The Minister, in his opening statement in the Dáil, said that the Marts Bill, as it is at present, ensures the freedom of buying and selling, and, in his opening statement in this House, he said the Bill was necessary in the national interests and in the farmers' interests. He also stated that the powers sought in this Bill were comparable with those granted under many other Bills. Now, so far as I can see, there is nothing whatsoever in this Bill to ensure freedom to buy and sell. The farmers already enjoyed this freedom for generations, as was stated today. Auction marts have been operating in this country for more than 70 years and there was no danger or no threat at any time to either buyers or sellers in those marts, so why is there this sudden anxiety to protect this freedom which we are told is in danger? No case has been made to show that the freedom to buy and sell was in danger. As far as we can see, the only guarantee the farmer has is in danger, that is, the freedom to buy and sell, that is, his determination to buy and sell without let or hindrance from anybody else. So long as the farmers maintain that right to buy and sell without let or hindrance or dictation from anybody else, there is no necessity for this Bill.
The Minister, and I am sure the Members of this House, will remember when it was thought necessary to issue statements to preserve the rights of buyers and sellers at fairs. The buyers and sellers fought regarding their rights so that they could sell and buy on their own conditions without any necessity for this. They just did not turn up to fairs themselves and this protection which is being offered to them gratuitously by the Minister is not necessary.
I do not believe that anybody can fairly see, so far as is apparent at any rate in my county, where we have several marts, and where we also have fairs, that there is any danger to anybody who wants to buy or sell, let it be at a mart or a fair. I do not believe there is any interference in any way with the freedom to do so. Anybody I have met in County Clare who buys and sells at fairs or marts does not believe that there is any need for this anxiety to protect buyers' rights. They have exercised those rights for many years now, as well as people before them, without let or hindrance. They cannot see the urgent need for this Bill at the moment.
We have been told that the Bill is necessary in the national interest. I cannot see that it is, but if it is necessary, then one would expect that there would be a public outcry or some public demand for it in the national interest. I have heard no public outcry from anybody for such a Bill. I have not seen or heard of any organisation or body of farmers or business people, who helped to build those marts, and who stand to gain in their business through marts and fairs, asking or demanding publicly that some such Bill be passed. One would expect that type of thing if it were in the national interest.
Mind you, there is nothing airy-fairy about these marts. They are strictly business. A lot of money is involved. There is big money in the cattle business and in the cattle trade. If it were in that particular interest, not to mind the national interest, this Bill would be passed but the policy statement that it is in the national interest is ridiculous. In fact, every organisation interested in the cattle trade have passed resolutions condemning this Bill and condemning the Minister personally for introducing it. They have passed resolutions asking that it be withdrawn. These are organisations which represent the farmers and they are numerous. You have the NFA, the Irish Agricultural Wholesale Society, Chambers of Commerce, the Association of Civil Liberties, the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society, and even the interest which represents the Irish marts have protested against the introduction of this Bill. So, far from being in the national interest, it would appear, if one were to accept the views of these organisations and not to seek further information as one would be entitled to, the contrary is so. These are all responsible organisations representing responsible people. They are important bodies who are deeply interested in these marts. Therefore, one would be entitled to say that this Bill is not in the national interest but against it and against the interest of all these people who make their living through the marts.
No organisation has, in fact, come out in favour of this Bill. No representative of any organised body has spoken in favour of it, except the Fianna Fáil Party. They are entitled to do that because they are speaking the Minister's mind, and they have been asked, I am sure, to do that. There is nothing wrong in that. They are, in fact, toeing the Party line and I would be the last to say that it would be wrong to toe the Party line.
It is true that nobody except the Fianna Fáil Party has asked that this Bill be passed. Every other organisation has come out completely against it. We have such organisations as the Association of Civil Liberties saying that this Bill is civil liberty's natural enemy. TheSunday Independent of 23rd July, 1967, issued a statement over the name of Mr. Deale, its honorary secretary, which states:
We believe, however, that the Government's refusal to entrust the granting or withholding of mart licences to the District Court combined with its proposal to entrust an inquiry into the revocation of an existing licence to a person not a judge, is an expression of lack of confidence in the Irish judiciary which has done nothing to deserve this distrust.
We should all subscribe to that. While one would subscribe to the views expressed there by the Association of Civil Liberties, one would have more regard to the views expressed on this Bill by the Incorporated Law Society. Today, we had a view expressed by a member of that Society and I regret that he is not in the House now. There is a statement issued by that Society under the name of Mr. Eric Plunkett in theIrish Independent of 8th July, 1967. He says on behalf of the Council of the Incorporated Law Society:
What is sought in the present Bill is to enable the Minister for Agriculture to determine the rights of individual citizens without any appeal to the courts. This is dangerous power to entrust to any Minister or any Department.
It is apparently suggested that there should be a right of appeal to a lawyer appointed by the Minister. An appeal from a ministerial decision to a nameless person appointed by the Minister is no substitute for a right of appeal to the Courts...
It goes on at length but I do not intend to go further except where he wound up by saying:
The citizen needs the protection of the courts against possible invasion of his rights and the continued erosion of judicial safeguards is against the interests of the public and particularly of the weaker sections of the community.
I think that is a very fair comment from a responsible body. Yet, we have a man here today who was a party to this statement and he behaves here as if this organisation never existed, as if they had never issued a statement and as if they are the only legal opinion worthy of belief in this country. I presume he knew what he was talking about, and I am sure he did. I presume he knew why he was speaking. My guess is that he thinks more about what Fianna Fáil get at an election than he does about the views and opinions of his own association. Whatever the reasons, it is obvious that the speech made here today by Senator Nash is a purely political speech and means little, unless he disowns the Incorporated Law Society. He said here today that he was present at the meeting, and if he does not disown this statement, then we must presume that he has one eye on the Fianna Fáil Party and their nomination and their votes, and the other eye behind him as if he has no further ambitions.
Reference was made here today and, I think, yesterday and in the Dáil to powers already granted to the Government in other Bills analagous to the powers sought in this Bill. One measure referred to was the Pigs and Bacon Act, 1935. This Act tries to ensure several things. To put it simply, the aims and objects behind it and the reason it was passed was, first of all, to ensure that so far as possible there would be good quality pigs and then to ensure, that as far as possible, the producers would receive the maximum prices for these pigs. I do not think that there was any other body but the Government who would try to ensure those things and whatever rules and regulations were laid down under that Act were necessary for the achievement of these objectives.
There was reference here also to the Insemination Act of 1947. This Act was passed obviously so that the most rigorous precautions would be taken to ensure a high standard in our cattle breeds and to ensure that in the process of insemination nothing could or would be done to weaken the strain of our cattle and to ensure that only the best possible strains would be used. There was nobody able to do this; there was no alternative to allowing the Government to do it. There could be no objection to the regulations, to whatever powers they took under that Bill, because all those powers and regulations were essential to achieve that objective.
The Poultry Hatcheries Act was mentioned. This Act was passed and the regulations made under it were to ensure that unscrupulous people would be prevented from offering on the open market cockerels as pullets. We remember how this happened on the market; it is not necessary to remind Senators how prevalent was this practice and, in fact, may still be. I heard of a case quite recently where the Department were successful in their efforts in this regard. It is quite obvious that only the Department, only the Government, could do this job and that they should be allowed to use whatever powers and regulations they deem necessary.
Somebody on the other side mentioned the Seed Production Act of 1965. Again, obviously, this Act was passed to ensure that whatever seeds were produced would conform to the certificate of the Department and that our exports of seeds—whatever brand they might be—would conform to the certificate of the Department, thereby ensuring that our exports and our own crops at home would be safeguarded. These are very important matters. They are essential matters and only the Department could be trusted with this power and only the Department could in fact do it. Whatever about giving them the power, there could be no option: only they could do it. It was necessary that it be done and, therefore, they had to get these powers.
There was reference also to the Fertilisers and Feeding Stuffs Act of 1955. This Bill was passed to ensure that our mixed fertilisers and feeding-stuffs would conform to the certificate of the Department—a very simple requirement, but it is very important and essential that these conform to the certificate of the Department. It is obvious to everybody that only the Government, only the Department, could do that.
This Bill is brought in and we are told the powers sought in it are somewhat the same as were asked for in the other Bills and that the Fine Gael Party offered no objection, that in fact the Fine Gael Ministers were responsible for some of them. Nobody can say that this Bill is necessary; nobody can say it is necessary that this Bill be introduced so that marts may be established; nobody can say it is necessary that this Bill be introduced so that marts can be operated in a hygienic fashion; nobody can say anything about this Bill, if he is honest, but that it is simply and solely an attack on one farming organisation, the NFA.
There are many things the Minister for Agriculture could occupy himself with at the moment rather than attacking the NFA in this manner, or indeed attacking any group of farmers in any way. But is he doing any of these things? Is he devoting part of his attention to trying to devise a proper system of meat marketing? Is he doing anything to prevent another slump in our cattle prices this year such as occurred last year? If he is, it is not very apparent. Those things should occupy his attention fully during the next few months instead of trying to bulldoze the Bill through in spite of Dáil and Seanad and in spite of all the organisations we have mentioned who are opposed to it.
The marts, as they exist today, were by and large established by the cooperative efforts of farmers, businessmen, professional men, white collar workers and in my town bybona fide labouring men—one man works on the roads for the county council. They do not operate the marts in an inefficient manner. Nothing could be further from the truth. They are being organised and run in the most efficient manner and they provide a most efficient marketing organisation for our farmers. The men who run the marts know their business. They know what it is all about and they run them profitably, in an efficient manner.
I know how necessary hygiene is in regard to the running of the marts but those who run them at present are able to take all the precautions necessary in regard to hygiene. In any event, the local health authorities are charged to take care of these matters and we have had no complaints from them. There has been no action taken against those people. The local health authorities know the amount of accommodation that is required by buyers and sellers. They know about the precautions that have to be taken to prevent animal disease. Yet we are told it is necessary to bring in a Bill to provide for the proper running of those marts.
There may be marts, and I have heard of such marts, which have collapsed, but they are the exception. Like any other business, the running of a mart is a business. Businesses fold up every day because they are badly run, because they do not conform to regulations, but they are the hazards of business. The people who run the marts are well able to run them. I do not know what the people opposite think but I know that the people who run the marts think there should not be any further interference with them. They have established the marts efficiently, they have run them efficiently and, having done that, they do not see why the Minister should say: "This is how you should run your business."
When the marts were being organised and established there was a deliberate attempt to boycott them by various sections. They were interfered with. Meetings were held to protest against their establishment and various threats were issued at these meetings. However, I did not hear that the Minister for Agriculture took any action to prevent the attempts to boycott the marts.
When one looks at the situation before the marts were established—an antiquated, insanitary system, which still holds in many places as will be seen by anyone who goes to our small towns and villages and sees the appalling state of the streets: how business people and owners of private houses have to barricade their houses the night before to prevent them being destroyed by livestock—one wonders why the Minister has made no attempt to bring in regulations about hygiene in the public streets or in fair greens. Nothing at all was done by the Minister or the Government to ensure that there would be some system of hygienic selling and buying of cattle before the marts were established successfully, run successfully and operated hygienically. When the Minister speaks about the necessity for hygiene in marts he is just being glib because there are already in the hands of local health authorities sufficient powers to ensure that any business, whether it be a mart or a slaughter house, where animals are sold or exposed for sale, is run hygienically.
It was stated here that it was in the financial interests of the farmers and those who bought and sold livestock at these marts that the Bill should be passed. I do not know how that can be stated. A simple thing like a fidelity bond as applies to the auctioneers' association—the precedent is there— would suffice. There is, therefore, no reason to bring in new regulations; they have been there for years and are working satisfactorily.
Through this measure the Minister seeks powers to reject some of the provisions of the Bill. For instance, he seeks power to exempt any person or group of persons as he thinks fit. In other words, the Minister wants to say: "I shall pass this Bill; I will make regulations under the Bill but, at the same time, I want power to exempt any person or any group of persons or any place from the provisions of the Bill." I do not think any Minister should have that power. Well and good, if the Minister makes a case for regulations, then he should be given those powers and he should be given his Bill; but when the Minister seeks to have it both ways—to enforce the law and at the same time exempt anybody he thinks fit from the effects of that law—then I do not think he should be given the powers he seeks.
In section 3(2) the Minister "may at the time of the granting of a licence attach to the licence such conditions as he shall think proper and shall specify in the licence". That is not democratic. That is Government by ministerial decree. It is the type of thing that has brought governments down throughout the world for hundreds of years. It is the type of law that operates in Russia and elsewhere that a Minister may make whatever decisions he likes when he thinks proper and that, also if he thinks proper, he may apply those decisions or he may not. I do not see why any member of any government should have any power under any Bill when that power has not been spelled out for him and the terms and conditions in which he may operate that power also spelled out. I know this is the type of power Ministers like to have, though they may never use it. I am not suggesting the Minister would use such powers in an improper way. Of course, he may, but it is in the atmosphere of such power that organisations such as Taca are built. It is in the atmosphere of such power that we see organisations such as Taca getting their pound of flesh from their £100 a plate dinners.
There is little use in the Taoiseach and his Ministers going around this country to various functions, dinner parties and such like, talking about private enterprise and co-operation in the national interest when they allow such a Bill to be introduced. This type of Bill will kill all initiative, all attempts at co-operation in the farming industry because when the farmers see how successful they have been at co-operation, how successful they have been building businesses in co-operation with townspeople and professional people, when they see how they can do these things and then see the Minister stepping in to victimise them, to make provisions such as those involved in this Bill to control their businesses at his whim, then he can rest assured that the farmers and businessmen will be slow to co-operate. There is no provision in this Bill for appeal to a Court. I was not present when Senator Yeats spoke but I understand he complained about the manner in which the Bill was being attacked. He stated, I think, that the courts are entirely unsuitable——