PUBLIC BUSINESS. - FOREIGN AFFAIRS.

I beg to propose—

"That it is desirable that a Standing Committee consisting of five members of each House of the Oireachtas be appointed to consider the position of the Saorstát in relation to foreign affairs, and to report thereon to the Oireachtas from time to time accordingly, and that a message be sent to Dáil Eireann requesting its concurrence in the appointment of such a Committee."

My reasons for putting down this motion are two-fold—first of all, I wish to call attention to the general importance, particularly in view of our position as a member of the British Commonwealth, of Foreign Affairs, and also to suggest that both Houses, and particularly the Seanad, would be greatly strengthened in the consideration of matters which must inevitably come before them in the near future, if such a Committee were appointed. There is an impression among a number of people in this country that foreign affairs are relatively unimportant, because they do not immediately feel the effect. Because our standing, the extent to which we are respected, the extent to which we co-operate with other countries, and the extent to which we trade with them, are not immediately felt by farmers in some country districts, it is thought that they are not thereby affected. Because Irish industry does not immediately see the effect, for instance, of the ratification or non-ratification of a Treaty with Turkey, the United States, or some other country, it is thought that, therefore, it is not affected. There is a very considerable want of interest—due, perhaps, to our history of the last century in which we have been concerned largely with internal matters—in foreign affairs. I suggest that it is desirable that there ought to be in each House, preferably working together, a small number of persons whose duty it would be to keep in touch with events which might affect our Government, so that it may be able to put information before us when we are obliged to discuss matters affecting foreign relationship such as we discussed to-day, or such as came before the Seanad recently or as will come before it in a short time. The state in which Europe was left after the Great War has created a large number of problems which we hope are in the way of being solved, but which will involve many agreements, settlements, pacts and treaties in the near future. We are placed in the position that we will be either asked to take part in these negotiations, or if we are not asked to take part, we may be asked to approve or disapprove. I suggest respectfully that it is a matter of the utmost importance that we should be informed when we come to deal with these important matters. We may reach decisions— this is my important point—which may make a big difference to the future of this country. I suggest that it is international trade we need almost more than anything else if we are to improve our financial position. Senator Linehan considers that the resolution to-day was the only thing that emerged from our membership of the League of Nations. If you want an argument for my motion as to the need for information, I cannot suggest a better one than the Senator's remark. Apart from the merits or demerits of our membership of the League, the very existence of the League and the existence of the Conferences to which we would be invited means that international agreements, sometimes minor agreements and sometimes major agreements, will come before the Seanad, and it is of the greatest importance that we should be in a position to deal with them with intelligence and knowledge.

There is a further reason why I think foreign affairs must, and will, loom as matters of considerable importance in the near future in this country, and that refers particularly to our membership of the British Commonwealth of Nations. It has been asserted and admitted that the self-governing portions of that Commonwealth have a coequal status. Their independence and sovereignty are admitted. It has been asserted and admitted that the Parliament at Westminster has not power to pass laws affecting these self-governing countries, and so far as we are concerned, that is stated in our Constitution. It has been further asserted, and I think, equally admitted, that the King, before signing Treaties, affecting the whole Commonwealth, must be advised by the Ministers of each and every one of the self-governing nations. It is perfectly obvious, I think, that the assertion of independence which was so vigorously asserted by all States in the Commonwealth, together with the need for co-operation, particularly in foreign affairs, will lead to situations which from time to time may be difficult, and which should be handled with the greatest amount of goodwill and commonsense. We and other countries will not give up our independence, our right to express our point of view, to ratify or not ratify. Various points will come before the Oireachtas in the near future of the greatest importance in foreign affairs, and I suggest that such a Committee should keep in touch closely with developments, and in a sympathetic way, assist any development of our independence in International affairs. I shall deal later with the position which has arisen in regard to one particular Treaty which may come before us before long. I have said enough to show, I think, that our position as a member of the Commonwealth will not lessen, but will rather add to the delicacy and difficulty of the consideration of foreign affairs, and will add to the importance of their consideration here.

Development inside the British Commonwealth has been gradual in relation to foreign affairs. Prior to the Great War Great Britain negotiated. There was consultation to a greater or lesser extent. The self-governing nations had very limited powers. If they asserted themselves they might succeed in getting their point of view recognised, but substantially the position was that Great Britain negotiated or carried out treaties with other countries, and the self-governing colonies had to put up with the result. After the war a new publicly recognised international status was achieved by their independent membership of the League of Nations, and with that it was recognised that England could not alone complete a Treaty on behalf of the Commonwealth including these nations, which were not only self-governing as far as internal affairs were concerned, but also had a recognised international status, and, consequently, there came what I call the second stage of their development. You had the right to ratify and give independent advice to his Majesty in the matter of foreign relationships recognised. Following that, we had recognised the right to decline to ratify treaties, and I find that even as early as 1919 the proposal was made of an offer of a pact with France, and if my information is correct that pact, which, owing to the unwillingness of the United States to agree was not ratified, also failed to obtain the assent of Canada and South Africa. You have there the assertion of the right not to ratify. We have the further assertion made by Canada, but now regularly admitted of the right of each self-governing colony to negotiate and ratify directly a treaty, subject to due consideration of the rights of the other parts of the Commonwealth as a whole, but, as has been definitely asserted in Canada, that due consideration is a moral rather than a legal obligation. Now we have the definite assertion by Canada that if she is not represented in treaty negotiations she is not concerned, and therefore not bound by them.

I mention these things to try and draw attention to the fact that our foreign relationships are matters of urgent importance, that they are bound to arise from time to time and that they will need commonsense and goodwill to achieve a solution of the various problems that will arise therewith, at the same time maintaining our independent status. Also, I want to suggest that the need for a number of independent persons representing different points of view and different groups to keep in close touch with these and kindred affairs is more important when we are a member of the Commonwealth than if we were merely an isolated State, the reason being that we have not only to watch our interests as far as we are concerned, but we have to see that Great Britain, Canada and South Africa do not negotiate a treaty which, by implication or fact, we might be affected by. As to the particular reasons for proposing a committee, Democratic control in the matter of foreign relationships has been advocated very much of late. At the same time those who have most advocated it have recognised that democratic control, however desirable, is a matter of very great difficulty to achieve. When it was desired in our Constitution to assert a measure of democratic control the difficulties were such that eventually we got narrowed down to Article 49, which asserts that this country cannot be committed to active participation in war without the consent of the Oireachtas. I find in Bryce's book that two countries have a somewhat similar constitutional provision. One is the United States of America and the other is France, and I further find that both these countries found it advisable and necessary to have a committee representing different parties which can consider foreign relationships and which can, of necessity, be consulted by the Minister and the Government.

It is an interesting analogy. I want to make clear that this Committee should have no specific rights or powers to demand information from the Minister. I suggest, if it is a competent committee, the Minister will find it important to have its opinion and lay information before it, particular information which cannot be laid before the House in the open, not because you want necessarily to hide it from the members, but because it may concern the affairs of other governments which you have no right to publish, and which I conceive, may be laid before such a committee. A committee of the kind would not be a meddling committee, but would be a committee which would meet from time to time to consider our relationships. There would be a special duty laid on it to do so, and it would be availed of for consultation with the Ministry if they found it desirable to consult with it. I suggest that our Government may not have to negotiate a treaty, but nevertheless may find themselves in a position to declare that they are not concerned.

They may find it convenient to have ready a representative committee which would give them some measure of the opinion in both Houses of the Oireachtas. I do not for one moment suggest that this committee should take the place of the discussions which should take place from time to time on foreign affairs, but I do suggest that the committee might prevent discussions at an inopportune occasion, and at the same time they would add very much to the general standard of debates. I do not think I would be accused of saying anything derogatory to the Oireachtas in saying that our debates on matters of foreign affairs have not been of the standard that every one of us would desire or wish for. I have, perhaps, taken rather long, but I would like to refer to one or two matters which are practically certain in some form or other to require consideration in the near future. There is, for instance, a Conference in London between the British Government and Russia. If that leads to anything, it will lead to certain conventions which, in all possibility, may require a certain amount of ratification, and it will be of the greatest possible importance that some person should keep in touch with it, and be able to advise, if necessary. You will have from time to time League resolutions, such as we have had to-day, many of which will be of a much more important character, and you will have questions of pacts and agreements, which will, I think, be of particular interest to this country in view of Article 49.

For instance, there is the question of the Lausanne Treaty. I do not wish to go into the matter of whether or not we ought in any measure to ratify that Treaty. I do not want to go into the question of whether we ought not to make a declaration similar to that of Canada—that having taken no part in the negotiations we are not bound thereby. I do suggest, however, that that Treaty, and particularly the Straits Convention in that Treaty, raises an issue which will have to be carefully considered by the Government and the Oireachtas. That particular section of the Treaty—and I take it Mr. McKenzie King takes a similar view as far as Canada is concerned—might conceivably mean that this country at some future date would be bound to go to war in support of Turkey in certain circumstances. It seems to me we cannot sign or ratify such a convention consistent with Article 49, which indicates that we could not enter into such a war except with the assent of the Oireachtas. I want to suggest that while, in this matter of the Lausanne Treaty, Canada's position, in so far as her declaration is concerned, may appeal to us and may be an easy way out, it is not at the same time desirable for us simply to follow Canada, because we are a European nation and Canada is not, and our position and relationships may conceivably be very different. Then, again, the question of our representation in foreign countries is being raised. We understand we are to have an ambassador at Washington at an early date. It is pretty obvious we cannot afford to have ambassadors in every country, and a considerable amount of thought and consideration will be necessary to decide what countries we will gain the most from in return for the expense incurred by sending an ambassador. That is largely a matter for the Government, but they will have to consult both Houses, and I suggest that is a matter in which the Committee I propose might be extremely useful. At the last meeting of the League, Canada proposed an alteration in Article 10.

She failed to get that alteration, but she got a declaration which practically amounts to this, that she is not bound to go to war in support of Article 10 without the definite assent of her Parliament. I am not certain whether that applies to Canada only, or also to us. We would require to make it clear that our position in the League is of a somewhat similar character. My main point is this: The existence of a Joint Committee, or, failing it, a Committee of the Seanad, which would have the definite duty of considering these matters, which it is not always wise to bring out in debate, or to express definite dogmatic opinions about hastily in public, might be of very great assistance to the Seanad, particularly if, as I anticipate and propose, that the Committee should be representative of different sections. In conclusion, I want to point out that our foreign affairs mean our relationships with the different countries of the world, whether outside or inside the Commonwealth. Our standing, our trade and our own development to a very large extent will depend on how we are regarded by them. The extent to which we can, both as traders and as a nation keep our pacts and agreements, and our general standing abroad will go to make a big difference to us here. It is not a matter of Party politics. Mr. MacDonald found himself recently considering the ratification of a Treaty negotiated by Lord Curzon, and it is quite possible that Mr. Johnson may yet find himself in a similar position in regard to a Treaty or agreement negotiated by President Cosgrave. There is not a single one of these complications and difficulties that have arisen in connection with our position in the Commonwealth which would not have arisen under Document No. 2, and it may be when we get real peace in this country that some other Party may find themselves in the same position. Therefore, as I say, it is not a matter of Party politics because it is a matter that is of equal interest to each Party, and it is one that a useful non-Party Committee should be appointed to deal with.

It is not often I agree with Senator Douglas, but on this occasion I wish to second the motion he has proposed. It is very desirable that the Minister should have the best advice he can get from the Oireachtas in regard to foreign matters. In this country there is quite a number of people who do not travel abroad, and they pay little attention to outside affairs. It is necessary to have information in regard to Ireland's relationship with other countries spread about, and it is necessary that the Minister should be informed of the opinion of the Dáil and Seanad on these matters. Recently there was a subject brought to our attention in a sudden fashion, and it had a rather narrow shave in the Seanad as well as in the Dáil. Such contingencies could be avoided if the Oireachtas could have placed before it full information; it would then be in a position to decide upon many important points, even though presented with the matter in such a sudden fashion. I think Committees are very important. In the early days of the Seanad I made a somewhat similar proposal in regard to a variety of matters, but apparently it did not meet with approval. In particular matters that proposal may now be thought better of. Where there is a joint Committee opinions may be exchanged, and such a Committee would be a decided advantage. I do not think there would be much difficulty about this matter.

I rise to disagree with the appointment of such a Committee. I enjoyed very much the able and lucid statement of Senator Douglas, when he traversed the whole field of politics. But, by listening carefully to his arguments, I felt that a great number of them tended to kill themselves. One of his main reasons for establishing such a Committee was that matters would not be alluded to which possibly might be alluded to in the Dáil. In other words, he advocates secret diplomacy. Secret diplomacy at the moment is on its trial, and in many cases it has been found wanting. I am not in favour of secret diplomacy. The Senator laid emphasis on one matter. He said the farmers in certain country districts seemed to think that international affairs are no concern of theirs, showing thereby that in Senator Douglas's mind the farmer is incapable of any thought, and merely sat down on his ditch ruminating on the probability of a good turnip crop. I think that farmers give very serious thought to the large problems of Ireland's international affairs, as well as to the internal problems.

Senator Douglas suggested that not much thought and not much thinking was given by the country to these matters. And yet, he suggested or proposed to remove the incentive to thought on the part of the Seanad by taking the consideration of foreign affairs from 40 or 50, who are now considering these matters, and who are entitled to bring up any matter that they consider wise. These men are advised to discontinue that, and to put the whole consideration of these matters and these immense problems in the hands of four or five people. That was his argument. If that was his argument for that proposal, it is defeated by the objects which he intends to promote. Democratic control seems to be desirable. These were his words. I think that the establishment of a Committee is the abnegation of democracy. Not, mind you, that I wish to compare the discussions of this Seanad in any matter with the babbling of the crowd. Yet I think we have admirable discussions here introduced on notice of motion, and I see no reason why matters of international interest should not be introduced here on notice of motion and receive all the consideration which they should receive. I do not wish to put it beyond this, beyond moving that such a committee should not be appointed. I think the Seanad as a whole is the place where any question of importance that arises should be discussed. I agree with Senator Douglas that not enough thought is given to these matters of international importance, and I think that anything that would tend to reduce the incentive to thought is undesirable.

I did not intend to take part in this debate, but after hearing Senator Bennett's remarks I just wish to make a few observations. He said that the proposal to form such a committee is an abnegation of all democracy. Now, we have already heard that similar committees exist in two countries, France and the United States. Is it seriously put up to us that a thing which is done in what I consider to be the two most democratic countries in the world should be described to us as the abnegation of democracy?

I disagree with Senator Bennett altogether in his reasons for opposing the setting up of such a committee as this. I view the matter absolutely and entirely from a totally different standpoint. My objection to the resolution was that it stopped short where it did, and that we were not told how this committee would be made to work, and what results would be got from its working, and how it would be put to work—how a committee on foreign affairs would proceed generally. Senator Bennett thinks that the whole Seanad and the Dáil can manage foreign affairs, and that it is our business to set to work and deal with all the different matters connected with foreign affairs which it is possible to imagine may infringe upon or touch on our various Free State matters. Now, if we have five intelligent Senators and five intelligent Teachtaí—for I hold that this is not a thing which should be taken up by the Seanad alone —they would be in a much better position to deal with foreign affairs than the whole body would. If the Dáil do not approve of this resolution I think there will be very little use going on with it. If on that committee you have representatives of the different parties in both Houses you would have a committee better qualified to deal with foreign affairs. Each different section of opinion must be represented in that way. The weakness I see in the present proposal is this: it does not tell us how the work is to be done. The suggestion is, perhaps, that you pick out a committee and tell them then: "You are a committee. Look after foreign affairs, and keep us posted," and so on. I do not see if having ten men picked out in that way who would feel themselves bound to go into all these things in the way in which they should be gone into, that it would not be making for efficiency.

They will undoubtedly require to have some sort of permanent staff. They will have to put some very intelligent individual whose business it is, and who is paid to do it, to watch all these different things and matters, and summon that committee and make them go into the work, and when a debate does come on in the Dáil and Seanad we would have at least five of our members sitting here who would be thoroughly acquainted with the business. We know the difficulty we are in here in the Seanad when we have not a Minister to explain the questions that Senator Douglas referred to. We would have these men who would save us from being in the position that we would not know what we were talking about when a question of this kind came up for discussion. On occasions of this kind, if we had five of our Senators who had studied these matters telling us their views and generally explaining the matter, we would be in a very much stronger position to deal with anything that may arise. The whole Seanad or the whole Dáil could not possibly get all the information on these points. I do not believe it is possible that they could. Individually I know very well that I look to the Minister for Foreign Affairs to manage these things. None of us in our past lives has ever meddled in foreign affairs. Now, we will have to get on and deal with foreign affairs. In these circumstances I would like to know that I was having the views of some of my fellow-Senators who had considered the matter, and had given thought to it, rather than that we should have a day or two, when we get notice to read up all the matter, and try and give a considered opinion on a matter about which nine-tenths of us knew nothing whatever. However, if Senator Douglas' motion is carried, and if we have a similar motion carried in the Dáil—for I believe it will be no use unless it is followed by a similar motion in the Dáil—then we would have it taken up by the Government, because I think expense will be incurred, and if it is to be put to any use it must do really good work. Some excellent official will have to be appointed who will keep the Committee in touch with everything. Their staff must also keep them in touch with the Foreign Minister. That such a Committee should be there, would be of the greatest value to the Dáil and the Seanad.

I would like to say a few words in support of the motion of Senator Douglas. I think in these days of broadcasting and reading the newspapers very closely, more closely than ever before, we in Ireland are in closer touch with what is happening in other countries than ever before. I do not think that the ignorance which Senator Jameson hinted at is so characteristic amongst us in Ireland. Inasmuch as we are already committed to a substantial sum towards the League of Nations, I think we should endeavour to get as good value as possible for the money. I take it from the suggestion of Senator Douglas that the committee of five which he suggests would not approach this matter unless five members of the Dáil are also appointed on it. Without any reflection on the Minister for Foreign Affairs I think it would be a great help for him to have the advantage of a committee like that inquiring and looking into and keeping the members informed on what was happening elsewhere and advising on it. As regards the question of expense, I do not think that that will arise very much. A little extra expense may be incurred, but no expense to a large extent will be necessary. I hope the motion will pass.

I have great pleasure in supporting the motion. Questions arose in connection with our foreign affairs within the past few months that were very embarrassing, I think, to most of the Senators, and also to many members of the Dáil, by reason of the fact that what Senator Bennett termed "secret diplomacy" had been carried on for some time. We were not acquainted with the questions until the matter was brought up here. It placed members in a very difficult position and led to nasty wrangling in the other House. If the Committee proposed is to be effective, I think it would be absolutely necessary that it should have the sanction of the Minister for External Affairs and that all the information he has access to should be placed at the disposal of that Committee, so that they may digest it and place it at the disposal of members of the Dáil and Seanad before any public discussion. They would then have an opportunity of considering the matter in all its bearings. The setting up of such a Committee, if it were not in touch with the Minister, would be useless. Such a Committee, I imagine, would have no international recognition, and, therefore, would not have access to genuine sources of information. Their information, as it appears to me, would be derived from Press reports and other unofficial sources. I would entirely approve of the motion, on condition that the Committee be in touch with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and have access to the information at his disposal. In the present fluid state of world politics and commerce, it is essential that this country should keep closely in touch with these matters.

I do not agree with Senator Bennett when he suggests that the proposer of the resolution advocates secret diplomacy. What, I think, was in the mind of the Senator who proposed the motion was, that there were certain matters not of public importance that might possibly lead to complications, if divulged. I beg to support the motion.

I, also, desire to support the motion. We, members of the Seanad, and members of the public, have very scant facilities for making ourselves acquainted with the details of treaties or other international arrangements. The particulars that we are able to glean from the scant references in the Press are of no utility at all when we come to consider whether we should, or should not, vote for ratifying a treaty presented to us here.

With regard to the difficulty in the way of setting up this Committee, I think that could be overcome. Certainly, expense will be entailed. It would be too much to expect members of such a Committee to take upon themselves in addition to their ordinary everyday duties and business, the very close investigation and inquiry, of a continuous character, that their functions will entail, so that they would be able to give us their considered advice when matters of this kind would crop up. There are in existence already, in connection with certain Departments of the Government, what are known as consultative or advisory committees, which act entirely under the Minister for the Department concerned. There is a statutory Committee called the Roads Advisory Board, and all the information of the Road Board is at the disposal of the Minister. He calls us into consultation occasionally and we can, of our own volition, assemble to discuss any matter we may consider of importance, and thereafter advise the Minister. Such an arrangement as that might be come to if the Minister for External Affairs were approached and if he were willing to have such a body associated with his Department, as an advisory or consultative committee. Any travelling or other expenses entailed would be borne on the Estimate for that Minister's Department. The Committee would then have at their disposal all the information the Minister possesses and any further information he may be able to procure from time to time, and that would enable them to come to useful decisions on any important matter affecting the relations of Ireland with foreign countries. If a Committee, such as I have suggested, of an advisory and consultative character, could be set up, I think many of the objections presented by Senators would be overcome.

I consider the wording of the Resolution covers many of the objections that have been raised.

The Resolution provides that a Message be sent to Dáil Eireann requesting its concurrence in the appointment of such a Committee. If Dáil Eireann agrees with the request, the arrangements can easily be carried out. The resolution absolutely asks for the concurrence of the Oireachtas, and if that is secured, most of the objections will be dissipated.

Mrs. Wyse Power has explained one point which I wanted to emphasise. I felt that it would be unwise, in moving in a matter of this kind, at first, to put down too many details. It might happen that the proposal generally would be acceptable to the Dáil, but that exception might be taken to some of the details. It is desirable, I think, to claim no right to control the Minister in any way, because the Minister is directly responsible to the Oireachtas for his actions. He must answer for that responsibility to the Oireachtas and not to any Committee. At the same time, the functions of the Committee would be largely twofold. The Minister would consult with them from time to time, and they, I believe, would go to the Minister on matters on which they thought he had information which they thought should be placed before the House. The Committee, if it functioned properly, would give quotations and references to members of either House in respect of matters occurring from time to time. Certain small expenses might be involved, but I do not visualise, in the first year at any rate, any difficulty. One clerk from the Seanad or from the Dáil could act as Secretary and get assistance in the matter of papers and documents which might be available from the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I have no doubt such assistance would be given. But I do not think we should make any kind of condition that would appear to make it obligatory upon the Minister to do these things, because he is directly responsible to the House, and I think it is generally unwise to appoint a Committee that would seem to control the Minister. I do not want it to be thought that that was in my mind or in the mind of the Seanad in proposing this arrangement. With regard to the exact procedure, there may be some difficulty, but I think it would be wise to appoint a Committee with reasonably wide terms of reference, and leaving it to the Committee to define its own method of procedure. I have not had an opportunity of discussing this matter with members of the Seanad, but I thought this is an opportune time to have such discussion, and that was the reason why I put such a motion down.

Question put and agreed to.