The motion on the paper is designed to do away with the Committee Stage of the Criminal and Malicious Injuries Bill, wholly if it is possible, or at least to a very big degree. That Bill, in the first place, is highly contentious; it introduces principles about which there are sharply divergent opinions, and upon which, if possible, some form of agreement or compromise should be reached. In the second place the Bill is highly technical, and, therefore, much more suitable for discussion round the table than in Committee of the whole Dáil. Parts of it are very far from meaning what they seem at first sight. Let me refer the Dáil to one or two sections. I need say nothing about Part I. of the Bill beyond this, that it seems to me eminently desirable that the operations of the Shaw Commission should be legalised. That is a matter which will require some drafting. If the Ministry agree with that view the drafting could be much better agreed upon in a Select Committee than in a Committee of the Dáil. But the part of the Bill which has interested people most is Part II. Now, I think one of the most astounding things in Part II is the discovery that no compensation whatsoever may be recovered by any person who had his house in O'Connell Street destroyed by the National troops. I do not suppose that that was the intention of the Ministry, but that again shows how technical this Bill is, and what a careful examination of it is required. If that statement is correct —and I challenge contradiction on it— Section 14 will require very considerable amendment, the kind of amendment that can much more easily be agreed upon in Select Committee than in a Committee of the whole Dáil. The Dáil will notice that under Section 14, Sub-section 9, I think, it is specified that to recover for such damage as has been done in O'Connell Street you must prove that the destruction was wrongful. I do not see the Government making the case, or bringing in a proviso to the Bill to make the case, that destruction by their own troops was wrongful. Therefore, the thing as it stands excludes damage done by their own military operations, whether that was intended or not. I assume it was not. If not, I think there is a strong case for careful examination of that particular section in Select Committee. Then again, take the question of consequential damages. I have every sympathy with the desire of the Ministry to see that no fraudulent or fancied claim for consequential damage is paid. I have every sympathy with that. But, in the desire to do that, they go, in the opinion not merely of many Deputies in this Dáil, but of many people outside, a very great deal too far, by cutting out consequential damage altogether. My submission to the Dáil is, that that is a case where you want some form of words embodying an agreement or compromise between the two views—one the view that no consequential damage is to be paid, and the other the view that, provided you can make that consequential damage reasonable, it should be paid. Amendments of that kind are not easily worked out on the Committee Stage of a Bill. We have had previous experience to that effect. To give the Dáil a case in point. Supposing a newspaper office was destroyed, I venture to say that the damages which that newspaper would normally recover would be to, at least, 40 per cent., and probably more, consequential damages— loss of advertisements, and all the rest of it. I think every reasonable person will agree that you must find some form of words which will ensure that a person so damaged will get reasonable consequential damages, and not be deprived of what is called consequential damages altogether. There is again the question of personal injuries. That matter is one which gives rise to considerable difficulty, and I realise fully that the Government is entitled to say these Criminal and Malicious Injury provisions were never intended to apply to a civil war, to military operations properly so-called. But, while admitting that, I put it to the Government that there are many things that happen, and that have happened during the course of such operations as we have had in Ireland in the past few months, which while connected with the civil war are not directly due to military operations, and clearly ought to be the subject of compensation; clearly should not be taken out of the operation of such a Bill as this merely because they are personal injuries. That is a matter which wants very careful discussion and consideration. I do not want to deal with the matter at any length now. I merely want to emphasise some of the salient points which are more easily dealt with, as, I think, round a table than in this Dáil. After all, you are dealing with big sums of public money. This, I take it, is not intended to be a Party measure. It should be a measure backed by the general agreement of the Dáil, and in trying to find the best means of securing that general agreement, it seemed to me that a Select Committee would probably be the more convenient for all Parties. I had at the back of my mind the hope that when that Committee is appointed its instructions would include a power to the Committee to invite the Seanad to send some of its representatives to meet that Select Committee, so that there would be general agreement, at least on many portions of the Bill, if not on the whole of it, not merely in this Dáil, but also in the Seanad. Therefore, I say that this motion, if adopted, both saves time and secures a method by which a considerable amount of agreement on the main heads of the Bill ought to be obtained. There are a number of minor, but also important matters, which, as the Dáil knows, have given rise to differences of opinion. All of them, I think, are matters which will be much more easily dealt with round a table. The necessity of checking the proposed power of re-opening cases; the desirability of amending Sections that deal with certain classes of things for which no compensation is to be paid, and certain classes of persons to whom it is proposed to pay no compensation; the wisdom of providing that the Judge shall have something more than a mere power to recommend under Part II.; the question of appeal from the Judge's recommendation or Order; and the very complicated reinstatement provisions; these are, I think, all matters upon which a very substantial measure of agreement could be reached if the different Parties in this Dáil, by their representatives, met in a small Committee and talked the matter out, rather than meeting, as we would do here, if the Committee Stage were reached in this Dáil, and having amendment after amendment, division after division, upon matters that ought not, most of them, to be contentious, but that ought to form the parts of a generally agreed Bill. I hope the Dáil will share my views that this is probably the best method of avoiding waste of time upon this measure, and of securing a large measure of agreement. I beg to move.
THE CRIMINAL AND MALICIOUS INJURIES (AMENDMENT) BILL.
I formally second the motion.
I do not know, sir, that much of a case has been made for referring the Committee Stage of this Bill to a Special Committee. A Special Committee has been considering this Bill—a Ministerial Committee—and it appears to me that to restrict it now to another small Committee would scarcely achieve the purpose which the Deputy had in view. I do not know whether the Deputy has read the Bill very carefully, or whether most of those who have criticised the Bill in the Press have either taken pains to consider the history of this question of Criminal Malicious Injuries, or the extent of the public purse in the matter of compensating those who have suffered loss. The Deputy referred to Clause 14 (9), but evidently he did not observe that there was a Clause 10, Sub-section 2(a). So that I think that his case for saying—or the case that he made out—that people who had property damaged in O'Connell Street would not get compensation, would scarcely hold.
That only applies to cases under the Criminal Injuries Act.
The Deputy has made a speech already, and there should be no more interruptions now.
The President misunderstood me.
I take it that whatever rights and privileges people had under the Criminal and Malicious Injuries Acts, whatever legal rights they have, that they were scarcely negotiable rights. The Deputy will probably admit that. And these are negotiable rights that are given here under Clause 10, Sub-section 2(a), to people who had property in O'Connell Street, and whose property was injured, and who made a claim for reinstatement. I do not know that it is likely that the purpose that the Deputy has in view would be at all served by restricting the number of members on the Committee considering this Bill. Even in a Party it will be admitted that suggestions come from the humblest members of a Party, which are often valuable additions to any discussions on those matters. Restricting it to a smaller number would probably eliminate any such suggestions that would come in that way. As a matter of fact, one of the best provisions that there is in this Bill came from suggestions that were made by certain people—not direct suggestions from them—but from some of the criticisms that they made, or some of the criticisms that we managed to extract from them. We got one of the best suggestions that there is in the Bill in this way. It is not exactly what a person would bring to bear on it in Committee, but rather the scope of the suggestions that might come; a thing which, I think, is most essential to the consideration of a very large Bill such as this is. The question has been raised regarding consequential loss, and a great Press campaign has been started for the payment of consequential loss. But it will be observed that there has been no suggestion whatever given by any of those economists—and from one direction, at any rate, I suppose the people making the criticism would regard themselves as national economists—no suggestion has been made of any sort or kind as to where the money is to be raised, or how it is to be raised to meet this Bill. If people are suffering from the delusion that there is a big balance in the National Exchequer to meet such outgoings as this, the sooner they are corrected in these delusions the better. You can give whatever compensation you wish, but if you are going to give compensation in excess of what is put up here, or even what is payable within the four corners of this Bill, you will have to consider the question of how you are going to get the money to pay that. I suppose that it is possible to collect a majority of people comprising this State to take claims for consequential losses—
It is not a question of the merits of the Bill at present; it is a question of referring it to a Special Committee.
Well, that is one of the reasons why I think it ought not be referred to a small Committee—that the number of people who consider it the more extended it is, the more varied, the particular claims that they have in mind will be urged; and members will see very clearly that it is impossible to table such a Bill as would meet all the cases of claims of compensation. Another point that was made by the Deputy was, I think, that some greater provision might be inserted in the Bill—some greater authority given to the Judge in connection with the payment of claims for personal injuries. I may be wrong, but I think I gathered that was one of the suggestions that was made.
The suggestion made was that a Select Committee would be better able to discuss that particular question.
Well, now a Select Committee considering a question of that kind will have before it the great popularity that would accrue to that Committee—a small Committee which would be irresponsible, and which would not bind the majority in making such recommendations. In other words, it is not a question here of roping in every possible interest. But it is a question of having a certain sum of money to distribute over a certain class of people, and how best to distribute it. That is not best met by a small Committee considering it. It ought to be by the whole Assembly. It is a matter for which every Deputy will sooner or later, perhaps, be called upon in his own constituency to answer for, and to make a case for. Every possible information ought to be at the disposal of every Deputy. If Deputies have received representations from their constituents, it is obvious they would wish to be on this particular Committee.
As regards the suggestion that it might be possible for this Select Committee to be representative of the Seanad, I would not approve of it. I do not think it would serve the purpose the Deputy has in mind. I do not think it would be for the good of either the Dáil or the Seanad. I think the consideration of a Bill of this character ought first to be taken here by the House, with the popular view, dealing as fairly and as equitably as possible with all classes of the community, and then submit it to the Seanad, which is composed of a different personnel, and is differently weighted to us. We could then have their view as to the equitable discharge of the nation's liability to those who have suffered. I do not know that any case has been made for the reference of this Bill to a Select Committee, and I cannot agree to it.
I am divided in my thoughts as to whether I should welcome the statement of the Minister, or regret it. I feel that if it were the intention to have a business-like Bill emerge with a chance of an understandable discussion on disputed questions, the motion should be passed. I think the Minister is under a misapprehension when he suggests that once the Bill is referred to a Select Committee, non-members of that Committee are precluded from making suggestions, and that once it emerges from this Select Committee, it does not come before the Dáil for discussion on the Committee Stage. It may quite well do that. As I say, I am divided as to whether I should welcome the decision of the Minister, because I feel some malicious delight in having the whole question discussed in public. I think it is well, perhaps, that for the entertainment, if not for the education, of the public, the whole matter should be discussed openly in the Dáil. It will be certainly a less business-like proceeding than would take place if it had gone through a Select Committee in the first instance. In view of the decision of the Minister, I do not know if the Deputy proposes to press this matter. If he does so, I shall support him. If he does not, I shall go away with some feeling of demoniacal delight.
I think the President would have served the purpose which he had intended in this Bill better I am bound to say, if he had accepted the motion that he has now intimated he will oppose. I feel that in a matter of this kind there are distinct advantages in having it discussed by the whole Dáil in Committee. These advantages are obvious. They are public advantages; but there is a general principle underlying the committal of a Bill to an Assembly of this kind, or a Select Committee which an Assembly of this kind may appoint. I take it to be—and it will generally be found to be—that Bills are referred to Select Committees rather than to the entire Assembly in Committee, when the nature of them is such that any amendment would involve very technical drafting. Clearly this is a Bill of that kind. As regards any amendment intended to be introduced into this Bill, if it were to go before a Committee of the whole Dáil it would be very difficult to get it into such practicable shape as would make the Bill legally watertight. It would be quite easy to do it in a Select Committee across the table where the discussions could be allowed a considerable amount of latitude. When Deputy Duffy first mentioned to me about moving this, I felt a considerable amount of regret that he intended to move it, much for the same reason that Deputy Johnson has expressed. There are great public reasons why many of the matters should be discussed in the open Dáil; but the real reasons that should weigh in our minds, apart from public reasons, are reasons of efficiency with a view to obtaining the competent drafting of this Bill. If certain changes, that are undoubtedly necessary, are to be adopted, they will require a different method of procedure. That better procedure would have been a Select Committee.
I do not know whether the real effect of the suggestion is meant to be that this should be referred to the intelligentsia of the Dáil, and that the ordinary members of the Dáil should not be regarded as capable of discussing it. There is no advantage that I can see to be gained from the point of view of having a Select Committee, and by having a discussion apparently carried on without any formality or order. That will simply prolong discussion; it will not aid discussion. The drafting has to be done by an individual. Suitable drafting will be best achieved by having the individuals, who want amendments, going carefully into what they want, and how it should be put on paper, and bringing their amendments forward in good and well-considered form before the Dáil. Nothing in the way of good drafting will be got by any looseness or informality. I think, therefore, unless there is a suggestion that this is a question for the intelligentsia there is no case at all for reference to a Committee.
Surely it is not a valid argument against the proposal that the proposer wants the intelligentsia of the Dáil? Surely, when the question of referring a Bill to a Special Committee comes along, there should be no question of intelligentsia?
The Dáil will always choose its members to put on that Special Committee, and it will choose them because, perhaps, of special qualifications, or the special interest that they take in the Bill. All the Deputies do not take the same interest in one Bill that they do in another, nor will all be taking the same interest in this Bill. There is one argument which neither Deputy Gavan Duffy, Deputy Figgis, nor anybody else has mentioned, and it seems a big argument in support of referring this Bill to a Special Committee. The argument is that the Special Committee can bring in the Legal Adviser of the Government to assist them in going through the Bill, clause by clause. The Dáil cannot do that unfortunately; it can only do it through the mouth of a Minister. Like my colleague, Deputy Johnson, I would much prefer, if it were to be merely for public show, that the Bill should be gone through in Committee of the whole Dáil, because we all could make a good deal of propaganda indeed from every single line of the Bill, but that is not our particular desire at the moment at all. It was a business desire we had in supporting the motion, if it is pressed, because we are inexperienced in all these things. We have not been engaged in legislation before, and this is one of the first of those Bills which, if I might say so, is real legislation as apart from legislation consequent on the Treaty or something else. Therefore, we support the motion.
I would be very pleased if the Government had accepted this motion, but as they have not accepted it it seems to me we should not gain anything by pressing it. It appears quite clear that whatever report may come back from this Select Committee, if they report against those propositions which the President appears to regard as vital portions of this Bill, we shall have to go back into Committee of the whole Dáil again; we shall have to go back into Committee and to have Party divisions for the purpose of getting rid of those portions of the report of the Select Committee of which the Ministers do not approve. Now we have it definitely stated here that the real reason for this Bill—of course, most of us knew it before—is that there could not be money found to pay all compensation, even all proper compensations, in full, and that, therefore, we must cut our coat according to our cloth, and that some matters, which would be matters of proper compensation in a State that could afford to pay proper compensation, must go by the board. The Government have made up their mind that certain classes of compensation cannot be met. If this Bill is referred to a Select Committee, and the Select Committee, as a matter of justice or expediency or anything else, considers that certain classes of compensation, of which the Government do not approve, should be paid in full, and re-draft this Bill or recommend a whole number of amendments in Committee to carry out their views, then when we go back to the Committee of the whole Dáil we are at Party grips again and will have to divide and re-commit the Bill and nothing is gained. If I believed that the report of the Select Committee would be accepted generally then I should be entirely in favour of referring this Bill to the Select Committee, because I quite agree with the Deputies who said that this is a very technical Bill. Almost any amendment introduced into it may involve other amendments which will have to be carefully considered. We will have to take our chance of that, but I am afraid that neither time nor anything else will be gained—in all probability a great deal of the time of those who serve on the Select Committee will be lost—if this motion is referred to a Select Committee, except we have general agreement that the conclusions arrived at by the Select Committee will be adopted when the Bill comes up on the Report Stage. I see no prospect of the acceptance of that proposition. Therefore I think referring it to a Select Committee would be only a waste of time.
If the findings of this Select Committee meet with the same fate as the findings of other Select Committees I do not see the use of appointing one. This Bill may be good or it may be bad, but it seems to me there are Deputies here whose only anxiety is to get their photos on the title page of it. I notice that since the Dáil assembled the discussion was simply for that object and for no other reason.
If the President has definitely made up his mind that he will not have a select Committee, I agree with Deputy Fitzgibbon that there is no use in my pressing the motion to a division, because you must have the good-will of the majority of all concerned. But I appeal at the eleventh hour to the President, who himself, it seems to me, needs the services of a Select Committee, or else he cannot have read the Bill very carefully. He talked to us about O'Connell Street. If he reads the Section he will see that what I said originally was right, that the Section he quoted only applies to ordinary criminal injuries, and not rebellion injuries, and that no compensation would be paid if the damage was done by the Army. I ask the President to give a little further consideration to the question of referring this matter to a Select Committee, in view of the fact that there is support in all quarters of the Dáil for that suggestion. I am not going to press the motion. It is useless to have a Select Committee, unless those concerned are willing to try to come to some arrangement by that method.
It will not save time.