered licencees, to Section 24, which concerns regulations for the preparation of fresh meat to Section 26, which concerns regulations as to condition of fresh meat at the time of export; Section 27, concerning the regulations for the packing of fresh meat, and Section 28, concerning regulations for the conveyance of fresh meat. In relation to every single one of these matters it should be possible to embody the proposals of the Minister in the Bill, either in the text or as a schedule to it. These regulations will be permanent, and if the Department of Agriculture know what they intend they should be able to submit their proposals to the Dáil so as to enable the Dáil to express an opinion concerning them. It may be that it was just the desire of the Minister to postpone, until after a discussion in this House, the actual drafting of the Regulations, but I think it is not treating the Dáil rightly to do that.
Deputy Ryan described these particular sections as the essential parts of the Bill, and we do not know what they are going to be. We do not know what the Minister intends they shall be. He is merely asking the Dáil tb give him a blank cheque to do what he likes in relation to all these matters. There are other sections of the Bill which give the Minister power to make regulations which, in my opinion, should not be allowed to come into operation until the Dáil has had an opportunity of either expressing its approval of them or of vetoing them. There will be regulations under Section 39 prohibiting the export of carcases within, certain minimum limits of weight, or under Section 40 prohibiting the export of certain kinds of fresh meat. Orders of that kind issued by the Minister should not, I think, come into operation until they have either been submitted to the Dáil or else laid upon the Table of the House for a certain specified time during which the Dáil will have a right to object to them. Other sections of the Bill would raise different matters of & more serious nature. Perhaps I may refer the Minister to Section 15. Power is given to the Minister by Section 15 to revoke a licence if he is satisfied that such licence was procured by fraud or misrepresentation, whether fraudulent or innocent. To give the Minister power to determine the fact as to whether a licence as procured by fraud and to enable him to deprive an exporter of his licence without any appeal whatsoever is, I think, going a very long way, much further than the Dáil should be prepared to go at this stage. The decision as to whether the licence as procured by fraud or a decision as to the other matters mentioned here in consequence of which the licence could be extinguished is to be determined in the first instance by the Minister. Then there should be an appeal from the Minister's decision to the courts. It would be, I think, almost a revolutionary proposal to give judicial powers of that kind to a Minister who, because of the very nature of his office, cannot possibly have the judicial frame of mind. So far as the provisions may be operated by the present Minister for Agriculture, I am sure I can safely say no one in the Dáil believes that he has a judicial frame of mind. He is, I think, a partisan by instinct.
The same applies also, I think, to Section 23, which concerns the rectification and cancellation of the registration of premises. In the section, the Minister is given power to determine the questions of fact and to enforce his decision by very severe penalties without any appeal whatsoever to any other tribunal. I think also there should be an appeal from the Minister's decision to refuse registration under Section 8, The Bill merely provides that every refusal by the Minister including any refusal on the ground of undue expense or difficulty in providing suitable veterinary examination under this Act shall state the reason for such refusal. I think there should be some machinery provided by which the applicant who is refused a licence could appeal from the Minister's decision if he thought the Minister was misinformed or had come to a biassed conclusion in consequence of certain statements which had been made to him. Under Section 12, sub-section (8) the same thing applies only it is capable of a simpler rectification. Sub-section (8), provides that if a licensed exporter fails or neglects to pay the amount certified by a certificate of indebtedness the Minister may revoke such exporter's licence.
I do not see that that word should he "may" at all I think it should be "shall" I do not believe the Minister should be given a discretionary power in a matter of that kind. Certainly it will give rise to very grave misgivings if one exporter had his licence cancelled for an offence under it and if another exporter's licence was not cancelled would not be prepared to give the Minister a discretion in that matter. In connection with that whole Section 12 I would like to draw the Minister's attention also to the fact that there docs not appear to be any provision made for a refund to an applicant for a licence of the £20 which he must pay with his application in the event of his application being refused. In Section 20 the same objection arises. Section 20, sub-section (6), provides that whenever an inspector reports tinder this section to the Minister that any registered slaughtering premises do not comply with the general conditions of cleanliness and suitability of slaughtering premises ... the Minister may serve a notice in the prescribed form upon the registered proprietor of such premises requiring such registered proprietor to do in the manner and time specified in such notice all or any of the things lawfully specified therein under this section. Again the word "may" is the wrong word. If an inspector reports to the Minister that any registered slaughtering premises do not comply with the general conditions the Minister should have no option but should require the registered proprietor to put the premises right again.
I would like also if the Minister would discuss the possibility of extending some of the provisions of the Bill, at any rate to cover meat not intended for export. It would not be possible to apply all the provisions of the Bill to meat intended for home consumption at present, but the point raised by Deputy Ryan is a very serious one. The Bill is to ensure that only good meat will be exported. The result will be that meat of a doubtful character, which will not pass the veterinary inspectors as being fit for export, will be consumed at home. Even if it is not possible set over that difficulty entirely, I think it should be possible to provide that a register of all premises used for slaughtering animals should be kept, whether those animals are for export or home consumption, and that these premises should be made subject to general conditions as to cleanliness and suitability and liable to be inspected from time to time, with the penalty of being removed from the register if the general conditions as to cleanliness and suitability arc not observed. Even if that alone were done in this Bill it would be a step in the right direction. To leave the question of meat to be consumed at home outside the scope of the Bill altogether is, I think, a mistake, and will possibly have the result which Deputy Ryan fears; that a prejudice against Irish meat will arise amongst our own people and thus encourage the importation of dead meat.
I was waiting until the discussion of the main points of the Bill had ended, as there were just two small points, which would be matters of regulation really, to which I wish to refer. As long as the majority of the white race continue to be meat-eaters the slaughter of animals for food will be a sad necessity, but I would like to make the plea that the killing of these animals be made as painless as possible. I have been told by veterinary surgeons that the extreme fear attendant on the method of slaughter in certain places has a bad effect upon the meat. How far that is true I do not know. In most slaughter-houses a humane killer is at least on show, but, I believe, not in use. I wonder could the Minister, in his regulations, make it compulsory to have that method followed.
Another point is this. I know of one slaughter-house in which young children and adolescents are present when animals are being slaughtered. I think that has a brutalising effect On these children and makes them callous, not merely in the treatment of dumb beasts, but in their relations with humanity, and that regulations should be made that no unauthorised person or young children should be admitted to slaughter-houses while the slaughter is being carried on.
I want to refer briefly to this Bill from the aspect of the district which I represent. The question of the minimum fee and the number of animals that would need to be handled in order to arrive at the minimum fee has been referred to by previous speakers. There is not very much guide from statistics of animals as to how many might be slaughtered for export in a particular area. There are three ways in which pigs are disposed of. In my own area, for instance, there is the local pork market where supplies are not for the local curing firms. There is the live trade, and there is the question of pigs for the London market. The latter trade would come under this Bill. If the Bill were passed in its present form it would cut out competition, because a number of people are in this business in a small way. It is only developing in our area — that is, the pork trade for export. The Bill would be a very great hindrance to trade, and if the minimum is to remain so high as it is in the Bill I could not support it. I agree with the Minister as to the principle of the Bill. It is necessary, and it is not a moment too soon, because if we have learned anything from the past we will understand that it would be much better for our own people to make the regulations than for other people to do it. One Deputy spoke of what happened in the case of eggs. In the case of the stamping of eggs we know what has happened. In our area the producers of eggs are getting anywhere from threepence to tenpence a dozen less for their eggs than people are getting across the border, only a mile away, because the eggs are subject to British regulations and are treated as foreign. It would be disastrous to our trade if we did nothing until the British authorities took up this matter and treated our exports as foreign. I am quite in sympathy with the principle of the Bill and with the object for which the Minister says the Bill is introduced; that is, to regulate the export of fresh meat from this country, hut I cannot support it if the minimum fee is to be so high as it is in the Bill at present, because it would kill all competition. I am only speaking of what I know in my own area.
Like Deputy Haslett, I want to raise the question of the fee, and, like Deputy Fahy, I want to do so from the point of view of preventing cruelty to animals. The Minister has put down the same prescribed sum of one shilling in the case of the exporter of beef and in the case of the exporter of horse flesh. Horse flesh is not as valuable as beef, and I am afraid the putting of the prescribed sum of one shilling on the horse flesh exported will lead to horses being sent alive across to France and Belgium, where these horses are used for various purposes. There have been great abuses in connection with that traffic, but I think, five years ago, it was brought home so convincingly to the British Parliament that they passed an Act prohibiting it I have met people who have visited abattoirs in France and Belgium. They have told me stories which, though I discounted them to a great extent, were yet sufficiently alarming and unpleasant. I think we should not intentionally encourage this traffic in worn out horses, which, because they are of comparatively little value, are liable to suffer both on the boat and in the abattoirs on the other side. If the Minister would look into that point before the Committee Stage it would relieve our minds.
I would like to stress some of the points made by Deputy Ryan. In the first place, I think everybody admits that it is most desirable that we should have a Bill of this kind in order to ensure that good meat is exported, so that the reputation of this nation for agricultural produce might be upheld. At the same time, like Deputy Ryan, I am wondering why something should not be done to ensure that there should be a good supply of meat for the people of this country. Everybody knows that in the small towns beasts are slaughtered under such conditions that the meat is certainly not good for human consumption. When it gets abroad that the anxiety of the veterinary inspectors for the purpose of this Act is to ensure that good beef is sent to the other side people will begin to ask what is to become of the meat that is rejected.
The feeling will prow amongst the population here that it is the meat that is rejected for export that the people in this country arc getting with the result, as Deputy Lemass points out, that more foreign meat and more frozen meat and meat of that kind will be brought into the country. I do hope, whether it is the Minister's Department or the Department of Local Government that is responsible for it, we will have regulations made to regulate the sale and other things pertaining to meat to the inhabitants of this country. I would also like to raise a protest against the question of the minimum fee to be paid. Take the Wexford factory. This Bill would deal very harshly with it. We hope that the Minister, on reconsideration, will have that fee reduced. There is also the question of the offal of bacon pigs being exported, and the same fee being charged for it, and the very small profits that have been made out of this offal. I hope the Minister will reconsider all these vital matters because the tendency in the country at present is that farmers should come together in their own interests and start establishments such as this Fresh Meat Company in Wexford have done. If this legislation is to be put into operation as it appears before us at present and if this Bill goes through, I am greatly afraid that it will have a bad effect upon the establishment and starting of small co-operative factories which. one would think, the Minister should encourage. I do hope that the Minister will reconsider the points made by the various Deputies before the Committee Stage has been reached.
I believe that the principle of this Bill is good and sound and if it can be carried into effect consistent with preserving the quality of the beef for home consumption it will deserve the support of every Party in this House. But I think the Minister is going too far iii the matter of the fees. To my mind the licensing costs should be reduced and reduced very considerably. After all this industry right through Ireland at present is almost just starting. If the Minister perseveres with a licensing fee of £75 in regard to cattle and pigs he will certainly almost wipe out the small dealers and he will particularly affect the numerous dealers in the city and county of Cork where this industry has only been started a few years and has now developed to something considerable. He will wipe that industry out of existence if he perseveres in charging the licence fees named in the Bill as it stands now. I would appeal to him, if he can possibly do so, to reduce the licence fees to a half or even a little less than a half. By doing that he will be going a long way to get behind him goodwill and support both inside and outside this House.
With regard to the point made by Deputy Fahy, and which was also made by Deputy Cooper, I want to say that I do not think we can deal with a question like that in a Bill of this kind. The slaughtering of animals by a humane killer is not a matter that could enter into this Bill. As far as I know, the arrangements made for slaughtering animals in this country are, all things considered, as humane as they possibly can be. I have a certain amount of sympathy with the point of view expressed by Deputy Fahy and Deputy Cooper in that respect. I think it is important that we should, as far as possible, take every precaution to see that animals are slaughtered in a decent way. As far as I can see, the conditions in the country are good, but no provisions could be put into this Bill to deal with the question that the slaughtering should take place by a humane killer or some other alternative principle.
With regard to horses, horses are not slaughtered in this country at present. The trade in such horses is with Belgium. With regard to cattle, sheep and pigs, the fees put into the Bill do not greatly matter. I do not think that the fact that a man will have to pay one shilling for an animal killed will induce him to change his plans. With regard to the Bill in general, it seems to me that the Deputies have spoken from what I should say is the wrong point of view. Remember what has happened. An order was made by the British Ministry in 1925 prohibiting the import of fresh meat from the Continent. That order gave an obvious opening to the Irish trade, and the Irish trade immediately took advantage of it. It had to come in at once. The order was made to-day prohibiting the import of beef from the Continent, That gap had to be filled at once. Farmers and farmers' organisations rushed into that gap, and in three years they multiplied by more than forty the exports of fresh meat to England. Quite obviously anybody who goes through the country and is in touch with the trade must know that an organisation built up so quickly by the farmers, who had no technical skill or only a sort of technical skill, must be extremely faulty. A priori the evidence is there, but we have the actual evidence of our own inspectors. Every Deputy in the House has the actual evidence. Deputy Ryan has it in Wexford; I have it in my own county, and the Cavan Deputies must know it. All sorts of shacks were fitted up by farmers. Shopkeepers and individual people merrily started slaughtering. That is the existing position.
I deliberately refrain from giving the figures with regard to the percentage of premises which could be regarded by anybody as suitable for this trade. I do not want to give the figures for obvious reasons. But I am saving something which every Deputy who has any experience must know to be correct, that far and away the bigger proportion of the new premises which sprung up or which were established since 1925 are totally unfit for the purpose, and that the conditions of actual slaughter in these premises are entirely unsatisfactory. Every Deputy must know that. Cork was mentioned specially by Deputy Wolfe and Deputy French. Cork has had its own share of complaints. I have got my own share of trouble from, Cork, just as much as from any other county in Ireland. Complaints as regards meat that left Cork city and its environs arc many and well authenticated. As I say, they have been many and well authenticated and if anybody wants to know the reason he has that reason in Deputy Wolfe's speech. Deputy Wolfe says that the shopkeepers there are fairly enterprising. They saw a chance of doing a trade, and they established their killing plants and started merrily to export meat under unsuitable conditions.
What is the reaction of the Dáil Deputies to this? Deputy Ryan and other Deputies think that, first of all, we should try to consolidate that position. The precautions we ought to take are to save people who are operating like that from losing money. Is not that what it comes to? We have here numerous Deputies talking about the small exporter and about the enterprising shopkeeper. He can not do things properly. How could he? It does require technical skill and capital and business ability to produce these exports, just as it requires all these qualities to produce other products, when you arc sending them away and when you will be up against the British, and where your quality will be compared with the quality of your competitors. How can you have anything like first-class staff under these conditions? And yet there is no market in England of any use to us except the first-class market. If we go into the second-class market in anything we are up against mass: production and we are to be beaten. The second-class market is a market for mass production, for produce which is not fresh. We cannot compete against countries like the Argentina, Canada or Australia in second-class stuff; we can only compete in first-class stuff. Neither Holland nor any other country should be able to compete with us in first-class stuff in the English market, because we can always get our produce there fresh. We have a geographical advantage which no other country has, and if we do not make full use of this advantage we might as well give up the idea that we can make money by exporting the sort of products which big countries can put on the market twice as cheaply and in far greater quantity.
If that is so, and if there is no other possible market for us in England except for first-class products, why should the aim be to consolidate the present position in regard to fresh meat? It must be admitted that the present position in regard to fresh meat is extremely bad. Luckily, our fresh meat exports are not of great importance; but we have a fairly important pork trade which at present is a sheltered trade. If the regulation imposed by the British Ministry against Dutch pork were taken off, I wonder would we be able to hold our own in the British market. How much, pork would go over? All the small factories, the groups of farmers and shopkeepers who set up shops during the last four or five years, and whom, I am told, I am going to put out of business would go out of business very quickly because they would be up against, not small establishments and groups of decent people who have established trades of their own and not casual groups or small factories, but they would be up against the go-ahead factories of Holland. The aim should be to have our trade in a few years in such a position that it will be absolutely independent of any action the British Ministry may adopt, such as the taking away of prohibitions that are at present imposed on continental pork and other imports. Our efforts should be directed towards attaining a position when we will be able to compote with anybody and hold an unrestricted market. That should be the aim of Deputies.
This Bill will leave the Dáil an entirely wrong Bill if Deputies approach it from the point of view of seeing how you can buttress up every small group of farmers and every shopkeeper who, because he had a sheltered market, set up a small shop and started to produce fresh pork in order to send it to the English market. Let us approach this whole question from the point of view of seeing if we will be able to retain the market that we have got and that we will be able to improve matters when the British, if they wish to do it remove the prohibitions that exist against our competitors in Holland. If you do that there will not be, perhaps, so much consideration for the small groups that have been mentioned. It may be an advantage to a limited number of people to have a factory under their noses, as it were, so that they could walk across the road with their animals in order to have them slaughtered. But that is not business, and it is absurd to talk of competition. Half of the existing establishments dealing with this business could be wiped out throughout the country and it would be found that the balance of the establishments could afford to give a better price.
We are in exactly the same position with regard to bacon. It has been stated that the bacon factories in this country could handle twice the number of pigs that arc actually handled. If half the shops dealing with the fresh meat business were wiped out and the other half made more efficient, there would be more profits for the owners and better prices for the farmers. Competition sometimes puts up prices and sometimes brings prices down. There are many trades in this country upon which the effect of competition has been to keep prices up. Every one knows that there are many towns in which a large number of shopkeepers are living on a very small purchasing power. There is more or less by instinct a sort of competition which keeps prices up. I do not believe for a moment that the small inefficient factories which have injured our reputation in the export market could ever increase the price that the Irish farmer is getting for his pork. I am absolutely certain that their effect has been to decrease the price.
The reputation of our pork and beef on the British market or wherever we arc selling it could certainly be improved. Surely that cannot be denied. If we go on as we are going, slaughtering in accordance with present methods and exporting anyhow, and infringing the regulations which the British have a perfect right to make — surely that is going to have reactions upon us. Surely the price of our produce will go down. If we have efficient, stringent and drastic control of the premises, if our farmers are compelled — I make Deputies a present or that — to handle goods in the right way, and if they market their goods in the right way, that will put up the price. Will anybody tell me that having our pork properly graded is not worth 3d. a pig? Is not that what it comes to? Having our pork graded as the Dutch grade it is worth 1/- a pig. I admit that this may weigh heavily on small but efficient factories, but that is essentially a point that can be considered on the Committee Stage.
I protest against the point of view expressed by Deputy Ryan and other Deputies. According to them our whole aim should be that here we have nice little Irish factories dotted throughout the country, doing things not like the benighted people of Holland or England or other countries, but rather doing things in their own way and they ought to be so encouraged. The fact is that our people arc doing certain things they should not do. They are killing tubercular pips and cutting out the lesions. We are told that our aim should be to let them go on like that, but compensate thorn if they arc at any loss. We arc told to let them remain in their present position, let them kill tubercular pigs, but give them compensation if they are put to the painful necessity of killing the pigs and the English people will not cat the pigs. That is an entirely wrong point of view, and we must adopt a different attitude. If we say that tubercular pork or beef may not be exported, what will be the result? Tubercular beef at the moment consists of cows. The farmer will not keep his cows very long because there will be no trade for old cows. Speaking from the point of view of the farmers, nationally it would be the best thing that could occur if there was no trade for old cows. The old cow trade is injuring us very much in England. The farmers will adapt themselves to that. They will see that there is no trade for the old cow, and they will take care to see that their pigs are free from tuberculosis. The whole tendency of the legislation is to force everybody, from the producer to the middleman, to the man financing the product, so to alter his economy that these particular factors which are telling so heavily against our produce will disappear. The whole tendency of the point of view or of the suggestions made by Deputy Ryan was that we should consolidate the present position, but that we should try and provide palliatives and compensations for people who will not adapt themselves to changed circumstances. That is an absolutely wrong point of view. I am quite tilling to discuss any amendments from the other point of view. I am quite willing to discuss any amendments put in from people who realise that we must change, that we must conform to the requirements of our market, and that the present position is entirely wrong. But I am not willing, and it is waste of time, to debate amendments on the lines that we must provide compensation for everybody, no matter how he does his business.
With regard to the fees, we can consider these in Committee. But let them not be considered entirely from the point of view of seeing that every single exporter in this country, no matter how small, or dirty, or inefficient, no matter how lacking in technical skill, should be kept in business.
Deputy Lemass raised a point which was also raised by Deputy Ryan. He said that the Bill was the usual bureaucratic sort of thing we have to expect from the present Government, and, like Deputy Ryan, he suggested that the regulations should be made part of the Bill. It is a good enough point at first blush, but you could not put all the regulations in the Bill. Methods of packing change every day, and also methods of killing. The market itself changes. You have very often to alter with the market. You could not say any more about cleanliness than that the premises shall be clean. When the inspector goes round, he may see that the floors and ceilings and the externals of the place arc quite clean but that the sewerage is all wrong, or that there is contamination coming from some source or cause which could not be anticipated when drafting the Bill. Cleanliness is a question of degree. The causes of dirt vary very much; they vary from one premises to another. There is one section dealing with cleanliness, and I should like Deputy Lemass to set out in mere detail what he wants to do. I could not cover everything.
Will not the Minister be actually drafting the regulations, in any case?
We will draft regulations. After that these regulations will certainly have to be amended— to be extended or, perhaps, something dropped. That is our experience in connection with every Bill. I invite any Deputy to take the section dealing with cleanliness and put in an amendment amplifying that section or any section he likes. I might be able to accept it. Still, I will have to give myself discretion to go outside it, because circumstances which none of us can foresee, and which might apply to one factory and would not apply to another, will arise and make it necessary for me, with the consent of everybody when the facts will be brought up, to make a new regulation which could not be made without another Act of Parliament. There is a very simple way of dealing with these regulations. I do not think there is any section in this Bill saying that the regulations should be laid on the Table of the House, and that a certain time should elapse before they come into operation, but I am quite willing to consider an amendment to that effect. That ought to meet it absolutely, because the regulations can be debated at great length and there can be a division upon them. That certainly ought to meet it and prevent us coming to the Dáil every time a new contingency arises.
The Deputy raised a bigger point. He said the Minister has too much power here. He took the trouble to quote the very best cases. He said, for instance: What right has the Minister to say whether there has been fraud or not — that is the business of the court. I should like to argue any other point — that is, a Committee point. Let me just make a few observations on the idea underlying the general criticism that has been made not only of this Bill, but the Dairy Produce Act and the Agricultural Produce (Eggs) Act. The Minister has very wide powers under these Acts. He asks for very wide powers under this Bill. I am absolutely satisfied from my experience of the Dairy Produce Act that if the powers which the Minister has are to be subject to appeal in every case it will make the Act almost impossible to operate. An ounce of experience is worth a ton of theory. Every Deputy has sufficient experience to judge the point. The Agricultural Produce (Eggs) Act has been in operation for three years. I have put my name at least one hundred times to recommendations to remove the licence from exporters. For every one occasion on which I met Deputies on any other business I have met Deputies about three times on this question of whether the registration of an egg exporter should be revoked.
I have never heard of a single case being brought before the Dáil. Every case could have been brought before the Dáil, and though at least a hundred times I have revoked the registration of an egg exporter's licence, I have never yet had a single case where a particular instance has been brought before the Dáil—not one. I will go further. I have never yet had a case where the Deputy in question would not admit that the decision was absolutely correct, and would not proceed at least immediately to put his request upon some other basis. There is an Act where the Minister has extreme powers, where it is essential, as I shall prove, to exercise them in the way they have been exercised for the List three years. I am sure many Deputies have been written to by constituents on this question, and no Deputy has ever yet got a case that he could bring before the Dáil, or that would stand one moment's examination. That is true. That is the result of the Eggs Act.
Look at the other side of the question. For two years we spent our own time and the time of inspectors endeavouring to explain the regulations which we had made to the various egg exporters and to show them, by inducements and otherwise, that these regulations are in their own interests. During all that period the reputation of Irish eggs increased in the British markets and the price relatively went up. What happened last year? It seems to me that during the previous two years they were not so much learning how to do the business properly, but. rather learning how to get around the regulations. It will be absolutely essential if we are to re-establish the position of our eggs in the British market again, to operate these regulations drastically and ruthlessly. They arc being operated drastically and ruthlessly, and if anybody gets a single instance. where these regulations are being operated unfairly, I should like him to bring it before the Dáil. am satisfied that unless I have power myself to operate these regulations in that way I might as well put up my hands so far as they are concerned. If there are to be appeals and arbitrators, and if it is to go to the Court, I would not waste my time endeavouring to put the position right. It can only be put right, in that way. I warn the Bail that if they adopt any other attitude in regard to the Bill it will be practically useless. Deputy Lemass says that I am a partisan. I am a partisan on the side of clean eggs, and healthy beef. It is open to any Deputy at any time with full information from his constituents to show where that partisanship has taken the form of unfairness or injustice.
So far as this Bill is concerned, if the Dáil approaches it from the point of view expressed by the Deputies opposite and succeed in that point of view, the Bill is worthless. I have no bee in my bonnet about clean meat or tuberculosis. It is a fashionable thing now in America and in England. People talk a lot about it who know nothing about it. I think meat from which the lesions have been cut out is quite good meat. I have eaten it myself, I am sure, and I think that it does nobody any harm. I have no fixed ideas. I do know that our customers for fresh meat want a certain thing done and are prepared to pay for it and to pay a better price, and I do know that if the Bill is altered by hampering the Minister by appeals and arbitrators and all the rest of it, the Bill is worthless. In proof of that, I say this: If at present, under the Eggs Act, there were all these appeals and safeguards that Deputy Lemass speaks about, it would be absolutely impossible to operate the Act and we would have to let ourselves drift into the position that we were in before it was passed.
It has been said that we ought to deal in this Bill with the home trade. That is a separate matter. This is a specific Bill for a specific purpose. If we do not pass and operate it here, they will operate the regulations against us and there will be quick conversions on the side of the Bill. The moment it becomes impossible to export, fresh pork, because it is held up at Holyhead or Fishguard by reason of the fact that they send veterinary inspectors to inspect it, and we miss the London market next morning, there will not be very much talk about opposing this Bill. It will go through quickly, because the country will see that the Bill will go through. The question of pork or beef for the home market is another question which should be dealt with separately.
I should like to ask the Minister a question with regard to the registration fee. Could not the Minister arrange that one registration fee should be enough for all animals?
As the Bill stands there must be separate registration fees, but as I pointed out, we can discuss this matter in Committee. I suggest if the Second Reading is passed the Committee Stage should be taken this day fortnight.
I put it to the Minister it is very difficult for ordinary Deputies to draw up amendments. Will the Minister undertake to amend it himself so that £75 should cover all animals in one factory?
I shall undertake to examine this question in the interval and I would like Deputies to do the same. I do not believe it is so very difficult to put in amendments, and there will be a fortnight between this and the Committee Stage, and if the deputy has any views on the question I shall be glad to have them.
There is one other question with regard to Section 5, subsection (3), which I know some of us are very anxious about, why a factory getting a licence for the export of beef should not also get a licence for trading?
T am not clear myself upon that point. I require notice of that question.
Before attempting to amend it I should like to know why it is there at all?