(Limerick West): With regard to the issuing of a permit which is dealt with in the next section, can the Minister indicate who will issue such a permit and under what circumstances?
Control of Bulls for Breeding Bill, 1985: Committee Stage.
We can deal with this under section 3.
(Limerick West): We have an amendment to section 3 but it also covers section 2 so perhaps the Minister would outline what he has in mind.
We plan to make a temporary provision in regard to small suckler herds which would allow the use of a non-pedigree beef type bull for a limited period. We propose to do this by regulation, rather than by inserting a provision in the Bill. When the Bill has been passed by both Houses, we will immediately introduce a regulation, which will be laid before the House, stipulating that we will allow the use of non-pedigree beef type bulls for a period of three years on the basis that such bulls will be examined by an inspector from the Department and that a fee will be paid for such examination.
(Limerick West): I presume that the Minister will decide which farmer and which herds will get such a permit? Would he also outline the period of time that the permit will remain in existence?
The permit will exist for the period of the extension, in other words, one permit would suffice for the same animal for a three year period.
(Limerick West): What happens after the three year period?
I hope that by then the existing problems with regard to the scarcity of pedigree animals will have been solved and that the need for a further derogation will not arise.
I should like to thank the Minister for making this concession. It is a recognition of the case put forward by many Members regarding farmers in disadvantaged areas who have not the means to buy pedigree bulls. The Minister knows that these bulls cost an enormous amount of money and I thank him for recognising that these farmers are eligible for disadvantaged area payments by the EC. However, perhaps the Minister could be more specific and explain what he means by a "small suckler herd"? How many cows or heifers would be in such a herd because, if the number is ridiculously small, the concession is useless?
Before I reply, perhaps other Members would give their definition of "small suckler herds".
I should like the guidance of the Chair. Our amendment to section 4 says:
notwithstanding anything contained in sections 2 and 3, the Minister may, for a prescribed period and subject to inspection, grant a licence to a person, authorising him to keep in his possession a quality non-pedigree bull of the beef breed.
That would adequately represent the views of the Members and cater for any situation in relation to small herds without specifically numbering the cattle.
To which amendment is the Deputy referring?
It is amendment No.9.
We will have to wait until we come to it.
All the others are related.
I will be taking a large number of amendments when we get to section 3.
(Limerick West): Sections 2 and 3 are related and unless our amendment is accepted we will have to consider our action in regard to section 2.
You can do that on Report Stage.
I also welcome the Minister's decision to allow bulls of beef quality to be kept by owners of suckler herds in disadvantaged areas. However, I do not think that a period of three years is sufficient, there should be at least a five year period. The situation could be reviewed then as we all know that if bulls of a high quality breed are acceptable for three years they must be acceptable for five years. Everything depends on the ability of a farmer in a disadvantaged area to purchase a pure bred bull and that is why I ask for a review of the situation.
I appreciate the fact that the Minister has gone a little way towards meeting our case but I am still not happy with his proposal. He should take into account district electoral divisions instead of sizes of herds. Sneem, Kenmare, south-west Kerry and pockets in the west and north should be exempt from the provisions of the Bill. The Minister will find it very difficult to draw a line in regard to the size of herds because in one district 95 per cent of farmers could have 20 cattle or fewer and the remainder might have 30, 40 or 50 cattle. Once the principle is accepted that quality non-pedigree bulls for beef breeding purposes should be allowed, the Minister should go the whole way in this matter. I understand that in Australia and New Zealand they are insisting on farmers using pure bred bulls and farmers are being given a discretion under licence. I ask the Minister to reconsider this matter and to exempt from the provisions of this Bill certain areas of the country.
(Limerick West): The Minister's suggestion is not strong enough and therefore is unacceptable to this side of the House. He suggests that this could be made by regulation, but a regulation is solely at the discretion of the Minister. Am I right?
No. A regulation is prepared and then it has to be laid before both Houses ——
(Limerick West): If the Minister of the day decides, in his wisdom, that the regulation is not necessary, then there is no regulation. We are saying that if it is written into the legislation now, the Minister of the day will not have an option because it will be part and parcel of the legislation.
When we come to section 3 we will reach amendment No. 1. I propose to take a long list of amendments, including amendment No. 9, together with amendment No. 1. That will afford Deputies an opportunity for a full discussion.
(Limerick West): We are not talking about amendments, but a new section 4.
That is an amendment which will insert a new section. I propose to take 23 amendments together, including amendment No. 9, and that is the principal amendment. If the Deputy is not satisfied with what happens, he can put down an amendment to section 2 on Report Stage.
(Limerick West): If we accept section 2 we will then deal with section 3 and all the amendments. Is that right?
Amendments Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 22, 23, 24 and 25 are consequential on amendment No. 9; amendments Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 12, 17, 18, 23, 24 and 25 are cognate and amendments Nos. 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 20 and 22 are cognate. Amendments Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 22, 23, 24 and 25 will be taken together by agreement.
(Limerick West): I move amendment No. 1.:
In page 3, subsection (2), line 15, after "permit" to insert "or licence".
We are of the opinion that the Minister should give a commitment to introduce a regulation and to accept what we outline in amendment No. 9, that is, that "the Minister may, for a prescribed period and subject to inspection, grant a licence to a person, authorising him to keep in his possession a quality non-pedigree bull of the beef breed." If this Minister accepts this amendment it will mean that the Minister of the day will have no option but to implement this section and there can be no pressure on the Minister from any group, whether they are for or against the section. This is a way out for the Minister. He can say it is laid down in legislation that for a prescribed period a person in a particular area would be allowed to keep a quality non-pedigree bull of the beef breed. As I said earlier, the Minister giving a commitment here today means nothing because he may not always be sitting in that seat.
So I have been told by the Sunday papers.
(Limerick West): Even Deputy Sheehan might be sitting in that seat one day, and he could have a different interpretation. I am not necessarily talking about a change of Government but a Cabinet reshuffle. The Minister's successor may have a totally different interpretation and this Minister's suggestion may not be accepted by him. If the Minister is in favour of strengthening this Bill and giving a period of adjustment to the small farmers along the western seaboard and in the disadvantaged areas, here is the ideal solution to be written into the Bill. The Minister of the day can at any time repeal that section when the desired result is achieved. I am suggesting that, irrespective of what might happen subsequently, this amendment is acceptable having regard to the great concern about this aspect of the legislation.
In future years we must look to those disadvantaged areas for an increase in our beef cow numbers. If we are now going to have a restriction on the breeding of beef cattle in those areas by the imposition of this legislation, we will not have this increase. The Minister also desires this increase, although his party were converted late to the idea.
I ask him to accept amendment No. 9 which meets the demands of those concerned. We on this side of the House have accepted the need for this legislation and have agreed the Second Reading of the Bill. The Minister can accept our sincerity and general interest. I know that he realises the necessity for strengthening this section to achieve the desired results in operation — and in legislation, which is important. The people in the disadvantaged areas will have the transition period for building up their herds. Our other amendment was ruled out of order, but we must insist that this amendment be accepted and written into the Bill.
Most farmers I have met have expressed serious concern about the introduction of this Bill. They consider it a result of antiquated thinking within the Department of Agriculture. Animal breeding in this country has improved enormously in the last 20 or 30 years, but now this utterly ridiculous restriction is proposed. New Zealand, which our President visited recently, have moved away totally from licensing bulls and accept half breds and three quarter breds. We have some fine half breds and three quarter breds in this country, in both dairy and beef. The section as it stands would set up a rich man's club with which nobody else could compete and which few could join. Who is advising the Minister on this legislation? Where are his faceless advisers? What is the national handlers' input into this?
The Deputy cannot run with the hare and hunt with the hounds.
Which hound is the Deputy talking about? An order noted in the herd book would not need an inspection on the payment of the fee. An animal with three legs, for example, could be registered. That matter should be clarified. The farming community are extremely concerned at this retrograde step. The Minister's leadership is lacking in this.
That is a great insult to the livestock centre.
I support this very reasonable amendment. It recognises the difficulty of small farmers with small suckler herds in isolated, disadvantaged areas. It is unrealistic to expect such people to be able to afford the services of a pedigree premium bull for their herds. If the Minister is serious, he should accept our amendment. It would facilitate the issuing of a regulation under the Bill. It would be important to have this amendment written into the Bill itself. Our view is supported by eminent people in animal breeding circles both here and in other countries. Quality beef type bulls, subject to inspection, should satisfy the conditions laid down by the Minister and his Department. I join with the other speakers who complimented the Minister for softening in his attitude towards this problem. However, I insist that this amendment be accepted as part of the Bill, the regulation to be introduced as a consequence of that.
I support the amendment put forward by Deputy Noonan. I appeal to the Minister to consider the strength of our position in this, as against his own vague position. This is a rushed measure at the behest of the people on the Government back benches who are worried about the legislation as it stands. They put pressure on the Minister to make this change. However, the way the Government are going about this is not as effective as our suggestion. There were indications that the Minister was not too clear in his own mind as to a reasonable size of suckler herd.
Has the Deputy any idea of that?
It is debatable here. This can be provided for in the regulation. If the matter is not clarified, it will lead to all kinds of difficulties for the Minister. Our suggestion is much stronger and clearer and will satisfy Deputy Sheehan who acknowledges, as we all do, that the Minister has come part of the way since we last debated this issue. However, the Minister could come fully along the lines suggested and do something sensible by accepting our amendment. This is a very definite way of dealing with the problem as against the vague and undefined way in which the Minister is proceeding, which will not be satisfactory. It would be open to all kinds of abuse and irregularities.
I fully support amendment No. 9. This asks that a new section be inserted before section 4. The phrase "subject to inspection" is the important part. The Minister wants licences to be issued in relation to the size of the herd. This could not possibly work in the disadvantaged areas, where the size of one herd is not always a reflection of profitability. That is an important point. Further, granting concessions to farmers with small herds is the next best thing to creating a monopoly and would appear to be totally impractical. In view of these points, I ask the Minister to agree with our amendment.
There is no argument about the content of what we are doing, only about the cosmetics of how it is done. I am advised that the way I am proposing is the most efficient. In the case of the amendment put down by Deputies Noonan and Walsh, there is nothing to stop the Minister at any time from putting before the House legislation removing that item from the Bill. We must not lose sight of the fact that we are talking about something which is not a permanent institution. That is not my wish. I doubt if there is anyone in the House who is more adamant than I am about quality. I gave this concession very reluctantly after listening to Members on all sides of the House who thought something was needed. When this Bill goes through this House and the Seanad, immediately we will put before this House a simple regulation spelling out exactly what the Opposition Deputies are saying. There is no basic difference between us on the matter. We are talking about the use for a limited period — I suggest three years — of pedigree or non-pedigree beef-type bulls for suckler herds. We will have to charge inspection fees where an inspection is carried out by an inspector from the Department. The, when the animal in question passes the inspection the owner will get a permit. All of that will be spelled out in the regulation.
The regulation will stand for a three year period. If at the end of that period the Minister of the day sees fit to extend the regulation he can do so. He can lay the regulation before the House and tell the House that as we have not progressed as much as we would have liked with regard to beef cattle a further period is deemed necessary.
What we are proposing is a more tidy way of dealing with the matter. By putting something into a Bill one gives it an air of permanence and I would not be in favour of that. However, a regulation can be in operation for a period of, say, three years and if the Minister of the day wishes to continue that regulation he may do so. If at the end of three years the Minister wishes to repeal it he will have to lay it before the Houses of the Oireachtas. He cannot do it off his own bat. My advice from the Attorney General's office is that while complying with what Deputy Noonan, Deputy Walsh and my colleagues on this side of the House want, the way I am proposing to deal with the matter is more effective.
(Limerick West): In his reply the Minister of State has made the argument for us. He has confirmed the point we are making, namely, that at any time the Minister of the day can bring in repealing legislation.
At the end of a three year period.
(Limerick West): If the amendment is accepted the provision will be consolidated in legislation. At any time the Minister may repeal that section of the Bill if it is thought desirable and necessary. The Minister of State is just giving us his word here today that the regulation will be introduced. We are giving him the opportunity in the new section to introduce regulations within that section with regard to implementing the measure in any part of the country. All these decisions can be made under regulation. We want to meet the genuine needs of those concerned. The Minister of State said he was giving a concession. Far from it. Under this legislation he had the right to introduce a regulation with regard to any aspect and he can do so at any time. Irrespective of what Deputy Sheehan or Deputy Begley may say, this is not an advance with regard to the Minister's original thoughts on the Bill.
It is a breakthrough.
(Limerick West): The Minister may introduce a regulation under this section at any time.
Not for three years.
(Limerick West): It is a matter for the Minister to introduce regulations under this legislation or under any legislation.
Also under legislation passed by Fianna Fáil.
(Limerick West): I cannot see what objection the Attorney General could have because it is within the ambit of the Bill to use section 4 to overcome the difficulty. Fianna Fáil are concerned about small farmers to ensure that they will get a concession. We have no guarantee that this regulation will ever be introduced because in the final analysis it is not the decision of the Minister of State. It can be the decision of the Government, of the Secretary of the Department, or the decision of the principal officer in the livestock section of the Department. The commitment the Minister of State is giving here today means nothing. We are asking him to have it written into the legislation. Then the small farmers in County Kerry and elsewhere will know the Minister is doing something worthwhile for them while upholding the principles of the legislation.
I appeal to the Minister of State to accept our amendment and I ask his colleagues on the other benches to consider what has been said here. We are asking that the concession to enable people in the transitional period to have a non-pedigree quality beef bull should be written into the legislation. We are asking for this because this proposed legislation will confine farmers to using pure bred bulls. We cannot accept the word of the Minister of State that a regulation will be introduced because, as I have pointed out, in the final analysis it is not his decision. The Bill means that small farmers will have to keep pure bred registered bulls. I presume the Minister of State is interested in seeing that when the Bill becomes law all its provisions will be implemented.
It is not a serious monopoly situation in so far as small farmers are concerned. It will have serious implications for a huge number of farmers with, say, less than 20 cows who, because of their income, would not be in a position to purchase, maintain or indeed insure a pedigree bull. It will force small farmers to rely totally on AI and the Minister and Deputy Sheehan know how ineffective AI can be in such circumstances. It will lead to a huge reduction in calf numbers, especially in suckler herds, with obvious implications for the beef industry and create a monopoly of pure bred bulls. We are all interested in having top quality bulls. We are asking for a prescribed period of time to be decided by regulation. We want this strengthening of the provisions written into legislation so that it becomes part and parcel of our laws on the Statute Book.
I still believe we are arguing about nothing because section 3 (1) reads almost word for word with the Deputy's amendment, the former reading:
The Minister may, in prescribed circumstances and on payment of the prescribed fee, grant to a person a permit authorising the person to have in his possession an unregistered bull subject to and in accordance with such conditions as may be specified in the permit.
Whereas the Deputy's amendment on section 9 reads:
Notwithstanding anything contained in sections 2 and 3, the Minister may, for a prescribed period and subject to inspection, grant a licence to a person, authorising him to keep in his possession a quality non-pedigree bull of the beef breed.
Under the Deputy's amendment regulations will still have to be introduced. The Deputy will still have to take my word for it. I am promising this House today that immediately this Bill passes through both Houses the relevant, clearly spelled out, regulation will be laid before both Houses. It should be remembered that, under the Deputy's amendment, I would still have to do the same thing.
The Minister has come a long way to meet us. I share some of Deputy Noonan's suspicions. I hate to hear the word "small" entering because it is a very loose type of word.
(Limerick West): It is not written in.
It is not but it could be written in. That is the word that was used here this morning. I should prefer to have the word "all" substituted therefor, meaning all farmers in disadvantaged areas——
(Limerick West): But we are not talking about disadvantaged areas either.
——because one could become a small farmer overnight on account of disease, as the House is well aware.
We had a financial motion moved here this morning, No. 2, on the Order Paper in which there was mention of charges. Could the Minister elaborate and tell us what would be the charge of a departmental inspector to a smallholder or farmer in the west for inspecting a non-pedigree bull? Could the Minister give some idea of what charges would be imposed; for example, would it be a fixed charge? I could not go along with Deputy Noonan when he says that he could not take the Minister's or his officials' word. Speaking as one who dealt with Ministers and officials in the past I found that their word was their bond in a commitment to this House and its spirit has always been acceptable. I would suggest that perhaps Deputy Noonan should rephrase what he has said because it tends to cast an aspersion on all Departments and Ministers. I am not normally an officials man but when a Minister gives the House an undertaking it has been found that the spirit of that undertaking has been honoured throughout the years.
On the lighter side of things, the way we are proceeding this morning one might well say that at one time we had the Lindsay Gaeltacht whereas this morning we have the Hegarty bulls. That is the way it appears to me.
I would suggest to the Minister that there is certain merit in what Deputy Noonan and his colleagues are saying. The Minister has given this House a solemn undertaking that this regulation will obtain for three years and that should be sufficient for all of us. Certainly I am prepared to accept it.
The cost of inspections will be clearly spelled out in the regulation. Originally I had envisaged that it could be as high as £50. We have worked on it and we envisage — through the proper assembly of bulls and so on in prescribed places, such as marts — the possibility is that such charge would be nearer to £20 per inspection.
I have asked for suggestions with regard to size of suckler herds. The average suckler herd at present is 6.5. I thought that perhaps a herd of 15 cows downwards would be reasonable with regard to "small".
Like Deputy Begley, I should like to assure Deputy Noonan that our Minister's commitment here this morning does not by any means create a precedent. He is not the first Minister who has given his word and nobody doubts the wisdom or confidentiality of the Minister's word. I am wondering if the Minister could include all herd owners who wished to participate in disadvantaged areas rather than confine participation to a number. If it must be confined to a number I would appeal that he make it 25 downwards instead of 15.
We would have them all in then.
I am thinking of poor people in disadvantaged areas.
We strongly support the general thrust of this Bill in that we want to improve the breed of cattle in the country but we recognise that there is perhaps a short term difficulty. That is why we have an amendment down. It is a reasonable one. We are not specifying disadvantaged area or size because there are disadvantaged people in many parts of the country, as every Deputy is aware. As the House is aware those boundaries create much difficulty and we do not want to create even more boundaries. We are saying, in regard to section 3, that an inspection would be necessary because we are insisting on the highest possible quality without putting people with small suckler herds in different parts of the country to the expense of placing pedigree premium bulls on a register of a society.
If the Minister is serious about recognising the difficulties with smaller suckler herds he should not have any great problem about accepting our amendment. He said there was no argument about the content of the amendment and I am sure all Members agree with that but it is simply a question of how to implement its terms. The provision should be written into the Bill and the licence fee and other details spelled out in the regulations.
(Limerick West): Will the Minister outline the reason why the Attorney General considered our amendment unacceptable? I find it difficult to understand that. The Minister has said that there is a difference between what we propose and what is in section 3. In my view the only difference is that our amendment seeks to strengthen the position by having the provision written into the legislation leaving the Minister of the day no option but to make the regulation under the section while section 3 states that the Minister may make regulations.
Like all Members I am concerned about the need to accelerate the disease eradication programme. If we are to have a number of bulls assembled in a public place for inspection, such as a mart, surely that is contrary to our common aim, the speedy eradication of disease. If that is not possible the inspection will have to be carried out on the farmer's premises. The Minister should announce to the House the amount of the inspection fee. In our amendment we did not use the words "small" or "disadvantaged areas" but the Minister described a herd of 15 cows as a small herd. That is a matter of interpretation and if it is the Minister's view that such a number represents a "small" herd I am prepared to accept it. As the regulations will be made by the Minister I suggest to him that the figure of 15 should not be a rigid number. There should be some flexibility.
I should like to emphasise that it is important we give advantages to farmers who live in the less advantaged areas. Those farmers may not be living in the disadvantaged areas as specified by the EC Commission but it is accepted that we will have to look to them in the future for an increase in our beef cow numbers. It is in those areas that the calves and store cattle are reared. If the Minister places those farmers at a disadvantage we will not achieve our aims.
The Minister has tried to imply that there is little difference between section 3 and our amendment but while the underlying principle may be the same, it is my view that there is a vast difference. The regulation should be made in accordance with out amendment. It should be part of our law that for a prescribed period licences will be issued to farmers. Section 3 states that the regulations may be made but we want it written into the legislation that the regulations will be made. If our amendment is accepted the Minister, or any future Minister, will not have any option but to ensure that for a prescribed period, and subject to inspection, licences are granted authorising a set category of farmers to keep in their possession a quality non-pedigree bull of the beef breed.
Under section 3 the regulation may or may not be introduced but our proposal is that it will have to be introduced after which a decision will be made as to the farmers to be given a licence. Our amendment introducing a new section strengthens the Minister's hand and it gives the advantage to the category of farmer about which we are talking.
Our advice from the Attorney General's Office is that doing it by regulation is a tidier way of doing it. For instance, section 3 (1) states: "the Minister may, in prescribed circumstances". That will include inspection. The words "the Minister may" mean that it is also possible that the Minister may not. The option is there for the Minister.
(Limerick West): The Minister does not have an option.
He does. He may, or may not. I am disappointed that the Deputy seems to think I am not being fair to the House when I say categorically that immediately the legislation is through both Houses the necessary legislation in line with his thinking will be laid before both Houses. That will be done in a matter of days after this legislation is put through the Houses.
Deputy Noonan was also concerned about the movement of animals. I assure the Deputy that we will be giving adequate notice to people with regard to inspections if animals are being inspected at a central place and the ordinary health regulations will apply. The 30 day premovement test will apply for bringing bulls to centres.
(Limerick West): The Minister has at long last stated that there is nothing contrary, so far as the law is concerned, to the acceptance of our amendment.
I have not said that at all.
(Limerick West): The Attorney General does not necessarily have an objection. All the Attorney General has said is that it is a tidier way of doing it. The Minister may or may not — that is a matter of interpretation. It is not correct for the Minister to say that the Attorney General will have an objection to the amendment which we are proposing. If the Minister wishes to ensure that the law is strengthened he can ensure that it is written into the legislation.
I accept the point raised by the Minister about the assembly of bulls at one point but I am concerned about disease eradication. It could happen that it would not be possible to have these bulls assembled at one point and the inspection may have to be carried out on the premises. This might be more desirable provided the inspection fee is not excessive. Perhaps the Minister would look at that aspect of it. That is a matter for regulation by the Minister of the day. I do not doubt the Minister's word in relation to "may" but the Minister's word is not final.
In this matter it is.
(Limerick West): The Minister is subject——
I am subject to the vote of this House.
(Limerick West):——to other people. I am talking about regulations the Minister may make or may not make.
I have cleared my lines on this.
(Limerick West): The Minister may clear his lines but circumstances could arise or be created to prevent the Minister or give him an opportunity or excuse not to implement this regulation. If it is written into the legislation then the Minister does not have an option——
(Limerick West):——but to ensure that these farmers are allowed to keep a non-pedigree beef type bull. There is not an option even when the word “may” is used. Nonetheless, that is the normal wording used in legislation of this type. When the word “may” is written into legislation it means that the Minister must introduce regulations. I appeal to the Minister to ensure that farmers in those areas will get an opportunity during the transition period, and later if necessary, to have the same advantage as the bigger farmers. Our amendment would strengthen the law so far as they are concerned and it would obviate any doubts that may exist in the minds of these farmers. I appeal to the Minister to accept our amendment now that I have confirmed so far as the law is concerned that there is not an objection from the Attorney General.
There is. My advice is that the Bill as it stands does not need to be amended. The word "may" is a permissive may or may not. If we wanted to have it clear-cut and imperative we would have used the word "shall". There is no justification for this amendment. I am sorry that we have to have this argument because at the end of the day we will achieve the same thing. The Deputy is not being logical. On the one hand, he says "may" is the ordinary way to do it and when I tell him that I am doing it in the ordinary way he objects. The Deputy cannot have it both ways.
We are having a lot of repetition. Is the amendment being pressed?
(Limerick West): I am not happy. I have outlined to the Minister that there is no objection from the Attorney General's office. Even by his previous reply to me he has so stated. All he has said is that it is a tidier way of doing it. This I do not accept.
The Bill does not need to be amended.
(Limerick West): That is the Minister's interpretation.
No, that is my advice.
We are having a great deal of repetition.
(Limerick West): I hope the Minister will see sense.
I am not only sensible——
(Limerick West): He is very sensible as it is.
I am very sensible.
(Limerick West): I want to make him a bit more sensible. There is still a doubt in my mind that a regulation which we all want may or may not be introduced. I want to eliminate this doubt totally by ensuring that the legislation is strengthened so that the people whom we are concerned about, the small farmers of the west, Kerry and many other places — and there are small farmers in many places — are protected by law. The Minister is not prepared to do that. He is prepared only to give us a commitment here that he will introduce a regulation to ensure that the licence would be issued to farmers to keep a non-pedigree bull for beef.
(Limerick West): A permit or a licence, it does not make any real difference, to keep a non-pedigree quality beef bull. There is still a doubt whether this will be done. I am asking from this side of the House that it be written into the legislation to ensure that that doubt be eliminated.
I would like to know what the Minister wants to do with the cattle herd. He talked about permissiveness being allowed and Deputy Sheehan in his Second Stage speech talked about bulls in carnival mood.
We are not giving the licence for this.
The carnival time is over.
I would like the Minister to spell out the regulation which would have to be introduced at any rate under the Bill. What exactly has he in mind? In different measures in this House we are promised addenda to Bills and that they will be put through in a very short time and so on, but these things are slow enough and the regulation which finally appears may be quite different from what may be suggested. I accept the Minister's personal assurances regarding the matter. We all want to see the same objective achieved at the end of the day, but I would like the Minister to give more detail about the regulation he has in mind.
I support the previous speakers. I accept the Minister's commitment, but it would be better to have it done legislatively and have it in as legislation. This is very important because with the restrictions in milk production we are looking to beef production more than ever to take up the slack in farming. It is the only area of production on the western seaboard for the small farmer. There is no other way to utilise his grassland in many areas where the land is substandard. We are looking to beef because there does not seem to be any other hope in the foreseeable future. I think a mistake was made in not recognising the difficulties in that area as far as milk levies were concerned, but that is another story. I know that the Department are laying great emphasis on quality bulls, and that is only right. Anyone in slaughter in the factories seeing the conformation of the carcases would realise what the people disposing of those carcases are facing now and in the future as far as a quality carcase and a proper conformation of the animal are concerned. It is important that the best type of beef bull, be it by permit or by licence, be ensured.
Mention was made of assembling at points for inspection. I have grave doubts about this assembling of animals. I would do that as little as possible at present. One feature of our disease eradication scheme was that we had too many animals going to marts, too many farmers going to marts on a continuing basis and disease seemed to become rampant in areas. Seeing that brucellosis and TB especially have become manageable, the less assembling the better. I favour inspections. Admittedly, these are costly in individual cases and examinations, but I favour that rather than assembling large numbers from the point of view of the danger of disease spread.
Seemingly, what is at stake is either a regulation or legislation. I accept the Minister's view. He is a man of honour but another Minister of State might be more shifty as far as regulations go. We must look to the future. That is why I say that if it is possible at all it is preferable to have it in legislation.
In order to remove any doubts that Deputy Noonan has about the word "may" in section 3 (1), will the Minister consider changing "may" to "shall" in the circumstances? Deputy Noonan stated that "circumstances alter cases" is an old saying, and so also do broken noses alter faces, but I have no doubt that the Minister is a man of his word but maybe he could clear up the matter amicably if he introduced the word "shall" instead of "may". Also I would like a commitment from the Minister once and for all as to the size of the herd that he would include in the scheme.
I will spell out, as requested by Deputy Walsh, the exact terms of the regulation. This is a derogation for a piece of legislation, and the whole thrust of the legislation is to improve the quality of our animals. I am doing this with reluctance. I might as well tell the truth. I have grave reservations about this derogation. I am not at all sure that in the long term derogation would be desirable, considering the sort of competition that this country will face from our competitors in the market place and also that we have always aimed and will continue to aim at the top end of the market, the German butchers and the British supermarkets, and that is the general thrust of our total beef production. From day one in beef production our costs have been quite high and our quality must be right. The point must be made that if we are to compete the first prerequisite is to have a good quality animal.
There is a further point. We are talking about high quality non-pedigree bulls. Where will that mysterious animal keep coming from if we have not got pedigrees? That is a worry I have. Very reluctantly we are bringing in regulations which will be quite specific. Beef suckler herds will be defined by the scheme of premiums for maintaining suckler cows. We will allow them to keep quality non-pedigree beef bulls for breeding purposes. I suggest that the maximum eligible herd should be 15. Non-pedigree bulls proposed for breeding must be inspected and passed by the Department's inspectors. I know Deputies are worried about disease. The pre-movement regulations will be strictly adhered to and I suggest that marts would be proper assembly points where standards of hygiene are maintained. Those inspections will take place during the spring and the autumn. The full cost of the inspection will be borne by the owner of the bull. Following the approval of the bull for breeding purposes, the farmer will apply for a permit to keep the bull. On payment of the prescribed fee a permit will be issued.
(Limerick West): What will the fee be, £20?
The inspection fee may be £20 and possibly for the issue of the permit a further £10. It may be less or it may be more. I do not want to tie myself down. It will be as low as possible to cover the costs.
(Limerick West):“As low as possible” is a matter of interpretation.
I am being as open with the House as possible.
Would the Minister ——
I am sorry but it is not in order for me to change "may" to "shall".
This is a different question. I was advocating that the size of the herd should be 25. The Minister suggested 15. Could we compromise on 20?
I support Deputy Sheehan's suggestion. In my area you need a herd of 25 for a family farm income. The figure of 25 would be an acceptable compromise.
Goodwill is appearing on the scene and I will concede on a divide of 20 cows.
(Limerick West): What the Minister has said raises a doubt in my mind. He said he is suggesting the introduction of this regulation with reluctance. Eventually we might find that no such regulation was being introduced. We can only deal with the facts as they arise. We have accepted the principle of this Bill and the Minister should give us credit for that.
(Limerick West): The Bill neglects the problem in small farm areas and in remote and disadvantaged areas. We are putting forward a positive and progressive proposal to eliminate this problem. The Minister seems to be reluctant to accept our amendment No. 9 which proposes the introduction of a new section 4. We are suggesting a positive way in which the Minister could help these people. Earlier in another amendment which was ruled out of order we suggested that the headage grant could be doubled. The Opposition are not allowed to introduce an amendment which would impose a charge on the Exchequer. We are giving the Minister an opportunity to allow these farmers to keep a top quality non-pedigree beef bull. We suggested the alternative of providing a financial incentive to these farmers to give them access to pedigree bulls, but that was ruled out of order.
The problem which exists in these areas is peculiar to this country and does not arise in any other country in the EC. There is nothing wrong in writing into our Statute Book legislation to meet our own needs. We are an independent sovereign State and we are entitled to make our own laws, bearing in mind the fact that we are a member of the EC. The Minister is continually raising doubts in my mind because he posed the question: What is a non-pedigree beef bull of top quality?
I did not say that. I asked where would that animal come from if we continued with the status quo and any type of bull could be used. I did not give my views on what a non-pedigree beef bull is. I expressed an entirely different fear. If the status quo is maintained who will buy the pure bred bulls? That is a totally different point.
(Limerick West): The status quo will not be maintained because of the introduction of this legislation. We all accept that.
If we were to go too far down that road ——
(Limerick West): We are not going down that road.
I am taking good care that we are not.
(Limerick West): None of us wants to go down that road. We cannot ride roughshod over these small farmers.
We are not doing that.
(Limerick West): We have an obligation to treat all citizens equally. That is laid down in our Constitution. We are not doing that because of the Minister's flimsy, loose approach by way of regulation. The Minister has not given me a sound reason why he will not accept our amendment.
There is no need for it.
(Limerick West): A child in fourth class in a national school could give me that answer. The Minister must try to elaborate on the reason why there is no need for it. I have given him several reasons why there is need for it. The Minister is not prepared to listen, or to accept our amendments. The Minister said that the advice from the Attorney General was that it was contrary to law.
It is not contrary to law.
(Limerick West): Now the Minister says it is not. He said that the Attorney General said it was a tidy way of doing it. I have also said that extenuating circumstances could be found for the Minister not to bring in the regulation and there would be nothing we could do about it. The only thing we are saying this morning is that irrespective of the advice from the Government, from the Minister in charge of the Department and irrespective of the advice from the departmental officials, if this is written into the Statute Book it becomes part and parcel of this legislation so the Minister must introduce the regulations because it is laid down by statute that permits will be issued to the farmers concerned. Surely the Minister can see reason in that.
I am sure the Minister of State has had representations as I have had from the people concerned that we should do something for them. The limited period can be done by regulation. I feel we are adopting a very compromising approach. Both of us are upholding the principles outlined in this particular Bill, to uphold at all times the importance of having top quality pedigree bulls. At the same time we are laying down by statute the opportunity to the farmers concerned, who are very important to our agriculture, to get over the transitional period. Those people are very badly affected by the recession in agriculture. They are affected because of the introduction of the super-levy. There is no problem with regard to the big producers but the Minister knows that if the small producer exceeds his quota he is badly hit. Those small farmers are being hit twice by the provisions in this Bill. I appeal to the Minister, in fairness to those people, to give them an opportunity to get over the difficult transitional period and not let them be hit a second time.
I would like to make a point about the inspection fee and the permit. I know the Minister said that the fee will be as low as possible. I admit that it is important that the scheme be self-financing. I hope we will not be looking for an opportunity to get extra money in. That seems to be the inclination in many areas in relation to Department officials. They do everything possible to take that little bit extra and use it as a revenue collector. It is important that those people would not have to carry the can for something else. I agree with the increase from 15 to 20 suckler cows. Many of the small farmers on the western seaboard have herds of fewer than 15. All farmers are anticipating increased production. No matter how one relates the reduction in the overall price it is important that those people look to higher production and reduce the overall cost of production.
If I had no intention of introducing regulations why would I come in here and give more concessions than were demanded on Second Stage?
(Limerick West): I want to repeat that the Minister has not given any concession whatsoever.
The Deputy was not listening to me.
(Limerick West): Under the Bill, the Minister can introduce regulations.
On a point of order, even if I accepted the Deputy's amendment and I go back to my Department and do nothing about it what is the main effect?
(Limerick West): Why does the Minister not accept it?
I see no point in it. If I, under the Deputy's amendment or under section 3(1), decide for some extraordinary reason, which the Deputy seems to be harping on all morning, to change my mind the option is still there under the Deputy's amendment or under section 3(1).
(Limerick West): The Minister has not that option.
I certainly have.
(Limerick West): The Minister has to introduce the regulations. I am concerned about the increase in our beef cow numbers. The Minister has not been consistent in his approach to this matter. At one stage he said the Attorney General had objections.
I never said he had objections. I want to correct the Deputy in relation to this. I said my advice was that the Bill as it is, the correct way that it should go through the House and if I were to give concessions they would be given by way of regulation under section 3(1).
(Limerick West): I am suggesting a simple way out which does not involve granting concessions but which does involve introducing the regulations as laid down by law. This is what I have been trying to say for the past two hours. Without wishing to repeat again something I said already——
In some cases there has been double repetition.
(Limerick West):——I am concerned about the serious difficulty that will arise in this area. Because of the isolation of the area and because of other circumstances, AI is not a solution. On Second Stage I asked the Minister about the possibility of introducing a scheme for the location of bulls on special terms and so far I have not had any response. Under that scheme pedigree bulls would be placed in congested districts in March or April each year at reduced prices which would be payable by instalment. The custodians would be required to maintain the bulls in good healthy breeding conditions for four breeding seasons. The bulls would have to be available to service cows and heifers in the neighbourhood. The latter requirement might cause difficulty with regard to disease eradication but if we are talking about herds of 20 to 25 cows we should consider the possibility of such a scheme.
I am concerned that the Minister has not made any reference to this aspect because the scheme was highly successful in the areas I am referring to as also was the scheme operated by the ACOT committees where premiums were allocated more or less for the same purpose and were very successful in their day. Those schemes, with some modification and bearing in mind the question of disease eradication, could be re-introduced. All sorts of suggestions have been put to the Minister but he seems to be persistent in his pigheadedness not to accept any worthwhile suggestion. In other words, he is saying that we have nothing worth-while to offer.
I do not regard the adjective used by the Deputy in relation to the Minister to be very nice.
(Limerick West): I withdraw the remark and refer instead to the Minister's reluctance to accept suggestions. His attitude apparently is that he knows it all and that everyone else is out of step.
I am amazed at the attitude being adopted by Deputy Noonan in persisting with his amendment.
(Limerick West): There is no need for the Deputy to be amazed.
It is clear that section 3(1) supersedes amendment No. 4. That should remove any doubt the Deputy may have. I congratulate the Minister on his approach to this whole matter and also in respect of the concessions he has made. Obviously, he has put much effort into the formulation of this Bill. There is no logic in Deputy Noonan's persisting with amendment No. 4.
On a point of clarification, the Minister said that the regulation would apply to suckler herds that would qualify under the suckler herd scheme. Is that confined to any geographic area?
- Ahern, Bertie.
- Ahern, Michael.
- Andrews, David.
- Aylward, Liam.
- Barrett, Michael.
- Brady, Gerard.
- Brady, Vincent.
- Brennan, Mattie.
- Brennan, Paudge.
- Brennan, Séamus.
- Briscoe, Ben.
- Browne, John.
- Burke, Raphael P.
- Byrne, Hugh.
- Byrne, Seán.
- Calleary, Seán.
- Collins, Gerard.
- Conaghan, Hugh.
- Connolly, Ger.
- Coughlan, Cathal Seán.
- Cowen, Brian.
- Daly, Brendan.
- Doherty, Seán.
- Fahey, Francis.
- Faulkner, Pádraig.
- Fitzgerald, Gene.
- Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.
- Flynn, Pádraig.
- Foley, Denis.
- Gallagher, Denis.
- Gallagher, Pat Cope.
- Harney, Mary.
- Haughey, Charles J.
- Hilliard, Colm.
- Hyland, Liam.
- Kirk, Séamus.
- Kitt, Michael.
- Lenihan, Brian.
- Leonard, Jimmy.
- Leonard, Tom.
- Leyden, Terry.
- Lyons, Denis.
- McCreevy, Charlie.
- McEllistrim, Tom.
- MacSharry, Ray.
- Molloy, Robert.
- Moynihan, Donal.
- Nolan, M.J.
- Noonan, Michael J. (Limerick West)
- O'Dea, William.
- O'Hanlon, Rory.
- O'Keeffe, Edmond.
- O'Kennedy, Michael.
- O'Leary, John.
- Ormonde, Donal.
- Reynolds, Albert.
- Treacy, Noel.
- Tunney, Jim.
- Wallace, Dan.
- Walsh, Joe.
- Walsh, Seán.
- Allen, Bernard.
- Barnes, Monica.
- Barrett, Seán.
- Barry, Myra.
- Barry, Peter.
- Bruton, John.
- Bruton, Richard.
- Carey, Donal.
- Collins, Edward.
- Conlon, John F.
- Connaughton, Paul.
- Coogan, Fintan.
- Cosgrave, Liam T.
- Coveney, Hugh.
- Creed, Donal.
- Crotty, Kieran.
- Crowley, Frank.
- D'Arcy, Michael.
- Desmond, Barry.
- Donnellan, John.
- Dowling, Dick.
- Doyle, Avril.
- Doyle, Joe.
- Dukes, Alan.
- Durkan, Bernard J.
- Enright, Thomas W.
- Farrelly, John V.
- Fennell, Nuala.
- FitzGerald, Garret.
- Flaherty, Mary.
- Flanagan, Oliver J.
- Glenn, Alice.
- Griffin, Brendan.
- Harte, Patrick D.
- Hegarty, Paddy.
- Hussey, Gemma.
- Kavanagh, Liam.
- Begley, Michael.
- Bell, Michael.
- Bermingham, Joe.
- Birmingham, George Martin.
- Boland, John.
- Kelly, John.
- Kenny, Enda.
- L'Estrange, Gerry.
- McGahon, Brendan.
- McGinley, Dinny.
- McLoughlin, Frank.
- Manning, Maurice.
- Mitchell, Gay.
- Molony, David.
- Moynihan, Michael.
- Naughten, Liam.
- Nealon, Ted.
- Noonan, Michael. (Limerick East)
- O'Brien, Fergus.
- O'Brien, Willie.
- O'Leary, Michael.
- O'Sullivan, Toddy.
- Owen, Nora.
- Pattison, Séamus.
- Prendergast, Frank.
- Quinn, Ruairí.
- Ryan, John.
- Shatter, Alan.
- Sheehan, Patrick Joseph.
- Skelly, Liam.
- Spring, Dick.
- Taylor-Quinn, Madeline.
- Timmins, Godfrey.
- Yates, Ivan.
Amendment No. 2 and all other amendments discussed with amendment No. 1 seem to be governed by the decision on amendment No. 1.
(Limerick West): With regard to subsection (2), where “the holder of a permit dies before the end of the period for which the permit is expressed to be in force, the personal representative of the holder may have the bull to which the permit relates in his possession for a period not exceeding three months,” could the Minister outline what is involved and why is it confined to three months? Can he also explain what interpretation could be put on the words “personal representative”?
There is nothing very mysterious about this. If somebody dies, the licence passes to the son or to the herd owner.
(Limerick West): Why is it for a period not exceeding three months?
After a three month period, the successor will have to reapply for a permit. The person in question will have to obtain a permit in his own name.
(Limerick West): Does that mean that the successor or the personal representative will have to apply for a permit in his own right after the period of three months?
(Limerick West): Under what conditions would it be desirable for the Minister to revoke or suspend a permit granted under this section?
The various ways in which a permit can be lost are covered in later sections of the Bill.
(Limerick West): What sections?
We will come to them later on.
(Limerick West): I object to the involvement of the Garda Síochána in a situation like this. Why not confine it to inspectors from the Department of Agriculture?
Subsection (1) requires that the holder of the certificate or permit must produce the certificate or permit for inspection if required to do so by an inspector of the Minister or by a member of the Garda Síochána and it is an offence not to comply with this. It is intended that the Garda would be used only in extreme circumstances, for example where the safety of an inspector might be threatened. Subsection (2) provides that a demand for the production of a certificate or permit can be considered to have been made to the holder of such a certificate or permit if the demand is made verbally to any of his employees, at the place where the bull covered by the certificate or permit is normally kept and who, for the time being, is in charge of the bull. This is a standard provision in legislation of this kind.
(Limerick West): This section relates to inspection of bulls and I presume that means the inspection of bulls on the premises of the person who holds the permit and the Garda Síochána are mentioned again in this section. I should also like the Minister to say when it would be necessary to carry out an inspection of the bull to ascertain whether it is registered. If the documents are inspected, surely this should be sufficient to confirm that the bull is registered.
Subsection (1) deals with entry on to lands at reasonable times and that is a standard provision in all legislation of this kind. The same applies in relation to the Protection of Animals Kept for Farming Purposes Act. Subsection (2) deals with the inspection of bulls and the examination of certificates, permits and other documents relating to bulls found on that land.
In relation to an inspector attending on the land, whose responsibility is it to see that the bull is penned? As everyone knows, an inspector does not just walk on to the land and the bull comes up to him and presents his ear for inspection.
I presume he would have the co-operation of the landowner.
(Limerick West): Would the Minister elaborate on the time specified in the notice in subsection (2)?
This is a long section and I will briefly run through it. This section confers on the Minister power to order castration or slaughter of a bull which is unregistered or a bull without a valid permit. Under subsection (1), where a person is believed to have an unregistered bull or a bull without a valid permit, the Minister may serve notice on the owner, the reputed owner or the person having possession of the bull, requiring that person, within a specified time which cannot be less than 28 days, to have the bull castrated or slaughtered or to apply for a permit for the bull. Under subsection (2) if the person on whom a notice is served ignores it, this subsection gives the Minister power to order the castration or slaughter of the bull at the owner's expense. Subsection (3) requires the Minister to serve notice of his direction that a bull be castrated or slaughtered and to allow the person on whom the notice has been served 14 days in which to have made on his behalf a written appeal to consider the appeal. Subsection (4) sets out the means by which officers authorised by the Minister may carry out his direction to castrate or slaughter a bull. Subsection (5) provides for furnishing authorised officers with warrants of appointment and for the production of these by the officers concerned on request. Subsection (6) provides that any expenses incurred by the Minister in having a bull slaughtered, castrated or removed for slaughter shall be the liability of the owner of the bull and can be recovered in the civil court if the owner refuses to pay on demand. However, these expenses would not be the liability of the stockmen workmen of the owner of the bull or the person who owns the land on which the bull is found, if he is not the owner of the bull.
Section 8 (5) makes it an offence to obstruct or impede an inspector in the exercise of his powers.
(Limerick West): This section deals with the serving of notices. Subsection (2) reads:
If the name of the owner of a bull to which a notice under section 6 of this Act relates is not known and the name of such owner cannot be readily ascertained by reasonable enquiry, the notice may be addressed to the owner of the bull without naming him and may be served—
(a) by sending it by post to the lands on which the bull to which the notice relates is normally kept, or
(b) by delivering it to a person over the age of sixteen years on the lands on which the bull to which the notice relates is normally kept.
How is it possible to send a notice addressed to the owner of the bull without naming him?
I am not surprised the Deputy asked that question because I raised it myself. This has been done regularly. Subsection (1) deals with the serving of notice on known persons by delivering by hand or by sending it by pre-paid post. That is standard. Subsection (2) deals with the service of notices in circumstances where the name of the owner of the bull is unknown but the place where the bull is normally kept is known. We know the townland, the farm and the house but we do not know the owner. This extraordinary phraseology is standard and is taken from the Town Planning Act and about 20 other Acts. Thus, it is established that the letter was posted and the service of the notice is proved in this way.
(Limerick West): In other words, it is addressed to the bull?
We are really getting into bull now.
(Limerick West): If a person over 16 years is not on the land, to whom would the note be addressed?
This is the way it is done. You address it to the owner of the bull, care of name of owner of the land where the bull is.
By whom are these notices delivered?
They will be posted.
That means that we will be using the postman in this instance. Is that correct?
How many extra inspectors is it intended to take on to ensure that this Bill will be properly implemented?
We are dealing with section 7.
This relates to section 7 because we are talking about inspectors.
We are not talking about inspectors on section 7 and the Deputy knows it.
(Limerick West): I move amendment No. 21:
In page 5, lines 32 to 38, to delete subsection (3).
Subsection (3) reads:
Every person who, knowing the name and address of the owner of a bull or of the person by whom a bull is kept refuses, when required pursuant to section 4 (3) of this Act by an inspector or a member of the Garda Síochána so to do, to give to such inspector or such member, as the case may be, the name and address required shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £250.
We are concerned about this subsection because a neighbour would be compelled to inform on the owner of the bull if the bull was not registered or if he did not have a permit or a licence to keep the bull. The bull in question may not be registered or may not be the class of bull required under the Bill. If a person was not prepared to inform on the owner of such animal he would be guilty of an offence on conviction of which he would be subject to a fine not exceeding £250. Sufficient information should be available from the registration books of the different breed societies for the inspector or the Garda Síochána, as the case may be, to ascertain this knowledge without having to go to a neighbour and compel him to inform under threat of being guilty of an offence. In the old days people looked on informing very seriously and were not prepared to do this on their neighbours. This should not be written into legislation. I ask the Minister to elaborate on his reasons for its inclusion.
I support the previous speaker. There is here an element of compulsion to inform. "Informer" is a very dirty word in this country and always has been, especially with regard to the political scene. I do not like the aspect of neighbour involvement. It reminds me of Paddy Kavanagh's book The Green Fool in which he talks about every person in his area of south Monaghan not being on speaking terms with three or four of the neighbours. That is still the attitude in rural Ireland and on the west coast. Things have not changed. There must be other means of establishing the facts rather than having neighbour involvement. Also, how could one establish if the neighbour were telling the truth? This is a loose phrase and I express concern at its inclusion.
I agree with the sentiments expressed by Deputies Noonan and Leonard. I am extremely concerned about this subsection. I would go so far as to say that it is ridiculous to include it. The neighbours will say that they heard nothing, saw nothing and will say nothing. The Minister said earlier that he was seeking co-operation in putting this legislation into practice, but this is the wrong way to go about it. I hope this subsection will be excluded.
I also support the three previous speakers. This subsection should be deleted. Also, the £600 maximum fine is excessive in the case of anybody caught with an unregistered bull. Would the Minister of State consider reducing that fine from £250, if possible?
I appreciate the reasons behind the points made by Deputies on this. This has always been part of legislation and did not cause any great hassle in the past. I give one example where it may be essential. Take the case concerning the owner of land on which a bull is found. He would be obliged to say who was the owner of the bull. In the case of the Garda Síochána, this is meant to cover extreme cases. To make the position quite clear, there is no obligation on anybody to come forward and squeal on his neighbour.
(Limerick West): People could be compelled to do that.
They are not being compelled. If a person is asked a straight question, he is expected to tell the truth. There are reasons for this inclusion. If that clause were deleted, the landowner on whose land a bull was found would not have to give this information. That is why this subsection has been retained.
(Limerick West): Why is the owner of the bull not compelled to give information, rather than the neighbour? If that neighbour refuses, he is guilty of an offence.
The same thing applies a prior to the owner of the bull. This only comes into force when the owner of the bull cannot be located.
(Limerick West): On the previous section the Minister was talking about involving members of the Garda Síochána in extreme circumstances. If one cannot locate the owner, surely that is an extreme circumstance in which members of the Garda Síochána may or may not have to be involved. Why have it written into legislation that a neighbour who refuses to give information, for different reasons — perhaps he does not know——
If he does not know he says that and that is the end to the matter.
(Limerick West): Who is to say that the official will accept that? He may tell the person that if he is not prepared to give the information he may be guilty of an offence.
(Limerick West): Surely it is a matter for the Minister's Department and the official concerned to ensure that the owner of the bull is found. Records are kept of the movement of bulls from one farm to another. That information must be available in the DVO. It would not be a major problem to find the owner. This is a ridiculous subsection.
From the Minister's answer I see even less reason for the inclusion of this subsection. I repeat that if we are looking for co-operation, and we agree in principle with this Bill, this is a very wrong way to go about it. There are few bulls still roaming the countryside and if they wandered on to my farm, for instance, that does not necessarily mean that I know the owner.
If the Deputy does not know, then there is no problem.
The Minister is saying that any farmer on whose land a bull is found can say "I do not know" and that clears him.
Then what is the point of having this subsection in the first instance? Does the Minister think any farmer is going to be foolish enough to make an admission?
The farmer could also say that he did know.
It could happen that he would know, but he would not tell the officials.
He would then be aiding and abetting.
I shall leave that to Deputy Sheehan. This is a crazy subsection. If it is taken out, it will be to advantage.
It has always been there and it stays.
That it has always been there is no argument for its retention.
There has never been any hassle.
If the Department are looking for co-operation in order to get this Bill to work, they will not impose this kind of rubbish.
(Limerick West): If the person concerned, in the opinion of the official, refuses to give information — even though he may not have it — he may be told he is guilty of an offence.
If he knows the owner and if he has strong evidence about the matter he can tell the person that he will be summonsed and taken to court and that it will be then up to the court to decide if he is guilty of an offence.
(Limerick West): Is that not a rather cumbersome way of dealing with the matter?
Perhaps the law could be described as cumbersome but it is fair.
(Limerick West): My argument is that the Department should have a record of every bull licensed or registered.
There is the problem of unregistered animals.
(Limerick West): As there is a round of testing each year there must be records in the local offices of the Department. Surely that should be sufficient to ensure that the owner of any animal can be ascertained. Will the Minister of State not accept that, or are the records of his Department faulty?
For instance, three or four farmers could share a bull for breeding purposes. Each farmer would know the owner and they would be obliged to name him.
(Limerick West): My point is that the Department should have a record in the district veterinary offices of the owner of the animal. There should be sufficient information in the Department rather than compelling a person to be an informer. Will the Minister of State not accept that point? As Deputy Byrne said, it is not good enough to tell us this is part and parcel of similar legislation. If there is no need for the provision, why not delete it?
We believe there is a need. As I said, if an officer from our district veterinary office happens to be in the area and finds the animal on the land of a farmer he can ask him who owns the bull. If we do what the Deputy is suggesting, namely, to delete the provision in question, the farmer might tell the officer that he will not tell him the name.
(Limerick West): I am pointing out that the Department have the information.
It is much easier to ask a farmer for the information.
(Limerick West): With the computerisation of records it is possible now to get information at a moment's notice. Why compel a person to be an informer? This is what is being written into the legislation. If there was no other way of getting the information there might be some need for this procedure but my point is that the information must be available.
It is not as easy as the Deputy makes it appear. For instance, there is the case of young animals not yet tested. There would not be a record of them in the DVO. Another example that comes to mind is that of animals sold after testing. That would not be known until a subsequent test.
(Limerick West): The Department would have the name of the first owner of the bull and information could be got in the livestock mart where the animal was sold. The Minister's argument about young animals will not stand up. If there is a round of testing every 12 months there will be a record of the animal in the Department. In addition, the animal concerned would not be serving cows for at least 12 months.
Surely the Deputy cannot condone a situation where every cowboy could have access to bulls? The Minister could not even entertain that prospect. It would be an abuse of the legislation to have a bull roaming at large and getting among a neighbour's herd. Anything the Minister would do to mitigate a fine in respect of that would defeat the purpose of the Bill.
(Limerick West): I am sure the Deputy is not suggesting that one's neighbours should be informers when other methods and means are available to ensure that information can be given. If there were not other means available, probably I would accept what the Minister is proposing but my point is that the information can be got from other sources. The Minister's original argument cannot be justified merely by saying this is part and parcel of similar legislation.
It covers extreme cases.
(Limerick West): Is Deputy Sheehan suggesting that one's neighbour should be an informer? If that is the case he should say so.
I am not saying that.
I hate to see this note creeping into the debate. We are very serious in our wish to improve the Bill. For Deputy Sheehan to introduce a red herring at this stage is not advantageous to anybody. I said earlier, and I have heard nothing since to change my mind, that it is a characteristic of an Irishman to go against compulsion but if he is asked civilly for co-operation I believe that will be given. To say that a similar provision exists in other legislation is no justification for including it in this case. As far as I know there are no cattle up to one year and a half in Wexford that are not tested. However, if there are cattle in other areas that are not tested it is a reflection of the way TB testing is being done. That is something that will have to be taken seriously.