Does the Schedule arise on this section or shall we wait until we reach the Schedule proper?
Electoral (Revision of Constituencies) Bill, 1934—Committee.
We shall come to the Schedule in due course.
Perhaps the Minister would inform the House as to the procedure by which he arrived at the recommendation for a House of 136 members. The Minister has, on different occasions, recommended a smaller Dáil and a number of arguments have been brought forward in support of that from the Ministerial Benches. Perhaps this would be a suitable occasion on which to hear the Minister on that point.
I should like to remind the Minister, or tell him if he was not here at the time, that the Minister for Industry and Commerce, speaking on this Bill, said that the Government had not changed from its aim of reducing the membership of the Dáil considerably—reducing it, I think he said, to the figure 100—and that we were to regard this Bill as being just a step on the way and all that was practicable at the moment. I should like to know if the Minister for Local Government and Public Health accepts that statement of the situation.
I do not know what the Minister for Industry and Commerce said. I cannot quite accept the interpretation that Deputy MacDermot has put upon his words. I think I was here through most of the Minister's speech, and certainly I did not hear him make any remark that could be interpreted in the way the Deputy has interpreted what was said. It was certainly the aim of the Government to reduce considerably the total number of members. Personally I was never convinced that the Dáil could be reduced to 100 members and retain its efficiency. I always held the opinion that to reduce the House to 100 members would make the work of Deputies, especially those representing rural constituencies, very onerous indeed. I heard, and not from one side of the House only, that the work of Deputies, particularly in rural areas has been, and continues to be very heavy. During the period when the House is in session, and during week-ends, if they want to keep in touch with their constituencies as they desire, Deputies have to travel long distances. They have also very heavy correspondence to attend to. From what I hear I believe this does not apply to any one Party. Therefore, while it was the aim of a good many to try to reach, as nearly as they could, what some would regard as the ideal of 100 members for the total representation of the people in this House, I was never satisfied that we could get that figure. I started with 120. Taking the Constitution as it stands, and taking the country as a whole, with population limitations, the nearest I could get—and I tried several schemes—to what would appear to me to be adequate representation was the figure I introduced in this Bill. I presented that to my colleagues in the Executive Council, and they asked me more than once to try to reduce it further. I did try and I eventually convinced them that the total number we have here was a reasonable figure. Some of them still thought that if they had tried they could reduce the number still more, but they failed to convince me that they could, and I stand by this figure. Eventually I satisfied my colleagues on the Executive Council that this figure was a reasonable one. At some time in the future, after this amendment of the Parliamentary Electoral Act, it will have to be tackled again and I suppose another effort will be made, possibly by myself in another five years or so. I may have an opportunity then of seeing if I can come near a figure that some Deputies now think desirable. I think 136 is reasonable.
The position, I take it, is that the Minister is offering the House a proposal that contains a Dáil of the maximum size allowable under the Constitution.
There could be still, with the constitutional figures laid down, a few members added to different constituencies by making different combinations.
Not more than two or three.
Not more than two, perhaps three.