Constitution (Amendment No. 12) Bill, 1928—Third Stage.

The Seanad went into Committee.
SECTION 1.
Article 35 of the Constitution shall be and is hereby amended by the deletion of the third paragraph now contained therein, that is to say, the paragraph beginning with the words "The Chairman of Dáil Eireann" and ending with the words "final and conclusive" and the insertion in lieu of the paragraph so deleted of the following paragraphs, that is to say:—
"The Chairman of Dáil Eireann shall certify any Bill which in his opinion is a Money Bill to be a Money Bill and such certificate shall be final and conclusive unless the question whether the Bill is or is not a Money Bill is referred to a Committee of Privileges under the subsequent provisions of this Article.
If before whichever of the following events shall first occur, that is to say, the expiration of seven days from the day on which a Bill is certified by the Chairman of Dáil Eireann to be a Money Bill or the return of such Bill by Seanad Eireann to Dáil Eireann under Article 38 of this Constitution—
(a) two-fifths of the members of either House by notice in writing addressed to the Chairman of the House of which they are members so require, or
(b) a majority of the members of Seanad Eireann present and voting at a sitting of Seanad Eireann at which not less than thirty members are present so resolve,
the question whether the Bill is or is not a Money Bill shall be referred to a Committee of Privileges consisting of three members elected by Dáil Eireann, three members elected by Seanad Eireann, and a Chairman who shall be the senior judge of the Supreme Court able and willing to act and who in the case of an equality of votes, but not otherwise shall be entitled to vote.
Every such Committee of Privileges shall decide the question so referred to it and report its decision thereon to Dáil Eireann and Seanad Eireann within twenty-one days after the day on which the Bill the subject of such question was sent to Seanad Eireann and, upon such Committee so deciding and reporting, the decision of such Committee shall be final and conclusive, but, if such Committee fails so to decide and report within such twenty-one days, the certificate of the Chairman of Dáil Eireann that such Bill is a Money Bill shall at the expiration of the said twenty-one days become and be final and conclusive."

I move amendment 1:—

To delete in line 30 the word "is," and before the word "or," in line 31, to insert the words "is received by Seanad Eireann."

It seems to me that, as the Bill reads at present, the seven-day period is fixed from the time when the Ceann Comhairle of the Dáil makes his decision. I suggest that if the section is altered in the way that I am seeking in this amendment it will mean that the seven-day period will operate from the time when the Seanad receives the intimation from the Ceann Comhairle. It might so happen that the Seanad would not be meeting for seven days, or that there would be no opportunity for calling the Seanad together. The result of that, it seems to me, would be that the seven-day period would have elapsed, and that therefore the Ceann Comhairle of the Dáil could then take action without the Seanad having had an opportunity of discussing the matter.

I think that this is a good amendment. It does not alter the 21 days during which we must act, and at the end of which the axe goes down anyway. The amendment, if agreed to, will give the Seanad the little additional time that may be necessary in certain circumstances, and therefore it is one, I think, that we ought to adopt.

I think that this amendment provides an admirable arrangement, and I agree with Senator Brown that it is one which the House ought to adopt.

I think that the principle of the amendment is right, but I am not quite sure of the exact effect of the words "is received by Seanad Eireann." I think, in view of the fact that the final 21 days can hardly operate as 21 days from the day in which the Seanad next met—because that might work against ourselves—and in view of the fact that the Committee has not met and reported within 21 days there will be no action. I think that the period should be seven days, but not from the time the certificate has come from the Ceann Comhairle, but seven days from the time the Bill has been received by the Seanad. By that I mean received by the Officer of the Seanad.

With regard to this amendment very short notice has been given to me for consideration of it. It will be observed that paragraphs (a) and (b) read:—

(a) two-fifths of the members of either House by notice in writing addressed to the Chairman of the House of which they are members so require, or

(b) a majority of the members of Seanad Eireann present and voting at a sitting of Seanad Eireann at which not less than thirty members are present so resolve.

That is the only part of the section which, I take it, Senator Connolly is interested in. In so far as two-fifths of the members of the Seanad are concerned, their right is still preserved, and I take it that it is only in respect to the second paragraph that his amendment would be material.

The time from which the seven days are to run. It does not affect the 21 days at all.

As I have said, the time that has been given to me for the consideration of this amendment has been very short. Under the Constitution, as it stands, an objection to a Bill being certified as a Money Bill must be lodged within three days. The recommendation of the Joint Committee was that that should be spread out to seven days. What this proposal amounts to is that there should be a still further extension of the period.

Not necessarily.

Unless the Seanad were to meet within the seven days. If the Seanad were not to meet within seven days, the period would be extended.

Not if you add after the words in Senator Connolly's amendment "as received by the Clerk of Seanad Eireann." If these words are added it will make the point perfectly definite.

Might I point out that both provisions are affected by this? What is desired is that the Clerk of the Seanad should receive the Bill, and should be in a position to notify Senators by post that such a Bill has been received by him and has been certified as a Money Bill. The point is that the seven days should elapse from the time that the Clerk of the Seanad receives the Bill. If that is done it will mean that from the point of view of Senators they will have about five days in which to take action.

I would like to point out again that it does not extend at all to the 21 days.

Cathaoirleach

Would Senator Connolly agree to leave the consideration of his amendment over for the Report Stage?

Yes. I am not vitally concerned about it, but so far as I know there is no means at present of communicating the decision of the Ceann Comhairle to the Seanad. That is what I want to make provision for, because the seven days might have elapsed without any opportunity being given to the Seanad to discuss the matter.

I suggest that while leaving the amendment over for the Report Stage we might discuss the object of it now. Otherwise it will mean a waste of time discussing it on another day.

Cathaoirleach

The President has had very short notice of the amendment, and as Senator Connolly has agreed to have it postponed for the Report Stage perhaps the House would agree to that.

Of course, if the President thinks that he should have another opportunity for thinking the matter over, that is another question.

Ordered: That the amendment be postponed and considered further on Report.

I move amendment 2:—

Section 1. After the word "vote," in line 47, to insert the words:—

"If on the expiration of seven days from the day on which the question whether the Bill is a Money Bill is referred to such Committee of Privileges either House of the Oireachtas shall fail to elect three members to act on such Committee, the three members elected by the other House of the Oireachtas and the senior judge of the Supreme Court who is able and willing to act as Chairman shall constitute and act as the Committee of Privileges for the purpose of this section. If any member of such Committee constituted as aforesaid ceases to be a member, or for any reason becomes incapable of acting as a member thereof, the remaining members of such Committee and such senior judge of the Supreme Court shall constitute and act as the Committee of Privileges for the purpose of this section."

This amendment is much on the lines outlined by me on the Second Reading of the Bill. It is, to my mind, a necessary result of the amendment inserted in the Dáil to the original Bill. The amendment inserted in the Dáil provided that if the Committee had not reported within 21 days, then the decision of the Ceann Comhairle shall be definite and unquestionable. That safeguards the Dáil against certain Senators having sufficient influence on the Committee to prevent the Committee reporting, and thereby preventing it getting its way in the event of a dispute. It is by no means certain that the decision of the Ceann Comhairle would be one with which the Dáil would agree. In fact it might be the other way round. The demand might equally come from the Dáil.

I have put in the period of seven days in my amendment. I would not object to the insertion of the ten days mentioned in Senator Johnson's amendment if that is thought desirable, but it seems to me important that there should be a provision in the event of either House ignoring the demand—not meeting for instance or in not appointing three members whether deliberately or by inadvertence—and that the balance of the Committee should be able to meet and act. Otherwise it would be in the power of either House, if they thought fit, simply by not appointing members to make the whole thing null and void and of no effect. I have had the assistance of Senator Brown in the drafting of this amendment. It has been drafted very carefully. This, however, may not be the best form in which to put it finally, but as regards the principle of it I think the House ought to agree to it in its own interest.

I would not have joined in preparing the draft of this amendment if I did not really feel that the Bill as it stands might break down in the working out of it. The question as to whether a Bill is a Money Bill or not is one that would only arise when there was some really serious question between the two Houses. It is, therefore, of the utmost importance that this Bill should provide for an effective committee to deal with every situation that does arise. There are two ways in which it may happen that under the Bill as it stands there would not be an effective committee. One would be that if for any reason either House failed to elect the three members. The other way, and this is one that did not occur either to Senator Douglas or myself when the Bill was having a Second Reading, in which the committee may cease to be an effective committee and may cease to be able to operate is by the failure of some of its members to act.

Some one of the three members selected by either House may unfortunately die in the interval, or a member might get so seriously ill that he could not act. In cases of that kind it is a very doubtful question if you can have an effective committee under the Bill as it stands. There is supposed to be a common law more or less laying down what happens when a committee meets, as to whether it can go on or not when there is not a majority of the members present who are nominated to act. There is a vague common law of that kind, but it is not settled. It might happen if some crisis arose between the two Houses that the committee would break down, simply because one of the members was not able to act. Under those circumstances I thought that for the protection of both Houses this was a matter that ought to be definitely put into the present Bill. That is why I helped in the drafting of this amendment, and why I support it.

Perhaps I should speak to this amendment as well as to my own, because I think the one is bound up with the other. My amendment reads:—

Section 1. After line 47 to insert a new paragraph as follows:—

"The appointment of the Committee of Privileges referred to in the preceding paragraph shall be completed within ten days of the issue of the certificate by the Chairman of Dáil Eireann. In the event of either House failing to elect its quota of members to act on the Committee or the non-appointment or absence of a Chairman the remaining members shall act as the duly constituted Committee."

The first difference between the amendment moved by Senator Douglas and my amendment is on the question of the number of days. The ten days seem to me preferable, because of the possibility of seven or six days having elapsed before a certain thing was done. If the suggestion contained in Senator Connolly's amendment is inserted in the Bill, then there is not very much point in the ten days as against the seven. The second point on which my amendment differs from the amendment moved by Senator Douglas is, that it provides for the possible absence of the Chairman, whereas Senator Douglas's amendment does not take note of that as a possibility. It is a possibility, and in a constitutional provision of this kind, I think it should be provided against, because the end of the section declares that if the committee does not decide and report within 21 days, then the Money Bill becomes law, notwithstanding any other view that the Seanad may take as to the meaning of the Bill.

One cannot but remember in this connection the rather vivid example in connection with the Boundary Commission. When it was provided that that Commission should be set up consisting of a representative of Northern Ireland with others, the Northern Ireland representative was not appointed, and therefore the Commission could not act. If for any reason, a majority in the Dáil decided to take no notice of a requisition from two-fifths of the members, the Committee could not act. If the majority of the Seanad did not appoint its three members the Committee could not act, and if for any other reason a Chairman was not appointed, or, having been appointed, did not make himself available, the Committee could not act, and the Bill would automatically become law. I think that the proposal in these two amendments is to fill a gap which is clearly evident in the Bill as drafted. Except for the point about the chairmanship, I am quite prepared to support the amendment moved by Senator Douglas, but I think that some provision ought to be made for meeting the possibility of the absence of the Chairman.

I desire to support the amendment. I think that the President might safely agree to it, as Senator Brown has advised that it should be incorporated in the Bill, and the Senator is certainly not a fire-brand. The arrangement which the amendment suggests seems to me to be obviously a logical one. If a member of the Committee, which is supposed to be set up, becomes incapable of acting, then this amendment, if agreed to, will enable the remaining members on the Committee to act. If the Committee is to serve the useful purpose intended, I think this is a very necessary arrangement to make. The President may want time to consider it, and may express his views on it at a later stage of the Bill, but if the Act is to work in the sense in which it is drawn, this seems to me to be a very obvious amendment.

I do not know whether all the present members of the House were Senators at the time when the Joint Committee considered these various amendments to the Constitution. If not I would ask them to read up what transpired at the proceedings of the Joint Committee, and in addition to examine the Constitution in the light of this particular Article. On the passing of this Bill a question will arise as to whether a particular measure is or is not a Money Bill. That will fall, in the first instance, for the decision of the Ceann Comhairle. As far as the Seanad is concerned, it is limited by the Constitution in its treatment of a Money Bill to the making of recommendations. That limitation does not occur as regards an ordinary measure, but in setting out in the Constitution what should be regarded as a Money Bill it is fairly clearly laid down. It is obvious that the Ceann Comhairle would have to confine himself strictly to the terms of the Constitution in making out his certificate. In the event of a dispute arising as whether that certificate was properly made out and as to whether a particular Bill was or was not a Money Bill, we are making certain provisions for dealing with a situation such as that. My principal objection to this amendment is as to the wording of the first portion of it. It suggests a possible contingency which, I think, one would be rather inclined not to contemplate, that is that one of the two Houses of the Oireachtas, having in mind its obligations to the State and its sense of dignity, would fail to nominate members to a body to consider the question.

Well, even in time. If we are to have that in mind and are to make provision for such a contingency let us adopt every possible means to make as respectable provision for it as is possible in the circumstances. If this amendment is left over for the Report Stage, I will endeavour to meet Senator Brown with something which will not strike one so violently in the eye as this amendment, and that possibly will meet the point that he has in view.

I was going to suggest that the President would agree to the principle contained in the amendment and that some alteration of the wording of the amendment would be necessary. The drafting of the amendment was extremely difficult. Indeed I might say that I never had a more difficult job in the matter of drafting than in drafting this particular amendment. If the amendment is left over for Report the President will have an opportunity of consulting with the Parliamentary draftsman.

In that connection might I read to the Senator the following suggestion:—

"The question whether the Bill is or is not a Money Bill shall forthwith be referred to a Committee of Privileges consisting of such number (not exceeding three) of members (if any) as shall be elected by Dáil Eireann within seven days after such reference such number (not exceeding three) of members (if any) as shall be elected by Seanad Eireann within such seven days, and a chairman who shall be the senior judge of the Supreme Court able and willing to act and who in the case of an equality of votes, but not otherwise, shall be entitled to vote."

I think that would be quite satisfactory. The only thing I would like to point out is that in the suggested amendment which the President has read out he has got an imputation against either House in brackets.

I think that before we adjourn the consideration of this amendment to the next stage we should have a discussion with a view to eliciting the views of the House on the two points raised in Senator Johnson's amendment.

Cathaoirleach

I would like to know if Senator Johnson desires to go on with his amendment, or would he prefer to have it left over for the Report Stage with Senator Douglas's amendment.

I was prepared to withdraw my amendment in favour of Senator Douglas's.

The question with regard to the appointment of the Chairman can I think be got over in the drafting.

I was going to suggest that an effort should be made to meet the point made in Senator Johnson's amendment with regard to the Chairman. I do not think it has been pointed out before that there is the danger of his becoming ill and that the Committee would not then be able to act. With regard to the question of seven or ten days raised in the amendments in the names of Senator Johnson and myself, I would like to say in regard to that that I think the period should be seven days. It is quite probable seven days would elapse before the Seanad gets the resolution. If that period were made ten days it would mean a total of seventeen days out of the full period of 21 days, and that in my opinion would be far too long.

Amendments adjourned for consideration on Report Stage.

Sections 1 and 2 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill ordered to be reported without amendment.
The Seanad went out of Committee.
Bill reported without amendment.