Committee on Finance. - Statutory Declarations Bill, 1938—Second Stage.

I beg to move that this Bill be read a Second Time. This is a Bill to amend the Statutory Declarations Act of 1835. It proposes to remove certain anomalies and overcome certain difficulties that have arisen under that Act. Section 18 of the Statutory Declarations Act, 1835, authorises certain persons to take statutory declarations, namely a justice of the peace, a notary public, or any other officer by law authorised at the time of the passing of that Act to administer an oath. Section 21 of the same Act provides that a person who makes a false statutory declaration under the Act shall be guilty of a misdemeanour. Section 88 of the Courts of Justice Act, 1924, authorises peace commissioners to take statutory declarations, and the Unemployment Assistance (Qualification Certificate Regulations) Order, 1934, made under the Unemployment Assistance Act, 1933, authorises officers of the Minister for Industry and Commerce to take statutory declarations from applicants for unemployment assistance.

The Courts of Justice Act, 1924, and the Unemployment Assistance Act, 1933, however, do not contain any provision making it an offence for a person to make a false statutory declaration before a peace commissioner or an officer of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, and I am advised that it would not be possible to indict a person under Section 21 of the Statutory Declarations Act, 1835, for making a false declaration before any person other than the persons authorised by that Act to take statutory declarations. The main object of the Bill is to remove that anomaly by making it an offence for a person to make a false statutory declaration before any person authorised by law to take statutory declarations, and to provide that that offence shall be triable summarily. Sections 1 and 6 of the Bill are intended to achieve that object. That is really the purpose of the Bill. It does not make any other changes.

I take it that there is nothing in this Bill except to bring it into conformity with other Acts with regard to the taking of these statutory declarations. The original Act, I presume, did not refer to peace commissioners, since they did not then exist, and that is really the trouble now. Is that the trouble?

Yes, that is all that is in the Bill.

It would appear that this seeks to add to the interpretation of the Act of 1835. I think that the Minister's Department ought to be more exact with regard to having some kind of a code that would not require to have extensive search. Was it that this was overlooked at the particular time?

Yes, it was overlooked.

Well, there is a section here—Section 6—into which I should be glad if the Minister would look before the Committee Stage. It speaks of "every person who makes a statutory declaration which is false or wilfully misleading" and prescribes a penalty. Now, there are people who make false statements in all good faith, and I presume it is not intended that they should be liable to the penalties here. I have come across cases myself, particularly of elderly people, who give wrong information in the very best of good faith, sometimes to their own disadvantage. Perhaps the Minister would look into that particular section and see whether or not he could frame it in such a way as to bring in "wilfully false" or something of that sort, rather than just accidentally false.

That section is taken from the 1835 Act. I cannot see how any person would be convicted by any court if the information was not wilfully false. However, I shall look into the matter.

Question agreed to.

Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 7th December.