Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 27 Mar 1924

Vol. 6 No. 32


I move:

That towards making good the supply granted for the service of the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1924, the sum of £338,832 be granted out of the Central Fund.


I beg to move—

"That towards making good the supply granted for the service of the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1925, the sum of £10,909,520 be granted out of the Central Fund."

I would suggest to the Dáil that the reasons that have been urged for the reduction of the amount mentioned in this particular Vote should not be accepted. There is no possibility of the Executive Council dispensing with the services of the Dáil for a period of three months. The session of the Dáil can only be ended by the consent of the Dáil, and adjournments are taken on a Vote of the Dáil. The Standing Orders prescribe that while in session, unless otherwise ordered, the meeting shall take place on certain days and at certain hours of the week. The Dáil can only adjourn for any period by consent, and if that suggestion was made at 8.30 anybody wanting to talk out a motion for an adjournment for three months could succeed in talking it out. Probably the suggestion is one not put forward seriously at all. As for the question of giving a four months' supply to this Government, I think I have indicated that no matter how we got on with the Estimates we would be into June before we would be at all sure of having them passed. Then, after we have done with the Estimates we have to have these Bills. The Bills will not become law for a period of three weeks unless the Seanad so chooses. I presume in the present case, where we have a Central Fund Bill dealing with the amount in the Supplementary Estimates, the Seanad will send it back to the Dáil forthwith, and no question like the present one could exist if it sent it back, so that after the Dáil has dealt finally with the matter you would have a period of three weeks lapsing before you had your Bill ready for signature by the Governor-General. If the Seanad makes recommendations, the Dáil is bound to consider these recommendations, and you may easily have a week spent upon that.

A month might elapse actually between the time the Estimates are introduced and dealt with; in fact a good deal more than a month. If we had to take all the stages of the Central Fund Bill it would take something like three weeks to get the Central Fund Bill passed, and it might be something like a month from the time the Central Fund Bill passed the Dáil, until it was ready for signature. If we were standing upon all these details, it is quite possible it would not be possible at all to carry on on less than four months' Vote. I suppose we would have nobody in the Dáil, in the case of a Central Fund Bill, after the preliminary stages have been gone through, which must be largely a formal matter, insisting upon the usual notice being given for every one of the five stages of the Central Fund Bill. The Labour Government in England, which I suppose is no more representative of the general body of the electorate than the Executive Council is here, is trusted with four months' supply, and I think there is really no good argument for reducing the amount asked for here. If the Executive Council, in the interval, is forced to come to the Dáil again, and to go through all these details in getting a Central Fund Bill, supposing we were to meet with delay in the Seanad, and supposing we were to meet delay in the Dáil, so that notice should be given for such, it would practically mean we should begin all this business of having motions for Supply and a new Central Fund Bill next week. The points made against giving this four months' supply seems really to be debating points, and good enough as debating points, but I do not think that they are substantial at all.

I beg to move that the Vote be reduced by a sum of £5,000,000. The Minister has built up a story about the various stages and processes, but he has missed the essential matter. Deputy Cooper pointed out that this is a series of items of Votes on Account that we have had in our hands for a very short time, and when we are almost on the last day. Now, I do not know what the actual facts are in this case, but I would venture with a good deal of confidence, to say that the example quoted by the Minister of the Labour Ministry in England, does not find a parallel here. They do not produce their motions for a Vote on Account two days before the end of the financial year, and expect the Bill to be passed the same night. The Dáil will have to learn constitutional lessons by practice and experiment, and I think it well that we should feel that we have command of the Ministry through the financial weapon more effectively than in any other way. If the Ministry is granted, without discussion, as it will appear, supplies for four months, they have a free hand over expenditure, and over the various Departmental operations. Even Ministers External to the Executive Council will have a free hand if the Minister for Finance approves. At least the Dáil will have consented to the expenditure of money on behalf of these Ministries, and we will not have an opportunity of considering matters of policy or details of Estimates that may come forward, and a Vote on Account may require to be repeated in a month's time. The Minister says that we will have to go through the process of passing a Central Fund Bill which may mean delay. It might, but is there any more reason for expecting delay in a month's or in two months' time, than there is to-night? If there is a possibility of that delay then, there is a possibility of that delay now, and if the Ministry is counting upon no delay now because we are challenged to hold up the whole business of the country, then I say it is taking an unfair advantage of the Dáil if that is his view. The end of the financial year is upon us, and we are to be expected to pass this Vote of Supply and to pass the Central Fund Bill without giving them consideration. I have no doubt the Minister will get his Bill, and that it will become an Act in due course. But there is no reason why he should not apply in a month's time or two months' time equally if we have the right to discuss financial questions, so that the fabric of his story falls at once.

It is desirable that the Dáil should have command at all times of the finances, and the proposal to reduce this Vote by £5,000,000 simply means that between now and the end of April, or the end of May as the case may be, we can go into these matters, when we will have a little more leisure and a little more time to give them consideration than we can give them to-night or to-morrow. I want to make at least my protest that we should not be expected to do these things in so short a time, and to assume that the finances are perfectly right and that we need not have any hesitation in presenting powers to spend £11,000,000 to the Government.

True, of course it is as the Minister says, that the Dáil is likely to be in session. But supposing it is not? Even when it is in session the Minister forgets that financial questions can only be raised at the instigation of Minister, so that the Dáil is tied very much if it loses control of its money. If within the next four months we have not the right to raise these financial questions, then we are giving away some of our authority, without having duly considered the position. For these reasons I move a reduction by £5,000,000 of the sum to be granted as supply.

I would like to second that. I want to make it perfectly clear that there is no suggestion whatever that any member of the Executive Council proposes taking an extended holiday with the money that will be voted. The position actually is, as I see it, that we have already voted that the Departments concerned will have four months' supply, but inasmuch as there has been no time to consider these things in detail the amendment which I am now seconding is that of that sum which we have agreed to vote, only approximately half will be moved out of the Central Fund. The other half will remain there in order that on a later occasion these matters might be gone into more fully than is possible at the present moment. There is no difficulty in regard to it. It would only mean that in April or in June another motion would be taken in Committee on Finance, and what is now being done in respect of half of the money that it is agreed to vote will be then done in respect of the other half. I think in view of the fact that these Estimates have only been put into our hands and are now being considered with such haste, in order to comply with the Constitutional provisions, that the amendment is a very fair and just one. It leaves the Executive Council in the position that it desires. It also leaves the Dáil in the position that it can at an early date, in case it should then desire to do so, raise a debate as to the provision of the other half of the money. I second the amendment.

I would like to say to the Dáil that I regret that these Estimates have not been produced earlier. If I were to have any responsibility again I certainly would make every possible effort to have the detailed Estimates out in good time before a Vote on Account was asked for. I certainly did what I could to expedite them this year. They probably would have been out in a reasonable time if it had not been for some matters such as the Army reorganisation. We had most of the other Estimates a good while before the Army Estimate. We only succeeded in getting the Army Estimate at the last moment. There were other Estimates, like the Land Commission, which presented peculiar difficulties in view of the reorganisation, and there was a delay in the Departments supplying them. Then there was the necessity for a certain scrutiny in the Ministry of Finance. I admit quite frankly that members of the Dáil have a right to be aggrieved at not having the detailed Estimates in their hands, some weeks before they are asked for the Vote on Account. I hope that what has occurred this year will not occur again.

Last year we were a great deal later than this. I think it was the 19th April before we succeeded in having detailed Estimates. I had hoped that this year we would have them in sufficient time to allow no grounds for complaint, but circumstances and difficulties intervened that caused delay. We have not yet a perfect machine, as Deputies know very well, and there is a great deal of difficulty in getting things entirely up to time. I do not think the Government will have a free hand for four months. It must be prepared to have all its business done in four months. It must be prepared to have all the Estimates considered in four months, and consideration of the detailed Estimates must begin practically as soon as the Standing Orders allow. It has been the practice that any members of the Dáil can demand that a particular Estimate be dealt with first. We agreed last year that the Opposition should have their choice of the Estimates on which we were to begin.

at this stage took the Chair.

What I said with regard to the necessity for introducing a resolution and starting on a Central Fund Bill almost at once does hold in spite of what Deputy Johnson said. We have now the Estimates. We were not able to get them up to this. Consequently we were not able to take steps to put the matter in train. Now that we have the Estimates there would be no reason for not putting the matter in train at once, so that full time could be given and all the necessary details could be allowed in regard to the second portion of this Vote. I do not think that if we went to the Seanad with one Bill and asked them in view of the circumstances to take it at once that we could then come back in a short time and again throw ourselves on the mercy of the Seanad in that particular way—a way which is not fair. I admit it is entirely undesirable and unfair to rush these matters. I have tried, so far as I could, in any Bills I was responsible for, not to rush them, but to allow all the time that anybody wanted for their consideration.

I think the reason the Minister for Finance has given as to why he was not able to put the Estimates in our hands earlier is really the reason why we must consider them. We have not been given a chance to go into the Estimates in the way we would like to. We have agreed to vote a certain sum into the Central Fund. The right to expend this money which the Minister seeks is another matter for us. There are items in the Estimates which we would like to criticise. There are matters of policy on which we want information. We are not satisfied with them. We have not had this evening an opportunity to criticise these items in the way we would like. Accordingly, we can hardly feel it is fair to expect us to give the Minister for Finance the right to spend money on certain services that we are not perfectly satisfied with at the moment. The Ministry admits that we have not had any opportunity to consider this matter fully, and the Minister will recognise that it is fair to the House that he should not ask us to consent to grant him the right to spend money on services that we have been denied the right of criticising.

If Deputy Baxter would be met in any way, I would guarantee, say in the case of the Army Vote, that that Vote should be taken first among the Estimates, and that we should begin discussion of it in full detail, say, somewhere about the middle of April. The Vote on Account simply enables the carrying on of existing services as they stand. It does not enable the Executive to launch out in any particular way. I suggest that the Dáil should give us this amount, which is the usual amount in other places where they have experience, and where there is a good deal of scrutiny, and where Governments have been kept in check. If the Dáil gives us this amount, they will not be giving anything away, and they will be merely facilitating business and allowing a straight run on the discussion of the Estimates, instead of having to come forward again for another Vote on Account, and spending time that that will involve. Besides, as I have pointed out, once we have got the Estimates we ought really to be going on at once with this matter, and we should do it in a formal way.

I think the Minister will recognise that if he is given the £5,000,000 which Deputy Johnson's amendment permits him, that will carry him on to the date he mentions— 15th April. We would then have an opportunity of criticising these items, perhaps, in detail, which we would like to do, and which the House is entitled to do.

I think we are entitled to agree with the Minister for Finance that he has not given the Dáil a sufficient opportunity of criticising this Estimate before it is passed through. On the other hand, in that very admission, he asks for the consideration of the Dáil, under peculiar circumstances. While I would agree with the amendment as being quite reasonable, I think, under present circumstances, it will be necessary to vote for the Government to carry them over this period. It is not a very long period. In return, I think the Government ought to give us the earliest opportunity of criticising the amount in detail.

That is very generous of Deputy Hewat. But Deputy Hewat does not remember the assurances we received last year that these things would all be made right this year, that matters of procedure would be carefully considered, and that due consideration would be given to the constitutional formalities. I am asking that the Dáil should insist upon refaining control, while allowing the Government as much money as is necessary to carry on, and to ensure that the services would be maintained long enough to enable matters to be considered by the Dáil—even much longer than is necessary. We have got lump sums put before us, but we have not any details. If we had those details, we might be able to raise specific questions before this Vote is passed. Not having those details, I believe that we are bound to hold the Government on short leash, and say, "We will allow you to carry on for, say, two months, and you will come to us again for more money. We will see how you conduct yourselves in the meantime, and if you conduct yourselves fairly and reasonably, and be good administrators, then we will allow the remainder." But let us, at least, feel for once that we are masters. Deputy Hewat, of course, need not try to think himself in that position. But it is new to some of us, and I think that, as a collective body, the Dáil should assert its authority in this matter, and show that it intends to maintain a rigid control over the supplies of money and that it will not allow the control to be handed over for this period of four months, without having had a proper account rendered and a proper Estimate presented of what it is proposed to do with the money. This is not an unreasonable proposition. There has been no attempt to take advantage on this side in this amendment. I think, as a matter of fact, it is too reasonable. If we wanted to be very strict in the matter, we should refuse the Vote altogether without a much more definite promise or guarantee of better conduct. But when we are suggesting that the Vote shall be reduced from £11,000,000 to £6,000,000, it allows about two and a half's months of expenditure without knowing how the money is going to be spent. Really that is what it means. We have agreed to the Vote on Account for certain items and certain Departments. But we only know those as lump sums. We do not know how they are to be detailed, and I submit that the Dail ought to keep a tight hold over this money, and not allow £11,000,000 to be voted out of the Central Fund, because it would carry us on too long without that rigid control that is required. Let us grant them £6,000,000, and insist upon their coming again for further supplies.

In agreeing to the Vote on Account that is being asked for by the Minister for Finance, we have got to keep in mind—I think it is only right we should keep in mind—that there is just the possibility that the present Government may not be in existence during the whole of the intervening period that is being provided for. Let us assume, for instance, that a new Administration takes the place of the present Government and that Deputy Figgis is President——

Give us something a little less than that.

In that particular emergency, we have got to visualise and realise that Deputy Figgis has anticipated a new currency, and that the Dáil must keep some control over any such possibility and not allow such a thing to crop up without having the right to criticise it. I want to ask the Minister for Finance, arising out of the Army Estimates, when we were asked to vote a sum of £10,000,000——

The Deputy cannot go into question of detail on the amendment.

I would like to know if we are going to be provided with details of expenditure in the Army Estimate in a different form to that of last year, when we were asked to vote £10,644,510 without knowing what the establishment of the Army was to be. I think that is a serious point, especially in view of the fact that when this Estimate was arranged by the Minister the present Army crisis had not arisen. Things have happened since that might alter the Estimate. I am not prepared, at any rate, to agree to the passing of an Army Estimate that would not give full details as to the strength of the Army which were not given last year.

The Army Estimates for this year will contain full details. It will be nothing at all like the Army Estimate of last year.

I would like to remind the Deputy also that last year I think I mentioned the number of men in the Army when I was introducing the Budget. I would also remind the Dáil that while we may make promises of amendment they should know that the way of the sinner is long and the penitent is very slow at times. I am certain that when those who criticise us now come along here and serve their apprenticeship they also in their time will promise amendment and make great efforts, but the amendment in their case also will be slow. This year we will be at least 18 days ahead of last year in regard to the presentation of the details of the Estimates. I would also like to draw the attention of the Dáil to the fact that while the sum asked for may seem very large in amount, and in particular cases be of almost colossal proportions, it is not within the discretion of the Executive Council or of the Minister for Finance to say that there are particular amounts which he is entitled to spend or particular amounts which he could divert to other purposes. Take some of the larger amounts mentioned, such as property losses, for which £2,500,000 is asked. Let us suppose there was extraordinary activity on the part of the County Courts, and that huge sums were awarded, and that before the end of the month even we had exhausted that sum. Obviously, we would have to come along again before the end of the month to ask for a sufficient sum to discharge our liability in respect of that item. Even excluding for a moment the work of the County Courts and the Recorder's Court in dealing with damage to property, there is the Wood-Renton Commission awards which we have to discharge, and over which the Minister for Finance has got no discretion. Take the item old age pensions. Is it within the discretion of the Minister to say whether or not he will interrupt payment on account of that particular item?

Deputies can understand that while saying they will refuse us particular sums of money that it is not the Government they are refusing them to, but the particular services in respect of which we are asking this sum to be funded in order to enable us to discharge duties for which we are at the moment responsible. It goes on in the same way with various other items. The actual sum over which the Executive Council can exercise discretion, is relatively small. For these particular Estimates, in which there should be discretion of that sort, we have, I think, at all times been willing to come before the Dáil and allow them to be discussed at length. The Minister for Finance has had only six months experience in that particular Department. He has worked very long hours, and has had to deal with a somewhat different machine to that which we had at this time last year. There have been alterations in some of the Departments and Votes which appeared under certain heads then will appear this year under other heads. It is not unreasonable in the first years of Government, in the setting up of a new State such as this, that he should have to come here and say, if you like, Peccavi. There has been an improvement, as he has saved 17 days this year. I believe that while he may not reach perfection next year, if he should have the misfortune to remain in office for another 12 months, at any rate he will make some improvement.

While I sympathise very much with the attitude of the Government and while each of them may strike his breast and say, Mea culpa, still it is always a very bad business to give a blank cheque or to give a cheque in advance. What surprises me is how the business representatives who come into the Dáil to effect a revolution in business methods, should now openly say they are quite willing to vote 10 millions of money, having regard to the fact that the essentail services of the country come to only 30 millions, and that the reductions they promise the electors were to reach, perhaps, half of the original estimate.

Will Deputy Wilson give a quotation for that?

The County Dublin election.

The time of election is a time of make-believe. We have now got to the day when it is a question of reality, not make-believe. I cannot see how, having regard to the fact that we are willing to pay the way of the Government for two months, we are not doing them justice. We are not pointing out that they promised us reforms last year. We are giving them half the time that they asked. Under these circumstances, fairly judging the question, and without any idea of obstructing the Government, but at the same time bringing before the public the monstrosities of the business candidates, I wish to support the amendment.

Amendment put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 21; Níl, 48.


  • Pádraig F. Baxter.
  • Seán Buitléir.
  • John J. Cole.
  • Darrell Figgis.
  • John Good.
  • Connor Hogan.
  • Séamus Mac Cosgair.
  • Tomás Mac Eoin.
  • Risteárd Mac Liam.
  • Tomás de Nógla.
  • Tomás O Conaill.
  • Liam O Daimhín.
  • Eamon O Dubhghaill.
  • Seán O Duinnín.
  • Donchadh O Guaire.
  • Mícheál O hIfearnáin.
  • Domhnall O Mocháin.
  • Tadhg O Murchadha.
  • Pádraig O hOgáin (An Clár).
  • Patrick K. Hogan (Luimneach).
  • Nicholas Wall.


  • Earnán Altún.
  • Earnán de Blaghd.
  • Séamus Breathnach.
  • Seoirse de Bhulbh.
  • Séamus de Burca.
  • Sir James Craig.
  • Louis J. D'Alton.
  • Máighréad Ní Choileáin Bean Uí Dhrisceoil.
  • Patrick J. Egan.
  • Henry J. Finlay.
  • Desmond Fitzgerald.
  • John Hennigan.
  • William Hewat.
  • Alasdair Mac Cába.
  • Domhnall Mac Cárthaigh.
  • Liam P. Mac Cosgair.
  • Maolmhuire Mac Eochadha.
  • Pádraig Mac Fadáin.
  • Pádraig Mac Giollagáin.
  • Seán Mac Giolla an Ríogh.
  • Eoin Mac Néill.
  • Seoirse Mac Niocaill.
  • Liam Mac Aonghusa.
  • Martin M. Nally.
  • Pádraig S. Mag Ualghairg.
  • Peadar O hAodha.
  • Mícheál O hAonghusa.
  • Ailfrid O Broin.
  • Criostóir O Broin.
  • Seán O Bruadair.
  • Próinsias O Cathail.
  • Aodh Ua Cinnéidigh. Séamus N. O Dóláin.
  • Partholán O Conchubhair.
  • Peadar S. O Dubhghaill.
  • Pádraig O Dubhthaigh.
  • Eamon S. O Dúgáin.
  • Aindriú O Laimhín.
  • Séamus O Leadáin.
  • Fionán O Loingsigh.
  • Pádraic O Máille.
  • Risteárd O Maolchatha.
  • Séamus O Murchadha.
  • Pádraig O hOgáin (Gaillimh).
  • Seán M. O Súilleabháin.
  • Caimhghín O hUigín.
  • Patrick W. Shaw.
  • Liam Thrift.
Amendment declared lost.
Motion put and agreed to.

The question now before the Dáil is that motions number 4 and 5 be reported to the Dáil.