FUTURE BUSINESS.

I rise to call attention to a matter of public importance in connection with the business of this House during the remainder of the present Session. I take it that every member of this House has seen the statement made the other day in the Dáil by the President, that it was the intention of the Government if possible to bring the Session of the Dáil to a close on or about the 4th July. Now, we all know there are at present in various stages some fourteen or fifteen Bills going through the Dáil. I am also aware that there are certain other Bills, of a more or less formal nature, which will not excite any lengthy discussion but which it is important should be passed before the end of the present Session. This is the 21st May and there are only six weeks between the present date and the 4th July. From what you have told us there will be no business for the Seanad next week, which means that we will not meet till this day fortnight. That leaves us only four weeks to get through the legislative work of the House before the Dáil rises. It is, therefore, impossible that the Seanad could deal with those matters of legislation before the 4th July. We all sympathise with the Government who, at the close of a long and trying Session, are anxious to get their legislation through, and I am sure every member is anxious to unite and assist them in this matter. After all that will not excuse us for hasty and unconsidered legislation.

We had in the past, from time to time, owing to the state of the country, legislation of an emergency type. I think I may say that this House recognises on all occasions the necessity of coming to the assistance of the Government and passing legislation of that kind. We all hope the necessity for that kind of thing is now gone and that in the future we will have time to give due consideration to all Bills that come before us. If we are to do that we must have time to consider them. I, therefore, suggest that in the case of Bills of any importance we should insist under our Standing Orders on having the full time allotted to us between the Second Reading of a Bill and the Committee Stage, and between the Committee Stage and the Report Stage. I hold that the most important intervals for this House are those between the Second Reading and the Committee stage and between the committee and the Report Stages. We have only a week under our Standing Orders to prepare necessary amendments. Many of us are business men, and many of us live in the country. It is also necessary when the Bill has been discussed in Committee to have at least a week to consider the effect of the amendments passed and to see the Bill with those amendments in it before Report.

I suggest, therefore, that for the future we should take the full time allotted to us by our Standing Orders and insist on it except in the case of emergency legislation. If this is to be done it is clear that in the case of the Bills now in the Dáil we cannot deal with them in one month before the 4th July. It is for this reason that I have thought it necessary, as a matter of public importance, to bring this before the House. I think the Government should let us know which of the Bills now before the Dáil, and the Bills that are to be introduced between now and the 4th July, they think should be carried through both Houses before they rise. I am certain that this House will facilitate them to the utmost to carry out their intentions. All I insist on is that it is impossible to carry through all those Bills in the present Session. We are willing to carry through what the Government thinks are the more pressing of their Bills, but we ought to take the necessary time for the discussion of those Bills. Another question that will arise, after we have obtained the opinion and the wishes of the Government with regard to this Session, has reference to the fact that the Dáil will have Bills which we will not be able to pass this Session. It will be a question for this House when they are to deal with those Bills. It would be important that those Bills should be ready before they meet again in October. Therefore, it would be necessary for us to sit on when the Dáil rises, or rise with the Dáil and sit some time before October in the autumn so that our Bills shall be ready for the Dáil when they meet again.

I wish to support one part of Senator Brown's speech. This House should remain sitting after the 4th July. There are certain Bills of pressing importance to this country. It is important we should not create a precedent of hasty legislation. If we create that precedent, it will last long after our time, but there is an immediate necessity for certain Bills. I am only speaking to draw the attention of the Government to the fact that no Bill has been introduced on copyright. I would like to draw the attention of the President to the fact that the copyright of certain Irish dramatists in America is being lost because there is no Copyright Act to enable the registration of those copyrights in Washington. I would, therefore, urge this House to remain sitting until we have passed the necessary legislation in order that the Government may find, when it meets in October, that our work has been done.

The matter I referred to earlier was the question whether, when there was very little business, we should not sit in a week, because there would otherwise be a delay of two weeks instead of one. It is obvious that it is hardly fair to our country members to bring them up from the country when you know there is little business and that their attendance is not required. The matter is then passed on for a week. When there are Bills of that nature in such a condition that debate on them is practically over, there are sufficient Senators living around Dublin to make up a House to do all that is necessary. There should, of course, be an assurance that a meeting of the Seanad for that kind of business would not be made use of to transact business of which we knew nothing when we agreed to meet. Precaution should be taken, if any business was to be brought on that we did not know of when adjourning, that Senators living in the country would have at least two or three days' notice of it, so that if they were interested in the business they would have an opportunity of attending. I think it is not a good practice not to utilise weeks when we could get an attendance here that would do necessary business like that. If there is business which could be got through with a small attendance of Senators, for which Senators from the country need not necessarily be brought up, we should have such a meeting of the Seanad and not put the business off for another week. The Reconstruction Bill which we had before us to-day is a matter more or less of urgency, especially in view of some of the remarks which Senator O'Farrell made. In a case of that kind I do not see why the Seanad should not meet, as I have suggested, and put the Bill through its necessary Stages.

I suggest that this question of the convenience of Senators from the country may be carried just a little too far. After all, the State provides free travelling facilities for them and makes special allowances in respect of loss of time, etc. I think Senators have no more right to complain than the members of the Dáil, simply because they may be called here to do a small amount of work at a time. If they were called here for a week to do a large amount of work they might have a more genuine case for complaint. I do not think it is really any compliment for anybody to come here, if they possibly can, when they are required. It is their own look out as to where they choose to live. The State has made arrangements to accommodate them. I hope that we shall not be too disposed to emphasising the great benefits we confer upon the State, for which we are compensated. Senator Jameson suggests that we might have a sort of half House at times. Of course it is a matter for each Senator to decide as to whether he shall attend or otherwise. I think it would be a very dangerous understanding, that on certain occasions, only those resident in Dublin should attend, thus turning the House into a sort of resident committee or sub-committee which would deal with matters which were not considered controversial.

I certainly do support the suggestions of Senators Brown and Jameson that as far as practicable we should know where we stand before the Session is too far advanced. Senator Yeats referred to setting a precedent regarding hasty legislation. I am afraid we are beyond recovery as far as that aspect of the case is concerned, because last year before the Dissolution we passed enough Bills in a hasty manner to convict us for the rest of our sojourn here in any case. They were Bills of a highly important and permanent character for the most part. We are largely in the hands of the Dáil. They have to deal with matters that we have not to deal with, and they generally have the subject threshed threadbare by the time it arrives here, so that as a mere matter of course the Bill would not take so long to pass through the Seanad.

But there are a few very important measures which must come before the Seanad, and I hope that it will not be necessary for the Government to come and tell us a few days before the adjournment that this and that Bill must be passed in order to faciltate public business. One very important measure is the Railways Bill. There will also be a Local Government Bill, and I think a few others of very great importance. Whatever time the Dáil may make up its mind to adjourn, I do not think that that should determine our action as to the length of time we may take to consider these very important Bills. As to sitting on after the Dáil adjourns, there will be different points of view with regard to that. Those who are interested in grouse shooting, in which I am not, will, of course, be in favour of waiting until August. Others would rather have July free, if possible. However, I think that the members of the Dáil deserve a holiday as soon as they can get it, but I hope that they will, at all events, endeavour to see that some of the important Bills reach the Seanad in time to have them fully considered before the 4th July.

Speaking as a Senator from the country, I do not think that our alleged convenience ought to be considered very much in this matter. I should not like it to be said that because we were too busy, let us say in other ways, to come here, that we were responsible for putting back a Bill like the Reconstruction Bill for a week and thereby, presumably, keep a certain number of men out of employment for a week. I think that anybody who is a member of the Seanad ought to take his business sufficiently seriously to come here when necessary, and I hope that matter will not be considered too much. Our legislation has always been inclined to be slipshod so far, and I very strongly support Senator Brown's suggestion that we should sit on.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

Perhaps I might say a word or two in connection with this matter, because it has been one that has given me a good deal of anxiety for some months past, in view of the responsibility that rests upon my shoulders of determining whether a meeting of the Seanad should or should not be convened for a particular week. I have found myself in a dilemma with regard to this, and I have never been able to make up my mind whether it is more injurious to the position and dignity of this Seanad, that they should meet at such rare intervals, or that they should meet more frequently and have practically nothing to do when they do meet. That is the position that really I have been confronted with. Take, for example, the position to-day. Had it not been for the last motion the whole Order Paper would have been disposed of in an hour, everything receiving as much consideration as the matters before the Seanad were entitled to receive. But I confess that I think we have some reason to complain with regard to the way in which these Bills are received and the Stages at which they are received from the other House by us.

Of course, we do give every measure of credence to the claims that the Government necessarily put forward as to the urgent pressure of many public matters upon them which prevent these Bills being brought into the other House at an earlier stage. Nevertheless, anyone who reads the Journals of the other House, as I do most carefully, must see that there are intervals and occasions which could have been utilised during the past six months for the purpose of advancing those Bills at a much earlier stage and bringing them through their different stages so that they might have reached the Seanad before now. I think that there are two remedies, one of which the Government might adopt, and another that rests in our own hands which would, to some extent, get us out of the difficulty in which we are placed. Personally I always feel very lonely when I know in the morning as I get up that there is going to be no meeting of the Seanad. I do not in any way wish to shirk my work, or to curtail the opportunities we have of meeting here. But, as I have said, I am faced with the great difficulty, that must be manifest to every Senator, particularly in the case of Senators living in the country, of asking them to come up here to meet at 3 o'clock of a Wednesday, and then to be told at 4 o'clock that there is nothing more for them to do, nor will they be wanted for another fortnight. I think the Government might— and I wonder they have not thought of it—have utilised the Seanad for the purpose of introducing some of their Bills here.

If they introduced some of their Bills here, the particular Minister who would not, necessarily, be wanted in the Dáil, would be able to attend, and many Senators would be willing to give their services to help in piloting a particular Government measure through the Seanad. Up to the present that has not been done. Probably the Government have it in their mind to do so at a later stage. I think if they can adopt a plan of that kind, at least next Session, it would be to their advantage, and also to ours. Then there is another thing with regard to our own procedure.

I see no reason why a Bill, for example, like the Reconstruction Bill, should not be referred to a Select Committee, and that a certain number of Senators should form that Select Committee, say, six or ten, who live pretty near the city. They could put the Bill through the Committee Stage in one of the Committee Rooms. That would enable them to sit at a time the Seanad was not sitting, and it would probably be pleasant occupation for, at least, some of our Dublin Senators. It might be well worth the while of the Seanad to consider whether they would not do that with the Reconstruction Bill, as it seems to be a very appropriate measure for reference to a Select Committee. It was nearly time, I think, that the attention of the Government should be called to this matter, as it has been by Senators Brown, Jameson and others. It is really becoming a sort of standing joke in the Dáil, when the Government have any trouble with amendments, to drop them and say, "We can easily get them passed in the Seanad." I saw a reference to one particular Bill, in which the Minister said, "Looking into this Bill, I find it is very crude and will require a great deal of amendment. We will not trouble you with it. I will get the amendments put through in the Seanad." Of course, that is a position we should not take up, and I think we should insist that all these Bills of first-rate importance should reach us in time to guarantee that they will receive, what the public expect they will receive at our hands, full and proper consideration. I cannot conceive anything more important than the Financial Resolutions recently passed in the Dáil. I am quite sure that the Seanad will demand a considerable time to discuss and consider them. Then there is the Railway Amalgamation Bill. I do not know if it is the hope or the wish of the Government that that Bill should be passed before the two Houses rise. Certainly, if it is to be passed, we will have very scant time to consider it.

As to the suggestion that we should continue to meet after the Dáil has risen, I am afraid that is not feasible, nor do I think it is of much use, and for this reason. If we meet after the Dáil has risen and if we inserted an amendment, even to change a comma, the Bill is hung up until the Dáil meets again in September or October, or whenever it may be. Nothing has been gained. Therefore, the only use or advantage there would be in continuing to meet after the Dáil has risen would be to consider Bills which we have no intention of amending, and merely proposed to put through stages in the ordinary way. I think that if we agree that they should go through without discussion and in the ordinary way, we can do that before the other House rises. No advantage that I can see is to be gained by continuing our Session after the other House has risen. The suggestion that the Government should inform the Seanad which of the particular Bills out of their long programme they are anxious about, and would like to see passed before the Seanad adjourns is, I think, a consideration that ought to weigh with the Government. I believe they would find it to their advantage to give us that information so that we can make arrangements accordingly. Before I sit down may I mention that in view of what Senator Jameson has said, the position in which we stand as regards next week is that there is practically no business ready for us, except the Committee Stage of the Reconstruction Bill. If it is the wish of the Seanad that we should meet for that purpose next week I shall, of course, summon a meeting. If the suggestion I threw out to refer the Committee Stage of that Bill to a Select Committee of the Seanad, was adopted it would not be necessary to have a formal meeting of the Seanad next week, if that were the only business before us. I throw that suggestion out for the consideration of the Seanad. I am entirely in their hands and will, of course, act on their views in the matter.

Has not the Reconstruction Bill been already passed to-day?

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

The Second Stage only. It has not yet reached Committee Stage.

I am in entire agreement with what has been said. One thing that interests me intensely, concerns the legislative programme that was indicated in the speech of the Governor-General. I refer in particular to the legislation in regard to agricultural interests, promising a Butter Grading Bill. I hope that will be introduced and that ample time will be given for its discussion.

As a Senator from the country, I look upon the matter in this way. It has been suggested that the Committee Stage of the Reconstruction Bill might be taken next Wednesday. I do not think Senators from the country have any objection to that, as they do not consider it important from their view point. The danger we fear is, that something hurriedly will arise, perhaps an important motion, of which we will not get notice. I do not know if the Seanad recognises how we are situated with regard to postal communication in the country. A letter posted at 6 o'clock to-day does not reach a place, within five miles of the city of Kilkenny, until the morning delivery the day after to-morrow. If notice was sent out on Monday, the communication would not reach a Senator living within five miles of Kilkenny until Wednesday morning, which would be too late, if the meeting was held that day. If any new business was to be introduced to the Seanad, Senators from the country would at least expect to receive telegrams, if possible, two days before the meeting.

There is a very large programme that we have not yet announced to the Dáil. I have been in conference with the Committee on Privileges, and I anticipate that within the next few days, or possibly within a week, it may be possible to announce to the Dáil the Bills we intend to introduce and those we hope to pass. Our work in the Dáil is largely affected by the fact that we have not yet—and I hope will not have to—put in force the Closure. With the Closure one can have an exact time table. We have got on very well without the Closure in every respect as far as freedom of debate and opportunity for discussion is concerned. Under these conditions it is difficult to compile a programme for a particular date. I hope to be able to submit to the Dáil within the next week or ten days, a list of Bills and the dates on which these Bills will be taken, and to state that in the course of the consideration of these measures, it may be necessary, on particular dates, to move that the Dáil should sit later.

It is our intention to adjourn on the 4th of July, but that adjournment is not intended to be a final adjournment; it will be a preliminary one, and we propose to come back in about a week's time to consider any amendments to measures that would be before the Seanad, and in that case we would hope that the Seanad would facilitate us with regard to the consideration of the measures which would be passed by the Dáil. It would be a matter for consideration between the Government and the Seanad as to what day we ought to come back, so as to allow a sufficient time for the consideration of these measures; they will not come, I think, in the nature of a shower. According to the programme that we have outlined, each week should have its own quota, and it is unlikely that the Seanad would be faced with the same consideration as last year. But I do object, if I may, here, to the term "hasty legislation"; I do not know that it has been very hasty; it may have been done without delay, but I think that, on the whole, very few faults were found with it, and I do plead for some consideration for the draftsman. He has been for nearly two years at work, and I am sure that the Seanad will appreciate the immense amount of work he has got through, and how well it has been done.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

Hear, hear.

It has, I think, made some inroads on his health. As somebody said in the "Evening Telegraph," it has added ten years to his life, because he feels at least ten years older as the result of it.

I hope that the President and the Executive Council will, at the same time, consider the introduction of some Bills in the Seanad.

I forgot to mention that that is the intention.

Because I should say that it would mean that we could carry on more or less simultaneously in many matters, and that by the time that the Dáil would have finished some Bills they would have some Bills from this House to consider.

Generally speaking, about half the members of this House are not regular attendants, and it is always the faithful few that are here who have to do the work. If I might suggest a way out of the difficulty, it would be that when we go away to take our holidays the people who never attend should come and take their share, because it is a notorious fact, and I think public attention should be called to it, that a considerable proportion of the members of this House never attend to do the duties for which they are paid. Some time ago we had an attendance book that members could sign when they attended here; I notice that for the past two months that book is not in use, and I think it ought to be. I now publicly draw attention to the fact that a number of the members of this House never attend to do the duties for which they are paid.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

I think it is only fair to say, in reference to that, certainly as regards some of the members who do not give the attendance that others give, that they are physically incapacitated, and in one or two cases, influenced by a sense of public duty, they have consulted me—I am not betraying any confidence now— and have asked me whether, seeing that they were not in a position to give a very constant attendance, but were prepared to attend at intervals, it would no be more in the interests of the Seanad and the country that they should resign their seats. They have withheld their resignations at my request, on my endeavouring to persuade them to give us a more regular and better attendance in the future. But I think Senator Farren may rest assured, at least as regards some of these Senators, that if they find in the near future that circumstances would not allow them to give the attendance they ought to give, they will not continue to hold their seats.

Might I draw attention to a remark that Senator Farren has made, and to which I am rather inclined to take exception? He says that the members of the Seanad are paid for the duties that they perform. I think I have pointed out before that circumstances differ in every case, and I strongly object to that way of putting it. As far as I understand, we get an allowance to cover our expenses, and as far as I personally am concerned, it is hardly sufficient. I am not paid, and I do not consider myself paid.

Could the President say if any of the work in O'Connell Street can be proceeded with until the Reconstruction Bill is passed?

I should say yes; but I have to say that with some reservation. At a Conference held some time ago in my office it was stated that some of the owners could start work. It might be held up by reason of certain adjustments having to be made to provide for a new thoroughfare to join Gloucester Street, and these adjustments may involve some slight alterations of the exact positions in which some of the premises are to be reconstructed. I cannot say whether any recent developments have occurred which would make it necessary for the Bill to be passed before building commences, but on the last date we had a conference about it there were five firms, I think, which could start whether the Bill went through or not.

Having regard to what the President has just said, and the suggestion he threw out, would any time be gained by moving that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee to consider it next week?

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

I do not profess to have read this Reconstruction Bill thoroughly, but from a cursory reading of it I do not think there is anything to prevent the commencing of these operations.

Would it not be wise, as an experiment at any rate, to adopt your suggestion to refer this Bill to a Committee? It does not curtail the Seanad, because they have the fullest opportunities on the Report Stage, which may be taken this day fortnight. It has just occurred to me that perhaps the President could indicate whether any of the Bills which have to be put through between this and the 4th July, are likely to come before this House during that period, and if so, would it facilitate if any of these Bills are to be taken in this House?

There are three measures we intend to introduce here, but I cannot say whether the draftsman is ready with them or not.

I beg to move. "That the Reconstruction Bill be referred to a Select Committee to consist of eight members of the Seanad, with a quorum of five." I take it that the names of the persons would be selected by the Committee of Selection.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

I think that is the procedure. Here is Standing Order 57: "A Bill which has passed its Second Stage shall be referred to a Committee for detailed consideration or shall be so considered by the Seanad sitting in Committee." The first is the case of a Select Committee, and the second is a Committee of the whole House. Therefore, under that Standing Order the House has power to refer it to a Select Committee. Then comes Standing Order 64: "Bills not considered by the Seanad sitting in Committee may be referred to Select Committees, appointed from time to time for that purpose, and the provisions of Order 93infra shall not apply.” That is, requiring notice. In other words, a motion to refer the Bill to a Select Committee may be moved without notice, as Senator Brown has done. Then, there is a general provision which says that the members of all Committees are to be appointed by the Selection Committee. Whether that would apply to a Select Committee of the House or not I am not quite certain. The question is whether it comes under Standing Order 97: “At the commencement of each Session a Committee of Selection, consisting of eight Senators, elected by the Seanad, shall be appointed, whose duty it shall be to select the Senators to serve on all Committees in the absence of express directions as to the personnel thereof from the Seanad itself.” Therefore, I think unless the Seanad now wishes itself to select the names of members of this Select Committee it would naturally fall to the Committee of Selection to do so. You can take either course. Either Senator Brown can now name them in his motion, or if they are not named by the House itself it will fall to the Selection Committee as their duty.

I move "That the Reconstruction Bill be referred to a Select Committee consisting of Senators Farren, Mrs. Costello, Jameson, Guinness, Mrs. Wyse Power, Colonel Moore, Brown and Yeats, with a quorum of five, and that the Committee meet on Tuesday."

Motion put and agreed to.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

Perhaps, Senator Brown, you will constitute yourself Chairman of this Committee, and you will have the pleasure of summoning them and fixing the date.

Very well, sir. Practically they are summoned.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

The House will understand that unless something special happens there will be no meeting of the Seanad next week.

The Seanad adjourned at 5 o'clock.