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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 25 Nov 1959

Vol. 51 No. 13

Attendance of Ministers at Seanad Debates: Motion.

I move:

That Seanad Éireann regrets the recent refusal of Ministers to attend debates in the Seanad and disagrees with the view of the Government as expressed by the Leader of the House on the 5th August, 1959 (Seanad Debates—Vol. 51, No. 10, Cols. 842/3).

The purpose of this motion is not political or personal. It is rather for the purpose of clarifying a situation that has arisen and it is intended to get a principle and a practice accepted so that in future here in this House we might avoid bickering across the House as to what is or what is not to be discussed. May I say at the outset that I am very glad to see the Taoiseach here and to hear what he has to say on the matter? I have no desire to line Senators up on this matter. I feel that the result of this debate, what the Taoiseach has to say and what we may agree on will affect this Seanad and future Seanaid. I hope it will be for the better.

The present position of this House is that we have a written constitution. We have Rules and Standing Orders, but it should be made clear that that is not sufficient to enable this House or any Parliament to work. Everything is not foreseeable. In effect, this House works on practices, customs and established precedents. It is not always easy to see what the things you write really mean. It is only in the recent discussions on the Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill that I myself realised the precise implications of the provision in the Constitution of 1922—it is still there and I approve of it—that the Ministers have a right to attend and be heard in both Houses.

If you interpret this with regard to the rights of Ministers, you could have as many as 14 Ministerial speeches on the one Bill which, as Euclid said, is absurd. No Government would try to do it. That illustrates that you have to establish a practice and a practice has been established with regard to Ministerial intervention in this House. It has been the practice, since the House started, for Ministers to come into the House with Bills. The only thing that is wrong with that, perhaps, from the point of view of a person who has sat on Government benches in the House is that it is not good for the Government Party because it gives them in every case a Minister to argue on their side.

I know that the Constitution provides that the Government are responsible to the Dáil but I never suggested —and I do not think anybody would suggest—that the Government could be put out of office by a vote in this House or that, indeed, a Government is bound even to take account of a vote in this House except in the case where we do something with the Bill and the Bill becomes subject to the provisions of the Constitution. The complete falacy, however, in what was said by Senator Ó Maoláin on 5th August, is that because you cannot put Ministers out of office, you cannot ask them questions or cannot criticise them or discuss their administration.

That certainly is not so. The Seanad is an integral part of the Oireachtas. We have limited powers and when a Bill comes here, it may be defeated or amended but it can always be passed over our heads. I should like to recall that the practice here has always been that a Bill brought here is explained in detail, as, indeed, was a Bill this very afternoon in this House. That applies to Money Bills, Finance Bills and Appropriation Bills.

When the Minister for Finance comes in here, he explains in detail everything that is necessary to be explained with regard to finance. All the Minister for Finance I have heard here have answered in detail any questions asked. There was an occasion here, I think, when a Minister endeavoured to argue that he was not obliged to explain the financial provisions of a Bill. I think that before the end of the debate he succeeded in mending his hand on that particular matter. Ministers, therefore, attend on every kind of a Bill and give every possible kind of information.

I come now to the question of administration which is specifically mentioned by Senator Ó Maoláin. Perhaps, I should read what he said. This was on 5th August in an Adjournment debate on the circulation of a pamphlet with regard to Ireland's rôle in the United Nations. Senator Ó Maoláin on 5th August, 1959, Volume 51, Number 10, Column 842, is reported as saying:

The view of the Government regarding the practice which has recently developed in the Seanad, of moving motions of this character on the adjournment, is that it is an attempt to devise a new procedure by which Ministers would be made accountable to the Seanad for their administration. The constitutional position is that Ministers are responsible to the Dáil only—members of the Dáil, of course, being elected directly by the people. Ministers are not responsible to the Seanad.

That, I think, is a misunderstanding of the position. The fact that Ministers are not responsible to the Seanad merely means that a vote of the Seanad, unlike a vote of the Dáil, does not put them out of office. In the Dáil, if the Taoiseach fails to retain the support of the majority, he goes out of office. That does not apply here. But that does not imply that the Taoiseach or Ministers cannot be questioned or that even Government administration cannot be discussed.

The Appropriation Bill contains the salaries or part of the salary of every Minister. It raises questions of administration. Various efforts have been made here—not all of them successful, indeed—to arrange that different Ministers will be present to hear different administrations discussed and to imitate, therefore, the kind of thing you have in the Dáil on the Estimates. That has not been very satisfactory, but the right to discuss administration is there.

The Seanad may annual a statutory instrument and to-day and every day on the Seanad Order Paper, when we meet, there is a list of papers laid on the Table. The normal thing for Bills is that Orders made by the Government—and, after all, that is administration—may be annulled by either House. Senators will recollect that the Government used the Seanad to annul the Solicitors (Remuneration) General Order, 1957, because the time limit was expiring and the Dáil was not sitting. It is quite clear, therefore, that the Seanad may discuss administration.

Perhaps I may be allowed to define in a rough way what I regard as administration. It is a Minister's exercise of his powers under statute or the way he exercises or fails to exercise them in a particular case. It follows, therefore, that when that kind of thing is discussed in the Seanad, Ministers should normally attend. I have gone to the trouble of finding out, for a period, how many questions were raised on the Adjournment. There were, I think, just 30 in a period of 20 years—from 1938 to 1959—which is pretty significant. Some of the matters raised were of great importance and some of minor importance but all of them were questions of administration—the admission of aliens; air-raid precautions; export of seed potatoes; paraffin supplies for rural areas—that was during the war —the depression in the cattle industry; an Ennis company's affairs; transport of turf; price of bread; delay with proposals for the Agricultural Institute; the suspension of Post Office parcel service: that surely is administration. There was a general discussion, at my own instance, which lasted over five hours on a motion on the Adjournment on 4th October, 1939, with the then Taoiseach present.

In all, there are only 30 instances in 20 years, that is, three cases on the Adjournment in every two years. That is not excessive. I think also that the Leader of the House when he was making his statement did not like what was being discussed but you cannot take that as a criterion. The fundamental thing in parliamentary government is that you have to listen to the other fellow saying something you do not like. We all experience that from time to time. Unless one has the patience to do that, one will become irritated. A Minister who has not the patience to do that will, I am afraid, be in a very bad way in a very short time, no matter what Government he may belong to.

We make no claim to make Ministers accountable to the Seanad as they are to the Dáil. We do not advocate a new procedure. I have shown that there are examples from 1922 to 1938 and there are 20 examples between 1938 and 1959. One may ask: "Why do people not put down motions instead of raising matters on the Adjournment?" I have not raised anything on the Adjournment since 1939. I cannot be accused of being very strong on Adjournment proceedings. However, there is no machinery in this House for asking Questions, as there is in the Dáil. Personally, I think it would be quite impracticable. I would not advocate it. When it was talked about some years ago, I was opposed to it. I think it is a burden that should not be placed on Ministers and I think it would not work.

On the other hand, the Question on the Adjournment is much simpler than a motion. It does not lead to a division. Very often, it leads to an immediate discussion. It has the merit of dealing with a specific point since it should not normally be a matter of first-class importance. You may say to me, then: "It should not be abused." I agree. Nothing should be abused. However, the right to follow a particular procedure should not be removed or diluted simply because some people at particular times endeavour to abuse it.

I do not claim that a Minister should come to the Seanad at the time the Seanad wants him or that he should always come when he is asked. I feel Senators should adopt a reasonable attitude in that respect. For instance, I have myself always, when sitting here in the Opposition, adopted a reasonable attitude. When I was on the other side of the House and endeavouring to get Ministers to come here and transact business, I found that my opponents were reasonable with regard to the attendance of Ministers. The other House has a prior claim upon Ministers' time. If a Minister is to come, we can expect to have him only at the moment when he can reasonably come. Whether I was out of office or in office, I always found it worked smoothly. I have found it worked smoothly with different people opposed to me, no matter who was leading the other Party.

It is unwise for Ministers to refuse to come here for motions they dislike because that is not the criterion at all. I think, also, that the more that is done to keep up the reputation and procedure of this House, the better for the Parliament generally—the better for the Dáil, for the Government, for the State and for the whole lot of us—because one of the things you have to combat in every other country as in this country is the notion that politicians and politics generally are not for decent people.

I do not propose to deal with the amendment in the name of Senator Sheehy Skeffington. The amendment gives Senator Sheehy Skeffington the satisfaction of being against all comers. I am prepared to leave him in the comfort of that position without knowing what precisely he intends to say. I am prepared to make a confession. While I was Leader of the House, on one occasion, I advised the then Taoiseach not to attend for a motion set down by Senator Sheehy Skeffington for which there was no seconder and which dealt with illegal military organisations. I gave that advice because I think just a fortnight earlier the then Taoiseach had made a long statement in the Dáil which had met with the approval of the Leader of the Opposition in the Dáil and I felt there was no necessity for him to come here. I said so and in the result, no seconder was found for the motion and a Senator on the Opposition side, Senator Ted O'Sullivan, simply said they were not seconding the motion but they stood by what had been said by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. de Valera. On another occasion, purely on a matter of physical disability, I advised the Minister for Education, General Mulcahy, who had been in the Dáil from 10.30 a.m. until 4.30 p.m., not to come here. He did not take my advice. He insisted upon coming and he made a statement. Those are the only cases I can remember.

Before I conclude, there is one more thing I should like to say. I am not sure whether or not it is really germane to the motion because we are talking about the rights of the Seanad and how Ministers ought to treat us. I suggested here before to the Minister for Finance that more use could properly be made of the Seanad. I should like to put that case to the Taoiseach also. More Bills, except Money Bills, should be introduced in this House. For example, one of the Bills we have here on the Order Paper, the Apprenticeship Bill, could very easily have been introduced here and that would have given certain relief to the Dáil. As we know, the Dáil is cluttered up with much business for two reasons. One is that the financial year runs from April to April instead of from January to December and the other is that the Estimates are discussed in detail in the Dáil. For that reason, just after April, they have to deal with the Budget and the Estimates and whatever Bills they have to transact. That gives them an immense volume of legislation and financial business.

What happens to us? In July or the beginning of August this year, we got several Bills from the Dáil. The Dáil had risen and we had to pass them, whether we liked or not. I am not blaming the Taoiseach: I make him a present of this: I think no Government is worse than another but I would not say that no Government is better than another. They are all pretty bad in that respect. We had to pass Bills this year which involved nearly £20,000,000. I suggest that if Bills were introduced in the Seanad, it would help to remedy that situation and give us more work beginning in October or November, and it would not in any way take from the powers of the Dáil. Under the Constitution, when a Bill goes to the Dáil and is amended in any particular, and is sent back to us, the 90 days begin to run from the day we get it from the Dáil.

The Senator seems to be getting away from the motion.

I am grateful for what you have allowed me, Sir. I suggest that is something which would help to remedy the extraordinarily bad state of Parliamentary business. At the end of every year, in the month of July, Ministers are weary, the Dáil is weary, but the Seanad is not weary because very often we have had very little to do. We are doing something at a time when we do not really want to do it.

I do not want the matter of this motion referred to any committee to make regulations about it; I am afraid I do not believe in regulations. Perhaps, in my circumstances, that is a curious thing to say but I hardly believe in Standing Orders. The only Standing Order I knew well in the Dáil was the one that said that the Ceann Comhairle was the sole judge of order. It was a good one to quote and it filled the bill on most occasions.

The working of this Parliamentary institution, or any Parliamentary institution, does not depend on written rules but on co-operation, goodwill, and common sense. Since I became a member of this House, I am prepared to say that I have found in abundance these qualities shown here, whether I was sitting in this seat or in the seat occupied by Senator Ó Maoláin. That state of affairs depends on different Governments and different sets of Ministers and however we differ on policies, or principles, or legislation, we have rarely quarrelled about the conduct of the business of the House or Ministerial behaviour. There may have been an odd flare-up but they were very rare when you consider the period of time involved.

I do not want to have any quarrel about the conduct of the business now. I do not want to assert any new rights but I object to the notion that rights already firmly established should be abandoned and I think that should be the attitude of every Senator. I think the Taoiseach will approve of that, that the policy that has been adopted heretofore with regard to Ministers' attendance in the House should be continued. Anyone who gives any thought to our present position, or the future development of this Parliament, and its value to this country should agree with that. I put down this motion to clarify and confirm that situation and I hope the House will agree and that the Taoiseach will find himself, in the main, in agreement with what I have said.

I second the motion. I should like, first of all, to welcome the former Minister for Industry and Commerce in his new capacity as Taoiseach tonight. It is, in some ways, appropriate that he should appear in this House for the first time as Taoiseach on such a motion as this when, as Taoiseach, he has now got the tools and machinery of government in his hands.

The Seanad is an integral part of the machinery of government. This motion has been put down because many Senators feel that in the past the machinery of the Seanad very often was not understood, and not being understood, has not been fully or properly utilised in smoothing and making government efficient. Therefore, I think the very fact that this motion has had to be put down arising out of the incident which gave rise to it was due very largely, I believe, to a lack of appreciation of the functions and machinery of the Seanad. I would also say that view was caused in some way by things that have happened in our historical past, such as the abolition of the Seanad. Doubts about the Seanad really spring from that occasion when Mr. de Valera, according to his own lights at that time, abolished the Seanad and then re-established it.

It is very often forgotten that the Seanad is enshrined in the Constitution, but it has been said that we are not as democratically elected as the Dáil and therefore are not as important as the Dáil. It is quite false to say that. The fact that the election of the Seanad is a secondary one, if you like, because the Seanad is elected by county councils, does not mean that the Seanad is less democratic than if directly elected by the people because of the fact that we are elected under the Constitution, and if elected under the Constitution, we are just as democratically constituted and therefore just as democratically elected as the Dáil. Quite a number of people in the Dáil seem to labour under the delusion that they are more democratically elected than the Seanad. Under the Constitution, all legislation is referred to as "passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas", and no Bill is legal, unless it comes from the Seanad. The Seanad is part and parcel of our legislature and machinery for the enactment of legislation.

Many Senators were disturbed by the refusal of the Minister to attend on the specific occasion referred to in the motion and, I would say, on previous occasions. It is important that this matter we are discussing should not be discussed in any acrimonious way. Senator Hayes has introduced his motion in a manner I should like to support. We simply appeal to the Taoiseach to make a guiding statement here tonight which will put us on an even keel in the future. Let us show that we are acting together in a dignified and just way. As Senator Hayes says, we often have to listen to things we do not like but we do stay here and it is no harm that the Government should stay and listen to us. We may be wrong in criticising them but, nevertheless, that is democratic government. Oppositions are there to criticise and the Government should be able to take what is coming to them and give their answer.

Surely there is nothing a Government will do which they are not fit to stand over and answer for. It is a very poor state of affairs in any form of committee that a person should not be able to face the committee and hear criticisms and answer them. Anybody who takes such an attitude is obviously unfit to be in a senior position in any organisation, not to say in the Government. Therefore, we were all shocked on this particular occasion when not alone did the Minister not come to the House but the whole Government Party left the House. If Ministers ignore and abuse the machinery of legislation and government, they obviously blunt the machinery and damage it. If I may use a metaphor, a good artist keeps his tools in perfect condition and uses each instrument with care and discrimination and in full to the production of a work of art. Government is an art but the fact is that it is does not seem to be appreciated by some people in this country, and in other countries for that matter, who are actively and even prominently engaged in it.

I might say that I do not confine that to any one Government. In some ways on this motion we should like to speak in generalities as well as on the particular case which gave rise to it. There is sometimes a tendency to operate with the minimum and the bluntest of instruments and the result very often is that we get arbitrary decisions and arbitrary legislation instead of legislation that has been carefully conceived after careful consultation with everybody concerned, after full debate and, I might say, after full use of the machinery available.

There is another point which I want to refer to, incidentally. Very often this House is completely ignored on the question of amendments. Sometimes we get rushed legislation here and sometimes even when it is not rushed, there is an unwillingness to accept our help. Our proposals and suggestions are very seldom translated into accepted amendments. I think that is due to the fact that very often Ministers come in here and regard the Seanad as being merely a stamp that must be put on the documents as quickly and with as little trouble as possible. Our advice, and even the advice of outside experts—and we are experts in some ways, in certain things—is, as I say, not taken; but outside our ranks, in the outer community, more could be done by way of consultation with people who are not in the ranks of the officials around the Minister. Incidentally, I should like to refer in a complimentary manner to the fact that last week we had a Bill here— and another one today—which was the result of consultation with people outside the ranks of the officials and a very successful piece of legislation it was.

May I point out to the Senator that he is widening the scope of the motion rather unduly?

I think I can say that there is some strange reluctance to use our institutions and the full machinery of the Government, and at times there is a veritable jealousy and rivalry to be seen between the Dáil and the Seanad. I do not say that that is in the top ranks but certain members of the Dáil have been known to refer to the "unnecessariness"—if I might use the word—of the Seanad.

Senator Hayes has already referred to the manner in which the Seanad could be used in regard to legislation and I shall not say anything about that. I had intended to refer to it but it is probably outside the scope of the motion. However, it has been brought in. It is no wonder then, in view of past history, and of the rather cursory way the House is being treated, that very often it is thought outside that there is no need for the Seanad, that it is rather useless and could very well be done away with. I have already answered that point, that it was abolished and it was found that it could not be done without and was re-established and enshrined in the Constitution. The Seanad having been re-established and enshrined in the Constitution, I would appeal to the Taoiseach to ensure that in future this Chamber is properly and fully used, properly recognised and properly honoured as such, because otherwise, there will be created a general feeling amongst the public that political institutions and politicians are to be rather despised. We cannot expect to be respected outside if we do not have respect as between one House and another. People take you at your own valuation and certainly it is not a good evaluation of the Seanad if Ministers refuse to come here and the Government Party walk out and leave the Opposition in possession. I do not want to say anything more on that point.

I am glad that Senator Hayes put down this motion. It has not been put down in any carping manner and he did not wish to have any controversial debate on it. Having got what we said out of our systems, if the Taoiseach, having done us the honour of coming here, could deal with the motion in a sympathetic and conciliatory manner, we should all be happy.

I rise to move an amendment to this motion. If my amendment were accepted, the motion would read—"That Seanad Éireann regrets the refusal of Ministers of both the present and the previous Governments to attend debates in the Seanad and disagrees with the view of the Government as expressed by the Leader of the House on the 5th August, 1959." As is obvious, the purpose of my amendment is to make it clear that this is not a Party attitude only but that we as a House deplore the failure of Ministers to attend in these circumstances, whether members of this Government or a previous Government.

I am a little disappointed therefore that Senator Hayes did not accept my amendment, particularly as it has been stressed both by Senator Hayes and by Senator McGuire that this should not be a Party issue. I feel that acceptance of my amendment raises it above a Party issue in making it a point of general principle that we as a House desire, not we as members of one Party or another Party. I should like to say at the outset that I agree with Senator Hayes that the presence of the Taoiseach is a symbol of the very kind of thing that the framers of this motion, myself and other Senators, desire. I am glad that he does us the compliment of being here, and I feel that had he deputed one of his ministerial colleagues to come before us, we would necessarily have been quite satisfied but he does us the compliment of being present himself, and we all welcome that and regard it as a symbol that he takes seriously the principle which we are trying to have recognised. Senator Hayes makes it seem as if I have been extremely unlucky, because I was the person involved on both the occasions, apparently the only occasions in his whole life since Senator Hayes has been in the House, when he himself advised a Minister not to be present. I do not know what I owe this ill-fortune to, but apparently I was more unlucky than anybody else has been in relation to Senator Hayes in this connection. I think he ought to have been a little bit ashamed in proposing this motion, and then having to admit that on two separate occasions he advised a Minister to stay away from this House—on one occasions simply because he felt the Minister had dealt with the problem fully in the other House, and on the other occasion because he felt that the Minister was very tired.

I feel that Senator Hayes would have risen to greater heights by accepting my amendment and saying that this must apply to the present Government, to future Governments, and to the previous Government. I should like to quote from our Standing Orders, Standing Order No. 24, on page 19, which states:

On the motion for the adjournment of the Seanad, any Senator may bring forward for discussion a matter of which he has given notice in writing to the Cathaoirleach before the opening of that day's sitting, and which has been approved by the Cathaoirleach as suitable for discussion on the motion for the adjournment.

We may assume, therefore, in so far as we are talking now about matters raised on the Adjournment, that these matters when they are debated have been deemed to be in order by the Cathaoirleach. That seems to me to be final and I think it shows contempt for the House for a Minister or Senator to suggest that though the Cathaoirleach considers a thing in order, the Leader of the House does not, and the Leader of the House is going to behave in such a way, and encourages others to behave in such a way as to suggest it was not in order.

Nothing can come before the House until it has the approval of the Cathaoirleach. There have been occasions when some of us tried to raise matters that did not get that approval. I suggest, however, that when a subject gets the approval of the Cathaoirleach, it is the duty as far as is humanly possible, of some Minister to appear before the House, to listen to the case and make some reply—not necessarily the Minister immediately involved, because he may have other more urgent business, but I do feel that in that case he should depute another Minister to be present for him, if the Cathaoirleach considers that the matter is in order.

I refer now to Rulings and Precedents governing this House and on page 2 I find this reference in relation to matters brought forward for discussion on the Adjournment:

Matter generally is confined to the Senator who raises it and the Minister, if he is present—

there is a suggestion that he may not be

—is entitled to reply and Minister must be allowed a sufficient opportunity to reply, and the usual practice is that ten minutes or more, if possible, is given to him.

The next paragraph states:—

When Minister has spoken Senator has not the right to reply to him, but he can put a question in order to get further information provided that his intervention is not by way of a speech. By agreement of House, half-hour permitted may be extended if it is not unduly so and the Minister is given adequate time to reply.

There is no ruling which says that the Minister must be present. In fact, it foresees the case when he may not be present, but it lays down the practice, customs and precedents which are to be recognised when the Minister is present, which it would appear to accept as general practice. It lays down the practice if the Minister is present, regarding subsequent questions and so on, which quite clearly cannot be applied if he is not present.

I should like to quote a precedent also in relation to motions, because I think, in one of the cases in which the present Government were involved, it was a motion on which the Minister preferred not to be present. This ruling is on page 47 and states:

Motion standing in name of Senator which has reference to a matter coming within the responsibility of a Minister should not be made in the absence of the Minister concerned or his Parliamentary Secretary.

I think that is rather interesting. That would mean we would have to hold over, until the Minister or Parliamentary Secretary were available, a motion on a matter with which a Minister was concerned. That means, of course, a general motion, not just the raising of a matter on the Adjournment. Again, the implication is that the Minister is expected to be present, and surely that is the point of this motion to-night and of my amendment, to have that principle recognised? I shall not say established. I think Senator Hayes is quite right to say "have it recognised", to have what is already established recognised.

Senator Hayes mentioned the question of raising a matter on the Adjournment and raising a matter by way of motion. There is, of course, one major difference, that is, if a Senator gives notice before the Seanad assembles, before three o'clock on the afternoon of that day, of his intention to raise a matter on the Adjournment, and if he receives the approval of the Cathaoirleach, that matter will be dealt with that day. That is a most important fact. That would vary with different incidents, with different questions, but it may be of extreme importance that a matter be dealt with that very day or, at any rate, with great expediency. It may happen that motions may remain on the Order Paper for six months or a year. That is a major difference. If a Senator wants to have a full discussion on it, wants a general debate, he must put down a motion. But if it is of sufficient urgency, it has to come up by way of motion on the Adjournment, because that is the only way the House has of discussing something rapidly with a Minister, his Parliamentary Secretary, or a Ministerial colleague present to reply.

I believe I have had, as has been slightly coyly intimated by Senator Hayes, a fairly wide experience of the non-appearance of Ministers in this House when I have tried to raise some matter or another, sometimes by way of motion and sometimes by raising it on the Adjournment. My first experience of it was on 15th December, 1955, the incident to which Senator Hayes referred, the occasion upon which I put down a motion in relation to the organisation of private armies, and the failure of the Government to take any effective steps to stop them.

Senator Hayes has said the Taoiseach had made a statement about it a fortnight before, but I should like to tell the House that I requested the permission of the Cathaoirleach, the late Senator Baxter, to be allowed to raise this matter on the Adjournment on the very day the Taoiseach was talking in the Dáil. My reason for doing that was that I felt this was a matter of extreme urgency, that the Taoiseach was making a statement on it in the Dáil, and it should also be discussed in the Seanad. One of the things the Taoiseach then appealed for was the vocal support of all T.D.s and Senators, and it seemed to me to be very important, and in line with his desire, that we should discuss it immediately, and have a debate on it in the Seanad as well as in the Dáil. I do not see why the Seanad should be entirely kept out of discussing such an important matter. In the event, in the Dáil only the leaders of the various Parties were allowed to speak. There was at least that measure of discussion but the plans of the Government of that day included no provision at all for any debate on the subject in the Seanad.

When I asked to have this raised on the adjournment, the Cathaoirleach said to me: "You may raise it. I shall not prevent you but the Taoiseach will probably not be making his statement in the Dáil until evening. That would be 6 o'clock or 7 o'clock. Do you think it is fair to bring him straight from the Dáil up here and ask him to address the Seanad? Would it not be better to put down a motion?" I replied: "Yes; I think it would be better, because it would give more Senators a chance to show that something should be done.""But," as I said, "a motion has a major disadvantage: it may hang fire for weeks or for months." The then Cathaoirleach said: "If I guarantee that you will be given an opportunity at an early date to put this motion, will you agree not to press your right to raise it on the Adjournment to-night?" I said: "Yes, certainly." It was in those conditions that this was a motion, and put a fortnight later, rather than being raised immediately on the Adjournment.

When this motion came to the House—and I refer here to Volume 45, column 983, Senator Hayes, the then leader of the House, had the good grace to say:

May I be allowed to apologise to the House in this way?

I felt that he should.

No Minister will be present for this motion. I do not know if the motion has a seconder. I should like to say that no disrespect to the House, or indeed, to Senator Sheehy Skeffington, is intended. The Taoiseach made a comprehensive statement about this matter on the 30th ult. He dealt with the whole question and it is the considered view of the Government that no further discussion or statement at this stage would serve any useful purpose. Therefore no Minister will be in attendance.

I have quoted that passage to show you what seems to me a wrong Governmental attitude. They do not think a debate in the House would "serve any useful purpose". They feel that the Seanad giving of its views to the public would not be of any avail, of any use, and therefore the Government will not attend.

The Seanad did not want a debate either. Is that not so?

That would certainly appear to be borne out by subsequent events.

That is right.

I would be tempted to give you a reason—except that I might be led astray—for the extreme coyness of the Seanad on that occasion.

Senator Hayes has now said that it was on his advice that no Minister could attend because it would serve no useful purpose.

That was the view of the Seanad as well.

Nevertheless, in his Dáil statement, the Taoiseach said, Volume 153, No. 9, of the Official Report of Dáil Éireann, column 1345:

A grave responsibility rests on all of us in this matter. It rests with special weight on Deputies of all Parties, on Senators, on members of local authorities.

He went on to appeal to them to make their views known. Apparently we were to make our views known in back kitchens, or somewhere similar, but not in the Seanad. As Senator Hayes says, to the eternal shame of the Seanad, the Seanad was prepared on that occasion to be completely muzzled. I do not want to dwell on that particular incident. I think it was a mistake, however, and that the attitude of the Government then was a mistaken one.

The second occasion on which I ran into this ministerial absence was on 19th April, 1956. That was when I put down a motion asking for Department of Education regulations to be modified in such a way as to prohibit corporal punishment for girls. I had originally raised the general question on the Adjournment in June, 1955—the Minister for Education had been present. He then listened to what I had to say and replied. On the occasion of my raising it on the Adjournment, it was put very strongly by another Senator, an ex national school teacher, that I should have had the courtesy to put down a motion and raise it when everyone could speak. I did so, though I realised that time would drag on. I put down the motion in December, 1955, and it made a timid first appearance in February, 1956. I say a timid appearance because only three-quarters of an hour of time for debate was available on that occasion. But, and this is the point; this is what makes it particularly relevant today: the Minister for Education, General Mulcahy, was ill at the time and he sent a colleague to replace him. The then Minister for Health, Deputy O'Higgins, came here to listen. The motion was not in fact finished that evening, but I suggest that in sending a colleague, the Minister was recognising a principle, and that his colleague by coming was recognising a principle, the same principle that we are asking to have recognised to-day, a good principle.

It was not until April that this motion was resumed. It was put down in December, started in February and finally disposed of in April. In April, when it did actually come up, the Minister for Education did appear some time after I had started speaking. Before I had concluded a plea was made on his behalf that he should be allowed to speak in the middle of my speech and go home. I naturally did not want to inflict any corporal suffering upon him. It had been mentioned that he had been tired. So I agreed and let him in. He made his speech and went away. His justification was— Volume 45, Column 1939:

I will not take part in turning either the Seanad or the Dáil into a district court. I am prepared to read most carefully any debate which takes place on the subject here in the Seanad.

But he was not going to stay. I appealed to him to stay and reply, but he felt that there was no onus upon him to stay. I continued my speech, We went away at 6 o'clock. We reassembled at 7 o'clock. Not alone was he not there, but there was no representative there, and I carried on in their absence. Reference was made to a walkout of Government Senators on a recent occasion. That particular occasion was the only occasion on which I saw no members at all of the then Opposition, who are now the Government, no member of the Fianna Fáil Party at all in the House.

What occasion was that?

That was the motion on the beating of small girls. No Fianna Fáil Senators were present for the motion debate; none was present when the vote was taken. It was a silent walkout, or complete absence of the whole Party.

I do not think that is quite so. There were members of the Party here. Senator Ó Cíosáin was there after tea when the debate was resumed and some others. They are not obliged to stay.

I am quite emphatic that no Fianna Fáil member was here. I was over there on those benches and the benches around me were completely empty. It was a walkout, a less spectacular one, but none the less complete.

The third occasion I came across this was when I asked for the right on 5th June, 1957, to raise the matter of he primary school in Fethard-on-Sea which had no teacher by reason of a local boycott. I wanted to ask the Minister for Education what he was doing, what alternative transport he was providing, what steps he was taking in regard to a situation in which 13 schoolchildren were not getting any schooling at all, although they were still subject to the provisions of the School Attendance Act. I was officially informed at lunch time on that date, when the matter was agreed as a proper one for raising, that the Minister would be present, but when the time came and I got up—I forget the time, at 7, or 6, or 5—it must have been after 7 o'clock, I suppose—suddenly we were told: "The Minister will not be here." It was Senator Ó Cíosáin, I think, who spoke. No Minister, neither the Minister for Education nor one of his colleagues, appeared. I felt that was very bad. Some Senators supported me in that contention on that occasion.

Again—this was on 4th July, 1957, —I felt it was necessary to raise the matter of the failure of the Government to implement the recommendations of the Fair Trade Commission on infant foods, chemists' prescriptions, pharmaceutical goods and so on. Again, this was approved as something which could legitimately be raised on the Adjournment. It seems to me that this particular case was one upon which it was vitally important to have the Minister present, because in fact what happened, and what was admitted to have happened, was that the Minister had failed to comply with the law. That is not my statement. It is recognised in the statement issued by the Minister for Industry and Commerce at the time. There were difficulties intervening we all know but I do not want to go into the details now.

The law said that within three months of the making of the recommendation of the Fair Trade Commission, the Minister must either implement it or make a statement as to why he had not done so. It was the previous Minister for Industry and Commerce, the present Taoiseach. March 29th was the time when he should have either explained why he was not implementing the recommendation or else implemented it. There had been a change of Government in the interim. But it was not until July 3rd, the very last day of the meeting of the Dáil—a further three months after March 29th—that the Minister, in fact, issued a statement, at the very last minute—there was far too little time for the Dáil to debate it—that he would not implement these recommendations. This should certainly have been discussed, and fully explained to Parliament.

I raised the matter on the Adjournment. It was fortunate that the Seanad was still in session and that the matter could still be discussed in the Oireachtas. But the Minister said he would not come. He was absent, and he did not send any delegate at all, although it was possible to show as I did show— the record demonstrates it—that there had been something, on the face of it at any rate, which looked like a grave dereliction of duty, a failure to comply with an Act of the Oireachtas.

The fifth occasion that I remember upon which a Minister absented himself was, perhaps, what we should call a partial absence. It was an occasion upon which Senator Cogan was replying to the Minister for Agriculture, Deputy Dillon, on that occasion, on a motion about the price of wheat. Senator Cogan had proposed the motion, and there had been quite a debate. The Minister had replied and Senator Cogan was replying to the Minister. He was replying with such effect that he greatly embarrassed the Minister. The Minister suddenly got very annoyed and said he would not listen to any more of this stuff. He swept out of the House. I did not really feel it was the House which had lost prestige by this particular piece of petulance. It is true that the Minister had listened to the proposing of the motion. He had heard the whole debate. Nevertheless, it did not seem to me very much to heighten either Ministerial prestige or the prestige of the Oireachtas to see him walk out during the Senator's reply.

The sixth occasion to which I should like to refer is one which has a special significance and I should like to direct the attention of the Taoiseach to it. It was an occasion upon which I tried to get permission to raise on the Adjournment the question of the mysterious banning of The Observer. That point was ruled out of order. I accepted the ruling as being correct. I draw attention to the reason it was ruled out of order. It was ruled out of order because no Ministerial responsibility was said to have been involved.

If we recognise that as a legitimate reason for ruling out of order a point when one seeks to raise it on the Adjournment, it must surely follow that if a matter is ruled to be in order, then Ministerial responsibility is involved. I would suggest, therefore, that the very fact of approval by the Cathaoirleach of a matter to be raised on the Adjournment in this way is a sign that, in the opinion of the House, it is a matter in which Ministerial responsibility is involved.

Now, in any matter in which Ministerial responsibility is involved, surely we have the right to ask the Minister to be present? In other words, any point the Seanad tries to raise on the Adjournment is either out of order because no Ministerial responsibility is involved—that automatically puts it out—or it is accepted, in which case some Minister is at least partly involved. Therefore, he should be present, to listen to criticism and to defend himself, if necessary.

One of the last occasions upon which we failed to have a Minister present was an occasion—I do not refer to them in detail: they will be referred to by others—upon which Senator O'Quigley asked a question in relation to the revealing of names of unemployed during an election. The other was a matter raised by Senator Quinlan arising out of which we had this statement by Senator Ó Maoláin. That particular point related to the circulating of speeches made at the United Nations.

In that particular instance—I really believe this is true of both these examples—it seems to me glaringly obvious that the case of the Government was so good, that it could only make it appear bad by running away from criticism. That seems to me to be the lesson, indeed, to be derived from each of these occasions to which I have referred. When the Minister runs out under fire as the Minister for Agriculture or as the Minister for Education did, or when the Minister fails to appear in the firing line at all, it is because he implies that the case against him is so strong that he cannot face the music.

That seems to me to be particularly true in the last instance which is the one that concerns us and to which reference is actually made in the motion. It seems to me that obviously the Government had an excellent reply.

It is because I believe this House must act as a responsible sounding-board for public opinion, a sort of public address system, if you like, with the co-operation of the Press, that I feel it is not only a duty to the House to raise matters in the public interest, but it is the duty of the Minister to come and state his case, if he has a case, if Ministerial responsibility is involved. So, in every case where the matter is approved for raising by the Cathaoirleach, the Minister or at least one of his colleagues is in honour bound to come and state his case before the Oireachtas and also to the public.

What the Minister says here will be heard outside the walls of this House. He must not merely state his case, as was done by the Minister for Education in the previous Government, who then ran away, but he must state his case, and humbly listen to those who believe it is possible a Minister can be wrong.

Senator Ó Maoláin in the statement which the motion asks the House to disapprove of says, and I quote from the Official Report Col. 842, Vol. 51:

The view of the Government regarding the practice which has recently developed in the Seanad of moving motions of this character on the Adjournment, is that it is an attempt to devise a new procedure by which Ministers would be made accountable to the Seanad for their administration. The constitutional position is that Ministers are responsible to the Dáil only—members of the Dáil, of course, being elected directly by the people. Ministers are not responsible to the Seanad. If the Seanad persists in trying to make Ministers accountable to this House——

At that point the Cathaoirleach very properly intervened. That seems to me to be a negation of our rights. That is why I approve of the terms of Senator Hayes' motion, subject to my amendment, as supporting the established tradition of both Houses of the Oireachtas. The mere fact that Dáil members are elected by direct suffrage, and that most Ministers are elected from among their number—of course, we have had Ministers from our number—does not mean that the Seanad can be flouted, or that we must regard Ministers as not being in any sense answerable to it.

I suggested already that in this instance it seemed to me that the Government had an excellent case. I do not understand at all why they should have felt so coy about coming to state it. Could it be that they were too sensitive even to listen to criticism? I say, surely not. Surely, in our political system, we have to get used to listening to some criticism of ourselves? It is not a question in a supreme sense of the Minister being "accountable," in the Senator's words, to the Seanad, but merely that he would be willing to come and listen to us.

We are a deliberative and also a consultative Assembly. It seems to me to be, in courtesy alone, the duty of the Minister, whose responsibility is involved, to come and listen to us. The fact that we have no power to dismiss him is irrelevant. I suggest that we have the power, and the established power, to criticise his policy, and to ask him questions within the rules of our own procedure. The simple fact that the Cathaoirleach approved of the raising of these matters shows that all the matters I mentioned were within our own procedure.

We have no power to dismiss a Minister, it is true, but we have no power, either, to stop a Bill from going through. We have no power of veto, though we can stop a Bill for 90 days. That is all. Yet, though we have no power to stop a Bill, a Bill must come before us. We have no power to dismiss the Bill or the Minister, but the Bill must come before us. I suggest that for these matters, too, the Minister ought to come. I do not like to use the word "must," but I feel that he is in honour bound to come before us.

When a Bill does come before us, as it must, the Minister usually comes with it, listens to our observations and answers our questions. Senator Hayes referred to the recent occasion on which the Minister for Health, in answer to a question or two of mine, put the view that since I was asking about financial matters, the Seanad had no right to get an answer. Several Senators objected to this. The Minister for Health was big enough, subsequently, to get up and alopogise to the House, and say he had been wrong and he gave the answers in quite a full way. That is right. That is the right attitude.

As Senator Hayes said, we have no Question Time here. Would that we had! I do not share the rather codling and protective attitude towards Ministers that is taken by Senator Hayes. Would that we had Question Time.

The Senator has no class consciousness.

I never belonged to the class of Ministers, and I never shall. I feel that, short of a Question Time, we have certain rights and opportunities to raise matters within our rules of procedure, to ask questions and get some kind of response from a Minister. I will conclude by asking the House to support this motion and my amendment. I ask Senators to consider that in this whole matter the prestige of the House and of the Oireachtas, and indeed of the Government—each Government not just this Government, but all Governments in this country—depends upon the willingness of Ministers and Governments patiently to hear parliamentary criticism within the rules of procedure, to be glad to do so, and to exercise their right of reply.

I formally second the amendment and reserve my right to speak until later.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Senator may not reserve his right to speak.

May I, then, continue for a few moments?

On a point of order, I am under the impression that our Standing Orders give a Senator, in seconding either a motion or an amendment, the right to reserve his right to speak until later.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

A Senator seconding a motion may reserve his right to speak. A Senator seconding an amendment may not do so— not an amendment to a motion.

Thank you. We learn every day. In saying that, may I pay a tribute to Senator Hayes for his speech this evening? May I say, quite spontaneously, that we learn almost every day from his experience and knowledge as a parliamentarian. We have all very good reason to be grateful to him, even if we disagree with him at times. We acquire both knowledge and technique from him as a parliamentarian and it is part of our education here.

I think Senator Sheehy Skeffington has made a fair case for broadening the terms of the motion. Personally, too, I prefer it to be a non-Party motion. We are defending the procedure of the House, which lies very close to the hearts of all of us. If I felt for a moment it was merely a Party matter, I should be reluctant to support the motion at all. Senator Hayes has put it forward in a very non-partisan way which makes it a good deal easier for us all.

We very gratefully appreciate the presence of the Taoiseach here this evening. By coming here and giving of his valuable time and attention, he has almost answered our unspoken question. I have great pleasure in seconding the motion.

I agree with Senator Hayes as to the desirability of clarifying the situation which has arisen and to which the motion he has moved refers. I think I should make it clear, because of some remark of his, that I am not attempting to define principles or determine practices for all time but rather expressing views which I now hold upon certain aspects of the relationships which exist between the Dáil and the Seanad and between the Seanad and the Government.

In order to explain my attitude to the question in the motion it is necessary, I think, to make a brief reference to certain aspects of our Constitution. I agree with Senator Hayes that the Dáil and the Seanad are equally Houses of the Oireachtas, on equal footing in regard to certain matters, but with quite important differences of fundamental importance in their powers and their functions.

It may perhaps help Senators to understand my position in relation to the motion if I indicate briefly what I think are these main differences in powers and functions between Dáil and Seanad. First of all, there is the matter of legislation. While no law may be promulgated until a Bill has been passed, or been deemed to have been passed, by both Houses, the position of the Seanad in regard to legislation is clearly subordinate to that of the Dáil. I do not think it is necessary to elaborate that point.

The Constitution contemplates that, in respect of legislation, the Seanad should be a revising Chamber with limited powers of delay. That, indeed, is its main function as I understand it in our parliamentary system —in our "machinery of Government", as Senator McGuire described it. I agree, however, that, to enable them to fulfil that important function, Senators are entitled to get from the Government, through the Minister in charge of any particular measure, all necessary information and explanations. I do not think the question of introducing Bills in the Seanad is relevant to this motion and I do not propose to refer to Senator Hayes's remarks in that regard.

As regards the control of the finances of the State, power to exercise that control is conferred by our Constitution on the Dáil to the exclusion of the Seanad. The Seanad cannot amend, as Senators know, or delay excessively, Bills which are declared to be Money Bills and it is to the Dáil alone that the annual Estimates of receipts and expenditures are presented. While that is so, I agree fully that there is nothing in the Constitution or in the Standing Orders of the Seanad, which prohibits the Seanad from expressing an opinion, by adopting a motion, in favour of placing charges on the public revenue for a particular purpose, but it is clear that such resolution can have no effect unless it is adopted by the Government and, indeed, even when adopted by the Government, further action in the Dáil would be required before it could be put into effect.

With regard to external relations, the predominant status of the Dáil is made clear in the Constitution. An international agreement is required to be laid before the Dáil only, and only the consent of the Dáil is required for the approval of an agreement involving charges upon public funds. It is, however, mainly in the matter of its relations with the Government that the constitutional position, as I understand it, bears directly upon the motion now under discussion here. In its relationship with the Government, the position of the Dáil as the predominant House is made very clear in the Constitution. The Seanad, as has been said, has no function at all in regard to the composition of the Government. The Constitution expressly provides that the Government shall be responsible to Dáil Éireann.

The position therefore generally is that the Seanad in regard to its powers and functions occupies a position which is subordinate to that of the Dáil. The Government are not responsible to the Seanad. They do not occupy in relation to the Seanad the position they occupy in relation to the Dáil. The reasons for these Constitutional arrangements are, I think, readily understandable. Senator McGuire's arguments about the democratic basis of the Seanad are, I think, beside the point. Dáil members are elected by direct popular vote; Seanad members are either nominated by the Taoiseach, elected by the Universities or elected from restricted panels of candidates by a restricted electorate. That predominant position given to the Dáil in our Constitution is in accord with the general democratic character of the Constitution.

I mention these matters because I think it is the obligation of the Government to make sure that the position contemplated by the Constitution, and which I regard as desirable in itself, should not be undermined in any way, and we should not allow procedures to grow up which would have the effect of altering that position in practice. The Seanad, although enjoying not less than the Dáil the status and dignity of a House of the Oireachtas, is clearly in certain respects, in regard to legislation, public finance and external relations in particular, subordinate in powers and functions to the Dáil and that, I suggest, applies particularly in respect of its relations with the Government.

Without presuming to lay down any hard and fast rules, I think, because of these differences in functions, that it is, to put it mildly, doubtful whether it would be appropriate or desirable for the Seanad to debate, first, a motion whose terms imply formal censure of the Government or call into question the Government's policies or administration in respect of any matter, except to the extent that such criticism or question would arise during the course of the consideration of a Bill before the Seanad or on a motion relating to a statutory order which is, in essence, an extension of legislation; secondly, a motion concerning the finances of the State other than a motion for a recommendation moved during the consideration of a Money Bill, and particularly a motion which advocates an important policy change which would impose a substantial charge on the public; and thirdly, a motion concerning policy bearing on external relations except as envisaged by the Constitution.

I would, perhaps, modify my opinion in regard to that third category of motions by saying that I would not regard as inappropriate, and indeed practice has established the right of the Seanad, to discuss motions—which, in the past, I think were usually arranged in accordance with understandings made informally at the instance of the Government—motions of sympathy or congratulation in connection with notable events abroad or protests on assertions of national rights.

I express these views because I assume motions dealing with financial matters and external relations are generally likely to be motions of censure. Apart from the objections that these matters are clearly intended under the Constitution to be the special concern of the Dáil, such motions are open to the general objection to all motions of censure in this Seanad in that they appear to call upon the Government to defend their policy and administration to the Seanad and imply that the Government are responsible to the Seanad, whereas, as I have tried to make clear, they are in fact responsible to the Dáil only. Nothing in the Constitution suggests that the Government are responsible to the Seanad in any sense or in any degree.

As regards questions, I think Senator Hayes mentioned that it was long ago decided by the Seanad Committee on Procedure and Privileges that the answering of questions by Ministers could not be claimed as a right, but the practice of allowing a matter to be raised on the motion for the Adjournment has been established, subject to the decision of the Cathaoirleach that the matter is suitable for discussion in that way. There is also provision in the Seanad Standing Orders for a motion for the adjournment of the Seanad on a definite matter of urgent public importance. In the Dáil, whatever may be contained in the Dáil Standing Orders, the practice relating to raising matters on the Adjournment is to regard it as an extension of Question Time. Generally a topic is raised on the motion for the Adjournment when the limitations imposed at Question Time are such as to prevent the matter which was the subject of a Parliamentary Question being properly ventilated.

Indeed, I think I am correct in saying that the Ceann Comhairle of the Dáil would not regard as suitable for discussion on the Adjournment any matter of general policy, any matter, for example, which should more appropriately be raised on a formal motion or where it would be unfair as well as unreasonable to expect the Minister to make a policy statement in the limited time available to him. This motion which the Seanad is now considering relates very largely, I understand, to the question of attendance of Ministers when matters are raised on the motion for the Adjournment of the Seanad. The Constitution, as has been pointed out, gives Ministers the right to attend and be heard in the Seanad and, under the Standing Orders of the Seanad, a Parliamentary Secretary to a Minister is given the right to attend in his stead, with the permission of the Cathaoirleach. The Seanad however, has no power whatever to require the attendance of a Minister or a Parliamentary Secretary.

In saying that, I want to stress that the Government have no desire to limit the power of the Seanad to debate motions, but I want to make it clear also that the Seanad has no right to summon Ministers to appear before them or to try to coerce them into appearing here by allegations of running away or reluctance to defend their policy or by deploring their failure to exercise their right to stay away at any time. Senator Sheehy Skeffington referred to an incident in 1955, when the then Taoiseach, Deputy Costello, declined to attend here to make a statement to a motion of his relating to a delicate and important matter of public policy. I am not going to express a view as to whether he was right or wrong. We can however, visualise a situation where the making of a statement on a particular topic, might be regarded by the Taoiseach or by a member of the Government as unwise and indiscreet, and he could not be forced into an indiscretion by a summons from the Seanad to come here and make a statement.

It is clear also that there will be circumstances in which, for other reasons, Ministers may refuse to attend, just as there will be motions upon which they may think it unnecessary to make any statement. As a matter of established practice, it can be assumed that a member of the Government will always be present at a meeting of the Seanad when the House is considering a Government measure with which he is concerned. But I want to make it clear that a Minister is under no obligation whatever to attend here for a debate or a motion or to defend here, when challenged on a motion, either the policy or administration for which he is responsible to the Government and for which the Government are responsible to the Dáil. If he does so, it will be either out of courtesy to the Seanad or because he regards the occasion as being a suitable one upon which to state the Government's position.

Having made that clear, I want to say further that the Seanad may take it that Ministers will normally attend whenever the circumstances are such that their attendance would not confuse the true constitutional position in regard to the powers and functions of the Seanad and the relationship between the Seanad and the Government.

There is one complaint which I want to make to Senator Sheehy Skeffington in that regard. There is a motion on the Order Paper in his name—Motion No. 6—which has been there for quite a long time. I do not know how long he is going to keep it there—perhaps until, with the course of time, it becomes relevant again to the circumstances prevailing. I am submitting that it is quite unfair to a Minister to put a motion on the Order Paper without the Minister knowing when it is to be discussed at a Seanad meeting and giving him the feeling that he has to be available every time the Seanad meets.

I think the Taoiseach is not in possession of the facts. When that matter came up, it was ruled to be temporarily out of order until the Commission on Human Rights at Strasbourg gave its decision on the Lawless case. The ruling that I could not discuss it until that decision had been given was not of my doing and the matter went into abeyance according to the ruling.

I was only using it as an illustration. I think that, in arranging formal motions for discussion, consideration should be given to the burdens resting on Ministers in relation to their work in the Dáil and that the aim should be so to provide for the progress of business in the Seanad that Ministers will be facilitated.

In view of what I have said, I hope that Senators will perhaps understand why Ministers declined to attend the Seanad on two recent occasions when adjournment Debates were initiated. One was on the question of the publication of a pamphlet relating to external affairs, and the other occasion was when certain matters respecting the conduct of a Dáil by-election were raised, matters which could under no conceivable circumstances be regarded as the concern of the Seanad. I think it would be wrong for me to question the ruling of the Cathaoirleach on that occasion, but may I say that if the Seanad at some future time should decide to discuss the conduct of a Dáil election or by-election, they may well get a more formal request from the Dáil to mind their own business.

Apart from the character of these motions, the fact that all surrounding circumstances made it clear they were inspired by Party political motives had a bearing on the Government's attitude. I am not trying to prohibit or restrain the Seanad from discussing motions which could be regarded as relating to the Party political situation, but when such a motion does appear in the Order Paper, the Government may well decide to leave it to Senators in the House who support the Government, feeling that they will be able to deal more effectively with the motion or at least deal with it with greater freedom than Ministers could exercise.

It may be taken that it will be the normal practice in future as in the past for Ministers to attend for debates upon motions which appear to us to come within the constitutional functions of the Seanad, which deal with important matters of public concern and which offer suitable opportunities for an explanation of Government policy, and that practice will apply to motions on the Adjournment as to more formal motions. I feel sure, as does Senator Hayes, that if problems of this kind are approached with common sense no difficulties need arise.

I think the concluding sentences of the Taoiseach's speech justify the putting down of this motion because it does appear from what the Taoiseach has said that it is not the view of the Government that tradition, in relation to the attendance of Ministers on various kinds of motions, should be departed from to any great extent, if at all. The Taoiseach, as I interpreted him, reserved to his Government a certain amount of elbow-room, and it can only remain for us to hope that the latitude which the Taoiseach has allowed himself in his speech, will never be employed by any member of any Government, and that the occasions which the Taoiseach thinks might arise requiring the Government to exercise the latitude which he has laid down will be very few and far between.

The Taoiseach has outlined the relative constitutional positions of Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann and, apparently since he took to reading the Constitution, he has adopted very much the lawyers' attitude. He has not at all referred to some of the concurrent authority on powers which the Seanad shares with the Dáil. I do not intend to go into these but there are some functions in which the Seanad has an absolutely equal authority with the Dáil, in relation to the office of President, and in relation to the office of the Judiciary, and there is one extremely important concurrent authority which the Seanad has, to which the Taoiseach did not refer. That is contained in Article 28 of the Constitution. I think it is probably the most important function that can be exercised by either the Dáil or Seanad, when you have said all that has to be said about the relative authority in relation to finance matters, Money Bills and external relations, because that is the clause which determines that the Government can set aside the whole Constitution and that nothing that is done by the Government, for the purposes of maintaining public security in time of war, or armed rebellion, shall be wrong and that the Constitution cannot be invoked to challenge anything the Government have done, but the Government can do that only upon the passing by each House of the Oireachtas—each House, mark you—of a resolution that, arising out of an armed conflict, a national emergency exists affecting the vital interests of the State.

To me, that shows the desirability for closer harmony and co-operation, and the need for closer harmony and co-operation existing between both Houses of the Oireachtas, because it is quite conceivable, as we demonstrated here recently, that the Government of the day may not have a majority in the Seanad and, for all the Government could do in something they thought was important they might find, in a prolonged war of attrition between themselves and the Seanad, the Seanad might take the same view as to whether or not a state of emergency did exist.

There could be circumstances in which a Government might think it desirable to have an emergency period declared for three months to meet a particular situation. The Seanad, if it were hostile, and with a tradition of hostility between it and the Government, might not accept the view of the Government and, under the Constitution, could completely stultify the wishes of the Government which, indeed, might happen to be correct. It seems to me in this very important matter of relations between the Dáil, the Seanad, and the Government, what are required are, as has been said by Senator Hayes and the Taoiseach, common sense and a desire to co-operate. There should exist and, in my short time in the Seanad, I think it has given many manifestations of its desire to co-operate even beyond what might be regarded as reasonable.

There have been occasions when we have been presented with legislation which we have allowed to go by, very much against our will, without amendment, for the purpose of extending to the Government the co-operation which they asked. Indeed, it has even arisen on an occasion when it was agreed by the Minister— I do not say the Taoiseach but the Minister handling a Bill—that an amendment which was suggested here was for the betterment of the Bill and, rather than hold up the Bill, we let it go in its unamended and wrong form, solely for the purpose of facilitating the Government. That arises from the sense of responsibility which the Seanad has of its position in regard to legislation.

The British Constitution, about which we heard a great deal this year, has developed in two ways. I do not intend to dilate upon this matter, but I do want to point out such things as the conventions of the constitution in Britain. They are not to be found written anywhere. They are not rules and regulations. They are practices and I should certainly hope our Constitution, which has only come of age in the past year or so, would develop as a living organism capable of expanding, and of being adapted to meet particular needs as time goes on.

I should very much regret if the Dáil or the Government were to say: "The Seanad has only got certain rights and we shall keep them to these rights. We shall keep them in their place." The Taoiseach, having poured a great deal of oil on troubled waters in the major part of his speech, came out with what I consider to be a most extraordinary statement, quite out of keeping with the rest of his speech. He referred to a motion which was discussed here concerning a by-election in Dublin. I do not think the Taoiseach was quite in possession of the facts as to what that motion was about. It was not in connection with a by-election. It arose out of a by-election and was connected with the administration of the Department of Social Welfare.

The Taoiseach then went to the length of saying that if the Seanad dared to express its views on by-elections to the Dáil, it might receive a more formal notification on a future occasion. I rather took the Taoiseach to mean they would get a slap in the face from Dáil Éireann, and be told to mind their own business. If I am wrong in that summary, I am prepared to stand corrected, but that is what I took to be the effect of what the Taoiseach said.

As I understand the Constitution, everything that is not restricted or denied is permitted. We in this House are not permitted to hold up a Bill for longer than 90 days and, if we do, certain conditions apply, but there is nothing in the Constitution which prevents the Seanad from debating any matter which is within the Standing Orders of the Seanad. Whether that relates to policy or financial control or administration, there is nothing to prevent the Seanad from debating these matters and expressing its opinion on them. There is nothing the Dáil can do about it, whether the Dáil likes it or not. Whether the matter relates to elections to the Dáil, the policy of the Government and Ministers or financial matters, there is nothing the Government or the Dáil can do about it.

The Seanad is not some kind of wireless that has only a few stations and can play only on those few stations. There is a very wide range of subjects on which it can speak according to Standing Orders. It is not, as the Taoiseach erroneously thinks, confined to certain matters. It is another matter whether the Taoiseach chooses to attend on these motions. The Taoiseach has indicated that we can rest fairly assured that it would be the general view and wish of the Government that they would be in a position to attend by reason of the type of motions they would be. I think it should be made clear at this stage that there is nothing in the Constitution which prevents this House at any time it thinks proper in accordance with Standing Orders from discussing any matter of Government policy, financial, economic, administration of Government or anything else.

Beyond these few remarks, I do not wish to say anything except, in conclusion, that I have a feeling of relief as far as this House is concerned. It has done well in bringing this matter up for debate and it has done its duty to future assemblies of the Seanad in protesting against something which it conceived to be in derogation of traditional practice.

Anybody who agrees with democracy and all that flows from it must regret recent refusals of Ministers to attend a debate in the Seanad and the fact that the well-drilled arrays of the Irish would-be dictators walked out of this Seanad——

What about the Winslow Boy?

I am surprised that any Party which claims to be democratic should show such disrespect, such discourtesy, such disregard for the institutions of this State which so many good men gave their lives to establish. We all believe in democracy but democracy in all circumstances requires co-operation from all those who use it. We all, both in Seanad Éireann and Dáil Éireann, believe that democracy is best in practice because it offers a satisfying ideal of fair play for the whole population and it usually struggles, in any case, in that direction. I think, however, it will have to be admitted that we had not either co-operation or fair play from the Government Party, the elected representatives on that side of the House, on that occasion or on previous occasions.

I think that both the Taoiseach and the Leader of the Seanad have yet to learn that toleration is an essential element in true statesmanship and that the very meaning of toleration is the suffering of people to say and do things with which you are not in agreement, provided that they are within the law. That is the important matter. Mr. de Valera when he was Taoiseach stated in the Dáil on 19th April, 1934, that the only safeguards for the people in the long run were the good will and the honesty of the people's representatives. If they are the only safeguards of the people, certainly we have not had the good will of the present Government, who are the people's representatives, on a number of occasions in the past. We certainly had not the good will of Senators when they walked out of this House when an important motion was down for discussion.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I do not think that is relevant to this motion.

Yes, Sir, it is. I claim, Sir, that as long as Fianna Fáil or any Party have the responsibility of government, they must defend their discharge of it in the Dáil or the Seanad, not on Radio Eireann or elsewhere. I claim that Parliament is the fount of their power and as long as there is government by the majority of Parliament, they must continue to do their duty. If you have not the co-operation of the elected representatives and the Government, then it will be a bad day for the country.

May I interrupt the Senator? Could we get an indication whether it is intended to conclude this motion to-night?

I do not know how many speakers there are. Ten minutes will do me. In deference to the Taoiseach, I think we should conclude if we could.

I shall finish in a moment. I claim that the strength of Government depends largely on the regard the general public and its representatives have for it. That has even sharper validity to-day when so many Parliamentary institutions throughout the whole world are being assailed and trampled down on all sides. I think that Parliament will fail if respect for it or co-operation with it is flouted.

This motion and the debate on it have done good. I should like to make only one observation on the amendment and Senator Sheehy Skeffington's contribution. He talked about being unlucky in that Ministers did not come in to hear him. The truth is that if Senator Sheehy Skeffington gave the matter some thought and studied parliaments here and elsewhere, he would find himself extremely lucky. Nowhere else in the world do Independent members get more liberty, "a better show", to use a colloquial phrase, than in this House and in the other House. I think that is absolutely true.

On a point of personal explanation, I did not say that I was unlucky in not being allowed to speak. I merely said that I appeared to have been unlucky in that upon the only two occasions in his whole life when Senator Hayes advised a Minister not to come and listen to a Senator, it happened to be me.

I am saying that the Senator is extremely lucky to be here instead of in any other House I know anything about.

Thank you very much!

He is extremely well off. He gets an extremely good hearing. On many occasions he put down a motion on which he could get no seconder —I want to conclude on this matter and get on to the Taoiseach—but on one occasion the then Taoiseach, Deputy Costello, did not come. As the present Taoiseach said, he might have had a variety of reasons, but if he had come, he could not have made a speech. There were no proceedings in the House. No motion was made; no question was put from the Chair. If the Taoiseach had been foolish enough to come, he would have been sitting here and he would have been in the position that, having listened to Senator Sheehy Skeffington, he would have had to go away without saying anything. So my advice to him and his action were extremely apposite. The Seanad is never muzzled.

Let us come to the Taoiseach's view. The Taoiseach told us something which, if I may say so without offence to him, we already knew—that Seanad Éireann has not the same powers as the Dáil. We agree entirely in regard to that. I have no desire in anything I said on this motion or in anything I ever put down here to extend the powers of the House as set out in the Constitution. I realise, too, that we have no absolute right to make Ministers attend. Ministers do a great many things which nobody can make them do. It is true to say that Deputies have no right to make Ministers answer questions at Question Time but Ministers keep on doing it. The truth is that in regard to any particular question which a Minister does not answer, the Chair has no right to make him do it. In Parliamentary life, Ministers do a great many things which they are not absolutely compelled to do. I do not think that any effort has been made to undermine the position of Ministers.

The Taoiseach argues that while we have power to discuss Bills and administration in so far as it may be relevant to Bills, we have no power such as the power to put down a motion censuring the Government.

I am sorry if the Senator misunderstood and took that view. I think I indicated that I accepted the Seanad had the power under Standing Orders to discuss any motion which might be moved and which the Chair accepted as being in order. My remarks were directed towards the type of motion the debate on which I would regard as appropriate for the Minister to attend.

Did the Taoiseach say the Seanad could not put down a motion censuring the Government? The criterion for the Chair is whether a motion affects a Minister or not. You cannot put down a motion as to whether Wellington or Napoleon was the better general. It must concern a Minister in some way or another.

I agree with the Taoiseach that we ought not to put down motions of general censure on the Government. If we are to have any intelligent discussion in the Seanad, it must be discussion of public affairs for which Ministers have some responsibility. We must be allowed, in discussing the motion, to say either the Ministers, whoever they are, should do something or should not have done something they have done. That is the great measuring rod. I remember listening in the Dáil and when a man did not mention the Minister, he was regarded as wandering and out of order.

I draw attention to the fact that there are three motions on the Order Paper which are quite relevant. None of them implies censure.

A motion about the internees surely implies censure on the Government who are keeping them in. Of course, if they are released in the meantime, then the motion lapses with the passage of time.

I refer to Motions 8, 9 and 10 on the Order Paper.

No. 8 urges the Government to do something which so far they have not done. No. 9 criticises the Government in relation to a certain scheme to which the Government have already given approval. I do not want to argue on details. By and large, what I say is correct. No. 10 deals with some administrative act taken by the Government. I am not arguing the merits of these matters. You will have a Minister coming in and he should explain some part of Government administration.

I would agree with the Taoiseach that you should not have, perhaps, general motions of censure. I should not like to agree that you should change the practice that has heretofore been followed, whereby you may put down a motion which involves to some degree censure of the Government. It is true that it would be foolish to put down a motion involving a substantial charge. With regard to External Affairs, I am not so sure about that, either.

In any event, I agree entirely that we have no power to require the attendance of Ministers. What we have power to do and what I am doing to-night is asking the Taoiseach—I think he is in substantial agreement with me in spite of certain caveats he has entered—to continue the tradition created here whereby one of the functions of the Leader of the House is to try to ensure that Ministers will be present on certain occasions.

I have always done that.

I know there are occasions when they cannot be present. I gather from the Taoiseach that he feels the tradition that has been established here over a long period should be followed. There should be—I think there always has been except on the specific occasion mentioned in the motion—co-operation between individuals and the House and a desire on the part of the Leader of the House to get Ministers and reasonable co-operation from the Opposition by saying: "We will take certain things when it suits the convenience of certain Ministers." I think we have always had that. I have always found that the people who sat on this side of the House, whoever they were, said that.

On the whole, I welcome the statement the Taoiseach has made. I think, too, without making any rules, we shall be able to manage this matter in the future. I think, therefore, that the motion does not need to be put. I should like to say, in conclusion, that every one of us, including the Taoiseach, whatever we may think about politics, will show that the members of the Government and those interested in politics desire to uphold our Parliamentary and political institutions. You cannot uphold these institutions if you belittle any part of them. That idea has got to be put firmly into the heads of everybody. Goodness knows, there are sufficient people around who are anxious to find fault with polticians sometimes for good reasons and sometimes, indeed for very bad reasons. If the Seanad is belittled and let down, I do not think that either the Dáil or the Government or anybody in our general political life can escape the consequences. Therefore, I think this discussion has done good. The fact of the Taoiseach being present and what he said will lead to a solution of the difficulties that now exist.

I take it that the motion is being withdrawn?

That is my idea.

I take it that my amendment drops in that case.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
The Seanad adjourned at 10.10 p.m. until 3 p.m., Wednesday, 2nd December, 1959.