May I make a suggestion regarding one of the Bills read a first time to-day—namely, the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill? It is clearly one we must get, and as it is one on which there is general agreement, the Second Reading of it might be taken now.
EXPIRING LAWS CONTINUANCE BILL (Second Reading).
The Deputy proposes that as we are agreed upon the general principle the Second Reading might be formally moved now, and that we should go into Committee to-morrow.
I move the Second Reading now. This Bill provides for the continuance of twenty-six stattutes. They are set out in the four Schedules. The Acts named in the First Schedule expire on the 31st of this month. The Act mentioned in the Second Schedule expires, some of it, on the 18th February next year, and the rest of it on the 31st August. The Act mentioned in the Third Schedule expires on the 15th February next, and the Acts mentioned in the Fourth Schedule did, in fact, expire on the 31st August of this year. None of them are of a very exciting or controversial nature. Some of them are humanitarian and provide for the protection of such animals as the sand grouse and the grey seal. Others are of a routine nature and were in the past passed automatically from year to year. We, at any rate, are of opinion that nothing is contained in the Bill that would be of a controversial nature. It will be understood that these Acts have either to be allowed to expire or to be passed as a whole or passed in part. There are just the three alternatives. Some of them we are asking the Dáil to renew as a whole, others are only being partially renewed, and if members are particularly interested in special Acts named in the schedule I can arrange with the Law Department to have brought down for examination the Statutes referred to, but it will be understood that 26 Statutes would not be light literature for members and would be rather bulky, but if there is a request for information with regard to any particular Statute mentioned here, or any particular section of such Statute, it can very easily be arranged to furnish such information. As to the text of the legislative portion of the Bill itself the first recital simply sets out that some of these Acts mentioned in the Schedule expired on the 31st December, others in February next year, part of one in August next year and some two Acts expired on the 31st August of this year. It goes on to say, "And whereas it is expedient to provide for the continuance in this Act mentioned of the Acts mentioned in the Schedules to this Act and of the enactments amending or affecting the same and that as respects the said Acts mentioned in the said Fourth Schedule of this Act such continuance should be retrospective to the date on which such Acts expired as aforesaid." It asks that it be enacted that the Acts mentioned in the First, Second, and Third Schedules shall to the extent specified in column three be continued until the 31st December, 1923, and shall then expire unless further continued. You are not therefore legislating indefinitely. You are simply giving a further year's life to this block of Acts, and they will expire automatically in a year's time if they are not further renewed, so there will be an opportunity of considering them. "The Acts mentioned in the Fourth Schedule of this Act shall to the extent mentioned in column three of that Schedule be continued until the 31st day of September 1923 and shall then expire unless further continued and the continuance affected by this Sub-section shall be retrospective to the date on which such Acts expired so as to validate all Acts and things purposed to be done under such Acts respectively since that date but not so as to make illegal any Act done between the date on which the said Acts expired and the date of the passing of this Act which would not have been legal if this Sub-section were not retrospective." We are not manufacturing any illegalities. The retrospective portion would not have the effect of making any Act illegal which would otherwise be illegal; but it has the effect of validating certain Acts which were in pursuance of these Acts which expire on the 31st August. "Any un-repealed enactments amending or affecting the enactments continued by this Act shall in so far as they are temporary in their duration be continued in like manner whether they are mentioned in the Schedule of this Act or not." That is, of course, merely consequential. It is not a good precedent to come with this kind of block legislation, but this is a matter where 26 Acts are due to disappear and their disappearance would cause dislocation and in some cases actual hardship, and there seems no alternative but to come to the Dáil and invite members to rush to the rescue of these 26 expiring statutes. If any particular statute mentioned in the Schedule catches any particular Deputy's eye and he wishes further information, then I can supply it, but he would have to give notice and I would arrange to have it to-morrow.
At that rate it is better to have the Second Reading to-day.
As the S.O.S. signal has been sent out for us, I think it is due to us to respond. It would be too late, if not actually impossible, for us in any case to reconsider these huge enactments. But there are one or two which in fact are continued only as regards a few sections, and I would suggest we ought to have information on these. They happen to be quite a small number. For example, there is the National Insurance Act—only Section 42, and certain portions are to be continued. There is only one section of the Housing (Ireland) Act, 1919. I take it the Alien Act is all right, for just as he is protecting grey seals the Minister is protecting us from aliens. The Local Government (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1916—only Section 5. It might be possible without inconvenience to provide facilities for making ourselves acquainted with these sections.
If I might add to what the Deputy has said, I suggest that the Minister might have available, when he comes to the next stage, the two Acts which have already expired. It appears to me that it is going a little further in the case of expiring laws actually to revise statutes which have gone already. I am not familiar with the words in them. I have little doubt it is all right, but I think it is desirable that these should be available in case any question arises and the Minister should be in a position to tell us what actual dead laws he is seeking to revive.
That point is one I wish to raise, more particularly that of the Local Government Allotments and Land Cultivation Act. The whole Act is to be revised. That is to say, it is to be re-enacted, and, I think, possibly it would be worth the Ministry's while to make known and blow their trumpets and tell the people who have been working under the beneficent effects of this Act that they intend to re-enact and take full advantage of its provisions. If I am not mistaken it will be received with some favour by a good many people who have been working allotments, and I hope full advantage of the Act will be availed of by the Ministry. Unless I am entirely astray, I think this refers to the town allotments. There has been a good deal of fretting as to the expiry of the tenancy of the plots, and, I think, it is under these Acts that these plots are being cultivated. If there is anything to be said worth trumpeting forth I hope the Ministry will do so to-morrow.
The Motor Car Act, 1903—is that the Act under which the horse-power of a vehicle is made a basis of taxation? If it is, I am afraid the Minister is not voicing the opinion of the country when he expresses the hope that that Act will be carried on for another year. People who can afford a Ford car do not like to be paying £23, when owners of better cars are only paying £20.
There is no better car.
What will Henry Ford pay for that?
Legislation ought not to come in advance for the next year, as I think there will be a lot of talk about this Act in the near future.
This Motor Car Act that Deputy Wilson refers to is not a taxing Act and does not deal with the taxation he mentions as being unpopular. So far as I know at the moment it is an Act providing that people shall have licences to drive, and so on. Now, there will be nothing to prevent the repeal or amendment or further consideration of these Acts. It is sought to renew them now simply to prevent the evil consequences that might follow from the unexpected lapse, or for a lapse that no provision would be made to meet. If there are in these Schedules Acts which Deputies might not whole-heartedly approve of, it would of course be open to them to have them reconsidered or amended at a later stage. I will see that Deputy Magennis sees these particular Acts he referred to, where certain sections are only sought to be renewed and the rest of the Acts allowed to lapse. If any other Deputy wishes for information with regard to any of the Acts mentioned in the Bill I would be glad if he would let me have a note. I will try to have here also for distribution to certain of the members the text of the two Acts that lapsed in August that we find it necessary to renew.
I think the subject matter of this Bill is merely a formal one and does not carry any necessary agreement with regard to the numbers of any one of these Acts set forth, or hysterical affection for grey seals or sand grouse, but simply putting into effect what we have already passed in our Constitution, so that the laws that were in force shall be continued until such time as they are amended or annulled, as the case may be.
They would not be enforced unless this Act was passed.
Might I ask the Minister whether he has considered any proposal in connection with the Jurors' Act? There has been great difficulty in the Courts for a number of years in getting the citizens of Dublin to take their fair share of responsibility in answering jury calls. A number of small business men—the one-man-business men—have very often been called on juries, and to my own knowledge these small shopkeepers have had to close their businesses altogether to go on a jury summons. I think that is very unfair, and that something should be done to compensate people who attend jury calls and who do justice to the calls they get. A number of big business men are able to evade their responsibility by paying the fine, as a fine of £5 is not much to them. In numerous cases I have seen the one old set of jurymen answering the summons, both in the Recorder's Court and in the High Court. The only way to get out of the difficulty would be to consider a proposal, which I am informed, after great agitation, is being considered in another place—payment of jurors. I believe if you do that there would be no difficulty in getting people to close their business for the day or for two or three days, when they would not be at any loss. I would like to ask the Minister if he has considered the point. The same thing applies to the Coroners' Courts. There you see the same old set of faces week after week, where people often lose two or three hours daily.
Motion made and question put: "That An Act to continue certain Expiring Laws be read a second time."
I would like to know whether there is a definite feeling against the taking of the Third Stage of this Bill now, or whether members would prefer to wait and discuss it, or attempt to discuss in detail the Acts set out in the Schedule. There are three alternatives, to let an Act lapse, to pass it in whole, or in part. The question of dealing with such side issues as Deputy Byrne has mentioned, the grievances of jurors, scarcely arises at this stage, and I think it would be impossible to attempt to take these 26 Acts and mould them nearer to the heart's desire between this and the adjournment for Christmas, but it is very necessary to provide for their renewal. There would be an opportunity at any time later to consider embellishments or improvements. My own view is that there is very little to be gained by postponing the Committee Stage until to-morrow, but I am in the hands of the Dáil.
As far as we are concerned we are prepared to facilitate the passing of this Bill on the next stage. We understand that it will have to go through the process of First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Reading in the Seanad, and that they require to adjourn by the middle of the week at any rate. Our view, I think, is that it is better to run the risk of the continuation of a law which we do not like for a month or two, and which need not be enforced, rather than have no Act in operation. I think the various Acts that have been spoken of have been admitted to have been beneficial, and we ought to continue them until some specific reason is adduced for annulling them, and I support the suggestion of the Minister that we should proceed to the next stage of this Bill.
Would it be in order to act as if these statutes to which I referred were not in the Schedule—to pass everything except those, to deal with the Bill as if they were not there and to hold them over?
I am afraid not.
The Deputy referred, I think, to the National Insurance Act, 1911, and the Local Government (Emergency Provisions) Act.
And the Housing (Ireland) Act.
Well, if we took the Committee Stage I could arrange that the Deputy would have information about these three Acts before the final stage.
Yes, that would do.
That is to say, to take the Committee Stage and the Report Stage to-morrow and to have the information for the Report Stage.
So that he would not absolutely have burnt his boats.
By leave of the Dáil we will take the Committee Stage now.
The Dáil then went into Committee on the Bill.