Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 13 Mar 1963

Vol. 56 No. 6

Government Use of Seanad: Motion.

I move:

"That in the opinion of Seanad Éireann the Government, in order to make better use of the Seanad, should so order Parliamentary business (1) that advantage would be taken of Article 20.2.1º of the Constitution which provides that Bills may be introduced in the Seanad; (2) that business would come from the Dáil to the Seanad at reasonably regular intervals; (3) that there should be an end of the practice of presenting Bills to the Seanad at times of the year when no effective consideration can be given to them."

I am glad to see the Taoiseach here this evening. I am grateful to him. It shows that he considers this matter to be a serious one. The motion on the Order Paper is rather narrowly drawn but it is clear that every serious student of politics is dissatisfied with the existing parliamentary machine, both here and in Great Britain. With the ever-widening scope of Government action and State power, Parliament as it was conceived is proving unable adequately to perform its functions. The parliamentary machine is creaking under the strain of conditions never contemplated by the people who gave us the type of Parliament we have.

This motion, however, it not concerned with the powers of the Seanad, the personnel of the Seanad or the method of election to the Seanad. What I propose to do if I can is to take the Seanad as it is and to prove that it could be made far more useful than it seems to everybody to be. If the Seanad is not used to the utmost, if its members cannot take a reasonable share of work and responsibility, then I think the Seanad should be abolished. The House could be given more work to do and could be made to do that work more effectively. I want to suggest some method by which that conclusion could be reached if the Government, perhaps with some co-operation, were willing to adopt these schemes.

In the first place, it seems to me that the Government in arranging its Parliamentary programme should take the position of the Seanad into consideration and endeavour to see that the Seanad will get a fairly constant flow of business. I know that there are difficulties about that and I am not suggesting that the Seanad could be made to meet as frequently as the Dáil, but if instead of laying out a programme for the Dáil and when the Dáil is finished, throwing Bills sporadically to the Seanad, the two Houses were to be considered beforehand, it would be possible to give us a fairly constant flow of business.

More Bills should be introduced in the Seanad. A considerable number of Bills are suitable for introduction in this House instead of in the other. Such introduction is permitted by the Constitution and, in my judgement, is desirable.

When I speak of the arrangement of business, I mean that the position is that normally from now until the summer recess the Dáil is occupied, in the main, with the Estimates and other financial business. Ministers bring in a certain amount of legislation. That legislation is dealt with by the Dáil, with various interchanges and threats between Governments and Opposition —I am speaking now in a non-partisan spirit—that they will have to meet into September, but the Dáil always concludes in July by passing a certain number of Bills, apart altogether from financial measures. When the Dáil adjourns in July, a whole spate of Bills come over to the Seanad, appear on the Seanad Order Paper and have to be passed through all Stages in the Seanad very rapidly, so in the nature of things, they cannot get proper consideration. That situation could be avoided with some forethought.

With regard to the relative number of sittings of the Dáil and of the Seanad, the Dáil in the nature of things sits more frequently than this House because the Dáil has to do Estimates. It is not for us to criticise the Dáil or give them any advice. They do Estimates, all the Estimates, every year —this year they were not able to conclude the Estimates so they took another Vote on Account and postponed consideration of some of the Estimates until the Autumn. Normally, the Dáil sits three times more frequently than the Seanad. In 1962, the Dáil sat more than four times as often as the Seanad. But although the Seanad sits so infrequently and allowing for the fact that it has no Estimates to consider, it still has to pass all the Bills which the Dáil passes. When it gets a spate of Bills in the autumn, it naturally has to pass them perfunctorily.

I have, for example, a list of Bills on the Order Paper for August, 1961. On 2nd August, 1961, there were seven Government Bills on the Order Paper for Second Reading and there were four more on the following day, 3rd August, 1961. It is not a desire to go home on holidays that makes the Seanad dissatisfied with that state of affairs but that Bills are thrown at this House—I should not say that because Ministers of any Party are delightful to meet in the month of August. They are full of charm and reasonableness. They say they are not responsible for this position, they cannot help it and occasionally they say the Opposition are to blame. They regret very much that the Dáil has adjourned but they always tell us that there is power to recall the Dáil. There is of course power to recall the Dáil but no Government have done it and I do not think that any Government will ever do it. Seanad discussion of Bills at that time of year is unreal and unsatisfactory.

It cannot but be unsatisfactory as I have said. It is a humiliating procedure. It is quite futile and, indeed, as I have suggested on more than one occasion, it would be more honest procedure and certainly from the point of view of the Minister for Finance cheaper to pass all Bills through all Stages in one hour and go home. But certainly no House of a Parliament should be asked to consider a list of Bills such as this in a hurry. It is not avoidance of work at all but the fact that you are considering something that you cannot amend because Ministers will accept no amendment and the Dáil, in fact, will not be recalled; that is one state of affairs which I think could be avoided. I know that there is no magic wand which this Taoiseach or any other Taoiseach could wave, but a way to avoid it would be to consider the two Houses and not one House when Parliamentary business is being arranged. I have thought that that state of affairs could be brought about only if there were a moratorium on legislation, if the parliamentary draftsman were let alone and if Bills were not introduced. I have held the view —a personal view—that we have too much legislation because every Bill which is passed means more expense and very often more interference with ordinary people's lives.

There is another thing which could be done. In July, 1962, there were five Bills on the Order Paper and on 1st August one more Bill was added. I think that is a state of affairs which should be avoided. It ought also be possible, it seems to me, to introduce here a great many Bills, including a number of those of which I have spoken, which are introduced in the Dáil and clutter up the Dáil Order Paper. It would be an advantage to the Dáil to receive Bills from this House. The suggested procedure, first and foremost, is completely constitutional. It is not undemocratic. It does not take in any way from the powers of the Dáil. Whether it is introduced in the Dáil or in the Seanad, the powers of the Dáil under the Constitution over the Bill are absolute. But it would save Parliamentary time and would be an advantage not only to the Government but to the whole Oireachtas. Two Bills, for example, which we had recently here could easily have been introduced in this House and discussed: the Official Secrets Bill and the Hotel Proprietors Bill.

There are many Bills which could not and should not be introduced here. Money Bills are one set, and there are also Bills which in the main are concerned with money such as the Bill I find here on the 1961 Order Paper, the Tourist Traffic Bill. One might say at first sight that that seemed particularly suitable for introduction in the Seanad, but it was only a short Bill increasing certain grants and that is the prerogative of the Dáil. I do not begrudge that to the Dáil and I am prepared to accept all these limitations.

Of course, apart from Money Bills or Bills mainly concerned with money, there are also certain types of Bills that could not be introduced here. One obvious example at the moment is the Electoral Bill, dealing with the electoral law, which is so much the business of the Dáil.

In the first period of office of the inter-Party Government from 1949-50, a considerable number of Bills were introduced in this House, and the present Government did introduce here the Bill setting up the television service. I think that proved to be a very fruitful and satisfactory procedure from the point of view both of the Government and of the Minister concerned. The Minister certainly was pleased with the reception the Bill got here and with its good discussion, and from every point of view, it was a satisfactory arrangement.

The Seanad Standing Orders provide that when a Bill is introduced in the Seanad and comes back from the Dáil, it is considered on Report, so if we got these Bills even late in the year instead of having the usual Stages, we would have only one effective Stage, the Report Stage. We would then be in the same position, therefore, as if the Seanad had previously considered it, had sent amendments to the Dáil and had received these amendments back.

There are other advantages about discussion first in the Seanad. If a Bill is introduced here, it brings the matter to the notice of the public, and leaves time for interested bodies to make representations first in the Seanad and later in the Dáil. I should like to suggest to the Taoiseach and to interested parties that that is a better scheme for them than making representations in the Seanad after they have read the Dáil Debates. It would be a great advantage because when the Dáil has given its decision, like every other body it is reluctant to alter it.

There is also this, that in spite of the number of ex-Deputies here, the atmosphere here is different from the atmosphere in the Dáil. If I were asked to explain that, I would not be able to give a proper intellectual explanation, but it is so, and we give a different kind of consideration to a Bill from that normally given in the Dáil. Again, very rarely—I am not speaking of any particular Minister or ex-Minister in this—very rarely do we vex Ministers here. My friend, Senator L'Estrange, may be occasionally successful in that operation, but he is not typical in that particular matter.

I think the proposed procedure, then, would be helpful to the Minister and to the public and would certainly serve the interests of the people involved in the Bill. For example, our experience has often been that Ministers who resist amendments in the Dáil accept them here. In the case of a recent Bill, we actually found that members of the Oireachtas came under the provisions of the Bill and the Minister agreed to an amendment taking them out.

There is another point that comes up frequently, that is, the question of the urgent Bill. I am sure the Taoiseach shares my point of view that there is hardly any such thing as an urgent Bill, except perhaps dealing with finance and public order. But that is not the Ministerial view generally, and when I use the word "Ministerial", I mean the Minister of any Party and any Government Department. A Government Department takes years sometimes to produce a Bill—sometimes ten years—but the moment a Bill is produced, it becomes urgent; the moment it comes into the Dáil it becomes not only urgent but also sacrosanct. You cannot change a word of it. It is very important. They want it in a hurry and exactly as it is. I believe that is all humbug.

I am not putting this motion down in the form of an attack on the Government. I do not think that any particular Government have been alive to this problem more than another. There are certain types of Bills that are very necessary but uncontroversial which could get good consideration first in the Seanad—consolidation Bills and Departmental tidying-up Bills. I am anxious to see that the best value should be got in the interests of the country from our parliamentary institutions.

The change I suggest might need co-operation from all sides. I think that co-operation can be got in this House. As far as I am concerned, either in the position I occupy now or on the other side leading the House, I do not think the House has ever had any reason to complain of Ministers. Ministers certainly from the very beginning as far as my experience goes have always been ready to attend and to come into the House. I have no complaint about that. I think that it could be carried a good deal further. No Parliamentary system at all can work without intelligent co-operation. We have had that here in this House all the time. I do not want to occupy the time of the House any longer on the matter but taking this Seanad as it is, with all its faults, and I suppose we all agree that it has some faults, I think that steps could be taken to make more use of it. The changes would be for the good of this House, the other House and the State.

A rather human feature which I suppose former Deputies have noticed and which I have noticed elsewhere is seen here, that the less you give people to do, the less they want to do. People who have attended the Dáil regularly and become Senators sometimes seem to want to come here at 3 o'clock and to leave if they could at 4 o'clock. Without any diminution of the Dáil's power and any derogation of the sovereign status of the Dáil or any change in the Constitution, steps could be taken to give more work to this House, to make it more truly a part of our parliamentary institutions.

I would like to end as I began, by saying that if that cannot be done, then the case for abolishing this House altogether is overwhelming.

I wish to second the motion moved by Senator Hayes who has, I think, put the case for it fully and clearly. There is little for me to do in supporting him but to underline some of the points he has made. The motion, as he pointed out, is based on the present powers and present membership of the Seanad. I agree with him that he would rather not talk about what might be if this or that reform were introduced. It is far better for all of us to take the Seanad as it is today, to take the 60 people who compose the Seanad and ask ourselves: "Could they not play some more important role in the business of legislation in this country?"

This motion asks that this question be examined, and mentions in particular three ways in which there might be a new look at the operation of the Seanad and a new departure in its procedure which if it were done, would not only have an immediate effect in increasing the usefulness of the Seanad but by making a start in this direction might well be a spur and give an impetus to further development of the Seanad as a second House which would act not as a replica of the Dáil but in a fashion complementary to the Dáil, together carrying out the legislative business of the Oireachtas.

When we look at this problem, we must look at it in a particular way because when we start talking about increasing the efficiency of anything, we must distinguish carefully between how it operates in a legal and formal fashion, and how it operates informally and in reality. If we are to talk this evening here about how the Seanad could be improved, it is not a matter of the precise powers of the Seanad laid down in the Constitution or in our Parliamentary practice, but rather a matter of the manner in which the Seanad and the Dáil really act, of seeing whether or not the part played by the Seanad could be improved.

If we look at the relative positions of the Dáil and Seanad regarding ordinary legislation—and that is the main concern of this motion—I think we will see certain things. While it is true to say that in constitutional law the Seanad is in a way subordinate to the Dáil in respect of legislation, I think we must face the reality of the situation in both Houses today. The situation is not so much that the Seanad is subordinate to the Dáil but that both the Dáil and the Seanad are subordinate to the Cabinet.

In the passage of legislation through both Houses of the Oireachtas at the moment, the important point is not that the Dáil has greater powers of legislation, but that the Dáil and Seanad both stand in much the same relationship to the Cabinet. In order to have an amendment accepted, it is not a question of persuading either House to agree; it is a matter of persuading a Minister to agree. In the sense in which legislation can be amended and improved from the time it leaves a Government Department until it goes to the President for signature, there is not from the point of view of the effective working of ordinary legislation, any great distinction between the Dáil and the Seanad. They approach Bills from two different points of view and they approach Ministers in seeking amendments from two different points of view and, as Senator Hayes said, it is immaterial which point of view is put first.

The idea that the Seanad is essentially a revisionary Chamber in regard to ordinary legislation is quite unreal and unnecessary. The fact is that the Seanad need not be considered merely as a body which revises work which has been done in the Dáil. As I say, the order in which most legislation goes through is immaterial. As Senator Hayes said, there are certain Bills which quite obviously could not be introduced in the Seanad, certain Bills which of their very nature are highly controversial and which could probably only be introduced in the Dáil. Most Bills are not of that type. Most Bills are non-controversial. Most of the Bills which went through the Houses last year were non-controversial, so there does not seem to be any real reason—there does not seem to be any a priori objection—why a number of Bills should not be first introduced in the Seanad.

Undoubtedly there would be difficulties, but I think the effort which would be made to overcome those difficulties would be well repaid, not only by increasing the effectiveness of the Seanad, but also by allowing Dáil Éireann to make better use of its time. The motion asks that business should come to the Seanad at reasonably regular intervals. That, of course, is not something that could be done exactly or mathematically, but it is an ideal at which to aim. Anyone looking at the situation will agree that it would not involve very much difficulty to come closer to that ideal than is the position at present.

If we take the situation as it was in the past 12 months—and I take the past 12 months because they are the past 12 months and not because any particular Party had the arranging of Government business during that period—we find that from March until August, 1962, the Seanad dealt with seven Bills in three and a half months. Then, when the Dáil had adjourned, the Seanad dealt with seven Bills in a week.

That is very far from what I think could be achieved. Absolute regularity is not what is looked for, but something better than that could be achieved. This is a recurring position. The fact that the business of the Dáil gets into a certain condition and that at the end of the year a number of Bills come to the Seanad is something that appears to be always with us. Indeed, before the Christmas recess in the Dáil, the Taoiseach indicated that it looked as if Government business, in his own words, would be in a mess this year, too. Now is the time when something might be done to improve that situation for the remainder of this session, and then to rearrange things so that in future some of these difficulties might be avoided.

What is the position at the moment? At the moment the Dáil has three complex Bills on its Order Paper: Local Government (Planning and Development) Bill, the Companies Bill and the Electoral Bill. All these are very large Bills which will require a fair amount of work on Committee Stage. What can the Seanad expect in regard to those Bills? The Planning Bill was circulated on 1st August, 1962, while the Seanad was still sitting. The Second Stage was taken in the Dáil from November to February and the Committee Stage has not yet been taken. I understand there are 100 amendments tabled to that Bill. Is the Seanad to get the Planning Bill in the third week of July and be asked to give it a summary passage so that it can become law by the middle of August next? Such complex Bills should not be handed to the Seanad at the end of the session. The Seanad should not be told that these highly complex measures are to be passed before it adjourns some time in August.

How do we fare in regard to other Bills? Some relatively simple Bills were passed by the Seanad in the third week of July in previous years. Something should be done in that regard by introducing a number of those Bills in the Seanad where they could be discussed and passed back to the Dáil, so that the Dáil could deal with them in exactly the same time as it would take anyway, but the Bills would have gone through the majority of their Stages in the Seanad.

As I say, a start should be made this year. The appeal of the motion is for a start to be made towards some better regulation of the business of the Seanad. If that were done, it would be the first move towards the Seanad beginning to play a distinct and more definite role than it does at the moment. The Seanad could do a number of things and perhaps before I conclude, it might be as well to mention that there are instances already in which the Seanad has adopted a distinct role.

The Dáil and Seanad have equal powers in regard to statutory regulations which are laid on the Table of the Houses; yet the Seanad has taken the step of setting up a Committee on Statutory Instruments and has taken over, in effect, through the setting up of that Committee, the special machinery for dealing with them. That is a good development. It is something which the Seanad has taken on itself and, although it is the responsibility of the Dáil, has taken a greater part of the load on its shoulders. There may be further moves in that direction.

Some time ago, the Taoiseach said he was willing at any time, if a motion were put down, to have the annual reports of the statutory bodies discussed. That is something which the Seanad might do. Indeed the Seanad might do something along the lines of what is done in the House of Lords. If a motion were put down by a private member of the Seanad in regard to the statutory reports it would normally be interpreted as a motion put down in order to raise criticism. If a member of the Front Benches on the Government side of the Seanad moves a motion that the Seanad take note of these reports, a certain time can be allowed for it and in this way the Senators would get an opportunity to discuss points which they make at present in this House, but which they make by slipping them into odd discussions on Bills which come up from time to time in regard to the question of money for these statutory corporations.

I think what is wanted is, first, something in regard to the specific problem of business arriving in the Seanad in the third week in July at a time when it cannot properly be dealt with. A second point is that, apart from this specific problem, there should be a general question raised as to whether the Seanad could devise a method to stretch itself. It should cease to occupy the role of a replica, numerically less strong and a somewhat pale replica of the Dáil, and that it could open up into certain specific functions which we could discharge. The effect would be to increase the efficiency of Parliamentary work in Dáil Éireann as well as here.

This motion is divided into three parts. The first part deals with the power to introduce Bills in the Seanad. It is quite clear that the Constitution does allow of the introduction of Bills in the Seanad, but I believe that this was, and is, a very wise and far-reaching provision. I think the Government should give serious consideration to the possibility of introducing Bills from time to time in the Seanad and, in particular, Bills of a technical character. Quite obviously, there are controversial Bills which would not be suitable for introduction in the Seanad but there are non-controversial Bills, Bills of a technical character, which would be suitable for introduction in this House, particularly in view of the fact that there are quite a number of Senators with technical or vocational qualifications which would be very useful in considering Bills of this kind.

I think it is true to say of a number of the Bills which were introduced here in the past, that the experiment was a successful one. Certainly it could not be used as an argument for not doing so in the future.

The second part of this motion suggests that Bills should come at reasonably regular intervals to the Seanad. I agree of course that it would be very nice if we could have a regular flow of Bills but it is not a realistic proposition because the Government introduce Bills to the Dáil when Bills are ready, but once the Bill goes to the Dáil all kinds of factors affect the speed of the Bill through the Dáil and many of these factors are quite outside the control of the Government, so that the Government are not in a position to time their Bills through the Dáil and to ensure that they will come to the Seanad at reasonably regular intervals. In the circumstances, the Government cannot be expected to do this, and I think this is quite unrealistic.

The third part of the motion deals with the presenting of Bills to the Seanad at times of the year when no effective consideration can be given to them. There is no doubt that Bills do come to us at times when it is very difficult to give effective consideration to them and there is no doubt that it is a pity that this should happen. For the reason to which I have already referred on Part 2 of this motion, the Government really have very little control as to when these Bills will come here, and they cannot help the fact that some of them come here at times when it is rather difficult to give them effective consideration. Consequently, I think the Government should give serious consideration to the first part of the motion, but I do not believe the remainder of the motion is worthy of consideration.

As Senator Ryan pointed out, this motion has three parts to it, two of which express criticism of the manner in which the Government and the Dáil do their work. I think that criticism is both invalid and unacceptable. The main function of the Houses of the Oireachtas is to give adequate consideration to and facilitate the enactment, with or without amendment, of Bills proposed by the Government. The present motion before the Seanad—at least Part I of that motion —seems to me, certainly, if I may judge from speeches made in support of it, as much concerned with the status of the Seanad as with the functioning of the Oireachtas. The status of a Seanad is primarily that of a second House, a Chamber which has as its main function the revision of legislation which has already been passed by Dáil Éireann. It is true that the Constitution permits of the introduction of Bills in the Seanad, but that is something which is done, has been done over the years and is likely to be done in future, only in exceptional circumstances in relation to and in respect of measures which do not impose any charge upon the revenue, and certainly not as a normal practice.

The normal function of the Seanad is, as I said, to receive, to review and, if desirable, to suggest amendments to Bills already passed by the Dáil. We cannot and I do not think we should attempt to change that. I do not agree at all with Senator Ryan that experience has shown that there is advantage to be gained by the introduction of Bills in the Seanad as a regular practice either in respect of the quality of the legislation or the time taken for the enactment of the proposals.

This is, of course, an old issue. It has often been discussed before and there is not much that can be said about it that has not been said before. Senators may, perhaps, be interested in the history of it. Under the old Free State Constitution, three Bills were introduced in the Seanad in 1923 and then the practice was stopped. From 1923 to 1932, no Bills were introduced except one. In 1931, a Trustee Bill was introduced here mainly because, so far as one can judge from the records, it was originally suggested as necessary during the course of a discussion here. The President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State, Mr. W.T. Cosgrave, was personally strongly opposed to the practice of introducing Bills in the Seanad.

When the first Fianna Fáil Government came into office in 1932, there was a new situation. Perhaps it is not easy now to remember the strong political feelings of the time, but the fact is that there was a large political majority against the Government in the Seanad. Our experience was that we introduced one Bill in the Seanad; it was defeated on First Reading and that was the end of that practice. Shortly after that, the Seanad was abolished and remained so until the new Constitution came into effect.

As Senator Hayes rightly remarked, Deputy Costello, as Taoiseach in the first Coalition Government, participated in a discussion here in which this matter was raised in 1949, and he indicated his intention of introducing into the Seanad Bills of a non-controversial and non-Party kind. He did that, in a speech in which he said that since he had become Taoiseach, he had discovered the Irish were a very cranky nation, and implied that was the situation which was reflected in the composition of the Seanad at that time. His enthusiasm for the practice, if, in fact, it existed and was shared by his fellow members of that Government, apparently died away very quickly. While six Bills were introduced here in 1949, only three were introduced in 1950 and one in 1951. From that on, it is not easy to decide from the record whether any particular policy pattern was followed.

After the end of the first Coalition Government in 1951, between then and 1954, four Bills were introduced in the Seanad: three in 1952 and one in 1953. The second Coalition Government introduced two Bills in 1956. As Senator Hayes said, since then only one Bill has been introduced — the Broadcasting Authority Bill — which was introduced here not because of any constitutional theory or any desire to establish a practice in that regard, but because it was desirable to get the Bill circulated at the time the Dáil was in recess.

That particular experiment worked.

No. I think the experience of all Governments has been that this practice of introducing Bills in the Seanad does not necessarily shorten the period of their enactment or improve the quality of the Bills. I do not think we should try to establish a practice or rule in this regard. I would not like to undertake that Bills of any kind would be introduced in the Seanad as a regular practice. There could be an advantage in introducing certain types of Bills in the Seanad at this particular time of the year when the Dáil is preoccupied with financial business. The constitutional right which there is to introduce Bills in the Seanad will be exercised in these circumstances where a congestion of business in the Dáil, or any other type of special circumstances, make it an advantage to do so.

Of course, I am referring to Bills which could be described as non-contentious in the political sense and which do not involve a charge on revenue. I do not propose to refer to the question of the procedures by which the statutory bodies could be made accountable to the Houses of the Oireachtas, because I do not think that is relevant and it is not a matter on which I have a view to express. It is one which this and other Governments have considered on many occasions without coming up with any satisfactory answer.

Regarding the second part of this motion, business can only come to this House from the Dáil after it is completed in the Dáil. That is not necessarily under the control of the Government or under the control of anyone, as Senator Hayes from his experience knows better than anyone else. Certainly, the flow of business through the Dáil cannot be regulated and will not be regulated just to make it fit in with the Seanad's agenda. Normally, I think the Seanad is not required to meet until there is a reasonable accumulation of business for its attention. I certainly do not think there is any genuine ground for complaint on that score.

Senator Hayes's reference to Bills that appeared upon the Dáil's Order Paper in August, 1961, is a bit of special pleading, as he well knows. I had announced at that time that a general election was going to be held. Senators are no doubt aware that when the Dáil is dissolved all the Bills upon the Order Paper at that time die and have to be reintroduced and started again on their journey to the Statute Book after the general election. There was, therefore, a very special reason why an effort should be made to clear the Dáil Order Paper in the autumn of 1961. Similarly, as Senator Hayes knows quite well, the practice of introducing Bills in the Dáil a couple of weeks before its summer adjournment —towards the end of July—is designed not to secure the immediate enactment of these Bills but to have a programme of business ready for the Dáil when it resumes after the summer recess. It is in the nature of things that the Seanad must receive Bills from the Dáil after the Dáil had gone into recess. That is part of the normal work of the Seanad, and there is no way of avoiding it. There seems to be no sense in complaining about it. It means that the Seanad has to meet during August.

That is not the grievance; that is not the point. If this is a revising Chamber, give it an opportunity to revise.

If there is to be a contest as to which House meets in August, I think the Dáil will win that contest. That is why I think it would be unreasonable to put legislation through the Seanad which would come to the Dáil after they had completed their long spring-summer session during which all the financial business has to be disposed of. I do not think it is true to say that the Seanad is expected to pass all the legislation that comes to it, after the adjournment of the Dáil, within a week. The Seanad may choose to do that but the enactment of these measures can proceed at a more leisurely pace, if the Seanad so wishes. There is rarely, as Senator Hayes rightly pointed out, such urgency about any Bill that amendments to it cannot be considered here and, if passed here, held over for the consideration of the Dáil on its resumption later in the year, or have the Dáil resummoned to deal with these amendments if there should be any urgency for doing so.

I do not think the fact that the normal course of events requires that Bills come to the Seanad after the Dáil has gone into recess restricts the power of the Seanad to consider these Bills or to amend them, if an amendment is desirable. I do not think that it would be practicable so to arrange the business of the Dáil as to ensure that it would be occupied with some other class of business in the weeks immediately prior to going into recess, which is what would be involved in any arrangement designed to prevent the Seanad receiving these Bills when the Dáil was not meeting.

To summarise, therefore, so far as the introduction of Bills in the Seanad is concerned, I do not think that that can be arranged as a regular practice. I think there can be some advantage gained in the disposal of the time of the Houses of the Oireachtas by introducing Bills at this particular time of the year, from the beginning of the debate on the Vote on Account in the Dáil until the end of May, so that Bills then coming to the Dáil after the conclusion of the financial business there will not have to go back again to the Seanad after the Dáil has adjourned. I think it is completely naïve to think that the output of Bills from the Dáil can be so arranged as to fit in with any predetermined timetable of the Seanad.

In so far as the Government are concerned, while the practice is to try to arrange legislation so as to fit in with the other business the Dáil has to do, their intention is often frustrated either by delays in the parliamentary draftsman's Office or by the time that other legislation takes in securing passage through the Dáil, or often by second thoughts about some detail on a Bill before it comes up for circulation. It is inevitable that some accumulation of Bills will occur on the Dáil Order Paper towards the end of the summer session. There is at that time a fairly rigorous division of these Bills into those which, for some reason, must be enacted within a stated time, and those which can be left over for the Autumn session.

Where Bills must be enacted—and I do not agree with Senator Hayes that that never arises—there are often statutory limitations on expenditure or on the times within which expenditure must be effected, which have to be dealt with by new legislation whenever the time or amount is running out—I can see no possibility of a situation which is going to avoid Bills coming to the Seanad after the Dáil has adjourned for the summer recess and after Christmas.

It was very good of the Taoiseach to come here this evening but I do not think he is in his usual form. He was not as good as usual. His speech was a mixture of bias and special pleading and did not deal with the motion at all. The Taoiseach has plenty of practical experience and he was good enough to say that I had plenty of practical experience. We both have plenty of practical experience, but later he went on to explain that what I wanted was naïve. In my experience of politics, I have been called many things but nobody has ever said that I was naïve and if anybody succeeds in proving that either the Taoiseach or myself is naïve he will be a very clever fellow.

The Taoiseach's idea seems to be that a good Seanad is a body which he selects and which agrees with him all the time. He did not like the Seanad he met in 1932. He expressed his dislike in extremely violent language about individuals in the Seanad. I remember, but unlike some of my colleagues here, I do not propose to quote. He did not like it, so he abolished it. Fundamentally, it is a wrong view of Parliament that you must have a Parliament that agrees with you and that if it does not agree with you, it is bad and must be abolished. He went on that basis and has a Seanad now that normally agrees with him.

He went on to point out that there is power under the Constitution to introduce Bills in the Seanad but that it is not meant to be used. I have said things about that Constitution in my time but I have never said it was as much of a fraud as the Taoiseach did tonight when he said that it contained a provision to introduce Bills in the Seanad which was never meant to be used.

He disagreed with Senator Ryan and myself but having expressed his disagreement, he came around to much the position I wanted established: that at certain times of the year certain types of Bills could be introduced in this House. In spite of what the Taoiseach says, there is nothing undemocratic, nothing unconstitutional, nothing derogatory to the Dáil about introducing Bills in the Seanad. Contrary to what people generally outside the Oireachtas think, neither the Seanad nor the Dáil—and particularly the Dáil —is usually engaged in wrangling. There is a big number of Bills about the principles of which there is no substantial disagreement and which might be introduced in this House.

I am putting this matter entirely on a practical basis and putting it to the Taoiseach because as a general rule when he is not putting an argument in which he does not believe, he is a practical person. If it is a help to the Oireachtas to bring in a Bill here instead of in the Dáil, the Taoiseach agrees that it should be done. That is what I want but he likes to express general disagreement before he expresses particular agreement.

He is quite right in saying that such a Bill should be non-contentious and should involve no charge on public funds. I agree with the second argument but when he says it should be non-contentious, it should be non-contentious in a Party political sense, but perhaps there could be disagreement about the Bill. We disagreed strongly on one provision in the Officials Secrets Bill and this was not from a Party point of view but because powers were being assumed by the Government which we thought they should not assume.

He has a bias against any Seanad because he did not like the Seanad we had in 1932, but as Head of the Government with long experience of Government and of politics, the Taoiseach, I suggest, is taking up a childish attitude. He should get over it now and not follow it up. If the business of the two Houses of the Oireachtas could be better transacted, more efficiently transacted, by the introduction of Bills in the Seanad, then they should be introduced in the Seanad. No history, no episodes between Fianna Fáil and a particular Seanad in the past should be allowed to stand in the way of this Oireachtas doing business in the best way possible.

It is the business of this House to take Bills from the Dáil—the Taoiseach was too polite to say to take the Bills at any time they sent them and no fuss about it. Technically, that may very well be so, but my suggestion, and I think it is an intelligent suggestion— and I know a considerable amount about the way Dáil business is transacted—is that it would be possible for any Government in office—and I did not bring in this motion to criticise the Taoiseach—in considering their business to bring in their business in the Dáil in such a way that with reasonable agreement the Seanad would be likely to get more business than it got last year. It does get reasonable agreement. Every Government get reasonable agreement in the Dáil from the Opposition.

Last year, in 1962, the Dáil met on 77 occasions and the Seanad met on 17 occasions. I would suggest that most certainly the Taoiseach might take a kindlier, gentler and less biased view of this House than he does. There is a majority in this House who agree with him and 11 members are nominated by him, but it does seem to me that he does not like them. I do not dislike them myself, bad and all as they are, and I think it would be possible for any Government in office so to arrange their business that it would be likely that the Seanad would meet more frequently than 17 times a year and get more done. I would suggest quite seriously to the Taoiseach that if he does not try to do that, if he does not try to plan that, this House is of very little use to anybody.

I am not concerned about the status of the Seanad or about my own status. I have had a fair amount of status all my life but in my old age I am not concerned about my status. That is one thing I am not concerned about at all. I am concerned that this House does not fulfil any useful purpose at present. It does not fulfil the functions it should fulfil. If the Taoiseach were to think of two Houses when he is making out the parliamentary programme, it could be arranged in such a way that the Seanad could get things more regularly.

He thinks, with Senator Ryan, that this idea is unrealistic. It is not a bit unrealistic. One of the strangest things about Irish politics is the way in which the first Government of Saorstát Éireann is invoked to prove everything right. The Taoiseach does not like bringing in Bills in the Seanad. What is his argument? It is that Liam T. MacCosgair, the first President of the Executive Council, did not like it either. That is an extraordinary state of affairs. I would hate to quote all that was said about Liam T. MacCosgair by Seán T. Lemass, but now in his ripe old age, when he is in power, he says: "I do not like the Seanad; neither did Liam T. MacCosgair". Is that not right? Perhaps both of them were wrong and I am not so sure that the opinions which he attributed to Mr. Cosgrave were exactly the opinions Mr. Cosgrave held. In any event, the position is more difficult now than it was then because now we are 30 years forward from 1932 in point of time, even if we have gone backwards in certain directions and certainly since 1922 we have had more and more Bills, more and more legislation, more and more stuff being poured into the parliamentary machine and turned out, some of them very badly mangled. The case therefore for a division of legislation, for some better attempt to arrange our parliamentary programme so that the two Houses would not be in the strange position they are in, is overwhelming now, and there is much more argument for it now than there was in 1932.

The Taoiseach is not usually as theoretical as he was tonight. He charged me particularly with being concerned about the status of the Seanad, and he curiously enough seemed to be concerned about the status of the Dáil and indeed of the country. None of the things that I asked for and that were supported here—one of them by a member of his own Front Bench—in this motion would in any way take from the power of the Dáil. He told us that there were special circumstances in 1961. There was a general election. There was no general election in 1962 and there were several Bills brought in on the 31st July, 1962.

If we are a revising Chamber, we ought to get a chance to revise. In the position that Minister are in at the end of July, when their officials and their families and they themselves want to get away on holidays which they deserve, and when the Dáil has gone into recess and they are pressed by the Department to get the Bill at all costs, when they come to the Seanad, they always want the Bill without any amendment. It is, as I indicated in my first speech, quite foolish—I do not mean to be offensive —for the Taoiseach to suggest that of course we could amend it if we liked. The Taoiseach and the people who framed the Constitution have taken elaborate steps to see that there is a majority in this House here so that we cannot amend it. While, on the one hand, we are told that we are a revising Chamber, on the other hand, the Taoiseach says that he will continue to give us business in such a way as to thwart our efforts to be a revising Chamber. I do not think that we could revise anything in those conditions. I am not saying that the Taoiseach could bring about a perfect solution. I know all the troubles of the Dáil and the way programmes which may be adopted by the Government and the Opposition can be upset, but he could make an effort, and I am surprised that he did not say he would, because if the position is that we cannot do anything to remedy the present situation of the Seanad, then it seems to me that the Taoiseach has abandoned the Seanad altogether.

His position is that we must take measures from the Dáil, whenever the Dáil likes to give them to us. One of the things he said was at this time of the year when the Dáil is occupied with financial business, certain measures could be introduced in the Seanad. Perhaps the Taoiseach would make a beginning, therefore, this year on that. I would like to suggest to him as a practical man of long experience in politics, in Parliament and in Government that it is nothing short of balderdash to say that it is all right to bring in Bills in the Seanad in March but it is quite wrong to bring them in in the month of November. Nobody would believes that. If I said anything like that, the Taoiseach would have great fun talking about me. If the Taoiseach believes that there is a period when Bills might be introduced in the Seanad, then he must surely agree that at any period that is convenient a Bill may be introduced in the Seanad.

My plea is that this House as at present treated and geared and working is not worth very much, and the Taoiseach, I am afraid, has been quite adamant in his adherence to the status quo. I think he is quite wrong and I must say that I am very disappointed. I am not unrealistic myself and I am not asking for miracles. I know that you cannot set down a number of Bills and say: “We will have this passed by 2nd February, this by 2nd March, and this by 4th April”. I know you cannot do that, but I also know that there is a great deal you can do and that is what I am asking him to do. I suggest that if he does not do it, it will be very bad for this House and bad for parliamentary government. I am concerned and I am sure he is most concerned about the preservation of parliamentary government. We are all concerned with it. If parliamentary government is to survive here and to wax stronger, some effort must be made to create a second House which can be respected, and you can do that only if it gets work to do. If it does not get work, it cannot get any respect and will be in the process of abolishing itself with the help of the Government. I regret that the motion did not get a better reception.

Is the motion withdrawn?

I suppose so, Sir.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.