There are altogether seven amendments to this Bill inserted in the Seanad. Of these, two really only are amendments of any substance. The first amendment is to insert after the word "habere" ["in the execution of a writ of fieri facias or writ of habere"] the words "or other writ" and to make a similar amendment lower down in the same sub-section. It was pointed out by the Chairman of the Seanad that the Bill inadvertently did not cover the cases of all possible writs that might come into the hands of the Under-Sheriff, and these particular amendments, and also Amendment 2, which is to insert after the word "decree" in sub-section 1, sub-section 2, sub-section 4, and sub-section 5 the words "or Order," we accept. I therefore move that we accept these amendments. Amendments 2 and 3 are really consequential.
DAIL IN COMMITTEE.
If the Minister had not moved that we agree to the acceptance of these amendments I had intended to move that we do not agree. I do not pretend to know what the fi fa—I was going to say fe-faw-fum—or the habere mean, but I assume that, in introducing the Bill, when they mention two particular kinds of writs, it was intended to limit the operation of the Act to these particular kinds of writs. No argument has been adduced as to why any change should take place, or why an extension of the range of this Act should be agreed to. I am not sure that there is any limit, but if there is a limit, and if the Bill as originally produced and as passed by the Dáil, was intended to limit the range of these powers to a particular class of writ, then I would urge the Dáil to maintain the position that they held when the Bill left the Dáil. Such powers as are embodied here are exceptional; that is granted. It was not intended to extend them beyond six months, and it was also not intended to extend them beyond these two particular classes of writs. The Seanad asked that we should agree to extend them to any other class of writ or order. I would urge the Dáil at least to limit whatever harm is being done by this Bill to the harm that was done when the Bill left the Dáil, and not extend the powers to cover any other kinds of writs, whatever they may be. As I said, I do not know what is meant by one particular kind of writ or another. I am assuming that the Ministry, when they introduced the Bill, had an intention to limit, or they would not have mentioned these two particular classes of cases. I would urge that the Dáil stand by the position first set up by the Ministry itself in introducing the Bill; that is, by the position maintained by the Dáil before the Bill went to the Seanad in regard to the limitation of the range of authority which these new powers would give to the sheriff's officer.
I think I was not very much behind the Deputy who has just spoken in my endeavours to confine the extent of this Bill while it was under debate upon the Committee stage; and, if I believed that the effect that this amendment was to extend the powers of this Bill to any great extent, I would support Deputy Johnson in opposing these amendments It seems to me that the amendment he read does not extend to the iniquitous portion of this Bill at all, because it does not propose to substitute other writs throughout the Bill, or to confer the ex traordinary powers of this Bill upon sheriffs, sub-sheriffs, or sheriff's officers. Throughout the entire Bill it deals only with the first, third and fifth sub-sections of Section 2, and Section 2 deals only with the employment of bailiffs. This Bill does create a special class of bailiff and if you are to have a special class of bailiff, then by all means let them earn their living, and give them as much work as they can do. The only force I can see in the amendments introduced in the Seanad is to put upon the special bailiffs all the duties, such as the execution of writs, etc., hitherto done by the regular bailiffs. But, these amendments do not extend the general powers of the Bill to any writs except those referred to in the section which conferred these general powers. A perusal of the Bill itself, authorising the Under-sheriff to sell at any time and out of his own bailiwick, etc., shows that these powers are strictly confined to a writ of fieri facias, and that these amendments put in by the Seanad do not alter these sections in any way at all. It seems to me that the amendment is really one that not only does no harm from the point of view of Deputy Johnson, and from my point of view it appears to do some good, because it ensures full employment to those people who are to be employed under the enactment. Therefore, I think it will do no particular harm.
I would like to hear some arguments in favour of the amendment. It is very generous of the Deputy to say that it is not going to do any particular harm, but when we are asked to do something in this Dáil we ought to be convinced that it is going to do some good. I am desirous of urging upon the Minister who proposed the acceptance of this amendment to give us some argument in favour of its adoption.
I quite sympathise with the Deputy's anxiety to be shown some positive good in the amendment, and I will endeavour to meet him on that; and the positive good in the amendment is this, that it avoids a position being created where you would need to have one set of bailiffs for the purpose of this Bill, and another, and a different set of bailiffs, for the certain minor purposes that were omitted when this Bill was being passed through this Dáil. I am rather amused at Deputy Johnson's consistency in his die-hard attitude in regard to this Bill, and I would point out that his colleagues, the Labour representatives in the Seanad, showed a far more enlightened attitude when I had the privilege of visiting that House.
I beg to move "That the Dáil agrees with the Seanad in Amendment 4": "In Sub-section 4, line 27, after the word `Under sheriff' to insert the words `subject to the sanction of the County Court Judge on appeal by the debtor.' " Amendment 4 was the first amendment moved in the Seanad, and it was passed before I got there. I would hesitate to claim that it would not have been passed even if I were there. I propose to accept it for this reason—that it is really of very little consequence, and I think it came into existence largely because of certain taunts in this Dáil that the Seanad were not justifying their existence. That particular sub-section, Sub-section 4, of Section 2, is really one of very little importance, because it is most unlikely that bailiffs will be employed in an ad hoc way for the purpose of a particular writ or decree. The normal course will be that bailiffs will be employed for the purpose generally of assisting the Under-sheriffs in the execution of decrees rather than for the purpose of a particular decree, and this sub-section deals only with a particular decree. Therefore, rather than incur the loss of time that would follow if I were to stand for the rejection of this amendment and the sending of it back to the Seanad, I accept the amendment, and I ask the Dáil to accept it also.
I have no desire to hang up this Bill, but this amendment does seem to me to be indifferently worded. I do not want to throw taunts at the Seanad, but when they say that "the number and remuneration of the bailiffs shall be in the discretion of the Under-sheriff, subject to the sanction of the County Court Judge on appeal by the debtor," it seems to me what they meant to do was to give the debtor the power to appeal against the amount of money which he was to be decreed to pay for the employment of those extra people. But the amendment, worded in the way in which it is, would seem to convey, to me at any rate, that when the sub-sheriff had appointed his bailiffs the debtor was to have the right of appeal as to whether there were too many before they were sent to execute the writ, which, as Euclid would say, is absurd. It seems to me that is what the amendment has done, and I rather fancy that what they meant was "subject to the sanction of the County Court Judge on appeal by the debtor" as to the amount of the remuneration. They have coupled the number and the remuneration of the bailiffs. How you can appeal against the number of bailiffs employed in the execution after the execution has been carried out and the goods sold I do not know, and I think the Seanad themselves would find it very difficult to explain. I am afraid we have not yet devised machinery by which they could re-consider their wording. I do not want to move to have the amendment rejected, but I wonder if there is any way in which the thing could be made more explicit before it appears in the final Act of the Oireachtas.
I take it that the real mind of the Deputy is pride of workmanship; he does not want any document to leave the Oireachtas that is faulty in construction. But if this amendment is subject to the interpretation that the Deputy suggests I would certainly with more pleasure support the Minister in approving of the clause.
I beg to move Amendment 5:—"To substitute in Section 5 for the words `value of £10' the words `value of £15.' "
We had this difference, this controversy, as between £10 and £15 in this Dáil, and I had a preference for the £10 and that preference prevailed. In the Seanad it did not prevail. I think it was a matter of one vote. I would like to make quite clear the grounds for that preference on my part. One would say that between £10 and £15 that I might have yielded to the liberal or generous view. Well, the liberality and generosity would not, of course, be at my expense but at the expense of the judgment creditors, so that I could quite easily have yielded if I wished. But it is because I think that in practice the limitation of £15 will work out as a limitation of £20 or £25, and a limitation of £10 would in practice work out as a limitation of £15 or £20. You see it can never be more than an approximation and the approximation is always sure to be in favour of the judgment debtor rather than of the judgment creditor, because the Under-sheriff will not take the risk of going too near the actual mark lest he might go below it. So when you say that a residue of the property shall be left to the judgment debtor of the value of £10 I hold that in practice you are leaving him a residue of property to the amount of £15 or £20 because of the timidity of the Under-sheriffs and his fear of going below the mark, and instead of going below it he will keep very much on the upper side of it. Here again I say it was a slight preference on my part, and as that preference did not prevail in the Seanad and as my view was out-voted in the Seanad, I do not propose to incur the delay that would follow from the rejection of the amendment by inviting the Dáil to reject it. I propose that the amendment stand, and that for £10 there be inserted £15.
The next amendment perpetrated by the "cooling chamber" is in Section 6, Sub-section 1, after the word "sell," in line 62, to insert the words "by public auction." I beg to move that the Dáil agree with the Seanad in that amendment.
Amendment 7 is to delete in Section 6, Sub-section 1, from the word "to," line 1, page 5, to the words "chattels or" line 3, inclusive. It will then read "and it shall not be necessary for the Under-sheriff to publish or announce that any such sale is a sale by an Under-sheriff, or is a sale of goods, animals, or chattels taken in execution." After the word "to" in line 1, these words will come out "publish any advertisement or public announcement of any sale of any such goods, animals, or other chattels, or to." It is a deletion of about two lines. I beg to move that the Dáil agree with the Seanad in that amendment.
As a mere matter of wording you will have to strike out "such" in front of "sale," because there is no sale previously referred to, and make it read "It shall not be necessary for the Under-sheriff to publish or announce that any sale is a sale by an Under-sheriff."
I would refer the Deputy to line 62, in which the verb "to sell" occurs.
I think the word "such" comes out.
Even in spite of the verb "to sell" in line 62—"decree of the Civil Bill Court to sell such goods, animals, etc.?" That is on the previous page.
Probably that would cover it.