Transport Bill, 1949—From the Dáil.

Dáil Eireann has agreed to amendments Nos. 1 to 4, inclusive, and amendments Nos. 7 to 15, inclusive, made by Seanad Éireann to the Transport Bill, 1949; it has disagreed to amendments Nos. 5 and 6, to which the agreement of Seanad Éireann is desired.

I move that the Seanad do not insist on amendment No. 5.

There is very little to be said on this matter. The Seanad unanimously —or perhaps I should say without any dissentients—passed two amendments to the Bill in order to carry out our constitutional function of giving the Dáil an opportunity of reconsidering a particular matter. The Dáil has reconsidered it and has decided to disagree with us in regard to these amendments; that is to say, the Dáil persists in its original attitude. We have carried out our function. It is not for us to deal with the way in which the Dáil has discussed these amendments but with the decision which the Dáil has made, and in the light of that decision I move that we do not insist on our amendments.

I may say for the information of Senators that if we did insist, the Bill in the form in which it has come to us from the Dáil would become law, as I figure it out, within a month on the 6th or 7th June. It only means a difference of 28 days and the simplest attitude for us to adopt is to say: we passed the amendments and sent them to the Dáil; the Dáil did not agree. We now say the matter is not of sufficient importance to hold up the Bill for another four weeks. I move accordingly.

As the proposer of these amendments which have now been rejected by the Dáil, I feel that we cannot serve any further useful purpose by insisting on pushing the matter to its full extent and therefore I feel that I agree with what Senator Hayes has suggested.

I just want to say that I am glad that this particular matter was dealt with in this House purely and simply on its merits. I have already made my case on the amendment which is on record and I have nothing further to add at this stage. Therefore I support what Senator Hayes has suggested.

I cannot say I am surprised at the speech made by Senator Hayes because we were forewarned of what we might expect at the closing stage of the debate on the last day but I certainly am surprised at Senator McGuire who has apparently followed suit. I thought it was a very creditable thing on the last day that the members of this House could, apart from political affiliations, be unanimous on this question. It was stated on every side of the House and from every angle of every side of the House that the House was dealing with this as a matter of principle and practically every speaker on the amendments said that he was acting on a matter of principle. I fail to see that anything has happened since we discussed this matter at the last meeting of the Seanad to change our opinions and I must say I am amazed to find that a man like Senator McGuire is prepared to face right about and almost in so many words to say: "Never mind what I said on the last day about the matter of principle. I am prepared to change my whole attitude about the amendments and I am not going forward any more since the Dáil has refused to accept them."

When the Minister was speaking here on the last day he said he would recommend the acceptance of those amendments to the Dáil. The Minister has certainly kept his word. He recommended the amendments to the Dáil but the Dáil after considerable discussion refused to accept the Minister's recommendation. Anybody reading the discussions in the Dáil must be quite clear that what happened was that a certain number of people in the Dáil voted as a protest against the amendments because the Government as such failed or refused to accept responsibility for them.

The Minister was pressed on numerous occasions in the Dáil to say if the Government wanted these clauses reinserted in the Bill but no such statement was forthcoming. I think with all respect that this whole matter is a piece of political manoeuvring and I refuse to be associated with anything of the kind. To use a nonparliamentary expression, I suggest that it is sticking out that the Government themselves could not agree as to the procedure to be adopted. They then come to the Dáil and the Minister who is a long time in politics and is a very efficient politican if I may say so left it to what he calls "a free vote of the House." In other words the Minister or the Government refused to apply the whip in the Dáil, but as far as we can judge from the opening statements they have no hesitation in applying the whip in the Seanad.

That is not so, Sir.

We will see by the vote.

Wait and see. You can argue about this thing as long as you like but the fact will still stand out that this is a matter of principle. I say here and now that anybody who is prepared to change his opinion which was the unanimous opinion of the Seanad is really playing politics and is prepared to answer the crack of the whip which his colleagues in the Dáil were not prepared to answer. It will be interesting to see how the vote will go. I hope there will be a vote. I make no secret of the fact that I certainly will vote against. It was very interesting to see that in the Dáil although the Minister, a member of the Government, recommended the amendments to the House and voted for what he said he believed other Ministers did not follow suit. While four or five Ministers voted on one side the remainder of the Government voted on the other side. Reading carefully the debate in the Dáil, I could see no reason whatever to change my opinion and I do not propose to change my attitude now. If nobody else votes against Senator Hayes' suggestion I certainly will vote against it.

On the last day we were discussing this matter Senator Hayes suggested—he seemed to be wise as to what might happen and what did happen—that we should agree beforehand that if the amendments were beaten in the Dáil we should not press them here. I repudiate any question of principle. Principles are fundamental things and you do not easily run away from them. I was concerned as to whether we were creating a precedent and it surprises me that Senator McGuire should run away from the principle he enunciated the last day. It was not a question of the amount involved, which was a mere flyblow, but of the principle that men whose job is taken over should all be put on the same level and be paid compensation accordingly. I am with Senator Quirke. It seems that the Minister is fairly secure in the matter. He stated that he would support it, which he did, but the Government as a body did not apply the whip. Probably they were not sure of their men and if you look at the voting lists you will realise that.

If this House is to perform any function, if it is not to be a rubber stamp, we should insist on this as far as our powers lie. We know they are limited, but we should use them to the extent of that limit and not run away at the first rebuff we get from the Dáil. We have a certain function and we should carry it out. If we accept this we are simply supporting the people who say that this House has no function. It has very grave functions and can do a lot of useful work. We all have different views and different aspects of life. Some of us are workmen, some employers, some business people, and we all approach this matter from the point of view of common justice. If it was common justice last week to pay compensation to these men, surely the position has not so altered since as to warrant our running away from that decision. If the Government were so concerned about the Minister being inconvenienced in the matter, why did they not adopt the ordinary procedure in the Dáil and have a vote on Party lines? We ought not to be concerned with that, but we ought to be concerned for the privileges and rights of this House. We have the privileges of holding the Bill up for a certain period. We passed these amendments unanimously and if we run away from them now, all the talk we heard about principle last week is just so much nonsense, because people do not run away from their principles.

It is because the question of principle has been raised and because people have been accused of reversing their attitude and turning their coats that I rise to speak. I was not here when these amendments were discussed, nor did I take part in the voting. If I had been here, I believe I would have spoken against them and would probably have voted against them. I will vote to-day for the withdrawal of these amendments because I was never in favour of giving the money. There is no question of turning my coat. If I change my opinions, I am always prepared to give reasons for doing so. I think it is wise for the people who put forward the amendments and who believed that a principle was at stake to put them forward and have them discussed, voted on and sent to the Dáil. If they believed there was a great moral principle at stake and a big question of justice involved, they were quite entitled to do that, but they would be acting foolishly and futilely if now, when the Dáil refuses to accept these amendments, they insisted, merely for spite or as an impotent gesture, that they would not withdraw their amendments and held up the Bill for a few weeks. That is the most they could do. The greater matter should be considered.

It was contemplated that this Bill would come into operation on 1st April. It has been postponed to 1st June and all the House can do now is insist that it will not come into operation on 1st June, and the railways which have been nationalised will be left strung up for an indefinite period or a prolonged period, with the prospect of our having in the end to accept the position as it is. When speaking on the Land Bill last week, I referred to the question of compensating men for loss of their employment and I still think that where the State deprives a man of his employment, he ought to be compensated, but do I accept the proposal or the suggestion that the State in this matter has disemployed these persons? They never represented the public and they never represented us. They were put there by the stockholders as stockholders' representatives. They were put there by virtue of the fact not that they had any special training or qualifications but that they represented so much money invested and had a qualifying number of shares. They are getting full compensation for their shares.

It would be better not to have a discussion of the merits or demerits of this matter.

If there is a moral principle involved, we must discuss the morality of not sticking to the principles. These people are not being done out of their employment. The shareholders could have reversed their decision and could have put new stockholders' representatives in any day. If the stockholders did put other representatives on the board, would it be suggested that they should get compensation? I do not see that there is anything wrong in reversing this decision. If we were able to force a decision and if we believed that the decision we had come to was right, I would insist at all costs on doing it. My vote is only the same as any other man's vote here and I have not been approached, threatened, coaxed or coerced with regard to it. Nobody has asked me to vote for or against, and I want that made clear. So far as I know, it is a free vote of the House. That is what I will take and I will vote for the withdrawal of the amendments.

My name was to the two amendments under consideration. I gave my reasons for believing that there was an important principle involved and at the time I stated that I did not believe we had any other function in the matter than to give the Dáil an opportunity of reconsidering its decision. At the moment, however, I do not think that is the issue. The Dáil has declined to accept our amendments and we have only one issue before us: whether, in the circumstances, we consider it desirable to hold the Bill up for another month. That is the only possible effect any decision we make now can have. I have been a member of the Seanad for a very considerable number of years and I can say that the occasions on which there was disagreement particularly in the past 16 years, have been extremely rare, but, before that, they were not by any means uncommon. It was only on rare occasions that the Seanad considered it wise to hold up a Bill and when it did, it was only in the belief, possibly erroneous, that its holding up of the Bill would lead to a different result. In one of the most important cases, the holding up of a Bill had various results, one of which was that the Bill never became law.

In this case, I would have much sympathy with Senator Quirke if he could tell me any method by which we could get our amendments accepted within one month. There is, in my opinion, no possibility, in the light of the opinion expressed in the Dáil—75 votes to 18, with the largest Party in the House practically unanimously against the amendments—of the amendments being carried. I am of the opinion that every member voting here will be voting according to his own conscience on whether, having regard to what took place, we should hold the Bill up for a month or not. They will not be voting on any other issue. I am not interested in free votes or otherwise. My own belief is that, whether there are whips or not, every member of this House, as of the Dáil, knows perfectly well what the effect of the vote he casts will be and he has to take into consideration what that effect will be and must accept his responsibility for it.

I am still of the opinion that it was a mistake that some such provision was not put into the Bill, but I do not consider that it is a function of the House to do anything more than it has done up to the moment. I believe it is a dignified and proper course for the House to take. Senator Colgan more or less called me to order— I think, rightly—in expressing that opinion when the debate took place, but I thought it right to do so. I am still of the opinion that this is a matter in which the House would only cause confusion and a certain amount of unpleasantness, because there are persons involved, by attempting to hold up the Bill.

Senator Douglas wants to know by what method, if any, we could get our amendments accepted. It is quite obvious to anyone reading the debates that, if the Minister made a simple statement that the Government wanted the amendments reinserted, the majority of the people who voted against them in the Dáil would have voted for them. I have no doubt that if the Minister goes back and uses the influence which I am sure he has with the Government, he could go to the Dáil next day and say that the Government had decided that they wanted these amendments inserted, as they apparently decided to have them inserted in the first instance, and the House would give them the amendments.

Can the Senator say what control under the Constitution we have over the Minister? I asked the Senator if there was anything we could do which could cause the amendments to become law and he answers that somebody else could do something.

The answer is that if we send the amendments back again to the Dáil, I have no doubt that, with the co-operation of the Minister, we will get them reinserted and get the Bill as it was originally.

It is a pity that some of the Senator's people in the Dáil did not say that.

I have been charged with running away from something, with changing my mind and being subject to a whip. I think I am entitled to say that I have not been subjected to any whip. None of the Party to which I have the honour to belong has told me anything about what I am to do. I am acting purely as an independent individual, as I always act. Secondly, as to having run away from my principles, the matter is just being confused—whether by reason of confused arguing or arguing for the purpose of being confusing, I do not know —but my principles are exactly as they were the last day we met. The whole question here to-day is what object we can achieve by mere pigheaded delaying. My amendments were designed to get the Dáil to reconsider the matter and to give a decision. I have achieved that. The object of my speaking now is to show that I am not running away from my principles, and I have done that also.

Mr. M. Hayes rose.

Is this a personal explanation again? I think there should be some respect for the rules, so far as these amendments are concerned.

Is it suggested that I have no right to conclude on this matter? Surely, I have?

Yes. The Senator introduced the motion and he has the right to reply.

I am moving that the Seanad does not insist on amendment No. 5 to the Transport Bill with which Dáil Éireann has disagreed. I endeavoured, when proposing the motion, to keep this matter on what seemed to me to be the correct level, namely, a matter as between the two Houses and not a matter as between the Government and its political opponents or between political Parties. As has been pointed out, there is only one question involved, namely, should we hold up this big transport measure for four weeks on this point? We have no hope, acting as a House, of getting the Dáil, in view of its vote yesterday, to agree with us. Sometimes, the procedure is adopted of having a conference between representatives of both Houses for the purpose of finding a compromise, but anybody who looks at the division in the Dáil will see that the decision of the Dáil is an unmistakable one and that no compromise is possible. Because that is so, I am simply moving that we do not insist and that we allow the Bill to become law.

We are all agreed that the Bill got a final benediction. It is a Bill about which the two Houses are in complete agreement, except on this specific point. When the Fifth Stage was being discussed in this House—I do not remember what happened in the other House —members on the other side expressed, very properly and graciously, their hope that the Bill would accomplish what it set out to accomplish and gave it their blessing. It would be rather foolish for us to hold it up for four weeks on this point, and, because I think it would be foolish to do so, I am moving that we do not insist. Neither Senator McGuire nor anybody else who supported the amendments can be accused of turning his coat, of turning his face or performing any kind of gymnastics. Senator Séamas O'Farrell put that quite clearly. We are simply recognising a certain set of facts and one of the elements of commonsense is to know a stone wall when you see it and not to think it is an open door.

There is one other thing I should like to say. I rather think, if I may say so without creating a fuss, that Senator Quirke is suffering a little more from a whip than anybody on this side. I think he is making a feeble and forced attempt to follow the lead given in the other House and he has not got the advantages of subtlety which other people in that House happen to possess. It would be simpler for him if he did not try to bedevil this matter with political considerations. As far as a whip is concerned, I would like to say this: We are meeting here to-day and in the interval since last week and even since I heard the decision in the Dáil yesterday afternoon, I have made no effort whatever, of any kind, class or description, direct or indirect, nor has anybody else made it on my behalf, to get people to attend this House. I have sent no letter, I have sent no phone message, and I have spoken to nobody, so that this House is completely free, as it always is. No attempt on this particular occasion has been made in any way to organise a vote in this House. It is simply a question, should we go on for four more weeks and put the Minister to the inconvenience of changing the date of his Bill again? It seems to me quite clear that we should not. I therefore, move: That the Seanad do not insist on amendment No. 5 to the Bill, with which the Dáil has disagreed.

On a point of order. Is it correct for Senator Hayes to say that, whether this amendment is carried or not, whether we accept the recommendation of the Dáil, or not, the operative date is still 1st June?

How could it be, if it were held up?

A decision in this House to-day does not alter by one iota the fact that the operative date is 1st June.

That is not a point of order. I think it is a point of law. It is quite clear that, if we insist on these amendments, the effect will be that the Bill will become law 90 days after it came to us. It came to us on 8th March. I am not very good at mathematics but anybody can calculate what 90 days from 8th March is—somewhere in the region of 6th June, because April has only 30 days.

The point is, whether the Bill becomes law and is signed by the President after the operative date, the operative date still remains the same.

It means nothing of the sort. How could it?

The operative date would not be the operative date if the Bill has not been signed by the Uachtarán and is not law.

As far as all those whose interests are affected by a postponement of the signing of this Bill—the shareholders and all—are concerned, they will all be treated as if it was effective from 1st June.

The Bill will not come into operation, is not that quite clear? I would like to make my friend clear on the matter but I do not know what his point is. If we hold up this Bill until 6th June, the Bill cannot be signed until 6th June or some days later and, therefore, the operative date in the Bill must be a date later than the 6th June. I understand from the Minister in statements already made that some time is necessary between the actual coming into law, the Bill becoming an Act, the Act being put into operation. Therefore, I think I was correct in what I said.

I do not think that is quite correct. Whether the Bill is signed by the President and becomes law after 1st June, after the operative date, does not matter. The Act will be effective from 1st June.

All I have to say on that is——

Is it relevant to the amendment?

It has some relevance to the amendment. It is entirely beyond me how an Act which has not been passed could be operative.

We have had examples before of retrospective effect of legislation.

We could not do that in this case.

Motion put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 26; Níl, 17.

  • Anthony, Richard S.
  • Barniville, Henry L.
  • Baxter, Patrick F.
  • Bennett, George C.
  • Burke, Denis.
  • Burke, Robert M.
  • Butler, Eleanor G.
  • Butler, John.
  • Counihan, John J.
  • Crosbie, James.
  • Dockrell, Henry M.
  • Douglas, James G.
  • Fearon, William R.
  • Finan, John.
  • Hayes, Michael.
  • Ireland, Denis L.
  • McCartan, Patrick.
  • McCrea, James J.
  • McGee, James T.
  • McGuire, Edward A.
  • Meighan, John J.
  • O'Brien, George.
  • O'Connell, Thomas J.
  • O'Farrell, John T.
  • O'Farrell, Séamus.
  • Orpen, Edward R.R.

Níl

  • Clarkin, Andrew S.
  • Colgan, Michael.
  • Concannon, Helena.
  • Fitzsimons, Patrick.
  • Fogarty, Andrew.
  • Goulding, Seán.
  • Hawkins, Frederick.
  • Hayes, Seán.
  • Hearne, Michael.
  • Honan, Thomas V.
  • Loughman, Frank.
  • Lynch, Peter T.
  • Ó Buachalla, L.
  • O'Dwyer, Martin.
  • Nic Phiarais, Maighréad M.
  • Quinn, Martin.
  • Quirke, William.
Tellers:—Tá: Senators Crosbie and J.T. O'Farrell; Níl: Senators Hawkins and Clarkin.
Motion declared carried.

I move that the Seanad do not insist on amendment No. 6 to the Bill, with which the Dáil has disagreed. I take it the decision reached covers it.

I agree with Senator Hayes. I think the decision reached as a result of the last vote must govern this.

Motion put and agreed to.