SECTION 1.

In this Act—
the expression " the Minister " means the Minister for Industry and Commerce;
the expression " civil service " means the civil service of Saorstát Eireann and includes the Gárda Síochána;
the word " statistics " includes information not expressible numerically but which is necessary for the collection, compilation, or interpretation of numbers relating to any matter in respect of which statistics can be collected under this Act;
the expression " officer of statistics " means and includes every officer in the civil service and every other person who is for the time being employed in or about the collection, abstraction, compilation, or publication of statistics under this Act;
the word " lawfully " when used in relation to an officer of statistics means under and in accordance with this Act and in the proper course and for the purpose of his duties and within his authority as such officer.

I move:—" In Section 1, line 15, to delete the words ‘ and includes Gárda Síochána.'"

This amendment has reference to the definition of the expression " civil service " in the Bill. " Civil service," as the section stands, includes the Civic Guard, and, therefore, it makes a Civic Guard an officer of statistics for practically all the purposes of the measure. I do not think that a Civic Guard ought to be a statistical officer for a great many purposes of the Act. There are certain purposes for which the Guards are admirably suitable and ought to be employed. They ought, for instance, to be employed in the distribution of forms and sending them through the post. If this amendment is carried it will necessitate other amendments later on which are down in my name, and which will preserve to the Civic Guard the duties to which, I think, they should be confined. I do not think that it is right that the Civic Guard should act as ordinary statistical officers, with all the powers of asking for information and putting questions. I, therefore, move the amendment.

There are various forms of statistics which it is the duty of the Civic Guard to collect, such as agricultural statistics and so on. That is all that is intended to use the Civic Guard for in the capacity in which they are mentioned there, namely, as civil servants. I am not satisfied that it is desirable to exclude them from the expression " civil service." They will, for instance, have to collect particulars in connection with the census of population, and they will have to fill up forms as the result of asking questions. If one were to go into such detail in regard to the Bill as is suggested here it would be very elaborate.

If you look at Section 11 you will notice that there is a consequential amendment in the event of the Civic Guard being excluded from the definition " civil service." I would delete sub-section (6) and amend sub-section (5) by inserting after the word " statistics " the words " or member of the Gárda Síochána in uniform." That is the section which requires the production of a written authority by the statistical officer when he has to ask questions. He is bound to produce his authority. Sub-section (5) says " the section shall not apply to an officer of statistics engaged only in delivering or leaving schedules, forms, or other documents under this Act with persons or at places." It is quite right that the Civic Guard should be included in that. I propose, in case they are excluded from the definition " civil service " in Section 1, to add to sub-section (5) of Section 11 after the words " officer of statistics " the words " or member of the Gárda Síochána in uniform." That will preserve to the Civic Guard the function of the collection of statistics.

The old R.I.C. were always the medium for the collection of statistics and they explained to farmers and others what particulars were required.

Would the President be willing to confine this to agricultural statistics?

No, but that is the only purpose for which it is at present proposed to use them. To use them as postmen only, would restrict their uses very much. In the matter of the census of population they will, of course, be required.

A suggestion has been made that we should go through the various clauses and amendments, and go back upon them later. I suggest that Senator Brown should withdraw his amendment on the understanding that, when we have considered other matters relating to the Civic Guard throughout the Bill, it could be brought forward again.

It is not intended that the Civic Guard should be put in the same position as the old R.I.C. Everybody knows that there are people who wish to withhold information and who desire to make it impossible to get returns and particulars. We know that there are people who are anxious to see every Department of the State running with a limp. A member of the Civic Guard may, for instance, see that according to a form there is only one child in a house, whereas he himself may see that there are three of four. He will have to use his discretion both as to persons and particulars in connection with this work.

Would the President be willing, in case the Civic Guard go outside the duties of mere collection and the performance of clerical work, such as filling and posting forms, to agree that they should have written authority? The real objection to this is, if you leave the expression " civil service " as it is, there would then be nothing to prevent the Civic Guard going to any house and asking any questions they liked under threat of prosecution. That ought not to be. If the Guard could be asked to produce written authority sanctioning their performance of these duties outside the ordinary duties, I do not think that there would be any objection.

There are 6,000 Civic Guards, and if your suggestion were carried out it would mean filling up 6,000 forms, provided you wanted to use the entire force.

You would be only using them for odd purposes.

Yes, but I remember having to sign commissions for 1,200 Army officers, and it meant several days' work.

The authority would be signed by the officer in charge.

Yes, but it means a large amount of work. I may say that, so far as the duties of the Civic Guard are concerned, there is nothing to prevent a sergeant arresting me when going home to-night and charging me with drunkenness.

That might be the case under existing Acts.

Apart from that, there is a disciplinary code for the Civic Guard. I would have little fear in regard to the Civic Guards, owing to the disciplinary regulations.

I think the feeling that some of us have is that if you are going to have drastic powers, which are included in some of the sections of the Bill, there is considerable misgiving as to granting them wholesale powers. The reason that I suggest that further consideration of this amendment might be postponed is really with a view to seeing whether the position which the President takes up would not be met in the other sections by giving them the powers they require.

Any person taking up those amendments and reading them through, would wonder whether the purpose of those proposing these amendments is not to prevent a Statistical Bill having any useful effect. I must say that unless you intend to make Government impossible, or the effect of this Bill impossible, you could not possibly have considered the framing of amendments which would have any other effect than those.

Has the President considered the possibility of making the Gárda Síochána unpopular by putting on them extra duties? This Bill gives so many powers in so many directions.

Anyone who sees the Civic Guard doing a big duty, and doing it well, will bear that in mind when considering their work. On the other hand, it brings the Civic Guard more in touch with the people as to their ordinary lives and it is a corrective of those who are inclined to do evil.

It gives him the same power as an officer inquiring into your income through the means of queries in respect of many of the things in this Act. It is hardly a good precedent for what he is engaged for.

That is if they were abused. Supposing we were to use these powers. What establishment would house all the officials that would be required to tabulate the endless information that would be got from it? The other thing means limitless staffs. No one in a Government office has much time to spare if he is engaged in doing something useful. Suppose there is a crisis or something. You want information with regard to, say, flour, oil or coal. You want information at once, and how are you going to get it? You want powers to get it. And is a time of crisis the time to go to the Oireachtas when it is, perhaps, not meeting?

Is this an emergency Bill? I thought statistics were quietly gathered in times of peace.

They are sometimes required for times other than peaceful times.

Would you draft a Statistical Bill for a time of peace on war conditions?

No, but assume there is a big strike or something of that sort. Usually you have a few days' notice of a thing which may enable you to see how you stand in the matter.

Would it not be a sufficient precaution if there is a declaration that you want information about these commodities? If the individuals supplying the returns have to make a declaration such as is in the income tax return, is not that sufficient protection without giving the Civic Guard power?

We have a chance with regard to the man who makes a wrong return. You have twelve months, eighteen months, or two years, as the case might be, to investigate that. If you want information about particular commodities in a crisis, you must have power to get it at once.

If you want statistics in a time of a crisis you will have to alter Section 2. You are only allowed to acquire statistics on matters affecting the general economic and other activities and conditions in Saorstát Eireann. It is not meant for a crisis. This Bill is for a collection of general statistics for ordinary purposes. I should be willing to have a provision in the Bill that would allow the Gárdaí to be employed in collecting agricultural statistics or statistics connected with a census or anything like that. I should give them all the power for this purpose.

That is one of the troubles in the difference here between this and other colonies. In other Dominions these different matters all bulked together in Section 2 are divided into different sections and different regulations are applied to the different sections. Here you put all the matters into one section. That is really what we are up against. All the matters in No. 2 go to an ordinary member of the Civic Guard and seem out of place, whereas there is not the slightest doubt that from A. to K. there are a lot of cases where he could be usefully employed if the matters were only split up.

None of the Dominion Bills gives anything like those powers to a statistical officer. I am willing that the amendment should remain over, provided we have an opportunity of considering it again.

The only reason for discussing it now is to find out what is in the President's mind as to the chances of limiting the section in some way to meet the difficulty.

We will allow the amendment to stand over.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I ask leave to withdraw amendment 2, which is to delete the words " and every other person " in Section 1, line 21, because I do not think it is necessary.

Amendment 2 not moved.
Question—" That Section 1 stand part of the Bill "—put and agreed to.