DAIL IN COMMITTEE. - ENFORCEMENT OF LAW (OCCASIONAL POWERS) BILL.

The Dáil went into Committee on the Enforcement of Law (Occasional Powers) Bill.

I notice that the next Section to which there is an amendment is Section 7. If the Dáil has no objection, I will move Sections 5 and 6 together.

Objection is taken to the two Sections being moved together.

Mr. O'HIGGINS

Then I will move Section 5 separately:—"Every person who after the passing of this Act shall in good faith purchase at a sale held by or under the authority of an Under-Sheriff any goods, animals or other chattels taken in execution by such Under-Sheriff shall acquire a good title valid against all persons to the goods, animals and chattels so purchased notwithstanding any invalidity or irregularity in or about the seizure or sale of such goods, animals or chattels, and whether he knows or ought or could have known or is affected with any kind of notice that the sale is a sale by or under the authority of an Under-Sheriff or not."

It provides that when the Under-Sheriff in the execution of a decree sells chattels or livestock the title of the buyer shall be indefeasible. That, of course, is consequential upon a provision which the Dáil accepted yesterday, dispensing with the necessity for formal notice of sale by the Under-Sheriff of the goods seized in the execution of a decree. As it is intended to sell the chattels or livestock now in the open market, without notice, it is necessary to provide that the title passed by such sale shall be indefeasible.

I suppose we may take it that there is no intention of taking away the right of action a person has against the Sheriff if he sells the wrong man's goods. The effect of this Section would be to give a good title to the buyer without prejudice to any action by the real owner of the goods if he brings an action for damages against the Sheriff. It is important that that should be made quite clear, or otherwise you will be introducing a very dangerous principle.

Mr. O'HIGGINS

I do not think the Section is capable of that interpretation.

Not this section.

Mr. O'HIGGINS

If some one Section is not capable of that interpretation there is no such provision in the Bill.

Question put: "That Section 5 stand part of the Bill."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 28; Níl, 11:—

  • Donchadh Ó Guaire.
  • Uáitéar Mac Cumhaill.
  • Seán Ó Maolruaidh.
  • Seán Ó Duinnín.
  • Mícheál Ó hAonghusa.
  • Pádraig Mag Ualghairg.
  • Darghal Figes.
  • Deasmhumhain Mac Gearailt.
  • Seán Ó Ruanaidh.
  • Seosamh Mag Craith.
  • Domhnall Mac Cárthaigh.
  • Earnán Altún.
  • Gearóid Mac Giobúin.
  • Liam Thrift.
  • Eoin Mac Neill.
  • Pádraig Ó hOgáin.
  • Seosamh Ó Faoileacháin.
  • Fionán Ó Loingsigh.
  • Criostóir Ó Broin.
  • Caomhghin Ó hUigín.
  • Séamus Ó Dóláin.
  • Próinsias Mag Aonghusa.
  • Eamon Ó Dúgáin.
  • Peadar O hAodha.
  • Séamus Ó Murchadha.
  • Earnán de Blaghd.
  • Uinseann de Faoite.
  • Domhnall Ó Broin.

Níl

  • Tomás de Nógla.
  • Tomás Mac Eoin.
  • Seoirse Ghabhain Uí Dhubhthaigh.
  • Liam Ó Briain.
  • Aodh Ó Cúlacháin.
  • Liam Ó Daimhín.
  • Cathal Ó Seanáin.
  • Seán Buitléir.
  • Nioclás Ó Faoláín.
  • Domhnall Ó Muirgheasa.
  • Domhnall Ó Ceallacháin.
Motion declared carried.

I beg to move Section VI., as follows:—"The power and authority of an Under-Sheriff to sell any goods, animals or other chattels taken in execution by him shall not be prejudiced or affected by reason of such goods, animals or chattels having been out of the custody of the Under-Sheriff or his custody thereof having been by any means interrupted at any time or times between the time of the seizure and the time of the actual sale of such goods, animals or chattels."

This, too, is of a consequential nature. Once you grant that the Under-Sheriff may send out of his bailiwick and sell elsewhere, it seems natural and necessary to grant that that effective custody and actual continuous possession shall not be necessary by the Under-Sheriff or his immediate agents. Cattle going by trains, for instance, or going on board ship—these in reality are in possession of the Under-Sheriff inasmuch as they are consigned by him to a particular address, and have been handed over to trustworthy care. But simply to make the thing perfectly straight, we ask that interruption of actual personal effective custody shall not break the seizure by the Under-Sheriff.

The motion is:—"That Section VI stand part of the Bill."

I call for a division.

The Dáil divided: Tá, 31; Níl, 10:—

  • Donchadh Ó Guaire.
  • Uáitéar Mac Cumhaill.
  • Seán Ó Maolruaidh.
  • Seán Ó Duinnín.
  • Mícheál Ó hAonghusa.
  • Pádraig Mag Ualghairg.
  • Deasmhumhain Mac Gearailt.
  • Seán Ó Ruanaidh.
  • Seosamh Mag Craith.
  • Domhnall Mac Cárthaigh.
  • Earnán Altun.
  • Gearóid Mac Giobúin.
  • Liam Thrift.
  • Eoin Mac Néill.
  • Pádraig Ó hOgáin.
  • Seosamh Ó Faoileacháin.
  • Fionán Ó Loingsigh.
  • Criostóir Ó Broin.
  • Caomhghin Ó hUigín.
  • Séamus Ó Dóláin.
  • Próinsias Mag Aonghusa.
  • Eamon Ó Dúgáin.
  • Peadar Ó hAodha.
  • Séamus Ó Murchadha.
  • Earnán de Blaghd.
  • Uinseann de Faoite.
  • Domhnall Ó Broin.
  • Seoirse Gabhain Ui Dubhthaigh.
  • Sir Séamus Craig.
  • Seoirse Mac Niocaill.
  • Próinsias Bulfin.

Níl

  • Tomás de Nógla.
  • Tomás Mac Eoin.
  • Liam Ó Briain.
  • Aodh Ó Cúlacháin.
  • Cathal Ó Seanáin.
  • Seán Buitléir.
  • Nioclás Ó Faoláin.
  • Domhnall Ó Muirgheasa.
  • Domhnall Ó Ceallacháin.
  • Risteárd Mac Fheorais.
Motion declared carried.

Section 6 stands part of the Bill.

I beg to move Section VII. as follows:—"No action whether for damages or trespass or otherwise shall lie against an Under-Sheriff for or on account of his having entered or broken into any lands, house, close or other premises for the purpose of taking into execution any goods, animals or other chattels which were or might be on or in such lands, house, close or premises, or for or on account of any injury occasioned to such lands, house or premises by or in the course of such entry or breaking in."

In this section I propose to accept one amendment. This is merely a provision that people shall not defeat the law by the comparatively simple devise of shutting the door.

I move the first amendment on the Orders of the Day—to delete the words in line 57, "whether for damages or trespass or otherwise."

Mr. O'HIGGINS

I accept the first amendment.

I am not in love with the Clause, which I would like left out altogether, but I move the amendment with a view to taking some of the more evil parts out of it.

I think this amendment might be accepted.

Mr. O'HIGGINS

It has been accepted.

Amendment agreed to.

I move the second amendment—after the words "close or other premises," line 59, to insert the words "of a person against whom he is called upon to enforce a judgment, order or decree," and after the words "or other chattels," lines 60 and 61, to insert the words "of such persons." The clause as drafted says you must not punish the Sheriff if he breaks into any house or lands, rightly or wrongly. You have a judgment, say, against A, and you can call upon the Sheriff to break into the house or lands of B, C, or D, on the allegation that there might be some of the goods lying there. Now, that is a very dangerous power to give the Sheriff, and I submit to the Dáil that the clause is absolutely unnecessary except in so far as it protects the Sheriff for breaking into the house of the debtor himself. The position of the law, as it stands, is so peculiar that I make no apology for reminding the Dáil what the present position is. The Sheriff is not allowed to break into the debtor's house. This section says he may. I have no objection. Anyone who has read Dickens will remember to what subterfuges people had to resort to get into a house without breaking into it. The section goes further, and says that he may break into anyone's house, and nobody has any right to complain. At present, if a judgment debtor has cattle removed to a field of a neighbour, or goods removed to the house of a neighbour, the Sheriff is at liberty to break into that house or field, with any force necessary, and no action lies against him. That is quite right. All this thing is based on the funny old English theory that we have exploded in this country, that "every man's house is his castle," but the gentleman next door to whose house the debtor has removed his goods only has a castle for the purpose of protecting his own property, and not for the purpose of protecting the debtor's property. Therefore, if the Sheriff goes in and actually finds cattle or goods on this other man's land or in this other man's house, he is acting within his rights even in breaking into the house; but under this section it is proposed to go a great deal further, and it says, whether or not the Sheriff finds goods in the house next door, or in any other house into which he chances to break, no action shall lie against him, and therefore if there is a judgment against any individual in this city, the Sheriff will be entitled to go into the house of any other individual whatsoever and no action shall lie against him—not merely to go in, mind, but to break in by force, with all these new substitute bailiffs accompanying him to help in the process. I think that is a very dangerous power to give the Sheriff. I can hardly conceive that that is really what the Government intends. It is an absolutely unheard of thing. Think of what the effect will be in a country place when a gentleman who has a grudge against certain neighbours, and has a judgment against one of them, can have every one of them visited in this pleasant way by the Sheriff and his company under the pretext that the debtor's goods are there, and the affected people will be told, "Oh, look at Section 7 of that Act. You have got no remedy. The Sheriff may be right or wrong, but you have got no remedy." Now, I ask the Dáil to say that that is not reasonable, and I ask the Dáil to say, in this amendment, that the Ministry is perfectly right in authorising the Sheriff, if necessary, to break by force into the debtor's place, into the man against whom the judgment stands, but that there is no need for any alteration in the law as regards third parties. In other words, if the creditor wants the Sheriff to break into somebody else's place, he must give the Sheriff an indemnity beforehand, so that if the Sheriff finds no goods there he can turn back to the creditor and make him pay the damage, so that the man into whose house the Sheriff has wrongly and improperly broken shall not be told that he has no remedy against the Sheriff. Therefore, I move the second amendment on the paper.

I would like to support this amendment. I believe the law has been correctly stated by Deputy Duffy. I think that the Sheriff requires statutory authority to enable him to break into the debtor's house to search for goods, and, taking the view of the Government with regard to this Act and the necessity for it, I think that power is rightly taken. They must have power now to resist force by force, to overcome force by force, and to collect by force goods that they are entitled to distrain, that have been withheld from the officers of the law by force. But the Sheriff requires no authority to break into the house of another party to get the goods of the debtor, and the other party has no right to resist the Sheriff for the purpose of protecting goods that the Sheriff was lawfully trying to recover, and, therefore, it seems to me that where the Sheriff goes into the third party's premises to search for the goods of the judgment debtor, and goes there by force, if there are no goods there the man whose house is broken into ought to have some claim against the Sheriff for having gone there for goods that were not there. Now, this is another case in which I think the necessities of the Government for collecting public debts, and all debts due to the State, have blinded them as to what may happen in the levying of executions for civil debts. Here in this city, or in any other place of the kind, I may recover a judgment against somebody or other, and while this Act stands, I can say, "I have got a strong suspicion that my debtor has put his goods into somebody's house next door, and have a try there for them." It may be mere rumour, it may be mere suspicion, or it may be mere spite. That man's house is broken open and nothing is found, and he is left without a remedy. It does not seem to me that that is justice. Therefore, I think that the Sheriff should get the power that is rightly given him to break a debtor's house, but that the law should be left as it stands, that if he breaks into anybody else's house, he does so at his peril. When one of these new Under-Sheriffs goes down to levy for taxes due to the State, or to a public institution, he will know very well what he is about, and what he will get before he sets out on his search, and if he goes into a third party's premises, we may be quite sure he will go, knowing what he is going to find there, and he will not make any mistake about it. The fear, I think, is that the power which is given for public purposes may be grossly misused for private ends in cases which the Government had not within their contemplation, I honestly believe, when they were framing the words of this Statute. Therefore, I support the amendment by Deputy Gavan Duffy which, if accepted, will give the Sheriff power to break the house of a judgment debtor, and will leave him with the power and authority he already possesses to break into the house of somebody else in search of the debtor's goods.

Mr. O'HIGGINS

We do not consider it possible to accept this second amendment. I do not know whether Deputy Gavan Duffy has much knowledge of the country. I do not know whether he was ever in the country, except on the occasion on which he and I endeavoured to address a meeting at Tullamore, and had a seven miles' walk to get there. You cannot have yourselves in the position that, by the simple device of removing a bush in a gap, and driving stock into some other one's land for the time being that the law can be defeated, and as things stand now Deputy Gavan Duffy could buy a piano for £80, promising to pay for it within six months, could buy 8 cattle at £10 per head——

No, you could not.

Mr. O'HIGGINS

And put them to graze on Deputy Gorey's farm, and without Deputy Gorey's consent. The unfortunate man who trusted him with the piano on the strength of his promise to pay could not seize those eight cattle for sale in execution of a decree.

Mr. O'HIGGINS

He might, of course; but he could not go in to look for them on "spec." He would want to be absolutely certain they were there, and Deputy Gorey might remove a bush from a gap and drive them into his nextdoor neighbour's farm, and let the original and true owner of the piano in for an action. There is nothing harsh about this, because, granted that the right to go in search of a judgment debtor's goods existed in the past, but that it turned on the question as to whether the goods were actually on the premises of the third party or not, this merely means that, in the event of a refusal to allow the Sheriff or his agents to enter and ascertain whether the property is or is not there, the Sheriff may enter on the strength of his warrant, on the strength of the decree of the Courts, if he has a reasonable certainty that the goods are there. But a reasonable certainty as distinct from an absolute certainty is all that should be necessary. Any modifying clause that can be devised to ensure that he would have to give grounds, and might be answerable to the extent of giving fair grounds for his belief if so challenged, I would be willing to accept; but unless he is absolutely certain, and certain in such a way that there would be no element of risk whatever, that he cannot enter the third party's premises, I would not agree that the Under-Sheriff should be put in that position in the future. That particular provision in the existing law—i.e., that the indemnity was to turn purely on the question of whether he does in fact find the judgment debtor's goods on the premises or not— has effectively defeated the law in the past. I am willing to accept an amendment which would be to this effect, that he must be able to show that he had reasonable grounds for his belief that the judgment debtor's goods were in fact on these premises. Further than that I would not accept; and if no such modification of the present amendment is put up, I will simply stand over the section as it appears in the paper and press it.

I am not prepared to suggest an amendment forthwith on this Reading, but I want to say this of the Section, it seems to me to betray the prevalence of a notion that runs through other parts of the Bill—namely, that it is the Sheriff's business to find the debtor's goods. Now, I say that notion is completely unfounded, and I say but for that notion such a clause as this would not be suggested, because it is the creditors' duty—the creditors' business to look around and discover where these goods are, and then to tell the Sheriff they are in such and such a place, but the notion that it is the Sheriff's business to go hunting about and go into other houses on the chance that the goods would be there is an entirely wrong one. I cannot help feeling that it is because that notion is at the back of the Ministerial mind that this queer clause has been introduced into the Bill.

Amendment put and lost.

I would like to ask the Minister if he would be prepared to accept some simple words, such as he himself has suggested or if he would consider the possibility of inserting them on the next stage. I would suggest simply the inclusion of the words, "in the event of the request for permission to search being refused." I think that would be some protection, if the other protection has been lost, as it has.

Mr. O'HIGGINS

That would not be entirely suitable, because it is not always a question of a dwelling-house, or even a business premises, furniture store, or anything like that. It is equally as often a question of land, and there is not always someone there whose permission could be asked—there is not always someone in apparent possession. Now, I would be prepared to put that——

I was going to put in some form of proviso that in the event of the Sheriff's failing to find the goods of the debtor upon the premises this section might be an inconvenience to him, unless he should satisfy the jury or tribunal that he had reasonable grounds to expect he would find them. If I have permission to bring that up on the next stage of the Bill, I will try to put it in order. I cannot do it on the spur of the moment.

I think it would be better to wait until the next stage, and allow all parties to give consideration to the wording.

Exactly; I will try and do it by the next stage.

Question put:—"That Section VII, as amended stand part of the Bill."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 32; Níl, 10:—

  • Donchadh Ó Guaire.
  • Seán Maolruaidh.
  • Seán Ó Duinnín.
  • Mícheál Ó hAonghusa.
  • Pádraig Mag Ualghairg.
  • Deasmhumhain Mac Gearailt.
  • Seán Ó Ruanaidh.
  • Micheál de Stáineas.
  • Seosamh Mag Craith.
  • Domhnall Mac Cárthaigh.
  • Earnán Altún.
  • Gearóid Mac Giobúin.
  • Sir Séamus Craig, M.D.
  • Liam Thrift.
  • Eoin Mac Néill.
  • Seosamh Ó Faoileacháin.
  • Fionán Ó Loingsigh.
  • Criostóir Ó Broin.
  • Caomhghin Ó hUigín.
  • Séamus Ó Dóláin.
  • Proinsias Mag Aonghusa.
  • Eamon Ó Dúgáin.
  • Peadar Ó hAodha.
  • Séamus Ó Murchadha.
  • Earnán de Blaghd.
  • Domhnall Ó Broin.
  • Domhnall Ó Mocháin.
  • Séamus Breathnach.
  • Seoirse Mac Niocaill.
  • Risteárd Mac Liam.
  • Próinsias Bulfin.
  • Liam Mac Sioghaird.

Níl

  • Tomás de Nógla.
  • Seoirse Ghabhain Uí Dhubhthaigh.
  • Tomás Mac Eoin.
  • Liam Ó Briain.
  • Aodh Ó Cúlacháin.
  • Cathal Ó Seanáin.
  • Seán Buitléir.
  • Domhnall Ó Muirgheasa.
  • Domhnall Ó Ceallacháin.
  • Liam Mag Aonghusa.
Motion declared carried.
SECTION VIII
"From and after the passing of this Act and notwithstanding any enactment, rule of law or order to the contrary no action shall lie against and no penalty shall be incurred by any Under-Sheriff in the absence of fraud, malice or gross negligence for or on account of his having seized or sold under any writ offieri facias or any decree of a Civil Bill Court more goods, animals or other chattels than would or might be sufficient to meet the full amount of the debt or sum of money, and all costs, fees, charges and expenses leviable by law (including this Act) under or by virtue of such writ or decree.”

The purport of that section is simply to safeguard the Sheriff so that if he exercises reasonable care, he shall not be liable for an action for seizure in excess of the amount of the debt plus any charges or fees. When it comes to a question of values, the Under-Sheriff, for instance, might find himself in a position where he would have a certain amount of goods in his possession, which he felt would be short of the amount of the debt, and only some object of considerable value, perhaps a marble clock would remain. He must be so safeguarded that unless fraud or malice or gross negligence shall be proved against him, that he shall not be liable for an action for seizure in excess. That is simply the purport of the Section. It is so reasonable that I do not think it needs any particular stress or pressure to emphasise it. It is an easy matter to prove malice or fraud; it is an easy matter to prove gross negligence, negligence so culpable as to give ground for an action. On the other hand, you have the fact, that it is extremely inadvisable to have an officer of the Court in that position in which he would be hampered in the execution of his duty, by dread of a civil action.

I have not put down any amendment to this clause, but there is one that I would like to suggest for the consideration of the Government between this and the next stage, and that is that at the end of line 6, after the word "more" they should introduce the words "or less." At present a Sheriff is liable to two forms of action. He can be sued by the judgment debtor for over-seizure, but he is also liable to the judgment creditor for under-seizure—that is to say, if he makes a seizure and by error of judgment levies too small a distress to cover the debt, it might be found that they cannot afterwards realise because the judgment debtor has made away with his goods. This clause protects the Sheriff against only one form of action— that for over-seizure. The object of the law was to keep the balance fairly between the creditor and debtor—that the debtor should not be oppressed by having excessive seizure, and, on the other hand, that the creditor should not be prejudiced by the Sheriff, accidentally or otherwise, seizing too little. If this Clause goes through in its present form, Sheriffs and their officers are only human beings, and they will take care to protect themselves in every possible way against any suggestion that they seized too little. The tendency will always be to seize too much, because they will always say, "At any rate, I am on the right side of the line, and if I take too much nothing can happen to me. Therefore I will make sure that I will not be under the mark, anyway." He has no desire to go under the mark, and I think that the poor judgment debtor ought to be protected against the possibility of the Sheriff always taking too much for fear of leaving himself liable to action for taking too little. I think that is a reasonable thing, that will still leave the matter to the judgment of the Sheriff to do the best he can, knowing he will not be liable to an action for an honest mistake, whichever side of the line he falls on. I suggest the introduction of these two words might very fairly be considered before this Bill comes up for another reading. I have not moved any amendment. It leaves the balance drawn fairly between the debtor and creditor, as it was by the law up to today. Under it the Sheriff would be protected from actions by either party, just as by the law at present he is liable to an action by either party.

Mr. O'HIGGINS

I think that is a reasonable case, and I would be prepared to accept off-hand the addition of these two words.

I looked into the matter, and I think these two words are quite safe.

Amendment: "At the end of line 6 to insert the words ‘or less.'"

Put and agreed to.

Question put: "That Section 8 as amended stand part of the Bill."
The Dáil divided—Tá, 32; Níl, 11:—

  • Donchadh Ó Guaire.
  • Seán Ó Maolruaidh.
  • Seán Ó Duinnín.
  • Mícheál Ó hAonghusa.
  • Domhnall Ó Mocháin.
  • Deasmhumhain Mac Gearailt.
  • Seán Ó Ruanaidh.
  • Seosamh Mag Craith.
  • Domhnall Mac Cárthaigh.
  • Gearoid Mac Giobúin.
  • Earnán Altún.
  • Liam Thrift.
  • Eoin Mac Néill.
  • Pádraig Ó hOgáin.
  • Seosamh Ó Faoileacháin.
  • Fionán Ó Loingsigh.
  • Criostóir Ó Broin.
  • Caomhghin Ó hUigín.
  • Séamus Ó Dóláin.
  • Próinsias Mag Aonghusa.
  • Eamon Ó Dúgáin.
  • Peadar Ó hAodha.
  • Séamus Ó Murchadha.
  • Earnán de Blaghd.
  • Uinseann de Faoite.
  • Séamus Breathnach.
  • Pádraig Mag Ualghairg.
  • Sir Séamus Craig, Ridire, M.D.
  • Seoirse Mac Niocaill.
  • Risteárd Mac Liam.
  • Próinsias Bulfin.
  • Liam Mac Sioghaird.

Níl

  • Tomás de Nógla.
  • Tomás Mac Eoin.
  • Liam Ó Briain.
  • Aodh Ó Cúlacháin.
  • Cathal Ó Seanáin.
  • Seán Buitléir.
  • Nioclás Ó Faoláin.
  • Domhnall Ó Muirgheasa.
  • Domhnall Ó Ceallacháin.
  • Liam Mag Aonghusa
  • Risteárd Mac Fheorais.
Motion declared carried.

Mr. O'HIGGINS

In spite of the avowed desire of Deputies opposite to go on record against every section of this Bill, I have great hopes with regard to Section 9. It enables the fees payable to under-sheriffs and bailiffs to be revised, and, of course, to be revised with a view to their increase. I think there will be a conflict in the minds of Deputies as to whether they will not prefer to leave themselves open to the charge of inconsistency in order to support and maintain their desire to increase wages all round with a view to providing a better standard of living.

(At this stage Mr. G. Nicolls took the chair.)

Mr. O'HIGGINS

The fees, no doubt, are low. They were fixed at a time when the purchasing power of money was considerably greater than it is at present, and they call for revision.

On a point of order. Have you had any complaints from the men's union?

Mr. O'HIGGINS

There have been no official representations. Section 9 reads:

(1) The Minister may by order appoint and from time to time revise a scale of the fees to be charged by and paid to Under-Sheriffs, Bailiffs and other persons for their services in or about the execution of writs offieri facias and writs of habere and in or about the execution of decrees (whether for debt, possession of land or otherwise) of Civil Bill Courts.

(2) The fees specified in any scale of fees appointed under this section shall be in lieu of and substitution for the fees now by law chargeable by or payable to Under-Sheriffs, Bailiffs and other persons for the like service, and every enactment relating to the payment or recovery of the fees now chargeable or payable as aforesaid shall apply to the fees which shall respectively be substituted therefor by such scale as aforesaid as fully as same now applies to the fees now chargeable and payable as aforesaid.

(3) Every power which at the passing of this Act is vested in any person, body or authority to appoint or regulate the fees to be charged by or paid to Under-Sheriffs, Bailiffs and other persons shall be suspended and incapable of being exercised while this Act is in force.

(4) Every scale of fees appointed or revised by the Minister under this section shall be published in theIris Oifigiúil and primá facie evidence of every or any such scale may be given in all Courts of Justice and in all legal proceedings by the production of a copy of the Iris Oifigiúil purporting to contain such scale or by the production of a copy of such scale purporting to be printed under the superintendence or authority of the Stationery Office of the Government of Saorstát Eireann.

I beg to move that Section.

Notwithstanding the appeal to the self-interest, which the Minister suggests to the members on these benches, our feeling of detestation to the Bill is so strong that even that temptation would not persuade us to accept this clause. If the Minister were willing to enlarge this clause of the Bill so as to include all persons who live by their own labour, and then make way for a Labour Minister, we might strike a bargain.

Mr. O'HIGGINS

I will consider the matter.

A very ambiguous answer.

Question put:—"That Section 9 stand part of the Bill."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 32; Níl, 11:—

  • Donchadh Ó Guaire.
  • Seán Ó Maolruaidh.
  • Seán Ó Duinnín.
  • Mícheál Ó hAonghusa.
  • Domhnall Ó Mocháin.
  • Séamus Breathnach.
  • Pádraig Mag Ualghairg.
  • Deasmhumhain Mac Gearailt.
  • Seán Ó Ruanaidh.
  • Micheál de Stáineas.
  • Seosamh Mag Craith.
  • Domhnall Mac Carthaigh.
  • Earnán Altún.
  • Sir Séamus Craig.
  • Gearóid Mac Giobúin.
  • Liam Thrift.
  • Eoin Mac Néill.
  • Pádraig Ó hOgáin.
  • Seosamh Ó Faoileacháin.
  • Fionán Ó Loingsigh.
  • Criostóir Ó Broin.
  • Risteárd Mac Liam.
  • Cacimhghin Ó hUigín.
  • Próinsias Bulfin.
  • Séamus Ó Dóláin.
  • Próinsias Mag Aonghusa.
  • Eamon Ó Dúgáin.
  • Peadar Ó hAodha.
  • Séamus Ó Murchadha.
  • Liam Mac Sioghaird.
  • Earnán de Blaghd.
  • Domhnall Ó Broin.

Níl

  • Tomás de Nógla.
  • Tomás Mac Eoin.
  • Liam Ó Briain.
  • Liam Mag Aonghusa.
  • Aodh Ó Cúlacháin.
  • Cathal Ó Seanáin.
  • Seán Buitléir.
  • Nioclás Ó Faoláin.
  • Domhnall Ó Muirgheasa.
  • Ristéard Mac Fheorais.
  • Domhnall Ó Ceallacháin.
Motion declared carried.
SECTION 10.
(1) Wherever the sessions of a Court of Quarter Sessions or of a Civil Bill Court for any division were pursuant to an order or purported order of the County Court Judge at any time after the 6th day of December, 1922, and before the passing of this Act, held at any place other than the place at which or outside the county, division, or other area in which such Court was by any enactment, rule or order required to be held, the place in which such sessions were actually held shall be deemed to have been at the time of the holding of such sessions the place and within the county division or area at or in which such Court was by such enactment, rule or order required to be held.
(2) From and after the passing of this Act the Sessions of the Court of Quarter Sessions and of the Civil Bill Court for any division of any county may, in lieu of being held in a town in such division, be held in the Courthouse in such other town in any other division of the same or an adjoining county as the County Court Judge shall with the approval of the Minister from time to time appoint.
(3) For the purpose of any enactment requiring the Courts of Quarter Sessions or the Civil Bill Courts to be held in any particular Courthouse or building or within any particular county, division, or other area, the Courthouse appointed under this section for the holding of any Sessions of a Court of Quarter Sessions or of a Civil Bill Court shall be deemed to be the Courthouse or building and to be within the county, division, or other area in or within which such Court or Sessions is or are by such enactment required to be held.
(5)Prima facie evidence of any order made by a County Court Judge under this section may be given in all Courts of Justice and all legal proceedings by the production of a copy thereof purporting to be certified to be true by the Registrar of the County Court Judge by whom the order was made, which copy the Registrar aforesaid shall be bound to furnish to any person on payment of the fee prescribed by the Minister, and it shall not be necessary to prove the signature of such Registrar or that he is in fact the Registrar of such County Court Judge.
(6) In this section the expression "County Court Judge" includes a Recorder or Judge of a Borough.

Mr. O'HIGGINS

We pass now, a Chinn Chomhairle, to a portion of the Bill which has no bearing on the payment of debts, and may I be permitted to express the hope that the attitude of settled hostility that has been displayed towards the Bill may now be altered. Section 10 merely provides that where it is, for any reason, impossible to hold a particular Quarter Sessions or County Court in the statutory place, the Judge may, at his discretion, name another place as the venue for his particular Court or Sessions. In Sub-section 2 of that Section I would ask leave of the Dáil to omit the words on line 53, "or an adjoining," before county. It is not proposed to alter the venue from a town in one county to some town in an adjoining county. Therefore I ask leave to omit the words "or an adjoining." It will be understood that in the present condition of the country there may be serious difficulties in the holding of a court in the particular town which is the proper statutory venue, and this section is simply intended to provide for such a situation. Even in the last few months Judges have had, as a matter of necessity, to use their discretion and make an order that their Courts shall be held elsewhere than in the statutory places. You will note, from the date we give, that we give this power retrospectively. We give it back to the 6th day of December, because since December in a few cases it has been necessary for County Court Judges to hold their courts elsewhere than in the statutory places. I think Deputies will agree that this is a reasonable and necessary provision, and I move Section 10.

Amendment agreed to.
Question put: "That Section 10, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 34; Níl, 10:—

  • Donchadh Ó Guaire.
  • Seán Ó Maolruaidh.
  • Seán Ó Duinnín.
  • Micheál Ó hAonghusa.
  • Pádraig Mag Ualghairg.
  • Domhnall Ó Mochain.
  • Deasmhumhain Mac Gearailt.
  • Seán Ó Ruanaidh.
  • Ailfrid Ó Broin.
  • Domhnall Mac Cárthaigh.
  • Earnan Altún.
  • Gearoid Mac Giobúin.
  • Liam Thrift.
  • Eoin Mac Néill.
  • Pádraig Ó hOgáin.
  • Seosamh Ó Faoileacháin.
  • Fionán Ó Loingsigh.
  • Criostóir Ó Broin.
  • Caomhghin Ó hUigín.
  • Séamus Ó Dóláin.
  • Próinsias Mag Aonghusa.
  • Eamon Ó Dúgáin.
  • Peadar Ó hAodha.
  • Séamus Ó Murchadha.
  • Earnán de Blaghd.
  • Uinseann de Faoite.
  • Domhnall Ó Broin.
  • Séumas Breathnach.
  • Míchéal de Stáineas.
  • Sir Séamus Craig, Ridire, M.D.
  • Risteárd Mac Liam.
  • Próins as Bulfin.
  • Liam Mac Sioghaird.
  • Séumas de Burca.

Níl

  • Tomás de Nógla.
  • Tomás Mac Eoin.
  • Liam Ó Briain.
  • Cathal Ó Seanáin.
  • Seán Buitléir.
  • Nioclás Ó Faoláin.
  • Domhnall Ó Muirgheasa.
  • Domhnall Ó Ceallacháin.
  • Liam Mag Aonghusa.
  • Risteárd Mac Fheorais.
Motion declared carried.
SECTION 11.
(1) Any County Court Judge may deem any document to which this section applies to have been validly served notwithstanding that same was not served in the manner required by the law in force at the passing of this Act if the County Court Judge is satisfied:—
(a) that it was not reasonably possible to effect service of such document in the manner required by the law aforesaid; and
(b) that such document or a copy thereof or reasonable notice of such document and of the contents thereof did in fact reach the person required to be served therewith.
(2) This section applies:—
(a) to all civil bills, whether ordinary, title, equity or otherwise;
(b) to all documents summoning or requiring the attendance of grand jurors, special jurors or common jurors, whether for criminal or civil business at any Court of Quarter Sessions or Civil Bill Court.
(3) In this section the expression "County Court Judge" includes a Recorder and the Judge of a Borough.

I beg to move Section 11. That provision has been found necessary also owing to certain conditions existing in the country. It is simply a reasonable provision. It is a matter of public convenience that this alternative service of documents and so on, should be agreed to. The section needs no particular advocacy.

With your permission I would move, on behalf of Deputy Figgis, the following amendment:—

"Any County Court Judge may in his discretion rule that the provisions of this Act shall not apply to any decree or decrees, if it shall seem to him that they would prove harsh or injurious, and that the debtor or debtors are willing, but are by force of circumstances unable to pay, and in that case all other statutes shall apply as if this Act had not been passed."

This amendment is directed to secure what I have already spoken of twice,i.e., that the drastic clauses of this measure shall not operate against the innocent or comparatively innocent debtor, for I suppose all debtors are guilty. But I would divide debtors into those who would pay if they could, and those who can pay and will not, and it has been explained repeatedly by the Minister that the measure is really intended against those who could and will not. Now, if a certificate, or the equivalent, were issued by a judge to the effect that the judgment debtor was a debtor of the ordinary category, not seeking to evade the law, not trying to take advantage of the dislocation of public order, but simply prevented as the cliché runs by circumstances not under his control, then the ordinary law hitherto existing should apply in his case. It seems a most reasonable provision. If it had been put into the Bill at the beginning I venture to say that a great deal of the opposition with which certain clauses have been met would not have been forthcoming.

On a point of order Deputy Figgis is in the Dáil, and I do not think that the leave of the Dáil has been obtained.

ACTING CHAIRMAN

Deputy Figgis was not in the Dáil when the amendment was being moved.

Before he moves that amendment, he must have permission in writing from the Deputy, or else have the leave of the Dáil.

It is not necessary to have this in writing. What Deputy McCarthy has in his mind is the Standing Order with regard to asking questions for an absent Deputy. There is such Standing Order which provides that a permit should be in writing, but I have a precedent inasmuch as I have already moved amendments for Deputy Figgis. However, as the latter is now in the Dáil, I withdraw in his favour.

I am sure that the amendment could be far more persuasively moved by Deputy Magennis, and I withdraw in his favour.

The Deputy was in the Dáil.

ACTING CHAIRMAN

The Deputy was not in the Dáil at the moment.

He was in the building.

Perhaps the Deputy was temporarily incapacitated?

ACTING CHAIRMAN

Deputy Magennis can proceed——

Thanks, I have finished.

Mr. O'HIGGINS

The wording of this amendment is not clear. As it stands, one would be in doubt whether it was not retrospective in its intent, or that the County Court Judge, giving the decree, in the future might say this decree is not to be executed under the provisions of the Bill. Perhaps, before I proceed further, the Deputy will give me some information.

On the Second Reading of this Bill, the President said, in answer to certain criticisms made, it was the intention of the Executive Council that decrees should not be issued under the severer provisions of this Bill, if their execution would be harsh or injurious, and he said further that it would be the intention of the Executive Council to give a discretion to the Sheriff in special circumstances. The words were hastily spoken and, no doubt, inaccurately conveyed his mind; at least one hopes so, because if there be any discretion at all, it cannot be vested in the Sheriff, who is a mere officer of the Court, but in the Court itself. Interpreting, therefore, that assurance as it could only be interpreted legally, I have put forward this amendment to enable this discretion to be vested in the Court. The amendment does say that if a decree or decrees shall seem harsh or injurious, in the judgment or discretion of the Court, and not merely shall seem harsh or injurious, but that taken together with the circumstances they seem harsh and that the debtor is by the force of circumstances unable to pay though willing to pay, then, and only then, will it be in the discretion of the Judge to give judgment while this Act is running and to dispense with the drastic conditions it contains, and proceed as if such Act had not passed, and that the other laws which would be in operation but for this Act were still in operation.

I think there is a good deal to be said for this amendment. The present time has been availed of by landlords, and especially for the last few weeks, to issue writs up and down the country for non-payment of rent by unpurchased tenants. I think this question is an effort to aggravate an already sufficiently aggravated position, and is meant to add fuel to the fire. As a matter of fact, I believe it is in many cases inspired by a Shylock-like spirit of malice. There is no doubt about the existence of the Shylock-like spirit amongst many landlords. As a matter of fact, the least scrupulous amongst their class take advantage of this very section of compulsion as sufficient justification for the assertion of this Shylock-like spirit, and for the sake of a few pounds they would bleed the country and all humanity dry together. This is a peculiar question. As a matter of fact the whole question is in the hands of the Government. In face of that and though everyone knows in recent land settlement questions arrears are a matter of contention and legislation has been introduced under this particular head, still in face of that, when the matter is about to be settled and is in the hands of the Government, we have the issue of writs wholesale, even where there is only half a year's rent due. I do not know what the attitude of the Government is, but I do think this matter should be very carefully considered. The public and our class will stand anything in justice, but they will not stand anything in injustice. They have had enough of that. These Shylocks imagine that the armed forces of the Government will come to the assistance of the Sheriff and execute writs on their behalf. That would be one of the greatest calamities that could happen, especially when the matter is having the attention of the Government at the moment. This is not a question that no rent should be paid. Nothing of the sort. We never advocated that. Our people never advocated the non-payment of rents; but the position is now acute, and we want an adjustment. A certain standard of rent is demanded, and I know landlords that have accepted 50 per cent., while there are others who would not give 1 per cent. reduction, and have refused to discuss the question at all. I could quote a hundred cases where 50 per cent. was given, and I could give a thousand cases where nothing at all was given. I cannot understand the attitude of those people. I have always found that enough trouble came to one without looking for it. If these people set out to find trouble, they need not be disappointed if they do find it, and I presume they will find it and get it.

Ba mhaith liom cuidiú leis seo. Sílim go bhfuil sé riachtanach ins an mbille. I am in favour of this new clause, and have been consistent all through the Bill against any modification in the machinery. I believe the machinery that is required has to be perfectly tight and secure if this Act is to do the work it is called upon to do. That work is very needful at the present moment all over the country. While I believe the machinery should not be modified, but kept tight, at the same time I feel that there should be some judicial discretion left in order to give some chance of discriminating between those who are evading their liabilities and those who are honestly oppressed by the stress of circumstances. I think that discretion should be left in judicial hands, and I believe the judicial authorities will interpret that discretion widely and save us from ordaining, or supposing to ordain, any hardship on people not able to meet the position at the present moment through circumstances that could not possibly be avoided. It would be deplorable if we put all these people in the same category, without any power or discretion to relieve them from the stress that these circumstances ordained for them. It is at the fountain head where these decrees emanated, this discretion should be given. Once they are fiated, and once they go forth, the utmost machinery possible should be placed at the disposal of the authorities to get these decrees; and once they are certified as decrees they should go forth. It is the evasion of liabilities, and the taking advantage of the present situation of chaos that ordained these amounts to be due and unpaid, and it was not inability or stress of circumstances. We should not allow ourselves to be chargeable with any authority, or with ordaining anything that would not take some cognizance of poor persons who are in such a state of misfortune from circumstances they could not foresee. I would urge the Government to accept this amendment and by doing so they would be doing everything possible to assure the community that no person will be oppressed wrongly, and that the stress of circumstances will be taken into account by a judicial authority which will decide as to the merits or demerits of the case.

I am surprised to hear the speeches of Deputy Gorey and Deputy McGoldrick. They have steadily and consistently supported this Bill clause after clause, but now they are asking for special machinery to be put into force respecting a certain class of debtor. Practically that is what they are asking. Ministers have told us several times in the course of the discussions that this is simply a Bill intended to ensure that debts shall be paid. If there had been a few more sections in the Bill we might have had in our hands before arriving at this particular clause, the speech of the Minister for Agriculture last night, and we could have read it to show you how just and necessary this particular Bill is as a Bill; that you must not make any discrimination between debtors. All debtors are the same to the Ministry. The decree is issued. You have no right to discriminate; the law must be carried out, debts must be paid. Acts of Parliament are passed for the purpose of enforcement. That is the purpose of the Ministry as defined by the Minister for Agriculture.

At this stage the Chair was taken by An Ceann Comhairle.

You cannot start machinery of this kind and then say it is only to be applied in special cases. That plea has been overridden by Ministers, but the leader of the farmers in the country——

Question.

And also Deputy McGoldrick come now at the last stage and say, "make some modification, the principle of the Bill is wrong. We have supported it all through and now we are asking for this particular modification." I do not know whether Ministers are going to be affected by the arguments of the two Deputies who have just spoken.

And you hope not.

The arguments are perfectly valid and they ought to be taken into account, but it is inconsistent with the principle of the Bill. I will listen with interest and some anxiety to know what the Minister in charge of the Bill will say, and when I have heard it, and when I am able to read carefully the speech delivered by the Minister for Agriculture last night, I shall draw my own conclusions.

My speech was mainly directed to certain people, where legislation at the moment is being considered, and where a certain section want to anticipate that legislation, and want to be very cute. They want to do something that was brought before my mind yesterday, and I think sharp practice would be the word to use. I refer to a particular instance and not to the whole scope of debtors and creditors at all. I only referred to a particular clause where legislation is being introduced, and nothing else.

Before this amendment is put I should like to know a little more about what the supposed effect of it is. I listened with great care to the speeches of the Deputies supporting it, and I am afraid that even if this amendment did pass, that they and those whom they represent will be very gravely disappointed, because as I read this proposed sub-section it does not relieve any debtor from the effect of any decree. It does not postpone the levying of any execution of any decree, but merely provides that decrees shall be levied in the old way; that you are to have the old machinery of the sheriff seizing goods, impounding them, sitting on them, and selling them after a fortnight or whatever the period may be. It does not enable a Co. Court Judge to put a stay on the execution of a decree, which I fancy is what is desired. The end they seek would have been attained by the amendment proposed by Deputy Gavan Duffy at Section 3, which enabled the enforcement of a decree to be stayed altogether. This will not stay the enforcement of a decree at all, but simply provides that the Sheriff must seize and sell in the old way, just the same. It will not afford, so far as my reading goes —it cannot afford—any relief to a judgment debtor except that his cattle will have to be sold in the bailiwick of the sub-Sheriff, and his goods will have to be put in possession of the man in possession for the prescribed period, and there will have to be a public auction and the execution will have to be levied all the same.

The Bill is entitled "An Act to prevent the obstruction of legal remedies and to provide for the better enforcement of law," and the short title is "The Enforcement of Law (Occasional Powers) Bill." How could any Deputy who had read that propose as a mere amendment to the operation of a clause something which would radically transform the Bill from being one to prevent the obstruction of legal remedies into a Bill for obstructing legal remedies. It would be highly charitable, no doubt, and perhaps commendable, in the nature of Deputies to introduce a Bill to suspend the operation of law as between creditor and debtor until such time as unfortunate men on the verge of bankruptcy should be able to recover their position but to introduce a measure of that sort under cover of a Bill which is intended to better the condition of things by virtue of which the social order of the Saorstát is imperilled, through men refusing to pay not merely their annual amount on land purchase or their county rates but ordinary trading debts is another matter. If I had thought that the purpose of this amendment was what Deputy Fitzgibbon thought was the purpose not even to oblige Deputy Figgis could I be induced to move it. This Bill or measure is a most necessary one. Powers must be given to remove the obstruction to the enforcement of law as regards the recovery of debts. My objection to it was that it was one giving powers far in excess of what was requisite—that it hit at those who should not be aimed at. Had it been stated in the beginning, I repeat, that some provision would be made to protect those who were unable but willing to pay, from having all those terrible things done to them— namely, their goods and chattels seized to any amount—I should not have opposed Clause 4. Deputy Fitzgibbon speaks as if the protection that would be afforded by this amendment's acceptance would be very slight. It would not. It would put the citizen back again where he stood. It would protect, for example, the under-study of the Under-Sheriff from seizing to any amount; from bringing out of his bailiwick, and even out of the territory of Saorstát Eireann, goods to any amount, and of selling them there without notice to the owner that they were being sold without advertisement; and, what Deputy Fitzgibbon forgets, apparently, the measure here proposes that when such a sale, secretly, covertly in any country, has been effected, that the sale gives to anybona-fide purchaser a valid title; and, whatever has been done in breaking into the debtor's house or premises, he shall have no legal remedy for the excess collection, and shall have no legal remedy for the ruin which may be instant and complete—no legal remedy. The amendment proposed here is to have this terrible instrument put into operation only against the man who has richly deserved it. And as regards the other, who is a comparatively innocent man, he shall be as heretofore— namely, if he incurs debts which he cannot meet, he must take the ordinary consequences. We are not revolutionists. We are not proposing that because Ireland has achieved freedom, and because we have a Parliament here, that men who are too poor shall simply wipe their indebtedness off the slate. I hope that no one supposed that that was our intention.

Cannot those who are supporting the amendment see that the amendment is not consistent with the whole Bill? Those of us who oppose the Bill and every clause in it have opposed it on certain grounds. The supporters of the amendment really want to get certain things done and a certain position created. That position would have been much more easily reached by a different kind of Bill. It seems to me that the Dáil is putting through a Bill to do a certain job, but the amendment wants that job or act not to be done to certain people. Indeed, the Bill, in effect, abrogates the previous Acts dealing with all matters raised in it, for at all events a period of six months. This Amendment wants the provisions of the Act not to stand in so far as certain people are concerned—that is to say, that the Acts which this Bill is intended to abrogate shall stand with regard to those persons. There is no consistency in the thing at all. I cannot see how those who support the Bill as a whole can support the amendment, though naturally, having opposed the Bill in principle, I should like to see the amendment carried.

Deputy Figgis, speaking on behalf of his amendment, and Deputy Magennis, speaking on behalf of him for the amendment, made it clear at any rate that it is not retrospective in its intent, that it would apply to future decrees given by County Court Judges. Now, in fact and in practice a County Court Judge, where a debtor put up a reasonable case and made reasonable proposals to pay, always gave a decree with a stay of execution, and even the courts of the past under the administration of the past did not hold themselves out as instruments of oppression, but had regard to a man whom some adverse turn of fate had placed in the position of being willing but unable to pay his debts and with the best intention in the world of paying them in the future. I take it that that position is not going to be altered and that the County Court Judge in the future, as in the past, will not decree that a man's last five pounds' worth, or third last five pounds' worth, as I think it is now, shall be seized in execution of a debt if he makes any reasonable proposal with regard to payment. That is one thing—the practice of the Courts, the discretion of the Judge—the law is another thing. There is mention made in this amendment of people who are willing but unable to pay their debts. Now, strictly speaking, who is the person unable to pay his debts? The person unable to pay is the person who has nothing which he can sell to enable him to pay his debts. The law and the administration of the law and the spirit behind that administration, are two very different things. We ought not to say here that we recognise a class of case and that if a particular person is unable to pay his debts while he has something which he could sell which would render it possible to pay, we ought not say that, but leave it to the discretion of the Judge who will administer the law. Let the judgment debtor's solicitor put up that case. Let him say, "Here is my client a man with the best intentions in the world, a man who has no intention of defrauding his creditors, are you going to send out the agents of the Court to wreck his house and seize and sell his property? Can you not give him a fair chance of battling against the circumstances which render him for the moment in a position of not being able to meet his debt?" In practice no Court would turn a deaf ear to that kind of plea, and it is to the Court and to the judgment debtor's solicitor that matters of that kind should be left, rather than here to this Parliament. You cannot draft a law to meet special cases, and you ought not to try. It would be a bad precedent to set, to try to draft your law to meet a number of very unusual classes of cases and we can only take the ground here, at any rate, that the man who is unable to pay is the man who has nothing that he can sell. I do not accept this amendment. I understand the spirit that prompted it. I sympathise with the spirit that prompted it, and with the spirit that prompted certain speeches made in its support, but I say you can do no other thing, or no better thing than leave that kind of case to be determined by the particular judge who will try it. Leave it to the eloquence of the judgment debtor's solicitor or barrister to plead it. The administration of the law is not a grim machine that draws in its victims and grinds them to powder. No one here suggests, or has suggested, that a judge administering the law would not give reasonable and all due consideration to the kind of case that is being put up in support of this amendment. No judge regards himself as an instrument of tyranny or a vehicle of oppression of that kind, and as that was not the spirit behind the administration of the law here even in the past, still less is it going to be the spirit behind the administration of law in the future. We all know that there are special cases and I have every confidence that judges will give due consideration to these special cases, but you cannot draft a law to meet them and you ought not to try. If you try to draft the law to meet that special case, which undoubtedly does exist, then you will find everyone claiming that they come under that category. I have never yet heard a man who is withholding payment of his debt to say, "I am withholding, but I could pay very well if I liked." I never met that rare individual, and if I do meet a man honest enough to say that, I hope he will allow me to shake his hand.

I shall be obliged to shake the hand of the Minister—or rather he shall be put under the obligation of shaking mine. I have already brought under the notice of this Dáil, while the Constitution was going through, a grievance which may be confined to a very limited class but which is a very decided grievance. Some of us were foolish enough to follow the advice of men who were called leaders, to assist in our measure in what was called making British government difficult. We withheld payment of our Income Tax. I owe Income Tax to the British Government; there is no need for me to conceal that fact, because the Income Tax collectors are painfully alive to it. Ministers know very well that by a warrant the Income Tax collectors can make a descent upon the property of such as me. The Income Tax officials are watching this debate very keenly—so keenly that I received a letter this morning informing me that High Court costs would be added to my debt to the British Treasury if I did not pay up within seven days the sum assessed, which, by an ordinary process, has become some £300 more than it was when the demand was first made on me. I could pay that, but I will not pay it, so the Minister has at last met a man who owes something and does not say that he cannot pay it. I quite agree with many of the doctrines enunciated by the Minister. I quite agree, even in large measure, with the tenour of his speech. We do not legislate for special cases. Ah! But he forgets that this is emergency legislation; it is not normal legislation; laws are not normally made for special cases, it is true, and should not be made. But when you proceed to take account of special cases, legislate for them and call your Act by that name, are we not entitled to save the normal operation of law by taking into account what would have been the course were it not for your emergency legislation? How is a County Court Judge to exercise a discretionary power if bound by an Act which, at any rate, does not appear to leave room for the exercise of his discretion? Deputy Gorey has mentioned to you a case which, as regards the unpurchased tenants, is an exact parallel to the case I put before you of the defaulting payer of British Income Tax. There are people who have noticed that this measure is going through and they see the enormous and practically unlimited powers it puts them in possession of, and they mean to make use of it, and who shall say them nay? How are they to be stayed once the Bill is an Act? It will not do to appeal to the Ministers to stop the operation of laws which the Dáil has made. That would be arbitrary Government. From the moment this goes forth from the Oireachtas as a law it is our duty to insist that no Ministerial interference—no departmental stay of any kind—shall operate upon it. The time to secure liberty and fair dealing and justice for the citizen is now, when this is going through. The discretion of the Judge in protection of the debtor should be specifically mentioned to relieve the mind of a Judge who feels any uncertainty with regard to what his powers under this measure are to be.

The Minister for Home Affairs has stated that you cannot legislate for special cases, and I agree with him. Deputy Magennis has pointed out that this is special legislation and it is suggested that this legislation is attempted for special cases.

Now, that is not so. This legislation provides special machinery which is to apply to all cases and that distinction makes all the difference in the world. I entirely agree with what the Minister for Home Affairs has said and I would only add that the amendment which is proposed here does very little good. I agree with Deputy Fitzgibbon that it hardly effects the purpose which Deputy Figgis, I suggest, has in mind. What he wants is a stay of execution. This does not really give you a stay of execution but provides that it is the old machinery and not the new machinery that will be used. As the Minister for Home Affairs has pointed out, and I have often seen it myself, the County Court Judge frequently gives a stay of execution, and that is the proper way to meet it. Put a stay of execution, and then no machinery will apply until the stay is taken off, and this does not affect it. I want to say one word about rent, and I find myself in a most unusual position. I have the support of Deputy Johnson for the attitude I am taking up, and he has supported me with far more eloquence than I myself could command. Now, if you take the question of rents, it is just the one question to which this particular enactment will apply. It will give you the measure of justice, or injustice—whichever way you like to put it—that the Act is going to cause. At the present moment there is, I should say, on an average at least one and a half year's rent due. That is a rough average, and for the rent due there are not 10 per cent. of decrees. That is stating the maximum; and when Deputy Gorey stated that writs were being issued wholesale at the present moment, I think he is mistaken. I think what he really meant to say was that attempts were being made to execute decrees at the present moment.

In Donegal, Meath, Wicklow, and some of Wexford.

I must say that is not my information. I know there have been decrees executed, and some attempts have been made to execute them. The point I want to make is that there are not 10 per cent. of decrees for rents taken out at the present moment. There is at least 90 per cent. of the rent due. Now the Hilary Sessions are over, it will be at least two months before any new decrees can be taken out in the Quarter Sessions, and it will be well over a month before any writs mature. It is not such an urgent case as Deputy Gorey suggests, but I agree with Deputy Gorey that it is a special case. Landlords, on the one side, have admitted, or at least their attitude is an admission, that certain reductions in rent are due, and the dispute really is how much the reduction should be. They have two months to settle that question before this Act comes into force with regard to 90 per cent. of them. As a sensible man, as a business man, and as a representative of the farmers, a class that at least has as great an interest in the credit of the country as any other class, I suggest to him that he should not, and that no business man should, ask to introduce special legislation for 5 or 6 per cent. of cases, or to exclude 5 or 6 per cent. of cases from the operation of that Act because I am perfectly certain, and I think Deputy Gorey will agree with me, that of the 10 per cent. of decrees that the landlords are not going to attempt to execute them, within the next two months. If I take that case as a case showing the hardships of this Bill, the landlords and tenants can meet, and they can agree that there should be a reduction. It is simply a question of how much the reduction should be; they can meet and they can settle it. A settlement come to like that will be far more effective than a settlement forced by the State, and I have no doubt whatever that if both sides, and I use these words advisedly, approach the question with equity in their minds that they can settle it easily, and I have every confidence that they will do that, and that this particular Bill is not going to be a terrible hardship on that particular class that Deputy Gorey seems to think.

If the Minister will agree between this stage and the next one of this Bill to insert some provision which will enable the judge to give a stay of execution, and nullify the operations under this Bill in such case or cases as will relieve any special hardship, I would be prepared to accept this. But otherwise I must vote for the best that can be got to meet those circumstances in the terms of this amendment—viz., giving power to put these cases outside the Bill without powers of stay of execution.

Mr. O'HIGGINS

I must repeat that one would think by certain criticisms that are made of this Bill that there was a law in this country in the past which we are now repealing, that people shall not pay their debts, and that decrees of the Court shall not be executed. As a matter of fact decrees of the Courts were executed and goods were seized and goods were sold, and if Deputy McGoldrick and other Deputies would read up the law as stated before this Bill was introduced at all, they would realise that there is nothing revolutionary in this measure. The fact was that for some time past the bailiff was not functioning in the country, and so we were inclined to forget about him. For some time back such legal machinery as the pounds and the local auctions was not obtruded on our notice, and that was simply because in this transition period, with that little kind of civil war on hands and so on, decrees of the Courts were not effectively executed. It is proposed now that they shall be, and immediately that proposal is made there is a storm, and we are asked what about the man who is lying awake in bed worrying because he wants to pay, and he cannot pay. The answer to that is, that the man who wants to pay, but cannot, can through his solicitor or barrister put up a businesslike proposal to the Court, and ask that if any decree be given against him that there should be at least a stay of execution to enable him to pay. But to ask to go back to the pounds when there are no pounds, and when we know that the pound is not effective, to ask that we should go back to the local auction when we know that in places intimidation and terrorism can prevail to make the local auction a futile performance is making an unreasonable demand. As to the notice of the local auction let me say that any moderate reasonable examination of the question will result in the decision that it re-acted almost invariably against the judgment debtor for this reason: Either of two things happened—he got some kinsman of his to come along and buy any sheep, or any other thing; or it happened that conditions of intimidation were such that only a particularly tough man prepared to stand up against local odium and intimidation would come along as a prospective buyer, and he took very good care that he got a cheap bargain for the odium and the risk he incurred and for the intimidation he stood up against, with the result that in the vast majority of cases the goods of the judgment debtor were sold for half their value. So much for your advertisements and for your local auction. I have spoken about the pound, and I have shown how in Ballinasloe that the 7 ft. wall and the iron gate did not prove adequate to keep in the seized stock. For the present, at any rate, we are not going back to the pound and the local auction or the advertisements. I think it would be very much against the interests of the judgment debtors if we were to attempt to do so because people would say that they got considerable discounts for any local odium they were subjected to, and risks they incurred, whereas if the sale is not advertised as a sheriff's sale, not advertised as sale of goods seized on execution of decrees, it will bring the real value of the articles sold, and after the debt is paid the balance will be returned to the judgment debtor.

I am deeply indebted to the Minister for Agriculture for having told me exactly what was actually in my mind. I was a little astonished, because I did not in the least suspect that that was what was in my mind. But since he says that it was, of course it must be so. I assumed all along—if my assumption is wrong, perhaps I will be corrected—but I did assume all along that the stay of execution still remains; that there was power still remaining, residing in the Court not to issue a decree if there were special circumstances; and that in effect amounts to a stay. But assuming that that has not been done, and assuming that a decree has been issued, at that point I suggest that there are two classes of cases in the country. There are a number of people unquestionably—and that is why I supported the second reading of this Bill—there are a number of people who are resisting or dishonestly attempting to evade their just and legal debts. However drastic the measures of this Bill may be, such drastic measures should be exerted towards that kind of person. There I am in agreement. But I go further, and say there is another class. We know there are a number of people today who, because of the legacy of certain disputes and controversies of the past, have strong reasons, although they may be able to pay, for disputing. There are grounds upon which such contentions remain. Deputy Gorey has mentioned one, and Deputy Magennis has mentioned another. In addition to that, I suggest, further, that there is a possibility that decrees may be issued in cases of persons who, I have said, are unable to pay. Words have been, I think, somewhat wrested from the common meaning that they ordinarily bear. When a person is reckoned as being unable to pay, it does not necessarily follow that if all his goods were sold he would be unable to pay. It does mean that so long as he can keep his stock-in-trade, his general establishment, going, that the incoming is not so much above the outgoing as to enable him to pay. Under those circumstances, I think it would be injurious if the full force and pressure of this Bill were put into operation. The Minister for Home Affairs recommended Deputy M'Goldrick to study the present state of the law—the state that now prevails and that would prevail if this Bill had not been brought forward. I add my recommendation to his, and I add one further recommendation if I may, and that is to draw out in a schedule the difference between the provisions hitherto existing and those provisions. I refer only to one. I refer to the new provision brought into this Bill that a bailiff may seize goods up to any amount in respect of some debt that may be quite legally clear, but for which there are equitable reasons or certain other reasons that exist in this country as legacies of the past, standing upon which the debtor might decline to pay altogether. He would be willing under those circumstances, I suggest, to carry his question to the point of letting some part of his goods be raided. Such cases have occurred in this country and in other countries, but it is a different thing to say to that man, "there is now a new Act in operation by which not a piano, not certain parts of your furniture are going to be seized, but the whole of your goods, lock, stock and barrel may be taken and sold in London." That is a different thing altogether, and that is what I wish to try to save in this amendment. I voted for the second reading of the Bill and I have voted for many clauses of the Bill. I voted against Clause 4. Contrast Clause 4 with the existing state of the law—"Notwithstanding any statute, rule of law or order to the contrary any Under-Sheriff who shall have taken goods, animals, or other chattels in execution under any writ offieri facias or under any decree of a Civil Bill Court may sell such goods, animals and chattels by public auction or private treaty at such place or places whether within or without his bailiwick and whether within or outside the territorial boundaries of Saorstát Eireann, in which in his opinion such goods, animals and chattels can be sold to the best advantage and may remove such goods, animals and chattels or any of them or cause same to be removed from the place where same were seized to such place or places of sale,”—contrast that with the present state of the law. I suggest there is a class of cases in this country where such a provision should not apply, but where it may be perfectly arguable that a decree might issue. It is to relieve that kind of person from the injurious provisions and those harsh provisions of this particular Bill and leave him under the state of the law as existing at present, that I have brought in and proposed the amendment. If the amendment were to be accepted it could have been improved in the wording, because I drew it up without any legal assistance. I suggest there is substance in this amendment, and I think the general feeling in this Dáil must surely be that there is substance in it which should commend it for acceptance by the Ministry. I am fortified in that by the fact that a certain section in this Dáil has so far disagreed with this Bill as to vote against every clause of it. They wish to see the Bill put into operation, if it is going into operation, in its very worst form, and they have opposed this amendment of mine in order that this betterment should not be produced. I suggest that the strongest arguments in favour of this amendment were the two speeches that have come from the Labour Party.

The speeches I have heard on this amendment, especially those of the Minister for Home Affairs and the Minister for Agriculture, relieve my mind considerably. I have had here assurances that special cases will be recognised. I know that courts previously did exercise discretion under the old law. I have seen this discretion exercised and I anticipate that it will be exercised in future in these particular special cases that I have in mind, and that satisfies me.

What appears to me to be very weak in the case made by Deputy Figgis, if I correctly interpreted him, was his suggestion that a debtor might be equal to the amount he owed but might require that amount to keep his business going. That would be a dangerous principle to have inserted in a Bill. In other words, any man who owed a sum of money and who claimed it was necessary to keep his business going, would escape. The abuse in that case would eventually be very much worse, I think, than in the exceptional cases that the Deputy wishes to protect. I do not think that there was a good case made out in the last speech of the Deputy. I did not hear his other speeches, but the last one appeared to me to offer a very good reason for rejecting this.

The President did misunderstand me because that is not exactly what I did say. What I did say was this: that there may not be actually possessed, say in cash, by any particular debtor, enough to meet his liabilities. There might conceivably be sufficient in stock, and if there happened to be sufficient in stock and all that stock were raided, he would have no alternative but to pass out of business and leave the country.

That is exactly as I understood the Deputy to have spoken.

This amendment will not help us. We really require some suggestion from the Minister in regard to this stay of execution. If he would meet us in that way we would be prepared to vote against this amendment, because the amendment is no good, as far as I can see, to serve the particular interest for which we speak. Would the Minister be prepared to put in some provision on the next Stage of the Bill in order that that stay of execution might be permitted?

The suggestion about the stay of execution is not a new one. Judges have always in the past exercised their discretion in that way. It would be, I submit, an improper thing for any vague expression of opinion to be inserted in this Bill pointing out that they have such a discretion. They had it in the past. They showed that they knew they had it by the exercising of it. It is only reasonable to assume that they will exercise the same discretion in future.

Suppose a Judge does issue a decree, as properly he ought to, where the debt is honestly due. Immediately there comes into operation this terrible Clause 4, and no one can suspend its operation. What Deputy Gorey does not seem to realise is that it repeals everything in previous laws that safeguarded the debtor against whom the decree has been issued. "Notwithstanding any Statute, Rule of Law, or Order to the contrary"—everything is repealed. That is the grievance. I have said repeatedly that I do not wish to suspend the operation of the law as between debtor and creditor. That would be revolutionary. But it is confessed here that there are cases where, if this new law, this emergency law, were put into operation, it might be highly injurious, and it is at that stage that we wish to put in the safeguard. I am perfectly well aware—I was not called to the Bar for nothing— that the Judge could make a stay of execution. That is not the point. But suppose he does not; then comes this fierce all-devouring thing and there is no protection against it.

Question put:—"Before Sub-section 3 to insert a new Sub-section."
The Dáil divided: Tá 16; Níl, 36:—

  • Tomás de Nógla.
  • Tomás Mac Eoin.
  • Liam Ó Briain.
  • Liam Mag Aonghusa.
  • Aodh Ó Cúlacháin.
  • Liam Ó Daimhín.
  • Cathal Ó Seanáin.
  • Nioclás Ó Faoláin.
  • Domhnall Ó Muirgheasa.
  • Risteárd Mac Fheorais.
  • Domhnall Ó Ceallacháin.
  • Pádraig Mag Ualghairg.
  • Darghal Figes.
  • Seán Ó Ruanaidh.
  • Seán Builtéir.
  • Domhnall Ó Broin.

Níl

  • Liam T. Mac Cosgair.
  • Donchadh Ó Guaire.
  • Uáitéar Mac Cumhaill.
  • Seán Ó Maolruaidh.
  • Seán Ó Duinnín.
  • Mícheál Ó hAonghusa.
  • Séamus Breathnach.
  • Deasmhumhain Mac Gearailt.
  • Mícheál de Duram.
  • Mícheál de Stáineas,
  • Maolmhuire Mac Eochadha.
  • Gearóid Mac Giobúin.
  • Liam Thrift.
  • Eoin Mac Néill.
  • Pádraig Ó hOgáin.
  • Seosamh Ó Faoileacháin.
  • Seoirse Mac Niocaill,
  • Fionán Ó Loingsigh.
  • Criostóir Ó Broin.
  • Risteárd Mac Liam.
  • Caoimhghin Ó hUigín.
  • Próinsias Bulfin.
  • Séamus Ó Dóláin.
  • Próinsias Mag Aonghusa.
  • Eamon Ó Dúgain.
  • Peadar Ó hAodha.
  • Séamus Ó Murchadha.
  • Liam Mac Sioghaird.
  • Earnán de Blaghd.
  • Uinseann de Faoite.
  • Séamus de Burca.
  • Ailfrid Ó Broin.
  • Seosamh Mag Craith.
  • Domhnall Mac Cárthaigh.
  • Earnán Altún.
  • Sir Séamus Craig.
Amendment declared lost.
Question put: "That Section 11 stand part of the Bill."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 38; Nil, 13:—

  • Liam T. Mac Cosgair.
  • Donchadh Ó Guaire.
  • Uáitéar Mac Cumhaill.
  • Seán Ó Maolruaidh.
  • Seán Ó Duinnín.
  • Mícheál Ó hAonghusa.
  • Pádraig Mag Ualghairg.
  • Deasmhumhain Mac Gearailt.
  • Seán Ó Ruanaidh.
  • Seosamh Mag Craith.
  • Domhnall Mac Cárthaigh.
  • Earnán Altún.
  • Gearoid Mac Giobúin.
  • Liam Thrift.
  • Eoin Mac Néill.
  • Seosamh Ó Faoileacháin.
  • Fionán Ó Loingsigh.
  • Criostóir Ó Broin.
  • Caomhghin Ó hUigín.
  • Séamus Ó Dóláin.
  • Próinsias Mag Aonghusa.
  • Eamon Ó Dúgain.
  • Peadar Ó hAodha.
  • Séamus Ó Murchadha.
  • Earnán de Blaghd.
  • Uinseann de Faoite.
  • Domhnall Ó Broin.
  • Séamus Breathnach.
  • Mícheál de Duram.
  • Ailfrid Ó Broin.
  • Mícheál de Stáineas.
  • Sir Séamus Craig.
  • Seoirse Mac Niocaill.
  • Risteárd Mac Liam.
  • Próinsias Bulfin.
  • Liam Mac Sioghaird.
  • Séamus de Burca.
  • Pádraig Ó hOgáin.

Níl

  • Tomás de Nógla.
  • Tomás Mac Eoin.
  • Liam Ó Briain.
  • Aodh Ó Cúlacháin.
  • Liam Ó Daimhín.
  • Cathal Ó Seanáin.
  • Seán Buitléir.
  • Nioclás Ó Faoláin.
  • Domhnall Ó Muirgheasa.
  • Domhnall Ó Ceallacháin.
  • Darghal Figes.
  • Liam Mag Aonghusa.
  • Risteárd Mac Fheorais.
Motion declared carried.

Mr. O'HIGGINS

I beg to move Section 12, which reads as follows:—

(1) This Act may be cited as the Enforcement of Law (Occasional Powers) Act, 1923.

(2) This Act shall come into force immediately on the passing thereof, and shall continue in force for six months thereafter, and/shall then expire.

I trust there will be no opposition to the title. It is the best title I can think of; I think it is an accurate description, and I think the year is 1923. Sub-section 2 provides that the Act shall come into force immediately on its passing, and shall continue in force for six months, and shall then expire.

Prior to Section 12 I desire to move the insertion of a new Section, which is as follows:—

"Provided always that the provisions of this Act shall only apply in the case of debts incurred as a result of genuine trading transactions, or in the case of failure to pay either taxes or rates, and shall not apply to debts incurred as a result of money-lending transactions, except where the interest paid on such money-lending transactions is at the rate of 7½ per cent. per annum or under."

I have assumed throughout that the provisions of this Bill are intended to apply only in respect ofbona fide trading transactions, and not to ordinary, or what I would call extraordinary money-lending, transactions. I, like a good many other Deputies, have received a considerable number of letters from different persons in the country making it clear that there are a number of people who through extreme folly have landed themselves into a bad snare, and I am sure if they were to apply for relief from the rates of interest that they are now foolishly continuing to pay, they could get relief from them as being harsh and unconscionable; but there are certain difficulties in the way, both from a legal point of view and also from the point of view of personal publicity. My only desire is that these usurious money-lending transactions should not be enforced under the provisions of this Bill. I think the amendment more or less explains itself, except in one part, where a certain intriguing suggestion has been put forward as to the seven and a half per cent. Seven and a half per cent. was put in just as a figure that might be amended if the amendment were to be accepted. I can assure the Minister I have not been borrowing money at 8 per cent.

Mr. O'HIGGINS

Just as there were brave men before Agamemnon, there were just and humane legislators before Deputy Figgis. There are provisions to meet the case of an unfortunate or foolish person who becomes the victim of a blood-sucking money-lender. There is, for instance, this provision of the Money-Lenders' Act of 1900: "Where proceedings are taken in any court by a money-lender for the recovery of any money lent after the commencement of this Act, or the enforcement of any agreement or security made or taken after the commencement of this Act in respect of money lent either before or after the commencement of this Act, and there is evidence which satisfies the Court that the interest charged in respect of the sum actually lent is excessive, or that the amounts charged for expenses, inquiries, fines, bonus, premium, renewals, or any other charges, are excessive, and that, in either case, the transaction is harsh and unconscionable, or is otherwise such that a Court of Equity would give relief, the Court may reopen the transaction, and take an account between the money-lender and the person sued, and may, notwithstanding any statement or settlement of account, or any agreement purporting to close previous dealings and create a new obligation, reopen any account already taken between them, and relieve the person sued from payment of any sum in excess of the sum adjudged by the Court to be fairly due in respect of such principal, interest, and charges as the Court, having regard to the risk and all the circumstances, may adjudge to be reasonable; and if any such excess has been paid, or allowed in account, by the debtor, may order the creditor to repay it; and may set aside, either wholly or in part, or revise, or alter, any security given or agreement made in respect of money lent by the money-lender, and if the money-lender has parted with the security may order him to indemnify the borrower or other person sued." That seems a complete provision. I do not quite follow the Deputy's point about publicity, because before a decree can be got, there is, I think, a certain amount of publicity by the proceedings in court. With that provision, there seems to be no particular necessity for the amendment which the Deputy has inserted, and which, incidentally, if it were to be inserted at all, I think would be better inserted after the last section which deals with this question of the under-sheriffs and their powers. I mean after Section 9. I cannot accept the Deputy's amendment. The question of whether a particular transaction is a genuine trading transaction, or whether a particular money-lending transaction is harsh and unconscionable, is entirely a question of fact, which the court must decide, and if the court decides that it is a harsh and unconscionable money-lending transaction, then the provisions of this Act are there to meet it. With regard to the rate of interest, you cannot say generally, in any hard and fast way, that a particular rate of interest is just and reasonable, and that a few pegs above, that that rate of interest is harsh and unconscionable. That also is a question of fact. The biggest factor determining the rate of interest is the risk incurred by the money-lender, and that all turns on a variety of circumstances. Deputy Figgis and myself might go on the same day to a moneylender and might be charged very different rates of interest. A money-lender would have a good look at both of us. He would ask a few searching questions. He might, as I say, decide to charge very different rates of interest. I cannot accept the amendment.

Having read the particular Section to which the Minister has referred, just before I drafted this amendment in question, I can assure him that he has read it quite correctly. But, notwithstanding that clause, I have a case here now of a farmer in the south. I cannot describe him by too strong a term, because the whole of his proceedings in the matter although he is a man of some large operations have been foolish in the extreme. I have the whole particulars. I only chose his as one of several letters I have received. He is actually paying at the present moment ninety per cent. per annum interest. If that man were to ask for relief—to have the rate brought down to thirty per cent. or even fifteen per cent. —and that is the suggestion that has been made to me, to bring him down to fifteen per cent., such a man owing money to a purely loan-lending Jewish firm in the West of London ought not to be pursued under the drastic and fierce provisions of this Bill.

Amendment put and declared lost.

On the motion, a Chinn Comhairle, the plea of the Minister for Home Affairs, who has just gone out, has at last prevailed. I am prepared to allow this particular clause to go without a division, though I would like if it were possible to persuade the Minister to amend Sub-Section 2 in one respect; that is, to leave out line 2, so that it would then read: "This Act shall come into force immediately on the passing, and shall then expire." That, in my opinion, would amend it effectively, but, as was said at an earlier stage, there is one redeeming feature about the Bill; it is contained in Sub-section 2, which I really cannot understand. Why is it proposed that this Bill, which has had so many things said in its justification—that it is necessary to ensure that the law shall prevail, and that decrees of the Court shall be enforced, and that Sub-Sheriffs and Deputy Sub-Sheriffs are as human to-day and will be as human to-morrow as they were last year and the year before, and that the Courts are just going to be as human as they have ever been—should only last for six months? If there is anything in the commendations that have been uttered in its favour it ought to last until repealed. I should like to hear from the Minister some defence of this Clause—that it shall only continue in force for six months after the date of passing. We have had, if I might say so here, a somewhat restful and languid afternoon—thanks to the Minister for Local Government. We could have got through the business a good deal earlier if our suggestions, supported by the majority of the Ministerial Party on the Committee of Procedure, had been allowed to pass through. But at least we have had some pleasure in trooping the lobbies—those who do—and we have had several explanations of various Sections which probably would not have been placed at our disposal if the business had gone through rapidly. I am hoping that the Minister will come back to give us this explanation of why this Bill, which he has so highly commended —or more especially the Minister for Agriculture—should only be worthy of six months' life.

A Chinn Chomhairle, I am sorry I did not catch all that the Deputy had to say, but I understand his suggestion is that the Bill be made permanent instead of having only a lifetime of six months. I think it is an excellent Bill and I am prepared to favourably consider any amendment the Deputy would care to put forward to that effect.

Surely, the answer is very obvious.

Will it be in order for me to move the amendment suggested, to delete line 2 of Sub-section 2?

I do not think so.

I suggest, a Chinn Comhairle, that the answer is obvious. Six months from now brings us to the end of July. The General Election is due then.

Mr. O'HIGGINS

I do not understand why the Deputy should be so melancholy about it.

Before passing, may I ask that we should introduce some consistency in the title of Ministers in this Bill. We are told the title of the Minister in charge of the Bill is Minister of Home Affairs. In other Bills Ministers are described as Ministers for. I do not mind which title is used. But let us have an agreement as to what it should be.

Mr. O'HIGGINS

On the endorsment of the Bill I notice that I am referred to as the Minister for Home Affairs. Personally, I think "for" is the proper thing.

We will change "of" to "for" in the reports. There is general agreement, I take it, on that.

Question put: "That Section 12 stands part of the Bill."
Agreed.

Mr. O'HIGGINS

I move the title of the Bill as follows:—"An Act to prevent the obstruction of legal remedies, and to provide for the better enforcement of law, and for other matters connected therewith." I cannot accept the amendment which Deputy Magennis suggested at an earlier stage.

Question put: "That the title stands part of the Bill."
Agreed.

Mr. O'HIGGINS

I propose to take the report and final stages on Wednesday next.

What is the last day for handing in amendments to the District Justices Bill?

Mr. O'HIGGINS

The Second Reading of the District Justices Bill will be taken to-morrow, and the Committee Stage probably on Wednesday.

If this Bill for the Enforcement of the Law is taken for report on Wednesday, the last day for handing in amendments will be Saturday. If the Committee Stage of the District Justices Bill is taken on the same day, the same thing will apply. There is another point which is, perhaps, of interest—that is, the question of the Electoral Bill.

I am afraid I will have to let that stand until Thursday. I intended to take it on Wednesday, and I had hoped to have the amendments with the printer to-day, but owing to delay in connection with one or two of them, I was not able to do that. I suggest Thursday for it. If there is time, I expect to be able to take the Second Reading of the Temporary Provisions Bill that day.