The main practical purpose of Article 37 of the Constitution is to give the Executive Council control over financial proposals submitted to the Dáil. The control of financial proposals in the Dáil is, as Senators are aware, the function of the Executive. Where legislative proposals involving the expenditure of public moneys are introduced by private members the financial resolution must originate with the Executive Council. This amendment of the Constitution is simply to enable the Executive Council to move directly in sending any decision of the Executive Council to the Dáil without the intervention of the Governor-General. It in no way changes the ordinary formality of the advice or the recommendation on the financial measure being sent, but it does leave to the Executive Council, without the intervention of the Governor-General, a method of approaching the Dáil itself. It is felt that it is in keeping with the whole policy that is being pursued. The Dáil agreed to it without any discussion, and I hope the Seanad will also agree.
Constitution (Amendment No. 20) Bill, 1933—Second Stage.
I must make my protest against this measure. I agree that it is implicit in the whole policy of the Government and is only one further step along the road to a republic. It further gains colour from the manner in which the Governor-General himself has been placed in a position of utter isolation and obscurity. I deplore the policy which is rapidly leading to a situation when the declaration of a republic will be little more than a mere formal act. I would ask, if possible, for my name to be recorded on the records as dissenting.
I did not intend to speak on this Bill, but, in view of the fact that I totally disagree with the view held by the last speaker, I think it is only right that I should make my own personal view with regard to this Bill clear. This really applies more to the next two Bills on the Order Paper. My view is and always has been that it is much better to have removed unreal formalities which mean nothing, but which may make people who have not got the constitutional knowledge imagine that the Governor-General and Great Britain have certain powers which they have not, or which may enable certain politicians to pretend that those things mean something that they do not mean. I do not at all agree that the removal of any formalities which mean nothing is a step towards a republic. I should take exactly the opposite view. My opinion is that the more you make it perfectly clear that it is possible to remain in the British Commonwealth and maintain the constitutional monarchy without in any way interfering with your independence, the more it strengthens the position inside the British Commonwealth rather than being a step towards a republic. In this case, I read carefully the speech made by the President in introducing this Bill in the Dáil and I find myself in complete agreement. As he pointed out, this particular Bill has no effect whatsoever except in form. I think at the present moment it may be necessary for the Executive Council to send a formal note to the Governor-General and to say, "We instruct or advise you to sign this." That note will no longer be necessary. As far as the actual power of recommendation is concerned, the effect of the Bill is absolutely nil. There is always a danger, as I said before, that certain forms which are of no importance themselves may be used to suggest outside interference with this country which, in fact, does not exist.
I should like to refer to the general principle because it applies to the three Bills—possibly more to the other Bills than to this particular Bill. I should like to make it clear that my attitude ever since I was on the Constitution Committee, and I have not changed in any way, is that within the terms of the Treaty we should make the actual constitutional position as clear as we possibly can. I am personally even in favour of extensions of the Treaty which would make the position clearer, but I am not in favour of any step taken by this Parliament which, although it was only a form, conflicts with the Treaty unless there has been either an agreement or a repudiation of the Treaty. While the Treaty is there I believe it should be kept even in form. As far as these three Bills are concerned, I am utterly unable to see that they conflict in form with the Treaty and, for my part, I am prepared to support them. I need hardly say that in what I say I am speaking only for myself.
Just one word ought to be said before this Bill passes from the purview of the Oireachtas, because, while it is undoubtedly a matter of form, it is the removal of a symbol that has hitherto been believed to have very considerable significance. In the theory of the past which was embodied in the Constitution we had the Crown coming to the people's representatives to ask for money for a specific purpose, and that approach to the people's representatives was through the Executive Council, nominally the Ministers appointed by the Crown to advise it. Under the new regime, which I think is all to the good, that formality will be removed and we shall then have the position of Ministers who have replaced the Crown coming to the representatives of the people asking for money for a specific purpose. No longer is the Crown coming for money for a specific purpose; it is in effect a republican executive. No other words can describe it so far as I can understand. That is a very great change, a change that took place some years ago and has been part of our procedure, but with the passing of this Bill we are formally renouncing the influence of the Crown as an institution in respect to taxation or the spending of public moneys. That, I think, is a very great change which ought to be recorded as being consciously realised by the members of this House.
I do not think there is anything more for me to say. Senator Johnson has expressed, I think, what is in the minds of most of us, though perhaps not all of us. He has stated in effect what always did take place, namely, that the Executive Council, being the responsible authority in the country, naturally made the decisions as regards what was to be done with regard to the finances of the country. An unnecessary formality, in my opinion, is now being removed. I personally feel considerable satisfaction that it is being removed. As I said earlier, the Dáil passed this Bill without any dissenting voice and without any criticism, and I feel that this House will probably do the same.
I would like to hear from Senator Sir John Keane if he wishes any action to be taken following the views he expressed on this Bill.
If the rules of the House allow it, I should like to have my dissent formally recorded.
I am afraid it cannot be done in that particular way. As the Senator knows, there is a way of doing it.
The Official Debates will indicate the views that I have given expression to and that quite satisfies me.