I beg to move:—

"That in future it shall not be the duty of the Cathaoirleach to rule whether Bills or motions before the Seanad are an infringement of the Constitution, and that the Standing Orders Committee be requested to propose such alterations in or additions to the Standing Orders as will give effect to this resolution."

I must at the outset ask to be allowed to state that I move the resolution believing that if such a power were inherent in the Chairman it would infringe the sovereignty of the Seanad and the sovereignty of the people. Whether one is led to the conclusion that it is more or less inherent in the person of the Cathaoirleach to rule out a motion, it is public knowledge that on a message from the Dáil his ruling was that such a message was in violation of the Constitution. Among other reasons that was held out why such a message should be ruled out of order, the Cathaoirleach, in his very able, interesting, and highly controversial address, said: "Since this message was received I have given it many very anxious hours of study and consideration, and I have arrived at a definite, clear and distinct conclusion that any such message would be out of order on the part of the Seanad and would be in direct conflict with the Standing Orders, and would be a direct violation of the Constitution." One can visualise the time when we would have a Chairman, not so versed in constitutional law as the present Cathaoirleach, but who might cause a situation which would inflict grave injury on our Constitution.

In passing, perhaps I may be allowed to state that the resolution before the House is not the resolution which I originally tried to have moved. It has been considerably watered down and, I think, that after that watering down it will be accepted by the Seanad. My motion was ruled out by the Cathaoirleach without any attempt being made to allow me to amend it. Under Standing Order 17, if I read it aright, one of the powers of the Cathaoirleach is to amend a resolution after consultation with the Senator, who has power to withdraw it if he so desires. I have read as carefully as I could that Standing Order, and I see no provision made whereby such resolution should be ruled out of order without power of revision being given by the Cathaoirleach to the Senator to amend it.


There seems to be some confusion. Let me remind the Senator what happened. There was a motion submitted first in the name of another Senator, who withdrew it. Next day the same motion was put down in the name of Senator Bennett, and on examining this motion I saw that it contravened our Standing Orders. He had, unfortunately, gone away to the country, and I wrote a letter to the Senator pointing out in what respect it was out of order, and saying that if he came to me I would be only too glad to help him in putting it in such a way as would comply with the Standing Orders. That is what I did, and I think I did my duty.

In reply to what the Chairman has said I may say that he is right. I can quote from his letter if necessary, but what occurred was that I was prevented from amending my resolution to conform with Standing Orders.


Is that correct? The Senator is the last man I would like to offend in any way. On this occasion I went out of my way to help him. I informed him I examined the motion and it did not conform with Standing Orders. I said that I would be delighted to give him any help I could to frame a motion that would be in conformity with Standing Orders.

Again I rise to say that what the Chairman says is in effect correct, but I had no opportunity to amend my resolution to make it conform with Standing Orders.


Whose fault was that?

I cannot tell you.


It was not mine.

It was not mine. Standing Order 17 says: "The Cathaoirleach shall examine every notice of motion to ensure that it shall be as brief as possible and that it shall contain no preface or argument or any personal imputation upon any member of the Oireachtas. The Cathaoirleach may amend any such motion and may consult with the Senator responsible therefor with a view to securing its compliance with the Standing Orders. Should the Senator object to such amendment he may withdraw the motion."

I do not read there that it is in the power of a chairman to reject a motion unless he first consults the Senator and gives an opportunity of amendment. Apart from that, the Cathaoirleach has one view and I have another. The important point is that in his ruling on the matter of a Message from the Dáil he used the words I have quoted. I and many others in this House can visualise the day when a chairman not so versed in the law, not so great a constitutional lawyer, and not so anxious possibly for the dignity of this House, may use this power created by precedent, and may inflict an injury on the sovereignty of this House, and the sovereignty of the people. What did in effect happen was that a Message from the Dáil, for which provision is made in our Standing Orders, was ruled out of order because in the opinion of the Chairman it was in direct violation of the Constitution. Towards the end of his able speech he said: "Therefore I am satisfied and so decide that this resolution in its present form seeks to ask the House to do something which it ought not to do, and this resolution, if passed, would be in distinct violation of the Constitution, and would be a very dangerous precedent." What is the provision in the Constitution for a violation of the Constitution? Who is the authority to decide whether there has been a violation of the Constitution? That is amply safeguarded by Article 65 of the Constitution, which says:—

"The judicial power of the High Court shall extend to the question of the validity of any law having regard to the provisions of the Constitution. In all cases in which such matters shall come into question the High Court alone shall exercise original jurisdiction."

Therefore any citizen who feels aggrieved with any action of the Dáil or Seanad has his redress in the High Court. Any citizen who feels aggrieved by a ruling of An Ceann Comhairle or the Cathaoirleach has no redress there. I say that a ruling given in contravention of Article 65 infringes on the rights of the citizen, and that ought no longer to be in the power of the Chairman of the Seanad. All power in Ireland is derived from the people of Ireland—legislative, executive and judicial—and these powers are preserved in their entirety by reference to the High Court of any matter in law which that citizen believes is in contravention of his rights. What is my position, or your position, if some future Chairman of the Seanad rules a matter out of order which infringes on his constitutional right? There is none.

There is nothing under the Constitution to prevent him from challenging in any way the ruling of An Ceann Comhairle, or of the Chairman of the Seanad. Therefore, to my mind, if it is in the power of the Chairman of this Assembly to make a ruling which is unconstitutional, this Seanad has no power to get that error made by him corrected. Messages between the two Houses are more or less matters of courtesy, and are dealt with as such. It is laid down that a message from one House to the other shall be put on the Orders for the day. What did occur in the other House when an amendment of ours was discussed? The action taken by An Ceann Comhairle on that occasion was a little enlightening. This was an amendment to the Local Government Electors Registration Bill, 1923, from the Seanad. The amendment was:—

"To add at the end of Section 2 the following:—‘Provided always that nothing in this section or in any existing enactment shall entitle a person to be registered as a Local Government elector for any year in with the rates for which he or she is legally liable on the 31st March, immediately preceding the 15th of November are unpaid.'"

An Ceann Comhairle, in bringing that amendment to the notice of the Dáil, was satisfied, apparently, that it was outside the jurisdiction of the Seanad to do any such thing. I take it he was empowered to rule accordingly. What did he do? These are the words An Ceann Comhairle used:—

"In connection with the amendment passed in the Seanad to this particular Bill, the Local Government Electors Registration Bill, I desire to point out to the Dáil that the amendment, in my judgement, is outside the scope of the Bill. The Bill is one relating to the preparation of the register of Local Government electors. It deals with the preparation of a register of people who are qualified to vote, and with the setting up of machinery. The Bill does not touch the qualification to vote. It enacts in Section 3 that a certain section of the Representation of the People Act shall not apply. That is merely a change of date, but it still leaves six months residence essential for a vote. The date before which a person must have resided in a place is merely altered, so that this amendment which deals with the qualifications of voters seems to me to be outside the scope of the Bill. As the matter is one that concerns the relations of the Dáil and the Seanad I merely state my opinion, and leave it to the Dáil to take any action that they think fit. The amendment will be considered in Committee."

The message from the Dáil to this House on a most controversial subject was treated with much scantier courtesy. I am not sure that it is not inherent in everyone of us at all times and on all occasions to stand up here and give our opinions on any matter that we think essential, and we do in effect put our views before the people in the strong hope that they will go home to them and that our advice will be taken. I want to make it clear that in future no matter shall be ruled out of order solely because it is an infringement of the Constitution. I believe that to so rule is ultra-constitutional. To rule that the matter is against the Constitution is, to my mind, a question for the court, and is not inherent in any individual in the Dáil or Seanad to do so. I have the temerity to assert that opinion, and if my assertion is correct, then I ask the House to emphasise the fact for all time that by our Standing Orders, until they are amended, and they are likely to be amended on this point, when any matter is before the Seanad it shall not be the duty of the Cathaoirleach to rule whether in the case of Bills or motions that they are an infringement of the Constitution, and that the Standing Orders Committee be requested to propose such alterations in the Standing Orders as will give effect to this. I move the resolution solely because, from my reading of An Cathaoirleach's speech, he apparently thought it his duty to rule a thing out of order on particular grounds. He ruled on far broader grounds: He ruled it on the grounds that Private Bills were the inherent right of every free-born man, and they are the inherent right of every free-born man. He went on further to tell us that these rights are derivable under the common law, and so they are. Who are the interpreters of the common law? Are we, as the Seanad, or is the High Court, as defined by the Constitution? These considerations arise, and I think that for the settlement of this it would be better that such a motion as this, which would clarify for all time the position, ought to be accepted, and I am quite sure that the Seanad will have little difficulty in agreeing with me that such a resolution is essential.

I second the motion. I do so because I believe very strongly that this House has a right to discuss every matter which affects the well-being of the citizens of the Saorstát. I do not think it is fair to place upon the shoulders of the President of the Seanad, or of the Dáil either, if that could be imagined, the responsibility of having to prevent, or seemingly to prevent, discussion in either House on matters of public importance. I hold that both these Houses, making together the Oireachtas or the Parliament of Ireland, have not only the right, but they have the imperative duty, of discussing, considering and passing judgement upon every matter and thing affecting the material interests of the country. I do not think that it is fitting with the dignity of the Seanad of the Free State that it should be unable to discuss questions in which the public take a deep and an abiding interest, and I do not think that this Seanad can escape from its responsibility by any pretext of limitation of Standing Orders. I hold that the Oireachtas is the supreme authority in all material matters, subject only to the Constitution and the law. It may be that the Oireachtas will find it advisable to limit its own interests, or to limit the application of its powers in some particular direction, but if so it must do it by an Act, an Act that can be repealed, and it is not competent for either of the component parts of the Oireachtas to limit its interests over the affairs of the Free State by anything short of a legislative enactment.

Let us suppose that the Dáil and the Seanad do wrong in legislating; let us suppose that they inflict an injury upon, or do an injustice to, any citizen or any body of citizens. I hold that the remedy of the citizen, or the body of citizens, and the safeguard against any such conceivable injustice is to be found in the Constitution itself, which directs that the courts shall be the decisive factors in matters of this kind, and that if any injustice has been done to any citizen, or any body of citizens, the courts are there to afford a remedy. I hold that view and I think that is covered by the Constitution. I may be wrong. If I am wrong I think there would be a universal demand by all sections and conditions of people that that wrong should be rectified and that the courts should always be at hand to protect the rights and the liberty of the citizen. But I do not imagine for a moment that under the Constitution that security is denied. It is for these reasons that I support the motion. I think we must make it perfectly plain that every matter affecting the interests of the country will be discussed, considered, and, if necessary, decided upon by the Oireachtas. I do not think that it is dignified for us to say that our Standing Orders prevent us from discussing a certain question and that we should throw the responsibility upon the shoulders of the Cathaoirleach. I think that this House has shown that it has the courage of its convictions and that it is prepared to discharge its duties quite regardless of consequences. I hope that it will pass Senator Bennett's motion.


I think that perhaps it would be for the convenience of the House if I were to intervene now, because I might be able to get rid of some of these matters that have been introduced, and perhaps make a suggestion that would avoid the continuation of the controversy. I shall therefore ask Senator Douglas to take my place, and to continue to retain it until this discussion is concluded.

May I just say at the outset that Senators will pardon me if I stand in front of the Chair, because I cannot very well face the light, although I can face the Seanad. I want the Seanad to discuss and consider this matter wholly apart from any present consideration of my position, but at the same time want them to recollect that they themselves, unasked by me, imposed upon me the responsibility of being the sole judge of order on all questions in this House. I did not ask for that power; I accepted it loyally and I have endeavoured ever since to act upon it. In addition, like every other Senator, I took a solemn oath to bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution, and I have never failed to have regard to that oath in attempting to discharge the duties which you imposed on me. I am quite conscious of the fact that when I accepted the post and the great honour you conferred on me some three years ago, that I was to discharge all the duties that you prescribed for me, and I quite realised that in the course of time you might change your views as to what these duties should be, and their extent and nature. Therefore, I shall have no grievance, whatever conclusions you may arrive at with regard to this motion. But subject to this limit, that in view of my obligations to my oath, which, in common with every other Senator I have taken, if your restrictions were of such a character as to prevent me or make it difficult for me to carry out that obligation in the Seanad of being loyal and true to the Constitution, I of course, would have to reconsider my position, and I have my remedy.

Having said that much, let me say that I have no cause at all to complain of anything that has been said, either by Senator Bennett or Senator Sir Thomas Esmonde, and I can quite realise that from certain points of view, the Seanad, or some Senators, may think that the ruling on questions which may involve an interpretation of the Constitution is too great a responsibility to impose on any one individual. What I shall only direct your attention to is this, that if you are going to make a change, see that you will make a change that will be workable, and that will conduce to the dignity, order, and regularity of this House, because I think I will convince you in a very few moments that if anything like what Senator Bennett proposes were to be adopted, there is an end of all its regularity, and an end of all its dignity and an end of all its usefulness. You will observe that he proposes that in all matters arising upon a Bill or a motion which involve an interpretation of the Constitution, the Chairman is to pronounce no decision. That is to say, that he is not to pronounce a decision either way.

Now, the whole effective powers of the Seanad have to be exercised either through a Bill or a motion; they cannot exercise their powers in any other way; their powers are confined to dealing with Bills or to moving motions. Therefore the Senator's proposition covers the entire ambit of your effective powers of operation. Recollect that. The motion does not propose any substitute for your Chairman. It does not state how these important questions are to be decided, or by whom, and let me now just ask you to picture, by some illustrations, the state of confusion and chaos to which your proceedings would be reduced under any conditions of that kind. I have heard with interest and amusement during the last few weeks the astounding proposition that this House is sovereign in itself. Well, if the Seanad would like to test that I suggest that we introduce and pass a Money Bill, and see what the Dáil will have to say to it. Does it mean that this House is sovereign in itself, and can overrule the Constitution, can set aside the Treaty? Well, if you were to tell that to an American or Canadian lawyer I think he would grow pale with envy at the rights of this sovereign Seanad. But let us take it now by way of illustration and let us see what would happen. The Senator puts down a motion impugning, perhaps, the conduct of one of the judges of the courts of the Free State. Under ordinary conditions and under my present powers I would at once and peremptorily rule that out of order. I should have no power to do so in the future if this proposition of Senator Bennett's is accepted, because the constitutional theory is that you cannot impugn the conduct of judges in the Free State by reason of the provision in the Constitution, which declares that the judges are to be independent in the exercise of their functions. Therefore, if I were to rule out any such motion I would be interpreting the Constitution. But I could not, if I were asked, say that the motion is even in order, because Senator Bennett's proposition is that the Chairman shall not be at liberty to pronounce any decision—that is, either for or against any motion, where it involves any question under the Constitution.

Take another illustration. A Senator moves a motion impugning the conduct of the Governor-General. Under my present powers, and if this motion of Senator Bennett's is not passed, I would at once rule that that was out of order. I cannot do so in the future. Who is going to do it? I cannot do it. Senator Bennett's motion does not suggest anyone else to do it, and consequently a Senator would be entitled to insist upon moving and discussing such a motion. But let me come to a closer analogy. Supposing a Senator put down a motion that the Standing Orders Committee be instructed to frame a Standing Order dispensing with the oath taken by Senators. That would be a clear alteration of the Constitution. Under Senator Bennett's motion I would be powerless; I would not be able to rule that in order or out of order, and the Senator would be entitled to insist upon moving and discussing it. Who is to stop him? That is one of the results.

Let me point out that the Senator is entirely in error, and I think I shall convince him of that, and so is Senator Sir Thomas Esmonde, in saying that under these conditions the matter could be set right by the courts. If that were so, I should never have made the ruling I did, because I have stated more than once in this House that I did not rule sections or clauses of a Bill to be out of order as a violation of the Constitution, because if they are violations of the Constitution and are included in a Bill they can be reviewed by the courts. But it was as plain as anything could be in the English language that that provision in the Constitution only applies to laws, and not to motions, and for this obvious reason, that the wise and expert men who were parties to the framing of that Constitution never dreamt for a moment that an attempt would be made to legislate by resolution, or that an attempt would be made to take away by a Standing Order public rights fortified and sanctioned by the usage of centuries. They never contemplated that; the thing never entered into their heads for a moment to conceive as possible, and accordingly when they came to provide a safeguard in the Constitution, what was it? It was a safeguard that all laws passed by the Oireachtas may be reviewed in the High Court. Is this motion a law? Was this resolution passed by the Dáil a law? It was intended to usurp the place of a law, but it was not a law, and that was my whole contention. The moment that you proceed, if the day ever comes, to sanction the use of a resolution for purposes of legislation, and the use of a bye-law to kill a public right, then all I say to you is this, and I say it with a full sense of responsibility, upon that day you will have torn the Constitution into pieces.

Why do I say that? You have, in the first place, avoided the assent of the Governor-General. If you take away this right of divorce, I care nothing about it. I would have given the same ruling no matter what the question was that arose. But, if you once establish that this House and the Dáil in conjunction can take away a public right and destroy any public right by a mere Standing Order, then I say you have torn the Constitution to tatters. You have, in the first place, done away with the necessity for the Governor-General's assent; in the next place you have done away with his power of holding up a Bill for a year. Then again, you have deprived the Seanad and the Dáil of the power of having a referendum upon it, which is conferred upon them in the case of every Act of Parliament; and last, but not least, you have ousted the jurisdiction of the courts. That is the most important matter in connection with the whole thing. Here I want to make it plain, if I can, to Senators Bennett and Sir T. Esmonde that a motion substituted for legislation can never be made the subject of investigation in the courts.

Has not this right already been taken away by the action of the British Parliament in passing the Constitution?


What right?

That of divorce.


I cannot understand what the Senator really means? What is the position? I do not want to go into this controversy about divorce, because it is a side issue. As I said, I would have given the same decision if the right taken away had been the right of personal liberty, the right of trial by jury, or any other right you wish to mention. You only drag a herring across the trail if you want to get this discussion to hang round divorce. Divorce is only an illustration of the principle. What I am simply pointing out as a proposition that is incapable of contradiction is, that throughout the whole history of the British Constitution, the Canadian Constitution, and the American Constitution, there has never been a case in which they attempted to legislate by resolution, and there has never been a case in which they attempted to take away an existing right by a Standing Order.

As Senator Sir Thomas Esmonde has asked me whether this right was not gone—that is the right of bringing in a Private Bill for divorce—let me point out that, so far from it having been gone, the Government of this country recognised its existence three years ago and set up a Joint Standing Committee to devise Standing Orders to give facilities for these Private Bills, thereby recognising their existence, recognising the fact that they were still part of our Constitution. Otherwise, their action in setting up a Joint Committee to provide machinery for facilitating these Bills would have been a childish action upon their part. Therefore it is beyond controversy—and President Cosgrave himself plainly and frankly admitted it—that this right of Private Bill legislation is part and parcel of our Constitution. He said so. It is because they want to limit one particular portion of that right, namely, this divorce a vinculo, that the resolution of the Dáil was passed.

Leaving out the question of divorce, as I say it all comes back to this: where is there any trace of authority to be found for the position that you can substitute a resolution for legislation and that you can kill the existing constitutional right by a mere Standing Order? Why, we have examples here of Bills sent up to us of the most trifling character, making the most trifling alterations in existing laws. That has to be done because by the constitutional practice and tradition of centuries the only way Parliament can proceed is by legislation. The very idea and essence of Parliament is that it does its work by Bills, by legislation, and the moment you substitute for that, and put in its place, a mere resolution, passed at a single sitting, perhaps without notice, or with a few days notice, you upset the whole Constitution and, as I say, you nullify and destroy at least one half of the clauses in your Constitution.

Let me just give one or two illustrations, because this is not the first time this question has arisen. I have had to rule on questions that involved the interpretation of the Constitution before now, and on each occasion that I did make the ruling it was accepted with approval and acclamation by the Seanad. Why? I am afraid to say that it was because they were anxious that the ruling should be on the lines on which I gave it. It did not conflict with their own views; it fell in with their views, and I was a Solomon on these occasions. Now, because I have made a similar ruling in a matter in which they feel very strongly themselves, I am anathema.

Let me illustrate that. There was a Bill brought in dealing with the fishery laws and an amendment was moved in the Seanad restricting the power of the Executive to remit penalties. The Executive took power in the Bill to remit penalties imposed, and one of the Senators—I think it was Senator Sir J. Keane—moved an amendment restricting the power of the Executive. It was carried by a large majority. That went back to the Dáil, and in the Dáil the Attorney-General attacked it and said it was an illegal act on the part of the Seanad, because they were interfering with the Crown's prerogative of mercy; that they had no right by any amendment of theirs to encroach on the Crown's prerogative of mercy. It came back to the Seanad and they naturally asked me: "What do you say to this?" I said: "That is all wrong; there has been a mistake on the part of the Attorney-General as regards what the law is." The law has been settled and is known now to be settled for the last two hundred years to this effect: that the Crown had no prerogative of mercy where the penalties go to private individuals, because otherwise it would interfere with private individuals' rights. They have the prerogative of mercy where the fine is payable to the Crown, as the Crown can remit its own fine. Under the licensing laws, the fishery laws, the taxing laws, the income tax laws and the smuggling laws, all these penalties are earmarked, some for the complainant, some for the boards of conservators, some for other people; and the law always has been that as regards them the Crown has no prerogative and has no rights except what Parliament confers upon it, and that Parliament, in conferring those rights, may limit them in any way they wish. On that occasion—I am not saying this by way of boasting but simply by way of illustration—I saved for all time for this House the right to intervene and put limits upon the Executive's claim to remit penalties. If I had not intervened the precedent would have been established and the right lost for them. What is to happen in future if Senator Bennett's motion is carried? Will I be at liberty to intervene? Certainly I shall not, because it would be said I was interpreting the Constitution.

Let me give you two more illustrations which I think should bring the matter, perhaps, even more closely home to the Seanad. When the Public Safety Bill was brought into the Seanad there was a provision in it enabling District Justices to convict summarily up to eighteen months' imprisonment. Senator O'Farrell denounced this as a violation of the Constitution, because the Constitution says that all but minor offences should be dealt with by a jury, whereas in this emergency Bill, District Justices were given power to impose eighteen months' imprisonment for certain offences without a jury. Senator O'Farrell's point was that this was a violation of the Constitution. The Attorney-General was present, and when the point was put to me by Senator O'Farrell I said that in my opinion he was right, and that it would be essential in order to put this right that a clause should be put in providing that they were only to have this power in any case which they judged was a minor offence. The Attorney-General who, I am bound to say, was always amenable in these matters, at once admitted that I was right. He gave in and made an alteration in the Bill. Once this motion of Senator Bennett's is carried I cannot do that. My hands are tied. Who is going to call attention to it? Who is going to correct it?

I come to a final illustration, and it is a very important one, because it is identical almost with the ruling that I gave on the occasion of the divorce resolution. In the Judiciary Bill the Dáil put the salaries of the District Justices on the annual Estimates, whereas they made the salaries of the High Court Judges and the Circuit Judges a charge on the Central Fund. Some Senators may not realise the difference that that means. If the salaries are charged on the Central Fund they are voted automatically and cannot be disputed. If they are voted from year to year and put on the annual Vote the Vote can be challenged every year. That was the position when the Bill came to the Seanad. Some Senator said: "This is not right. It is putting the District Justices in a false and invidious position." An amendment was moved transferring their salaries also to the Central Fund. The Attorney-General was not present when that was done in Committee, but when it came up on Report he was in his place and challeneged the jurisdiction of the Seanad to make this amendment. He did so on two grounds. First he said that a resolution had been already passed by the Dáil appropriating the moneys in this way. That is to say, appropriating portion as a charge on the Central Fund for the High Court Judges and making the salaries of the District Justices an annual Vote on the Estimates. "Therefore," he said, "that resolution is binding upon this House and you cannot go behind it."

He also suggested that although it was not a Money Bill, yet, as this was a financial clause, the Seanad had no power to interfere with it. That raised two very important questions that went to the very root of the power of the Seanad in matters of finance, and after most careful consideration I ruled that the resolution in no way bound the Seanad, because the Constitution says that the money is to be appropriated by the Oireachtas and to be appropriated by law, and that the resolution was not law. I also said that under the Constitution the Seanad was at liberty to make any amendment it liked to any Bill other than a Money Bill and that as this was not a Money Bill they were entitled to amend the financial clauses. I said: "These are very important matters; it is a big responsibility to be asking me to determine them and I would suggest that you should refer them to a strong small select committee and ask them to report on it for you." Accordingly, they appointed Senators Douglas, Brown, and O'Farrell, along with myself, to go into this question. I have that report in my hand, but it is sufficient to say that the committee unanimously upheld my ruling in every point and particularly emphasised the fact that you could not legislate by resolution; that the resolution appropriating money was no good, and was ineffective because the Constitution said it was to be done by law, and that you can only act by law by legislation and not by resolution. The report containing that statement was brought up before the Seanad and was unanimously adopted.

Now my powers are to be taken from me, because a similar case having arisen, I acted loyally in accordance with that report and carried out the directions given me by the Seanad that unanimously adopted it. I do not say this for the purpose of recrimination or to try and make a debating point over Senator Bennett or Senator Sir Thomas Esmonde. I am doing it solely, believe me, in my heartfelt interest in the future welfare of the Seanad and the regularity of its proceedings. I have no other interest to serve. I do not care a fig about this divorce resolution. I do care for the honour of the Seanad. I do care for the dignity and utility of whoever is to fill my place. I say that unless you provide somebody—I do not care who, be it your Chairman or anyone you wish—to guide and direct you as to whether matters are or are not outside or inside the Constitution, your whole proceedings will be reduced to a state of hopeless chaos.

I have nothing to add except to say, in conclusion, and I say it with full honesty and frankness, that personally I should be glad to be relieved of the responsibility of deciding these questions. If the House were to determine at this moment to give me the benefit of a strong but small committee whom I should consult on these matters and whose decision I should loyally and implicitly follow, I should be pleased. I think that would be an advantage to me and to the Seanad, but do not leave the Seanad in the position that you are going to have no one responsible for making decisions on law and order so that when a Senator gets up when a Bill is going through the House and asks, "Would I be in order, Mr. Chairman, in moving the following amendment," for the future I will have to say, "I cannot answer you. That is a matter that involves an interpretation of the Constitution and I cannot answer you."

What did Senator Sir Thomas Esmonde say? I thoroughly and heartily agree with his sentiment. He said this House had no right to limit in any way its power to legislate. What would it have done if it had passed that divorce resolution? It would have prevented itself legislating upon divorce Private Bills because it would have excluded them from its legislative powers altogether, so that it would have deliberately reduced its own powers of legislation conferred upon it under the Constitution.

That is the whole position as it seems to me. If you are not satisfied with present conditions, give me the benefit of a small but strong committee and I will welcome it. Let my decision be subject to their approval. If they approve of my decision, let it stand. If they disapprove, let the Seanad decide. In your own interest and as trustees of the rights, dignities and powers of this House, I implore you to see to it that you do not leave it in the position that any motion can be discussed and passed and that any Senator can move anything at his sweet will, even though on the face of it it is a palpable invasion of the Constitution or even of the Treaty itself. You would be stultifying yourselves, betraying your trust, and above all, may I respectfully say, in my opinion, you would be betraying your oath, because each of you has sworn that you will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution. You put yourself in the position that you must sit down and tamely listen to motions and discussions that are absolutely and plainly out of order. I now leave the matter in the hands of the Seanad.

It is rather difficult for me to rise after a practised judge and advocate, but it seems to me that there are certain fallacies at the root of his argument. I agree with him that we ought to discuss this matter in a perfectly friendly spirit and without any recrimination whatever. I suppose that everybody is agreed that the Chairman does not make rulings with any animus or personal feeling, and that he only did what he thought he had a right to do. The only question is whether he had that right, or whether he ought to have that right under Standing Orders. In making his statement he founded his claim on the Standing Order which states "The Chairman shall have complete authority to be the sole judge as to questions of order." That statement seems to be very definite when left to itself, but there is a second paragraph which goes on to explain that he will have power to suppress disorder and so on. Of course, there arises the question as to what order is and what it is not. There are a great many meanings for the word "order." It may mean boisterous, riotous conduct. It may mean procedure slightly contrary to Standing Orders. Order may also mean a matter of sequence. I do not think that the Standing Orders are very clear on that point.

I think it is possible and very probable that when it is said that the Chairman shall be the sole judge in matters of order it means the sole judge in the matter of suppressing disorder. The second paragraph, in my opinion, qualifies the first. I do not think that any Senator at the time—certainly I did not—when that was being drawn up, give any authority to the Chairman to decide any question he likes on matters affecting the Constitution. There are other orders in regard to that which are a little indefinite, but none, so far as I can see, gave him that authority which he claims and which apparently he has accepted. Passing away from that, the next question on which he based a great deal of his speech was the question of a resolution as against the question of an Act. What happened in that case? I think the best way would be to read the statement he made in that speech. He said that a resolution was not legislation, and, of course, he was perfectly right, as it is not legislation, but it did not claim to be legislation. All it claimed was that a resolution would guide the conduct of the Seanad at a certain time.

Let me point out that the Senator is quite wrong. The resolution gave a mandatory direction to the Committee on Standing Orders to pass a Standing Order that would prohibit the introduction of Private Bills on matrimony.

Quite right. It asked the Standing Orders Committee to draft a Standing Order to regulate procedure.

No, to prohibit.

To prohibit and to regulate is the same thing. It had a perfect right to do so. The Seanad has a perfect right to draw up regulations over a period dealing with certain matters. The Dáil has the same power. Here is an example which the Chairman gave at that time, and it makes the matter very clear. The Chairman said that he wondered what the House would think if a powerful Government, controlling a majority of both Houses, were to send to this House a Message asking it to agree to a resolution that in the case of a particular person accused of high treason he would not be entitled to a jury. The implication is that if such a resolution were passed the man would be tried without a jury, but no such thing would happen. A resolution would not be legislation, and therefore no such thing would happen. It merely binds the Oireachtas to act in a particular way. The courts would say that this is not legislation and the man would be tried by jury in spite of the resolution. Some statements are mere rhetorical arguments to influence the feelings and sentiments of Senators. We have listened to a good deal of rhetoric to-day from a very skilful advocate, and I do not know that we are capable of using the same rhetoric. It seems to me to be a perfectly plain resolution to guide the Seanad in a particular matter. I do not want to go too much into the question of divorce. I will pass from the question of resolution to that of the Constitution, which is a very important matter. The question is as to whether the Chairman has a right to decide whether a particular matter comes within the Constitution or not.

Article 50 of the Constitution states that the Constitution is not stabilised. On the contrary, it states the opposite, that it can be altered. That Article states: "Amendments to this Constitution within the terms of the Scheduled Treaty may be made by the Oireachtas," and so on. "No such amendment made after a period of eight years from the date of the coming into operation of the Constitution shall become law unless," &c. Any such amendment may be made within that period of eight years by way of ordinary legislation. It is not claimed to do that by resolution. Resolution has no power whatever over any law in the country. It regulates the procedure of the Oireachtas on a particular matter, and it has a perfect right to do so. When one of the coercion Acts was passed I raised the question as to whether it was constitutional or not. The Minister in charge said that it was within the Constitution, and that if it were not it would have no power, as the Constitution was the touchstone of every Act of the Oireachtas. It happened that a person was put into prison under that regulation, but the Court of Appeal decided that it had been done contrary to the Constitution. The judges said that it would be ridiculous to state that it would be anything but contrary to the Constitution. The court referred to the fact that it could not repeal the Constitution but that that particular law did amend it. This Constitution is a fluid matter. The only point on which the Constitution can be challenged is as to whether it is within the Treaty or not, and such constitutional point can be decided only by the High Court, and not by the Chairman. The Chairman's position seems to be to give advice to the Seanad. On many occasions he has advised the Seanad that matters were contrary to the Constitution.


That was only when Bills were before the House. I never did that on a motion.

As I have said, over and over again, the resolution merely binds the action of the Seanad. It does not have any legislative effect whatsoever. I am in entire agreement with the Cathaoirleach on that. It is very clear to us at least that no individual ought to have the power to give a ruling preventing the Seanad discussing a matter of this sort on the plea that it is contrary to the Constitution. I think it would put the Seanad in a very difficult position if it did so. Especially in regard to matters from the Dáil, if they could be rejected by the Chairman without discussion of any sort it would be a very great slight on the Dáil, and, in my opinion, it would not be advisable that it should be done in future. Whatever may have been done in the past was done, perhaps through a misunderstanding of Standing Orders, or perhaps the Standing Orders were not clear, but in future, in my opinion, that should not be done.

Perhaps it would make for clearness if Senator Brown would now move his amendment. It seems to be sufficiently closely allied to the motion to enable both to be discussed together. If Senator Brown moves his amendment now that will not in any way prevent Senators from discussing the amendment and the original motion.

As you have suggested it, I now move the amendment in my name as it appears on the Order Paper, with one small verbal amendment, to which I shall call attention later on. The amendment on the Order Paper is:—

"To delete all after the words ‘and that' in line 3 and to substitute therefor the words ‘a new Standing Order be inserted at number 31a of the Standing Orders as follows:—

"‘If in the opinion of the Cathaoirleach any matters before the Seanad arising on any Bill or motion involves a question of an infringement of the Constitution, the Cathaoirleach may, if he shall think fit, advise the Seanad thereon and the Seanad shall determine such question in the manner and subject to such conditions as shall be prescribed by Standing Orders.' "

I move this amendment because of the very grave results which, I am satisfied, will follow if Senator Bennett's resolution is carried in its present form. The position of the Seanad in this matter is quite clear. We can by resolution deprive the Chairman of the duty of ruling either a Bill or motion out of order on the grounds that it is an infringement of the Constitution. Our present Chairman has told us very frankly that he would be glad to be relieved of that responsibility. Now that is what we are asked to do by Senator Bennett. The question is, and it is a very serious one, is it wise for us to do it in the form in which we are asked to do it? As I have said, that is a question which, it seems to me, is of supreme importance to this House, and it is a question on which will very largely depend the future credit and the future utility of the Seanad as one of the Houses of the Oireachtas.

For that reason, I would very strongly urge Senators to consider this question absolutely, apart from the incident which has been the occasion of this motion being introduced to-day. Let us get rid of the incident, and the questions which have brought about the motion, and let us discuss this in view of its supreme importance to the future utility and credit of this House. I would like to explain as shortly and as clearly as I can why I impress upon you that this is a matter of supreme importance for this House. Under Article 2 of our Constitution, the authority of the Seanad as one of the Houses of the Legislature, must be exercised in accordance with the Constitution, and each one of us has taken an oath that we will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution. Therefore, the question as to whether a Bill or motion involves an infringement of the Constitution is a question of vital importance. It has arisen, as Lord Glenavy has reminded us, more than once. It is bound to rise in the future from time to time. When it does arise, as arise it will, what will be the position of this House if Senator Bennett's resolution is carried in its present form? I will refer for a moment to the composition of the Seanad. There are 60 of us, drawn from all walks of life. We are very largely busy with our own affairs, and most of us are untrained in the only training which would really fit us to deal with Constitutional questions. If we pass the resolution, in the form in which Senator Bennett has moved it, and a Bill or motion involving a question of the violation of the Constitution crops up, who, as Lord Glenavy has asked, is to call attention to it? How is this House, composed as it is, to proceed to determine it? The position of the Seanad will be absolutely hopeless if this resolution is passed in the form in which it is moved. It is for the purpose of avoiding this result that I have framed and moved this amendment. My suggestion as to how it may be avoided is this, and it carries out the suggestion which was made by Senator Lord Glenavy: When a question of this kind arises, I think the Chairman should be entitled—and I go farther and say it would be his duty— to advise the Seanad, and, having done so, the question should be referred automatically to a committee for consideration. If the committee report in accordance with the advice which the Chairman has given to the Seanad, then he should rule in accordance with that advice. If the committee report contrary to the Chairman's advice, then the discussion on the Bill or on the motion should proceed.

On a point of order, is that amendment on the Order Paper?

In a moment the Senator will see that this is involved in my amendment.

I take it that Senator Brown is explaining what he believes would be provided by the Standing Order if his amendment is carried.

This committee should be a very strong one; it should be a standing one—that is, it should be appointed annually and appointed for this purpose so that it will not be appointed on any occasion ad hoc. It should be a permanent committee. It should be very carefully chosen and should not contain more than five or six Senators. However, that would be for the Seanad. The advantages of adopting a suggestion of that kind are these: In the first place it would ensure the question of the infringement of the Constitution by any motion or Bill being raised, because it would be on the Chairman that the duty of the liberty to do so would rest. In the next place, it would give time for its consideration by the Seanad, because these questions are of very great difficulty and they could not be properly considered or properly determined by the Seanad on the spur of the moment. In addition it would give the Seanad the advantage of the considered opinions of the committee. All this procedure can be carried out by the Standing Order. The form my amendment takes is this: It would delete all words after “and that” in line 3 and substitute therefor the words “a new Standing Order to be inserted at Number 31a as follows,” so that the way that Senator Bennett's motion would then read would be as follows:—

That in future it shall not be the duty of the Cathaoirleach to rule whether Bills or motions before the Seanad are an infringement of the Constitution, and that a new Standing Order be inserted at No. 31a of the Standing Orders as follows:—"If in the opinion of the Cathaoirleach any matter before the Seanad arising on any Bill or motion involves a question of an infringement of the Constitution, the Cathaoirleach may, if he shall think fit, advise the Seanad thereon, and the Seanad shall determine such question in the manner and subject to such conditions as are prescribed by the Standing Orders."

The words "shall be" in the last line of my amendment are changed to "are."

In reading the amendment Senator Brown left out the words "a new Standing Order to be inserted at No. 31a of the Standing Orders as follows."

I am moving it in the form in which it is on the Order Paper, with the alteration of the words "shall be" to "are." The reason that I could not put that into the amendment is obvious. The amendment had to be put in a form which could not inform the Seanad what was the idea or the suggestion I had underlying it. I would, perhaps, suggest to the Seanad that that is the best idea. This suggestion was first made by Senator Lord Glenavy and now by myself, and it is a suggestion which ought to be very carefully considered. We ought not do anything in a hurry. I would suggest that if my amendment is seconded, it would be a wise thing for us to adjourn the further consideration of the motion and the amendment until we meet again next week. In the meantime we can think over it, because it is a suggestion which, if it is carried out, will be a Standing Order, and which will affect our procedure for the future. I therefore do suggest to the Seanad that it might be well, if my amendment is seconded, that we should adjourn to-day without further discussion and resume the discussion on next Wednesday.

I rise to second the amendment moved by Senator Brown. I confess I do it with no great enthusiasm but as the lesser of two evils. The effect of either makes the Seanad the ultimate judge of the Constitution, whether a matter coming before it is constitutional or not, and from the practical point of view that does not appear to me to be very desirable. This is an issue as to whether something constitutional or not is likely to be raised on matters about which feeling runs high.

Everyone is not fitted to give a judgment on a constitutional matter. It requires very much study, and it requires training to do it well. So that in a matter like this, even if everyone were in a very cool frame of mind, I think it would not be at all likely that such a system would work well. Also, in the matter of that kind individual responsibility is superior to corporate responsibility. I think I can say that this motion is not the result of a prolonged study of the Constitution and the constitutional aspect of this question, but it has arisen out of the strong passionate feelings engendered by the question of the consideration of divorce facilities. I agree with the mover in one thing only—the possible danger of leaving complete authority in deciding matters of a constitutional kind in the hands of some Chairman. It seems to me rather curious that the issue should be raised while the particular Chairman whose decision is under discussion holds the Chair. He is a distinguished lawyer, eminently suited to give a good judgment in a matter of this kind.

I would venture to guess that he has not lost professional pride to an extent which would enable him to be moved by any desire except to interpret the Constitution with meticulous accuracy. There are other reasons that deserve consideration. We are a new House and we have not any very long-standing traditions behind us. The proceedings have been remarkably free from party animus, and although, of course, it is true that we have the great advantage of having no organised parties, there is a great difference of opinion on many subjects, and our proceedings are always exceedingly orderly. I think, as far as has lain in the Chairman's power, the business has been conducted with great convenience, with the utmost decorum and with very little heat. We have had no scenes, and for that I think the Seanad is very largely indebted to the experience and ability of our Chairman. We are lucky that we have a Chairman with such qualifications. I am seconding this amendment because I suppose there is no hope of the substantive motion being withdrawn. I am very glad to second it because there is an immense difference between the two, and I think the motion has in it the great danger of reducing the House in a very short time to a by-word and a laughing stock.

Senator Bennett has raised a very serious question indeed. It has been attempted before in an indirect way, but this time he has raised it in a serious manner. I should like to say that it is very difficult after listening to Senator Bennett's speech to know what he really meant and what he is suggesting. He suggested nothing in place of the ruling of the Chairman. What he did say was that there was a High Court and we were to go there if, as citizens of the Free State, we were aggrieved because our Chairman ruled something out of order that a Senator proposed. Senator Bennett's resolution is divided into two parts. He says that it shall not be the duty of our Chairman to rule whether Bills or motions before the Seanad are infringements of the Constitution, and then, which is a quite separate thing, that the Standing Orders Committee be requested to propose such alterations in our Standing Orders as would give effect to this resolution. Lord Glenavy instanced many cases in which there would be tremendous confusion when his authority was done away with. It is no good my repeating them now. One thing is clear to my mind, and must be clear to the mind of the Seanad and the Chairman, and that is, you cannot legislate by resolution. That is what Senator Bennett's motion attempts to do.

Question: Give me a chance.

Well, that is what is attempted to be done by Senator Bennett's resolution, and I believe that he intends to go to a division on that. I should like to say something more with regard to what Senator Lord Glenavy has said, and I want to draw the attention of the Seanad to Article 21 of the Constitution, which reads: "Each House shall elect its own Chairman and Deputy Chairman, and shall prescribe their powers, duties, remuneration and terms of office." Senator Lord Glenavy clearly said that when he exercised his powers here, when we were rather in a state of flux here at the beginning of the foundation of the Irish Free State, that we accepted his ruling, and he made a great point of that. I remember it perfectly well, and you cannot go back upon that. No one can go back upon that. Now, what is this attempt of Senator Bennett's? It is an attempt to sweep away all that, and to substitute the judges of the High Court, if any citizen of the Irish Free State felt he or she had a grievance. Senator Sir Thomas Esmonde, with whom I perfectly agreed as to what he said in one respect, said that the Seanad and the Dáil were the supreme authority subject to the Constitution and the law. Why, this resolution wants to alter the Constitution. I see he shakes his head, but there has been no answer whatever to Senator Lord Glenavy's speech. I should like to hear a Senator get up to answer him. I expect he would have to be a better constitutional lawyer. The amendment leaves us where we were. I agree with Senator Bagwell, who said he would like it to be a little stronger. I hope the division will be taken on the original resolution. I do not know what is behind all this. People interested in this divorce business seem to be tapping on the shoulder those who wish to vote for Senator Bennett's resolution. What does it all mean? Does it mean that they wish to have a Chairman who is more ductile and pliable to their wishes than the present one? Do they want a man who will not uphold the dignity of the Seanad? Do they want a man who will not uphold the Constitution, or who will even allow judges' decisions and the findings of juries to be discussed here? That would mean an end to all order in the country. We want order in the country. I have said that over and over again. Do not let us begin quarrelling when we are just settling down, just after we have been considering a Treason Bill which is absolutely necessary in present conditions. I hope I have not offended the feelings of any Senators. I look upon our Chairman as a man who knows what work is and who has stuck to his work. I have known him for many years, and he stuck to his work in good and bad times. I shall vote against the resolution and against any other resolution put forward that interferes in any way with the rights of the Seanad and tries to legislate by resolution.

I think we will have a better chance of arriving at an intelligent and statesmanlike decision on this question if we try to avoid personalities. This is not a personal or party question. At the same time, it is an exceedingly important question, because it is one with which we shall almost inevitably be faced right through the future. For that reason I am very loth to cast my vote either for or against any motion that would tend to bind us or our successors, without giving it very careful and considered thought. A misunderstanding has got abroad that this is a sort of battle between those who were in favour of giving divorce facilities and those who were not. I think a certain section of the Press is responsible for that misapprehension. The ruling of the Cathaoirleach had nothing whatever to say to the merits or otherwise of the subject of the motion before the Seanad, and I hope everybody both inside and outside this House will get it out of their heads that the principle of divorce or otherwise is at all involved.

As to how this question of the alleged infringement of the Constitution should be dealt with, we are agreed that whoever the deciding authority is, it is not the desire of the Seanad to be constantly or at all infringing the Constitution. The Chairman for the time being may be an exceedingly good constitutional authority, or he may be quite the reverse. The Seanad as a whole may be better or may be even worse. Consequently, we have to consider who should be the deciding authority that is to prevent us from passing either Bills or motions that may afterwards be possible of being challenged in the courts. Personally, I am absolutely in favour of everything being ruled out that can be challenged in the courts, if it is alleged to be an infringement of the Constitution. On that particular ground, I unhesitatingly approved the ruling of the Cathaoirleach on that occasion. While I had my own opinion with regard to divorce facilities, I did, and do, object to the method of approach suggested, because I believe the decision, while it was tantamount to legislation as far as matrimonial affairs were concerned, did not admit of its being afterwards challenged in the High Courts.

For many reasons I find it very difficult to make up my mind, and I think we might argue for several hours and still fail to convince each other or, above all, fail to arrive at a proper and statesmanlike solution of the question that would be a proper guide in the future. Consequently, with the leave of the Seanad, I would move a motion which is a compromise between the resolution and the amendment, but still does not prejudice the views expressed in either. It is to this effect:—

That the Seanad requests the Standing Orders Committee to consider additions to or amendments of the Standing Orders calculated to deal with questions arising as to whether any Bill or motion before the Seanad constitutes an infringement of the Constitution and to submit its proposals to the House.

In other words, that asks the Standing Orders Committee to consider in all its bearings the best method of dealing with a position such as we were faced with on the occasion under discussion. It will require very careful and long consideration. It may be necessary to take legal advice in the matter, but certainly we are more likely to get a scientific and statesmanlike consideration of it in a committee than in the House as a whole. The findings of the committee can be submitted to the House, and every Senator will have an opportunity of considering them when they are put down in a proper form in black and white, and of either rejecting them, approving them, or amending them. We are more likely in that way to arrive at a decision that will be acceptable to all people of good sense, and to people of patriotism for that matter, and that will be workable in future. I earnestly commend that immediate solution of the question to the Seanad. I would ask them not to commit themselves and not to come to a decision without consideration which will bind the Seanad in future and may affect our successors to a very considerable extent in a matter of first import— ance.

I allowed Senator O'Farrell to read his proposed amendment, but it is clear that it is not in order to put it until the other one is disposed of. I think it is the wish of the Seanad that the principle of it should be discussed in connection with the other amendment, and if it meets with general approval there will be no difficulty in disposing of one amendment and putting this as a substantive resolution. It was obviously wise to allow Senator O'Farrell to read his amendment, but I do not propose to accept it definitely as such.

Perhaps the Seanad would adopt my suggestion and not come to a decision this evening. Senators would then have between this and the next meeting to think the matter over. That would get rid of the difficulty. I would be quite willing to refer the matter to the Standing Orders Committee or to a special committee, but I would suggest that the House should now adjourn.

I would be prepared to accept the amendment of Senator O'Farrell. I am quite prepared to enlighten Senator the Earl of Mayo by answering the criticisms of the Cathaoirleach.

When this is disposed of I will give the Senator an opportunity to reply. I take it that Senator Bennett and Senator Brown would be willing to accept the suggestion of Senator O'Farrell, to ask the Standing Orders Committee to consider the whole question.


Had I been a free member of the House and not confined by my obligations in the Chair, I should say that the suggestion made by Senator O'Farrell is the one I would make, as I think this is a matter that requires very, very careful thought. Anything we do now we ought to be able to stand over. I think it would be very desirable that this Committee should have an opportunity of going into it very carefully, and that the House should have an opportunity of deciding on their recommendations.

I take it that Senator Brown's amendment and Senator Bennett's resolution are, by leave, withdrawn.


If Senator O'Farrell were willing, would it not be desirable that the question as to decisions upon matters affecting the interpretation of the Constitution be referred to the Committee on Standing Orders? Is not that what the Senator wants to do?

That is so.

I must say that I do not see any object in doing that. The question has been considered for weeks and weeks, and opinions have been expressed privately and publicly. I do not think anything will be gained by referring it to a committee.

The position, as I understand it, is that with general acceptance two motions have been, by leave, withdrawn and that Senator O'Farrell is moving a motion which, when seconded, will be in order.

I second it.

I suggest that Senator Bennett's name be added to the Standing Orders Committee.

I cordially support Senator O'Farrell's motion. I think it is a satisfactory way out of the difficulty in which we find ourselves, and that the Seanad will be quite safe in agreeing to it.

I propose that Senator Brown's name be substituted for that of Senator Jameson's on the Standing Orders Committee.

I do not think it would be wise to begin tinkering with the Standing Orders Committee now. That Committee was chosen carefully, and if you interfere with it by bringing in parties who have been prominent in this matter it will lose its value.

I entirely agree with Senator Sir John Keane.

I think it is the general feeling that the names of Senators Brown and Bennett should be added to the Standing Orders Committee.

If that were the feeling of the Seanad it would be necessary to refer the matter to a special committee, consisting of the Standing Orders Committee and those two Senators.

I propose it in that form.

I agree. If there is any particular desire to put on any Senator I would have no objection. In this case the two names might be added if it is thought desirable.

Motion: "That the question as to the decision upon matters affecting the interpretation of the Constitution be referred to a Committee, consisting of the members of the Standing Orders Committee, with the addition of Senators Bennett and Brown," put and agreed to.