The purpose of the Bill is to bring the Registration of Business Names Act, 1916, into line with modern conditions and to extend its application to bodies corporate. In its main essentials no substantial changes are being made, and the Bill is very largely a tidying up operation. The Bill has already been examined in detail by a Special Committee of the Dáil, who made a number of amendments in it.
For many years before 1916, there had been a demand for legislation requiring persons trading under names other than their own, to register relevant particulars for public inspection. The advent of World War I brought matters to a head and in 1916 the Registration of Business Names Act was passed, partly to deal with aliens carrying on business under names which concealed their true identity. This Act proved useful in peacetime and it has continued in operation since. The registration requirements are regarded by many as rather irksome but I am quite satisfied that the view of the commercial community, generally, is that machinery of this kind should be available to help in the identification of persons trading under business names.
The principal requirements of the 1916 Act relating to registration of business names applied only to individuals and partnerships. It is quite common, however, for companies and other corporate bodies to trade under names other than their corporate names and it is desirable in such cases also that suitable particulars should be filed for public inspection. One of the principal alterations proposed in the present Bill is to expand the business names law accordingly. I would like to refer to two other changes of some significance. The first relates to Section 2 of the 1916 Act which provides that any person carrying on business as nominee or trustee of or for another person or acting as agent for any foreign firm must file certain particulars with the Registrar of Business Names. This provision applies regardless of the business name used, and it was designed principally to expose any business activities of aliens during World War I. There is no need for it any more and I do not, therefore, propose to ask for its re-enactment. The other change refers to Section 8 of the Act of 1916, which provides that where a person fails to register under the Act, any rights which he may have under a contract entered into in relation to the business will be unenforceable. This section seems also to have been prompted by wartime considerations; the disability penalty imposed is, I think, too severe for peacetime conditions and it is not proposed, therefore, to include a section on these lines in the new law. There are a number of other alterations of a rather detailed nature, but, as they would be more suitable for discussion in Committee, I do not propose mentioning them now.
During the passage of the Bill through the Dáil it was strongly represented to me that something should be done to facilitate the taking of civil proceedings against the proprietors of concerns conducted under business names which are not, through the neglect of the proprietors, registered under the business names law. I must say I have the greatest sympathy with any solicitors, and their clients, who find themselves in a predicament as a result of a default to register a business name. Following consultation with the Department of Justice, however, I am satisfied that this is not so much a matter for the business names law as for rules of court. I have asked my colleague, the Minister for Justice, to see what can be done to deal with this matter, and I have no doubt that if a satisfactory solution can be found, he will see that the necessary steps are taken to implement it.
It was also represented to me that persons who fail to comply with this branch of the law should be more vigorously prosecuted. In reply I was able to give an assurance, which I now repeat, that so far as it is within the powers and resources of my Department, compliance with these requirements will be effectively enforced.
I am satisfied that this Bill will improve the existing law relating to the registration of business names, and that it is as far as we can go in this field without imposing unreasonable burdens on the commercial community. Senators will have noticed that this Bill and the Companies Bill are travelling together and that they were, in fact, examined with a fine comb by the same Special Committee of the Dáil. It is my hope that they can both be enacted very shortly and brought into operation on the same date.