Committee on Finance. - Defence Bill, 1951—Report Stage (Resumed).

SECTION 30.

I move amendment No. 27:—

In page 25, Section 30 (1) (g), line 44, to insert "(including employ by way of apprenticeship)" after "employ".

The purpose of the amendment is to make it clear that apprentices are among the civilians whom the Minister may employ. The practice of employing civilian apprentices has not been adopted so far. Boy mechanics employed in the Air Corps are enlisted personnel. Such a development might, however, come about in the course of time.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 28 not moved.
SECTION 31.

I move amendment No. 29:—

In page 26, Section 31 (2), line 19, to substitute "twenty" for "ten".

The purpose of the amendment is to increase the maximum penalty for offences under this section. The Special Committee considered that this should be done and following discussion with the legal authorities I am proposing to double the penalty already provided for. It is considered that the revised penalty will be adequate without provision for imprisonment.

Amendment agreed to.
SECTION 32.

I move amendment No. 30:—

In page 26, Section 32, line 21, to delete "acquire by agreement" and substitute ", by agreement, take a lease of, or take a licence to use, or acquire,".

The purpose of the amendment is to make it clear that the Minister, as well as acquiring land by agreement, may also by agreement take a lease of it or a licence to use it.

Amendment agreed to.
SECTION 35.

I move amendment No. 31:—

In page 28, Section 35 (1) (c), line 5, to substitute "one hundred" for "fifty."

This amendment is also doubling the penalty for an offence under the section.

That is what was suggested by the Special Committee.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 32:—

In page 28, Section 35 (2) (b), line 17, to substitute "one hundred" for "fifty."

This amendment is similar in purpose to the preceding one.

Amendment agreed to.
SECTION 36.

I move amendment No. 33:—

In page 29, Section 36 (7) (a), line 61, to substitute "one hundred" for "fifty."

This is a similar type of amendment.

Amendment agreed to.
SECTION 37.

I move amendment No. 34:—

In pages 30 and 31 to delete Section 37 and substitute a new section as follows:—

(1) Save as provided by this Act no officer, soldier or horse shall be billeted on any citizen without his consent.

(2) All statutes and laws authorising, prohibiting or regulating the billeting of officers, soldiers or horses which are in force at the passing of this Act are hereby repealed.

(3) When the Defence Forces, or any unit, formation or part thereof are on active service the owner or occupier of premises shall, if ordered to do so by an officer on active service (who is hereby authorised to give such an order) provide:—

(a) lodging and food for officers and men;

(b) stabling and forage for horses of the Defence Forces;

(c) garage accommodation, fuel and oil for mechanically propelled vehicles of the Defence Forces;

(d) such other accommodation, materials or service as the said officer may order him to provide;

during the period specified in and in accordance with the terms of the said order.

(4) There shall be paid to every person who provides accommodation, food, forage, fuel, oil, materials orservice for the Defence Forces in compliance with an order duly given in pursuance of the provisions of this section such amounts as may be prescribed by regulations made, under this section, by the Minister with the concurrence of the Minister for Finance.

(5) Regulations made by the Minister with the concurrence of the Minister for Finance under this section and for the purpose mentioned in this section may, in addition to the matters specifically mentioned in this section, provide for any matter or thing ancillary thereto.

(6) If any person contravenes (by act or omission) an order given by an officer pursuant to the provisions of this section he shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a period of 12 months or to a fine of £100 or at the discretion of the court to both such imprisonment and such fine.

(7) Every regulation under this section shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is made and if a resolution annulling such regulation is passed by either such House within the next subsequent 28 days on which such House has sat after such regulation is laid before it such regulation shall be annulled accordingly but without prejudice to anything previously done under such regulation.

This is rather a large-looking amendment though it is simpler than it looks. I propose in the amendment to delete Section 37 of the Act and to substitute a completely new section for it. It is of considerable importance for this reason. The Act, as before the House now, makes provision for the billeting of soldiers during a period of emergency on the occupiers of premises, and it further provides that occupiers of premises will provide stables for horses, forage for horses and garages for cars. There are other matters in the section to which I will draw attention later. The principal objection I have to the section as it stands is that it does not provide specifically that theowners or occupiers of houses will be bound by law made by us to afford these facilities under conditions that this House will lay down in legislation. The section which I propose to delete and which is in the Bill does nothing more than to empower the Minister to make such regulations.

Section 37 says:

"(1) (a) The Minister may, from time to time and at any time, make such regulations as he thinks fit—

(i) requiring the occupiers of premises to provide, during a period of emergency, lodging, attendance and food for members of the Defence Forces;

(ii) requiring the occupiers of premises and of livery stables to provide, during a period of emergency, stabling and forage for horses of the Defence Forces;

(iii) requiring the occupiers of premises and garages to provide, during a period of emergency, garaging for mechanically propelled vehicles of the Defence Forces;"

Obviously, that is a very considerable interference with the rights of the ordinary citizen. It is an invasion of the rights of the ordinary citizen and where it is proposed to make such an invasion it is my view—and I should contend very strongly for it—that the invasion should be validated by specific provisions in an Act passed by this House. Simply to say that the Minister will make regulations to do these things is in my view no safeguard for the public. In my view that is something that should be objected to in this House.

The section goes further and says that if any person contravenes, by act or omission, any regulation made under the section—that is any regulation made by the Minister—such person shall be guilty of an offence under the section and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £20. It provides, of course, for payments for lodging and attendance under this section, which payments are again to be set out by regulations. Then it says that where regulations made by the Minister oblige members of the Garda Síochána to do anything in connectionwith such regulations, the regulations will be made with the concurrence of the Minister for Justice, which shows how serious these regulations can be, as they affect the individual citizen.

Then there is the safeguarding section on which the Minister I am sure will rely, and which sets out:—

"Every regulation made under this section shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is made and, if a resolution annulling such regulation is passed by either such House within the next subsequent 21 days on which such House has sat after such regulation is laid before it, such regulation shall be annulled accordingly but without prejudice to anything previously done under such regulation."

I know the Minister will contend that there is a safeguard there, that the regulations will be laid before the House and that the House may annul them if it so wishes. Of course, it is obvious that the House never annuls a regulation such as that. The annulment of a regulation such as that could conceivably lead to the fall of a Government, and it is very unlikely that the Party that is in power as Government will be put out of office simply because of a regulation which the Minister makes and lays on the table of the House. The function of the House in regard to such a regulation is to annul it, and if it does not proceed to annul it the regulation becomes a law which affects everybody in the country. I think it is a fundamental principle that every citizen ought to know the law—at least the law should be available in such a form that he can readily ascertain what it is. If we pass an Act here containing about 400 sections dealing with many things affecting soldiers, officers and citizens, I feel that it is only right that the provisions relating to billeting and the obligation of citizens in relation to billeting should be specifically set out in the Act, that it should be stated in the Act that there is an obligation on certain citizens to provide certainprescribed facilities, such as billeting, for the forces, and that if a citizen fails to do that, he becomes guilty of an offence. I think that is how it should be done, and the introduction of a section such as this by the Minister, just giving himself full powers to do anything he likes by regulation with the citizens of the country, is something that is objectionable in principle.

Billeting has been provided in this country since the Act of 1923. It is interesting to look at the Act of 1923. As I said before on other occasions, this Act was based on the old manual of military law and on the Acts that govern the military forces in Britain. The sections in that Act, although taken from very old British legislation, at least did specifically prescribe what the obligations of citizens were. There are quite a number of things in the Act, of course, with which one would not agree, but nevertheless the fundamental obligations of the citizen were specifically prescribed.

There are in the Act itself some very interesting regulations relating to billeting. Some of them are rather amusing, but the old British code endeavoured to give the protection to which I refer to the citizen. They did describe what had to be provided for the Defence Forces. They prescribed the meals that had to be provided for them. The soldiers had to get breakfast, a hot dinner and supper on each day. For breakfast they had to get 5 oz. of bread, a pint of tea with milk and sugar and 4 oz. of bacon. That applied to this country during the emergency. The hot dinner consisted of 12 oz. of meat, before dressing, 6 oz. of bread and 8 oz. potatoes and other vegetables. Supper consisted of 5 oz. of bread, a pint of tea with milk and sugar and 2 oz. of cheese. Then there was a provision that where an officer or soldier was not entitled to be furnished with a meal, the officer or soldier was to be provided with candles, vinegar and salt, allowed the use of a fire and the necessary utensils for dressing and eating his meal. They went into that elaborate detail in the old Acts relating to billeting, andthey did so because there was the conception that, if you were going to interfere with a citizen by law, you should prescribe how far you would interfere with these rights. In this section, as I say, the Minister suddenly takes to himself power to make such regulations as he likes relating to persons who are obliged to provide billets, transport or stabling. Rates of pay were to be provided for them, and a number of other matters in relation to it. I propose in this amendment the insertion of a new section which, to some extent, follows the old law, while simplifying it, and, I hope, modernising it. The new section starts off with the first proviso as in the old Act:—

"Save as provided by this Act no officer, soldier or horse shall be billeted on any citizen without his consent."

That is the correct approach to it. The second sub-section sets out:—

"All statutes and laws. ..."

There are quite a number of old statutes and laws still in existence apparently.

"... authorising, prohibiting or regulating the billeting of officers, soldiers or horses which are in force at the passing of this Act are hereby repealed."

Then there follows the positive section:—

"When the Defence Forces, or any unit, formation or part thereof are on active service the owner or occupier of premises shall, if ordered to do so by an officer on active service (who is hereby authorised to give such an order) provide:—

(a) lodging and food for officers and men;

(b) stabling and forage for horses of the Defence Forces;

(c) garage accommodation, fuel and oil for mechanically propelled vehicles of the Defence Forces;

(d) such other accommodation, materials or service as the said officer may order him to provide;

during the period specified in and inaccordance with the terms of the said order."

In other words, the first thing that is limited is billeting and the requisitioning in that way of materials and so on is limited to a period when the Defence Forces are on active service. In the old days when soldiers had to walk, there was possibly necessity for billeting and for some of the billeting laws we had at the time, but nowadays an army, and certainly an army in this country as we have understood it for 30 years, in peace time, carries on its back its own billets—the "bivvies", tents or whatever else they have. They either carry them or they are brought forward by transport, so that in ordinary circumstances there is no necessity for the provision of billeting.

Secondly, in time of emergency such as we understood an emergency and as we understand an emergency in the future, the portion of the Defence Forces we will have moving will be able, from its own equipment and its own resources, to provide for its own accommodation, and there are no circumstances I can visualise in which a substantially large force would be billeted in a rural area. As to whether, in case of an emergency, the responsible Army authorities would billet them in a town or city would be a matter for the competent military authority on the spot and I want to say nothing about it; but from our own recent experience of war close to our shores, we know that it is not in a village or town or city that large forces will be billeted, unless for the purpose of defence, in which case certain special provisions will be made. I can understand that, on active service, certain small units of the Army may have to be limited and I have made positive provision for that in the section I have read.

The subsequent sub-sections which I propose follow to some extent, or are in line with the law as it is at the moment or with the Minister's idea— that there shall be paid such sums as may be prescribed by regulations made by the Minister, with the concurrence of the Minister for Finance, in respect of such billeting; that anyone who contravenes the law shall be subject to aneven heavier penalty than the Minister proposes; and that every regulation which in fact relates to payment and ancillary matters will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas and may be annulled in the way provided by the Minister.

The substantial difference between what the Minister proposes and what I propose is that I propose to limit billeting to active service, to provide specifically in the Act that it is the law that a citizen will be bound to billet a soldier, officer or horse when the Defence Forces or part of the Defence Forces are on active service, and on active service alone; whereas the Minister proposes that every citizen can be obliged to billet the Defence Forces when the Defence Forces are mobilised in a period of emergency, and a period of emergency is capable of a very wide interpretation under the Act.

It is of considerable importance that in regard to laws which impose penalties on our citizens, we should make these positive laws here and should not allow them to be made by regulations prescribed by the Minister. I see no necessity for that at all and I see no necessity for quite a number of the provisions in relation to billeting, in view of modern advancement. For that reason, I ask the Minister to accept this amendment and to agree to the insertion of this new section.

This is another of the sections which was discussed at length by the Special Committee and in regard to which I came to the conclusion that we had more or less satisfied Deputy Cowan on this question of billeting. He was not objecting to billeting, but he was objecting to billeting by regulation. That was my impression and when the matter was put to a vote, Deputy Cowan was, I think, in a minority of one.

Six to one.

I cannot see a whole lot of difference between billeting on active service and in peace time. They are both, as the Deputy stated, an invasion of the rights of individuals, that is, if the individual objects to anyonebeing billeted in his house. As I pointed out in the course of the discussions on other sections, however, it is quite on the cards that the people would be rather inclined to welcome the troops to be billeted on them rather than to object, because they would be paid for the billeting of the troops and, as I said at the time, they would be friendly troops and not the troops of an invading force.

The desire not to limit billeting to active service is merely foresight. It is merely looking forward to the possibility, which has never yet arisen to my knowledge, of the necessity, either in a period of peace time or in a period of emergency, for billeting troops. There is no reason in the world why provision should not be made in that respect. As I say, it has never operated yet and it is quite possible that it never will operate.

Deputy Captain Cowan talks about the invasion of an individual's right but in sub-section (3) of his own amendment he says:

"When the Defence Forces or any unit, formation or part thereof are on active service the owner or occupier of premises shall, if ordered to do so by an officer on active service (who is hereby authorised to give such an order) provide:—

(a) lodging and food for officers and men;

(b) stabling and forage for horses of the Defence Forces;

(c) garage accommodation, fuel and oil for mechanically propelled vehicles of the Defence Forces."

He also in the course of his remarks referred in a belittling manner to the fact that we were including in the section a sub-section which would provide that the regulations would be laid on the Table of the Houses of Parliament but in sub-section (7) of his amendment he states:—

"Every regulation under this section shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is made and if a resolution annulling such regulation is passed by either such House within the nextsubsequent 28 days on which such House has sat after such regulation is laid before it such regulation shall be annulled accordingly ..."

That is the same thing. There is practically no difference in regard to our approach to this question. I think that the only difference between Deputy Cowan and myself is whether it should be done by giving the details in the section of the Act or done by regulation. It is my opinion that the regulation arrangement is the more satisfactory. That is the opinion of the military and civilian authorities who jointly examined this Bill. They came to the decision that this was the most suitable manner in which it could be done. The section, as it appears in the Bill at present, is practically the same as that under which the regulations which operated during the emergency were made. These regulations are not now operating, but the military authorities believe it is desirable to include enabling provisions for them in the Defence Bill. We went through the emergency period and, as far as I am aware, we did not have to utilise the section in any way in order to billet soldiers in the house of any citizen although I know they were welcomed everywhere they went. I am pretty certain that large numbers of people would have much preferred to provide them with accommodation rather than that they should have to billet, as they did, in their own bivouacs.

I only mention that to show that the relationships which existed between the Army and the people were of a most friendly and cordial type. Far from regarding this as an invasion of their rights, I think the people would have welcomed the troops. In view of the case put up to me by the military authorities, I could not accept Deputy Captain Cowan's amendment and I would have to stand over the section as it is in the Bill at the moment.

I have a feeling that this power, whether it be exercised by regulation or by the Act, is really one of a wide permissive nature as distinct from one that is, in fact, really operative. Frankly, DeputyCowan's proposed section vis-à-vis the Minister's seems to me to be a case of tweedledum and tweedledee. I cannot see much of the suggested necessity arising at all. As we are well aware, the military are well dispersed in barrack and camp accommodation. As pointed out by Deputy Cowan himself, formations, when on manoeuvres or during a period of an emergency, carry their own bivouac accommodation and their own camp equipment.

I feel that this is mainly an archaic and permissive section, and I do not think that there is any danger of interfering with the rights of the citizens. I feel, like the Minister himself, that throughout the years the relationship between the people and their own Army has been considerably strengthened. If billeting becomes necessary owing to a threat or if an internal situation develops that calls for active service, we will find, as we found in the past and particularly during the last emergency, that the people will give their fullest and most willing cooperation to ensure the comfort of our own Army. We will also find, as the Minister suggested, that the Irish people will ensure that no act of theirs will in any way transgress upon the respect due to the soldiers of their Army. Finally, in the main, where officers or men were billeted on private citizens through necessity, it was not unremunerative for the people who were so fortunate as to get them billeted on them.

I have no strong views on the issue raised by Deputy Cowan as to whether this should be specifically enshrined in the Act. I cannot see any real difference between the section that permits the Minister to do it by regulation and the section proposed by Deputy Captain Cowan. I think the limits that will be necessary either by regulation or the limits that will become necessary if Deputy Cowan's amendment is accepted are far wider than, in fact, will ever be necessary. I take this to be a general permissive section, and I think it would not be any practical improvement of the Bill if the amendment were accepted.

Major de Valera

Is not the question simply this, to regularise and control the procedure that may, unfortunately, become necessary in certain circumstances? No one wants to do this kind of thing, but it has to be done, and if it has it will have to be done, if you like, in unpleasant circumstances. Is it not, surely, better to provide for that now than to leave it to the compulsion of these circumstances later when action might be taken in not the best way? There are two things to be considered when you are dealing with things of this nature. One is that it would be futile and foolish to try and over-provide by tying it up with legal niceties. The fact is that if you are acting under the compulsion of necessity, and were tied up with legal niceties, well then, I am afraid the legal niceties would have to go. It is desirable, therefore, in these circumstances that the situation should be, as far as possible, controlled and regularised. I think that the Minister's provision, taking these two conflicting requirements, is probably the better one. Very frankly, I cannot lend my support to Deputy Cowan's amendment.

I have one regret, perhaps two regrets. One is that in my early days, I spent quite a lot of time in studying the principles of individual freedom and liberty. Perhaps I grew up in a school that is not understood nowadays. I am concerned with this in so far as it is an invasion—I think we all admit that it is an invasion—of the rights of the citizen. It is regrettable that when we are dealing with a matter affecting the citizen—not the soldier but the citizen —we have nobody in this House to bother their heads about the citizen.

The Minister brings in his Bill and says this is the advice given to him by the military authorities. The three Deputies who have been speaking on this Bill have had practical experience of the operation of military law, but we are going beyond military law here. We are going into law that affects the ordinary citizen, and it is a great pity that there is nobody in this House who is interested just in "John Citizen." Deputies elected by the citizens of thecountry say: "To hell with John Citizen; let the Minister make any regulations he likes and take any number of soldiers he likes, and if they do what they like, the Minister says let them be brought up in the courts and be punished." I think it is regrettable that we should be in that position.

I admit that where there are certain provisions in this that relate entirely to military administration, one could understand Deputies with experience of military administration being the only ones participating in the debate. I wonder, in Britain, say, how a section such as this would be considered? How many members of the British Parliament would say: "Oh, it will not be operated against the citizen; we will leave it there to the goodwill of the Minister for the time being." My belief is that very few of them would say that. As the Minister has said, I fought this out at the Special Committee, and I was in a minority of one. There were seven of us present, and six voted to let it stand. I voted against it. If I think it is wrong, it is only right that I should still fight it here. The Minister says that I propose an invasion of rights. I do, but at least I would have it deliberately set out in the Act of this Parliament what rights, and in what circumstances, those rights could be invaded. I limit it very specifically to a period and to a place where a section of the Army was on active service, and on active service only. There is a limited invasion, but it is prescribed not by regulation but by law. The Minister says that I provide for such a laying of regulations before the House. I do, but the regulations that I provide for in my amendment are regulations relating only to payment to citizens and to ancillary matters. There is a very big difference between that provision and the provision which says baldly that the Minister may make such regulations as he thinks fit and at any time.

You refer in your proposal to every regulation.

I provide a new section with seven sub-sections. The positive part of the section is thatthere may be billeting on active service, where necessary, and that if there is that billeting regulations relating to payment may be made by the Minister and approved by the Minister for Finance. It is only such regulations, dealing with payment and ancillary matters under that section, that are to be laid before the House, and these may be annulled. There is a very substantial difference between my amendment and what the Minister proposes. There is a very big difference between the regulations which the Minister may make and the regulations which deal only with payment and ancillary matters.

I am not going to delay the House as far as this section is concerned. I have placed my views on record in regard to it. As I have said, it is regrettable that where we are dealing with matters affecting the citizens so few Deputies are interested in them. I have put my views on record and I hope that the Minister will accept my amendment.

Amendment put and negatived.

Before progress is reported on the Bill, could the Minister give us any indication as to when it is hoped to get through with the rest of it? It is pitched in here now and again, and there are a big number of amendments still to be dealt with.

I admit that is not the best manner of dealing with it.

I think it is inconvenient for the Deputies who are most interested.

I will see what can be done.

I take it that the Minister is doing everything possible to facilitate the House in regard to the Bill.

The position is not very hopeful in view of the fact that we have more than 100 amendments still to deal with.

If we do as well in the next one and a half hours as we have done in the last one and a half hours, we shall have made some progress.

Major de Valera

The remedy is to restrain your eloquence.

The Deputy can hardly accuse me of being very eloquent on it.

Debate adjourned.