Defence Bill, 1951—Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The purpose of the Bill is to provide permanent legislation in relation to the defence of the State and the Defence Forces. As Senators are aware, the existing statutory provisions governing these matters are contained in the various Defence Forces (Temporary Provisions) Acts, 1923 to 1954. While it may be said that these Acts operated successfully, it was very difficult from the administrative standpoint to have to deal with a large number of Acts containing many provisions of an amending nature. These Acts include also many provisions requiring amendments to bring them into line with modern conceptions and practice.

An effort has been made in the present Bill to retain all the provisions of the existing Acts, amended and modified where necessary, that are considered suitable, in the light of experience, for a permanent measure such as this. The Bill also includes a number of new provisions designed to improve the position of members of the Defence Forces and to provide much-needed additional powers for defence purposes. Some of the provisions enacted during the last emergency, for example, those relating to the precedence of military traffic on transport undertakings during an emergency, are considered to be more suitable for inclusion in any future emergency legislation that may be necessary, and are, accordingly, omitted from the Bill.

The Bill is divided into 12 parts and there are ten schedules. The more important provisions of Part I relate to the date on which the Act will come into operation; to the declaration of a state of emergency and to active service. Many new regulations, changes in existing regulations and other administrative arrangements consequent on the provisions of the Act will require to be completed before it can be brought into operation. The operative date must, accordingly, be left to be fixed by the Minister for Defence when these matters have been dealt with.

Power is taken in Section 4 for the declaration by the Government of a state of emergency and for the revocation of any such declaration. The state of emergency referred to in this section is in relation to defence purposes only and should not be confused with a national state of emergency under the Constitution. All that it gives power to do, apart from a few minor matters, is to declare the Defence Forces to be on active service under Section 5; to billet members of the Defence Forces in private houses or elsewhere under Section 37; to enlist men under Section 54 for the duration of the emergency, and to call out the Reserve on permanent service under Section 87. The section is similar to Section 4 of the Defence Forces (Temporary Provisions) (No. 2) Act, 1940. The circumstances in which the Defence Forces will be on active service are set out in Section 5. A similar provision is contained in existing legislation.

The provisions relating to the Council of Defence, the Chief of Staff, the Adjutant-General, the Quartermaster-General and the Judge Advocate-General are contained in Part II. The existing provisions governing the Council of Defence are contained in the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924. Under that Act the Minister is a member and chairman of the council. The purpose of the council under Section 11 of the Bill is to aid and counsel the Minister on all matters in relation to the business of the Department of Defence on which the Minister may consult the council. It would be anomalous that the Minister should be a member of a body advising himself as Minister. Accordingly, he will not be a member of the council provided for in the Bill.

Hitherto the maximum continuous period of office of the Chief of Staff, the Adjutant-General and the Quarter-master-General has been three years. Experience has shown such a period to be too short and provision is now being made in Section 12 for a five-year period of office. The qualifications for the post of Judge Advocate-General are set out in Section 15. A person filling that appointment must now be a practising barrister-at-law of at least ten years' standing.

Part III provides the power for the raising, maintenance and command of the Defence Forces and deals with the constitution, general organisation and military education of these forces. The Defence Forces will, as at present, be divided into a permanent force and a reserve force, each consisting of army, air and naval components. Members of the Army Nursing Service will now be members of the Permanent Defence Forces under Section 19. It is necessary to give them military status in order to ensure that, in the event of war, they would, as part of the Army Medical Corps, have the protection of the Geneva Red Cross Convention. They will not, however, be commissioned or enlisted and under Section 290, they will, for the present at least, be subject to the provisions of this Act only to the extent mentioned in that section.

Under the direction of the President—in whom the Constitution vests the supreme command—the command of the Defence Forces is exercisable by the Government, through and by the Minister, who is given power to delegate command, subject to such exceptions and limitations as he thinks fit, to officers. Existing legislation contains similar provisions.

Part III contains also a number of miscellaneous provisions, the more important of which relate to the compulsory acquisition of land for defence purposes. The need for such powers has, on occasion, been badly felt and this might be the case to an even greater degree in future, particularly if the necessity for a number of aerodromes arose. Similar powers of acquisition are given to the Minister for Industry and Commerce in the Air Navigation and Transport Act, 1936. Further new provisions on the lines of the Air Navigation and Transport Act, 1950, permit of the erection of apparatus on lands adjacent to military aerodromes and places certain restrictions on the use of such lands. These facilities are necessary to assist aircraft flying to or from the aerodromes.

The provisions in Part IV deal with the appointment or enlistment and conditions of service of the personnel of the Defence Forces. Generally speaking there is little departure from the corresponding provisions in existing legislation. Power is, however, being taken to retain men in service during the whole of a period of emergency even though they are due to be transferred to the Reserve or to be discharged during that period. This very reasonable power, which will apply only to men enlisted on or after the operative date of the Act, differs from the existing position to the extent that at present men may be retained for a period of only 12 months. A new provision is proposed in Section 88, which empowers the Minister, when so authorised by the Government, to call out reservists on permanent service for a maximum period of three months in anticipation of an emergency. Only men who have agreed in writing to this liability may, however, be called out. The intention here is to provide key-men to prepare for the general calling up of the Reserve.

The circumstances of forfeiture of pay or in which penal deductions may be made from pay are set out in detail in the existing Acts. Other deductions of a non-penal character may be made in accordance with regulations. It is now considered preferable that all these matters should be dealt with by regulations and provision is made accordingly in Section 97. The power to make such regulations is, however, circumscribed as the forfeitures and deductions to be prescribed must fall within the limits of the heads detailed in the section. In addition either House of the Oireachtas will have an opportunity of annulling any of the regulations made.

In Chapter V of Part IV, which deals with disqualifications, exemptions and privileges of the Defence Forces, the provisions of existing legislation are, to a large extent, followed. Members of the Reserve Defence Force will, in ordinary circumstances, be free to take part in political activities, but it is now proposed to prohibit participation in such activities when they are called out on permanent service, as they will then be in the same position as members of the permanent force.

If a member of the Reserve happens to be a member of a local authority when called out on permanent service, he must remain inactive during the period of permanent service, but his membership of the local authority is preserved in so far as absence from its meetings is concerned.

Under existing legislation an N.C.O. or man can appeal only up to the Adjutant-General. In Section 114 dealing with redress of wrongs, an N.C.O. or man is given the right to require the Adjutant-General to bring his complaint to the notice of the Minister, who must inquire into the complaint and give his directions thereon.

Part V, which deals with discipline, takes up a large portion of the Bill. The provisions relating to persons subject to military law are on the lines of existing legislation. The offences against military law have been drafted in such a way as to provide a code of law which will be common to all members of the Defence Forces, whether army, air or naval personnel. With a few exceptions relating principally to wartime offences, aircraft and military transport, no new matters constituting additional offences have been introduced. There is very little change from existing legislation in the provisions relating to the investigation of charges against officers and men. Additional safeguards for the accused person are contained in Section 191, which sets out the officers who are disqualified from acting as a member of or Judge-Advocate at a court-martial. An officer who has examined into or advised on the matters on which the charge is based or who sat on a court of inquiry into the subject matter of the charge or who, in an advisory capacity, dealt with the charges or the evidence to be produced or the conduct of the prosecution will not now be eligible for such membership.

Some important changes in favour of the accused or sentenced person are introduced in the provisions relating to the action to be taken following a court-martial. Confirming authorities may now substitute a lesser sentence for a sentence of death. It may be mentioned here that under Section 227 a sentence of death cannot be carried out unless and until the execution of the sentence has been approved by the Government. This will afford the Government an opportunity to advise the President, if such a course is considered desirable, to exercise his constitutional prerogative in such cases. New authorities, known as superior authorities, are proposed to review sentences passed by court-martial and confirmed. This is a new stage in the safeguards provided for persons tried by court-martial. A person undergoing punishment may now have his sentence reviewed by these authorities who have power to mitigate or suspend the sentence. There is also a further new provision which will enable petitions to be presented by or on behalf of sentenced persons in accordance with rules of procedure.

Part VI deals with the matters which are offences in relation to the Defence Forces and military property and concerns members of the public to some extent. One of the few changes introduced makes it an offence, without lawful authority, to make or attempt to make any sketch, drawing or photograph of military defence works or establishments or to trespass thereon.

In Part VII the powers and duties of the military and the public relating to manoeuvres are more specifically prescribed than in existing legislation. New provisions are introduced designed to protect the public from danger.

Power is taken in Part VIII to make bye-laws as to land used for defence purposes. The provisions of this part are mostly new. By giving control over lands affected by firing, bombing or other military exercises it will be possible to regulate the public with a view to their protection against injury.

Part IX is devoted to the Army Nursing Service. As I have already stated in my comments on Part III members of the Army Nursing Service are being given military status so that they may be protected by the Geneva Red Cross Convention. Although it is not the intention, at present, that members of the service will be subject to the provisions of the Act except to the limited extent stated in Section 290 it is, nevertheless, necessary that there should be power, which is also provided in Section 290, to extend other provisions to them in, for example, circumstances of war when they would have to be made subject to military law.

In Part X provision is made for the application of the Act to members of the Defence Forces established under the Temporary Provisions Acts. Certain rights and privileges, for example the right to which I have already referred, regarding transfer to the Reserve or discharge during a period of emergency, will be preserved for those who are members of the Defence Forces up to the operative date.

Part XI deals with the amendment and adaptation consequent on the provisions of the Act of a number of other Acts. Part XII contains the miscellaneous provisions which are on the lines of existing legislation and which are not appropriate to the other parts.

The First Schedule lists the enactments to be repealed on the operative date of the Act. The Second Schedule specifies the commissioned Army ranks and Naval ranks and the Third Schedule the Army and Naval non-commissioned ranks. Two new Naval non-commissioned ranks are proposed, namely, senior chief petty officer and senior petty officer. These correspond to the Army ranks of battalion-quartermaster-sergeant and company-quartermaster-sergeant to which there has not hitherto been corresponding Naval ranks.

The Fourth Schedule indicates the principal matters in respect of which the Minister may make regulations and the Fifth Schedule sets out the forms of commission to be issued to an officer. The Sixth to the Tenth Schedules set out the forms of oath to be taken by officers and men.

I hope that the foregoing will have given Senators a general picture of the Bill which will be helpful in their consideration of it.

I think a more appropriate picture for the Second Stage of a Defence Bill which has been so long delayed, and which is so necessary, would have been a general picture of quite a different character. However, I will not go into that. Ministers have fallen into the habit of giving a description of a Bill, section by section and part by part, which I think is wholly lamentable. I remember very well—very few people do so, probably, now—when the first Defence Forces (Temporary Provisions) Bill of 1923 was introduced. On that occasion, a permanent Bill was promised. It has taken more than 30 years for it to get as far as this House. I can remember the Minister himself, certainly a number of his colleagues, after 1927, protesting every year that we should have a permanent Defence Forces Act instead of temporary provisions Bills. Be that as it may, we now have this enormous measure and there are certain things, at any rate, on which we have to congratulate ourselves. The Bill is not a Party measure and it is not being discussed in a Party spirit. The fact that it has come before us at all, I would agree with the Minister, is a very substantial step forward. It was introduced by the late Dr. O'Higgins in 1949 and, I think, this particular Bill was introduced in 1952. It has taken just two years to get out of the Dáil.

The Army has the distinction of being the oldest Irish institution of State we have. It is older than the police force, because no police force was founded until after 1916, so that the Army has the distinction of being the oldest Irish institution of State which we have. It has the right to boast that for 40 years, or a little more than 40 years, it has served this country very well. It has had various trials and vicissitudes and stood up to various difficulties, foreign and domestic, but it emerged triumphant, respected and competent within its limits and for its purposes.

The Army, it seems to me, too, reflects credit upon its present members and on those who founded it and moulded it in the early days from 1913 onwards and after the setting up of the State. There are comparatively few, I suppose, of the old type of officers left, but even the absence of a permanent compendious measure of this kind did not prevent the Army from doing its duty during the emergency. It is only right to say that during the emergency it did its business of developing and expanding rapidly extremely well and the way in which that was done drew praise from a great many people in this country who had a very varied military experience and showed that the Army we had at that particular moment in its personnel and officers, commissioned and non-commissioned, was a competent sound force. My knowledge is mainly confined to the older officers, but I have been in touch with the newer corps of officers on the Curragh and I must say that they have made upon me a very good impression indeed. There are very few jobs more difficult. The Minister himself on more than one occasion has said that there are very few jobs more difficult than belonging to a peace-time army.

I would like the Minister to have said something about the general functions of the Army. It seems to me to have at least two. It is the ultimate guarantor of order here at home, but we have to congratulate ourselves that for more than 30 years it has not been used. It is necessary, also, to provide the framework around which can be developed a force during war or any other emergency. For that it needs to be highly trained and I think it deserves our gratitude.

This Bill is an enormous one. It has 318 sections and, as is usual now with Bills of this kind, and I think it is inevitable in this particular case, not only is the Bill enormous and difficult to grasp in all its implications, but it is still not all here in spite of the fact that there are 318 sections and ten schedules. There will be an enormous number of Orders and regulations to be made under it. I think the Minister said there are two dates, the date upon which the Bill is passed through the Oireachtas and the date upon which the Bill is brought into operation. I think the Minister said that in order that personnel in the Army and the Civil Service would become familiar with the regulations made under the Bill when it becomes an Act, and on account of the necessity to bring a number of regulations up to date, it would not be possible to put the Act into operation under Section 1 for quite a long time after the Act is passed. I take it the Minister is right in regard to that point. I wonder has the Minister any date in mind. Presumably, this Bill when it becomes an Act will not be put into operation in accordance with sub-section (2) of Section 1 until, say, the 1st October.

We were allowing about six months for the making of the regulations.

At the end of six months, sub-section (2) of Section 1 will be put into operation.

The Act will come into operation by an Order of the Minister for Defence. Even that would be a very good thing. The Dáil has taken two years to pass the Bill. It has taken more than 30 years to reach the Second House. I am wondering what one can do with such an enormous amount of matter in an expiring Parliament. I regret very much that we could not have had this Bill at a time when it could be examined in a proper spirit and gone through carefully and, perhaps, amended. I do not know what the Minister intends to ask us to do, but, for my part, it seems to me that the state of mind which a dissolution induces and the state of affairs which obtains when the Dáil has been dissolved and the Seanad is, so to speak, making slow and, I suppose, unwilling progress towards its own end, is a very bad time in which to deal with a matter of this kind, a matter in which we would all be interested and in which there would be no asperity of any kind. It would need careful consideration and considerable thought and, frankly, I feel that very few people could give it that thought in the present circumstances.

However, for the moment I am entirely in agreement with the Minister that it is a good thing that this Bill has been put together and that we certainly ought to pass it. We certainly ought to examine it afterwards with a view to seeing that those who serve in the Army get the very best chance they possibly can get to perfect themselves to carry out their functions and that their rights should be preserved as far as these rights can be preserved in a military organisation. I suppose it is undoubtedly true that when one joins an organisation of this kind one has to abandon one's rights. For that reason I am entirely in favour of the Second Reading. While I would like the Bill to be arranged in such a way that it would not be killed—I think the legal position is clear enough—I would like to have a different time in which to examine the Bill in detail. Meantime I heartily support the Bill as a measure.

I would like to join with Senator Hayes in recommending this Bill to the House. As Senator Hayes pointed out, we have been waiting quite a number of years for it. We have had before the House an annual Army Bill and we have looked forward to the day when we could have presented to us a permanent measure. We have that measure now. I think it is only right that at this stage we should be proud of those people who have composed our national services, particularly during the emergency.

I would like to say that during the discussion in the Dáil certain statements have been made which to my mind have not been very serviceable in so far as those statements may have created in the minds of those people who are serving in our forces an impression that the Government and the Parliament were not doing justice to them. I think any member of any Party who suggests a thing of that kind is doing an injustice not alone to the Party but to the country. There is no Party, and no individual elected to this or the other House that I can visualise, who does not hold in the highest estimation those people who have given their services both in the period before the Army was a recognised Army and afterwards. Any statement that has been made, whether it is for Party purposes or not, suggesting that the people and Parliament are not prepared to give an appreciation of the services rendered by our people is doing a very great disservice to both the people and those who have served in the forces. It is regrettable that such statements have been made and have got some prominence in particular Press reports in relation to what has happened in the Dáil.

As Senator Hayes has pointed out, we are a young State. He has mentioned a period of 30 years, but after all——

The Army is older than the State as it happens.

That is true. That is a point I would like to make. I would hope in particular that our young people would bear in mind that it was not one section but it was those people who comprised the old volunteer forces who established this State and brought about the position of affairs in which we had the truce negotiated and which brought any semblance of freedom that Senator Hayes might claim we have. I think Senator Hayes will agree with me in that. Senator Hayes and other people sometimes say that our people are too much immersed in politics.

I never said that.

I hold an entirely different view. I feel that our people do not take sufficient interest in politics. I would like to see more of our young people interested there. If there is one appeal I would make to the Minister to-night it is this, that we should have more active encouragement given to our people particularly to become members of the F.C.A. force, that is the volunteer force, similar to that which established our freedom; and I think that if we could go out on a recruiting campaign of that nature and encourage our people, particularly our young people, those of them who are university students, for example, to participate more in the building up of that F.C.A. force than they are doing at the present time we would be doing good work. In doing that not alone would we be building up a young, trained and disciplined force but we would also be building up a disciplined people. From my knowledge I find that those people, particularly the young people, who have taken an interest in the development of our armed forces, whether it is the F.C.A. or the Army in general, are better citizens. We have to recognise this point whether we like it or not, that this State was built up by those people who came into public life in the voluntary organisations, whether it was Sinn Féin or the volunteer force—that the majority of us here are, if you like, politicians by accident.

We see from day to day that a number of our colleagues who took part in that are pasing out, and if we are going to make an Army to ensure that the traditions they had were going to be maintained and that what we sought for was going to be built up we must ensure that those young people who come after us will be imbued with the same spirit and are going to come in to complete, if you like, the work which we set out to do and which we failed to complete. We were brought into the national movement because for one reason or another we found ourselves in the volunteer movement. If the Minister could enlarge his inducement to our young people to come in at the present time to the F.C.A. movement and from there to build up whatever volunteer force we might have and after that whatever national contribution you might have from that force I believe we would be doing very good work in that direction.

There are just one or two comments which I should like to make on the Bill. As some Senators have already pointed out, the Bill is such an enormous measure that the ordinary person can only feel that he is hardly competent to deal with it. I however agree with the suggestion that having regard to the fact that the Bill has already received such a prolonged consideration in the other House, there would be little point in prolonging discussion on it here. It seems to me that the Bill has been sat upon, so to speak, for such a lengthy period by a Special Committee of the Dáil, that it has gone through the sieve and run the gauntlet of such close artillery fire in the other House that a postponement of the discussion on it in this House could scarcely add to or detract from the Bill in any way. I feel as a member of this House that we all owe a debt to the members of the Special Committee of the other House who sat for two years week after week and went through the Bill section by section.

I should like to comment briefly on those sections of the Bill which deal with the right to impose sentences of death. I was hoping that, in this enlightened age, it might be possible even for our Defence Forces to forgo the right to impose a death sentence, as a solution or a preventative for any from of crime. I was hoping that it would not be necessary to include amongst the list of punishments to be inflicted by our Defence Forces such a stringent punishment as the sentence of death. I would ask the Minister to reconsider the matter to see if some other method could not be devised for dealing with crime and to examine the question whereby crimes such as our Defence Forces will have to deal with, could not be punished in some other way.

One other matter to which I should like to refer, though I do not know whether it would come under the Defence Bill, is the question of compulsory military training for our youth generally. It has been referred to before and it is a topical subject. Having regard to the manner in which it has been dealt with by other countries, I think the Minister might consider it. Compulsory military service would undoubtedly improve the manners, the morals and even the gait of our younger generation. I should like to say a good deal more about this Bill, it is such a tremendous measure from every point of view, but I shall content myself at this stage by saying that it is a great achievement. It is a summing up of a lot of past history. I would hope that Senators would not press too strongly for the postponement of its final passage as apparently it has been thoroughly discussed already in the other House and it is desirable that it should become law at the earliest stage.

The fact that the Bill has arrived at this stage means that it will continue in existence. If this House decided, in its wisdom or otherwise, to hold up the Bill after this stage, it would, I understand, nevertheless, continue to live and could be dealt with by a succeeding Seanad. I think we can congratulate ourselves on having got the Bill out of the other House safe and sound and on having arrived at the stage when we are now ready, so to speak, to launch it. I think it would be a pity if this House did not conclude the enormous task that we had to undertake in getting it to this stage by reason of the belief expressed by Senator Hayes that, because this is an expiring Parliament, Senators would not be competent to set their minds down to the task of dealing with it. I should be rather surprised if Senators' minds were exercised to that extent by the fact that this House is now a unit of an expiring Parliament. I am satisfied myself that this Seanad can deal with the Bill in the stage at which it has arrived at the present moment.

I can give this assurance to the Seanad, though I do not wish to be positive about it, that I do not think that any Bill dealt with since the Oireachtas was established, has received such a minute and meticulous examination as this Bill has received over the long period of time during which it was being examined by members of the other House. From that point of view, one could come to the conclusion that there is little more that could be done to it by way of improvement. I should like to emphasise that by saying that on every occasion on which a doubt was expressed in respect of the constitutionality or the legality of any particular provision, that particular section, sub-section or clause was brought to the attention of the legal authorities for re-examination. Some of the statements that were made in respect of the legality of some of the sections were such that I was very anxious to make certain that whatever else the Bill might represent, it would not represent anything that would not be strictly legal, strictly constitutional—in a word, that it would be a Bill that could not be challenged. From that point of view alone, I can say that the Bill was examined and re-examined by the officers of the Attorney-General's Department on numerous occasions. On several occasions I brought it personally to the attention of the Attorney-General himself. On all of these occasions, I was satisfied that what we were doing was perfectly correct and that there was nothing in any sense unconstitutional or illegal in the Bill.

Naturally Senators might be anxious to improve this Bill if it is possible to improve it. Personally, I cannot see how it can be improved, but if the Seanad, in its wisdom, thinks that Senators should be given an opportunity for improving it, that question will arise in the course of succeeding stages. The period which will elapse after this House passes the Bill will be devoted largely to the framing of regulations which will be a very important matter because, to a very large extent, the Bill will be operated under these regulations. When Senator Hayes referred to the fact that this Bill was a voluminous type of measure and that it was not all here, I assumed that he was referring to the making of these regulations. It is not all here from that point of view, because the regulations to be drawn up under the particular sections with which they deal will be the means by which the administrative officers will deal with personnel. From that point of view, the regulations will have to be examined just as strictly and as carefully, from the point of view of right and justice to the individuals concerned, as the Bill itself. That is the only reason why a long period will have to elapse before the Bill can become operative.

I can assure Senators that the Army itself is thirsting for the Bill. It amazes me how any officer who has to deal with the existing legislation can deal with it, because it is just a book with a jumble of cuttings, representing the amendments brought in over the 30 years during which the Army has existed. I am perfectly satisfied that the amendments which were passed during the emergency constitute a considerable part of the present Bill, but I would say that most of the other parts have weathered a long period of time. They have survived for 30 years and have been found desirable for inclusion in the Bill. To a very large extent, the Bill consists merely of the best of the 1923 Act, plus the Temporary Provisions Acts which have been introduced since 1923 to date.

Some of the criticism directed towards the Bill was directed towards some of the sections which have weathered the storms of all these years and which were retained in the Act. We were criticised also in relation to those cases where we were endeavouring to look into the future, but none of us can foresee the future to the extent that we can give guarantees that what we are doing is correct. We can only hope that in what we are doing we are providing an instrument which will enable us to deal with the circumstances that might be likely to arise.

My opening statement was a very detailed statement, designed mainly to give Senators as clear a picture as it was possible for me to give in order to guide them in any discussion, they might like to have on either this stage or the remaining stages of the Bill and whether it is necessary for me at this stage to say more than that is very doubtful. We can all join in the praise which was given by Senator Hayes and added to by Senator Hawkins to the Army. There is, however, no necessity to paint the lily. The Army is there and it is a perfect instrument so far as it is possible for anything to be perfect. That we now have young officers coming up who are the equal of any men in the world is proved by the fact that in the various courses they undergo in the various military establishments in England, establishments in which are represented officers from almost every army in Europe and America, these young men have not only been able to hold their own in the examinations, but on a number of occasions have secured the first places in these examinations. It is quite a regular thing for me to get reports that they have got second, third, fourth or fifth places and it always astonishes me how these young men are able to hold their own with officers who are members of long established armies, with perhaps very much greater facilities for perfecting themselves than we have here.

I hope the example which the Seanad has given here to-day of expedition will be followed on the other stages and I should like to appeal to the Seanad to take those other stages and to hand on this Bill to whatever Minister for Defence may come along, without asking him to undergo, even in this House, the painful process which I have had to undergo in the other House. I think the Seanad will in fact do that.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take the remaining stages?

What kind of time-table has the Minister in mind for the Bill? Would he consider the end of May a good time to finish it, when the election is over?

I think we could get on with the Committee Stage on the next sitting day of the Seanad, and I suggest we put the Committee Stage down for April 21st. If we are not in a position to take it then, we can wait. The Committee Stage, however, could be long drawn out and then there are the Report and Final Stages.

Whether we deal with the Committee Stage on this day fortnight, which would be the next sitting day, or not, I think the Committee Stage should appear on the Order Paper. It would be very bad if we adjourned that stage indefinitely after passing the Second Reading. It is immaterial from the point of view of procedure whether it is taken that day or not, but we should not establish a precedent whereby we pass the Second Reading and, at the same time, refuse even to consider the possibility of taking the Committee Stage on the next sitting day.

I had no intention of proposing an indefinite postponement, and I am prepared to agree to putting the Committee Stage down for 21st April. I take it from the Minister's concluding remarks that he hopes to get the Bill through by the middle of May, so that he or some Minister for Defence will have the Bill in such a state that regulations can be made. Then, under sub-section (2) of Section 1, an Order would not be made until, perhaps, October bringing it into operation. Is that the time-table suggested by the Minister?

That is the maximum period, but as we were getting the various sections through on Report Stage in the Dáil we had the staff working on them in the hope and the belief that they would not be altered when they came here. The staff are working on them at present, but it is a slow business which cannot be speeded up, because every regulation has to be very carefully examined before being framed and agreed upon. The hope is that we might reduce the six month period I mentioned to four months.

That would still leave the position that the Bill would not be in operation until 1st August?

Will there be other work for the Seanad on April 21st?

I suggest that this Bill should be concluded to-night. We do no injustice to ourselves by that, because it has been extensively and meticulously debated for three years. I saw no indication from anybody that he intends to put down an amendment. What is the difference between taking it now and on the next sitting day of the Seanad if there is no actual amendment?

I would be satisfied to have the Committee Stage on 21st of April.

Committee Stage ordered for 21st April, 1954.
The Seanad adjourned at 9.10 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 21st April, 1954.