Pigs Marketing Board v Donnelly (Dublin) Ltd

JurisdictionIreland
CourtHigh Court
Judgment Date30 March 1939
Date30 March 1939
Pigs Marketing Board v. Donnelly (Dublin), Ltd.
THE PIGS MARKETING BOARD
Plaintiffs
and
DONNELLY (DUBLIN), LIMITED
Defendants.

Pigs and Bacon Acts - Liability of licensed bacon manufacturers - Whether Acts ultra vires the powers of the Oireachtas - Constitution - Delegation of legislative powers - Legislative interference with contractual and proprietary rights - Whether constitutional - Absence of certificate specified in s. 70,sub-s. 5, of Pigs and Bacon Act, 1937 - Whether a bar to recovery of levy - Pigs and Bacon Act, 1935 (No. 24 of 1935), ss. 134, 147; Pigs and Bacon Act, 1937 (No. 23 of 1937), ss. 70, 77 - Constitution of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann éireann) Act, 1922 (No. 1 of 1922), Sch. I, Arts. 2 and12; Constitution of Éire éire, 1937, Arts. 15 and 43.

Witness Action.

The plaintiffs were a statutory body corporate' established under Part IV of the Pigs and Bacon Act, 1935 (hereinafter referred to as "the Act of 1935"), to fulfil the functions assigned to them by that Act. The defendants were a firm of bacon manufacturers and were "licensees" as defined in s. 23 of the Act of 1935 and s. 2 of the Pigs and Bacon Act, 1937 (hereinafter referred to as "the Act of 1937").

By s. 140 of the Act of 1935 the plaintiffs were directed to fix the price (referred to as "the appointed price")per hundredweight of different specified categories of pigs in respect of specified periods known as "sale periods";by s. 144 of the same Act "licensees" (as defined in s. 23 of the Act) were prohibited from purchasing pigs at amounts other than those calculated by reference to the appointed price. By s. 147 it was provided that, where the appointed price was less than a sum fixed by the Board as being the proper price for such pigs under normal conditions (which sum was referred to as "the hypothetical price") the Board should serve a notice on every licensee requiring payment, in respect of each pig bought by such licensee during the relevant sale period, of a sum calculated by reference to the difference between the appointed price and the hypothetical price of that class of pig; the section further provided that the moneys required to be paid by such notice should be a debt due by the licensee to the Board and should be recoverable as a simple contract debt.

The Act of 1937 contained substantially similar provisions to the above, but substituted a somewhat different machinery for the recovery of moneys due by the licensees to the Board. By s. 70 of the Act of 1937 it was provided that whenever the Board had made an order (called a "hypothetical price order"), fixing the hypothetical price of any class of pigs, and the appointed price for such pigs was less than the hypothetical price, licensees should pay to the Board a "levy," calculated by reference to the difference between the appointed price and the hypothetical price. Sub-s. 5 of s. 70 provided:— "Where any person is liable under this section to pay to the Board at the expiration of any period any levy the Board shall as soon as may be after the expiration of such period ascertain the amount thereof, and make in respect of such person a certificate certifying that the said amount is payable by such person in respect of such period and serve a copy of such certificate on such person, and upon such service such amount shall be a debt due and payable by such person to the Board, and may be recovered as a simple contract debt in any Court of competent jurisdiction."

The plaintiffs sued the defendants for £14,712 3s. 7d., whereof £5,510 1s. 1d. was claimed as due by virtue of s. 147 of the Act of 1935 and £9,202 2s. 6d. as due by virtue of s. 70 of the Act of 1937. In their defence, the defendants pleaded (inter alia) that the Pigs and Bacon Acts, 1935 and 1937, were invalid and unconstitutional, as being repugnant to Arts. 2 and 12 of the Constitution of Saorstát Éireann éireann and to Art. 5, Art. 15, clause 2 (i), Art. 21, clause 1 (i), Art. 40, clause 3, and Art. 43 of the Constitution of Éire éire, and as containing provisions amounting to an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power by the Oireachtas. The defendants also denied that any such certificate as is referred to in s. 70 of the Act of 1937 had been made by the plaintiffs.

The facts appear sufficiently for the purposes of this report in the judgment of Hanna J.

The Attorney-General was served with notice under Or. XX of the Rules of the High Court and Supreme Court, 1926, and was represented at the hearing.

The Pigs and Bacon Acts, 1935 and 1937, are not ultra vires the powers of the Oireachtas nor unconstitutional. The provisions of the Acts authorising the Pigs Marketing Board to fix a "hypothetical price" do not amount to a delegation of legislative powers. Notwithstanding the provisions of Arts. 2 and 12 of the Constitution of Saorstát Éireann éireann and Art. 15, clause 2 (i), of the Constitution of Éire éire, matters of detail and requiring export knowledge may be delegated by the Oireachtas to subordinate bodies. Notwithstanding the provisions of Art. 43, clause 1 (ii), of the Constitution of Éire éire, legislation interfering with trade competition or with contractual or proprietary rights of citizens is not per se unconstitutional.

It is a condition precedent to the recovery of levies under s. 70 of the said Act of 1937 that the Pigs Marketing Board shall ascertain the amount due from each person liable under the provisions of the Act and serve upon each of such persons a copy of a certificate, made under the seal of the Board, certifying the amount due, and a notice under the hand of an official of the Board is not equivalent to such a certificate.

The question whether or not an Act of the Oireachtas is in conformity with Art. 12 of the Constitution of Saorstát Éireann éireann as having been enacted for the "peace, order and good government" of the State, and the question whether or not the exercise of the legislative powers of the Oireachtas has been in accordance with Art. 43, clause 2 (i), of the Constitution of Éire éireas having boon "regulated by the principles of social justice," are difficult of determination by the Court since there is no rule of law or standard available to guide the Court upon such matters.

So held by Hanna J.

Cur. adv. vult.

Hanna J.:—

This action is brought by the Pigs Marketing Board against the defendants to recover the sum of £14,712 3s. 7d., being amounts payable in pursuance of certain provisions

of the Pigs and Bacon Acts of 1935 and 1937. This sum is divisible into two parts—£5,416 7s. 4d. due under the Act of 1935 and £9,202 2s. 6d. due under the Act of 1937. The figure, £5,416 7s. 4d., was in the course of the hearing adjusted to £5,510 1s. 1d. Different considerations apply to these two claims and these shall be considered later.

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