Would it be possible for the Attorney-General to take charge of this Bill? He is within the precincts of the House, and the President is engaged in another place. I understand that only a Minister can be heard in the Seanad, but with the permission and leave of the Seanad, the Attorney-General might be heard.
FISHERIES BILL, 1923. - THE COURTS OF JUSTICE BILL, 1923.—(COMMITTEE STAGE.)
This matter has occurred to me, that the Seanad would be very glad to welcome the presence here, during the discussion of the Bill, of the Attorney-General. Personally. I think he would be a very great assistance to us. At the same time, I understand that there is some constitutional question which prevents him from being described as a Minister, although I should have thought he was, for all intents and purposes, a Minister. On the other hand, if he is not entitled to be here as a Minister—gladly though we would welcome him—I do not know that we have any power under the Constitution or under our Standing Orders to give the right of audience to anyone else. I would hesitate about making a precedent. That is my difficulty. There is a provision that a Minister has the right of audience. I know of no provision enabling anyone else to have the right of audience. Therefore, it would seem to me, unless we have a Standing Order providing for this, that as we stand at present, having regard to the Constitution, we have no power to give the right of audience to anyone but a Minister. I should be very glad if the Attorney-General would assume that he is both in fact and in law a Minister, and then we could gladly welcome his presence in our midst. He is behind the Bar at present, and cannot deal with this matter. Perhaps, if he had an opportunity of having a word with the President, and if they were satisfied that he comes within the definition of a Minister within the Constitution, and is entitled to an audience in the Seanad, we will all gladly welcome him.
Would it not be possible to suspend Standing Orders?
There are no Standing Orders to prevent him. It is the Constitution.
I suppose we cannot suspend the Constitution?
I think we made a proposal to the other House which they rejected, in which it was suggested that they might allow members of this House to be heard in the other House. While I recognise the difficulty with regard to the Standing Order, is it your definite ruling that the Constitution precludes us from having a distinguished person, irrespective of whether he is a member of the other House or not, being heard here?
I am quite clear that we have no such power. Where would that end? To let a person other than a member of the Dáil or the Government come here and to give him the right of audience in our debates is a power I do not think any constituent assembly in any of the Dominions has asserted.
My point simply was that, if we have power to make a Standing Order to hear a member of the other House, we would have power, without raising a constitutional question as to the exact definition of the Minister, by a special resolution to invite here a member of the other House to take charge of the Bill if it were for our interest.
I would be only too glad if such a power were conferred by the Standing Orders, but it is not there. This has taken me more or less by surprise, and I did not anticipate it. But I did consider it before in view of this possibility, as I was most anxious to secure, if I could, the assistance and presence of my friend, the Attorney-General. I hesitate, as I cannot establish a precedent in the matter.
Is not the power possessed by various Legislatures in the United States to permit various persons, not members of the Legislature, to speak before them?
I do not know. There may be such a power, but we have not taken that power. I am not saying that it would not be a very good power to take, but we have not taken it. That is my difficulty. If it is the general wish of the Seanad, as it is my wish that we should have the Attorney-General present, I am not going to raise any technical difficulty; but we ought to be very careful. That is all I say, because, of course, we are establishing a precedent. The President is here now, and, if the Attorney-General consults him and thinks that it is consistent with the Constitution, and that he does come within the category of Minister referred to there, I can only repeat that we would gladly welcome his presence. There is one thing we can do. Apart from the question of audience here, we have a perfect right to invite the Attorney-General within the Bar of the House, and I should be very glad, if it is convenient to him, that he should take his seat beside the President.
then took a seat within the House.