Local Elections (Dublin) Bill, 1929. - Censorship of Publications Bill, 1928—Committee Stage (Resumed).
The Dáil went into Committee.
Debate resumed on amendment 70.
Since last night I have had a further opportunity of considering the advisability of adding this sub-section to the Bill. I am sorry to say that more mature consideration has really rather strengthened than weakened me in the view I expressed last night, and I do not think that this sub-section would be of assistance to the Bill. This sub-section is rather moulded on the Firearms Act. Under that Act, everyone who has a licence to sell cartridges, or something of that kind, must keep a register. It must appear in that register that a sale has been made to persons entitled to have these particular things. That is a thing which goes on on a pretty large scale. A dealer in cartridges will deal with a very large number of customers. Again, in a Bill which I will very shortly introduce to the House, and which is not unconnected with the Act to which I have just referred, namely, the Game Preservation Bill, there will be a similar provision, that a game dealer will only be able to buy game from a certain class of person. Therefore, it will be strictly necessary to keep a register. Where it must be done on a large or substantial scale, such as the buying of game or the selling of cartridges, it is obvious that a register must be kept, but here there will only be very few cases of licences being granted. That, I think, is pretty obvious and will be admitted.
As the amendment stands, it is to the effect that anybody who gets a permit to buy a particular book would, at the same time, have to get some particular form. He certainly would have to keep in his house the name of the person from whom he bought the book. Similarly, the bookseller who might only get a permit for one particular book in the whole of his career as a bookseller, would be obliged to keep this register and fill it up. The sending out of these forms would cause an unnecessary amount of trouble. It would impose a considerable amount of trouble on the bookseller who received the register. When a thing has to be done generally such as happens in the case of cartridges, then everyone knows what the necessary provision is, but in a case like this, if you had to have a register, the bookseller would probably be ignorant of it. On the whole, I do not think that it would help the administration of the Act. I think that it would cause a great deal more of annoyance than good.
There is one sub-section at the end, and in trying to meet the Deputy on that I would go a small way. Sub-section (7) states that the Minister "may at any time by order revoke any permit granted under this section." I do not think that is necessary, because permits will never be given, to use a legal phrase which Deputies Ruttledge and Little, perhaps, will follow, in gross. A permit will always be given to a certain individual to sell to a certain individual. You may stock twenty and sell to whom you like. I would call the attention of Deputy Ruttledge to the last words in sub-section (3), which are to this effect, that the Minister may grant any person a permit subject to such conditions and limitations as he may think fit to impose and shall specify in such permit.
So, if it became necessary, in some strange circumstances which I do not myself foresee at the moment, that it should be advisable that you should trace from hand to hand into whose hands a particular book has passed, then in the particular permit given to the individual that can be set out. You see that is very broad. You have, on the whole, this to consider, that, administratively, if it ever becomes necessary it can be carried out, and that in cases where it is not necessary it would be, as I have said, a considerable inconvenience and would involve the State in some small expense that is, as regards the printing of these permit books. I really do not think that the amendment would help the Bill.
There does not appear to be anything in the Bill to permit the permit being given in gross. It might happen that a particular book would be necessary for, say, a class of medical students.
If the Deputy would allow me to interrupt, might I say that we have excluded medical books. Deputy Sir James Craig's amendment is to be accepted by the House.
That amendment has yet to be drafted and brought in.
No, I mentioned the exact wording of it, except that I changed one word in it.
Suppose that some class was studying social problems and that a bookseller applies for, say, thirty copies of a book, a situation would there arise in which the Minister would be put in a certain difficulty. He would wish to grant the permit and would like to see that this book only went to very special people. In that case a register would be of considerable assistance to him. Also it would be very valuable from the point of view of the person who, say, had given the order to the bookseller for the book. Say that in one of the Universities there were five or six people, or perhaps ten people, taking all the Universities together, and that they wished to have a particular book which was prohibited, they would have written or called on their bookseller and asked him to get the book for them. They would have applied for the permit, and perhaps for some reason or other they might be found with that book. If they could refer the police to the bookseller and say: "You will find my name in the register," or if the police knew that their name was in the register, it would be a protection to them. It would put them to the minimum of inconvenience in the matter.
I am sorry I cannot meet the Minister with regard to withdrawing this amendment. So far as I understand, and so far as I intended, it is merely for the purpose of protecting what might be called both sides, the people who get the books and the people who dispose of or sell or distribute the books. If this register is kept it will facilitate both sides, and it will be a protection to the people who are entitled to those books against the books getting into the hands of people who are not entitled to them, and a protection to the people who are entitled to get them from getting into trouble. I think if the Minister considers it from that point of view he will see that this register would be a necessary safeguard and strength to the Bill and a protection to the people who would be entitled to get a permit under it. When the Minister talks of very few licences being granted, that is purely a matter of conjecture. He cannot say at the moment how many licences will be granted. The Minister, or anybody in the House, can only vaguely arrive at some estimate as to the number that may have to be put into operation. Perhaps it may be a very large number, but if there were only a few it might be easy to devise a method of control of the register. It has been mentioned by the Minister that there is some sort of analogy between the Firearms Act and the Game Preservation Act. The Firearms Act may be very necessary, but if we are to believe all we see in the papers from vigilance societies, and such other organisations, the firearms in this country are only a very minor danger compared with the corruption, and so on, that this Bill is intended to protect the people from.
Do not take me as agreeing with that. My view is the opposite.
I did not state that I agreed with it myself. I was just using an illustration. With regard to the Firearms Act and the Game Preservation Act, registers will be kept. It is not going to be said, I suppose, that that will impose any great hardship on the people who will have to keep them, and I do not think there will be any difficulty in devising regulations under the Censorship Bill that will enable registers to be kept. I submit that the keeping of these registers will protect all parties interested, and it is absolutely necessary if you are to prevent books getting out of control and getting into the hands of people not entitled to get them, and in that way getting innocent people into trouble.
I am afraid I still remain unconvinced by Deputy Ruttledge and Deputy Little. Deputy Little takes concrete examples of students. How many registers does he mean? A bookseller is to have a register, and each of the students in a class has to have a register also. Is that what he intends?
Then take the other case. You find game in the hands of game dealers. Where or from whom did he buy it? He must account for that. Here in this case no purchaser will have a book, and no purchaser will be allowed to let out a book, unless a licence has been granted to him. What is the meaning of his having a register I do not know. If he circulates the book the person who is not entitled to the book and in whose possession the book was found would be liable to prosecution and the person who had received the book under permit would also be liable to prosecution. Further, I do not see how the register would help in that. I think it must be taken for granted that whoever puts the Act into force will be somebody who has a reasonable amount of commonsense, and who will carry out the intention of the Act. I cannot see the advantage of making the Act unnecessarily cumbersome in the very few cases which in the nature of things must arise. I think the Bill is a strong Bill.
I do not think it is advisable or wise to have in this Bill what is unnecessary for effecting its purpose, and what would be considered by the world at large, the booksellers and other persons, as a purely vexatious matter. I am afraid I cannot accept the amendment. I would impress on the Deputy that in an occasional case, like a social circle that satisfy the licence-granting authorities they want a book, then provision might be made. In the case of a large number of indefinite persons, say ten or fifteen persons, special arrangements would have to be made. That is what the Bill has envisaged, and that is why the Bill says the Minister administratively shall or can so do.
I do not see any provision in the Bill by which a licence must be granted to an individual, the person who gets the book. "If the licence is given the Minister may if he thinks fit grant any person a permit in writing to sell or keep for sale or keep for distribution," and so on. That is a licence to the distributor and not to the individual.
The Act could only be administered in the sense that except in abnormal cases no bookseller could be given the right to sell indiscriminately. Take the Deputy's interpretation, that he keeps a register of the person to whom he sells. You trace it into the person's hands. What good is that? What use is it? You know that a bookseller, Mr. So-and-so, has sold books to Tom Jones, John White, and so on. What good is that unless these persons have also been investigated as to whether they are fit and proper persons?
Does the Minister propose that in every individual case of a book he must under the regulations make sure of the person who is to get the book?
As to either the persons or class of persons who are going to get it. It is not going to be a licence or privilege to a bookseller to sell a book. It is a privilege to certain persons to get through a bookseller a book.
Take the case I mentioned of a class, say, of thirty, who require a particular book. There it would be very much simpler if the bookseller had a register in which he could enter the names and addresses of the persons who wanted the book, and the purpose for which it is wanted. No one going into his shop, knowing he would have to give his name and address, would venture to do so unless he wanted the book for a bona fide reason.
I am not going that length with the Deputy. In that case it would have to be a condition of the licence to the bookseller that he could only sell to that particular class of person named.
Who is to decide whether Mr. Jones is a suitable person to give a book to or not?
If it is not proved that Mr. Jones is a suitable person to get a book, then Mr. Jones will not get it. Mr. Jones will have to prove that he is a person who ought to get a book. Otherwise the book cannot be sold to him. That is how I envisage the working of this Act.
What evidence will Mr. Jones have to produce to that bookseller to enable him to get a book? Will he have to produce a permit from the Minister for Justice?
That is the point I am trying to get — that there must be some visible evidence that he is the person.
Then what is the objection to the bookseller recording the fact that he has issued to this particular person a book that is prohibited?
I made it clear that in my opinion it would do harm to the smooth working of the Act. I thought I made it clear that, in my opinion, it would be unnecessarily cumbersome and expensive, and I do not want to tie up the Bill too much, and to tie it unnecessarily.
I do not know how it will lead to expense or trouble.
You might have to print the register and to distribute it.
No, the register would be provided already.
In the next amendment there is a suggestion for a register for another purpose, and perhaps I might be permitted to ask the Minister for some enlightenment in this matter. I assume that the Minister has accepted in principle the idea that there are certain books which it is desirable should not be generally circulated but which should be accessible on special occasions to special persons or authorities. Is the machinery for divising the suitable person to whom a book should be sold to rest with the Department of Justice? Will it be that a person will apply to the Department of Justice for a permit and that when he gets that permit he will give it to his bookseller when ordering the book? Now I see a difficulty there. That book will go through the Post Office and through the Customs. Under Section 14 of the Bill the Customs are bound to stop that book. The Minister, therefore, will have to warn the Customs and the Postal authorities — he will have to send notice of the fact that he has permitted a particular person to get the book. I may be wrong in that, but there is an easier and a more simple way of doing it. I wonder has the Minister visualised the machinery that will get over this difficulty?
It will be necessary to inform the Customs authorities that such and such a book addressed to such and such a person is coming in, and it will be also necessary to convey the same information to the Postal authorities.
Would the Minister for Justice have to do that?
Yes, I think so, or else he will have to send a particular form to the bookseller who will send it on. However, that is a small matter of detail which I have not considered. That will come under one of the regulations which will be drawn up for the working of the Act.
It is these regulations that will make the whole difficulty. In ordinary practice I get word from the Post Office that goods have been consigned to me which are considered to be contraband and that I must appear in propria persona before a particular body to claim the goods. Then they tell me that the mere fact that these goods have been sent on — even though I have no knowledge of them — may render me liable to a criminal prosecution. Something between that procedure and the other might be adopted. If these goods were addressed to a bookseller the information would be sent to me that such goods had been held up and then the onus would be on me to produce evidence. Perhaps some procedure of that kind might be adopted.
I have not considered the procedure, but that matter will come under the regulations that will be drawn up. There might be some provision whereby a person who wanted a book in a great hurry——
Nothing coming through the Customs can come in a hurry.
Would the Minister, seeing the principle involved and the point that has been pressed by me and the other Deputies who followed me, in making out these regulations, bear in mind or give some undertaking that he would keep as near as possible in trying to guard against the principle and the danger that I see involved in this matter?
Very well, I am satisfied to withdraw the amendment.
"Where necessary the Minister may order," and so on.
Very well, I am satisfied to withdraw it.
Amendment 70, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment 71, standing in my name, reads:—
To add at the end of the section a new sub-section as follows:—
It shall be lawful, under conditions specified in the register (hereinafter referred to as the Register of Prohibited Publications) for any person to import into Saorstát Eireann for his own use or for sale on order to another person (in which case a record of the sale shall be made in a special sales book which shall be open to inspection by officials of the Department of Justice) any book which is entered in the register (hereinafter referred to as the Register of Prohibited Publications) and which is designated in the said register as conditionally prohibited.
We have already discussed this principle and the Minister has given his views on it. I may be obstinate, unfortunately, but I am not altogether convinced that my amendment is unreasonable. I accept the Minister's dictum. Restrictive legislation is always vexatious, but I think the Minister will allow that even restrictive legislation should not be unnecessarily vexatious. Now I feel that if there were a research student who wanted to get books in a hurry he would feel it a great restriction and a thing that is very annoying and vexatious if the books were held up continually owing to his having to ask for special permission for every one of them. There was one matter mentioned in the course of the debate. We provided for medical books and for books on medical jurisprudence. But scientific books and particularly physiological books and books of a sociological nature might very easily get upon the Black List. Now it might be desirable that these books should be in the hands of our research students. I wonder could the Minister provide for that by providing that some kind of general permission might be given for a group of books of the type that Deputy Little referred to?
As far as I understand the Deputy's suggestion, it is that there should be a species of conditional prohibition to meet this point—that these books are to be imported for a certain class but not for another class. That would be impossible. I do not see how you could concede that. The book goes through the Customs, through the Post Office, and the Customs official would have to discover everything about the natural history of the person who was the consignee. I do not want to be abrupt with the Deputy but I think I expressed my views upon this section already.
I can give the Minister a case where there would be a practical difficulty. Now, there is a book at present being produced, a book of a sociological nature in connection with the quest of Herbert Spencer. The purpose of this book is to gather sociological facts on everything, that is, from all books, and to put these facts in tabular form together. Now, some subjects of sociology would, of course, never come under the ban of the Censorship Board. There are such questions as war, art, transport, dress, eatables, and so on. These would not come under the ban. But there are other subjects that, I presume, would. There are diseases. There is a very old disease, syphilis, that has been treated in one of these volumes. Some facts have been brought out recently. Books of that sort would be necessary to the student of research, but such books might be stopped by the Minister. There is the difficulty. In that case I think something like conditional prohibition might be placed upon a group of books.
Would it simplify the problem if we considered the possibility of having a single authorised sewer pipe through which this stuff would come? I am not using that expression in an offensive way, but simply because I could not think of any other word. Suppose we had one single source through which this literature would come?
Then we might be able to arrange some restriction and give permission wherever it was desirable to do so. For instance, one could only purchase such a book through some recognised bookseller or educational centre.
I do not think Deputy Flinn's phrase, "authorised sewer pipe," is correct. What Deputy Alton was dealing with was serious books which were condemned, but which, nevertheless, a student of sociology might very reasonably expect. There are persons in the State who might very reasonably expect to get such books. They might find it necessary to set up a concrete thesis as to what the book was advocating. A man might be writing a thesis contrary to what the book would advocate. I do not think Deputy Alton's suggestion can be properly characterised as an "authorised sewer pipe." I do agree with Deputy Flinn to this extent, that it would be impossible to segregate people except by licence of some sort.
I may have overstated the case, and possibly I did. I do not want to open the way for what might be characterised as sewage literature coming into this country. The literature that I do contemplate, as the Minister very kindly explained, is literature of a scientific character, but that should not be for general circulation. There are many books, for instance, of a physiological and sociological character that might be required in certain circles in the Free State. Perhaps the Minister could devise some machinery by which they could be readily obtainable by those who would require them. It is a special case, but it is one that should be catered for, in my judgment. I think the claim of research students in sociological and other similar matters is a fairly equitable claim.
I cannot see that there would be any difficulty. Let us say there is a student who wants books and draws up a list of twenty books. The Minister is satisfied that he is a bona fide student and that he is going to use the books himself. There would be no objection in the case of a serious student. He is the type of person who would not be likely to spread these things all over the country. There is nothing to prevent him sending in a list of twenty books, say, and getting a permit en bloc.
If we can get a permit en bloc that would be satisfactory.
I do not see any reason why you should not.
Amendment 71, by leave, withdrawn.
Question —"That Section 11 stand part of the Bill"— put and agreed to.
(1) The Minister shall prepare and keep a register to be called and known as "The Register of Prohibited Publications" (in this section referred to as the register) in such form as shall be prescribed by the Minister by regulations made under this Act.
(2) Whenever a prohibition order is made there shall forthwith be entered in the register—
(a) if such order relates to a book, the name of such book, the edition or editions of such book to which such order applies, the names of the author and the publisher of such book if and as stated in such book, the date of such order and the date of the publication thereof in the "Iris Oifigiúil," and
(b) if such order relates to a periodical publication, the name of such publication, the names of the proprietor and the publisher of such publication if and as stated in such publication, the date of such order and the date of the publication thereof in the "Iris Oifigiúil."
(3) Whenever a prohibition order is revoked by the Minister under this Act the entry in the register of the book or periodical publication to which such order relates shall be erased and whenever a prohibition order is amended by the Minister under this Act the particulars of such amending order and of the amendment effected thereby shall be entered in the register opposite the entry of such book or periodical publication.
(4) The register shall be open to inspection free of charge by any person at such place in the City of Dublin and at such hours as shall be prescribed by the Minister by regulations made under this Act and a copy of any entry in the register certified by an officer of the Minister to be a true copy shall be furnished by the Minister to any person on payment of such charge as shall be fixed from time to time by the Minister with the consent of the Minister for Finance.
(5) A document purporting to be a copy of an entry in the register and to be certified by an officer of the Minister to be a true copy shall, without proof of the signature of such officer or of the fact that he is such officer, be accepted in all courts of justice as evidence until the contrary is proved of the terms of such entry and that the same was contained in the register at the date on which such certificate purports to have been given.
(6) The fact that a book or a periodical publication is at any particular time entered in the register shall be conclusive evidence that a prohibition order has been made in regard thereto and that such order is then still in force and the terms of such entry in the register shall be conclusive evidence of the editions of such book or issues of such periodical publication to which such order applies.
I beg to move amendment 72:—
To add at the end of sub-section (1), line 26, after the word "Act," the words, "and the Minister shall cause to be printed and published in a form available to the public and at regular intervals the Register of Prohibited Publications."
This amendment is not for the purpose of advertising prohibited books, and I do not think it would have the effect of giving appreciably greater publicity to the books on the list than the method of advertising proposed by the Minister. It simply is to enable a law-abiding, reputable citizen to obtain information at a particular time as to what the list consists of, so that he may avoid breaking the law. I do not think it is to be expected that the average person should have to search through back numbers of the official journal in order to find out what books are prohibited. It is a perfectly natural proceeding that the Minister should get a register of these books, and that is what the amendment seeks to procure. It also seeks to establish the power of the citizen to obtain knowledge of the register if he so requires and it justifies his reason for asking for it.
As the Bill stands, the Minister "shall prepare and keep a register to be called and known as ‘The Register of Prohibited Publications'...in such form as shall be prescribed by the Minister by regulations made under this Act. (2) Whenever a prohibition order is made there shall forthwith be entered in the register — (a) if such order relates to a book, the name of such book, the edition or editions of such book to which such order applies, the names of the author and the publisher of such book...." What the Deputy says is that there shall not merely be a publication in the "Iris Oifigiúil," but there shall be, in addition, a printed copy of the register.
Made up from time to time.
Yes, made up from time to time. I see no objection to that, provided it is a thing that could be made up from time to time for sale. A person buys for a certain sum of money this particular list of books so that he may be able to know what books to read and what books not to read. I cannot see any objection to that. As a matter of fact, very recently I looked through a copy of the Index Expurgatorius, a most famous index.
In view of the fact that the next amendment takes a different tone, I would like to reinforce the Minister's willingness. I hope I am not transgressing the spirit in which, apparently, the Dáil has decided to discuss this matter. I have a library down in Sligo and in it are some books that conceivably might be put on the register, such as Aristophanes, a translation of Rabelais, and Burton's translation of the Arabian Nights. Unless there is some printed list issued, before I lend, or even give to a guest staying in the house, any of the books that possibly would be prohibited, I would have to come to Dublin, go to the Department of Justice and inspect the register there. Surely that is very absurd—to have to travel about 250 miles in order to satisfy myself that a certain book is not on the list drawn up. If the Minister prints from time to time a register containing a list of prohibited books and makes it available at a reasonable price, then all law-abiding subjects anxious not to distribute books that have been banned by the Censorship Board will know where they are. If the register is only to be kept in the Department of Justice and is only available for inspection within limited civil service hours, it will be impossible for a man when he wants to take a book to bed with him to know whether or not he is, by taking a certain book, committing an offence. That is carrying the censorship to absurdity, and I hope the Minister will accept the amendment or the principle embodied in it.
If the Minister accepts the principle of amendment 72, I do not want to press the actual words. He can insert it in the form he wishes later on, and I shall withdraw the amendment.
Would the Minister consider that it would be necessary to insert something to provide that the list on publication should not appear in the ordinary daily Press?
The Deputy will recollect that there was an amendment that the list should appear and we negatived it.
Having negatived that, there is nothing in the Bill to prevent any newspaper exploiting that list and publishing it.
I will consider that matter as to whether it would be advisable to prevent newspapers from publishing it. There is a good deal to be said on both sides. On the one side, it is necessary that persons should really know where they are, and, on the other side, it might be that it would encourage persons going out of the country to read such books outside — that nasty-minded people going outside the country might spend their whole time in reading books which are on the list and that that would not be advisable. At the same time, they might spend 5/- if they wished to get a copy of this index. However, I will consider the point as to whether it would be advisable, because there is a good deal to be said on both sides.
I think that this particular principle which he has now accepted affords an opportunity to the Minister, because he has met the difficulty of having the list available for serious people who want to have it. He can then add something to the effect that other publications would be prohibited.
A list like this would be absolutely necessary for the working of the Act. It is really adding nothing to what is essential. How could the Post Office or the Customs work it unless they had a list? There will be always have to be a list available.
My point is that it has to be available to the public.
I will consider Deputy Little's suggestion, that while it might appear in this form it should not be printed in the Press. Of course, I take it the Press would be entitled to comment, even with any amendment which Deputies may put up, on the inclusion or non-inclusion of any particular book in the list. You cannot muzzle Press comment on the actions of the censor. That would be wrong. You must let public opinion play. If the Deputy drafts an amendment for the Report Stage, we will be able to discuss it.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments 73 and 74 not moved.
I move amendment 75:—
In sub-section (4) to delete from the words "The Register," line 47, to and including the words "Act and," line 50.
This is to provide that the register should not be open for public inspection. The prohibitions will be sufficiently published in "Iris Oifigiúil" without leaving it open to people of morbid minds to inspect the list. It would be very undesirable to have the register available to any person free of charge.
The Deputy's idea is that a person should not be able to inspect the original register — that he should be simply able to purchase a copy of it. I would be willing to accept that, because subsequently there are provisions under which official copies can be obtained where necessary.
Suppose somebody wants it for the purpose of evidence, they should have access to this list.
If the Deputy looks later on in the Bill, he will see that you can get a certified copy of the register, and if it is under the seal of the Department of Justice it will be original evidence.
You may have a publication up to the 31st January, and then if I come in June and want to know what has been prohibited in the interval, would I be entitled to do that?
There is a good deal in that point.
I think that is a solid point, and I advise the Minister to consider the retention of this.
You might make it difficult for the public to see it, without making it impossible, by some method which would require some form of notice.
Deputy Flinn's point is met by the fact that it is not actually necessary to see the original register. A person could always look up "Iris Oifigiúil" to see what books were prohibited. It would probably be easier to go to a public library and look up the recent issue of "Iris Oifigiúil." There is not, therefore, very much in the point.
In view of what has been said, is there anything to be gained by accepting the amendment?
I do not see that there is anything to be gained. If you are printing a copy of the register and making it available, the morbid-minded person who wanted to get at the original register, and who would not be satisfied with the published register, would need to be most complicated in his mind as well as morbid.
Speaking as one who is simple-minded and who knows there is a time element in every list, I want to know by what means I, as a simple-minded man, can keep myself up-to-date, having regard to the fact that there must be an admitted interval between the publication of those lists.
The Deputy in order to keep himself up-to date must get "Iris Oifigiúil" on the morning it comes out, because orders have no effect until they are promulgated. The Deputy will be quite up-to-date if he subscribes to "Iris Oifigiúil," and he will also have the pleasure of knowing that he is helping the funds.
The circulation of "Iris Oifigiúil" will go up by thousands.
Excellent. But I do not see that there is very much point in preventing the original from being open to public inspection when the copies are open; I do not think there is any point in it.
Amendment 75, by leave, withdrawn.
I move amendment 76:
To add at the end of sub-section (4) the words "The mode of application for a copy of an entry in the register shall be such as may be prescribed by the Minister by regulations made under this Act."
It seems to me this amendment gives a power to the Minister that he ought to have, and it puts an obstacle in the way of people desiring information as to these unsavoury publications.
This amendment is unnecessary, because the Minister has power to make regulations under the Act.
In listening to the discussion on this Bill I am reminded of the gentleman in the famous book who was thinking of a way to dye his whiskers green, and then used so large a fan that they could not be seen. As I understand the point, we are solemnly providing that the Minister ought to prohibit publications and provide that people shall incur certain penalties, but my friend Deputy Doyle apparently thinks that it is not necessary they should know whether it is an offence or not.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 12 agreed to.
Section 13 (Search-warrant in respect of prohibited books).
This section simply gives power for the carrying out of the Act by means of search-warrants.
Section agreed to.
Amendments 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82 not moved.
Section 14 agreed to.
Section 15 (Restrictions on publication of reports of judicial proceedings).
Question proposed: That this section be added to the Bill.
On that question I would draw the attention of the Minister to the use of the words "would be calculated" in paragraph (a), sub-section (1). The words are: "any indecent matter the publication of which would be calculated to injure public morals." I would ask the Minister to make clear what is the intention there.
My recollection is that the section is completely taken from the English statute. If it had ever occurred to anybody that there was difficulty about the words "would be calculated," a decision might have been taken in England. But it does not give me personally any difficulty as to what it means.
Would the Minister give us his own interpretation of its meaning.
A thing that is likely or that would have a tendency, or that is likely in its tendency to effect a particular purpose.
That which would tend to injure public morals.
The effect of which, in all probability, will be to injure public morals.
Question —"That Section 15 stand part of the Bill"— put and agreed to.
Question proposed: That Section 16 stand part of the Bill.
This is rather a valuable section, because Section 15 dealt merely with reports of occurrences outside the country. Section 16 would prevent any papers in our own country printing unpleasant details of offences committed in this country.
I would like to have some assurance from the Minister in connection with this matter. Let us take the case of a printer who acted under the instructions of a publisher and published a book or a periodical or a newspaper that would come under the operation of this section. I should like to know what would be the effect for the printer. Assuming that the publishers were men of straw and that the printer had assets in the shape of machinery and plant, not to say anything about a bank balance, how would the printer stand in that case? So far there is nothing in the Bill which would make it incumbent on the Department concerned to furnish the printers with a list of suspects. We are going so far to put any amount of obstacles in the way of certain reading that we might at a later stage do something to encourage good reading. However that is a matter for another occasion. I want to get some assurance from the Minister, in any case, that when we do set about punishing a person or persons under this section we should not punish the wrong persons. I do not want the printer to suffer for the sins of the publisher. They are often two distinct persons.
Some printers, I understand, are described as master printers. A master printer may do some printing on his own account. If the Deputy looks at this section he will see that it deals with reports of judicial proceedings. For all practical purposes it will be only reports of judicial proceedings in this country. I do not suppose they will go to the trouble of getting nauseous details that would not be public in England. If they did the person who is the proprietor or editor or publisher of such paper or periodical or book, or the person who is master printer and who breaks the provision would suffer. That provision is also taken from the English statute.
Question 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 print or publish or cause or procure to be printed or published, or
(b) to sell or expose, offer, or keep for sale, or
(c) to distribute, offer or keep for distribution,
any book or periodical publication which advocates or which might reasonably be supposed to advocate 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.
(2) Every person who acts in contravention of this 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 for any term not exceeding six months or to both such fine and such imprisonment.
(3) The Minister may if he thinks fit for reasons which appear to him sufficient grant to any person a permit in writing to do all or any of the following things, that is to say, to print, publish, sell, keep for sale, distribute, or keep for distribution any book or periodical publication the printing, publishing, selling, or distributing of which without such permit would be a contravention of this section, 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.
I think we will discuss Amendments 83, 84 and 85 together.
Amendments Nos. 83, 84 and 85 were as follows:—
In sub-section (1) to delete from the words "which advocates," line 50, to and including the word "supposed," line 51, and substitute therefor the words "of which the main purpose is."— (Ernest H. Alton.)
In sub-section (1), line 50, after the words "publication which" to insert the words "in its general tendency."—(William E. Thrift.)
In sub-section (1), lines 50 and 51, to delete the words "or which might reasonably be supposed to advocate."— (Hugh A. Law, Michael Tierney.)
My motive in framing this amendment is to try and secure an improvement in the wording of the Bill. The words used by the Minister are so loose, and he has cast his net so wide he possibly will get in it matter which he has not contemplated. I would like to know, for instance, whether in the case of a magazine which might contain advertisements in regard to books, to which reference is made here so frequently, it would ipso facto come under the ban. I want to be quite sure that while we deal precisely, severely, and inexorably with literature that advocates such matters as the prevention of conception, etc., we may not sweep into the net as well literature that would be comparatively innocuous and which any educated man should be free to read. The words "which might reasonably be supposed to advocate" are such that a very wide meaning could be given to them. Nearly everyone, particularly a crank, claims to be a reasonable man. I would like something more frank and more precise which would prevent abuse of this clause.
I think I have already forestalled any remarks that I could make on this section when I was dealing with the previous one. I then explained that this section is the one under which a decision will be come to by the Court. Prosecutions must be brought under this section before a Court which must decide that a book advocates, or may reasonably be supposed to advocate, the unnatural prevention of conception. That would be a matter entirely to be decided by the Court. As to whether an advertisement does or does not amount to that, I apprehend it would depend very much on the form of such advertisement. If you get a book or periodical consisting of a whole series of advertisements it might be very indecent indeed. A Deputy opposite who is now present will recollect that he sent me a copy of a publication which consisted of nothing but advertisements which were most indecent and which could be said distinctly to be advocating the unnatural prevention of conception. I have already stated that I was willing to make two amendments in this sub-section. One of them is to this effect, namely, "unless the seller can show that by the exercise of reasonable care he could not have known the contents thereof." That is not making him absolutely an insurer of the contents of the book.
It makes it clear that if he sells books of this nature, which he has reasonable grounds for thinking may contain propaganda of this prohibited sort, it will be his duty to make some investigation himself into the book. I have done that because I consider that it might easily happen that a bookseller might suddenly get in a periodical in which he had no reason for thinking was made the medium by any person for this particular class of propaganda and might discover after the first week that it was made such medium. It would be rather unfair to punish him for that. On the other hand if he knew that it was a particular class of periodical which previously contained such propaganda he ought to be on his guard. If he knew that its general tone was likely to be of that nature he ought also be on his guard. When I accepted the amendment of Deputy Law and Deputy Tierney the other night I also indicated that I would insert an amendment to this effect, namely, "any book or periodical publication whether same may appear on the register of prohibited publications or not." The reason is that certain works, certain publications, may not have been up to then condemned, but he should keep his eye open if they are of a doubtful nature and see that they do not circulate. For instance, a periodical will not, under Section 8, be condemned if it has one particular article of any nature. It must be general in its tone, but this section says that it will be condemned if it has propaganda of this particular nature in it, even in one issue. Therefore it is necessary to have something of that kind in the Bill.
I do not grasp the Minister's reference to propaganda. The problem of birth-control is being discussed in most countries, whether we are in sympathy with it or not. It is a thing to which we cannot shut our eyes, and if the question can be discussed decently, without advocating or teaching it, I say that some books on the subject could be permitted as no harm would be done to the reader. A book might, for instance, discuss the problem speculatively.
I want to know where the Minister's amendments would come in?
The first amendment which I read out would come in in sub-section (b), and the other would come in after the words "periodical publication" in line 50.
The amendment which is down in the name of Deputy Law and myself was really intended to elicit from the Minister what exactly he intended to mean by that phrase, "which may reasonably be supposed to advocate." To anyone reading over the section it does not look as if there was any great difference between the word "advocates" and the phrase, "may reasonably be supposed to advocate." It does not look as if the second phrase was very necessary. Either the word "advocates" by itself, or the phrase, "may reasonably be supposed to advocate," would perhaps be sufficient. The whole section has a rather general air about it which looks as if it might be possible that books which it did not intend to cover may be brought under it. As regards the whole question of the advocacy of birth-control, it occurs to me that it might be possible to make a distinction in a Bill like this between two kinds of advocacy. There is, for instance, the kind of advocacy which consists in definitely advocating and advertising certain methods of contraception. That kind of advocacy would, itself, I think, generally come under the heading of "obscenity" and could be generally dealt with as an indecent publication, so that there will be very little difficulty about it under this or any other section. There is another kind of publication which consists rather in discussing the matter from what might be called an economic point of view. That is a kind of publication which, as Deputy Alton states, is very common at present, particularly in England, and it raises the question as to how we are to deal with such a publication in this country. I am not saying that we should not deal with it. I am not maintaining that that kind of economic advocacy of birth-control is not dangerous.
It seems to me that, as it stands, this section is somewhat too vague and uncertain, and leaves people who are likely to be affected by the Bill in a very doubtful position. Suppose you take an English periodical which is otherwise quite unobjectionable or a book by a celebrated playwright, for example, by a well-known clergyman, or by a famous story-writer, a book which in one of its pages contains language which might be called advocacy of contraception, from an economic rather than from a direct point of view, I think there will always be a difficulty, whether the person to adjudicate is a judge or the Minister or the Censorship Committee, in deciding whether a particular book of that kind comes under this section or not. There will always be a certain class of publication which will be on the border-line and about which there may be different opinions. Personally I have no brief for any of these publications, but I can see that booksellers and newsagents will find themselves in considerable difficulty under this section because of the uncertainty that is sure to exist in such cases as this.
There are a good many well-known weekly newspapers, a good many English weekly periodicals, which quite often contain articles dealing with this question from an economic point of view, and if that kind of article is to be construed as advocacy of birth-control, then the situation created by this section for our booksellers and newsagents will be a very difficult situation indeed. You will have cases arising in which a newsagent like the firm of Eason here in Dublin will not know whether he has committed an offence until he has been brought into court and tried — tried for an offence about which he cannot know until the magistrate or the judge has decided whether it is committed or not. I cannot see how that state of affairs can be regarded as good law. I think it is a most peculiar principle to import into the Bill, that you create a class of offence which you refrain from defining and that you leave the definition of the offence to the judge or magistrate before whom the defendant is brought.
I would like you to take a concrete case. It may be nonsense.
I beg your pardon. My voice is more penetrating than I thought.
I do not at all insist that I have the right point of view, but it did occur to me as a danger which I would like to have cleared up. That is really why I am raising the question. Take the case of Eason's here in Dublin, Eason's sell half a dozen weekly political journals. Any one of those journals may contain an article by that well-known clergyman, whom Deputy Byrne quoted here yesterday evening, or by a well-known romance writer or a well-known playwright who advocates this practice from an economic point of view. The advocacy may very well be of such a kind that no two people would agree as to whether it constituted advocacy of birth control or not. No one could tell in a great many of these cases if the judge would decide whether the possession or sale of the periodical constituted an offence under the Act, and you would have a newsagent in the position of having committed an offence without being certain himself whether it is committed or not until he is brought to court.
Take another case. A newsagent like Eason here in Dublin has in his premises an enormous number of books of every kind, books dealing with all sorts of questions, books into a great number of which what we might call economic advocacy of this practice may enter. The Minister said that it was an unheard of thing that individuals in the now defunct "recognised associations" should be expected to read every line in every book brought under their notice. Is it not an equally unheard of thing that a newsagent should be expected to read every line in every book, or even every line in a large number of books, which he has in stock, and that such an agent is likely to be brought into court and tried for the offence of not having read every line of every book, or every line of a large number of books which he has in stock? That is what the section would amount to, it seems to me. Deputy Law and I suggested as one way out of this difficulty that publications of this nature might well be decided upon by the Censorship Committee, because I submit it is clearly a question where you have to get a decision. I am not raising the question as to the merits of any particular decision. I have no opinion one way or another for the moment. I am not raising that matter, but I say it is a matter that must be decided clearly. You must have a judge of some kind to decide it, and I submit the judge should give a decision before the newsagent is made liable to prosecution.
Our way of meeting the matter was to have these publications brought before the Censorship Board in the ordinary way and decided on. We tried to have that brought about by an amendment to Section 7. It was pointed out then that the danger arose that books and periodicals of an offensive nature might obtain circulation in the country before they could be brought to the notice of the Censorship Board, and that danger was held, I think, by the Minister to justify him in keeping this section as it stands. Personally I am still not satisfied that the Bill as it is at present does not contain dangers of persecution, if I might put it so — dangers of interference in a very objectionable way with booksellers and newsagents — and I would suggest as a way out that in addition to having this kind of literature brought before the Censorship Board the Minister should also take power to prohibit books and periodicals provisionally—that is to say, that the Minister should, on his initiative, prohibit a certain book or a certain periodical for a period until there would be time for it to go before the Censorship Board for decision and have it put on the list in the ordinary way. That would get over the danger that such publications might circulate all over the country before they could be stopped, and it would enable newsagents and booksellers to know when exactly they were committing an offence. I want to insist that that is the problem you have before you in this section, and I am not satisfied that it is dealt with satisfactorily in the section. You must enable people who are likely to be prosecuted to know whether or not they are committing an offence. I do not know whether it happens in other cases — I am not an expert in law — but it does seem to me as an ordinary citizen that it would be an extraordinary state of affairs if you could bring people into court for crimes that you have not defined. I think the method that I have suggested would meet the difficulty. Whether it would or not I would like to be satisfied as to the position of booksellers and newsagents under the section, and I hope that the House will press the Minister to make the matter clear.
In modification of the suggestion which Deputy Tierney has just made I think the same idea could be worked out by the Minister taking power to inform the bookseller that he is liable to prosecution if he continues to offer for sale such a book or paper, because it has been submitted to the Board of Censors. I fully agree with what Deputy Tierney has said; he has expressed what was in my mind better than I could have done it myself. If this is going to be a matter for the judges, surely it is our duty to see that the words in the Bill are as carefully drawn as possible, and not widely and loosely drawn. But it seems to me that the introduction of such words as "which advocates or which might reasonably be supposed to advocate" is simply making matters difficult for the bookseller or stationer. Now, I can imagine it being argued on the one side in the case of a particular book that it would not be reasonable care on the bookseller's part unless he had read every line and every word of the book, whereas I could imagine a bookseller putting forward the contention that it was absolutely impossible to read every word and every line of that particular book. I do not think that there is any difference of opinion between the Minister and myself, and between practically everyone of us here, as to the desirability of stopping a certain kind of thing, but in order to do that the Minister seems to me to be trying to do something that is a great deal more than there is any occasion at all for doing. It may be that in the word "advocacy" or the word "advocate" he sees something more than I do; I daresay that he does not mean a reference to this subject. Possibly he does.
How on earth could a mere reference be advocacy?
It depends on the nature of the reference, and it becomes a matter of opinion whether reference is advocacy or not. It becomes what Deputy Tierney said—a matter where the bookseller may argue with himself as to whether it is or is not advocacy, and he will not know until he has got a legal opinion as to whether he is breaking the law or not in putting this book up for sale. The Minister's wide expression is introducing difficulties where there is no need to introduce them. He would achieve his object by using much more closely defined words.
What words do you suggest?
The plan I have suggested with great diffidence, because the Minister would be able to suggest a much better plan, is that he should refer the publication to the Board of Censors and at the same time inform the bookseller that until a decision is obtained the sale of the publication is prohibited. That would surely ensure what the Minister desires, unless it is prosecutions he desires, and I submit that in having prosecutions he is not doing what everyone desires. We want to prevent prosecutions. I beg of the Minister to consider this section further, and to be as explicit in the words he chooses for it as it is possible for him or others to be.
My difficulty is that I have heard Deputies Tierney and Thrift, and I would very much like them to give us their idea of what would be more definite words.
My idea, as I said, was not to attempt to define in the Bill a thing that, of its very nature, is only capable of being defined for particular cases. My idea is that each particular book, newspaper, or article will have to be decided on by some person competent to decide, by some judge or board of judges, if you like, and what I was proposing was that every case of this kind should be referred to the Board of Censors in order that they might give an authoritative decision, pending which decision the Minister should have power provisionally to prohibit anything he thought came under this or some such section. That would enable booksellers to know where they were, and it would prevent literature of this kind from coming into circulation until there was a definite decision.
I gathered from Deputy Tierney's remarks that he was under the impression that this section makes the advocacy of birth-control illegal. I do not think that is so at all. I do not see how it could. What it does do is to make the unnatural prevention of birth illegal, which is quite a different thing.
I only used the words "birth control"— the subject is very difficult to deal with without using words in extraordinary meanings, perhaps — in order to avoid having to use that long phrase in the Bill—"the unnatural prevention of conception."
I think that clears up the point. The book will either advocate the thing that is to be prevented in this Bill or it will not.
I have fairly settled views on this matter which I am not able to express in public, but I want to say this, that there is a very great difference, as Deputy Tierney has pointed out, between the dissemination of books and articles that advocate certain methods to be used for the prevention of conception and books and articles that are written from what he calls the economic point of view, upon which I feel very strongly myself. There are very many instances where women every year are bearing children — who have borne a dozen — and they have no means of giving these children a proper livelihood. Therefore, there should be some control. As Deputy Little pointed out, that control might be of two kinds. It might be natural control or unnatural control, and I think that this House feels that books should not be introduced that advocate the unnatural control of conception. But I would be willing almost to go so far as to say that almost any method should be used in order to prevent the economic conditions that I see around me every day in connection with this problem. I do not want to go into that problem, but I think we should have some means of discriminating between these books, of which I know examples that are advocating certain methods, very serious things to be put into the hands of young people throughout the country, and to which I have the greatest possible objection, whereas I would have entire sympathy with those who are writing articles from the broad economic or social point of view that would, at all events, insist on some efforts being made to exert control over birth.
I do not want to discuss the subject in general. Deputy Sir James Craig has used the phrase that he is in entire sympathy with people who advocate a certain course. I am not criticising Deputy Sir James Craig. I only want to point out that I have not expressed, and I do not wish to express, any sympathy with these people. I only want to get the Dáil to look at this thing from the point of view of the bookseller, who cannot be sure whether, when a book advocates in a certain vague, distant or indirect way this practice, whether that advocacy constitutes advocacy within the meaning of the Bill or not. I do not want to discuss, and I do not think we should try to discuss, the economic advocacy of birth-control in general. But what I do want to point out is that there is a difference from the point of view of the bookseller between advocacy of the means on the one hand, and on the other hand advocacy from the long-distance economic point of view, of what might euphemistically be called by some people the control of population. That makes all the difference, from the point of view of the bookseller, and it is because I wanted to have the exact meaning of the phrase, "reasonably supposed to advocate," defined that I raised the matter at all.
It is "reasonably supposed to advocate unnatural—" That is the point. This clause as it stands is a very excellent practical argument in the mind of the bookseller to give the benefit of the doubt against any publication which he thinks could possibly be reasonably considered as advocating unnatural control.
I remember once hearing of a prisoner who was indicated in Connaught who was asked whether he was guilty or not guilty, and he made answer: "How do I know until the jury bring in their verdict?" He seems to have been very much in the same position as Deputy Tierney's stationer, who does not know whether he is guilty or not guilty, as to whether he is selling a book which is or is not advocating these various things, until a magistrate has decided upon the facts of his particular case. I have been asked to explain the meaning of the words "which advocate or which might reasonably be supposed to advocate," etc. There is a very real distinction between these two things, because we know that there are different classes of books putting forward this particular propaganda. We know that they are being put forward for different purposes. We know that some of them are put forward for what Deputy Tierney calls economic reasons. Others are put forward for what I might call financial reasons, using the words in a very different sense. Some of them are put forward as Malthus put forward his original doctrine. Others were put forward for the purpose of selling certain articles, and generally for making money, either that the book itself will get a certain circulation, and be a paying proposition owing to its contents, or that it may be the vehicle for sale of certain things. There are certain classes of these pamphlets sold at 2d. or 3d. which do more harm probably than the larger books, and which are sold entirely for the latter purpose.
I want to make it perfectly clear that the view which I hold is this: that the motive or the argument which is put forward — it is always the same argument — on behalf of this particular kind of control does not matter. It is always this: "If you have not birth control you may have poverty, or the nation may be over-populated." They appeal either to the individual or to the whole country. I am equally opposed to both. I believe that birth control, because a nation may become overpopulated, will inevitably lead to race suicide, and the book which advocates that, no matter what the arguments it puts forward may be, no matter how it is treated, will equally come under this ban here—"which advocates or which might reasonably be supposed to advocate." But take the smaller class of book that I mentioned a moment ago. They might very easily condemn this; they might say: "We are not advocating it," but they might condemn it in a fashion, and they might say: "This must not be done," and then give all particulars of how it could be done, and say: "We are not advocating it." It is because that advocacy, under the guise of censure, should not be permitted to creep away with hypocrisy in this matter, and should not be successful that these words, "which might reasonably be supposed to advocate," must come in. It is said that it would be impossible for a bookseller to know. How does the bookseller know now whether he is selling a decent book or an indecent book? If he sells an indecent book at present he can be prosecuted. It is very hard, almost impossible as the law stands at present, to prosecute.
That is exactly the point.
How does he know now? It is very hard to prove the word "indecent" now.
He knows at the present moment he can sell practically anything without a prosecution against him succeeding. That is the point I tried to make.
How does he know when he is going over the border? There are certain things he can be prosecuted for. How does he know now when he is going over the border except by using his own intelligence? That is what he is asked to do in the Bill for the future. One half of the Deputy's argument was that the Minister should temporarily make orders for the prohibition of books and papers before a prosecution could be brought. How is the Minister to know? Supposing a paper comes here, how is any Minister for Justice to know the contents of any paper? The Deputy says that the newsagents who are selling them cannot know. How does the Deputy suggest that the Minister is to know? By what extraordinary information will the Minister know on Saturday night what will be the contents of the papers that the stationer is going to sell on the following Sunday morning?
Without interrupting the Minister, by what extraordinary providence would the newsagent know?
By looking through one copy.
By looking through one copy, say, of twenty different newspapers.
That is what I cannot understand. If it applies to the Minister, why not apply it to the newsagent?
It is the newsagent's business to sell them. You suggest a man cannot skim through a certain number of papers or have a staff to do it. I cannot follow that. Deputy Thrift says the words "reasonable care" are too vague. "Reasonable care" are words that run all through our law. No magistrate interpreting this section could possibly have before him words with which he is more familiar. They are words that are in daily use. You could not have more simple words. I ask the House, subject to the amendment I have suggested, which does away with the larger portion of the objections to this section, that unless there is some intelligence on his part or at least the absence of reasonable care on his part, to agree that the stationer should be liable.
That leaves a newsagent any week quite uncertain whether he can sell the "Daily News,""The Spectator," or "The Saturday Review," the "Times Literary Supplement," or any newspaper you like. It leaves the newsagent in a state of absolute and complete uncertainty as to what the Minister means about the advocacy of those practices and the economic advocacy being as bad as the other. I have said several times that I do not deny that. All I maintain is that there is a certain kind of border-line case in this as there is in many other matters which no newsagent, with rights as well as duties, can be expected to decide for himself under pain of prosecution. The Minister has expressed great scorn at the notion that he should be expected to decide in this matter. The Minister is in no way inferior in judgment to any newsagent, and if the Minister is incapable of deciding before the magistrate decides upon a matter, why should a newsagent be capable of deciding? The whole thing leaves me, for one, in a complete state of fog as to what exactly is going to be done under this section.
I hear Deputy Byrne saying "Hear, hear." I am completely at one with Deputy Byrne and the Minister in my wish to deal with this kind of propaganda, but, in each particular case, where does this propaganda come in? As far as I am concerned, I completely fail to understand what exactly is going to happen under the administration of this Bill. I can see every newsagent in Ireland puzzled out of his wits as to what he is going to do with practically every newspaper, because there is hardly a newspaper coming over here which will not contain, at one time or another, articles of the kind I have mentioned.
The Minister referred to the ordinary law of indecency. That has been in operation for hundreds of years. Practically no book or periodical, except its indecency is of a kind which leaps to the eye, can be made liable to a fine or penalty under that law. The very fact that it is inoperative is the reason for the presence of this Bill here. The very fact that it is impossible, in nine out of ten cases, to get a verdict in a prosecution under the old Indecency Act is responsible for the fact that we are bringing this Bill in here. A kind of prescription has grown up under the ordinary Indecency Act. It is perfectly obvious to anyone that the number of books or papers likely to be met under the Indecency Act is quite small, but in this case, the number of books or papers likely to be dealt with under this section is legion. Every English book on sociology, any book by a dozen writers I can name, any article or report either in a daily or weekly newspaper that comes over here, is capable of being made subject to a prosecution under this section. I do not object. It is quite right it should be so, but I want to see some means found by which the poor bookseller or newsagent can be protected from being prosecuted for ten different offences in the one day. If that is not going to happen, well and good, but as far as I am concerned I do not see how he can be protected under this section as it stands.
The Deputy stated that the newsagent would have to read the "Saturday Review" or the "Spectator" to decide. If the "Spectator" or the "Saturday Review" had previous articles dealing with this matter he would be inclined to expect such a thing, and he would glance through the heading or the table of contents. If the "Saturday Review," for example, were to come out with an article in favour of birth control, it would be the last thing anybody would expect, the last thing I would expect. I certainly think it would not require reasonable care to expect that there would be no article of the nature in it.
Does not your amendment cover that exactly?
That is what I have stated. Unless he shows reasonable care he will be liable. Take a libel. Suppose a newspaper publishes a libel. It is not to have a civil action brought against it because it says it really could not know whether it was libel or not.
How many times may a Deputy speak in this debate?
As many times as he likes. Keep quiet.
I am absolutely at the disposal of the House. The Minister referred to the "Saturday Review." I am quite positive that there is not a single one of these English periodicals in which articles dealing in one way or another with these matters have not appeared. Any member of the House who reads these periodicals will bear me out. When the Minister talks about the "Saturday Review" coming out unexpectedly with an article of this kind, he talks like a person who has not been in the world for the last twelve years. He talks as if he never reads these papers.
Then he astonishes me. The advocacy of these practices does not mean anything to him as far as I can see. That is all I have to say.
There has been no article of the kind in the "Saturday Review."
I have said all I have to say on the matter, except the Minister certainly does seem to me to be labouring under a very grave misapprehension. He appears to be completely innocent of the state of affairs that exists as regards the great majority of English periodicals or a very large number of ordinary English works dealing in any way at all with sociology.
I have three amendments. I can put one of the amendments and take a decision on it, or I can do what I suggested on Section 2, namely, if these amendments are not now pressed the Deputies can wait and see the Minister's amendments on the Report Stage, and in the interval perhaps find some common form of words which would lead us to some solution of the matter. If that is not done I will put one of the amendments and take the decision as covering the three.
I do not think anything the Minister said directly referred to the immediate point under consideration—the immediate point I have in mind. That is the case of a book which deals with something disconnected from this subject altogether, but which may drift, in a paragraph or two, or a page or two, into what someone may say was a discussion of the question, into what one person may say was advocacy of it and somebody else may say was advocacy against it. It may be quite a small section of the book. What I want to know is, how is the bookseller to decide? How is he to be prosecuted for something which occupies a very small space in that book? If he happened to see it, who is to be the judge of whether he is breaking the law or not if he allows the book to be sold? The Minister says a judge in the Court. I say I want to keep it from becoming a matter for prosecution altogether, because that is desirable, inasmuch as prosecution leads to advertisement—the very thing you want to stop.
I am afraid they may be so very clear words to me that they may not be so clear to the Deputy—the words "reasonable care." He must exercise "reasonable care" and no more.
Leaving it to the judge to decide?
took the Chair.
Amendment 83 put and declared negatived.
Question put and declared negatived, Deputies Alton, Thrift, Myles and Cole dissenting.
That disposes also of amendments 84, 85 and 86.
I move amendment 87:—
At the end of sub-section (1), line 54, to add the following proviso:—
Provided that no book or periodical publication shall be deemed to offend against this sub-section nor be made the subject of a prohibition order under sub-section (3) of Section 7 merely by reason of the fact that it contains an advertisement relating to a prohibited book or publication or to a book or periodical publication in which the unnatural prevention of conception is advocated.
I ask not merely the indulgence, but the help, of the House in regard to this amendment. It raises a very difficult and complex point. I frankly confess that I am not at all satisfied with the method by which we have endeavoured to solve it. I say that I am not satisfied with it because I recognise that, since the amendment was put on the order paper, certain things have been said and certain instances have been given which show me that the amendment probably shoots beyond the point at which I had aimed. On the other hand, there is, I venture to suggest to the Dáil, a real, practical difficulty which I have endeavoured, probably unsuccessfully, to meet. Before I explain what the amendment is, let me first explain what it is not, because this amendment, like some others, has been the subject of a good deal of, I dare say, perfectly innocent, but none the less substantial, misrepresentation. It has been supposed by a great many people that this amendment was designed in order to protect advertisements of contraception, whether by way of advertisement of theory or by advertisement of actual practice.
The Dáil, I am sure, will not make that mistake. It is quite obvious, if the amendment is read carefully, that it has nothing whatever to do with anything of the kind. What it does is this: it suggests that no book or periodical publication shall be deemed to offend against this sub-section or be made the subject of a prohibition order under an earlier sub-section merely by reason of the fact that it contains an advertisement relating to a prohibited book or publication and so on. The practical difficulty about the whole thing is this: let us take books first. Take the interesting series published by a very well-known and reputable firm of publishers called the "Today and To-morrow" series. There is in that series a book called, I think, "Hibernia" or the future of Ireland. I confess that I have not read that particular volume, though it is written by a man whom I know. I am told it is a very excellent work. I am certain that it contains nothing even remotely bearing upon any of the questions which we have been discussing here. Taken by itself, I am quite satisfied that there would be no question whatever of its being prohibited, or that any difficulty would arise in connection with it. But, as everybody knows, it is the habit of booksellers very frequently to insert upon the fly-leaf of their books—sometimes upon the loose cover of a book, but more often, I think, on the actual fly-leaf — a list of all the other publications of their firm. In cases, particularly where you get a book that is one of a series, it is the usual practice of the bookseller to print on the fly-leaf a list of all the books appearing in that series as well as a list of others that are about to appear in it.
I do not know that it has happened, but I can very well imagine that in a series, such as I am thinking of, in which you have books dealing with all sorts of subjects — such, for instance, as the future of science, the future of chemistry; I remember one written by a friend of mine which dealt with the future of clothes — there may be one book in connection with the future of Scotland, say, dealing with future populations. That book might very well deal with the subject in an objectionable way; possibly it might treat in the most objectionable way this very subject of birth control. See what follows. In so far as an advertisement is advocacy, and that is a point which I am not attempting to decide at the moment, it might very well be held to be advocacy of birth control. I apprehend that the very fact of the name of the hypothetical book that I suggest appearing on the fly-leaf in one or other of the series would, unless some amendment such as this were adopted, be sufficient to condemn the entire series under this section.
Then, again, take the case that has been suggested already by Deputy Tierney, of the great London weeklies. The Minister has said that he reads them. I know he does, and he will agree with me that, generally speaking, the kind of paper I have in mind, such for instance, as the "Nation," the "Saturday Review" and the "Spectator," are not papers, whether you approve or disapprove of their politics, which any sane person would ever dream of condemning under this Bill. Naturally, such a question cannot possibly arise. I have seen myself once or twice in the advertisement columns of every one of the papers I have mentioned a list of publishers' announcements relating to books which undoubtedly were liable to be condemned for advocating unnatural birth control. The problem is whether it is worth while risking, because of that more or less accidental association, having publication, in themselves entirely excellent, shut out. I want to be perfectly frank with the House, but that is the difficulty as I see it on the one hand. I also see the difficulty on the other hand, that though the amendment certainly was not intended to protect, and I do not think could possibly have the effect of protecting, advertisements advocating birth control or the methods of birth control, it might conceivably happen that where the advertisement was the substantial thing, and the text alongside it was really only an excuse, then an amendment of this kind might operate to protect — in other words, the amendment might lend itself to evasion of the law. As I do not desire that, I am not proposing to press the amendment. Having explained the difficulty, as I have seen it, I ask the Minister, before the Report Stage, to give the matter careful consideration in order to see whether he cannot do what I have failed to do — that is, to find a form of words to obviate the danger I have in mind while at the same time not running into the contrary danger I desire to avoid.
It seems to me that a certain type of Deputy in this House is more interested in the external population of this country than the internal population. We have listened to an address by Deputy Law endeavouring to prove to this House that certain things existed in this amendment which every man of common sense knows do not exist. He tells us, in the first instance, that this amendment is not designed to protect the advertisement of contraception. Throughout the whole debate the one thing I have advocated in connection with this Bill was the exercise of a little common sense. Anyone reading this amendment can only come to the one conclusion, and that is that it is the most dangerous that could possibly be inserted. Deputy Law is concerned with the interests of a certain class of people. You may insert a list on the fly-leaf dealing with a series of published books, he said, and, he goes on to add, that list might contain something dealing with future population. The second point he makes in advocating his amendment is that a list of books advocating birth control might be incorporated in these particular books by some means or other. When these books are coming in to this country, and the people who are handling them know that certain legislation exists here, is there not an easy, obvious remedy, and that is to take precautions and see that lists advertising objectionable books are not incorporated in the periodicals coming in? I say that the very thing Deputy Law suggests could not happen under this Bill is the very thing that will happen. I say this is a very easy means for the advertising of contraceptive methods.
I distinctly said that was not my intention, but that it might conceivably have that effect, and that as there existed that danger I was not going to press the Minister. I asked him to see if he could not find, before the Report Stage, a satisfactory form of words to obviate one danger without falling into the other.
Is Deputy Law asking leave to withdraw his amendment?
I apologise to the House for my lack of intuition. Deputy Law's dialectics are rather difficult for an ordinary, plain person like myself to understand. Now that the Deputy has made clear his intention to withdraw his amendment, I have no intention of wasting the time of the House.
My view of the question as to how the Bill will be interpreted is, if there was a mere catalogue somewhere in a newspaper of books that are offensive that newspaper should not be condemned simply because of the mere catalogue of books. Otherwise, you would have to condemn your own list of censored books because it contained the names of the censored books. I do not think the mere fact that the names of books appeared, without any idea as to their contents, should be sufficient to condemn any periodical or other book. I think that would be quite wrong. On the other hand, I can understand an advertisement which would be of such and such a book by such and such an eminent writer, and stating "this is the most valuable book ever written on birth-control," and which might go on in that fashion, being an advocacy of birth control. I think as the Bill stands the nature of the advertisement would be the thing to decide whether it would be a question of advocacy or not of birth control.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
To add at the end of sub-section (2), page 8, the proviso:
"Provided always that no prosecution for an offence against this section of this Act shall take place unless the book or periodical publication in question shall have been referred to the Board for report and that the Board shall have reported that its indiscriminate circulation should be prohibited."
I think we have been discussing this amendment for some considerable time. The amendment carries out what we have already done in a previous section, and the only extra point it brings in is that the Board shall investigate and report that indiscriminate circulation should be prohibited.
I am afraid I have already expressed my view that the section is one that I must stand over. I want to make it perfectly clear that to me throughout the whole time there has never been in the arguments put forward by anybody upon this section any real difference as to principle. I understand perfectly that every speaker on this section was agreed that this propaganda should be held in check, but certain speakers thought that certain methods were more effective than the methods which had been put forward in the Bill. I want to make it perfectly clear that Deputy Tierney, Deputy Law, Deputy Thrift and Deputy Alton, in anything they have said and in any action they have taken in this House have not in any way advocated birth control. I say that because Deputy Byrne seems to have a different opinion, and since Deputy Byrne has rather flung out that opinion, that Deputy Tierney and Deputy Law regarded birth control as a matter of no importance, I say emphatically that their speeches did not leave any such impression on my mind.
I should like to say I never made any such statement to the House. I have opposed certain amendments introduced by these Deputies. I can assure the House I have the greatest possible respect for these Deputies. We differ on principle, but I never made any such statement as the Minister suggests.
I am glad I misunderstood the Deputy.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 17 and 18 put and agreed to.
(1) It shall not be lawful for any person to sell or offer, expose, or keep for sale any indecent picture and every person who sells or offers, exposes, or keeps for sale any indecent picture in contravention of this section shall be guilty of an offence under this section and shall be liable on summary conviction thereof, in the case of a first offence, to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds and, in the case of a second or any subsequent offence, to a fine not exceeding one hundred pounds or, at the discretion of the court, to imprisonment with or without hard labour for any term not exceeding six months, and in any case, to forfeiture of every indecent picture so sold or offered, exposed, or kept for sale by him.
(2) The word "indecent" where the same occurs in section 42 of the Customs Consolidation Act, 1876 and in section 16 of the Post Office Act, 1908 shall have the same meaning and construction as it has in this Act and the said section 42 and the said section 16 shall be construed and have effect accordingly.
In sub-section (1), line 32, to insert before the words "to sell" the words "to import in Saorstát Eireann or."
The object of the amendment is to prevent the importation of indecent pictures otherwise than through the post as specified in Section 14, sub-section (2).
The Deputy's amendment here is in connection with the importing of indecent pictures into the Saorstát. Well, if they are not to be sold, then they are simply for private use. I do not think this will be a very wide or far-reaching amendment, and I do not think it would have an enormous amount of practical effect, but I have no objection to it.
Is the Minister accepting it? Would it not be putting two very different kinds of offence under the same section, and the two would suffer the same penalty? It hardly seems to be a reasonable or a just thing to do. It is perfectly right that there should be a substantial offence for the selling and promulgation of these pictures.
That is not what it says.
It would be importation for sale because of the analogy with books. Section 14 deals with books. Pictures would be in the same line if imported.
With great respect, the Minister does not take the same line as before. When I was urging this before he said the permit was a general importation permit.
I think what happens now is that, as far as books are concerned, if you import for sale or distribution you suffer various penalties. If you do not import for sale or distribution you suffer confiscation under Section 14. Here if you import a picture for sale or distribution you will be subject to this penalty.
That is what it means. You will make that quite clear on Report?
There is a printer's error in this amendment. The words "to import in Saorstát Eireann" should read "to import into Saorstát Eireann."
Amendment 91 should be withdrawn, because it will have to be amended.
Amendment 91, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment 92 not moved.
Question—"That Section 19 stand part of the Bill"—put and agreed to.
On Section 20 I have one last remark to make. I am disposed to suggest, in connection with Section 20, that if such a search is made it ought to be followed by a prosecution. I want to ask the Minister in these cases to insist on a prosecution. It ought or ought not to be clear and not be liable to the imputation which would arise upon a search which might be fruitless.
Section 20, 21, 22 and the Title agreed to.
The Dáil went out of Committee. Bill reported with amendments.
As for the Report Stage, I want to say that it will take some time to prepare these amendments. When they are prepared — they are almost entirely a matter of wording — I fancy that the Deputies would like to have them in their hands for some little time. I therefore ask that the Report Stage be taken on Thursday, 14th March.