Might I ask the Minister in the event of this Bill not being passed through all its stages before the Christmas adjournment does he see any necessity for communicating with the local bodies who might take preliminary steps towards holding elections? That may seem far-fetched, but I remember when the holding of local elections was suspended during the war period certain local officials insisted that until the law was amended they were entitled to go ahead and take preliminary steps to hold the elections.
I will communicate with them.
May I point out that it would assist us a good deal if the Minister would tell us whether or not this Bill is substantially the same as the Bill, or series of Bills, to which Deputy O'Brien referred by which local elections were suspended during the war.
It is substantially the same. I have not compared it and I do not know in what respects it differs, but it differs only slightly. I move Clause 1 (Section 1):—
"Be it therefore enacted by the Oireachtas of Saorstát Eireann as follows:—
Every statutory election of councillors of boroughs, councillors of urban districts and commissioners of towns which but for this Act would be held within twelve months after the passing of this Act shall be postponed until such date not being later than the 1st day of January 1924 as the Minister shall by order prescribe."
The reason why they are not postponed to any particular date is, if a certain degree of uncertainty prevails as to the date on which they could be held it is not desirable that they should be postponed longer than necessary; on the other hand, it would be undesirable that we should postpone them, say, until the 15th May, and then be compelled to have a short Act postponing them to a further date. Therefore the matter is one to be determined most properly by an order.
An amendment occurred to me in connection with this clause. I may say I entirely agree with the Minister that it should take place by order, as that is the simplest way to give it administrative effect. I suggest that that Order, before it is actually put into execution, should be communicated to this Dáil, say one fortnight before it is to take effect. Provided that there be no difficulty raised, the order should become of automatic effect.
Will it not be well to pass the Clauses of the Bill and see how many orders and what orders it prescribes shall be made by the Minister, and at the end then prescribe that such orders as are mentioned shall be laid on the table of the Dáil?
A very admirable suggestion.
Because there may be further orders through the body of the Bill, something similar to the Clauses of the Adaptation Act.
I move Sub-section 2: "Any order under this section (including orders under this sub-section) prescribing a date for the holding of a statutory election may be revoked by a subsequent order but in every such case a new date for the holding of such election shall be prescribed by such subsequent order."
That simply provides that in case the delay brought about by the first order proves to be too short, and that a new date is fixed too early, a subsequent order could be issued postponing the elections, say, a month further. My idea is at the moment to fix the holding of the new elections on about June 15th. It would not, I think, be possible to hold them in every part of the county very much before that date. The register will probably be ready a little before it, at least I hope so; but a week or two should elapse from the completion of the register until the holding of the elections. That simply provides a means of rectifying any mistake that may be made in the way of fixing a date too early.
I beg to move Clause 2. Sub-section 1:—"The Minister if in his opinion it is necessary or expedient so to do may by order postpone all or any of the statutory elections of county councillors, councillors of rural districts or members of any other local body which but for this Act would be held at any time within twelve months after the passing of this Act until such date not being later than the 1st day of January, 1924, as the Minister shall by such order prescribe."
This provides for the postponing of the elections which are due to be held in June, in case it should be found impossible or undesirable to hold them at that date or desirable in view of any pending legislation to postpone some particular class of election to some later date.
I beg to move Clause 2, Sub-section 2:—"Separate orders may be made at different times under this section for the postponement of the statutory elections to different classes of councils or other local bodies and different dates may be prescribed for the holding of such postponed elections and any election which is postponed by an order under this section may from time to time be further postponed by subsequent orders."
This would enable, say, rural council elections to be postponed without postponing the co. council elections.
I beg to move Clause 3:—