I beg to move: "That a sum not exceeding £34,154 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on 31st day of March, 1924, for the expenses of criminal prosecutions and other law charges, including a grant in relief of certain expenses payable by Statute out of local rates."
COMMITTEE ON FINANCE. - LAW CHARGES.
The Minister has proposed a sum £20,000 less than the Estimate.
£20,000 has been voted already on account.
As we cannot on this Vote deal with past policy, but are confined to future policy I wish to make an observation with emphasis, that I trust that in the next Parliament, and in every future Parliament there will be a Law Officer who is a Minister elected under the scheme we have and able to come into this Dáil and answer for himself in this Dáil. I think we have suffered very considerably from the fact that legal and constitutional questions have to be answered by third parties, to whom we cannot put supplementary questions, and that answers are frequently unsatisfactory, if not misleading, because one cannot elucidate them. I express a very strong hope that the policy of not having a Law Officer who could make himself heard in this Dáil will not continue after this Parliament.
Does the Deputy not realise that a matter of that sort is as much one for the electors as for the Government? If the electors will not supply a Law Officer it is scarcely within the province of Parliament even to pass a law saying that they must. It is a question for the electors to send in some person who would be suitable. The question also arises as to whether the Law Officer should be a member of the Executive Council. If so, he ought to be delivered to us. Nobody can deliver him unless the electors so decide, so that it is not altogether a matter in which the Government can say "yes" or "no." We quite admit that it would conduce not alone to the comfort of Ministers but to the comfort of the Dáil if we had such, but in the ordinary way an extern Minister is not responsible, has not the same responsibility, and need not be subject to the same penalties as the Executive Council or the members of it. While it might be possible under the Constitution to have a Law Officer an extern Minister it would scarcely meet the case the Deputy has in mind. So that it is not altogether a question for the Government; it is also a question for the electors.
I should be very far from advocating that the Law Officer should be a member of the Executive Council. Personally, I think it would be unfortunate that he should be. I think that a Law Officer who is a member of the Government as an extern Minister, would fully meet the case I have in mind. We would then have a responsible head of a responsible Department able to come to the Dáil and answer for his Department, as well as answering questions that arise on Constitutional and other matters. Whether the Minister in question would be a member of the Executive Council, or of the external Council so to speak, is a minor question, compared with the necessity of having him here. If the electors do not provide you with the necessary man to put on the Executive Council, at least I think the Government should have him as an external Minister.
Would the Minister state the reasons for the difference in sums paid to State Solicitors? Some are paid £500, some as high as £800, while others are paid sums from £600 to £700. Does the payment depend on the size of the area?
I think these estimates are based on the volume of business that would come to the Solicitors acting for the State in the different areas.