It was suggested, I think, that the Second Stage of this Bill need not necessarily be taken until the Seanad reassembles. If we were to open a discussion on this Bill now it is presumed that the debate would be prolonged and the question of leave and vacation for the staff would then arise in a very urgent way.
Land Bill, 1933—Second Stage.
When this Bill was mentioned previously I suggested that the House should decide what it would do when it was reached.
I move that the Second Reading be taken at 12 o'clock to-morrow.
I think it would be very short-sighted to do so. This is a measure of major importance with very far-reaching implications. I am afraid we will not have a very big attendance to-morrow as the Seanad is not inclined to debate such a big question on a Friday. It might be better if the Bill was dealt with next week. There is a very important reason why the Seanad should consider taking this Bill before the adjournment. If I am wrong I would like to be corrected by the Minister or by someone in authority, but if we adjourn this Bill, which has been sent here from the Dáil, and if by any chance there was an appeal to the country at a general election in the meantime, would it not follow, when the Oireachtas reassembles, that it would be within the competence of the Executive Council to say that the Bill automatically became law after a certain period? If that is so, I think it is absolutely essential that we should proceed to discuss the Bill in all its stages before the adjournment. If it is not so, then we know where we stand.
I find myself in a difficulty with regard to this question. The Minister has not given us any reason why the Bill should not be proceeded with, except the difficulty with regard to the staff, a reason which I think every member of the House appreciates. I think I am correct in saying that the adjournment of the Seanad, and the arrangement made now, almost necessitates a statement by the Government with regard to this Bill. The other business could have been got through comparatively quickly. I know that at the conference which I attended, a number of Senators said when a suggestion for an adjournment was made that the difficulty was not due to the time that would be taken over the Land Bill but that it could not be reached, I understood, until August 16th. The Seanad then decided that it would have to meet until the end of August, in order to facilitate the wishes of the Government.
Now if the Government are in a position to tell us with regard to the statement made by Deputy Aiken in the Dáil, acting as Minister for Lands and Fisheries, that he believed that "the speedy enactment of this Bill was a matter of national importance" and his argument to that effect, that they are now satisfied that circumstances have arisen in which the speedy enactment of this Bill is not a matter of national importance, then the position is somewhat different. We have to bear in mind whether we like it or not that there is a very considerable difference between the majority of the members of this House and the present Executive Council with regard to the usefulness of the functions of this House and I for my part am extremely unwilling that the Seanad should adjourn without having considered this Bill. While I do not say that the Minister would do it, I do suggest that the members of his Party would have no hesitation at all in stating down the country, if we were to do that: "Here is a Bill of national importance and the Seanad met and refused to consider it at all." My reasons are not that I am very much worried by the point made by Senator Milroy. I think his point is a good one and one that is perfectly sound but I am not so pessimistic as he is as to what would happen if there was a general election.
I am certainly not inclined to worry unduly as to what the exact effect of a general election would be. I think if there was an election and the result worked out as the Senator thinks it would, the outcome would be considerably more disastrous to the country than the passing of this Bill over the heads of this House. For that reason, I am not quite so much worried on that point as is the Senator. But I am concerned about the fact that an effort should be made to see whether it is not possible to take this Bill on its Second Stage to-morrow and take the Committee Stage at length next week. We must meet next week; no matter what we do, we cannot prevent the staff being here next week. At the end of the week we could see whether it was wise to postpone it or whether it was better to finish it by simply taking the Report Stage at an early date. I do agree that this House, apart from its own desire to get away, should take into consideration the length of time the staff has been here. Every member of the House would be prepared to consider that point. Unless the Minister is able to give us a very definite statement that the urgent passing of this Bill has ceased to be the matter of national importance as it was when the Minister made a statement, then I think the House should be careful before it falls into the trap that would be used against it—that we came back here and refused to consider this Bill. That is my point.
I agree with every word that has fallen from Senator Douglas. I was one of those who made the arrangement and agreed that the Seanad should adjourn for the purpose of taking this Land Bill because it was urged upon us as a matter of extreme importance to be got through. We have come back to do it and I think it is our duty to get on with this Bill. It is the duty of this House to do so. I am very sorry that the staff should be kept on but it cannot be helped.
I do not want it for a moment to be understood that the Government is in any way anxious to hold up this Bill. If the Seanad is fretting and anxious to get on with this work we welcome it, but I understood that there was an understanding between the Ceann Comhairle and yourself, a Chathaoirligh, on this matter, the Ceann Comhairle being responsible for the business of the Dáil and you for the business of the Seanad. I understood that you desired that some consideration should be given to the matter of the staff. I am not a party to that understanding nor is the Government, and if it is felt that the Seanad are anxious to take this Bill to-morrow, well then, we are prepared to go ahead with it. I do resent any suggestion that the Government is anxious to deter the Seanad in any way from dealing with the matter. I have mentioned the position and I felt bound to do so because of the understanding that had been brought to my notice in the discussion as to the business which must be disposed of. It was suggested by the Ceann Comhairle that some of these measures might be allowed to stand over in order to facilitate him in dealing with the staff. Neither the Government nor I nor any other Party wanted to influence the Seanad in dealing with the matter. If the House desires it and it is willing to deal with this Bill in all its stages we are only too glad to avail of the opportunity right away.
I was not aware of any understanding. It was a matter I had no knowledge of.
I should like, with regard to the agreement to which the Minister alluded, to say one word. I did talk the matter over with the Ceann Comhairle. He spoke about the Land Bill and he said that he thought—I have not got a memorandum of the words but I am giving what he said as nearly as I can—it would be possible to get the Government not to insist on the Land Bill going through. I said if that were the case I should go to the House and ask them what they wanted done. That is how it stood between the Ceann Comhairle and myself. I must say that the Ceann Comhairle said that he had no authority from the Ministers. That is perfectly correct. The matter remained like that until, I think, yesterday morning. The Minister was good enough to come to me to consider the course of business and we discussed the whole agenda. He told me definitely that the Government were prepared not to go on with the Land Bill. I said that my position was that I would place the matter before the Senators and leave them to decide. I mentioned the matter yesterday and am telling it again to the House. The position has been very well put by Senator Douglas. It is for the House to decide. To try to suggest that any definite arrangement was made either with the Ceann Comhairle or with the Minister to prevent you from dealing with it or to take away your absolute discretion with regard to the treatment of the Bill would not be correct. You have heard the position now and it is for you to decide.
I would like to make it clear that I did not suggest there was any definite understanding to prevent the Seanad from going on with the Bill. But I do say that the Government was asked to consider the position of the Oireachtas staff, and to meet the point of view that was put forward they indicated that they were prepared to take a certain course. If the Seanad feels that that course should not be taken, then the Government would be glad to have the expression of opinion from the Seanad that the Bill be proceeded with. The question of whatever leave is to be given to the staff is not a matter for our consideration.
I think I might say as regards the staff, that I wrote to the Executive Council mentioning that it would be well we should know our programme in order that we should facilitate the early closing of the session for the purpose of giving the staff their vacation. That was long before the desire to get the staff away in a hurry entered into the mind of the Ceann Comhairle. I got no reply to my very earnest personal request to be informed as to what the programme was likely to be. You have the whole matter now, and it is for you to say when we shall take the Bill, whether now, to-morrow or Tuesday.
I have already made a proposal that we adjourn the consideration of the Land Bill until 12 o'clock to-morrow.
We do not, I am sure, want to be here any longer than we need be, and I suggest that we should begin the discussion of this Bill, which is sure to take some time, as early as possible. I move that we meet at 10.30 a.m. We have often met at 11 a.m. before. There are other matters on the Paper which can be disposed of in a very short time.
Why not consider the business as it will be arranged on the Order Paper to-morrow? We probably could reach the Land Bill about 12 o'clock to-morrow. Is there any special advantage in discussing it at 10.30 a.m. instead of at 12 o'clock?
Perhaps it would be more advisable, first of all, to fix the hour at which we will meet to-morrow. We could then take the Land Bill in its proper place on the Order Paper. I move that we meet to-morrow at 11 o'clock.
The business will be taken as arranged on the Order Paper, and when we reach the Land Bill we will take the Second Stage.
The Seanad adjourned at 9.22 p.m. until 11 a.m. on Friday, 18th August.