The House will probably remember that this amendment was the second part of a long amendment proposed jointly by Senator Brown and myself. The Government proposed an alternative amendment, which was accepted by the House, but which, in our opinion, did not go far enough. It was agreed to adjourn the Report Stage of the Bill in order that the matter might be further considered. I have received a communication from the President, and if the House allows me I would like to withdraw amendment No. 1 in the name of Senator Brown and myself, and to move instead the Government amendment which appears as amendment No. 2.
Constitution (Amendment No. 12) Bill, 1928—Report Stage (Resumed).
Is the House agreed to grant that permission to Senator Douglas?
I move amendment No. 2:
Section 1. To add at the end of the section but within the quotation marks the following:—
"A Committee of Privileges constituted under this Article may act notwithstanding one or more vacancies amongst its members other than the Chairman. In the event of the Chairman of any such Committee dying or becoming incapable of acting as such Chairman, the senior of the other Judges of the Supreme Court able and willing to act shall fortwith become and be the Chairman of such Committee in the place of the Chairman so dying or becoming incapable. The Chairman and one-half of the other members of any such Committee shall constitute a quorum."
Perhaps I should explain briefly to the House the reason for this amendment and the difference between it and the amendment originally drafted by Senator Brown and myself. The reason is this, that we were advised that, as the Constitution would be after being amended by this Amendment No. 12 Bill, the death, or absence through illness, of a member might conceivably prevent the Committee acting. The President doubted if that was the case, and suggested that the House which had appointed a member who had died or who was unable to attend through illness could substitute a person for him. We pointed out that time would prevent that. Only 21 days altogether are available and if the Seanad, for the sake of argument, challenged the decision of the Ceann Comhairle that a Bill was a Money Bill, probably 10 days or even longer would have clapsed before the Committee could be appointed, and before there could be a meeting of either House to appoint a substitute. Therefore, it would mean in effect that the challenge would fail through want of time. The amendment which we drafted was designed to meet that. We did not deal specifically with the position of the Chairman, but under the amendment proposed originally had the Chairman died the Committee could act without a Chairman. That, the President felt, was undesirable. The Government amendment which I now beg to move meets entirely the point proposed by Senator Brown and myself. It also meets the point that the Committee may act notwithstanding the absence of any of its members except the Chairman. It provides that if the Chairman is unable to act that the next senior Judge of the High Court shall take his place. That, I think, meets the case as far as it is possible to meet a case that probably will not happen very often, if ever. I think it is an amendment that ought to be passed by the House.