I move that this Bill be now received for final consideration.
ELECTORAL BILL, 1923.—REPORT.
I beg to second the motion.
I think it is not necessary that any of the Clauses of the Bill should be re-committed. Most of the amendments in the paper are put down in consequence of undertakings given during the Committee stage. Only amendments to the Bill itself are on the paper to-day, so that the report stage cannot finish to-day, and will have to go over to to-morrow. I now move the first amendment which is in Sub-section 2 (b) of Section 1, to delete all from the word "for," line 29, to the word "others," line 32 inclusive, and to substitute the words "Business premises."
I beg to move Amendment 2, in Section 1, Sub-section 2 (c), line 37, to insert the word "foundation" before "scholarship" and to add after "scholarship" the words "Or if a woman obtained a non-foundation scholarship."
This is a technical matter concerning the University of Dublin, but the Dáil may fairly ask that I should explain that technicality so that all can understand it. There are two points, one is that the words as standing in the Bill are indefinite because there are various scholarships in the University of Dublin. From the date of the Charter there was one special kind of scholarship established which gave the holders of the scholarships the privilege of becoming members of the Corporation of the College—that is the Corporation of the Provost, Fellows and Scholars, and as they were members of the Corporation they were called foundation scholars. These were the words chosen by the Minister so that he accepted the principle of the words I am proposing here. I wish to put the word "foundation" before "scholarship," so that only those who obtain our principal scholarships or foundation-scholarships would be entitled to the Parliamentary vote. We have various other scholarships which do not entitle those holding them to the Parliamentary vote, but all I ask is that those who have in the past been entitled to vote should be able to get their vote in the future. There is a second point which involves a principle which the Dáil has already sanctioned, and that is that we should not impose any disability upon women. Some twenty-five years ago when we opened scholarships to women there was the difficulty that if they obtained foundation scholarships they would have the right to the Parliamentary vote, to which women were then not entitled by the law of the land. And, further, they would have the right to rooms and Commons in the College which was inconvenient, and therefore the University set up scholarships to be awarded for the same examinations and for the same literary qualifications which they called non-foundation scholarships, because they were eligible only for women. If a woman obtains a non-foundation scholarship she is as qualified by her scholarship and her literary and scientific attainments as a man is, and I take it, therefore, that there will be no objection to this amendment which means that if a man gets a particular scholarship, a foundation scholarship, he gets the Parliamentary vote, and if a woman gets a non-foundation scholarship she will also get the Parliamentary vote.
I beg formally to second the amendment.
I accept the amendment.
Will not that carry with it in equity that scholars in the National University should be entitled to the vote? Will it be sufficient to answer that this is the perpetuation of the historical arrangement that scholars in the Dublin University always formed part of the electorate? It seemed to me before the Minister accepted the amendment that the only way out was instead of creating an inequality between the Universities inasmuch as women scholars were debarred from election privileges, the remedy would be to confine the privilege of the vote to graduates in the Dublin University as it is confined in the National University.
I pointed out the essential difference is that scholars, by the Charter of the University of Dublin, become members of the Corporation.
The exclusion of scholars should have been raised on the Committee stage of the Bill when they were included. Amendment 2 is agreed, and 3 is withdrawn.
I beg to move amendment 4, which is as follows:—
After Sub-section (2) (c), line 37, to insert two new Sub-sections as follows:—
(3) The expression "business premises" in this section means, land, buildings, or other premises occupied for the purpose of the business, profession or trade, of the person to be registered, of the rateable value of not less than ten pounds, and includes part of a house or other building.
Where any such business premises are not separately valued the rateable value shall be deemed to be the amount which would, in the opinion of the registration officer, be the rateable value if they were separately valued.
(4) Where business premises are in the joint occupation of two or more persons, each of the joint occupiers shall, for the purposes of this Act, be treated as occupying the premises, subject as follows:—
(a) The aggregate value of the business premises must be not less than the amount produced by multiplying ten pounds by the number of joint occupiers, and
(b) Not more than two joint occupiers shall be entitled to be registered in respect of the same business premises, unless they are bona fide engaged as partners, carrying on their profession, trade or business on the business premises.
The effect of this amendment is that in the case of business premises there shall be only one vote to each £10 of valuation.
I beg to move Amendment 5:—
After Sub-section (4) to add a new Sub-section, as follows.—
The statement of any member of the defence forces of Saorstát Eireann, made in the prescribed form and verified in the prescribed manner, that he would, but for his service, have been ordinarily resident on the qualifying date in a specified constituency shall, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, be conclusive evidence of that fact.
This amendment defines a matter which was vague before and to which attention was called during the Committee stage of the Bill. It simply provides that the statement of the soldier shall be taken as to where he would have been in residence only for serving with the army.
On the Section as a whole I just want to speak on Sub-Section 6. The Minister, on the Committee stage, promised to consider some alternative phraseology to the terms "similar institution," but no amendment has been tabled and therefore I presume he has not been able to find any satisfactory alternative description. It seems to me to be unfortunate to have so loose a description as "any other similar institution," such as a lunatic asylum, prison, poor-house. It was pointed out in Committee that there were institutions which some might consider similar to a poor-house and others which would be by no means similar. That loose phrase gives opportunity for a good deal of doubt, and perhaps legal controversy, and I would again ask the Minister whether it is possible to find another phrase which would be better.
I did not overlook that, but I was advised that it was not likely that such a difficulty would arise.
I have down an amendment which reads as follows:—
In Sub-section (3), lines 38 and 40, to delete the words "or at a Referendum" in line 38, and the words "or Referendum" in line 40.
The point was raised on the last occasion, I think, and if I remember rightly the Minister promised to see if he could not accept it. It is a drafting amendment really.
I accept it.
I beg to move the following amendment:—
In line 47 delete the word "July" and substitute the word "November." This is to alter the date of making up the Register, as promised during the Committee stage, and there will be consequential amendments to reduce the time to a little over six months.
I beg to move Amendment 8:—
In lines 50 to 52 to delete Sub-sections (a) and (b), and substitute:
(a) In the case of the first register prepared under this Act, on the 15th day of October, 1922.
(b) In the case of any subsequent register, on the 15th day of November, being the qualifying date.
This amendment fixes the day, specifies the qualifying date, and provides for the future.
I beg to move Amendment 9, which is consequential:—
In Sub-section (1), line 8, to delete the word "July" and to substitute the word "November."
I move Amendment 10:—
In Sub-section (2), line 10, after the words "June, 1923," to add the words "or such later date as the Minister for Local Government may fix by Order.
With regard to that, how does it fit in with the date of the local elections which, I understand, have been fixed for the 14th of June?
The later date is put in in case of accidents; one or two accidents did occur. For instance, in a particular constituency where the printing could not be carried out the local lists were sent by post to Dublin and a large number were lost in post so that the printing is consequential upon delay in that particular place. The lists have been re-written and there has been some delay, but it will not be serious.
Does not that mean that the Register will be only published fourteen days before the date fixed for the local election? It will be a very short period.
I think that it probably may be necessary to postpone for a further short period the local elections, but the Register cannot be expedited. There is power to postpone a local election if necessary.
Amendment 11, which I now move, is also consequential:—
In Sub-section (2), lines 11 and 16, to delete the words "15th day of April" and to substitute the words "1st day of June."
I move Amendment 12:—
Section 11.—In Sub-section (1) to delete all from the word "If," line 58, to the word "pounds," line 61, inclusive.
This is one of the penal clauses. There were three of them, but they are all being deleted and one consolidated clause is being put in in another section which is on the paper.
I beg to move Amendment 13:—
Section 15.—To delete Sub-section 2, and to substitute two new Sub-sections as follows:—
(2) The first register to be prepared under the Act for each University constituency shall be a register of electors who were qualified on the 15th day of October, 1922, and shall come into force on the 1st day of June, 1923, or on such later date as the Minister for Local Government may fix by Order.
Each subsequent register shall be a register of electors who were qualified on the 15th day of November, and shall come into force on the next following 15th day of June.
(3) The Minister for Local Government may from time to time make such alterations in the Rules contained in the Second Schedule to this Act as may be necessary for the purpose of carrying this Act into full effect, or for carrying into effect any Act for the time being in force amending or affecting this Act.
This is a substitute for Sub-section 2 of Section 15 dealing with University constituencies. There is power to make alteration under the rules on Schedule 2 if it should prove necessary. There is a provision whereby the Post Office authorities will assist the University authorities in the revision of University registers. There may be further rules necessary to secure that revision is carried out satisfactorily.
I move the following Amendments 14, 15 and 16 (Section 16):—
In Sub-section (2), line 22, to delete the words "Minister for Home Affairs," and to insert in lieu thereof the words "Chief Justice of the Supreme Court."
In Sub-section (8), line 49, to delete the words "Minister for Home Affairs" and to insert in lieu thereof the words "Chief Justice of the Supreme Court."
In Sub-section (8), lines 54 and 55, to delete the words "Minister for Home Affairs," and to insert in lieu thereof the words "Governor-General of the Irish Free State on the advice of the Executive Council," and in lines 57 and 58 to delete the words, "as the Minister for Home Affairs may direct and subject to any conditions which he may impose," and to insert in lieu thereof the words, "and subject to such conditions as the Governor-General of the Irish Free State on the advice aforesaid shall direct."
These amendments deal with one matter. It was provided in Sub-section (2), that the Minister for Home Affairs might decide the distribution of work between County Court Judges. I accepted the amendment from Deputy Johnson, that the chief Justice of the Supreme Court should be substituted for the Minister for Home Affairs. There is a consequential amendment in Sub-section 8 of the same section, which provides that instead of the Minister for Home Affairs determining that assistance is necessary and appointing an assistant, the Chief Justice shall find if assistance is necessary, and in accordance with the Constitution, the Assistant Judge shall be appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Executive Council.
I move Amendment 17 (Section 17):—
"To delete Sub-section (1) and substitute a new Sub-section:—
A contested Dáil or Senatorial election shall be according to the principle of Proportional Representation, each elector having, when there are more than two candidates for election one transferable vote."
This amendment is for the purpose of putting in more concise phraseology here, and also to shorten the wording in some places of the Schedules.
I doubt if this amendment is in the direction of conciseness. It is to delete Sub-section 1 and substitute a new sub-section. I think I raised the point before. The use of the term "according to the principle of Proportional Representation" is rather overstressed and used in such a way as to become unwieldy, unless we say, following a recent example, that by using it in this way it comes to have a new meaning. I think "the method of the single transferable vote" would be better than "the principle of Proportional Representation" when you are dealing with an election of two or three members, particularly if there are only two or one to be elected. The deletion of Sub-section 3, and saying all elections shall be conducted according to these rules, seems to me better than the proposed amendment.
I do suggest, and there seems to be an attempt to conceive a distinction, where of course there is a certain distinction that need not be emphasised, that no inconvenience will be caused if every election was held on a single transferable vote. Where there are only two candidates it does not become useful. I think the wording might simply lay that down and make every election on the single transferable vote, except where there are more than two candidates.
We did, on the suggestion of Deputy O'Brien, accept an amendment that where there were two candidates it was admissible for a voter to write one and two. If he did not do so it did not invalidate his paper, and if he did so it did not invalidate the paper. Practically the matter is settled already.
It is better in the Bill as it stands than in the amendment.
This is a matter I have not very strong views on. One reason for keeping in the phrase "according to the principle of Proportional Representation" is that it was the phrase adopted by us when we were getting through the Constitution, and we know the meaning of it. With regard to what Deputy Figgis says about leaving out the words "when there are more than two candidates," that is a matter perhaps we could agree to. The votes, I suppose, are transferable under this, although when there are only two candidates no transfer can take place. Sub-section 3 is deleted as the matter in it is covered under Section 24, so that it was redundant. I propose to accept Deputy Figgis's suggestion and leave out "when there are more than two candidates for election."
I move Amendment 18—"To delete the Sub-section (3)." I have already said that the reason for Amendment 18 is that the matter is already covered in Section 24 of the Bill.
I move Amendment 19 (Section 20)—"In Sub-section (1), line 36, to delete the words ‘and fifty.'" When the Bill was being considered in Committee, Deputy O'Brien proposed that the amount of the deposit should be reduced to £50. The Government was unable to accept that amendment. We felt that £50 was not an adequate amount to prevent frivolous contests. We think on the other hand that we can safely go the length of meeting him half way, which is the object of the amendment.
I move Amendment 20—"In Sub-section (4), to delete all from the word ‘in,' line 51, to the word ‘such,' line 55, inclusive, and to substitute ‘one-third of the quota as ascertained in accordance with the rules contained in the Third Schedule of this Act, and in such case the." This question was discussed in a sketchy way when the Bill was before the Dáil on the Committee stage. It is necessary to change from one-eighth of the total number of votes cast to one-eighth of the total credited under the rules. The last election for County Cavan illustrated the necessity for that change very clearly. In the Cavan election the quota was 6,030. Deputy Milroy, who was elected, on the first count I think only got 534 votes, and he was elected ultimately by a somewhat narrow margin. If instead of being elected by a narrow margin he had been defeated by the narrowest of margins he would not be eligible to have his £150 returned although it was quite clear that his candidature was not a freak candidature or a frivolous candidature. It was clear therefore that we have to change the proportion of the total of the first preferences—the proportion of the total votes credited. Then there came the question of what the proportion should be. One-fourth of the quota would have been about the equivalent of one-eighth of the total votes polled. Of course you do not get a constant figure when you take a proportion of the quota, but if you have regard to the case of where there is only one vacancy the quota is approximately one-half of the total votes polled, so that one-fourth of the quota is the same in that particular case as one-eighth of the total votes polled. As I say although the figure would not be constant still one-fourth of the quota would be roughly equivalent to one-eighth of the total votes polled. It was felt however that that was too low a figure, that practically nobody would ever forfeit a deposit under those rules, that people who went forward having no chance of being elected and yet took it upon themselves to put the State to the expense of a contested election would get off. It was thought, therefore, better to raise the figure somewhat, and consequently in the amendment it is provided that the total votes credited shall be one-third of the quota. I think it is not a drastic amendment upwards. Nobody can deny that the previous figure was somewhat low. In fact, even when there was only a single member constituency it was somewhat low, and when we had Proportional Representation it certainly worked out very low indeed.
One does not want to be factitious in a matter of this kind, but this is really a matter of some importance, because this question was considered by us in Committee and in Committee a certain agreement was come to. It is now proposed on the Report to change the agreement come to in Committee. In other words we are going to report something that did not occur, or we are going to misreport something that did occur. I think that the agreement come to was more desirable than the change which is proposed now. I will not press any point of order, but I seriously suggest that it is not in order to move this in the form in which it is now being moved inasmuch as this is a definite change from something that was definitely agreed upon.
Is the Deputy's suggestion that we are reporting something that did not occur?
Did I understand the Deputy to say we were reporting something that did not occur? The Deputy did not say that?
No. My point is this. You have an amendment which, if accepted, would be a definite change from something that was definitely agreed on in Committee, and will, therefore, not reflect exactly what I conceive the Report to mean.
The Report is a chronicle of what did occur; there can be no doubt about that.