I think that the objections to this Motion can be placed under two main heads. In the first place, it is contended that it does not give the Opposition sufficient time to discuss the measure to which it refers. Secondly, it is contended that it does not give the Opposition an opportunity to propose amendments to the Bill. Let us see what substance there is in these objections. Deputy Bennett has made the point, which was made by previous speakers on the Opposition Benches, that the Opposition Chief Whip, who may be presumed to be in a position to speak for his Party, indicated to the Parliamentary Secretary that, in his opinion, this Bill would be disposed of inside three hours. If it had not been for the time which has already been occupied in discussing the guillotine motion, the Opposition would be given not merely the three hours which they thought would be amply sufficient to discuss all the provisions of the Bill but an additional three hours, if they desired to take them. I think that the Opposition are not likely to convince anybody, here or elsewhere, that, so far as the Government are concerned, adequate time to consider this measure is not being given. The second objection—it has been stated by Deputy Cosgrave and Deputy Mulcahy—is that the Opposition are not given an opportunity to put in amendments to the Bill. You, Sir, have indicated that you had already conveyed to Deputy Mulcahy, who is Chief Whip of the Opposition Party and is responsible on behalf of his Party for the conduct of these matters—that up to a late hour you were prepared to accept amendments to the Motion which would make amendments to the Bill possible. The Opposition refused to avail themselves of the latitude which you proposed to give them and, accordingly, they themselves prevented the moving of amendments here which would enable some of these orders, the confirmation of which is not so urgently required, to be deleted from the Schedule and considered in greater detail at a later date. Not only that, but the Minister for Industry and Commerce intimated early in the debate that the Government were prepared, provided they got an assurance that the Bill would pass through all its stages to-night, to discharge the order for the motion and to allow the debate on the Bill to proceed in the ordinary way without any guillotine and without any time-table. If that offer of the Government had been accepted, the Opposition would have been in a position to move amendments on the Committee Stage to delete from the Schedule any of the orders to which they took particular exception. In that connection I may say that, if our offer had been accepted, I was prepared to agree that certain of these confirmation orders might stand over to a later date. Accordlingly, there is no substance in the second objection which the Opposition has raised to this motion.
On the general question as to what has rendered a motion of this sort essential, it is only necessary for me to put before the House some figures which will show that last week much more time was taken on the discussion of the stages of the Finance Bill then before us than had been taken previously.
In that connection, and with particular reference to the point made by Deputy Cosgrave that the Bill was only introduced on the 22nd of June last, I should like to point out that if it had not been for the fact that the whole of the Government's programme was deranged by the prolonged and obstructive debate which took place on the Committee Stage of the Bill, it would have been possible to have taken the Second Stage of this measure very early last week: it would, in fact, have been possible to have taken it on Tuesday of last week, and to have found, inside the ordinary Parliamentary time-table, the three hours which several Opposition Deputies have already told the House would have been more than sufficient to consider the measure in all its details.
But everybody knows what happened last week. Possibly, to-morrow there will be an opportunity for going into it in greater detail, but last week on the Committee Stage of the Finance Bill four Opposition Deputies got up and talked as often as three and four times on the sections of that Bill: and carried through a sort of filibuster to prevent the Bill passing through Committee, and in that way endeavoured to upset and derange the general Government programme. If it had not been for that obstruction there would have been, as I have said, ample time.
In that connection I think it is desirable that the House should understand exactly how flagrantly the Opposition wasted the time of the House. It is usual, in connection with the Financial business of the year, to discuss the Resolutions on which the Finance Bill is framed at great length, both as Resolutions and, subsequently, as sections of the Bill. In 1928 the total time occupied by the then Opposition on the Financial Resolutions and the Finance Bill amounted to 22 hours 21 minutes; in 1929, the time occupied was 28 hours and 5 minutes; in 1930, the time occupied was 18 hours and 25 minutes; in 1931, the time occupied was 26 hours and 10 minutes; but in 1932, when a new Government came in with a very heavy programme which, undoubtedly, would have made very heavy demands on Parliamentary time; when the Opposition changed, and when, instead of having a patriotic Opposition in this Dáil, when instead of having an Opposition which was anxious only to help the then Government in power to do anything that would improve the economic position of our people; when that Opposition was replaced by the then Cumann na nGaedheal Opposition, at once the amount of time devoted to the Finance Bill of the year jumped up to 77 hours and 35 minutes. Then there came the General Election of 1933, and the then Opposition realised what the view of the people of this country was in regard to the attitude which they had exhibited here towards the Government then in office. As a result of that election the Opposition returned to the House in a more chastened mood, and the debate on the Finance Bill of that year occupied 36 hours and 15 minutes.
In 1934 a little more time, but not an unreasonable amount of time, was taken in discussing the Finance Bill, the time spent on it being 40 hours and 50 minutes. But, on the Finance Bill of this year, the Opposition having, I suppose, forgotten the lessons of the General Election of 1933, went back to its old recalcitrant and obstructive attitude, and in this year, notwithstanding the fact that the Government had a very heavy legislative programme: a legislative programme, for instance, which included the Pigs and Bacon Bill, a Bill to regulate, control and to organise upon sound lines the bacon industry in this country: a programme which included Widows' and Orphans' pensions, a social measure so long and so anxiously awaited by the people of this country, a legislative programme which included the Conditions of Employment Bill, the first attempt to frame a decent industrial code for the workers of this country, and when, in addition to these measures, we have also awaiting us a Bill to amend the Unemployment Assistance Act and a number of other Bills which will come before the House in due course: the Opposition, animated by a desire to hold up these measures and, as I have said before, to derange the Government's programme in the hope that when the time came for the Dáil to adjourn we should be compelled to drop some vital elements in it, reverted to its old attitude of obstruction, and so, in this year of 1935, the amount of time wasted, for very largely wasted it was, in the discussions on the provisions of the Finance Bill, jumped up to 74 hours and 40 minutes.
I have said the time "very largely wasted," and my justification for that is to refer any person who is sufficiently interested to take the trouble of going back and reading the debates, to what took place here last week. On every section of the Bill, as I have already said, we had three or four Deputies getting up asking for information which could, and should, most properly be elicited by way of Parliamentary Question. When we were in Opposition; when we were preparing to debate the Budget proposals for the year, we took the trouble of putting down in advance the Parliamentary Questions which would elicit the data which we thought essential in order that we might be able to make a case against the proposals in the Bill and be able to criticise them properly. That has not been the attitude of the present Opposition. They do not take the trouble to do that but they ask a multitude of questions on the Bill in the vain hope that a Minister will make a slip; that he will simply, because he has not had the time to refresh himself upon the various points of detail, give them some inaccurate information out of which they can make a debating point and waste the time of the Dáil. We had one Deputy getting up and telling us, like a babbling Hans Anderson, on every occasion on which he spoke, the fairy tale of the Minister who went into a certain workman's house in Dublin and, seeing such and such a thing on the dresser, the table, or on the wall, decided to tax it. In every speech of that Deputy that sort of picture was painted. Now what was the purpose of that repetition except obstruction?
Then we had Deputy McGilligan's speeches. I do not know how far the question of the personal appearance of Ministers or Deputies can fitly enter into the question of a tariff upon ornamental glassware, but on that particular proposal in the Finance Bill the greater part of one of Deputy McGilligan's speeches was taken up discussing whether or not the Minister for Finance might be properly classified as a gargoyle. I confess I could not see the relevancy of that speech to the proposed tariff on glassware, and I did not feel called upon, in discussing that particular item, to get up and plead that Deputy McGilligan, who, apparently, suffers from a Narcissus complex and may ocacsionally see a reflection of himself on these benches, and the Minister for Finance are not birds of a feather, and that he ought not to take me for his second self on the Government Benches.
Similarly we had Deputy John Marcus O'Sullivan in the same mood. I have already drawn the attention of the House to the intellectual content of that speech as reflected in one of the Dublin newspapers which published a report of its most striking passage in quotation marks. I have no doubt that that particular gem of Deputy O'Sullivan's oratory will figure in one of the classical collections of Irish Bulls, when he, appealing to the intelligence of our people, stated that a man waking up in the morning, "provided he had a ceiling above him" would see that every slate on the roof was taxed. I certainly did not feel that I was called upon to analyse that argument or to try to find a sufficiently strong refutation of it.
That is how the Opposition spent not merely all the normal Parliamentary time last week, but, in addition, the prolonged sitting on Friday, and a very large part of the special sitting on Saturday. Then they come along and tell us that one of the reasons why we are anxious to get this guillotine motion through is in order that we may avoid a discussion of the Estimates. I think that is the last point that has been made in this debate on the guillotine motion, that we were rushing this Bill because we did not wish to have a discussion on the Estimates. After this Bill is disposed of, the next business on the Order Paper is the Estimates, and the first of the Estimates can be taken as early as the Opposition will permit. Up to 9 o'clock we are in their hands. This Bill is urgently required because it must be law by the 29th of July, and we are anxious to give the Seanad ample time to consider it.
If the Opposition will change from the obstructive attitude they have taken up to the present, and allow this Bill to go through this House expeditiously, we can get down immediately to a discussion of the Vote for Law Charges. Deputy Morrissey who has left the House, and who is scarcely ever in it, to help it to come to a right conclusion on any matter, said we were putting all these things on the Order Paper in order that we might avoid discussion of the Law Charges. The matter is now in the hands of the Opposition. They can allow this Bill to pass expeditiously through all stages, and we will proceed immediately to discuss the Vote for Law Charges, and all the other matters which were referred to by Deputy Bennett, the Votes for Old Age Pensions, Local Loans and Agriculture. If the Opposition do not depart from their obstructive attitude, and if we have to utilise all the time prescribed by the guillotine resolution in discussing the Bill before the House to-day, and the Finance Bill and the Appropriation Bill which will be before it in due course to-morrow and Thursday, we will still be more than generous. We have to get the Appropriation Bill through before July 31, otherwise more Parliamentary time is going to be wasted in taking a Vote on Account and a Central Fund Bill.
If this Bill is disposed of early on Thursday the Opposition can still have additional Parliamentary time to discuss the Vote for Agriculture. There is no advantage which they would get from a discussion of that particular Vote immediately, that will not be available to them, and that they cannot have on the special day which we are prepared to give for consideration of that Vote. If they want more than one day they have the remedy in their own hands. They can shorten discussion on these Bills. The business which we hope to dispose of during the balance of any Parliamentary day that may be left will be confined entirely to the Estimates.