(Limerick East): I move amendment No. 1:
In page 3, subsection (1), line 18, to delete "for the time being".
Line 18 deals with the definition of an officer of the Customs and Excise and it includes a member of the Garda Síochána and any person in the public service who is for the time being employed in the prevention of the illegal importation or exportation of goods. That is cast too widely. It is totally appropriate that the Garda Síochána should have exactly the same powers in this area as officers of the Customs and Excise. I have no quibble with that.
Anybody who is serving to prevent the illegal importation of goods as a Customs and Excise officer is equally entitled to exercise these powers because that is the intention of the Bill. It has been the practice in the past but as the Government in a more major way are redeploying civil servants right across the public service it is conceivable that somebody from another Department could be assigned to Revenue; in fact a number of officers have been assigned already this year to the Revenue Commissioners and that is in order.
I am trying to ensure that somebody who exercises these wide powers should be a permanent member either of the Garda Síochána or of the Customs and Excise. I do not think the definition section as framed is appropriate. It seems that on a day-to-day basis anybody could be assigned to the work of preventing the illegal importation or exportation of goods and I do not think that is adequate. Very serious powers are being given in this Bill which I claim we would not dream of giving if it was not for the horrific reaction we feel towards the victims of drug abuse. If these powers were being sought even by the Garda Síochána or any other branch of the public service in relation to any other area of activity, we would not concede the powers without many safeguards attached.
The Garda Síochána are trained in the exercise of their duty. Permanent officers of the Customs and Excise have some training as well and have a great deal of experience in this area. The net is being cast far too widely when a person in the public service who is for the time being employed in the prevention of the illegal importation or exportation of goods is covered and is empowered to act under every section of the Bill.
I am not sure whether my amendment meets my concern. I am simply asking that the words "for the time being" be taken out; in effect, any member of the public service who is permanently employed in the job of preventing the illegal importation or exportation of goods should be covered by this measure. I agree that all members of the Garda Síochána should be covered by it. In my opinion the powers are stronger and wider than the powers we would confer in other areas of criminal law even on the Garda Síochána. I do not think they should be allocated to somebody who could be nominated as an acting officer of Revenue on a Monday morning at 9 o'clock and would have the powers until that evening or for the rest of the week.
Quite a lot of discretion would be required in carrying out searches, especially searches on persons, and intimate body searches which are now envisaged in the Bill in view of the amendments accepted in the Seanad. It is not appropriate to employ people on a casual or temporary basis and to give them the very wideranging powers in this Bill. I would ask the Minister to accept my amendment or, if he feels that the drafting of the amendment does not meet the case I am making, to come back with an appropriate amendment on Report Stage to meet the objections I have raised.