Private Business. - Bank of Ireland Bill, 1929—Report Stage.

I move:

"That the Bank of Ireland Bill, 1929, be received for final consideration."

With regard to the amendment on the paper in the name of Deputy Coburn I would like to put a point as to whether the amendment is in order, on the ground that it would impose a charge, and, if so, whether a private Deputy can propose such an amendment.

I have given this matter very careful consideration and I have come to the conclusion that the amendment in the name of Deputy Coburn would, in fact, impose a charge. That being so, it could not, I think, be moved by Deputy Coburn. That decision, of course, is altogether outside of any other question as to whether the amendment is in fact relevant to the Bill. It does impose a tax, and it cannot, therefore, be moved by any Deputy other than a member of the Executive Council.

Do I understand then that it is out of order as far as a private Deputy is concerned to move this amendment? The Bill seeks to give certain powers to the Bank of Ireland and also to put them in the same position as other joint stock banks and companies. It seems that other banks have to pay an ad valorem stamp duty on any increased capital, and surely it should be the business of the State to see to it that the revenue is safeguarded and that if the Bank of Ireland increases its capital in the near future this duty is imposed upon the amount of the increased capital. It is a matter of indifference to me whether it is moved by a private Deputy or by the Minister responsible for safeguarding the finances and the revenue of the country as long as it is done. If other banks have to pay this stamp duty I do not see why the Bank of Ireland should not do the same. It seeks to be given the same status as the other banks.

Of course the question for the Chair is merely that the Deputy has put down an amendment that it is not in order for him to move, and the Chair can go no further than to rule upon that particular point.

Am I to take it that the Minister for Finance will move this amendment if he finds that it is in order?

The Bank of Ireland have no special exemption from the stamp duty in question. This stamp duty is chargeable on companies which have a limited liability. Any corporation or company with unlimited liability is not chargeable, and the Bank of Ireland is merely freed from this particular stamp duty because it is a company which has not a limited liability.

Do I understand that this has been ruled out of order on the ground that it would constitute a charge upon the State, as distinct from a charge upon the bank and the shareholders—that in the carrying out of this operation some charge would fall upon the State? Is it the point that no member of this House except a member of the Executive Council has power to move any increase in the burden on an individual or a corporation as distinct from the State? As I understood it, we were inhibited from moving an increase of burden on the State, but I certainly did not understand until new that we were inhibited from moving an increase of burden on an individual or corporation. I want to know if that is the meaning of the ruling— that we are in future to understand that we cannot as private Deputies move any increase of charge on any individual or corporation, and that it can be done only by a member of the Executive Council.

The position is that this amendment is in the nature of the imposition of a tax, and to that extent it is out of order. A private Deputy cannot move for an increase of taxation or for the putting of an increased burden upon State funds. This is an example of an increase of taxation, and an increase of taxation can only be moved by a member of the Executive Council. The question is, therefore, that the Bill be received for final consideration.

When this Bill was last before the House we indicated that in certain respects the specific objections which we had to the Bill, apart altogether from the manner of its presentation, had been met by certain amendments which had been made in the Bill in Committee, and that our opposition to the Bill was no longer grounded upon those particular matters. Before going on to state the ground of our larger objection I think there is a point which should be brought before the notice of the Dáil in connection with this institution and that is the fact that this public banking institution, the greatest in this country, has I think on loan the sum of £2,769,000 to the Government—I presume one must describe it in the Dáil as the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, at 2½ per cent. Now I submit that that loan was made in the first instance in return for certain privileges which it was within the power of that Government at the date upon which the loan was made to confer upon the bank. The power of the original borrower to confer and maintain the particular privileges of the bank no longer exists. There, therefore, is, in our opinion, no longer any justification for a financial institution in this country advancing money to another Government at the rate of interest I have stated when our own Government, if it goes to the same institution to borrow the same amount of money, would probably be charged not less than 5 or 5½ per cent.

Would the Deputy say how this arises on the Report Stage of the Bill?

The fact to which I am drawing the attention of the House was the fact which was elucidated in the Committee Stage of the Bill and of which possibly the House generally is not aware. Notwithstanding that our objection still remains I am going to ask those members of the House who are prepared to vote for the passage of this Bill to say that the anomaly to which I referred no longer can be permitted to exist.

The members of the House cannot say that at this stage of the Bill. The Deputy is raising a particular question which does not seem to have any connection with anything in the Bill. We are now dealing with the Report Stage; that is to say, we are dealing with the Bill as it has returned from Committee, and there does not appear to be anything in the Bill as it has returned from Committee on which the Deputy can, so to speak, hang this particular argument. Nothing has been offered for the decision of the House.

On a point of order, I understood in the procedure on Private Bills that this was the stage at which one raised the big questions of the principle of the Bill and all that for the purpose of deciding whether the Bill was to be accepted or rejected.

Would the Deputy quote Private Bill Standing Orders to that effect?

I do not happen to have them in my hand at the moment, but I think, if my memory serves me properly, that you mentioned that to me at an earlier stage when we wanted to discuss the Bill, because there was a time when we asked you on what stage we could discuss the Bill. It was at that time you told us.

I recall the circumstances. The procedure on Private Bills, as has been explained before, is that a Private Bill is introduced into the Seanad and there gets a Second Reading. From the Seanad there comes to this House a motion asking the Dáil to concur in the appointment of a Joint Committee for the consideration of the Bill. When the Dáil is considering whether it will or will not agree to the setting up of a Joint Committee on the Bill the principle of the Bill is before the Dáil. That is, in fact, in the Standing Orders in these or similar words. It has been explained on more than one occasion from the Chair. In connection with this particular Bill, the Deputy and I think the Leader of the Opposition himself consulted me with regard to it and asked me at what stage of the Bill could they state a particular objection. When it appeared to me that the objection was a radical objection, the advice I gave was that the motion for referring the Bill to a Joint Committee should be opposed. That was done. It is at that stage that the principle of the Bill comes up; that is to say, when the House is asked to concur with the Seanad in the setting up of the Joint Committee for the consideration of the Bill, not at this stage.

Have we not the right now to review the work of the Committee with regard to this Bill?

This is the only opportunity we have got of dealing with this question which was raised on the Committee Stage and on which evidence was given—the question with which Deputy MacEntee is dealing. Would it not be in order for Deputy MacEntee to review the discussion on that particular point and to suggest that the Committee possibly did not do its duty in failing to make a recommendation in that matter as they did on other matters that were of a similar kind?

The real point is that on the Second Stage of a Bill it can be argued that the Bill does not contain certain provisions which Deputies would like to see in it. On the Fourth Stage debate is restricted to the provisions in the Bill, and cannot extend to matters which Deputies would like to see in the Bill; and for this very simple reason, that it is then no longer possible to put anything into the Bill. Therefore, what the House is concerned with is the question whether the Bill; as it stands, should or should not be received for final consideration. The debate must proceed on that line. That is the case both for private and public Bills. In the Bill I find no reference to what Deputy MacEntee is raising, and the House could not by vote now decide the question.

Has the House not the power still to re-commit the Bill even on the Report Stage?

If an amendment is proposed, the Bill may be re-committed or the amendment may be referred back to the Committee for report; but there is in fact no amendment to the Bill.

May I also, in fairness to myself, say that I submitted an amendment of substance to refer the Bill back to enable this Committee to consider this particular question? I agree I submitted it rather late in the day, but still in view of its importance it might possibly have been permitted to appear on the Order Paper.

Not only metaphorically but literally the amendment was submitted very late in the day and the day was yesterday.

Of course I accept your ruling in the matter and I am not going to refer again to this sum of money which is being advanced to the Government of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but as I indicated at the outset our larger objection to this Bill still remains. We are still opposed to piecemeal tampering with the present position of any bank in the Saorstát until a more searching investigation than has yet been carried out is made into the situation generally. I think, if my memory serves me, that the Minister for Finance, when a motion to refer this Bill to a Joint Committee was last before the Dáil, said that he did not accept the report and the recommendations of the Banking Commission as being final and conclusive in this matter. Neither do we. We are confirmed in that attitude in rejecting the report because we believe that it has been based upon an entirely wrong principle.

The grounds upon which that report was drafted are plainly stated on page 3, paragraph 5 of the Final Report. "To put" the Banking Commission state, "our first and fundamental conclusion into plainer language, we may say that in our opinion whatever is done here should be done in such a way as to avoid for the present any serious breach with the currency, banking and trade system of Great Britain."

Now, recent events have taught us what that connection with the British currency system means. We have had an increase in the bank rate, an increase which has made the position of every producer, whether farmer or manufacturer, more difficult. It was not occasioned by any stringency of credit internally arising, or by any export of our capital resources beyond what has become the normal condition of this country, but is due entirely to the fact that our currency system is linked up with that of Great Britain. In such a situation we in this country are like a rowing boat tied to a liner, in danger of being swamped——

The Deputy at the moment is endeavouring to tie a liner to a rowing boat. I do not want to weary the House with a repetition of what happened on the 31st July. The Deputy will remember it.

The Deputy had that fact in mind, and he knew—to use another maritime metaphor— that this argument was very likely to founder upon a point of order. What I had to say in that regard can very well wait for another day. I will content myself with saying that we on these benches feel that a further examination into the whole banking and financial system of this country should be made, and this time it should proceed, not upon the hypothesis that we should remain linked with the currency system and banking system of Great Britain, but that we ought to secure and maintain control of our own financial affairs. It is quite obvious that at this stage I cannot state in detail our objections to the Bill. I cannot pursue a considerable number of points which are of great public interest, and which might very well be discussed at this, the last opportune occasion upon which they can be discussed here. But, having said what I have said, I would wish to say this: that there is one other ground of objection we have to the passing of this Bill, and that is the manner in which it has been driven through this House by the bloc vote of the Government Party and re-voted in the Committee. In that process the rights and legitimate wish of the chief Opposition Party in this House were ignored, and their chosen representatives were excluded from the Joint Committee appointed to consider the Bill in detail. What that has meant to this discussion, what it has meant to the Bill, and what it has meant to the country is exemplified by what took place here to-day.

In the minutes of evidence I see that counsel for the promoters referred to the point which I myself endeavoured to raise here, the fact that £2,769,000 of Irish money is being loaned at the present time to another Government at a rate of interest less than half of what our Government has to pay to the same lenders. That fact was brought before the notice of this Committee, but beyond a very cursory examination of one of the witnesses who appeared in support of the Bill, no action was taken by this Committee. I say if this party had been represented, as it was its right to be represented, upon that Committee, by its chosen representatives, we would not have been precluded from discussing this matter here to-day. The Committee would not have been permitted to deal with that important matter in the perfunctory way in which it was dealt with. I believe if our representatives had been upon that Committee our Government, instead of to-day having to pay five per cent. upon its Exchequer bills, would be in a position to raise a loan of two and three-quarter million pounds at 2½ per cent. That is how the partisan action of the Government in this matter has reacted upon the Dáil, upon the Exchequer and upon the country as a whole. But it has had very much more serious consequences. After all, possibly another Government may be able to secure this loan at this particularly favourable rate of interest. But what happened when this Bill was before the Dáil has set the whole trend of future private Bill legislation in this House; it has created a precedent which, however unworthy of imitation, is likely to be invoked in the future, and from the point of view of the promoters of this Bill these facts have been most regrettable. This Bill, which was a matter of national concern, has come to be a purely party measure. It has indicated that the affiliations between this large public banking corporation and the Government Party are closer than they ought to be, and are of a nature that other parties, particularly the chief Opposition Party, and the general public must view with alarm and distrust. Whatever legislative decisions or arrangements have been arrived at in consequence of such relations, such decisions and such arrangements cannot endure and will not be permitted to endure. This Bill has not been examined by a Committee truly representative of this House. Instead it was sent to a packed Committee.

That is not correct.

It was sent to a Committee which was not representative.

This was discussed and decided in the House, and when the House has reached a decision the Deputy cannot criticise it.

Except to point out how injurious it has been from the point of view of the country and of the promoters of this Bill.

Did yon read Senator Connolly's speech in the Seanad?

The distinction between criticising a decision and saying how unwise it has been escapes the Chair.

Perhaps it would save time if the Deputy would go out and read Senator Connolly's speech in the Seanad. He would see how very much out of line he is with that position.

I must confess I have read Senator Connolly's speech. I do not think there is anything inconsistent between what I am saying and that speech.

You are out of step.

I am, but I am in tune with the country in this matter and it is some members of the Labour Party who are out of step and out of tune with the country in this matter. This is one of the most flagrant examples of legislation in private interests with which this Dáil has been faced. It does not matter whether that legislation has been in the interests of individuals or of a corporation. Legislation concocted and pushed through in this way will not be permitted to stand and if ever the opportunity is vouchsafed to this party to undo it we will, at any rate, reconsider the whole of this matter, and as an indication of our future attitude in regard to the Bill we propose to vote against it to-day.

I did not intend to say anything on this, but I think it is only fair—in view of the statements made by Deputy MacEntee—to the Committee that considered this Bill that I should refer to some of his statements. I may say I was rather surprised that Deputy MacEntee should talk in such a loose and, if I might say so, rather wild way. He talked about a packed Committee. I do not know what the Deputy meant by a packed Committee. The Committee was appointed in the ordinary way.

It was not. The ordinary way of appointing a Committee, in a matter like this, is to accept the nominees of the Parties who are supposed to be represented on that Committee.

No. The Deputy's statement was that a precedent had been created. That is not so, but if the Committee had to take the course suggested to them by the Deputy's Party it would be creating a precedent. The Committee appointed to consider the Bank of Ireland Bill was appointed in the very same way as every other Committee had been appointed, since the setting up of this State, to consider a Private Bill, and there was no departure from that. The Deputy said this was a national matter and that it has been made a Party measure. I submit that if it was made a Party measure the Deputy and his Party were responsible for making it a Party measure.

By voting against the Cumann na nGaedheal Party Whips.

We cannot all join Cumann na nGaedheal.

We can at least listen to the Deputy, who has the right to address the House after another Deputy has been heard without interruption.

This Deputy is concluding.

He is the Deputy who has the right to conclude.

I am afraid the Fianna Fáil Party are not serious in their objections, and I must only come to the conclusion that it is all a bit of window-dressing, to use a phrase which is very often used here, and that Deputy MacEntee missed the tide. He did not make his objection when it could have been made, and I am sorry that he and his Party did not give the Committee which was set up the benefit of the experience of the members of the Fianna Fáil Party nominated to act on the Committee by the Committee which had the right to nominate a Private Bill Committee. I must say that the Committee which examined the Bill went to a great deal of trouble and examined it in a very careful and detailed way, as a reading of the report would show. I must say that the Bank of Ireland and their counsel did all that any Committee could expect them to do, did all that they were asked to do in order to give the Committee any information which they required, and met them on all the points which the Committee put up to them. The position to-day, as the Committee sees it, is this: that, as a result of the Committee's work, the Bank of Ireland is more of a national bank than it was before, and I would be sorry if this Bill were not passed.

Now, he is giving it away.

I would be sorry if the Bill were not passed, because there were provisions put into it by the Committee which in my opinion are of some value, perhaps in some respects of very great value, to this country. When Deputies give their time, go into a measure like this in detail, and report back to the House fully upon their work, I think that they ought not to be accused of performing that work in a very perfunctory manner, as Deputy MacEntee said, and certainly they ought not to be called a packed Committee.

I should like to ask a question if I may—whether it was any instruction to or intention of the Committee in considering this Bill to make the Bank of Ireland, as a result of it, more the national bankers of this country?

The Committee looked upon the bank as an Irish bank, and the aim of the Committee was to keep it an Irish bank and to ensure as far as they could that it was run by Irishmen for Irishmen.

To make it a national bank.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 76; Níl, 47.

  • Aird, William P.
  • Alton, Ernest Henry.
  • Anthony, Richard.
  • Beckett, James Walter.
  • Bennett, George Cecil.
  • Blythe, Ernest.
  • Bourke, Séamus A.
  • Brennan, Michael.
  • Broderick, Henry.
  • Brodrick, Seán.
  • Byrne, John Joseph.
  • Carey, Edmund.
  • Caburn, James.
  • Collins-O'Driscoll, Mrs. Margt.
  • Colohan, Hugh.
  • Conlon, Martin
  • Cooper, Bryan Ricco.
  • Corish, Richard.
  • Cosgrave, William T.
  • Craig, Sir James.
  • Davin, William.
  • De Loughrey, Peter.
  • Doherty, Eugene.
  • Dolan, James N.
  • Doyle, Edward.
  • Doyle, Peadar Seán.
  • Duggan, Edmund John.
  • Dwyer, James.
  • Egan, Barry M.
  • Esmonde, Osmond Thos. Grattan.
  • Everett, James.
  • Fitzgerald-Kenney, James.
  • Good, John.
  • Gorey, Denis J.
  • Haslett, Alexander.
  • Hassett, John J.
  • Heffernan, Michael R.
  • Hennessy, Thomas.
  • Hennigan, John.
  • Henry, Mark.
  • Hogan, Patrick (Galway).
  • Holohan, Richard.
  • Kelly, Patrick Michael.
  • Law, Hugh Alexander.
  • Leonard, Patrick.
  • Lynch, Finian.
  • Mathews, Arthur Patrick.
  • McFadden, Michael Og.
  • Mongan, Joseph W.
  • Morrissey, Daniel.
  • Mulcahy, Richard.
  • Murphy, James E.
  • Murphy, Timothy Joseph.
  • Myles, James Sproule.
  • Nally, Martin Michael.
  • Nolan, John Thomas.
  • O'Connell, Thomas J.
  • O'Connor, Bartholomew.
  • O'Donovan, Timothy Joseph.
  • O'Hanlon, John F.
  • O'Leary, Daniel.
  • O'Mahony, Dermot Gun.
  • O'Reilly, John J.
  • O'Sullivan, Gearóid.
  • O'Sullivan, John Marcus.
  • Redmond, William Archer.
  • Reynolds, Patrick.
  • Roddy, Martin.
  • Shaw, Patrick W.
  • Sheehy, Timothy (West Cork).
  • Thrift, William Edward.
  • Tierney, Michael.
  • Vaughan, Daniel.
  • White, John.
  • Wolfe, George.
  • Wolfe, Jasper Travers.

Níl

  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Allen, Denis.
  • Blaney, Neal.
  • Boland, Gerald.
  • Boland, Patrick.
  • Bourke, Daniel.
  • Brady, Seán.
  • Briscoe, Robert.
  • Buckley, Daniel.
  • Carty, Frank.
  • Colbert, James.
  • Cooney, Eamon.
  • Corry, Martin John.
  • Crowley, Fred. Hugh.
  • Crowley, Tadhg.
  • Derrig, Thomas.
  • De Valera, Eamon.
  • Fahy, Frank.
  • Flinn, Hugo.
  • Fogarty, Andrew.
  • French, Seán.
  • Gorry, Patrick J.
  • Goulding, John.
  • Hayes, Seán.
  • Houlihan, Patrick.
  • Kennedy, Michael Joseph.
  • Kent, William R.
  • Kerlin, Frank.
  • Killilea, Mark.
  • Kilroy, Michael.
  • Lemass, Seán F.
  • Little, Patrick John.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • MacEntee, Seán.
  • Moore, Séamus.
  • Mullins, Thomas.
  • O'Kelly, Seán T.
  • O'Reilly, Matthew.
  • O'Reilly, Thomas.
  • Powell, Thomas P.
  • Ryan, James.
  • Sexton, Martin.
  • Sheehy, Timothy (Tipperary).
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Tubridy, John.
  • Walsh, Richard.
  • Ward, Francis C.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Duggan and P.S. Doyle; Níl, Deputies G. Boland and Allen.
Question declared carried.
Ordered: That the Fifth Stage be taken on Wednesday, 6th November.