EAST LEINSTER ELECTRICITY SUPPLY BILL, 1924. - (SECOND STAGE—ADJOURNED FROM 1st MAY.)

I beg to move: "That the East Leinster Electricity Supply Bill, 1924, be read a Second Time."

Question put: "That this Bill be read a Second Time."

I beg to oppose.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

I wish to say with regard to these two Bills that they raise a matter of very considerable importance, having regard to what the future practice and procedure is to be in regard to Bills of the kind. Under the Standing Orders the Second Stage has to be formally moved, and, if objected to, the Second Stage stands over for another day. When moved on the second day, if again it is objected to, it then becomes the duty of the Chairman to fix a day upon which the question of the Second Reading has to be and must be debated. There is no limit of time imposed upon the Chairman as regards the date which he would fix, and, in view of the fact that from unavoidable reasons the promoters of these Bills have been unduly delayed in getting ahead with them, I have come to the conclusion that no time should be lost in fixing a definite and immediate date upon which the Second Stage is to be discussed. As far as I can understand from the business available in the Dáil, there would be nothing for the Seanad to do next week. Consequently, if I were to postpone the day for taking the Second Reading of these two Bills until the next meeting of the Seanad, I might be imposing upon the promoters a delay of another fortnight. I am not prepared to do that. Therefore, I shall ask the Seanad either to take the Second Reading of these two Bills before we conclude to-day or, as the only alternative, to ask the Seanad to meet to-morrow for that purpose and for that purpose only.

In regard to that course, I am in the hands of the Seanad, but I have made up my mind that these must be proceeded with either at the end of the business to-day or else that they must be proceeded with to-morrow. May I just say this—I am not, of course, speaking in any way in reference to the merits of these Bills; I know nothing whatever about them, and I need hardly say I am in no way interested in them directly or indirectly—but I do think it is very important that we should be very careful as regards the way in which we are dealing with these, the very first of the Private Bills which come before us. If the idea gets abroad that the Seanad is not prepared to give facilities to promoters for having their Bills sent to Committees and properly discussed, it may cause a good deal of discontent and may interfere with the progress of such Bills in future. I would just like to point out to Senators that they ought not to overlook this. It is not at all usual in other places to block the passage through the Second Stage of Private Bills unless for some grave inherent matter of principle.

The reason of that is that the Bills are referred to Committees after they have passed the Second Stage, and everybody interested in opposing them has then a right to be heard and to attend either by himself or through Counsel and to state his objections in the fullest way before the Committee. They are, therefore, thrashed out in detail upon information, and upon evidence, and the fullest opportunity is given to everybody to ventilate any grievance or objection he may have. I would suggest to Senators that they should be very slow in exercising their undoubted right to block these Bills at the Second Stage, because, as I have said, the effect may be to discourage promoters and to check the promotion of schemes, which may or may not be for the benefit of the community, but which will receive the fullest and fairest investigation before Committees upon evidence given in a formal way and after the whole matter has been thoroughly threshed out. I am in the hands of the Seanad as to whether they will prefer to have these two Bills disposed of on the Second Stage at the conclusion of the business to-day or whether they should meet specially for that purpose to-morrow.

As my action has been responsible for the lecture that has just been given to us I want to say a word in explanation. At the outset I must say that I do not think it is the duty of the Chairman——

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

I cannot allow the Senator to make any comments upon my action whatever. If the Senator wishes to challenge it there is a way of doing it, but not in debate.

The Standing Orders provide that the motion for the Second Reading of Bills shall be put and there shall be no discussion on them. I suggest, Sir, that you have abused the Standing Orders by introducing a discussion on the action of a Senator in the undoubted right he has, in the exercise of his duty, to oppose the Bills.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

I cannot allow you to pursue that. I was not referring to these particular Bills at all. I was referring to the action generally of the Seanad in future upon these Bills and giving them merely a suggestion which they are not compelled to follow unless they agree with it and adopt it.

I suggest that under the Standing Orders this Seanad has no power to accept the suggestion made by you, that we consider these Bills again this afternoon.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

That I have settled for myself.

You cannot settle it against the Standing Orders.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

I have to interpret the Standing Orders; and let me again remind the Senator that he is out of order in questioning my ruling.

If you insist on your say I will have mine.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

Sit down, please, while I am addressing the Seanad. Under the Standing Orders, for the interpretation of which I am solely responsible, I am of opinion that I can fix the time for the disposal of the Second Stage of these two Bills for this afternoon or for to-morrow. It is entirely for me. At the same time I like to consult the convenience of the Seanad in these matters, and it is for that reason I said I would be guided by the feeling of the Seanad as to whether they would prefer this afternoon or to-morrow.

Standing Order 100 states 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.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

Does any Senator wish to say whether it would be more convenient to dispose of the Bills this afternoon or to-morrow?

In view of what you, a Chathaoirligh, have said, I beg to move that we consider the Second Reading of the Bills this afternoon before the Seanad adjourns.

I beg to second.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

I only want an expression of opinion. I do not propose to put it as a motion, as it is a matter entirely for myself. In view of the opinion expressed, I order that the Second Stage of these two Bills be disposed of at the conclusion of the business on the Orders of the Day this afternoon.

Might I say that the basis of the opposition or the blocking of the Bills is owing to the absence of a third Bill on the Liffey Scheme. A third Bill is coming in from the Dublin Corporation. It is not ready yet, and I understand will not be ready until May 20th. I think I may assume that that is the basis of Senator Farren's objection.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

That will not cause any inconvenience to anyone.

I am only explaining.

I would not be permitted to say that.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

You have no right to say that. I only stopped you when you criticised my ruling. Your observation is not only wrong, but most disorderly.

It is true, nevertheless.