Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Bill, 1936—Money Resolution. - Merchant Shipping (Spanish Civil War) Bill, 1937—Second and Final Stages.

I move "That the Bill be now read a Second Time." In the Act which was passed some weeks ago concerning the Spanish Civil War, for the purpose of implementing the non-intervention agreement provision was made for the prohibition of the export of contraband, of war material, to Spain. The International Committee for the application of that agreement, which consists of representatives of the Governments of all the parties to it, has deemed it expedient to establish a system of observation around the Spanish frontiers for the purpose of ascertaining whether that non-intervention agreement is being effectively observed. The resolution which embodied a scheme of control was adopted at a meeting on Monday last and it was then decided to bring the scheme into operation as quickly as possible. A board, to be known as the International Board for non-intervention in Spain, has been set up to administer the observation scheme. It will have as its officers a number of administrators and observers who will report breaches of the international non-intervention agreement and furnish material which will enable the participating Governments to take whatever action is necessary.

It is obvious that observation and control on the sea frontiers require the imposition of certain obligations upon merchant shipping and it is for that reason that this Bill is necessary. It is necessary to provide that any shipping proceeding to Spanish territory will, in accordance with the scheme of control, call at a particular place en route for the purpose of taking on board one of these international observers, who will remain on the ship during its stay in Spanish territory and be brought back by it to a port of disembarkation, one of the observation stations. It is necessary to give, by law here, the members of that international staff powers of interrogating passengers and crews and examining cargoes and documents relating to them and also to provide for their accommodation and subsistence on board ship. It is also necessary to provide in our law for the conferring upon the officers of the naval forces of the countries France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom, which will be patrolling the Spanish coast, power to board our ships approaching the Spanish coast and to interview the officers and examine the documents. It is for that purpose this Bill has been framed. It has been framed in a manner which gives fairly wide powers to act by regulation.

It is not intended to bring the Bill into operation until the scheme of control is brought into operation simultaneously by all countries. Legislation has already been introduced by some countries—all the countries that are parties to the agreement have undertaken to do so. It is hoped to bring the scheme of control into operation at a fairly early date and it is desirable, therefore, that this Bill should pass before Easter. The two main purposes are to provide for this regulation of merchant ships by the placing on them of this obligation to call at an observation port and take an observer on board and, secondly, to confer on the officers of patrolling naval forces the right to regulate Saorstát ships. The Bill is consequential on the principal Act passed some weeks ago dealing with non-intervention in Spain and it is necessary, because our law does not make provision for the regulation of merchant shipping in this way in the ordinary course.

It is quite agreed that this is a Bill to implement the machinery of non-intervention which was agreed to by all Parties in the House. We all realise that legislation will not prevent anything except there is machinery to implement it and whatever machinery is considered necessary or desirable in the interests of the Governments most intimately associated with this particular problem it will, I presume, be given freely by every Parliament anxious for non-intervention.

The Minister, when introducing this Bill, might have given us possibly a little more information than he did give us. First of all, I would like to be informed exactly to what extent, in terms of ships, this particular Bill affects us. I do not know whether we have one ship subject to search under the terms of this Bill, or 51. I do not know how many trading ships or other types of sea-going vessels are registered in the Saorstát and, therefore, come within the terms of this Bill. I imagine that the number would not be very great. Apparently, the outcome of the work of this committee provides for what I would imagine must be a considerable host of sea searchers. Presumably some arrangement is made with regard to meeting the expenditure or the cost of that particular host of sea searchers. I take it every participating nation is committed to portion of the expense to a greater or lesser extent. Is the contribution paid by any participant country in proportion to the number of their sea-going vessels, or is it in proportion to their total revenue as compared with the total annual revenue of other participating countries? What I really want to get at is: on what basis is the contribution fixed which will be paid by any of the participating countries?

Further, in the course of the Minister's remarks he told us that the functions of these boarding inspectors would be to secure and to ensure that any vessel in the neighbourhood of Spain, or going towards Spain, would not carry any war material. I may be peculiarly ignorant on the point, but perhaps seafaring people are as ignorant on these matters. Personally, I do not know offhand what is regarded as war material in the eyes of this committee. Is there some particular definition? If there is, I should like to know the definition. I read in the papers lately in association with Spain that there was a fairly serious difference of opinion in some American State as to what should be, or may be, legitimately regarded as war material. I take it that some nations would even stretch the definition of war material so very far as to include, say, clothing for troops. Unquestionably, certain countries would be entitled to regard the requisites required by any branch of an army as being war material. Red Cross requisites are the requirements essentially demanded by the medical end of an army. Even though such requirements and such supplies may be required by one or other of the combatant forces, I should like to know if Red Cross supplies would be held up or regarded as war material by the inspectors. I am raising these particular points purely in pursuit of information, because every one of us will be asked a considerable number of questions following this Bill.

There is one other point I should like information upon. I see here that penalties are laid down, and quite properly so, because there is no good in prohibiting a thing without having penalties for breach of that particular law. There are penalties laid down, either by way of fine or imprisonment or both, for breach of the regulations contained in this particular Bill. The Bill refers to the fact that transgressors will be punishable by law and that the punishment will be up to a maximum of so much in terms of pounds, and so much in terms of imprisonment. Is the law referred to that of the home country of the transgressor? If a Saorstát vessel with a Saorstát captain or master is held up in Spanish waters by British agents, will they be brought back here and tried and sentenced in an Irish court? That would mean that these inspectors will spend a considerable portion of their time travelling to and fro over the world in order to give evidence in various world courts. I can imagine in any given week vessels from Russia and from America, perhaps vessels of our own, or vessels from, we will say, Japan being held up in Spanish waters, boarded by inspectors, and found to contain some little packet of war material. If a law such as this is broken, it is the breach that matters and not the extent of the breach. So that one packet of what would be regarded as war material, or one sailor's pocket with three or four loose bullets in it, would mean that that particular ship had transgressed that particular law. Will it be necessary for the boarding inspector in such a case to go back to the country in which that ship was registered in order to give evidence in the courts there, or is there any particular machinery to save time and cut down expenses by taking the testimony of that man by some system of sworn declaration conveyed through the post and acceptable to the court?

Following on what Deputy O'Higgins has said, I should like to ask one or two other questions. I had not the advantage of hearing what the Minister said when introducing the measure. I have only to take what may have been his comments by deduction from what Deputy O'Higgins said. All through his speech there has occurred this word "searchers." Is there any right of search under this Bill whatsoever? I should like an answer to that.

There is no right of search being conferred on the naval forces, but there is a right being conferred on the observer.

To go through the cargo with the object of stopping the landing of the cargo?

No, not of stopping it.

There is no question of stopping the landing even of contraband goods.

All that is at stake is that there will be certain observers put on board vessels, and their duty will be to report to the Government of the country where the ship is registered that somebody belonging to that country, or flying the flag of that country, has broken what is the law of that country, and that is the beginning and the end of it. I think that is the situation. There is a further point. This will only apply to vessels flying the flags of the participating countries. Therefore, such a boat as the only vessel that has made an attempt to put into Spain, and which was stopped by the only real non-interventionist in the whole world, General Franco, stopped by gun-fire, can go through and will not be liable to observation. I refer to a Mexican boat. Mexico is not one of the participating countries. They can sail along the coast of Spain, with this horde of nearly 800 observers, and they have not the right even to stop that boat or go on board. That is the situation as I understand it.

That is the situation we are aiding by making nationals of our criminals, if they in a country involved in this matter bring something that is considered to be contraband on board a boat. I gather the Minister did not make it clear that there is no question of stopping goods from getting to Spain. They can get there, even if they are in ships flying the flags of the countries in this agreement. The only thing that will happen will be a criminal prosecution after the event in whatever is the country of the national who has run these contraband goods. I understood all along that that was the situation, and I think it is the real situation.

Deputy O'Higgins asked for information as to cost. Apparently the Minister did not give that. The only estimate of cost the papers have carried is that if this were to continue for a year it would cost roughly £1,000,000. Eighty per cent. of that expenditure is to be borne by the five great Powers. The remaining 20 per cent. is, apparently, to be divided out between the other 22 participating countries. I do not know whether that is going to be on the basis of 1 per cent. on each of the others, but that would land us in an expenditure of about £9,000 or £10,000. Presumably a Vote will have to be taken for that hereafter, when this matter can be raised again. I think this should be said with regard to this Bill, that is the second stage of whatever are the practical methods thought likely to achieve non-intervention in reality. It is coming along, of course, long after there has been any rhythm of intervention in Spain but, as far as similar Bills, and the Bill passed in December in the British House of Commons in regard to arms and munitions carried in ships, it was then stated in the House of Commons that the necessity for that Bill arose from the very ordinary reason that the British Government had not granted belligerent rights to either of the two Governments at war in Spain, and because of a warning by General Franco that he would stop by forcible methods any boats attempting to bring arms or munitions to the Caballero Government.

The British Government was then faced with the possibility that British ships might be stopped, forcibly held and searched, and possibly sunk, by people to whom they had not accorded belligerent rights. In order to prevent that the British Government decided that they would push on non-intervention in a practical manner by prohibiting imports of arms and munitions to Spain. I suppose the practical result of this Bill is going to be small. I do not think there are many boats, registered in this country, trading with Spain, except whatever boats the Limerick Steamship Company have, which carry our eggs there but unfortunately do not carry back any payments in return. The possible effect of this measure will be on whatever boats the Limerick Steamship Company have trading occasionally with Spain. There is no great possibility of friction here. There was no great possibility at any time that there was going to be much trouble, because the Franco Government decided they would stop boats carrying munitions to Spain. In so far as we are joining in this we are distinctly following up a measure that may have very good effects from the humanitarian point of view, founded on the British desire and inclination not to have war breaking out through the fact that people with whom they are not associated might bring munitions to Spain.

Deputy O'Higgins asked a few questions that I should like to answer. There are about 200 ships registered in the Saorstat, and the great majority of them are small and could scarcely successfully undertake the journey to Spain, but some of them could, if necessary. It is necessary to have control over all ships. The number of ships engaged in carrying cargo between Spain and the Saorstat is small, but it is necessary to ensure that no ships registered in the Saorstát will act contrary to this scheme of control, but will be subject to the regulation to call at the observation posts and take observers on board. Deputy McGilligan is correct in his statement that those who go on board ships will be observers, will be allowed to inspect the cargo, to interview the crews and examine the papers, but if they discover any breach of the law of this country in respect of the transhipment of war material, they will report here, and the necessary legal steps will be taken by the Government of the Saorstát.

The cargo goes on?

Yes. Provision is made in this scheme of control so that the evidence of subordinate staffs will be taken wherever possible on commission, in the method prescribed in the country concerned, in order to avoid the necessity of witnesses having to proceed to the country in which control takes place. I did not refer to the expenditure on the scheme of control, because it does not directly arise, and a Supplementary Estimate will have to come before the Dáil to provide for our contribution under the scheme. It will be at the maximum £8,000, as the estimate of the general cost has been reduced somewhat from the £1,000,000 referred to. Each of the five big European Powers, France, Germany, Great Britain, Russia and Italy, are contributing 16 per cent. and the remainder will be spread over the participating countries on the basis of their contribution to the League of Nations. There is a regular basis of contributions to the League of Nations. Our contribution will be .8 per cent.

Did the Minister say £8,000 or £80,000?

£8,000. What constitutes war material for the purpose of the scheme has been agreed upon by the Non-Intervention Committee and was embodied in the Schedule of an Order made by the Executive Council a few weeks ago which, for the purpose of the Non-Intervention Act passed in February, declared certain goods to be war material. The only articles included are obviously war material such as rifles, machine guns, grenades, armour-plating, tanks, aircraft, flame-throwers, mustard gas and powder for war purposes. There is no reference to articles of clothing; certainly nothing that could be regarded as Red Cross supplies. I think these were the principal points raised. The Bill merely gives power to impose legal obligations on our nationals, in order to ensure that they will conform to the scheme of control devised. So far as regular steamship companies are concerned all reputable companies that we could possibly ascertain have agreed to the requirement to call at the observation posts to take observers on board. It is necessary to have law in case there would be individual cases of evasion. In any case, it is necessary to have the law to give the right of search to the naval forces concerned.

Question put and agreed to.

When will the Committee Stage be taken?

I understand it has been agreed to take all stages now.

Question proposed: "That Section 1 stand part of the Bill."

The Minister mentioned that there might be some expenditure under this Bill.

No. I stated that the contribution would be a maximum of £8,000 for the scheme of control, and that a Supplementary Estimate will come before the Dáil to provide for that contribution.

There is no expenditure now?

If you require ships to embark or to disembark the officers will not that mean expenditure?

That will be met by the International Committee.

To which we will subscribe?

Surely there is expenditure involved in carrying that out?

In so far as expenditure is involved in that, provision will have to be made by a Supplementary Estimate.

If there is a Supplementary Estimate involved surely it is the habit to have it at this stage?

Not on this Bill.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 2 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 3 stand part of the Bill."

Who are the International Committee?

It consists of representatives of the Governments of all the countries which are participating in the non-intervention pact.

Who are the board?

The board consists of a chairman, who has been appointed by the International Committee, and representatives of Germany, France, Russia, Great Britain and Italy.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 4 and the Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendments.
Question—"That the Bill be received for final consideration"—put and agreed to.
Question—"That the Bill do now pass"—put and agreed to.