Wednesday, 9 July 1952
Seanad Éireann Debate
Mr. Quirke: It is proposed to take the Second Stage of the Housing (Amendment) Bill, 1952. I do not know whether it will be possible to get all stages to-day or not. In connection with the motions on the Order Paper, the Minister for Finance is not available, and I do not think we can take the other motion either.
An Cathaoirleach: I take it that the Senator, and Senators generally, desire that this motion may be discussed in the presence of the Minister for Finance. This period of the year is not very suitable for the Minister's attendance. Having recently completed the Finance Bill, he is preparing the Estimates of his Department for presentation to Dáil Eireann. It may be assumed, I think, that, with this matter and other urgent business, the Minister's hands are fairly full. It might be better under the circumstances that Senator O'Brien's motion should stand over till the autumn. I wonder would the Senator favour this course?
Professor O'Brien: I should like to make one or two observations on your reply, Sir. This motion has been on the Order Paper since before Christmas and on every occasion on which I and Senator Douglas asked that it be taken, the Minister for Finance has been engaged on important business— the preparation of the Budget and the Finance Bill—and, in view of his busy time in the Dáil with these Bills, we consented very willingly that the  matter should be postponed. I think it is my duty to people interested in this matter to say that the injustice arising out of the present income-tax is felt very widely. It is a matter of urgent public interest and the rise in the rate of income-tax has made it even more urgent than it was six months ago.
Professor O'Brien: I do not wish to transgress the orders of the House, but I want to say that, in regard to an urgent matter of this kind, the public is entitled to the presence of the Minister, or possibly a Parliamentary Secretary, and the indefinite postponement of a debate of this nature creates an unfortunate impression in the minds of a great many people. I suggest it might be possible for the Government to arrange to have this motion at least opened before the parliamentary recess.
Professor Hayes: If I might intervene on the purely procedural matter, I think there is a good deal in Senator O'Brien's point, that we might open the debate on the motion, but not necessarily conclude it without the presence of the Minister. I quite agree that recently it was not possible to have the Minister here, but it is important that the Minister should intervene at some point. I do not think it is necessary that he should be present for the whole discussion. The matter is one of very considerable importance, and it could be discussed in an entirely non-political way, although people will, of course, be free to say what they please. The House should really be able to discuss the matter itself, and, if it does not suit the convenience of the Minister to be  present, the debate could be opened and adjourned until such time as the Minister would be able to intervene. He would then intervene, having before him the printed account of what has been said, which perhaps might be more advantageous to him and to the House subsequently.
I suggest that one of the functions of the House which we should not neglect is the discussing of a motion of this kind, and it would be important for us to enter upon the debate and then postpone it, until such time as it would be convenient for the Minister to intervene if he thought fit to intervene at all. In the meantime, it should not be impossible to get a Parliamentary Secretary to come to the debate, but I think that even in the absence of any representative of the Government, we should ourselves be able to discuss the matter. I suggest that we should do so, because the motion has been on the Order Paper since last November, and it is a matter, however we deal with it, of great public importance.
Mr. Colgan: I recollect that in the last Seanad there were a couple of motions on the Order Paper for about three years in relation to the closed shop and some other matters. These, to some people, would be important matters for discussion, but nobody was very disturbed when they were not reached. Whether it would be good or bad to discuss this motion in the absence of the Minister is a very moot point, because we could air our views here and possibly get a certain amount of publicity and that might be the end of it. I think it would be a good thing if the Minister were here. I appreciate that the matter is an important matter, but it would be rather futile to discuss it in the absence of the Minister.
An Cathaoirleach: I have stated the position so far as the Minister for Finance is concerned and I have made a suggestion that we might let the motion stand over until the autumn. It will be a matter for the Senators concerned to decide what they should do later on.
Mr. Baxter: Are we to understand from that that it is not possible for the Minister to come to the Seanad at any time before the end of the session for this motion, or that it is not possible for him to arrange to be represented?
Mr. Hearne: There may be a feeling in the House that the motion is too long on the Order Paper, but the sole reason for its being there so long is that the mover of the motion indicated that he would like to have the Minister for Finance here. I agree entirely with Senator Colgan that it would be arguing in a vacuum if the Minister were not here. The importance of the motion would, I think, demand that the Minister or a representative of him should be here but, having heard the views which have been expressed, I think that if the mover of the motion wanted to open, and the House agreed, then there would be no objection to that course.
Professor Hayes: I think that is a matter for Senator O'Brien, and that he should open the matter. I do not think that there is anything futile in discussing the question in the absence of the Minister so long as we have the understanding that he will be present at a later stage.
May I make a general point? I take it that there is an understanding that we will adjourn this month. Is there any indication of what other business we will have besides the Housing Bill and the Appropriation Bill, which is, of course, a one stage Bill? Is any other business likely to come to this House?
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