Will you wait a moment? I then use those premises for the purpose for which I have already described, that is, for instance, assembling blue heifers. The word goes around and a man like the late Senator John Sheridan who deals in such affairs, calls to my premises. He will find there 24 blue heifers belonging to 15 different men. Somebody like the late gentleman I referred to comes in on the fair morning and there are 15 men there with their 24 cattle. They proceed to sell by hand on the premises which I have adapted for sale by auction. They do not sell by auction, but by hand.
The strange thing is that neither the purchasers of the cattle nor the vendors of the cattle commit any offence, but I commit an offence because I have permitted the sale of cattle otherwise than by auction at a place which I have adapted for the purpose of selling cattle by auction. Now, the temptation is—I do not deny it—in dealing with a revolting Bill of this sort, simply to present the Minister with difficulties without attempting to provide him with a solution. But, just to try to further assuage him that I am not reaching for his jugular vein every time I speak on this Bill, I will tell him how he can remedy it—maybe Deputy Clinton will not be grateful to me for this. Due to my function in the Department of Agriculture in the past when dealing with this Department, I usually try to collaborate. If the Minister struck out the words "or otherwise" and then went on to say "a place adapted and habitually used for the sale of livestock by auction", it would achieve exactly the same purpose and would, I think, effectively meet the point that Deputy M. J. O'Higgins has unaswerably raised.
I know there are some Deputies who say that you are seeing ghosts when you speak reasonably about such things, but the fact is that Deputies must bear it in mind that judges cannot approach our legislation in the same way as we approach it. We know what we intend to do and we write it into a Bill. All the judge knows is: "What does this Bill, in fact, do?" We are perpetrating here in this House acrimonious denunciations of the Revenue Commissioners that they should do this and that, but when you produce the Act under which the Revenue Commissioners have perpetrated those actions, you discover that our Act compels them to do it and you find that the people most reluctant to do it this way are the Revenue Commissioners. It is not what we intend to do. It is what we intend this Bill to be. This is the necessary judicial interpretation of the Bill. Judges will interpret it according to the law. It is for that reason, at this stage, that it is our duty to see that we say according to the rules of interpretation, not according to the rules of good intention, precisely what we mean.
Now, it is manifest to everybody in the House that we do not want to catch the few heifers assembled in a yard ineffectively adapted for auction sales and refused a licence. We want to leave that man free to continue to use the yard as he habitually used it for the accommodation of his neighbours in order to rest their cattle and, if the adaptation he makes is not sufficient to meet the Minister's regulations, then we do not want him to be licensed. But, by the words we use here in this section, the moment he adapts it for the purpose of selling cattle by auction, even if he never uses it for that purpose, it is a criminal offence for him to allow his neighbours to sell cattle in it by hand.
I am very thankful to the Minister for providing that, if a compound feed manufacturer sells oat husks as compound feed, he will be fined £10. In this Bill, the man who adapts his place, and does not get a licence, but allows his neighbour's cattle to be sold in it thereafter, is liable to a fine of £500 and six months in jail. I agree that the probability of that arising is remote, but the probability in many instances with regard, in particular, to other Government Departments does sometimes arise. I heard Deputy John A. Costello in this House within the past fortnight saying he had just come from the Supreme Court and heard there the Revenue Commissioners say: "We owe the man £25,000. We have the £25,000. He is entitled to get the £25,000 but we will not give him the £25,000." Did every Deputy not hear Deputy Costello describe that scene? The issue of course, was that the Revenue Commissioners were reading our legislation and, according to their rules of interpretation, there is imposed upon them what must be an extremely disagreeable duty, but they have to do it.
It is notorious that if John Patterson —I am taking a name at random out of the air—has adapted his yard for the sale of cattle, sheep and pigs by auction, he must apply for a licence. He does not get that licence but, in the presence of the Garda Siochána on a particular morning, he allows 20 cattle to be assembled there and they see Patrick Spellman—again I pluck another name out of the air—go in and buy the 24 cattle from 15 different men, and he is immediately liable to prosecution and he will be prosecuted because he has committed an offence under the Marts Bill. I challenge the Minister to deny that such a prosecution would, according to the letter of the law, be well founded. I do not for a moment allege that, if the Minister for Agriculture were possessed of all the facts, he would direct a prosecution in such a case. I think that would be highly unlikely. I do not believe for a single moment that if Deputy Flanagan, Minister for Health, knew that a dead man was left sitting behind the wheel of a car down in Kerry for three hours at the side of the road because the ambulance men would not remove the remains to the nearest hospital, he would stand for it for one moment.
The Minister will not, of course, direct a prosecution under this Bill. The enforcement of the provisions of this Bill becomes the duty not only of the appropriate inspector in the Department of Agriculture but of every civic guard in the country. As an individual, I do not want to be put in the position of breaking the statute law of this country. There may be habitual criminals but there are some of us left who I like to believe would not like to be brought into conflict with the law, even though the law appears to be unreasonable or harsh. We want to set an example to our neighbours and we feel we have an obligation, until the particular law is repealed, to obey it.
If, tomorrow morning, I adapt my premises for the sale of cattle, sheep and pigs by auction, but fail to satisfy the Minister that I have adequately adapted them, and I then shrug my shoulders and say: "I am not going to spend any more on the place. If it does not suit you, that is your affair", and let my neighbour's cattle into that yard the night before a fair and a third party comes in and buys them on my premises, am I or am I not committing a statutory offence under the words "or otherwise"? Is there anybody in this House to contradict me on that? I do not think the Minister will contradict me, but I think the Minister's defence will be: "Ah, you are thinking up ghosts". I am not. I am trying to provide that the ordinary people shall not be brought in conflict with the law.
I disagree profoundly with what the Minister is doing but, if he wants to give effect to what he means to do, he can do that without causing this anomaly if he simply drops the words "or otherwise" and adds the words "a place adapted and habitually used for the sale of livestock by auction". Maybe that is not the appropriate drafting, but, leaving in the words "or otherwise" certainly creates an ambiguity which puts every ordinary person in peril of breaking the law.
I sympathise with the Minister. It is embarrassing very often—I have had experience of it myself—when wellknown supporters in back benches lend a helping hand in matters of this kind and only succeed in making confusion worse confounded. I think the Minister can see for himself that both Deputy Booth and Deputy Cunningham attach a meaning to this definition clause which the Minister himself does not attach to it.