I suggest that we should adjourn the discussion of this Bill until to-morrow, Sir.
Slaughter of Cattle and Sheep (Amendment) Bill, 1935—Second Stage.
Well, I move that we adjourn now for tea.
This is the last Bill to be dealt with to-night and there cannot be very much to say about it.
There is a great deal to say about this Bill, and, accordingly, I support Senator Counihan in his proposal to adjourn for tea.
Do you move the adjournment, Senator?
I move that we adjourn until to-morrow.
I second that.
Would it be proper, Sir, to move that we continue this session until we dispose of this Bill?
Are you putting that in the form of a motion, Senator?
Yes, Sir. I move that we continue until we dispose of this Bill.
I second the motion.
This Bill is brought in to amend the Principal Act passed last year. It contains two or three rather large principles and a number of small amendments. In the first place, we are changing from the free beef scheme to a contributory scheme. At the time that the free beef scheme was introduced, it was felt—and I remember saying it both in the Dáil and Seanad —that it would be preferable to have a contributory scheme and that we hoped to be able to change from a free beef scheme to a contributory scheme. We felt, however, at the time that it would be better to carry on the scheme on an ex gratia basis, but that, eventually, we would change over to the provisions embodied in this Bill. There are also other points, some of which may, possibly, be more important. Section 5 in this Bill, which has to do with the deletion of certain parts of Section 12 of the Principal Act, is not as formidable as, at first sight, it might appear. The position has been that when we have to produce evidence in a court on the matter of the Minister's certificate, the opposing person might ask: “How do we know that it is actually the Minister's certificate?” and then we had to send an officer from the Department to prove that the document was actually the Minister's document. This section, I understand, has the effect of compelling the Justice to accept the document for what it purports to be, and in that way saves us the expense of sending an officer from the Department down to the country, but it does not in any way interfere with the rights of the plaintiff in the case. He has the same rights as heretofore.
The next thing is Sections 6 and 7 which amend Sections 14 and 18 of the Principal Act. They merely mean that more power is given to inspectors to examine the contents of a premises when they come to a premises. Up to the present, they had not power to examine skins, offals, and hides, and so on, and sometimes, when asked to verify figures given by the victualler, they were prevented by the person concerned, who was sometimes quite a good lawyer, from verifying their figures. Sections 8 and 9 deal with weighing facilities. We found, from experience there also, that where an inspector goes in to a victualler and suspects that the number given of sheep or cattle slaughtered is not a true record, and where, in order to verify the matter, he asks the registered person to weigh the remaining meat hanging up in his shop, the person says: "I have no scales." While it is quite possible that, in some cases, they might not have scales, we have found, through experience, that in some cases, they did away with their scales so as to evade the Act, or that they would say that the scales they had were inadequate. The effect of this section is that, where the victualler says that his scales are inadequate, the inspector can ask him to cut down the carcase so as to fit the scales.
Section 10 was considered a drastic section by certain members of the Dáil. This section gives the Minister power to serve an order on certain registered persons to buy only from the Minister, or to buy his cattle from a person appointed by the Minister. The history of that section is interesting. About three months ago I had a meeting of the Consultative Council that was appointed under the Principal Act. That Consultative Council is composed of butchers, exporters, victuallers, and so on. Everybody admitted, even the victuallers, that the minimum price was not being paid by many people. I asked if there was any suggestion for remedying that matter and one member of the Consultative Council suggested this method as a remedy. It appeared to me at the time to be one method at least of dealing with the abuses that had crept in. I must say that the victuallers who were present at the Consultative Council did not agree with the suggestion, but the majority of the Consultative Council thought it was the best way of dealing with it. We then found from experience that there are many victuallers in the country who were in the habit, before the Principal Act came into operation, of buying cattle from surrounding farmers, but, since the Principal Act came in, they buy from one farmer or dealer. In the books, they show that they are paying the minimum price, but the farmer or dealer from whom they buy is not paying anything like the minimum price to the people from whom he buys. It is very suspicious, at least, that a butcher should change his system of buying and buy through one person. We, in the Department, cannot prove that he is doing anything wrong because his books show that he has done everything correctly and we cannot see any other method of dealing with such men than the method suggested here. If, however, the Seanad could suggest a better method, I am quite open to conviction.
Section 11 and Section 15 both deal with the time of slaughter, but they are two very different sections. Under Section 11 the Minister may serve a notice on a registered proprietor that he must not slaughter unless he has first given 24 hours' notice to the inspector. That is designed to deal with individuals who are very hard to catch out but who are fairly obviously evading the payment of levies. For instance, where an inspector visits a slaughtering premises or a victualler's shop and where he invariably finds that the number of sheep hanging up corresponds with the number slaughtered that week, that is, whether he goes on Monday or Thursday or Friday, the particular butcher is only commencing to sell meat for that week, he cannot prove anything, but it is obviously not the truth. I do not want to give the impression at all that I am speaking of all butchers; it is only a small minority who are evading the Act in this way. They have a very good intelligence system and they know when the inspector is coming, and if they have four sheep carcases hanging up in the shop, by the time the inspector arrives the entry in the book is that they killed four sheep that week and the inspector cannot do anything. The butcher must first serve notice before he kills any cattle or sheep and notify the inspector so that the inspector may be present if he wishes to verify the number killed.
Section 15 is quite different. It is a general section dealing with the time of slaughter. It prohibits slaughter on Sunday and also prohibits slaughter within certain hours. The section is only to be used to prohibit slaughter within rather unreasonable hours. We intend, of course, to give a working day. Slaughter may be allowed between 8 o'clock and 8 o'clock, or between 8 o'clock and 6 o'clock. We fix the hours according to the areas, so that we may fall in with whatever custom there is in the different areas with regard to half-holidays, bank holidays and Church holidays. It is a general section which is not meant to penalise anybody, but to regulate slaughtering within reasonable limits. There are victuallers, for instance, at the present moment who are very insistent that they must slaughter their cattle and sheep between 12 o'clock and 2 o'clock in the morning. We think that is not necessary, and it will be stopped under this section.
Section 12 gives powers of search for cattle and sheep. The meaning of the section is plain, but whether Senators agree or not I do not know. There is, however, no difficulty about understanding its meaning. It is that an inspector may ask a person in charge of sheep or cattle any questions with regard to matters on which he requires information as to the numbers there, the numbers that came in during the week, the numbers that went out and so on, in order to verify any information he might have from the registered person or from the victualler. Section 13 is somewhat like Section 5 with regard to the recovery of levies. The account submitted to the court will be taken as being a correct account until it is disproved by the other person. We send the account down in writing to the District Justice, and the District Justice accepts that as the account without our having to send an officer there to prove that it is the account submitted by the Minister. In that way we may avoid considerable expense entailed in sending officers from headquarters to vouch for these accounts. The local inspector will naturally be present to do anything necessary with regard to proving the figures and so on.
Section 14 is not a penal section either. There are cases—a number of cases, as a matter of fact—of persons who commenced to slaughter cattle and sheep while awaiting registration. They thought they were not doing anything wrong. Afterwards, when we came to collect the levy from the registered person, as he afterwards became registered, he made returns of having slaughtered certain cattle and sheep before his registration arrived. The Department is not empowered under the Principal Act to accept those levies, and the only thing we could do is to prosecute the man for slaughtering cattle without being registered. We do not want to do that, because it was only a mistake on his part in having commenced business a few days before he should have, and the easiest thing is to accept the levies and say there was no offence committed. On the other hand, it does not make it legal for a person who is not registered to slaughter. If any person deliberately slaughters for consumption in Saorstát Eireann, as laid down in the Principal Act, and does not register, he will still be guilty of an offence and will be dealt with under the Principal Act as well as paying his levies under this section.
Section 16 more or less strengthens Section 25 of the Principal Act, which deals with the minimum price. Under that section of the Principal Act there was no offence committed unless the registered person had actually bought the cattle and bought them under the minimum price. What very often occurred was that a registered person went to buy cattle, and when the seller, after some little negotiation said: "I will sell at the minimum price" the buyer immediately went away stating that the cattle were not suitable, knowing that he was dealing with a dangerous man, and had no further dealings with him. This makes it an offence for a person to offer or agree or contract to buy, so that if he went on to make a bargain, even if he did not close it, which would be offering or agreeing to pay less than the minimum price, he is guilty of an offence. It also absolves the seller from any guilt if he enters into a bargain like that with a buyer.
Section 17 requires explanation. Under the Principal Act the Minister had to be satisfied that the manufacturer was guilty of an offence under the Act before he could remove the licence. The change here is not because the Minister wants greater power, but for this reason: the Minister may hold a licence, and want to give it up. But he could not do so unless he accused himself of having contravened the Act. This section is to enable him to do that without having to accuse himself of having contravened the Act.
Section 18 exempts the manufacturer from certain provisions of the Principal Act, or gives the Minister power to do so. The obvious question to any Senator is whether we would allow the manufacturer to buy cattle under the minimum price. That is one of the exemptions that will be granted. There is a tinned meat factory being constructed. These people will not be able to pay the minimum price for certain cattle that they will have to buy. They will require rather thin cattle, for part of their business, and it would be unfair to compel them to pay the minimum price laid down for fat cattle. These people will require a certain number of stores. They will be matured cattle without any great excess of fat, and there is no reason why they should be compelled to pay more than the market price for stores. The rest of the Bill, from Section 19 to the end, deals with the free beef sections, and the change from free to a contributory system. Sections 19 and 21 empower the Minister to give tinned beef instead of fresh in certain cases. Sections 23 and 24 and the Schedule are to amend the Principal Act in consequence of the change from free beef to the contributory scheme. I think I have now dealt with the principal points that arise under the Bill, but I shall be only too glad to give any further information that may be required.
The Minister has not stated anything about the financial effect of the sections to which he last referred. I take it that they will have considerable financial effect. When the Principal Act was introduced the Government arranged that free beef should be given to certain persons. As a contribution to the cost of that free beef they arranged a levy for beasts on sale. As far as I can gather, under this Bill the levy is still to continue, but free beef is to end. The Government has been paying 4d. a lb. for free beef. I do not know what arrangements are contemplated with regard to the future. The Minister did not forecast any. He said that people getting cheap beef will pay 2d. and the Government will pay 2d. and the position, as far as I can see, is simply we have here another aspect of the Budget. Here we have people, who heretofore were in receipt of free beef, being asked to give twopence or three halfpence or a penny or whatever the sum may be as a contribution towards the Exchequer. If it was not a case of making these people pay what is in effect a tax, we would have the levies reduced. It seems to me that in the scheme as originally introduced they hang together. We had free beef and a levy. Now the free beef is going but the levy is to continue. If that is not taxing those who hitherto were recipients of free beef, the Government would reduce the levy so as to let the butchers, and through them the purchasers, off the amount that will henceforward be contributed by those who are getting free beef.
The Government probably have already, in a general way, made up their minds upon this matter. They have decided at what date the section will be brought into operation, and what contribution those who are to get the advantage of the latter section of the Bill will have to make. I hope before the Second Reading passes, the Minister will give us some more information. I hope he will state what are the arrangements that are going to be made. He should tell us whether, for instance, the total price is to remain as at present, fourpence, or whether it is recognised by the Minister that that is low, and whether there is going to be an increase in the total price, and what are the respective proportions that will be paid by the Department, and paid by others getting meat, and, generally, what will be the effect upon the State financially of the change in the arrangements.
The Minister referred to Section 10 as a very drastic section. I think it is a very drastic section. I am afraid hardships will be suffered under it, and that there will be grave danger of injustice being inflicted. The object is to force butchers to pay the minimum price. I do not think that anything the Minister could do will force traders to pay something more than the market price of the goods they buy. Even, if by means of penalties and by means of extra inspectors, the Minister makes difficult the forms of evasion to which he alluded, and that are practised heretofore, other forms which will amount to evasion will be invented. If a butcher is going to pay more than the market price of an animal to a particular seller, he certainly will be conferring a favour upon that seller. It is picking a man out amongst others by giving something more than would be given in the ordinary course of business. Now somehow or other, a great lot of traders will find means of getting repayment for that sort of favour. It may be that there will be secret "luck pennies" in certain cases; that is a very simple method. It may be that there will be other transactions carried out between purchasers and sellers in which consideration will be given. Another case may be that the beast sold will not be a fat animal. Dozens of methods can be discovered whereby a man compelled by law to give a favour to a person selling to him will manage to get value for the discrimination he exercises in favour of that person. I do not know any machinery that can be invented that is going to make such a scheme watertight. I admit that because of that fact it is impossible for the Minister to provide penal machinery by which the guilt is determined and punishments are allocated.
If the Minister were to have no power to act, as was suggested and as I think it could be argued would be right, except there had been a case proven in court and a conviction, he would only succeed in inflicting the extra penalties that are set forth in the Bill on very few persons. But even if the Minister is determined to retain the power to go on with this business of trying to force people to pay a price that is above the market price, and even if he is determined to take powers to deal administratively with those who offend, I think he might adopt a somewhat different scheme from what is embodied in this Bill. If these provisions stand, what will happen is that individuals who are a little less expert than their neighbours, but who are not behaving very differently, will suffer drastic punishment and in some cases their being punished or not being punished will depend on the attitude of some official towards them, of his peculiar outlook, the degree of suspiciousness which is in his character, and so on.
This power in Section 10 is to be exercised when there is no proof, is to be exercised on suspicion, according to what the Minister says, because a man, in changing his method of trading, has begun to get supplies in a somewhat different way. It may well be that an individual has changed his habits in this respect without offending, and, while it may be reasonable to suspect him, it would be very serious to punish him in the way he might be punished under this section. He can be prohibited from purchasing the animals he requires from farmers or cattle dealers. He can be compelled to take them from a person appointed by the Minister. He can be compelled to take them at such price as the Minister may fix.
I do not know what the intention is, and the Minister has not stated it, in regard to price. Does the Minister intend that the animals shall be supplied at the minimum price, which, presumably, is a high price for them, as otherwise it would not be necessary to put the section in force at all, or will the man have to pay 2½ or 10 per cent. more than the minimum price? Under sub-section (4) the Minister could charge anything he likes for the cost of administering this measure. If he has to have extra inspectors, or if they spend a considerable time on this business, he can charge the whole cost to whatever persons get the notices under Section 10, and that could easily drive a man out of business. Even if the animals are supplied at approximately the minimum price, there are different sorts of trade to be considered. For instance, one butcher supplies customers who may have certain preferences, and another butcher supplies a different class of customers and for that reason he buys a different animal. With the best will in the world, and without any desire to disregard the interests of the particular butcher concerned, the inspector operating in his area might not buy him the animals necessary to enable him to keep his trade. In that way he might almost be driven out of business.
It will be seen that Section 10 gives tremendous powers to the Minister and contemplates what will mean in reality very serious punishment being inflicted on mere suspicion. The methods of evasion are so many that a person cannot be detected and brought to book before an ordinary court. I do not think the sort of appeal that was inserted in the Committee or Report Stage in the Dáil could be regarded as satisfactory. An appeal from the Minister to the Minister is not likely to give good results. I do not know whether the Minister could alter the section so that an inspector would make the order, or some official specially authorised would make it, and that there should be in the Department some sort of appeals officer, a different person not concerned with the making of the order, to hear the representations put forward.
As the matter stands, the case will be made up by officials of the Department. A memorandum will be prepared for the Minister advising that a prohibitory order be served on a certain butcher. The Minister initials it, and the order duly issues. Then the Minister receives some representations from the person concerned. It is unlikely that person can say anything that will not be on the file already, and it is unlikely the Minister will be moved to reverse his original decision. I think it would be better if the Minister were kept out of it. It may be the whole thing may be done under seal without coming to the Minister, but if it is, it is the one person who will make the original decision and consider the appeal. I think it would be better if arrangements could be made so that the prohibitory notice would be issued by one officer while another officer would consider the representations that may be made.
I also suggest there ought to be a term to every prohibitory notice. There is power in the section for the Minister to withdraw the prohibitory notice, but as this may be a very severe punishment, and I think it is bound to be a fairly severe punishment in every case, there ought to be a term to the notice. The life of a prohibitory notice ought to be a month or perhaps three months, and it ought to lapse, with power to the Minister to withdraw it earlier if he thinks it necessary. I remember some years ago there was tremendous opposition in the Dáil to the possibility, under an existing law for certain revenue offences, of people being kept in prison almost indefinitely. I think arrangements have been made to change that. I think it is undesirable that on suspicion it might be possible for a person to be prohibited as long as this Act remains in operation from purchasing cattle for himself.
There is this phrase in the section:—
Whenever the Minister serves a prohibitory notice he shall make arrangements to provide cattle....
That ought to read: "Before the Minister serves a prohibitory notice he shall make arrangements...." With the difficulties there are about Departmental machinery operating, a man might get a prohibitory notice, and it might be three weeks or a month before arrangements would be made to supply cattle to him.
With regard to Section 11, I do not see any provision for a withdrawal of this notice. This is not penal to anything like the same extent as the other section, but to make it impossible for a man to slaughter cattle when the exigencies of his trade make it necessary is something in the way of a penalty. It may in certain cases impose considerable inconvenience and cause a loss of trade. Apparently it is an obligation that is only going to be imposed on those of whom the Department have suspicion and whose conduct in relation to the provisions of this Act seems unsatisfactory.
I think that there ought to be some provision for the withdrawal of such notice. I do not think that it is necessary and it is not so penal that the terms should be limited—it is not so fixed as in the other case—but I think it is desirable that some arrangement should be made to enable the Minister after a time to withdraw it. Because while these things may be necessary in view of the general position—and seeing what the scheme of the Bill as a whole is—they are in a sense undesirable in so far as practicable punishments should only follow the conviction by a court on evidence. Where anything of a penal nature is done all possible safeguards should surround it. Therefore, so far as possible, power should be given not to have the penalty too severe or of too long continuance.
The Minister has taken a very unusual course in introducing this Bill. He directed the attention of the Seanad to Section 10 with a view to getting the ideas of the Seanad upon the principle, the scope and implications of that section. I have often thought in the course of the last two or three years that the purchase and sale of all cattle by an officer of the Minister would lay the foundation for indemnifying the agricultural community in respect of any special losses which they may have incurred as a result of the political circumstances of the time. For that reason I welcome the idea that is contained in this section—the idea of purchase by an officer of the Minister. But I think it would only be just if it were of universal application. To apply that to one man I think will work and must work injustice. In the first place it is a grave reflection upon his honesty.
No man ought to be deprived of the free market which every butcher ought to have unless he is a thorough rogue. That is the conclusion at which I would arrive, knowing something of what people think in the country. Because if there is a butcher who is in the position that he cannot get any cattle except through an officer of the Minister, well that man's character is gone no matter whether other butchers have been defrauding the revenue or not. It is a very serious thing to take away both the livelihood and the character of a butcher. I would suggest, if there is any other means of dealing with the matter, that that should not be done except on the report of an officer countersigned by another and independent officer. That is a matter that was suggested by Senator Blythe and I think it would be very necessary.
When the Minister introduced this section it was obviously clear to me that it did not accord with his own sense of justice. I say that because he took the very unusual course of asking the opinion of the various Senators upon this section. I hope the Senators will give their opinions upon it fairly and frankly. Something should be done. The difficulty is there. Undoubtedly there is a fraud going on, fraud in the way suggested by Senator Blythe and fraud in one hundred other ways. I buy a fat cow from a man. I give him more than the minimum price for the fat cow, but I may buy a yearling or a two-year-old for little or nothing. We know how this thing is going on. I sell my cow to your son and your son can sell at the minimum price. It is almost impossible to carry out this principle of a minimum price for cattle unless and until you have the purchase made by a representative of the Minister. It is almost impossible to carry it out properly and equitably. Therefore, the reason why I am interested in the proposal contained in this section is this: that I think it is the first indication of a method which must ultimately be resorted to if conditions in this country remain for any length of time as they are at present.
I oppose this Bill and I oppose it for the reasons that I opposed the Principal Act—it is revolutionary and it interferes drastically with the rights of an important body of citizens of this State. The only advantage the Minister will get out of this Bill will be that it will help him to collect his levies more effectively, but it will be no benefit or improvement to the Principal Act so far as getting butchers or exporters to pay the minimum price. The Principal Act so far as that goes is an Act which it is impossible to amend or to make a workable proposition. The Minister blames the butchers for the breakdown in the Principal Act. He blames the exporters and he blames the farmers for its breakdown. I blame the Minister, and I think he is more blameworthy than any of the people on whom he is trying to put the blame. The Minister has frequently and openly ignored the provisions of the Principal Act himself. There is a section in the Principal Act which says that the Minister in fixing the minimum price for cattle shall take into account the cost of production. In his Order he fixed the price at 25/- per cwt. live weight for the best cattle. At that time the Minister was paying a bounty of 35/- per beast. When the Minister fixed the 25/- per cwt. it was intended for grass-fed cattle. At the time that the stall-fed cattle are due to be sold, he lowered the price to 22/- and he cut the bounty to £1. Does the Minister think that an economic price, or that it met the cost of production for stall-fed cattle? I submit that the Minister's action was a flagrant violation of the provisions of the Principal Act. The Minister can have no excuse for not carrying out the law. Because of his own action he should not censure certain classes of traders who did break the law.
In my opinion the butchers could easily pay the minimum price. I have no sympathy for them. When the price of 25/- per cwt. was fixed, the exporters could not pay it in view of the fact that they had to pay a tariff of £6 per head on the cattle going out as well as to meet their ordinary expenses. In fact, they could not afford to pay 22/-. It is against human nature to think that exporters will continue to buy cattle, merely for the sake of buying them and lose money thereby. That is what it meant to them. The farmers, of course, did not keep their part of the bargain either, and it is hard to blame them. They brought their cattle to the market expecting to get the 25/- per cwt. which the Minister promised they would get under the Principal Act. Their experience was that nobody offered them 25/- per cwt. They remained on the market for three or four hours and at the end of that time, seeing other people selling their stock, these farmers sold theirs at the best price they could get. Personally, I do not sell very many cattle to butchers. I do not think that there is 1 per cent. of the butchers in the Free State now or at any time paying the minimum price. There is no minimum price for exporters. The butchers are not paying it, and will not pay it so long as there is a surplus of cattle on the market.
The Minister himself could afford to pay the minimum price when he started buying cattle for Germany and Belgium. There was no £6 tariff on those cattle, and yet he did not pay more that 22/- per cwt. for them. That is another glaring instance of how the Minister evaded the provisions of the Principal Act. He may say that there was no necessity to pay more: that he was able to get all the cattle he wanted at 22/- That was the excuse he gave the other day for not raising the price for wheat above 23/6 per barrel. He said that he was able to get plenty of farmers to grow considerable quantities of wheat at that price, and that there was no reason why he should pay more until the farmers refused to grow it at that price. I can tell him that he can get cattle at less than 22/- per cwt. He can get them at 17/- or 18/- if that is his top price. But is there any reason why the Minister should cut the price below the cost of production? It is no excuse for the Minister to say that people were falling over one another to get the German and Belgian buyers to take their cattle at 22/-. Those buyers will get all the cattle they want at that price because there is no £6 duty on them as there is on the cattle going into the British market. In the latter case, the Minister is only giving a 20/- bounty as a refund on the £6 duty. That explains why the German and the Belgian buyers are able to get all the cattle they want at 22/-.
Before this dispute started with England we used to export to that country about 450,000 head of fat cattle. According to the British definition of fat cattle, we would still, if the circumstances were normal, be exporting that number to England. I believe that a fat beast is defined to be one that is 52 per cent. of its live weight. In previous years a good many of the cattle now classified as fat used to go in as store cattle. Because of the fact that they are now classified as fat cattle, they must be exported under a licence for fat cattle. Yet, in spite of all that, we still have a very considerable surplus of cattle in the country, and while that is so it will be impossible to compel the butcher or anybody else to pay the minimum price. I do not believe they will do it. I do not believe that one per cent. of the butchers of the country are paying the minimum price.
I would like to say a few words on Section 10, which has been referred to by Senator Blythe, Senator Comyn and the Minister. It is a section that, I think, should either be eliminated or drastically amended. It is a terrible thing to go out and name one or two butchers, to brand them as rogues or thieves, when everybody in the country knows—I am perfectly sure the Minister and his officials know—that there are not three butchers in the City of Dublin who have paid, or are paying, the minimum price. Why pick out two or three butchers and say to them that they must buy their cattle from the Government buyers at a fixed price, and that otherwise they will not be allowed to trade! I think a more equitable way of dealing with the situation would be that suggested by Senator Comyn, namely, to take the buying out of the hands of all the butchers, the Government to supply cattle to them. There should be no exceptions. I have been told on what I regard as very good authority that there are not three butchers in Dublin paying the minimum price. I know plenty of them, but personally I do not know one who is paying it. I think they are all buying at very much less than the minimum price. We have been told on high authority that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed because seven just men could not be found in them. If three just men cannot be found amongst the butchers in the City of Dublin, I suggest that they should go in with the others, and that the buying of cattle should be taken out of the hands of all of them.
We all know that each butcher has a special trade of his own. One man will buy old cows, another, light heifer beef, another, strong heavy bullock beef, and some will buy all classes of cattle to meet the requirements of their trade. It will be very difficult for the Minister to fix all that, and to keep the butchers in the same trade, and under the same conditions, as previously. Another consideration that the Minister should take into account, before supplying all the butchers, is that many of them have a weekly credit, sometimes with the Dublin salesmen and sometimes with farmers. If the Minister is going to take over the business, is he going to give credit to the butchers for a week, a fortnight or a month? Will he consider the position of cattle salesmen in whose books they are for previous supplies? These are things that the Minister will want to consider before he thinks of taking over the supplying of victuallers. As Senator Comyn stated, if he is going to act fairly he must take over the whole business and not victimise a few. Everybody knows that there are only three, out of all the butchers operating in Dublin, paying the minimum prices. That being so, all of them deserve to be taken over. Section 11 imposes too many restrictions on butchers. Such restrictions might be all right in a city like Dublin or in big towns. It would be a big handicap in other parts of the country if 24 hours' notice had to be given before a beast was killed. Apart from the loss to the butchers, great inconvenience would be caused to the general public in some parts by such a provision.
I should like to hear a further explanation from the Minister of Section 12, dealing with powers of search for cattle and sheep. As I understand it, an inspector might enter any farm or house where he suspected cattle were kept and could demand records, invoices and particulars, although the owner might have no connection with butchers or might not be in the habit of selling to them. If Senator Wilson goes to the west of Ireland, attends a couple of fairs, and brings back cattle, according to the section, if an inspector came along he would have to give an account of the prices he paid for the cattle, and when and where he bought them. I do not think it is just to the farming community to give an inspector power to put them to such inconvenience. Of course, the Minister says that will not occur and that no inspector should have power to do that. Section 14 says:—
(1) Every person who, after the commencement of Part II of the Principal Act and either before or after the passing of this Act, slaughters in any premises which, at the time of such slaughter, were or are not registered in the register of slaughtering premises, any cattle or sheep for human consumption in Saorstát Eireann, shall, if the said non-registration of the said premises was or is a contravention of the said Part II, be liable to pay to the Minister on demand made by the Minister a levy on all cattle and sheep so slaughtered.
Does the section prohibit the slaughter of a sheep or lamb per week? I believe this section is retrospective. Every sensible and honest person in the country approves of the change from free beef to cheap beef, not that they have any greater regard for the poor and the destitute than some of the Senators who applauded the original proposal, but because they believe that the free beef had a demoralising effect, and would be disastrous amongst a class of people who looked for and obtained free beef. I know several families where up to 20 lb. of free beef went in every week. On the other hand, I know several decent working men with big families, who earn less than a £1 a week, and who could not get free beef or cheap beef. I suggest that the Minister might consider the question of accepting an amendment, by which cheap beef might be given to all classes of workers where the wages are under £1 a week. A man who is working is more entitled to cheap beef than a man who is idle and who is able to stay in bed all day. The man who is working for a small wage, and who is trying to carry on, and provide for his family, is more entitled to be fed than the man who is lazy, idle, and drawing the dole.
It is difficult not to sympathise with the Minister in what one might almost call the colossal task he undertook when the original Act was passed. In attempting what he did then I think he was attempting the impossible. At any rate, there is general recognition of the fact that the Act did not succeed in doing what the Minister hoped it would do. As a consequence this Bill has been introduced. Senator Counihan is very sceptical as to the success of the Bill. He was sceptical when the original Act was passed. I think it is true to say that hardly any Bill introduced was as terrifying on the face of it as this Bill. Some of the sections, if operated as they might be, would no doubt be the most extreme effort in law which the Oireachtas has passed. On the other hand, when Senators ask themselves what line of action they should take on such a Bill, it is conceivable that the Minister, having got the decision of the Oireachtas previously, and having got a mandate to act as he did, is entitled when the previous Act did not succeed, to get this Bill. This Bill is complementary to legislation already passed. The effects no doubt might very easily be disastrous to a number of people in the butchering business. I feel that what we have to do is to look at the position as it will be when the Bill is passed. We have to act as if the original Act will now be made operative, and have the effect it was intended to have, so far as the farmer as a producer and a seller of a commodity is concerned, and at the same time see that its operation, combined with this Bill, will not press hardly or unjustly on other decent responsible citizens. I have grave doubts if it be possible to get legislation which will have that effect. I have grave doubts that the operation of this Bill, in conjunction with the previous Act, will give the farmer the minimum price if other factors do not exist to make the ground favourable. If, on the other hand, the Act be administered as it might well be administered, the consequences for butchers all over the country will be exasperating and, in some cases, very inequitable indeed. The general position, so far as I have been able to ascertain, is that, in spite of the Minister's legislation, there has not been any increased consumption of meat in the country. That is the result of my inquiries into the matter. If the Minister has any information at his disposal showing the effects of this free beef scheme, I should like to have it. My information is that butchers to-day are passing no more meat out of their shops than they were before the Free Meat Bill became law. Cash customers have, in many cases, I am told, fallen away and the butchers have been put into the position of selling meat at 4d. per lb. to many people who previously purchased it from them at a considerably higher figure. The Minister may have evidence to the contrary. If he has, it would be well if we had that evidence. The difficulty is as regards the disposal of the surplus fat cattle. At the Committee of Agriculture in Cavan yesterday, we found ourselves in a position in which we could issue only 44 licences for 365 cattle for the month of August. If we can only export 44 head of cattle and the balance are available for killing and eating in the county for that month, is it not difficult to calculate what the butchers ought to pay to the farmer when the farmer wants to sell and has to sell to pay his rates and find money for other charges? That is the kernel of the whole problem.
As to Section 10, I have no knowledge that there is any such drastic legislation operating. From the Minister's statement, one gathers that the Bill has been framed because a number of butchers, up and down the country, are not as honest as he thinks they ought to be and have not been playing the game. The results to the others are going to be very disturbing. I take it that the Bill would be administered in a reasonable and sensible way. Butchers whom I met had no complaints about the administration of the existing Act. They found the officials courteous and reasonable. I take it that that will continue to be the policy but, as Senator Blythe pointed out, cases may arise in which it may appear, for one reason or another, that a man is breaking the law. A court might not take the same view. To put an individual in the position of being really guilty without being convinced that he is seems to be hardly equitable. The Minister says that he finds butchers buying all their cattle from the same individuals. The last thing which ought to be attempted is the buying of cattle by officials. Would there not be the same opportunities for these officials to buy from the same individuals and might it not be difficult for them not to buy from certain individuals? That is the last thing that ought to be attempted. I have no doubt that the Minister has no desire to make such a section as that operative but the powers are there and the circumstances may arise. If it is to be made operative, justice should be done. Under Section 10 and the sections following, I am not quite clear whether the individual could kill his own cattle after the Minister takes certain action. I think it is true that a number of the people in the butchering business have as many cattle on hands as would carry them on for six months after the passing of this Bill. I take it it would be possible to do this, but it is not quite clear.
The Minister tells us that Section 15, which refers to the restrictions on the time of sale, is a general section. It seems to me that, when the Minister is going to make an order, he should do so in consultation with the trade, and I suggest that there is a necessity for an amendment there. That might be done without having any provision in the Bill, but it would be better to have a provision. Senator Blythe raised a question to which the House would like to have an answer, that is the price at which the free beef will be available. I do not know whether the Minister proposes to give these figures now, but it would be a good thing if we did know, because the farther we can look ahead the better. We saw what they did in England within the last couple of days. Farmers there know what they are going to get for meat up to 1936. It would be well if the Minister would indicate his views on that question.
As regards Section 21, the Minister will appoint the persons by whom the canned beef is to be supplied. Is it the intention that the persons to be appointed will be persons in the trade already, or is it the intention to set up distributing centres under the supervision of an inspector? Under Section 22, the Minister may, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, contract with any person for the supply of beef. We see what is happening with regard to the distribution of the free beef. We see the decisions taken by certain butchers in certain districts with regard to the supplies of free beef because they are not satisfied with the conditions. It seems to me possible under this section for the Minister to decide that it should be distributed at a certain figure. If the Minister fails to make a contract on his terms, what does he propose to do? How would he meet the situation? Would he meet it by setting up a distributing centre of his own?
The appearance of this Bill generally has had a very disturbing effect amongst a certain section of the community. On the other hand, a number of farmers are hopeful that it will have the result of giving them the fixed minimum price of 22/- per cwt. The Minister knows as well as anybody in this House how little 22/- per cwt. really goes towards the cost of beef production. While, with the best will in the world, we may be anxious to help to raise the price for the producer through the passage of this Bill, I think the Minister might honestly express the view that unless certain other factors operate favourably, unless the price of meat outside this country goes up, and unless it be possible for us to export more fat cattle than we are exporting at present, the difficulties of making this legislation effective are very great indeed. If we knew, for instance, as possibly the Minister does know, the approximate number of cattle available for export for the next six months and, in addition, the number that we would be permitted to export, we would have some idea as to the possibilities of the Minister's aim being attained through the passage of this Bill. In the meantime, the Minister, I think, will forgive some of us if we are very sceptical as to the value of the measure and very doubtful that it will do what the Minister is hopeful it will do.
I do not wish to speak on any part of this Bill except Section 10. The Bill has been thoroughly ventilated in the course of this debate, and I do not wish to take up the time of the House any more than to say a few words on that section. It is not to be assumed, however, that I approve of the rest of the Bill, because I do not. I do not like it as a piece of legislation, any more than I did the Principal Act. But Section 10 really seems to me to reach a sort of high-water mark in bureaucratic legislation. We are getting rather accustomed to that kind of legislation now in this country. There used to be a great deal of talk about liberty here, but there is not much now. There certainly is not any liberty in this class of legislation.
I do really think that this particular section is going too far. It is capable of inflicting ruin on individuals without any guarantee that they are even guilty. I do not say that is the intention; but the legislation itself leaves opportunity for that sort of thing to occur. Bureaucratic legislation attempts to rule the commercial life of the country in detail. That is extremely difficult to do and it is probably impossible. The common fate of that sort of legislation is that you have to become more and more arbitrary to make the thing work. That is what this appears to be. This particular section appears to be so bad that I respectfully suggest to the Minister that he should reconsider the matter with a view to bringing in a Government amendment and substituting something less drastic than this because it is really going frightfully far. I may add that I am myself a producer of cattle.
I am afraid I will never understand the mentality behind the arguments advanced here and down the country. The principal wail of the farmers for a very long time was that the difference between the price the consumer had to pay and the price the butcher paid them was probably 400 per cent. and that they were being robbed. Now, we have representatives of the farmers here bewailing the fact that the Minister proposes to endeavour, as far as possible, to see that the farmers will get a reasonable price for their animals in view of what the consumer has to pay. That being so, I think the farmers will deem it a great act on the part of the Minister to endeavour to see that they get a fair price for their cattle in comparison with the price the consumer has to pay. I do not know why any farmer, or any representative of the farmers, should object to that proposal. I think it is a most equitable and just one. I do not know why anybody should be so solicitous about the butchers. I think they are the one section of the trading community that has been doing exceedingly well in their business during what is called the economic pressure. It is complained that the consumer is really paying as much for his meat as when the farmer was getting a good price for his cattle, and that is really so.
It was not, however, on anything contained in the Bill that I wished really to make any remarks, but on something that is not in the Bill. Many Bills have been introduced to provide that the meat offered for sale by butchers is of sound and good quality and fit for human consumption. What I object to is that there is no provision made to see that after the meat has been exposed for sale in a butcher's shop it still remains uncontaminated. I can never understand why a butcher's shop, above all other classes of shops, should be permitted to be an open store with chunks of meat exposed to the dirt and dust coming in from the street. I think meat can be very easily contaminated in that way. I wonder if the Minister could make some provision by which butchers' shops should be enclosed shops, the same as any other shops, such as grocers' and drapers' shops. It seems almost barbaric to see chunks of meat cut up freshly, hanging about, and clouds of dust blowing up and down the streets of country towns.
To show how the public appreciated the fact, I might mention that in our town there was one butcher who was wise enough to reconstruct his business premises. He converted it into an up-to-date enclosed shop with a nice window in which he was able to display the meat even better than before in the open stall. The result of that expenditure and foresight on the part of this butcher was that he was able to increase his business by about 300 per cent. That is a justification for the remarks I have made and shows that the public appreciated the care which that butcher had taken, as they were certain of what they were getting there while they were never certain of the meat they got in an open stall. I merely suggest to the Minister that he might find a way, if not now at some later period, to make some provision by which butchers' stalls would be enclosed shops in the same way as other shops. I think nobody would object to that arrangement on any side of the House. It might not be appropriate at this moment but it might be appropriate at some other date. I do not wish to take up the time of the House any further at this hour of the evening.
I do not know what Senator Honan's business may be but it is quite evident that he knows nothing about the cost of producing cattle or he would not say that 22/- per cwt. was a reasonable price. It is uneconomic and unreasonable.
On a point of order, I did not say that at all. What I said was that I would like them to get a reasonable price, in comparison to what they were selling at and what the consumer was paying. I said they were not getting a reasonable price.
It seems to me that if the original Act, as was said here at the time it was going through, was a confusing one and would end in failure——
Who said that?
When the original Act was going through we all said it.
You must refer me to the quotation. If you want to cite anything that was said on a former occasion, you should refer to the authorised report.
I am referring to the general tone of the criticism of the Bill. This Bill, I believe, will not improve matters or, if it does, only to a very small extent. I think it is, if anything, making confusion worse confounded. I do not want to say very much because the matter has been debated very ably by the other farmer Senators. Senator Counihan made a remark about the distribution of free beef and I want to say that his suggestion, that it should have been given to poor agricultural labourers, was a good one. It was made here before and I want to remind the Minister that the Wexford County Committee of Agriculture on three separate occasions sent requests to the Minister for Agriculture that free beef should be distributed to poor agricultural labourers who were getting only 7/- and 8/- per week. The Minister completely denied that, but since his denial I have consulted three members of the county committee of agriculture and they all verified the statement that three separate requests were sent to the Minister and he turned them down. So much for his consideration for the poor agricultural labourer who wanted free beef far worse than a great many of the people who got it.
This Bill is going to give the Government additional powers, but I do not believe that it is going to benefit the farmers to any extent. I agree with Senator Baxter that the Act, so far as it was meant to help the farmers to get rid of their surplus cattle was a failure. Now the truth remains, and it cannot be controverted, that—not that I believe the Government will recognise this for a moment —where there is a surplus supply of any cattle the price cannot be kept by Departmental regulation above its natural level. This is no cure for the failure of the Government to act up to their responsibilities and to put the farmers into a position where they could get an economic price. There is only one way by which that can be done and that is to give them back the market of which the Government have deliberately deprived them.
There are very objectionable features in the Bill but they have been criticised so much already that I shall not go over them again. For instance, there is Section 10. More and more it illustrates the general tendency of Government legislation to interfere with the people and to take out of their hands the management of their own business. That is all to the bad. Nothing could be worse. They have already taken away the independence of the people, the farmers particularly. They have made them slaves in their own land, slaves of the Government, tenants at will of the State. There is one class of person in this country who will not be troubled about this Bill with regard to the sale of his cattle. I want to read a letter which came into my hands unsolicited, from a person whom I never saw and who I did not know existed until to-day. It will put much more forcibly than any words I could command the state to which the farmers have been reduced in spite of assertions to the contrary.
Do you think it is relevant to this measure?
I do, Sir, with all respect.
We shall hear it then, but try to keep within the bounds a little bit.
Have I your permission to read it?
I do not know what is in it.
You may prevent me from reading it here, but you will not prevent me from publishing it to the four winds of Ireland. I will publish it where it will reach the people who are not here. If I am stopped from reading it here I shall find means of putting it more forcibly before the people in other ways. The letter is as follows:—
"Will you forgive the liberty I am taking in writing this letter? I will explain to you as briefly as possible the position I am in at the moment. The flying squad at Fermoy visited my place on Saturday, 15th June. They took 16 milking cows, leaving three that were almost dry, and those cows were the only source of regular money to pay my labour bills, etc., every week. I had three of my little children sick in bed that morning, and were it not for the goodness of my friends those children would not have enough milk and they could eat their bread dry. I also had had the young calves of these cows—I had not the heart to slaughter them—bawling with hunger when we had no milk for them. They also took my working horses, leaving me without a horse to till my land or cut my corn or hay. I am since begging from my neighbours for horses to do my work. They also took what sheep and lambs were on the farm. That did not satisfy them. They next went to an outside farm and when they were finished there——"
On a point of order, I understand that when a Senator quotes a statement here, the Senator is in a position to vouch for it. Is Senator Miss Browne in a position to vouch for the accuracy of the statements contained in that letter?
Otherwise it is only a mere recital of what a person holds as imaginary grievances. Can she vouch for the accuracy of the letter?
Perhaps the Senator is near the end of the recital.
Of course, you realise that it has nothing to do with the measure before the House.
It has in its general tenour.
Would the Senator say how many farms does this individual possess? He had more than one farm?
That is a typical argument from the opposite side. I know that that is the kind of argument of Senator Fitzgerald and others. They are afraid because they know that I can prove everything about this case.
It is not in order.
Well, Sir, if it is not in order——
It is not in order, Senator, but you say yourself that you have not very much more to say.
Yes, Sir. Have I your leave to continue?
Yes, Senator, since you say that it will not take very long.
Very good, Sir. The letter continues as follows:—
"That did not satisfy them; they next went to an outside farm I owned and, when they were finished there was not one four-footed beast to tell the tale. In all, they took 16 dairy cows, 45 cattle, 55 sheep and lambs, and seven horses, including some valuable thoroughbred ones. I went to the sale at Fermoy, as my friends raised the money to buy them back. I had a friend bidding. They refused to take his bid and knocked the whole lot down to themselves for £75. 'Twas all done in about ten seconds. The whole amount, with costs, was offered to them immediately after the bogus sale; they refused to part with their loot. The farmers are treated like dirt; if they'll open their mouths to make a reasonable protest they're surrounded with guards immediately and put outside the pound.
I wont weary you any further only to say that every word is God's truth. I don't know what to do to keep my wife and little family; the eldest is nine and the youngest two years. My wife is ill ever since from the shock and is under the doctor's care."
I ask the Seanad to consider that letter——
Do you consider, Senator Miss Browne, that that letter which you have read was relevant to the discussion before the House?
I think, Sir, that it puts clearly before the House the position people are in with regard to the sale of their cattle. This Bill was announced by the Minister as a Bill to help the farmers and to show them how to dispose of their cattle. The Minister said in the Dáil that that was its object.
Was the person mentioned by Senator Miss Browne from County Tipperary?
I take it that the Minister meant it to be inferred by what he said in the Dáil that the coal-cattle pact was to help the farmers in the sale of their cattle, but I believe that he made that pact solely in order to get the 5/- tax from the coal.
What about giving the name of the person who wrote that letter?
The Minister to conclude.
I should like to ask you, Sir, whether you think it wise for the Minister to get up now and give an answer in such an important question as this. We have been sitting here for six mortal hours. Personally, I am going home. I can stand a good deal, but personally I do not think that anything is to be gained by continuing a debate of the type we have had. I do not think that the Minister would be able to reply to it properly and I think that the further consideration of this Bill should be adjourned until to-morrow.
I quite appreciate Senator Jameson's point of view, but I understood that the House had come to an understanding to finish the business to-night.
The House is competent to judge of that. Perhaps Senator Jameson would agree that it would be reasonable, if all the Senators have spoken, to have the closing statement made by the Minister to-morrow.
Unless Senator Jameson desires to speak himself.
Well, we could just have the closing statement from the Minister to-morrow.
Perhaps the Minister wants to finish the matter to-night.
Could we take the Committee Stage of this Bill next Tuesday morning?
I am in the hands of the House.
It was originally decided to continue and finish this business to-night?
If it is not possible to finish it to-night, I do not see any reason why we should not finish the business to-morrow. It is an extraordinary thing to hear people speaking about how busy the farmers are, and then to ask us to come back here next week. I think that we should meet at 12 o'clock to-morrow if necessary.
I propose that we hear the Minister now and finish this stage.
Senator Quirke wanted the House to adjourn until to-morrow, but, inasmuch as the House decided to finish this business this evening, I think we should do so.
Very well, we will now ask the Minister to close the debate.
With regard to the case mentioned by Senator Miss Browne— the case which I think, was a propaganda case—all I can say is that, if it is God's truth, as the person concerned alleges, he has an action, and a very good action against the sheriff. However, I do not believe that it is "God's truth." With regard to the matter of the expenditure under this Bill and the receipts accruing, we estimated, in the beginning, that we would receive about £300,000 in levies. I think that that is about correct, but, of course, we are in arrears in collecting those levies. However, I think that that figure would be about right. With the change in the distribution of beef I will give what the figures would be for a full year. For a full year, under this Bill, the position would be, roughly, £240,000 as a contribution to the beef, £150,000 for the supply of old cows for meat meal, about £20,000 for the supply of cattle for canned beef and something like about £40,000 for purposes of administration; so that the total would be about £450,000, and the receipts would be about £150,000. If this Bill were not passed, that would be increased by something over £200,000 for free beef. That would be the difference. That does not take into account the export bounty on cattle and so on. There was another item in connection with the export of cattle. There is a certain amount of export of cattle to Belgium and Germany, but there would be no loss in that connection as far as I can see.
Section 10 gave rise to quite a lot of discussion. I did not say that it was a drastic section. I said that some members of the Dáil were of opinion that it was a drastic section, and I think that Senators are taking a very serious view of it. It does not follow at all, in the first place, that very many victuallers would be brought under this section or, in the second place, that they would be driven out of business. All that happens is that an inspector buys the cattle. The inspector, of course, pays the minimum price and charges the expenses as well but they will be trivial. We do not intend at all to charge for the inspector's time in looking for cattle, for instance. We only intend to pay for transport charges. If an inspector buys cattle at a certain fair or market or at a certain farmhouse and has to pay a drover to bring the cattle in, the expense of that would be charged up. It is only such charges as the victualler would have to pay, probably in any case, if he were buying on his own that will be charged and there need be no fear that we are going to penalise a man by driving up the price to an exorbitant level.
As I said in moving the Second Reading, it is the best solution we can see of the difficulty of getting certain butchers to pay the minimum price, and it must be remembered that they are only a very small number. That small number, however, is responsible for a very big number not paying the minimum price. I have met victuallers myself, and I am sure every Senator has met them, who complained that they started off by paying the minimum price, but that their competitor was not paying it and was underselling them and they asked what could they do but come down and buy the cattle as cheaply as their competitors or go out of business. If we supply, under Section 10, the small minority who are responsible for making the minimum price almost inoperative with cattle and in that way get them to pay the minimum price, I think the big majority will straight away fall into paying the minimum price and we will have achieved what we are out to achieve, so far as the minimum price is concerned. I do not want it to be misunderstood at all that the original Act dealt only with minimum price. That was one thing with which it dealt, but it was chiefly brought in to deal with the cattle surplus, which was a very big problem. I think we have succeeded fairly well, so far as getting rid of the big surplus of cattle is concerned, and we are in a much better position now, so far as that surplus is concerned, than we were at this time last year when the Act was introduced.
Senator Blythe spoke about trying to make this section a little more equitable with regard to the butcher. I think Senator Blythe will probably agree that drastic action like that, if you like to refer to it as drastic action, action that is going to interfere with the individual, is not taken lightly by any Department. I might say that it is a most difficult thing to get a licence revoked, for instance, for a creamery, for a maize mill or any of those matters for which we have legislated. It has to go through several officials and every official up the line must put his note on the file and say whether he agrees or not with the inspector who seeks the removal of the licence. It goes through the Assistant-Secretary and the Secretary and eventually comes to me. I think it will be found if anybody had the time to go through these files, that unless there is unanimity at least between two or three higher officials, no action is ever taken. It will be the same here. The inspector will propose that an order should be served on a certain victualler that he should buy for that victualler. That would come through at least four higher officials before reaching me, and, as I say, as in the case of other legislation, there is not the slightest danger that action will be taken under this unless each individual officer is satisfied from the case put by the inspector that the course suggested should be adopted. Unless they were quite satisfied, and so state on the file, no action would be taken.
I do agree with Senator Blythe that it is rather strange that after this is done the appeal should come to the Minister again. I can remember within the last three or four days the case of a maize mill in which I had initialled, as Senator Blythe said, the serving of a notice of revocation of licence. A letter was sent to the person involved stating that he had time to appeal against it, and he made a very good case. It came back to me and the officers were not nearly as strong as they were in the first instance, having seen his case, but still they all recommended that the licence should go. When I saw that they had weakened, I consulted the Secretary, and said I thought that they were not as strong as they were in the beginning, and that it should not be proceeded with. He agreed with me, and it was withdrawn in that case. I think that every Senator will agree that under all these Acts every opportunity is given to the registered person before any drastic action is taken and, indeed, I may say, that Departmental officials and I myself are only too glad to get an excuse for not proceeding. If the person concerned says he made a mistake and that he was quite sure the thing would not occur again, it is nearly always taken as an excuse for not proceeding with the drastic action. I do not want to say that if that sort of thing is tried three or four times we are going to agree, but at least for a first offence it is always taken as sufficient reason for not proceeding.
I think I agree with Senator Blythe that the notice should have some time limit, but I think that, in practice, there is no doubt we will not operate under Sections 10 or 11 indefinitely. I may say that the Principal Act is expiring in any case next year, but my idea is that we would not operate that for more than three weeks. For a first offence, we certainly would not operate it for more than three weeks and then hand back the buying of his own cattle to the person concerned, stating that we were stepping out and allowing him to buy his own cattle again and that we would see if things would go on in a better way. Senator Counihan claims that the only advantage which this amending Bill is likely to bring to us is a better collection of levies, and he says that I blamed the butchers, the exporters, the farmers and everybody else, but that he blamed the Minister. I did not blame anybody to any great extent here. I blamed the original Act in that it was not drafted in a proper way to catch up with the very small number of butchers—and I want to repeat that—the small minority of butchers who were able to evade that Act. This is like any other trade. If you have an Act like this which compels a certain trade to pay a certain price, the big majority would prefer to see the Act administered drastically so that the small minority would be made to pay like the others and so that there would be no unfair competition. It is the small minority who were not paying the minimum price I blame. I did not blame the farmers because I did not think of them but, if I had, perhaps I would blame them, because I think the farmers did not behave well in regard to this Act. They were afraid to stand up to the thing and to report cases. We got reports of several cases in the Department in which the minimum price was not paid, and in every single case the farmer declined to proceed or to give evidence. I am quite sure that if the farmers had stood strong in the beginning they could have got the Act operated, but when there was any weakening the farmer who was inclined to stand out was a marked man and was not likely to sell his cattle in future and they were afraid of that.
Senator Counihan blames me because I did not give more than 22/- for cattle to Belgium and Germany. I do not want to say that 22/- is enough. I would very much like to give double that, but how could I do it? If Senator Counihan was in my place and had to send buyers to the Dublin market to pick out, say, 400 cattle, and if he gave much above what was the ordinary price, how would he select those from whom he will buy? The instruction I have given to the buyers is that they must pay the minimum price of 22/-. But I have instructed them, and I know they will do what I tell them, that if they can they should lift the market by giving a shilling or sixpence more. But if there is no one giving 22/- I do not see what advantage it would be for them to give more. There would be a great trouble to find out to whom the benefit should be given. It would be much better, if there is anything to be made on the German and Belgian trade, that it should be devoted to the cattle trade in general, for instance, by an increase in the export bounty. We are not able to say yet, we are not long enough at it to say, whether we are going to make a profit or not. But if we make a profit I shall do all I can to induce the Minister for Finance to allow me to take back that money from the Exchequer for the cattle trade in general.
How does the Minister then justify the cutting down of the bounty from 35/- to 20/-?
I shall deal with that later, but it is another question.
Is there anything to force the Minister to give that 22/-? Is the trade able to pay more normally?
I said we are not long enough in the business to know. Up to the present for the German trade I could give more, but I have been warned all the time not to depend upon the prices now. Probably prices will slump in Germany in the autumn. We are not guided by the prices in Germany; we have been guided by trying to bring the traders over here. I think Senator Counihan is right when he says that before this came into operation 450,000 fat cattle would be the correct figure. The export to Britain was about 240,000 and the home consumption about 140,000; that would be 380,000. The Senator says it was 450,000 cattle, but I am not sure. But I think the surplus is cleared. The preliminary census was published a few days ago, and it shows a reduction in the cattle in the country since this time last year. I think the number now would be lower than the average for the last ten years. Of course we have larger consumption than the average for ten years. Our export for stores is as big as it was. If we have got down considerably in "fats" we have almost made up for that in value. We have made up for it in the foreign market and in the provision for a canned meat factory. Taking all these things into consideration, and looking at our cattle and the disposal of them for the last ten years, I think we should be in a position to be able to dispose of the whole of our cattle——
That is a shameful statement for any Minister to make considering the conditions in the country at present.
I do not think so. We brought in an Act to provide for the disposal of cattle. I do not think there is anything to be ashamed of in the position.
Has the Minister figures of the number of fat cattle we hope to have available at the end of the year or of the number of licences available?
I might be able to get by to-morrow what we expect to get in licences for the rest of the year. But I think the Senator would be in as good a position as I am to look at the census.
We killed 140,000 calves.
The census was taken in June and takes that into account. As I am on that I should like to refer to the point made by Senator Baxter to the effect that the Act did not do what the Minister hoped. In the case of the minimum price it did not. It was not a success so far as the minimum price is concerned. The Act gave us power to deal with the surplus in many ways and we have availed of those powers given us. We set up a factory for the conversion of old cows into meat meal; we also are in negotiation with a firm to take on the canned beef business, and they will enter into operations before the end of the year. Further, we have used the powers given us to export cattle to Continental markets and elsewhere.
I wonder would the Minister tell us——
We cannot have so many questions put to the Minister interrupting him in his speech.
Senator Baxter adopted a very fair attitude in his speech on this Bill. He said that the Oireachtas having given me power last year, and a mandate to proceed with this legislation, it was up to the Seanad now to improve the Principal Act as far as possible. I think that is certainly a very fair attitude to adopt, even though Senators may be opposed to certain parts of this Bill. I think, as the Principal Act is there, Senators ought to help to improve the Principal Act, but, of course, if they think that any particular section is not going to be an improvement in its administration it is a different matter. I have heard from other people what Senator Baxter said that there has been no increase in the consumption of beef as a result of the Principal Act. I do not think that is true; it is certainly not true of some places. In Donegal, for instance, there has been a bigger slaughter of cattle on account of the free beef scheme. The trouble there is that the greater portion goes in free beef, and only a small portion is sold to the ordinary customer. Butchers find it very difficult to make it pay because 4d. per lb. for the greater part of the beef makes it very difficult for them to carry on. They are not in the position of the Dublin butchers who sell only a small part at 4d. and the greater part at more than 4d. But taking the Free State as a whole, I cannot yet say how it works out. We are disposing of about 1,000 cattle a week in the form of free beef. I do not think it is quite certain we have increased the consumption by 1,000 cattle a week. Part of that beef is, I think, due to the change over; there were people who were purchasing beef before the system came into operation, and are now getting free beef. I think there is some increased consumption. We will have a very good idea of that whole business perhaps in about three months more when the Act will be 12 months in operation; we can then see what the levies, and so on, amount to.
Senator Baxter wants to know if, under Section 10, a person could kill his own cattle. I do not think Section 10 prevents him. It does prevent him from buying. It will prevent him buying any cattle except through the inspector, but if he has cattle on his own farm, for instance, there is nothing to interfere, so far as I can interpret the section, with him killing those cattle. As regards the distribution of canned beef, the persons appointed will be traders. There is no intention of appointing special people for that purpose. They might be grocers, not necessarily butchers, but that is a thing that has not been definitely decided. There are very remote places in the West and in Donegal where people live many miles from a butcher's shop and it would be much more convenient for the recipients, and everybody concerned, if they were supplied with canned, rather than fresh beef. Probably it will be done through the local grocer instead of the butcher, but it will be done through a trader, at any rate.
The rate of 22/- is very small, but that is governed by the export price. The Senator will remember that 12 months ago the people exporting were getting 25/-, but then there was a big surplus left at home. The butchers had more than they wanted and they could bring the price down to 15/- or 16/-. The idea was to make them pay a better price. It would be very difficult to get them to do this unless we try to keep the export price and the home price about the same. If Senators say that 22/- is too low we will have to tackle it by raising the export price. The agitation should be directed towards increasing the export price, and that comes back to Senator Counihan's point about increasing the export bounty. That proposal may be resisted on the plea that there is not sufficient money to do it. But it is really towards that end that the agitation should be directed—to get the export bounty increased. It is then the export price will go up and the butcher's price will go up.
I have no power to control cleanliness in butchers' shops. It would not be a matter for me, but it would be for the Minister for Local Government and Public Health. I assume Senator Miss Browne was referring to the British market when she talked of the market we took from the farmers. We did not take the British market from the Irish farmer at all. Patriotic people here believe that the British Government was to blame more than we were. Of course, we have done a great deal to get the British market back, only we do not get any great credit for it. We have signed the Coal-Cattle Pact which was not popular with Senator Miss Browne and people of her Party.
It was not popular with your own side.
It was quite popular on our side.
It was good policy in any case.
As a matter of fact, there were bonfires lighted in Tipperary. At any rate, we have done our best and we will be only too willing to get the greatest possible share of the British market or any other market; but the difference between us is this, that we have other markets, valuable markets, available, and we have particularly the home market. For beef, the home market is more valuable than the British market. We are consuming more beef at home. No matter what Party they may belong to, Senators should not allow that inferiority complex to get hold of them. Always look on your own country as the most important. Senator Counihan found fault with Section 10. He rather thinks that I should buy for all the butchers. That is rather a sweeping thing for the Senator to advocate, and I do not think it would be necessary at all. He makes the plea that the butchers have weekly credit and might have to buy from the salesmen. All these things, I take it, will be considered. What we must consider above all is the producer. Senators should not be hard on me when I try to benefit the farmers. Even though they may have a great regard for the butcher, they should remember the farmer first.
I am not saying that Section 10 is ideal, but it is one way of dealing with this thing. If any Senators have a better way I have quite an open mind on the matter. Every Senator admits that the butchers are not paying the minimum price. I think it is rather going too far to suggest that Section 10 should be knocked out and let things go as they are. We might be a bit hard on the butcher here and there if we administer Section 10. Section 12 gives power to inspect and the inspector can visit various places to see cattle and sheep. It is impossible to limit those things. Senator Counihan says it should be limited to a registered person's farm or house, but if you do that you will have evasion again. If a butcher buys six cattle we want to see what becomes of the six cattle. The inspector goes to the butcher and the butcher tells him he killed two of the animals. Then the inspector wants to know where the other four are. If we had not power to go into everybody's land we could not administer the Act properly. The butcher might say they were on so-and-so's land, but that man might refuse permission to the inspector to enter and therefore, the whole thing would be evaded.
As a matter of fact, I could send an inspector to Senator Counihan's house; indeed, I could send six different inspectors working in County Dublin. One could accuse him of having maize meal, another of having tobacco, another of having butter, and so on. But they do not visit him in that way because they have no love for that sort of thing. They do not go unless they have very good reason, but nevertheless we must give them power to go into everybody's house and land. If not, they are sure to be frustrated by those clever people who know these Acts better than any lawyer. They will endeavour to evade the different sections unless we give very full powers to inspectors.
Am I to take it, on this question of prohibitory notice, it will be the policy in the first instance that a notice is served and its duration will not be more than three weeks?
I can give that assurance definitely.
Question agreed to.
As regards the Committee Stage of the Bill with which we have just dealt, I would like the House to remember that the staff of official reporters have a right to some holiday. I understand that they have got to be back on 3rd September to attend an important inquiry which is being conducted by a Select Committee. If we adjourn this Bill further than this week it will limit their chance of a holiday very seriously. If amendments are inserted the reporters would have to come back for other meetings of the Dáil and Seanad and they probably will have no opportunity for a holiday at all. If it is not a serious inconvenience, perhaps Senators could consider the Committee Stage to-morrow. I would ask them to do that.
Yes, to continue to-morrow.
I have a suggestion to offer that might perhaps get over the immediate difficulty. We have been almost always faced with this difficulty of scamping legislation, to some extent, so as to enable the staff to get proper holidays. That happened last year, it happened the year before, and it happened under the previous Government, so that it is nothing new. We have been always in this dilemma. I think most of us, including Senator Counihan, would like to end this week consistent with a proper examination of these Bills in Committee. I suggest that we might modify our procedure to this extent, that the understanding might be that immediately after the Committee Stage there should be an adjournment and that an effort should be made, arising out of the points raised, and in which there is indication on the part of the Minister to meet the points of view put forward to submit amendments later to-morrow evening or on Friday. I think the position is now that the Seanad is not going to reject this Bill. I am trying to look at the matter from a practical point of view. There are several points in these Bills which we are anxious to get altered and I know that the Minister, in the course of the discussion here to-day, has not taken up a non-possumus attitude. Therefore, it might be possible to reach a compromise on one or two matters. If that were done after the Committee Stage, without attempting to rush ill-considered amendments to-morrow, we might possibly arrange matters in such a way that we could finish on Friday of this week. The Minister on Friday might agree to amendments being brought in arising out of the discussion on the Committee Stage to-morrow. If we are to adjourn over next week for a fortnight I think it would be unfortunate for a good many of the staff so far as their holidays are concerned. For my part, while I am in favour of some such arrangement as this, I must say at the same time that I am not prepared to vote against Senators who feel very deeply about many of the sections in these Bills and who think they should be carefully considered. I think by adopting the course I suggest it would be possible to reach agreement on a good many points.
Practically every year something like this has occurred at the end of the session and legislation is rushed through hurriedly. The House, however, seems determined to give the Minister his way and I am not disposed to fight this matter out. I am prepared to let the Bill go through and if I have spare time I will draft and hand in by to-morrow any amendments that will be possible for me to draft. But I am not in a position to give this matter enough consideration. I expect to get home at 10.30 to-night and to get up at 4 o'clock to-morrow morning for the Dublin market. Under the circumstances I do not expect to have much time for preparing amendments.
My suggestion was not that the Senator should have his amendments in writing to-morrow; but in Committee the Senator might indicate points on which he wanted amendments made. I am not suggesting that he should go home now and spend his time drafting amendments which, under the circumstances, would be ill-considered or at least would not be fully thought out.
I think it would be within my competence if a Senator suggests an amendment to any section to-morrow to allow it to be considered. That amendment could be made a substantive amendment for the Report Stage on Friday if we think proper.
I think I might make a suggestion, and that is, that we should not try to attribute high and holy motives to ourselves about sympathy for the staff——
The Senator may not have sympathy for the staff but some of us have.
I am sorry that you take it in that manner, but I did not mean it that way. However, whoever the cap fits is welcome to wear it. If you, Sir, had given me time and not jumped down my throat I was going to say that there is another section of the staff which is being treated to an enforced holiday and we might consider them also and give them an opportunity of working a little longer.
Who are they?
The restaurant people.
Yes, the restaurant will be closed down.
It is perfectly obvious that we must accept Section 10 as the Minister drafted it and I do not think there will be any amendments to it.
We all know perfectly well that no amendment which is forced upon the Minister will become law. That is the position. The only chance of amending this Bill in the direction I have suggested is with the Minister's consent. Therefore I consider that Senator Douglas's suggestion is the better one.
Very well then, the Committee Stage will be taken to-morrow. I will allow amendments to be moved practically verbally to-morrow. Then if agreement can be reached between the Minister and the mover of the amendments they can be put down substantively on the Report Stage on Friday. Is that agreed?
The House adjourned at 9.35 p.m. until 3 o'clock on Thursday, 1st August.