If Senator Sir T. Esmonde is prepared to accept the other amendment this one could be formally withdrawn.
Could we not postpone this and go on with the other ones?
If you withdraw your amendment now, that will not prevent you coming back to it.
Where is the President's amendment to go?
To insert a new section after Section 17.
I think it might be more in order now to take this question of the banks, as there are other amendments.
If you do I think there is one by Senator Brown in relation to privilege.
You have absolutely adopted that. Indeed, yours is a better amendment than mine. Although the privileges of the clergyman and the doctor are not legally recognised they are commonly recognised in the Courts, and I think yours would afford better protection.
I think it would be the same thing to take the amendments as we come to them. I take it that the suggestion made by the President meets with approval as a substitute to the amendment standing in the name of Senator Esmonde.
Senator Esmonde may not be aware of the underlying idea of putting these two together. There was the objection on the part of the Government, that any suggestion of getting information about private accounts for any purpose of statistics is wrong. I have got over that by putting in the question of honour in respect to that. Ordinarily I would not be disposed to consider it at all. I explained the principal reasons for it. One of the most important is the fact that the bank would object, and, also that we would not succeed, on the ground that it was lawfully required for the purpose of statistics. It is a general section in connection with what you might call persons' most private concerns, together with the question of honour—a recognised principle of honour. I think it covers any objection.
I think it is so worded that if you ask for the private account of any person you would identify it. I think it is sufficient protection.
I think the amendment exactly meets what is demanded by the Committee.
A man in the street would not recognise it so easily, but it covers the point.
I think it does. I thought that when the President read it out. I am not absolutely independent in this matter.
I quite understand. I suggest, in that connection, that you waive your amendment as it stands, and reserve your right to put it in in the Seanad, if you are not satisfied after having inquired, that this one meets all your objections.
That is very fair. I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Before we pass from Section 7 there is an amendment that I want to suggest. One of the troubles that may arise under Section 7 is that there will in a great many of these cases, be the distribution of hundreds of forms all over the country by the Gárda Síochána. Under this section, if a person does not fill up a form in reference to Section 8, it says that if a form is delivered by the Gárda Síochána or posted by a prepaid letter, that is to be deemed a requisition on which a person could be prosecuted. I do not think that a man ought to be prosecuted where he has been served by means of an ordinary letter, unless you are sure that he got it, and I do not think that he would have an opportunity of saying that he did not get it if Section 8 stands as it is. I suggest that instead of putting in the words " registered letter," where we suggested that they should be put in last Wednesday, you should leave " prepaid letter " in Section 8 but introduce in Section 7 a new sub-section to this effect:—" (4) No person shall be convicted of an offence under sub-section I. of this section unless and until he has been required in writing by registered post to fill up or otherwise complete a schedule, form, or other document according to the instructions contained therein or otherwise communicated to him under this Act and to return, or otherwise dispose of, such document in accordance with such instructions and has not, within the time therein limited, complied with such request in writing." That means that if you do not get a reply from anybody who has been served through the post you ought then send a registered letter before prosecuting him in a case in which he might not have a defence simply because proof of postage would be regarded as proof of requisition.
It might be convenient to take this as dealing with the whole question which is also raised in a later amendment.
My object is to get rid of the inconvenience of registering all letters.
As a preliminary step to a prosecution only?
Yes. It would not cost much and would ensure you being in a position to prove that a man got the documents.
There are two possible objections to the suggested amendment. One is, for instance, that in the case of a census of population a very large number of documents have to be laid down and, more than likely, a considerable delay will take place in having them filled. In the second case, in the event of certain difficulties or complications or moves on the part of a section of the community it would almost mean that you would have to send out registered letters in nearly every case.
Before you prosecute?
Yes. There is the safeguard that if it is known that they will be prosecuted there will be a disposition to fall in, but if it is known that there has to be a second letter sent before there can be a prosecution, great numbers of people will put you to the necessity of sending a second letter.
Has the President any suggestion to make to meet the difficulty which the amendment is designed to meet, that is, as the Bill stands, a person is liable to be prosecuted without any absolute proof other than the posting of a letter.
In sub-section (1) of Section 8 it is stated that the sending by any such officer by prepaid post of these forms and other documents shall be a sufficient requisition under the Act. That is, the mere posting of it, but it may never reach him and he may be prosecuted for not doing what he was not conscious of being asked to do. I feel that what I asked at first was rather too much.
Perhaps we could leave that over.
Certainly. Would it be better if I moved it in the Seanad?
If you wish to put it down in the Seanad we could consider whether alternative wording would meet the case. We could leave it over so far as Committee is concerned, and you could put in an amendment on the Report Stage so far as the Seanad is concerned.
There is an amendment by Senator Sir John Keane to delete Section 10, but as he is not here, unless some other Senator moves it, it will fall through.
I told Senator Sir John Keane that I would take charge of it, but he gave me no instructions about it. I suppose I had better formally move it.
I thought that this matter was dealt with by the words " who lawfully so requires."
I had a brief conversation with Sir John Keane, and he expressed the view that it would be well if somebody moved the amendment for the purpose of the President, or somebody representing him, making it clear that the words " who lawfully so requires " did dominate the section, as doubts have been expressed elsewhere about it. It is not necessary to formally move the amendment.
Senator Sir John Keane spoke to me about this, and I gave him my opinion to the effect that the word " lawfully " practically made this innocuous, and that it really did not give you any more power to get a document than you have under the general powers in the Act. He was satisfied with that, and he was anxious to know whether the President took the same view of it.
I do not know how anyone could take any other view.
In that event he said that the amendment might be withdrawn, but he thought that you might put in there the words " orders of the Executive Council."
Personally I do not think that that is necessary.
If you take the word " lawfully " in combination with the new section which the President introduces and which Senator Sir John Keane did not, and could not, have seen, I think it meets the matter.
I agree. I think it might stand as it is.
Then I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
There is an amendment No. 11 to the same section in my name which I also ask leave to withdraw.
At the last meeting we agreed to insert after Section 10 a new section to be called Section 10 (a).
In that you disturb the code as it stands.
This is only justifiable if very important questions under this Act entail very small punishment. You are trusting to the District Justice to increase the punishment so as to allow an appeal?
There is a second point. If you are to make a success of the Act quite a number of people might think we will have an appeal on this, and it almost invites them to obstruct. It is a sort of Bill that requires a good deal of faith and co-operation generally unless a considerable sum of money were to be spent in connection with it. I am satisfied that with goodwill it ought to be a success, but I think you are almost inviting some opposition to it if it is known that the penalties will be light.
I can take a motion that this be deleted. The Committee can move that it be deleted.
I suggest that it be left as it is.
You passed it the last day under different circumstances, and it would amount to blackmail almost if you insist on it now.
The Press are here, but lots of what we are saying will not be published, and I think it would be better if it were withdrawn publicly in the Seanad where the President can give his reasons.