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

Debate resumed on the following amendment:—
In pages 31 and 32 to delete Section 38.—(Captain Cowan.)

Having checked my records, I find that I reported progress on 16th April last. It is very difficult to——

To continue an argument from that date.

——to build up a case on an amendment after the lapse of such a period. I think the House will agree with me that it is unfortunate that this important Bill should be dumped into the Order Paper in the way in which it is being dumped now— giving us this evening a matter of 55 minutes to discuss it. In that time, it is almost impossible to have a proper discussion on one section and when the House comes to deal with the Order of Business to-morrow or in the future, it should consider how unsatisfactory it is to have a major Bill dealt with in this fashion. It is very hard to keep up enthusiasm for a measure which has been the subject of such long delay and which, I am sure, is a source of worry and annoyance to the Minister and to the Department, as well as to the Deputies concerned.

Section 38 of the Bill, which my amendment seeks to delete makes provision for the billeting of the Defence Forces in peace time and it provides that members of the Defence Forces may be billeted in hotels, in licensed premises, and, according to an amendment which the Minister proposes and which follows my amendment, in restaurants registered as such under the Health Act, 1947. To that extent, it is a very important section so far as the general public are concerned and particularly in so far as the three classes of persons involved are concerned.

Every hotel proprietor, every proprietor of a licensed premises—a premises licensed for the sale of intoxicating liquors—and every restaurant registered as such under the Health Act, 1947, must realise now that, if this section becomes law, the Minister for Defence may make regulations whereby that proprietor will be required to provide lodging, attendance and food for members of the Defence Forces. He is also obliged to provide livery stables; that is, the occupier of a victualling house must provide stables and forage for horses of the Defence Forces, and the owners of victualling houses and garages must provide garaging for mechanically-propelled vehicles of the Defence Forces. All those people who will be obliged by those regulations to provide those facilities will be paid such sums as the Minister may by regulation prescribe and they will be subject to such orders and instructions as may be given by persons whom the Minister vests with power to do those things. If they do not comply with those orders they are liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding £20. The section further provides that members of the Garda may be given responsibility and powers in connection with the section, and where they do that that the regulations made by the Minister shall only be made with the concurrence of the Minister for Justice. It is also provided in the section that no member of the Defence Forces shall be billeted in a private house or in any premises occupied by women only; and the section further provides that every regulation made under the section shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is made and if in the usual way a regulation annulling such regulation is passed by either House in the next subsequent 21 days on which such House is sitting after such regulation is laid before it such regulation shall be annulled accordingly but without prejudice to anything previously done under such regulation.

I object to this section on a number of grounds. I object to it first because of the very archaic language that is used in it. It is the taking over of an old section from very old Acts of Parliament that applied at a time when up-to-date facilities for military forces in regard to food and accommodation were not available, when the normal method of transport was horses, and when the provision of forage for horses and candles and paraffin for light were matters of some importance. But this old section has been transferred into this new 1951 Act as if we had had no developments in the last 100 or couple of hundred years, as if we had no progress and as if there had not been great progress in the matter of the provision of essentials for military forces not only in peacetime but actually in the field in times of war.

I object to the section on another ground. If we want as a Parliament to lay it down that it is the duty of the persons named here to provide accommodation and facilities such as are mentioned in this section for the Defence Forces in time of peace then we should say so in the Act. We should make it the law of the land in this Act, instead of saying here that we give to the Minister for Defence power to make a law whereby they will be obliged under penalty of a fine of £20 to obey rules and regulations made by the Department of Defence. If I may say so with respect, whatever experience the Department of Defence has got in regard to making regulations for soldiers I doubt very much if their experience could possibly be held to fit them as the proper persons to make laws governing the civilian population; and that is what this section provides. It says the Minister for Defence, but in actual fact, as we know from our experience of the machinery of Government, that means the Department of Defence. The Department of Defence is going to be vested with very extensive powers to make laws governing the citizens and the particular classes of citizens that are mentioned in this section.

I mentioned at the beginning that the owners of hotels, of premises licensed to sell intoxicating liquor, and restaurants registered under the Health Act, would be compelled to obey these laws; but other persons, as a reading of the section will show, are compelled to obey them also. That is the occupiers of livery stables. Where the Minister is going to find livery stables I do not know. He will find difficulty in finding a great number of them; but nevertheless the occupiers of livery stables are also bound to obey the law that the Minister may make. The occupiers of garages, which has a very much wider meaning and which covers a much greater number of people, will also be obliged to carry out the Minister's law. I feel, as I have already said, that where this House wants to make laws governing the ordinary citizens of the country it should make those laws in a specific way; and while it may be justified in giving the Minister power to make regulations to govern the Defence Forces—the organisation, administration and discipline of the Defence Forces—the House in my view should hesitate and should not except for the gravest reasons give the Minister for Defence power to make the type of law I have mentioned that affects so many ordinary citizens of the country. I ask the Minister to explain to the House and through the House to the country why he wants these powers at all in peacetime. Is there not adequate provision by tentage or otherwise whereby all the Defence Forces can be accommodated if they wish to spend a night away from barracks? Is there any difficulty in the provision of food through the medium of field kitchens, or otherwise, for members of the Defence Forces who happen to be moving from place to place in peacetime? Is there any difficulty in garaging Army tanks, Army armoured cars or vehicles which necessitates the powers for which the Ministers asks in this section? It seems to me ludicrous to talk about garaging the vehicles of the Army when one's experience is that these vehicles are generally dispersed and placed under trees, or otherwise hidden, remote from buildings that might be bombed.

That is one of my difficulties in relation to this Act. In my view this measure has not been adequately considered in relation to present day events and present day experience. If I could see any justification good, bad or indifferent for this section I would not waste a moment in opposing it. But there are grave reasons for objecting to the section. I see no reason why the section should be there at all. It is no use the Minister saying that there is a protection in sub-section (7) which says that every regulation shall be laid before the Oireachtas and the Oireachtas will have the power to annul such regulation. There is no protection in that provision because when a Minister makes such a regulation he obviously has a Parliamentary majority behind him and, if he has a Parliamentary majority, the regulation he makes will not be annulled here or in the Seanad. Therefore, the protection it is alleged the citizen has in sub-section (7) is no protection at all. As the House knows, if such a regulation is laid on the Table of the House all that this House and the Seanad can do is vote on a simple motion to annul it or not to annul it, as the case may be. The House has now power of amending it in any particular no matter how harshly the regulation may operate against citizens.

I appeal to the Minister to withdraw this section and to substitute for it, if he thinks it is necessary to have this particular power in peacetime, a simple comprehensive section which will specifically state what citizens will be obliged to do and the penalties they will incur for non-compliance instead of laying it down, as it is laid down here, with all the solemnity of parliamentary procedure that we will give the Minister for Defence powers to make laws which must be obeyed under threat of the very serious penalties provided in this section. It is for those reasons that I recommend to the House that this section be deleted from the Bill.

This question of billeting has been debatedad nauseam. We debated it at great length when we were examining the Bill in the first instance in the Special Committee. I recollect that on that occasion Deputy Cowan, who is now pressing for the deletion of this section, urged me very strongly to extend the scope of that particular section in order to take in other types of premises, such as milk bars, etc. I must admit that Deputy Cowan is an adept at making a very simple matter appear a very serious one. May I point out to the Deputy and to those who support him that this power has existed since the establishment of the Army and it has never been abused?

I put it longer—200 years.

I am talking now about the situation as we know it. We are faced here with the making of laws by which the Army will be guided. Whether it dates from 200 years ago or 30 years, that makes very little difference. The point is that during all that period, far from being abused, the power of billeting has never been utilised; and there was a period in recent times when it might have been necessary for the Army to utilise that power. I refer to the period of the emergency when large forces were concentrated in special areas during manoeuvres. Even during that period, the powers that were there were never utilised.

Deputy Cowan asked me to give the House a reason why this power should be there. The only answer I can give is the one that I am sure he himself would give were he in my place: that is, we must try to foresee, as far as possible and as reasonably as possible, the requirements we may need. I can very easily visualise circumstances in which it might be necessay to utilise these powers. There might, for instance, be a very large concentration of troops in a particular area for purposes of manoeuvres or for ceremonial purposes, not necessarily connected with actual war, and if these powers are not provided in peacetime men might have to engage in manoeuvres in very adverse circumstances because no provision was made for their comfort. That is why it is necessary to have this section in the Bill.

The Deputy also referred to the fact that this section will be implemented to a very large extent through the medium of regulations. In the course of his remarks he said it was the Department which made these regulations and the Minister had very little to do with them. I may not be quoting the Deputy's exact words but I am quoting what I deem to be the effect of his words.

When I say "Minister" the Minister knows that I am referring to any Minister and not to a particular Minister.

Any Minister would be not only very foolish but indeed criminal to sign a regulation put up to him by his officials without having full knowledge of the purpose of that regulation. I do not think any responsible individual would do that. The Department puts up the regulations—and they must of necessity do that because the regulations will be drafted by the experts dealing with that particular type of work. It is these experts who will have to explain to the Minister, if he is dissatisfied about any particular phase of a regulation, why it is necessary to have the regulation in the form of words in which it may be produced to him. If the Minister is not satisfied he is not under any compulsion whatever to sign a particular regulation and he may have it altered as he thinks fit. It is true, therefore, to say that the Minister is the person who is responsible for the regulations.

I cannot see any reason why the section should be deleted. As I said, Deputy Cowan was pressing me at the Special Committee to expand the section so as to include restaurants, milk bars and so on and the next amendment which is in my name is intended to meet, as far as it is possible to do so, the Deputy's wishes at that particular time. This amendment, which is in my name, will be dealt with when the present amendment, which I am not accepting, is disposed of.

All I want to say now is to correct the Minister on one point, as I would not like it to go on record uncontradicted that I took a different attitude in the Special Committee from what I took here. In the Special Committee I put down several amendments, an amendment to each sub-section, the net effect of which was to bring about the situation which I have advocated here. I will just quote one extract from the report of the Special Committee and it is a very good job that we had the reports of the Special Committee. Here is what I said, as reported in column 139 of the report of the Special Committee on the 19th March, 1951:—

"The idea I have in mind is that sub-sections (a), (b) and (c) should be positive sections whereby, under this Act, the occupiers or owners of victualling houses and of livery stables and of garages would be required to provide lodgings, attendance and food, stabling and forage for horses and garage space for mechanically propelled vehicles. It was also my idea that the section should oblige them to do that and that the Minister would be authorised under the section to make regulations as to the conferring of power upon such persons who would require these services. I do think that, as a general principle, where we make a law affecting the civil population and the community, and where we provide for a penalty not exceeding £25 for breach of that law, we should specifically make it a law rather than a law depending on regulations to be made by the Minister."

That is exactly what I have said in the case I made here. I know that the Minister has misinterpreted it unconsciously, but in my own interest I want to have the record correct. The Minister will recollect that, as reported at column 142, the question was put by the chairman, "That Section 38 stand part of the Bill". That was after Deputy Collins and I had spoken against the section. It is on record in very precise and unambiguous terms that we opposed the section. The committee divided and there were six for the section and two against. It was a committee of considerable size, but only eight members happened to be present at the time and the vote was six for and two against, and the two against were Deputy Collins and myself. So that I would not like it to go on record that the case I am making here is different from what I made in the Special Committee.

I tried to improve every sub-section because I thought that "victualling houses" was a ridiculous term to use in 1951, as it was then, or now in 1954. I wanted to put it in modern language instead of that archaic term and I put in my amendment "place of public refreshment". I did provide for inns, restaurants, board and lodging houses, milk bars, public dance halls, communal halls, halls owned by local authorities, cafes and refreshment rooms. They were all subject to the one provision and I thought that whatever we wanted to say about these things should be said in the Act and not left to the Minister to make regulations that it is possible to do these things.

It is of such interest that I said also, as reported in column 137:—

"We should, in this Bill, specifically lay down that occupants or owners of these houses are bound to provide lodging and food when so required by an officer or by the Minister in certain circumstances."

That is still my idea. If this House wants to say that the particular people I have mentioned should provide facilities for the Army, then we should say it in the Bill and not leave it to the Minister to make regulations which would have the force of law and which apply to all these people. The Minister says that we have debated thisad nauseam. I am afraid that is always the idea of a person who wants to get something through as against somebody who disagrees with him, but it is an important business as far as the general public are concerned.

The Minister says that in 30 years this section has not been used. I have never known it to be used. I do not think it has been used since the first world war, except, perhaps, in Abyssinia or up on the North-West Frontier or somewhere like that. I know of no civilised army using that power in any of the countries with which we are familiar. If that is so, why put it in the Bill? One hundred years ago trains were very important things. We have all sorts of new systems of transportation. We have to take account of those changes such as air transportation in our everyday lives and in our Acts of Parliament. But here, the Department of Defence says: "We want this old Act that was of some use in India or somewhere like that 100 years ago,—or even in Ireland, when the British forces were here as an occupying power. We want that power still but we can give no reason for it." The Minister has said he can visualise a large concentration of troops in a particular area for training or ceremonial purposes or something like that. What areas did the Minister visualise? Would not that be the way to test it? Take the town of Kells. How many victualling houses are in the town of Kells? How many people could be housed in the victualling houses there?

Take Cork.

Surely the Minister has barracks in Cork?

I know we have, but not sufficient for a large concentration of troops.

You could put infinitely more in them than is in them at the moment.

At the present time, unfortunately, we have more barracks than we require.

But if the Minister were faced with the problem in Cork, has he not got Rockgrove as well as Collins Barracks? I do not think the Minister is being quite reasonable about the necessity for the section.

I do not think he has been advised properly in regard to it and it is for that reason I am very doubtful about this House giving powers the use of which could be advised in the same way as the Minister is advised that the section should be in the Act. Let us leave out Galway, Limerick, Waterford, Cork and Dublin for the moment and take any other town in Ireland and ask ourselves how many victualling houses are in it. Even with the new interpretation that victualling houses are premises registered in a register and either licensed premises or restaurants, how many of his large concentration of troops could be billeted in these houses? Very few. We all know that every unit of the Army has its camping equipment and that whether they assemble for a ceremonial purpose or otherwise it is very good training for the troops to camp in conditions as near as possible to the highest comfort they can have in war-time. Obviously the officers would be in command of them and would prefer to have them in a very nice field where they would have them under control instead of going around to these victualling houses and trying to get in touch with Tom, Dick or Harry whatever his rank might be. How is the Minister going to deal with it? Who is going to be put into the first-class of victualling houses, the hotels? Is he going to put his officers in there? Is he going to put the sergeants into the public houses and who is he going to put into the restaurants? The whole thing is absurd. There is no practical basis or foundation for it and because I believe that I think the section should go out.

I think after the very fine discussion we had in the Special Committee where the same line was gone through that the views expressed there should have been taken into consideration and that this antique section dealing in antiquated language with things that do not exist—for instance victualling houses—should have been omitted. Nobody in Ireland knows what a victualling house is. It is used in the Act and then so that somebody might have some idea of the meaning the Minister has to interpret it. I am sorry the Minister did not delete that section. I do not think he has made a case for it in the Special Committee. He did not make a case for it here and I would request the members of the House not to make fools of themselves by adopting such a ridiculous section.

I was most anxious to hear what justification the Minister might make for this section. Like Deputy Cowan, I would like to put on record my very pertinent protest against the manner in which we are dealing with this Bill. It does become difficult to correlate one's thoughts of 12 months ago with the matter we are discussing to-day. I am not saying this in criticism of the Minister as the Minister well knows. I am saying this so that my protest might go on record in this House against the manner in which the time is allocated to this Bill and—if our voices in this House can help—I am doing so to try and get a fixed, regular method of completing this Bill. I say that only in passing.

I want to say this—that the more you read the section the more archaic it sounds. I do not want to be taken as being eternally critical of the Civil Service plugging machine but this is a bit of plugging. This section was obviously found in the archives in some part of the Minister's Department. it is taken holus-bolus, word for word, in a context that might have been pertinent to military problems of 100 or maybe 200 years ago. The day of the charger is gone and it is time the Department, in its concept of drafting of legislation, appreciated that. We have had knowledge—any of us who have had the honour of serving in the Army—offaux pas that have occurred in the past because the Department was not abreast of the fact that the artillery section was now motorised and had not horses pulling its gunwagons. This section in its entirety is a little bit reminiscent of that particular type of activity.

I was trying to figure out while the Minister was talking what concentration of troops could occur that would necessitate this particular type of section. Taking into account the general power under Section 4, I cannot find any justification at all in the argument adduced for the retention of the section. Take the language of the section. It certainly is not the conception of the Department. It is a transcription into this Act of a clause from one of the old British Army Acts——

Old articles of war.

——or some such document. It is a little bit irksome for the limited group of people here who are trying to help the Minister and get this Act into reality to have to spend time arguing on archaic expressions and I am pressing the Minister on this issue that where sections such as this have no reality in fact or no pertinent relativity to what might be a reality, it would be far better if he found a formula for dispensing with them because it would enable us to dispense with much of the discussion which has arisen. Read the section at random. You have got to provide lodging, attendance, food, stabling and forage. It seems an negation of reality to have a section such as this in relation to an Army such as ours with its transport subsidiary unit attached to each brigade, with its full brigade organisation on the basis of being able to move into the field with all its requirements by way of transport, ambulances and field ambulances. Either we must have an Army some way up to date or else we are only playing soldiers. It is time that the Department in its conception of regulations realised that we have an Army integrated with all the appurtenant services from brigade level to field units. If the Minister's advisers brought themselves up to date with that situation, I think we would not have such sections as this particular one brought in. I suggest to the House that it is not only nauseating in itself, but it is virtual affront to our intelligence. We have not reached the stage where we have to incorporate in a comprehensive measure of the importance of this particular measure a section such as that.

I want to see this Bill dealt with expeditiously and I want to see it go through in a reasonable way, but unless it is culled of verbiage such as this we may find this Bill, as its predecessor, surviving the present Government.

Deputy Cowan rose.

The Deputy is not entitled to speak again. This is not the Committee Stage. This is the Report Stage. In order to save amendment No. 35 (a) in the name of the Minister, I will put the question that lines eight to 14, Section 38, page 31 be deleted.

Question put and negatived.

I move amendment No. 35 (a):—

In page 31, Section 38 (1), to insert between lines 14 and 15 the following new paragraph—

"(c) a restaurant registered in a register kept under regulations made under Part V of the Health Act, 1947 (No. 28 of 1947)".

This amendment is being moved to meet the case that was made by Deputy Cowan in the course of the discussion on this section in the Special Committee. On that occasion Deputy Cowan at column 135 of the Special Committee on the Defence Bill, dated Wednesday, 19th March, 1952, said:—

"As regards amendment No. 38, the expression ‘victualling house' means premises described in Part III of the Tourist Act, 1939, as premises——"

That should read "as well as premises". There are two words left out.

I am merely reading this to show that Deputy Cowan, who has been telling us for the last 20 minutes that he does not know the meaning of the word "victualling" or where a victualling house is to be found——

I was reading the definition in the Act.

——here stated:—

"the expression ‘victualling house' means premises described in Part III of the Tourist Act, 1939, as premises licensed under the Licensing Acts for the sale of intoxicating liquor for consumption on the premises. In other words, the two places that are termed billeting houses are hotels and public houses."

He continued:—

"Now, I want to add a new paragraph, because I agree with what the Minister, and, I think, Mr. Brennan, has said about licensed premises. I suggest that it should include restaurants, public milk bars, communal halls, community halls, cafes, and refreshment rooms, and public dance halls, and these should be places where soldiers might be billeted. I think the Minister might accept that amendment."

I would be just as justified in asking Deputy Cowan what is a communal hall or what are community halls as he is in asking me what is a victualling establishment. If the Deputy said parish halls, I would understand immediately what he was aiming at but I do not know if there are such things as communal halls in this country. Maybe there are but if there are I do not know where you will find them. However, I am putting down this amendment in order to meet the Deputy's wishes in the matter. I think it does so because in the regulations mentioned in the amendment a restaurant is defined as a premises in which is carried on the business of selling meals to the public. Milk bars may or may not come within the definition. I suppose it depends on circumstances in each particular case.

In regard to this amendment I want to say that the Minister provided for machinery here for hotels and public-houses. It seemed on the Special Committee that if there was to be billeting that at least that should be extended to the types of place I mentioned, restaurants, board and lodgings, milk bars, public dance halls, communal halls, halls owned by local authorities, oafes and refreshment rooms. That was the amendment I moved. That amendment was debated. The Minister would not accept it and now he decides he will accept part of it, a restaurant that is registered under the Public Health Act. Now we have a new expression, a victualling house which means a premises registered in a register kept under Part III of the Tourist Act, 1939, (No. 24 of 1939) or premises licensed under the Licensing Acts, 1839 to 1846, for the sale of intoxicating liquor for consumption on the premises and a restaurant registered in a register kept under regulations made under Part V of the Health Act, 1947 (No. 28 of 1947). I move the adjournment of the debate.

Before the debate is adjourned I wonder could the Minister give us any help as to what is to be the likely progress of this Bill? Have we any hope of getting a reasonable allocation of time to complete it?

I have been discussing that with the chief whip and I think he will go some part of the way to meet my request to give us time whenever it is possible. I have hopes that we will be able to continue for some time to-morrow on this Bill.

I feel it is unfair to the Minister as well as to the House to have this legislation hanging on in this way.

It is very difficult to have to come back after a long interval to this legislation.

Debate adjourned.