On the last day when this Bill was before the Dáil I indicated that, having consulted with the Ceann Comhairle on the matter and having considered the Bill as it stood, I was not satisfied it was so drafted that it should pass the Dáil in the form in which it was then drafted. Accordingly, I availed of the opportunity afforded by the recess to see the draftsman in connection with the measure. I have had to-day from him an intimation that the Bill, as it is drawn, would require something like 14 amendments. I think the Dáil should be made aware of the fact. In the circumstances, I do not think I would be overstepping my own duty if I ask you, a Chinn Comhairle, for your view on the matter. It would not be possible for me to put the amendments before the House now, and it would be undesirable that the Bill as it is drawn should pass the Report Stage and go through the Dáil in its existing form.
PRIVATE DEPUTIES' BUSINESS. - SHOP HOURS (DRAPERY TRADES, (DUBLIN AND DISTRICTS) (AMENDMENT) BILL, 1925.
In view of the difficulty that seems to have arisen regarding the construction of the sections in the Bill that came from the Committee, and the meaning of certain amendments proposed, I am very strongly of opinion that, apart altogether from the purposes desired to be achieved, we should take some steps to see that the Bill, as it would leave the House, would be a properly constructed Bill. I have only had an opportunity of glancing at the amendments suggested by the draftsman. The amendments suggested are amendments which, while preserving what is in the Bill, present it in the proper form, without in any way effecting a change in the purpose of the Bill as it appears at present.
I would like to have some time to consider what the best course would be. It would be difficult to proceed now with the Bill, take 14 amendments to it and make it something completely different in form. Perhaps it might be better to withdraw the Bill and introduce a new Bill, but then there is the point of view of the promoter. That would mean that unless he got agreement on the matter he would have to run the whole course of the five stages in the Dáil again.
The suggestion I would like to make now is that the Order for the Report Stage for to-day should be discharged. In the interval I will look into the matter, and at the meeting of the Committee on Procedure to-morrow I may make a suggestion as to what might be done, because the object is not to defeat or alter the Bill in a particular way but to see that it will be in proper form when passed. I think that we ought not proceed with it now in view of the circumstances, and I would like to have until to-morrow, seeing that I only heard of this this afternoon, to suggest a course and consult with the Committee on Procedure. Deputy Hennessy would also be consulted.
I suppose that lawyers, like other people, are at liberty to differ, but I think it would have been better if the parliamentary draftsman had been put at our disposal at an earlier stage, as it would have saved a great deal of trouble. I am agreeable to the suggestion that has been put forward, but I would like to say that if the Opposition are prepared to take the new Bill, as introduced, at the Fourth Stage, it would spare a lot of time and would obviate going over the same ground again. I do not see what is to be gained by going over the whole ground again. I suppose the result would be the same.
So far as I can speak for the Opposition, I may say that I accept Deputy Dr. Hennessy's proposal that he should not be prejudiced by the withdrawal of the Bill and the introduction of a new Bill, and that Deputy Nagle, Deputy Johnson, and other Deputies who have put down amendments, should be allowed to move them as if they had reached the same stage. I think it is only fair to Deputy Dr. Hennessy to show that we recognise that he has facilitated the Dáil by allowing the new Bill to reach the same stage as the present Bill had reached. I moved various amendments in Committee, but I was beaten, and I do not want to move them again. I will take my beating. I suggest to Deputy Johnson, in the interests of all parties and in order to get a workable measure, even though it is not that which the Deputy desires, that he might give an undertaking to Deputy Dr. Hennessy in that regard.
Is it in the province of any Deputy, or section of Deputies, to agree to a procedure by which a new Bill can be introduced and accepted as having reached the Fourth Stage? I think it would be establishing a precedent which would be very undesirable, but that, however, is for you, sir, to say.
If Deputy Dr. Hennessy thinks that he has a grievance against the Government I may say that I do not appreciate his point of view in that respect. Regulations are laid down in regard to Private Bill procedure and I presume that the Deputy went through them. We have done a generous act in preventing him putting on the Statute Book a measure which would be a discredit to the Dáil. Our action is unusual, but it is in the best interests of the House, and I do not apologise for it. I was satisfied, having canvassed other views, that the measure, as before us, was a measure which would discredit the Dáil. I am sure that Deputy Dr. Hennessy did not intend that. This action is not taken by reason of my opposition to the measure. If I were, in fact, to have regard to my own opposition I would let it go and not bother.
I know that the President has acted in the best of good faith, but my contention is that the parliamentary draftsman should have been put at the disposal of the Special Committee when the Bill was before it. I think it is only due to the draftsmen who prepared this Bill for the small traders to say that they still hold that it is good law. However, when the parliamentary draftsman thinks differently, I think it is wiser to let it go, but I think that some people's reputations are at stake.
I am not prepared to give any undertaking beyond, perhaps, saying that we will have to accept the Second Reading as agreed by the Dáil.
Perhaps the Bill could be sent back to the Committee to consider the amendments and make a fresh report. Is that possible?
I have not had an opportunity of considering the amendments. I think a word should be said for draftsmen in general. The Bill, as originally introduced, may have been quite properly drafted and there may be a great deal of honour due to the original draftsman, but it is a very different Bill now. If there is any defect in its present form I think there are a great many guilty parties. It is not easy, I fear, to put the parliamentary draftsman at the disposal of a Committee. He is a very overworked person. For my own part, I think that when a Bill, which has been introduced by a private Deputy, has succeeded in passing Second Reading it would be good procedure for the responsible Executive Government to submit the Bill to their advisers, from the point of view of form and general law, in order to ensure that if it became law it would become law in proper form. That, I hope, will be the procedure adopted in future. Deputy Hewat asks whether such a procedure as that which Deputy Hennessy suggests could be adopted. Deputies could promise that they would, or would not, do a particular thing when certain circumstances arose, but no Deputy could bind another not to move an amendment when he had the right to do so. I would like to have an opportunity of considering the matter and consulting with the Committee on Procedure to-morrow. If we discharge the Order and put it down for next Wednesday we might by that time be able to make up our minds and produce something which will be satisfactory.
Order discharged. Bill to be taken on Wednesday, 3rd March.