I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. This Bill is simple in its construction. Its main provision is set out in sub-section (1) of Section 2 which purports to give the Government power, by order, to make such provisions as are, in the opinion of the Government, necessary for securing the public safety, for the preservation of the State, for the maintenance of public order and for the provision and control of supplies and services essential to the life of a community. Sub-section (2) of the same section sets out, by way of illustration and without prejudice to the generality of sub-section (1), the various powers which the Government will secure when sub-section (1) is enacted. The wide scope of the section is necessary, as was explained by the Taoiseach in his opening speech to-day, by reason of the fact that it is impossible to foresee all the circumstances that may arise for this country during the progress of a European war. It is obvious that many immediate difficulties will arise, some of them of considerable magnitude, but difficulties which are at present unforeseeable may also he experienced, and it is necessary that the Government should be equipped with powers to deal, and to deal expeditiously, with such difficulties should they occur. It is because of the nature of the circumstances, because of the impossibility of foreseeing future developments, because of the need for giving the Government power to act quickly in relation to these developments, that this section has been drawn in this wide manner. I am sure that no Deputy would expect the Government to be able to foretell with any precision the particular circumstances that may have to be dealt with and the powers that might be required to deal with these circumstances. It is precisely because all of the circumstances cannot be foreseen, because nobody can foretell with certainty what to-morrow, the day after, or next week may bring for us that the section has been widely drawn and the Government given power to deal with the needs of any situation that may arise by order, every such order being liable to subsequent annulment by vote of the Dáil.
The various sub-paragraphs of sub-section (2) will give Deputies some indication of the powers which the Government consider it necessary to have now. The earlier sub-paragraphs (a), (b) and (c), relate to the matter of supply, that is, the supply of essential commodities, and under these paragraphs, the Government is given power to control the export and import of these commodities, to regulate the distribution and consumption of these commodities and to fix prices. The Government is also given power to enter directly into trade and to engage in the manufacture, sale or distribution of any essential commodities.
It is obvious that these powers are necessary. The most immediate difficulty that will arise for this country is that of maintaining supplies and it is evident that some of these difficulties will be incapable of being overcome Those who had experience of the last war will realise that almost immediately following its outbreak, there was a cessation of many forms of industrial and commercial activity, causing considerable unemployment, and it is inevitable that the same will happen now. It will be the responsibility of the Government to try to minimise that effect of a European war upon our people, but it will not be possible to avoid it altogether. In the matter of maintaining supplies of raw material for industry, something has been done. Private firms have been urged by the Government, and, in some cases, assisted by the Government, to maintain stocks of such commodities for some time past, but in many cases such a course would have been impracticable either because of the nature of the stocks—not all forms of commercial materials can be stored for any length of time—or because of the difficulty of obtaining exceptional supplies or of financing their storage. In some cases, there were, in fact, physical difficulties, such as the absence of suitable storage facilities.
In the case of such firms they may be able to carry on for some time without any interruption in their normal activities. In the case of other concerns, it will be possible, we think, to make various arrangements to substitute commodities which can be utilised so as to enable them to change from one form of production to another; but there are inevitably some industrial activities which, so far as we can see at the present moment, cannot be carried on.
We have taken power to regulate exports, because circumstances may arise in which it will be necessary to prohibit the export from this country of these essential commodities, or of commodities produced within the country in respect of which it is necessary to ensure that the requirements of our own people are met before any export is permitted. We have taken power to control the import of commodities because it will he necessary to utilise our foreign exchange resources to the best advantage, and to purchase only such goods as are essential to maintain the position of our people, and to eliminate from our purchases abroad purely luxury products which we have to do without in the circumstances of a prolonged emergency.
We have taken power to direct the use to be made of imported materials, or of stocks of materials within the country. It will be necessary to ensure that these materials are utilised in the most economical way and to the best advantage. The same remark applies to the power given the Government under the Bill to control the consumption of commodities. So far as we can foresee at present, the introduction of a rationing system will not be immediately necessary except in the case of motor fuel. The early introduction of a rationing system for petrol and similar products will probably be essential, and that may have to be followed by the introduction of a rationing system for other commodities. It is impossible to be definite on that matter because no one can foresee the way a European war will develop, or the extent to which it will interfere-with the normal communications, or with the normal supplies of the country. We have only had experience of one European war, and inevitably our minds tend to conceive the conduct of this war as following closely upon the conduct of the last war. That may prove to be an entirely fallacious assumption, and that being so it is only possible at this stage to do the things that may become necessary, hoping that the need for them will not arise.
I should say that it is the policy of the Government to maintain the operation of the commercial activities of the country through the existing organisations: that is the existing private organisations, as long as possible, and that only in the last resort, only when it appears that the vital needs of the people necessitate it, will Government interference take place, or Government regulation be resorted to. It may, of course, be necessary, at quite an early stage, to fix prices for various essential commodities in respect of which a scarcity may be feared, or may, in fact arise. One of the provisions of this section gives the Government power so to fix prices. We have, of course, a Prices Act and a Prices Commission operating under that Act, but the powers of that commission, as Deputies are aware, are confined to the prices charged by manufacturers for goods produced within the country. There is a Controller of Prices established under the Act. He has got power to interfere in the case of prices charged by retail distributors in respect of individual sales, but under that Act there is no power to fix general retail prices which may be necessary here. It has already been done in Great Britain. The section gives power to the State to acquire, either compulsorily or by agreement, foreign exchange held by Irish citizens. It is obvious that that power may be necessary so as to ensure that the foreign exchange resources of the country are used to the best advantage to acquire those commodities in respect of which the country is in greatest need. I do not think anybody will question the need for the powers taken in paragraphs (e) and (f) which relate to the control of shipping and of air-craft. It is clear that such control is essential in times of war, during which ordinary communications may be vitally interfered with. We have taken power in paragraph (g) to acquire compulsorily, for the purposes of the State, any land or property.
Paragraph (h) provides for the institution of a censorship. I think that the need for a censorship in times of war, in our circumstances, will be obvious. It is probably unnecessary to elaborate on that matter. It is clear that in our circumstances it is necessary for us to take the powers which every neutral country takes in order to prevent use being made of its communications system, or its Press, or for the purpose of cither attacking the morale or supplying material to belligerents, or supplying military information to its enemies. Generally, that censorship is necessary in order to ensure that the interests of this State will not be affected by any such uncontrolled use of our communications or Press. Paragraph (i) relates to the preserving and safeguarding of official documents and information, prohibiting the publication of official information or the spreading of subversive statements and propaganda, and authorising the control and censorship of newspapers. The need of that will also, I think, be obvious.
There are various paragraphs which provide for the giving of power to the Government to prohibit, restrict or control the entry or departure of persons into or out of the State, and the movements of persons within the State. Power is also taken to provide for the detention of persons where such detention, in the opinion of the Minister, is necessary or expedient in the interests of the public safety or the preservation of the State. It is clear, I think, that some such powers are necessary.
It is true that under an existing enactment the State has wide powers to deal with certain persons who may be engaged in organisations directed against the State, but here we are dealing with a somewhat different matter to that which the legislation I have referred to was directed against. The legislation which dealt with unlawful organisations was introduced for a specific purpose, and while it is true that some of the powers which the Government propose to take under this Bill are already possessed by the Government under that earlier legislation. it might be regarded as an abuse of those powers if they were used for any other purpose than, that contemplated under the original measure referred to —that is the suppression of unlawful associations. It is clear that we must take here whatever measures are necessary to prevent individuals, either of our nationality or of any other nationality, operating in tins country in such a manner as to be detrimental to our best interests. If we have power to order the detention of persons, it is clear that the power to arrest such persons without warrant follows therefrom. If the need for those powers exists, it is clear also that there is a need for power to arrest and detain persons who are suspected of having committed. or who are about to commit, any of the offences against which these paragraphs are directed. The power which is given there is one which is taken by all Governments in circumstances such as ours, and it is necessary in order to ensure that action detrimental to the State, or to the, carrying on of the business of the State, will not be taken. The other powers follow therefrom: that is the powers set out in paragraphs (n) and (o) relating to the searching of premises, vehicles, ships. aircraft, as well as the searching of persons.
The object of paragraph (p) is to suspend the operation of, or amend or apply, with or without qualification, any enactment for the time being in force, or any instrument made under any such enactment. There are many minor enactments, the operation of which cannot be proceeded with in a case of war—very many of which would come under the Department of Industry and Commerce—and it is necessary, therefore, to have such powers to suspend the operation of such enactments, or to amend such an enactment for the time being. Some fear has been expressed that that particular power might be abused by the Government for the purpose of introducing special or extra powers with regard to social legislation, or for making changes in the law which have no relation to the state of emergency that exists. Assurances have been given by the Taoiseach that that is not intended and that, if it is felt by any substantial number of members of the House that such might be likely to happen, an early opportunity would be given to the Dáil to discuss the matter. These paragraphs are set out by way of illustration only, and they are without prejudice to the generality of the powers conferred in sub-section (1) of this section. The effect of sub-section (1) of Section 2 is to give power to the Government, whenever and so often as the Government may think fit, to make by order any such provisions that, in the opinion of the Government, are necessary or expedient to secure the public safety or for the preservation of the State, or for the maintenance of public order or the provision and control of supplies and services essential to the life of the community.
Deputies will note that, in Section 1, the word "Minister" is defined as meaning a member of the Government, whether he is or is not a Minister having charge of a Department of State; and they will also note that under sub-section (1) of Section 6 a Minister, having obtained the consent of the Government, may by order, delegate to a Minister, Parliamentary Secretary, or any other person, any power or duty of such Minister under this or any other Act or under an emergency order, or any order made under an emergency order. In view of the circumstances which we anticipate will arise, and which necessarily will increase the volume of work to be done in connection with certain Government Departments, it is considered probable that that power would have to be used in order to spread such new work as widely as possible over the whole Government service and thus ensure that whatever work may have to be done will be accomplished satisfactorily.