DAIL IN COMMITTEE. - COMMITTEE ON FINANCE.—VOTE ON ACCOUNT.

MINISTER FOR FINANCE (Mr. Blythe)

I beg to move:—

Go ndeontar i gcuntas suim nách mó ná £9,157,834chun no le haghaidh íoctha na muirearacha a thiocfidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1926, i gcóir seirbhísí áirithe puiblí, eadhon:—

That a sum not exceeding £9,157,834 be granted on account for or towards defraying the charges that will comein course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1926, for certain public services, namely:—

£

£

1.

Teaghlachas an tSeanacail

2,530

1.

Governor-General's Establishment

2,530

2.

An t-Oireachtas

40,000

2.

Oireachtas

40,000

3.

Roinn Uachtarán na hArd-Chomhairle

5,000

3.

Department of the Presi dent of the Executive Council

5,000

4.

An Stát-chiste agus Iniúchóireacht

6,000

4.

Exchequer and Audit

6,000

——

——

5.

Oifig an Aire Airgid

22,000

5.

Office of the Minister for Finance

22,000

6.

An Roinn Ioncuim

235,000

6.

Revenue Department

235,000

7.

Pinsin tSean-Aoise

870,000

7.

Old Age Pensions

870,000

8.

Iasachtaí Aitiúla

280,000

8.

Local Loans

280,000

9.

Coimisiúin Shealadacha

11,000

9.

Temporary Commissions

11,000

10.

Oifig na nOibreacha Puiblí

35,000

10.

Public Works Office

35,000

11.

Oibreacha agus Foirgintí Puiblí

280,000

11.

Public Works and Build ings

280,000

12.

Saotharlann Stáit

2,200

12.

State Laboratory

2,200

13.

Coimisiún um Stát-Sheirbhís

2,500

13.

Civil Service Commis sion

2,500

14.

Cúiteamh i gCailliúna Maoine

1,600,000

14.

Property Losses Com pensation

1,600,000

15.

Cúiteamh i nDíobhála Pearsanta

30,000

15.

Personal Injuries Com pensation

30,000

16.

Aois - Liúntaisí agus Liúntaisí Fágála

588,000

16.

Superannuation and Re tired Allowances

588,000

17.

Rátaí ar Mhaoin an Rialtais

34,000

17.

Rates on Government Property

34,000

18.

An tSeirbhís Shicréideach

7,000

18.

Secret Service

7,000

19.

Scéimeanna Fóirithinte

50,000

19.

Relief Schemes

50,000

20.

Costaisí fén Representation of the People Act, 1918, fén Acht Timpeal Toghachán, 1923 agus fé Acht na gCoistí Dháréag (Leasú) 1924

20,000

20.

Expenses under the Representation of the People Act, 1918, the Electoral Act, 1923, and the Juries (Amend ment) Act, 1924

20,000

21.

Costaisí Ilgnéitheacha

3,500

21.

Miscellaneous Expenses

3,500

22.

Oifig an tSoláthair

60,000

22.

Stationery Office

60,000

23.

Measadóireacht agus Suirbhéireacht Teorann

11,566

23.

Valuation and Boundary Survey

11,566

24.

Suirbhéireacht an Ordonáis

16,000

24.

Ordnance Survey

16,000

25.

Oifigigh Chúirte Cuarda

25,000

25.

Circuit Court Officers

25,000

26.

Muirearacha Dlí

23,000

26.

Law Charges

23,000

27.

Longlann Inis Sionnach

5,000

27.

Haulbowline Dockyard

5,000

28.

Príomh-scoileanna agus Coláistí

45,000

28.

Universities and Col leges

45,000

——

——

29.

Oifig an Aire Dlí agus Cirt

8,885

29.

Office of the Minister for Justice

8,885

30.

Gárda Síochána

490,000

30.

Gárda Síochána

490,000

31.

Bórd Genearálta na bPriosún

55,000

31.

General Prisons Board

55,000

32.

Cúirt Dúithche

13,737

32.

District Court

13,737

33.

Cúirt Uachtarach agus Ard-Chúirt an Bhrei thiúnais

41,000

33.

Supreme Court and High Court of Justice

41,000

34.

Oifig na nAnnálacha Puiblí

2,416

34.

Public Record Office

2,416

35.

Tabhartaisí agus Tiomanta Déirciúla

1,000

35.

Charitable Donations and Bequests

1,000

——

——

36.

Oifig an Aire Rialtais Aitiúla agus Sláinte Puiblí

220,000

36.

Office of the Minister for Local Government and Public Health

220,000

37.

Oifig an Ard-chlárathóra

4,800

37.

General Register Office

4,800

38.

Gealtlann Dúndroma

6,500

38.

Dundrum Asylum

6,500

39.

An Coimisiún Arachais Sláinte Náisiúnta

93,000

39.

National Health Insur ance Commission

93,000

40.

Oispidéil agus Déarcaisí

12,000

40.

Hospitals and Charities

12,000

——

——

41.

Oifig an Aire Oideachaís

65,500

41.

Office of the Minister for Education

65,500

42.

Bun-Oideachas

1,250,000

42.

Primary Education

1,250,000

43.

Meadhon-Oideachas

90,000

43.

Secondary Education

90,000

44.

Ceárd-Oideachas

40,000

44.

Technical Instruction

40,000

45.

Eolaíocht agus Ealadhantacht

24,000

45.

Science and Art

24,000

46.

Scoileanna Ceartúcháin agus Saorthair

34,000

46.

Reformatory and Indus trial Schools

34,000

47.

An Gailleire Náisiúnta

2,000

47.

National Gallery

2,000

——

——

48.

Oifig an Aire Tailte agus Talmhaíochta

120,000

48.

Office of the Minister for Lands and Agricul ture

120,000

49.

An Ciste Foraoiscachta (Deontas i gCabhair)

10,000

49.

Forestry Fund (Grant in Aid)

10,000

50.

Coimisiún an Tailimh

200,000

50.

Land Commission

200,000

——

——

51.

Oifig an Aire Tionnscail agus Tráchtála

100,000

51.

Office of the Minister for Industry and Com merce

100,000

52.

Bóithre Iarainn

17,000

52.

Railways

17,000

53.

An Bínse Bóthair Iarainn

2,200

53.

Railway Tribunal

2,200

54.

Muir-Sheirbhísí

3,500

54.

Marine Service

3,500

——

——

55.

Oifig an Aire Iascaigh

20,000

55.

Office of the Minister for Fisheries

20,000

——

——

56.

Oifig an Phuist

800,000

56.

Post Office

800,000

——

——

57.

An tArm

1,000,000

57.

Army

1,000,000

58.

Arm-Phinsin

105,000

58.

Army Pensions

105,000

59.

Oifig an Aire Gnóthaí Coigríche

15,000

59.

Office of the Minister for External Affairs

15,000

——

——

60.

Cumann na Náisiún

2,000

60.

League of Nations

2,000

An tIomlán

£9,157,834

Total

£9,157,834

A question has been raised as to the amount of this Vote on Account. The proportion of the total Estimate asked for in this Vote on Account is the same proportion as has been asked for in previous years, roughly, the amount that would enable the services to be carried on for four months. Our Standing Orders contemplate that the financial business of the year shall be concluded before August 1st. This Vote on Account will enable the services to be carried on to that date. I myself think that the amount is not an unreasonable one, that it would be undesirable to give a Vote on Account for less, with the consequent necessity, in the middle of the period during which the financial business will be under consideration, to come to the Dáil and ask for another Vote on Account and for another Central Fund Bill, thereby taking up part of the time which should be devoted to the consideration of the Estimates and other financial business.

Deputies will remember, from previous years, that, even apart from business of a non-financial character, there is a great deal to be done from the middle of April until the Summer Recess. The Budget will be introduced some time towards the end of April, with the Finance Bill following. That will require a great deal of discussion. The Estimates themselves will take up a very considerable amount of time, and there will always be other legislation of a character that will be necessary. The result of deciding to give a Vote on Account for less than the amount that is likely to be required would simply be that the time taken up in dealing with this Vote on Account, and the legislation arising out of it, will be repeated some time, say, in June, and time will simply be wasted. Time that could be given to the discussion of the detailed Estimates will be taken up in doing again what might well be done now.

Would the Minister explain the discrepancies where items differ in their proportion from others? The case of railways is one, and the case of relief works is another.

When I say one-third is taken, we take the amount of one-third on the assumption that expenditure will be fairly even through the course of the year, but certain offices will have expenditure falling largely at some particular period and not evenly through the year. There are some items where more than one-third is asked for. There are some in which a great deal less than one-third is asked for. In the case of the relief grants the reason is apparent. A good deal of the money is voted simply for the purpose of completing work already in hands. When the money for relief was voted last year the intention was that it should be used on schemes that would be completed before March 31st. It was found necessary, however, to embark on certain schemes which could not be completed by that time. It would be undesirable to leave them unfinished, and it is found necessary to provide money for completing them. The work is already in hands, and will go right ahead.

I had item 20 particularly in mind. What elections are being thought of?

There will be a big election during the year for the Seanad. This, however, is really to provide for claims in connection with elections already held, for which amounts are now due.

I beg to move that the sum of £9,157,834 be deleted, and that there be substituted therefor the sum of £6,157,834. The course of this discussion is following almost exactly that which took place this time last year. The Minister's case is almost exactly the same. On the 27th March, 1924, the Minister came to the Dáil and in the same way desired a Vote on Account for four months' supply. Urgency was claimed, and explanations were given. There were complaints made from these Benches and other Benches regarding the absence of information, the absence of Estimates. The Minister then said:—

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 of 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... 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.

Is that from last year or to-day?

Last year. The year before that was not in quite the same language as this year's. The White Paper was circulated yesterday morning giving the total Estimates for the year, and to-day at three o'clock we have had the preliminary provisional details of most of the Estimates, all subject to certain revision. It is quite impossible for us to consider these Estimates, so that we may take them as not having been circulated. The proposition is that we should vote four months' supply, being about one-third of a total of 26¼ millions. I do not want at this stage to deal with any of the details, but I want to draw attention to the fact that this 26 millions added, say, to three millions from the Central Fund Services, brings us nearly to thirty millions, and that the Tax Revenue and the Post Office Revenue together for this year to date is twenty-four millions. That in itself raises a question as to whether we ought to vote this sum in this manner without much more consideration than is possible in the time now available before the end of the financial year.

I want the Dáil to recollect almost the chief function of Parliament is to keep a tight hold on expenditure and finance. What is proposed now is that, having had no opportunity to discuss or even to examine the proposals as to how the money is going to be expended during the next four months, we are asked to vote four months' supply— April, May, June and July. We are promised that the Dáil will be in Session in April, May and June, but by the fourth month—July—we are promised that the Dáil will have been dispersed. We are asked to vote four months' supply without having any knowledge, without at least having any opportunity of examining the purposes of this supply. The Minister will tell us that we will have plenty of opportunities between now and the adjournment to discuss the Estimates in detail. Undoubtedly, if everything goes smoothly, that will be the case; but if the Dáil is going to carry out its functions conscientiously, it will not allow four months' supply to be voted without having had an opportunity to discuss the Estimates. It is conceivable, and not a very great improbability—I do not think it is likely—that something will happen to prevent our discussing the Estimates in detail at all. Still the Executive would have had four months' money to spend. My proposal is that we should limit the amount by one-third, and by that means oblige the Executive to come forward again for another Vote on Account, or, if it is possible to vote the whole of the Estimates, well, that could be done. I believe the Dáil ought to express, by passing some motion such as I have moved, its determination to have definite control over finance and over expenditure, and let the Minister realise that it takes seriously the promise that the Estimates would be in the hands of Deputies for some reasonable time before a Vote on Account of this magnitude is called for.

The suggestion that it is going to be waste of time to have two Central Fund Bills, and possibly two discussions—one duplicating the other—that the Minister put forward, is not of very much account. If we are so careless of our responsibilties regarding finances as to allow arguments of that kind to weigh with us, then we are not worthy of being here. My only object in moving this amendment—and I do it quite seriously just as I did it last year—is to ensure that the Ministry will realise that the Dáil intends to keep definite control over finances and is not prepared to vote away four months' supply without having had an opportunity of looking at the proposals of the Ministry as to how that supply is to be expended. The Minister may argue quite logically that we have no right to vote any of it, on that same premise, and I think I could not answer him if he said, "Do not vote any of it until you have had an opportunity of seeing the Estimates." I realise that the Government of the country has to be carried on, and I would be prepared to trust the Ministry to expend two months or more of this money, but I am not prepared to hand over the last month's supply during which the Dáil may not be sitting. I would earnestly ask the Ministry to accept the motion to reduce this amount. They will then realise the importance of letting Deputies have the Estimates in hands some time before the Vote on Account is asked for.

The amendment is to reduce the amount by £3,000,000.

I agree that to trust the Executive Council with four months' supply is rather too much to ask from the Dáil at this time. The four months' supply asked for amounts almost to one-half of the taxable capacity of this country. Nine millions out of a possible taxable capacity of twenty-one or twenty-two millions is too much to ask. Last year it was stated the Labour Government in England was able to obtain something like £120,000,000 on account. A point that was neglected to be made was that a vote of 120 millions there was one-sixth of the income of that State, while our vote is half of our taxable capacity. On that ground I think this is asking too much. Everybody is aware that most of those engaged in the industry with which I am concerned are after passing through a very severe time. We are oppressed at present by local taxation, and the Minister has never given any indication that he will do for us what has been done for those in the northern area and those in Scotland and England in connection with the agricultural grant. I do not want to confine myself to the points that Deputy Johnson has been making, but to say that those engaged in the farming industry are not being properly dealt with. For that reason we want to keep a hold on the money, so that it will be applied as we think it should be applied in future. The question of an agricultural grant for the relief of rates is one that has not received the consideration it deserves from the Executive Council. Last year the inequalities that exist were pointed out, and while in England farmers are paying one-fourth of the rates, in this country they are paying four-fifths of the rates. No attempt has been made by the Ministry to relieve farmers so as to enable them to meet the competition that their industry is subject to in the open market.

I am also seriously concerned with the question of income tax. Before the war the incidence of income tax was, apart from farmers, based on a man's income. At present the basis of a man's income tax is his income, but farmers to-day are paying on three times the assessment to which they were subject before the war. Considering the position that farmers are in, they are not able to pay their way at the moment. The Minister for Agriculture admitted that farmers are producing on an uneconomic basis, yet at the same time they are asked to pay income tax on a basis that supposes their income to be three times greater than it was in 1914.

Is not the Deputy forestalling a discussion on the Budget statement?

I wish to express disapproval of the action of the Government in regard to finance, and I must show some reasons.

The Deputy will have another opportunity in a short time.

If we vote nine millions now—half the taxable capacity of the State—we will have very little chance of getting any of the money back.

The Deputy will always have this chance, that if he does not like the Executive Council that is in, he can put it out and put another one in. That is the real remedy he has. I do not want to prevent him discussing something that he wants to discuss very badly, but the whole question of taxation arises properly on the Budget, and there will be seven different and distinct opportunities of discussing it. There are seven different stages of discussion on the same thing, so that the Deputy will not lack opportunities.

Without wishing to traverse your decision in any way, supposing the Deputy were to hold that the Vote now required on account is of so large an order as to prejudice the question of taxation, is not this the only chance he has of raising it?

If nine were greater than twenty-six, yes.

I have not given any decision. I am taking Deputy Wilson very gently on this question. If Deputy Figgis can suggest to Deputy Wilson how to get this in——

That is the point. I do not want any suggestion. If the money was spent there is no use trying to get it back. However, I bow to your ruling.

I am not in agreement with the policy of giving such a large amount out of next year's income, an amount which will be spent before we have an opportunity of supervising that expenditure. For that reason I will support Deputy Johnson's proposal to reduce the Vote.

I admit that one of the most important functions of the Dáil is to keep a tight hold on expenditure. I do not see that you are keeping that tight hold on expenditure by reducing the Vote on Account in such a way that it is most likely a second Vote on Account will be required. The really tight hold on expenditure is the tight hold that will be indicated by a most careful consideration of the detailed estimates. Even although we now get a Vote on Account for, say, £1,600,000 for property losses compensation, if that particular Vote comes before the Dáil on the 1st May, or during the last week in April, and the amount is reduced, the power of the Executive to spend is reduced in the same way as if the Vote on Account were now reduced. The Dáil votes nothing away, because any estimate that a Deputy desires to have given priority to from the point of view of discussion will be given that priority. If any Deputy wishes to deal with the expenditure that would be incurred by any service shown on this paper, as soon as the estimates come on he can ask to have that particular estimate discussed. It can be dealt with then in whatever manner the Dáil may decide.

Will the Minister explain what the position would be suppose it were decided that £15,000, or any other sum, was not to be voted for the office of the Minister for External affairs, for instance? What would happen after April 1st if we voted this sum on account?

The expenditure would take place until the time when the Dáil would discuss the estimate; but the expenditure will only be made on types of service that are already in existence. No new activity will be undertaken and paid for out of the Vote on Account. For instance, if in the Army there was no artillery, money would not be expended on artillery. In the same way, no new embassy would be opened, and no new office abroad would be opened, by the Department of External Affairs until their estimate has come before the Dáil. The Vote on Account merely means that services already in existence will be carried on until the detailed Vote may be considered. It therefore means— and I meet Deputy Johnson on this point—that expenditure which the Dáil may possibly disapprove of, instead of ending on the 31st March, as it would if no Vote on Account were passed, would continue until the time the Dáil would deal with the estimate. The order in which estimates will be dealt with is a matter for Deputies who are interested. I do not think it can be alleged that the Dáil is doing its duty as the guardian of the State's finances, if it gives a three months' supply, and that it is not doing its duty if it gives a four months' supply. The difference that lies between a three months' and a four months' supply is that we may have to experience the inconvenience of a second Vote on Account. We may have that inconvenience if the money is given for that shorter period.

I had hoped that the Dáil would not be meeting next July. If it is not meeting then it means that all the Estimates will have been considered before that period. One does not like to take too optimistic a view in regard to the adjournment of the Dáil. There has been no year yet in which we were able to adjourn on the day appointed for the adjournment. Last year the Estimates were not finally dealt with before the 25th July. If there were only a three months' Vote on Account decided upon, some days would have to be lost in the middle of that period in taking a new Vote on Account, and the Dáil would be meeting on and beyond the 25th July in order to deal with the Estimates. Even if the Dáil were only to run to the 6th or 7th of July, and the Vote on Account was cut short, it might be necessary to introduce a number of Estimates for a new Vote on Account to deal with the period of seven, ten or fourteen days.

The Minister has not dealt very fairly and definitely with the proposition, which divides itself into two parts. First, it is desirable that the Dáil should make clear to the Ministry that it is not satisfied to vote for four months' supply on one day's notice without having had an opportunity of looking at the Estimates. The very fact that the Dáil is not satisfied to do so would be evident if it accepted this amendment. It would indicate to the Ministry that it takes this matter seriously, and it would also be a very good lesson for future years. The second and very practical result that the passing of this amendment would bring about, is that it would ensure that Estimates would be always taken early. It would ensure that they would be taken steadily and consecutively without being sandwiched in between legislative measures, and it would be indicating that the Dáil would be anxious not to treat Estimates as something that might be taken quite casually and carelessly.

If my amendment were carried we would be practically forced to take Estimates as the main item from the first week or so after the Budget statement. It would mean, at least, that we would take financial business, between the Finance Bill, the Budget resolutions and the Estimates, almost day by day until they would be concluded. That would be quite a desirable course, with such exceptions as urgent legislation might make necessary. I think the practical result of the passing of my amendment would be the bringing on of Estimates at an early stage, and it would ensure their pretty full consideration. I believe it would be very well worth while for the Dáil to pass the amendment.

I would like to support the point made by Deputy Johnson. I would ask the Minister, if he does not accept the amendment now proposed, to agree to a course that has been suggested several times. That is, that we will have from now onwards, now that the Estimates are in our hands, a certain number of hours on certain days definitely set aside for the consideration of Estimates. We could have them under consideration two or three days a week. No matter what other business the House is engaged on, when it reaches a certain time it should automatically go into Committee on Finance to consider the Estimates. That was proposed last year, and it was then said that the matter would be considered with a view to its adoption the following year; that is to say, this year.

The only real reason that I see why Deputy Johnson's amendment should be accepted by the House is that it will ensure that careful consideration of Estimates that in past years we have not had. If the Minister would give an assurance that from now henceforward the better part of the summer months will be devoted to financial business, and that on three days a week for so many hours a day that business will be under consideration, it will be a step in the right direction. The House will then feel a greater assurance in accepting the Vote on Account concerning a sum larger than nine millions, amounting to one-third of the amount required entirely for the Government of the Saorstát for the next twelve months. I suggest that the Minister should give some such assurance to the Dáil before this Vote, if it is pressed, is actually put to a vote.

Members of the Dáil who were here at the end of the Summer Session last year cannot forget the hasty manner in which legislation and measures which were regarded as urgent were brought in at the closing stages of that Session. If we are going to have a repetition of that method of legislation in the corresponding period of the coming Session, we will be placed in the same difficulty of being called upon to give preference to urgent measures rather than to the really important question of discussing in detail matters of administration arising under the Estimates. Now we cannot say exactly whether we are going in that direction or what position we will be faced with in the coming year, unless we have from the President or some member of the Executive Council, before the House adjourns for the Easter Recess, the legislative programme which they intend to carry through after the Easter adjournment or a definite promise from the Minister for Finance, as requested by Deputy Figgis, that so many hours of the day and so many days of the week will be given for the discussion in detail of these Estimates. The Minister for Justice, acting for the President some time ago, indicated a number of measures that were likely to be introduced before the Easter Recess. We will be faced on Friday week with an adjournment from 3rd April to the 21st, and we have not yet seen in print some of the measures which he indicated would be dealt with before the adjournment. He referred to an Army Pensions Amendment Bill and legislation that was necessary in order to take on the drainage of certain rivers which he mentioned. We have not got these Bills yet, and one must only conclude that they will be dealt with in the Summer Session, and perhaps a number of other Bills that we do not know of now may also be brought forward as urgent, and we may be told that they require the Governor-General's sanction before the Summer Recess. Until we have got a definite detailed statement of the required legislative measures that are to be introduced we are up against the same stone wall that we were faced with last year. I think, therefore, the assurance which Deputy Figgis and Deputy Johnson have asked for should be given to the House—that the discussion on the Estimates will be regarded as more important than any particular measures that we do not now know of, but that may be introduced later on, unless the House, by agreement, decides on a particular date to pass on to a certain stage of a certain measure which is more urgent. Unless we get that assurance we will be prevented from carrying out our functions as members of the Dáil and criticising, as far as we want to, the administration of the various Departments of the State.

I have no hesitation in stating that in so far as I am concerned I am anxious some arrangement should be made, such as is suggested by Deputy Figgis. There is always the difficulty, however, that a Minister like the Minister for Industry and Commerce with the Shannon scheme, may say that he should not be prevented from bringing the Shannon scheme before the Dáil on a particular date. I could not at the moment promise that a particular number of hours per day, or a particular number of days, would be given for the discussion of Estimates. I would try to have an arrangement made that some special amount of time would be given for the Estimates. If agreement could be got for that both from Ministers and the Dáil, it should not be difficult to carry such an arrangement into effect. There has been one decision come to by the Executive Council with regard to legislation for the coming year, and that is, that for the future they will not pursue the practice of trying to complete all Bills that are on the stocks before the summer adjournment. In the future, unless a Bill is exceptionally urgent, if it is not completed when we reach, say, the beginning of July, it will be, like the Local Government Bill of last year, carried over until autumn. Even although a number of Bills which are important Bills may be introduced after Easter, it does not follow that they will be pressed forward, and that the Dáil will be asked to sit late or to give up the discussion of the Estimates in order to enable these Bills to pass through all their stages before the adjournment. If the Bill is of such a character that it can be held over—and most Bills are of such a character—the intention of the Executive Council is that the Dáil should finish the first or second reading and carry over the Committee Stage until autumn. If the Dáil has the Committee Stage finished, or partly finished, the Bill could be taken up again when the Dáil resumes in October. I think Deputies need not fear that there will be the same amount of legislation pushing in on the time of the Dáil and crushing out the consideration of the Estimates as there was last year. I do not think that the passing of this amendment would lead to a more regular discussion of the Estimates week-by-week. What it would lead to, as I have already stated, would be another Vote on Account when the time came that it was necessary. The money would be urgently required to carry on some particular service that could not be allowed to lapse, and there would be the same type of moral coercion on the Dáil at that stage as at any other particular time. I do not think it is a device which necessarily ensures any more immediate or regular discussion of Estimates than will be secured by pressure of the Dáil and the sense of responsibility of Ministers.

I am glad the Minister has found a new phrase for it. He called it moral coercion. Some of us, if he had not sprung in with that particular phrase, might have called it immoral coercion. But the whole point we are dealing with, and I take it to be the real substance affecting all that has been said, is to try and get an adequate discussion of the Estimates when the time comes for them to be considered. They are now in our hands, and there is no reason why we should not, immediately after the Easter Recess, enter upon them and continue at them for a certain number of hours each day and for a certain number of days each week until they have been completed. The Minister knows very well—there is no necessity for me to remind him; probably he feels it far more acutely than any other Deputy in the Dáil could feel it—that anticipations and half promises as to the amount of time that is going to be given during certain months to the consideration of the Estimates is one thing but their realisation is quite another. I do not want to refer to what happened in various Committees of this House, because I do not know how far one may refer to these matters, but I want now to ask the Minister if it has been considered by the Executive Council that the Leader of this House, the President, should make a pledge to this House guaranteeing a certain number of hours each day and a certain number of days each week from after the Easter Recess until the time of the Summer Recess for the consideration of Estimates, no matter what legislation may be required during these months; that these months should be considered primarily as a matter concerned with the financial business of the Dáil, and more particularly with regard to the consideration of Estimates. It is the only opportunity, as the Minister knows, that the Dáil has of considering and going into the question of administration. It only arises once a year. I do urge that. I am not altogether in favour of this amendment. I think the amendment has served its purpose in raising an important question, that in previous years we have not had paid the attention to the Estimates that they deserve and that the Dáil ought to give. If the Minister for Finance will forgive me for saying so, I think we have not been treated sufficiently seriously with regard to the Estimates. Last year the President agreed, whenever the matter was raised, that the Estimates ought to be the primary consideration of the Dáil, and ought to be considered very seriously. But when one tried to pin him down to a definite time as to when these Estimates should be considered he appeared as elusive as he generally manages to prove whenever any definite statement or pledge is sought from him. I suggest, then, that the matter should be met by an absolute pledge by which the Dáil would tie its hands in advance, and have a certain number of hours in the week between the Easter Recess and the Summer Recess and say we shall continue Estimates until they are completed, and until they are completed we shall not allow any other business to trespass on these days and hours.

May I ask if the Minister for Finance would answer the question I put to him? We had a certain list of Bills read out as being likely to be introduced before the 31st March. I have a list here now of eleven Bills which were supposed to be introduced before the 31st March, and none of which is as yet introduced. Are these to be carried over the summer adjournment? How many are to be dropped? Or, on the other hand, will the Minister, before the adjournment for the Easter Recess, probably on Thursday or Friday of next week, make an announcement with regard to the legislative programme for the Summer Session, and whether the eleven Bills will be dropped altogether, so that we can make up our minds from a statement of that kind whether we will be able to do the things we require to do?

The Executive Council have given consideration to the question of giving more time to the Estimates, and certainly there was agreement that more time should be given. The President was authorised on behalf of the Executive Council to arrange a programme to give further time. I do not know at present what arrangement he may have made with any representatives in the Dáil. As to what Deputy Davin has said, the decision that was come to in regard to Bills was that Bills should be introduced when they were ready. It has always been the case, heretofore, that there was great difficulty when resuming after an adjournment because there was no business, and what happened was that when the Dáil met after the adjournment there was only work for one or two days in the week because of insufficient business and for the reason that the business was not ready. Gradually the business would accumulate, with the result that at the end of that session a great number of Bills would have to be rushed through. What we decided for the future was that Bills should be introduced when ready, but unless there was some peculiar character of urgency about them no attempt should be made to get them passed through all their stages before any particular adjournment. It was held that it would be desirable that no objection should be made to Bills getting their First and Second Readings before the adjournment, and when the Dáil resumed in the autumn there would be sufficient business from these Bills to occupy it. This would work out so that when the Dáil resumed in the autumn, instead of meeting one day in the week and then adjourning, we would have Bills that had already passed the First and Second stages taken up.

I do not know at the moment what the eleven Bills are. The Deputy may take it that there will not be any attempt to push them through. The attempt to push Bills through will be confined to Bills that are contingent upon a particular date like the Defence Forces (Temporary Provisions) Bill to-day. In that way we can give time for the Estimates. These Bills will be ready and in print, and will occupy the Dáil when it resumes after the Summer Recess.

One of the Bills to which I have referred is the Barrow Drainage Bill. It should be quite obvious to the Government that no work in connection with that scheme can be done this year unless the Bill is passed within a certain time. Members of the Government Party in the recent bye-elections stated quite definitely from public platforms that it was proposed to carry out that work this year. I want to know how they can do so unless the Bill is introduced and passed very quickly. They surely cannot start to drain the Barrow in October or November.

The Government will have to put up a very big contribution for the Barrow. There is no doubt that the Barrow is not one of these drainage schemes on which the whole or nearly the whole of the cost can be charged on the occupiers or owners of the benefited land. As the Government will have to put up a big proportion of the money, the question is being considered as to whether there is not some portion of the work which might, with the assent of the Dáil by the voting of the necessary money, be entered upon before the necessary legislation is passed. There is work of a type that, if the owners of the adjacent lands agree and if money is provided by the Dáil, could be done. The Bill would be like that referred to by the Minister for Industry and Commerce in connection with the Shannon scheme. We feel that it must be a Bill giving general powers—and it is drafted along these lines—to enter upon land to carry out works, and set up tribunals to assess the damages and benefits, and it will not be the type of Bill that would take up as much time as if it contained very detailed provisions. There has been great delay in getting that measure ready, because we found that a detailed plan did not exist. A very eminent engineer has been engaged on the plans, has visited the scene, and has been trying to produce out of the mass of documents which we have a plan on which the work could be carried out. But that has been delayed. As a matter of fact, if we delayed in introducing legislation until there was a detailed plan on which work could be started, there could be no work this year. I do not anticipate that work done on the Barrow this summer will be done under legislation. Any work that may be possible this summer would be of a preliminary character, work that could be done by consent, if money is voted for it.

Am I to understand from the Minister, when he said that this is a measure giving general powers, that it will be giving general powers for drainage in the Saorstát?

No; that is another thing. There will be a Bill which will give the county councils power to initiate drainage works, to establish new drainage districts, subject to the holding of certain inquiries, and so forth. That will be one type. The Government will not intervene in these cases at all except by way of holding inquiries by their inspectors when the county councils move. The owners of the benefited lands will pay, and the county councils will collect the rates that will be necessary for maintenance. The Government may intervene by a loan of money, but it will not intervene directly. In the case of the Barrow, the Government will have to intervene in the actual doing of the work.

Am I to understand that such a Bill is also to be introduced this Session?

Yes; that is the Bill which I have said to-day is already far advanced. As a matter of fact there has been several drafts prepared, but more than one Department is concerned, and many aspects of the case had to be considered in getting accommodation. Various points had to be gone into, and there was great difficulty in putting up a draft that we could stand over and that we could hope to get through the Dáil.

Does the Minister recognise that this Bill must be through soon in order to permit any work to be done this year?

I have noticed that the President has returned graciously to the Dáil. Would he repeat here the assurance that, I believe, he gave on a previous occasion, if I recollect rightly, that from the Easter Recess until the Summer Recess, come hail, come storm, two days a week would be set aside absolutely for the consideration of Estimates, and that other business would not be allowed to trespass upon the time so settled?

If I made that statement I am prepared to adhere to it.

Amendment put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 23; Níl, 29.

  • Pádraig F. Baxter.
  • Seán Buitléir.
  • John Conlan.
  • Séamus Eabhróid.
  • Seán de Faoite.
  • Darrell Figgis.
  • David Hall.
  • William Hewat.
  • Connor Hogan.
  • Séamus Mac Cosgair.
  • Tomás Mac Eoin.
  • Risteárd Mac Fheorais.
  • Risteárd Mac Liam.
  • Patrick J. Mulvany.
  • Tomás de Nógla.
  • Tomás O Conaill.
  • Aodh O Cúlacháin.
  • Liam O Daimhín.
  • Tadhg O Donnabháin.
  • Eamon O Dubhghaill.
  • Donnchadh O Guaire.
  • Pádraig O hOgáin (Luimneach).
  • Nicholas Wall.

Níl

  • Earnán Altún.
  • Earnán, de Blaghd.
  • Thomas Bolger.
  • Sir James Craig.
  • Máighréad Ní Choileáin Bean
  • Uí Dhrisceóil.
  • Osmond Grattan Esmonde.
  • Desmond Fitzgerald.
  • Thomas Hennessy.
  • Liam Mac Cosgair.
  • Pádraig Mac Fadáin.
  • Patrick McGilligan.
  • Eoin Mac Néill.
  • Seoirse Mac Niocaill.
  • Liam Mac Sioghaird.
  • Liam Mag Aonghusa.
  • Martin M. Nally.
  • Peadar O hAodha.
  • Risteard O Conaill.
  • Conchubhar O Conghaile.
  • Eoghan O Dochartaigh.
  • Séamus O Dóláin.
  • Peadar O Dubhghaill.
  • Eamon O Dúgáin.
  • Aindriú O Láimhín.
  • Séamus O Leadáin.
  • Séamus O Murchadha.
  • Seán O Súilleabháin.
  • Mícheál O Tighernaigh.
  • Liam Thrift.
Tellers.—Tá: Tomás de Nógla, Risteárd Mac Fheorais. Níl: Eamon O Dúgáin, Séamus O Dóláin.
Amendment declared lost.

Before proceeding with the motion, I want to understand where we shall be in regard to the question raised by it. There is a long list of Estimates amounting to £9,000,000. There are certain questions raised. One question has been raised, more or less, by the Minister for Industry and Commerce to-day— the question of the provision for unemployment insurance, and, generally, the question of the programme of his Department regarding unemployment and unemployment schemes. It has not been possible in the two or three hours that we have had those Estimates before us, to relate them to last year's Estimates or to understand exactly what is being proposed. We find that the total estimate against the Department of Industry and Commerce for this year is £366,484, while the total estimate for 1924-25 was £505,031. There are several items which may explain the reduction in the total, but it has not been possible to make any proper examination of the papers that have been laid before us. I have been able to find, by a close search through this bundle of fly-sheets, a sheet headed "Department of Industry and Commerce," but there is practically nothing in it, except part of sub-head 2 (Administration). It gives us no detail as to the way this £366,484 is made up. I want an opportunity to raise this question of the Department's policy and also in respect to unemployment and unemployment insurance. I think it is not possible to do it with sufficient care on this very short notice, and I would like to have an assurance, before passing this Vote, that on the later motions, the Report of the Resolution to the Dáil or on the Vote-on-Account Motion —that is the supply motion—which may be taken to-morrow, we shall have an opportunity to discuss the policy of the Department of Industry and Commerce relating to unemployment and unemployment insurance. If that is acceptable, I have nothing more to say on this particular motion.

Deputy Johnson has really asked one question. If it is any answer to him, I can tell him that the question of the policy of my Department can be raised on the portion of the Central Fund Bill motion that will be dealt with to-morrow.

Main question put and agreed to.