Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 13 Mar 1924

Vol. 6 No. 27


Chun criche aon Achta a rithfar sa tSiosón so chun leasú do dheanamh ar an dlí a bhaineas le coistí dháréag agus ar an méid den Acht Timpeal Toghachán, 1923, a bhaineas leis an ní sin go bhfuil sé oiriúnach a udarú:

That for the purpose of any Act of the present Session to amend the law relating to juries and in connection therewith to amend the Electoral Act, 1923, it is expedient to authorise:

(1) Go n-íocfar amach as airgead a sholáthróidh an tOireachtas na cionta so a leanas de sna costaisí fé n-a raghaidh Comhairle gach Contae agus-Bhuirge maidir le clárú fén Acht san:

(1) The payment out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas of the following proportions of the expenses incurred by the Council of every County and County Borough in connection with registration under such Act:

(a) ceathrú den méid a íocfidh an Chomhairle leis an Oifigeach Clárathachta, mar gheall ardhualgaisí a có-líonadh, i geás Contae riaracháin, ag Rúnaí Chomhairle na Contae, no ag Cléireach Chomhairle aon Bhailecheanntair sa chontae agus i geás Contae-Bhuirge, ag Rúnaí no ag Cléireach na Contae-Bhuirge;

(a) one-fourth of the amount paid by the Council to the Registration Officer in respect of dutiesperformed, in the case of an administrative County, by the Secretary of the Council of the County or the Clerk of the Council of any Urban District in the County, and in the case of a County Borough by the Secretary or Clerk of the County Borough;

(b) trian an méid a íocfidh an Chomhairle leis an Oifigeach Clárathachta mar gheall ar dhualgaisí a chó-líon Rát-Bhai-litheoirí;

(b) one-third of the amount paid by the Council to the Registration Officer in respect of duties performed by Rate Collectors;

(c) leath gach costais clárathachta eile a íocfidh an Chomhairle.

(c) one-half of all other registration expenses paid by the Council.

(2) Go n-íocfar amach as airgead a sholáthróidh an tOireachtas, trí sheachtú de chostas na clódóireachta a theastóidh chun crícheanna clárathachta fén Acht san.

(2) The payment out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas of threesevenths of the cost of printing required for registration purposes under such Act.

The purpose of the particular provisions set out in this Resolution is to ensure that the proportion of charges as between the Central Authority and the Local Authorities shall remain as it has been heretofore. This particular Bill will effect savings in connection with the Jurors' Lists by joining them with the Electors' Lists, and it is proposed under this Bill to ensure that the full proportion of the savings effected will come to the Government, and that they will not be merely savings to the Local Authorities. In the past the Central Authority paid half of the total charges of the register, while the Local Authorities paid the whole of the charges in connection with the Jurors' Lists. As the register now consists of Local Government Electors and Parliamentary Electors, the cost of preparing the lists has been divided. It is estimated in the case of the Secretary of a County Council or of a Clerk to an Urban District Council, that about half the work in connection with the Jurors' Lists and about half the work in connection with the Electors' Lists, will fall on each respectively. In the past the Government paid for half the work in connection with the Electors' Lists, and paid nothing in connection with the Jurors' Lists. It is proposed, therefore, in future that we will pay one-quarter of the charge in connection with the combined lists. In connection with the work of the rate collectors it is estimated that about one-third of the work that falls on the rate collector is in connection with the Jurors' Lists and two-thirds in connection with the Electors' Lists. It is proposed to continue paying one-half of the charge of preparing the Electors' Lists, that is, one-third of the whole amount. In regard to C., it simply continues to pay one-half of the expenses of registration. In regard to paragraph 2, the adding of the Jurors' column to the Electors' Lists will increase the cost of the printing. It is estimated that the adding of the Jurors' column will cost one-seventh. The cost of printing the Electors' List is six-sevenths, and the Government will pay the half of that, which is three-sevenths. The intention of the Resolution is to prescribe that the proportion as between the Central Authority and the Local Authority shall continue unchanged. I move the resolution.

I want to raise again the question touched upon yesterday in regard to this motion. The effect of passing this motion, in its present form, is to limit very greatly the powers of the Committee of the Dáil in discussing the Bill itself. I think it is certainly not necessary, and I doubt whether it is expedient, that the form of financial resolutions shall be such that the Dáil in Committee is precluded from altering the proportion, as in this case, of the moneys which may be paid by the Central Fund or by State Funds and by the local authorities, respectively. I am not very much concerned with the merits of this particular resolution, but I am concerned with the limitations that are imposed upon the Dáil, and incidentally upon the Seanad, but they can look after themselves. I think the effect of bringing forward financial resolutions in such a form as this will mean that we shall have to be very particular in discussing such resolutions, and probably it will mean a double Committee Stage in Money Bills. It will mean that we shall have to propose amendments to the Resolution, so that the judgment of the House will be found and decided before we tie our hands. Now, I think that these financial Resolutions ought to be vague rather than definite, and when we are asked to confine ourselves in a Resolution and limit our considerations to the Bill itself, it is a warning to us that we shall have to be very much more careful in our examination of the financial Resolutions, and it will, undoubtedly, lead to a Committee Stage discussion on the Resolutions and probably to a second Committee Stage discussion when we come to the Bill itself. I think it is unfortunate that that course should be adopted. We had a warning, through the discussion that took place last week in the Seanad, and I am sorry that that warning has not been taken, and that the new Resolution is of this limiting kind. I am not going to oppose the resolution, but I protest against this method of confining the activities and considerations by the Committee to the terms of the Bill itself when we come to the Bill.

Deputy Johnson has, in another way, put the same point that I had desired to put before the Minister for Finance. I am not discussing the propriety of whether Financial Resolutions are or are not required under the Article. The Article says merely this, that money shall not be appropriated by vote, resolution or law unless the purpose of the appropriation has in the same Session been recommended by a Message. That does not require that there should be any detailed setting forth of the purport and purpose of the Resolution. The Minister will correct me if I am wrong, and you yourself, Sir, will perhaps correct me if I am wrong; both yourself and the Minister have had an opportunity of reading more of these Resolutions in the source of their inspiration than I have had, but those that I have read and those I have had access to have always been in general and vague terms such as would not preclude detailed discussion and amendment in Committee. I do not recommend that that is the better course to adopt. It has been the practice hitherto for the Dáil to meet here and find a Financial Resolution on the Orders of the Day without having had the terms of that Resolution indicated to Deputies or circulated with the time required for the circulation of a Bill. If it should become the practice that a Financial Resolution was to go into such detail as to anticipate many of the matters that would normally arise in Committee, not only would we have a Committee Stage twice, but what would be involved would be, that Deputies would legitimately require that the Financial Resolution should be circulated in such time in advance to them that they would have an opportunity of putting forward the same amendments as they did propose to put forward on the Bill itself in Committee. I think it would be in conformity with the appropriate use of these Financial Resolutions, if they were put in general and vague terms, so that the Dáil would not be restricted in its discussion of the Bill by the terms of the Resolution formulated. Like Deputy Johnson, I will not discuss the case from the point of view of the Seanad. They are very well able to look after their own interest. But, from the point of view of the Dáil, it does mean in this case that certain amendments that might be desirable, and that should be within the power of this House of the Legislature to bring forward and discuss in Committee, after the passing of this Resolution would be ruled by you, Sir, as out of order. That, I think, is undesirable.

I do not want to go into the discussion of the general matter on this particular Resolution, if it can be avoided. I would not accept the theory that the Resolution should always be vague and not definite. I think that there are occasions, and especially if large sums were involved, where it would be most desirable to have the Resolution extremely definite. I am not saying that this is a case in which the resolution ought to be definite. It might well have been vague, but I think that there is no harm in having it definite in this particular case, seeing that its definiteness simply takes the form of prescribing that the proportions as between the National Exchequer and the local authorities shall remain as heretofore. It would be impossible to go on with the matter if the Resolution in its present form were not acceptable to the Dáil, because we would require to have a fresh message. I simply say that in this case the definiteness of the Resolution is not objectionable. While frequently, perhaps generally, these Resolutions should be vague, I think there must arise, from time to time, occasions on which the Money Resolution ought to be absolutely definite, because the Constitution certainly contemplates that proposals for expenditure shall originate with the Executive. I think that there are very good reasons for that provision, and that idea in the Constitution and the carrying out of it, might involve an extremely definite Resolution.

Might I ask whether, if we pass a Resolution that it is expedient to authorise payment out of moneys in certain proportions, we are free to alter the proportions so long as the proportions of the total sum to be paid out of the money provided by the Oireachtas is not increased?

Yes, that has been my view. It should be stated, in the beginning, that most of the Money Resolutions have been couched in general terms—I do not like the word "vague." I did not contemplate that the matter would arise this evening, and I have not by me exact copies of the Money Resolutions. Deputies who were in the last Dáil, however, will recollect that the Money Resolution in connection with the Damage to Property Bill was simply a Resolution to authorise the payment from moneys provided by the Oireachtas of awards made or decrees granted under any Act of the present Session, and so on. That was a general matter. It was not general enough, however, to cover everything. For example, it was held by me to exclude moneys to be paid by the Minister for Finance as a result of an agreement made between him and the Railway Companies, on the ground that that would not be money paid on a decree given by a Court. That was a general Resolution. In the case of the Army Pensions Bill— I am speaking merely from recollection —we had a considerable discussion on the Money Resolution, which was restricted in one part and general in another. That is to say, it provided for the payment of pensions to members of the Irish Volunteers and the Citizen Army of 1916, who had received wounds. I think I warned Deputies, in the course of the discussion on the Resolution, that the word "wounds" was clear and definite, and in the Committee Stage certain amendments endeavouring to extend "wounds" to "illness" were ruled out.

On the other hand, the same Money Resolution provided for pensions to the dependents of deceased members of the Irish Volunteers and Citizen Army. The word "deceased" was held to allow amendments of any kind to be moved in Committee—to allow the payment of pensions to the dependents of persons who died either from wounds received on active service, or by hunger-strike in prison, or in any other way, on account of the word "deceased" having been used. In the case of the Ministers Bill—although I am least clear about it—the Money Resolution was merely to pay the expenses of any Act of the present session in connection with the Ministers and Secretaries Bill. In the case of the Housing Bill, the Resolution simply prescribed a sum not exceeding £300,000, and, in effect, the restriction was to £300,000. The point that Deputy Johnson has just raised arose very clearly on that Bill. The sum in the Resolution was £300,000, and we were restricted to that. It would not have been possible in Committee to move an amendment so as to make the expenditure on the Housing Bill greater than £300,000, but it would have been possible in Committee to move an amendment to devote the £300,000 in a different way from the way proposed in the Bill, but not to exceed that sum. I think, however, it is right to say that, as a general rule, the Money Resolutions have been couched in general terms. I think I have disposed, by the example of the Housing Bill, of the point Deputy Johnson raised, except that in this particular case it would be possible to move an amendment which would not exceed the total sum contemplated by this Money Resolution. The mathematical problem of discovering how one would juggle with the fractions would, I am afraid, be out of my power to deal with. The real restriction is that I think it would be impossible to alter the fractions.

That is my difficulty. No sum is mentioned. We are restricted if we pass this Resolution to one-fourth of the amount paid by the Council. We cannot say one-third and we cannot say one-fifth, no matter what our views may be as to the relative liability that should be imposed on the two bodies. After consideration of the Bill itself, we shall not be allowed to alter the proportion.

Except by making the State expenditure smaller.

That is the point I am raising. It seems to me that if we agree it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys in the following proportions:—One-fourth and one-third, we are binding ourselves to these proportions, inasmuch as we are not stating any sum. We have not fixed any maximum. It seems to me that we are trying to legislate in the terms of the Resolution. It is a wrong method, I suggest, and whatever may happen to this Resolution, the local bodies will perhaps have something to say on it. I think it is a very bad precedent.

I accept your correction, Sir, that the word "vague" should not be used. The word should really be "general." Passing from that, I only want to underscore the sentence used by Deputy Johnson, that the Money Resolution and the Bill to follow adjust certain moneys that are going to be given in a certain proportion. That proportion is exactly the legislative proposal. It is not the financial proposal. It is a legislative proposal hereafter to be considered in Committee. Being the legislative proposal, the entire sum is the financial proposal. The proportions in which that entire sum will be distributed is the legislative proposal, and, therefore, is a proper matter for Committee.

I do not think the Deputy understands the proposal.

The Resolution does not propose to distribute the appropriation amongst these several heads in certain proportions. What it does propose is to appropriate out of public funds such a sum as shall be equal to one-fourth under one head of a certain expenditure, and to one-third under another head, and so on. There are really three contributions to three several expenses or headings. I suggest that, in that sense, they are general, as the amount of the expenses is not known. They are definite, as an appropriation must be, to some extent, definite, in proposing to appropriate from public funds so much towards one heading of expense and so much towards another, whatever the expenditure may amount to, and that is really within the terms of Article 37. Of course, the object of the Resolution before the Committee Stage is that the Dáil may exercise of itself alone appropriating authority.

It is a question not so much, I think, of the Constitution, but of the expediency or fitness of a certain form of Resolution. Would the Attorney-General hold that "one-fourth" in this case means a sum not exceeding one-fourth?

Yes. I would suggest, respectfully, that you could not take from heading (b) and enlarge heading (a), and so on with heading (c). These are three separate appropriations, and in each case a sum not exceeding so much towards that particular class of expenditure.

It would be impossible to figure it out even if one could constitutionally increase (a) and decrease (b). On the Committee Stage of the Bill, if this Resolution were passed, it would be possible to make one-fourth one-fifth, one-third one-fourth, but not to make (a) one-third and (b) half. Does this Resolution arise out of any other statutory requirements?

It is simply continuing the substance of the present arrangement, which is statutory.

That is to say, in this case would it be convenient for the Minister for Finance to frame a Resolution in any other way? That is what I mean. Money Resolutions have been framed in a general way, and when I received this Money Resolution I assumed that it would not be convenient to frame it in any more general way than this.

I do not think we could, and get the substance of the Resolution in, which is to maintain the present relative positions. Otherwise, we would be failing to make a definite proposal to the Dáil with regard to expenditure.

The unfortunate part of that argument is that it is left to be an indefinite sum. The desire to be definite is only made to a very very slight degree, inasmuch as it is one-fourth of an indefinite sum, so that there is nothing gained by going to this extent in the way of definiteness. It is indefinite because it is a proportion of an amount that is not known and cannot be known. While I am not very confident about it, it seems to me that we would not be entitled under the Bill in Committee to alter these proportions, even to reduce this sum that is to be paid out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas. Of course, that means that the whole discussion upon the imposition of rates or payment for registration would have to take place upon this Resolution rather than upon the Bill. As far as I am concerned, I am not going to press the point any further on this motion, but I would urge strongly that the practice of proposing such a Resolution as this in general terms should not be continued, or, shall I say, repeated, so that we shall not be under the obligation of having long Committee Stages and many amendments proposed to a Financial Resolution.

It would be open to reduce the amount, but one should question what it is leading to. This is, as Deputy Johnson says, an indefinite sum, but it is a definite liability. Any indefiniteness there is indefiniteness which is the outcome of not having a definite census at hand, and one can only get that definiteness when a census is made. If there is a large jury list in one area and there is a huge tract out of that into another, the changes would effect the cost in each district, though the ultimate effect would not be large unless the people were to clear out of the country. There is there a particular, definite loss so far as we are concerned. You have a little latitude with regard to its extension. If you extend the Jurors' List from its present form, say from 21 to 16, you would have a bigger liability than that contemplated. I think the Resolution is water-tight, and foolproof.

If that is the case, I am a fool. The point raised by the President would be valid on the Committee Stage, but I suggest that it is not valid on this motion.

The President's remarks are a definite answer, and perhaps the correct answer in defence of the legislative proposals of the Bill, but that is subject matter for Committee. It is, therefore, not correct in regard to a definite proposition which merely leaves open for discussion in Committee further legislative suggestions put forward by the Minister for Home Affairs, and now being permitted, according to the Constitution, by the Minister for Finance.

Resolution put and agreed to.