Wireless Telegraphy Bill, 1972: Committee and Final Stages.
Government amendment No. 1:
In subsection (1), line 24, to delete "‘buyer'and ‘hirer'" and substitute "and ‘buyer'".
The purpose of amendments Nos. 1 and 2 is to make it clear that the word "hirer" as used in the Schedule includes a person who enters into a simple hiring or renting agreement as well as a person who gets a television set on a hire purchase agreement.
Section 3 (1) and 4 (1) of the Bill require registered dealers to supply the Minister with particulars in relation to any case of the letting of a television set on hire contract or on a hire purchase agreement. The particulars to be notified by registered dealers, as set out in the Schedule, include the name and address of the buyer or hirer and any change in the address of the buyer or hirer. The original definition of "hirer" was defective in that it covered only a person who had a set under a hire purchase agreement. The amended definition brings the particulars specified in the Schedule into line with sections 3 and 4 of the Bill.
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 2:
In subsection (1), between lines 25 and 26, to insert:
(a) a person described in the definition of hirer in section 1 of the Hire-Purchase Act, 1946, and
(b) a person with whom a hire contract is made by a television dealer;"
Amendment agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 1, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
Am I correct in my understanding that this is the first time in the statutes a television set has received a definition?
The Senator is right. This is the first time a television set has received a definition.
Arising out of that, on the definition section I presume I could ask the Minister a question as to whether he is satisfied that all the provisions with regard to licences which heretofore have dealt with something which received a different definition are effectively carried forward and are capable of being enforced by the provisions of this Bill, that there is no need to make any further amendments than are made in the earlier statutes to ensure that all the penalties which annex to failing to hold a licence for something you are no longer required to hold a licence for will catch effectively the failure to have a licence for a television set.
There is no need to amend any of the other Acts.
Question put and agreed to.
Section 2 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 3 stand part of the Bill."
I do not quite understand the mechanics of this. What happens in the case of default by the purchaser under a hire purchase agreement? Is the Minister notified of such default or does the purchaser or hirer still stand in the records of the Department as the purchaser of the set?
If the set is taken back from the person who has it on hire we would be notified by the dealer.
The section does not say that. As the section reads you could have a sale under a hire purchase agreement. The purchaser could default, but as far as the Department is concerned he is still the owner or lessee of the set.
The question here is not a question of who the owner or the lessee of the set is. The user of the set is the important thing. This is the person who must have the licence.
Perhaps I did not make myself clear. I am assuming that the person took out a licence and subsequently defaulted on his payments.
His hire purchase payments?
If he took out the licence he would not necessarily be the owner of the set.
He would be, according to the records of the Minister's Department, a licensed holder of a set.
Subsequently he would be checked on when the licence was due for renewal.
A person who has not got a set does not need a licence.
What happens to his licence? Can one surrender or get a refund of a licence?
Am I right in thinking that, in line 29, the word "particulars" is incorrectly spelled?
It is. There is a misspelling there. The Senator's academic eye noticed it.
There is provision for amending matters of this kind in the final copy of the Bill.
Could I put one further question? There is probably a simple explanation. It refers to the top of page 4 of the Bill. Paragraph (ii) states:
in any other case, the last day of the month which follows the month during which the sale or letting was made.
Does that mean that if a sale or letting was made, say, on 31st March the licensed dealer would have until the 30th April in which to advise the Minister's Department?
What constitutes a sale? Suppose a sale is made on credit and an invoice is sent to a purchaser on 31st March but the set is not paid for until May——
I would refer the Senator to subsection (3) which reads:
for the purposes of this Act a television set is sold or let on hire or hire purchase when the contract of sale or, as the case may be, the contract of hire or hire purchase is made.
Once the contract is made the sale is effective.
Subsection (3) of section 1.
It does not quite meet the point I made. If a person buys a set and says: "Send me an invoice for that," and the invoice goes out on the last day of the month the dealer must advise the Minister by the last day of the following month, but if in the interim the purchaser does not go through with the sale, the Minister has been advised by the dealer that a sale has been made but the purchaser does not pay, what happens in that event?
I presume then the dealer——
Does it mean the Minister's officials go round to his house to see if he has a licence for a set he has not got?
Would the Senator not agree that, if the sale does not go through and the dealer is not paid for his set, the dealer is going to recover that set? If the set is recovered, the question of a licence does not arise.
I agree. But the point is that most traders would give a little more over the normal credit. Suppose, to take an exact example, that the invoice was sent out on 31st March, then the trader has up to 30th April to notify the Minister. The trader may say, in the normal course of events, that the purchaser might not pay until some time in May; but he must fulfil the Minister's requirements before his customer has paid for the set. Is that not correct? It is regarded as a sale, even though the sale may never be completed.
Once the contract has been entered into as far as we are concerned the person——
There is not a contract. It is a deal.
We require any holder of a television set to have a licence. I should imagine that as soon as a person would have a set in his possession he would need a licence for it.
The point I am trying to make is : would the Minister consider that a month is adequate? In normal retail trading a month is regarded as fairly short. A number of people pay their accounts after the elapse of more than a month. I would suggest that in a situation like this it would not be unusual for a person to pay their account in two or three months. In the meantime the Minister will have been advised that a set has been purchased by somebody who may subsequently never pay for it.
He would be using it, that is so, and have had the set for two or three months, as Senator Russell suggests. Maybe the person might not pay off his bill for 12 months.
He might not even take the set into his possession.
If he has the set in his possession he knows, at that stage, that he must have a licence for it; otherwise he is liable to prosecution. There is every reason to believe that that person will get a licence. If he decides not to pay for his set until a later stage he can give back his set to the dealer if he wants to.
Then the Minister's Department is notified again, is it?
We would be. I am sure cases such as this would not arise very often, at least I hope not or we would be bogged down with paper work.
The only point, then, is that it is not unusual for a purchaser in a retail sale to exceed a month before payment. Perhaps that would apply to most of us.
Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 4 stand part of the Bill."
The Minister gave an understanding in the other House that he would look into certain matters which appeared to be objectionable in section 4 in regard to the amount of information which the Minister was seeking.
Would the Senator mind leaving that until such time as we come to the Schedule?
Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 5 stand part of the Bill."
Does the Minister envisage that "walkie-talkie" type equipment would come under the "sources of interference with wireless telegraphy" referred to in the first sentence of this section. I ask this question because it could be taken as interfering with equipment which would be operated by the Defence Forces at certain stages.
I understand that "walkie-talkie" equipment comes under section 7.
In fact, "walkie-talkies" do not come under this section. One of the reasons I asked was because of the problem of subsection (c), which states:
the address of the premises at which it has been or is to be installed.
If you had movable telegraphic equipment, that might present a problem. If "walkie-talkie" equipment is dealt with under section 7, would there be any difficulty in regard to movable transmitting equipment? As far as paragraph (c) of section 5 is concerned, pirate radios often operate from movable vans and trucks, so would there be a problem in getting an address of a premises because it is not really installed on a premises?
I believe that this section covers very heavy equipment, such as one would find in hospitals, or equipment which could not be moved around from one premises to another very easily. This equipment would be in a particular place unless the premises were being changed or something like that. The type of apparatus the Senator is referring to, such as radio transmitters, would be dealt with under section 7.
Under this section, the Minister is empowered to make an order requiring particulars of equipment capable of causing interference to be notified to him. This order, presumably, will be published in the newspapers and in Iris Oifigiúil. It will then give rise to an offence if anybody in possession of this apparatus, so affected by an order which he may not have seen, does not give by notice the information required by the section.
I have a note here which I think I should read to the House, because it might clear up any misunderstanding which might exist:
The purpose of this section is to build up a register of apparatus or equipment in use which is capable of radiating substantial radio frequency power thereby causing interference with wireless telegraphy. If such a register were available it would make it easier to detect promptly the sources of interference and to take corrective action. The kind of equipment in mind is industrial and medical of a type which would be specified in an order made by the Minister under this section and the user would supply three things: (a) his name and address; (b) descriptive particulars of the apparatus or equipment and (c) the address of the premises in which it is held. The Minister's powers in relation to interference generally arise under section 12 of the Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1926, extended by the Broadcasting Authority Act, 1960. Section 12 of the Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1926, enables the Minister to request the cessation of injurious interference being caused to wireless telegraphy apparatus or a broadcasting station. Failure to comply with such a request is an offence liable on summary conviction to be penalised with the maximum fine of £10 a day and £1 a day for every day during which the offence continues.
These people would be requested to give us this information and the order would be made and published. These people would also be requested to cease injurious interference. Does that clear up the point?
Yes, to a considerable degree. I am thinking of the situation in which someone might be recommended to buy, hire or otherwise acquire an apparatus or equipment to which the Minister is referring, whether the user be in industry or medicine, who might be able to give the descriptive particulars. What is the machinery through which industrial and medical staff are to be made aware of this kind of obligation? Is there any machinery whereby the importer or the manufacturer can be required to draw the purchaser's attention to the existence of the obligation?
I do not know how real the point I am making is, but if somebody asked me to describe some apparatus or equipment, first, I would not be able to do it, and, secondly, if I had not been in the Seanad I would not know that the Minister had power to make this order requiring me to do it. Is it one of the hazards of being in industry that you are expected to find out all the applicable laws affecting, as the Bill prescribes:
apparatus or equipment capable of radiating, in conditions specified in the order, radio frequency power equal to or greater than the amount so specified...
by the Minister, in an order which he may not have seen? Are there any techniques, administratively, to make people aware of their obligations and to ensure that they are put in possession of the information which they then would give?
I appreciate the point made by Senator Alexis FitzGerald and the reasoning behind it. I am sure that suppliers of heavy equipment and machinery would notify the purchasers of its nature and type so that they would be able to have this information and, if necessary, inform the Department. The Minister for Posts and Telegraphs has an advisory committee which includes technical experts to advise him on the making of interference regulations.
"Wireless telegraphy" is an omnibus phrase. What would that include? Would it include radio cabs and that sort of apparatus?
It would include all types of radio equipment, radio cabs, ships to shore and so on.
Does it, in effect, mean that anybody such as radio cabs, ships in dock and so forth who complains about interference could possibly result in a prosecution by the Minister of the person or source of such interference?
It could result in that. If we were notified of interference we would have to investigate the cause of the interference and, where necessary, bring a prosecution. So far no prosecution have been brought.
Is it not customary to draw attention to it?
Supposing the source of the interference was there before this legislation came along? What would happen? If a person suddenly found himself a cause of interference because somebody else had started, say, a radio cab rank outside an industrial building, would the radio cab owners have the right to require the industrial building owners to cease such interference? If he did, would it have consequences on the operation of the industry concerned and hence on employment in that industry? I think the Minister would require a sense of balance here so that a frivolous or unjust complaint would not be made against industrialists.
I can assure the Senator that we are always very reasonable in such matters because we realise it is not possible to eliminate all interference. On the specific example which the Senator mentioned, the radio cab people wanting to set up their radio station outside an industrial plant, I am sure, if they were reasonable people, would seek an alternative location when approached about it.
I can see that this section can apply to an existing source of interference so far as notification is concerned, but has the Minister any remedy in the following situation? If Senator Russell and I have some machine which causes interference, and which comes within the section, presumably if the Minister makes an order we have to give the prescribed particulars. But, on my reading of section 7, which deals, so to speak, with the remedies the Minister has for dealing with it in relation to the importing or selling of these machines, if the Minister finds by reason of an order he has made that information is furnished to him as to a source of interference, is there anything he can do about it?
If an industry causes interference it would come within the scope of this section.
But they are required in this section to notify and, having been notified, can the Minister do anything about it?
Does the Senator mean that I should prosecute?
Has the Minister even the right to prosecute?
Yes, under the earlier Act I have the right to prosecute.
Is it under the 1926 Act?
Yes, that is right.
The Senator and the House should not conclude that I would prosecute there and then.
I was genuinely interested in finding out if there is a remedy, or if this is just interorum without being effective.
We would certainly hope that the people with the offending apparatus would yield to pressure.
There is another aspect of interference, under section 5, where people have not adequate voltage. This is a problem in many parts of the country. There is an onus on the ESB to provide adequate voltage. If we are to compel people to pay £7.50 for a licence we must take all possible steps to ensure that we provide an adequate service. I do not think that a semi-State body should be allowed to get away with something they are not entitled to. For example, if you have an inadequate supply of electricity and somebody down the road plugs in an electric kettle, a milking machine or a crusher, your television picture will be obliterated.
This is interference for the purpose of this section. Would there not be an onus on the ESB to ensure that such people are protected against that type of interference? It is necessary for farmers to use electrical farm machinery, but other people wired up to that transformer may suffer as a result. One can make all kinds of representations to the ESB but it is extremely difficult to get them to remedy the matter. There is an onus on the Department of Posts and Telegraphs to ensure that people who are paying £7.50 for their television licences will get value for their money and proper viewing. Their viewing should not be interfered with by reason of inadequate voltage.
Perhaps the Minister could be encouraged to prosecute the ESB in that case.
I should like to assure Senator Fitzgerald that, by and large, we find the ESB provide a satisfactory service. However, I am aware that there are isolated areas where the voltage may not be high enough to provide a proper signal to a television viewer. I would stress that, so far as the holder of a set is concerned, he or she must have a licence irrespective of whether the signal is strong or weak or whether the set is in working order at all. The fact that a person possesses a television set means that that person must buy a licence. Senator West, jokingly I hope, said that we should prosecute the ESB. Maybe we should. This is something we have to look into. Where we have been informed by television viewers that the signal is weak due to low voltage we have brought the fact to the notice of the ESB.
Can the Minister assure us that if a licensee complains to the Department of Posts and Telegraphs about weak signals due to low voltage they will bring it to the attention of the ESB? This problem is much more widespread than we think.
I have a note here which I shall read for the benefit of the House. It reads:
All powers appropriate for the investigation and detection of interference with wireless telegraphy receiving apparatus were conferred on RTE under the Broadcasting Authority (Control of Interference) Order, 1960, and a special interference section within the Authority handles complaints of interference from listeners and viewers. Any prosecution for failure to comply with the regulations would be a matter for the Minister. The Authority has not so far found it necessary to recommend that anybody be prosecuted for failure to comply with the regulations against interference. The policy is one of persuasion rather than of compulsion and it is generally successful.
Perhaps the note which the Minister read covers the point I am about to make. Developing Senator Fitzgerald's point a bit further, I should imagine that there are other ways of causing interference rather than by radiating radio frequency power. For example, am I not right in suggesting that equipment which uses very high voltage, such as welding equipment, can cause interference without actually radiating radio frequency power in the sense that is covered in the section? If so, has the Minister power to do something about this situation?
We have. We require all owners of welding apparatus to fit suppressors.
Would the Minister say if this also applies to the interference at regular intervals from such apparatus as motor cycles which interfere with both television receivers and car radios?
It applies to many other things as well. The Senator will appreciate that it is extremely difficult to catch these people, to track down these people to enforce any regulation that might be there with regard to suppressors.
I know it does not arise under this Bill, but this seems an opportune time to mention it. I would draw the Minister's attention to the requirements which should be applied to the manufacturers who supply these articles.
I should like to ask the Minister under which Act does he have power to deal with the welding and high voltage equipment which he referred to?
Under the 1926 Act, as amended by the Act of 1960.
Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 6 stand part of the Bill."
I should like to refer to a point arising on subsection (3) with regard to a person who has been a television dealer and who ceases to be a television dealer. Under section 3 of the Bill, what happens to the records which he has had to keep.
Is the Senator asking if a dealer ceases to be a dealer what happens to the records which he, himself, holds? I cannot honestly say. However, I know that the Department of Posts and Telegraphs will have a record of whatever notifications he made. My Department would not be concerned with what happens a dealer's records after he has gone out of business.
So the dealer is entitled to destroy his own records?
I refer the Senator back to subsection (3) of section 2.
It does not mention any records which——
It does not mention the records. All it mentions is that the dealer would have to notify the Minister within 30 days of going out of business. If he does that what he does with his records is his own concern.
Do the Department have a copy of all his records?
We would have his notifications.
This is under section 3 of the Bill? Is that right? The requirement of the Department to have a copy also comes under section 3 of the Bill?
So the dealer could destroy his own records, if he so wished.
Only, of course, if he is going out of business.
Supposing he has not made a deliberate decision to go out of business, but he goes out of business or he dies, who is to give the notice under subsection (3) of section 2, which is going to keep the Minister's records right under section 6, which is what we are now deciding?
You cannot have him prosecuted at that stage.
If he sells his business, he can destroy his records beforehand; he does not have to transfer his records.
Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 7 stand part of the Bill."
I should like to ask the Minister to explain in regard to subsection (1) why the phrase in the third line, which reads:
or for such other purpose as the Minister shall specify...
is included? I, personally, react very strongly against giving the Minister— not this Minister, but any Minister— global undefined powers of this nautre. The purpose of section 7 is quite clear. The marginal note shows that it is a restriction of manufacture or importation of certain apparatus. Subsection (1) starts by stating:
Where it appears to the Minister to be expedient that the provisions of this section should, for the purpose of preventing or reducing the risk of interference with wireless telegraphy...
That is what the whole Bill is about: the Minister may do certain things. However, it does not end there. It continues
...for the purpose of preventing or reducing the risk of interference with wireless telegraphy, or for such other purpose as the Minister shall specify...
It seems to me that that leaves it wide open to the Minister to think up anything he likes and to decide that such other purpose, even though it might be completely unrelated either to his Department or to the question of interference with wireless telegraphy, can get the hammer under this section. I cannot see that the section would be weakened in any way by deleting that phrase. If the Minister insists on keeping that phrase in the Bill, then he should spell out very clearly what is intended by it.
This section enables the Minister, with the consent of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, to make an order prohibiting the sale, letting, manufacture or importation of any apparatus of a type to be specified in the order. Provision may be made in the order to enable the Minister to grant licences which would exempt licensees from the provision of the section to a manufacturer making equipment of this type solely for export. Subsection (4) of section 11 provides for a penalty of £50 for a first offence, and £100 for a second or subsequent offence for a contravention of this section, and also provides for forfeiture of the equipment. The reason for section 7 is as follows. Subsection (1) of section 3 of the Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1926, provides generally that no person shall keep or have in his possession any apparatus for wireless telegraphy except under licence granted by the Minister. Certain types of apparatus, for example, certain "walkie-talkie" sets, operating on the 27 megacycle band—commonly known as the citizen band—and "bugging" devices would not normally be licensed by the Minister, either because it would be undesirable to have them in the wrong hands or because their use would cause abnormal interference with television and radio reception. Section 7 of the Bill would enable the Minister to keep this kind of equipment out of the hands of the general public and, in some cases, out of the country altogether, but would enable the Minister to make exceptions where the apparatus is to be manufactured for export only. It will be necessary to have power to cover items for causes other than risk of interference. For example, "bugging" devices would not come under this heading. I hope this answers the question.
It gives me a better understanding of what the Minister has in mind, but it does not satisfy me. I think it is still too wide. I can appreciate that there may be cases such as the Minister has mentioned where it might be desirable on grounds other than grounds relating to interference to have some kind of control, but the particular course the Minister has chosen is entirely without restriction or limitation on him. As I see it, it would be open to the Minister on this particular section to prohibit the importation of such apparatus merely for the sake of prohibiting importation—possibly something to do with the balance of payments or something of that sort.
I feel strongly that any such measure should be taken by the Minister for Finance in relation to the general economic and political situation in the country rather than that it should be done under a Wireless Telegraphy Act. I think it is entirely too wide. The example I have given may not be a very good one and I imagine that other Senators, if they thought about this, would probably give other examples. Again, I want to make it clear that I am not suggesting either the Minister or the Department would wish or would in fact act in any way irresponsible in this connection. The case has often been made, quite correctly, that when we legislate here we are legislating not for a particular Minister, not for a particular staff in his Department, but we are legislating as far as we can for the future. None of us can say that a power as wide as this might not be irresponsibly used in the future.
Any order made by the Minister under this Bill would have to be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas. Consequently, if the Minister makes an order for a reason that does not seem to have any validity, it would be open to both Houses to query it.
That may be an overwhelming argument from the Senator's point of view, but Senators sitting on this side of the House do not see any great protection at times in orders being laid before the House. Indeed, members of my profession had a recent experience when an order was cancelled, so to speak, by the Minister by virtue of the majority which he was controlling. However, I appreciate more fully the Minister's reasons.
The Senator appreciates that before the order could be made I would have to specify the reason for making the order. As well as that, I would have to have the agreement of the Minister for Industry and Commerce.
I am not satisfied the Minister has to specify the reason. I think he may specify the particular apparatus.
Subsection (1) states:
...or for such other purpose as the Minister shall specify, apply to any class or description of apparatus for wireless telegraphy, he may, with the consent of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, by order specify apparatus of that class or description for the purposes of this section.
Therefore, I feel that I would have to specify the reason.
I agree with the Minister that in that regard he is correct, he must specify the purpose, but there is no way of controlling. He is not limited with regard to the purpose. That is the gist of my complaint.
I assure the Senator that the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs is always a very reasonable person.
I am a little worried about this section in particular. I am assuming the Minister will form the right view that it is necessary to make an order to specify a particular apparatus as being an apparatus which should not be manufactured or sold and that his object in doing so would be correct, in thinking that it would prevent or reduce risk of interference of wireless telegraphy and simply leave it at that for the moment and not even consider such other purposes as he may specify. If you were wrong about that and it were in a given situation desirable that certain apparatus be made, sold or imported here for reasons more important than the question of interference with wireless telegraphy, you would increase the legal problem for the State and the situation could not be corrected until this order had been revoked under the procedures laid down in the Act.
I do not know enough about defence or about security or about medicine, but these matters seem to me to be more important than reducing the risk of interference of reception on your television set. For the purpose of reducing the risk of interference of reception, the Minister could ban something which is needed for some other purpose which has not been taken into account when the order was made, because the nature of the section does not direct one's mind to this kind of problem.
The Minister for Industry and Commerce has been speaking in terms of production generally, and of the economy; but life is more important than death and I suppose if we did close down all the hospitals in Ireland our television reception would be greatly improved, but would this be a desirable thing? One has got to weigh various other objectives against this particular objective. It may be possible to devise a section whereby through extension of the licensing provisions, for example, the Minister could close down Telefís Éireann as being an apparatus for interfering with my wireless telegraphy reception because I live next door to it and it definitely reduces my reception of television from other television programme producers. It is just an example—a fatuous one, if you like—but it may be desirable to extend the power of the Minister in this by way of licence to cope with that problem. If he did get representation from the Army or somebody that they wanted a particular piece of equipment, they could get it very quickly.
Could I add just one thing on the other point. I do not think this would go in any way against the Minister's powers under this if it were spelled out in this section that the Minister in making this order must specify the purpose. It does not seem to me that is clear in this section. It states: "such other purposes as the Minister shall specify" and then it goes on to state: "he will make an Order specifying the goods". It does not seem to me that there is a legal obligation on the Minister under the section to specify the purpose in his order although I accept that is obviously what he intended.
We are satisfied that before making an order we have to spell out the purpose of the order.
Yes, but must it be specified in the order?
Yes, it must be specified in the order.
Perhaps if the Minister ever thinks of doing otherwise I hope he will look back on this debate, because it does not seem to me that there is a legal obligation on him to specify in the order. He could specify it beforehand but what I am concerned with is that it should spell out the reason.
I should like to tell the House that the intention is to specify the purpose in the order.
Question put and agreed to.
Section 8 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 9 stand part of the Bill."
I think there is a certain amount of disquiet amongest the radio and television dealers in relation to this enabling section which gives the Minister the power to give a list of all television transactions to RTE. We know that RTE are engaged in a commercial aspect of television, piped television. If at some future time RTE in their wisdom decide to go into the rental side of the business, which is a lucrative one, it would give them a very unfair advantage over the dealers inasmuch as they would have a list of all the rental transactions that would have taken place throughout the country and would have a list of all those who had hired television sets.
I should like to hear the Minister's views on that because to my way of thinking this is a section that perhaps could have been omitted from the Bill, without the Bill losing any of its effect.
I agree with some of the views of Senator Jack Fitzgerald in this regard. A fair amount of disquiet was voiced by many people when RTE first went into the business of competing with private industry for the erection of communal aerials. The fear is now being voiced about the comprehensive information which the members of the rental association would have to supply to the Department, who are empowered under this section to pass this information on to RTE. If at some time in the future RTE made a decision to extend their sphere of operations to the business of renting television appliances they would have quite a deal of information which would give them an unfair trading advantage over and above the people in the private sector of the industry.
I know is sounds unlikely that Radio Telefís Éireann would themselves enter into the business of hiring or leasing television appliances, but one might have said two years ago that it was just as unlikely that Radio Telefís Éireann would enter into the business of competing with private industry in the business of erecting communal television aerials. Indeed, as one who has had some experience, both in a personal capacity and as a public representative, with the operation of that section of RTE, who are supposed to be erecting communal aerials, could I suggest to the Minister that it might have been better for all concerned had they not departed from their original brief in this regard? Not only was the principle of not interfering with private enterprise, where it was carrying out its operations in a fair way, violated, but we had the unfortunate situation of a semi-State body making extravagant promises in order to get contracts, which they apparently knew they could not fulfil because they certainly have not fulfilled them, and in that way getting a share of the market which, if it had been done by a private operator, might have left him open to legal action.
I think the people in Donnybrook now are having second thoughts about their entry into this field. I hope the Minister will have second, third and fourth thoughts before they are allowed to go into the field of renting out television appliances. Nonetheless, under this section, if they make that decision they are empowered to get private information from the people who would be competitors and that seems to be a bad thing.
I should like to support the criticisms which have been made of the proposed amendment to the existing law which is contained in section 9. Because of the extremely confusing methods by which we amend our legislation it is difficult to ascertain from the section the powers by which the Minister can by order transfer, because the section to which reference is made is not in the Act. You find that this section has been introduced in a Schedule which is referred to in a section of a subsequent Act, that is, section 34 of the Broadcasting Authority Act, 1960, which introduced a new subsection, after subsection (1) of section 5, into the Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1926. The Minister has these powers given to him now for 12 years, but he has not in fact exercised them.
There is genuine and widespread apprehension in the trade, as to the dangers to the trade and to all whose employment is connected with it and to the capital invested in it that the amendment, the logic of which I understand, will expose them in the future to risk. The point was made here in the debate that Radio Telefís Éireann, to give it its new name, has engaged in piping television. I am not joining in criticism of the manner in which it is sought to do that or anything about that aspect of it. I simply say that this is seen by the trade as engaging in commercial competition with certain elements who have set themselves up in business to do this.
I am not clear, and I should like the Minister to explain when he is replying to this debate, how Telefís Éireann come to be engaged in piping television. The powers of Radio Telefís Éireann are set forth in section 16 of the Broadcasting Authority Act, 1960. These were amended by the 1966 Act to introduce three additional powers which I do not think in any way would give the authority any power to do this which they may have lacked at the time of the introduction of the amendment Act of 1966. I take it that the powers RTE are exercising in this field are to be found in the general provisions with regard to the relay of programmes. Perhaps they rely upon the amendment of section 5 of the Broadcasting Authority (Amendment) Act, 1966. Indeed that may have been what that amendment was conceived to achieve. Section 5 (b), as amended, states:
To arrange with other Broadcasting Authorities for the distribution, receipt, exchange and relay of programmes.
Paragraph (b) of subsection (2) of the original Act states:
To provide by arrangements made for the purpose by the Minister and any other person for the distribution by means of relaying of programmes broadcast by the Authority.
I presume it would be open to the Minister to say to the House today that the existing powers would not enable RTE to go into the business of renting television sets. This does not come directly from existing powers and would not necessarily be conducive to the performance of its business. Even if the Minister says this—and I would agree with him—it would not be sufficient to allay the fears to which I refer. Even if we were to put down an amendment to this Bill today designed to limit the powers of the Minister to make this transfer of his fee collecting ability to RTE during such time as they were engaged in any activity which would be competitive with existing concerns, this would not allay their anxiety either. During the period intermediate to their coming to the Houses of the Oireachtas to get the additional power to do these things they would have accumulated the information which would be thought by the people in the business, rightly or wrongly, to threaten their interests.
There are substantial sums involved, as I need not remind the House. We are not talking about anything small now. Unless this is practically necessary as distinct from apparently logically desirable, I should think the Minister ought not to do this. Businessmen attach great importance to these matters. Competitors do not wish people to know what their gross turnover is. This figure was required by statute in Britain to be given by limited companies for the benefits of an Act in 1967. They had not merely to give their gross turnover but a detailed regional breakdown of this turnover as it changes.
If this information is received by the Department of Posts and Telegraphs as being necessary for the purposes of the collection of fees, the trade will be content that that Department should continue to receive that information. But if the information is to be received by an authority which at the moment is engaging in what is more like commerce, that is piped television, it will be a serious step for this House to empower any Minister to be so organised that he can transfer these powers away from a Minister of State, where the Minister and his advisers are bound by official secrecy requirements and other protective provisions. If we are to have such a remarkable change it ought to be spelled out in very explicit language and should follow a very thorough debate, not merely in this House but in the other House, to which the Minister will be returning.
I strongly urge the Minister to consider whether it is necessary to transfer the information. It would be all right if we could limit the information by having a compilation or classification made up by the Minister's Department if he chooses to transfer the collection of fees. This compilation should contain references only to places where people in default live. The Minister may wish to preserve the right and may take the line: "This is something I may want to do some time." But he may take the view: "Let us do without the power to transfer because we have no intention of transferring it. We are going to do the collecting." If he takes that view, it would be the most sensible one. If the Minister does wish to preserve the power of fee collecting, let us see that the information which reaches him is sterilised of its commercial usefulness before it reaches RTE.
I wish to support the point made by Senator Jack Fitzgerald, Senator Boland and Senator Alexis FitzGerald. This problem, which has arisen due to section 9 of this Bill, has caused considerable disquiet. The problem has arisen at this stage of the passage of the Bill through the Oireachtas primarily because the passage of this Bill has been so hasty. The Bill was not printed until about the middle of February and issued towards the end of that month. These things take some time to come through. Members of the Oireachtas have a good deal of legislation to deal with and read and there has to be feedback from the public and from the people who are involved in the business.
I feel strongly that the provision of transferring the register to RTE is one that should not be available to the Minister. There should be no reason at any stage to take this course. In the debate on the Committee Stage in the other House the Minister has stated and I quote from the Dáil Official Report of Wednesday, 8th March, column 1259:
I can assure the Deputy in the House I am not considering the question of transferring this register to RTE, I am only making provision for it in case it might ever happen.
This is something we ought to guard against, even thought the Minister may not be considering it. He has the power, if the Bill is passed as it now stands, and we should not give him this power. We should only give him this power if we have an absolutely clear idea of what an order such as this would entail. I think it would entail a total change in the function of RTE and we should be clearly aware of the change in that function.
As Senator FitzGerald has pointed out, we are not talking about a small industry. There are roughly 1,000 people engaged in the manufacture and distribution of television sets. We are talking in terms of the employment of 1,000 people. This is a problem of considerable magnitude. The people in the trade feel that if at any stage this register of sales and users of television sets was transferred to RTE and if RTE decided to go into the business of manufacture and distribution of television sets, this would give them a tremendous advantage over their competitors on a private enterprise system. They feel especially sore about this because by paying both private and industrial taxes the people involved in the manufacture, distribution and rental of television sets are paying taxes to the Government which are then used to subsidise RTE and which puts them in a position quite different from the average manufacturer, retailer and distributor. This section could hide a type of nationalisation of the television manufacture and distribution industry. With the unfair advantage of the register of sales and users of television sets, if RTE went into that side of the business they could easily dispose of their competitors.
Although Senator Boland has made the point that it seems unlikely that RTE would go into the manufacture and distribution of television sets, he also pointed out that some years ago it seemed extremely unlikely that RTE would go into the piped television relay business. We should be clear what is the mandate for RTE. They must have a mandate to enter into the piped television business. I should like to ask the Minister what that mandate is.
We ought to be absolutely clear in our minds what we are doing. Either we decide to allow RTE to go entirely into this field or they should not be in it at all. I can see their point of view. The RTE people are labouring under a severe handicap, which is lack of money. Because of lack of money their programmes, perhaps, do not compare with those of the BBC. They have to put on more canned American programmes. They have not got the resources, they claim, to do what they would like. Anybody working in RTE sees at once a source of revenue. Here is a great source of income, let us get into the TV distribution, rental and relay business. There is money to be made there. If RTE are going to go into this business we want to be clear about the position of their competitors in what, up to now, has been private enterprise, an industry which employs about 1,000 people.
There is an argument for nationalising the television distribution business but one would have to take a very long hard look at it. It would require a great deal of debate and decision whether that would be the right thing to do. The problem about this section is that it would give another Minister, another Department of Posts and Telegraphs and perhaps an aggressive RTE Authority, the opportunity of doing precisely this without any public debate or discussion. All it needs is an order by the Minister, RTE gets all these records, they go into the manufacture and distribution of television sets and, with the information at their disposal, they would be able to wipe out any competition from private industry. This section gives this opportunity to RTE, to a Minister for Posts and Telegraphs and I feel, because of its hidden power, it should be opposed.
May I again draw the attention of the Seanad to the fact that an order made under this section must be laid before both Houses. It is not quite true to say, as Senator West has suggested, that this power could be taken by the Minister without any publicity or discussion. Anybody in either House who feels that the order which the Minister proposes to make is, in the circumstances, an unwise one is quite free to put down a motion to annual it. It will certainly get publicity and discussion if a Member of either House does so. It is not giving a Minister a final power which cannot be reviewed in the future. It will be subject to review. It will be subject to discussion and it will get publicity if any Member of either House wants it to get publicity.
Notwithstanding what Senator Ryan has said, this section is undesirable for many reasons. Even if RTE were never to go into the business of manufacturing or selling television sets it is undesirable that a Minister should transfer to a State body the powers which he holds at present. The Minister is the political head of a Department. He is elected by the people. Any Deputy can put down a question in the Dáil in regard to the affairs of his Department and the Minister must answer that question. If a Deputy puts down a question dealing with a State body, the reply invariably is that the Minister has no function in regard to such an institution or statutory body. It would be very undesirable if the right of a Deputy, Senator or county councillor to question the Minister on anything they might regard as an injustice or something which should not be done in the name of the Minister was transferred to a statutory body. It would be a step in the wrong direction.
In making this statement I should like to point out I am fighting the case for the present and any future Minister to retain the right he has at the present time. It may never happen that such power may be transferred to RTE, but if at some future date the Minister or his successor should think it desirable to transfer such a power of collecting or insisting on licences being taken out by users of television sets with the right of prosecution in the courts of the state, then he should think twice about it. I should regret very much seeing that happen. The power is being taken out of the hands of the Minister and his Department and is being given to the institution that is providing the service.
In Dublin and on the east coast, if one is not satisfied with an RTE production, one can switch to BBC or UTV. But in, say, west Limerick or in my own constituency next door to that of the Minister the person who is not satisfied with the RTE programmes has no option. He cannot get any other channel. In this day and age I feel it would be a wrong step.
I would urge the Minister, as a politician and one who is answerable to the public, to retain this power and not to transfer it. I see no good reason in the future why the Minister should transfer this power. I do not believe that, all things being equal, RTE, would have any intention of going into the manufacture and distribution of television sets. I am assuming they would never want to do that. The Minister should however still retain the right to the enforcement of licences and to prosecute somebody who defaults under an Act of Parliament.
When I first read paragraphs (a) and (b) of section 9 I thought what was required was that the list of dealers, which would be compiled under section 2, would be transferred to Radio Telefís Éireann. On re-reading this, it seems that under paragraph (b) power can also be given to RTE to collect licence fees. I am inclined to agree with what Senator Russell has said. I have not been approached by any of the commercial interests on the presumption that RTE may eventually go into the manufacture of television units. I would much prefer to see the right of collecting licence fees being retained by the Minister in his own Department. It has happened frequently that Members of both Houses of the Oireachtas have asked the Minister to make some representation to RTE in matters of public interest, where we were convinced that RTE were not acting in the best public interest. We were told that it is not the business of the Minister to interfere with a semi-State or statutory body. This apparently is accepted as the rule.
I do not like giving more power than is necessary to people who are not answerable to Parliament. There are certain powers which we must give them for the day-to-day functioning of the companies for which they have responsibility, but we should stop there. Public interests must be safeguarded. If we give these semi-State and statutory bodies more power than they require to discharge the duties which we give them, then we are abrogating the power of Parliament. This is a section about which I am not very enthusiastic. Maybe when the Minister is replying he will give some explanation of why he thinks this is desirable.
I have already stated in the Dáil that I am not considering the question of transferring the register of television dealers to RTE. I am only making provision so that it would be possible, without fresh legislation, to arrange at some future date that RTE could maintain the register, and that notifications about television set transactions could be sent to RTE instead of to the Minister. This change would be made only if it were decided that RTE should take over the collection of television licence fees from my Department. It does not of course follow that the register and notification work would automatically be transferred to RTE if licence fee collection were transferred to the authority. All the relevant circumstances would be taken into consideration before a decision was made. It would however be illogical not to provide for the contigency, when a provision in the Act of 1960 makes it possible for the Minister to arrange for the transfer to RTE of the more important work of collecting licence revenue, including the power to prosecute evaders.
It has been suggested that, if this section is left in the Bill, RTE would have an unfair advantage in competition with television dealers because of the information that dealers will have to give them, and that this could lead to a situation where RTE would have the monopoly or virtual monopoly in the supply of sets. I have already pointed out that this is merely an enabling provision and these particular functions may never be transferred to the authority. Even if this particular provision were to be invoked some time in the future, there are no good grounds for the fears of the dealers that RTE would be in competition with them in regard to the sale and renting of sets. I am aware that the authority have no intention whatsoever of entering this particular field. Even if they had, they would have to convince me and my Department that they should be empowered to take on this novel function. I do not think they would convince me too easily. I hope that what I have just said has convinced Senators that television dealers need have no fear whatsoever that the inclusion of this particular section will be detrimental to their interests.
One point was raised by Senator Alexis FitzGerald in connection with communal aerials and he asked me to deal with it when replying. Because of their adverse effect on RTE's advertising revenue communal aerials with facilities for reception of external television programmes were initially restricted to single blocks of flats or ten houses. In 1966, the Government decided that in view of the special circumstances in the Ballymun housing scheme RTE should be asked to provide a multi-channel communal aerial service there. This led to pressure for a similar service in other areas. Early in 1970, the Minister announced that he was prepared to permit the erection, under licence, of multi-channel communal aerial systems, subject to a maximum of 500 outlets per system. Licences would be issued only to RTE, local authorities and interests directly connected with the housing scheme or area concerned. The RTE Authority wished to engage in the business of providing communal aerial systems in order to compensate for the loss of advertising revenue which would follow from the expected decline in the viewing of RTE's programmes as a result of increased availability and improved reception of foreign programmes. A special section known as RTE Relays was established within the broadcasting organisation to handle the communal aerial business.
I am assured that legal advice was obtained on this particular matter at the time. It was to the effect that it was possible for RTE to engage in this business. I hope this clears the point which Senator Alexis FitzGerald raised.
From the extent of the Minister's brief, it would seem as if he had been waiting for the question in connection with the activity of RTE Relays.
No, I want to assure the Senator that I am always ready.
If the Minister is always ready, I suppose he will tell us then why RTE Relays are flouting the law in connecting more than 500 outlets to their communal systems?
The Senator realises that that is completely out of order, with all due respect to the Chair.
By putting two discs on top of one aerial and calling them two different aerials, RTE are getting away with the idea of connecting more than 500 outlets to one system.
However, to revert to the original topic which was under discussion, the fear was expressed that RTE could be given a complete register of the sales and leasing arrangements of every company which was engaged in the business of selling or leasing television sets in this country. If RTE entered into that business they would know the exact number and location of the sales and leasing arrangements of every company. It was felt that this would give them an unfair trading advantage. Perhaps I could put that in terms more easily understood by Members of the House. It would be something on the lines of giving to one candidate at an election the complete register of electors and of giving to the other candidates only a partial register of electors of which they were already aware. Consequently, the person who had the complete register and the knowledge of the sphere of activities of the others would have a distinct advantage over them.
In the same manner RTE would have that type of advantage if they entered into the field of selling or leasing television appliances. It is not good enough that the Minister should state that it is not being considered at present that RTE should enter this business. We are all quite sure such a thing is not being considered, when one bears in mind the considerable difficulties RTE have run into in their first venture into the commercial field. That venture is RTE Relays, about which the Minister spoke. Nevertheless, here we are giving very wide power to this organisation. Obviously, the majority of the Members of this House do not favour giving this power. I suggest to the Minister that this is something which merits further consideration before we take the next Stage of this Bill.
I must say that if I were a television dealer and if I received that reply from the Minister about a query I had put to him, it would not allay my fears; in fact, it would do the opposite. It would make me feel that my original query was being dealt with in typical departmental style and with the reply: "Do not worry. We will not do anything unfair." In a couple of years time, perhaps with another Minister and perhaps with other officials in charge of RTE, the whole pattern may change and the powers contained here may be used. The Minister said it does not follow, if he transferred the authority to collect licence fees from his Department to RTE, that he would automatically transfer the register. How would RTE collect the licence fees if they did not have the register?
I should like to back up Senator Boland's comments. I think he hit the nail on the head when he said that the entry of RTE into the distribution and rental field is not being considered at present by the Minister or by RTE themselves primarily because RTE have not made a great success of their commercial venture into the field of piped television. They are not geared for it so far as I can see. The original RTE operation was not designed to go into this aspect of commercial television. The reason they have not been too successful in the relay television venture is that they have not the business organisation to make it successful. If they had made a success of it, we can be sure that they would have entered the manufacture and distribution side.
One can see the pressures on them. We have a television service which everybody admits could achieve a great deal more if the authority had more money. In the manufacture, distribution and rental of television sets they recognise an industry which is vitally connected with television and they say: "Let us get some of this for ourselves. Let us get in on the business and make more money by going commercial." They have gone commercial to a certain extent already, but we would like to know whether they intend to stay in the business, whether they are going to get out of it, or whether they intend to develop, thereby putting private industries in difficulties, as they could very well do if they had possession of the licence register.
I would ask the Minister to think again about this section before we discuss the final Stages of the Bill. I am quite happy that a register should be kept in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs and that it be sterilised, in the words of Senator Alexis FitzGerald. The people in the manufacture and distribution trade probably feel quite happy about this, but I share their dis-quite at the thought, whatever the unlikely circumstance, that this register could be given to RTE by ministerial order. Although Senator Ryan is quite right in saying that the Minister would have to lay the order before the Houses of the Oireachtas, he knows quite well that this is not the same as debating a major policy change in RTE. People have talked in RTE about nationalising the commercial side of television. We should be absolutely clear on this point and I should like the Minister to look at this section again and see if he can reserve the register for his own Department alone.
In the light of the very strong views put forward here this evening by Senators and in the hope that it will result in the wholehearted co-operation of the dealers, I am prepared to drop this section. However, I must say that I am not fully convinced by the statements made by Senators, but nevertheless I am prepared to drop the section.
I think the Minister has been very fair in this matter.
I wish to congratulate the Minister on the way in which he has approached this question.
I should like to join with Senator Boland in thanking the Minister for looking at things from another point of view.
I also should like to join with Senators who have thanked the Minister for this. It is a refreshing change to have an attitude such as this from a Minister, and we appreciate it very much indeed.
On the question that the section stand do I take it that this has been negatived?
Question put and declared lost.
Question proposed: "That section 10 stand part of the Bill."
I want to repeat what I said on the Second Stage. There is in this section an undesirable principle which seems to be inserted for reasons of conveniencing the prosecution of persons found to be in possession of unlicensed wireless telegraphy apparatus. Paragraph 10 of the Explanatory Memorandum sets out the reason very clearly. It reads:
Section 10 contains provisions to ease difficulties experienced in the prosecution of persons who are found to be in unlawful possession of unlicensed wireless telegraphy apparatus.
In order to make it easier to prosecute them the section states, in effect, that a person is guilty until he is proved innocent. I think that is bad in principle. I do not know if it is possible for the Minister to get round it some other way. I know this is not the first Bill in which such a provision has appeared, but it is undesirable. Every effort should be made by the Oireachtas to oppose this type of legislation. I do not like it, and I do not think that the Members of the House in general like it.
The purpose of this section is to ease difficulties experienced in the prosecution of persons who are found to be in unlawful possession of wireless telegraphy apparatus. The obligation to have a licence for a radio or television set is imposed by subsection (1) of section 3 of the Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1966, which states:
No person shall keep or have in his possession... any apparatus for wireless telegraphy save in so far as such keeping or possession is authorised by a licence granted under this Act and for the time being in force.
Some difficulty has been experienced in proving to the satisfaction of the courts that a defendant had possession of a TV or radio set found on his premises during the course of an inspection, particularly where the defendant himself was not present when the inspection was made. It has been the practice to bring the prosecution against the rated occupier of the premises or the head of the household, even though it may have been his wife or a member of his family who was interviewed during the course of the inspection. The difficulties arising from the prosecution of the rated occupier or head of household have resulted mainly from a High Court judgment given in 1966 in the case of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs v. Christopher Campbell. Briefly, the situation there was that Mr. Campbell was prosecuted for having an unlicensed television set as rated occupier of the cottage in which the unlicensed set was found. The district justice who heard the case was not satisfied that the evidence that Mr. Campbell was the rated occupier of the cottage in which the set was found was sufficient proof that Mr. Campbell had possession of the set. He asked for the guidance of the High Court by way case stated. The High Court shared the misgivings of the district justice and said that the evidence produced in support of the prosecution was not sufficient to establish Mr. Campbell's possession of the television set. The Attorney General advised against an appeal to the Supreme Court and suggested instead that legislation be brought forward to remedy the difficulty and this is what is now being done.
In subsection (4) of section 10 of the Bill there are two terms specifically defined; that is, "occupier" and "premises". These definitions are deliberately wide as they are necessary in the context of the section as a whole to offset the judgment of the High Court in the Campbell case. If the Bill became law, a prosecution could be taken against any occupier of a premises in which a television set was found. Premises, as defined, include a part of a building, such as a flat or apartment.
As to subsections (1), (2) and (3) of section 10, the following comments are made—with reference to the judgment in the Campbell case where appropriate.
Subsection (1): this subsection provides that once proof is given that a television set was in a particular premises on a particular day it shall be presumed that the set was in the possession of the person who was then the occupier of the premises. In the High Court judgment the judge said that, although the evidence established that the cottage in which the unlicensed set was found was the defendant's dwelling-house, there was no evidence as to how the television set came to be there, how long it was there, or whether the defendant was ever at any time aware of its presence or existence. This subsection would provide for the presumption that in such a case the occupier, as defined, was in fact in possession of the set within the meaning of section 3 of the Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1926.
Subsection (2) would place on a defendant the onus of showing that the set of which he has or had possession is or was licensed. If he could not produce a valid licence, then the court would have to presume that he had none. This would take away from the Department the job of proving that the set was not licensed.
Subsection (3) relates to section 7, Subsection (3), of the Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1926. Section 7 provides that the Minister may send by registered post a special notice in writing to any person asking him to state within 14 days (1) whether he has in his possession wireless telegraphy apparatus, (2) the kind of apparatus, (3) whether or not he has a licence, (4) particulars of the licence, if he has one, and (5) any other information that the Minister may require.
Section 7, subsection (3), provides that a person who fails to complete the notice and send it back shall be guilty of an offence. The procedure under section 7 is used frequently in cases where a former licensee fails to renew his licence. Very often the former licensee does not bother to return the form of declaration, or he says that he has returned it, although it may be known that he has not. It is not easy to bring a successful prosecution at present for failure to comply with section 7. The result is that extensive visits or inspections have to be made.
Subsection (3) of section 10 of the Bill provides that if a prosecution is taken and if it is shown that the form of declaration or special notice, as it is called in the Bill, has been sent by registered post to a person, it shall be presumed, until the person shows to the contrary, that he has not complied with the requirements of section 7, subsection (3), of the Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1926.
Certainly from what the Minister has said, it is a poor lookout for the Mr. Campbells of the future. From the point of view of convenience it is an ideal arrangement, but the Mr. Campbells of the future have not a dog's chance. However, I still think it is a bad procedure and that it is unjust. The ordinary resorts of the law should be sufficient. Even if an odd Mr. Campbell slips through the net, I think it is better than bringing in legislation of this kind. As the Minister said, there are precedents for it, unfortunately, and I suppose there is nothing we can do.
Question put and agreed to.
Section 11 agreed to.
Government amendment No. 3:
In page 9, to delete lines 3 and 4, and substitute—
"(b) in the case of a second or subsequent such offence, to a fine not exceeding one hundred pounds,
and also, in every case, to forfeiture of the apparatus in respect of which the offence was committed.', and".
Section 3 of the Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1926, provides that a person convicted of being in possession of unlicensed apparatus for wireless telegraphy shall be liable to certain fines and also to forfeiture of all the apparatus in respect of which the offence was committed.
Section 12 of the Bill proposes to increase the maximum fine for a first offence to £50 and to provide for a maximum fine of £100 for a second or subsequent offence, but in drafting it the provision for forfeiture of the apparatus was inadvertently omitted. It is important that the provision for forfeiture of unlicensed apparatus should be retained and amendment No. 3 has this effect. I might say that my Department normally presses for forfeiture only where unlicensed transmitting apparatus is concerned, or where a person has persistently refused to take out a licence in respect of receiving apparatus, and this will continue to be the position.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 12, as amended, agreed to.
Section 13 to 18, inclusive, agreed to.
Government amendment No. 4:
In subsection (2), line 11, to delete "Act, 1960, in so far as it amends" and substitute "Acts, 1960 to 1971, in so far as they amend".
This is of a purely drafting nature. Subsection (2) contains provision for a collective citation and should include a reference to all the Broadcasting Authority Acts from 1960 to 1971.
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 5:
In subsection (3), line 15, to delete "and the Broadcasting Authority Act, 1960" and substitute "the Broadcasting Authority Act, 1960, and the Broadcasting Authority Act, 1966".
Amendment No. 5 is also of a drafting nature. Subsection (3) provides that the Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1926 and the Acts which amend it shall be construed as one Act. It is necessary, therefore, to include a reference to the Broadcasting Authority (Amendment) Act, 1966, which simply renumbered a subsection inserted after subsection (1) of section 5 of the Broadcasting Authority Act, 1960.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 19, as amended, agreed to.
Government amendment No. 6.
In page 10, lines 31 and 32, to delete "the person or persons" and substitute "any person".
This amendment is of a purely drafting nature intended to improve the wording and does not call for comment.
Amendment agreed to.
Question proposed: "That the Schedule, as amended, be the Schedule to the Bill."
The Minister agreed to reply to a point I raised on section 4, that is, in regard to the amount of information required partly under section 4 and certainly under the Schedule. It seems to go beyond what might be regarded as reasonable requirements. The Minister promised in the other House to have another look at the Schedule. It requires what I would regard as a lot of personal or confidential information to be passed on to the Minister over and above the ordinary requirements of a sale or hire-purchase agreement. It seems to go very much further in the field and to bring into the net, so to speak, people with quite a distant association with the transaction. Would the Minister say if he has looked into this section and if he would make some comments on the points which I have made and which were raised in the Dáil also?
I indicated I would have another look at the headings and the Schedule under which information would be sought from dealers about television set transactions to see if it is all necessary. I have done so and I am generally satisfied that it is desirable that my Department should have the information set out in the Schedule. I might point out that there is provision in section 15 of the Bill for amending the Schedule by order, a draft of which would have to be approved by a resolution of each House of the Oireachtas before it could be made. I would certainly consider making such an order after some experience of the operation of the measures in the Bill when my Department would be in a better position to judge whether any of the items of information sought could be safely deleted without endangering collection of licence revenue.
I am prepared to accept the Minister's undertaking in that regard. He will agree that subsection (5) of part I certainly is very worrying. I am speaking now of his own amendment with regard to any person who is to receive any payment or instalment of or towards the price or by way of rent in respect of a credit sale or letting. That certainly is a very worrying position and the Minister should act on his own undertaking that that might be amended if it was desirable after experience of the Act.
Question put and agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Senator Alexis FitzGerald unfortunately is not here. He indicated to me that he wanted to put down some amendments on Report Stage.
The Senator had left before we relented on section 9. I think this is the one he was really concerned with.
That is quite true. As far as I am personally concerned I have no strong feelings about it. If the other Senators on this side of the House are agreeable I would prefer to let it go and take my chances.
Agreed to take remaining Stages today.
Bill, as amended, received for final consideration and passed.