SECTION 14.

The following amendment was agreed to:

Section 14, sub-section (1). The words " or any verbal information or answer given relating to any individual person, business or concern " added at the end of the sub-section.

Then there was the following amendment by Senator Brown:

Section 14, sub-section (1). To add after the sub-section a new sub-section as follows:—

" (2) Every officer of statistics shall be required to take an oath in the prescribed form that he shall not publish or declare to any person other than a Minister or another officer of statistics concerned with the matter in the course of his duties as such officer the contents or any part of the contents of any individual schedule, form or other document filled in or otherwise completed by any person in pursuance of a requisition made under this Act or any information furnished or answer to any question asked under this Act."

That, I take it, is an amendment that Senator Brown does not wish to move. That is the amendment with regard to the oath.

Yes, it is being provided for.

That amendment has been met.

That amendment, therefore, is not being moved. On the last day these words were added to Section 14, sub-section (2), line 50: " After the word ‘ aforesaid ' the words ‘ or any verbal information or answer given relating to any individual person, business or concern.'"

Question—" That Section 14, as amended, stand part of the Bill "—put and agreed to.
Question—" That Sections 15 and 16 stand part of the Bill "—put and agreed to.

At the last meeting this new section was inserted after Section 16:—

" Any order made under sub-section (1) of Section 16 of this Act shall be laid as soon as may be on the Table of both Houses of the Oireachtas."

Question—" That the new section stand put of the Bill "—put and agree to.
Question—" That Section 17 stand part of the Bill "—put and agreed to.

I am moving a new section after Section 17, subject to the understanding that, if this is not found to be satisfactory, I may, without prejudice, attempt to amend it on report, in consultation, of course, with the President. I beg to move this new section:—

After Section 17 to insert a new section as follows:—

" Nothing in this Act shall be construed to require any person to give information in relation to a matter as to which his knowledge was acquired in circumstances that would entitle him to decline to give such information in a civil proceeding in a Court of Law on the ground of privilege or to require any Bank or Corporation carrying on the business of banking or any official thereof to furnish any particulars which would enable any person to identify such particulars as relating to any individual person, business or concern without the consent in writing of that person or of the proprietor of that business or concern."

In moving this new section I would like to express my very deep appreciation of the spirit in which the President has met me in this matter. I appreciate very warmly indeed the way he has met me. I presume that this arrangement, and also the expression of his views in the matter, will be published in the report of this Committee or will, at any rate, be published later. I am certain it will have the most excellent effect—the effect we all desire. I am sure it will allay the alarm and excitement aroused in this very delicate matter.

I hope the representatives of the Press will see their way to give considerable publicity to this in view of the prominence given to the report of the last meeting of the Committee. It is particularly undesirable that anything that has transpired during the proceedings of this Committee would add to any alarm or feeling of anxiety. I hope the Press will give the same publicity to this amendment and to the fact that it is suggested by the President and has been accepted unanimously by the Committee.

I attach great importance to this new section. Senator Sir Thomas Esmonde believes that it will allay a nervous feeling outside. I think it makes things right; it goes much further than merely allaying nervous feeling.

Question—" That the new section stand part of the Bill "—put and agreed to.
Amendment not moved:—
New section. After Section 17 to insert a new section as follows:—
" 18.—Nothing in this Act shall compel any person to give or furnish any written or verbal information or to answer any question asked of him in relation to a matter as to which his knowledge was acquired in circumstances which would entitle him to decline to give such information or answer such question in a civil proceeding in a Court of Law on the ground of privilege."—Senator Brown.
Question—" That Section 18, 19 and 20 stand part of the Bill "—put and agreed to.
Question—" That the Tile stand part of the Bill " put and agreed to.

There is one question I was anxious to ask. It deals with Section 19. Was not the Act of 1906 a rather useful Act? Under Section 19 of this Bill it is repealed.

This Bill will give us all the powers which the 1906 Act gave and, in addition, it is much more suitable to this country; its provisions are more suited to this country than were the provisions of the 1906 Act.

The reason I take such an interest in the 1906 Act is because I was responsible for having an amendment put into it for the purpose of adapting it to certain interests in this country.

There were no provisions for agricultural statistics in that Act, or if there were they were not so exhaustive.

There is one thing I would like to mention for the purpose of getting an assurance from the President. Two firms have communicated with me; one approached me personally and the other firm wrote to me. They state that there is uneasiness with regard to the question of trade secrets. I told them I could find nothing whatever in the Bill which would empower the Government to ask for particulars as to how certain commodities were used by different firms, or to ask firms to give away anything in the nature of trade secrets. I think it would be well if we had an assurance that that is correct. It is a perfectly genuine fear on the part of firms. In the case of one firm that communicated with me they use a certain commodity which they bring in in large quantities. They think they have a secret method of using it and they are particularly anxious that nothing should be disclosed as to the manner in which they make it up. They have no objection to giving information about the quantities they use.

If it would be possible to allay such fears, I would like to do it. There is no such intention at all. This is a Bill which aims at getting information which will be of benefit both to the legislature and the economical needs of the country. It gives certain powers—very large powers—but it is difficult to see how you would get the information required unless some powers were taken. This gives very exhaustive powers, but many of them may never be used. Some of the powers acquired under other Acts were never used. An examination of how this is going to be worked will indicate at once what little time will be available for anyone to bother his head about how any man or any firm does business. The results are all we want. All we want is to see what trade there is, what is the volume of that trade, and what would be useful in improving it. As far as how any particular business is conducted is concerned, we are not interested. There are a great many things in business with which we would have no concern. To advise firms how they should conduct their business seems to me to be too ridiculous. I think there has been needless apprehension about this matter. This was put forward because it was necessary in order to give sufficient power to officials to compile the information required. Much more power is asked for in a measure of this kind than is ever used, but, should it be required, it would be available for use. In Canada and South Africa some of the provisions in the Acts passed there have never been put into operation at all. Some of these powers might be necessary once in 100 years, and some might never be required. We are absolutely advised that if we want to get exhaustive information this is the best way to get it.

I think any Government official who would try to pry into the trade secrets of a firm would be stopped by the Bill as it now stands.

Certainly; it would be impossible.

Yes, it would be quite impossible to get a trade secret under the powers of this Bill, in my opinion.

That is what I want to get out.

It will be still more difficult now when it is clearly shown that it is not the intention of the Bill that the officials should get this power.

It was never the intention.

Bill, as amended, ordered to be reported to the Seanad.

The Committee rose at 4.25 p.m.