Estimates for Public Services. - Censorship of Publications Bill, 1928—Committee (Resumed).
The Dáil went into Committee.
Debate resumed on amendment 24:—
To insert before Section 7 the following new section:—
"(1) Whenever a complaint is made to the Minister to the effect that a book or a particular edition of a book is wholly or in general character indecent or obscene, or advocates the unnatural prevention of conception or the procurement of abortion or miscarriage or any method, treatment or appliance to be used for the purpose of such prevention or such procurement the Minister may refer such complaint to the Board.
"(2) The Board shall consider every complaint referred to them by the Minister under this section and for the purpose of such consideration shall examine the book or the particular edition of a book which is the subject of such complaint and on completion of such consideration the Board shall make to the Minister their report on such complaint.
"(3) Whenever the Board under this section makes in reference to a complaint a report, assented to and signed by at least four members of the Board, stating that in the opinion of the Board the book or the particular edition of a book which is the subject of such complaint is wholly or in general character indecent or obscene or advocates the unnatural prevention of conception or the procurement of abortion or miscarriage or any method, treatment or appliance to be used for the purpose of such prevention or such procurement the Minister may by order (in this Act referred to as a prohibition order) prohibit the sale and distribution in Saorstát Eireann of such book or of such edition of a book.
"(4) A prohibition order made under this section in relation to a book shall, unless it is expressly limited to one or more particular editions of such book, apply to every edition of such book whether published before or after the date of such order save such (if any) editions thereof as may be excluded by an amending order from the application of such prohibition order."—(Deputies Law and Tierney).
When the debate was adjourned on the last day, I had almost concluded the remarks which I wished to make on this amendment. I explained to the House that I was willing to have Section 7 amended so that the words at the end of amendment 24, "or advocates the unnatural prevention of conception" down to the end, should be added to the section. Section 7 would then read:
Whenever a complaint is duly made under this Act by a recognised association to the Minister to the effect that a book or a particular edition of a book is indecent or obscene or advocates the unnatural prevention of conception or the procurement of abortion or miscarriage or any method, treatment or appliance to be used for the purpose of such prevention or such procurement the Minister may refer such complaint to the Board.
I said on the Second Reading that I was willing to have omitted the other words which that section contains, though I thought they were fairly clearly confined to morality, in the narrow sense, by which the word "morality" is confined to sexual vice and not to all forms of crime. If this amendment be carried the section will read as I have read it. I also made it clear on the last occasion that Section 17 would stand, and I think that the effect of this amendment is rather to tighten up than to loosen the safeguards against the spread of this anti-conceptive literature, because there will now be a double instead of a single method of dealing with it. If the books or periodicals dealing with that particular matter are put upon the prohibited list there will be one penalty for that, if they are sold or dealt with. On the other hand, Section 17, with its proceedings in court for the sale of that class of book, whether it is on the register or not, will still remain in force. It is a strengthening up, not a weakening of the safeguards against that particular type of book or periodical. In these circumstances I am willing to accept what is the substance of amendment 24 read into the first part of Section 7.
Deputy Tierney and myself are greatly obliged to the Minister for having accepted these words. If I might be allowed to say so, I entirely concur in thinking that they do in fact not weaken, but strengthen the proposed law regarding contraceptive propaganda. Before I say anything further about that, I should like to ask the Minister what his opinion is regarding certain words which are to be found in our amendment before we come to these words—I mean the words "wholly or in general character." The Minister has not indicated what is his view on that matter. In putting down the amendment, we drafted it in a form which was, perhaps, more formidable than was necessary, because we thought it better on the whole to re-draft the whole section rather than to put in words here and there in the section as it stands. We had two quite distinct objects, with only one of which the Minister has dealt. Our first object was to secure in relation to books, which might be judged to be generally of an indecent character, that the whole character of the book, and not merely isolated passages, should be taken into account. In suggesting these words, "wholly or in general character," we were endeavouring to express a distinction which the Minister himself has very frequently made in this House between that which is immoral, ex professo, and immoral obiter. On the last occasion, when we were discussing on another section a kindred matter. I think the Minister himself made use of the words in that connection, "systematically and in substance."
If the Minister prefers these words to the words we have on the paper, I see no objection. But we attach some importance to its being made clear, in one way or another, that the whole character of a book will have to be taken into consideration by the Board of Censors, in the first instance, and by the Minister in his final discretion. There is another amendment which I might refer to; that is amendment 36 which, in a rather more detailed manner, attempts to carry out the same idea. If the Minister thinks that the words "wholly or in general character" are unnecessary in this place, and if he is prepared to accept amendment 36, I do not see any objection to withdrawing the words "wholly or in general character," but I should like to have the Minister's judgment on the whole matter.
Now with regard to the words which the Minister has been good enough to accept, as he has accepted them, there is no need for me to argue the case, but I should like to take this opportunity of pointing out how completely the purpose of Deputy Tierney and myself has been misrepresented in this matter. It has been assumed, in a certain quarter, that our object was to protect the purveyor of contraceptive literature, and to spread as widely as possible knowledge of contraceptive practices. Nothing could possibly be further from our thoughts, and, as the Minister has very frankly and generously said, nothing could be further from the effect of the amendment. We had, in fact, two objects in view. We wanted, for one thing, to protect the author, the publisher and the bookseller, having possibly frivolous and vexatious charges made against him in court. And in order to do that, we think it desirable that we should have somebody other than the public courts that would be charged, primarily, with the question of deciding whether or not a particular passage of any particular book did or did not contravene the prohibition against advocacy of contraception. That seems to be a perfectly rational and necessary thing to do. Somebody clearly had to do it, and it appears to us that if the Board of Censors could be trusted to decide whether or not a book was indecent or obsceue, it could equally well be trusted with the cognate matter of deciding whether or not a particular book was, in fact, advocating the practice of contraception. That is so much for the author, the publisher and the bookseller, but we had another object in view with which I think the House will sympathise and which I should expect some of our critics to sympathise with, too. So far from desiring to spread knowledge of these practices our object was exactly the reverse. When you bring a case into court, you cannot avoid a greater or lesser degree of publicity. It is true that you have Part III. of this Bill; Reports of Judicial Proceedings which I suppose will be operative in such a case, but to a greater or lesser extent, the moment you bring a case into court you cannot avoid some publicity; you cannot prevent the public knowing, at any rate, what the case is about. In a matter of this sort, you would certainly spread the knowledge that there is such a thing.
I believe there must be thousands of people who, until these debates began, were perfectly ignorant of the existence of contraception. I am afraid that from asking what it is to asking how it is practised is a very short step. I agree with the Minister that you must have power of prosecution in the last resort. I think it should only be in the last resort, as the longer you can avoid it the better. In providing, as we have done here, a first line against contraception and in seeing that the prosecutions shall be conducted in private, we are doing something which is in the interests of authors and others as well as in those of public decency. The Minister has done a great deal to modify my view of what it would have been necessary to insert later in the Bill. I do not object to clause 17, especially if the Minister is able to accept amendment 36.
Do I take it that this will come up on the Report Stage as an amendment? It is very different to the amendment on the paper. We have not the written words of this suggested amendment before us.
The words are in amendment 24. That is the amendment we are debating. If you begin at the word "obscene" and continue on you will have the words which will go in, subject to any slight alteration which the parliamentary draftsman may consider necessary.
In amendment 24 you have sub-section (1). Do you strike anything out of that?
I do not take the amendment but Section 7. It will read: "Whenever a complaint is duly made under this Act to the Minister to the effect that a book or a particular edition of a book is indecent or obscene." In the amendment you take up after the word "obscene" and say "or advocates the unnatural prevention of conception," and so on, down to the end.
In any event, the words must appear on the paper for the next stage.
The Minister is also accepting amendment 28?
I am leaving out these words altogether, as I indicated on Second Reading, namely, "or tends to inculcate principles contrary to public morality."
Is there any reason why the Minister should not accept the amendment? I see no difference.
That is so. It would be the same thing, if you left out the words "wholly or in general character" and substituted the suggested sub-section for the existing sub-section. My reason for mentioning it is that the amendment of Deputy Law and Deputy Tierney is that you put in an entirely new sub-section, namely, "to insert before sub-section (7)."
I suppose we will be agreed to let this appear as an amendment at a later stage. If you do that you will have a list of this kind of books. The Bill provides that their names shall be published inIris Oifigiúil. There is nothing to prevent the Press publishing them. I think we should have a section preventing the publication of the names of these books in the daily Press, thus preventing that advertising and publicity we do not want. I hope that the Minister will consider such an amendment favourably.
That question will arise on another amendment that is to be proposed here to the effect that a list of such books will be published in the daily papers. What the Deputy has said will be more appropriately debated on that amendment.
The reason I mention it is that the acceptance of the principle of this amendment adds force to the argument that this list should not be allowed in the daily Press.
I suppose one must wait until we come to Section 17 to discuss the question whether it is to remain in its present form, although the Minister has made his position clear to a certain extent as to what was involved in accepting the amendment of Deputy Tierney and Deputy Law. I will not say any more about it now than that in Section 17 the Minister is going very much beyond the Report of the Committee on the subject, because throughout that Report the Committee were careful to refer to the indiscriminate circulation of this literature. That was my object in moving an amendment, which is down later on, to secure reference to the Board of Censors of this particular kind of literature. I am glad that the Minister has accepted this amendment of Deputy Tierney and Deputy Law, and hope that he will go with them to the full extent of accepting reference in the case of a book which—either in the words adopted by Deputy Tierney and Deputy Law, or in the words which the Minister himself used either on Second Reading or now—in its general tendency is calculated to do certain things with reference to immoral matters. I think, if the Minister is prepared to go to that extent, he will go a long way to remove the objectionable features in the Bill as presented to us. He has gone a long way explicitly in virtually accepting amendment 38. The Minister, in accepting that amendment, has carried out an undertaking he gave on Second Reading not to do anything likely to weaken the Bill, but to do something which was likely to make the scope of the Bill very much plainer to the ordinary citizen.
I think it is very desirable that some words should be included involving the implication carried by the words in the suggested amendment, "wholly or in its general character," particularly in reference to books which, if Section 17 is retained, a book-seller may be brought to court for selling. That is to say, if a book is found to have a single reference of the character which the Minister indicates, under Section 17, that bookseller could be brought before a court and committed for an offence against the law for having that book for sale on his premises. It would be utterly impossible and unworkable in practice for that to be carried out, I believe. This is a section which has the great advantage of bringing in this kind of books and making them subject to the Board of Censors if they are wholly or in their general tendency of an objectionable kind. If these words are inserted the object which the Minister desires to secure will be secured and the evils which he does not want to introduce will be avoided.
On the question of the particular words, "a book wholly or in general character," I do not think this is the proper place to insert these words. As Deputy Law himself pointed out, he has introduced a proposed new sub-section with Deputy Tierney, into which he goes into the matter. There is a similar sub-section proposed by Deputy Alton. As to whether these words should stand part of the Bill or not, or as to the general view which I expressed on Second Reading, and to which I still adhere, that a book should not be generally condemned unless it was ex professo immoral, and whether that should be explicitly stated in the Bill—as I think it is implicit in it, because it must be taken for granted that a Board of Censors will be a Board of sensible men—that can be debated on amendment 36. Since the matter has been specifically mentioned, I do not think that those words should ex professo apply to those books which deal with this particular class of literature we are now discussing. Our view is that this particular class of literature, which is calculated to do a great deal of moral harm to this country, and that probably is doing a great deal of moral harm in this country, ought for that reason to be singled out by us for special treatment. It is a special evil to be encountered. It is the most important evil in current literature to be encountered and crushed, this particular propaganda. For that reason I would ask the House not to insert the words "wholly or in general character" as applying to that particular class of literature.
In order that there should be no misconception, the Minister will see by reading my amendments that the words were never intended to apply to contraceptive literature. If the Minister will look at the amendment he will see that it does not qualify that special clause.
That is quite correct, but I was answering what I understood to be the case made by Deputy Thrift. I understood him to say that he wished these words should qualify books of this particular character.
My second point is that it is impossible to make a bookseller liable to prosecution if he happens to sell a book which may have a paragraph in it referring to this particular matter. It might be better to leave these words out, in that connection, because in their particular consideration, the Board shall take into account the general character and tendency of the book.
I regret that the Minister has gone so far to meet the high-brow intellectuals in this section of the Bill. This section has been weakened to such an extent that I am very doubtful if it will achieve the object for which it was originally intended. In the section of the Bill which the Minister has now accepted, very important words are about to be omitted—"or tend to inculcate principles contrary to public morality." These words are now definitely eliminated according to the statement of the Minister. Nobody can disguise the fact that by the elimination of these words this section has been reduced very considerably in its scope and in its operation. Deputy Law, not content with whittling down this important measure to the extent to which it has now been whittled down, wishes the Minister to go on further and to have incorporated the words "wholly or in general character" in connection with this section of the Bill. I suggest to the House that the best thing is to eliminate the section altogether. I think the Minister should stand firm and give way no further. The Minister has gone to a much greater extent to meet the wishes of a small section than, in my opinion, public feeling would wish him to go. If the words which Deputy Law and other people are now fighting for—and they have been fighting a winning battle all along the line—are incorporated in the Bill, the section in its scope and operation will be practically worthless. What does it mean? It means that on behalf of these high-brow intellectuals the wishes of 99 per cent. of the people are being practically overridden by the amendments now introduced to the Bill. We appear to be exceedingly nervous in dealing with the question of books in this Bill.
From the very moment the Bill was introduced I could perceive a strong undercurrent among members either to tear up or so alter this section as to render it nugatory or to reduce it to such terms as to make it practically useless. I regret to see that they have achieved to a very considerable extent the work which they set out to perform. We have been told from time to time that this literature was not to be found in Dublin. On the last occasion when the section was before the House, I referred to certain works that have since become famous. I referred to one work in particular, "The Well of Loneliness," which was considered to be so bad by a certain section of the Press that they refused to advertise it, though in the proceedings that have since taken place it received quite a lot of publicity from the Press. That book can be bought on the quays now. I hold in my hand another book. I will not mention the title, but I will mention the name of the author—Joan Conquest. Anybody can get that book on the quays. And here we are whittling down this section and reducing it to such dimensions that when it is passed it will be practically entirely useless. Let us consider at present what is happening and what is the condition of affairs in the City of Dublin. Here we have a proposed new section, introduced by my colleagues on the left, dealing with certain works, dealing with, for instance, contraceptives and things of that kind, and I find a case in the West London Police Court, a case where a book, the name of which I need not mention—the author is Margaret Sanger—was ordered to be destroyed, and in the City of Dublin at present that book is being openly sold, and there is not a word about it. And yet, in the face of this condition of things actually existing in Dublin at present, we have one of the most important sections of the Bill being whittled down and reduced to such dimensions that it will be practically of no value whatever. I certainly think we are not doing our duty as representatives of the people on this section, and I do regret that the Minister has permitted these important words "tends to inculcate principles contrary to public morality" to be eliminated from Section 7.
If we are to go on in this mealymouthed fashion, if we are of opinion that this work to which I have referred is suitable for the youth of this country, I say that we should never have introduced this Bill at all. The subject of birth control in this country is a subject of outstanding importance. It has been said that the public was not in favour of this section dealing with the control of books, but anybody who has read anything in connection with this matter can see for himself that practically every section of the public stands wholeheartedly behind it. I might refer to one very important portion of the community which, as long ago as April, 1926, passed a resolution dealing with this important section that is now being whittled down—I refer to the Irish Commercial Travellers' Federation. I presume that the Deputies who stand behind these amendments would consider that the ordinary commercial traveller could not possibly have any taste in literature or in art; they would consider that the ordinary type of these gentlemen find that the sixpenny editions, the cheap novels that may be got in Woolworths, are sufficient to satisfy their intellectual wants. In my opinion, the taste for literature and the taste for art exists just as much among the common people as it does amongst this high-brow section who have been carrying their amendments without stint, and now they are trying to have this thing brought in—"wholly or in general character"—with regard to contraceptives. I am glad that the Minister did not go that far.
We did not ask him to do so. I am sure my friend is speaking in good faith, but his understanding is not very powerful, perhaps. If he would read the amendment he will see that the words, "wholly or in general character," do not qualify the words "advocates the unnatural prevention." They are in a different part of the clause altogether, and they do not qualify these other words. They have nothing to do with them.
The amendment says: "Whenever a complaint is duly made under this Act to the Minister to the effect that a book or a particular edition of a book is wholly or in general character indecent or obscene——
Now, what does that mean? We have a comma there, but we cannot stop there. It means that before you can condemn a book the book must be practically immoral from cover to cover.
What does the word "wholly" mean—"wholly or in general character"? However, it is not worth while taking up the time of the House over that, because the Minister has declined to accept it. It is nearly time to stop somewhere. I suggest that the proper thing would be to eliminate the whole section dealing with books. I saw from the very moment that this Bill was introduced that a determined attempt would be made to eliminate this section, and, as I said, I do regret to say that that attempt has been wonderfully successful. When one considers that in 1924 we had books, periodicals, etc., coming into the country to the value of £469,000 and that in 1925 we had £512,000 worth coming in, one can easily see the tremendous field that has got to be dealt with under this Section, which is now being narrowed and narrowed, and if the narrowing process goes on, there will be nothing left.
In my opinion, books are almost as injurious as the Press. There appears to be a tendency here not to condemn immoral or obscene books. Why? We can condemn anything we like as far as the State is concerned—the sale of bad meat, the sale of drink, the sale of improper food—but we cannot condemn the sale of improper or immoral literature. And now this section will be further reduced before we stop, until it might as well not be in the Bill at all. I wonder what all these wonderful intellectuals have to say to a statement of Dean Inge's—well, I am open to correction; there are many ways of pronouncing a man's name. I will spell the name—Inge. In dealing with the present state of literature he said that French, Russian, and English literature "has introduced both vulgarity and indecency under the names of realism and problem psychology, threatening an outbreak of licentiousness like that which followed the Civil War in the seventeenth century and the Napoleonic Wars of a hundred years ago." I say that that is not exaggerating the picture of what exists in this city to-day. And yet we are frightened to pass a reasonable section of a Bill, and are allowing four or five Deputies to reduce it to such dimensions that, in my opinion, will make it entirely worthless. I hope that the concessions that the Minister is prepared to give to those four or five high-brow Deputies have reached an end and that we will hear no more of concessions, because it would be better and more decent to eliminate the entire section and have done with it.
I do not know whether Deputy Byrne expects to be canonised as a result of the outburst to which he has just treated the House.
We will make a martyr of him.
I have a personal suspicion that one of the principal reasons for this outburst is that Deputy Byrne hopes to appear in the next issue of the "Catholic Pictorial" with a halo around his head. The ancient Greeks had a theory that virtue and knowledge were identical. I am sure that nobody in the House, especially after hearing Deputy Byrne's speech, has any suspicion whatever or any doubts whatever about Deputy Byrne's virtue, but from what he have heard from him on this Bill the House and people in general have legitimate grounds for suspecting his knowledge.
He has shown in this remarkable piece of moral felon-setting, which he has carried on against Deputy Law and myself, a rather lamentable want of acquaintance, not only with the ordinary meaning of sentences but with the ordinary rules of English grammar. The whole gist of his attack on what he is pleased to term "high-brow intellectuals" simply resolves itself into a denunciation of Deputy Law and myself, because we wish to delete from this section one clause, which it was the common opinion of all sides of the House on the Second Reading of the Bill should be deleted. That was the clause that extended the operation of this section in the original Bill to "principles contrary to public morality." The only serious way in which this section has been whittled down, as Deputy Byrne pleases to term the operation, is by the exclusion of these words. As the whole House has agreed with the Minister that these words should be deleted, I am afraid Deputy Law and I are not the only people who are under the charge of being "high-brow intellectuals."
I am in agreement with what the Minister said as to the undesirability of making these words "wholly or in general character" apply to the type of literature referred to in the latter part of the sub-section, and as Deputy Law pointed out, neither he nor I had ever the intention that these words should apply to that type of literature, nor would the words as we have included them in the sub-section have that effect. There is, however, I think, a distinction which it might be possible to make—a different distinction—as regards books of the second type. This may not be the best place to deal with that; it might come in more suitably under Section 17. But, I think, when discussing the advocacy of these unnatural practices we should draw a distinction between certain types of advocacy. There is one type of advocacy which is very direct, clear, and certain, about whose immediate condemnation there would be no doubt whatever, but there is another type of advocacy which simply consists, in some cases, of advocacy of what might be called Malthusian political economy in a very broad way, the inclusion of which in this Bill might, I think, give rise to a certain amount of difficulty, and which in itself, at any rate, is not calculated to do exactly the same amount of harm as the other sort of advocacy is.
I have often said, and it seems necessary to repeat it over and over again, that I am as anxious that this type of propaganda should be dealt with strictly and severely as anybody in this House. As I said in moving the amendment the other day, it is our duty in dealing with this problem to try to obviate not only injury to the community, but injustice to individuals. Even yet, even though the Minister has accepted our amendment to this section, I feel that in Section 17, as it stands, there is a certain amount of danger of injustice to individuals. There is a further danger, to my mind, and, perhaps, I may again be accused of being a high-brow intellectual for saying so—there is a danger that this country may, by rashly, hastily, and without full consideration, taking action in certain cases of this kind, against certain authors, for example, who do not actually and directly advocate birth-control, but who, by the terms of this Bill, may be reasonably supposed to be, in certain circumstances, advocating birth control, leave itself open to certain anti-Irish propaganda, which may do greater harm to this country, in the long run, than the harm the Bill tries to obviate. I say this, not with any intention of defending these authors; I have no wish whatever to defend people who directly or indirectly inculcate these practices.
Personally I would be very little concerned if everything they write could be kept out of the country, but what I want to raise is, first, the danger that you may commit an injustice, that you may leave yourself open to do an injustice to innocent individuals—booksellers and newsagents—and in the second place, that you may leave your country open to an accusation—an undeserved accusation if you like— which might very easily be made, of obscurantism, and a desire to keep out certain books, which are supposed to be—although they really are not—books that have to do with modern culture. I am making these observations, purely with a desire to see that this Bill shall be as good as it possibly can be, with a desire to see that it shall be, not only effective in countering a grave moral evil, which I believe exists, but also that it will counter that evil in such a way as neither to do harm to the individual member of the community, nor the good name and reputation of the community as a whole. I hope to discuss this question more at length in Section 17, because I think that, even yet, the matter requires to be gone into more fully.
On a point of information, I would be glad if Deputy Tierney could give an instance of the bad grammer to which he referred.
He would keep us too long.
I wish to support Deputy Byrne's remarks in this matter not so much that there is anything in the amendment moved by Deputy Tierney, and by Deputy Law; it does not affect the Bill very much, and I think the Minister might very well accept it. There is really nothing in the amendment one way or another. But having regard to the attitude adopted, I am protesting against the introduction of 92 amendments to a Bill which has been universally recognised as one that is acceptable to the public in general, and that is a good Bill. A number of amendments were introduced, and it was agreed when the Bill was introduced, and previously, that all facilities and every assistance would be given to the Minister to carry the Bill as it was put forward. Since then those amendments have come in, and instead of receiving assistance from the Farmers' Party, it has not, as two divisions that have been taken prove, got the consideration it should have got. That is the reason that I protest against the manner in which these amendments are received and conceded.
The Deputy can only protest against them, one at a time.
As to amendment 24 there is really nothing in it, but I protest in general against the introduction of so many amendments. When the amendments are considered by the House they are left to a free vote, and that free vote discloses, not free voting but practically Party voting and, on occasion, Deputies who have not been here, or who have not listened to the arguments in favour of the Bill, have voted without giving sufficient consideration to the Bill. Having regard to the fact that the Bill as it stands is a fit and proper Bill, one that satisfies the public universally, one that was introduced after reasonable and deliberate consultation; I trust that it will receive reasonable and deliberate consideration.
Is not Deputy Connolly out of order? Are we not in Committee now?
We should see that particular attention is given to this Bill, and that amendments are discussed in a manner that will reveal to the House the exact frame of mind of the people who are going to vote for them. I think Deputy Tierney demonstrated the point further, proving to Deputy Byrne that they were the only party that had given consideration to it, and that no one else in the House was fit to give consideration to the amendment or to the Bill, and that Deputy Byrne or no other Deputy was in a position to judge for himself what was right or wrong. I hope when these amendments come forward that we will have a definite understanding as to where we are and that we will not place the responsibility on those people to try to show to the public that they are in support of, and that they mean to get a good Censorship Bill into operation. This is not the way we should have it. We should have the Bill as nearly as possible in the shape it was presented. The Bill then was a good one, but now we have ninety-two amendments to it. Any considerable number of those amendments would leave the Bill practically useless.
May I point out to the Deputy that 23 of those amendments have been put down by the Deputy who sits beside him?
I admit that I do not think Section 7 is likely to be as successful in operation as I hoped, when it was first introduced, that it would be. That is not because any alteration has been made in Section 7, but because the machinery I thought was necessary for putting Section 7 into completely successful operation has been destroyed by the House. That is the associations, and also, as I expressed it strongly, my view is that a Board of nine is too large and that this section will not work as well as I hoped it would work. I am satisfied about that, but that the section is, in itself, completely worthless I cannot agree, or that it should be eliminated I cannot, in the slightest, agree with the Deputy. When the Deputy says that I have weakened in my attitude towards this section, then the Deputy certainly did not read or listen to my Second Reading speech. I expressed a view in my Second Reading speech as to what that section meant, and I have not deviated from that by one hair's-breadth. I said precisely what I thought was the true meaning of the section at the time it was introduced, but because it was pointed out to me that a lay board of this nature might misconceive what was intended to be the true meaning of this section I said these particular words might be left out. That did not come from high-brows, but it came before there was any discussion in the House at all. It was in my Second Reading speech, in which I introduced this Bill, that I drew the old catholic distinction between ex professo and obiter. It was in that Second Reading speech of mine that I also said if those words were liable to be misconstrued I would take them out.
What does the Minister wish us to do?
As far as those words are concerned, I can leave them there.
What I was wondering is, were there not two alternatives, one to accept, broadly speaking, the amendment on the paper, the other to take the clause on the paper and amend it.
I will bring in a new clause.
For the moment—in the Report Stage I will have a new clause in the words I have spoken of.
If the Minister wishes we will withdraw the amendment.
On the understanding that the amendment will come up on Report.
On the understanding that amendments will be moved to give effect to those words on the Report Stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Before the amendment passes. I presume the words "wholly or in general character" will not be incorporated in the amendment the Minister will move.
That will come in on the discussion later as to whether they should be there or not. The matter will come in on the discussion of amendments 36 and 37.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
In sub-section (1) to delete all words after the word "Minister," line 48, to the end of the sub-section and substitute therefor the following words: "shall cause such complaint to be examined by an officer to be appointed by him for the purpose and on the receipt of the report of that officer the Minister may in his discretion refer such complaint to the Board."
The object of this amendment is to try and avoid the consideration by the Minister of frivolous or, as has been referred to here, vexatious complaints, and to have them dealt with by an official of the Minister's Department. If people can get very easily to the Minister and the Board, I suggest it is an encouragement for vexatious and frivolous complaints to be brought forward. If such an officer, as is suggested here, were appointed, the Minister could refer to him complaints that come to his notice. This Censorship Board will have a good deal of other work to do besides that. It is a serious matter. It will enable, I am sure, a good deal of these vexatious or frivolous complaints to be dealt with by an official or officer under the charge of the Minister.
I think the Deputy has not made himself quite cognisant with what must be the practice in Government Departments. Of course, if a complaint is made to the Minister for Justice it is absolutely essential that this complaint should be investigated by the officials of the Department. It would be impossible that every letter which comes into a Department should be seen, opened and replied to personally by the Minister. In the same way, if books of this nature come in the responsibility is the Minister's. But the Minister, if it is a perfectly clear case, will be able to see that a minute will be put up by whatever official of his Department he leaves the matter to. That is the ordinary procedure that will have to be gone through. I may put one, two or three particular officials, according as they are required, on the work, but this is entirely a departmental matter. The way the Minister handles the details of his own Department should not be controlled by a special section in any Act of Parliament. It would be completely new in departmental work and, I think, a very unhappy innovation.
The object of the amendment is not what the Minister states. I understand that Ministers have matters that they cannot attend to personally; they refer them to officials. But starting off before you come to that amendment, the Minister said in a permissive way, "That the Minister may refer to the Board." In the amendment I have put in the Minister "shall" refer those complaints to an officer appointed specially for that purpose. In other words, the object of this is that a special officer be set up in the position of a censor who will be able to deal with all these complaints when they come in.
What it really means is that the Minister shall only have one person in his office who can be put on this work and that he may never use his own intelligence. Take a case in which the Minister says: "I want to read this book." He cannot do this himself, but must refer it to an officer. The Minister may, on occasions, wish to do that himself without reference to any officer. I may have heard outside that a particular book is being denounced. I may say it is obviously a book that I should read myself, to see whether it is popular clamour or whether there is a real foundation for it. I might read that book and never send it to an official at all. The real thing is, the Minister is in control of his Department, and he should be given control of his Department.
I think if the Minister reads further on in the amendment he will see "the Minister may, in his discretion"——
He will get that opportunity at that stage. At the earlier stage this will be, I might say, a labour-saving device.
He can save it without this.
He can take up a book and deal with it.
It would not save the Minister any labour. It is not giving the Minister any power he does not already possess, and it may hinder him. It will be an embarrassment and not an assistance.
An officer of this kind would be a chief officer, I suppose, in his Department. He would supply the Department dealing with the Board of Censorship and would shorten the work not merely for the Minister but also for the Board, because his reports would direct the attention of the Board to the nature of the book and to the exact passages objected to. In general that kind of machinery would make the measure a very effective one.
The Minister has complained that the amendments which were carried, in spite of him, have injured the Bill. Of course, one never likes to see one's own scheme or project cut across by other views. Allowing for that feeling of disappointment for the moment, I think he must also allow our complaints that in the Press it has appeared as a prejudice against us that we have been out against these associations and that we have spoiled the machinery of the Bill as it originally stood.
That is not for the decision of the House.
That is so. I only mentioned it because our view is that it is, first of all, in principle better to use official machinery than semi-official machinery. I think that is a rule in legislation. The associations were going to be semi-official. Here you are going to have a machine that is purely official. This particular officer is going to play an important part in carrying through, in an effective and speedy manner, the work of censorship.
I would suggest to Deputy Ruttledge not to press this amendment, not for any particular value it may have in itself in this particular instance, but because, to my mind, it introduces a new departure altogether so far as our legislation is concerned. We take it for granted here that the Minister does this, that and the other thing. We put the responsibility on him, through our legislation here—that is the theory—but we know, in practice, he may not do a whole lot; he may get other people to do it for him. I think this is a new departure and that it ought not to be inserted in a measure of this kind, as a matter of fact not inserted at all, but certainly not here, without very grave consideration as to the precedent that is being created by its insertion. I say that, apart altogether from amendments or the manner in which this particular provision may be worked. I think we should not, without very great consideration, depart from what has been the practice and precedent, the putting on the Minister the onus of doing certain things. Let it be done in the usual departmental way, with the whole responsibility for the manner in which it is done upon the Minister.
I looked into this amendment with some care. I do not see that it will do any harm, and I do not see that it will do very much good. As the Minister has pointed out, the practice is that one, two or three officers are delegated to do work which the Minister cannot be expected to do. I think it is just as well that it should be anonymous, that the Department should do it. To expressly appoint an officer who would, I suppose, be a whole time officer to do this work, would, to my mind, amount to acquiescing in duplication of functions. This officer will be a kind of pre-censor board in himself. If he is a man of very strong will and definite judgment it is very likely that he will determine the issue for or against any particular book. The Deputy explained, of course, that it is the Minister who will decide, but I think it is not unknown that permanent officials have decided things for their Ministers. It is an allegation. I do not suppose it is always true, but I can imagine that a particular official of this sort, with determination, might arrogate to himself a ministerial responsibility, and, I think, it is desirable that the Minister should have all the responsibility in this matter. As a matter of practice, of course, it is only an attempt to save the Minister from trivial complaints, from the applications of every busybody or any person who is prepared to write a letterpro bono publico. There will be an official or officials, as the Minister pointed out, and I really do not think that this amendment will add a piece of useful machinery to the Bill. I do not see any harm in it; I do not see any good.
I think this amendment really originated by anticipation of the objections which we presumed the Minister would offer to the deletion of Section 6. He suggested that if the provisions regarding the recognised associations were deleted from the Bill there would be no machinery whereby the complaint of an ordinary citizen in regard to a book would be properly considered and dealt with. We wished to ensure that every complaint made by citizens would receive attention. At the same time we were aware that a considerable number, possibly, of frivolous and unsustainable objections would be lodged to books and, so as not to encumber the work of the Censorship Board with these frivolous objections, we thought that this proposal would meet the case. I understand from the Minister that every objection will be considered in his Department. Consequently the necessity for the recognised associations is no longer insisted upon, as far as I can see. In view of that, my attitude to this amendment has certainly been considerably modified.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move amendment 31:—
In sub-section (1), line 48, to delete the word "may" and substitute therefor the word "shall."
The object of the amendment is to make it imperative on the Minister to refer complaints to the Board. By the deletion of Section 6, the words "recognised associations" were struck out of the Bill. I realise, because of that, that increased responsibility will be thrown on the Minister, and I will be glad to hear what his views on this amendment are.
I do not think the Deputy sees that he is weakening the Bill very considerably by his proposed amendment. If the Minister is bound to refer every complaint to the Board, then a lot of complaints that the Minister could deal with himself will have to be referred to it. The Minister, for instance, has power to deal at once with obviously obscene literature. If he has to refer cases of that kind to the Board he will simply be delaying action. In other cases, where frivolous complaints are sent to the Minister, if he is obliged to send those complaints to the Board he will simply be wasting the time of the Board.
Under the scheme of the Bill, the Minister does not condemn any book offhand except on the recommendation of the Board, and why that is "may" and not "must" is to avoid sending on obviously frivolous complaints. Deputy Cooper mentioned the other day that somebody might send in the "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire." If Deputy Doyle's amendment was carried, that book would have to be sent on to the Censorship Board. I do not think it is at all likely that book is ever going to be sent in. If Deputy Cooper knows of anyone who is going to send it in, I would ask him to tell that person to send in an edition that it will not be necessary to return. I am not accepting the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move amendment 32: In sub-section (2) line 52, to insert before the word "examine" the words "read and."
On the Second Reading of this Bill the Minister said, I think, in reply to Deputy Sir James Craig, that it was not absolutely essential that the members of the Board should actually read a book. The section says that the Board "shall examine." I think, before a book is condemned, we should need to know whether the members of the Board had taken the trouble to read it. Deputy Cooper showed me a book. I did not read it. I read the cover of it, and that was quite enough to condemn the book.
The Deputy, I think, has answered his own case. If he is going to condemn a book by the cover, why should he condemn the members of the Board to read every book from the first page to the last? There must be some books that it will be necessary to read through. There will be some books that will have to be studied line by line before coming to a conclusion as to whether they should be condemned or not. It may, perhaps, be going a little too far to say that. On the other hand, there are books which are so blatantly indecent and known to be indecent, that it would be unnecessary for the members of the Board to read every line of them. Should the members of the Board, for instance, be compelled to read through every line of "Ulysses," a book that has been universally condemned?
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move amendment 33: In sub-section (2), line 53, to insert after the word "complaint" the words "and shall, if requested by the proprietor, editor, or publisher of the book, hear him or them in person or represented by counsel or solicitor in defence of the book or particular edition of the book before making the report."
I do not press for the acceptance of the first part of the amendment. I suppose it is well known that certain authors might be criticised and, so to speak, ear-marked, no matter how good their work might be, on account of some work that they had previously written. Because of that they might be censored without their case being given due consideration. Since Deputy Alton's amendment was turned down, it might happen that some crank would send in a request to the Board making an attack upon a certain book. That complaint might be considered very serious when coming from certain individuals and, on the other hand, it might not be considered serious when coming from others. No matter how keen the Board might be to do justice in regard to the book, on account of the person who sent in the complaint that fact might have a certain amount of weight with them. We all know that it frequently happens that authors have spent not only their fortune, but practically their last penny, in trying to get a certain book published. I think it is not asking too much that professional service might be engaged to argue before the Board on behalf of a certain book.
I do not know if the Minister is going to accept the principle of the amendment, but if he does I hope he will, at any rate, see that it is re-drafted. The person vitally concerned, the author, is not the proprietor of the book. He parts with his property in the book when he signs an agreement with the publishers. Yet, if anyone is to be heard in support of the book it should not be the publisher or the editor, but the person who wrote the book. I do say that there is a good deal to be said for the principle of the amendment, but in its present wording it would leave out the person who has the most right to be considered. I think that the principle of allowing a man to be heard in his own defence is a sound one, and in this instance, to omit the person who could make the best defence is, I think, an error.
I disagree with Deputy Cooper on the matter. Although the principle is usually, in fact almost universally, good, that a person should be heard in his own defence, I think there is no case in which the evidence will be so clear as in this particular case. The Board will not be condemning what the author has in his mind or what his purpose was in writing the book, but rather the effect of the book on the people likely to read it. That is what the Board of Censors will have to take into account. No matter how genuine the purpose of the author may have been, no matter what ideas he may have had in his mind when writing the book, and no matter how good they may have been, he may not have succeeded in interpreting these ideas in his book. It is not what was in the author's mind that ought to be considered by the Board so much as what is actually written in the book and what will come to the notice of people reading it. There is no question but that the Board of Censors will be composed of a sensible body of people who will not condemn a book on mere frivolous complaints. Being a sensible body of people, they will give such judgments as they will be able to stand over.
I cannot conceive that this amendment will help things in any way. It would, I think, lead to all kinds of abuses if it were adopted. The author might think it would be a good opportunity to advertise himself by going before the Board and explaining his particular mission or message. I do not know whether Deputy Cole presses for the employment of solicitors and counsel. I can see a great opening for the legal profession if that were carried. I do not know whether the Minister for Justice and Deputy Ruttledge and Deputy Little will have to keep a special eye on things to see that that part of it is not omitted. Surely a book is something that on the face of it bears evidence which should either justify or condemn it in the eyes of the Board of Censors?
I agree with what Deputy O'Connell has said, and for the reason he has stated, that the book must stand or fall by itself. I also agree that it would turn the Board into a court, and if an author or somebody can go before the Board of Censors and argue for three or four days as to whether or not a book should be condemned, that would upset the whole working machinery of the Bill. I cannot accept the amendment. There is a great deal more to be said, however, for Deputy Alton's subsequent amendment, but it is not ruled by this.
Would the Minister concede the right of an author to appear in person without being represented?
No. We will come to that on Deputy Alton's amendment. If the Board thinks the author could be of assistance it might ask him to attend.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
In sub-section (2), lines 53-54, to delete the words "on the completion of such consideration" and substitute therefor the words "within one month from the date of such reference."
The sub-section as it stands gives the Board of Censors an indefinite time to consider a book which might be in circulation in the country. That book might be an objectionable one, and I think a time limit ought to be inserted, but I am not pressing for the one month, and if the Minister prefers to substitute another period I will accept it.
I hope that except in very doubtful cases the Board will be able to deal with the matter very much under a month. It will be able to deal with the more objectionable books after the first reading. Other books might take a little more time, but I cannot agree to the Board being tied down to any particular time. We must assume the Board will do its work properly. If it does not we must form another Board. If the Board were not able to deal with a book within a month the whole complaint would die and vanish away at the end of the month. That would be the result of the amendment. Supposing the Board took more than a month, then its decision would be invalid and it would have to deal with the whole thing over again.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment 35 not moved.
Might I suggest that amendment 36, by Deputy Law and Deputy Tierney, and amendment 37 by Deputy Alton, be considered together, as they are almost the same?
I would agree to the two being put together.
I do not object.
Amendment 36. Before sub-section (3) to insert a new sub-section as follows:—
(3) In their consideration of a complaint, the Board shall take into account the general tenor and character of the book or the particular edition of a book, its literary, artistic, scientific or historic merit or importance, the language in which it is printed or produced, the nature and extent of the circulation which it appears to the Board it is intended to have, the class of reader which in the opinion of the Board may reasonably be expected to read it in Saorstát Eireann, and all other matters which appear to the Board to be relevant. — (Hugh A. Law, Michael Tierney.)
Amendment 37. Before sub-section (3) to insert a new sub-section as follows:—
In making their report, the Board shall take into consideration the main purpose of the author, the type of reader to which the book or the particular edition of the book which is the subject of the complaint is addressed or is likely to appeal, the value and interest of the book or the particular edition in question of the book from a literary or scientific standpoint: and they shall be empowered to communicate with the author or editor or publisher of the book or of the particular edition in question of the book and to take into account any representations made on behalf of the book or the particular edition in question of the book by the aforesaid author or editor or publisher.— (Ernest H. Alton.)
The purpose of my amendment, as well as the first part of amendment 37, is, I think, obvious on the face of it, and will commend itself to the House. It is quite obvious that the same subject matter may be treated by one author so as to be entirely offensive and by another so as to be entirely innocuous. There are people who are likely to read a bad book in the French, German, Italian and possibly, the Latin or Greek languages, but that book is not likely to have a large popular circulation. It is also relevant to consider the class of people. It is quite obvious that a book from reading which a child might receive great harm might be read without much danger by a grown-up person. I shall probably be accused of class prejudice when I say that what can be read without qualm by people of a certain mental training may very easily do considerable harm to people without training. All these circumstances I can see to be relevant to a proper consideration of the book by a Board of Censors, and for that reason I move the amendment. Of course, Deputy Alton will deal with his own alternative, but the words in amendment 36 are, perhaps, more precise.
I move my amendment. I have very little to add to what Deputy Law has said. He has put the case. I think his words are, to some extent, better than my own, except he talks of a class of reader. I was thinking not merely of readers as distinguished by their education and their position in life, but I was thinking also of trying to bring in by "type of reader" a reference to age. There are books you can put into the hands of adults that you certainly cannot put into the hands of schoolboys and schoolgirls.
I think the word "class" was intended to cover what Deputy Alton has in mind. It was not intended in the sense of a social class, but of classification.
I would like to make that explicit. I have in my amendment the words "the value and interest of the book or the particular edition in question of the book from a literary or scientific standpoint." That is a general statement to allow the Board to consider one of those rare books, like the book that is prohibited in England and published in Paris and written by an Irishman. That possibly might be allowed to circulate amongst students of economic science or students of literature under certain conditions, and it would do very little harm. It is not likely to have a large circulation. Perhaps Deputy Law's restriction of circulation, taking into account the kind of circulation, would cover that point.
There is in the second half of my amendment a point that Deputy Cole already raised. I think that the Board themselves would like to have the power, that it would be optional with them, to consult or communicate with the author, publisher or editor or any person directly or indirectly interested in the book. I think only good can come out of such communications. Possibly the book might have, say, one feature that would be objectionable in the eyes of the Board of Censors—a feature which would not be essential to the book. In a case of that kind negotiations with the author or publisher might result in the deletion of the objectionable feature. That is a suggestion that I wish to submit. On the grounds of general equity, and when you are dealing with property, I think before you resort to measures that mean almost confiscation, you should consult the author unless, of course, he has put himself completely out of court at once by producing a book which is prima facie obscene. That is manifestly a case in the defence of which, from first to last, I have nothing to say.
I do not want to prevent the Censorship Board from exercising all its discretionary powers in the matter. At the same time, I do not see why there should be a very strong consideration claimed for a type of book that is extremely literary and at the same time extremely obscene, even if it also happens to be extremely expensive and rare. I do not see that because a book is expensive and very literary, it, therefore, should be allowed to pass if it is also obscene. That is the only loophole one sees in this particular amendment—that books should get through on the plea of being precious books. That would be very undesirable. I do not see why that should be allowed for one class rather than for another class.
With a good deal of this amendment I am in agreement because I think it only puts explicitly what is implicit in the Bill. It is the method by which a sensible Board of Censors would have to administer this Bill. As a matter of fact, a list of suggested amendments was sent to me by a Vigilance Society in which they expressed themselves rather well as to the class of books that ought to be condemned. These were books that were likely "to corrupt minds open to vicious influence." Well, "minds open to vicious influence" are, of course, unformed minds.
When a person gets to a certain age, his mind is formed, and if he chooses to read immoral literature it might not do him much harm because he is either too good or too bad as the case may be. What you really want is a Censorship Board which will prevent persons who may be really morally injured by books having such books not merely placed at their disposal but more or less flung at them. While largely accepting the principle of both these amendments, I could not accept the amendments exactly with the words "the Board shall" and so on, but I think if they were made to read "the Board may" and so on the amendments might be accepted. For instance, "the language in which it is written," etc., or its "literary, artistic or scientific merit," should not be the final consideration and I know it is not Deputy Tierney's or Deputy Law's intention that it should be the final consideration. It may be said: "this is a great literary book, no matter how indecent it is," but that is not their intention. I think the section would be more happily expressed if "may" were substituted for "shall." It is only a small matter.
With regard to Deputy Alton's suggestion that they shall be empowered to communicate with the author or editor or publisher of the book, I may say that that is a matter to which I have no objection. If the Board of Censors think that it would be of help to them in coming to a decision to communicate with the editor or publisher, they might do so. But, as a matter of fact, all that is already inherent in the Bill. I think the occasions on which that would arise would be very few. I agree with Deputy O'Connell, it is not what the author thinks that the Board of Censors will be concerned with. It is not his actual thought but his expressed thought which is under consideration. I will take these amendments and get the happiest form in which the ideas outlined in them can be expressed in a new amendment which will be brought up on Report. With the spirit of these amendments, the whole House is, I think, very much in agreement and I would like to get the views expressed now brought into a new amendment. I will endeavour to have that amendment following as closely on the ideas expressed in the House as the Parliamentary draftsman can make it.
I am very glad that the Minister has agreed to accept the principle of these amendments. To my mind, these amendments will go very far towards removing the fear that certain people have legitimately felt as to the possible danger of a Bill like this. On the Second Reading, I said that the whole question of the censorship of books is a very dangerous and difficult question and a question that stands on an altogether different footing from the question of the censorship of periodicals. That is still my opinion. In that opinion, I am glad to see that I am supported by the Minister's own Committee on Evil Literature, which says in its Report:
The question regarding books is of a more difficult character than that relating to fugitive publications, though perhaps not so important in this inquiry, owing to their more limited sale. Literature has established for itself a wide range in the choice of subject matter and the form of treatment.
The Report goes on to say, at greater length, that the whole question of censoring literature, in general, bristles with difficulties and should be approached with the utmost caution.
Everybody knows that there is a large class of cheap literature which may be very well called obscene and is exemplified by the book which Deputy Byrne, after the manner of Cato, almost threw on the floor of the House a few minutes ago, are books exactly of the type about which there would be very little, if any, disagreement. In actual fact, it is quite probable the works of the eminent lady of whom the Deputy has such horror are much more harmful on their covers than they are inside. But the mere fact that they are produced with such covers and with a desire to appeal to such people as they actually do appeal to, is sufficient, to my mind, to cause them to be condemned without being read. Then you come to a far wider class of books which may, in certain circumstances and for certain classes of people, be legitimately termed obscene, but which, for general purposes, have a value that cannot be altogether set aside. There you have a very different problem indeed. To my mind, the less the Board of Censorship interferes with that wider class of general literature, the better.
Deputy Byrne quoted Dean Inge as to the terrible importation of foul works into England and the necessity for dealing with them. I hope I will not take up the time of the House too much if I quote some of the words of Monsignor, then Canon, W. Barry on the question of the censorship of fiction in 1909. Writing in the "Dublin Review" of January, 1909, in a paragraph in an article there he completely rules out of court the whole question of the censorship of fiction for England. He says:—
What could a censor hope to do, if he took in hand the thousand and one English Nights' Entertainments now crowding to publication? On what principles would he discriminate between the lawful and the lawless novel? He might be illiterate and illiberal, pedantic or headstrong, and would an aggrieved writer be allowed to appeal from his verdict? What would the firm of Tauchnitz say to this embargo on their merchandise? Should we not hear of editions published at Leipzig, smuggled across the Straits of Dover, and recommended as forbidden fruit to a greedy market? Or suppose the offending author boldly printed and sold his romance in Paternoster Row, would he not become a champion of liberty, backed by all the anarchic and many of the intelligent who will never admit that any Government is infallible? Can we imagine the censorship not breaking down under its enormous task? or journalism meekly submissive to its dictates? or the fate of Ministers hanging on the life or death of a disputed story-book? In that way, I think, whatever has to be done will not be attempted. The censor of fiction in England is never likely to flourish any more. He was argued out of court by Milton, and nailed to the pillory with Daniel Defoe.
While the conditions that prevailed in England when that article was written are not by any means the same as the conditions which prevail in Ireland now, and while we have arguments which justify us in making some attempt to deal with this question, still I do believe and hold most sincerely that the arguments put forward by a writer of the standing and authority of Monsignor Barry in a periodical of this kind are well worthy of attention. They are more worthy of the close attention and careful consideration of men situated as we are than the arguments, probably written in another context altogether, of a writer like Dean Inge. I hope when the Censorship Board is established and comes to work smoothly that its members will bear in mind the very important distinction that must be observed, if its work is to succeed, between books which are for general purposes obscene in their intention and books which, whatever may be their character in other respects, have a definite value from the educational, literary and artistic point of view.
It is because I believe this section will lay down a headline which the Censorship Board may follow in that respect, that I am very pleased the Minister has seen fit to accept the principle contained in these amendments.
I also am very glad that the Minister has accepted the principles contained in these amendments. I think that their inclusion in the Bill will lead to a distinct improvement. I confess I am a little uneasy about one point. I had not an opportunity of discussing it with Deputy Alton. I would have thought the introduction of the words in the latter half of his amendment rather tended to hamper the Board than otherwise. If they are put into the Bill it may really lead to the powers of the Censorship Board, with regard to satisfying themselves about books, being hampered in other directions. I doubt very much if there is any advantage in including any such provision in the Bill.
They have this advantage, that it will make explicit what Deputy Thrift says is implicit already in the Bill. The very fact that it is implicit has not, apparently, been recognised by the public at large. There is a lot of suspicion, naturally, that the Board is going to act in some obscure and in some autocratic way, and without observing the ordinary rules of equity and good judgment.
I understand the Minister is prepared to bring forward another amendment on the Report Stage in substitution for these amendments, and that he will carry out the intentions of amendments 36 and 37. In that case, I am prepared to withdraw my amendment.
I hope when the amendment is being drafted that it will be drafted with the greatest possible care. I observe that the whittling process still goes on, despite the protests of, at any rate, one single individual on these Benches. Nevertheless, the objection still remains. Anybody who looks into this question of a censorship can see for himself that not alone in this country, but in other countries, active steps have been taken to deal with the evil that we are attempting to deal with, up to the present, in my opinion most unsuccessfully, in this Bill. In America there is a Clean Books Act and, under its provisions, the publisher who issues any printed matter that is found to be lewd, lascivious, or obscene can be sent to jail for a period from ten days to one year and, in addition, may be fined from 50 to 100 dollars.
When I spoke on the last section I made a statement that might have appeared to some Deputies rather far-fetched. I said the effect of an amendment, if it was carried in the way it was worded by Deputy Tierney and Deputy Law, would mean that a book would have to be offensive and obscene from cover to cover. The speech by Deputy Alton now bears out that contention to the full.
Is the Deputy now arguing on the amendment that has already been disposed of by the House?
The Deputy is making a Second Reading speech.
I want to hear the Deputy on amendments 36 and 37.
You are hearing me on those particular amendments and I am referring to the speech made by Deputy Alton. Deputy Alton pleaded here in regard to the circulation of a book. I took his own words—"a book prohibited in England." He pleaded that book should be permitted to circulate here because, for certain scientific and other reasons, it would be valuable. I stood for the whole section of the Bill as originally drafted and I pointed out that this very thing would arise——
The Deputy must not go back on amendments already disposed of. He must speak to amendments 36 and 37.
Does the Leas-Cheann Comhairle understand that I am speaking with reference to Deputy Alton's speech?
I do not. The Deputy is not speaking to the amendments before the House.
I am referring to Deputy Alton's speech on the amendment that he has moved.
The Deputy cannot continue if he does not speak to the amendments that are now before us.
Very well. I will turn back to the literary, the artistic and the scientific character of certain books that we are told should be allowed to circulate here. I say that everyone of those words contains a thousand pitfalls and they make the difficulties of the Censorship Board infinitely greater in satisfactorily censoring books in this country. It is very easy to conceive what arguments can arise under the heading of books of literary value. I presume the highbrow intellectuals of this House to whom I have already referred would, no doubt, contend that Shakespeare's "Venus and Adonis" was a work of exceedingly high literary merit. I wonder would the high-brow intellectuals contend that it was not a work which was also highly obscene? I am glad that Deputy Little on the opposite benches agreed with me partly in my contention. Deputy Little said a book might be literary and artistic and yet might be obscene. That is my objection as far as the words of this new amendment are concerned. They are all small holes in the mesh by which a small fish might get through. Undoubtedly, these fish are going to get through and this House is making their passage easy. "Artistic merit" is another pitfall that will lead to a thousand modes of entry for improper literature. In the art of sculpture you can see a great many things in the nude or in the seminude that are highly artistic, but if they went through a board of censors they would have no hesitation in saying that they were highly obscene.
I come to another point—the nature of the circulation of the book. I presume that if a book has a small circulation, and if it has some of those literary fads to which my colleagues are so prone it should be immune and we should allow that book to circulate here. I fear that when this amendment is brought in by the Minister it is going to excite a great deal of controversy, and I for one, when the amendment is produced, will examine it line for line, notwithstanding the fact that perhaps I may be in a hopeless minority. I believe it is our duty to endeavour to fashion out of this a reasonable measure, and I certainly say, as far as the section dealing with books is concerned, that I do not see that anything reasonable is going to emerge from it.
Deputy Alton went on to say that the author should be considered and that unless a book is prima facie obscene it should be allowed to pass. If all these stipulations are going to be incorporated in this particular section by the Minister, then it would be much better, much more decent, and much more in the interests of the public, that the whole section dealing with books should be withdrawn.
Amendments 36 and 37 withdrawn.
I move amendment 38 on behalf of Deputy Ruttledge:
In sub-section (3) to delete the word "four," line 57, and substitute therefor the word "six."
This is consequential upon the amendment changing the number of the Board from five to nine. If the section stood as it is, the figure would remain at four, which would be a minority, and that, of course, would be absurd.
I desire to support the amendment. As the constitution of the Board has been affected by the decision on amendment 11, altering the number from five to nine, I think any objections which the Minister may have had to the alteration are now removed.
I cannot very well argue in favour of four-fifths of nine, but I should like to argue in favour of a number as near to it as I can get. I suggest to Deputy Little that he should insert seven instead of six. The Minister, very wisely I think, wanted to secure practically an agreed verdict from the Board of Censors for putting a book upon the list. I think six out of nine is probably too close to the line of a mere minority, whereas seven out of nine would express a definite and emphatic opinion on the part of the Board that a book should be put on the list.
Personally, I think that very much the same proportion as appeared in the original draft should be maintained, that is four-fifths. We cannot work that out exactly, but I would very much prefer seven to six in this particular context.
I think seven is rather a large number to ask for.
It might help the Deputy if I reminded him that Deputy de Valera, unless my memory is totally at fault, said seven in his Second Reading speech.
We have considered the question very carefully, and I do not like to take the responsibility of going back upon what has been considered in all its aspects by a group of people—I do not say the Party— who have been considering the matter. It seems to me that seven is a very large number to have to get, whereas six out of nine is reasonable. The Minister is now going in the direction which he was arguing against before—that the larger number is going to render the Bill inoperative. If you have to have seven you go further towards making it difficult to condemn a book than if you had only to have six. I do not want to take up a definite attitude on the question, but I think the number six should be considered. I think that when six people consider that a book is not a good one, that should be as good as if you had got seven.
I suggest that Deputy Little ought to accept the number seven.
I think I ought to read this extract from Deputy de Valera's speech to show that the Party was not quite unanimous:—
Our Party has debated it and has come to the conclusion that six out of nine ought to be sufficient. I myself might be disposed to go so far as saying that seven should be necessary, because, just as I anticipated fairly well the views that would be taken here on this matter, and as everything connected with it depends on the Board, my belief is that if you get a reasonable Board of men you will get them by a majority of six to three to exclude anything that ought to be excluded. I cannot imagine a body of nine men considering a book, and by a majority of two to one agreeing to exclude a book that should possibly not be excluded.
The Deputy possibly did not express himself very clearly, but it appears to me that he did not consider there was the slightest difficulty between six and seven.
My argument is that there is very little difference between six and seven, and for that reason the Minister might as well accept the number six.
I was reading from Deputy de Valera's speech and not expressing my own view.
I do not think it is worth while wasting time over, and I accept the number seven.
Question—"That the amendment be amended by substituting the word ‘seven' for the word ‘six'"—put and agreed to.
Amendment, as amended, put and agreed to.
I move amendment 39:
In sub-section (3), page 3, line 60, to insert before the word "indecent" the words "in its general tendency."
I think this is consequential to what the Minister said in his Second Reading speech and to the principle involved in amendments 36 and 37.
The Minister accepts the principle?
I have accepted the principle in amendment 36.
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment 40:
In sub-section (3), line 60, to insert the words "and should be prohibited" after the word "indecent."
I do not think this carries anything more in it than getting an expression of opinion from the Board of Censors that they are against a book; that therefore it ought to go on the list to be prohibited. It is certainly not meant to limit the application of the section, but is rather intended to get clearness of expression.
There is no harm in inserting these words. I do not think the amendment alters the sense.
Amendment agreed to.
I move amendment 41:
In sub-section (3) to delete from the words "or obscene," page 3, line 60, to and including the word "morality," page 4, line 3.
This also, I think, is consequential on what has happened before. It is bringing in in another place what was really the principle of amendment 28 which the Minister accepted by striking out the words in sub-section (1).
Yes, that is "public morality. I think all the amendments consequential on the taking out of these words "tends to inculcate principles contrary to public morality or otherwise of such character," etc., must, of course, be made in other parts of the Bill. This amendment is only consequential.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move amendment 42:—
In sub-section (3) to delete the word "may," line 3, page 4, and substitute therefor the words "shall forthwith."
We think it becomes at this stage a matter of duty for the Minister to carry out the directions of the Board, and therefore the words "shall forthwith" should be inserted instead of the word "may."
This is an amendment which I, personally, consider to be very important. There is a great deal underlying this amendment. Our system here is a system of Parliamentary control. We have an executive appointed, and executive work should be carried out by Ministers and Ministers should be responsible to the Dáil. This amendment provides that this Board of Censors should be set up, that they should be final, that they should do administrative acts in condemning books, and that they should be subject to no control at all. That is an amount of bureaucracy that I am opposed to. In my opinion the final judgment in condemning a book should be the judgment of the Minister responsible to this House. Control should not be lost by this House. In certain cases it is absolutely impossible for the House to keep control or for the Minister to keep control. For instance, if you take the Censorship of Films Board; there it is impossible. A film cannot be exhibited and consequently control cannot be exercised, but here where control can be exercised and where a book is condemned, it is not right that Parliamentary control should be taken away. I would like to point out that in the Report of the Committee on Evil Literature that principle was made very clear. It was strongly embodied in that report. On page 11 the report says:—
"Moreover, as even a State authority could not effectively prevent the circulation of an ephemeral publication in the time between its arrival at the ports of the Saorstát and its distribution to the public, power should be taken to prohibit generally the circulation of future issues of any newspaper, magazine or other publication where it is found to be usually of a debasing or demoralising kind. The Committee thinks that the Minister for Justice should be entrusted with this power. To assist him in its exercise a permanent committee should be established of nine to twelve persons representative of the religious, educational and literary or artistic opinion of the Irish public."
There the Committee have in plain language devised words in harmony with the whole principles of our Constitution that the Act should be an act of the Minister, and that he could act himself or should have the advantage of this advisory board of censors. I daresay the number of cases in which the Board of Censors would recommend to the Minister that a certain book was immoral and should be prohibited, and in which the Minister would refuse to act, would be infinitesimal. It may not be in practice a very important departure, but in constitutional and democratic theory it is a very big departure and I would ask the House not to accept it.
In view of the fact that it gives a fuller opportunity of getting after the Minister for Justice I think I had better withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question—"That Section 7, as amended, stand part of the Bill"— put and agreed to.
(1) Whenever a complaint is duly made under this Act by a recognised association to the Minister to the effect that the several issues of a periodical publication recently theretofore published have usually or frequently been indecent or obscene or have generally tended to inculcate principles contrary to public morality or have usually or frequently or generally been otherwise of such character that the sale or distribution thereof is or tends to be injurious or detrimental to or subversive of public morality the Minister may refer such complaint to the Board.
(2) The Board shall consider every complaint referred to them by the Minister under this section and for the purpose of such consideration shall examine the issues theretofore recently published of the periodical publication which is the subject of such complaint and on the completion of such consideration the Board shall make to the Minister their report on such complaint.
(3) Whenever the Board under this section makes in reference to a complaint a report, assented to and signed by at least four members of the Board, stating that in the opinion of the Board the issues recently theretofore published of the periodical publication which is the subject of such complaint have usually or frequently been indecent or obscene or that in the opinion of the Board such issues have generally tended to inculcate principles contrary to public morality or that in the opinion of the Board such issues have usually or frequently or generally been otherwise of such character that the sale or distribution thereof is or tends to be injurious to or detrimental to or subversive of public morality the Minister may by order (in this Act referred to as a prohibition order) prohibit the sale and the distribution in Saorstát Eireann of any issue of such periodical publication published after the day on which such order comes into operation.
Amendments 43, 44, 45, 46, 47 and 48 not moved.
In sub-section (1), line 21, and in sub-section (3), line 39, to insert in each line, before the words "the Minister," the words "or have devoted an unduly large proportion of space to the publication of sensational matter relating to crime."
In the view of a good many of us the harm done by the gutter Press in all countries is by no means confined to the publication of sexual matters. Some of us think that quite as much harm is done by concentrating the attention of people, especially young people, upon violent, brutalising crime. In point of fact very much the same kind of papers which are guilty of one kind of offence against public decency are guilty of the other. I think, when we are dealing with this matter at all, it would be worth our while to make an effort to purify the Press in both directions, and I think it would be a great thing if we could strengthen the hands of the Minister in dealing with this matter by inserting some such words as suggested in my amendment. Where you are dealing with a particular type of objectionable newspaper it might be more difficult sometimes perhaps to show that passages were indecent even under the larger extension of "indecency" which we have in this Bill. When the general character of certain newspapers is rather objectionable from the sex point of view, and, added to that fact, they feature— an ugly word, which I do not like— crime and scour the police courts for all the most objectionable, sordid, and revolting details they can possibly discover and pour them out through the Press, I think there is a strong case made for prohibiting their circulation. I do not know how far it is true that people are disposed towards crime themselves by reading of crime, but I am perfectly certain that nobody can be better by reading the sort of matter found in the lower-class English Sunday papers which circulate in this country. If we could cleanse them of that I think we ought to do it, and I think that in that respect the amendment would be a powerful instrument in the hands of the Minister.
I think that amendments 49 and 50 might be discussed together.
I was going to suggest that. My amendment is substantially the same in purpose as that of Deputy Law and Deputy Tierney. It is:—
"In sub-section (1), line 21, and in sub-section (3), line 39, to insert in each line before the words ‘the Minister' the words ‘or have specialised in news and articles of a criminal or vicious import."'
I have little to add to the argument which Deputy Law has eloquently expressed. I am hoping that I will be helped out in this by Athanasius, I mean Deputy Byrne, who will perhaps come in in time and help us to find a proper expression. The only difference between the amendments is a difference of expression. It is difficult to express in words the motives that guide the action of Deputy Law and myself. I do not know that the phrase "an unduly large proportion of space to the publication of sensational matter relating to crime" would altogether cover my point as I want to include matter that could not strictly be called criminal—matter of a rather brutalising and grossly vulgar type. Perhaps the Minister could find the proper words for such amendment. The newspaper that does damage is not the newspaper that caters for divorce court reports, but rather the newspaper that will describe, say, a post mortem in all its gross details. I am sure that Deputy Sir James Craig would object to that as much as I do. I have seen such reports given in explicit and horrid details, and I am sure it has a very bad effect, especially upon young and, perhaps, weaker-minded members of our community. "Brutalising" might do. I found great difficulty in wording my amendment and when I used the word "vicious" I knew it was too generous. If the amendment commends itself to the Minister perhaps he would think over the matter.
The amendment to a certain extent goes outside the scope of the original Bill because in the original Bill it was made to deal with matters that excited sensual passions. This amendment to a certain extent goes outside the scope of the Bill and, to a certain extent, catches up the class of periodical which, though it may coincide with the class of periodical originally aimed at, might not necessarily be co-terminal with it. However, though it is to a certain extent outside the scope of the Bill, I am willing, after due consideration, to accept the spirit of these two amendments. In accepting that, I cannot confine it quite as much as Deputy Alton, because he says "specialises.""Specialises" would cut it down to a very narrow limit.
I dislike "specialises" myself.
I prefer the other phrase, "unduly large proportion of space." A newspaper must of necessity give some space to sensational crime and, in fact, newspapers always give some space to it, but if you get page after page of murder and other form of crime, such as reports of blackmail cases, I quite recognise that that may demoralise the people in another direction than sexually. Though possibly it is going outside the scope of the Bill, I recognise that there are more serious things than sexual immorality in the moral order of the country. I will accept the amendment, but I will make it more closely to the wording of Deputy Law than to that of Deputy Alton. I have not quite caught Deputy Alton's meaning. He said that he wished to deal with something more than crime. I have not been able, exactly, to follow that.
There are reports which are not exactly criminal. You cannot say that a post mortem is a crime, yet its details may be disgusting and may have a very undesirable effect on a young reader.
I think that such a report would hardly appear except in relation to a crime. I do not think that any newspaper would publish that kind of post mortem except it was on a victim of a crime. Then it would be sensational matter relating to a crime.
The Minister himself used a word which I think might go in after the word "sensational" in Deputy Law's amendment. It might read "sensational or demoralising."
I am glad the Minister has accepted the amendment, but I think it is permissible to point out that, in doing so, he has done no more than follow the recommendations in the Report of the Committee on Evil Literature. In page 10 of the Report there is a reference to the Act recently passed by the British Parliament which prohibits the printing or publishing of reports in relation to any judicial proceedings, the publication of which would be calculated to injure public morals. The Report goes on to state:
But it has been pointed out that there is nothing in the Act that would check the misdirected enterprise of the newspapers themselves in supplementing the reports by details obtained to their own inquiries. Even now some of these papers endeavour to maintain the unhealthy sensationalism produced by legal reports of crime and social scandal by means of interviews with notorious criminals and sometimes with their victims, by biographies and autobiographies of these "celebrities," by pictures and photographs of the scenes and actors of sordid tragedies. There is nothing in the measure referred to that can restrain these activities. The committee is unanimously of opinion that there is need in the Saorstát of some means other than criminal prosecutions which, in the case of practically all the publications of which complaint is made, could not reach the publishers, who are beyond the reach of the laws of the Saorstát.
It seems clear that the framers of the report were anxious that the control of such publications, as we have referred to in our amendments, should, as far as possible, be included in the scope of the Bill. We framed our amendments as carefully as we could in order to provide that a certain amount of balance would be preserved, because, of course, if you try to administer a clause of this kind too strictly you may always do harm that would be greater than the good you might do. I think the wording we have adopted would probably be found not only to cover the subject we wish to cover, but also to give the Censorship Board a certain amount of scope as to the length they should go to deal with this matter. It would really be a question of accommodation to some extent. The position would often be rather a subtle position, and all that is wanted is a general direction to the Censorship Board rather than any attempt to lay down any strict rules in dealing with this matter. I am very glad the Minister has been able to accept the amendments, because it has been always my own opinion, even long before the Bill was introduced, that this particular sort of journalism has been, and to a great extent is, almost more demoralising than the kind of journalism with which this Bill was originally intended to deal. I have always considered it a terrible fact in modern society that the greatest use that has been made of universal education has been to enable a very large class in the community to find their way to that sort of broadcasting criminal news and nothing else; that no other type of learning, literature or reading matter of any kind has been made available for that class in the community. That is true, not so much perhaps of this country as of England; but in all modern communities, no other kind of reading matter has been put so much at the popular disposal as the vicious and criminal matter with which we propose to deal by this amendment. If by the most careful operation, by the most cautious handling, the Censorship Board even begins to deal with this terrible question, I think we will have done a good day's work by including this amendment in the Bill.
The Minister has promised to adopt amendment No. 49. I, therefore, ask the permission of the House to withdraw amendment No. 50.
I will adopt it subject to certain verbal alterations. I would suggest the words "or have devoted an unduly large proportion of space to the publication of sensational or demoralising matter relating to crime."
I would suggest "and demoralising" instead of "or demoralising."
I can bring in that amendment.
I take it then that amendment 49 is withdrawn?
Does that mean that a certain amount of demoralising and sensational matter will be allowed?
There will be a certain amount of sensational matter allowed. Certainly there must be.
There must be a certain amount of demoralising matter allowed too.
Are you going to allow a certain amount of demoralising matter too?
For instance, a report of a sensational murder may demoralise somebody. How will the Deputy prevent that?
The object of the Bill is not to allow demoralising matter to go before the public.
We have left over a great many matters for Report, and as there is nothing to be gained by postponing the matter, might it not be just as well if the Minister moved to insert those words in the amendment now and have it accepted? He can add to it if he wishes on Report.
I think it would save time.
If the Deputy would tell me some method by which all demoralising papers were to be destroyed I would welcome his suggestion.
I can quite see what Deputy Colohan has in mind. I think what he has pointed out is that the introduction of the word "demoralising" rather spoils the meaning of the word "sensational" because while there might, quite legitimately, be a certain amount of space given to sensational matter, it is a different question when you come to deal with matter that is "demoralising." If you introduce the word "demoralising" you appear to allow a certain amount of latitude in regard to demoralising matter. It raises the whole question of whether it is worth while introducing the word "demoralising" in that place.
If the Minister would accept the amendment as it appears and give it further consideration he can if necessary add to the wording on Report.
I think you would require to have some words stronger than "sensational matter." I think Deputy Colohan has made a slight mistake. In all sexual matters the papers will be dealt with. Apart from this, if there was a certain amount of matter relating to crime which is likely to be demoralising it must go—if a substantial amount of the paper relates to sensational matter which is likely to demoralise minds that are capable of being demoralised by reading criminal reports; it is not every man who would be demoralised by reading criminal reports. Some men might be; some might be incited to crime.
Are we inserting amendment 49 now or leaving it over to the Report Stage?
I am willing to insert it now.
Amendment put and agreed to.
Is the Minister accepting amendment 55?
In sub-section (3), line 33, to insert the words "and should be prohibited" after the word "indecent."
Amendment put and agreed to.
In sub-section (3) to delete in line 41 the words "any issue of."
This amendment is to make the matter more definite. I think it is obvious that you get the position clearer if you delete the words "any issue of."
I do not think it would have the effect Deputy Ruttledge anticipates, if the words were left out. The words are "The Minister may by order.... prohibit the sale and the distribution in Saorstát Eireann of any issue of such periodical publication published after the day on which such order comes into operation." That means all issues, present or future, are banned. But I think if you leave out the words "such periodical publication published after the day on which such order comes into operation" you rather confuse the issue than make it clear. I think it is clearer to say "any issue of" the paper. I think that is perfectly clear and definite, and that there can be no mistake. It takes in the current and all future issues. You say, not an issue of the paper but the paper itself. A periodical publication consists of so many issues, and possibly if you leave out these words—I grant it would be rather straining the construction—possibly it might be construed to cut out future editions of the same paper, editions other than the one which has been condemned. I think the words, as they are, are clearer. There is not a great deal in it.
What I had in mind was, that they might be construed, as the section stands, to refer to issues in which, perhaps, there was no objectionable matter.
So it will. The section would, possibly, refer to issues containing no objectionable matter. For instance, if a newspaper has been examined—ten or eleven or four or five numbers—by the Censorship Board, and condemned, every future issue of that paper is condemned. It may be that there is one issue in which there is nothing indecent. Nevertheless it is prohibited from coming in, for the very reason read out by Deputy Tierney, that every issue cannot be examined. If the paper has habitually fallen away it must suffer, even though it has one good issue.
I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
In sub-section (3), line 41, after the word "issue," to insert the words "or issues."
This is not a very important amendment, but I think the explanation given on the previous amendment makes it clearer that "any issue" provides that all issues will be covered.
I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
To add at the end of sub-section (3) the following proviso:—
Provided that such prohibition made for the first time against a periodical publication shall have force for a period of three months only.
This amendment is put down because I think that action should not be taken definitely on the first occasion. I think it is reasonable to make a prohibition order to come into force for a limited period, in the first place, in order to give a particular periodical a chance of conforming to proper and reasonable requirements, whereas, if the offence is repeated, I do not think it would deserve the same kind of merciful treatment. The proposition is that on the first occasion the prohibition order shall be made for a period of three months.
I agree with a great deal of what Deputy Thrift has said, that if a paper wishes to reform, so to speak, or even to reform issues which are circulated in this country, it might be given a locus penitentiae. Of course, it is always the intention of the Act that it should, because there is always power to revoke the order. Sometimes I fancy it might be revoked earlier than three months, but, on the whole, probably, it would not, because copies would have to be forwarded, and some proof given that it had actually changed. If the Deputy is strong on it I do not mind accepting the amendment, but I do not know that administratively the object would not be really effected without it. I do not mind accepting it.
Amendment put and agreed to.
Question—"That Section 8, as amended, stand part of the Bill,"—put and agreed to.
(1) The Minister may at any time after consultation with the Board by order revoke any prohibition order theretofore made by him under this Act.
(2) Where a prohibition order has been made by the Minister under this Act in relation to a book, the Minister may at any time, after consultation with the Board, by order amend such prohibition order by excluding from the application thereof any particular edition of such book whether published before or after the date of such prohibition order.
In sub-sections (1) and (2), lines 43 and 48, to delete the words "after consultation with" and substitute in each line the words "with the consent of the majority of."
The Censorship Board has a good many duties and has responsibility imposed on it, and I think it is only reasonable that if the Board is in that position, it should have something to say in these matters, rather than mere consultation. I do not think it could be suggested that it takes matters entirely out of the Minister's hands; but, at any rate, it gives members of the Board power to act, to some extent, in the matter, and it is on the members of the Board the main responsibility is placed. The Minister refers complaints to the Board, they are to investigate and report. I submit the amendment I desire to have inserted is a reasonable one.
We are getting on so amicably that I regret here again I cannot accept the Deputy's amendment. In practice it will work out the same thing, but here again I am working for my theory of control. In any case, the Minister has not got any added power to interfere by prohibiting a book which is not otherwise prohibited. It is the general principle of the Report of the Committee that the really active person should always be the Minister, but that he should have these rights—and that is constitutional—and that he should have the advice of the Board, and I am sure that that was entirely in the minds of the Committee which gave that recommendation that I have already read. It seems to me that it comes within the principle of that that the Minister should be entrusted with this power. This is really the same principle as was at stake in the Deputy's earlier amendment. I am sorry that I cannot accept it.
Can the Minister say whether he would act against the wishes of the Board if they reported in a certain way? That is the point I am trying to protect.
You must not talk about any particular Minister.
This Bill will last for all time, I suppose. I could hardly imagine a case in which the Minister, if he consulted with the Board, or if a majority—7 to 9— of the Board reported to him in a certain way, would do so, though he might—I would like to have the theoretical power. But in practice what would happen? An appeal is made to the Minister to revoke an order. The Minister sends a minute to the Board, saying: "You have been reading this paper. Do you think there is anything in what they say?" They would then make up their minds as to whether it would be let in again or not. It would always be certain, unless they were obviously wrong, unless an act of palpable injustice was being done, that the Minister would act on their advice. But we want to have this principle kept intact.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Every prohibition order and every order made by the Minister under this Act revoking or amending any such prohibition order shall be published in the "Iris Oifigiúil" as soon as may be after it is made and shall come into operation and have effect as on and from the day on which it is so published.
Amendment 65. —To add at the end of the section, line 56, the words "to prohibit the sale and distribution of the publication or publications which it prohibits as well as the importation thereof or to revoke or amend (as the case may be) an existing order."— (Peadar Ua Dubhghaill.)
I would like to be satisfied that the points referred to in this amendment are covered in the Bill.
They are. These would be merely superfluous words. As soon as the order comes in force all the consequences which the Deputy sets out here would naturally flow from its coming into force.
Question—"That Section 10 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
(1) It shall not be lawful for any person, otherwise than under and in accordance with a permit in writing granted to him under this section—
(a) to import into Saorstát Eireann for sale or distribution, or
(b) to sell, or expose, offer or keep for sale, or
(c) to distribute or offer or keep for distribution
any book or any particular edition of a book or any issue of a periodical publication the sale and distribution of which in Saorstát Eireann is for the time being prohibited by a prohibition order.
(2) Every person who acts in contravention of the foregoing sub-section shall be guilty of an offence under this section and shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds or, at the discretion of the court, to imprisonment with or without hard labour, for any term not exceeding six months or to both such fine and such imprisonment and, in any case, to forfeiture of the book, edition, or issue in respect of which such offence was committed.
(3) The Minister may if he thinks fit for reasons which appear to him sufficient grant to any person a permit in writing to sell and keep for sale or to distribute and keep for distribution and (where appropriate) to import into Saorstát Eireann any specified book or any specified edition of a book or all or any particular issues of a specified periodical publication the sale and distribution of which in Saorstát Eireann is for the time being prohibited by a prohibition order, and the Minister may grant any such permit subject to such (if any) conditions and limitations as he may think fit to impose and shall specify in such permit.
In sub-section (1) to insert after paragraph (c) a new paragraph as follows:—"(d) to advertise in print or otherwise."
The Minister will understand that the object of the amendment is to prevent any possible loophole.
This is a very difficult sub-section as it stands now. It says:
It shall not be lawful for any person, otherwise than under and in accordance with a permit in writing granted to him under this section—
(a) to import into Saorstát Eireann for sale or distribution, or
(b) to sell, or expose, offer or keep for sale, or
(c) to distribute or offer or keep for distribution,
any book or any particular edition of a book or any issue of a periodical publication the sale and distribution of which in Saorstát Eireann is for the time being prohibited by a prohibition order.
The Deputy says "to advertise in print or otherwise." I do not exactly follow what the Deputy means. Does he mean, for instance, that if a book is prohibited in this country and there is a simple advertisement in a newspaper saying that such-and-such a book is for sale?
To advertise a book that is prohibited in a paper here, or any other form of advertisement that may be put up by a publisher or anybody else.
Of course that would be an advertisement published by somebody in this country?
The Deputy does not mean, for instance, that if a paper were imported from England which had a simple advertisement of this book and no more, it would come under his amendment? It would simply be that somebody would advertise a prohibited book for sale in this country?
If the Deputy would not mind, I would like to consider that, because I did not quite follow what his intention was on reading it. I would like him to pass it over for the present.
The Minister will understand that this is in order to guard against a certain loophole that occurred to me.
There might be the loophole that somebody here, who was not selling or was not distributing the book, might yet advertise it.
In relation to that, would the Minister consider the difficulty of, say, a publishing house in another country whose catalogues might be advertised in this country? The possibility of a catalogue being prohibited might be read into this suggested clause.
That is what I rather thought, to begin with, but Deputy Ruttledge disowns that as being his meaning.
That is the difficulty, because books of this character presumably appeal to the prurient mind, and then the mere insertion of a prohibition order in "Iris Oifigiúil" would naturally be an advertisement of this character, and the Minister himself might come under this amendment.
However, I will consider if there is any loophole that needs to be filled.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments 67 and 68 deal with the same question, and amendment 71, to a certain extent, deals with the same point, but adds the point of the sales register. I think we can have a discussion on amendment 67, the question of importation for home use, so to speak.
To add at the end of sub-section (1), line 3, page 5, the following proviso:—
"Provided that nothing in this sub-section shall be deemed to prohibit any person from importing or causing to be imported without licence any book or particular edition of a book or any issue of a periodical publication required by him solely for his own use."
I put this amendment down mainly in order to get an explanation from the Minister in this matter and to draw attention to an obscurity that appears to exist in the Bill as drafted. In Section 11 it will be observed that the words are: "It shall not be lawful for any person otherwise than under and in accordance with a permit in writing granted to him under this section to import into Saorstát Eireann for sale or distribution."
Therefore, if this section stood alone I think the natural inference would be that if a person imported, whether by the post or in his luggage, a prohibited publication for his own use and not for sale or distribution he would be free to do so. But when we come to Section 14 we get a different form of words: "Where a prohibition order has been made in relation to a book, or a particular edition of a book or a periodical publication, then so long as such order is in operation the importation (otherwise than under and in accordance with a permit in writing granted under this Act)," and so forth, "is prohibited." There appears, therefore, to that extent, to be a certain contradiction between the two clauses. I was anxious to clear that matter up.
I was not at all sure whether it was the intention of the Government to prohibit importation otherwise than for sale or distribution, because throughout the Bill emphasis is on sale and distribution, and I think there is a clear distinction to be drawn between the importation of books for general circulation and the importation of books for private use. We give in certain clauses a power of search where there is reason to suppose books are kept for sale or distribution. We do not give any such power to search where books are in private hands. Therefore, it does not seem unreasonable that we should carry out the same distinction in this place. I do not attach enormous importance to the proposal. I recognise it may conceivably be abused, though I do not think that the abuse would go very far or would be very serious. If the Minister feels that it will open a large loophole for abuse, I certainly would not be disposed to insist on it. He has met us already very fairly in a number of amendments earlier in the Bill, and a great many of my original fears have been removed by the fact that clear directions are now to be given to the Board of Censors as to the manner in which they are to proceed with the consideration of the books. Therefore, I moved this in order to get an explanation and discussion on the matter, but I am not disposed to press it if the Minister is opposed to it.
The general scope of the Bill is that it is, of course, mainly, as Deputy Law has just pointed out, aimed at the prohibition of the importation for sale or distribution in this country of immoral literature, because sale and distribution are the main things which are to be aimed at. But I cannot agree that any person, who likes for his own use, should be able to write to an English bookseller and get over by post any single book he liked. The Booksellers' Association, some time ago, were kind enough to give me some documents, one of which is in itself extremely interesting. It is "A Manual of Birth Control," with a preface by Mr. H. G. Wells. It says: "For the last six months over 500 of the public per week have been sending to the publishers the full published price with postage in addition for this book. In the same six months customers have bought from the booksellers of the world under 100 copies a week, though they surely prefer not to write and stamp a letter and add the return postage to the price of the book. Why is this?" It comes from the Labour Publishing Company, Limited. It is perfectly obvious the answer they wish to imply. I myself draw a different conclusion that there are a great many people ashamed to walk into a bookseller's shop to buy these things, yet who buy them through the post. If they could be imported for their private use the Bill would be of very little good. Books of that kind should be stopped in the post, or even if they came over by rail in single numbers.
I accept what the Minister has said. It is not books of the character he indicated that I have in my mind. I am anxious to prevent, if possible, an addition to the troubles of searches.
I completely understand Deputy Law's attitude. Naturally, in proving my case I took, as I suppose is excusable, the strongest example I could to show that this which might be subject to grave abuse would, in fact, be subject to grave abuse.
I am not completely satisfied with what the Minister said, though I recognise his difficulty. I thought he might have met that by the present postal regulations. I want to put to him that in the Bill as it stands there are very serious difficulties in practice. In the Bill as it stands, the only notice of a book being on the prohibited list is when it appears in the Irish official organ. That does not mean, and I think wisely does not mean, that many people will be aware of what particular book is prohibited. Certainly it does not mean that any visitor to this country would be aware of whether a book is prohibited or not. There are a great many people who might have in their possession books of a kind which might appear on the prohibited list for special reasons, who would be very loth indeed to make themselves liable to an offence against the law involving them in a penalty of £50 or imprisonment if they knew they disobeyed the law.
On a question of fact, I would like to put the Deputy right. A private person who imported not for sale or distribution by post, steamer or otherwise would not be liable to a penalty of £50 or any penalty, but only to the confiscation of the book.
Though I accept the Minister's correction with pleasure——
It would be only under Section 14.
There are many people who would take it as a very great disgrace if their baggage was examined on coming in here, and it was found, contrary to their knowledge, that they had a book in their possession which was on the prohibited list, and if that book were confiscated by the authorities because it was an indecent book. I think the Minister is in a real difficulty in this case. Furthermore, I think in the Bill as it stands there is quite a reasonable doubt as to whether the section gives the Minister power to issue a permit to a person to import a book for his own use. It quite naturally gives him power to issue a permit to import for sale or distribution or other reasons. But the whole of the sub-section seems to me only to deal with permission in writing to keep for sale or distribution. The matter really comes into doubt when you come to the point, "and (where appropriate) to import into Saorstát Eireann any specified book." I do not know what that means. That may mean "to sell and keep for sale or to distribute." I am not sure whether the section gives him power to issue a permit to, we will say, a scientific person, a medical person, a student of political economy or sociology who wishes to examine the book for a particular definite, legitimate reason.
I think ther is a great difficulty on both sides. I can see that a general permit might be abused. But I think the Minister might control that through postal regulations. That does not apply with equal force to a person merely travelling who happens to have a book in his possession which turns out to be, against his knowledge, on the prohibited list. I think there are a great many people who would feel themselves injured persons if it was found accidentally that in their baggage there was a book which they were quite unaware was on the prohibited list. I put down certain amendments later on to enable people to find out what books are on the prohibited list. I hope the Minister will consider the difficulty under this section. I have put down certain words that, I grant you, may not be satisfactory, but I hope the Minister will consider the difficulties I have been raising and which may be met with in practice.
As I read sub-section (3) it gives power to the Minister to allow the importation of a book though it is on the prohibited list. "The Minister may, if he thinks fit for reasons which appear to him sufficient, grant to any person a permit in writing to sell and keep for sale, or to distribute and keep for distribution, and (where appropriate) to import into Saorstát Eireann any specified book or any specified edition of a book" and so forth "the sale and distribution of which in Saorstát Eireann is for the time being prohibited." I take it the plain meaning of that must be that if the Minister thinks fit he will give a permit in writing to somebody to sell a book. A permit in writing to sell a book would be given to somebody who shows to the Minister that for legitimate reasons he requires a certain book. He may be a student of a certain science, he may be a highly literary man who is writing a particular article, he may be a person who might like to collect a whole library of these books on birth control because he is writing a thesis denouncing birth control, and must be able to deal with these books. Somebody of that kind would apply and he may apply either for leave to import or what would be more likely go to his bookseller and the bookseller would then apply to the Minister and get leave. I take it, of course, that no Minister would give a bookseller indiscriminate leave to import and sell. The bookseller would first have to establish that he had customers who actually required the book at the time, and that those customers were persons who legitimately required the book for something more than prurient reasons.
Of course it will be very unpleasant. There may be somebody with a borderline book coming in and he may lose that book. I do not see any way of preventing that. In the case of English persons, French persons or persons of any other nationality coming into this country, we really in a way should not be interested in their morality. After all what is of importance to us is that our own people should not be able to bring in those books and that they should not be distributed here. I do not see how there can be any exception made. It really works down to Professor Thrift's last suggestion that tourists coming in here—casual visitors— should not be subject to this section. I do not see how that can possibly be provided in practice.
May I say something about my suggestion? In amendment 71 I am trying to meet the point that Deputy Thrift has put so clearly. The machinery that the Minister has devised seems to me a little cumbersome and exceedingly vexatious. If I am right the person to whom the Minister would give permission to get one of these borderline books would first have, through his bookseller, to apply for special permission to the Minister and get it in writing and present it to the bookseller, and that then the book would be ordered. I have to buy a lot of books. There are not many, I assure the Minister, of a borderline kind. But I want books sometimes in a hurry, and any restriction of that sort would be exceedingly vexatious to a research student, and an annoyance to the Minister. I have made a suggestion here that books of that sort might be regarded as, say, dangerous drugs which the ordinary person could not buy in a chemist's shop without a doctor's order and a special entry being made of the sale. I suggest that books that might come into this category of borderline might be so marked in the register of prohibited books, and the conditions under which they might be purchased could be defined by the Minister or by the Board of Censors. A student then to whom such a book was necessary might go directly to his bookseller and order the book. The bookseller would have to know something about his customer. He would take a certain amount of responsibility. He would have to enter his name and the purpose. That sales book should be open to inspection by somebody from the Department of Justice on request, and if the Minister saw that this conditional permission was being abused, that books were getting into the wrong hands, he has easy redress. He can strike the unconscientious bookseller off the list or he can put the book in the class of the absolutely prohibited books. There may be a flaw in my suggestion, but I think I have suggested here a better piece of machinery for getting over what has been described by Deputy Thrift and others.
I do not see how it would be possible to grade persons and grade books. I think it would be absolutely impossible. You have your book which is condemned. The nature of that book and the kind of person who applied for it are things for which special permits come in. Special permits should not be given as a matter of course. Special permits should only be given to somebody requiring a book for some really legitimate purpose. Deputy Alton says that a thing of this kind may be very vexatious. I am sure that on certain occasions it would be very vexatious, but restraint is extremely objectionable on occasions. Though it may annoy certain persons that they have to wait a few days for a book which they otherwise would get, it can be no serious inconvenience. I think the occasions on which a person suddenly wants a book and gets it a week or a fortnight after he looks for it, do not, as a rule, make a terrible amount of difference. I can understand that it would be very annoying if I wanted a particular book to-night and discovered that Deputy Alton had borrowed it, but as to whether I could replace it in a week or a fortnight probably would not matter in the slightest bit. Sometimes, of course, you want a book on the spur of the moment; to refer to something, to verify some historical fact, some literary allusion, or something of that kind, but when it comes to waiting a week or a fortnight for a book I really do not think it would become a matter of substantial grievance. Therefore on this whole general principle, the principle that private persons should be entitled to import without let or hindrance, I cannot agree.
Might I say, for the Minister's information, that I wish to withdraw amendment 67. The further discussion, therefore, might proceed on the separate question raised by Deputy Alton in his amendment as to the desirability of an additional register.
That is amendment 71, which we have not reached yet.
Amendment 67, by leave, withdrawn.
I wish formally to move my amendment, No. 68:—
In sub-section (3), line 15, after the words "Saorstát Eireann" to insert the words "or import for his own use."
Amendment 68 put and declared lost.
I move amendment 69:—
In sub-section (3), line 21, before the word "shall" to insert the words "after consultation with the Board."
This amendment provides for consultation with the Board before a permit is issued by the Minister. I think that as the Minister has accepted something similar in a previous amendment in regard to consultation with the Board, that he should accept this amendment.
The Deputy's amendment is to the effect that before a licence is given to import one particular additional copy of a book or a licence given to a particular individual, that a consultation should be held with the Board. I do not think that would be practicable, nor do I think that it is in the least bit necessary. The Minister for the time being would always require the assistance of the Board in deciding what book should be kept out, but knowing generally what kind the book is and, still more important, knowing the class of person who is asking for the book, I think he would not be helped by consultation with the Board in making up his mind as to whether the person asking for the book was suitable or not. I do not think this would be an advisable amendment, and I do not accept it.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move amendment 70:—
To add at the end of the section four new sub-sections as follows:—
"(4) It shall be the duty of every person to whom a permit is granted under the foregoing sub-section to keep or cause to be kept a register of all purchases, sales, and other transactions of or in relation to any publication to which a permit applies and within 24 hours after every such transaction to enter or cause to be entered in such register the name, address and occupation of the person with whom such transaction is made.
(5) Every register kept in pursuance of the foregoing sub-section may be inspected at all reasonable times by the Gárda Síochána and all documents reasonably required for the purpose of verifying any entry in or explaining any omission from such register.
(6) If any person to whom a permit has been granted in pursuance of this section—
(a) fails to keep or cause to be kept such register as is required by this section, or
(b) fails to make or cause to be made in such register within the time prescribed by this section any entry required by this section to be made therein, or
(c) makes or permits to be made in such register any entry which is to his knowledge false or misleading in any material respect,
he shall be guilty of an offence under this section and shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds or, at the discretion of the court, to imprisonment with or without hard labour for any term not exceeding six months, or to both such fine and such imprisonment, and in any case to forfeiture of the publication in respect of which the offence was committed.
(7) The Minister may at any time by order revoke any permit granted under this section."
The reason for the amendment is to provide for a register of persons. The register that the Minister provides relates to books. I suggest in this amendment that there should be a register of persons to whom licences have been issued. It is only reasonable, I think, that there should be some control over those licences and over the people to whom the publications are issued or sold. I think, therefore, this is a necessary amendment to the Bill. If the Bill is going to be made watertight, to guard against all possible loopholes and possible ways of breaking through it, it is necessary, I think, to insert an amendment such as I have proposed.
This is an elaborate provision which Deputy Ruttledge suggests. I am in complete agreement with the Deputy that if orders were to be given wholesale to booksellers the provision he suggests would be absolutely necessary. For instance, suppose you could envisage a state of affairs in which a bookseller were to import twenty or thirty copies of an objectionable book, a book which was on the list of censored books, then a register of this kind would be absolutely necessary. If a bookseller were allowed to bring in a substantial number of books and allowed to sell them to whom he liked, then it would be very necessary that a list of the persons to whom he sold them should be kept, and the nature and character of the persons to whom he was selling them should be known, but I do not contemplate, nor do I think it could be reasonably contemplated, that anybody in the administration of this Act would give a free choice to any bookseller, or to any library for distributing purposes, to bring in a number of these books. Books might possibly be allowed in for distribution by, say, a scientific library. Books on the list of censored publications might be allowed in for circulation amongst members of that library. That would be for distribution, but I cannot imagine a case in which thirty or forty books would be allowed in for circulation in an ordinary circulating library. In fact I cannot imagine a case in which a book on this list would be allowed in for circulation in an ordinary, lending, public library. It would have to be allowed in under such strict terms that it would be hardly workable.
I am entirely in agreement with the Deputy that if permission of this kind were to be given on a large scale it would be absolutely necessary there should be such a register. Supposing that a member of a religious order is writing a book on birth control, and applies for ten or fifteen books, it would be unworkable to send him down a register and say "You have to keep a register of the books you have got." If this were done on a big scale I quite agree with the Deputy, as I have already said, that it would be absolutely necessary to have a register, but in the case of booksellers selling only one copy of a book at a time, I do not think it would be necessary to go to the expense of having these registers printed and putting the booksellers to the trouble of filling them up. The only way in which I differ from the Deputy is that, considering how any sane person would administer the Act, a register of this kind would be unnecessarily cumbersome.
There is no limit in the Bill itself, so that scope for abuse is possible. This suggestion is not a new one. In certain libraries it is the practice to keep a register of certain types of books, and the people who want those particular types of books have to enter their names in the register. The effect of that is that only people who are seriously interested in the books will get them, and people who are interested in them for undesirable reasons will not face the necessity of putting their names on such a register. It would apply even in the case the Minister mentions of a library, so that where, say, fifteen copies of a book have been got it would not be unreasonable to ask the people who got the fifteen copies, or who had them in a library, to keep a register in which the names of the people would be entered; so, too, if a publisher in the city of Dublin was known to keep certain types of books for scientific or medical reasons people might go in and buy those books without anybody inquiring for what they were wanted, whereas if on entering the shop it was found necessary for them to enter their full names and addresses it would stop almost entirely the sale of those books except to people who wanted to make legitimate use of them.
Scientific or medical books would not come under the ban of censorship.
I would like to point out to the Minister that there is no limit in the Bill as to the number of books that would be distributed. I am sure the Minister has no idea, and no one else has, of the number of books that may be in circulation or of the various quarters in which they may be in circulation. It is only to provide against possibilities of abuse and of those books getting into the hands of people who should not get them that I moved the amendment.
As I pointed out to the Deputy, there is no difference between us in principle. If there is a loophole we will have to close it up. The only question is, is there a loophole which makes it worth having this somewhat elaborate and not easy to work machine? To begin with, scientific or literary works will not be banned, but only books that are ex professo immoral, dealing with sexual matters, etc., or else books dealing with this question of birth control. There may be a number of books which you might say were ex professo immoral, but which a person would require for scientific or social purposes, or something of that kind. The number of these must of necessity be very small. The number of instances in which a winning case, so to speak, could be put up to the Minister asking for these particular books would be very few indeed; they must in the nature of the case be very few.
Therefore it really comes down to the number of cases in which you would permit these books on birth control to come in. There might be one person or two persons in the whole country anxious to deal with that matter scientifically, in order to write a treatise on it, attacking it. That would be the only reason. You can leave those books out of the discussion altogether, and then you will come back to the one class of book which is ex professo indecent but yet is required by some particular person for some real, solid reason. It seems to me it is written in the statute itself that if there are 50 or 60 cases a year of permits being given, that would be really the outside. It does seem to me to be rather difficult to work out if there is, in fact, a very small number like that. I will now move the adjournment of the debate, and the Deputy and I will have ample opportunity of further considering the matter in the meantime.
The Dáil went out of Committee.
Progress reported on amendment 70.