I do not want to do the Minister for Justice any injustice but I am not quite certain that I heard him correctly or, if I heard him correctly, that I quite apprehended the meaning which he intended to convey. I gather from his remarks that, having considered this matter, he was definitely of opinion that it was not in the general interest that an Order should be made making our time conform to the British summer time. For that reason, he recommended to the Government that an Order, which hitherto it had been usual to make, should not be made this year.
When the Minister was speaking—I want to be quite fair to him and want to be fair also to myself and I do not want to be charged with misrepresenting him—there was quite a din coming from the lobbies and therefore I had some difficulty in hearing quite clearly what the Minister said. I have stated what I understood him to say, that in his considered opinion prior to the 14th March of this year, it was not in the general interest of this State that the Order which it had been customary to make in regard to summer time should be made; but that, subsequently, representations were made to him, either by the Dublin Chamber of Commerce or by the Associated Chambers of Commerce—I did not quite catch what he said—and by the Great Northern Railway Company and, as a result of those representations, he changed his views, or at least the Government, having considered the representations made to him and made, perhaps, through him to the Government, decided that the policy which the Government had adopted should be reconsidered and reversed and that an Order assimilating our time here to British summer time should be made in the near future.
I think that puts the Dáil in a rather extraordinary position, for two reasons. First of all, we have the Minister for Justice saying that he is making this Order against his better judgment, but in deference to the wishes of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and of a railway system a very large part of which operates outside the territory now under the jurisdiction of this State. I think that no Minister should come to the House and submit anything to it which is contrary to his good judgment. It is essential to our constitutional position that no Minister should present to the House anything which he himself does not firmly believe to be in the public interest. I do not want to be personal to the present Minister. I assume that he did not realise what was implicit in what he said. I think that the first requirement of a Minister under our Constitution is that, when he comes to the House with a proposal, the mere fact that he introduces it is a guarantee that, in his considered wisdom and opinion, it is the best course for the Government and the State to adopt.
The Minister is not in the same position which some Deputies have thought themselves able to take up in this House, of saying that because of Party Whips and one thing and another they were compelled to vote against their convictions. The Minister must be firmly convinced that the course which he proposes or submits to the House is a proposal which is in the public interest. If he is faced with a proposal which he thinks is not in the public interest then I think he ought not submit it. I do not want to be unfair to the Minister and do not want to take advantage of him, but this constitutional point should be stated very firmly. I do not think he should remain a member of an administration which imposes upon him an obligation of submitting to Dáil Éireann some proposal in which he does not believe.
A Minister who is in the Government and who is not immediately and personally responsible to Dáil Éireann for a proposal which he puts before that body is in a rather different position, because he need not have brought, and perhaps he is not called upon to bring, to the consideration of proposals submitted by his colleagues the same careful judgment and detailed consideration as he is bound to bring to those proposals which he submits to the Dáil and for which he makes himself in a particular way personally responsible. A Minister can acquiesce in proposals of his colleagues which he has not fully sifted for himself, but it is a very different matter when a Minister is presumed to have considered proposals and to have come to a certain conclusion about them—an adverse conclusion in regard to them—it is a very different matter for that Minister to submit them to Dáil Éireann.
The next point we ought to consider is this. It has been urged here in this House several times that proposals to synchronise our time here, during particular periods of the year, with the British time are not in the best interests of the agricultural community. I have never myself been convinced that there is very much in that. Perhaps that is because I have a city man's point of view. I approach this problem of summer-time very largely from the point of view of those who have to dwell in the cities and who, because of that, have not the same opportunities for fresh air and out-door relaxation as people who dwell in rural areas have. Therefore, like most city people, I am predisposed to regard the introduction of the expedient of making us all get up an hour earlier during the summer months, from the city and urban dwellers' point of view, as being a beneficial one and to support it generally.
I make no concealment of the fact that I am not opposing in principle the proposal which the Minister has introduced, but my position is not the position of many members on both sides of this House. There are members of the Farmers' Party, there are Deputies who claim to represent the farmers and the rural population, and they will probably approach this from the point of view of their own particular peculiar interest as agriculturists. If they do so, what is going to be the position? Surely the Government, in deciding that this matter should be submitted to the House, must have come to a corporate decision in relation to it? After all, if the Government have decided that the Minister's previous recommendation should be overthrown and that Dáil Éireann should be asked to approve of the Order which he has made, they must have come to that decision on the basis that it was in the public interest, that it was in the interests of the community as a whole that this particular step should be taken. Surely every member of the Government must share in the responsibility for that decision. Otherwise, what happens to the doctrine of collective responsibility?
The Minister has said that this matter is going to be left to a free vote of the House. Does that mean that the Government is not going to vote on this matter as a unit? Is the Minister for Lands, say, going to go into a different Lobby from that of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, the Minister for Health or the Minister for Education? If so, then I think the Constitution is in a fair way of being violated. The Constitution prescribes that the Government shall be bound by this principle of collective responsibility. That means that the Government must act in unison and concord in public and in private. There cannot be any evasion of that constitutional principle. There would be that evasion if the Minister for Lands and, say, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance, who is a colleague of his in the Clann na Talmhan Party, were to go into a different Lobby from that which would be entered by the Minister for Justice, who is putting this proposal before the House.
I am assuming in that connection that, since the Minister for Justice has submitted the proposal and has signed the Order, he will vote to uphold his own signature. If, however, the Minister for Lands votes for the Minister for Justice, are we to assume that the Minister for Lands now believes— because he did not always—that it is in the interests of the rural population that our time should be assimilated to British summer time? If so, it would be interesting to know what argument the Minister for Justice adduced or, since it was not the Minister for Justice, as he was convinced of a contrary course, what arguments other members of the Government adduced in order to convert the Minister for Lands to the point of view which is expressed in the Order which the Minister for Justice has made.
We are told this whole Government is an experiment. I hope the experiment of what is euphoniously known as an inter-Party Government will not result in a violation of what is a fundamental principle of the Constitution. Whether this will be left to a free vote of the House or not, one assumes that at least the Government will go into the Division Lobby as a unit, as a corporate authority, responsible collectively for the general administration of the affairs of this State.
But perhaps another consideration arises here in this connection. Whips are put on not to coerce men to vote against their will, but to indicate to the members of Dáil Éireann, and particularly those who are accustomed to support the Government Party, what the Government's considered view is in relation to any proposal. The reason, of course, for that is perfectly obvious. The Minister for Agriculture seems to find this somewhat laughable.