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Dáil Éireann debate -
Friday, 13 May 1927

Vol. 19 No. 24


The following Message has been received from the Seanad:—

"The Seanad have made the following Orders:—

1. That the promoters of every Private Bill which has been initiated in the Seanad in the present Session shall have leave to suspend any further proceedings thereon, in order to proceed with the same Bill in the next Session of the Oireachtas.

2. That on the first day on which the Seanad shall sit in the next Session a copy of every such Bill shall be laid upon the Table of the House by the principal clerk of the Private Bill Office.

3. That in respect of every Bill so laid upon the Table the proceedings on such Bill shall be formal in regard to every stage through which the Bill shall have passed in the present Session.

4. That no new fees shall be charged in respect of any stage upon which fees have already been paid during the present Session.

5. That all petitions presented in the present Session against such Bills shall be petitions against the Bills in the next Session.

And have passed the following Resolution in which the concurrence of the Dáil is desired:—

That the said Orders be Standing Orders of the Dáil and Seanad relative to Private Business."

For the purpose of having a formal Order made, I move proposed Orders Nos. 1 to 5 appearing on the Order Paper.


I now move that the Dáil concur with the Seanad in their Resolution that the said Orders be Standing Orders of the Dáil and Seanad relative to Private Business.

I would like to have a little guidance on this matter before we come to a decision. I was not able to look up the provisions of the Constitution or even Standing Orders but it strikes me that, while the carrying over of measures from one session to another within a single Parliament is quite justifiable, it requires more convincing argument to warrant the carrying over of Bills from one Parliament to another. That would apply to Private Bills as well as to Public Bills. The object of a dissolution is to get the verdict of the people on matters of legislation as well as of administration. To ask that a Bill shall be carried over in its existing stage at the close of one Parliament to the beginning of another Parliament is, it seems to me, asking the new Parliament to confirm matters upon which they are supposed to form an entirely new judgment. I think the matter requires more consideration than a merely formal motion of this kind would suggest.

I would like the Deputy to understand that this particular motion deals only with Private Bills. It is due to the promoters that we should re-affirm our view that a Bill should be presented to the new Parliament in the stage which it has reached on the dissolution of the old Parliament. Expenses are very heavy in this connection and some considerable consideration should be given to promoters. This procedure does not limit the power or authority of the new Parliament to amend, reconsider or deal as they think fit with any measure. This arrangement safeguards, to as great an extent as possible, the unusual expense of promotors in the case of delays which were presumably unavoidable. There is, at the moment, before the Oireachtas one Bill which was delayed through the action of this House. It was delayed because of the immense amount of business the House had before it, and it would be harsh treatment if the body responsible for the cost were to be involved in extra expense on that account. In this case, the promoters happen to be one body and the persons who would have to pay the costs another body. In that case, as the body responsible for the payment had no locus standi in regard to limiting the costs it is due to us to see that no unncessary expense should be imposed on them. The new Parliament will not be restricted by any action we take in this case. The Bill will be merely presented to them with our benediction, if I may put it that way.

I agree with Deputy Johnson that this motion is entirely unprecedented. I do not think a Bill has ever been carried over in this manner before, but I think the President's attitude is the right and wise one, because it was due to the action of the Dáil, or to the action of the Government, that this Bill was delayed. The promoters of the Bill complied with Standing Orders and did everything that was necessary. It was due to the desire of the Government to examine the matter more fully and more closely than it would be possible to do otherwise that consideration of the Bill was delayed. Under this motion the Bill will not be removed from the power of the new Parliament in any degree whatsoever. It will be open to the new Dáil to refer it to a Private Bill Committee or to reject it when it comes back to the Joint Committee, if it so desires.

All these amendments mean that the promoters of the Bill will not have to pay over again the fees in respect of stages which the Bill has gone through. The power of the Dáil and the power of the Seanad will continue. I do not think it is a reasonable proposition that the promoters of the Bill should be asked to pay twice when it was entirely through the action of the Dáil that the delay took place. I think it is unprecedented, but I believe we can create a wise precedent.

I am not against the remission of the fees. I can appreciate that point. I think if the resolution confined itself to that I would have no objection whatever, but there is the other point of view, that this course for a new House may involve the promoters in greater expense without any prospect of that expense being recouped. We had a discussion on the Port and Docks Bill. I do not know what the Private Bill is that Deputy Cooper refers to, but on the Port and Docks Bill it was pointed out by the President that it was unfair to the promoters of a Bill to lead them into expense and then at a later stage to reject the Bill. What is the position in regard to this proposal? A new House is to be elected. The proceedings up to date will be resumed by the new Private Bill Committee, and greater expenses will be involved without any previous Second Reading discussion on the Bill. All the expenses that will be involved will be incurred by the promoters of the Bill, and then it comes into the new Dáil which is of a different composition and would not have given a Second Reading if it had an opportunity. It may reject the Bill on the Final Stages, and all the expenses which have been incurred will have been absolutely lost. It is on that ground I think this procedure is faulty. You are not really avoiding double expenses, but you are leading the promoters to incur much greater expenses in the Committee Stage inquiry of a Private Bill, and then a new House with entirely different views from the old one, may say we are not having any of this Bill, and all the expenses will have to be incurred for nothing.

This procedure is not unprecedented; it is, in fact the procedure adopted in Great Britain. The Standing Orders proposed to be made refer to stages in the Seanad. When the Oireachtas reassembles it will be impossible for a Joint Committee to consider a Private Bill unless the new Dáil has taken part in the setting up of such Joint Committee. At that particular stage, the expenses that Deputy Johnson speaks of cannot be incurred unless the new Dáil assents to the setting up of a Joint Committee on the particular Private Bill. The new Dáil is, therefore, not in any way restricted; in fact, nothing that we can do could restrict the new Dáil. Therefore, the new Dáil will have at that particular point, before the promoters of a Private Bill will have incurred any further expenses, an opportunity of declaring whether it is or is not willing to set up a Joint Committee. It has been frequently pointed out here that the setting-up of a Joint Committee is equivalent to a Second Reading of a Private Bill as far as this House is concerned.

Question put and agreed to.