The following motion stood in the name of Colonel Moore:—
"That a Committee be appointed to consider and report as soon as possible on the advisability of establishing Standing Committees of Seanad Eireann to study and advise the Seanad from time to time on the following subjects or some of them:— Finance, Agriculture and Fisheries, Foreign Affairs, Commerce and Manufactures, Defence, Home and Local Government, Education, Fine Arts, Labour, and to draw up a scheme for the organisation of these Committees."

It may be remembered that just before Christmas I brought in a somewhat similar motion, but a little exception was taken to the motion I brought in at that time, because Senators said that they had not time to consider it, and that, as it was a very important matter, they would like time to consider it, and I withdrew it on that occasion. On this occasion I have made a change. At that time the motion was a definite one to introduce these things at once, whereas now I only propose that a Committee should be appointed to investigate and study whether these Committees ought to be appointed or not, and, if they are to be, under what convenient method they should be appointed. This does not commit the Seanad to anything in particular at present; it merely commits it to make an enquiry as to the advisability or not of appointing this Committee. With regard to the names I have suggested for the Committee, my only reason for doing so is because I am bound by the Standing Orders to do so. If I do not put down a certain number of names for the Committee I may be ruled out of order. I have selected those not knowing in the least whether they approve of the motion or whether they are prepared to go on the Committee, but I have selected the names that appear to me to a certain extent to represent the particular subjects that I thought might be brought forward. The reason why it is necessary that we should take this step, which is not a step taken everywhere else, is because the constitution of the Seanad is very different from that in other places. The Upper House in England, the House of Lords, is entirely differently constituted. There Ministers are members of the House of Lords, it is presided over by the Lord Chancellor, who is a Minister, and it is governed by party principles, whereas in this House we have no parties, thank goodness, and we have no Ministers, which is perhaps unfortunate; and we must organise ourselves somehow or in some method, otherwise a number of Senators are meeting here, and there will be no means of bringing forward properly-stated measures. Any member may bring forward any measure he chooses, no one else having studied it or knowing anything about it. I propose this Committee in order that all subjects brought before us may be properly stated, and that members may understand and be educated into these particular subjects in which they are to legislate. I hope that these Committees will have another very good effect. I hope they will prevent caucuses, which are established very often in different places. I hope we will not get a caucus, which is a sort of evil genius of democratic assemblies. They may be suitable in some places, but I hope they will not be attempted here, and this gives an opportunity of avoiding these evils, and in proposing to appoint this Committee I am not introducing any particularly new plans. They have been adopted in other countries; in America and France and elsewhere Standing Committees of some sort have been sanctioned—Committees on Finance, Foreign Affairs, and so on. These Committees serve a most useful purpose, and are very important in the constitution of a country. I think we have power to prepare Bills and send these on to the Dáil, and it would be very useful and important that we should do so in order that proper Bills may be produced. These Committees can study and consider the Bills introduced, and draw them up in some sort of form and present them to the Senate. Certain different forms have been suggested. The last time I brought the matter up there were a few remarks made, and it was suggested that they should not be Committees solely of the Seanad, but that there should also be joint Committees with the Dáil. I think there is something to be said for both of these suggestions, and also that there might be separate Committees both for the Dáil and for the Seanad, and that these should combine and work together. For all these suggestions I think there is something to be said. I am suggesting now that the Committee we are setting up shall decide which of these forms is good and recommend it to the Seanad. I do not know that it is necessary to bring in any special form of words to ensure that, but perhaps it might be better to leave it out, because it might to a certain extent suggest to the Dáil a method of organising themselves that they have not yet started. That might not be a proper thing to do. It might be better to leave it to the Committee to get in touch with the members of the Dáil, and ask them to raise the question in their own House. Therefore, I am leaving that out, but it is quite possible that an amendment may be brought up to that effect. Another matter I have put down relates a number of subjects which I suggest these Committees might consider. I did so because I wished to be quite explicit, and that every Senator should understand what it was that I had in my mind at the time. It is not at all necessary that all those particular subjects I had mentioned should have Committees. It is quite possible there are other subjects which might have Committees. I just put it forward in order that it may be explicit in the minds of everyone here. I hope if these Committees are set up they will be the means of enabling every Senator to be a sort of expert on at least one subject. Of course, members can belong to two or three Committees or more, and in that way when any question arises there will be a number of people who will be particularly expert on that particular subject, and will be able to discuss the matter when it arises, and the Senate will be conducted on business instead of upon party business. On these Committees there will be members of every party if there are such things as parties now. There are not, I think, but there are differences of opinion on various subjects, and these will be all mixed together, and in that way we will get a great deal of unanimity we would not otherwise have. I hope it will enable us to get credit in the country, and that the country will rely on the Senate as a very business-like Assembly capable of doing definite work. I therefore move that the motion in my name in the Orders be adopted.

Before the motion is seconded I would suggest to Senator Moore to postpone the matter still further.


If the motion is not seconded it cannot be discussed.

I beg to second it.

I have felt, and I am sure we have all felt, the fact that we are a group of individuals who do not know each other, and that is a great injury to us in our capacity as a deliberative body. I think, at the same time, if Colonel Moore brings this to a vote now it will probably be lost, and I imagine under the new Standing Orders it would not be possible to raise it again for some time. I think it is necessary for us to know something of each other before we form such a Committee on the various subjects suggested by Colonel Moore. I feel it is important that we should not do anything now to injure our chances of carrying out such a project later on. I think, then, we might possibly find it a little desirable to be guided by the idea of not forming Committees on subjects for which there are already Ministers in the Dáil. Now, if we appoint Committees such as those suggested, we may find ourselves in the position of critics of the Dáil, which is not desirable. We might, on the other hand, find it desirable to form Committees for subjects in connection with which there are no Ministries. For instance, Public Health. Now there is no Ministry of Public Health. It might be desirable to form Committees of that kind. I am myself anxious to see a Committee appointed to look after the interests of Fine Arts, and I do feel if this motion is brought to a vote it may probably be lost, and if it is not lost we have not sufficient knowledge of each other to form such Committees with the necessary information. I therefore suggest that we postpone this resolution for some time.

I would like to move an amendment to Colonel Moore's motion, and that is to delete all the words after the word "Committees" in the second line, and to substitute for the deleted words the following:—"Appointed either by the Seanad alone or jointly by the Seanad and the Dáil, and to suggest to the Seanad the purpose, method of appointment, and duties of any Committee that may be recommended."


I understand that Senator Yeats intends to move that the consideration of this matter be adjourned. Does anyone second that?

I second it.

I am now only proposing a Committee to inquire. I am not proposing to have these Committees appointed at all. If you look at the resolution you will see that it says "to consider and report as soon as possible on the advisability of establishing Standing Orders Committee." I am not for forming these Committees now.


Your motion is not to form Standing Committees, it is only for the purpose of considering and determining whether it would be desirable to have such Committees at all.

Perhaps I would be in order in speaking on the amendment. If necessary I will move an amendment later. If the names are removed from the motion, and if it is made clear that this is simply to enquire into and report at a later date—if that will meet the wishes of Senator Yeats—it will postpone immediate action, and it will enable the members of the Seanad to know each other. I think we would make much more progress if certain Committees, not too many, are appointed. I have always felt that it would be extremely helpful to both Houses if Joint Committees, who could report to both the Dáil and the Seanad, were appointed. I know provision is made in the Standing Orders in Canada and Australia for the initiation by both Houses of Joint Committees. I think, therefore, that probably will be one of the subjects that might be included. I hope that in some form this motion of Colonel Moore's will be adopted, so that it will not be cropping vaguely up in a continuing form, but that when it comes up it will be definitely disposed of.

I am ready to accept that.

I formally move the amendment, which I have practically already explained, and which has been circulated to the Senators. My amendment would make the original motion read in this way:—"That a Committee be appointed to consider and report on the advisability of establishing Standing Committees appointed either by the Seanad alone, or jointly by the Seanad and the Dáil, and to suggest to the Seanad the purpose, method of appointment, and duties of any Committees that may be recommended." May I briefly point out that the object of the alteration is not to dictate to the Committee the names of the subjects for which the Committees would be formed. It is to make it possible for them to report in favour of Joint Committees. That is the object of the amendment.

I second Mr. Douglas's amendment.

I think that the proposal made by Senator Douglas is an admirable one, and it is quite obvious that if we are to conduct our business in any kind of satisfactory way there must be some communication between the Seanad and the Dáil. The appointment of combined Committees is an excellent idea, and it would get us out of very considerable difficulties on many occasions. On the general question of Colonel Moore's amendment, I do not think it would in any way be interfered with by this proposal.

The motion as amended, if the Seanad accepts my amendment, would read:—"That a Committee be appointed to consider, and report as soon as possible, on the advisability of establishing Standing Committees appointed either by the Seanad alone or jointly by the Seanad and Dáil, and to suggest to the Seanad the purpose, method of appointment, and duties of any Committees that may be recommended. The Committee to consist of the following:—

"Senators Jameson, Butler, Parkinson, Moore, Dowdall, Sir Bryan Mahon, Sir John Keane, Mrs. Wyse Power, Yeats, Farren, MacLysaght."

In my opinion this proposal is carrying the Seanad a very long way. We have had no discussion whatsoever as to the advisability or otherwise of establishing Standing Committees. In many places where one has served there are Standing Committees, but they have certain specified and definite duties connected with essential existing things in connection with the body they are appointed from. There are many formal duties connected with such Committees. One's experience of Committees appointed with a long lease of life, and for no very definite purpose, is that the subjects referred to them are shelved, and nobody bothers his head about them, and you hear no more of them until the Committee report back. For the purpose of doing real business, I do not think Standing Committees are good things at all. We have not debated this subject here. We are now proposing to appoint a Committee to consider the advisability of establishing Standing Committees. Why should we appoint a Committee to do a thing which the Seanad ought to settle for itself? The Seanad ought to decide whether or not it is wise to have Standing Committees. I believe that Senator Yeats' proposal was the right one; we have not had time to consider the matter. The questions raised in the present proposal are very big questions. To make a great change of that kind seems to me too hasty, and I am of opinion that Senator Yeats is right; we ought to have time to consider this matter and to know each other better and to know the best people to be selected for those Committees. In my opinion a Committee should be appointed only for a definite purpose, and its duties should end when that purpose is achieved. I do not believe that Standing Committees do much good at all. The Seanad should be given an opportunity to debate the question fully. Then probably we will have a clearer idea of what we can do along the lines of Senator Douglas's resolution.

I was going to suggest that the amendment be put, in order to keep the matter in order. The only difference between Senator Jameson and myself is simply this—that I think that the whole Seanad could discuss the matter better after receiving a report than it could by simply discussing a motion.


Perhaps the Seanad will allow me to say just one word about this. I attach very great importance to the amendment proposed by Senator Douglas, because the moment we get our Seanad in order and proceed to enter systematically upon the business entrusted to us we will find ourselves up against difficulties every day by reason of the absence of Ministers in our Seanad, and the absence of means of communication between the two Houses. The great benefit that I see in the amendment suggested by Senator Douglas, having regard to the work we will have to do, is the fact that it enables us to get these joint Committees, if we can, into working order at the earliest moment. While the matter is well worthy, of course, of much greater consideration, I think that inasmuch as this is only a proposal that a Committee should report on the subject, it does not pledge the Seanad to anything, and it gives them the fullest opportunities later on the discussing the whole question when the report comes up. Perhaps, therefore, the Seanad might allow it to go in that form, which, I understand Senator Colonel Moore will accept. I shall now put the amendment moved by Senator Douglas and seconded by Senator MacLysaght.

Amendment put and agreed to.

May I move a further amendment to add the name of An Cathoirleach and Leas Chathoirleach to the names already proposed. I think it very important that people who have their experience should be on the Committee.

I beg to second that.

Amendment put and agreed to.

Would it be wise to allow any Senator present who wishes to join the Committee to send in his name? I understand there are some people who think that they might be able to do something—more specialised work.


I think there is a misapprehension, not an unnatural one, because the matter has been rather confused. The Committee is not the Committee entrusted with any of this work. It is only a Committee that will suggest and recommend to the Seanad whether we ought to go on with these Standing Committees at all or not.

There is no misapprehension on my part. I know it is only a Committee, and I would move that the name of Senator Moran be added to the Committee.

I beg to second that.

Amendment put and agreed to.


In order to be strictly in order it is necessary to add to the resolution the number of the Committee that is to form a quorum. This is a formal matter, but it is required under our Standing Orders.

I think the original number was 10, and it is now 13, rather an unfortunate number. I would move that five should form a quorum.

Amendment put and agreed to.


I will now put the resolution in the form in which it stands as amended:—

"That a Committee be appointed to consider and report on the advisability of establishing Standing Committees, appointed either by the Seanad alone or jointly by the Seanad and the Dáil, and suggest to the Seanad the purpose, methods of appointments and duties of any Committees that may be recommended; the Committee to consist of Senators Jameson, Butler, Parkinson, Colonel Moore, Dowdall, Sir Bryan Mahon, Sir John Keane, Mrs. Wyse Power, Yeats, O'Farrell, MacLysaght, Moran, the Chairman and Deputy Chairman; five members to form a quorum."

Motion as amended put and agreed to.