I beg to move:—
Section 13, sub-section (1), line 3. To delete the words " Neither any " and to substitute therefor the word " No."
This is only a question of grammar.
I beg to move:—
Section 13, sub-section (1), line 3. To delete the words " Neither any " and to substitute therefor the word " No."
This is only a question of grammar.
It is better English.
I beg to move:—
Section 13, sub-section (1), line 5. To delete the words " nor any " and to substitute therefor the words " and no."
This is a similar amendment.
Section 13, sub-section (1), line 6. After the word " document " to insert the words " and no verbal information given and no answer to any question put for the purposes of this Act."
This sub-section deals only with documents and things of that kind, but a previous section of the Act gives power to get verbal information, and the non-publication of that information is not protected by this. This is to protect the individual who gives answers to questions, as well as the individual who gives written answers.
Would the Senator accept this wording?—
And no verbal information or answer given relating to any individual person, business or concern.
I suggest the same wording instead of that contained in amendment 20.
Amendment—" Section 14, sub-section (1). To add at the end of the sub-section the words: ‘ and no verbal information or answer given relating to any individual person, business or concern '"—put and agreed to.
Section 13, sub-section (2), line 11. To delete the words " so far as is reasonably practicable."
It seems to me that to put these words at the beginning of the sub-section practically does away with the value of it altogether, because the words " reasonably practicable " hardly seem proper words to insert in an Act of Parliament. If they are left out there is a definite statement as to what is legal and what is illegal.
These words are not in the Canadian or the other Act that I read.
I think it throws doubt on the officers as to whether they are capable of doing their business. The wording at present means that consent cannot be required if it is considered not reasonably practicable. That really gives no defence at all.
There are cases in which it is inevitable there should be identification—for example, take a railway company. The application of anything that will be submitted in connection with the railway company will be known as there is only one railway company in the Free State. Take other firms. I believe there is only one flax spinning mill, one bottle factory, a single oil refinery and a single biscuit factory. As regards those, it is inevitable that there should be identification.
Why should you do it without their consent?
Provided you get their consent, it is all right.
It might be a very dangerous thing to publish statistics of a man's business. I know that you could do our business a great deal of damage if you chose to get statistics and publish them without our consent.
Yes; in individual or particular companies. It might do a lot of good in another way to publish them.
Why should you smash the individual for the sake of the public good?
I do not think there would be a disposition to do that.
It only relates to reports, abstracts, summaries or publications under the Act and prevents you putting in particulars of those which would enable a private firm to be identified. I do not think you are giving away very much there.
In the case where there is only one firm competing with firms in Northern Ireland or in England they might object to have figures given.
So that they might be identified.
This is only to make up summaries.
That is all.
It is in that form in the Canadian Act without the words " so far as is reasonably practicable." That Act was passed in 1906, I think, and they have been working it for twenty years without finding it necessary to have these words.
I think we may take it as certain that in almost every case those interested object to have these figures published. It would be against their interests to have them published in businesses in which there are particular secrets or information. That would place them in an embarrassing position, particularly in the case of a single firm.
If you divide a census of production into commodities you will reveal the business of firms like Guinness and Jacob's. If you have the commodities bulked you will get the information you want without revealing the business of the individual concern.
It is well known that there is practically only one brewery and one biscuit factory and you get such particulars in the trade returns.
Then you might be asking for other important information that the concern might not wish to have published. If you specify and set out occupations and differentiate between biscuits and other things it will make a difference. If you bulk all it does not matter. I am taking the census of production as a case where you might reveal the results of an individual business.
The question is whether the statistics are to be of any use.
The mass of them will be.
It would not be necessary to know the production in commodities.
These words, " so far as is reasonably practicable," give no protection at all.
They destroy the value of the section. That is the objection. We do not object to the section as long as these words are taken out. The amendment is a protective one.
I could not undertake to accept that. As far as the Dáil is concerned. We wanted to meet you half way. We cannot agree to meet you by saying that there is to be no report made without consent. I have explained that there were in certain businesses single firms so that identification is there. You want consent in that case. I say I cannot accept that. We are out to meet you as far as we can by saying " so far as is reasonably practicable." In other words, I am not taking the exact opposite attitude. I go half-way.
Where is the half-way?
In the first place, to say that we will do it whether we get consent or not, would be the extreme in one direction. You say that we must not do it unless we get consent. I am taking the middle course.
If a person refuses?
Then it becomes a question for consideration as to whether the refusal is reasonable or not.
A person is at the mercy of the person collecting the statistics.
And he may be fined £20.
As far as the present trade statistics are concerned, you would be practically making them illegal by this course. I think I am meeting you fairly. We could have done the other thing and published them without consent. We did not go that far.
I suggest that if you begin by making too many individuals " sit up," you will not do very much good to the country.
The ordinary individual who reads the section will say that he is handed over to the mercy of a Department to do what they please, regardless of the interests of his business.
The next amendment stands in the name of Senator Bagwell.
I will withdraw that. It refers to the question of appeal and is dealt with otherwise. Senator Brown has an amendment covering the point.
I move amendment 21:—
Section 14, sub-section (1). To add after the sub-section a new sub-section as follows:—
" (2) Every officer of statistics shall be required to take an oath in the prescribed form that he shall not publish or declare to any person other than a Minister or another officer of statistics concerned with the matter in the course of his duties as such officer the contents or any part of the contents of any individual schedule, form or other document filled in or otherwise completed by any person in pursuance of a requisition made under this Act or any information furnished or answer to any question asked under this Act."
This is following the practice under other Acts. In the case of the census, everyone dealing with the returns had to take an oath against disclosure of information. I think where you are getting such little protection as you are under this Bill, it would be a wise thing to give all the protection you can by imposing an oath of secrecy on the officers.
That is considered objectionable in the Civil Service. " objectionable and utterly foreign to the whole spirit of the Civil Service in this country," is the description given of it. They say that there are sufficient penalties for the violation of secrecy of information supplied imposed by other sections of the Bill—Sections 13, 14 and 15.
Personally, I must say that I have a good deal of sympathy with that. I do not know how it affects the Gárda Síochána, but, as far as the Civil Service is concerned. I can understand the suggestion being that if you put in an oath in this case, why not put in an oath in other cases where secrecy is more important than this? Secrecy must be observed in other matters concerning the State.
As the Bill stands, any Civic Guard can claim the same privileges as the officer of statistics. We are dealing with the Bill now. If we were dealing with the Civil Service it would be another matter. If you want to put it into the head of the ordinary policeman that he is to be particularly careful, the taking of an oath by him is not going too far. I think a good deal hinges on this. We all have to make declarations. Everyone in the banking profession has to make a solemn declaration every year. That has the full weight of an oath. Every member of the staff has to repeat that oath every year. I cannot see that the Civil Service should feel that it is derogatory to do a thing that we bankers, who are dealing with such secret matters, have to do.
You come in from outside to deal with them.
All our officials have to do it.
Your officials have not to take an oath of secrecy in connection with the particular business they are doing.
They have; every bank clerk makes the same declaration every year.
A civil servant came in on a certain understanding and you say: " This is not good enough," when you tell him: " We want an oath from you now."
This is a matter of secrecy, which the Civil Service had never previously to deal with. Experience of the world has taught that where such secrecy is required you should have the oath. When the same duties necessitating secrecy are imposed on another service, it seems wise to have the same safeguard.
I put it to you that that is the objection. I could not put it more strongly to you than it was put to me. Personally I am not satisfied that you are going to get any better results. It is a question of honour.
Of course it is.
It is not altogether a question of honour.
It is. If a man gets paid for doing a thing which is confidential and secret, and if he does not preserve secrecy, it is a terrible dereliction.
There ought, in my opinion, be some declaration. I do not think that the word " oath " is necessary.
What about " declaration of secrecy "?
All census officers up to the coming census have had to take an oath.
Surely when these are new duties it would not be regarded as derogatory to make a declaration of secrecy.
It is not easy to persuade people to take an oath. Some people have strong objections even where it is necessary. Moreover, they are already bound under the Official Secrets Act and there is provision here with regard to something in that Act. The question is, are you going to get any better results. It would be regarded as a losing of confidence in them to ask them to do this. What does a declaration give you in addition to the safeguards which you have? I am told that it has no effect either on the person or in relation to any infraction of duty.
You have young people coming in and it would mark the solemnity and importance of the work in which they will be involved.
I do not think that there is any objection to taking an oath not to speak. Very often people object to the taking of oaths when they have got to speak. I do not think that anyone should object to keeping his mouth shut.
I am expressing the view of the service rather than of the Ministry and I would like to stress that.
Of course none of us would like to insult the dignity of a profession.
I will leave it over and consider it. You want to make it a service in which there will be absolute confidence.
I am quite willing, if the President undertakes to consider the matter, to withdraw the amendment.
It is, of course, understood that the amendments which are withdrawn, as well as those which are not moved, can be taken again at the next meeting.
The next amendment which I desire to move is No. 22. It is as follows:—
" Section 14, sub-section (2), line 50. After the word ‘ aforesaid ' to insert the words ‘ or any verbal information furnished or answer to any question asked '."
That is the same as amendments 18 and 20 and applies to verbal information.
My next amendment is to insert a new section after section 16 as follows:
" 17. Any order made under sub-section (1) of Section 16 of this Act shall be laid on the Table of both Houses of the Oireachtas and may be annulled by resolution of either House within twenty-one days of its being so laid."
If it is necessary to table such documents as Public Bodies Orders and matters of that kind which are largely matters of routine surely it is necessary to let the Oireachtas know the sort of information required under this Bill. It gives very wide powers to the Government and I think the Oireachtas should have an opportunity of approving of these powers. There are a number of things on which there might be a very serious conflict of opinion but, of course, the Government may have a good case for doing it.
The wording of paragraph (a), sub-section (1), of Section 16 is very wide. You might get an order prescribing for subject matters which would not get you very much information.
Do you think that I have not thrown the net wide enough?
I am afraid not.
Do you mean that the detail would not be sufficient to judge?
This amendment applies to the whole of sub-section (1).
Originally I had only clause A of sub-section (1) in mind.
I could not agree with this amendment. If it is to be effective it would mean that you would place the administration on much the same lines as that of a County Council. Presuming that this refers to (a), (b), (c), (d) and (e), let us take the census return. We put out these forms. Already I think the delay in this has cost £600 in the printing of these forms. The farce of an election which we had last year looked a very simple matter but I could not tell you how many tons of paper were used in connection with it. The same thing would apply to the census. It is very easy to get people to object to filling up a particular column.
It would give the Oireachtas an opportunity of discussing it.
Can you not do that by resolution at any time? If we had a form to which objection was taken by one section and it was altered, another section might come along and object to it as altered, and you would there have a situation which would make it impossible to carry on.
You would not print until you got the order?
How are you going to submit it to the House?
You have the order.
Yes; but the cost of making even a slight alteration would be considerable.
I do not think that you can alter in this amendment. You can only annul or pass.
Yes, but there may be annulling after annulling. Supposing you want some particular stuff in a short time, and we will assume that the situation which I have already described occurs, you would then be held up and, even without having a crisis, you would likely be in a difficulty. Suppose, for instance, there is likely to be a disturbance in the oil trade and you want to know where you stand, you must get information as to your resources.
I should be quite satisfied with an emergency reservation.
If you do that, it would seem to indicate that we had some idea behind us in doing so, and I do not want that. I will have no objection to putting the Order on the Table. I do not mean having it annulled. Annulling it might paralyse business. There are times when you cannot get a proper consideration of a problem. Party passions might, for instance, effect an issue more than its merits.
I did not know that there were so many contentious ingredients in a Bill of this sort. I thought each Department made its own rules and regulations and that they were stereotyped.
I did not think that this Bill was intended for times of crisis.
It was not.
It was intended for general conditions.
I do not think that there would be harm in putting in the word " emergency.' You could put it in such form as would give you power in an emergency to dispense with the tabling.
People might say that there was an emergency any time they wished.
They have to make a declaration that there is an emergency
Perhaps if you stopped after the word " Oireachtas " it would be sufficient.
That would take away the powers of the Oireachtas to annul.
Supposing you are taking statistics with regard to any particular subject, if the subject is agriculture, the farmers will criticise, if it is banking Sir Thomas Esmonde will, no doubt, perform, and if it is distilling Senator Jameson will probably have a few words to say. Each of these will have some objection in respect to what is being done, but when the whole lot see what has been done I think there will be less criticism.
I am agreeable to delete the words after " Oireachtas " but to provide for the laying on the Table within a certain time.
I do not think that this should take effect until twenty-one days after its being laid.
Supposing the Oireachtas adjourns in June and does not meet until September what are you to do in the interval?
When will they be laid?
" As soon as may be " is the usual term.
Put " as soon as may be " at the end, as it would read better.
Then the amendment would read: " After Section 16 to insert a new section as follows:—
" 17. Any order made under Sub-section (1) of Section 16 of this Act shall be laid on the Table of both houses of the Oireachtas as soon as may be."
I propose the insertion of a new section after Section 17 as follows:—
" 18.—Nothing in this Act shall compel any person to give or furnish any written or verbal information or to answer any question asked of him in relation to a matter as to which his knowledge was acquired in circumstances which would entitle him to decline to give such information or answer such question in a civil proceeding in a court of law on the ground of privilege."
This amendment is to preserve the legal privilege of the lawyer—that he need not disclose anything which he has acquired from his client in the ordinary way of legal business. He might be asked some question which his client would be quite properly prepared to answer, but it might have been communicated to the solicitor in the ordinary course of professional business and he ought not be compelled to disclose it. It is his client's business and not his. That is recognised by all our courts and I do not see why it should not be recognised here. He would not be protected if there was a prosecution because the privilege is not recognised under this Act. His privilege in the District Court would be to refuse to give information there, but that is not what he would be tried for. He would be tried for not giving the privileged information to the statistical officer. It cannot do any harm. You can get it by getting hold of a client.
But he could not plead privilege. As it stands, would this Bill enable the officer to get beyond the individual at his lawyer?
It would compel the lawyer to give information which he could not be made give in court on the grounds that it was a privileged communication which he got from his client.
It seems disproportionate that he would be compelled to do it in this particular case and could not be compelled in any other.
It is the only privilege that is definitely recognised by the law. An ordinary agent has no privilege. It would not affect a solicitor acting as an agent.
The Committee adjourned at 5.35 until Friday, 19th February, at 3 p.m.