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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 16 Feb 1966

Vol. 60 No. 15

Houses of the Oireachtas (Laying of Documents) Bill, 1965: Second Stage.

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

This Bill is designed to remedy certain defects in the procedures whereby statutory instruments are submitted to the Houses of the Oireachtas for consideration and action, if the Houses so desire.

With the growth in the functions of Government, the legislature has found it necessary, in many cases, to delegate part of its statute-making powers to the executive arm. This delegation is usually accompanied by safeguards to ensure that the powers devolved are properly used in accordance with the intentions of the Oireachtas. The safeguards generally include a requirement that the subsidiary instruments through which the delegated powers are exercised must be presented to the Oireachtas and that, during a specified period, they may be confirmed or annulled, as appropriate, by one or both of the Houses of the Oireachtas. In this manner ultimate control is retained by the Oireachtas. This is an important feature of modern democratic government and care must be taken to ensure that the intentions of the legislature are not frustrated by defective procedures.

Most statutes which confer the power to make regulations or orders prescribe a specific period during which the relevant statutory instrument must lie before one or both Houses of the Oireachtas and during which parliamentary action may be taken to annul the instrument or prevent it coming into force.

In almost all cases this period is expressed in terms of "days in which the House sits." This ensures that the control of Parliament is not rendered ineffective by reason of the fact that a House is not in session throughout the period during which the instrument lies before it. However, in some statutes, the period for parliamentary intervention is loosely expressed simply as "days". In those cases there is a danger that the powers of Parliament could not be effectively exercised because the period could run its course when the House concerned was not sitting. To a certain extent this possibility has been avoided administratively, by regarding the statutory period as commencing on the day on which the House concerned next sits. Even this arrangement, however, is not completely satisfactory because a sitting day could be followed by a lengthy period of non-sitting days, especially in the Seanad.

In section 3 of the Bill it is proposed to rectify this defect by prescribing that, where the period for parliamentary action is not already clearly defined, the documents concerned will lie before the Oireachtas for a minimum period of four weeks in each of which the House in question sits. This provision will not, of course, affect the great majority of cases in which the relevant period is precisely and satisfactorily expressed.

The Bill also clarifies the position regarding the procedure for laying a document. Section 2 provides that this means either the action specified in the Standing Orders for the time being in force in the House concerned or, if no such action is specified, the procedure followed and accepted by virtue of the practice of that House. At present the Standing Orders of the Dáil make specific provision in this regard but those of the Seanad do not.

Advantage is being taken of this Bill to clarify the period during which orders prescribing the fees to be taken in the Registry of Deeds must lie before they can come into force. The fees in question are prescribed by orders made by the Minister for Justice under section 35 of the Registry of Deeds (Ireland) Act, 1832 and section 9 of the Land Transfer (Ireland) Act, 1848, as adapted. The presentation provision is contained in section 1 of the Registry of Deeds (Ireland) Act, 1875. On one view of the existing provisions, such orders could not have effect until they had lain before both Houses of the Oireachtas during forty sitting days, a period which might well run for more than a year in the case of the Seanad. There will, I feel sure, be general agreement that such an extended and uncertain waiting period would be quite unsatisfactory in the case of a Fees Order.

The provision in section 4 of the Bill will enable the Minister for Justice to specify in the orders themselves, as in the case of Court and Land Registry fees orders, the date for the coming into force of Registry of Deeds fees orders. So that adequate notice will be given to all concerned, it is being provided that an order shall not come into force earlier than three months after it is made. The existing provisions of the law requiring presentation to both Houses are not affected by this provision nor does it curtail in any way the right of either House to pass a resolution annulling a particular order.

This Bill is, therefore, designed to strengthen Parliamentary control over statutory instruments and to ensure that in no case is Parliament unintentionally deprived of its powers over these instruments. I trust, therefore, that this measure will commend itself to all sides of the House.

The aim of the Minister in this Bill to remedy the unsatisfactory position in regard to the laying of orders before the House will, I think, commend itself to all Senators. Nevertheless, anybody who has read beyond the Title of the Bill will agree that an explanatory memorandum would have been most helpful. Anybody who went further and read to the end of the Bill might well have come to the conclusion that an explanatory memorandum might well have been needed for the explanatory memorandum, so convoluted does the language in the Bill become. I think Senators would benefit greatly and discussions in this House would benefit greatly if Ministers were to make it a more common practice to present explanatory memoranda on Bills of this type.

The number of Bills which can speak plainly for themselves on their face are becoming fewer and fewer as the years go by. As I have said, it would help us to help Ministers if Ministers were to increase the number of explanatory memoranda they lay before us. Lest I should appear in any way ungrateful for what already has been done, may I say that because we find it so helpful in the cases in which we do get explanatory memoranda we wish the practice was extended.

The Bill is naturally acceptable to the House because it ensures that parliamentary control will not become something of a matter of course, something which needs only a lapse of time for an order to become law. Nevertheless, difficulties may arise in a few instances. I should like to bring up here the fact that the new dispensation will create some difficulties for the National University of Ireland and its Colleges. Most orders which are made under legislation are laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas and then the Minister concerned proceeds, quite properly, to act as if the order were to be approved. Statutes normally provide that even where an order is annulled, nothing which has been done under the order is invalidated or illegal.

In regard to the National University of Ireland and its Colleges, the position under the 1908 Universities Act and also under the General Statute of the University is that where a statute of the University, in accordance with the 1908 Act, is laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas, neither the Senate nor the Colleges are empowered to proceed under that statute until the statutory time has lapsed. So there is a hiatus here and there can be no anticipation that the statute will be approved. This gives rise to difficulties. The fact that the statutory time is quite properly extended under this particular Bill means that the difficulties of the National University and its Colleges may well be intensified. I merely mention this point to bring it to the attention of the Minister. I am quite sure that the Minister and his colleague, the Minister for Education, would be willing to discuss with the university any difficulties which might arise and agree possibly on an amendment of the university general statutes which would result in an arrangement that might lead to fewer difficulties.

There is one other point I would like to raise on the Second Stage. Under the Bill there is absolutely no difficulty in regard to the question of orders laid before the Seanad when the Seanad is in recess because the time does not begin to count, legally, until the House meets again. Nevertheless, I have often noticed that when the House meets, following a relatively long recess, we find ourselves with three, four or five pages of papers laid before the House. It is quite a chore to go through those, ticking off the ones which you think may be of interest. It is also a considerable chore to go through this quantity of material in the Library of the House. I wonder if, perhaps, it might not be a good administrative arrangement, while the Seanad was in recess, if once a month a list of the papers laid on the Table during that month were circulated to Members. This, as I said, is merely a matter of administrative convenience but I think it would help Senators to tackle the job of examining those lists of papers.

I welcome into our parliamentary language a new legal statutory term, that of "relevant weeks." The hypothesis that the Seanad has both its relevant weeks and its irrelevant weeks finds no statutory support in the present Bill.

This Bill is, of course, a public Bill but from one point of view it might well be called a Private Parliamentary Bill because it really is only of interest in relation to the internal workings of parliament. It does not affect the man in the street. That is probably just as well as not only Senator Dooge but everyone else who has read the Bill finds it almost incomprehensible. The Seanad will take particular interest in this Bill. For us it has a special significance because through the Committee on Statutory Instruments the House is particularly interested in delegated legislation.

As the Minister has said the complexity of a modern State, the speed with which affairs change and the need for amending legislation is such now that it is necessary to have action in an executive way by order. The delegation of the authority of the Oireachtas to legislative authority, in this case, is purely subjective but I have not heard any of the purists bringing forward a suggestion of any alternative way of dealing with the complexities of modern life. As long as this is the way in which the Oireachtas is made aware of what is happening and as long as the Oireachtas has some machinery to deal with statutory instruments, then I think the fact that it is done by delegated authority ceases to be quite so objectionable.

The Seanad, through the Committee on Statutory Instruments, keeps every piece of delegated legislation under review. This Bill certainly tightens up the difficult cases under older legislation where, as the Minister has explained, there was not the same nicety in relation to the definition of how time should run. As well, the procedure of the laying of documents before the Houses is a very essential one. In that regard I know that quite a number of people have recommended the abandonment of the phrase "laying on the table." It had one advantage. It provided us with the verb, "to table." One can readily understand that the meaning of the verb to lay is not always clear, whereas the verb "to table" can very frequently be used in regard to the tabling of amendments. I hope no purist wants to change the phraseology "laying on the table" to the point of getting ride of the verb "to table." It is a very useful verb.

As Chairman of the Committee on Statutory Instruments, I particularly welcome the Bill. In fact, my welcome is much warmer now than when I first read it. When I first read the Bill I decided I had not the remotest idea of what it was intended to do and I was constrained to do something which I almost never do—I read what was said in the Dáil. I was comforted, at this stage, to discover that a number of very learned lawyers expressed themselves to be in precisely the same difficulties. It was rather saddening to find that by the time they passed the Bill to this House they did not seem to be very much wiser. However, that is the sort of thing that can happen.

The Minister, in his introductory speech on Second Stage in the Dáil, at least acquainted me of what the Bill purported to do. I must agree with Senator Dooge and Deputies who said that it would have saved a good deal of mental agony in both Houses had a White Paper on the lines of the Minister's introductory speech in the Dáil been circulated. We would then have known what the Bill purports to do and it would be much easier to know what way the Bill is framed. The first thing I felt inclined to do was to find a simpler phrase which would do the same business. Of course, the difficulty with this is to be perfectly sure that the simpler phrase does, in fact, do the same job. It is particularly important in this case that the Bill should, in fact, do what it purports to do. As I have said before, this Bill is of purely internal interest and, in my opinion, as long as it is understood by those who will have to operate it, that is all that really matters. The fact that it is difficult to read is of secondary importance because it is not the type of legislation to which those who will operate it will have to go back again and again to see under precisely what term they are operating. All the machinery it lays down is simple. May I illustrate what I mean? When the new "yield right of way" sign came out a friend of mine said: "This is a silly sign, there are too many words on it." He was quite taken aback when I pointed out that when he had read it once he did not need to read it through again and this is very much the same principle. Once the officials who operate these procedures know the lines on which they should operate, that is all that matters. I am not saying, and far from suggesting, it would not have been preferable that it would have been drafted in such a way as to have been more easily read.

Section 2 provides the machinery by which matters are brought before the Houses and commences by saying:

A reference in any statute to the laying of a document before a House of the Oireachtas shall be construed——

I think it might have been better to have been quite mandatory and said:

Laying before the Houses shall be done by presenting to the Clerks——

I understand the difficulty is that the Houses have a constitutional right to order their business by Standing Orders. The next consideration is— is what is provided here merely a matter for the Houses or has it any wider implications or interest? I must say, on balance, it seems to be quite clear that it is a matter which should be dealt with by Standing Orders. The difficulty arose in the Dáil because, I understand, in this House Standing Orders do not provide for a presentation to the Clerk as a method of laying before the House. So they did not quite appreciate subsection (b) of section 2. Even if the Standing Orders of this House did so provide, I think subsection (b) would still be necessary because Standing Orders could be changed by resolution. I think it is important, just in case, at some later stage, when maybe this Bill had passed into history and the terms of it had been half forgotten, someone might change Standing Orders in such a way that paragraph (a) could not be enforced.

My chief difficulty with section 2 was to know what subsection (b) meant when it was read. I think the difficulty arises from putting "shall be construed" in the position it occupies. The reading of it would certainly have been very much clearer had it read this way:

A reference in any statute to the laying of a document before a House of the Oireachtas shall—

(a) if the Standing Orders of the House which are for the time being in force specify the action to be taken as constituting laying of the document before the House, be construed as a reference to the taking of that action, and

(b) if such Standing Orders do not so specify, be construed as a reference to the taking of such action as, by virtue of the practice which for the time being is followed by the House, is accepted as constituting laying of the document before the House.

because the great difficulty in subsection (b) is this odd phrase "as a reference to the taking of such action as". I wondered what on earth that phrase could possibly mean. The difficulty, I think, arises because the word "as" at the end of it is separated from the verb "is" a couple of lines underneath. I am quite sure the legal meaning of the subsection is exactly what is described but I must say I do not know who worked it out. It is not arguable that it is not desirable to split up "shall be construed". This very type of thing is done in section 3 on page 3 round about lines 11 and 12 where "shall be deemed" is separated by a clause.

Section 3 itself would have been improved if the definitions of "instrument in relation to which this section applies" and "the relevant weeks" had appeared before the existing subsection (1). I found it confusing to read down through this and discover only later on what these terms meant. But, as I have already said, it does not affect the validity of what was done. One other thing that might have been clearer is that the relevant weeks are four weeks. Because of the odd construction of paragraph (b) of subsection (2) of section 3 it certainly is not clear at first sight that it is, in fact, four sitting weeks that is meant. These are drafting quibbles and I am merely suggesting that it is just as well even if the Bill itself is only of internal interest that it should be fairly clear from the reading of it what it intends to do. Certainly it would have saved some mental agony, as I mentioned before.

With reference to what Senator Dooge said, it is quite true that this may prove administratively difficult to a university where statutes have to be presented to the Houses. Of course, our concern is to see that we are facilitated and, up to now, there has been this rather bad system in force by which a statute of the university could have been laid on the last sitting week of the Seanad in July and would certainly have come into force in 40 days before the Seanad again sat.

On a point of explanation, it would not, because in the university statutes the counting of 40 days must exclude any period of over 21 days of recess.

I understand it could be possible that certain instruments would disappear from view from the point of view of doing anything about them legally in the House. Our chief concern is to see that our rights are protected. I think this arrangement for four sitting weeks is an excellent one. As far as public Acts are concerned, of course, it mostly relates to stuff which will gradually disappear as statute law revision goes on.

Section 4 is slightly out of line with the rest. Advantage has been taken of the Bill to bring in this very sensible amendment. In relation to what I have said about the drafting of this Bill and to what Senator Dooge has said in relation to the tendency towards incomprehensible drafting, I must admit—in relation to this—that if anybody goes back and reads the three previous Acts of 1832, 1848 and 1875, one thing I am sure of is, he will be convinced that the Parliamentary draftsman is the possessor of a halo of sweetness and light. The older Acts make things very much more incomprehensible than anything I have seen in modern legislation.

The Senator can see why lawyers look for fair fees.

Yes. In relation to the provisions of section 4, I should like to know what precisely is meant at the end of subsection (1) where the phrase "which relates only to fees" is used? I speak as a layman without knowing anything at all about the niceties of the situation. If an order under section 1 of the 1875 Act and the other Acts can only relate to fees, there does not seem to be the slightest necessity to say, in this, that it does only relate to fees, On the other hand, if it is at all possible that an order made could relate to something in addition to fees, under the terms of this subsection such an order will now escape the subsection because it is quite clear that this is only in reference to orders which relate only to fees.

I was fascinated and bowed down with admiration at the way section 4 is dovetailed with the 1875 Act which it amends. Not being conversant with all that is implied in these Acts, I could not quite discover whether it would have been easier to have done away with section 1 of the Registry of Deeds (Ireland) Acts, 1875, and completely redrafted it in this Bill. I must confess my admiration for the way it is dovetailed. Those who are concerned with it will know what it means. I do not know if Senators have noticed it, but there is a difference in the orders here and the orders with which we are concerned in section 3. There is a time during which the orders must be dealt with—four weeks—in section 3, but in this case the orders can be dealt with at any time, and legislation to annual or amend can come even after the expiration of three months.

I should like to take this opportunity to suggest to the Minister that in the process of tighening parliamentary control over delegated legislation he could be of some administrative help. Difficulties sometimes can arise in relation to documents laid before the Houses. I do not think sufficient care is always taken to distinguish between statutory and non-statutory instruments, and it has happened that non-statutory instruments have been brought forward as if they were statutory instruments. I am not suggesting that any great harm results, but it takes up the time of the staff who deal with these things first, and their time is wasted, so to speak. It could be very dangerous if it were the other way around, and if a statutory presentation were listed as non-statutory. There is a case pending to which I cannot refer because a committee is concerned with it, but this is the sort of thing that gives one furiously to think. The Minister could help by issusing circulars reminding Departments that they must be very particular in the presentation of documents, and must make sure they are in the right category.

Again, very often there is great difficulty in understanding what a statutory instrument means because of lack of clarity in the explanatory memorandum, which is not part of the instrument, but which is attached to it to make it clear. You can get something like, "This is in substitution for Statutory Instrument No. so and so". This involves a lot of unnecessary research to go back and find out what it was. It would not greatly hurt anyone who is making orders to make sure that what the order purports to do is made clear.

There is one other matter to which I should like to refer. The Committee on Statutory Instruments has been in considerable difficulty in the past two or three years. A couple of years ago the staff which dealt with these matters were—I do not know what the appropriate word is; not press-ganged I think—diverted to other work and an enormous backlog arose. It does not always matter greatly that an instrument should come before the Committee fairly quickly, but certainly the quicker the Committee deals with these instruments the better. The chief difficulty that causes this backlog and makes it very difficult for the Committee to deal with them reasonably quickly is shortage of staff. I am quite sure I would be out of order if I were to advocate that the Minister should spend money, because that is not a function of the Seanad, but I wonder would he look kindly on representations to improve the staffing position, so that this type of work can be brought up to date. The second last Bill we passed, the Diseases of Animals Bill, will produce a flood of orders. It cannot operate unless it does. One shudders to think of the mass of verbiage that is about to descend on the place. Certainly it would make matters very much simpler in keeping the House aware of delegated legislation if the staff position were better.

In conclusion I should like to say I welcome this Bill. I should be glad if the Minister could tidy it up, but I agree it is not essential that that should be done.

Senator Sheldon who is a very active and efficient Chairman of the Committee on Statutory Instruments has made many of the points which become apparent to us as members of that Committee. He mentioned the explanatory memorandum attached to the end of Statutory Instruments. It may be worth recalling that this was agreed to by various Ministers at the request of the Statutory Instruments Committee under the then Chairmanship of Senator George O'Brien.

This is a Committee which is not very much before the public eye. Not only is it particularly concerned with a Bill like this but it does extremely useful watchdog work for the community in relation to Statutory Instruments when they are laid before the Houses. Its effect can be described, in fact, as in terrorem, that is to say, Statutory Instruments are framed with additional care, shall I say, in the knowledge that they will be scrutinised by this Seanad Committee which perhaps does not get quite as much credit as it should.

Having said that I do not want to amplify what has been said by Senator Sheldon. We all agree that this is a most complex Bill. I think I understand a reasonable proportion of it, but I must confess that reading and rereading section 3 takes great mental agility. There are two questions which I should like to ask. I think I know the answer to the first, but I shall put the question nevertheless. I take it that lines 22, 23 and 24 are to be read as not being part of subparagraph (ii) of paragraph (a) of subsection (2) of section 3 as referred to in section 1. I take it that I am right in thinking that these three lines are, in fact, a continuation of paragraph (a) and are not to be interpreted as being part of subparagraph (ii). In these three lines the word "statute" occurs again. I take it that in section 1 the exception to the interpretation of the word "statute" refers only to where it occurs in line 20. I take it that the answer to my question is "yes, that clearly lines 22, 23 and 24 are to be read as not being part of this subparagraph".

My other question relates to paragraph (c) at the top of page 3, which says that an instrument in relation to which this section applies or a draft of a proposed such instrument may be annulled, disallowed or disapproved, or rendered such as not to have any force or such that no further proceedings are to be taken thereon, etc. I would like to ask whether the word "annulled" covers everything that is implied by the words "disallowed, disapproved, or rendered such as not to have any force"? In other words, is it necessary to have these further alternatives? When you have said "annulled" does not this mean the same thing as "rendered such as not to have any force", or might it be varied slightly, by amending these last words to read "rendered such as not to have any further force" if what is intended is that the instrument may have force up to the time at which it is disallowed or disapproved but may be deemed as having been in force up to that time? Therefore, could not the word "further" be inserted between the word "any" and the word "force", as it goes in in the same line before the word "proceedings"?

These are only small drafting points. I put the question and in the light of the Minister's answer it might or might not be worthwhile putting down amendments. Obviously, this is a highly complex Bill in its drafting, but it is very necessary and the complexity is necessary by reason of the very situation that is being dealt with.

I think that the House welcomes this Bill very much because as far as all of us are concerned—certainly speaking for myself —none of us knew of this difficulty or knew of the fact that orders and regulations might be laid before the Seanad and, in fact, would be in operation at a time when the Seanad was not sitting. I would have nothing but praise and unalloyed pleasure for this particular measure if that was the purpose for which it was introduced. Unfortunately, our pleasures in this life are never complete and I feel then that perhaps part of the reason for introducing this Bill was the need to deal with the fees situation in the Land Registry in an otherwise highly commendable venture on the part of the Minister. One of the things that intrigues me is that it is the Minister for Finance—we are always happy to see him here—who is burdened with the task of introducing this Bill. I would have thought that since it applied to all legislation it would be a matter for the Taoiseach as the great co-ordinator in Government matters. Perhaps the explanation is that section 4 is in it, which is within the scope of the Minister's duties.

I have oftentimes thought that the Seanad does not do as much as it ought to do in relation to these statutory instruments placed before it. Granted that we have the Committee on Statutory Instruments set up by the Seanad, of which Senator Sheldon is Chairman.

They work very hard.

I was a member of the Committee at one time and for that reason I know that they work very hard. It is not an easy matter to deal with all the instruments which come before them. They have done very useful work, and the existence of that Committee, like the existence of the Public Accounts Committee, has always been a restraint on Departments who might be inclined to do things which the Statutory Instruments Committee might take them to task about. But the Statutory Instruments Committee is concerned to see merely in effect that the instruments that come before it are clear and are not ultra vires the statute under which they are made, and to see that there are no undue delays in presenting them to the Oireachtas. What I am very concerned with is that while we want to have at a very early date every statutory instrument issued laid before the two Houses which may be annulled if a resolution is passed within 21 days, not sufficient attention is paid by this House in my submission to the content of the particular instruments.

If one tries to trace what the position is in relation to various matters about social welfare and the Health Acts, which are quite common, it is virtually impossible to ascertain what the law is. These instruments very often regulate the entitlements of persons to various benefits under the parent statutes, and lawyers and a fortiori members of the public have no means of ascertaining what statutory instruments are made under different Acts, what ones are in force and what ones have been amended by later instruments. While in relation to the ordinary statutes passed by the Oireachtas there is produced every five or ten years an index showing what have been amended and the various sections repealed and so on, there is no equivalent index for statutory instruments, and the time-lag in relation to the binding of the statutory instruments is so great that it is quite impossible to find at any particular time what statutory instruments under the Social Welfare Acts, for example, are in force. I have as a lawyer had to phone the offices of the Department in order to be certain that no amending statutory instrument has been made. The only way to find out is directly or through a solicitor to get in touch with the Department of Social Welfare. The same thing applies in other spheres.

I was a member of the Statutory Instruments Committee from 1957 to 1961 when it had drawn the attention of the Department of Defence to the tangle of statutory instruments which represented regulations in the Army. They were to be codified, but I very much doubt if they have since been codified. This is the kind of situation which the Oireachtas and particularly this House, which has a great deal more time to attend to matters of that kind than the Dáil, should be concerned about. I would like if at some future date we could establish some kind of a committee that would actually look into the content of these instruments and make certain that the law is not only known to the public officials but is equally available to members of the Oireachtas and the public. I am quite certain that in relation to a variety of statutory instruments it is only possible for the people who are operating these day in day out in a Government Department to say what the position is. That is something, with the increasing amount of delegated legislation, to which this House should address itself, for which it is particularly fitted and for which, if I may say so, it has an abundance of time.

Having said all that, I have little sympathy with Senator Sheldon or with my colleague, Senator Dooge, on the matter of the language of this Bill. Anybody who gets a Bill from the Department of Finance must immediately realise they are getting a Bill which is couched in the most archaic and difficult language. We had numerous Bills on superannuation which were intelligible only to the people who drafted them. I have no time for people who criticise this. It is essential in the Department of Finance to make things as difficult as possible when they are turning down this application for money or that application for sanction or approval and so on. Every time we find them speaking in the kind of language they use in this Bill, it is not to be wondered at. I sympathise with the Department of Finance who speak in this Bill the language they speak every day.

I should like to advert to a matter to which Senator Dooge referred. Recently I had a look at the Order Paper, as is my custom, to see that statutory instruments had been laid, and I found some difficulty in getting copies of the statutory instruments that are, as indicated, said to be laid before the Oireachtas. It is a matter that should not arise. I wonder if the Minister for Finance would be prepared to agree, as a modification of a proposal by Senator Dooge, that where a Senator requests that these instruments as they come out should be sent to him, he would make such provision. I think that as a matter of conscientious duty some Members of the Oireachtas should take it on themselves to cast an eye on these various instruments to see if we might not be persuaded of the urgency in regard to the drafting of these instruments.

There is one further matter to which I should like to refer. I do not know what the views of the Minister for Finance on it maybe. In my experience I have found there are some statutes, enacted in the 1940s, wherein no provision was made to lay instruments, regulations and orders made under them before the Oireachtas. I have in mind one in respect of local government elections which dealt with the division of local authority areas and district electoral divisions, giving the Minister for Local Government authority to delineate the particular electoral divisions and change them from time to time. I was surprised to find there was no provision in that statute or subsequently I noticed in others, for the laying of an order made by the Minister under these statutes before either House of the Oireachtas. I wonder has the Minister ever adverted to that and whether an amendment to provide that all statutory instruments under Acts of the Oireachtas should be laid before the House would be in order under this Bill.

I shall take the points in the order in which they were made. In the first place, the difficulty the National University of Ireland might have in respect of instruments made under their statutes would not be proper to be corrected in this Bill which is a very general measure. The proper course would be to look at the originating statutes for any amendment that would be required in that respect. Senator Sheldon is obviously much more knowledgeable in this respect than I profess to be. The point he made was that while the language of this Bill was difficult enough, it is far easier than the language of the Bills referred to in the course of this Bill. I find myself, when I come to the Seanad, defending not so much the principle of a Bill as the draftsmen. I defend and I not only justify them but try to explain why they must use this type of language. I do not know why, but I suppose it is the only language they know, whatever about the language the Department of Finance officials know. I suppose it is a precedent to accept the type of language the interpretation of which by the courts is known to them. To depart from that to colloquial usages would perhaps present difficulties in some respects.

Senator Sheldon made a point in respect of Section 4 (1) and asked why the words at the end of the subsection relate only to fees and why it should be used. The fact is that this amendment of the Deeds Act of 1832 and the Land Transfer Act of 1848 is intended to relate only to fees. There are, I understand, proposals in the Department of Justice for the modernising of those two statutes in a general way and in order not to anticipate in any way these reviews of those statutes, it is intended to limit the application of this particular amendment to fees as provided for in these other Acts.

I said in justification of the officials of the Department and myself that this Bill was introduced specifically for the purpose of regulating the laying on the Table procedure at the request of the Ceann Comhairle and, I should imagine, of the Cathaoirleach. It is quite genuinely brought forward in that way. The fees orders appeared subsequent to the examination of the principal purpose of the Bill. There is nothing we need be ashamed of in that respect. Senator Sheehy Skeffington put a question to me in respect of paragraph III of section 2, particularly in respect of the words in lines 22, 23 and 24 and gave as the probable answer that they did not refer to the paragraphs immediately preceding them. I am informed that they do.

My question was not that. I asked if I were right in assuming that they are not to be read as part of paragraph (ii) because if they are then in line 24 the word "statute" is used again and I do not think the word "statute" is intended to apply.

I think the Senator is right there. It applies only to paragraphs (i) and (ii) and not to the other part of the subsection.

Lines 22, 23 and 24 are not part of the subparagraph?

That is what I understand. The other point made by the Senator was in relation to paragraph (c) of subsection (1) of section 3. He suggested that since the word "annulled" is in that paragraph that the latter words "disallowed or disapproved or rendered such as not to have any force" are not necessary. I suggest they are in this way. The word "annulled" would, in my construction of it, refer to the word instrument which is something already in force. You would not refer to a draft of a proposed such instrument and annulment could not apply to something which is not already in existence. The draft of a proposed instrument is not in existence, and therefore in order to relate such a word as "annulled" to instrument I suggest that the words "disallowed", "disapproved" or "rendered" etc relate to a drafting of a proposed instrument. I hope the Senator follows the point I am making.

Similarly, in relation to his suggestion in lines 3 and 4 that the words "rendered such as not to have any force" should read "rendered such as not to have any further force", I suggest the same point would apply here. An instrument would be rendered as not to have any force but a draft of a proposed instrument could not be rendered not to have any further force since it never had any force in the first instance. I hope I have been clear enough in dealing with the point raised by the Senator.

I hope it will be clear to those who have to interpret it?

Have I made myself clear to the Senator?

I see the point the Minister makes and I think, in fact, he is possibly right. I leave this in the hands of the lawyers.

The other points I think were of a general nature. Senator Sheldon suggested that staff shortages or requests to remedy staff shortages amongst the officers of this office might be treated kindly by me. I want to tell the Senator that I always treat such matters kindly so I do not think I need reassure the Senator on that point. Senator O'Quigley suggested that specific requests for copies of statutory instruments by Senators might be acceded to. I think that is worth looking into. Another point made by him and by Senator Dooge in relation to statutory instruments, was that instead of being crowded into an Order Paper of the Seanad issued after a long recess of the House, that a system might be adopted whereby monthly lists of those statutory instruments, as laid on the Table, should be issued. That is a suggestion which would be worth considering, too.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for next sitting day.