CONSTITUTION (AMENDMENT No. 12) BILL, 1928—FIRST STAGE.

I move for leave to introduce a Bill entitled.

An Act to amend the Constitution by deleting the provisions now contained therein as to the reference to a Committee of Privileges of the question whether certain Bills are or are not Money Bills, and by making in lieu thereof other provision for the reference of such question to a Committee of Privileges.

That is a recommendation which is contained in paragraph 9 of the Joint Committee's Report.

In making a statement explaining why it is that we on this side intend to oppose the First Reading of this Bill, I do not wish to say anything that could or should properly be said on Second Reading. We object to a Bill of this kind being introduced into this House at all, and our objection to it has very little to do with the principle contained in the Bill which would properly be discussed on the Second Stage. The section of the Constitution which it is proposed to amend by this Bill is one which defines the procedure which takes place when a Bill certified to be a Money Bill by the Chairman of Dáil Eireann is objected to by a number of the members of the Dáil or Seanad. In so far as this Bill seeks to change the section of the Constitution which gives power to the Dáil as well as power to the Seanad in respect of Money Bills, it differs from the other Bills, the First Readings of which are being taken to-day. In order to explain exactly why it is that this Bill should not be given a First Reading, I would like, with the permission of the House, to refer to the section of the Constitution and the paragraph of the Report of the Joint Committee dealing with the powers of the Seanad.

I think that is a matter for a Second Reading speech. The question before us is that leave be granted to print and circulate the Bill. We have not the Bill before us as yet.

The point I wish to make is that the section of the Constitution—I do not propose to read the entire section—provides that the Chairman of Dáil Eireann shall certify any Bill which, in his opinion, is a Money Bill, to be a Money Bill, but, if within three days after a Bill has been passed by Dáil Eireann, two-fifths of the members of either House by notice in writing addressed to the Chairman of the House of which they are members so require, the question whether the Bill is or is not a Money Bill shall be referred to a Committee of Privileges. The constitution of that Committee is defined in the section. The Joint Committee recommend that Article 35 be amended by the substitution of seven days for three days so that the period within which that notification by two-fifths of the members must be given will be extended by four days.

There is also another alteration suggested, and that is that two-fifths of the members of either House should retain the power by notice in writing of having this Bill referred to a Committee of Privileges. It is also provided that a majority of the members of the Seanad present and voting at a sitting of Seanad Eireann, at which not less than 30 members are present, shall decide that the question whether a Bill is or is not a Money Bill shall be referred to the Committee of Privileges. The one purpose of the Bill is to alter the period of three days to seven days and give to the Seanad a power which it is obvious even from the Report of the Committee it is not desirable the Seanad should have.

In so far as that is the case, it could be argued that the introduction of this Bill is primarily intended to occupy the time of the Dáil uselessly. The amendment which it is proposed to make can be legitimately described as a frivolous amendment. The powers given to the Dáil and Seanad under this Article have not been exercised. The period which the Article allows for the exercise of these powers is quite adequate. The introduction of a Bill at this stage, in view of the congested state of the Order Paper and the anxiety of a number of Deputies to take summer holidays, is altogether unjustifiable. I think, therefore, the Dáil should refuse a First Reading.

If the Bill gets a First Reading and comes up on the Second Reading we will be able to discuss only the principle of the Bill and we will have to confine our remarks to what is contained in the Bill. My arguments now are intended to convince the House that the Bill should not be introduced at all. The Article of the Constitution to which it refers is an Article which gives the Dáil as well as the Seanad powers in respect of Money Bills. I do not know whether it is intended in this Bill to limit the powers of the Dáil in that matter. I take it from the Report of the Joint Committee it is not intended to do so and that it is merely intended to extend the time during which the Seanad may make up its mind whether or not it is going to contest the Ceann Comhairle's definition of a Money Bill.

The attitude of this Party, of course, is that the Seanad should not be there at all, that they should have no power whatever to interfere with a decision come to in this House. I do not intend to press that point now. The point is, if Senators cannot make up their minds in three days as to whether a Bill is or is not a Money Bill, they cannot make up their minds in seven days, and that it is only a waste of time and money to print this Bill for the purpose of extending the period. I think, therefore, that this Dáil should refuse to give the Bill a First Reading. I think, if they are to do so, they cannot be annoyed if the duration of this session is unduly prolonged, and if the summer holidays which they are looking forward to should be put back indefinitely, because when you have the Government dealing with frivolous matters of this nature it cannot be expected that the more serious business which appears on the Order Paper can get the attention which it deserves and which we hope to give it. I would like to know before the Bill is put to a vote if it is intended to alter the definition of what is or is not a Money Bill. A Money Bill, as defined in the Constitution, is——

That is outside the Title.

It is not intended, therefore, to alter the entire Article of the Constitution.

The reference to the Committee of Privileges only.

Only the reference dealing with the Committee of Privileges. It is to be regretted that the President did not take advantage of his privilege to make a statement concerning this Bill.

I was afraid of wasting the Deputy's time.

Or the time of the Dáil. Personally, I would like to have some information as to why it is thought necessary that the Seanad should have this power of disputing a decision arrived at here. The Dáil, undoubtedly, should possess the power to dispute the Ceann Comhairle's ruling if they thought that that ruling was incorrect, but I do not see why the Seanad should possess that power, and if they are given that power we do not see why they could not make up their minds to exercise it within the period already defined in the Constitution. We have some respect for the Constitution. There are certain Articles of the Constitution which it is quite possible we would not alter, and we do not like to see it treated in this frivolous manner—these petty amendments being introduced periodically. We believe if that practice continues that it will be impossible for anyone in the country to consider the Constitution as anything but the plaything of the Dáil, a thing to be taken in when there is nothing else to be done, and altered, a thing of no real significance whatever. The case the Government may be able to make for some of the more serious amendments to be passed during the present session cannot be made for this Bill— a mere trivial amendment to enable Senators to be slower in making up their minds than they are at present. The report of the Committee suggests that in addition to the power given to two-fifths of the members of the Seanad to refer the Bill to the Committee of Privileges, they should also have the power by a majority of the members of the Seanad present and voting at the sitting of the Seanad at which not less than 30 members were present to refer it to the Committee of Privileges.

The Deputy dealt with that point before.

The point I want to make is why it should be necessary that the Seanad should possess both powers, not only the power of sending it to the Committee of Privileges by notice from two-fifths of the members, but, in addition, the right to decide by a majority vote to send it to the Committee of Privileges.

What is now proposed is that the Bill be printed and circulated.

My argument against the printing of this Bill is that it is a waste of time and money.

A DEPUTY

You said that before.

I will say it again, please God, if it is necessary. The Seanad do possess the power by the Constitution, as at present drafted, to hold up a Bill and to send it to the Committee of Privileges by two-fifths of their members giving notice in writing. It is now proposed, in addition to that power, to give them power, by majority voting at a meeting, to do the same thing. I do not think it is necessary that this duplication of power should be given to them. I would like to know also if it is usual to have 30 members present at a meeting of the Seanad.

The Deputy is discussing a Bill which is not before us. He is confined to a statement of his reasons for opposing the motion, that leave be given to introduce a Bill. He is going a little beyond that.

I will conclude by saying that my opposition to this Bill being given a First Reading is because it will be a waste of money to print it and a waste of time to discuss it.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 74; Níl, 39.

  • William P. Aird.
  • Ernest Henry Alton.
  • Richard Anthony.
  • James Walter Beckett.
  • George Cecil Bennett.
  • Séamus A. Bourke.
  • Henry Broderick.
  • Seán Brodrick.
  • Alfred Byrne.
  • John Joseph Byrne.
  • Patrick Clancy.
  • John James Cole.
  • Mrs. Margt. Collins-O'Driscoll.
  • Hugh Colohan.
  • Martin Conlon.
  • Michael P. Connolly.
  • Bryan Ricco Cooper.
  • William T. Cosgrave.
  • Sir James Craig.
  • Thomas Hennessy.
  • Mark Henry.
  • Richard Holohan.
  • Michael Jordan.
  • Patrick Michael Kelly.
  • Myles Keogh.
  • Hugh Alexander Law.
  • Patrick Leonard.
  • Finian Lynch.
  • Arthur Patrick Mathews.
  • Martin McDonogh.
  • Michael Og McFadden.
  • Patrick McGilligan.
  • Daniel Morrissey.
  • Richard Mulcahy.
  • James E. Murphy.
  • Joseph Xavier Murphy.
  • John Thomas Nolan.
  • James Crowley.
  • John Daly.
  • William Davin.
  • Michael Davis.
  • Eugene Doherty.
  • James N. Dolan.
  • Peadar Seán Doyle.
  • Edmund John Duggan.
  • James Dwyer.
  • Barry M. Egan.
  • Osmond Thos. Grattan Esmonde.
  • Desmond Fitzgerald.
  • James Fitzgerald-Kenney.
  • John Good.
  • Denis J. Gorey.
  • Alexander Haslett.
  • John J. Hassett.
  • Michael R. Heffernan.
  • Michael Joseph Hennessy.
  • Thomas J. O'Connell.
  • Bartholomew O'Connor.
  • John F. O'Hanlon.
  • Daniel O'Leary.
  • Dermot Gun O'Mahony.
  • John J. O'Reilly.
  • Gearoid O'Sullivan.
  • John Marcus O'Sullivan.
  • William Archer Redmond.
  • Vincent Rice.
  • Martin Roddy.
  • Patrick W. Shaw.
  • Timothy Sheehy (West Cork).
  • William Edward Thrift.
  • Michael Tierney.
  • Vincent Joseph White.
  • George Wolfe.
  • Jasper Travers Wolfe.

Níl

  • Frank Aiken.
  • Denis Allen.
  • Gerald Boland.
  • Seán Brady.
  • Robert Briscoe.
  • Daniel Buckley.
  • Archie J. Cassidy.
  • Michael Clery.
  • James Colbert.
  • Eamon Cooney.
  • Thomas Derrig.
  • Eamon de Valera.
  • Frank Fahy.
  • Hugo Flinn.
  • Andrew Fogarty.
  • Seán Hayes.
  • Patrick Hogan (Clare).
  • Patrick Houlihan.
  • Stephen Jordan.
  • Michael Joseph Kennedy.
  • William R. Kent.
  • James Joseph Killane.
  • Mark Killilea.
  • Michael Kilroy.
  • Seán F. Lemass.
  • Patrick John Little.
  • Ben Maguire.
  • Seán MacEntee.
  • Séamus Moore.
  • Patrick Joseph O'Dowd.
  • Seán T. O'Kelly.
  • Matthew O'Reilly.
  • Thomas O'Reilly.
  • James Ryan.
  • Martin Sexton.
  • Timothy Sheehy (Tipperary).
  • Patrick Smith.
  • Richard Walsh.
  • Francis C. Ward.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Duggan and P.Doyle; Níl: Deputies G. Boland and Allen.
Motion declared carried.
Second Reading ordered for June 20th.