ALTERATION IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT FORMS. - MOTION BY SIR JOHN KEANE.

With regard to the motion standing in my name, I am very anxious that the Minister responsible should be present, for this special reason: Some months ago I called the attention of this House to the General Order of County Boards of Health, Accounts Order, 1924, and asked the House to accept the view that certain of these forms would be found unworkable. That has turned out to be the case. No Minister was present when I raised the point and I feel that if a Minister had been present the unfortunate occurrence that has since followed, and which is the subject of my motion, might have been avoided. I am anxious that the Government should be represented here in order that we might see what they have to say with regard to this matter.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

I understand that the other House is at present engaged on the Central Fund Bill. The attendance of Ministers is, of course, practically essential for the purposes of that Bill. I do not see how it is possible for this House, or for me, to secure the attendance of a Minister at all.

Very well, that being the case I shall continue.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH

It would, of course, be open to you, if you wish, to make your statement and then, if the House so thought fit, to adjourn further consideration of the motion or to go on with it. That is a matter entirely for the House.

I shall make my statement. The motion I desire to propose is as follows:—

"That the Seanad wishes to call the attention of the Executive Council to the alteration of certain Forms contained in the Schedule of the County Boards of Health Accounts Order, 1924, laid on the Table of this House on the 20th March, 1924, in pursuance of Section 20 (4) of the Local Government (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1923, and to the fact that copyright has been granted to a private firm in respect of such altered Forms; and that the Seanad further expresses the hope that steps will be taken to prevent the recurrence of such irregularities."

The object of this motion is to call the attention of the House to certain alterations — I submit irregular alterations — which have been made in the General Order entitled "County Boards of Health Accounts Order, 1924." This is a statutory Order, and it was laid on the Table of this House on or about the 19th March, 1924. The Clerk being away, I am unable to find the precise date upon which it was laid in the Seanad, but it was laid on the Table of the Dáil on that date, and I would ask the House to assume that it was laid here at the same time, as papers usually are. It is laid under the provisions of the Local Government (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1923, Section 20 of which states:—"The Minister may make rules for carrying this Act or the county schemes made there under into effect, and in particular for regulating——" Sub-section (2) says:—"The Accounts Audit and Annual Estimate of any public body established by a county scheme...." Sub-section (4) is as follows—"Every Order made by the Minister under this section shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is made, and if a resolution is passed by each House of the Oireachtas within the next subsequent twenty-one days on which either House has sat, annulling such Order, such Order shall be annulled accordingly, but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done under such Order." No such resolution was passed, and in due course the Order came into operation.

I would again refer to the fact that I called the attention of this House to the schedules of that Order, and pointed out that they were unnecessarily involved and complicated, and, if they did work, they would be unsuitable, and would have to be strained for the purpose for which they were designed. What subsequently happened is not clear, or rather the exact sequence of events is not clear. It transpired that these statutory forms were radically altered, and no amending Order was laid. That is wholly irregular. It appears to involve a breach of the privileges of this House, and if this whole procedure of administrative regulation, safeguarded by the laying of Orders, is not to be observed, we do not know where we are. It is an important matter, as we are giving very wide powers of regulation to the Government under modern legislation. One new form appears to have been substituted to take the place of Form 40, which was a schedule to this Order. It is a complete change in form, not merely a minor change. This form has been copyrighted by a private firm of printers, or rather it bears a copyright inscription or number which, I assume, is a valid copyright. The other forms, Nos. 37 and 38, have been superseded by a form which I hold in my hands, and which also appears to have formed the subject of a copyright. The facts appear to be perfectly simple, and the irregularity appears to be one of a gross or somewhat substantial nature. For that reason I would ask the House, trivial as the point may be in actual effect, to take a serious view of the principle involved, which is a violation of their privileges. I would like to ask the House, if they accept the view that this is a serious matter, to allow the motion to be adjourned until the Minister can be present, and when we can hear what the Government have to say on the matter. Mine is only an ex parte statement and there may be some valid explanation.

I hope that the House will agree with the last part of Senator Sir John Keane's statement. To pass this resolution without hearing what the other side of the question may be would, I think, not be proper. If the Cathaoirleach communicated with the Minister and found out whether he could fix a time when he could be present, or convey information to the House, we might have that before us when the consideration of the motion comes up on adjournment.

I second the motion. I would like to call attention to the fact that Ministers were here a few minutes ago and they must have known that this motion was on the Orders of the Day.

I move:—"That the motion be adjourned for further consideration for the purpose, if possible, of securing the attendance of the Minister of the particular Department concerned."

I second.

Question put and agreed to. Motion adjourned accordingly.