Monday, 9 July 1923
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. DARRELL FIGGIS: Before the Dáil goes into Committee, may I raise a question at this stage with regard to the Orders of the Day, which have been put into our hands. I think that now is the right time to raise a matter that I have in mind with regard to item 2 on the Orders of the Day. On last Saturday afternoon in common with other members I received these Orders of the Day. No. 2 on these Orders is entitled “The Public Safety (Emergency Powers) Bill, 1923— Committee.” The actual amendments have only been received by me just now. I understand the difficulties that there are in this matter, but it does seem to me not in the public interest, and not proper to efficiency, that we should be asked to consider these amendments within a matter of ten minutes or half an hour of receiving them.
You will recall that when this question of amendments was under discussion at the Dáil before, it was desired that amendments should be in our hands well in advance of the time when they were to be considered. It was agreed that amendments should be handed in to you, at a certain time before consideration by the Dáil, in order that Deputies should have them in their hands for consideration. Obviously, the slightest glance at these amendments shows that they require a very great deal of careful consideration, to reveal exactly their bearing on the Bill of which they purport to be improvements and amendments. I suggest that it is not right that we should be asked to consider amendments to a Bill of such importance without consent, until they have at least been in our hands one or two days in advance of their  being heard and considered in this Dáil. I urge, seeing that these amendments have only just come into our hands within the last ten minutes, in my own case at least, that the Bill to which they are amendments should not be considered to-day, but that it should be postponed in order that we should have time to give that efficient attention to these amendments that obviously they require.
We are dealing with legislation here in very great haste. It might even be said that we have legislation churned through this Dáil. Let us at least give no further or greater colour to that allegation than is necessary, and also let us see that Bills of this major importance should have the fullest consideration, and that all amendments should be fully considered. Because if we take them up in a half an hour from now they cannot receive that previous attention that the amendments should receive.
Mr. DARRELL FIGGIS: I am suggesting that inasmuch as these amendments have only come into our hands the Committee Stage of the Public Safety (Emergency Powers) Bill should not be considered until Wednesday in order that we may have an opportunity of more fully considering the amendments.
Mr. GAVAN DUFFY: I desire to draw your attention to No. 13 of the Standing Orders, which provides in terms that the Agenda shall be posted to the Dublin address of each Deputy so as to arrive not later than the first post on the morning of the day for which the Agenda is issued, and that it shall contain the text of all questions to be asked of Ministers and all motions to be proposed in the Dáil, or in the Dáil sitting in Committee.
AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: This Bill, The Public Safety (Emergency Powers) Bill, 1923, was read a second time on Monday last. When the Second Reading had been passed, an order was made that the Bill should be considered in Committee of the whole Dáil on the first day of this week upon which the Dáil would be sitting. In pursuance of that Order made by the Dáil the Bill is now up for consideration.
With regard to the disadvantages  under which Deputies labour from not having had the amendments put into their hands less than an hour before the Sitting of the Dáil, the facts are these:—I received amendments until Friday, and I received a very large number of amendments. I had them printed as quickly as possible. Deputies now have the amendments in their hands at the earliest moment at which we could give them to them. It is a great disadvantage to make an Order which necessitates taking a Bill without having proper time to consider the amendments. I, personally, do not approve of that practice, because, speaking for myself, I have not had time to give the consideration to these amendments which, if I may say so, I suspect some of them merit. From that point of view I deprecate the taking of the Bill at such a short notice. The Deputies have received the amendments as fast as they could possibly have been got out. The original mistake was the fixing of the Committee Stage for such an early date as to-day. In the circumstances there is nothing which I could say or do, or which I could instruct my staff to do which would give a better result than has been obtained.
Mr. DARRELL FIGGIS: That would have been, and was, very far from my intention. My intention was directed rather to a practical point. While recognising that you and your staff have done all that could have been reasonably expected in the service of this Dáil, I say that, nevertheless, this situation having arisen on these amendments of such grave importance to the Bill, which is of itself of such grave importance, we ought not proceed with the Committee Stage to-day, and that we should not proceed with these amendments until we have had them in our hands for at least forty-eight hours, for careful consideration and comparison with the Bill.
Mr. JOHNSON: May I suggest that the explanation is quite simple. There was no date specified when the Dáil decided to take the Committee Stage on the first day of the sitting this week. It was not known then what day that first day would be. Some weeks we start on Wednesday, and in other weeks we commence business on Tuesday. This week and last week we started on Monday. We had no reason to think that we would start this week on Monday; it might have been either Tuesday or Wednesday for all we knew. The fact that it happened to be Monday, at the desire of the Leader of the Dáil, makes the difficulty of considering amendments so great that the suggestion for postponing consideration at least for a day seems to be a reasonable one.
Mr. FITZGIBBON: I do not think the Minister who arranged the Committee Stage of this Bill for to-day is to blame any more than the officers of the Dáil who were unable to get the amendments out in time. It seems to me if there is fault at all it is in the Standing Orders, which enables amendments to be handed in up to an hour at which it makes it impossible for them to be printed, and in the hands of Deputies by the time the Bill comes under consideration. It is open to anybody to hand in a sheaf of amendments up to 11 o'clock on Friday morning, and I think you, a Chinn Chomhairle, out of courtesy to Deputies, did accept some after that hour. At any rate, it is open to Deputies to hand in amendments up to 11 o'clock on Friday morning for a Bill to be considered in Committee on Monday. It is physically impossible to get those amendments set up and printed, have proofs corrected, and have the amendments sent out to Deputies so that they shall have them in their hands on Monday morning. There is no post on Sunday, and it would be absolutely impossible to get amendments properly drafted and handed in due course to Deputies within the time prescribed by the Standing Orders. If there is anybody at fault it seems to me to be the whole body of the Dáil, which when it fixed Standing Orders did not contemplate the possibility of amendments being handed in so late.
MINISTER for LOCAL GOVERNMENT (Mr. E. Blythe): It seems to me it would be better if there were general consent to consider these amendments, because I take it if the amendments are ruled out, and if we go on to the Committee Stage without considering the amendments, it would not serve any useful purpose. It also seems to me that most of the amendments are absolutely clear in their purpose and intent, and could all be well considered without further notice. If we are to convenience the Dáil it would be better have the amendments considered now than have them considered on the Report Stage, or on the Second Committee Stage.
Mr. DARRELL FIGGIS: The Minister speaks obviously and clearly as one who has read the amendments and knows what they contain. That is a great deal more fortunate for him than for the other members of the Dáil who have not considered them, or have not even read them. With regard to your ruling in the matter, I understand consent is required before these amendments can be considered to-day. If consent is to be unanimous, with the greatest reluctance in the world it will not be obtained, because I will object. I believe that we ought not to proceed with the Committee Stage of a Bill of such prime importance as this, until the amendments to it have been in the hands of Deputies, and under consideration for at least two days in advance.
Mr. HUGHES: Has the Deputy who lives in Dublin any consideration for the people who have been brought up long journeys from different parts of the country? I am sure he is just as capable as any Deputy of taking up those amendments and digesting them. I do not think it is treating the country Deputies fairly to be taking them up here and sending them away after half an hour or so. We would be losing a whole day if we do not take those amendments into consideration to-day. It is all very well for the Deputy who has only to cross the road, but country Deputies should be considered.
CATHAL O'SHANNON: Deputy Hughes may be able to digest the amendments, and grasp what they mean within ten minutes or so, but there are many of us who cannot do that. It is not, perhaps,  fair to ask Deputies from the country to attend here and do nothing, but there is other business on the Orders of the Day. Many of us who came from the country did not get those papers, although waiting purposely with a view to getting them. We did not get the amendments until we came into the Dáil. It is hardly possible in such a short time for one to digest the amendments and be able to arrive at a conclusion as to their meaning.
AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: In order to come to a decision I may point out that the position is that exception is taken by Deputies to having the Committee Stage of this Bill taken to-day, in view of the fact that Deputies have not had the amendments which it is proposed to move in Committee in their hands in time. Consent has not been obtained to take the Committee Stage to-day, and it seems to me, therefore, that it would be better if we agreed now to postpone the Committee Stage to a later date. The question is, what date?
AN CEANN COMHAIRLE: On the contrary, the position is that the amendments are in time, but that the Committee Stage is not in order as Deputies complain that they have not received the amendments. The amendments were received in time under Standing Orders, but the complaint is that it was not possible in the circumstances to circulate the amendments in time to the Deputies. That is the position. I think that is exactly what the Deputies complain of.
Mr. HUGHES: Do I understand that it is quite in order for Deputies to get any amendment, no matter how contentious it is, by the first post on the particular day on which that amendment is coming forward? Is not that according to Standing Orders?
“The Agenda for each day shall be posted to the Dublin address of each Teachta so as to arrive not later than  the first post on the morning of that day. It shall contain the text of all Questions to be asked of Ministers and of all motions to be proposed (save such as these Standing Orders elsewhere allow to be proposed without notice). It shall also contain the text of all amendments, whether to motions or Bills, intended to be proposed in the Dáil or in the Dáil sitting in Committee.”
Mr. DARRELL FIGGIS: The gist of the complaint is that we received these amendments as we walked into the Dáil and that there was no time to consider them. I do not know whether Deputy Hughes believes that a measure of this importance should be dealt with in that cursory and summary fashion. I do not.
Mr. FITZGIBBON: Would it not be necessary to move formally to discharge the Order for the Committee Stage of this Bill to-day? If the motion was moved and carried by agreement some days ago I think that to keep the Journal in order there ought to be a formal motion to discharge the Order for the Committee Stage to-day and to substitute to-morrow.
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