I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. The main Act connected with agricultural produce (fresh meat) was passed in 1930. Since then there have been points arising out of it that were obviously worthy of consideration in an amending Bill. A number of these points have accumulated, and this Bill is intended to deal with them. In the first place, Section 2 of the Bill gives the Minister discretion to refuse an application for registration. At the present moment there is a certain doubt about that. It is thought by some people that if an applicant were refused registration he might perhaps, by going to the courts, be in a position to compel the Minister to grant the application. I think everybody will agree that there should be some discretion left to the Minister to refuse an application, because it is quite obvious that if a person were to set up in opposition to a person already in the trade, no good purpose would be served. Therefore, there should be the usual discretion that is given to the Minister under all these Bills, of refusing an application where there are at present adequate facilities for anybody who wants to dispose of pork, lambs, or whatever the particular line may be. There are, as a matter of fact, 38 licensed premises registered under the Fresh Meat Act. There are 34 exporting pork, 16 exporting mutton and lamb, and three have beef exporters' licences. That shows, of course, that some of them are engaged in more than one business. At the moment there is nobody exporting fresh beef. There was only a very small business in it at any time, and the beef was exported to Great Britain. There has been a prohibition against the export of fresh beef to Great Britain for the last five years, and therefore there is no business in that line being done.
Section 2, sub-section (2), of this Bill removes from the Minister the obligation to have premises inspected on application. If anybody were to apply for a fresh-meat licence under the present Act, the Minister must carry out inspection of the premises, and must give a fortnight's notice of his intention to do so. Where a person's application has been turned down on more than one occasion, it is hardly fair that every time that person makes an application the State should be put to the expense of having to serve notice that the place would be inspected on such a date, and actually carry out that inspection, but such is the position under the present law, and it is sought to repeal that in this Bill.
Section 3 of this Bill deals with Section 13 of the Principal Act. That Act provided for a deposit of £12 10s. with each application for an exporter's licence, and the retention of that deposit if that licence were granted. Since the Bacon Act was passed the position has been very much changed, because, under the legislation dealing with pigs and bacon, premises must be inspected in the same way as they were formerly inspected in regard to the export of fresh meat. In the case of a factory which has already been inspected, and where the premises are properly constructed, and so on, there does not seem to be any justification for compelling the proprietor to lodge £12 10s. if he wishes to go into the export of pork or lamb. In fact, this Bill seeks to remove the obligation on an applicant of lodging £12 10s. where he has already a licence under the Bacon Act as passed last year. Section 3, sub-section (2) seeks to bring this provision into operation as from 1st July last, because since that date, when the Bacon Act came into operation, there have been at least, I think, three applications. They happened to be from small factories—the big ones were already licensed—near the Border that had to make an application for exporting their offals. From the point of view of those small factories, £12 10s. is rather a substantial amount, and the Department has not collected that £12 10s. in the hope that the Dáil may pass this Bill. It is, therefore, sought to make this section operate as from the 1st July last, so that those three small factories to which I have referred may be permitted to retain that £12 10s. which they would have been compelled to lodge under the original legislation.
Section 4 deals with the certificate given by a veterinary examiner. Under Section 37 of the original Act, it would appear that if the veterinary examiner were to adhere strictly to the Act he would have to give a certificate for every carcase and part of a carcase condemned as unfit for human consumption. In a number of factories —sometimes big, sometimes small— the veterinary examiner has a very difficult day's work on some occasions, because in some of the medium-sized factories and the small factories in particular a great part of the killing is done on the one day, perhaps on a fair day or a market day. The veterinary examiner has a very busy day, and it would be very difficult for him to fill up a certificate in every case where a part of a carcase is condemned. If this Bill is agreed to, this section will permit him to cover all his condemnations in one certificate. It does not make any difference, as far as efficiency goes, but it does relieve him of a great deal of filling up forms, signing them, and so on. It permits him to short circuit his work as far as that is concerned, but it does not relieve him in any way of his inspection work, which must be carried out as it always has been.
Section 5 deals with the minimum fee payable by holders of pork exporters' licences. Under the Agricultural Produce (Fresh Meat) Acts, there were certain minimum fees set out, but they have of course, to a large extent, been replaced by the fees under the Pigs and Bacon Act. Considerable fees will be payable under the Pigs and Bacon Act, because there is a fee payable, on the same principle as under the original Fresh Meat Act, for every pig slaughtered. I should perhaps go back to the original idea when the main Act was brought in in 1930. It was foreseen at the time that a veterinary surgeon must be employed, whether whole time or part time, for each of those factories that were getting fresh meat exporting licences; and naturally it was considered at the time by the Government that there should be a minimum fee, so that people would not come into this business for the sake of exporting a very small quantity of fresh meat in the year, but still entailing quite considerable expense on the State in the way of veterinary examination.
Therefore, there was a minimum fee prescribed for every applicant. There is, of course, a minimum fee also under the Bacon Act, but suppose we take it that a bacon factory is maintaining a veterinary surgeon as an inspector, and they were to go into the pork trade as well, it is considered that there is no justification for putting a minimum fee on the pork licence as well as the bacon licence, because there is no additional expense on the State. The veterinary surgeon is already there, and it only means a little extra work for him, for which perhaps he may have to be paid a little more if it is a part time post. Of course, if he is a regular employee of the Department of Agriculture, in other words a civil servant, then he is expected to do a man's work and is not paid any more for it. In any case there would be no point in charging a minimum fee as a pork exporter to that bacon factory, and it is laid down here in Section 5 that that fee should be dropped—that is the minimum fee for a fresh beef exporter's licence where the applicant is already a holder of a bacon licence.
Under Section 5 there are set out paragraphs (a), (b) and (c). Paragraph (a) deals with a simple case where only a pork exporter's licence is held by a bacon curer. Paragraph (b) deals with such a person who held also another licence under the Fresh Meat Acts, such as a beef exporter's licence or a mutton exporter's licence, and (c) deals with such a person who held two or more exporter's licences other than a beef exporter's licence. There are therefore, different divisions under (a), (b) and (c), and they are dealt with in that way in the Bill. It is necessary to set them out in that way, because the original 1930 Act follows on those lines. I do not know if Deputies who were here in 1930 will remember that the Fresh Meat Act, 1930, did apply also to goats and horses. As far as my recollection goes, I do not know if any fresh meat exporter ever did actually apply for a licence dealing with horses, but the Act did actually apply. Finally, it is desirable to bring Section 5 into operation as from 1st January, 1937, because the Pigs and Bacon Act was brought in on 1st April, 1937. A number of matters which have been dealt with since 1st April, 1937, have to be regularised by this measure and, therefore, it has to be made retrospective so far as that particular section is concerned.