I undertook to leave amendment 29 over until the Report Stage.
Control of Manufactures Bill, 1932—Committee (resumed).
As Senator Douglas has an amendment down similar to mine I do not intend to move amendment 32.
I move amendment 33:
Section 5, sub-section (1). To delete in lines 54-55 the words "in his absolute discretion" and to substitute therefor the words "in accordance with provisions contained in regulations made under this Act."
This and the amendment relating to the question of nationality are the two most important amendments that come before us for consideration. The amendments which were ruled out of order, and which I therefore cannot discuss, but which may come up in a different form on the Report Stage, dealt with the question of the possibility of substituting a Commission for the Minister. I did not know that these would be out of order. I gave the whole matter a considerable amount of consideration and the conclusion I came to was that an uncontrolled Commission, with no control by the Oireachtas, would not be a satisfactory substitute for the Minister. At the same time I endeavoured to find some method by which the Minister and the Executive Council would have a reasonable amount of discretion, but that the principles on which foreign companies are to be allowed to operate in this country would ultimately be subject to the Oireachtas. This raises a very important principle and one on which I personally feel rather strongly. I notice that in the discussion at the Trade Union Congress the other day in Cork the President, and I think some other speakers, drew attention to the tendency which has been going on, not only since this Government came into office, but even before it, of setting up an autocracy, possibly unintentionally and possibly not by design. I do not mean an autocracy in the sense that the Ministers, either of the last or of the present Government, want to be dictators, but by giving them powers the effect of which means that they will become dictators even in spite of themselves.
Again and again, we are giving administrative powers to the Executive Council. I feel sure that the Minister will agree to this extent with me, that in discussing this we are not discussing in any sense the persons who may administer it. It is inevitable that in any country where you have changes of government you will have, at one time, a Minister in whom a very large section of the population have very great confidence, and you will, at another time, have another Minister in which quite a different section will have confidence. You may even have, certainly it occurs in other countries, a particular Minister in whom no section has confidence, even though the whole Executive may have. We are asked under this Bill to give absolute discretion—these are the words in the Bill—to the Minister as to the conditions on which he will allow foreign companies to operate. That absolute discretion is to be exercised on the merits or the circumstances, as he thinks, of the particular case. That means that until—and even then we will not be certain— some kind of precedents have been set up we have no idea of the conditions on which companies will operate.
I think it is generally accepted that all parties welcome the setting up of industries here. The object of the Bill is to prevent two things. One is to prevent the large powerful companies coming in here to put out, by their greater resources, existing manufacturers who are serving this country well and where there is an adequate supply. I think that is one thing which, it is generally accepted, should be prevented and that is part of the principle of the Bill. The other is to prevent companies coming in which may possibly operate against the national interest, even though there may not be existing companies manufacturing the goods. In the first case, if you keep to that principle, it is a comparatively easy thing to set down regulations. In the second case, you have an entirely different problem on which there will be very wide divergence of opinion and on which I submit the only people really competent ultimately to decide are the members of the Oireachtas.
The proposal that I have put down represents an endeavour to find a practical way out between the proposals of the Ministry, which I submit are too autocratic—that is the proposal to give the Minister absolute discretion—and the proposal which has been made in other quarters, but which we cannot discuss in detail here, as to the setting up of some other body. I think, Sir, that while it would not be in order to discuss particular amendments there will always be the alternative of bringing in a Bill of a different character to set up a Commission, so that in dealing with the two proposals I am not going outside of, or questioning in any way, your ruling. The Commission would give you permanent officials. They would be to some extent under the control of the Executive Council. I think the Minister resented yesterday what he took—wrongly took—to be a suggestion as to the possibility of jobbery or corruption. I am not making any such charge. I made it very clear before that I am not only not making such a charge but I do not believe that there is the slightest likelihood of that happening to any of our present men in office. But the House has to face facts and has to remember that we are legislating now not for the next two or three months. This is not an emergency Bill or a Bill to deal with a peculiar situation.
This is a Bill to deal with the policy which this State is to adopt towards people who are going to come in to manufacture goods and who may not be nationals of the country. I think, too, we have to be extremely careful before we run the risk of giving to individuals, whether they be Ministers or a Commission of three—I certainly am not attacking civil servants or likely civil servants in any sense—any such powers. The Minister for Posts and Telegraphs dropped a hint that he and I knew of what can happen in other countries with regard to subsidiary companies. I presume he referred to what is commonly called the trust system. There is no man in this House who does not know that the trust system can get into the control of very few individuals, giving them amazing power. No one here—I am sure I am speaking for every single section in the House—wants to see large trusts operating in this country. At the moment I do not think there is any danger of that, but we admit that it is a possibility some time in the future and we are dealing now with the future.
If Senators turn to the end of the Bill they will find a provision that the Minister may make regulations and these regulations shall be put before the two Houses. The Bill provides that the Houses may reject them and then they will cease to operate. I propose later to alter that, and to provide that the Houses will approve of them by Resolution. There are the two forms and which is the more desirable can be discussed later. But I propose that power should be given to the Executive to make regulations governing the general conditions on which they will grant these permits or manufacturers' licences. When this Bill becomes law they will be able to make those regulations. They will not be subject to discussion until either House meets again, but if there is anything in the principles set down which the Oireachtas is not prepared to approve of, the ultimate power will be with the Oireachtas. You will also have this advantage, that these regulations will be made having regard to the circumstances as the Executive see them at the present moment. Those circumstances may change. If so, further regulations can be made, so that the Executive of the day will be able to deal with the problem as they see it by further regulations. The Houses will know what they are and will control them. I put it seriously to the House that in dealing with a Bill of this character, and if we are going to pass it, this is really the only satisfactory way in which this can be done. My amendment provides that instead of the words "absolute discretion" that the Minister—I am not taking discretion from him—will act in accordance with the provisions set out in the regulations made under the Act.
I think this is a very necessary amendment. I should like generally to support the argument made by Senator Douglas, and in the perhaps calmer atmosphere of the forenoon associate myself with him, especially in his references to some rather heated passages last night in pointing out that opportunities for graft and corruption are in no sense personal to the present Government or to any individuals. They only point to dangers which it is well-known are liable to be exploited and have been exploited in many countries. I suggest that we would be failing in our duty if we did not call a spade a spade and when we see dangers point to them in emphatic terms.
I have to resist this amendment. There are many objections to a Commission that we need not go into now, whether that commission be one composed of civil servants or of independent people called together as an advisory body. We have had some experience of commissions. I must confess that even the experience which I thought I had did not fully cover what I have seen since I went into this Department. Commissions are very often slow. Civil Service commissions are inevitably slow because they must run within the red tapes afforded by the Department. Other commissions, independent or so-called independent commissions, have in fact operated in the State within the last few years, and I must confess that I have been more disappointed even than I thought I was by realising what some of those commissions did. It is felt that the Minister in charge of a particular Department, working in close conjunction as he must with his Executive Council and subject to the Oireachtas—apart from his Executive Council with his work shown to the public and with everything being known—has upon him a more definite point of responsibility than any Commission of this sort.
This matter has been considered and decided. Regulations may be made under the section to which Senator Douglas referred. Such regulations made by the Minister and the Executive Council to govern the rules under which the operations of this Act will be administered will, I suggest, amply cover all that Senator Douglas wants, and in my opinion cover it much more effectively than either a Civil Service Commission or a Commission of outside persons. This is a matter that has been looked at from every point of view and it has been definitely decided that we stand on this: that discretionary powers are to be left with the Minister. The question of absolute control does not really mean anything different because you have the fact that the control is there. It is intended that the Minister should have that control and that this Act should be put into operation: that there should be no unnecessary delay in the matter of holding up decisions as regards what we are going to do in the case of manufacturers making application for licences and so on. If the course suggested in the amendment were followed delays would inevitably occur, and in my opinion the results would not be so satisfactory as they will be when decided by a Minister responsible to the Executive Council who, in turn, is responsible to the Oireachtas. For that reason and without more ado, I have to resist the amendment.
The speech the Minister has just made is, of course, the one which was to be expected. He declines to depart from what is the design in this Bill—to give one Minister the power to do as he thinks right in regard to all applications for new manufacture licences. When I read the Bill first and saw Section 11, I came to the conclusion that there were to be regulations which would have to be approved by the Oireachtas. When my attention was drawn to Section 5 and I read it through I saw how the Minister, in his absolute discretion, can deal with every one of these matters. When I looked at the wording of Section 11—"the Minister may by order make regulations in relation to any matter"—I realised that he was the sole individual to take action and that if he did not make regulations in regard to Section 5, he would be absolutely uncontrolled. It is dangerous to give any individual—I do not care who he is—unless we want a dictator, full power to make regulations in regard to such a huge matter as the issue of new manufacture licences. The Minister, because of his experience of commissions, does not like them. I think there is a good deal to be said for his view there. We know that the favourite way of delaying any matter is to hand it over to a commission, it does not matter how good the composition of the commission may be. But what the Minister is really objecting to here is the control of the Oireachtas, which is a very different thing. If the Minister deals with any of these new manufacture licences under regulations approved by the House, then we have Parliamentary control of his actions. If we leave the Bill as it is, the Oireachtas has nothing more to do with it. The question of new manufacture licences and every proceeding connected with it is left in the absolute discretion of one individual.
The Minister says that the Executive Council may control that individual. They may or they may not. I do not believe that it is wise to take such powers entirely out of the control of the Oireachtas. When we have regard to the objects of this Bill, it is quite easy to see why the Minister wants this power. It is a power which is to be exercised over persons or firms coming in here, largely because of the tariff system which has been adopted, to do business. The designer of the tariffs must have tremendous power over the industrialists who want to come in. It is part of the same policy. You cannot separate the two. Since a policy of tariffs is adopted to protect native industries, profitable business is opened up and lots of speculative people will try to rush in to the money-making field. Everybody engaged in manufacture here under these tariffs will be able to make more money than if the tariffs were not in operation. Into that money-making gap lots of people will want to rush. The Minister sees his effort to protect home industries ruined by these people rushing in to take advantage of the tariff system and he has to design a measure like this to carry out his objects. For the Oireachtas to agree, because it is the policy of our Government at present, to establish a principle by which an individual, without control of the Oireachtas, is given such power in a permanent Bill is to do a thing which I think the Oireachtas should never do. Senator Douglas's proposal is quite a simple one. If the Minister's regulations are disapproved by the Oireachtas, it will be because he cannot persuade them that he is doing the right thing. But under this Bill the Oireachtas has no control whatever and a huge avenue for bringing new business in here is left entirely to the discretion of one individual. He may act according to what he thinks is right, but his opinion may disagree with the opinion of the Oireachtas.
I am sorry to say that this demand for absolute, domineering control of such a huge matter seemed to me originally, when I read the project, one of the necessities of the situation. Those who designed this tariff policy aimed at keeping out the competition of foreign capital, must take autocratic power of this description. But it is, I think, too early to say that that is a departure which, under a totally untried system of tariffs, we should sanction. In defence of the liberties of the people and in defence of our own industries, the Oireachtas should take care to secure that it has control over the Minister who is to make these regulations. If they do not do that, it will be very wrong indeed. Senator Douglas provides in his amendment a simple way of doing it. The regulations to be made by the Minister are to be sanctioned by the Oireachtas. I doubt if that is sufficient, but it is keeping some control by the Oireachtas, and that seems to me absolutely essential unless we are going in for a dictatorship.
Judging by the discussion, I do not think I made clear to the House the exact effect of this amendment. The amendment does not mean delay. If Senators look at the section which governs regulations, they will see that even if my amendments are carried, action taken will be "without prejudice to the validity of anything done previously under such regulations." What will happen will be: when this Bill becomes law, the Minister will make regulations which will govern his own action. Anything he does under the regulations will have validity and cannot be upset. But if the Oireachtas does not like those, it will alter the regulations by refusing to pass them, and any new action afterwards will have to be done in accordance with the Oireachtas. I have not gone so far as to propose a commission. Largely, I share the Minister's views. I believe an uncontrolled commission without regulations would be a hopeless method of dealing with this. I thought about the matter for a long time and I tried to put down something that meets the difficulty and gives control.
In his reply the Minister stated that he was subject to the Executive Council and that the Executive Council was subject to the Oireachtas. That is where the difference comes in between us. We had better be frank. On this side of the House we have in the past supported things done by a previous Government that we did not altogether approve of, because we believed that the Executive should be supported. If the House accepts this amendment as it stands the Minister will make regulations. He can make his own regulations, and although they are submitted to the House, he has absolute discretion. All you can do is to turn out the Executive. We know perfectly well that when it comes to a question of turning the Executive out, it is not simply one, two or three actions, but the whole policy that has to be taken into consideration. I am perfectly certain that members of the Fianna Fail Party will be in the same position as members of other Parties and groups. They will feel it necessary to vote for the maintenance of the Executive Council because they believe in its general policy. I think they are entitled as well as anyone else to the opportunity of discussing details without turning the Executive out.
Supposing the Minister makes regulations and acts on them, and that they are valid, if a case comes before the two Houses, possibly next October, nothing will be upset. I admit there is something in what Senator Jameson has said, that this amendment does not go far enough and that nothing will be decided. I am not proposing that it should be, not because I am satisfied but because I do not see any way to avoid it. All Parties in the House will discuss the principle set out in the regulations, and if there is a general consensus of opinion—even though the Executive may get general support— they will support the regulations in accordance with the opinions expressed. If on the other hand there is not an opportunity of discussing the Minister's action, except on a vote of want of confidence in the Executive, you have not got control. All I am proposing is that the Minister should act in accordance with his own regulations, and not in his absolute discretion. If we stand for temporary control, that is perfectly reasonable. This is not cutting across the Bill and gives a fairly effective method of control. This is a question upon which I feel strongly.
I quite realise that this House can pass every amendment that is put up to this Bill. I realise that it has power to do that by virtue of its numbers. Senator Jameson, however, put his finger on the point when he stated that it is obvious the Minister wants power so that his line of policy in regard to tariffs shall not be interfered with. Why not? What is a Minister for if he is not going to follow a line of policy which is approved by the Oireachtas? Why should he not equally have power to frame such regulations as will make it possible for him to carry that policy into effect? A great deal of talk has been indulged in about the power of the Minister in this Bill. Senator Jameson has referred to his domineering control. No legislation comes before this House that does not place power in the hands of the Ministers. In Local Government, Finance and other legislation all these things are done and power is granted to the Minister, in many cases far exceeding what is in this Bill. We are following a definite line of tariff policy and it is essential that the Minister carrying out that policy shall be in a position to have regulations such as he desires. We link that up with Section 11 which deals with the whole question of regulations.
(2) Every regulation made by the Minister under this Act shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is made, and if a resolution is passed by either House of the Oireachtas within the next subsequent twenty-one days on which that House has sat annulling such regulation, such regulation shall be annulled accordingly, but without prejudice to the validity of anything done previously under such regulation.
What does that mean? It means that the Minister in his wisdom will make regulations to carry out his policy, both the fundamental tariff policy and the protection of manufacturers under this Bill in line with that tariff policy. If the Oireachtas decided that some regulations made by the Minister are not such as should be approved of there is an opportunity of turning them down. Is it suggested that a Minister taking a line of policy, and seriously endeavouring to get manufacturers active here, should come here every time he wants regulations passed and that both Houses of the Oireachtas should approve? I say this is not reasonable. It is not done in other legislation and there is no more power attached to the Minister in this Bill than has been given in any other Department and in other legislation passed through this House. It is quite obvious that a disagreement with the fundamental tariff policy, and disagreement with the control of firms manufacturing that we want to exercise is causing all the amendments. I do not want to refer again to the experience of commissions—and I speak with a considerable amount of knowledge of rather disturbing things —but I do not want to see any commission, and I do not want to see outside or advisory commissions of so-called independent people. I know what I am talking about.
I think the House should have regard in this matter to what has been done in the past. I know that in certain quarters the past is a thing to be ignored. I think it was sound wisdom, based on dangers known elsewhere, when this House decided that every lease of State lands should be announced and laid on the Table. These things were not done in a capricious spirit but as the outcome of long experience. I think we ought to be very careful before turning our backs on experience. I cannot understand the Minister's statement that other Acts have greater powers than he is seeking. I cannot conceive greater powers than he seeks, to regulate the whole of business and to control manufactures. I know nothing to approach such absolute powers.
According to Senator Sir John Keane State leases are laid on the Tables of the Houses. Regulations made by the Minister under this Bill will be laid on the Table and if anyone has anything to say to them they can be dealt with.
That is the real difference between us. The Minister referred to certain other Acts and to powers given. I think it was explained that every other Act lays down the principle under which the Minister would administer them. The principles upon which leave will be given to manufacture here and how they are to be used by the Minister are not laid down in the Bill. It is because of that that I want it set out in the regulations. There is no question at all of the effect of the regulations when laid on the Table. I agree with the Minister that the House will see the regulations but he does not have to give the lines on which he is going to give a grant. I think the reference to State lands was perfectly reasonable. I was a member of the Constitutional Drafting Committee, and I have a very clear idea of the discussions that took place. I know that I, as well as others, was criticised because we felt it necessary to avoid possible alienation for very long periods of what seemed to be lands of the State.
We provided that grants of State property given to any person should be for a limited period and that particulars should be laid on the Table of the House. That enabled the matter to be considered carefully. Eventually, that was provided for and was followed by legislation. In this case, once this Bill becomes law and there is a limit to the granting of a permit to non-nationals of the Saorstát, it is practically the same as giving a lease of State land. It is giving the non-national a permit to act and he will only come in and act if he has a chance of making profits. There is nothing whatever stated in the Bill as an indication of what will govern the Minister at all. I want to include this in the regulation. There is not a lot of difference between us except on the question as to whether he shall have absolute control apart from his own regulations. I am giving him absolute control to make his own regulations, subject of course to the House, but I am not giving him control outside these regulations.
This amendment is entirely my own. I consulted nobody in drafting it, not even the group to which I belong. I did, after the amendments were handed in, consult one or two Senators and explained some of my reasons for them. As a matter of fact that applies to every amendment of mine here. In this case I sat down over the weekend and I tried to think out carefully the difference between the point of view stated by the Minister and the view of outside people that there should be a Commission. I came to the conclusion that a Commission would not work and that the better method would be to provide for some kind of control by the Minister. The whole crux of the thing is as to whether the Minister is to have absolute control outside his own regulations. I am moving to take out the words "in his absolute discretion" and saying that he shall make these grants in accordance with the provisions in the regulations. The Executive Council have to decide the principles on which they will allow people in here. As the Bill stands they will decide the principles but they will not put them in a regulation. I want them put in a regulation so that it can be discussed in the House, if necessary. I think from the point of view of the Party opposite that should be consistent with their policy.
On behalf of Senator Staines I move amendment 34:
Section 5, sub-section (2). Before the word "to" in line 11 to insert the word "so" and after the word "licence" in line 14 to insert the words "as materially to alter the nature and character thereof and substantially to add to the value thereof."
Senator Staines has sent me a note that he has had unavoidably to absent himself for a short time and asking me to move this amendment for him. I have not had full time to consider it, but I think it is consistent with the previous amendment carried in the House.
The objection we have to this amendment is that it will cut down considerably the scope of the manufacturers to which this Bill applies. It would also lead to some difficulty in determining the class of manufacture to which the Bill applies. For that reason we are not prepared to accept it.
I do not think the amendment is one that I would wish to press on the House at the moment. At present it does not seem to be a matter of very great importance, but we can put it down for Report Stage if it does appear on further consideration to be a matter of importance.
Amendment 35 which is also in the name of Senator Staines is practically similar.
I move amendment 36:
Section 5, sub-section (2). To delete in lines 20-21 the words "the Minister thinks proper and states in such licence" and to substitute therefor the words "shall be in accordance with provisions contained in regulations made under this Act."
This would be consequential on my previous amendment. It brings the form of licence in accordance with it.
On behalf of Senator Staines I move amendment 38:
Section 5. To add at the end of the section a new sub-section as follows:—
(3) (a) The Minister shall lay before each House of the Oireachtas a copy of every new manufacture licence which he proposes to grant and no new manufacture licence shall be granted until twenty-one days after the first day on which either House of the Oireachtas shall sit next after the copy of such new manufacture licence shall have been so laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas.
(b) If either House of the Oireachtas shall within the period of twenty-one days mentioned in paragraph (a) of this sub-section passes a resolution prohibiting the granting of a new manufacture licence, such new manufacture licence shall not be granted by the Minister unless a resolution approving of the granting of such new manufacture licence shall be passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas.
I am in the same difficulty as regards this amendment. This is going somewhat further than what I was proposing. I recognise the difficulty in placing a copy of every new manufacturer's licence, which will be to some extent a personal matter, before the Oireachtas. I would not, personally, press that every licence be placed on the Table of the House. It is however a matter for the House if they wish to discuss it and I formally move the amendment.
We would object to this proposal from every point of view, both from the practical point of view and from the point of view of the manufacturer who would apply for a licence. Matters of this type should not come before the Oireachtas when an individual licence is granted.
I am inclined to agree with the Minister.
I think that is very reasonable.
On behalf of Senator Staines I move amendment 39:—
Section 6. After the word "licence" in line 23 to insert the words "after notice in writing has been served upon him by the Minister."
This seems not an unreasonable amendment. It is quite clear under the Bill that no one but the Ministry of Industry and Commerce will be able to watch a licence which they may give and it will be their function to see that people who obtain licences under the Act keep within the regulations. The proposal in this amendment is that notice will be served in writing on anyone failing to comply with the conditions of the licence and if the matter is then put right he shall not be deemed guilty of an offence. I think it is probable that such a method may be adopted anyway. I think it is reasonable that before a man who has put a great deal of money into an undertaking, a man who is regarded by the Executive as a suitable person to come in here, is charged there should be a notice in writing drawing his attention to the matter.
The objection to the amendment is that an offence would only be committed after attention had been drawn to the matter. It might happen that a considerable period would elapse before the Department became aware of the failure, and in that event, it would not become an offence. The terms and the conditions under which a licence will be given and under which a manufacturer will operate, once his licence has been given, will be perfectly clear and definite. Obviously, no manufacturer is going to get under way in business unless he has all the terms and conditions before him. These will be stated specifically on the licence and for that reason there is no need, in my judgment, for the amendment. It would also preclude, as I say, the Department dealing with the person who had not complied for a period, during which period the Department was not aware of the non-compliance. It would leave the manufacturer practically in the position that he would not have committed an offence legally, if this amendment were adopted.
I think that this amendment is unreasonable. A manufacturer applies for a licence. He gets it and he understands the conditions under which the licence is granted. If he fails to comply with the conditions under which that licence was granted, it is not reasonable to expect a Department of the State to serve him with notice in writing of his failure to comply with the conditions. Does he not know of his failure? If people get a licence for a motor car under certain conditions and infringe the regulations, do they expect to get a renewal of the licence because they were not served with notice? Is it to be the case that they cannot be prosecuted unless they get notice in writing of their failure? It is unreasonable to expect that any such thing should be done.
That is not quite a parallel. It is not a question of renewing licences. I should like to have an assurance from the Minister that, as far as the present Executive are concerned, they have no intention of carrying out the section for what I may call petty breaches. If someone got away with a licence for some years and were breaking the conditions, I admit that it would be clearly unreasonable that they should expect to get a notice in writing. My contention is, however, that it might operate somewhat unfairly. I would like to leave this over to the Report Stage. My reason is that further down you will find an amendment; this amendment is not mine, but it is a provision that I proposed in the Bill, which will provide that a man will not lose his licence because of one offence. If I thought that a man might lose his licence for one offence, then I would press for the amendment.
In the absence of Senator Staines, I formally move amendment 40:
Section 6. After the word "thereof" in line 26 to insert the words "in the case of a first conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty-five pounds or in the case of a second or subsequent conviction."
We accept that amendment.
I move amendment 41:
Section 7. To delete all after the word "person" in line 32 down to the end of the section and to substitute therefor the words "such other person shall be deemed to be the holder of the licence."
This is an amendment about which I feel a certain amount of difficulty. I am not satisfied that my amendment is all that is to be desired, but I put it down because I wanted the House to discuss this matter carefully in the hope that some satisfactory way might be found. At the present moment, if a licence is given, and, as the result of that licence a business is started, and that business operates for some time and is either sold or there is a change of ownership, through the operation of law, such as by a will or by any other means of that kind, the Minister may refuse to transfer the licence to the other person. The great danger that I see in that is that people will be very chary indeed—except huge companies who have so much capital that they can afford to sink a substantial amount of money here and take the risk—of embarking in a business and having no right whatever to sell or dispose of it. As it stands here, the Minister has the power to refuse to transfer the licence. My proposal is that, if in the operation of law a change of ownership takes place, the licence will go to the other person. I realise that it is quite likely that the Minister will say that it is going too far. I feel, however, that the Bill as it stands goes much too far by providing that the Minister may refuse to transfer. If a way could be found by which some provision could be made which would enable, in the ordinary operation of businesses working under this licence, that they could be sold, provided that they were not being sold for some other purpose than the carrying on of the same business, it would probably meet the case. I do think, however, that there is a danger in the section as it stands at the present time. I therefore formally move the amendment.
We could not accept this. If the Minister decides that in the interests of the industry and the manufacturing that is going on that certain concessions should be made in the event of a sale, he has the power to do it.
The word is "shall."
Yes, the Minister shall transfer the licence, provided the transfer does not contravene the conditions of the licence. But if the sale takes place and the business is sold to a concern going to be operated by nationals the question does not arise. The principle is the principle behind the whole Bill, namely, national control.
The point really which would clear up my mind entirely would depend on the regulations made. If it be the intention that a licence cannot be transferred, then of course it depends entirely on the terms of the licence. If the licence cannot be transferred or sold, every change would be a breach of the regulations. If it were meant that this was a safeguard to provide that the transfer of operations would not change the nature of the manufacture, I would not have anything to object to. But as it stands at the moment it is neither clear nor satisfactory. I wish the Minister would explain the exact intention.
It is quite clear that if this amendment were accepted, the transfer to foreign control would be possible, and that cannot be tolerated in the Bill. If we object to the Bill, then we should throw it out; but if we accept the principle that it is right to prevent foreign control except under licence and under the conditions which we lay down, then this amendment obviously is in direct contradiction to the principle of the Bill. The section is intended to allow a licence to go with the business, but only to the extent of the same type of control being in operation in the control of the organisation.
In view of the Minister's last statement, I should like to leave this over to a later stage.
I move amendment 44:
Section 7. To delete in lines 36-37 the words "unless such transfer would be a contravention of the conditions of such licence."
I think that Senator Staines was not present at the previous discussion. This amendment would come in with mine, I think.
It covers the same point.
I am sorry that I was not present. I had to answer a telephone call. My point is that no conditions should be imposed.
Does the Senator say that there should be no conditions imposed? How does he propose to control manufacturers? Does he realise that the effect of it would be that foreign control could immediately operate through the purchase of a concern? If so, it is foolish to sit here and discuss the Bill.
Where a licence is transferred the section here says: "and the ownership of such business has been transferred whether by act of the parties or operation of law from the licensee under such new manufacture licence to another person," and I think the licence should hold.
No matter who buys?
I should like to go into this a little further. Let us take the case of where a licence is granted to a non-national. The company may appear in the Minister's eyes not desirable, not to be trusted or liable to be what you would call, in the eyes of the Minister, rather ruthless in their methods. That may be purely imaginary. The assumption is that this is transferred to someone almost benignant and acceptable in the eyes of the Government. In the course of time some firm gets into difficulties and another firm, with improved methods, with greater resources and greater control of raw material and so on, comes along. Is it conceivable that the Minister will be in a position of saying "No" to that firm? In both cases they will not be nationals. One non-national has got the licence, and either fails, or does not wish to continue, or for family reasons wants to get out. Is it to be entirely in the hands of the Government to say that they will dictate as to whose hands this business is to be passed into? If that is so I think it is a most outrageous and intolerable position in which to place industry in this country. When we talk of national control I ask the House to consider in whose interest national control is to be exercised. Is it to be national control per se? National control per se may be very dangerous. I ask the House again to consider national control as a whole in the interests of the whole country.
It is to be remembered that if the Minister wishes to give, in the original terms of the licence, a condition such as is suggested here and, if the manufacturer, in getting his licence, requires that, and will not have it otherwise, that is another matter where the discretion of the Minister operates.
That does not meet my point at all. Governments change. One type of Government may be very anxious to encourage manufacture not being done by nationals, and, which the country may require. Another type of Government may operate without any such conditions. Money is sunk in business; interests are created, and is it really suggested, in the twentieth century, that if for any reason a firm wishes to dispose of the interests that they have built up through their energy and their labour, they are to be entirely at the mercy of the Minister as to whom they shall sell to? It appears to me an astounding proposal and I think this House should realise what they are doing before they lend their sanction to such a proposal.
There is no such proposal contemplated. Senator Sir John Keane should know if he studied the Bill intelligently that no intelligent Minister would make such a suggestion. A manufacturer comes in, and produces articles that we could not make and could not induce our nationals to make, owing to some difficulty, want of plant and so on, and says he wants a licence for the production of certain commodities. He comes to the Minister for that licence and lays down certain conditions under which he will work. The Minister has to consider them in all their aspects. If he grants a licence with power to sell all their interests to non-nationals they have that asset and it will be a question of discretion for the manufacturer to know if the licence is not sufficient in terms in which to avail of it. And it will be competent for the Minister to see how far he will go to meet them on that desired industry being started. There is elasticity enough in the Bill to allow that. It is folly to pretend there is not.
If a small business gets established and wishes to sell, provided there is no inhibition in the original licence to sell, then they could do so?
I have said all these matters will be viewed in the discretion of the Minister.
That does not answer my point. If there is no inhibition in the original licence is there absolute freedom to sell?
There is not freedom to sell if it is not in the licence. If a manufacturer wishes to pass the control of his business into foreign hands and has not freedom so to do in the original licence or has no licence then, of course, he will have to apply.
Senator Sir John Keane and the Minister, it seems to me, are saying the same thing only they insist in saying it in different words.
I think this is a further proof that we should have more time to consider this matter. I am much inclined to agree with the Minister at present. I think we are rather getting into the clouds. I think we should have more time. Senator Douglas wants time and I think this matter ought to be adjourned to the Report Stage.
Perhaps it would be better to withdraw the amendment now and bring it up on Report Stage.
I move amendment 49:—
Section 9, sub-section (2). To delete in line 53 the word "and" and to substitute therefor the words "more than one."
The Minister some time ago seemed inclined to suggest that amendments were put down for the purpose of cutting across the Bill. I want to make it clear, as far as I am concerned, that all the amendments I put down were put down definitely in order to try to see that nothing remained in the Bill that would hinder the possibility of getting industries started here, and that anything that was unreasonable should not be allowed to interfere with existing business. Every amendment I put down was put down with either of these intentions. In this case, the Minister is given power—he is not obliged to do it—to take away a licence for one offence. I can see people reading this Bill and, finding that provision giving the Minister power to take away a licence for one offence, though I do not believe he would exercise it in the case of a trivial offence, frightened off. I am trying to limit his power by providing that he should only revoke a licence on the second offence.
The question, as to the first offence, is that it may be a very big offence. A man may be tried for murder and it might be his first time in court. That explains really what we mean by a first offence. It seems to me that the whole basis of the assumption of the amendment would indicate that it is expected that either a very foolish person or stupid person or malicious person is likely to be in the Ministry. I agree that in order to keep the Minister right and to keep legislation right as clearly as possible all these things should be gone into.
A great many of these amendments do not, to my mind, aim at that object. It is a question of degree in respect of offences. The Minister is naturally not out to crush an existing business and it is inconceivable that the Minister for Industry and Commerce would hold such a policy, but, as I say, the parallel I have shown of the case in which a man might commit murder and might be in court for the first time, really applies to this and, I think, makes it necessary for us to have this power.
What makes one in favour of an amendment like this is that these are new offences being created, and offences against a new set of licences and businesses which a great many people may not clearly understand. To start with, at any rate, I think we should be very careful that we do give some consideration to people who may commit one offence. A second offence is another thing. If the Minister finds that this one offence is leading to an evasion, and one thing and another, it is always open to him to come along and say: "I find that this is not working well. There are offences being committed and the one offence is not enough." I believe, at the start, the House ought to try to give some protection to people who hold these licences. That is really the point of this amendment. You are imposing too great a penalty to start with. If it is found afterwards that it will not work, it will be very easy to tighten it up, but, in the first instance, the Oireachtas should try to see that these penal conditions are not too severe.
I have been trying to think what kind of offences we are dealing with. The Minister suggests murder—I do not mean that he suggests murder in connection with this Act, but he suggests an offence of a character of that kind. I cannot conceive of anything of the kind. The offence will be that they are manufacturing something not specifically mentioned in their licence and that they will have been employing certain people. When brought to court, they will have to stop it. It will be a risk for them to do it, anyway. I do not imagine that anybody is going to get a licence to manufacture here at all, unless he is going to employ a considerable number of people. I cannot see anything of a heinous offence in that connection, but I can see a person considering that certain kindred goods were within his licence, and making them, and then finding out that he had really broken his licence. It will be stopped immediately it is discovered, and, if he goes on with it, emphatically I think the licence should be withdrawn.
There is a second amendment which is not mine and to which I did not give much thought. It follows this amendment and seeks to provide that "the Court shall recommend," and, if that were the case, I should not mind its being a first offence at all. Senator Connolly is looking at this from the point of view of either himself or the present Minister for Industry and Commerce, who are more or less the authors of this Act. They will be extremely anxious that this Act shall be properly carried out, and they will be extremely anxious to safeguard people who have come in under licence. I have not the slightest doubt of that and I have not the slightest fear of their being unreasonable, apart altogether from their personal character, because they are the authors of the Act, but we may conceivably have a Government that would not give a licence at all. You might have a Labour Government, or a Government by any other party, that would not approve of the kind of licence they are giving, and I do not like giving to that alternative Government the actual power in respect of one offence. If it is provided that the Court shall so recommend, presumably, on the application of the Minister, it would meet my objection, because, obviously, the Court would only recommend if there had been an important offence.
Would you accept the second one?
I do not think so, because, if one refers to Section 6, and reads it in conjunction with Section 9, the thing should be perfectly clear. Section 9 provides:
(1) The Minister may at any time alter or revoke a new manufacture licence upon the application of the holder of such licence.
That is the voluntary surrender of licence.
(2) The Minister may at any time, without any such application, revoke a new manufacture licence, if the holder of such licence has been convicted of an offence under any section of this Act.
That means that the revocation by the Minister must be preceded by Court action when a person has been tried under this Act for some offence. It further states in sub-section (3):
(3) The Minister shall not revoke or alter a new manufacture licence save under and in accordance with this section.
That means that he can only alter it under two conditions: firstly, that the manufacturer desires his licence to be revoked, and, secondly, that a Court conviction after trial has been established. Section 6 provides the conditions of the Court and even then he is not bound. If it is a minor offence in the eyes of the Court, and a manufacturer is fined, say 40/-, that will naturally not constitute an offence.
But it could.
But the point is that the offence has to be committed and has to be tried in court.
But it might be trifling.
After all, court proceedings are public, and what Minister is going to place the publicity of a withdrawal of a licence for what is, to the intelligent public, a minor offence? I feel that the Minister has deliberately limited his own powers by doing that and I think that, when there has to be a Court trial, it is adequately covered. With regard to the other suggestion, that the Court should be the means of recommending the revocation of a licence, I do not think it is practicable, because one would have to assume that all the circumstances connected with all the detail of this Act would have to be presented in what would be a minor trial in a Court and where a fine would be imposed. I do not think it reasonable or practicable to have such a decision resting in the hands of the Court that was trying an indictable offence. I feel that in neither case could we accept that and I think the manufacturer is adequately protected by the two clauses I have mentioned.
Will the Minister consider putting the word "serious" in front of the word "offence"?
I believe that legally such words as "knowingly,""serious" and so on, really mean nothing to lawyers. They all object to them and say that they only confuse things. To the ordinary man in the street, the word "serious" does convey something, but, apparently, to lawyers it conveys nothing. It is looked on as bad legal draftsmanship, but if the Senator feels that it will help him, I am agreeable to accept it.
I am inclined to think that, in this case, there is more in it. If a man has his licence withdrawn, he will be able to claim in Court that it was not a serious offence, and, at any rate, the insertion of the word would be a guidance to the Minister.
The suggestion is that the words "a serious" should be substituted for "an."
I think that would suit, but the Minister may possibly think of a better word for Report Stage.
All these words seem to be in the same category in the legal mind.
We have in this House, possibly through our innocence, insisted on the word "knowingly" on quite a number of occasions, and I have never heard of any calamity as a result.
You probably did it unknowingly.
I move amendment 50:
Section 9, sub-section (2). To add at the end of sub-section the words "and the Court has so recommended."
Does the Senator wish to press the amendment? It has been partly argued already.
It has been. The same thing might arise in this case as in other cases. The Minister for Posts and Telegraphs considers that all Ministers have commonsense. I am quite prepared to admit that and I willingly admit that the present Minister for Industry and Commerce has commonsense, and a lot of it. We must remember, however, that Governments and Ministers do not last for ever. There are any amount of Ministers—I am not going to mention any particular one—all over the world and quite a lot of intelligent people are of the opinion that they have not commonsense. That was mainly the reason why this amendment was put down. It suggests that a Minister would only act when the Court has so recommended. I think it is a perfectly fair suggestion. It does not apply at all to the present Minister. This measure will go on the Statute Book and we do not know what Minister we will have next year or the year after.
[The Leas-Chathaoirleach took the Chair.]
I wish we had our two lawyer Senators here. Neither Senator Comyn nor Senator Brown is present. If they were here they could give us valuable assistance in this matter. The amendment proposes to add the words "and the Court has so recommended." I believe no Court would undertake such a duty. A Court can only give a decision on evidence brought before it, and to ask any judge to go outside his ordinary duty and make recommendations to a Minister would not, I think, be a proper procedure. We would be asking the Court to do a thing that we have no right to ask it to do. It is not the duty of a Court to recommend a Minister to do a certain thing, and if we were to approve of that we would, I think, be going too far.
I think Senator Jameson has adequately answered the arguments put up for this amendment. I really think it would be unwise to adopt it and, to the Courts, we would, in my opinion, look legislatively foolish.
Amendment 51 is out of order.
I beg to move amendment 52:—
Section 10, sub-section (1). To delete in line 60 the words "twenty-eight" and to substitute therefor the word "ninety."
I do not know whether the Minister is going to accept this amendment. I have come to the conclusion that it will be physically impossible for a large company to obtain this information from its shareholders, if so required, within twenty-eight days. I was at first inclined to suggest sixty days, but I came to the conclusion that in the case of a large company one could not guarantee having the information within sixty days. I certainly do not believe that the period of twenty-eight days is sufficient.
I will suggest, as a compromise, forty-five days. I think that period would be adequate to cover shareholders in every part of the world. There is nothing in the nature of principle involved; it is simply that the Department does not want undue delay. If we provide forty-five days I feel that would be as long a delay as would be desirable, and I think it would adequately meet the idea that Senator Douglas has in mind.
Probably other Senators could express an opinion on this matter better than I can. This section deals with existing companies in regard to which information may be required. I know some of our larger companies and I believe they have some shareholders in Australia and other distant parts. Assuming a notice arrives requesting this information, the directors or the secretary will have to get forms printed and these will have to be sent out to all the shareholders. The company would then have to await a reply in each case. Assuming a person was to be found at his address in Australia, it would take at least twenty-one days for the letter to arrive there. Even if you got a prompt reply, which would be a comparatively rare event, I doubt if the period of forty-five days would be sufficient. My object is to make provision for the time that would be necessary. I think sixty days might meet the point.
Rather than debate the matter further, we will accept sixty days, although that period is a bit longer than was intended.
I am satisfied with that suggestion. I will alter my amendment to read "sixty."
I beg to move amendment 53:—
Section 10, sub-section (1). To delete in line 61 the word "service" and to substitute therefor the word "receipt."
A person receives a notice. Service might mean going into a premises and handing the notice to a messenger boy, or someone like that.
I do not think, in any event, we could prove receipt. We could only prove service. In view of the amendment that has just been accepted, I think the period of sixty days gives ample time. We could not prove receipt even if the notice were served by registered letter. All you would have would be the service. It might be argued we could have the receipt of the Post Office for the ultimate delivery of the notice, but I think, in view of the amendment allowing sixty days, there is ample time afforded and there is no necessity to prove the date of the receipt of the notice.
If a later amendment is accepted I do not think there is very much in the point. At the end of Section 10 you have a definition of service. You will find there that service means "by delivering it to."
I beg to move amendment 54:
Section 10, sub-section (1). To delete all after the word "information" in line 62 down to the end of the sub-section and to substitute therefor the words "relating to such matters, not contained in the returns made by such body corporate under the Companies Acts, as are required solely for the purpose of determining the beneficial ownership and the nature or the date of the establishment of such business as may be carried on by such body corporate."
The section deals with supplying information to the Department. It is divided into a number of sub-sections. The particular sub-section with which I am concerned contains a number of paragraphs. Paragraph (a) seeks information as to the objects of the body corporate. The objects must be in the Articles of Association and they are at the company's office. Paragraph (b) deals with the date of establishment and that must also be in the company's office. Paragraph (c) seeks to know if such body corporate was in existence on the 1st June, the nature of the business and the amount of issued shares. That information must also be in the company's office. Paragraph (d) requires information as to the amount of the issued shares at the date of the return. That information must be in the company's office. Paragraph (e) refers to the names and addresses of persons holding shares. All that information is in the company's office. Paragraph (f) deals with the names of the directors or other persons having a controlling interest. The names of the directors are in the company's office and within twenty-one days of the changing of a director the company's office must be notified. If anyone here has acted as secretary of a company he will know that the Companies Acts at present entail a very large amount of work.
Where the Department can get information by simply sending to the company's office I want them to do so instead of putting the onus or the expense on the company of sending on that information over again. I am not trying to defeat the object of this Section in any way because my amendment includes the essentials of paragraph (g) of sub-section (1) and that is all that the Minister wants. My point simply is this. I want the Minister to have the right to send and ask for that information as to the nature of the business, the beneficial ownership and anything else that is required. The Minister gets that information provided it is not already returned by the company.
I do not feel that it is desirable that a State Department should be burdened with this responsibility. After all, if certain facilities are afforded to a company, they should supply this information. They have already to comply with certain regulations as regards returns and we do not think it is unreasonable to ask them to furnish such returns as are specified in this section. They have to furnish many returns where they are getting no benefit whatever.
This applies to existing companies at the moment then.
I agree. One of the most difficult things we get in the manufacturing industry in this country are the returns that have to be filled up every quarter. These are really very difficult papers to fill up. The return is really a census of production, one of the most difficult things to make out. I have had experience of this myself where we had to return all our employees. The grades of all of them, their wages, what was produced and the whole course of the business have to be put down in detail. And that is done for ordinary statistical returns and not for an important matter such as this, where it is desirable and in fact necessary for the protection of the companies themselves to have this information at the disposal of the Department of Industry and Commerce. I do not think that it would be reasonable to expect that the officials of the Department should be expected to go around and make investigation on such a matter as this. Remember that those statistical returns have already to be done. You are bound to fill in those forms. This to my mind is a simple matter and is of much more importance to the State, to the company, and to the Government than the statistical return. I do not concede that it is the duty of the State to facilitate the company in the way that Senator Douglas suggests.
I am in the same position as Senator Sir John Keane was when replying to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Department of Finance and that was that he found his own argument being argued for him by the Parliamentary Secretary. I feel that the filling in of these returns should not be asked a second time of the company. I do not think it is the function of the company—at least in the case of existing companies —to fill these in. I believe it is only where the Ministry has some doubt that they ask for and get this information from the company. Now they can get this information at the company's office, where they can have it verified. What I want is to avoid this duplicating of work on the company. It does involve a great deal of expense. I really believe that the Department will have already got all this information even before they will send out for these particulars, because it would only be in cases where they had some doubt or where they had become suspicious about the company that they would ask for these returns. I am not dealing with section 2 in this matter, though I drafted the amendment myself. I was told that this was adding on double labour to the company. The returns are very heavy and sometimes they are exceedingly troublesome. That is why I am trying to avoid the duplication of work on the companies that will be involved by asking them to send in returns the substance of which is already in the files of the Department.
I want to ask the Minister whether he intends that such companies as the railways and other companies with very large lists of shareholders should be compelled to give these returns. There are manufacturing companies with shareholders numbering from 10,000 to 20,000. To ask a company to furnish a return of the names and addresses of these shareholders would be placing a very heavy and expensive burden on these firms when at the same time it is known by the Department of Industry and Commerce that the names and addresses of these persons are submitted every year to the Revenue authorities. It should be quite sufficient that the Minister would obtain from the Revenue Authorities these names and addresses. It is a fact that there are companies here with 20,000 shareholders and a list of all these would be very serious work to place on the company.
If the Minister had told us that Senator Douglas was wrong in saying that the Minister could get this information from the place where it was lying for him, then there would be some reason for the Minister in objecting to this amendment, but he has not told us that Senator Douglas was wrong. The Minister knows that the information is lying there ready. Really in these days when we hear so much about the cry of economy the companies ought not to be asked to duplicate this work and they should not be asked to fill any forms that are unnecessary. I should think, in defence of the civil servants, that the Minister would be very glad to show that they are doing useful work and that they are bearing some of the burden that would be on the company.
Does the Senator mean in their spare time?
Really and truly to my mind the only argument that the Minister could put up to beat this was that we were wrong and that the information was not to be had there. The Minister has not done that. It is only fair for us to try and save the companies the extra expense of furnishing these returns.
This amendment is consequential to one previously withdrawn.
This goes out because the previous amendment has deleted that portion.
Yes, it is not necessary in view of the previous amendment.
I think this was dealt with already, too.
This goes out.
It is consequential on amendment 13, which was withdrawn.
In this case it is somewhat similar to the previous amendment that has been carried. It is necessary in the case of holding bodies to ascertain that they have got 51 per cent. of the share capital in the names of Saorstát nationals. For some reason not quite clear to me the Government do not require the same amount of information from them that they require under the sub-section in the case of other bodies corporate. I want to give them all the information they may require and I propose in this case that they should be given any information by way of changes; otherwise, it is all in the company's offices. That is the sole object of the amendment.
We are prepared to accept the amendment, particularly in view of the other amendment being carried against us.
We discussed yesterday the question of accommodation granted by banks to individuals who bring them shares upon which to borrow. These shares are transferred to the bank. They are shares, say, of a company which comes under this Bill. Is it intended that if these shares are transferred to the bank the nationality of the shareholders of the bank should be brought into question? The beneficial holder of the shares will be the owner, but the bank will be the nominal holder for the time being. Is it intended that an examination of the bank's shareholders as holders of the shares should take place? I can imagine going to the Bank of Ireland for a loan. If the Bank of Ireland had to submit a list of its shareholders to determine whether they were nationals or not I cannot conceive the bank doing it.
That is met under an amendment which the Minister has promised to bring in on the Report Stage.
I suppose it is hardly fair to ask what form that amendment will take.
I am not exactly giving the draftsman's definition of it, but, in effect, it is this: That a certificate from the bank stating that such a percentage of the shares or that such shares are held by nationals here will be accepted; that is to say, we will not require the names and addresses of the holders of the shares if they give us a certificate that nationals hold the shares. I think an amendment drafted on that basis will meet the point. That was a compromise arrangement.
I agree with the Minister, but I do not think he made it quite clear. If a bank holds shares of a company and the secretary of the company writes to the bank to know if they are their own or someone else's, it will be sufficient for the bank to say, "We hold these shares for a Saorstát national."
There will be no necessity for the bank's shareholders to be brought in as to whether they are nationals or not?
No. The amendment will cover that.
Would you allow me, Sir, to take amendment 61 before amendment 60, because if amendment 61 is carried there is no objection to the words "twenty-eight"?
I am sure there will be no objection to that.
I move amendment 61: I want to explain the reason for this. If you will turn to sub-section (5), which follows, you will find that the Minister may himself ask the person who holds the shares whether he is or is not a national. My only reason for proposing to delete these words in the case of a trustee holding shares for a person is that, on thinking the matter over, I came to the conclusion that in a great many cases it is information that it would be utterly and absolutely impossible for a trustee to give. It is well known that shares are held by trustees for very large bodies. I can best illustrate my difficulty by mentioning certain religious demnominations. I belong myself to a small religious denomination which consists of 3,000 people in the whole of Ireland. Individuals hold shares in companies for religious denominations. If, for the sake of argument, we say they hold shares for the Society of Friends they could not state whether the Society of Friends was a Saorstát national or not without writing to every single member and finding out if the majority were nationals. Even then, it is doubtful if they would come under the Act. There are people who hold shares as trustees for large charities. There are, for instance, trustees for the St. Vincent de Paul Society and for hospitals. I hold that they could not answer that question and that all you can do under the Bill is to provide that the Minister may ask the trustee for whom he holds them. If he replies, "I hold them for such and such an hospital" or "such and such a charitable organisation" or "such and such a religious body" the Minister will be perfectly satisfied and obviously will not ask for any further information. If he says that he holds them for somebody who is resident in Hong Kong and the Minister is in doubt about it, the Department will write to the person under Section 5. I really think it is not possible for the trustee in many cases to answer whether the person for whom he holds is or is not a national of Saorstát Eireann. That is the reason for the amendment. If that is taken out, a trustee could easily within twenty-eight days give the information, but if he had to ascertain whether the people were nationals or not, and they were long distances away, he would require a longer period.
I accept the amendment, and I suggest then that amendment 60 is not required.
That is so.
I move amendment 63:
Section 10, sub-section (6). After the word "thereof" in line 16 to insert the words "in the case of a first conviction to a fine not exceeding ten pounds, or in the case of a second or subsequent conviction."
I want by this amendment to have the fine for a first conviction reduced from £20 to £10, which I think is reasonable.
We have already agreed to this type of amendment and we agree to this one also.
I move amendment 64:—
Section 10, sub-section (7). To add at the end of the sub-section the words "in such a way as materially to alter the nature and character thereof and substantially to add to the value thereof."
There is not the same necessity for this amendment now in view of the amendments inserted right through Section 14. The amendments introduced by the Minister originally mean that the necessity for this is not the same now.
I do not think it arises, as it will be fully covered now by the alterations we propose to make in Section 14.
I move amendment 65:—
Section 10, sub-section (8). To delete in lines 24-26 the words "or by leaving it with a person over the age of sixteen years at the premises where the person to whom it is addressed carries on business."
I think the amendment is reasonable and that the provision in the Bill is unreasonable. I think I had better illustrate the difficulty I see in connection with the section by telling a story. I have definite knowledge of what I am going to relate. A parcel was delivered to a retail firm in Dublin, and a few days afterwards it could not be found. Eventually it was proved that it had been handed to a person who was a customer, and that the customer simply walked off with it. Under this Bill, if a notice were served in that way it would be held that the Act had been complied with so long as it was handed to any person on the premises. It seems to me that these things are important and that they ought to be delivered to the person concerned or sent by registered post. There will not be an enormous number of queries sent out. I happen to be the secretary of a company, and I do not think it is reasonable to say that notice has been served if it has been handed perhaps to some messenger boy or to some person who has no connection with the company at all. That is why I ask for the deletion of the words "leaving it with a person over the age of 16 years at the premises where the person to whom it is addressed carries on business." Letters, as we know, do frequently go astray. They are handed in casually to irresponsible persons. I think it is very important that these words should be deleted.
[The Cathaoirleach resumed the Chair.]
We propose to accept the amendment.
I want to know from the Minister whether he has considered the question as to how this section will affect persons living out of the jurisdiction. Take the case of a person who lives out of the jurisdiction and does not give the information required. It may be that he cannot be found at all. We all know that from time to time letters miscarry. What will be the position of a person in such a case as regards the penalties? Could we have an assurance from the Minister that that aspect of the matter has been examined?
Frankly I have not examined it. I think that the case the Senator has put is a rather extreme one. It is one that would have to be dealt with if and when it arose. I think the Senator has quoted a rather unusual instance, one that does not occur: that in the case of a manufacturing concern the beneficial owner, shareholder, director out of the country should disappear leaving no address and no means of getting into contact with him. As I have said, I think the case quoted is a very extreme one and one that would have to be dealt with if and when it did arise. If the Senator desires it I can have the matter examined and have a legal opinion on it, but I do not think that will serve any purpose other than an academic one.
The Minister spoke of disappearance. I think that is rather remote. When he says that the instance I gave was rather unusual, well, all one can say is that the whole Bill is unusual. I think most of us have had considerable experience of people trying to get around the Companies Acts. I hope the Minister will not say that people should not try to get around the regulations of the Revenue Commissioners.
I consider dishonesty practised against the Revenue Commissioners and the laws they administer or against company law just as culpable as, say, the act of a man who steals a loaf and, perhaps, more so.
We are living in a world of realities, and I suggest that fully half the energies of the Revenue Commissioners are directed towards trying to stop people from making use of methods that are legally available under the Revenue Acts. To say that that is dishonest serves no purpose at all. Legislation tries to stop that. In the light of that, I think that we should endeavour to examine legislation in that sense. It is only common prudence to do that instead of adopting the abstract sort of ethical attitude, that people are dishonest in doing these things and that they will suffer hereafter or something like that. If the Minister calls legal evasion dishonesty, I certainly do not and I think there are very few people here who would stand the test on that.
Particularly in this Chamber.
Take the case of a family trust. Surely what takes place in connection with these trusts could not be described as dishonesty? They are legal evasions of the Revenue law.
I think if a thing is permitted by the law it is not dishonest but the Senator is talking about evasion of the law. He talked about that yesterday.
I referred to the evasion of the spirit of the law by legal methods. What about the legal evasion of the income tax laws by the creation of family trusts?
I think that the Senator might now come back to the question before the House.
I can see this Act being evaded in a lot of ways. I can see evasion through a national, a person born in Ireland, and living out of the jurisdiction, holding shares. Very great difficulty may arise in a case like that in obtaining information. The point is one that I think the Minister should look into, because if he does it may be the means of avoiding the necessity of bringing in a series of further Acts to stop leakages. Let us try in advance to avoid some of the possible leakages.
I move amendment 68:
Section 11, sub-section (2). To delete in line 34 the word "if" and to substitute therefor the word "unless."
The amendment is designed to provide that, instead of the right of the House to annul by means of Resolution, the Resolution will have to be placed on the Table of the House and will have to be passed. If Senator Johnson were not away on the service of the State I probably would not have put down this amendment because I am sure he would have done it. I think that he has moved an amendment of this kind in the case of practically every Bill that has arrived here. I am doing it in this case because it is part of my previous proposal.
I think the position is that Senator Douglas has already had carried an amendment which makes this consequential.
I think that is so.
I move amendment 69:
Section 11, sub-section (3). To delete in line 34 the word "either" and to substitute therefor the word "each."
I move amendment 70:
Section 11, sub-section (2). To delete in line 36 the words "annulling such resolution" and to substitute therefor the words "approving of the regulation."
I move amend 71:
Section 11, sub-section (2). To delete in line 37 the words "be annulled accordingly" and to substitute therefor the words "cease to have effect."
To Section 14, there was an amendment at an earlier stage in substitution for another amendment, viz., to add at the end of the section the words, "or to agriculture or to the altering or repairing by a retailer of an article intended to be sold retail by him."
I suppose the next stage will be taken on Wednesday?
I should like to move in that matter. There is a motion in my name on the Order Paper, that the Report Stage be taken to-day. That has been under way since last Wednesday and if it had been possible to take it to-day I would have preferred it. In view of the course of events on the Committee Stage I recognise that that is not practicable. I, therefore, move that the Report Stage be taken on Tuesday next. I do that for no other purpose than to serve the interests of economy, both as regards time and expense, in regard to the Dáil. The Dáil will have to meet next Wednesday. It is essential that it should finish the Finance Bill so that the matters contained in that Bill will be dealt with finally before the fixed date. If we go on with the Report Stage of this Bill next Tuesday, we could possibly finish off the final stages and have it ready for the Dáil on Wednesday. That would save the Dáil being brought back a second time. If the House is agreeable, I suggest that Tuesday would be just as suitable a day as Wednesday for the Report Stage.
The difficulty about taking the Report Stage on Tuesday is that, in the event of that day being fixed, amendments would have to be in by four o'clock to-morrow afternoon.
Perhaps the Standing Orders could be waived in this case. It is obvious that only one or two members have really set themselves down to study this Bill in detail. I should say that, in the case of amendments about which there is no agreement, there would be little more to add to what has been said on Committee Stage. In the main, I think the debate on the Report Stage would follow very much the lines pursued in Committee. For that reason, I think the Standing Orders might be waived, if possible, and if it is the wish of the House. I am entirely in the hands of the House.
As a House, we have been placed in a very difficult position and—I am not blaming the Minister for a moment—in a somewhat unfair position. We had this Bill at the end of the session and we were faced with three extraordinary alternatives. One was that we should pass this Bill through immediately after Committee Stage without further thought on the points raised in Committee. Another was that we were to prevent the staff of both Houses—some of the members of the Dáil staff having been working very long hours of late—from getting a holiday. By the other course—delaying the Bill until the autumn—we were going to run the risk of its being said that we had prevented the possibility of employment here. Nobody here wanted to do any of these things. My personal difficulty in regard to the fixing of Tuesday for the next stage is this: I drafted these amendments to get the points to which they referred considered. I withdrew a number of them. They are my own drafting. I want to get some legal assistance and advice in connection with these amendments before next stage. I find that I cannot get that assistance until Tuesday next. I have made a provisional arrangement to discuss some of these points at 12.30 on Tuesday. That would mean that I would not know until 2 o'clock or 2.30 on Tuesday whether I would press these matters or bring the amendments in in another form. I have no objection to Tuesday being fixed but I have told you frankly what my position is.
When the suggestion was made here that consideration of this Bill should be postponed until the autumn in view of its importance, the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs said that he would give the Seanad all the time they required to consider the Bill. It was on that understanding that we agreed to take the Bill this week and so as to give the Ministry an opportunity, as the Minister stated, to relieve unemployment. I think the Minister should not depart now from the usual course and should give Senator Douglas and other Senators time to consider the amendments which they may desire to move on the Report Stage.
Would it be possible for the Dáil to meet on Thursday by arrangement?
I am rather afraid that the Finance Bill would not be finished in time by meeting on Thursday. I could, however, investigate that. With regard to Senator Counihan's point, I do not mind if we discuss this Bill on the Report Stage for four days. If Senator Counihan is inclined to discuss the Bill for another week, I am prepared to sit in with him. I am only putting the view with regard to the economy of the time of the House and its officials in calling the Dáil together. We can bring the Dáil together four times if necessary. I shall be on the spot working next month and the Seanad need not consider me. I am only putting the matter forward from the point of view of economy of time.
The Senators concerned have definitely said that they cannot have amendments in time for Wednesday.
I told the House openly and frankly my position. I could not have amendments in before 2.30 or thereabouts on Tuesday and Senators could only get them as they came in here. If they are satisfied with that, I am.
We would only get them for consideration by Tuesday afternoon?
I withdrew a number of my amendments in view of the arguments of the Minister, although some of these amendments appeared to be of importance. Some of them involve legal points which I want to go into carefully.
The Dáil is to meet some day next week. It would not, I am sure, involve the Government in any loss if members of the Dáil were to enjoy a day's visit to the Horse Show and come back to the Dáil next day to deal with this Bill. From the point of view of the convenience of the House, Wednesday is a better day than Tuesday for the Report Stage. Accordingly, the House will meet at 3 o'clock on Wednesday for consideration of the Report Stage.
If I have my amendments in by 3 or 4 o'clock on Tuesday, I presume, they will be accepted?
I should not like to answer that question straight off.
I would be anxious to facilitate the Senator if the course he suggests is in order. But we should like to get the amendments as early as possible on Tuesday. The other problem I want settled is this: Will this Bill be finished after the Report Stage? I presume it will.
As far as I am concerned, I hope we will never see it again.
I am afraid I have not power to accept amendments on Tuesday afternoon.
Can the House not agree to suspend the Standing Orders?
I am afraid I have not power to accept the amendments that are not in by the specified time.
Could I move that leave be given to accept amendments beyond that period?
I am afraid not.
As Monday is a Bank Holiday, will the staffs be working?
I am sure they will be here to perform the necessary duties.
It is unfair to them.