When is it proposed to take the Committee Stage?
Committee on Finance. - Electoral (Duration of Dáil Eireann) Bill, 1943—Bill Withdrawn.
Everything in the Bill has been decided by the division and perhaps the House would let us have the Committee Stage now.
If everything in the Bill was decided by the division, could the Minister say why it was not possible for the Government to rebut the case made from these benches against it? No Minister replied to the debate.
That was my fault.
I was here, but, having spoken once, I did not want to speak a second time. I had said everything which it seemed to me was to be said with regard to it. It did not appear to me that it was going to be taken as a Party issue at all because Deputies from different Parties seemed to support it.
I think the House has decided.
The House has decided because the Fianna Fáil Party walks into the Lobby. When dealing with this matter before, the Taoiseach indicated that if he could get the agreement of the House, he would introduce the Bill.
When I spoke a short while ago, I indicated that I was surprised by the speeches made on the previous occasion against it. They completely surprised me because I thought that Deputies who had experience here would have taken the view which was in fact taken by a member of the Opposition Party, Deputy Lynch. He anticipated the speech which I intended to make and made it almost in its entirety. Deputy Keyes from the Labour Benches had a similar point of view, and Deputy Byrne—I do not know whether he is attached to any Party; I think he is an Independent member—said the same thing and I must say that I was altogether surprised that it was made a Party issue. If there is strong objection to the Bill, I do not think it desirable that we should go on with it. I think the proposition to which the House, by a majority, has agreed is in the best interests of parliamentary government in this country.
Might I ask what we are discussing? The Taoiseach is now going into the merits of the Bill.
The question before the House is whether the remaining stages of the Bill will be taken now.
I did make the statement when I referred to this matter originally that if there was agreement, in view of the situation existing, I would have a measure of this sort brought in. It was in consequence of that that this measure was brought in. I did not happen to be in the House when it was introduced, but there were some references to my statement and I came here to-day deliberately in order that if any questions were raised I would be here to speak about them. From the debate until the division was called, it seemed to me that it was not going to be taken as a Party issue. Apparently I was wrong, but I was not aware that I was wrong until I saw the voting in the Lobbies, because members of the different Parties had spoken in the same way as I spoke.
Now the position is that if the Opposition Parties strongly object to the Bill, the Government will not proceed with it. If they do not strongly object to it, if they are prepared to take the vote of the House as deciding the matter, it would be better to have all stages of the Bill as soon as possible, because there is a great deal of other work to be done in the time that is available. If the Opposition Party were opposing it, I would decide, for no other reason than to save Parliamentary time, not to go on with it in present circumstances. If there is objection to taking the remaining stages now, I will accept that as an indication on the part of the Opposition Parties that they do not want the Bill, and under these circumstances I would not proceed with it.
I, for one, object to taking the remaining stages now.
Very well; the Bill may be regarded as dead then.
I should like to make a few remarks in the same way as the Taoiseach made some remarks. The Taoiseach suggested that he did not dream that this was a Party issue. I do not know whether it was a Party issue as such. In the first place, the Taoiseach indicated, when he originally referred to it some time ago, that if agreement could be got, he would introduce the Bill. The Taoiseach sought for no agreement when he introduced it. When it was introduced and discussed, my recollection is that both Deputy Cosgrave and Deputy Costello very vigorously opposed it, and that my parting remark on the last day the Dáil discussed it was a challenge to the Taoiseach to get a single member of the House, outside his own Party, who would support him in the matter. That ought to have been a suggestion to the Taoiseach that there were serious differences of opinion, but in the meantime no attempt has been made by the Taoiseach to consult other Parties to see whether general agreement to the measure could be got. There are, as I understand the position, a number of people in our Party at any rate from whom the Taoiseach could not get general acceptance of legislation extending at this particular hour of the life of this Parliament the life of subsequent Parliaments in this way.
The House is not agreed to take the remaining stages.
This Bill was not considered by my Party. It has not considered it and every statement made here by Deputies was made on their own responsibility. They were quite explicit and there was no misunderstanding.
The Taoiseach said, when he first indicated his intention to introduce this Bill, that an effort would be made to get agreement.
No, I did not. I do believe that the proper place to get agreement in regard to these matters is the House and what I said was: "if the House agreed."
Perhaps the Taoiseach intended that as-the method to be adopted by himself, but our understanding was that some approaches would be made subsequently.
There was no basis for any such understanding. Nobody suggested it at the time I made the statement.
That is what the Taoiseach intended, but what we understood was entirely different. We understood that there would be some subsequent approach, but no such approaches were made, and perhaps if they had been made, there might have been an avoidance of the difficulties which have arisen to-day.
So far as this Party is concerned, it is opposed to the Bill, but not with any great vehemence, because it does not seem to me to be a matter of major importance to-day, particularly in view of the problems surrounding us. The Bill has no meaning whatever, and can have no meaning whatever until 1949, six years hence. What matter to-day are the problems of to-day, of next week, of next month and of next year, and if this country can survive all the trials which beset it this year, and which will beset it every other year for the next five years, I imagine that, having had the ingenuity to get over all these difficulties during the next five trying years, it will devise some means by which it can hold an election in 1948 or 1949.
So far as the ordinary people of the country are concerned, the Bill is not worth twopence. It has no importance, and it is not worth while reading it. It speaks entirely of what is going to happen six years hence. What we are concerned with is what is going to happen six days hence or six hours hence. As far as I am concerned, the Taoiseach can have the Bill a thousand times, but I object to it on principle, because I think such a measure is a burlesque of parliamentary government, and a waste of time of Government, particularly in an emergency of this kind.
If that is the attitude that is being adopted by the Opposition towards this Bill, then I think we should not have had a division on it at all and it might be better to withdraw it, but experience has shown us that the five-year limit is not safe.
The question before the House is whether or not the Committee Stage of the Bill is to be taken now.
In view of the attitude of the House towards the Bill, I say that we shall not proceed with it—at least, not now.
Very good. Next business.
Is the Bill being withdrawn?