SEANAD IN COMMITTEE. - OIREACHTAS WITNESSES' OATHS BILL, 1924—FIFTH STAGE.

Motion made and question proposed: —"That this Bill be received for final consideration and do now pass."

On this Motion, there is a matter in connection with this Bill that I desire to raise even though the Bill is now in its final stage. The Greater Dublin Reconstruction Commission were considering, some days ago, the question of getting expert evidence before them that might be considered necessary to enable them to arrive at a true and useful finding. They found it was not in the power of a Commission appointed by the Oireachtas to subpoena witnesses before them. It was suggested at the Commission that in this Bill, which is now about to pass, there might be inserted a provision giving power to the Commissions appointed by the Oireachtas to subpoena witnesses and administer oaths just the same as can be done by a Committee of the Oireachtas itself or in a court of justice. At that time the Commission was not aware that the Bill had reached its Fifth Stage, and I do not know whether the sponsor of this Bill will be able to make any statement in connection with the matter or whether this insertion could not be made in the Dáil seeing the Bill was initiated here and is going to the other House. It might be possible to insert a provision to the effect I have described in the Bill when it goes to the Dáil unless it raises too big a question with regard to the calling of evidence and so forth. I would like to know from Senator Douglas, who sponsored the Bill here, whether he is able to say that it would be possible to insert such a provision and whether it would come within the Preamble of the Bill to insert such a provision.

I think it is a matter of some doubt whether the Preamble of the Bill, as it stands, would open it to a provision such as is suggested by Senator O'Farrell. Apart from that, I think there are excellent reasons why in this Bill no such provision should be made. I may say that this matter, as well as some other matters of a kindred character, were considered by the Committee, at least they were taken up by some members of the Committee. There is a strong feeling on the Joint Committee that this is one of the matters that will have to be dealt with in a later Bill, but that it will have to be dealt with after very careful consideration. I would like to point out in connection with this Greater Dublin Reconstruction Commission that even if this provision that is suggested were inserted in this Bill it is very doubtful if it would apply to this Commission, which is not composed of a joint committee of both Houses. It is a very doubtful question whether a Commission appointed by the Government could have power to subpoena witnesses, and it is an even larger question than the question of the powers of a Committee of both Houses to get the attendance of witnesses. The feeling of the Committee, and I may say also of the Parliamentary draftsman, is that we require some large and perhaps intricate Act dealing with the question of the privileges of members and their rights and the privileges of committees and their rights, and this question of the right to subpoena witnesses before committees will have to be dealt with in such a Bill. One of the reasons why we brought this Bill in in this simple form was because we had the assurance of the Attorney-General and of the Parliamentary draftsman that they are going to consider this matter in the autumn and to bring in a larger Bill dealing with this whole question. You cannot simply put a clause in a Bill of this character giving power to subpoena witnesses unless you put in some restriction as to the conditions under which witnesses may be expected or may be forced to attend. You cannot give, I think, to every member of either House the right to bring before any committee any witness that he wants, and this is a matter that requires a considerable amount of care. I give that as an instance of the difficulty of the matter. For my part, I hope, while I have no doubt it is a matter for the Chairman of the other House to decide whether a provision of this kind should be allowed in under the Preamble to the Bill, that no attempt will be made to bring in such a large question into this Bill.

Question—"That this Bill do now pass"—put and agreed to.