PRIVATE BILL PROCEDURE.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

The Minister will understand that he is discharged with a caution! Before we pass to the Orders of the Day, I might mention that I have received a report from the Examiner of Private Bills to the effect that the Standing Orders have been complied with in regard to three Bills—the East Leinster Electricity Supply Bill, the Dublin Electricity Supply Bill, and the Sligo Lighting and Electric Power Bill. The effect of that report is to put these Bills on the road to becoming legislation. That is to say, to put them on the way to the First Stage. It is important, therefore, that the Seanad, which may have to consider these Bills in Committee later, should appreciate the procedure applicable to them, as, of course, it is novel to most of the Senators. I understand that Senator Douglas—who in his capacity as Vice-Chairman of the Seanad has charge practically of these Bills when passing through the Seanad—has prepared a statement explaining in a small, but very clear, way the gradual stages in the progress of Private Bills. As I think it is a matter of importance to every member of the Seanad, I shall now ask Senator Douglas to be good enough to read that statement.

Some little consideration was given to the Standing Orders relating to Private Business in this Seanad, but it has been suggested to me by several Senators that it is difficult in reading these Standing Orders fully to visualise the Stages through which a Private Bill, as distinct from a Public Bill, has to pass before it can become law. It has been suggested that it would be for the convenience of Senators if I were to make a brief statement with regard to the present position of the Standing Orders relating to Private Business, giving in detail the various Stages through which a Private Bill has to pass. It was suggested that this occasion on which the Examiner's report has been received, to the effect that in his opinion three Private Bills have complied with the Standing Orders, would be a suitable occasion on which I could make a statement.

It has been decided by the Ceann Comhairle and the Cathaoirleach, in accordance with Private Bill Standing Order No. 6, to delegate to the Deputy-Chairman of each House the charge of Private Bills, and in addition I, as Deputy-Chairman of the Seanad, have been nominated by them to act as Chairman of the Joint Committee on Standing Orders relative to Private Business, appointed under Standing Order No. 7. The delegation of matters relating to Private Bills to the Vice-Chairman, is usual in other Parliaments, and I would like to take this opportunity of emphasising the fact that the Deputy-Chairman, in moving the various stages of Private Bills, does so as an official of the House without expressing any opinion as to the merits or otherwise of the Bill so moved. It is not usual for the Deputy Chairman in other places to vote on any stage of any Private Bill, and I do not propose to do so in the Seanad.

A Private Bill is described in the Standing Orders as a Bill promoted for the particular interest or benefit of any person, or that interferes with the private property of any person, otherwise than in the interests of the public generally, and as a measure of public policy. It is important that members of the Seanad should distinguish clearly in their minds between a Private Bill, as so described, and a Private Members Bill, which is a Public Bill, which has not been introduced by the Government. Any person, or group of persons, desiring to introduce a Private Bill, must lodge an application for leave to introduce such Bill in the Private Bill Office in accordance with such conditions as are provided in the Standing Orders. After a period of one month has elapsed, the Examiner of Private Bills publicly examines the Bill to see if the promoters have complied with the Standing Orders both in regard to the Bill itself and in regard to the payment of fees, deposits, etc., which may be required. The Examiner will then report to both Houses either that the Bills have or have not complied with the Standing Orders. The Examiner's Report stands referred by both Houses to the Joint Committee on Standing Orders, and opportunity is given for an appeal to be lodged against the Examiner's decision within five clear days from the last day on which it was so referred by either House. Should no appeal be received, the Bill is then deemed to have been read a First Time in the Seanad. Should an appeal be lodged the Joint Committee, after hearing the appeal, reports its decision to both Houses, and the Bill is not deemed to have been read a First Time in the Seanad until the Committee has decided that the Standing Orders have been complied with, or until both Houses have approved a Report of the Committee that although the Orders have not been complied with compliance should not be insisted on. The Second Stage takes place in the Seanad on a date suggested by the promoters not earlier than the 7th or later than the 14th day after the Bill has been deemed to have passed its First Stage, provided that, if the Seanad be not sitting on the 14th day, the period shall be extended until the next day on which the Seanad shall sit.

Each stage of the Bill, as I have already pointed out, is moved by the Deputy-Chairman of the Seanad or by some other member whom he may request to act on his behalf. The Bill, having been read a Second Time in the Seanad, is then referred to a Joint Committee of both Houses, unless the Seanad shall order otherwise. A message is then sent from the Seanad to the Dáil that the Bill has been so referred, and a notice may then be given of a motion that the Dáil concurs with the Seanad in the reference of the Bill to a Joint Committee. The personnel of the Joint Committee for the consideration of the Bill, consisting of three members of the Dáil and three members of the Seanad, not locally or otherwise interested in such Bill, is then nominated by the Joint Standing Orders Committee, with a Chairman appointed jointly by the Ceann Comhairle and the Cathaoirleach. If the Dáil do not concur in the reference of the Bill to a Joint Committee, the Seanad's order referring the Bill to a Joint Committee is discharged, and the Seanad may then, if it desires, refer it to a Special Committee of the Seanad. Should the Second Reading of any Private Bill be rejected in the Seanad, the promoters may request that a motion be made in the Dáil for Second Reading, in which case the Bill, if passed there, would be referred to a Special Committee of the Dáil. After the Joint Committee has considered the Bill it returns the Bill with or without amendments to both Houses—this constituting the Third Stage. The Fourth or Report Stage is then taken in the Seanad, when amendments may be proposed by any member of the Seanad. This is followed by the Fifth Stage in the Seanad, and the Bill, when passed in the Seanad, is sent to the Dáil, where it is received for final consideration. The First, Second, and Third Stages of the Bill in the Dáil, being deemed by order to have been passed, on receiving the Bill for final consideration, the Dáil may amend the Bill, or may re-commit it to the Joint Committee, or may refer it to a Special Committee of the Dáil. If any amendment proposed during the Fourth Stage, in either the Dáil or the Seanad, is one of substance or introduces new matter into the Bill, the amendment is referred to the Committee which considered the Bill, the proceedings standing adjourned until the report of the Committee shall have been received. All amendments having been agreed to by both the Dáil and Seanad, the Bill is finally passed and sent to the Governor-General in the same manner as a Public Bill.

In conclusion, I would like to draw the attention of members of the Seanad to Standing Order 100, which provides that Private Business shall be taken at the beginning of each sitting prior to Public Business, and also provides that when any stage of a Private Bill is first taken, no discussion shall be allowed, and if the Bill is opposed it shall not be proceeded with on that occasion, but shall be placed on the Orders of the Day for the next sitting of the House. If the Bill be then again opposed, its consideration shall again be postponed, without discussion, and the Cathaoirleach or the Ceann Comhairle, as the case may be, shall fix a time for its further consideration. This means that at any stage of a Private Bill any opposition will secure its being postponed until a time fixed by the Chairman when it can be discussed, and a division taken. There are 116 Standing Orders relative to Private Bills, and I do not pretend that this statement is exhaustive. I hope, however, I have succeeded in explaining in as simple a manner as possible to members of the Seanad, the stages through which a Private Bill must pass.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

I am sure the House would be glad to have this statement, read by Senator Douglas, printed and circulated to each member.

Will it not appear on the records? Is it necessary to go to further expense?

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

I think it would be desirable that each member should have a copy of this separately, and I think it would be wise for members to insert it in their books. When you have to go back to look for it in the debates of the House it takes time, and I think it is better to have it for ready reference.

Ordered that the statement be printed and circulated.