I move that this Bill be received for final consideration.
ADAPTATION OF BRITISH ENACTMENTS BILL. - APPROPRIATION BILL—FIFTH STAGE.
I second that.
May I ask to have one change made:—"A Bill to Grant and Appropriate Certain Sums" to read "An Act to Grant and Appropriate Certain Sums."
Mr. Gerald Fitzgibbon at this stage took the Chair.
It has been moved and seconded that the Appropriation Bill, 1922, with an amendment—"An Act to Grant and Appropriate Certain Sums for the service of the Financial Year ending on the 31st day of March, 1923,"—be received for final consideration.
May I ask the Minister if he will give us a little more explanation than was given to us yesterday about Clause 2, respecting the necessity for this phrase "and the Bank of Ireland may advance to the Minister of Finance"? I would move, for the purpose of enabling him to give us that further explanation which was not available yesterday, to insert after the words "Bank of Ireland" the words "or such other Bank or Banks as may be selected by the Minister of Finance." I feel certain that there is some purpose in putting this phrase in the Bill. It has not yet been made clear, and I think it ought to be made clear why the Bank of Ireland should be selected out of all the other Banks, as the one which is authorised by this Bill to advance to the Minister of Finance a certain sum. I submit that, without a clear explanation of the reasons, we ought not to select from all the other Banks the Bank of Ireland for inclusion in this Bill, and for that reason I beg to move that we should amend this clause by adding the words —"or such other Bank or Banks as may be selected by the Minister of Finance."
I am new to the business, as you all know, but I am afraid I must rule the proposed amendment of Deputy Johnson out of order, because we have now brought forward a Bill for final consideration, and no amendments can be permitted. Standing Order 76 says "no amendments of the Bill shall be permitted, save such as are of a purely verbal character, and of which due notice shall be given." I do not think we are relying very much on the question of notice, but this amendment, I must certainly rule, as not of a purely verbal character.
I submit we are now in the Fourth Stage, not in the Final Stage.
I thought it was the Final Stage. My reason for the mistake is I was not here when the Bill was being dealt with yesterday evening.
I beg to second the amendment.
My information is that the Bank of Ireland was started in 1782, and they were prohibited by Statute, as far as my information goes, from lending any money to the State except by Parliamentary sanction. Many years ago I heard that Parliament itself had something to do with the setting up of the Bank. I take it that the reason for that action at the time was that Parliament received money in the name of the King. The King it was in whose name the moneys were advanced. This express prohibition of the Bank lending money was evidently intended to be some restriction or some control over the issue of money to the sovereign at the time. However, the prohibition, I understand, is there, and it is because of that that Parliamentary sanction must be given in this form. It is not necessary, in the case of the other banks, because no such prohibition exists with regard to them.
May we have the amendment read?
The amendment moved by Deputy Johnson, and seconded by Deputy Cathal O'Shannon, is to insert after "Bank of Ireland" the words, "or such other Bank or Banks as may be selected by the Minister of Finance," so that Clause 2 would then read:—"The Minister of Finance may borrow from any person or Banking Corporation in Saorstát Eireann, and the Bank of Ireland, or such other bank or banks as may be selected by the Minister of Finance may advance" and so on.
I believe the position to be that the addition of those words does not really affect the primary intention of the sentence under discussion inasmuch as those other banks and corporations may already do what the Bank of Ireland by this Charter is not enabled to do, and linking two different sorts of bodies together weakens the authorisation given here to the Bank of Ireland. For that reason I think the amendment should not be pressed. There is another matter that is, I believe, at the bottom of Deputy Johnson's mind, and that is if this is the removal of a disability this is not the best form or the best way to do it. There I am inclined to agree with him, but the fact being as it is I think we as an assembly have no alternative but to adhere to the form of words here adopted. If the removal of the disability were modified it would have to take precedence over the Appropriation Bill, or Act, as it will become, in order that the amplification of this sentence in the sense moved by Deputy Johnson, would become possible. The thing having got into the present position I do urge therefore that this sentence removing the disability and merely putting the Bank of Ireland into the same position as other banks and corporations should, for this reason, be not further pressed.
I think the sound objection to any amendment such as this is that it adds words without adding substance. It is really an absurdity to insert words which are not necessary and which have no effect. I would suggest that perhaps the Bank of Ireland has had by this discussion as much advertisement as the Dáil can give it.
Yesterday evening Deputy Figgis was not present when I anticipated his argument. The Minister for Local Government points out a very forcible objection to it, and that is, that to add words which do not add substance is a futility. I might point out to the Dáil that it adds this, though it does not add substance, namely, the possibility that a Court when called upon to interpret these words may declare that a proper interpretation of the words "may advance" is to be gathered from the linking of the words "may advance" with the further words "such other Banks as the Minister of Finance may advise." So that instead of authorising the Bank of Ireland to do that which without the authorisation it could not do, we should use words the possible effect of which would be the decision of a Court allowing this privilege exclusively to other banks and omitting the Bank of Ireland. The English language is full of ambiguities, as we are all aware, and the phrase "the Bank may advance" is susceptible of two interpretations. One "is hereby authorised to," which means that there is a permissive value in the words, and the other, an indication of a bare possibility, a potentiality. I suggested yesterday, and I repeat it, that to put into the third Act that we pass, deliberately, and of malice aforethought, phraseology that is capable of bearing two different meanings, is not a good precedent to establish. The solid fact remains that the Bank of Ireland will not be in the same position as regards this privilege of lending to the Government unless it is enabled so to do by the removal of a disability. Whether or not that removal should be effected by separate legislation is a question of propriety. That question will not be settled, nor will the original problem in regard to it be in any way affected by introducing the words now proposed. If we read that "the Bank of Ireland, or such other banks as the Minister for Finance may decide, may advance," we have not put out of court the opportunity and possibility of someone saying, "that was rather a strange procedure on the part of An Dáil; they have done under cover of an Appropriation Bill, what more appropriately should have been done under an Act removing the disability." There is no purpose served by the amendment, and there is a risk of its effect being to preclude the doing of what is necessary to be done.
The purpose of the amendment has been achieved. It has drawn forth from the Minister for Finance an explanation of the meaning for the insertion of this phrase. I withdraw it with the intention of introducing another amendment as soon as we dispose of this.
We have to deal with the Bill as it stands, and the Clause runs: —"The Minister of Finance may borrow from any person or Banking Corporation in Saorstát Eireann, and the Bank of Ireland may advance to the Minister of Finance." We are told that the adoption of that will mean the amendment of an Act of Parliament or Charter under which the Bank of Ireland has been acting.
May I submit that that is incorrect. The point is that the Bank of Ireland is prohibited from advancing us money without Parliamentary sanction, which is a different point altogether.
I do not know whether it would be recognised that that is Parliamentary sanction. If it is, then my amendment will not disadvantage the object of the mover of the Bill. The amendment is to add to Clause 2, a further sub-section to read as sub-section 4:—"Nothing in this clause shall be construed as conferring any power, authority or privilege on the Bank of Ireland not derived from existing Statutes or Charters." It may be that a judge would say that this power granted in an Appropriation Bill is sufficient to authorise the Bank of Ireland to lend money to the Government. I am not an authority on these things. I am trying to look upon the questions that come forward with a friendly, critical eye, and to learn as I go along just as Ministers are learning as they go along. But as I understand it, an Appropriation Bill is practically intended to be an authority under which the Controller and Auditor-General will be empowered to pass certain expenditure. To my ignorant mind it seems odd that in such a Bill we should have to insert a Clause empowering a particular Bank to do certain things under that Bank's own Act of Parliament. However that may be, for fear we might be doing more than appears on the surface, and the President is not very definite in his assurances, I think it might be accepted if we add to this clause this further Sub-section—"Nothing in this Clause shall be construed as conferring any power, authority or privilege on the Bank of Ireland not derived from existing Statutes or Charters." I beg to move that.
I second it.
I am a little puzzled at this new amendment. We have already passed, in the third line of the second paragraph, a sentence which removes a disability, and I put it to you now that the new paragraph suggested offsets what we have already done by cancelling it.
Having removed the disability we go on in the new paragraph to say that we have not removed the disability. I venture even further to say, with the best good-will in the world, that it is not in order.
I think the amendment is in order because the first Clause is only permissive so far as may be effective, and the amendment would tend to prevent an enlargement, through inadvertence of Clause No. 1, of all existing powers.
May I put it to you that having regard to the fact that there is a particular sum mentioned, it is not a contradiction in terms? I put it further to you, on looking up the Standing Orders, whether at this stage a person who has moved an amendment and who has spoken to it is entitled to move another amendment and speak again.
There is no doubt that a person who has moved one amendment is entitled to move another.
I am putting a point of order to you still and I claim, under the courtesy extended through that formality, it would be unfair to ask you for your construction in a matter of this kind. If this new paragraph were to be included, would I be fair in asking you whether you thought the third line of the second paragraph was to hold, or the new paragraph was to hold? I suggest they are clearly contradictory of one another.
I suggest, with all respect to Deputy Figgis, that they only contradict on a certain interpretation of the words "power" and "authority."
It was with that in view that I thought the amendment was in order. I may have expressed myself obscurely, but it was upon the construction of the words "power" and "authority" that I thought the amendment might be moved.
The amendment would be effective up to a certain point in securing that we should not by inadvertence enlarge the privileges of this Bank beyond what otherwise it should not be entitled to. The ambiguity, or the equivocation of the words, is being utilised because unless you interpret "authority" in the proposed sub-section (4) as giving permission, will the words "the Bank of Ireland may advance" in the earlier section have any value whatsoever. They are utterly ineffective unless you take the dual meaning of "authority" in sub-section (4). Again I make the objection that I made to the words "may advance." There is an attempt here to utilise the possibility of a double interpretation of words to effect some purpose.
One or two things occurred to me. First, this particular amendment was not circulated to the Deputies, a charge which was made against me earlier to-day; and second, this particular clause refers to a matter which is not really referred to in the Appropriation Bill.
We got the Bill only ten minutes ago.
I thought these Bills were being dealt with by the general consent of the Dáil, without regard to the question of time and notice of amendment? The Ministry pressed upon the Dáil the great urgency of these Bills and the Dáil accepted them because they were to be dealt with as urgent, and therefore the objection arising out of want of notice, which was not pressed against any of the Ministerial amendments, can hardly hold.
I am not pressing it. I only point out that while the Ministry suffer from infirmities, if they allege infirmities against other people they are told they are really extravagant, and so on.
This amendment does not appear to be out of order, and, if the Ministry are not prepared to accept it, they, or any other Deputy who desires to oppose it, can now be heard.
This question of the disability of the Bank of Ireland should be dealt with, having some regard to the circumstances in which it arises. I take it the disability was first imposed as a safeguard at a time when the business of the Government was done with the Bank of Ireland. It was done to prevent improper borrowing by the Government without Parliamentary sanction. In the present circumstance that disability may have become obsolete, and if that is so it may be a good thing to abolish it. But as it does exist, it should be met in the usual way in the present case. The Bank of England, as I understand the matter, is under a similar disability, and in every Appropriation Bill that goes through the British House of Commons, that disability is removed to a limited extent—to the extent of the amount of the Estimates—in the same way as is proposed here. They find it desirable that that disability should be continued in the case of the Bank of England, and that it should be removed in each Appropriation Bill temporarily for the period of one year, to the limited extent of the amount of the Estimates. There is probably some case for continuing the disability here in the case of the Bank of Ireland so long as it is the Government Bank; but in any event the matter should be dealt with in that way. It seems to me to be really in the nature of creating a bogey to suggest that we tack on something to an Appropriation Bill that nobody ever heard of in connection with an Appropriation Bill before. This particular phrase is almost a conventional phrase—a stock phrase— in connection with Appropriation Bills. It might be that later on the whole system would be altered, and that such a disability on the part of the Bank of Ireland is unnecessary, and that it serves no public purpose and it might be removed. That could be dealt with by a Bill, and if removed the disability would not again appear in this Bill. If there is some definite public purpose served by having this disability rest with the Bank with which the Government does its business, naturally, it follows that some such clause as this will have to come up in the Appropriation Act year after year. We are up against a situation that is met in the conventional and usual way, and as the whole matter is one that must be dealt with in haste, the right and proper way to deal with it is certainly to my mind along the usual lines and not to take some new departure without some proper enquiry and without understanding the whole situation.
If that speech was made yesterday after I had invited the Ministry on Second Reading to explain the meaning of the second Clause, a great deal of misunderstanding and perhaps unpleasantness would have been obviated. But our experience unfortunately has been that Ministers bring forward measures, proposals and estimates, dealing with far-reaching matters, and they do not take the trouble to explain them. They will not take the Dáil into their confidence and they will not assist the Dáil in legislation. Consequently we have to criticise and denounce, and then at the end of it all we get an explanation which is perfectly satisfactory. I hope that there will be some improvement in the future and I hope that Ministers will realise that their position is to assist the legislature in legislation as well as to administer their executive offices, and that when they come here with Bills and Resolutions and proposals of any kind they ought not simply to throw them to the Dáil without explaining their import and their purpose. I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
ACTING CEANN COMHAIRLE
The question is "that the Appropriation Bill 1922, do pass its Fourth Stage."
Is there anything that would now prevent the possibility, in order to save time, and as we have the matter fresh in our mind, of taking the Fifth and Final Stage?
I was just going to ask the Dáil to be good enough to allow us to get this Bill with the Bill which we have already got through to-day. These two Bills will have to go up to the Seanad next week. Then there are many other Bills that we require to introduce. I do not know whether it will be possible to bring on these next week. We have an amount of legislation which we require to place before the Dáil, and Bills of great importance at the earliest possible moment. I do not know whether it would suit the convenience of the Dáil in view of all the circumstances to give us the Fifth Stage of this Bill now, so that the two Bills we have just dealt with could be sent up to the Seanad next week. They are meeting at 2.30 on Monday. I move that this Bill do now pass its Final Stage.
I beg to second.