Could you give the House any information as regards the state of business?
REMAINING BUSINESS OF SESSION.
Yes, sir, I have a short statement here about the business in the Dáil. The Bills before the Dáil at present are:—
The Live Stock Breeding Bill, 1924: the Report Stage of which is being resumed in the Dáil to-day. It is an important measure, and its consideration by the Seanad is likely to take some time. It is hoped to complete its Final Stage in the Dáil before the adjournment, but it is improbable that the Seanad will be able to do more than give it a Second Reading this year.
The Local Government Bill, the Report Stage of which is to be taken in the Dáil to-morrow, will, it is hoped, be passed through all stages in the Dáil before the adjournment, and the Minister considers that it is important for the Seanad to undertake its consideration as soon as possible after the Christmas Recess. The remaining Bills before the Dáil are all of a rather urgent nature, and we will have to ask the indulgence of the Seanad to get them passed before the adjournment. There is the Unemployment Insurance (No. 2) Bill, 1924, which will be completed in the Dáil to-day. The objects of the Bill are to renew in the fourth benefit year the benefit which might have been exhausted in the third benefit year, and to put in benefit all ex-National Army soldiers, whether they were in insurable occupations at any period or not. The Seanad is fully cognisant of the extreme seriousness of the unemployment problem, and the Bill is one of the measures which the Government are taking to relieve immediate distress. In order that the full benefits of the Bill can be available it is necessary that it should become law at the earliest possible moment.
There is the Railways (Directorate) Bill, 1924, the object of which is to confer upon the London, Midland and Scottish Railway the right to nominate a director on the amalgamated company to be constituted under the Railways Act, 1924, in return for certain concessions amounting to about £20,000 per annum which are being granted by that railway to the amalgamated company. I am not in a position to say how speedily the Dáil will deal with this Bill. It is down for Second Reading to-day, and we will endeavour to get it through all stages this week, so that it may reach the Seanad early next week.
There is the Port and Docks Bill, which is tabled for Second Reading in the Dáil to-morrow, and which is in a similar position.
I understood from the Order Paper of the Dáil which I received this morning that there is a motion in the Dáil to suspend Standing Orders with regard to these two Bills, the Unemployment Insurance Bill and the Railways (Directorate) Bill, in order to have them put through to-day.
It is hoped to complete them in the Dáil to-day.
If these two Bills are put through the Dáil to-day there should be no difficulty in our disposing of them this week. I do not see that that would indicate any necessity for convening the Seanad for next week.
The note I have on the Railways (Directorate) Bill is that it is down for Second Reading to-day and that we would endeavour to get it through all Stages this week so that it might reach the Seanad early next week.
Then I must be under some delusion, because I thought I read in the Order Paper of the Dáil that a motion was to be tabled to-day to suspend the Standing Orders to enable all the remaining sections of these two Bills to go through to-day.
The motion by the Minister for Industry and Commerce on the Paper is:—"That the provisions of Standing Orders 86 and 88, as to the giving of notice for the taking of the Fourth and Fifth Stages of a Bill be suspended to permit of the Fourth and Fifth Stages of the Railways (Directorate) Bill, 1924, being taken to-day."
I am right.
Yes, sir, you are right. I think he has some doubt as to whether the Second Reading will finish to-day.
If that motion goes through and the Bills are disposed of to-day there will be no reason, I think, in the nature of things, why we should not dispose of them this week.
The Port and Docks Bill is tabled for Second Reading in the Dáil to-morrow, and that is in a similar position to the Railways (Directorate) Bill.
Is there any special urgency about the Port and Docks Bill?
I think that the mover, Deputy Hewat, considers it an urgent measure. It has been rendered necessary owing to a difficulty which arose as to the appointment of a reviser of electors and the dates for the election of elected members.
Do you know, Mr. O'Higgins, when the elections take place?
I have an idea it is some time in January, and that that is the urgent consideration. With regard to the Dáil sittings, it is proposed to adjourn on Friday and to meet again on the 19th December, to consider Bills back from the Seanad.
The only thing I wish to mention is that I want to be quite clear as to what that suggestion of yours is, with regard to the Local Government Bill. What you have said is that the Minister is anxious that the Bill should be taken up in this House as soon as possible after the adjournment. I would like to know what that means.
I understand his position is this: that the Bill would need to become law about the middle of February if the elections are to be held before the statutory period, which runs out towards the end of March. I think the dates necessitate the Bill becoming law a month before these elections can be held.
I think it is even a little longer; I think it is six weeks. My impression is that you would require a working six weeks. However, we will take it that even if you require a month——
The most definite recollection I have of my conversation with the Minister for Local Government is that he stressed that the middle of February would be the latest for the Bill.
It is a very serious and difficult matter, because this Local Government Bill is a highly-contentious Bill as far as one can judge from what has taken place in the other House. I think it has been at least two months under discussion in the other House, and the Committee Stage has been a very long one and a very controversial and keenly-debated one. I certainly think it would be most unreasonable to expect this House to meet immediately after the New Year for the purpose of taking this Bill, and then to propose to have it rushed through in order to enable the elections to be held at a fixed period. I would suggest to the Minister that he would consider this view of it: to insert a provision in this Local Government Bill, one clause, postponing the elections until a certain date after this Bill has passed into law. That would ensure that the elections would be held even though discussions on the Bill in this House and afterwards in the other House, kept it going beyond the period which would enable the elections to be held next year. This one clause would simply state that the elections should not take place until a certain number of days after the date of the passing of this Bill into law.
On the face of it it seems an excellent suggestion, and I will convey it to the Minister for Local Government.
I do not think it would be reasonable to ask this House to rush this Bill through nor would it be reasonable to ask this House to come back shortly after the New Year while the members of the other House were enjoying a well-earned holiday.
May I say a word on this matter?
I shall be very glad to hear the views of the Senator. I was only voicing what I thought were the views of the House.
I will just mention a few points that should be put to the Minister responsible. We are bound to have a number of elections for the Dáil coming on, and in all these elections I am sure there will be a number of Senators interested. There is an election in my constituency, and I think the same might apply to a number of other Senators who will be interested in the Local Government Bill. I certainly would appeal to the Minister responsible for the Bill, to keep it back to give this House and the members who are interested in local government, a chance of debating it. I do not see that any injury can be done to anybody by postponing the local government elections. As a matter of fact, it would be better to have them in the long evenings of summer than having them in the winter. That is the general view in the country. I might also say that, if there is one thing people do not want at the present time, it is elections of any kind.
I take it that the suggestion of Senator De Loughry is that we should shut up House in order to allow Senators to go electioneering. That has been done by the other House in its wisdom and they may have very good reasons for it. But I should certainly be very sorry to let it go as the opinion of this House, that because of elections, referring entirely to the other House, we should postpone the consideration of this measure and tie up business in order to give certain Senators who want to take part in the elections an opportunity of doing so. We all, some time or other, are unfortunate enough to find ourselves taking part in the rough and tumble of an election, but certainly I should be very sorry, and I should think it very impertinent on my part if I were to come here and say: "Will you kindly put off the consideration of this measure until I have done my electioneering. Then I will come back and consider it when the evenings are long." We will have to take our responsibilities a little more seriously than that, and I do hope that the opinion expressed by Senator De Loughry is not the opinion of the majority of this House.
The suggestion I have in my mind is that, without any undue tax on Senators, we could meet probably in the middle of January, but I would not be prepared to pledge the House beforehand, to getting a Bill of this kind through all its stages in time to provide that interval required in order to enable the elections to be held. It is very likely we will be able to do so, but I do not want to give any guarantee. I think, therefore, the remedy is what I have suggested: that the elections should take place after the expiration of a certain interval from the date of the passing of this Bill into law. If that date does not conflict with the existing date no harm is done. If it does, it can be extended.
It seems to me that it might be tacitly understood that after Christmas, as soon as we know the date of the re-assembly of the Dáil, we would be prepared to meet 10 days earlier in order to dispose of the Bills and have them ready for the Dáil. Until we know from the Government what they propose, it is rather premature to fix the date for our re-assembly.
Perhaps the Minister for Justice will confer with the Minister for Local Government and Public Health.
We have disposed of all the business available for us at present, and, therefore, I think, subject to what the Seanad may consider right, our best course would be to adjourn until Friday. That, I think, would enable us to see what is going to happen with regard to the Intoxicating Liquor Bill. By that time we ought to have other Bills that are passing through the Dáil at present. Possibly we might be able to conclude our business on Friday. If Senators think it desirable, perhaps we might meet at 11 or 11.30 a.m. on Friday. I would like that as many Senators as possible would attend, as it would not do if we had not a sufficient attendance to go on with the business. I am trying to make it as easy as possible for Senators, and I hope they will meet me by attending here on Friday.
I move that the Seanad adjourn until 12 o'clock on Friday.
Senators who come from the South would find it difficult to be here then, unless they come overnight. I would suggest 2 o'clock on Friday.
What I had in mind was that probably most of the Senators from the country would stay in Dublin, and I wanted to enable them to get away early on Friday afternoon. If they think that 2 o'clock would be more convenient, we would like to consult their convenience.
Will any Senators be attending Private Bill Committees on Friday morning?
There will be members attending Private Bill Committees all this week.
It seems to me our attendance is very poor lately.
Possibly 12 o'clock would be better. The Dáil meets at 12 o'clock, and that means there will not be any serious difficulty.
What Senator Mrs. Costello had in mind was that, by reason of attendance at meetings of Private Bill Committees Senators would not be here, and we might have a difficulty in having a House. I am afraid that difficulty will apply all this week and the greater part of next week.
In connection with that I think there is a feeling that Private Bill Committees should not, as a general rule, sit at least more than half an hour after the time fixed for the sitting of either House. It is intended that some such principle will be generally adopted. The particular Bills this week are of an exceptional character and are of considerable importance— three Bills with a very large array of legal talent. The members of the Committee felt that considerable expense and time would be saved by sitting late. I do not think that should be assumed by members as a precedent. The reason I mention 12 o'clock is that if the Private Bill Committees sit on Friday, members of the other House will be in exactly the same position as this House. I do not think they could sit very late in normal circumstances.