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

Debate resumed on the following amendment:—
In page 51 to delete Section 97 (2), lines 11 to 35.—(Deputy Cowan).

When I moved the adjournment last night, I was dealing with the point made by the Minister for Defence in answering objections that I had raised against the Bill as now drafted by him and in support of my amendment which is now before the House. In the course of my observations I was asked by Deputy Major de Valera if Section 12 (1) of the Police Forces Amalgamation Act, 1925, had been used for the purpose of dealing with penal deductions and stoppages from the pay of members of the Garda. I have made search to-day and I have been unable to find that this particular section of the Police Forces Amalgamation Act, 1925, had been used for anything except for prescribing the rates of pay of members of the Garda Síochána. If I might just draw the attention of the House to the specific provision, Section 12 (1) of the Police Forces Amalgamation Act, 1925, says:—

"The Minister may with the sanction of the Minister for Finance from time to time by Order regulate and appoint the rates of pay and allowances (including conditions applicable thereto) to be paid to the several ranks and to the several grades of each rank of the officers and men of the amalgamated force."

The Deputy has already referred to that.

I am referring to it now only for the purposes of my argument. I was asked by Deputy Major de Valera if the words in brackets "including conditions applicable thereto" could, and in fact did, authorise the Garda Síochána or the Minister for Justice, with the sanction of the Minister for Finance, to prescribe penal deductions and forfeitures from the pay of the Guards. It was my view then, and it is still my view, that that section can only authorise the payment of pay and allowances to members of the Garda. In the time at my disposal, I made an examination of all the pay Orders issued under that sub-section that were available to me and an examination of these pay Orders confirmed the view I had that that sub-section was not a precedent for what the Minister proposes to do in this case, although, as I pointed out last night, the Minister did say as reported in column 316, No. 1, Volume 144 on the 11th February:—

"In this country, for example, forfeitures and penal deductions in the case of the Garda Síochána are dealt with by regulations made by the Minister for Justice (with the concurrence of the Minister for Finance) under Section 12 (1) of the Police Forces Amalgamation Act, 1925."

I have, as I stated, made an examination of the pay Orders that have been made in all the years that I have been able to find since 1925 and in each one of these pay Orders, the Minister for Justice and the Minister for Finance were dealing with the pay of the Garda Síochána only. I might refer the House to one of these as typical of the others because, in a number of cases, the pay Orders have been amended and replaced from time to time but substantially they are all the same. I would refer in the first case to the first Garda Síochána Pay Order that was issued as far as I can understand under that sub-section. That was issued in 1927 by the then Minister for Justice, the late Mr. Kevin O'Higgins, with the approval of the then Minister for Finance, Mr. Blythe. It is in the Statutory Rules Orders of 1927 and it is indexed in the Library as page 241. It was issued on the 30th March, 1927.

To avoid repetition, I may say that it is typical of the pay Orders that have been made under that particular sub-section. Having cited its authority as Section 12 of the Police Forces Amalgamation Act of 1925, it sets out, in the ordinary way of statutory Orders, a section dealing with its title, a definition section, and then, in paragraph 3, it sets out the rates of pay of everybody in the Garda Síochána, from the commissioner down to the Garda, from the day he becomes a recruit until he has over 22 years' service. Conditions are set out—that was the point about which Deputy Major de Valera asked me—in regard to recruits and increments, and there are provisions in regard to Gardaí serving in the detective branch. It dealt with the commissioner, the deputy commissioners, and it provided for increments of pay, incremental increases and, as one would expect, provided that the coming into effect of the new Order would not result in any reduction in pay.

Surely the question of Garda Síochána pay would not come into this amendment?

You see, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, the Minister said very specifically, as reported in the column I have already quoted:—

"In this country, for example, forfeitures and penal deductions in the case of the Garda Síochána are dealt with by regulations made by the Minister for Justice (with the concurrence of the Minister for Finance) under Section 12 (1) of the Police Forces Amalgamation Act, 1925."

The Minister was referring to deductions and forfeitures.

I am pointing out to the House that what the Minister said in that case is not correct. That is not borne out by the statutory Orders that have, in fact, been made under that sub-section. When the Minister asks the House to accept as a precedent regulations made under a particular sub-section of the Act of 1925, it is my duty to point out to the House that that is not, in fact, a precedent for the action of the Minister.

I am doing what I suggest that the Minister might have done when he made that blunt statement—to establish where the precedent would come in. I am doing no more than pointing out that in every one of those pay Orders that have been issued under that sub-section by the Garda Síochána there has been no question of forfeiture or deduction of pay prescribed and that consequently the Minister—I accept absolutely that it was unintentional—misled the House in regard to the effect of what he stated was a precedent for the draftsmen of this particular Act.

I will not do any more in this regard than refer the Minister and the House to the pay Orders which are all statutory Orders that have been issued by the Garda Síochána in all the years that any Orders have been issued since 1925, and the Minister and the House will find these statutory regulations made in—as I stated—1926—nearly all the years since that—in 1940, 1942, 1946, 1947, 1949, 1952, and I think if I could find it, in 1953. So far as I have been able to find them those are statutory Orders that have been made under the sub-section of that Act and not one of them, as I myself believed, stipulated forfeitures or deductions from the pay of the Gardaí.

As I mentioned last night the Garda Síochána are in a somewhat different position from that of the Army in that they have certain rights guaranteed to them by statute to establish representative boards that may make representations to the Minister for Justice in regard to matters of pay and allowances. From the point of view of their constitution, their statutory authority, from the point of view of their inception and development there is no precedent in the Garda Síochána that can or may be accepted by the Army in regard to forfeiture or deductions from pay. I think I can say this from a study of the documents available to me that the Garda Síochána legislation is based to a considerable extent on the legislation that governed the old R.I.C. and that being so, in my view it is a pretty bad precedent for our Defence Forces—if one can find a precedent in it.

It is true that the Police Forces Amalgamation Act of 1925 did in other sections provide for the discipline of the Garda Síochána and did set out a number of offences, the breach of which would be a breach of Garda discipline. For those things certain fines, rather limited fines, were provided. But that is not in the section that the Minister quoted. It has nothing to do with forfeitures or penal deductions. It has to do with fines for breaches of Garda regulations which may be imposed by an officer in the orderly room or one, say, in the depot, by a superior in the Garda, according to the regulations, or by the commissioner as a result of a sworn inquiry. But these are matters entirely of discipline and have nothing to do with forfeiture or penal deductions from the pay of members of the Garda.

I regret very much that I should be replying to the debate on this amendment and setting out an absolute contradiction of what the Minister said when he was replying to the observations I had made in favour of the amendment.

The position then is clear and I hope I have made it perfectly clear that in regard to the three matters of precedent laid down by the Minister that the first one under Section 12 (1) of the Police Forces Amalgamation Act of 1925 is not applicable and consequently I ask the House not to accept the defence of the proposed procedure that was advanced on the basis that that section was in fact a precedent. I hope that what I have said now will satisfy Deputy Major de Valera in regard to the doubt that he appeared to have as to the effect of the section when I read it last night. That is the position in regard to that particular precedent.

I find in an examination to-day of the position of the Garda Síochána that they had very extensive protection in regard to their pay and allowances. I think it is well for them that they should be so protected.

Major de Valera

Can I put a little question? Suppose a Garda has an accident with a car and minor damages done, can that money be recovered from that Garda and what is the procedure?

As I understand, if a Garda has an accident with a car which is proved to be due to his fault a court of inquiry, similar in effect to the army system of court-martial, can penalise him under the disciplinary regulations but there is no means by which, if he has an accident, there can be a stoppage from his pay without judicial investigation into responsibility for that accident.

I think it is interesting on that particular point to examine the disciplinary regulations that govern the Garda and which were made in 1926. That is the position as I have been able to examine it in regard to the Garda. My own investigations have established to my satisfaction that the point that has been made that this is a precedent for what is proposed in the new Bill here does not stand examination. In the disciplinary regulations I have mentioned in 1926, Statutory Rules and Orders made by the Minister for Justice on the 1st May, 1926, Deputies will see the disciplinary powers that are invested in the Garda authorities. They will see how these disciplinary powers are exercised by, as I say, judicial investigation of the type that is peculiar to police forces but which is, nevertheless, a form of judicial investigation which enables the person concerned to make a defence. I hope I have disposed of that particular aspect to the satisfaction of the House.

The second thing the Minister said was:—"The British, in spite of having these provisions in their Army Act, deal by regulations with forfeitures and deductions in the case of the navy." I have examined that matter and I have searched the relevant British Acts in relation to it. While the period available to me is insufficient to make a comprehensive examination of all the Acts, nevertheless an examination of up-to-date authorities which refer to the different navy Acts show me that, again, the Minister was in error in the statement which I have quoted and which appears in columns 316-317 of the Debates for the 11th February, 1954.

Under the Act of 1861, which is a basic Act in regard to the navy, there is some reference to the pay. There is quite a number of disciplinary provisions. There is a provision as follows:—"During the imprisonment of any person in pursuance of that Act, all pay and wages shall be suspended and stopped." That is the Act of 1861. Then we come to the Act of 1865, which, I understand, is the basic Act in regard to the matter of regulations.

It is laid down in Section 3 of that Act that:—"all pay, wages, pensions, bounty money, grants or other allowances in the nature thereof payable in respect of services... shall be paid in such manner and subject to such restrictions, conditions and provisions as are from time to time directed by Order in council." Again, we have a succession of law which I do not want to enter upon in regard to this matter of the Crown Orders in council and the different considerations that applied from time to time in the navy. The net and important point is that the British naval law is not a precedent, as the Minister says, for what has been done in this Act. It would be very strange if we went to 1861 or 1865 to get a precedent for something we are doing in 1954 having, for the past 30 years, exercised authority under an Act of our own Parliament which, in respect to this particular thing, was satisfactory. I am not going to go into the historical business of the British Army and the British Navy, because, while I think it is most interesting—there is nothing I would enjoy more than a discussion in relation to it—the Chair might feel that it was not just right or necessarily relevant to the matter under discussion.

The Deputy might make a speech for another hour.

I think I could do more than an hour.

The Deputy is going near a record now.

There was the historical position that there was no fear of the navy, whereas there was considerable fear of the army. That was the basis for the annual Army Act in England, also the fact that the navy was not under an Act that had to be enacted annually as the Army Annual Act has to be. It is an interesting subject, as I said, and perhaps when our own history of military law is to be written somebody will add a short chapter on that particular aspect.

The important thing, from my point of view and, I think, from the point of view of the House, is that whatever Order has to be made under the navy laws must be made by Order in council and not by Order made by the Secretary of the Navy, as I presume he is called, who would correspond in this case to the Minister for Defence. It will be seen, therefore, that the British navy is subject, to a large extent, to Orders made by the King in council and there is that substantial difference as regards what has been suggested here. I do not think the Minister would contend that an Order made by the King in council could be considered to be a regulation made by himself as Minister for Defence with the concurrence of the Minister for Finance. That is the second precedent dealt with and I think it is unusual in a debate in this House that one could have such a volume of evidence that cannot be contradicted to establish that what were suggested as precedents are not, in fact, precedents, and cannot be relied upon.

The same consideration applies in regard to the third precedent which I mentioned briefly last night and which I just want to mention in passing so as to tidy up the argument. The Minister said at column 317, Volume 144, of the Official Debates of 11th February, 1954:—

"That this procedure is now the modern trend in other countries is indicated by the fact that the Canadians adopted the regulations system in their National Defence Act of 1950."

As I said last night, I have looked into the Canadian Act of 1950 and the Consolidation Act of 1952 in which all the laws dealing with the Defence Forces up to 1952 have been consolidated and codified. It is there laid down that:—

"the pay and allowances of officers and men are subject to such forfeitures and deductions as are prescribed in regulations made by the governor in council."

The governor in council in Canada, as the House knows, represents the British monarch and acts for the monarch with the assistance of the Canadian Privy Council, and it is in that capacity that he makes regulations for the army dealing with forfeitures and deductions. But the very same Act which says that also says this:—

"Where in any section of this Act other than Section 14 and this section there is express reference to regulations made or prescribed by the governor in council in respect of any matter, the Minister does not have power to make regulations pertaining to that matter."

The Canadians made no mistake about it. They said the regulations would be made by the governor in council, and in case anybody might have any misapprehension as to what that meant they said in another section of the same Act that where that is laid down the Minister has no power to make regulations pertaining to that matter.

Therefore, of the three precedents that have been laid down for us it is clear that Section 12 (1) of the Police Forces Amalgamation Act, 1925, does not apply. It is clear also that British naval law does not apply and that Canadian law does not apply. Might I ask the question then why, if that is the position, the Minister insists on sticking to an alteration in our military law that is not warranted, justified or authorised by any precedent, whether quoted in error or otherwise, and which, as has been pointed out in the course of the debate, is contrary to the best interests of the Defence Forces?

It is significant that in the Bill we are now discussing there are many sections which deal with the question of fines. There are provisions in it whereby fines of £25 may be imposed on an officer by court-martial. There are provisions in it whereby a fine not exceeding £10 may be imposed by court-martial on a non-commissioned officer, and there are similar provisions whereby a private may be fined a sum not exceeding £5 by court-martial. There are also provisions in it whereby on being found guilty of an offence an officer or soldier whose case is investigated in a judicial way by his superior authority may also be fined certain sums of money. If we provide all these sections in the Act in regard to fines, why do we want to include another omnibus section that gives the Minister power to make regulations which will enable him to deduct pay and allowances from an officer or from a soldier?

In the course of his reply the Minister made the point that where a person was guilty of what one might term gross negligence, irresponsibility of a type that should be punished, he wanted to have power to deal with that. May I refer the Minister to Section 156 of the Bill, and to quite a number of sections that surround that section in its location in the Bill? Section 156 reads as follows:—

"Every person subject to military law—

(a) who wilfully destroys or damages, loses by neglect, improperly sells or wastefully expends any money or property being—

(i) money or property belonging to the State, or

(ii) money or property received for, or administered by or through, service messes, institutes or canteens, or

(iii) money or property contributed by members of the Defence Forces for the collective benefit and welfare of such members, or

(iv) money or property derived from, purchased out of the proceeds of sale of, or received in exchange for money or property, mentioned in sub-paragraph (ii) or (iii) of this paragraph, or

(b) who wilfully destroys, damages or improperly sells, pawns, or pledges any property belonging to another person who is subject to military law,

is guilty of an offence against military law and shall, on conviction by court-martial, be liable to suffer imprisonment or any less punishment awardable by a court-martial."

There is a section, which I am not going to read, which deals with bribery, corruption and fraud whereby every person subject to military law who is guilty of bribery, corruption or fraud is guilty of an offence against military law and shall, on conviction by court-martial, be liable to suffer penal servitude or any less punishment awardable by a court-martial.

Section 158 deals with negligent or furious driving of service vehicles. Under that section, every person subject to military law who, having the charge of a service vehicle, by wanton or furious driving or racing or other wilful misconduct or by wilful neglect, does or causes to be done any bodily injury to any person or damage to any property or who drives a service vehicle on a street, road, highway or any other place, whether public or private, recklessly or in a manner that is dangerous to any person or property having regard to all the circumstances of the case, or who drives a service vehicle while intoxicated or under the influence of a drug or narcotic, is guilty of an offence against military law and shall, on conviction by court-martial, be liable to suffer imprisonment or any less punishment awardable by a court-martial.

The Deputy seems to be getting away from the amendment.

I am pointing out that if my amendment is accepted there is adequate provision in the Act to deal with any of the matters the Minister said he wanted to have power to deal with. Section 159—and I do not want to go into detail about it now— deals with the unauthorised use of service vehicles. That, also, is an offence against military law and a person shall, on conviction by court-martial, be liable to suffer imprisonment or any less punishment awardable by a court-martial.

Quite a number of sections deal with safeguards for military property of all descriptions. Therefore it would be wrong to suggest that it is necessary for the Minister to have the power which he seeks here for the purpose of dealing with persons who he thinks are guilty of offences of, as he described it, "a wanton or reckless character". The Defence Bill providing a very extensive code of law for dealing in a judicial manner with any negligence about which the Minister may complain and for dealing with any damage of a wilful kind to property, it is very difficult to see why, on top of that, he wants the right to make regulations to forfeit or make penal deductions from the pay of an officer or soldier.

The pay of an individual has been protected by the ordinary law of this country against any deductions from it. The House will be familiar with what is known as the Truck Act, which prohibits an employer from deducting from the pay of an employee. Any employer in the State who deducts from the pay of his employee is liable to be proceeded against for a breach of that Act. If we find that it is necessary to protect the pay of ordinary individuals there is all the more reason why we should seek to protect the pay of officers and soldiers who have very little redress if anything improper or illegal is being done in regard to their pay or to their allowances. If this House surrenders on that point just because, as the Minister stated, it makes for more flexibility—if we surrender a power of protection that we have in the law at the moment —then we shall be doing a very bad day's work for the officer and for the soldier. I do not feel the same guarantee that every matter that comes before a Minister in the future —if the Bill is passed in its present form—will be dealt with mainly from the point of view of justice to the soldier.

I was hoping that, in this Act, we could have maintained the protections that were in the old Act and that, in regard to the section of the old Act which gave the Minister power to make Orders against the pay of an officer and a soldier for damage done by him through negligence or through wrongful conduct, we might have introduced now an alternative proviso whereby the determination of a matter such as that would be in the hands of a military court consisting of three experienced officers who would provide for the person against whom the allegation was made every facility to make his defence to the allegation against him in person, with the assistance of such witnesses as he might feel it necessary to bring. In that way we could have done very valuable work for the Defence Forces and the officers and soldiers in them. Where such men are subject to a rigid code of discipline and where their only means of redress of grievances is a complicated and difficult procedure laid down in military law, it behoves every one of us to make sure that they are guaranteed, at least, that there will be no interference with their pay unless they are guilty of an offence against military law and the offence has been established by proper judicial inquiry at which the officer or soldier concerned would have the full rights of a citizen to fight his case and submit such evidence as he considered necessary or desirable.

I have spoken at some length on this matter. I can assure the House that I take no great pleasure in having to speak at length on a matter of this kind. It is with a feeling of the deepest regret that I find it necessary to speak in the way I am speaking in 1954 in regard to what I consider to be a very serious and grave invasion of the rights of the officer and the soldier. I should have imagined that after 30 years' experience we would all be united in an effort to improve the things we knew were defective rather than that we should be witnessing all safeguards being wiped away and the souls and bodies of our officers and soldiers being handed over to the tender mercies of what we describe as the civil servants in the Department of Defence.

I have spent many years in association with the members of the Defence Forces, commencing in the very lowest rank, that of private, and, as an officer in the three grades of commissioned rank up to captain, serving in the line and in administrative grades, serving in every one of the senior staffs, including headquarters staff, spending, as I did, a very long period as an officer defending soldiers charged with offences, or sitting on courts-martial as a judge advocate, trying to see that justice was done to soldiers, and I feel this very keenly.

I assume the Deputy is closing?

Yes. I feel it very much. If this section is passed into law without the deletion of the clause that I propose should be deleted, not only will I have cause to regret it, but every officer and soldier in the Defence Forces will have cause to regret it. The Minister will have cause to regret the fact that he did not give adequate consideration to the point of view expressed here, not in the interests of more flexible administration but in the interests of justice to the officers and men of the Defence Forces.

The amendment I am dealing with at the moment is to delete lines 11 to 35 in Section 97. The words proposed to be deleted are set out in sub-paragraph (2). If that sub-section is deleted, it will be necessary to insert provisions in the Bill such as exist at the moment in the Act of 1923.

Major de Valera

Which are?

Irrelevant, because there is nothing here except to delete.

No; the other sections follow. As Deputy de Valera knows, in amendment No. 52 it is proposed to reinstate substantially the provisions of what I term the protective sections of the old Act.

I suggest that we do not anticipate a decision on amendment No. 51, that we finish with No. 51 before we proceed to discuss No. 52.

Amendment No. 52, which proposes the insertion of certain words, is entirely independent of this amendment and I understand certain Deputies want to say something about it. I cannot be relevant for ever. Although I could talk for a considerable period longer on this point, I feel that I have made a very strong and substantial case and I sincerely hope it will be considered, whatever the decision of the House may be in regard to the deletion of these particular words. I am satisfied that, if this is enacted by the House, that soldiers' and officers' pay will be subjected to deductions and stoppages, this new Act will mean no improvement in the conditions of officers and soldiers. While it may make it easier to take away portions of their pay—which is not a very substantial pay at any time—it is detrimental to the service as a whole.

I would make this concluding point to the Minister. He has grave difficulty in getting the Defence Forces up to strength. There is nothing that contributes more to the success of a defence force or an army than the fact that there is no difficulty or trouble in regard to their pay. I have endeavoured in every way, both in the Special Committee and here, to induce the Minister to see the error of his ways in regard to that and to see the justice of the case I am making. I can only hope that the effect of my contribution on this section will result in a reconsideration of this matter.

Question put: "That all words from the word ‘Minister' in line 11 to the word ‘forfeitures' in line 14 stand."
Division challenged.

Would the Deputies challenging a division please stand?

Deputies A. Byrne, T. Byrne and Cowan rose.

The Deputies who rose will be recorded as dissenting.

Question declared carried.

That decision disposes of amendments Nos. 52, 56 and 59.

I understood that the Chair said, in reply to Deputy Collins, that amendment No. 52 still might be discussed.

No. I told Deputy Collins that amendment No. 51a would be moved and it was not being included in that group of amendments. I wanted Deputies to have an opportunity of discussing the Minister's amendment if they so desired.

I move amendment No. 51a:—

In page 51, Section 97 (2) (a) (i), line 14, to substitute "and deductions" for "deductions and stoppages".

This is a slight verbal amendment. We propose to delete the word "stoppages", as "deductions" by itself is sufficient.

Amendment put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 51b:—

In page 51, Section 97 (2) (a) (ii), line 17, to delete "and stoppages".

This amendment is similar to the last one.

Amendment put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 51c:—

In page 51, Section 97 (2) (a) (iii), lines 19 and 20, to substitute "and deductions" for "deductions and stoppages".

Amendment put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 51d:—

In page 51, Section 97 (2), (a) (iv), line 22, to substitute "and deductions" for "deductions and stoppages".

Amendment put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 51e:—

In page 51, Section 97 (2), line 25, to substitute "and deductions" for "deductions and stoppages".

Amendment put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 51f:—

In page 51, Section 97 (2), to insert between lines 26 and 27 the following paragraphs:—

(b) Regulations made under this sub-section shall not prescribe—

(i) forfeiture of pay except in respect of—

(I) absence on desertion or without leave,

(II) custody, imprisonment or detention,

(III) absence from duty on account of a disease or disability arising out of the commission of any offence,

(IV) unclaimed amounts;

(ii) deductions from pay except in respect of—

(I) articles or services provided,

(II) marriage allotment.

(III) fines, penalties, damages, compensation or costs awarded,

(IV) public or service property lost, deficient, damaged or destroyed,

(V) public or service debt or disallowance,

(VI) unauthorised expenditure or commitment;

(c) the total deduction to be made under regulations made under this sub-section from the pay of a man, except a man who is being transferred to the Reserve Defence Force or discharged from the Defence Forces, shall not in any week exceed such sum as would cause him to receive less than one-third of his pay for that week.

As I have already said on amendments Nos. 51 and 52, this amendment is designed to meet, as far as possible, the views of Deputies who feel that the circumstances in which forfeitures and deductions will occur should be detailed in the Bill. The general headings now proposed constitute a very real limitation of the power to make regulations. These headings are, I think, self-explanatory, and Deputies who have studied them should have no doubt as to their necessity. The provision limiting the rate of deduction so as to leave a man not less than one-third of his pay in any week continues a similar provision in existing legislation.

Will the Minister explain what is meant by "unclaimed amounts"?

Unclaimed amounts would refer to sums of money due to individuals who had been absent without leave, desertion or something of that kind.

Major de Valera

In Committee, and in principle I must say, I shared to some extent the fears which Deputy Cowan had expressed in regard to the section as originally drafted. In principle, it would be highly desirable to ensure, in all cases where there is any deduction from the pay or allowances of an officer, N.C.O. or man, that the deduction should be made in accordance with some form of judicial procedure. In other words, his liability for such a deduction should, clearly, be established.

In the case of the larger type of deduction there is no trouble, because there is usually a court of inquiry or something of that nature. It was in the case of the smaller deductions that the difficulties arose. The problem is one of administration in the end, so that, in respect to these smaller amounts, I did think that some definite safeguard was required. Where I would not go the whole road with Deputy Cowan was on the practical working out of a feasible scheme, and where you were going to prescribe, in the basic Act and in regulations, what was going to be purely administrative machinery. It is desirable, as far as possible, to get the principles laid down in the Act. It did seem that it was giving the Minister rather wide powers in the section, as originally drafted, to leave the regulation of these matters completely for departmental arrangement.

The Minister has brought in this amendment to deal with the points which were raised. Frankly, I think that the Minister has gone a long way to meet us on this matter, following all our discussions in Committee. There are certain things in this amendment. It is fairly definite, I think, in the context of the section that regulations made under this sub-section shall not prescribe, etc. That is in reference to sub-section (2) which empowers the Minister to make regulations. The Minister is forbidden to make regulations except in the circumstances of (i), that is, in regard to forfeitures and deductions, and except in the circumstances of (2) (ii), and there is protection, in regard to total deduction, on which we commented in Committee, in regard to (c).

I do not think that we can reasonably ask the Minister to go much further than that, so far as this basic legislation is concerned. Where I do not completely agree with Deputy Cowan is on this: that I feel there is a certain futility in trying to cover all possible cases. If you allow the principle of deduction at all, there is a certain futility in trying to cover it here in this House. If Deputies, or anybody else, strongly make the case: "No penalisation and no deductions at all," that is all right, but in the nature of things I do not think we can go that far. It is then a question of nice balance as to how far we can insert a statutory protection. I think it should be inserted as far as it can go, and how far it must be left to administration. The Minister knows that I joined in the criticisms of the original section, but I think it is only fair to say that he has gone a long way to meet the points which were raised.

As I see it, there is in this whole matter the question of internal administration and organisation in the Department of Defence rather than the explicit things set out in the section. That, however, is another day's work. I think that I would be only taking up the time of the House if I were to repeat a number of the things which were said on this matter in Committee. They are on record, and there is no need to repeat them, but I would strongly commend to the Minister and, through him, to his Department some of the points that were made in that connection. I would like to see, in the organisation of such matters, that adequate actual safeguards were given to the soldier, particularly the junior officer and the lower ranks who, from the nature of the case, are in a fairly vulnerable position. I would urge at all times that, as far as this legislation is concerned, we have to guard against, on the one hand, being too rigid or rather too elastic—it is rigidity in another sense—and on the other of leaving things completely unspecified in the hands, technically, of the Minister which means to be operated departmentally. It is a choice between that and striking the right balance, not going too far the other way and trying to legislate for details we cannot possibly hope to control and bringing about an artificiality that would be nearly worse than the first evil we are trying to avoid. In the middle somewhere is the right solution. I will not go so far as to say that the Minister's solution is the ideal, or even that it is the best that could be thought of, but I say that, in all the circumstances, he has gone a long way to meet the point made, and I think the amendment should be accepted.

This section was discussed at very great length at the Special Committee, and, as Deputy de Valera has said, the Minister has produced this amendment as a result of the arguments made. I think that, on examination, it will be found that the amendment meets the arguments, but whether it was necessary or not is something I am not going to admit for the moment. The Minister is empowered to make regulations in respect of forfeitures—things that are automatic, such as absence without leave, desertion, custody, imprisonment or detention and so on. The section gives power to the Minister to make regulations to take back the money, and, if he had not that power, the position would be the same as that in regard to the pay of the British forces in this country which built the Royal Hospital —the money would be there and nobody could touch it, neither the State nor the individual, so that it would be hanging there like Mohammed's coffin. Deductions from pay which the regulations will authorise may be in respect of articles or services provided. That is something which has been issued and everybody knows that the soldier or officer, if a serious amount is involved, can still claim a court of inquiry to decide whether or not he should pay the particular sum.

The Deputy knows that is incorrect. I am sorry to have to say it, but he knows it is perfectly and absolutely incorrect.

Is it not a great blessing that we have you to tell us when we are wrong? I want to protest against these interruptions by Deputy Cowan or anybody else. The Deputy has held the fort here all the evening and nobody interrupted him. There is a reference to fines, penalties and damages and these can only be deducted when a court or some other procedure has found that the sums are due. I submit that the Minister has gone a long way to meet the argument put forward at the Special Committee and I think that in the circumstances the amendment should be accepted without further debate, because if we continue to discuss these matters on this stage to the extent to which they were discussed at the Special Committee, the Act will never see the light of day.

I am sorry if I should be considered as having interrupted Deputy MacEoin, but when a Deputy says that a soldier can demand a court of inquiry, I can do nothing but say that he is incorrect and I wanted to have the objection to such a statement recorded as quickly as possible after the incorrect statement was made. If we are to discuss this important matter, let us discuss it on the basis of fact and knowledge. I can see Deputy de Valera's approach to this problem, that there was a difficult position. The Minister has brought in this amendment in an effort to meet objections raised at the Special Committee to the procedure of the regulations. I wonder would the House consider why was it necessary for the Minister to bring in this regulation. Why was it not brought in, in the first instance, if it is a protective clause or if it limits in any way? Why was the Bill in the way it is before the House now brought in with the provision in Section 97 that the Minister would have power to make a regulation dealing with the forfeitures and deductions to which the pay, allowances, gratuities of or grants to members of the Defence Forces may be subjected, without any protective clause whatever? If it took the amendment I put down in the Special Committee and the debate that arose there to bring about this amendment which is considered to be of some assistance to the soldier, I think it does establish very clearly that a Deputy who takes the trouble to examine Bills and suggest amendments is, perhaps, helping the Bill in some way.

Would you not put it the other way—that the Minister dealing with the Bill is endeavouring to help the Deputy?

I will say that where the Minister has conceded points made, on being satisfied that they were right, I pay tribute to him for doing so, but I want to say that the protection laid down in this amendment is, to my view, a complete illusion, that it provides no protection whatever and does not limit in any way what was in the Bill, in the first instance. These are my views in regard to it for what they are worth. Could anyone suggest under what other heading could a regulation be made in regard to the pay or allowances of an officer or soldier? I am asking that practical question—could anyone suggest any other heading under which a regulation might be made taking away the pay or allowances of an officer or soldier? If that is so, where, then, is the protection in this?

One could think out things that the Minister might do but of course would obviously lead to mutiny and to that extent they would not be done. I want to examine this carefully, because what we are doing now in regard to Section 97, the amendment of Section 97, is that we are establishing a code of law that will be very important as far as officers and soldiers are concerned. The amendment which the Minister proposes to insert says that regulations made under the section shall not prescribe forfeiture of pay except in respect of (1) absence on desertion or without leave, (2) custody, imprisonment or detention, (3) absence from duty on account of a disease or disability arising out of the commission of any offence and (4) unclaimed amounts. What exactly does the Minister propose will be done in regard to these headings? That is what I am anxious to know and I thought I should have heard from the Minister, because I think it might have been of some assistance, if this amendment is passed to the Department and to the Army officers who would have to administer the law to have some indication as to what is in the mind of the Minister in regard to these matters.

Under the amendment the Minister may make regulations dealing with the forfeiture of pay for absence. Deputy Major Vivion de Valera and Deputy General MacEoin both assume that the Minister is going to make regulations in regard to forfeiture of pay for absence, and I assume that they assume that a person will lose a day's pay for a day of absence, and that he would not lose two days' pay for each day of absence. I take it that Deputy General MacEoin and Deputy Major de Valera assumed that that will be so.

Major de Valera

I do not. I could see the Minister making a regulation that it would be two days' forfeiture for one day's absence.

This section deals with absence on desertion or absence without leave. There are two sub-sections in that clause. The Minister may provide for forfeiture of pay for absence on desertion or he may provide for forfeiture of pay on absence without leave. What I am worried about is this, is the Minister going to limit himself in the regulations to forfeiture of one day's pay for each day of absence without leave, or is he going to make regulations where he would forfeit more than a day's pay, or will the basis of deduction of pay be a day's pay at all?

We are proceeding to discuss the projected regulations.

I am not, Sir. I am dealing with what is considered to be an important limitation of the clause 2A (1). What I am putting forward is that the Minister should have indicated to the House in a substantial way what he proposes to do in regard to this. It is just bald that he may make a regulation in regard to absence without leave.

The next point that arises there is whether this forfeiture is to include more than simple regimental pay. Will it include allowances? That is where I think we might have had some idea from the Minister, because if we had it it would be a guide to the House and what was on record as to the present intention of limitation, while it would not have legal validity, would be of some guidance in regard to it. In the old Act—and this was important— when a man was absent without leave and was tried by a court-martial, the court-martial had a right to say whether he forfeited pay or not for the period that he was absent. That was a right that vested in the members of the court, who for one reason or another on the explanation of the accused person could direct that he did not forfeit pay although he might be absent 14 days. I would have been concerned to know would that protective provision be in the new regulations, and I think that is of some consequence, because if it is not, if it was not provided, it would be a very serious worsening of the conditions of the people who are in the Defence Forces.

What about the marriage allowance?

I am interested in that, too. Sub-section (c) of this says that the total deduction to be made under regulations made under this sub-section from the pay of a man shall not in any week exceed such sum as would cause him to receive less than one-third of his pay for that week. There is the case of the married soldier and his marriage allowance. There is the case of other allowances that he may be entitled to. That is why I am so much concerned about this that I would rather have it written down so that nobody would have any doubt about it than that we should have it in this form, and that is why I take the view that while the Minister has endeavoured to meet a point of view put forward in the Special Committee what he has in fact done has not in any way limited what it was anticipated he might do if he got the full power that was in the regulations. The matter of the wife's allowance arises not so much on when he has deserted as on desertion or absence without leave, which can be dealt with subsequently as it will arise in regard to other sub-sections there, while he is in custody, imprisonment or detention, or while he is absent from duty on account of a disease arising out of the commission of any offence. There always was the position that a court-martial, as I say, had power in regard to forfeiture of pay, in regard to absence without leave or desertion. There were other safeguards also in regard to absence without leave where a commanding officer was concerned in investigation. I would be very anxious to know if thestatus quo will be maintained in any regulations that are made because, if it is not maintained, I can see a very difficult position arising. If the regulations made by the Minister are in any way different from the regulations now in force that will have the effect of worsening conditions of service for both officers and men. It is hardly necessary to mention that that could be a cause of very great concern to the Minister and his Department and to the Government.

We have no guarantee that the forfeiture will be limited to the period for which a man is absent without leave or the period during which he is a deserter. That will create substantial difficulty, particularly if the regulation conflicts with any other provision. I take it that every care will be exercised to prevent any conflict of that kind.

The same situation arises in relation to custody, imprisonment or detention. I am not worrying very much about imprisonment or detention because a person can only be imprisoned by order of a court-martial or of a civil court. Unless the individual concerned is tried by a court he cannot be imprisoned. He cannot be put in detention unless his case is tried by a superior officer under the powers vested in him or unless he has been court-martialled. The word "custody" creates some difficulty. It has been the practice that where a person is held in custody on a charge and that, on subsequent trial, that charge is dismissed or terminates in his favour, he does not forfeit pay. Will there be any change in that? Is there any intention of stopping pay in that set of circumstances even though the individual concerned is subsequently acquitted or the charge is not proceeded with against him? If there is to be no change, a situation I can hardly visualise, it is difficult to understand why we have it in this particular way instead of leaving it as it was.

The next point is absence from duty because of disease or disability arising out of the commission of an offence. If a soldier commits an offence, which results in disease or disability, he is liable to forfeit pay. What pay will he forfeit? Is it pay for the period during which he is inactive because of disease or disability? My trouble in relation to that is that it specifically states: "arising out of the commission of an offence"; if it is the commission of an offence, will he be found guilty by a court-martial or by a superior officer in a proper trial? The matter of dual punishment arises there. He may be convicted of the offence. He will be tried under one of the subsequent sections with which we will be dealing. If he is found guilty and punished in the way that the tribunal or court-martial considers proper, will there be on top of that a second punishment imposed by the Minister by means of which he will forfeit some of his pay? These are some of the points in relation to forfeitures to which I think it necessary to draw the Minister's attention. When he is replying, I hope he will make a clear and specific statement which will act as a headline to the Army in relation to all these matters.

I am not very worried about these unclaimed amounts. The Minister has explained that these are amounts which would be to the credit of officers or soldiers for such a period of time as would render it unlikely that the persons concerned would claim the amounts. I take it the Department would take all steps to try to give this unclaimed pay to those to whom it belongs. I can understand that a deserter might have a certain sum of money due to him and I assume the Minister wants power to wipe that out from an accountancy point of view by means of forfeiture and thereby place it to the credit of the State. I would like the Minister's views on these points when he comes to reply.

This amendment also deals with deductions from pay, deductions which are somewhat different from forfeitures. Deputy MacEoin mentioned that deductions may be made for articles or services provided, and he said that these could be certain foodstuffs or other matters of that kind. The wording of the section causes me a little concern. Has a member of the Defence Forces any right to refuse to accept such services or articles? Can they be made available to him and must he be subject to deduction for them because they have been made available? I would like the Minister to deal with that point.

First and foremost, in a general way what are these articles and services? Will they be provided compulsorily or will the individual concerned have any say in the matter? Is it a matter of voluntary acceptance so far as he is concerned? I would like to have that point cleared up.

The next point we come to is deductions in respect of marriage allotment. Up to the moment to a large extent marriage allotment was on a voluntary basis; in other words, a soldier was obliged to contribute a minimum sum each week to his wife, but quite a number of soldiers contributed more than that and, although there was an obligation to contribute, it was never looked upon as being something which a soldier was just obliged to do. He knew when getting married that the rate of marriage allowance would be based on his contribution to his wife, plus certain contributions by the Minister under the marriage regulations.

Is that an obligation laid down by regulations?

I know one case in which it did not happen.

It should happen. The provision generally is that the soldier contributes a weekly sum to his wife which is deducted from his pay and added to the marriage allowance provided by the State, and both are then paid to the wife. That has been the practice for a long time.

In this case the man was killed and the widow came out of it badly, I think.

There might be some special circumstances I should like to know before I would venture a view in regard to it. As far as this is concerned, I am only talking about the general principles with regard to it. The next thing is "fines, penalties, damages, compensation or costs awarded". That opens up a very wide position and again I should like the Minister to say what he has in mind in regard to it. I take it that we can all accept "fine" as being a fine imposed by a court of competent jurisdiction, whether a military or a civil court. The next thing is "penalties". That is what I have great difficulty about. What does "penalties" mean? What is a penalty? Who is to decide what the penalty is or what it is for? Is it a penalty that may be imposed by the Minister after a court of competent jurisdiction has decided that a soldier is not liable to bear a penalty? A word of that kind means, as I said at the beginning, no limitation of the effect of this section in its original state. I know of no legal limitation to the word "penalties" there. "Damages" again raises the same thing. What are damages? Are they damages that are awarded under the Act by a court of competent jurisdiction or who will decide what damages they are?

Then we come to "compensation" which was the basis, to a large extent, of the discussion we have had over the past few days in regard to deductions. Compensation for what? Is it compensation for an article that happens to be damaged or is it compensation for damage done in respect of which the soldier or the officer is charged and which he is ordered by a court-martial or a civil court to make good, or is it compensation that the Minister may think he should pay? If it is compensation of that kind, will it be limited as it has been up to the present to compensation to make good damage done by a wrongful act or by negligence, or will it be compensation just for a loss which may not be proved to be due to negligence, or compensation on the lines of the example I gave when I was proposing my amendment, for articles that were lost out of a particular consignment of goods?

These are difficulties that arise and these make it very difficult for me to think, while the Minister may have the intention, and I accept that he had the intention, of endeavouring to meet the difficulties that were explained in the Special Committee, on examination of the amendment that he has put in, that there is no restriction whatsoever, nor is there any limitation, and that the full wide scope which was there originally is not still there in the amendment.

Then one gets into much more serious difficulties when one comes to the next sub-section which says, "public or service property lost, deficient, damaged or destroyed". There is not very much difference between public property and service property, but there are definitions in the Act which explain them. For the practical purposes of this debate and for the purpose of trying to understand what is meant, one may take them as being military property, whether they are barracks, uniforms, arms, equipment or things of that kind. The point is "public or service property lost, deficient, damaged or destroyed". What does the Minister propose to do there? Must there be any finding of negligence or wrongful action on the part of the individual before he is obliged to pay for something that is lost, something that is deficient, something that is damaged, or something that is destroyed; or will it be the purpose in the regulation to set out a code of law such as we have now done away with in which all these matters will be covered fully? Who will be the deciding authority? Will it be the Minister himself, will it be Army officers, or will it be members of his Department? Will all these matters be subject to review? Will any person who is aggrieved by a decision against him have the right to apply to the Minister under the section of the Act which deals with redress of grievances and have his case examined by any person?

These are very material factors in regard to this amendment which the Minister should explain fully to the House. Clearly, since the matter was discussed in the Special Committee there must have been considerable consideration given to the aspects of the problem and, obviously, when the Minister agreed to introduce this amendment he only agreed to introduce it when he was satisfied as to the effect of it, and, being satisfied as to the effect of it, he should be in a position now to explain it very fully to the House. I do not want to make the case that this is not a difficult matter, that it would not be difficult for the Minister to explain it. I know it is exceptionally difficult. All that I am asking the Minister at this stage is to give in broad outline what he thinks the effect of these sub-sections will be, if approved by the Dáil.

Then there is another one: "public or service debt or disallowance." That is something new to me, something novel. We all know what the public debt is. We have heard it described from time to time by our statesmen and politicians in millions of public debt.

The amendment further says that deductions from pay will not be made except in respect of public debt. I would be interested to know what exactly the Minister means by that. What would be considered a public debt as distinct from the public debt? What is a service debt or what is a disallowance, which again is new to me? Is this disallowance the same thing that we have in local authorities where an auditor comes along and decides to surcharge members? This particular heading or clause seems to me to be new and for that reason I am very anxious that it should be explained. "Public or service debt"— I try to visualise it and I find the greatest difficulty in regard to it. "Service debt"—does that include, or is it proposed or intended that it should include, mess accounts or mess debts, moneys that might be due in a canteen, a dry canteen or a wet canteen?

The last item is "unauthorised expenditure or commitment". I think the House could conceive that very few people would be caught out under "unauthorised expenditure or commitment". What really does it mean? Does "expenditure" mean expenditure of money, or could it possibly mean expenditure of ammunition on a range? In a broad general way, what is "unauthorised expenditure" and who possibly could be guilty of unauthorised expenditure? The Minister and the House know that, in peace-time at any rate, no member of the Army has any right to expend money without authority and, in fact, nobody but a fool in the Army would expend money without authority. Does "unauthorised expenditure" mean expenditure of the type I have mentioned in regard to the purchase of military requirements, or could it include expenditure in regard to messes in the Army, where the expenditure might be by a member of the committee without the consent of the other members? Could that sort of expenditure be recouped from the members of the mess?

These are the difficulties I have in regard to the proposed addition to the section. I think, on hearing what I am saying in regard to it, the House will come to the conclusion that these additions do not limit or restrict the Minister in any way from his original intention, but my detailed examination may have enabled me to take a view in regard to it that is not shared by some of my colleagues in this House. That is my objection, or rather my difficulty, in regard to this. The view I hold is that whether this amendment which the Minister proposes is put in or left out, it does not in any way lessen the powers the Minister has been given in the first part of the section we have just dealt with.

The last part of the proposed amendment says:

"The total deduction to be made under regulations made under this sub-section from the pay of a man, except a man who is being transferred to the Reserve Defence Force or discharged from the Defence Forces, shall not in any week exceed such sum as would cause him to receive less than one-third of his pay for that week."

I understood that the provisions in regard to forfeitures and deductions applied to officers and soldiers and I should like the Minister to explain was there any particular reason why this matter of reducing the deduction to two-thirds was limited to soldiers. Was there any specific reason for that and if so what was it?

There is one other point which is a technical matter but I take it it will be corrected by the Minister. It is only a small matter of drafting. There are two sub-paragraphs (b) in the section but perhaps there may be a subsequent amendment dealing with that. I have endeavoured in examining this proposed amendment to see how far it helps to protect the position of soldiers or officers and I would be anxious to know what powers the Minister considers he shed when he agreed to propose this amendment. What powers did he propose to shed and deprive himself of? What powers of forfeiture? What powers of deduction? I am satisfied from an examination of it that it gives much wider powers than exist in the present Act, the 1923 Act, which is still the law; that it gives those wider powers in a very unsatisfactory way; that it enables the Minister to make regulations and to alter those regulations at will, giving, as somebody has said, flexibility. If one thought that the alterations would be alterations made in favour of the officer or soldier one might agree that that type of flexible procedure which makes for ready amendment might be desirable but every soldier's experience has been that powers given to a Minister particularly powers to interfere with his pay are generally interpreted in an unfair way to the individual. While a Minister looking over a file in which it is alleged an individual has caused damage, say, to the extent of £10, decides in a generous frame of mind to reduce that by half, may consider that as doing a substantial benefit to the soldier, in fact the deduction of the reduced amount, if it is not done in a just fashion, will have just the same detrimental effect on him as if the larger deduction was in fact made.

I do not think that we can accept as a criterion the position that in examining the amount that a man is obliged or will be obliged to pay you help matters a great deal by deciding to take only half of what is being unjustly taken from him instead of taking nothing at all from him as might be the just result if one had the type of judicial investigation that is in it.

I would ask the Minister to say whether in the regulations which he projects the complete power to deal with them will be in the hands of the Minister; or in the hands of subordinate officers; whether the complete power of going into this matter will be in the hands of military officers or the hands of civilians or in the hands of some type of joint body composed of both officers and civilians. I think if we had that information in regard to this section, in addition to the other points I have asked for, we would be in a position to say how far and to what extent this new procedure is going to interfere with the rights of the officers and soldiers.

In the next sub-section it is proposed that the regulations shall be laid in the ordinary way before each House of the Oireachtas and the House will have the right, if it so desires, to annul. I take it that those regulations when made will be available for officers and soldiers, not only in the Stationery Office, but throughout the units. As far as the Act is concerned as a whole, I think the old Act was generally and extensively understood right through the Defence Forces. Will these new regulations be widely distributed? Will each soldier who may be bound by this regulation be supplied with a copy of it? Will every officer be supplied with a copy or will it be made available to units? Will it simply be sent as disciplinary regulations are sent at the moment to the different military organisations and not to the individuals?

I am not very much concerned how the thing is done so long as proper efforts will be made to see that the regulations are known to the persons who are likely to be affected by them.

I think I have said, perhaps, as much as I propose to say in regard to this amendment. I reiterate what I said at the beginning in answer to points that were made, that in my view the insertion of this amendment does not in any way limit the Minister's powers and that there is no conceivable matter on which there could be forfeiture or deduction where the Minister is not covered in the heads that he has set out here in regard to forfeiture and deduction. It is and will be and must be important that when the regulations are drawn that they will be drawn in the way an Act of Parliament would be drawn. I do not know whether the parliamentary draftsman or the Attorney-General would be consulted in matters of this kind but I do say where statutory regulations are to be made to replace provisions of Acts of Parliament those regulations should be prepared with the same care and attention as an Act of Parliament is prepared in the parliamentary draftsman's office because it must have the same effect as far as the Army is concerned not only from the point of view of the person who suffers the deduction or forfeiture but also from the point of view of any person in an administrative capacity who has to work on the decisions that are taken in regard to it. In so far as officers of the different units are concerned who would be anxious to advise soldiers as to their rights, if any, under the regulations, it is desirable that the regulations which they have to interpret in that way should be as carefully drawn up as possible.

I do not think there is anything else I want to say in regard to this particular section relating to pay. I regret that we are discussing it but that is unavoidable, I suppose, in view of the decision that has already been taken. I hope the Minister, for the benefit of the House and the Army, will give in a broad, general way the explanations that I have asked from him in discussing the amendment.

I think I would want to be a superoptimist if I were to believe that I could produce anything, even through this amendment which he has criticised, or anything else that would satisfy Deputy Cowan. He seems to think that there was something wrong in producing the amendment which I have introduced to meet the views expressed by the members of the Special Committee. I think that instead of regarding it as something that was forced out of the Minister he should regard it as a tribute to the Committee and as a proof that the Committee was capable of doing valuable work, and that it could improve the Bill, as we hope it will be improved, by the various amendments.

I think we had a very fine demonstration here a few minutes ago of the wisdom, common sense, understanding and humanity that exist among the members of this House. Deputy Cowan took five hours to deal with this small amendment, five hours of continuous denunciation of the Bill, civil servants and members of the Army—he did not even exclude the Minister. However, it only took less than five minutes for the House to demonstrate its wisdom, common sense and belief in the fact that this Government and the last Government which was connected with this Bill had as much at heart the welfare of the Army and Army personnel as Deputy Cowan.

It seems to me that Deputy Cowan's general approach to discussion on this Bill is that all the experts, the drafting officers, the specialists of the Department of Defence who were involved in the rough drafting of it and the Minister's advisers, did not know their business, and that the only person who was right in all this thing was Deputy Cowan. I do not know whether he genuinely believes that or not.


But I myself am satisfied that this Bill will be a big improvement on the Acts which it will replace. I can hardly conceive any reason why it would be deemed necessary to bring in a replacement of any Act which was up to date and satisfactory.

In the course of my discussion on this Bill, I happened to use the words "carelessness" and "irresponsibility" and Deputy Cowan fastened on these two words and because they were not in the section that deals with the particular matter which we were discussing he tried to create the impression that the soldiers were penalised under something which was illegal. I will just refer to it. Deputy Cowan in the course of his remarks on that particular point—I just took down a very short note as he was speaking—said, referring to me, that I had stated that I must penalise irresponsibility. This is, in fact, what I did say:

"I do not think Deputy Cowan is advocating that we should not penalise irresponsibilities. I do not believe for a moment that he would stand over that sort of thing. However, in the case he has been making, he has almost been suggesting that there should be no forfeiture, penal or otherwise. If a soldier who has charge of valuable State property, in the form of a motor car or some other piece of equipment, damages that equipment through irresponsibility, through carelessness or through some other cause and if it is proved to have been caused through negligence on his part, he should have to pay some part of the cost of that damage."

I do not know whether Deputy Cowan deliberately or through some omission left out the very vital words which I have there stated. These words were "damages that equipment through irresponsibility, through carelessness or through some other cause and if it is proved to have been caused through negligence on his part." That was in conformity with the Act, but Deputy Cowan goes out of his way to create the impression that the Minister was signing ministerial Orders against soldiers for something that was not mentioned in the Act. I do not think that that is the sort of fair discussion we expect in this House.

Will I be allowed to reply to this?

No, the Minister is concluding on the amendment.

The point the Minister is raising was discussed at length on the previous amendment and not on this amendment. If what I said on a previous amendment, not on this one, is to come into the discussion, I should have the right to reply briefly.

I have been speaking for five minutes. Deputy Cowan has just sat down. He has been speaking for six hours. He spoke five hours on the amendment and one hour just now. It strikes me that Deputy Cowan likes to hit out.

But he does not like taking the blows back. I think he ought to grow up. If he feels like handing out punishment he ought to learn to take a little himself.

I am taking this in the best of part.

I am trying to do the same but I must deal with misstatements and the Deputy apparently has an objection to my doing so.

I am asking for the column.

We are dealing with amendment 51 (f).

I am asking for the column in the Official Debates.

Would the Minister give the reference in the Official Debates?

The Deputy will find my statement in the last paragraph of column 318, Volume 144, of the Official Debates of the 11th February, 1954. The Deputy then said: "Widespread injustices have been inflicted on the Army". I do not know where or how he could possibly have got that impression. He stated that he could produce 100 of them; he did produce one and I am going to deal with the one he did produce. He referred to this case in column 305, Volume 144 and said:

"Quite recently I came across a case where a particular officer was sent to do a job of work. He had scarcely arrived on the job when he was ordered by a superior authority to go elsewhere. Another officer took over from him. There was a third officer concerned."

I do not want to tire the House by reading all of this but this is the part I want to impress on the House:

"Some gentleman took it upon himself to come to the conclusion that all three officers were responsible for the loss and that all three should be asked to show cause why the Minister should not make an Order deducting one-third of £2 from their pay."

I do not intend to discuss this case very far because it issub judice and I am rather surprised that Deputy Cowan brought it in at all.

It does not seem to arise on this amendment.

I am trying to deal with the gross misstatements that were made in the course of the very matter we are discussing now.

If it is a case which issub judice I cannot see how we can have any discussion on it at all.

That is the point I am making. I am not discussing the case. I have not the slightest intention of discussing it, but I do want to say that it was not a gentleman of the Department of Defence——

Let us hope so.

——which is the impression the Deputy has tried to force on the House all the time. It is a military court of inquiry that is dealing with it and I am only trying to show another misstatement. If we are going to have discussions in this House let us have discussions on facts so that we can deal with facts.

There is a committee of inquiry on a £2 loss?

And it is a military committee that is inquiring into it and we have to presume they are not the villains Deputy Cowan appears to think they are. Furthermore, it is not some civil servant in a particular part of the premises that is squeezing out the last penny from an unfortunate soldier. I realise that the more speak the more ammunition I am providing for Deputy Cowan and I think the best thing I could do is to leave the matter and try to answer some of the questions he has been asking, questions to which he himself knows the answers but in connection with which he wants answers from me.

In regard to forfeiture of pay in respect of (I) absence on desertion or without leave, and (II) custody, imprisonment or detention, these are general provisions which cover the more particularised provisions in the existing Acts. In relation to (III), absence from duty on account of a disease or disability arising out of the commission of any offence, the existing Acts contain a more detailed provision for men only. Officers will in future be put on the same footing as men in this regard. Stoppages at various rates are at present made where a man is incapacitated, whether he is in hospital or at home. This position will be improved by providing in the regulations that only the lowest rate of stoppage will be made in future and then only when the officer or man is in hospital.

As regards (IV), unclaimed amounts, it sometimes occurs that it is not possible to clear a soldier's account, for example, a deserter who is not apprehended and who may have a credit balance. Obviously such a balance cannot be carried forward indefinitely and will be appropriated if unclaimed after 12 months. Similarly it is necessary to limit the period in which an officer or man can make a claim to be entitled to pay he did not get. In that respect I would like to point out that on at least two recent occasions, far from enforcing forfeiture, I went to the trouble of signing an Order ensuring that, even though it was outside the prescribed period, the money would in fact be given to those men. That is another example of the humanity with which these matters are dealt with. The existing regulations already provide time limitations of this kind as part of the conditions under which pay is issued. It is felt, however, that the matter is more appropriate to the forfeiture provisions. These limitations can, of course, be waived by the Minister in any particular case.

As regards (ii) deductions in pay except in respect of (I) articles or services provided: this will enable regulations to be made regarding day to day issues of stores, kit or provisions on repayment; laundry and haircutting charges, rent, etc. There is nothing there to which anyone could take objection. (II) Marriage allotment: this is also provided for in regulations at present as a non-penal deduction. It means deducting a certain amount from the soldier's pay and paying it to his wife with her marriage allowance; (III) fines, penalties, damages, compensation or costs awarded, this general heading covers the more detailed provisions of the existing Acts regarding the recovery of amounts directed to be paid as fines, etc., by military or civil courts before which the officer or man has been charged with an offence; (IV) public or service property lost, deficient, damaged or destroyed; under this provision, the Minister will, as at present, recover in whole or in part as he may decide, the value of public or service property which after due investigation is held to have been lost, deficient, damaged or destroyed through the wrongful act or negligence of the officer or man. An officer who is responsible for the care, custody or distribution of public or service property may also be held liable, if, after due investigation, he is unable to give a satisfactory explanation of losses, deficiencies, etc.; (V) public or service debt or disallowance, the Minister will, as at present, be empowered under this provision to recover public or service debts (e.g., income-tax, mess debts, etc). or disallowances, that is, over issues of pay and things of that kind.

(VI) Unauthorised expenditure or commitment: this provision is to cover cases in which an officer or man acting contrary to the regulations, makes an unauthorised payment or irregularly issues an order for stores. To safeguard public funds such amounts are usually recovered, but may be refunded to the person concerned in whole or in part after due investigation, the total deduction to be made under regulations made under this sub-section from the pay of a man, except a man who is being transferred to the Reserve Defence Force or discharged from the Defence Forces, shall not in any week exceed such sum as would cause him to receive less than one-third of his pay for that week. This is on the lines of the provision in the existing Acts but has been re-drafted for clarification. It is intended to ensure that a man will, irrespective of the total amount of deductions for which he has been held liable, receive each week at least one-third of his pay. In addition, such man will, of course, also receive his full allowances, including marriage allowance, where otherwise payable.

This will mean that where for example deductions are being made, a married private (3-star) with three children will always receive somewhat more than two-thirds of his total emoluments (i.e. pay plus allowances).

I think that that deals fairly with the queries which Deputy Cowan made. I should like to conclude on this note. Deputy Cowan went to very great trouble to examine the 1925 Police Act, the Canadian Act, to which I made reference, and the British Navy Act. He went to very extreme pains to endeavour to prove to the House that what I stated as precedents were bad, that I was illadvised, that, in fact, they were not precedents and, generally, he would give the impression that in making the statement I was misleading the House. I find, on examination, that each of the countries to which I referred, Canada and Britain, have these regulations. These regulations are made under their Acts and nothing that Deputy Cowan can say can change that. Whatever may be the form in which they are issued or are in force, it makes no difference: the regulations are there and the statement which I made is a perfectly correct statement.

Then, when he was dealing with the 1925 Garda Síochana Act—an Act by the Oireachtas—Deputy Cowan gave the impression that nothing could be done until it was submitted to the representative body. He gave that impression—to my mind, at least. I find, on examination, that the representative body is there all right but that the Minister's Order which is there—and which is given under the Official Seal dated 29th day of December, 1951, and signed by Gerald Boland, as Minister for Justice, and by Seán MacEntee, as Minister for Finance—empowers the Minister to make Orders for deductions in respect of disciplinary fines, mess debts and public property lost, destroyed or damaged. All it affords the representative body is to be allowed to examine the Minister's Order for their consideration. Beyond that, it does not go.

After the long and, I was going to say, wearying speech we listened to in respect of these particular Acts, the facts of the matter are that the regulations exist in each of these countries to which I refer. They are there and it is a question of how they are operated. That may be something that differs from our own method of dealing with them. However, I think that our own method of dealing with them by regulation and then placing them on the Table of this House for a period of 21 days for examination by any or all the Deputies who wish to examine them is as good a safeguard as you can get.

In reply to a query which Deputy Cowan made as to whether the regulations will be available to the members of the Army, I am assured that they will. They will be issued through the ordinary routine orders. I will leave the matter at that.

Amendment put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 51g:—

In page 51, Section 97 (3), line 36, to substitute "or deduction" for "deductions or stoppage".

That is consequential.

Amendment put and agreed to.
Amendment No. 52 not moved.

I move amendment No. 53:—

(a) In page 51, Section 98 (1), (a) (b) (c) (d), lines 44, 46, 48, 51, to insert in each line "civil" before "court".

(b) In page 52, Section 98 (1), (f) (g) (h), lines 3, 5, 7, to insert in each line "civil" before "court".

This is a drafting amendment.

Amendment put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 54:—

In page 52, Section 98 (1) (h), lines 7 and 8, to delete "in an action for divorce".

This amendment proposes to delete certain words "in an action for divorce" from paragraph (h). Certainly, I shall not delay the Minister very long on this amendment. I hope he will explain why—in this country, where divorce is specifically prohibited by the Constitution—we should make provision in an Army Act for an order made by a court for payment of alimony in an action for divorce. I raised this matter before on the Special Committee. The answer then seemed to be that divorce there did not mean divorce but that it meant what we have here—separationa mensa et toro—that is, a form of judicial separation. In the Constitution, divorce is specifically excluded and yet that is the word which is used here. I am wondering if that means that where a soldier has been in England or some other country and an action has been taken against him for divorce and he has been ordered to pay a particular sum of money, that order would carry to this country?

I will accept the amendment.

There is a lot to be said for the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 55:—

In page 52, to delete Section 99, lines 25 to 40.

The section says:

"(1) Where it appears to the Minister that a person who is or subsequently becomes a man of the permanent Defence Force has deserted or left in destitute circumstances, without reasonable cause, his wife or any of his legitimate children under the age of 16 years, the Minister may order to be deducted from the daily pay of such person as a man of the permanent Defence Force and applied in such manner as the Minister thinks fit towards the maintenance of the wife or such legitimate children such portion (not exceeding, in case he holds the rank of sergeant or a higher commissioned Army rank or the rank of petty officer or a higher non-commissioned naval rank, two thirds or, in any other case, three-fourths) of his daily pay as the Minister thinks fit.

(2) Where a reservist is called out on permanent service, sub-section (1) of this section shall apply in respect of him in like manner as it applies in respect of a man of the permanent Defence Force."

It is often very difficult to remember the good points one has in regard to sections. My objection to this section is that, under the law of the country, if a woman is deserted by her husband she has full rights to go to court and have her case examined by a district justice and if it is found that the husband deserted her and has failed to maintain her he can be ordered to pay a sum of money not exceeding £4 per week. Under the law of this country a woman who makes such an allegation against her husband may get such an order and it is already provided in the previous section that, where an order of that kind has been made, deductions may be made from the man's pay for the purpose of paying the amount ordered by the court. If that is so, why must we have this section? It provides that the person who decides that there is desertion is not a court of competent jurisdiction but the Minister. Without trespassing on the Minister's touchiness in regard to this particular matter, I may say that, in effect, it means some official in his Department and an official in his Department sets himself up as a judge of whether or not a person has deserted his wife. That being so, the Minister then makes an Order that he will pay a certain sum of money for the maintenance of this woman.

Anyone who has any practical experience in the courts—and, of course, in that matter as in the Army matters, I must take second place to the Minister's advisers—knows that the proofs in a case of this kind are very difficult and the case must be established before the justice, in accordance with the law, before any such order is made.

Here in this slipshod fashion a provision is inserted in a Bill that the Minister may appoint himself or one of his officers, civil or military, as a judge to decide whether or not a particular soldier will contribute money for the maintenance of his wife or children.

Where did that section originate? It is not new. It is an old section which was in the old Act. It was transferred to the old Act from the British Army Act. Originally it was in some of the Mutiny Acts as far as I can find. It was a power that was given to the Lord Kitcheners, the Lord Roberts, of the time, when they were going from Kabul to Kandahar and when there was no civil court functioning to deal with a soldier who did not maintain his wife. That is the origin. In one part of it the Minister is trying to be too new. He is going to Canada to get something that they adopted in 1950. I want to keep him on a tight rein, to deal with things as they are in regard to soldiers' pay. On the other hand, the Minister wants nothing new. He wants to keep that section. If the Minister could justify the retention of that section I would be very interested to hear him doing so.

We raised this matter in the Special Committee. We raised points and the Minister said he would consider them. He has considered them and he has left the section there. I take it that in the meantime the Minister has been advised that the section is necessary for some reason or other. I would like to know the reason. Here the Minister has to decide whether or not a soldier has deserted or has left his wife and children in destitute circumstances without reasonable cause. What evidence of desertion will the Minister have before him? Who will give him the evidence? How will it be given? Who is to give evidence, and how will it be given, that the woman is in destitute circumstances? Will the soldier against whom it is proposed to make such an Order be entitled to be present and to interrogate witnesses? Will it be done in his presence or behind his back? Will it be done on a confidential, secret report from somebody outside or will it be done in the full light of day? Under what circumstances would the Minister decide what was reasonable cause or what was not reasonable cause? Would reasonable cause be a cause that would be accepted by a civil court? What would reasonable cause be?

I do not know if that section has ever been operated. Personally, I have no knowledge that it ever was operated. If it has never been operated, what is the sense in putting it in here? Has the Minister consulted the Attorney-General as to whether, within the provisions of our own Constitution, that is the sort of thing that our courts would hold to be constitutional? Would the Attorney-General think that that is the type of power that it is right that the Minister for Defence, the Minister for Justice or any Minister should have? In what way is it held that our own civil law is inadequate in regard to desertion? If it is inadequate, is it better to amend the law in the appropriate Acts than to have this thing here?

I am not going into the problem about the reservist who is called out on permanent service, any more than to say that he could be at home for one, two or three years. For valid reasons he refuses to contribute to the support of his wife, and she has taken no steps to bring him to court although she might have done so. If she were aware of this simple procedure of getting money from a husband who would not be bound in law or morally to support her, would she have the right to say to the Minister: "This man has deserted me, he has left me in destitute circumstances, he is a reservist, he has now been called up on permanent service and I ask you to make a deduction from his pay for my maintenance and for the maintenance of certain children I have, which I say are legitimate, and which he might say are illegitimate"? Those are the difficulties about that section and I would be very keen to hear the Minister as to why he wants to keep it there.

I can appreciate the necessity for the section, and I can appreciate also Deputy Cowan's concern about the amendment. I think the section would be necessary in the case of a national emergency or when the Army is called out on active service. Then our courts possibly would not have the opportunity of functioning, or of functioning with the speed which would be necessary to deal with a case of this sort. At the same time, I fully appreciate Deputy Cowan's point of view. We people who have experience of cases such as this, realise the difficulty there is in proving, first of all, the desertion. Here we must go further—we must prove that there are destitute circumstances so far as the wife is concerned.

If the section provided for the setting up of a tribunal to inquire into these two matters, one could approve of the section being left as it is. Deputy Cowan has touched the right spot when he says that the Minister will make the Order but will make it on a report received from some of his servants. It is dangerous to give to a Minister the power and authority given to him under this section. It is dangerous to give it to him in ordinary times. Thank God, our courts are functioning here and will continue to do so. We should not abrogate their powers and give them the Minister or his servants. On fully reconsidering the matter, the Minister might agree that the section could be amended, not by its deletionin toto but by its coming into operation in certain circumstances, namely, a national emergency or the Army being on active service.

The section does not say "when it is proved to the Minister" but it says "when it appears to the Minister". That is a dangerous word. The Minister may justify his action, in deducting from the pay of a soldier in certain circumstances, by saying that it appeared to him to warrant it. If the words "is proved" were substituted for the word "appears" it might go some way towards the setting up of some sort of tribunal to inquire into the pros and cons of an act of desertion, and the leaving of the spouse of the soldier in destitute circumstances. The Minister might amend the section by adding a sub-section saying that in the event of a national emergency or of the Army being on active service, Section 99, sub-sections (1) and (2) would become operative.

The reality of all this is that this section has been there since the Army came into being. It is practically inoperative.

I never thought it was operative.

It is seldom used, but in cases of this kind you must look a long way ahead.

The Minister is looking a long way back.

One must look ahead in this respect. We had a long discussion on this particular section in the Special Committee. After great pressure, I decided I would look into the matter. I have done so and while I have not consulted the Attorney-General I have consulted the legal authorities. They strongly advise its retention. It is certainly a protection for a wife who might be left in destitute circumstances, together with her children. I am informed that there are now and again cases where the wife and family live outside the State. It is for that particular reason that we want to retain it. As I have said, it is practically inoperative but it is there as a safeguard. We have in the Bill another section which gives a complete safeguard to the situation and covers other aspects of it.

Supposing an action had been brought in the District Court for desertion and dismissed, the Minister could override that by operating this section.

No. It is all a question of how the matter comes up. First of all, we are dealing with a member of the Army, a soldier, and practically everything that can be known is known about him. When it comes to the attention of the military authorities that he has deserted his wife and children and that they are in destitution, a section like this could be operated. What I mean is, that it would not be a question of some outside influence operating. We might not be involved in that particular case except to see that the court judgment was carried out, and in that case we would have to come in. As I say, we are thoroughly acquainted with the individual. He is known intimately to the authorities, and he may be known to have deserted his wife. It would be protection to have the section remain. My legal authorities advise that it should be retained, and I do not think it will cause any difficulty if it is left in.

Suppose the day came that Deputy Cowan was Minister for Defence and that he raised all these legal technicalities?

The first thing I want to say about this is that the Minister has considered it and he has been advised to retain it. It reminds one of the junk heap where you get people who never like to do away with anything. They dump and dump. Here is a section of very little practical benefit. The Minister realises that, and the Army authorities realise it. The legal people in the Army say that while it is not of very much use, it should be kept there. That is why, I think, it should not be there.

If a soldier joins the Army he must join as a single man. That is the normal thing. If, after he joins the Army, he marries he is entitled to be paid marriage allowance and his wife is entitled to receive an allowance from the State. If he joins as a married man then, obviously, there is a responsibility on the Minister to pay marriage allowance. If he takes in a married man to serve in the Army he must take him with the responsibility of providing for his wife. If a married man joins illegally as a single man, then as far as I know he can be courtmartialled for making a false statement on enlistment. Generally, I think what happens is that they get rid of such a person because armies do not want to have difficulties in regard to such cases. But there are circumstances in which a man is entitled to desert his wife. I need not go into those circumstances, but they are well known, where a man is perfectly and absolutely entitled to desert his wife. That is where one can have difficulties.

I do not know where we are in regard to the wife who is living in England. That raises another consideration. In the ordinary way marriage allowance will not be paid to a woman living outside the State. That has been the usual practice, but there are circumstances in which it can be paid to a person living outside the State. It does seem to me rather tough if the Army will refuse to pay a man marriage allowance because his wife is living outside the State. Then the Minister must make an Order against the man deducting a certain proportion of his pay to send to the wife because she happens to be in destitute circumstances.

I see no reason in the world for this section. I do not think it ought to be there. It is a carry over from the old days when general officers commanding in the field were accompanied not only by their baggage but by the wives and families of the officers and soldiers. They had their travelling canteens and all that sort of thing. They had them in Africa, India and elsewhere where the commanding officer was a kind of father to everybody. The wife was on the spot. If the husband was not looking after her, the commanding officer knowing everybody, because armies were not too big in those days, could and did order the soldier to pay a sum of money towards the maintenance and support of his wife. That could not possibly apply in this country at the moment so far as I know. I, personally, do not know of any Order made under this. It may be that there have been Orders made under it, but I am not aware of any Order that has been made. If the Minister has not consulted the Attorney-General in regard to it, I think he might, perhaps before the Bill reaches the Seanad, have a word with him about it.

Amendment put and negatived.

Amendment No. 56 not moved.

I move amendment No. 57:—

In page 53, Section 101, to delete lines 9 and 10 and substitute "the question shall be determined with all convenient speed and, pending such determination, the pay, allowance, gratuity or grant may be withheld, in whole or in part."

In the Special Committee I was asked to see if some safeguards could be attached to this section. The Deputies who raised the matter admitted at the time that they could not suggest any. It is undoubtedly difficult to do so. This section may often be to the advantage of the man himself, because it may be better to have a particular item of pay withheld for a short time, pending examination of whether it is in fact payable, than to get it and then have to be paying it back over a long period. On the other hand, the section, though necessary, could admittedly give rise to hardships. On the whole, I think it will have to be left to good common-sense administration, and the only safeguard I can think of is contained in this amendment which, if it does nothing else, will at least keep before everybody concerned the wishes of the Oireachtas and will provide ground for a protest if a man thinks that any entitlement is being too long withheld.

Perhaps I may say, as I am speaking on this amendment, that I cannot accept Deputy Cowan's proposed amendment of this section which provides that every temporary withholding of pay and allowances, etc., must be authorised personally by the Minister. I am afraid that would be impracticable in the cases which occur locally from time to time in which small amounts, may be only a few shillings, are involved.

This, again, raises to a large extent the difficulty we have been discussing for several days. I did appeal, in the Special Committee, that it was a section that would cause considerable trouble and I was anxious that, before a matter like this was determined—that is, the decision to withhold pay—it should be referred to, and determined by, the Minister. In that respect, I felt that there would be some protection, because I wanted to make sure that the Minister would have to give a written order before the pay or allowances could be withheld. The width of this matter can arise from an examination of the section, and the section says:

"Where any question arises as to—

(a) whether any pay, allowance, gratuity or grant is due, or

(b) the amount of any pay, allowance, gratuity or grant due, or

(c) whether a forfeiture or deduction falls to be made of or from any pay, allowance, gratuity or grant, or

(d) the amount of a forfeiture or deduction to be made of or from any pay, allowance, gratuity or grant due,

the pay, allowance, gratuity or grant may be withheld, in whole or in part, pending the determination of that question."

The Minister does appreciate that there may be hardship here and he has suggested this amendment, to the effect that the question shall be determined with all convenient speed and that, pending such determination, the pay, allowance, gratuity or grant may be withheld in whole or in part.

I can see that operating very harshly, and while, in relation to the previous amendment, the Minister was concerned in the section about the fact that a man's wife or children might be left destitute, there is a possibility under this section, even with the Minister's amendment, that a man and his wife and children could be left destitute, because the section provides that where somebody has any doubt as to whether he is entitled to pay or allowances, or where somebody has any doubt whether there should be a forfeiture or deduction, or even the amount of it, a man's pay is to be withheld, pending a determination of the matter. The Minister has endeavoured to meet it by saying it will be determined with all convenient speed. While the Minister has made an effort to mitigate the harshness of what is there, his amendment hardly goes far enough, and I think there ought to be —the Minister might consider this—a limited time during which the pay or allowance would be withheld, that is, if it is to be withheld at all.

Take the case of a soldier depending on his weekly pay. His wife depends on the payment every fortnight of her marriage allowance, and, if the pay and allowance are held up simply because there is some matter to be determined for two or three weeks, or even for one week, it can create very considerable hardship in that family. Similarly, it arises in the case of an officer who receives his complete pay and allowances at the end of the month. A hold-up of his pay and allowances for even a day may operate to create difficulty for him and I feel that if one had the protection that the stoppage could not occur unless the Minister personally made the Order, it would stop people somewhere along the line holding up that pay or allowance. As the Minister knows, one of the most difficult people in the whole machinery of administration, whether in the Civil Service, the Army or elsewhere, is the nervous person, the person who is afraid to make up his mind quickly and who is afraid that, if he allows the pay to be paid, he may be mulcted in the amount under another section.

The section is one I do not like and never liked. The Minister has made an effort, but I do not think he has, in fact, removed the objections to it, and while I admit that even my own amendment is not the best that could be moved—I make that confession, because I am sure the Minister will be glad to have it—it at least would have the effect of saying that this matter of holding up a man's pay cannot be dealt with by a company commander or by a junior civil servant in the Department of Defence. The decision, if it is to be taken, should be taken for very good reason and should be taken only by the person in a position such as that in which the Minister is.

The effect of my amendment if it were adopted would be that a man's pay could not be held up until a good case for holding it up had been made to the Minister who, having examined it, would say: "Yes; I order this pay to be held up for a period of seven or eight days", and then the question of whether a forfeiture or deduction is to take place would have to be determined within that period. But, understanding the administration as it is in the soldiers' pay section or the officers' pay section of the Department, neither of which is manned by either officers or soldiers, a question could arise as to the responsibility of an officer or soldier to forfeit pay or have the amount of it determined, and instructions would be sent down through the usual channels to hold up that pay and not to pay the particular man on the day he should be paid.

Then the man's local commanding officer cannot give him any explanation for it. They may live on in the hope that the thing will be put right next week, and it could be that in a unit where they had some funds and where the proper spirit was there a means would be found whereby there might be some local contribution made until the thing would be put right; but that would not occur in every unit, and there are places in which it could not occur. By the time the soldier has to complain about this he has to go through a different procedure and through a different channel. He has first of all to complain to his company commander and if he does not get satisfaction—of course, the company commander cannot give him satisfaction because he can do nothing about his pay—then he complains to his commanding officer, and if he takes the trouble and the time he has a right, or would have a right under this Act, to go to the adjutant-general, and there are further rights preferred, so that by the time the soldier could have his complaint into the hold up of his pay investigated he could be without it for several weeks.

The Minister's amendment does not entirely meet the position, and he understands the difficulty of providing an amendment, but I personally think that my own amendment while not, perhaps, the best, would at least have the effect of saying that nobody except the Minister—and even if the Minister were to agree that there might be some other authority nominated as well as himself—at least until some responsible authority took the decision to withhold pay it could not be withheld. All these matters of pay and allowances are serious matters as far as soldiers and officers are concerned, and for that reason I regret that the Minister did not find it possible either to eliminate the section, because I think it should be eliminated, or to provide more specifically for the authorities who could order the hold up on the lines of the amendment that I submitted.

This section, of course, is a difficult one, and I am inclined to agree that there is no great necessity for the section. Neither the Minister's amendment to add "convenient speed" nor Deputy Cowan's amendment is of any great assistance to the person involved. Everybody knows that "convenient speed" could be like the Dublin Corporation and the Town Planning Act and the Kathleen Mavourneen system—it could be for years or for ever—and Deputy Cowan knows well that to get the Minister to make an Order to withhold it would take time, and it would take nearly as long to take it off, so that there is no great help in either way. I do not know, if we are to retain the section, how it can be amended so that you would have a reasonable time. I would ask the Minister to see could he examine it with a view to seeing that during the hearing of the case neither the soldier nor his dependents were in need or in want. I think it is long past the time when a local fund or the charity or benevolence of a soldier's or an officer's comrades should be called on to meet the maintenance charges of either a soldier or his wife or family. "Convenient speed" is better than it was, I suppose, but I do not know that it meets the case. It would be a very great hardship if the family of a man, whether he is a volunteer, an N.C.O. or an officer, were without their pay or allowances for any considerable length of time. Take the officer. Unfortunately the pay is not large enough for officers to have a very substantial nest egg to meet the end of the month's requirements, and it would be a serious matter if an officer is expecting his pay cheque at the end of the month and has responsibilities and liabilities to meet then and has, perhaps, cheques issued to be paid on the second of the month and then there was no cheque in. Then he would be put on another charge, that he had issued cheques and that he was guilty of conduct prejudicial to good order.

I would ask the Minister to examine it and see how far he could put a limit on it. In the cases under the previous sections the stoppage cannot exceed such as would at least leave him with one-third of his pay, and I think that there should be something like that in this; that it cannot go so far as to leave him without anything.

I realise all that has been said and the effects and so on that this would have, but Deputy Cowan, himself, in the course of the discussion in the Special Committee admitted that he himself could not produce what he might regard as a satisfactory amendment. I do not mind admitting that we, too, found considerable difficulty in finding anything that would meet this while leaving the section there. As far as I could I have made it very clear that speed will be the essence of this whole question. It has been made clear to everybody concerned in the administration of this particular section when it becomes law that there must not be any question of undue delay, and I think we can leave it safely to the common sense of the people who will be dealing with this— and, mind you, they will be mainly Army people.

In actual fact, as regards pay, nobody in the Army has any rights as to whether it is paid or stopped. That is the difficulty.

That may be perfectly all right, but it emanates, as the Deputy knows, from the Army and then if a question arises with the civil authorities it is the civil authorities who naturally deal with the question of issue of pay and so on. But it has been made very clear, anyhow, that with the passing of this section it must be operated in a manner in which it will not be liable to cause any hardship. I reiterate that statement now and the fact that I am doing so will, I think, emphasise what has already been made clear and from that point of view I do not think there will be any difficulties.

I move amendment No. 58:—

In page 53, Section 101, before "be", line 9, to insert "on the written Order of the Minister".

You can put the terms of it, a Cheann Comhairle, as an amendment to the Minister's amendment.

Amendment to Minister's amendment put and declared lost.

Amendment No. 57 put and agreed to.
Amendment No. 59 not moved.

I move amendment No. 60:—

In page 53 to delete Section 103 (3), lines 28 to 38.

This is an interesting section which calls for some consideration. It deals with the prohibition on membership of political and secret societies. The section states:—

"(1) A member of the Permanent Defence Force shall not join, or be a member of, or subscribe to, any political organisation or society or any secret society whatsoever.

(2) A member of the Reserve Defence Force shall not join, or be a member of, or subscribe to any secret society whatsoever.

(3) The Minister may by regulations—

(a) prohibit officers of the Reserve Defence Force, who are, during a period during which a proclamation authorising the calling out of reservists on permanent service is in force, for the time being continuously engaged in military service or duties for which as officers of the Reserve Defence Force they are liable, from participating in specified political activities, and (b) prohibit reservists who stand called out on permanent service from participating in those specified political activities."

Considerable difficulty can arise in relation to this section. That part of the section which deals with secret societies is not new. It has been there, and no one can take exception to it. Indeed, no one would take exception to the fact that a member of the Permanent Defence Forces is prohibited from being a member, from joining or subscribing to a political organisation or society but when we come to interference with the ordinary rights of citizenship of members of the Reserve we are in a completely different position. This section proposes that a member of the Reserve who is called out on permanent service can through the medium of regulations made by the Minister be prohibited from participating in specified political activities.

The whole trouble in relation to this section is the difficulty in regard to what the Minister means by "political." There are political organisations which are not of a Party nature. For that reason I think it would be unwise to deprive members of the Reserve called out on permanent service of their rights as citizens. Certain other matters in relation to that will arise in the subsequent section in which this particular viewpoint is elaborated and extended. Not only does the Minister think that members of the Reserve should be prohibited by regulation from engaging in political activities but such members who belong to local authority committees, to vocational educational committees or county committees of agriculture will suffer a very specific disqualification and I make that reference to the subsequent section now for the purpose of illustrating how the Minister's mind is operating in relation to political activities.

We are inclined to take a too serious view altogether of the meaning of "political." We are inclined to take too narrow a view; the idea that if one engages in certain political activities one is rendered thereby unsuitable as a member of the Reserve or unsuitable to be called out on permanent service in the event of an emergency is, in my opinion, quite wrong. We have the examples in Britain, and elsewhere, of public representatives serving their country and continuing as public representatives during such service. During the last war and in the previous war members of the British House of Commons on active service attended the British House of Commons in uniform and nobody felt there was anything wrong in that. Remember, the British House of Commons has been described as the Mother of Parliments.

Engaging in political activities should not deprive us of the quality of being good citizens. That is where my conception differs from what is set out by the Minister in this section and the subsequent section because the Minister makes it perfectly clear that there is something obnoxious, something wrong and something contrary to good citizenship in engaging in political activities whether or not these activities are of a Party nature. We have been told very often that it is a sign of good citizenship for a person to engage in political activities; yet, here in this section we say that members of the Reserve who are called out on permanent service must cease from any political activities in which they are engaged. If such an individual happens to be a member of a vocational educational committee or an agricultural committee, he must resign. That, in my view, is putting on politics a censure they do not deserve.

Debate adjourned.