Exchange Control Bill, 1954—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. As the Deputies are aware from looking at the Bill it is an extremely technical matter, and, therefore, we have endeavoured to make the Explanatory Memorandum which was circulated with the text of the Bill as full as possible. That memorandum sets out the origin of exchange control here and gives a fairly detailed picture of the way in which that control is administered. It indicates also the circumstances which necessitate the enactment of new legislation and outlines the provisions made in respect of this Bill. I think, therefore, that the Deputies will have had an opportunity of acquainting themselves with the background to the Bill and it will, perhaps, hardly be necessary for me at this stage to go into its detailed provisions. I might, however, indicate a few of the more salient features of the Bill.

Exchange control was operated here under the authority originally conferred by emergency powers legislation and more recently through the Supplies and Services (Temporary Provisions) Act, which was first enacted in 1946 and extended from year to year thereafter. When the last such amending Bill was before the House a year ago, the then Minister for Industry and Commerce indicated that the various Ministers were concerned to see that the services which were operated under it should be carried on in future as soon as possible through permanent legislation. That decision is being implemented in this Bill.

The Bill is expressed to expire in four years' time, but I am afraid that that must not be read as a forecast of the probable duration of control. It is rather an earnest of the Government's desire to dispense as soon as possible with the restrictions which have been carried over from the years of the emergency. The abolition of exchange control, however, must await the restoration of free convertibility of sterling on current and capital account. On present indications such an event is not likely to occur for some years.

The Bill introduces no new principle of control. Its provisions are largely a restatement of the existing law, as set out in the Supplies and Services (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1946, and the Exchange Control Orders made thereunder. I should like, however, to draw attention to the important modification that the power to acquire gold coin, bullion and securities, which is contained in the 1946 Act, is being abandoned. The other changes proposed are of a minor nature and are designed merely to facilitate the administration of control without introducing any new restrictions. These changes are noted in the Explanatory Memorandum, paragraphs 26 and 27, and are covered also in Sections 17 and 18 of the Bill. In some respects, the existing law is being relaxed, for example, in relation to the determination of residential status which, hitherto a power of the Minister, is now being left to the courts in the event of dispute.

The Bill in general follows the lines of the Exchange Control Order, 1947, in that it is expressed to operate by way of prohibition or obligation with power reserved to the Minister for Finance to grant permissions and exemptions. Exchange control practice, as Deputies will appreciate, must of necessity be continuously adjusted to meet changing conditions. It has been possible to grant substantial reliefs from statutory restrictions as circumstances permit, but it has also been necessary on occasion to tighten control to deal with a deteriorating foreign exchange position. It would obviously be impracticable to have recourse to amending legislation whenever circumstances necessitated a change in exchange control practice. At the same time, it is recognised that such changes should be effected, so far as possible, in a formal manner which can be noted judicially by the courts and which will afford the general public a reasonable opportunity of determining their position under the law. Accordingly, it is proposed to incorporate, so far as possible, administrative exemptions of general application in regulations to be made by the Minister for Finance. Such regulations will be presented in the normal way to both Houses of the Oireachtas.

As I said, the memorandum is fairly full but if there is any particular point on which any Deputy would like information, of course I will be only too happy to afford it.

I can quite appreciate the general purpose of this Bill. It is, I take it, to replace and put on a more permanent footing various measures which were introduced during the emergency period. I am afraid, however, that I must describe this Bill as probably the gravest attempt that has been made in recent times by bureaucracy to encroach further on the personal liberties of the ordinary public. This Bill is obviously the production of bureaucrats who wish to have power concentrated in their hands and contains many entirely new and anomalous provisions which, in my view, constitute a fresh infringement of the people's ordinary democratic rights.

I do not know whether the Minister has really studied the Bill carefully——

I can assure you that I have.

——but it is the first time as far as I know that we are to have set up in this State independent of this Parliament a body to determine what is in the national interest. The House and the country will be surprised to learn that this body is to be the Revenue Commissioners.

Section 17 of the Bill forbids the export of goods from the country unless the Revenue Commissioners give their permission and paragraph (b) (ii) of sub-section (1) of the section contains this—and I think members of the House should listen to it carefully. The section as I indicated forbids the exportation of goods —I thought our main concern was the promotion of exports, but this sets up a number of barriers to prevent exports of goods. The paragraph goes on to say that the Revenue Commissioners are permitted to forbid the export of goods unless they "are satisfied" that the amount of the payment that should be made is such as to represent a return for the goods which is, "in all the circumstances, satisfactory in the national interest." In other words, we are now setting up in addition to the Government, in addition to this House and in addition to the courts, which are the instruments set up by the Constitution, a new body which is to determine what is in "the national interest." We are vesting those powers in a number of civil servants who may be extremely competent and good people, but it is another encroachment by bureaucracy into the ordinary lives of the people.

Why should the Revenue Commissioners have the right to determine what is in "the national interest"? I doubt if the provisions of that section are even constitutional because I am not aware that the Revenue Commissioners have any functions given them by the Constitution to determine what is in "the national interest." It is, of course, interference with the liberty of the business man or the citizen in carrying on his business. Before he can export goods he has now apparently to obtain first of all the permission of the Revenue Commissioners. The Revenue Commissioners have to be satisfied that the amount of the payment is such as to represent a return for the goods which in all the circumstances is satisfactory to "the national interest."

Surely the Government cannot have considered the full implications of that sub-section and I certainly could not be party to empowering any new organ of Government with powers of this kind. I feel that the Minister should reconsider the provisions of that section very carefully and devise some other machinery if he wishes to exercise control over exports.

That is not all. The Bill proceeds to apply the Customs Acts to all offences committed under this Bill, because this is a penal Bill and it creates offences. The Customs Acts embody extremely wide and penal powers. I have not had an opportunity of examining the full extent of those powers, which, in this rather indirect method, the Department of Finance assumes by importing the Customs Acts into this Bill; generally speaking, from my recollection, they give tremendous powers to the customs authorities in cases of smuggling offences or suspected smuggling offences. I doubt if it is wise to import powers of that kind into legislation of this nature. I can quite well appreciate the necessity for many of the restrictions imposed in the Bill but I do think that we as a Parliament must seek to ensure that any powers we give at least come within the framework of normal constitutional usage and do not create further precedent for the invasion of the personal liberties.

Section 20 creates a number of new offences. Sub-section (3) provides among other things that a person who "assists" in preventing the "punishment" of another person is himself guilty of an offence. I want to make it quite clear that it is not a person who assists in preventing the apprehension or trial, but a person who seeks to prevent the punishment of a person who becomes liable as a principal. This is a completely new legal principle, a legal principle under which a solicitor who defends a client would be committing an offence, a principle whereby a counsel who appears in court to try and prevent the punishment of his client is guilty of an offence, a principle whereby a Deputy of this House who makes representations to the Minister seeking a mitigation of the punishment or asking that the punishment be removed altogether would himself become an offender. Surely that is bureaucracy gone mad.

As I said, I had not time to study the Bill in full or very carefully. I am merely picking out at this stage some instances of things that occurred to me when I was reading through it. Sub-section (5) of the same section empowers the district justice to impose sentence of 12 months' imprisonment on summary conviction. I am not certain, and I do not want to go beyond this, but it seems to me that usually in our legislation we sought to limit the jurisdiction of the District Court to a sentence of six months' imprisonment. I know there are cases in which the District Court may impose a sentence of 12 months, but it is unwise in a matter of this kind to give the District Court jurisdiction to impose summarily sentences of 12 months' imprisonment.

Section 21 is also somewhat extraordinary. It provides that where a person has been convicted of an offence under Section 20 for "neglect" or "refusal" to do something which is required to be done under the Act and where that act still remains undone after the conviction, that person will continue to commit a criminal offence day by day. I think we should try to examine the consequences of a provision of that kind. A person may be tried, for instance, for having failed to detach a coupon from some dividend warrant from some investment and may be sentenced to six or 12 months' imprisonment. While that person is in prison, he is still committing an offence every day, because he still has not detached a certain coupon from a certain investment. I can quite well see what the Department of Finance wanted to provide by the section, but I think they have done it in a rather extraordinary fashion and that probably a much simpler and a more effective method could easily be found, if it were carefully examined by somebody who had not the purely Civil Service approach to it.

Then we come to Section 26. Sub-section (5) of that section, as I understand it, turns the present principles of criminal law upside down. It provides that the onus is on an accused person to prove himself innocent and that it shall be for the accused person —I am quoting now from the subsection—to show "that he neither knew nor avoided getting to know" certain things. How is the accused person to show "he did not avoid getting to know" certain things? Is there to be an onus on an accused person to readIris Oifigiúil four times a week? Can it be said, if he does not do so, that “he avoided getting to know something”?

I think the Deputy does not realise the class of person to whom this section is addressed.

I know that criminal law is always intended to cover criminals, but, as well as that, the criminal law is applicable to innocent persons.

These are purely people to whom I can give directions and they are, in fact, the banks.

I am not—God between me and all harm—in the habit of defending the banks or the directors of the banks, but even if this section is applicable only to bank directors, I think they are entitled to the protection of the ordinary legal rules applicable to criminal offences.

I understand they are quite happy about it.

It is a dangerous precedent. If it can be done to bank directors to-day, it can be done to the ordinary citizens to-morrow.

Then, we have in Section 29 a method of serving documents on people. There is no question of personal service in a matter of this kind. That would be too difficult for the Department of Finance. It is sufficient to send a document by post in an envelope addressed to that person. It is not even registered post—that would cost too much money—but if a document is sent by post to a person, that person is fixed with notice of the contents. I think we should stick to the ordinary rules of procedure concerning service of documents. I do not think it would cause very much inconvenience to the Department to have to comply with the ordinary rules which apply to the service of documents. They have been worked out as a result of long experience and I think it is unwise to change them at this stage.

There is another section, Section 32, which I would ask the Minister to consider carefully. I do not quite see the purpose of it because it is an unusual section in a Bill introduced by a Government Department or by the Government. It provides:—

"This Act shall bind the State and shall apply to transactions by a Minister of State or other authority acting on behalf of the State."

Usually, the tendency of Government legislation is to avoid sections of this kind. I wonder what the purpose of that particular section is and I wonder if the full implications of it have been considered. It seems to me that any officer of the Department of External Affairs, or any officer of any Government Department who had business to transact abroad, would find it extremely hard not to commit some offence under this Bill. If he borrows or lends 5/- to a friend outside the sterling area, he commits an offence. I am quite certain the Minister would have no intention of prosecuting officers of the Department of External Affairs or of any other Department in regard to matters of this kind, but I am just wondering why the section has been introduced into the Bill. There must be some reason for it. Has it been fully considered by all the Departments that might be affected by it?

Going back, we find that, in Section 13, a new offence is created whereby a person keeping a register—"keeping any register", whatever that means—there is a definition section which defines "register" as any book, file or index in which securities are registered—that is, keeps any book, file or card index in which any securities are registered will find himself guilty of an offence, if he makes any entry on the forms, the register or the card index unless he has evidence to sustain the entry he has made.

I would ask the Minister to read Section 13 carefully to see whether some other method could be found of dealing with the problem. Sub-section (4) of Section 14 provides that "except with the permission of the Minister, a person shall not detach any coupon from a certificate of title to securities with coupons otherwise than in the normal course for collection". I do not know what exactly is meant by "the normal course for collection". Very often, you find people selling securities, cutting them out and borrowing money on them in advance or depositing them at their banks for some reason or another.

I have drawn the Minister's attention to a number of these matters because I think that, by and large, this Bill represents a further encroachment by bureaucratic control on the ordinary process of democratic Government. It is a tendency we have to resist the whole time. It has been a growing tendency in the course of the last quarter of a century. The tempo of the growth of bureaucracy increased very considerably as a result of the war and during the emergency period. I suppose that was inevitable but it seems to me now that this Bill, while it contains many provisions which are probably necessary for the Government, is an attempt to convert temporary measures into permanent measures and embodies dangerous precedents, the most dangerous of which I think is to set up the Revenue Commissioners as arbiters of what is in the national interest.

The whole proposed method of dealing with the question of exports seems to me to run completely counter to what we had thought to be the policy of the Government, which seemed to be to remove every barrier in the way of exports. The Bill contains elaborate sections that will add additional barriers in the way of people who wish to export goods outside the sterling area.

I hope the Minister will take kindly to the criticism I am levelling. It is not levelled at him personally and I am sure he dislikes measures of this kind as much as I do. I feel that himself and the Attorney-General should put their heads together to see in what way the objectionable features of the Bill can be modified before it comes to the House again. I am quite certain lawyers will find possible ways of reaching the same results without infringing the ordinary concept of jurisprudence in this Bill.

While, of course, I am very pleased to see Deputy MacBride making himself a nuisance to the present Minister, I must say that I think that this State will need these powers for at least the next four years. It is ridiculous for Deputy MacBride to make the type of criticism he made, after barely glancing at this measure. If he had glanced at the Emergency Powers Orders that were operated here during the three years that he was Minister, he would find this Bill, as far as I can see, does not depart from those Orders and that if we are going to have exchange control then we must take such powers to exercise that control as will make it effective. There is no use in making the broad statement that we want to keep, in the type of world we are living in, control of our finances, if we do not take the measures that are necessary to ensure that we can, in fact, control the external financial transactions carried out by individuals, either citizens or non-citizens coming in to reside here. I do not want to deal at length with this matter; I take it the Minister will go into some of the points raised by the Deputy——

So long as the Deputy remembers that he is no longer Minister for Finance.

I quite understand, but I do not forget that I was Minister for Finance responsible for operating Orders that Deputy MacBride is now criticising. Deputy MacBride forgets that, when he was Minister for External Affairs for three years, he operated exactly the same provisions.

That is untrue.

It could be pointed out that he himself operated this system. Take his criticism in reference to Section 17. It prohibits the exportation of goods of any class or description to a destination in any territory, other than the scheduled territories, except with the permission of the Minister.

That is the introduction to the section that Deputy MacBride is criticising, that unless the Minister permits it, the exportation of these goods shall be controlled in a certain way by the Revenue Commissioners or other officials. The Revenue Commissioners have not an absolute right to decide what is going to be the national interest. It is the Minister who has the last word as to what are the goods to be exported and, if we are going to export goods, we must see that the State gets value for them and that an alleged export of goods is not simply a way of exporting capital.

The Deputy is always talking about the export of capital and how we keep our capital abroad. What would be very dangerous is that we should export capital to a place from which we could not get it back. It is right that, when there are conditions in the world which necessitate exchange control, particularly by small States which want to be politically, economically and financially independent, we should have measures of this sort. I wish we had the sort of world in which, even though the State had these residual powers, it would not have to exercise these powers in any way from day to day that would affect the comfort of the ordinary individual. Even though the exchange control powers were absolute, they were exercised as liberally as possible in the past, while they were being operated by various Governments here. We must remember, however, that if we had not exchange control, the ownership of a lot of our property abroad could be transferred outside the State and in a very short time we would have no reserves upon which the people, the community or the State, could lay their hands in order to meet their foreign debts in time of crisis.

I am hoping that the Minister is right in setting a date in 1958 for the termination of this measure. Personally, I hardly think that the necessity for exchange control will end so quickly. Indeed, I wish it would. The necessity for exchange control would largely disappear if there was a reasonable balance of payments throughout the world. If there is a danger of a big deficit in the balance of payments in certain countries, then measures have to be taken to safeguard reserves and keep those countries from going into a debt which they could not repay. Countries, of course, that have a current deficit in their balance of payments have to take such steps and the only way in which the position can be eased and exchange control avoided, or made more liberal, is for creditor countries which are accumulating surpluses to spend such surpluses in buying the services that other countries want to sell them.

It is unfortunate that exchange control, so long as it continues, offers a great temptation to certain gentlemen to avoid it and make a dishonest penny by exporting the capital wealth that the community as a whole requires. That is the explanation for some of the sections in this Bill and the sections in the Emergency Powers Orders upon which it is based. I think Section 20 is the section to which Deputy MacBride objects; that is the section that makes it an offence for companies and so forth to do certain things. I think that is necessary. One could have not only reputable financial institutions here, but one could also have phoney institutions in a position to take steps to avoid knowing what the law of the land is in order that a few very clever gentlemen could make a pot of money by avoiding exchange regulations. From time to time we have had a few such gentlemen exposed here; the fewer we have the better. That unfortunately is the explanation of many of the rather drastic powers given to both the Minister and his officials. However, in this, as in all other matters, the Dáil is the final defender of the people against wrong acts on the part of the Minister or his officials. I believe this measure is necessary and that is the reason why we approve of giving it a Second Reading.

I want to make two very brief points in relation to this Bill. First, the Minister has pointed out that the necessity for this Bill arises by reason of the inconvertibility of sterling. It seems to me that we should legislate for the possibility—I admit it may not be a very likely one —of the British achieving some degree of convertibility after the next Budget. In the summer of this year there was a certain amount of discussion about the £ sterling becoming convertible in the spring of next year. That discussion has now largely ceased, but if the British Government intends to free the £ next spring the one thing they would do at this stage is damp down the discussion on the convertibility of sterling just as Sir Stafford Cripps endeavoured to damp down the discussion on devaluation at a time when a decision to devalue was being taken.

I think there is a possibility of some convertibility—it may not appear to be a very likely eventuality now— and the British may decide to free the £ to a certain extent in the next Budget. I would suggest that in Section 2 where the Minister is given power to bring the Bill into operation by stages he might also take power to suspend the operation of certain sections of the Bill before 1958 in order to avoid the necessity of bringing in amending legislation.

There is one other comment I have to make in relation to Section 5. That section reads:—

"Except with the permission of the Minister, a person shall not—

(a) make, or commit himself to make, any payment to or by the order of or on behalf of any person resident outside the scheduled territories."

The effect of that provision is to make all contracts into which business men may enter illegal. It is quite a normal thing for a business man here to enter into contracts for the purchase of machinery from Germany and such contracts would be illegal until such time as the Minister's permission had been given; but the Minister's permission could not validate a contract which was already illegal under the Act. A way out of that difficulty might be found by making the permission retrospective.

We must face the fact that contracts are entered into every day between business people for the purchase of goods from outside the scheduled territories. Such contracts could be repudiated subsequently, even if permission were subsequently granted, on the ground that the contract was illegal at the time it was entered into because no permission had been given and the best way of getting over this difficulty would be by providing that such permission would be retrospective.

Deputies have stated that it is most regrettable that we should have to maintain exchange control, but such control is a necessary part of our legislation until such time as the convertibility of sterling becomes a fact.

As I said when I was moving the Bill, it is a very technical Bill and one which needs very careful consideration and a certain amount, perhaps, of the application of a wet towel before one could fully appreciate the provisions of it. Deputy MacBride indicated that he had not been able to give the Bill that attention. I can have great sympathy with him because, before I was able fully to understand the provisions of the draft Bill that was put before me, I had to sit down and do a great deal of thinking and pondering of that sort. If the Deputy had been able to give it that attention, he would have found that many of his difficulties are illusory.

We are all agreed, of course, that it is highly desirable to avoid as much as possible any bureaucratic intervention by Departments of State, by the State as such, in the lives of our citizens. We are all agreed, so far as exchange control is concerned, that it would be far better to be able to do without it but, unfortunately, the position is that we are not able in the existing international financial circumstances to do without exchange control and, in those circumstances, it is necessary to have either legislation such as the type that was already in existence or this legislation.

If I might digress for a second to mention the convertibility of sterling to which Deputy Costello referred, I would point out that, no matter what is done about that convertibility, whether it is on current account only or on current and capital account, the whole basis of this Bill is framed in such a way as to enable the Minister of the day to ease the regulations at any praticular point should sterling become convertible in the immediate future.

I do not think it would be right for me to even hazard a guess on that. Like Deputy Aiken, I would wish that full convertibility would come along before this Bill expires in 1958 but, even if it does not come before 1958, I think the Deputy would agree with me that it is far better now to express it as being only for four years and, if the same regrettable circumstances are still in existence in 1958, to extend it then rather than that we should admit a measure of hopelessness in making it now a permanent piece of legislation without any terminating date.

This Bill has been framed, let me assure Deputy MacBride, not with a view to taking more powers, but with a view to taking less powers than there were under the existing legislation.

May I ask the Minister one question?

Certainly.

Can the Minister point to any other piece of legislation which casts the onus of determining what is in "the national interest" upon civil servants?

Certainly. I am afraid the Deputy has not understood Section 17 at all.

I understand it quite clearly.

With respect, I am afraid the Deputy has not understood Section 17. Section 17 throws the final determination on the Minister. It is in fact the re-enactment of Article 3 (q) of the Exchange Control Order of 1947, in similar terms. The position is, as the Deputy is no doubt aware, that we have here entrusted to the Revenue Commissioners the duty of dealing with import and export of goods under the Customs Acts. You have there, for example, the sole discretion of the Revenue Commissioners in deciding whether a particular article comes under one tariff reference or another, but at the same time, while you give the Revenue Commissioners that sole discretion in that matter, you have vested in the Minister for Industry and Commerce the discretion and the determination of whether a duty free import licence may be granted.

This is exactly the same thing. The Revenue Commissioners are being made the agents for the purpose of carrying out the law, of carrying out the determination, but the Minister for Finance of the day stands over the Revenue Commissioners by virtue of the provisions of sub-section (1), by virtue of the governing provisions, because the whole of this Bill is based on the provision that it is the Minister for Finance who prohibits, not the Revenue Commissioners.

Will the Minister allow me to make my objection quite clear and simple?

Certainly.

It seems to me that the question of determining what is in "the national interest" is essentially a political function. By the Bill that task is being given to the Revenue Commissioners and, as far as I know, it is the first instance in the history of our legislation that a body of civil servants is entrusted with the task of determining policy—what is in "the national interest".

I can assure the Deputy—I do not want to score cheap points—that it was in the legislation which he operated as a member of the Cabinet from 1948 to 1951.

It was in an Emergency Powers Order, by all means, yes, but it was never in an Act of the Oireachtas.

It is in the Public Works Act passed in 1950.

I am afraid the Deputy still does not understand. If, for example, any person wanted to avoid exchange control he could quite easily make a contract at fake amounts, export goods, get a fake invoice.

I am not quarrelling with the object of the Bill; it is the methods used to reach that objective.

I thought the Deputy was quarrelling with the object.

Oh no, not at all.

If that is the Deputy's objection, then I am afraid he does not understand the meaning of sub-section (1)—the exportation of any goods, etc., is prohibited except with the permission of the Minister.

The position is perfectly clear, that people who want to operate in accordance with exchange control practice comply with the formalities—it is done every day—and it is only for people who endeavour not to comply with the ordinary practice that the Revenue Commissioners have to step in, just as the Revenue Commissioners have to step in in respect of smuggling in the ordinary sense of the term. This is in fact another type of smuggling.

I am afraid the Minister is not interesting himself in my objection. My objection is that the task of determining a question of policy——

Is vested in me.

——namely, what is in "the national interest," is in the first place cast upon the Revenue Commissioners by paragraphs (a) (ii) and (b) (ii) of the section. True, the Minister has the ultimate power to grant permission. Despite that, I object to civil servants being given the task of deciding what is in the national interest as such, which is a political question.

Candidly, I do not know what exactly is in the Deputy's mind. If the power was not vested in the Minister for Finance I could quite understand it. Does the Deputy suggest that the determination by the Revenue Commissioners should be a more retrictive or a less restrictive method? If I knew on which leg the Deputy was standing I would find it easier to deal with him. I make this suggestion quite seriously to the Deputy, that between this and the Committee Stage he would reconsider his views on the section, bearing in mind that this Bill is a four years Bill and that in fact it is a piece of temporary legislation, that, so far as that section is concerned, the ultimate discretion is vested in the Minister, that the ordinary business man who wants to do his business according to the law, as a matter of common practice since exchange control was set up, always complies with the formalities when exporting the goods. This is purely a machinery method of preventing what is, in fact, smuggling.

Will the Minister indicate to me any other piece of legislation passed by this House which casts upon the Revenue Commissioners or other civil servants the question of determining what is the national interest?

Provided the Deputy will now tell me that he wants a less restrictive or a more restrictive form.

I do not know what the Revenue Commissioners' views are, and I do not know what they would consider the national interest, or whether their views would coincide with the views of this House or not.

If the view of the Minister for Finance as to what is the national interest does not conform with the views of this House——

I am speaking of the Revenue Commissioners.

The Deputy is used to drafting and must appreciate that, when you have a sub-clause in a sub-section, the words in it are governed by the initial words in the sub-section.

What I object to is giving to the Revenue Commissioners or to civil servants the right of deciding what is a political question.

I am afraid that the position as I see it is that the Deputy does not appreciate the effect of the section as such. If I am right in that, and perhaps I have not quite appreciated the Deputy's point of view, then it is quite clear that we are notad idem. The correct time to discuss a matter that is not ad idem is on the Committee Stage of the section. I will certainly make the inquiry which the Deputy has requested during the interval. I trust that the Deputy will also consider, for example, the duty-free importation licence provision between the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Industry and Commerce. It affords an exact analogy whereby the Revenue Commissioners are charged with the same kind of duty as they are in this Bill. I do not think that the Deputy, unless he is merely arguing on words——

Surely words, even in an Act of Parliament, must have some meaning.

If the Deputy is arguing on words he will have to come down on one side or the other. Does he want a less restrictive form or a more restrictive form? If I knew that, then I could see how far I could go with him.

My objection is that the section casts upon the Revenue Commissioners the duty of deciding political questions which should be decided by the Minister, by the Government or by the House. It is true that there is the right of appeal to the Minister. The Minister has the final say, but I do not think it is the function of the Revenue Commissioners to decide political questions.

Of course it is not.

Or what is the national interest.

I do not think that this form of wording could, by any stretch of the imagination, be said to raise the question of a political problem.

Is not what is the national interest a political question?

Surely the Deputy can raise these points on the Committee Stage.

I was merely trying to get some understanding of this.

That is what I was trying to get, too, in reverse. However, as I have said, I think it would be better if we left this until the Committee Stage. I think that when we reach the Committee Stage the Deputy will find that this is not an effort, as he originally suggested, to set up a body of civil servants superior to this House and to the Government. It is, of course, no such thing.

The Deputy also referred to sub-section (3) of Section 20. That, of course, is in Section 6 of the Supplies and Services Act of 1946. If there is any danger that the Deputy, as a barrister, or that I, if I were again a solicitor, could be prosecuted under that section, then I will have the section looked into in order to prevent that calamity occurring to either of us. I do not think, however, that that is so.

I want to say candidly that I think the Deputy, in the remarks that he has made on most of these sections, was pursuing a somewhat far-fetched point of view, a point of view which it is perfectly fair for any Deputy to put up, but which at the same time is, as I say, somewhat far-fetched. We do not all live like ostriches. We all know of the immense efforts that are made to avoid the unpleasantness and the restrictions which exchange control involves. We all know of the immense efforts that are made by people to defraud the country in which they live of the benefits that should inure to the national interest from the control of a scarce currency. We all know how very difficult it is to prevent, or rather to bring to light, such cases. We know that from time to time such cases come before the courts. One has only to read the newspapers to see the lengths to which people are prepared to go in order to defeat exchange control. It is an unfortunate position, but it is so. Exchange control, and the necessity for it, is unfortunate, but if it is going to be necessary to impose it, then it is equally necessary to ensure that its imposition is made effective while at the same time preserving so far as one possibly can the rights of the individual.

Deputy MacBride would have some validity in many of his arguments if this were a permanent Bill and not merely a four-year Bill. It is not a permanent Bill. It is a Bill for a limited period in the hope that during that limited period we will be able to avoid the necessity for continuing the provisions regarding exchange control. I am afraid the Deputy has somehow approached this Bill on the basis that somebody, whether it be the Minister of the day, civil servants or the Revenue Commissioners, are going to be ogres trying to find some method by which they can catch the Deputy or, for example, a solicitor instructing him, or similar people.

We all understand that it is necessary to draw legislation as strictly and as clearly as we can and that it is necessary to make sure that we do not put into legislation anything that is unnecessarily onerous on the individual. We must approach our legislation on that basis, but we must equally approach it on the basis of reality and with the knowledge that we have at the present time, that there is international financial difficulty in exchange, that as long as that difficulty is there, there is going to be every effort made, not merely here but in all countries, to avoid it and to avoid the responsibility that citizens should have in respect of it. We must try to balance one view against the other and strike the mean.

This Bill is brought here on the basis that it gives up powers that were already there. If I had decided to take the view that I was merely asking for a re-enactment of the Supplies and Services Act, I would be taking far more power than there is in this Bill. Instead of that, because it is for four years rather than for a single year, I am asking the House to give me less power than there was there before—but less power, may it be quite clear, to the Minister of the day who will be responsible to the House for the administration under this Bill, no matter whether the machinery utilised for its operation is the machinery of the Revenue Commissioners or the machinery of the authorised dealers and authorised depositaries who are referred to in the First and Second Schedules to the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take the Committee Stage?

This day week?

This day fortnight, if it would suit the Minister. I would like to have an opportunity of discussing it with the Minister.

I suggest it be put down for this day week and if it is not opportune then we can postpone it.

Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 3rd November, 1954.