Prisons Bill, 1974: Committee and Final Stages.

Question proposed: "That section 1 stand part of the Bill."

Since the effects of this section is to extend the Act for a further three years without any other safeguards, would it be appropriate to write in certain safeguards? The reason for this is that when the Bill was passed in 1972 the idea was to meet the emergency of needing further accommodation. However it is admitted that the extension is for a different reason: to deal with what are known as subversive or difficult prisoners, where strict security is needed. They will be held in military custody while a high-risk prison is being built.

First I find the word "subversive" a very dangerous one. There are certain people who might call me "subversive" and might call me even more subversive after my contribution here this afternoon. It has that very loose connotation and it would be preferable to use a more precise description of the persons concerned. It is my fear that in allowing an extension of this Act for another three years we are not writing in a sufficient safeguard. We are allowing the transfer from civil to military custody. Under the Bill the Minister does make a statement about persons and about reasons for the conviction, etc., but there is not sufficient control of the exercise of his discretion. The particular danger that could be foreseen would be that if a person held in a prison was objecting to conditions in the prison and to the way he was confined within the prison, objecting in a way which was immediately categorised as "subversive", that person could either be threatened with or be transferred to military custody without any further scrutiny or any need for any objective process at all. Without wishing to cast any aspersions on the particular Minister for Justice at any time, as a Parliament we ought to be cautious about giving——

The Senator is now discussing the sections of the original Bill. What is before us is a section of the amending Bill which seeks to extend. The principle of extension has been agreed by the Bill being read a Second Time.

I agree that the principle of extension has been agreed but I do not agree that it is not open to say, since the meaning and the whole purpose of the Bill is being changed, that there ought to be safeguards written into this extension which were not in the original Bill.

I fail to see any point in this since no amendment to insert anything in the section, other than an amendment in relation to time, would be in order on a continuation Bill. It is not possible to insert an amendment into section 1.

I would be astonished if the Minister himself has conceded that the purpose of the original Bill has changed and that this is an extension to it——

No, I have not. I should like to clarify that. All I said was that the immediate cause for the original Bill was the riot in Mountjoy, which was caused in turn by a certain type of destructive prisoner. The necessity then arose to transfer those prisoners. That necessity still remains.

As regards the other point, I am surprised that the Senator, who has displayed a keen interest in penology, has not read the Prisons Act, 1972, where section 2 (3) clearly provides the conditions under which the prisoners can be transferred.

I have that particular Act in my hand.

It is clear that there are safeguards in it.

The Chair is concerned with the relevance to the discussion on section 1. The continuance has been agreed by passing the Second Reading and section 1 provides for continuance until a particular date. Section 1, embodying that date, is before the House at the moment.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 2 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.