Control of Exports (Temporary Provisions) Bill, 1955—Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The purpose of this Bill is to give to the Minister for Industry and Commerce power to control the export of industrial goods and raw materials, and it might fairly be described as the industrial counterpart of the Agriculture and Fishery Products (Regulation of Exports) Act, 1947.

Power of the nature sought to be afforded by the Bill is already available to the Minister for Industry and Commerce under the Supplies and Services (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1946, but I have felt it desirable to provide a firmer basis for powers, the necessity for which arose largely out of the emergency conditions which prevailed from 1939 onwards.

The scope of the powers exercised under the emergency legislation has been continuously narrowed by removing from export control, as soon as it was possible to do so, goods in relation to which supply problems were no longer likely to arise. There remains, however, a short list of essential industrial raw materials, including, for example, timber, aluminium scrap and waste paper which are still in short supply and the unrestricted export of which could seriously disrupt our industrial production and our industrial employment. These shortages can no longer be regarded as being entirely due to emergency conditions, but they serve to underline the necessity to have available powers of export control based otherwise than on the abnormal and transient situation provided for by the Supplies and Services Act. As I have already informed the Dáil, that Act will be repealed as soon as it is possible to enact the necessary permanent legislation to replace the powers still required to be exercised under it, and the present Bill may be regarded as a step in this direction.

Apart from enabling export control to be exercised over essential industrial materials which are at present in short supply, the Bill is intended also to provide the powers necessary to deal with a situation in which, because of the development of an international emergency, it might become vitally necessary to impose export restrictions at short notice, so as to avoid a disastrous drain on our supplies of essential materials. Irreparable damage could easily be done to the whole economy of the country if it were necessary, in such an eventuality, to await the enactment of special corrective legislation by the Oirechtas.

There is a third reason why it has become necessary to seek the provision of continuing powers to control exports. As part of our contribution towards international peace, it is necessary to ensure that strategic raw materials are not exported from this country to Iron Curtain countries, or that this country is not made a base for such exports. The Bill provides, accordingly, that the export of specified goods to a specified destination may be prohibited by Order.

At present, the export of sheepskin is controlled under the Sheepskin (Control of Exports) Acts, 1934 and 1938, and the export of scrap iron is controlled by the Scrap Iron (Control of Export) Act, 1938. These Acts will no longer be necessary on the passing of the present Bill, and accordingly the Bill provides for their repeal.

In approaching this question of export control outside of emergency conditions, I was fully conscious of the possibility that such a power could or might be used autocratically or in such a manner as to represent an unwarranted interference with the people's rights and liberties. To minimise the risks in this direction, I have introduced into the Bill three separate safeguards. Firstly, the Bill provides that the Act shall continue in force for a period of three years and shall then expire. If experience shows that it would be desirable to continue the provisions of the measure beyond that time, it will be necessary to introduce new legislation for the purpose. Secondly, every Order made under the Act shall cease to have effect on the expiration of 12 months from its commencement. If new Orders have then to be made, the Oireachtas will be regularly reminded of the materials remaining subject to export control. Finally, every Order made under the Act is required to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas and may be annulled by resolution of either House at any time during its currency. These safeguards should satisfy even the most critical of Senators that there is no sinister motive or intention behind this Bill. By their inclusion, the Bill may, I think, fairly be described as a noncontroversial measure and it is on this basis that I commend it to the favourable consideration of the House.

Níl ach fíorbheagáin le rá agam ar an mBille seo mar admhuím gur ceart go mbeadh údarás ag an Rialtas greim do coimeád ar earrai a bheadh ag teastáil uainn fein annseo.

There will be no objection to this measure from this side of the House. We consider it necessary that the Minister and the Government should have whatever power they consider necessary to stop the export of essential commodities from here.

The Parliamentary Secretary mentioned a few items, such as timber, and I think, also waste paper. It is very necessary that we should conserve our supplies of waste paper, as well as of timber, to ensure that the factories engaged in the paper manufacturing business will be kept working.

I imagine that the Parliamentary Secretary-should have given us a complete list of the commodities that would be governed by this measure. If we had that information, we could take a more objective view of the whole position. I understood the Parliamentary Secretary to say that one of the aims of this Bill is to ensure that no goods be exported from this country to Iron Curtain countries. Apropos of that, I suggest that our purchases from those countries should also get the attention of the Government to see if we can do without them.

Arising out of what Senator Kissane has just said, I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary if he knows of any cases of the export, or presumably the re-export, of goods from Ireland to countries under Russian control. I am sure we would all agree that it is undesirable that certain commodities, at any rate, should be exported to those countries. Many of us would like to know definitely whether there have already been such cases, or whether it is merely a potential danger.

I should like to welcome this Bill as establishing a recognition of Parliament's right to place community interest before private interest. I think that is essential and it is good that it is recognised.

My second reason for welcoming this Bill is that, while recognising our power and our right to place the community interest before private interest, we also take care, under the terms of this Bill, to protect private individual rights by ensuring, as the Parliamentary Secretary has said, that each Order made under this Bill will be placed on the Table of both Houses of the Oireachtas and must regularly be renewed, if it is to be further used. I suggest that that gives a guarantee of ordinary necessary democratic safeguards, if and when it is found necessary to subject private interest to public interest which, I think, may in some circumstances—infrequently in fact—be necessary.

I am very pleased with the manner in which the Bill has been received. Senator Kissane asked for a full list of the goods. I am afraid we could not give a full list of the goods, as they may change from day to day, according as different shortages take place. There may be goods on the list to-day which will not be on the list in 12 months' time, and vice versa.

Could the Parliamentary Secretary tell us what goods are in short supply at the present time?

I have mentioned some of them. Senator Stanford inquired about exports to countries behind the Iron Curtain. There was a suspicion that at one time this country was being used as a ground for exporting goods to Russia. This Bill is a protection in that regard and I may say that the powers which we already had were used in regard to exports to Russia.

Was there any definite ground for such suspicions? It is a matter of great interest. We would all welcome any precise details on that point.

There were definite grounds for it. We have now evolved a watertight procedure for dealing with any matters of that kind.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take the remaining stages?

There might be certain things which we would need to consider. Perhaps the remaining stages could be ordered provisionally for to-morrow?

Is there any urgency about this Bill? Does the existing legislation not cover the position for some time to come?

It does—up to March next.

In that case, I suggest the next stage be taken in the new year.

I think that is a reasonable proposition, in view of the fact that there is no urgency about it.

Ordered: That the Committee Stage be taken on the first sitting day after Christmas.