It is not my intention to assist the legal fraternity in the job they have undertaken here. Deputy Lindsay spent over an hour here last night reading out reports from the Irish Times, the Irish Independent and all the rest of them, in relation to the Livestock Marts Bill. He also quoted at length the new authorities he had got, particularly the Council of the Incorporated Law Society. Who could expect any other decision from my legal friend there. Deputy Pa O'Donnell who is Chairman of the Incorporated Law Society, than the opinion that was read out here last night by Deputy Lindsay?
Livestock Marts Bill, 1967: Money Resolution on Report (Resumed).
Your own Senator Nash had not a word to say for the Fianna Fáil Party.
Your turn has not come yet.
Senator Nash had his turn.
I promise the Deputy that if he will give me a preview of the speech that he will make, I will answer every word of it.
And you were at that meeting and said nothing.
Yes. I only had the pleasure of listening to Deputy Lindsay; I did not listen to anybody else. I have something else to do in looking after my constituents and their business besides being in here listening to speeches. I want to know what it is all about. I want to know how all these legal gentlemen stand. I quite understand Deputy Pa O'Donnell's attitude.
And Senator Nash's.
Deputy Pa O'Donnell is President of the Incorporated Law Society and if they succeeded in getting an appeal to the courts, it would mean a good lot of business for his people. I can quite understand their position.
The Deputy can rest assured that it would not bring in a penny.
Nobody appreciates Deputy Pa O'Donnell's position more than I do. It is not enough to have a pretty considerable proportion of them getting shelter in here but the poor devils outside who have not got shelter in here must get something to do. I quite understand the situation from that point of view and I accept it completely from that point of view.
What were the favours received that brought about this filibuster here, that will keep us marking time for another week or a fortnight until the law courts finish on the 28th? What were the favours received? I have seen one document issued by the NFA in County Waterford. It is an illuminating document. It told exactly how their members were to vote and for whom they were to vote, the order of preference that each man should get. I do not see poor Deputy Fahey here this morning but he was 69th on the list. The funny part of it was that he headed the poll. He was rated 69th on the NFA list instructing their members how they were to vote in the local elections. That document, I understand, is in the hands of the legal people now and perhaps we will be hearing something more about it later on. For favours received, this is what happens. For those favours received, this House is to be kept here another fortnight, three weeks or a month. I do not mind. My work outside is done for a while and most of my work is here, endeavouring to retain the confidence my constituents have reposed in me and I intend doing that. Otherwise, I could take a holiday as well as the next fellow but I never get time.
I apologise to the House for not having time to make further research in regard to the measure a description of which I gave in the House last night, namely, the Cattle Insurance Bill that was brought in here. I mentioned the reason for introducing it and the underlying purpose in it. I mentioned it last night as an instance of what can happen when the kind of thing that is now going on takes place.
There are neighbours of mine whose cattle were injured in marts during the last six months. In one case an animal which was bought for £45 was sold for £10. After a man had paid £45 for the beast that day, the animal broke his leg in the mart and the buyer could not take him home. He got £10 and was told to go to the insurance company for the balance. The insurance company were not liable. That is one of the reasons why I am glad to see that some control is being taken, and that somebody will pay the unfortunate farmers who take cattle into a mart, have them injured there and have no way out afterwards.
The case I gave concerned a man who attended a fair in the south of Ireland. This House passed legislation allowing the Cattle Trade Association to carry out their own insurance, so that when an animal belonging to this man was injured, he got the knacker's price of 35/- on a £50 to £60 in-calf heifer. What did he do? I said: "I see only one cure for you. Have you to state the value of the animal?" He said: "No, I have not.""Grand," I said, and I told him to value them at so much apiece to the Cattle Trade Association, and to insure them. He did so and everything went grand for six months until the boys found that out, and then on the plea of cattle going out through the North of Ireland ports, further legislation was brought into this House and passed here, legislation in which was very carefully included a provision that the cattle trade insurance company would state the value of the cattle.
I told my man: "You are caught. I will try to get you out." I put in an amendment here, the very thing those gentlemen over there are looking for now, an appeal to the court, against the strongest opposition that ever came from those Benches from members of the Cattle Trade Association who were at that time Members of this House. It was the then Minister for Agriculture, now Senator Dr. Ryan, who made a suggestion to me when it was so late in the day, as a result of which a friend of mine in the Seanad, Senator O'Callaghan, had an amendment brought in. I did not get the appeal to the court; I got an appeal to a refree appointed by the Minister, the same as the Minister is doing here. I could not get a seconder in the House for an appeal to the court. However, as proof of the truth of what I am stating here, that man went before the referee with his case and got over £2,000 compensation from the insurance company in respect of the nine or 12 months previous dealing during which he had been robbed by legislation. Those are cases which anyone who wants to check on them can find in the Library. This is what we are left open to unless we bring in now the legislation the NFA were looking for a couple of years ago. We are bringing it in now. Judging by form, I believe this House will sit for about two and a half or three years more.
Is the Deputy basing his opinion on the results of the local elections?
Any fellow who did the job for his people was returned in the local elections, despite the circular sent out by the NFA or anyone else. The people had their measure taken. It is only six months since I offered a large sum to the Minister for Justice to throw them all out of jail. I did it on behalf of the people in the association, but the only response I got was that the association did not want them out. The only hope they had of carrying on was to keep them inside. That is what has led up to the present situation. I and three constituents of mine belonging to another farmers' association were asked to mediate in that dispute. We did so and we were very successful in our mediation until we came up against that position, that the biggest disfavour that could be offered to the NFA was to have those fellows released from jail. That was confined to a very small area in this country.
Cork county was completely free from these activities. Cork county refused to carry out Mr. Deasy's orders in regard to withholding the rates. As a matter of fact, as the members of the county council who are present can say, by 31st March last year 98.5 per cent of the rates were collected. That showed that either there were no NFA members there or Mr. Deasy's instructions were ignored. In regard to the blocking of the roads, I went into Cork that day to see how the operation was working. It worked very successfully, I must say that for them. The boys in Cork had their heads screwed on right. They worked it in such a way that there were only two prosecutions in the county of Cork. One of the men concerned paid the fine the night before he was to be put in jail. The other man wanted very much to get his name in the papers; he was a seller of agricultural machinery and he thought the best way of advertising it was by blocking the roads of Cork. He was duly arrested and taken to Limerick Jail, but having spent one night there, he paid the fine. One complaint was that the bread was too thick. In my time I remember gathering the crumbs up off the floor.
That was the situation in Cork county, the biggest county in the Republic, but this thing is working out to its natural conclusion, the same conclusion as was come to by the League of Youth with the greyheads that I saw over there in blue blouses a number of years ago. They worked out the very same conclusion. There is no doubt about that. Some people in the Opposition may think they owe their seats in local authorities to the NFA and want to repay the NFA. I have explained why the legal fraternity are on the job and I can also say that if Members expect some favours from these gentlemen in two and a half or three years' time, when the next general election comes along, they will find these people have a very short memory. Not even the fact that on behalf of another farmers' organisation, I was offering a large sum to get their men out of jail, counted with them. They did not think of it for a month for me.
I should like to congratulate Deputy Corry for at least having spoken on this motion. The great difficulty in speaking on an important motion like this is that there is almost complete silence among Deputies opposite. For that reason, although I do not agree with the previous speaker—I had the greatest difficulty in knowing what he was talking about—I was glad to see somebody offering to speak over there.
As far as I could understand his arguments, and one always likes to deal as fairly as possible with the arguments of one's political opponents, he was in favour of the Marts Bill because at some obscure mart somewhere in County Cork a beast which had been bought for £45 had broken its leg and subsequently the owner was able to get only £10 compensation. Is that justification for all the expense, all the trouble and, shall we say, waste of time that Dáil Éireann is being involved in in endeavouring to bulldoze through a Bill which is quite obviously unacceptable not only to the Opposition in Dáil Éireann but to practically every agricultural society, even the Minister's organisation, the NAC? In addition, a great number of the Minister's Party do not want it. The proof of that is that if they did want it, they would come in and attempt to justify it by some arguments rather than produce—I say quite respectfully—the tripe we have just listened to from the Deputy who has just spoken.
Apparently, one of the Minister's arguments was that we have to have this Marts Bill in order to regulate ourselves and bring ourselves into line for the Common Market. Not many years ago, at an international conference concerned with co-operative markets, I was told by the president of that association that the co-operative movement in Europe—mark you, this was in relation to agriculture—was based entirely on the Irish co-operative marts system. That seems to defeat the argument of the Minister straight away. The co-operative movement here is one of the strongly-functioning private enterprises which are so necessary in an expanding economy, as we are told by the Central Bank this morning. This is again an expanding economy and it is necessary that private enterprise should play a part in it. I think the turnover of the Irish co-operative marts, aided and abetted by the auctioneers associated with such marts is somewhere in the neighbourhood of £80 million a year. I noted with interest this morning in the summary of the Central Bank Report diagnosing our economic situation, that there was no reference to agriculture. I should like to put this point to the Minister: does he think he is behaving, shall we say, justifiably in the interests of the Irish farmers in concentrating all his energies and those of his officials on endeavouring to bulldoze this measure through Dáil Éireann? Would he, in all fairness, not consider that there are many other facets of agriculture which need his undivided attention at present?
No later than yesterday the Minister was questioned here regarding the disastrous position of the cattle trade. It is a disastrous position that exists today and I have no hesitation in saying that were it not for livestock marts, which were started, mark you, by private enterprise—I want to keep them that way; that is the principal reason why I am on my feet here today— sales of cattle today would be even more disastrous than they are.
An attempt was made by one of the Deputies opposite, I think—very few of them have intervened—to show that fairs gave a better price to small farmers—as much as £5 a head, I think he said. He endeavoured to show that the ordinary open sale we had in rural Ireland previously gave better results to farmers than the marts. I have been arguing the toss and trying to sell my cattle as best I can all through the years and my considered opinion is that one has a far better opportunity of getting a reasonable price for one's cattle in a mart than one ever had in a fair. Even if one has a very sound knowledge of livestock, there is always the position when you have a fluctuating market with prices ranging up and down and it is only in the open mart run by farmers' co-operatives or possibly by a firm of auctioneers of high repute that farmers are assured of getting the best price for their produce. Further, they are assured of sales.
The reason I stress this is that one Member stated in the corridor that the small farmers were not interested in whether this Bill went through or not but the one person who is assured of a sale in the marts is the small farmer. Unfortunately, he is not assured of a good price. Every rural Deputy, and I think even the Minister for Agriculture, must concede that when a small farmer takes his stock for sale, it is necessary for him to sell. He has not got the resources at his disposal that some of us, bigger farmers, have. In the old days—and I have seen this happen repeatedly—farmers took out stock perhaps in not sufficiently good condition for sale, not a selling commodity, and found themselves in the position of having to stand there all day and in the end take literally starvation prices for such cattle rather than take them home again because they were not in a position to return them to the farm, not having the wherewithal to feed them. For that reason, I believe it is of a paramount interest that the marts should be allowed to continue unchallenged and unhindered, as they wish to continue.
Would the Deputy not let us have his opinion on the Money Resolution?
I am speaking as the Deputy's distinguished colleague spoke just now on the wide range of sales in marts. As Deputy Booth is not in the Chair, it is with courtesy that I explain it to him. The reason for the opposition to this Resolution is that we refuse to throw good money after bad. We want the Bill stopped here and now and that is the paramount wish, as the Deputy, being a Dublin Deputy, may not know.
Are the marts in Wexford——
I should like, Sir, to let Deputy Allen ask a question if it is an intelligent one.
Are the marts in Wexford not in agreement with this Bill?
Would the Deputy speak to the Chair?
Through the Chair, are they not in agreement?
If Deputy Allen has a mart in Wexford, as he is an auctioneer, I do not know whether he is in agreement. Of course he is a yes-man and has to be so Does the Deputy wish to ask another question?
The other marts have informed me that they are in favour of the Bill.
I would be interested to know whether Deputy Allen is in favour. Perhaps he will speak on the Resolution and tell us.
I have spoken.
There is no reason why the Deputy should interrupt on a question of that kind. He has had an opportunity of speaking and putting his point of view.
Thank you, Sir, for protecting me; I do not think he has spoken.
Not this time. I have heard the Deputy intervene from time to time with meaningless interruptions. If he has anything intelligent to say, I should be delighted to hear it. As the Deputy is an auctioneer in Wexford and claims that the marts of the auctioneers association there are in favour of the Bill, I should like to have proof of that.
We should leave Wexford and get on with the Resolution.
I agree, Sir; this is a nationwide question. I was pointing to the difficulties of the small farmers when Deputy Booth courteously intervened. The small farmer has to get a return for his stock. This is a co-operative movement for the small farmers of Ireland. Indeed, heretofore the big farmers too had to get up at 4 o'clock in the morning and drive cattle along the roads to fairs and spend the whole day there without the possibility of selling. Because of this co-operative movement, founded by the farmers themselves, that is no longer necessary. The cattle are driven along the roads, or perhaps brought by lorry and most of the marts provide that up-to-date service, to the fairs. I do not know whether Deputy Allen's mart does this. The marts I know bring in the cattle at a per capita charge.
There is great danger for livestock on the roads today. My colleagues opposite will agree, whether they come from the town or the country, that we have a growing traffic problem in the transport and movement of livestock. Therefore, this whole co-operative movement, which is a conglomeration of farmers coming together for their betterment, is entitled to travel on its own road unchallenged. That is why I am speaking here. I am speaking because I try to be fairminded in every political debate. I have not seen anybody get up on the other side of the House to make any worthwhile contribution. There have been interjections—I do not like to call them interruptions—which have very little bearing on a vital Bill such as this.
This is a Bill which the Minister says he must have immediately. The Minister comes into this House and says he must have something immediately. The Minister for Justice has tabled a certain motion and has decided that he wants something immediately. With all its generosity, this House will give it to him. But the Minister for Agriculture says: "I must have this Bill before the autumn; I must have it immediately." Therefore, I assume that the Deputies behind him —the Fianna Fáil Party which is claimed to be the democratic Party I assume it is—have discussed this matter, and that even Deputy Booth would have a voice in the discussion as to the urgency of the Bill. If the Government bring in controversial legislation, they have a certain number of stand-to Deputies who are conversant with the situation, who come in and support the legislation and substantiate their arguments. This is absent in this debate.
That was done on Second Reading. We do not have to repeat ourselves indefinitely as the Deputy is doing.
The Deputy has helped me. He has made the point I want to make. There has been complete silence on the other side of the House. I referred the last time I spoke on the Money Resolution to an intervention by a backbencher to the Parliamentary Secretary about a man being fired in Waterford and for that reason we were to have a Bill that would cost thousands. Those are the only arguments we have heard here.
I do not want to go over the Minister's arguments because Deputy Booth would be the first to challenge me on repetition. If the Minister has the almost unanimous support of the entire farming community, it is extraordinary that these organisations had to come forward and say that that is not true. The situation is as bad as that. It is something we are forced to fight against because our job here as an Opposition is to show up what we believe to be wrong. I can assure the House that as long as I am a Deputy here, I shall stand up, criticise and oppose anything I believe to be inimical to the interests of the people concerned.
I believe this whole Bill is rotten from the word go. There is no sense in it, no rhyme or reason. It means nothing but continual expenditure by the State. Further than that, when I began my comments I referred to the waste of time. There are many important matters officials of the Department of Agriculture could be dealing with at the moment. We have reactivated our application for membership of the EEC, and surely it is more important that senior officials, men with experience of agricultural conditions over the years, and with experience of international agricultural conditions, should be studying those problems than sitting beside the Minister endeavouring to help him to carry through a Bill which is unsought by anybody.
I do not know how long this debate will continue, nor do I know if the Minister will adopt an attitude of sweet reasonableness. In all things in life where there is a direct confrontation—and perhaps more so in the political arena than anywhere else— ultimately there has to be a compromise of some sort. Two alternatives seem to be open to the Minister who sits in pretty well lonely isolation over there. Perhaps he has the enthusiastic support of his Party— I do not know; I am not privy to those private thoughts—but I have heard rumours. He wishes to force this Bill through, wishes to use every power vested in him as Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries to secure control of one of the greatest co-operative movements ever started in a very important and vital sector of our economy. We shall, with our democratic rights and our duty as an Opposition, oppose that. The result will be that this debate will probably continue for a very long period.
The compromise is a simple one. I shall suggest it to the Minister and perhaps, when replying, he will tell me why he cannot accept it. I suggest to him that when this round is over, he agree to bring the Committee Stage of the Bill up again in October and to continue the debate then. People will have had time to think it over. Even the distinguished Deputy from Clare, who is showing some slight amusement, will have had an opportunity of verifying the facts among the small farmers of Clare, and his colleague alongside him, from Dublin, will have had an opportunity of evaluating the facts and ascertaining if this Bill is really wanted. They will be able to come back refreshed after their sojourn in the country, or wherever they go, and be able to give the Minister the benefit of their opinion, that is, if he will listen.
That is my suggested compromise, so that we could have the EEC debate next week which is, to my mind, of vital importance in the light of what has happened recently, particularly in relation to agriculture and the EEC. We could then come back in the autumn and resume these arguments. I am offering that as a compromise on the basis of the fact that all political differences—and this is even worse; this is a political confrontation—are settled by compromise. Nobody loses face by so doing and the Minister would gain immeasurably if he could see his way to do that.
Ba mhaith liom tagairt a dhéanamh don chómhairle a thug an Teachta Esmonde domsa, dul thar n-ais go dtí Contae an Chláir agus an Bille seo do phlé le feirmeoirí an Chláir. Bíodh a fhios ag an Teachta go ndearna mé an rud seo a phlé le feirmeoirí, idir beag agus mór, cé gur dóigh liom nach dtuigeann an Teachta cad tá ar siúl agam.
Ba mhaith liom a chur i gcuimhne dhó go raibh na toghcháin áitiúla againn le déanaí agus gur phlé mé an cheist le feirmeoirí de gach cinéal ar fud an chontae ag cruinnithe agus ag geataí na séipéal agus níor labhair feirmeoir ar bith in aghaidh an Bhille seo.
Tá cheithre marglanna againn i gContae an Chláir—ceann in Inis, ceann i gCill Ruis, ceann in Inis Díomáin agus ceann i Scairbh agus uair ar bith a dhiol feirmeoir beithíoch i gceann de na marglanna coimheadtar scaradh áirithe dá chuid airgid siar mar síntúis don NFA. Má chuireann sé in aghaidh na coinneála déarfar leis go gcuirfear a chuid beithíoch i ndeireadh an liosta feasta. Dá bhrí sin, bíonn air an t-airgead nó an síntúis a chur go dtí Cumann na bhFeirmeoirí Aontaithe.
Tá a fhios agatsa, a Cheann Comhairle, chomh maith agus atá a fhios agamsa, go raibh fear áirithe ag obair sa mharglann in Innis—post páirtaimsire a bhí ann agus is é an gná-shlí bheatha atá aige ná seirbheáil a dhéanamh ar dhaoine iarraidh orthu freastal ar an gcúirt. Thárla go ndearna sé seirbheáil ar sé feirmeoirí a ghlac le comhairle an NFA agus nár dhíol a gcuid rátaí. Ag an gcéad mharglann eile do thug cathaoirleoir na marglainne in Innis bata is bóthar dó agus dúirt sé ná faigheadh sé obair ar bith feasta. Baineadh an post beag suarach sin den fhear oibre seo toisc gur chomhlíon sé a chuid dualgaisí mar theachtaire cúirte.
Do léigh an Teachta Lindsay sleachtanna as an Irish Times aréir chun a chruthú do chách go raibh an tAire bradach ag imirt cos-ar-bolg ar na feirmeoirí bochta. Ba dheas an Bíola a bhi ag an Teachta Lindsay—an Irish Times a sheas i gcónaí ar son ceartas mhuintear na hÉireann.
Ansan do léigh sé tuairisc ó chruinniú de Chumann na nDlíodoirí. Tá a fhios agatsa, a Cheann Comhairle, gur ar mhaithe leis féin a dheineann an cat crónán agus ní h-íonadh liom go raibh na cait ag crónán ar mhaithe leo féin. Ba mhaith liom a chur in iúl don chumann so gur fearrde dhóibh na feirmeoirí agus gach éinne eile a théann go dliódóir chun uacht a dhéanamh nó chun talamh d'aistriú go ndéanfaí an obair go pras agus go cruinn dóibh. Uaireanta, tógann sé leith-bhliain, nó bliain nó, bh'fhéidir cúig bliana sul a gcuitear an gnó i gcrích. Is beag tairbhe do dhuine ar bith scríobh go dtí an cumann sin. Is minic a bhead air feitheamh ar feadh leithbhliana sul a bhfaigheadh sé freaga. Sé freagra a gheobhadh sé ná go rabh-adar ag plé na ceiste leis an ndlíodóir i gceist.
Anois, a Cheann Comhairle, ní raibh sé ar intinn agam aon ní do rá faoin mBille seo go dtí gur mhol an Teachta Sir Anthony Esmonde dom dul i gcomhairle lem mhuintir féin i gContae an Chláir. Fé mar adúirt mé, do phlé mé an scéal sin lem mhuintir agus le gach cineál feirmeora a bhuail liom. Is de shliocht feirmeoirí beaga mé féin agus is cun a leithéidí a chosaint a cuireadh an Bille seo ós cóir na Dála.
Chím go bhfuil Teachta ansin thall go bhfuil fonn cainte air agus níor mhaith liom an duine macánta a choinneáil ina shuí. Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle.
I want to raise a few brief points on this Bill. I cannot see what is the hurry or the rush to get the Bill through at this stage. The Minister and the officials of his Department would be much better engaged if they did something to get an increased price for cattle, sheep and wool instead of being in here trying to take powers from the people who have been running these cattle marts successfully over the past number of years. As previous speakers have said, we have only to look at the amount of money that has been turned over in the cattle marts. It surely is, in my opinion, a great compliment to the people who run them so successfully.
I cannot see, even if this Bill does get through this House, what change it will make. The few speakers who offered from the Government benches have said that there are cases of cattle dealers giving worthless cheques and that people were being deprived of their money. I would like the Minister to point out to us what is in this Bill to prevent that arising again. I cannot see anything in it to prevent it and that situation will continue. It is not conveyed by the Bill that the Government will accept any responsibility for this situation when it will arise again. As everybody in the business world knows, worthless cheques can very often appear. It is unfortunate that it happens but it does.
I certainly have no doubt that the Minister and his officials would be much better engaged spending their time and their money trying to do something for the small farmers of the west of Ireland instead of wasting the time of this House trying to bulldoze this Bill through. As Deputy Esmonde said this morning, nobody knows what is going to happen in regard to the EEC. The Adjournment Debate will be on the EEC. There is a number of people anxious to know what is the situation and they are looking forward to hearing this debate and to hearing what the Government speakers have to say. They are much more interested in that than they are in the cattle marts at the moment because the farming community seem to be quite happy about the way they are operated.
Nobody can help noticing the timing of this Bill. The Bill was brought in immediately after the dispute with the NFA and nobody who has spoken on the Bill from the Government benches can convince me that this Bill was not introduced solely to get another rap at the NFA. That row has gone on long enough and far enough. If the Minister felt that the Bill was necessary—and in my opinion, it is not a bit necessary —he could have selected a more opportune time. As previous speakers from this side of the House have asked, could the Bill even at this stage not be postponed until October or November? There is no great demand for it and to postpone it for the few months that would intervene would be preferable to bulldozing it through at the moment.
The Minister in speaking on the Resolution said that his only interest was the electorate. If he looks at the results of the recent elections, it will be clearly conveyed to him that he got no encouragement from the people of rural Ireland to continue with this Bill. If he is sincere when he says he accepts the decision of the electorate, I strongly suggest to him that he withdraw the Bill. The results of the election were quite obvious to everybody. We may try to juggle with figures about seats here and there but the net result of the election is that the Fine Gael Party have 15 chairmen of county councils and the Fianna Fáil Party have seven. That should be enough to make him examine his conscience.
In conclusion, I should like to say sincerely I think it a desperate situation that the Minister should try to interfere with the IAOS and private enterprise and other farming organisations who have done so much for the rural people, should try to prevent these people from making progress. I think he will ultimately rue the day. The only hope we have left is that at the first opportunity we on this side of the House get we will change the whole situation in relation to this cattle mart business.
Much legislation passes through the House but it is seldom any piece of legislation catches the interest of the people so much as this unwanted Marts Bill. The Minister fully realises, as do the Government, that resistance is strengthening against this unwanted Bill. He came in here last week and told us—there may be some misunderstanding but he did tell us—that he had reached agreement with the IAOS, the Marts Association and all other interested parties. That has been repudiated by these people. They have said that they are not yet satisfied and naturally they are not because their views have been reinforced by the intervention of the Incorporated Law Society. According to a well-known newspaper, the Law Society stated:
What is sought in the present Bill is to enable the Minister for Agriculture to determine the rights of individual citizens to engage in business without any appeal to the courts. This is a dangerous power to entrust to any Minister or Department. It is apparently suggested that there should be a right of appeal to a lawyer appointed by the Minister.
It is an extraordinary state of affairs that when one is in trouble, he will not have the benefit of the courts but somebody appointed by the Minister.
The fundamental point is that this is an unwanted Bill, unwanted by the country or the people, associations and organisations supposed to benefit from it. The implementation of this Bill will cost a great deal of money—money which is scarce and which would be better spent in other fields. My colleague, Deputy Corry, from my own constituency spoke last night and this morning and I did not hear him say anything in support of the Bill. He travelled all over the country, filling in deed forms or something. Neither he nor any other rural Deputy could come in here and conscientiously support this Bill. If they did, it would be against the wishes of the rural community which is incorporated in all constituencies. There is a very big rural hinterland. Deputy Corry is aware that there are six or seven marts in our constituency and they are very successful. There may be a few isolated cases of a cheque bouncing but that will happen anywhere — a rubber cheque. These are isolated cases and they should not give the Minister or the Government the right to introduce this unnecessary legislation to take from the individual the right to look after his own business.
We have heard a lot about the marts, but one thing struck me which I heard in the early days when these marts were very welcome. There were widows with young families and other ladies who were farming in the old days, and they had to employ someone to go to the fairs and dispose of their stock. In all probability they were not always told the truth. These marts were a big advantage, and I heard very loud praise of them from those people. They were small in numbers but the people appreciated the advantage of selling their stock through the marts system. They could stand in themselves and see the cattle weighed, know the current price and know what they should get. That in itself was a very big help. The marts were a very big benefit to all the people.
The talking point in the country is why should the Minister come in at this stage with legislation which is unwanted. In 1956-57, I think, an appeal was made to the Government for some advice and help with regard to a marts system. The people were told at that time that the Government had no advice to give them, and to do the job themselves. They did it, and did a very fine job. Just because there was a difference of opinion between the Minister and the farmers, the Minister wants to get his own back now by putting his dead hand on the Marts Association, and putting them in a position in which they will have to jump to the crack of the whip, because he can close or open them. He is going further because this is the thin end of the wedge for further legislation and further interference in people's business. Once these regulations are made we know how they will develop.
I want to quote now from the Cork Examiner of Friday, July 7th, 1967. The Cork Examiner was not too much in favour of Fine Gael for a long time, but they now seem to be rowing in and realising that the Minister, backed by the Government, we are told, wants to move in and take over which, of course, is hardly acceptable in any democracy. Speaking of the interest shown in this legislation, under the heading “Lesson for Mr. Blaney” the Cork Examiner commented:
This is particularly true of the Marts Bill, which the Minister for Agriculture is determined to push through in the teeth of the combined opposition parties. There was a good case to be made in favour of postponement of the remaining stages until the autumn—a case made up principally of the revolutionary changes proposed, as they affected a nationwide enterprise, and the obvious necessity for careful parliamentary scrutiny of all the sections of the Bill. The Minister, however, did not see it that way. Last Friday he held consultations with three outside bodies which have recorded their dissension with the Bill, and on Monday of this week he presided over a meeting of the yet incomplete National Agricultural Council. As a result of these meetings the Minister announced his intention of moving amendments on the committee stage which would have the effect of watering down some of the most obnoxious clauses in the proposed measure.
This is the background against which the Minister proposed that the House should enter upon the committe stage two days ago, obviously anticipating that the preliminary step of voting money for the operation of the Act would be passed without discussion. The fact that this happens to be the usual practice did not prevent Fine Gael from making a determined effort to counter it by opening up a debate. Mr. Blaney was confounded and made no secret of his chagrin at this end to his hopes for a speedy passage of the Bill. Considering the controversial nature of the measure, however, and the widespread opposition to it in its original form, and considering also that the Government showed every intention of rushing it through before the recess, it does not seem to us that Fine Gael were wrong in their application of delaying tactics, especially when they had the support of the Labour Party.
I have already said that resistance has been built up against this Bill throughout the country, and people are beginning to ask what class of a man is the Minister for Agriculture. They all thought he was a rather sensible man who had the improvement of the agricultural industry primarily in mind, but in view of his attitude in trying to steamroll this Bill through, he has lost the confidence of the agricultural community. He would be well advised, for the good of the country and for the good of the farmers' associations, to withdraw this Bill completely even at this late stage. It is unnecessary and unwanted.
I am subject to correction, but I think the minimum sum required to get the Bill off the ground is £10,000. That is only the minimum sum and, indeed, that money is required urgently in other fields. Even at this late stage I appeal to the Minister to withdraw this Bill completely, as introduced, have another look at the situation and come back in the autumn and let us have his views.
At this stage I will be very brief. Last week we opposed vigorously the Money Resolution. We opposed it line by line, comma by comma, and we propose to continue to oppose it. Since last week, in the south of Ireland I attended a mart. As Deputy Burton correctly stated, a number of farmers, known supporters of the Minister's Party, have asked and will ask what is the Minister's objective in attempting to push this Bill through. People are dubious about it. They cannot understand why at this stage the Minister has decided to get the Bill through the House, to rush it through.
There would have been some justification for this if the Minister and the Department in any way subscribed to the marts by way of grant or loan. However, the marts, particularly in the south of Ireland, have made great progress due alone to the great work of the various farmers' organisations. The mart system has been a great safeguard for farmers in the disposal of their produce and it is a great shame that the Minister, when it is obvious to everybody that the marts are going well, should decide to intervene and dictate to the farmers how they should be run.
To us, particularly in the south, it is gratifying to know that the marts have gone from strength to strength. Their establishment was a step in the right direction, away from the old system, from the fair in the street or in the field. Now farmers are assured of the highest prices for their produce and this is particularly important nowadays when help is scarce and when the mart societies provide transport. All the farmer has to do is ring up the mart and the cattle will be collected and the farmer is assured of the highest penny available. It is a great safeguard for the farmers and they are very pleased with it. It is also a fine example of the co-operation that exists between towns-people and country people. It is obvious it is to their mutual advantage that the marts should continue to be operated as they are. A lot of work was put into the establishment of this system by the various committees who traversed the countryside to raise funds. They did a great job and it is a shame the Minister should decide at this stage, when the spade work and the ground work have been done, to intervene and to dictate to the committees how the marts should be run.
Last week, on Thursday, when the Minister replied to the debate, he stated, and I quote from column 1514 of volume 229 of the Official Report:
Deputy Creed talked about the great work being done by Cork Marts. As I said already, Cork Marts joined the deputation of the IAOS which I received. They left me in a far happier frame of mind than when they arrived.
We have had reports from the marts and the IAOS since then which contradict the Minister. I do not wish to bore the House by long quotations but this is relevant. Later on the Minister, continuing after an interjection by Deputy Allen, said:
Deputy Clinton would not mislead. Deputy Creed will be happy to know that the Cork Marts people are as much appreciated by me as they are by him.
I am delighted to hear that. Further on, the Minister said:
I have talked with some of their representatives and they are going back down south much happier than they were when they came up. This was because they were getting the truth about the Bill rather than what Fine Gael said it contained.
I think the Minister should at this stage clarify the position as far as he and the associations are concerned. He has stated they are quite happy; yet the IAOS and Cork Co-operative Marts have decided this Bill is unwanted, totally unnecessary, and the House is entitled to know what the true position is in this context.
In the local elections in Cork, we in Fine Gael gained six seats. This is relevant only from the point of view of the principal talking point during the election campaign. We on this side of the House have an inescapable obligation to oppose this legislation as vigorously as possible because it is totally unnecessary and unwanted and because there is no demand for it from any section in the State. The Minister would be well advised to have another look at it. If there had been a demand for it, we on this side of the House would have co-operated in every way. I regard it as an interference with the fundamental rights of the people whom it concerns.
The Minister is certainly one of the strong men on the Government side. I think he was put there for a purpose. Though I have no intention of dealing with the farming dispute, the NFA dispute, it is accepted generally that the NFA played a prominent part in the establishment of the marts and in the bringing about of this type of co-operation, and I think the Minister was put into the Department of Agriculture to do a particular job and his pride now will not allow him to withdraw the Bill. This is a vendetta between the Minister and the NFA. It is a disgrace at a time when there is unrest among the farmers throughout the country, unrest and concern at the prices their produce is fetching, particularly store cattle. State money should not be devoted to interfering with the running of the marts.
I again appeal to the Minister and to the entire Government side of the House to consider the consensus of opinion against this Bill, particularly among rural Deputies who canvassed hard during the local election campaign, who came into close contact with many farmers, and I am sure were told in no uncertain way what the farmers thought of this Bill. Apart from Deputy Corry, who certainly did not give any valid reason why the Bill should be passed, it has been very noticeable that no rural Deputy from the Government side contributed in any way. I appeal again to the Minister to withdraw the Bill and I appeal to those rural Deputies to make representations to the Minister to have another look at the Bill. It is in the interests of the agricultural community, of Cork Co-operative Marts and of the other marts throughout the country that the Bill be withdrawn.
I will not delay the House very long. As a rural Deputy, I am surprised at the Minister, a Donegal man from a farming part of the country, introducing this Bill. It has met with nothing but strong opposition from all Opposition Parties. I am sure there are many Deputies behind the Minister who would also oppose it but simply because they are Fianna Fáil Deputies they just cannot come out in the open. The marts were established by men who put their best effort into the enterprise. I know very hard working, enterprising farmers who in the early stages, finding that the farming community were somewhat concerned about this and were slow to avail of those marts, went to the trouble of buying stock themselves and bringing it to the marts for the purpose of giving a service to the people.
Those marts are thriving today. They are well supplied with stock and are attended by buyers. They are thriving on about five days of every week. Every day stock is available there for sale and the buyers know that. When such men went to so much trouble to establish the marts that are there for anybody to see, I do not know for the life of me why any Minister has to interfere. Many of us who are members of local authorities know only too well the danger of State intervention. Oftentimes when a programme could be carried out or something useful could be done by members of a council, the manager or secretary will read a document which has come down from the Department saying: "This has to be adhered to, we cannot do that; those are the Department's rules and as a manager I have to see them carried out."
That in itself it proof of the danger of allowing this Bill to go through because the very same will happen when sales are in progress and some inspector in a white coat will come in and say: "This is the Minister's order, gentlemen. We cannot go ahead with this." That is exactly what will happen and that is all the more reason why it is peculiar to find a clause here whereby an inspector can bring gardaí along. That is something which has never happened since the marts were established. No group of farmers ever thought of the necessity of gardaí being brought into marts. Thank God and the farmers that the occasion never arose for gardaí to be brought in.
That is another good reason why people should be very slow to support this. Mark you, people are not slow today to know what they are going about. If a farmer only visits a mart a few times, he will get to know the run of the mart and he will get to know the way things are worked. He has a right to object to anything he thinks is wrong, and if the sale of cattle is not going to his satisfaction, he has the right to complain to the people in charge and that complaint will be examined and the sale can be held up. It will be very different if the man with the white coat is there perhaps side by side with a garda.
That is the situation which can develop if this Bill goes forward. We have not been told the amount of money involved. We are just asked to vote money for it. We all know what happens when a Bill like this is put through. Special people are picked for jobs as inspectors. We know too much unfortunately of the boys appointed and sent out to those jobs. Many of them are not capable of doing the job but because they gave good service during an election campaign or something else, they are lucky enough to be appointed.
That is what this will develop into. It will be an easy way to create jobs and appoint inspectors to go out and add to the already very heavy burden on our farming community. We are taxed to capacity with inspectors. Many of them are finding it very difficult to fill in their time. They are just appointed as inspectors and it is the taxpayer who is the man who has to pay for it all.
I have been at sales in some of those marts and they were a credit to the farmers and the co-operative societies who organised them. The best cattle from the surrounding localities were brought in and they were properly classed. The buyers had no trouble. They could easily see who owned them. All the cattle were there with their numbers on them and everything worked out very well. Naturally enough in the marts you will have a bad day just as at any sale.
The Minister should at this stage have a look at the situation as it is. Cattle are at rock bottom prices, wool is sold at 1/6 and 2/- and 2/2 for the best wool. I do not know what the price of sheep is but I know the prospects are not good for them at the fairs. If something was done in that respect it would be a better day's work and the farmers would take a far more lively interest in it than they would in all this talk about getting the marts under Departmental control and bringing inspectors in. The running of the marts should be left to the people who made the great effort to establish them. The sooner the Minister examines this thing the better for everybody concerned.
Last January the farmers proved in no uncertain way they were able to do things properly themselves. There was great talk about the farmers having blocked the roads for one day. There is very close friendship between the farming community and the gardaí. It was only through sheer necessity that the farmers were forced to do this thing but when they went out to do the strike properly they proved to the citizens of this country that not since the days of the Land League was any group of people so well organised or so law-abiding. They proved to the people of this country that the country depended solely on them. There was no hitch; there was no breakdown in the strike or any infringement of the law.
Farmers who can so efficiently protest against the manner in which they are being treated have demonstrated their ability and there should be no difficulty in leaving it to the leading men of that organisation to carry on sales of livestock or anything else. It is sad that we should have to spend so much precious time here discussing a Bill of this sort, a time at which our people are not able to make a living on the land, a time at which our young men are looking around to see if there is any hope of getting a job in Dublin or will they have to emigrate to Britain for a livelihood. The Minister and his Government would be better employed examining the poor prices and the reasons for them and examining the possibility, too, of establishing some industry to absorb the surplus from the land. We come in here and suggest that an industry should be established in a certain centre in our constituency——
The Deputy is getting away from the Marts Bill. The question of industry does not arise.
I merely want to point out the difference it would make to our farmers if we had these industries instead of having inspectors looking after the farmers. Employment should be provided. If it is, the farmers will do the rest.
The Minister would be very well advised to reconsider this whole matter and to place his confidence in the farmers, hard-working people, seven days a week and sometimes 14 and 15 hours a day. How hard the farmer has to work was brought forcibly home to me during the local elections. The farmer and his wife came in at eight o'clock in the evening, perhaps after having milked their herd——
I do not understand how this arises on the Marts Bill.
Sending inspectors to look after such people is something we cannot understand. If the Minister goes through with this Bill, the position will be that enterprising men who have spent so much effort in establishing marts will find themselves presented with a document from the Department, an order from the Minister with which they will have to comply.
I rise, Sir, because of a certain situation which has not been properly clarified, I think, in relation to this Bill. The Minister, on Second Reading, indicated that there were various agricultural industries and operations to which regulations were applied many years ago. In reply to that argument, I pointed out that each one he mentioned was either a processing industry or, even more than that, a manufacturing industry. The difference here is that the bullock which walks around the ring and is sold remains unchanged and therefore the comparison made by the Minister is not a valid one.
We are breaking all precedent in this proposed legislation. We are creating a situation in which there will be no recourse to the courts; the Minister will make the regulations. By way of a second thought, possibly as a result of advice he received, he will appoint a man to whom recourse can be had by way of appeal. This man will be neither a High Court judge nor will he have the status of such a judge. There is no comparison between the appointment of this man and the Lay Commissioners in the Land Commission Court; they have the status and the salaries of High Court judges and they have to take the oath the ordinary High Court judge takes.
The position under this Bill is that the Minister will name a man to whom there can be an appeal. He will be the Minister's man. It is not my intention to flap the wings of Fine Gael and, at the same time, point to the black heart of Fianna Fáil and, therefore, I instance the fact that next month Louth County Council, on which my Party have a majority, will elect a rate collector. It will be my job to ensure that a Fine Gael rate collector is appointed. There are many positions in this State to which political appointments are made. We follow the pattern of American politics in that respect. District justices, directors of State bodies or corporations are political appointments. Let me give an example: God rest poor Charlie Delaney; I had a drink with him in the bar here on Thursday and he said to me: "Next Tuesday I will no longer be a member of the Agricultural Credit Corporation because the Government have changed". He was dead the next day, Friday. If the Minister follows the normal pattern, then this appointment will be characterised by nepotism.
I prefaced my comments by saying I was not trying to make Fine Gael look like angels and Fianna Fáil like so many black hearts. Ministers will implement the legislation passed here but if we, at some future date, are elected as the Government of the country, we can and we will change that legislation. The difference is that Fianna Fáil are pushing this measure through in spite of the opposition of the rest of the House and they have given every evidence of their determination to keep this legislation on the Statute Book.
What will be the reaction in relation to section 3, for instance, which deals with the giving of licences to establish new marts? I come from where marts first started outside of Dublin city. One of the earliest was established in County Louth and another beside it, in County Monaghan. I remember a mart starting first in Drogheda. Then one started nine miles away in Ardee. Then a second mart started in Drogheda. Then a mart started in Dundalk, then in Collon, then in Carrickmacross and then one in Kingscourt. That was done without any farmer losing money and without any failure, except in one instance, by the company but with no loss to the farmers. There is now one mart in Drogheda and the mart in Collon has closed down. The mart in Ardee is possibly the most successful of the lot and the marts in Dundalk, Carrickmacross and Kingscourt are highly successful. That development has taken place in Louth in a period of 20 years and it must take place in the rest of Ireland in the next ten years.
Would the Minister, having seen that development and having seen that a reputable firm of auctioneers which started a mart five miles from Drogheda, come to a decision that it was wrong to do so and close it? What would be his view in relation to the two marts in Drogheda and the fact that one closed down and that the principal mart still operates there? Would the Minister agree that the mart situated at Ardee, between Drogheda and Dundalk, is possibly the most successful? In the light of all that, would the Minister and his Department decide that there are fresh woods and pastures new?
The West of Ireland is wide open for this. There are possibly four marts in the whole of the West of Ireland operating strongly and there will be something in the order of 14. There are other areas—in the south, for instance — where there will be more marts. This position will not be one of private enterprise, of competing with one another and where, if they make a wrong decision, they must abide by their loss and proceed on their way. Instead, the Minister will say where there will be a mart.
The Minister's comparison with such things as factories that produce bacon or creameries that produce butter, and so on, falls down because this is a service which is normally provided either through a co-operative or private enterprise form of business. It is unwise of the Minister to do this because it places within his hands—he is a political person—the right to say in the first instance who shall have the mart and if there is to be an appeal in relation to refusal it shall be to a person appointed by the Minister.
I do not want to go through the whole list and possibly to inflame Fianna Fáil and to make the Minister think that I am calling him a black-guard, and so on, which I am not. I do not want to go through the list of appointments and of semi-State bodies who have services provided for them by certain professional gentlemen. It is accepted here, and it is absolutely a fact of life, that district justices are appointed politically by the Government of the day. I go from there right to the story about poor Charlie Delaney, R.I.P. I could instance a hundred more. If we were in government next year, we should follow that pattern and try to appoint the best fellows on our side. In this instance, there will be interference with business run on private enterprise or in a co-operative manner. The Minister is providing for an appeal which shall be an appeal to his own man. This, to me, looks like tackling the team on the opposite side and the referee. It seems to me that it is probably—I use that word deliberately: the word used by the Incorporated Law Society is "possibly"— unconstitutional. Whatever about the Minister's determination to put through this measure now we may find it challenged in the courts and this whole costly operation in the middle of summer may prove entirely abortive.
I do not want to hold up the business of the House unduly but I want to advert to the fact that, all the time, it has been laboured on the Government benches that this legislation is for the farmer and then they say that this legislation is for the small farmer. As I see it, the position is that there is no question at all of regulations in relation to fidelity bonds or anything else being necessary under this legislation. The Auctioneers Bill is there. The bond now required is £5,000. A simple amendment to put it at £20,000 or £30,000—whatever figure the Minister considered would be the right figure so as to give complete safety if there is any danger—would have been received with open arms on all sides of the House. There would have been no objection to it. There is, however, every objection to this highly restrictive legislation which, without doubt, is possibly the brainchild of a man— again, I do not want to criticise him— whose great fault—we all have great faults—is that he is a bully and he is quite prepared to push his measure through notwithstanding whatever wisdom is given to him from whatever source.
I want to end by saying something that I sincerely believe to be true. It has irritated and aggravated the Minister in his replies to me over the past month or so on various aspects of agricultural legislation. It has made him extremely angry. In fact, at times it has reduced him almost to a shouting maniac. I sincerely believe that it is the Minister's view and perhaps the Government's view that the right thing for Fianna Fáil is to break the NFA for ever. I sincerely believe that this Livestock Marts Bill is merely an instrument and an indication that the Government are wielding the big stick and will take unto themselves powers which will mean that they can throw people into jail on the slightest pretext. I sincerely believe that the Government believe that the best thing for Fianna Fáil at this stage is to break the NFA.
I did not intend to intervene in this debate. I cannot pretend that in South City Central, in the constituency for which I am one of the representatives, it is a very burning question. It is a burning question, however, in most of the constituencies in Ireland and certainly in all of the rural constituencies. I have decided to say a few words following on the speech of my colleague, Deputy Donegan. He made the point that this Bill has very dangerous elements in it, namely, the danger of an abuse of power and an abuse of the spoils system. From that point of view, South City Central or any other city constituency—which seems remote from the high feelings engendered by this Bill— is nevertheless right in the centre of the passions which it arouses and the dangers which it contains because this Bill contains the very great danger of making, in this modern Irish world, one more reason for bringing in the spoils system.
Now with the greatest deference to my friend and colleague who spoke a few minutes ago, I would say that the spoils system has not been adopted by the Fine Gael Party. All political Parties operate a certain amount of what sometimes superficially appears to be a spoils system but which, in fact, when examined, is not necessarily so, but a Bill such as this does leave it open to that. A Minister appointing somebody directly from his office, or directly arising out of his office, is bound to be put in touch with and know a great deal about candidates who happen to be of the same political colour as himself. That is a very wrong thing to bring in and to enshrine somewhat in legislation. I say "enshrine somewhat in legislation" because it is not of course actually being put into the Bill but it is a danger inherent in it. Any Minister, no matter how he felt, no matter how much he disliked the spoils system, would feel that at least he could get more information about people of his own political persuasion than he could of others.
That is one of the great dangers to the whole country which lies in this Bill. In a bureaucratic age, in an age which is intensely political, it is placing more and more power in the hands of the Minister and the hands of the Government, which is, in the nature of things, to be used from a political point of view. There was a passing reference to the system in America. I would say that I yield to none in my admiration of the great qualities of the American people and in the way they have developed that amazingly rich country, rich in natural resources, rich in all sorts of ways and now rich in human ingenuity, but I do not think that the greatest admirer of the American scene could claim that their political system was something which in fact helped their development very much. There are many schools of political and philosophical thought which believe that great as America is, she would be greater still if she had not adopted, nakedly and openly, a spoils system. We have never adopted that in this country and please God, we never will. As I say, it is something that no Party has ever really stood up and said they adopted unashamedly and openly. If that were the policy of any Party, it would be very wrong.
This Bill seeks to place power in the hands of the Minister and in the name of perhaps hygiene or efficiency, a man can be dismissed from running a particular mart and somebody else appointed in his place about whom it would be open to say that he was a political nominee. In fact, it would be very difficult in many circumstances for any Minister to appoint anybody except somebody whose politics were similar to his own. Therefore, I would join with the unanimous voice raised from this side of the House and say that this is a very wrong principle to bring into a Bill. Leave the farmers to handle their business themselves, something which up to now they have handled well and which is, in fact, of comparatively recent growth. It is helping the farmers in that co-operative movement which is of such vital importance to the farming community and through the farming community, to all the people. The farmers cannot prosper if they do not understand the nature and ramifications of their own work—and by that I mean selling and marketing and the ups and downs which agriculture has had up to now. These marts have helped in clearing a way through the morass of marketing difficulties. I would therefore say to the Minister that he is doing a very bad thing not only for the farmers but for the people by forcing through this Bill in the teeth of unanimous opposition.
The Bill which we have been discussing for the past month, and which perhaps we may be discussing for the next two months unless the Minister sees the light of day, is in my opinion and in the opinion of my Party, one of the most frightening pieces of legislation ever introduced. It is a dangerous Bill and vindictive in the extreme and I believe we are right in trying to keep this dangerous legislation from this power-drunk Minister. The Minister is trying to use the resources of the State and the powers he has to crush the NFA and other voluntary organisations which have done, without the help of the State, excellent work over the past ten years.
We are discussing the Money Resolution and not the Bill.
Yes. Last night Deputy Corry was allowed to talk about puck-goats for half an hour——
He was finding a market for Deputy Harte's puck-goat.
This Bill contains the most oppressive clauses and paves the way to dictatorship. This Parliament should not give money to the Minister to carry out the provisions of this Bill. As has been pointed out, the marts were set up ten years ago without any help from this or any other Government, and at that time intimidation of another kind was practised throughout the country by certain people who were against the setting up of these marts. At no time did the Government try to stop the intimidation or say that a more progressive way of selling people's cattle was to be encouraged. The Minister is arrogant, dictatorial and vindictive. He is like the cock that thought the sun came out to hear him crow. We can build in this State a firm foundation on co-operation. Vital and necessary work remains to be done. We should not give money to the Minister for what is intended in this Bill, that is, to carry on a vendetta of hatred or to use the jackboot on any section of our people.
We have had an unfortunate situation in this country for the past nine months. Nothing was done by the Minister during that time to end it. Why should we now pass the people's money to give the Minister further opportunity of throwing petrol on the smouldering embers and starting this feud all over again? From this side of the House we appeal to him to try to be a man, to forget about the past eight or nine months and remember that important work remains to be done. His energy—and no doubt he has plenty of it—and time, as well as that of his officials, should be devoted to getting that work done and building a better Ireland in the future for our farmers rather than listening to these arguments in the House.
In the near future important decisions will have to be taken which will affect the lives of every man, woman and child in this country. I refer to our entry into the EEC. Instead of having this debate and trying to kindle the flames of hatred again, would it not be much better if the Minister said he was prepared to withdraw this Bill? Important work remains to be done in the interests of all sections of the community. Let us forget the past and remember we can build a firm foundation on co-operation, on sitting down around the table discussing the future of our country with the different interests involved. The Minister should withdraw this Bill immediately and say to all concerned—farmers, industrialists and trade unionists: "There may be hard days ahead for each and every one of us, but let us all be prepared to come together and to work together in the interest of this little country of ours." Let us banish hatred, vindictiveness, arrogance and dictatorial ways and do what we should be doing in the interests of the country, that is, pulling together.
We would appeal to the Minister even at this late hour to withdraw this Bill and to get ahead with the work which requires to be done and which could be made a success of perhaps if we had the co-operation of all sections of our community. For God's sake, let us remember our country was divided nearly 50 years ago, when brother was set against brother and farmer against farmer. An effort has been made in this Bill, and as a result of the actions of the Minister over the past few months, to divide our cities and towns from our country people and to divide farmers and neighbours in rural Ireland. While we have this Bill and these arguments in this House, that is continuing the length and breadth of the country. If the Minister is not man enough to do it himself, the time has come for the Taoiseach to say: "I am the Taoiseach. I will not be dictated to by a power-drunk Minister. I am prepared to do those things in the interests of all the people of this country." If the Taoiseach does it even now at this late hour, he will be doing a good job for our people.
The Minister came in here last Thursday and told us he had consulted with certain organisations and had got their blessing for this Bill. We now find that the Minister told the House an untruth. I will not waste the time of the House reading the statements these people have made in the press—they have already been quoted—but they are not satisfied and have not at any time stated they were satisfied with their discussions with the Minister and are not satisfied that the Minister has gone far enough to meet their wishes.
Have we not come to a sorry stage in the history of our country when an Irish Minister can come into our House of Parliament and make statements deliberately misleading Deputies and the people of Ireland? Surely the time has come when in an Irish Parliament we should expect from an Irish Minister standing up to speak in this House the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Surely we should expect that no Minister of any Party would use his position to try to mislead members of the Opposition, members of his own Party and the people of this country? But we are not surprised, because those of us in politics know that in the Roscommon by-election the Minister had 50,000 forged letters and got Radio Éireann and Telefís Éireann to come out that evening——
That does not seem to be relevant.
I agree with the Ceann Comhairle. The Minister misled the people of this country at that time. Therefore, we are not surprised that he misled us last Thursday when he told us that those voluntary organisations had met him and were satisfied. Now we find they are not. But what we are surprised at is that the Taoiseach, if he has any control over his Ministers, has not come in here and, on behalf of the Government he claims to be the Taoiseach of, apologised to this House for the carry-on of his Minister last Thursday. In this House truth should be sacred. Now that he has been found out, the Minister should tell the truth and should apologise.
On a point of order, the Minister did not tell any untruth. If the Deputy waits for the Minister's reply, he will be informed fully of the facts.
I am sorry I cannot agree with you that I will be informed fully of the facts. We have not been informed of them up to this and I doubt if we will now.
Fan go bhfeicidh tú.
It is a gross waste of public money and time. The Minister tells us this Bill is designed to improve the cattle marts and improve the methods of sale. What has been done by these people over the past ten years has been a 100 per cent success. The farmers are more than satisfied with it. These people did this without any aid from the State and I do not see why we should now be talking about devoting State money to what is already a success. As has been said, this job was well done and cannot be improved on. Credit is due to those men who with their own money—they took risks and had not the support of the Government at the time—came together to improve the methods of selling the farmers' stock. Why should we be asked to vote money for something we believe cannot be improved on, especially when there is a scarcity of money, when you cannot get money for building houses and many other things? Would it not be much better if the time of the Minister, his Parliamentary Secretary and his officials and the money we are proposing to spend were devoted to setting up a meat marketing board or a wool marketing board for the farmers who at the present time are losing heavily?
A Cheann Comhairle, surely this does not arise on the Money Resolution?
If the Parliamentary Secretary had been here last night and this morning, he would know that Deputy Corry spoke for half an hour about a puck-goat.
He was finding a market, I am told.
It is quite relevant to say that it would be much better if this money were spent in some other way. Instead of wasting the time of this House in an effort to have money voted to improve something we believe cannot be improved, would it not be much better if the time and energy were devoted to some other cause? Remember, the Minister claimed last week that what was being done was in the interests of the farmers. That was his argument. I listened to him for half an hour. He said that we on this side of the House were not interested in the small farmers. If he is as interested in the small farmers as he claims to be why will he not set up a wool marketing board instead of devoting time and energy to trying to force this Bill through the House? Why not set up a wool marketing board and not have the farmers taking 2/- a lb. less for their wool than they were getting this time 12 months?
The farmers selling wool are the small farmers of Donegal, Clare, Galway and the west of Ireland, about whom the Minister claims to be so anxious. If he is anxious for the welfare of the farmers, large or small, would it not be much better to devote his time and energies and the money he is seeking for this Bill to the establishment of a meat marketing board and not have the small farmers of Donegal, Clare, Galway and the west of Ireland selling their cattle at £10 to £15 less than they were getting this time 12 months and in some cases £35 less than they were getting two and a half years before Deputy Blaney came into his present position?
We were told last week by the Minister that there was provision in this Bill to ensure that farmers would not be at any financial loss. I do not see any reason why we should vote the people's money for this Bill because in no section of the Bill is there a provision to ensure that farmers are not at a loss. The Minister knows that quite well and he was attempting to introduce a red herring. Over the years some marts have gone wrong. There is legislation controlling auctioneers and solicitors, and despite that fact, some of them have gone wrong and people have lost money. There is no section in this Bill to protect the farmers. The opposite is the case. At present the persons who have invested their money in the establishment of marts have to be very careful as to the credit-worthiness of bidders and those offering cattle for sale. They do that in their own interests and in the interests of those selling cattle. If this Bill goes through, the auctioneers and mart owners will have to accept bids from anybody. So, instead of there being protection, farmers may be at greater loss than has been the case. The people in the business know from whom to accept bids. Some of them have had their fingers burned. If they have not the right to reject the bids, and if this Bill becomes law, instead of the farmers being protected, the opposite will be the case. The auctioneers will have to accept bids from any "John Brown" such as we had in the past.
"John Brown" was a good man to pay.
That is very doubtful. He was well protected by a Government at a particular time to fleece and rob the farmers.
He did not have to pay very much.
He paid everything he owed. He was a very honourable man in that respect.
The Government would never go broke on what he paid.
We are going in the wrong direction. We should reject this Money Resolution and I would appeal to the Minister to withdraw the Bill.
The first thing I want to deal with is the allegation by the Fine Gael Party that there was a misleading, deliberate or otherwise, by me of the House last week on the Committee Stage of the Money Resolution in regard to the marts associations' attitude towards the Bill as amended. If it appeared that they agreed to amendments, that is not so and could not possibly have been so, because of the fact that we discussed only what might be amended, and the amendments had to be considered thereafter. There was no possibility of their having considered the amendments, let alone having agreed to them. However, the amendments that have been put forward by me have been put forward as a result of discussions with these associations. If by any words I used here, I should have over-expressed my belief in their acceptance of the Bill, I think it can possibly be understood that it was not deliberate on my part, but rather, having had to listen for so long and read so much of all sorts of opposition to the Bill, quoting the position of those who were immediately concerned that when these people did not leave me in high dudgeon, as one might expect, having discussed the Bill in detail with them, I expressed over-enthusiasm about the manner in which they may have received it.
I did say "by and large", although at other stages I may have used some other words, and if I remember correctly, there were comments, although they may not have been recorded, from across the House as to the "by and large" part of it. If I have in any way misled the House in regard to this, it was not my intention to do so. It would be a stupid thing to do with the debate only beginning to attribute attitudes to these or any other people in regard to the Bill, because they could be clearly and unequivocally contradicted immediately afterwards and while the Bill was still before the House.
Despite all the quoted opposition of the people immediately concerned with the marts, I have a couple of notes here, which it is not usual to use in the House, but in view of the serious implications and the manner in which allegations have been pressed in unlimited numbers by Fine Gael speakers. I think it would be no harm if I gave to the House the notes of the discussions as we recorded them immediately after the meetings with these two associations, both the IAOS and the Private Marts Association. Let me quote from the note in regard to the IAOS which says:
On the specific issues in the Bill the Minister said that he would consider in relation to proposed refusals and revocations of licences some modification of the Bill to provide for the making of representations in respect of certain of the grounds on which refusal or revocation would be based.
I went on to say, according to this minute:
that is, the Minister.
——saw the objection to the provision about a member of the Garda accompanying an officer and he was inclined to omit this particular clause. He would look into the question of the power of an officer to require information about the ownership of a mart from any person on the premises; it might be possible to provide that the officer would first seek out the manager or other responsible person. He would also look again at the penalties provision.
On the question of the regulations the Minister agreed that he would consult the co-operative marts through the IAOS before making any regulation. The representatives present appeared to regard this as a major concession, expressed their appreciation and indicated their willingness to co-operate in this matter.
Taking the first thing mentioned: "modification of the Bill to provide for the making of representations in respect of certain of the grounds on which refusal or revocation would be based", this is what I have done in an amendment which we shall discuss at a later stage. In regard to the objection to the provision about a member of the Garda accompanying an officer we have wiped that out. On the question of the power of an officer to require information about the ownership of a mart from any person on the premises, I said then it should be possible to provide that the officer would first seek out the manager or other responsible person, and an amendment is now tabled here which would give effect to that. I also agreed at the time to look again at the penalties provision. I have looked at them and have amended them downwards quite substantially.
As regards the meeting with the Private Marts Association, the minute is also useful and illuminating. As I say, it was written before there was a debate here. It indicates that these people who represented the Livestock Marts Association had a meeting with me, that I explained that section 4 of the Bill was introduced to cover clearance sales and sales at shows such as the RDS Sales. I said I thought that exception was taken to this section probably due to misunderstandings as to what it was intended to do, and I explained to them what the intention of section 4 was. The minute goes on to say:
As regards section 6, about which the representative expressed misgivings, the Minister said he would consult Associated Livestock Marts before making any regulation and that he would regard such consultation as being very desirable from his own point of view. The representatives expressed appreciation of the Minister's proposal.
As regards section 7, the Minister said that he thought he would omit the provision relating to an officer being accompanied by a member of the Garda on an inspection.
As the House knows, I have already done that. The minute continues:
It was put to the Minister that the penalties for breaches of the Act were too high and even though they were maximum penalties they might influence the court. The Minister stated he realised that the maximum of £1,000 looked rough and that he would look again at the provision.
In addition to that, I have available to me a minute that was circulated by the Private Marts Association to their members covering their visit to the Minister. There, again, is a matter of some substance, I think, in regard to putting in proper perspective subsequently the attitude of this association at their meetings with me. This is a document which, quite honestly, I am reluctant to read because it is their document, not mine. They did not send it to me although I have it. But I am inclined to read it in my own defence, as it were. Yet, I do not believe I should do so in the House because neither have I their permission nor have they the knowledge that I have this document. Therefore, I do not think I shall read it but perhaps it is useful to refer to it in the House. There may be people who have access to it properly and fully. It does exist and it does contain a certain slant on the discussions that took place which would go a long way towards refuting certain extreme allegations that were made against me about being untruthful in regard to my recollections in explaining my attitude at both meetings. I shall not read it unless and until I have the permission of the Marts Association to do so. I hope Members will appreciate the fact that I am not using this document here although I should like to do so. I prefer not to use it at this juncture.
The two associations came to see me at a time when, if one were to believe all that was written in the newspapers, they were determined to "do" this Bill out of existence, and "do" the Minister as well. The atmosphere of both meetings, if not absolutely cordial at the outset in the case of one of them, certainly concluded on the most cordial note. Indeed, I asked the leader of one of these deputations would he go back to his people and tell them that the Minister for Agriculture was not such a so-and-so as he had thought when he came up to discuss these matters with him? He said: "I certainly will." These were the terms on which we parted. The cordiality and manner of our discussions certainly gave me to understand, once the Bill had been explained, that there was a big change in their attitude to this measure compared with what I had learned from newspaper and other reports for weeks previously.
If I came into the House and possibly overstated the position, the House may take it that was not intentional on my part. I had no intention of misleading anybody and I could well be excused in the circumstances if I did overstate the situation, judging by the cordial and friendly atmosphere that prevailed in the case of both deputations I received and the fact that the two associations left me to consider the various matters which they suggested would require consideration which I promised to give them. On that basis I promised to make certain statements in this House, to clarify certain things and to give emphasis to certain things. All this would surely indicate that while they might not have been happy with the Bill as a whole, they were not unhappy to the extent of opposing the Bill. If they, at the conclusion of the discussions with me in both cases, were diametrically opposed to what was in the Bill, the idea of suggesting ways and means of improving the Bill in certain respects, emphasising certain matters in the House and clarifying them for the House and the public generally whom these people served, would surely not be in consonance with such total opposition to the provisions of the Bill.
It may be that they do not want certain provisions in the Bill. As in the case of every other Bill, there is not total acceptance, but one, at the same time, gets a working arrangement with those concerned and in this case I believe we did reach a point where there was a workable understanding between myself and the two associations representative of all marts, co-operative and private, that would make it at least unobjectionable to these people.
The reasons for this Bill have been very much at issue. It is asserted or alleged here that the Bill is really a spiteful measure to get my own back; that I am at variance with my colleagues in the Government and with those in the Benches behind, that this is a solo effort on my part. For the second time, I want to state categorically that this is a Fianna Fáil measure, fully approved by the Government, including the amendments now proposed and fully endorsed by my own Party, by the full Party and not just by part of it, as is any measure that we, as a Party, introduce. We have taken our decision and stand over it. I want to rebut the allegation that this is my Bill and my revenge on certain organisations or on the NFA.
I do not think anybody in the Opposition benches, with all respect to the valiant efforts they have made and the time of the House they have wasted in useless repetition, has added a whit to improving relations between the NFA and the Government. Neither do I concede that, because the NFA have had a dispute, which apparently from their point of view still continues, we should just stop in our tracks and not bring in legislation, lest some people should say, as Fine Gael have been saying, that it is merely spite and revenge on the part of the Minister or of the Government against the NFA with whom they have had a row in the past. We cannot concede this as a Government.
Secondly, it was not spite or revenge that inspired this Bill and if there are some people who think this, they had better examine their consciences and find out how they had planned to do things in the future, whether things would be done which would not be fair and just to the people concerned and which this Bill would prevent. If there are such people, then this Bill is obviously necessary to control them. If, on the other hand, those who are participating in marts, private or co-operative, throughout the country are prepared to continue to operate the marts in the public interest, as the vast majority of those marts have been operated since they were first established, then they have nothing to fear from this Bill and any fears expressed on their behalf are completely groundless.
I do not want this Bill for the sake of having control of the marts. I believe that marts are usurping the traditional fairs and, as I have already said, many people say that is a good thing. Whether that is true or not, the fairs were a traditional right of all our people, of farmers and dealers, big and small, tanglers and so on. They had the entitlement from God knows when to go to fairs to buy and sell as and when they liked under whatever conditions they could agree on between themselves. Marts, by their very institution in any of these centres or adjacent to them, meant that if the marts were to succeed, the fairs must decline and the ultimate position is that where a successful mart continues to operate, the fair virtually disappears.
We now have a situation developing. This situation in quite a number of cases over the country is that the traditional freedom of sales, the traditional right of the small farmers and the dealers to participate in the fairs are now becoming the monopoly of the marts, whether they be private or co-operative. In addition to the service these people are undoubtedly rendering, and doing in a much more friendly way through marts than they can ever do through fairs, they have the continual responsibility by virtue of the development of this new monopoly to serve the people who were heretofore served by fairs and they must carry the responsibility for any interference with that right through this monopolistic situation, which was not engineered for that purpose. I have put this absolutely flatly and plainly to the two associations, including the Cork Marts and the Private Marts Association, and both agreed that they have this responsibility.
There can be no question at issue in this regard, that a mart gives a service but it does carry a responsibility. Therefore, in future, as these marts develop and become more widespread, as our fairs deteriorate and decline and ultimately disappear, it is right and proper that the Government on behalf of the people should have control to ensure that the traditional fair rights our farmers have enjoyed will continue. Only in the case where a mart abuses that situation and denies that right does this Bill affect it. The vast majority, I should repeat, have not in any way at any time infringed these rights; but we cannot visualise a situation wherein these rights can be interfered with and nobody having a word of control or a method of control over this sort of abuse. That, fundamentally, is where we begin.
Then, we come along, having got to the stage of taking this sort of control in the interests of the public whom we all serve, particularly the agricultural public whom I, as Minister, serve, and the marts, the co-op marts in particular, and bring in a measure here to give this sort of safeguard to our farmers. It is only natural, as indeed on many other measures that have come into this House, that quite a number of other things that may be essential should be incorporated in such a measure.
We face the possibility in the not too distant future, depending on what opinion one commands, of access to the EEC. In recent times the EEC have instituted regulations in regard to the import of cattle and livestock—these regulations will apply to us if we join —which are of such a nature that we will be obliged to adhere to them. Unless we have access, a right of access, to the marts, we would be in the position that a mart at any time or any day at a sale could for one reason or another say: "We do not want those fellows in here." The result would be that we would not be able to put our cattle through that mart, or if we did, we would not be able to give the necessary certificate to the particular importer in the Common Market country. This is a situation which in the view of some people is in the immediate future; some think it is in the distant future and others think it will never arise at all.
In coming to the House with this legislation, we have had regard to the likelihood of the situation developing where we would be faced in the Common Market with whatever common veterinary regulations might apply to us. Even if we now get in as an importing or exporting country to the Common Market, we will have to conform to many of their regulations, which, again, will require that we have access, and a right of access, to these marketing points so that we can apply the regulations required and requisite to entry to the Common Market and be able to certify that certain of these regulations of the Common Market importing countries have been complied with.
There are also the regulations governing the facilities and the structure of the method of operation of marts. This is capable of being governed by way of regulation under this Bill. I think it only right that in a matter as important as the sale of our livestock, the points of sale developing through the marts over the years, and which probably will develop further in the future, should at least be of a fairly uniform minimum standard and that the construction or the structure of marts and the facilities provided at and within marts are known in the normal way to be brought up to minimum standards, or that minimum standards are, in fact, laid down where new marts are to be built and that there is a uniformity of practice in this matter.
I repeat that as far as we can see these are things that are reasonable and capable of operation today. A great deal of the regulatory sections in this Bill deal with this type of thing, which is not at all the very onerous or difficult thing that the Opposition would wish to make it appear.
In regard to the application of standards to marts, might I say that we have operating in this country, and being operated by the Department of Agriculture, three licensing provisions which, I think, can be said to be no more than at the discretion of the Minister and certainly no less at his sole discretion than what is proposed in this Bill. I instance the AI licensing provisions, the bacon factory licensing provisions and the creamery licensing provisions.
What I want to say about this is that apart from their being of a similar nature, sort of kindred in spirit, at the discretion of the Minister, the sole arbiter in these three particular Acts, is what applies in this new Bill you have before you. There is nothing more, and, in fact, in certain respects something less, if the Bill is amended as I have proposed by certain amendments. It certainly is no more in the Minister's discretion than is any of the other three mentioned.
In addition to that, I should say that what is really significant, and what I think should remove the fears of every member of this House no matter what bench he sits on, is that in all the 40 years' operation of the Acts under which the sole discretion rests with the Minister, in no single case can I find that it can be said that the Minister or the Department acted unreasonably in any way. No case can be quoted in 39 years of any Minister doing so, no matter under what Government he served: no case can be quoted. Indeed, if there is a case that can be made, going back over the years, it can well be said that, instead of there being a harsh administration, if there was any fault to be found with this, it was that the administration may have erred on the side of leniency where certain things were not done that should have been done and that infinite patience has been displayed by Ministers in dealing with it over a long period of years, but this would be the reverse of what has been said in regard to the manner in which this Bill would be administered. No case can be quoted in the 39 years of operation to show any discrimination, any suggestion of victimisation, any suggestion even of unreasonableness of administration under the powers in those Acts, which are similar to, even more stringent than the powers now under discussion, and certainly have been completely within the hands of the Minister for Agriculture for those 39 years.
Likewise, in the case of bacon factory licences, in the years since that Act went through—and that is quite a while ago—there has been no case in which it has been alleged that the administration, at either official or Ministerial end, has in any instance been unduly restrictive or harsh, or in which any suggestion of victimisation, discrimination or anything else has been made. There has been no case in all the years under that Act, where the Minister had the power equal to that which is in this Bill, if it is not greater. In the much more recent event of the licensing of AI stations and their operations, no case I am aware of has been brought to light in this House or outside it indicting any Minister or his administration in the Department of Agriculture for unfair, unreasonable or unjust treatment of any of the licensees, or those seeking licences for this particular operation.
Surely to heavens this is a refutation in a complete way of all the allegations which have been piled upon me, the Department and its officials, over these last weeks? Surely the actual practice for a period up to 39 years by the Department and its various Ministers, without allegation of blemish, is far more important than the gibbering of people across there who have, undoubtedly, other motives than merely the wellbeing of the farming community? Surely the practice for 39 years in relation to the Creameries Act is far more telling an argument than any of the other arguments we have heard proffered from the other side of the House? Surely the administration of these same powers for bacon factory licensing is far more positive than allegations being made by an Opposition Party who are clearly against this Bill, who do not want it through in any circumstances, in any shape or form. They have made no bones about it that this is what they intend and they are using the rules of this House, indeed abusing them, in order to withhold the Bill and try to prevent it going through.
Take the two things, the actual facts as I have given them, and the operation of the three existing licensing measures —which can be regarded as similar to this, and certainly similar in regard to the power of the Minister for Agriculture—go back as long as 39 years, work your way up and you find that no case, under any of the three measures, can be brought to the surface, in respect of which it could be said: "There is proof positive that this power has been abused by some Minister or other", whether it be myself or any other Minister before me in those 39 years. Surely this is far more convincing than Opposition allegations made purely for opposition's sake? The people will come to see that the opposition to this Bill being made by Fine Gael in particular is not based on their conviction that this is wrong or bad for the public good—whom we are all here to serve —but rather that it is an endeavour by the Opposition—who are a minority in this House—to impose their will on the majority, who are the Government, and are doing so on the pretext that it is in the public interest to do so. As Fine Gael know, the public— taking them broadly and largely throughout the country—are nobody's fools. You will not get away with this for terribly long. It may seem a great lark to come in here, filibuster and use the book of rules, in so far as they can possibly be stretched, but, in the long run, you are not fooling anyone and least of all the public, whom you are trying to placate and, at the same time, incite against the Government. Fine Gael will find this out and the pity of it is that the time of the rest of us in this House must be taken in order to get them to find this out. The Bill, as I have said, is one intended to ensure——
Will the Minister explain then the urgency about getting the Bill on the Statute Book straight away? If his statement is correct, it is unlikely that the provisions of this Bill will ever be imposed. The Bill will lie dormant, as did the three other Bills the Minister mentioned in the course of his statement.
What the Deputy is saying is not what I said. I did not say the Bill would be put through and would lie dormant. What I was pointing out—and I should like the Deputy to realise this too—is that there is the clear evidence of the same powers as are in this Bill in three other Bills reaching back as much as 39 years, and that during that time no Minister for Agriculture or his Department abused them. I am using that as a positive argument, a practical argument, against the allegations made here that if the powers in this Bill were given to me, I would wreck everybody concerned with the marts and the whole cattle industry throughout the country. This is what I am saying.
Have you people not had, and are you not getting, more time than you ever thought you would need to discuss this Bill? What are you doing? You are not discussing this Bill; in fact, you are trying to get away from discussion of the Bill by utilising the rules of order in these matters, raising points which are in fact appropriate to Committee Stage, and indeed were appropriate to the Second Stage of the Bill, although most of you who have been talking in these recent days did not think it worth your while to contribute at that time. These are the things you have to look at, and begin to ask yourself seriously how can there be any allegations that we are rushing the Bill through the House. The Bill has been in circulation since the early days of June. What is in it? What is so complex about it that the Opposition do not understand sufficiently to debate it fully and to a conclusion at this particular juncture?
We understand it too well.
Surely they are not trying to make it appear they do not understand what is in the Bill?
Would the Minister explain why it is so urgent to pass it before the recess?
The Government are here to govern and to run the business of this House. This is one of the measures that we have, amongst many others, coming along. This one is here now; we intend to process this Bill in the same manner as we process any other Bill. If the Opposition would only do likewise, then we could have some speed in regard to our business in the House.
Would the Minister agree there was misunderstanding between the marts and himself? Why not postpone the Bill and eliminate this misunderstanding?
There is no misunderstanding which requires postponement. If there was a misunderstanding, it was an over-reading by me of their attitude.
That is a misunderstanding, to my mind.
What appears to the Deputy's mind and what is fact may be two different things: I shall not have an argument about that. There is no sane-minded person who cannot see why this Bill cannot be dealt with by the ordinary process. Why must it be held up? Why make an issue of holding it up? If the purpose is to discuss the Bill now, or in the future, on the basis of really going through it, finding out what it is about and seeing what we can do about various parts of it which might not be as good as we would wish, why not do so rather than obstruct the passage of the Bill? There is nobody in this House who cannot but know that the Bill is obstructed at the moment and is not being discussed in any constructive way. In fact, it has been said that the Bill will be obstructed, that it will be held up and held here until Christmas, that every line of it will be opposed.
Is this an indication of an Opposition who want to deal reasonably with it, or is it an indication of an Opposition—as I assert it is—who are here trying by this device to overpower the majority in this House by their insistence on drawing this out by every means at their disposal purely for the sake of obstruction? This is what is really at issue and I think, as I have been warning Fine Gael, the public will see through this. If they have not already begun to see through it, they shortly will. Fine Gael cannot go on codding them. They might have done so last week but they are beginning to catch on this week and by next week Fine Gael will be hearing all about it.
What has been said about the Bill is just nobody's business but I am not going into all these things because of the fact that we have a Committee Stage on which all these matters are appropriate to be gone into and much more to the point than they are capable of being gone into now. However, it is interesting to hear the lawyers of Fine Gael talk about this Bill, trying to get technical reasons for opposing the Report Stage of the Money Resolution. Last night I heard one Deputy say that there were no figures given of what this might cost and, therefore, it was unreasonable to ask for a Money Resolution. Some of his colleagues, who were a little more up with the hunt than he was, were able to pull him by the coat and tell him that a figure was given. Then, not to be baulked by this, he said yes, a figure was given but according to subsection so-and-so of such a section it was not possible and it could not be possible to determine with any degree of accuracy what the requirements in money would be. There we have an example of the attitude of Fine Gael in relation to the Resolution, trying to say that no figure was mentioned; then, having got the figure that was mentioned, making out that no figure with any degree of accuracy was capable of being computed because of the provisions of subsection 7 (1) (f) as far as I know.
It only goes to show that the whole attitude of the Fine Gael Party has been to obstruct the Bill and so long as we are clear about that, that it is not a question of debate for the purpose of eliciting any information about the Bill but rather a debate to obstruct the Bill's passage now or at any time in the future and an opportunity for slinging mud at a Minister for Agriculture and making groundless and base allegations against his motives for promoting the Bill, so long as the people come to understand that that is what Fine Gael are up to, I am sure Fine Gael will get the message one of these days that they should get on with the business of this House and stop obstructing it in the name of public interest.
We had Deputy Dillon—of course, we always have Deputy Dillon with us —talking about his feeding stuffs, fertilisers and something else and he clapped himself on the back and showed the great man he was to put this Bill through but then he changed his feet and he tried to tell us not to mind what went on in this Act of 1955 but to look at the fact that it was really a codification of existing measures, some of them emergency measures introduced by a Fianna Fáil Government and, therefore, anything that was bad in that Act that I brought through was obviously a carryover from the bad days of Fianna Fáil who did those bad sort of things.
Deputy Dillon in his ignorance or innocence—not ignorance, by any means —as Minister for Agriculture tied them all together, repealed this, that and the other thing, put them all into one Act, this Fertilisers and Feeding Stuffs Act of 1955 and now excuses himself on the ground that he never did these things at all; he did not introduce these measures which are parallel to the measures proposed in this Bill; they were put there by the Fianna Fáil bogey men of previous years and he, in his innocence as Minister for Agriculture, just gathered them all together for the benefit of posterity and put them all into one Act so that it would be easy for people to see them in the future.
Deputy Dillon must really think that we are all half round the bend if he thinks we are going to believe that claptrap, particularly when we recall what he said in his own defence the week before and how he gloried in what he did to the millers. He is always glorying in anything he could do the millers down with. Despite that, this Act as I pointed out to him a week ago dealt with a lot more than the millers. It dealt with every wholesaler and retailer, every manufacturer, whether he be a co-op. or private operator, not only in milling feeding stuffs but in the manufacture of fertiliser and mineral mixtures. He did not cover that in his defence of himself last week and I do not suppose that he will come back at a later stage to do so, although knowing Deputy Dillon as I do he is liable to come back to anything at any time without any reason for it or much sense in it.
However, it is interesting to hear him this week as against last week. I would recommend very strongly to anybody who wants a bit of amusement and also to get an insight into the manner in which his mind works to read him this week and the last week on the same subject. They will begin to understand Deputy Dillon. I have understood him for a long number of years as a man not to be taken seriously by anybody at any time on any subject under the sun that he cares to talk about even though it may be amusing to listen to.
The Second Reading was carried by four votes. There was a great bit of palaver made about the four votes and, of course, interjections from some of the helpers at the back that we got it by four votes but they had 20 people who were not here. The fact is that we had 25 who were not here if they had 20 but whether it was four or whether they were all here, this is only a childish sort of prank to try to impress those who might be impressed that four votes was a narrow majority. Four votes in any Government is not usually a narrow majority, nor does it indicate any lack of support particularly on this side of the House for this measure.
Those who want to think otherwise are quite at liberty to do so and to cod themselves into the belief that if they stick here long enough, something will break over here. It will not. You are only codding yourselves, whistling past the graveyard, as I told you before. It will not help you in the slightest degree because this Bill is not my Bill. This is a Fianna Fáil Government measure supported by all the Government and all of our Party and I would safely say it has the support of others than Fianna Fáil people in this House, some of whom may display that support and others may not. Do not for a moment take it that everybody who is not in Fianna Fáil in this House or outside it opposes this Bill. They are not all like Fine Gael. They do not oppose merely for opposition's sake.
In this case Fine Gael have displayed little or no reasoning but merely pig-headed opposition to a measure that they have committed themselves to oppose line by line, week by week, for as long as it is required to do so in the hope that this Bill will be either withdrawn or postponed indefinitely. It will be neither withdrawn nor postponed indefinitely. Our course through the House with it is in keeping with the normal movement of Bills and measures of a like nature in this House by any Government and there is no reason in the world why we should be bludgeoned by a Fine Gael minority in this House into not doing what we are convinced is the right thing to do in this regard.
I might go on talking about all the drivel that has been spoken by people on the other side but there will be ample opportunity and long hours of discussion available to all concerned, both this side and the other side of the House. I should like to say that the motives of Deputies who refrained from talking on this side of the House should not be misread by Fine Gael nor should they make jeering remarks to our people on this side because they did not speak and take it as indicative of their opposition to this measure. The fact is, as the Leas-Cheann Comhairle well knows, what has been established practice in this House was broken entirely here last week by Fine Gael in regard to the Committee on Finance on the Money Resolution. It is true that Standing orders have never been repealed to make way for what practice has shown to be the better way of doing business on a Money Resolution in Committee on Finance. For years the practice has been established that there are no Second Stage speeches by any one on that Stage. On an item like this the practice has grown up that a Money Resolution was treated as a preliminary to the taking of the Committee Stage proper of the Bill.
If for their own petty opposition reasons Fine Gael have chosen to break through a precedent that they themselves helped to create for the good reason that it is the sensible course as experience has shown over the years, that is entirely their own business, but it is not conducive to the more expeditious operation of the business of the House. In fact, it is totally the reverse. If that is the way they want to have things, that is the way they will get them. If Fine Gael want to oppose for opposition's sake, the rule book, as I already said, can work two ways. If we are to have opposition for opposition's sake, if we are to have an attempt to impose the minority will on the majority, I can only warn Fine Gael that that is not going to work. We are the Government and we intend to remain the Government. We will run our business as the Government, and nothing they may attempt to do will thwart us in the slightest degree, or make us deviate in the slightest degree from what we believe for considered reasons to be in the public interest.
This measure was not brought in with undue haste. There were second thoughts on it, representations having been received from people who have the interests of the cattle marts and the interests of the farmers at heart. That is clear from the fact that we have certain amendments which alter certain things. The Opposition must get it into their heads that we are not going to be bludgeoned off our course in this matter. The public will see that we are not being unduly hasty in our production of the Bill and that we are not bludgeoning Fine Gael as they are attempting to bludgeon us. So far as the expeditious conduct of the business of the House is concerned, and in the public interest, we will utilise the Standing Orders of the House in a reasonable way and we will utilise them to offset the efforts of Fine Gael who are trying to use the rule book to get their own way.
The money required in this Resolution is very modest. At the outside it is £10,000 in the year. I do not believe it will cost that much at all. It has been suggested that we will have staffs of white coated gentlemen standing beside the auctioneers telling them what to do, telling them when to knock the animals down, when to sell and when not to sell, the timing of their calls, and that sort of thing. All these stupid and asinine proposals and suggestions from Fine Gael may be in keeping with their outlook, but they certainly do not add anything to the Bill, and they take scant account of the intelligence of the public they are hoping to impress.
There will not be white-coated people standing around telling the auctioneers their business. There will not be hordes of inspectors for whom the public will be expected to pay more and more. Very little if any additional staff will be required in my Department to do the chores this Bill will impose. We are saying that this will cost £10,000 at the outside. Instead of having additional staff, it is more likely that the existing staff will have to travel from their centres of operation to the marts during the course of their ordinary operations in other fields of endeavour.
This, of course, is known to Fine Gael but they do not want the public to know it. They want the people to believe that this will cost a great deal of money, that it is a bad thing, that it is taking something from the public rather than giving something, and that the public are to be asked to pay an inordinate amount of money to punish themselves, as it were. It is only Fine Gael who could make that suggestion and persist in it for days on end. Of course they never could read the public mind terribly well. I suppose that from a narrow and purely political point of view, I could wish that they would continue to behave in that manner in the future. It would be good for the country as well as good for my political Party. Their lack of insight into public opinion is one of the hallmarks of their failure down the years as a political Party. As I say, in a narrow political sense, may I wish that for many years in future they will continue on the same road, being bad assessors of public opinion? This I wish them with a heart and a half, knowing full well that on this Bill they are merely adding to their chance of continuing to be the failure they have been down through the years. The public know what is going on and they see why it is going on, and Fine Gael will be the political losers when this Bill has finally passed through the House.
Is it in order to have the division now?
May I quote from the revised Standing Orders:
That, notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in Standing Orders, the Ceann Comhairle shall, where a division has been demanded on a Vote in Committee on Finance or on Report or on any motion dependent on such Vote or taken in conjunction therewith, postpone the taking of every such division until 10.15 p.m. on that day if the House sits until that hour and, if not, to 10.15 p.m. on the next day on which the House shall sit until that hour;
I must point out to the Deputy that it applies only to Estimates. If the Deputy will read the coloured page——
It is from the coloured page I have read.
If he reads the very front, he will find this applies only to Estimates Divisions. The division is in order.
It does not state that here.
Deputy Clinton is quoting from Estimates for Public Services—Divisions. It is the green page.
That is right. I accept the ruling of the Chair.
- Aiken, Frank.
- Allen, Lorcan.
- Andrews, David.
- Blaney, Neil T.
- Boland, Kevin.
- Booth, Lionel.
- Boylan, Terence.
- Brady, Philip.
- Brennan, Joseph.
- Brennan, Paudge.
- Breslin, Cormac.
- Briscoe, Ben.
- Browne, Patrick.
- Burke, Patrick J.
- Calleary, Phelim A.
- Carter, Frank.
- Carty, Michael.
- Childers, Erskine.
- Clohessy, Patrick.
- Colley, George.
- Corry, Martin J.
- Cotter, Edward.
- Crinion, Brendan.
- Cronin, Jerry.
- Crowley, Flor.
- Cunningham, Liam.
- Davern, Don.
- de Valera, Vivion.
- Dowling, Joe.
- Egan, Nicholas.
- Fahey, John.
- Fanning, John.
- Faulkner, Pádraig.
- Fitzpatrick, Thomas J. (Dublin South-Central).
- Flanagan, Seán.
- Foley, Desmond.
- Gallagher, James.
- Geoghegan, John.
- Gilbride, Eugene.
- Grogan, Richard P.
- Haughey, Charles.
- Healy, Augustine A.
- Hilliard, Michael.
- Kenneally, William.
- Kennedy, James J.
- Kitt, Michael F.
- Lalor, Patrick J.
- Lemass, Noel T.
- Lemass, Seán.
- Lenihan, Brian.
- Lenihan, Patrick.
- Lynch, Celia.
- Lynch, John.
- McEllistrim, Thomas.
- Meaney, Tom.
- Millar, Anthony G.
- Molloy, Robert.
- Mooney, Patrick.
- Moore, Séan.
- Moran, Michael.
- Nolan, Thomas.
- Ó Ceallaigh, Seán.
- O'Connor, Timothy.
- O'Leary, John.
- O'Malley, Donogh.
- Smith, Patrick.
- Wyse, Pearse.
- Barry, Richard.
- Belton, Luke.
- Belton, Paddy.
- Burke, Joan T.
- Burton, Philip.
- Byrne, Patrick.
- Clinton, Mark A.
- Cluskey, Frank.
- Collins, Seán.
- Connor, Patrick.
- Coogan, Fintan.
- Corish, Brendan.
- Cosgrave, Liam.
- Costello, John A.
- Coughlan, Stephen.
- Harte, Patrick D.
- Hogan, Patrick (South Tipperary).
- Jones, Denis F.
- Kenny, Henery.
- Kyne, Thomas A.
- L'Estrange, Gerald.
- Lindsay, Patrick J.
- Lyons, Michael D.
- McLaughlin, Joseph.
- Murphy, Michael P.
- Creed, Donal.
- Crotty, Patrick J.
- Dillon, James M.
- Dockrell, Henry P.
- Dockrell, Maurice E.
- Donegan, Patrick S.
- Donnellan, John.
- Dunne, Thomas.
- Esmonde, Sir Anthony C.
- Everett, James.
- Farrelly, Denis.
- Fitzpatrick, Thomas J. (Cavan).
- Gilhawley, Eugene.
- Governey, Desmond.
- O'Donnell, Patrick.
- O'Donnell, Tom.
- O'Hara, Thomas.
- O'Higgins, Michael J.
- O'Higgins, Thomas F.K.
- Reynolds, Patrick J.
- Ryan, Richie.
- Sweetman, Gerald.
- Tierney, Patrick.
- Tully, James.
Now, Sir, please.
Are we asked if we disagree with that?
The Committee Stage is in the Order of Business.
Can we disagree with it? Is that your ruling?
No. It is in the Order of Business.
I want to make it clear that we are not prepared to facilitate the Minister. If we have to take the Committee Stage now, then we must, but not on an agreed basis.
It is down: it was agreed to.
On the Order of Business.
We had no option but to agree to the Order of Business.
Surely what is in the Order of Business is what we have voted on? The next Stage is not down.
No. 10 was on the Order of Business as announced.
The next Stage of the Bill is the Committee Stage. Is that correct?
Yes. No. 9 was agreed to by vote and the usual procedure is to take No. 10 now.