ORDER OF BUSINESS.

Might I ask the President if he can give us some indication as to the course of business for the next few days?

I am not in a position to say what the course of business will be for the next few days. I would undertake to endeavour to get some information on the subject for the Deputy before the adjournment, or by the adjournment.

Can the Minister say what he proposes to do to-day?

I thought the Deputy asked what the course of business would be for the next few days.

I would like to have it for the next few days.

Before going into the matter, I would like to put before the President the fact that we have had a very wet winter. The spring is here now, and, when we are considering the course of business, we should take cognisance of the fact that the farmers would be better employed putting in the crops, and that they should get an opportunity of doing so.

A little work.

I intended, as far as possible, to meet the spokesman of the Farmers' Party on the matter of the adjournment for the Easter holidays. We intended to adjourn on Friday, the 3rd April, until Tuesday, the 21st, or possibly Wednesday, the 22nd April. That would give more than a fortnight, and I think it would meet the Deputy's point. In regard to the business here to-day, we intend to take item No. 1 first, and then item No. 2. If I had any sort of understanding that item No. 12 was not regarded as contentious, that is the Military Service Pensions Bill. I would ask it to be taken next, but if it were regarded as contentious. I would give way to item No. 3 on the agenda, which could be taken now and disposed of. Then we would also take Nos. 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8.

That is the financial items?

Yes. It is unlikely that we will reach item No. 13 to-day. That would dispose of the question put by Deputy Johnson. I suppose I could not ask for any undertaking in regard to No. 12 until we reach it, but if it were to be regarded as contentious, we would not take it. It is a matter that might reasonably be disposed of to-day.

In regard to the financial resolutions, particularly item No. 4, the President is aware that we have only just received these Estimates, and it is very difficult to make any effective comment upon the various details of item No. 4 without having the Estimates with which to compare it, and having a comparison of these Estimates with last year's Estimates. There would have been no difficulty if we could have received the Estimates before, but in view of the fact that we have them hardly half an hour in our hands, we are placed in a very difficult position.

If the question had been raised by any other Deputy I would be disposed to give favourable consideration to it, but the remarkable lucidity with which Deputy Figgis criticises any financial proposals, leads me to believe that he is scarcely earnest in the objection he has raised, more especially in view of the fact that I have undertaken that the major business of the Dáil—if it could be possible to use a larger term I would use it— after the Easter Recess will be financial business. An excellent opportunity will be afforded for the discussion of every Estimate. I think it will be admitted that a vote on account, even though it involves estimates, is not the same as a discussion on the Estimates.

I think it would be as well to state here and now that I intend to move a reduction of this vote on account. It is proposed, I take it, that a sum to cover four months' services should be voted. That, I think, is unreasonable. We can deal with the merits until later on.

Does the Deputy intend to move for a reduction in the vote to call attention to any specific point of policy?

I intend to move in the main a reduction of the vote on the ground that the Estimates have not been in our hands, and that we should not hand over authority to spend £9,000,000 until we have—had an opportunity of discussing the purposes for which that £9,000,000 may be required. The same matter was raised last year.

Is that as to the general policy or as to the four months' vote?

The policy of not giving Estimates to us in time. But on the question of the business before us, the Financial Resolutions may well take us the next two days; there are other Bills before the House, and we had an announcement from the Minister for Justice some weeks ago regarding the programme of business. As the Minister has said the intention, as announced, was to devote the greater portion of the time succeeding Easter to financial business, but there are a number of Bills that were promised—if that is the right word to use; threatened, as some people might say— which I cannot see passing unless we are to rush them at the end of the period. There are other matters which have not been dealt with, obviously matters that are likely to come forward. For instance, we have had circulated the report regarding the Shannon scheme, and I take it that that will require some discussion. No allowance has been made in the programme for that. There possibly may be a report in respect of the Boundary; no allowance has been made for that. There is the inevitability, as I suggest, notwithstanding the Minister's reply to-day, that an Unemployment Insurance Bill will have to be discussed at a very early date; no allowance has been made for that. We would have expected a month or two ago that some measures relating to Dublin city and county local government would be brought to us. No allowance has been made in the programme for that subject to be discussed. I desire to ask whether there has been any revision of the legislative programme since the announcement on the 13th February.

In regard to the point that I raised, I am delighted to see that the President has so far recruited his health as to recover his wonted cheerfulness, but still it does not meet my point. It is usually the case that, roughly, one-third of the period, four months on account of twelve, is dealt with, but in some cases it is more than three, and in some cases it is less in this paper that has been distributed to us, and the reason for these variations no one can discover until he has had an opportunity of analysing these Estimates. It is because such an analysis is required that I suggest that the matter should be postponed until we have had an opportunity of examining the Estimates that we have only just got.

The Deputy does not contemplate raising detailed points with regard to the Estimates on a Vote on Account, I take it?

Well, I had intended to have asked certain questions with regard to details on this, but the questions might not prove necessary when I have had an opportunity of looking through the Estimates.

I am sure they will.

It is not right that we should anticipate the discussion on the Estimates on a Vote on Account, but of course if any Deputy wanted to know how the accounts were made up, or to ask a general question with regard to the make up of the Estimates and so on, that would be quite proper, I think. But we should not forestall the detailed discussion on the Estimates on the Vote on Account. The point that Deputy Johnson raises is a general point, and if I might make a suggestion, the best procedure would be to discuss one, or if necessary more than one, general question of policy on the Vote on Account, rather than to discuss things that will more properly arise when we are discussing the Estimates separately and in detail.

I am in entire agreement with you, sir, on the matter. It would be just the same if I were not, because they should have your approval, and it is perfectly right that they should. Nevertheless it does occur that there are variations as to the proportions of the Vote on Account, and questions with regard to the why and wherefore of these variations would be very pertinent. But they might prove very unnecessary if we had an opportunity of examining the Estimates beforehand. In any case it is surely a sound principle that people who are asked to consider a Vote on Account should have an opportunity of considering the bulk items contained in that Vote.

There is one question in connection with which, after a hurried glance over the Estimates, it appears to me to be improper to ask people to make a Vote on Account, and that is the Army Estimates. I think the presentation of the Estimates for the Army in their present form does not justify us in agreeing to a Vote on Account unless we are furnished with the various figures as to how the accounts are made up. We were promised these at this time last year, and now we have the accounts before us again in the same form as last year.

I think that the Deputy is mistaken in that. I think it was not before the House at all last year. I promised that last year's Estimates would contain full particulars, and they did when they were available. I had hoped that we would have had the Estimates in the complete and final form before the House at least a week ago, but it was found impossible owing to the changes that had to be made in the transfers to get them out. We give them to-day, not quite in complete form, because in the case of the Army Estimate, Part 3 of the Estimate is missing; there is only Part 1 and Part 2. There is not the complete detail that there will be when we publish the volume in the course of a week or so. The only thing I have to say is that if we have not yet succeeded in getting out the Estimates in the time we would like, we have each year made some improvement. I think the first year there were no Estimates until about the 19th April. The Vote on Account had been passed before the 31st March. But last year we had them rather earlier. This year for the first time we have been able at least to hand Deputies almost the complete Estimates before we came for the Vote on Account. I believe that we have got over most of the difficulties that had in previous years delayed the Estimates, and that this is the last time that Deputies will be asked to make Votes on Account without having had fairly reasonable time to look over the detailed Estimates. But at any rate now, for the first time, in asking for this Vote on Account, we have given Deputies the Estimates.

Are we to understand from the Minister that we will have in the case of the Army Estimate the same kind of details in support of the items shown in the sub-heads as obtains in the case of every other Estimate that comes before us?

Certainly.

That was promised last year.

Yes, but if we had waited until we had them actually printed and corrected it would not have been possible to have handed these Estimates to Deputies before asking for the Vote on Account.

Deputy Johnson raised two matters in reference to my Department. One was the question of an Unemployment Insurance Bill. On the day on which the Minister for Justice made his statement with regard to future legislation. I think he said that any Bill not presented for First Reading before the 31st March, or the date of the Recess, would not be considered as urgent, and would not be put into effect before the autumn. On that very day Deputy Johnson raised the question of unemployment insurance, and the general effect of my reply was that if an Unemployment Insurance Bill was to be introduced before the Recess, it would, nevertheless, rank as an urgent measure.

On that point, the Minister gave an answer to-day which, I am sure, will raise a great deal of consternation in the country. If it reads as I understood it orally, it would appear that the Minister is very doubtful whether he is going to extend unemployment insurance beyond the limit which would depend on the amount of credits in the insured person's account. That will mean that in two or three weeks of the new year people will be going out of benefit, and already there are people very doubtful as to whether they would have any benefits at all. I would like, if it were possible, for the Minister to give us some indication before we proceed from this subject, that he is contemplating a renewal of the scheme that has been in operation, at least as good a scheme as that, so far as unemployed persons are concerned.

I think my answer to-day was fairly definite on that point, that there was one bar which prevented me from bringing in any legislation at the moment, that is to say, the lack of material on which to form a judgment. It is necessary to ascertain the number of people unemployed at the end of the fourth benefit year, that is to-day. If I were to go on the figures I have before me, the figures being merely an estimate, there is not any grave reason for an extension of the present unemployment benefits. I would have to wait for the complete figures on which to base a judgment, and it is possible that we will not have these figures before we adjourn. Consequently, it would be the end of April or the beginning of May before this matter can be brought forward in legislation. The way that that difficulty can be met in the meantime is that there are certain works falling due, and I can hasten them and endeavour to speed up anything that is under contemplation in that way to enable those to get work who will fail to get special benefit under the Act.

The second matter that the Deputy raised was with regard to the Shannon, and I think that the President, in dealing with the Committee on Procedure, stated that there was certain Shannon legislation which it would not be possible to introduce before the Recess, and which it would be necessary, if approved by the Dáil, to get through the Dáil before we adjourn for the summer. In order to give a chance of discussing it at the earliest date, I intend to bring before the Executive Council to morrow the terms of a resolution which, if they approve of it, will on their behalf be moved here on Wednesday or Thursday of next week. It will be a general resolution of such a type that discussion can take place on it corresponding to what would take place on the Second Reading of a Bill dealing with the Shannon as a particular scheme. I want to give that opportunity, because the legislation that we have in mind with regard to the Shannon scheme is of a very general nature and it is quite possible that there would not be an opportunity for that discussion on the scheme which it is necessary to give. Consequently, if the Executive Council approve of the resolution regarding the Shannon project, it would be discussed in this House on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday of next week.

Would the Minister indicate in connection with this resolution which he proposes to bring forward for next week if he would look for a decision from the Dáil that would influence the question? I raise the question simply because very little time or opportunity is being given to absorb the contents of the books that have been issued, either by the public or by the members of the Dáil. If the matter came up for discussion on a resolution next week, I do not think the members of the Dáil would have the power to speak with any authority on the question.

When I consider the number of people who thought they had authority to speak on the matter before the terms of the scheme were published and made available to them, I cannot conceive that there is any great objection to the bringing forward of this resolution on the date outlined, Wednesday of next week. I do intend that the terms of that resolution will be such that it will be regarded as a general decision approving of the experts' recommendation as regards the partial development of the Shannon on the basis of the Siemens-Schuckert plans.

Will the Minister say, does he intend to give the fullest possible notice of the terms of that resolution?

If I can get the resolution approved to-morrow by the Executive Council, I will get it circulated as soon after as possible and it will be on the Orders of the Day for Friday.

In connection with unemployment insurance, would the Minister say how long does he think it will take him to find out how many people are now unemployed who are not entitled to benefit?

It should not take longer than ten days.

I quite agree with that, but will it take longer?

If the Deputy means that there is going to be any unnecessary delay in order to get us over the period of the Recess, I can assure him that there will be no unnecessary delay.

I might say if the Minister endeavours to find out this information he will find it in two or three days. I say that fully two-thirds of the people who are drawing benefit for some time past are not now entitled to it.

That is where the Deputy and I are in conflict. I see on the estimate of the figures before me that there is not a very good case for an extension of the special benefit arrangements which have now lapsed. The Deputy appears to think otherwise. The figures supplied to me, so far, would not go to prove the Deputy's contention.

I would like to know whether there is any intention of introducing the long-promised School Attendance Bill before the Easter Recess. Unfortunately, the Minister for Education is not in his place, and I do not know to whom it would be proper to address this question. This, however, is a very burning question in the country. We have been promised legislation on this matter for over two years. It is essential that this legislation should be introduced before the Easter Recess. During the Easter Recess educational conferences take place, and it would be well to have the terms of the Bill published before then.

I would not be in a position to give a definite undertaking on this matter. I do know that the consideration of this particular Bill has agitated the mind of the Minister to a considerable extent——

Mr. O'CONNELL

What Minister?

The Minister for Education.

What form did the agitation take?

I hope to be able to give the Deputy an answer on that matter before the Recess.

The Minister will recollect that he promised this Bill before the 31st March.

But the Minister for Education has had many calls upon his time and intellect in the intervening period.

And education is to suffer?