Seanad Éireann - Volume 123 - 13 December, 1989

Oireachtas Reform: Motion.

Professor Murphy: What are the rules for this debate? What are the time limits and so on?

[1265] Acting Chairman (Mr. Hussey): The proposer has 30 minutes and 15 minutes to reply at the end of the debate and all other Senators have 15 minutes. The overall time is three hours.

Before the debate commences I would remind Senators that it is a long standing ruling of this House that the manner in which the Dáil proceedings are conducted and its business cannot be commented on.

Mr. O'Toole: That was an innocuous statement of some moment.

I move:

That Seanad Éireann calls on the Government to initiate reform of the Oireachtas by the establishment of a Committee of the Dáil and Seanad to recommend changes in the role, structure, function, procedures and operation of the Dáil, the Seanad and the Joint Committees of both Houses. That the report of this Committee including all recommendations on reform be debated in both Houses before 1st June, 1990. I would like the record to note that this debate and motion has been taken by the Leader of the House and that we are taking it without the Minister. I want to say that I heartily approve of this development. Whereas other people might be less than satisfied with it, I have long been of the view in terms of the initiation and move towards reform of the Houses that the position of Leader of the House is one whose status has not been recognised over the years and it is important that we recognise the essential qualities of that particular job. I also hope that in his contribution the Leader of the House will take on board very seriously the proposals being made here tonight.

In preparing for this debate I gave some thought about how it might be developed. On numerous occasions previously we considered all the faults and it would be easy to trot out all the faults and flaws at this time and make a very impassioned appeal for change. However, what I intend doing in the main is to make a few general comments and [1266] then focus on the workings of this House in particular.

I would also like a ruling on the question of the Presidency. The Independent group have long held the view that the role, area and function of the Presidency is something that should be open to much wider discussion and does come under the jurisdiction of the motion. You have made a ruling, Sir — at least you have indicated the traditional response in dealing with the other House. But could I ask that the position of the Presidency be clarified, because I think it would be very one-sided to have a debate without considering all aspects of the Oireactas. Whereas I do not intend to discuss the workings of the other House, I certainly intend to have some comments to make on the relevancy and function of the Presidency and the way the role is seen to operate. Is that in order?

Acting Chairman: Yes, the office of the President can be referred to in the overall context of Oireachtas reform. No personal reference, of course, may be made to the President.

Mr. O'Toole: Of course, I do not intend to make any personal references at all. I just want to establish the position that the Oireachtas comprises both Houses and the President and that therefore the role of the Presidency, which people may not have adverted to, is encompassed in the understanding of this motion and to say that people look at the first two aspects of legislation, the initiation in the Seanad or Dáil, then the confirmation in the second House and finally, the signing by the President.

As an opening remark I believe that the legislative and parliamentary process is in disrepute, without question that the legislative and parliamentary process is ineffective and inefficient and that it is longwinded and cumbersome. I believe that every single day we contribute further and more to the low regard the general public have for politicians.

I believe we are the authors of our own misfortune in this area for a number of years. First, there is our resistance to [1267] change of any type and, secondly, our cowardice when it comes to selling, explaining and developing the role of politicians in a serious way. It has now reached a stage that the system does not have the confidence of the people, who do not trust politicians any longer. More importantly, it attracts too many people who have been failures in other walks of life. I think it would detract greatly from this debate if Senators come back very defensive on this. I do not want to hear about a string of people who are highly effective, etc. I include myself in all these references.

You can go into any sixth year class in any college in this country tomorrow morning and ask the students for their choice of career and find our how many of them would be interested in a political career. You would be lucky to find one out of 100 who might have an interest in it and that one person would probably have some family connections and know something the others do not. There is no attraction in it. It is a job which carries little respect, a specious kind of status, low income and it comprises a group of people who have made themselves dogsbodies and doormats for the community and who have taken less than seriously the core and central function of their role and office, which office never seems to get the attention it deserves. If people feel a great need to defend themselves on this issue then they are missing the whole point of what I am saying.

To me the role of politician falls into four parts. There are the national issues, there are the international issues, there are legislative matters and there are individual case problems. The good and effective politician, in establishing good practice, will share his or her energy and time over those four areas. We have, unfortunately, now reached a stage where clientelism has overtaken all else. We have some very talented people in both Houses spinning around like tops at the weekends from one clinic to another, dealing with one set of problems in one area, bringing them on to another, mixing [1268] them all up and hoping they come out at the end.

People in both Houses instead of spending more time on legislation, on addressing topical problems, on looking at national and international issues, are far more often spending their time looking for medical cards, putting a new light outside the back door or a bit of tar up at the front door for people in their constituencies. That is the way we elect to operate. If the first rule of politics is to become re-elected, perhaps it is the system we need to look at. It cannot be good.

The other point I want to make as a general nature is that poiticians are a joke, but the real truth is that the electorate are a bigger joke. The people who keep electing representatives on the basis of clientelism are doing this country less than a service. The Members of the Houses who encourage and support clientelism are doing nothing to advance the work of politics, the work of the Oireachtas. All parties, of course, are agreed on the general points. They might not put them quite like I put them, but all parties would agree and every Member of both Houses that I know would agree that these clinics and this case work is boring, should not be necessary and is only necessary because it is the only way to be re-elected.

Can we grasp the nettle? It is not an issue for me in the same way as it is for other Members of the Houses; but it is clearly wrong and everyone agrees it is wrong. There is the nonsense of three or four TDs being present on Friday night, Saturday, Sunday and Monday in different pubs in the same village and then the people with the problems moving up from one to the other, bringing their problems to the whole lot of them. Then all four local representatives send a letter to the Minister of the Department, get back a response in triplicate and they all send the same response to the person concerned. Everybody feels that everybody is working but nothing is really happening except that there are people clogging up the mail system and the clinic system with this business. It is not good [1269] enough and it should be addressed. It should be addressed for the sake of the sanity of our politicians.

I want to look at the Seanad and to examine very deliberately the role of the Seanad. I want to make points which need to be addressed and I would look for a reasoned response from the Leader of the House on the issue. I do not want any kind of a defensive response. I do not need to be told of the time, energy and commitment of the Leader of the House and many other Members on the Government benches.

The discussion here tonight has got nothing to do with inter-party rivalry or group rivalry or anything else. I will be offering my views and we should all honestly offer our own views. There is no threat to the Government in the matter. I am simply asking in my proposal that the Government set up a committee to look at the workings of the Oireachtas and to come back with proposals which we can adopt or throw out. It is hardly life-threatening or Government-threatening. I see no reason why the Government could not accept that point.

If I say that undoubtedly the Seanad is to a large extent unrepresentative and that it is certainly undemocratically elected, do we feel threatened by that statement? Do we accept it as a reality? Have we the honesty to say perhaps we are afraid to change it because it would threaten our position? But it is undemocratically elected and to a large extent it is unrepresentative. That is not the fault of anybody in this Chamber. Nobody sitting in this Chamber should have the great need to address it. I look forward particularly to hearing the views of our colleagues, the Progressive Democrats, on this matter. They have raised an issue, but clouded an issue at the same time.

If I am to develop my argument on the fact of the Seanad being to a large extent unrepresentative and to a large extent undemocratically elected, I immediately get to the stage where it becomes difficult to develop that argument and, at the same time, to defend the retention of the second Chamber. The fact that this is a difficulty merely illustrates the fact that [1270] the case for reforming the Seanad has long ago got lost in or confused with the call for its abolition. This is the great problem we face. An honest discussion on the difficulties gets confused with people who, without any thought-out process on the matter, call for the abolition of the second Chamber.

The party who would say abolish the Seanad, halve the number of TDs and save the country a packet, are making a very popular cry really for the unthinking. It will go down well in any pub tonight but where does it lead to? If you go down to a pub tonight and say “We will abolish income tax” you get a round of applause — the politicians are going to propose the abolition of income tax. It is about as logical as people who are depending on social welfare having stickers on their car saying “Abolish tax”. Where does it lead? The abolition of the Dáil would be the next logical step towards reduced democratic powers on the road to dictatorship. The proposal for reduced representation and reduced participation in the democratic process is no more than the polished rhetoric and specious argument from the “Regressive” Democrats. There can be not the slightest doubt about it. It is a very popular thing to say “Get rid of half the TDs, close the Seanad, save the country a packet”. Why do we need people at all. Let us put one person in to run the country. Let us put in a dictator and it would save us even more money.

The cost of the Seanad, for instance, is part of the price we pay for our democratic structures but counting the cost is hardly the way to measure the effectiveness of our Legislature; rather we should demand that it does the business. That is the demand we should make of it. It is efficient? Is it effective? Is it doing the job?

It is difficult to measure in any precise way the effectiveness of either House. Though in recent years the Seanad has dealt with a greater volume of business than ever before and though it usually sits to a later date and reassembles earlier than the Dáil, nonetheless the Seanad is regularly criticised, for instance, as being [1271] unnecessary and dormant. Why? What do we do when the House is not in session? Where do we go to when the House is not sitting? Are we working? Do we need to justify the number of days the House sits? Can we justify the number of days the House sits? I believe we cannot. We should not attempt to defend it.

I have been examining recently the number of days we have sat over the past number of years and I know the Seanad now sits and operates far longer hours and a greater number of days than ever it did before. That goes without saying. I am not making that point and I do not need to hear a response. All I am saying is that for effective parliamentarians to do the business they should sit on a regular basis with a regular day's work, regular periods of holidays and it should certainly be a lot longer than what it is at the moment. I am talking about the day's sitting there.

I want to put a little aguisín with that one. I want to put it clearly on the record that the level of salary for parliamentarians is disgracefully low. I have seen a yellow streak in most my parliamentary colleagues who have been afraid to say that they are all suffering from collapsing overdrafts, because of the low level of wages that are paid to the parliamentarians, particularly in this House. The pay and the conditions of work and the back-up system for parliamentarians is disgraceful. A research service means pushing in on top of the librarians, the excellent librarians we have here, who are already overworked, and trying to demand more from them. There is no research service here. There is no access to information technology in this House. There is no proper communications link-up for any of the people in either of the Houses. The restricted secretarial service is laughable. I believe if the people who are expecting the Houses to do their business knew the conditions under which parliamentarians are supposed to work, the low level of resources, of back-up support and of research support, they would be appalled. It is impossible to do the job [1272] we set out to do with the level of resources now available. We should say that loudly and clearly and stop beating about the bush.

The lack of recognition from which the Seanad suffers is due to a combination, I believe, of our own innate introvertedness, our unimaginative ordering of business and, consequently, our low level of media coverage. It amuses me to hear the criticisms of the media about the coverage of the Seanad. I leave here some days and I wonder how in the name of God the reporters can dream up a story out of some of the dull activities which I have had to sit through for the day. That is the truth of the matter. If we want interesting coverage, we better had deal with interesting topics. In the past four weeks with the ordering of business we have dealt with probably a wider range of more interesting and more topical issues than we have ever done before. The different debates on international matters on Thursday mornings and various legislation, have been useful and progressive. We need to look at some of the proposals we have discussed time and time again, such as the idea of an hour for debating topical matters. It is not a very strong base on which to make a case to look for greater media coverage while refusing to deal with interesting confrontational issues.

There is also a general lack of understanding about the role and function of the Seanad. People are unaware that legislation can be initiated in either House and, with the exception of financial Bills, that the Seanad has the same legislative powers as the Dáil. The Seanad would certainly be the ideal forum to undertake an urgently needed major review and revision of the general body of Irish legislation, much of which has been ignored for well over a century.

I have started a very interesting process at present of going back over old legislation. Some of the material we have uncovered is frightening. I have come up recently — and I have it on the Order Paper at present — with the fact that education at secondary level is something which may be made available to girls [1273] at the convenience of the Minister for Education. What kind of sexist language is that in this day and age? Everybody would disagee with it but it is there in the Statute Book. I just give it as an example of the kind of legislative revision which needs to be done. It will never be done in the other Chamber in the sense they will always be dealing with topical issues. I believe that this Chamber in Committee, combing through the old legislation, could point out the anomalies, the anachronisms, the incompatabilities that exist in some legislation that is still on the Statute Book from another century.

It is the legislative area that the Seanad has the greatest potential. The Seanad debates tend to be comprehensive, detailed and searching. Legislation is likely to get far more attention in the Seanad than in the Dáil. A smaller number of constituency clinics and consequently, less of the drudgery attaching to constituency servicing should allow Senators to give more time to the business of the House, especially legislation. Nevertheless, any objective examination of the structure, operation and procedures of the Seanad will point up the need for reform.

One of the difficulties we have in the Seanad is dealing with problems. I have an ongoing problem myself at present with being totally misrepresented in this House last week. I am not going to go into the details of it but where every member of the Government group believed that I agreed to something which was never ever mentioned to me——

Mr. Norris: And stated it on the record.

Mr. O'Toole: I will go back on that. I have no way of dealing with my grievance on that issue except to cause a disturbance in the House, which should not be the way. I have no clear process in which to deal with it. I am not going to develop that issue. One of the problems we run into here quite regularly is the fact of a lack of understanding of the problems of different groups. We on the Independent benches would be perhaps [1274] among the other groups and least popular. In many ways we are seen as troublemakers or people who seem to be destructive or whatever.

Professor Murphy: Speak for yourself.

Mr. O'Toole: I am sorry to say, Senator, it has been well represented to me that this is the general impression many people have in the House.

Mr. Norris: It is misinformed.

Mr. O'Toole: It is grossly misinformed. There is no doubt about it that outside the House there is a completely different perception. I would just like to say that. It is very important. The Seanad must be seen as a necessary and integral part of our democratic structure. How is it put together? Let us look at the system, the election of the 60 people here. I will start off with our own group, the Independent group, all of whom are elected by the university franchise. Let us put the record right about them. It is the most exclusive, elitist corner that I could find myself in. I know myself and, as far as I know, all of my colleagues find it a very uncomfortable place to be.

Mr. Norris: No, they do not.

Mr. O'Toole: All right, I speak for myself. I find it the most uncomfortable place to be. I dislike the exclusivity——

Acting Chairman: You cannot agree among yourselves now.

Mr. O'Toole: I dislike the exclusivity that attaches to such a restrictive franchise but at the same time, I want to put it in the context of democracy and representation. Approximately one-tenth of people go on to third level education. It would be quite appropriate, if the House was structured in another way, that that one-tenth could elect one-tenth of the second Chamber. I would see nothing wrong with that in the context of reform. The fact of the matter is that the electorate of the six people here in these [1275] seats numbers roughly 100,000. The electorate for all the others numbers less than 1,000.

We have 100,000 people to elect six Members and we have 900 people to elect 43 Members. This is hardly the stuff of democracy, hardly the stuff of fair representation.

Let us look at the 43 Members, made up of a number of panels. My own claim to fame would be a claim of expertise in the area of education and the education world and in the area of trade unionism and labour. Therefore, the appropriate places for me to seek election to the Seanad would be either on the Education or Labour panels. I would say, with all due humility, that I would know as much about either of those as any of the people who have sought election on those panels but the nature of the election process excludes me from ever having a chance of being elected on those two panels, in the subjects of which I have years of experience and expertise. Would the Leader of the House be prepared to grasp the nettle, stand up and say “Well, as it stands, each panel is divided into two sub-panels”. At the moment the people who elect the Members from each sub-panel are the county councillors and urban councillors, local representatives around the country.

I want to make one comment on that, and perhaps I disagree with some of my colleagues on this. I have the greatest respect and regard for local representatives throughout the country. I recognise their commitment, their work and what they put into their job. I will defend them at any time and I would not have the slightest difficulty about doing that. Neither do I object to them having——

Mr. Norris: Some.

Mr. O'Toole: Well the percentage of ineffectual local representatives is no greater than the number of ineffective representatives in the parliamentary system. I would defend them to that extent. I would say they have a right to [1276] have a vote but what they do not have a right to do — and surely it was never envisaged under the Constitution — is that they should elect all 43 Members. Why not extend the franchise on all the panels? Why not say, for example, on the agricultural panel, that one of the subpanels would be elected by the local representatives and the other sub-panel would be elected by people involved in the industry or the area denominated by the panel, in other words, representatives of agricultural interests? Why could we not do the same with the Labour Panel; have one sub-panel elected by the local representatives and the other sub-panel elected by offering the franchise to the different groups under that heading? In the case of Labour I suppose it would be the employers and the trade union representative groups. Why could we not do the same with the education panel, extend the franchise on one of the subpanels at least to people involved in education? The interests are clear. The client interest would be represented by the parents, the worker interest would be represented by the teachers and the management interest would be represented by management.

Why cannot these interests have a vote instead of the nonsense that goes on at the moment where certain education interests or labour interests can propose people to stand for Seanad election but, having been proposed, they can only be elected by people who are predominantly party-political members and, no matter how good they are at their job, they can only get elected if they get the nod from the party. I do not recall when the last Independent was elected on panel apart from the university panels. I am talking about extending the franchise.

I would also put firmly on the record my view that the franchise at this end should also be extended in case anybody would think I am guarding the corner for myself. At whatever cost or loss to myself, I see no reason whatsoever why the graduates of any third level college should be excluded from voting for the representatives from what is now called the universities panel which I would like [1277] to have renominated the third level panel if it is going to continue in existence. I do not see why we should distinguish between one third level college and another. The mystique that attaches to the type of university needs to be shattered.

Professor Murphy: Especially Trinity.

Mr. O'Toole: Let us not get parochial about this. I will save the other areas I wanted to deal with for my final 15 minutes at the end of the debate. The Seanad as a Chamber should never be allowed to pervert the will of the people as established by the Lower House. That may not find favour with some people in the House but I have a very clear view in my mind of the role of a second Chamber and it is not to pervert the role of the first Chamber. It is there as a supplementary, as an overview, to strengthen the role of democracy, to broaden the level of debate. Incidentally, if we had had a proper role for the Seanad we would not have had the rod licence cock-up. Debate on that legislation finished in the Dáil on 17 December 1987. It came here and was pushed through in one day. My view is that when debate on a piece of legislation is concluded in one Chamber a précis of the Bill should be published and available for people to study before the debate on it begins in the second Chamber. There should then be an informed discussion in the second Chamber because, unfortunately, people believe that legislation is too remote from them and are not actually aware of the implications of the legislation as it is going through. It takes time for people to become aware and it is only then that they can properly address the matter.

Acting Chairman: I now call on Senator Murphy to second the motion.

Professor Murphy: I second the motion. I do not propose to take very long. As I read it, the purpose of the motion is to persuade the House to set up an Oireachtas committee. I do not believe it is appropriate then at this stage, [1278] to address in great detail the matter of parliamentary reform. Rather the things to stress are the reasons we should now set up this Oireachtas committee which would report back to both Houses and then the substantive debate could take place at that stage.

In case Senator O'Toole gave the impression that some of the things he said were not shared by the rest of us, I share his admiration for people in public life generally. I have always conveyed to my students, whenever I could, that the life of a politician is an honourable one and should be an honourable one. If we, in this part of the House, enjoy the freedom and flexibility of Independents it is because of the existence of party politics. Independents in their own right would make no sense at all.

Our task tonight is to agree, if possible, that this Oireachtas committee should be set up. All of us in this House might not admit it publicly but in private all of us would admit that we do stand in need of reform, and that the Oireachtas does not have a good image and that it is in our own enlightened self-interest to improve that image, not least in an era of street politics and people power. Let us not think that we are totally immune from that confrontation. Modern parliaments, not just here but everywhere in western democracies, have been downgraded by the existence and the development of other strong forces in society, extra parliamentary groups of various kinds, and in our own case here the tradition of strong Cabinet Government which, unfortunately, we inherited from the British and which was aggravated by the circumstances of the Civil War and the polarisation of party politics, treating Parliament more or less as a rubber stamp. Then, of course, there is the existence of the European Parliament and the strong probability that it will grow in power and that power will be at the expense of the State parliaments. For all these reasons we should try to do the best we can for ourselves and give ourselves the best possible image and reputation.

It was not always the case that the Oireachtas was destined to be in the [1279] second place. When the State was founded the first Dáil saw itself as superior to and as dominating its Executive and certainly the Constitution of the Free State envisaged a Dáil which would be dominant. That was not the way things evolved but it is interesting that in the last Oireachtas, Dáil Éireann recovered some of that stature. Because of the particular disposition of party forces within the Dáil, it began to restore its authority and dignity as against the domination of Cabinet Government.

In the last Oireachtas we debated in some detail the question of Seanad reform and I had a lot to say about it then. I am not going into it again. Senator O'Toole has touched on some of these points. The whole question of Oireachtas reform hangs together: both Houses must be reformed. I know there is a certain limitation on talking about Dáil procedures during the course of this debate but surely I cannot be prevented from making the observation that if Dáil Éireann did its work properly in the legislative sphere, if Deputies were primarily legislators, then that would be an enormous step forward.

It might well, of course, make this House redundant because the one agrument one can make against the existence of Seanad Éireann is that if there was a one Chamber Parliament doing its work properly it is arguable that a second Chamber is not necessary. What we have at the moment is a multi-seat constituency system where as Senator O'Toole said, the Deputies attend to business other than legislation and who see their existence in terms of constituency service. All very well as far as it goes but not when it deludes the public into thinking that Deputies are there in order to get them favours.

What we are talking about here is not simply Oireachtas reform. We are talking about public education as well. The public must be educated to know they have rights independent of the intercession of Deputies. It is not surprising that over the years Deputies have not looked too kindly on the existence of such [1280] offices as the Ombudsman and of such movements as the Combat Poverty Agency because all of these developments seem to muscle in on what Deputies wrongly regard as their area. I will say no more about that.

I will come back to our own House and say, as I said on opening day, that in my view, the image of this House has never been worse. The image of flagrant opportunism being pursued by politicians was very evident to the public in the course of the summer. I never received the kind of letters I received this time from would-be Senators who asked me, for God's sake, to return them to the Seanad so that they could win a seat for Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael or Labour in the Dáil the next time round. The naked opportunism went that far.

It was compounded, of course, by the Taoiseach's inactivity in the course of the summer and by the extraordinary volte face on the part of the Progressive Democrats. I do not mind a volte face but what I do mind is the absence of any explanation by the leader of that party as to why at one period he wanted to abolish Seanad Éireann but now he found it convenient to allow his members to sit here. He left the unconvincing explanation to the junior Minister at the Department of the Environment. It is a reproach on the Leader of the Progressive Democrats that he never made a policy statement in that connection.

Of course, what really made the image of Seanad Éireann sink in people's eyes in the past few months was the appointment of the Cathaoirleach. The Cathaoirleach has had a colourful career, a controversial career. He is a man of great personal quality but it has to be said that his appointment did bring Seanad Éireann into disrepute. This was a wide observation one heard everywhere. It has to be said that the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party made a very grave mistake in allowing his name to go forward. This has to do with the image of the House and the question of reform.

Mr. Lanigan: Are those statements acceptable?

[1281] Acting Chairman: I do not think it is in order to cast any aspersions on the Cathaoirleach at this stage.

Professor Murphy: I am not casting any aspersions on the person of the office holder. What I am saying is that the question of reform is certainly bound up with what the public perceive to be the use of the Chair in order to retrieve a political career. Surely I can say that not even the shadow of suspicion of past irregularities should attach to any would-be holder of high office, not least to one of the high offices of State. I do not think the Cathaoirleach should have even been considered by his party for promotion to this high office.

We need to consider all the implications of reform and I was glad to see that on opening day Senator Manning more or less told us that nothing would be excluded from consideration when it came to Seanad reform. He seemed to suggest, for example, that the Fine Gael Party would consider the question of recommending the holding of Seanad and Dáil elections on the same day which would very definitely cut through that whole area of the cynical misuse of this House as a path back to the Dáil. I hope Senator Manning meant that and I hope his Fine Gael colleagues will support it.

However, I have some reservations about that. I know that a former Taoiseach, Dr. Garret FitzGerald, had a strong interest in Seanad reform. As the only Taoiseach, I think I am correct in saying, who began his career in this House, he had a particular interest in Seanad reform but it never came to anything, perhaps because he was too busy otherwise but I suspect partly because there were strong vested interests in his own party against Seanad reform because such reform would diminish the area of party patronage. Let us see if Senator Manning will put his money where his mouth is in the course of this debate and in supporting the motion.

This is a good motion. It has teeth to it. It challenges Government and the other parties to set up this Oireachtas joint committee. Let us do that. Let us [1282] see what the outcome will be. It is not the first time this has been tried. It has been tried before and nothing came of these efforts to initiate parliamentary reform but let us make a fresh start. As I say, the time is opportune. We will not forever be allowed to sit in an unreformed condition. The time is opportune because it is at the outset of what promises to be a longish parliamentary span. Let the parties show their good faith and their commitment by backing this motion.

Mrs. Honan: We should read the wording of this motion and see if it has gone too far. It reads:

That Seanad Éireann calls on the Government to initiate reform of the Oireachtas by the establishment of a Committee of the Dáil and the Seanad to recommend changes in the role...

I wonder have we that kind of right or power? I think if we reform — if reform is needed — we should do it for this House itself. That might well be sufficient. I would say to my friends on the Independent benches that if we operate the Seanad well, as it is, with some reform, and leave the Dáil to reform itself, if that is necessary, we would be doing a good day's work.

I suppose to initiate reform with commonsense would be a good thing but only if it would make the Seanad more relevant to the people of this nation. I listened with interest to the way Senator O'Toole would like future Seanad elected. I have no trouble at all in supporting the way the Seanad is elected at the moment and I do not consider we are not representative of the people of this nation.

Senator O'Toole stated that while his electorate were thousands of past graduates of universities, ours were only 900 people. That, of course, is totally wrong. Many of us who have been elected were Members of the outgoing Seanad or were Deputies and if they are not representative of the Irish people I certainly do not know who is. They elect us, they reelect us and if we serve well and they are [1283] quite aware of what we are doing we are returned to this House. I believe we play a more important role in this country than we are given credit for.

In the past Senator Murphy has put on record my commitment to this House. I have never gone into another convention even though I had an opportunity to do so. Without having a big head because that is not my style, if I had decided to go for a seat in another place I would have won it but my commitment to the Seanad is absolute and total.

It is important to put on record that 50 per cent of all legislation that went through the two Houses of the Oireachtas in the last session commenced here. As Cathaoirleach I spent quite a considerable time in the Chamber at that time, more time then than I do now, and I saw Ministers prepared to amend legislation here. I saw Bills go out of here after weeks of debate and common-sense discussion. The other good thing I see about the Seanad, which might differ from the Dáil, is that we do not have to play party politics here. I say that with the greatest respect to the Dáil. You rarely hear in this House “party stuff” being lashed out. There is room for change but I fear change just for the sake of change. We should enhance the role of the Seanad as a legislature in its own right.

There are a number of proposals which address themselves; for instance, a basic structure underlining revision in the area of detailed consideration of a Bill, where the present Committee Stage would be taken before the consideration of the general principle of the Bill, the present Second Stage. This would allow for a much broader debate and would give greater scope to amend the measure than would be the case under current procedure. Power to amend is confined to details and not to the principle of the Bill. We should allow for a broader debate and greater scope for amendments on Committee Stage in all legislation, particularly in non-money Bills coming from the Dáil.

I do not know whether a committee as [1284] proposed in this motion, is the answer to what we want in Seanad Éireann. Is it we here or is it somebody else somewhere else, who would decide on reform or how much reform and what would be good for the House or for future Seanaid? We saw the Seanad work here today when the Cathaoirleach allowed a motion under Standing Order 29 to be taken on an urgent matter. We have to decide what we want in this House.

There was criticism today of Members such as the Leader of the House and myself, of Senator Hederman and Senator Staunton, all people elected to local authorities, of what we do with our time in serving the people who elect us to local government. It would be a sad day for this nation if we and our colleagues who serve in local government stopped serving the people with commitment and dedication. This goes back to the people who elect us here on various panels and if Senator O'Toole has worries that some of us are not eligible for the panel or if we are not doing our duty I suggest to him to come on to one of our panels the next time and see if he will make it there.

It is interesting that it was in the Seanad in 1981 that the broadcasting of the Seanad live on radio was mooted first and at that time there was not so much support for the idea. I remember quite clearly that I attended the first meeting. That move has been a total success and that was initiatied by a committee of the Seanad. I can take criticism and I can accept criticism of the Seanad when it is right but I will defend this House while I serve it in and long after I leave it. We all play our part. We are representative of the country. I remember the former Senator Killilea, who is now an MEP, speaking very strongly and quite heatedly one night on how he felt about people elected to the Seanad and the support we have from the people who elect us. They are the people who go into the ballot boxes at local government elections and they are the people of cities, towns and villages who elect people to local authorities, the Dáil and Seanad. Who is representative of Ireland if they are not?

[1285] We are close to the people when we sit on local government bodies, or health boards and VECs. What is wrong with listening to complaints and doing a certain amount of constituency work? I suggest that we should use this House as a forum to get close to our electorate. I would suggest we might consider giving a forum in this House to the MEPs. Perhaps it is something that might be considered in another place. It might be desirable for them to come back and report to the people who elect them. I am not adverse to changing my views on anything that would be good for this House or the people of this country. I think most of us would not consider this House to be so far removed from the people as was suggested by some Members in the House.

It would be wrong if we were to give the impression that there is no respect in the country for people who serve in public life. We should give a lead and encourage people who might serve. It is not an easy life. We should be the last to knock each other. We should unite and try to be seen by the nation that we serve as committed people, which we are, definite about what we are doing, which I hope we are, and try to hold the respect which the people have for us. We should stop knocking each other and knocking this House.

The motion gives us a chance to defend the Seanad. I have done it privately, I have done it publicly and I will continue to do it. I do not see myself as not playing a role. While I am glad the motion is before us, because of the wording, I do not think I can support it. However, that does not mean I do not agree with some of the words that are included in it.

Mr. Staunton: I welcome the oportunity to speak on this motion which I support. In doing so I would like to thank the Leader of the House for facilitating the motion and for his attitude in agreeing to a system of open debate in the Seanad. I hope this continues and that we can deal with many issues, be they controversial or not, because that will bring credit to this Chamber. I am also glad there is no Minister present because I do not regard [1286] this issue in any sense as a party political issue. I do not see it as Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour or Progressive Democrats issue in the least. We should have a common purpose where these issues are concerned and for that reason I am delighted there is no Minister present.

I spent the best part of ten years as a Member of both Houses, about half of that time in the Dáil and half in the Seanad. In so far as my involvement in the national Parliament is concerned, there was a very long gap of about ten years and suddenly I find myself back in this House. I suppose I bring a certain amount of experience and detachment to this debate because I have had experience for a number of years in both Houses and I have been out of the system for ten years looking in. Maybe it gives me an interesting little window and insight into certain issues.

I am a reformist. I am all for reform. One of the reasons I was not contesting elections for a number of years was because of the extent of my dissatisfaction with some of the structures. I am saying it in the most non-political sense. I believe that outside this House where public opinion is concerned there is some admiration for the Members who serve in both Houses of the Oireachtas. There is a basic healthy fundamental admiration but there is a most appalling regard for the institutions in which we work and for the modus operandi which forces us to work as we do. To that extent there is huge scope for reform.

One of the huge paradoxes in the country is that we have been dominated by Britain for about 700 years; we achieved independence in 1921-1922 and having achieved independence we proceeded to base our parliamentary model on the Westminister system and to copy most of their institutions in the bureaucracy. These structures have been virtually unchanged since 1922.

What have we seen happen? Outside the Houses of the Oireachtas we have seen a massive Civil Service develop; we have seen a huge sector of the public economy in the State-sponsored body [1287] sector; we have seen massive involvement in the European Community with change in the whole legislative basis under which we are operating. We have seen the development of non-commercial State-sponsored bodies, of which there are 57, spending about £800 million each year. While all of this is happening there has been virtually no revision of the basic Houses of the Oireachtas which are supposed to run this enormous system and control all of these issues, including the European dimension. It is a very archaic structure.

The first issues I have to talk about — others have mentioned it — are the facilities for Members. These have been here through successive Governments. I am not blaming the present Government. I know the Leader of the House is doing his best to facilitate us and I gather at a more senior level that is going on as well. If we are looking at the Seanad — and we are supposed to be among the leaders of this country — we should consider that four Senators must share one secretary and three or four Senators must share a single trunk telephone line. Yet, when you go to the person working at fifth level in a semi-State body, responsible to a Government Department, who in turn are responsible to a Minister, who, in turn, is supposed to be accountable to the two Houses of this Oireachtas, that person has two or three telephones on the desk, he has his own office and his own secretary while those who are supposed to lead this nation have appalling facilities. It debases the institutions of this State and it makes a mockery of democracy in a modern State. There is enormous scope for reform in this country.

Having been in both of the Houses I hear a great deal of intense criticism of the Seanad. I must say I would defend this institution and I would defend the vast majority of Members who have been in this institution, which is called a stepping stone. In other words, there are budding politicians who may spend some time here before they become Dáil [1288] Members. I have no problem with a stepping stone where younger people have the opportunity to learn what legislation is about.

The Seanad is supposed to be a haven for political hacks or for defeated Deputies. I have no problem with it being a haven, although I do not know that “haven” is the word. I have no problem with the concept of the haven. If you have a parliamentarian working in our multiple representation system, of which I have very negative views, who through the freaks of PR loses his seat in a Dáil election, who is likely to have a parliamentary future and who may have the most appalling income problems because of losing his Dáil seat, I have no problem whatever relating to that person seeking a seat in Seanad Éireann, being elected to it and holding it down honourably. It serves a useful purpose.

I hear the criticism that it is a talking shop. If it is a talking shop, then so is the Dáil. Of course we are a talking shop, and of course the Dáil is a talking shop. Parliaments are talking shops. What else could they be? The only function I think a Senator does not have that a Deputy has is the capacity to ask Parliamentary Questions but in every regard there is a status that should not be diminished.

In so far as reform is concerned there is, as Senator Honan raised, the European issue. There is enormous scope for much closer links between the Oireachtas and the European dimension. This is not happening at present. The Joint Committee on the Secondary Legislation of the European Communities has an extremely limited function. It is a committee concerned reactively with secondary legislation with very few other functions and it is modelled completely on the identical British committee. It is not of a positive nature, it does not have a positive function, it does not have general debating functions. The Seanad is the ideal forum to use as the link with the European dimension. It is the ideal link, where we can afford access to Members of the European Parliament to come to debate with us in this House and to try to build up a relationship between [1289] Members of the Oireachtas and Members of the European dimension.

We can also highten the value of the Seanad in other senses as well. We have had very strong Governments, very strong executives, very weak parliaments, a very weak backbench parliamentary tradition. There have been issues, for example, recent events in eastern Europe. We had a visit two weeks ago of the Foreign Minister of Hungary at a reception by the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Iveagh House. Why can we not look at the role of parliament where these issues are concerned and use the Seanad occasionally as a forum to which we could invite, for example, the Foreign Minister from Hungary or United States Senators? It would be particularly enlightening at present, having regard to the eastern European dimension, for Parliament to develop an understanding and dialogue when people of that eminence visit this country.

I have problems with the institutions here at the most fundamental level. I have a very strong view, against the majority of my party, that in proportional representation we have one of the worst electoral systems in the free world. I do not say that lightly. I say that as a considered opinion and I will repeat it to stress the gravity with which I say it. We have one of the worst electoral systems in the free world.

The kind of problems we have with PR as it operates here are in the modus operandi. The issues I am discussing relate principally to the two major parties. If you take Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, take multi-seat constituencies around the country, you have a base party vote for each of these parties. There can be swings in constituencies and seats can change but the basic issue to the politician who has a seat or who is aspiring to it, is who gets the base party vote. There is a core party vote. In many constituencies there is at least one guaranteed seat for each of the main parties and there are a couple of seats that change. Since the base issue is the base party vote, the facts, of life are that it is pushing Deputies and aspiring Deputies to compete far more with [1290] members of their own parties than it is with the opposition. This is an extremely unhealthy type of development.

We have had good Governments and we have had bad Governments, we have had good Ministers, we have had bad Ministers but where we have had bad Governments or poor Ministers occasionally I submit that this PR electoral system is at the root of some of it. If you have a Minister for Foreign Affairs or a Minister for Agriculture who is the head of a Department and who puts his best into the working of that Department and if he has to look over his shoulder, not at his political opponents in his constituency but at the people in his party in his constituency, that is extremely unhealthy. It makes for a weak Executive, it makes for an extremely undesirable situation where the Minister can play it two ways. He can look after his constituency and neglect his Department or he can look after his Department at his peril because he may not be a Deputy for the rest of his life. That is not a farfetched statement.

In the PR system the electoral strategy goes wonky, you build up freak results and because of the rumours going around in certain towns and villages, the wrong person in the party is elected instead of the right person. This type of competition is completely undesirable. We have problems as well with the number of our Deputies. We have a tradition of a large number of Deputies relative to our population. I can bear with the tradition and I can live with the number but let me compare our position with the Netherlands.

Of all of the countries who weathered the economic crisis since 1973-74, it is a considered view that the most successful economy has been the Netherlands. It is the size of Connacht and it has a population now of about 14 or 15 million people. That country with that population have fewer public representatives than we have for our 3.5 million to 4 million people. That implies you could run this country very effectively with, for example, 50 Deputies. Because of the number of Deputies we have and because [1291] of the amount of flesh pounding we can get into with such a huge number of Deputies and Senators relative to such a small population, it means that our Deputies and aspiring Deputies are forced to compete in all the areas they should not be competing in. We are on the funeral train, we are into the community council, we are into all of the mundane things at local level to far too great an extent. I am not blaming the Deputies or the aspiring Deputies. I was one of them and I played the same game, I had to do that because that is the system.

There were other issues I wanted to raise I would like to put down a motion in this House to examine electoral systems, to look at the list system on the Continent, the British system and the US system, because I see enormous scope there for the future. Effectively they are the issues to which I wanted to refer.

The summer recess is far too long. It should be shortened. It is an unfair comment that Deputies and Senators are not working during the recess. They are doing a great deal of work in their constituencies and are very busy people. I would welcome more formal meetings during that time and more use of the committee system. I would welcome a committee to deal with the State-sponsored bodies in the non-commercial sector as well as in the commercial sector. I would welcome the committees of this House being televised. I would welcome more regional parliamentary activity. Cork is the second biggest city in this country: I see nothing wrong with a meeting of the Seanad in Cork sometime. There is a need for a shake-up of this kind. I am in favour of reform and for that reason I welcome this motion.

Mr. Dardis: Our views in relation to this House have been articulated very well for us since we entered the place on 1 November by some of the people on the benches opposite. They have sometimes articulated our views accurately, and frequently quite inaccurately. The fact of [1292] the matter is that we intend, as my colleague Senator Cullen said on the opening day, to participate fully in the workings of this House, its committees and its reform. I can reassure Senator O'Toole that we subscribe fully to the democratic process, as I am sure do all of the people in this House.

I do not think that we need prove our credentials in relation to our commitment to the democratic process. It is the nature of that process and how well it serves all our people that concerns the Progressive Democrats. We wonder about the place of the Seanad within that process and in some of those respects we have reservations and those reservations have been well aired in public. We realise that this House is a political institution and, as such, must reflect the political ethos of the country. Therefore, I reject some of the observations that were made in relation to this House being a refuge or a nursing home for aspiring or retired people from the other place. The House is part of the political process. It should be used as part of the political process and I see nothing wrong with that.

We intend to use the democratic structures provided by the State, provided they are relevant to the wishes of the people. In relation to abolition of this House, I note that on the opening day when we were discussing the election of the Cathaoirleach, Senators Murphy and O'Toole remarked that they would prefer to see the Seanad abolished than to have it remain in its present denigrated and unreformed state. As a newcomer to this House I found it quite remarkable that some of the people who purported to defend it most vigorously and some of the people who were most concerned about the fact that it might be discredited in public, said many things which would lead people reading the report of that opening day's proceedings to be quite disturbed about the House and not to hold it in very high regard.

In relation to the motion, we support the general thrust of it in respect of the need for reform. We go along with its broad perspective, while we might disagree with some of the detail contained [1293] in it. I would have doubts as to whether the timescale referred to in reporting back before 1 June is realistic given the nature of the reform which would probably be necessary. I should add, of course, that under the agreed programme for Government which the Progressive Democrats negotiated with Fianna Fáil there is a commitment to bring forward detailed proposals for the reform of the Oireachtas in toto. While it would be totally inappropriate to refer to matters in the other House, it is the intention to bring forward proposals for reform of the Oireachtas in toto and in that process to examine among other issues the procedure for the passage of legislation through the Dáil and the Seanad, the committee system, Question Time and the sub judice rule. The Progressive Democrats have already instituted a system to look at these matters and we will be submitting our proposals for consideration with our partners.

In relation to some of the detail of reform, we suggest that the select committee system would be appropriate for Bills. I would also, indeed, endorse the point made earlier in relation to television coverage. I do not see why the people should not be party to the proceedings of their Parliament. Television is obviously a much more meaningful and a much more invasive medium than radio in that respect and I can see no reason why we should not allow television broadcasting from this House.

It is important that relevant matters should be brought up when it is in people's interest and when it is a matter of deep public concern. As someone who is new to this House and does not, as yet, fully understand its procedures and its great tradition, nevertheless it seems remarkable to me that we do not seem to be in a position to respond quickly enough to some of the matters that are of pressing public interest. I hope we will not be so restrained by procedural dust that we cannot respond to the needs of the people.

Another matter which certainly surprised me — and it also surprised my colleagues in the Progressive Democrats [1294] Party — is the way the Order of Business has been conducted since we entered the House. Last Wednesday it took one and a half hours to get through the Order of Business. We found it quite remarkable that it should have been held up for that length of time. I would say to the people on the benches opposite that I do not contest their right for one moment to raise those matters but I wonder how it squares with trying to present to the people a House which is both responsible, reflective of their needs and is a good place to be. At times it has appeared to me that it has all the characteristics of a rather poor undergraduate debating society rather than the characteristics of the national Parliament. In our view, the Order of Business needs dramatic reform.

I am not an expert in relation to how this could be achieved under procedure. It seems that one of the most telling vehicles for extracting information and one that is used in the other House, is Question Time. This House should have the right to question Government Ministers and decisions. The other matter which would be of some concern to use is the use of the sub judice rule which at times may be used to suppress debate. It can be used, possibly too broadly, to stop matters being raised.

One of the things, as somebody who comes from a commercial background, I found quite extraordinary on my first day in the House — it was something that has been referred to earlier indirectly by Senator O'Toole and it is in relation to research and the general facilities which are available — when I asked my secretary how could I bring in floppy discs from my PC computer, which I have at home, to expedite my mail the lady in question did not really know what I was talking about, so the esteemed typewriter is definitely very much still a feature of this House, apart altogether from the difficulties which were referred to earlier about the phones. I then asked where was the fax machine and I was told that we had to go to party headquarters if we wanted to fax something.

It is really extraordinary that in a [1295] modern technological society equipment that is available to every industry and pretty well in every office in the country is not available to the Parliament of the country. People have legitimate concerns about the workload which they experience, particularly the Deputies. I imagine that a lot of the workload could be expedited a lot more efficiently if they had the modern technological equipment that is available to pretty well everybody else around the country but not available to us.

We are bringing our proposals forward, which will be discussed with our partners. We support the general thrust of the argument and of the motion but we do have certain reservations in relation to timescale. I also support the view that MEPs should have the right to come here and address this House. We are part of the Community. More and more decisions which are of profound relevance to the country are being taken within the Community and it is only right and proper that we be kept fully up to date with what is happening.

I appeal to some Members on the opposite benches not to treat certain matters which arise in this House as a game and a matter of amusement. There seemed to be general laughter last week in relation to a vote which was forced. If we are to be the national Parliament, if we are to have the respect of the people, then we must conduct ourselves in an orderly and dignified manner. It seems at times that people come in and look to see who is in the press gallery — I see there is nobody there at the moment — and that colours what they may have to say. Referring to last Wednesday, had they looked around behind them they would have seen a very large group of schoolchildren and I wondered — I said this on radio — what those young people thought of this House and its standing when they left here that afternoon.

Mr. Norris: I am very glad that this debate is considerably widened since the last time we had such a debate. I am a little bit surprised that it made it into the [1296] Order Paper in its present form because I understood it was not regarded as completely appropriate that we should discuss the operations of the Dáil — I am very happy to do so — and also the joint committees of both Houses — I will address my remarks to that — and the Presidency, the whole shooting match. However, I would like, first, to comment on one or two things which were said by previous contributors to the debate, notably the Taoiseach's tame political poodles to my right because it is interesting to note that they have a bark——

Mrs. Honan: Will Senator Norris withdraw that remark?

Mr. Norris: I beg your pardon, Acting Chairman, I understood you were in the Chair but if Senator Honan has reassumed that position I will, of course, sit down.

Mrs. Honan: I was referring to the remark the Senator made.

Mr. Norris: It was a political comment, as I am sure the Leas-Chathaoirleach is well aware and one which I believe I am entitled to make.

Acting Chairman: The Chair would prefer if the Senator would not refer in any derogatory manner to the speeches made.

Professor Conroy: Some of those poodles have teeth.

Mr. Norris: Yes, but they only so far bark. They have not bitten in any sense by voting.

Professor Conroy: We would be very happy to do so.

Mr. Lanigan: The Senator should speak to the motion instead of looking for cheap publicity, or maybe he is playing to a cheaper gallery.

Mr. Norris: The previous speaker — I will address my remarks to the Acting [1297] Chairman — drew attention to the fact that those who have the happy gift of colourful utterance may occasionally be suspected of doing so because the press gallery is full, but this, as he himself pointed out quite clearly, could not possibly be the case at the moment because there is simply nobody there at all. That does not mean that I do not intend my remarks to sting, I certainly do because it seems most extraordinary to me, constitutionally, that a group that——

Mr. Lanigan: I will not sit here and allow Senator Norris to berate us in this fashion. He is utterly out of order and he is addressing himself to some audience.

Mr. Manning: On a point of order, Senator Norris should be allowed to speak without interruption. I do not think he has said anything out of the ordinary.

Acting Chairman: I would like Senator Norris to direct his remarks to the motion under discussion, without interruption.

Mr. Norris: My remarks are very clearly directed to the motion, the reform of the Seanad. One of the things I would like to see reformed is the way in which the business of the House is ordered so that it does not appear to be manipulated and directed from the Government Front Benches as if they were, in fact, all the time in the Chair. We have had a very clear example of that just this minute.

I will return to the point I was making. It seems odd to me that a group committed to the abolition of this House should infiltrate themselves into it with so little feeling of unease. It gives me some unease that this situation should be so calmly accepted with so little reservation but although I do accept that by some miracle this House does work extremely well and that through a very grossly defective electoral system, persons of excellence are elected on all sides, that should not blind us to the fact that there are gross defects in the electoral system and in the way in which the business of the House is conducted.

[1298] I would like to turn first to the question of the electoral system. I am not going to expand too much on it because my colleague Senator O'Toole whom I heard made a number of very telling points. While I did not agree with him entirely in his reservations I knew some of them were right.

It seems to me that there is a clear separation between, for example, the six Senators who are represented by the method that was originally intended which enfranchises the nominating bodies and this is a crucial point. The six University Senators had to stand the test of presenting themselves to an electorate that approximates to a real parliamentary constituency, in my case nearly 20,000 votes and in the case of the National University of Ireland system, 75,000, altogether just 100,000 votes. This is quite different from the notion of what they call delegated universal suffrage where people are elected on local parochial issues to county councils and this is presumed to entitle them to nominate people, to put people through to the Seanad. If this was a real argument, why do they not go the whole hog and let the county councils nominate the Dáil, the Presidency and the offices of the Supreme Court and the whole lot. It would be much more economic to do it that way, but, in fact, nobody supports that because the whole notion of delegated universal suffrage is a complete intellectual nonsense.

Mr. Dardis: My vote was enormous.

Mr. Norris: It simply does not wash and if Senator Dardis's vote was so enormous, then it surprises me that he is gracing us with his presence and I think he does so with some considerable reluctance. He reminds me of the Communist Party of Ireland, Marxist-Leninist, who announced an 800 per cent increase, which is from one vote to eight. There is a very strong case to be made that those bodies which nominate for election should have their membership enfranchised so that there are members of the [1299] medical profession, the labour movement, farming interests and so on enfranchised to vote directly for people. I have no doubt that a number of the excellent people we have in the House today would succeed in getting to this Seanad by this route.

The problem is that done in the way it is done at the moment, it is totally vitiated by the party political system. It is part of a political machine in the upper House but the invasion of a totally party system does operate to the disadvantage of the Seanad. I accept that there has got to be party politics in this country particularly in the Dáil, but I believe that the Seanad was intended as a vocational Chamber and that it ought to retain that character. I accept what Senator O'Toole says about dividing the panels and having an Oireachtas sub-panels in which there is a political element. It seems to be a most effective compromise which would meet the problems on both sides. I would certainly recommend any commission that is set up to examine this.

I have to say also that, somewhat to my surprise, I was persuaded to an extent by what Senator Staunton said, that there is of course a legitimate role, I suppose, for the Seanad in acquainting people with the rules of parliamentary debate and so on. It may be that for aspiring politicians to come into the Seanad may very well prove a useful beginning in participating in the parliamentary system. I accept that there is an argument to be made there and the Senator made it very well. I do not however, think that it is good to have a system where, in fact, the rejects are promoted into this House by the party political interests. That is completely wrong. In a democracy, the right to reject a candidate is as important as the right to select a candidate.

Let us look at the principal officers of the Seanad. It is most extraordinary. If you examine what happens here, you have, for example, the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad was rejected at the European election and at the Dáil election; the Leader of the House was rejected at the Seanad election and was nominated by [1300] the Taoiseach, and the Leas-Chathaoirleach was rejected at the Dáil election. How much of a positive public image with regard to the participation in the democratic process does that suggest to the plain people of Ireland? Not I think, very much. But, then the plain people of Ireland do not know too much about the way this House works and, perhaps, in some ways it is as well.

Not all of us are privy to the mysteries of the way this House works, either. I would very much like to have the Leas-Chathaoirleach confirm for me the existence of a little book known as the “Speakers Rules” and ask him if he will make it available so that we can penetrate the mysteries of the various rulings to which we are from time to time treated by Cathaoirligh, Leas-Chathaoirligh of various shades of opinion and various political parties. I am not here making a point against any specific political party. It often seems that they can be capricious, arbitrary and lacking in logic, lacking at least in consistency.

I would like to give an example, to show that I am not talking simply in midair. On 18 January a motion from the Fianna Fáil group from Senator Paddy McGowan: “That Seanad Éireann notes the upturn of the tourist industry nationally” was ruled out of order as being too wide to be included as a matter on the Adjournment. That is fair enough. What happened on 5 July of the same year? A motion from Senator Mick Lanigan, the Leader of the House at that time, and I am glad to say still the Leader of the House, about the improving trends and prospects of the public finances in the Irish economy in general, was regarded as appropriate, having suddenly materialised on the Order Paper that very day and dislodged a series of motions. Is inconsistency there? It is not a bad ruling, because I am told the Cathaoirleach has absolute discretion, so that rulings which are nonsense in logic can be supported by the extraordinary wideness allowed to the Cathaoirligh.

I did some research this afternoon on Standing Order 29 because we had a request for a motion under that Standing [1301] Order. That is a rather interesting mechanism To be honest, I have to bare my soul here and to confess to you, my brothers and sisters, that I did actually hope I would find an enormous body of flawed rulings both in this and the previous Seanad and I have also to acknowledge that I did not so find and that looking back even at situations where I put forward a request for a motion under Standing Order 29 I have to accept that the rulings given were perfectly reasonable and fair in most cases. However, there were one or two others and, again, it is impossible for us to discover how or why a ruling is made and I do not think that is good in a democracy. We ought to be able to understand and participate in the machinery by which these motions are ruled upon.

For example, there was a situation at the time of the last election where it was apparently impossible to produce a Taoiseach and this was widely described as a constitutional crisis and yet apparently it was ruled on as not having sufficient degree of urgency. If we cannot cobble a Government together, I do not know, what it says about our attitudes towards political life if that is not regarded as a matter of urgency. It plainly seems that it is.

I am also worried about the question of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. I really do hope that that committee as reconstituted gets working and gets working satisfactorily because in my personal experience it has not worked satisfactorily before. It was supposed to report on the question of urgency. I am not aware that it did in any extensive way; perhaps it did. I also recall an occasion on which I believed, and the record of this House appeared clearly to show, that a Minister of the Government has misled the House on a matter of fact with the intention of subverting amendments which I was proposing.

Mr. Lanigan: I would ask that this be recorded: that that matter was brought before the Committee of Procedure and Privileges of the House and was ruled upon. I do not think the Senator should [1302] be allowed to come in here again and start the very same facetious arguments he brought before the House. Anybody who has any sense of fair play will realise that the ruling that was given by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges was a proper ruling and there was no intentional misleading of the House by the Minister. I ask the Senator to withdraw the remark.

Mr. Norris: I am very glad to hear from the Leader of the House that there was no intention to mislead the House because that is the first time I have had any information conveyed to me although I wrote to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges——

Mr. Lanigan: I object to this misleading of the House because the record of the meeting of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges was, I am certain, given to the Senator.

Mr. Norris: I am sorry, it was not.

Mr. O'Toole: On a point of order, a clear ruling was not given. The committee did not get the full information they sought from the Minister; they felt, in fact, that they were powerless to act in the circumstances and that in a situation where it was raised previously in the House, the then Cathaoirleach told Senator Norris that he would be informed. I certainly had no information to give Senator Norris, as his representative. There was no conclusion reached on the issue. It is still hanging there. The point which the Leader of the House has made were made by him also to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. That is not breaking privileges, as he has said that himself, but no conclusion was arrived at. I felt and it is my view that we did not have the authority or the power to deal with those things. That is the point Senator Norris is making.

Acting Chairman: Senator Norris has three minutes. Please conclude.

[1303] Mr. Norris: I am sure that you will agree that I have been interrupted consistently throughout, without very much protection. I will make a few points in rapid succession. First, I believe that in order to obviate the problems with regard to the electoral system, the dates of Seanad election and Dáil election should be made to coincide in order to prevent it becoming an intensive-care ward for ailing politicians.

I welcome the possibility of the broadening of the constituency. I look to the situation where the two newly created universities whose graduates will be enfranchised and I sincerely hope that a speedy attempt is made to address the situation.

I welcome the establishment of the Oireachtas Joint Committees. I wish there was a foreign affairs committee. I cannot understand why there is not or, should I say, perhaps I can, because once again there is an unwillingness on all parties, not just the present Government parties, to make civil servants in Iveagh House accountable to the Parliament for their actions.

I would like to say with regard to committees I serve on the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Women's Rights. I am very glad to have been placed on that committee again; it is an excellent committee; the work done by representatives from both Houses and of all shades of political opinion is excellent. I was very disturbed this morning to find when I came in at 11 o'clock that the meeting of the committee had suddenly, with no notice, not even one minute's notice, been altered to 2.30 p.m. the time at which the Order of Business is taken in Seanad Éireann. I created quite a row about that because when I asked, I was told the Dáil Whips had decided this. I would like to ask this House whether Members consider that it is appropriate that the Dáil Whips should decide when an Oireachtas joint committee should meet and that they should have it meeting right at the time when we were taking the Order of Business here. I think that shows a flagrant contempt by the Dáil for the Seanad. I absolutely exonerate the [1304] secretary of that committee. I also exonerate Members of this House. We should all unite as responsible Senators to resist this kind of challenge to our legitimate authority.

I would like to say that there are moments at which one does feel that the Seanad, with all its drawbacks, can have some real participation. I remember getting three and a half pages of amendments into the budget, courtesy of the co-operation of Deputy Reynolds, the Minister for Finance. We got Adjournment debates here on the Botanic Gardens, the Turner glasshouses, and several million pounds was released.

Acting Chairman: The Senator's time is now up.

Mr. Norris: I have to accept your ruling, with immense graciousness as I always do, although I must say I do not think you will get very far as a referee in rugby because there was considerable injury time which I was subjected to.

Acting Chairman: I want to point out to Senator Norris that I have given him four minutes injury time.

Mr. Norris: I greatly appreciate that and I withdraw any suggestions about your capacity for refereeing rugby matches.

Mr. Farrell: I am in here to talk about reform. I am very disappointed to listen to the venom and the bitterness that spewed from the lips of my learned friends here this evening, castigating politicians, the Cathaoirleach and, indeed, the Taoiseach of the day. If that is what they are teaching their children is it any wonder that Christina Murphy wrote in The Irish Times recently that the failure rate in university colleges is running at 45 per cent?

Mr. Norris: Not in Trinity.

Mr. Farrell: Maybe only as many did exams in Trinity as voted for the Senator.

[1305] Mr. Norris: Could we have a simultaneous translation into English?

Mr. Farrell: The report shows a failure rate of 36 per cent among first year Arts students, 45 per cent for first year science students, 35 per cent for commerce students.

Mr. O'Toole: On a point of order, could I ask that the speaker would address the motion, please? Could I ask for a ruling on that?

Mr. Farrell: I will make my point. I have learned not to have manners because it appears some Senators have no manners when they speak here.

Acting Chairman: Senator Farrell, on the motion.

Mr. Farrell: I am dealing with the motion. The failure rate is 40 per cent in architecture and 80 per cent in engineering. At the end of the year they still had a 46 per cent failure rate. I am sure you did your best or did you neglect those students? Yet, those Senators criticise the politicians for not doing their job. We have better success rates than that. Instead of coming in here lecturing us as politicians, it is time some people learned to do the job they are paid to do — to lecture students and give good results. Think of the money they are wasting.

Mr. Norris: If I might offer Senator Farrell a point of information——

Mr. Farrell: I am sick of lecturing from you learned people. It reminds me very much of the story that was told one time about the old landlord who had a cat very well trained, so well trained that the cat would hold the candle between its paws while the landlord would write the rent receipt for the poor old peasant farmer. He was so proud of its training that he said to this old farmer. “If I could get any man in here who could make that cat let go of that candle without abusing him, I would give him a free receipt”. Said the poor old farmer, “Will you give me until [1306] tomorrow night?” The next night he came in with a couple of mice in an old brown paper sugar bag, he sat down at the desk and let the mice rattle in the bag and the cat cocked its ears. He let go the mouse and of course the cat let go the candle and went under the desk after the mouse. The landlord said “My dear farmer, I will give you a free receipt. You have proved to me that breeding goes farther than education”.

Acting Chairman: Could we get back to the motion now, please?

Mr. Farrell: I hope the point is taken. The motion says that Seanad Éireann calls on the Government to initiate reform of the Oireachtas by the establishment of a committee of the Dáil and Seanad. One of the ways that smart men ensure that nothing will be done in any organisation when asked to do something or play a prominent role is to suggest that a committee be set up. They would never be on the committee or if they were they would play a minor part and the committee would end up doing nothing. I would have preferred that those learned friends would have produced a document this evening showing clearly and specifically where changes could be made rather than, as they have done so far, criticise politicians. One Senator referred to a question being put to students as to how many would like to be politicians. I would like to ask him, what kind of education does he give students or does he teach them democracy? The word “reform” always worries me because it is a word that has been bandied around a lot over the past 20 years.

Mr. Ross: The Senator's party has been a long time in politics.

Mr. Farrell: Yes. Twenty years ago a lot of your people were advocating the little red book of Chairman Mao. Where is it today? If we had been foolish enough to heed all the university boys and their learned friends, where would we be today? They were the boys who told us to reform agriculture, to reform industry. [1307] What would we have today? We would have no pollution in our country if the farmers were left to handle farming. I say to my learned friends that after all their reform and intelligent views and university expertise — that is the end product after 20 years.

Have a good look at the country after 20 years of such advice. It was the university people who told us how to do it. It was not poor technical students like me and now they are trying to get other fellows to come along and tell us how to clean up the mess. If the motion was sensibly thought out rather than for the purpose of getting headlines, it would have suggested that we should discuss first how we could reform the House that we have some say in and leave out the other House.

Mr. O'Toole: On a point of order, it should be brought to the attention of the Senator that the first 40 minutes of the debate here tonight was exclusively about the Seanad.

Mr. Farrell: No, it was not. You talked about how students are not interested in politics, about the politicians who are dogsbodies and doormats. Is that the kind of jargon and language you use with your students? I would not like to use such language to the humble workers I have. I do not think you would get those words in any dictionary.

Mr. O'Toole: If you look around you, you will find them propping up your own party everywhere.

Mr. Farrell: I do look around for knowledge. I hope that men like the Senator would give us their views in an intelligent and broad way and not use such vile language. That is what it is, and I am quoting the Senator verbatim.

The Senator in his first 20 minutes criticised politicians who were going around to clinics. Yet he comes in on another occasion and talks about freedom, that people are free to do what they like but he denies them their freedom to go [1308] around the clinics. That is their business; they are entitled to do it and they do a damn good job. They would not be back here every time only that they do a good job. When Senators start criticising politicians they should look at themselves. We are all in this together and it does not suit any of us to criticise other Members. When I get criticism, I give it back.

There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding between reform and facilities. Some Senators criticised the facilities. We could do with better facilities but in all fairness in this Seanad there is a better effort being made at getting facilities than has been the case in the past. That is in no small way to one man who was criticised unfairly and that is our Taoiseach, Deputy Haughey. That is a man who will give us a lot more. We will have these facilities and services and he has offered them before being asked. It is a pity that Senators should talk about reform and then mix it up with facilities and criticise those who give us those facilities. Before we go on with reform I would like to see a paper presented in clear and concise language in ordinary countryman's language not highfalutin jargon such as you get on the back of an insurance policy, indicating the specific issues where we want reform.

Reference was made to the electoral system. I would like to remind the House that not many years ago there was a referendum on single seat constituencies. That was rejected by the people and we must abide by their wish. You cannot have it both ways. The people say they want multi-seat constituencies; they want the PR system. We must abide by the wishes of the people; there is no point in coming here criticising it because that is criticism of the people. It is the masses who direct us all. The only thing that can be done in that regard is, perhaps at some future date, to have another referendum to decide on the method of voting or the type of constituency we should have. Talking about that now is a waste of time.

I could not agree with this motion personally because the debate I have heard so far has confused reform with facilities. [1309] I would be in favour of improved facilities. I know we are getting them and I am delighted. I do not approve of throwing out everything that has stood the test of time. The same people would tell us we should keep our heritage, our Georgian buildings, and everything that is old; they want to abolish an old system that has served us well and we have nothing to replace it. Then, to make sure that we will do nothing other than waffle they suggest that a committee be set up and that it will work wonders.

Senator Norris spoke about a foreign affairs committee. I would like to remind him that he set up that committee himself. As far as I know he was a self-appointed secretary and then he said, “Come in and join me”. If that is the Senator's idea of reform, it is not mine.

Mr. Norris: If that is the Senator's idea of the truth, it raises serious doubts about his character.

Dr. Upton: Having listened to Senator Norris and Senator Farrell one begins to feel it will be very hard to follow that type of show. I would be in favour of the broad principle embodied in the motion. There is need for reform of the Seanad and the public are now beginning to some degree to demand that. Specifically, in particular we need to be able to respond quickly to the public concerns of the day and right now we are quite sluggish some of the time in the way we respond to these issues.

Getting on to some specific points and, as it were, beginning with the beginning, the sittings of the House, I certainly believe there is need for reform in relation to how the Order of Business is conducted. The Order of Business seems to me sometimes to be the order of show business than anything much to do with business of this House. I would be in favour of the idea of introducing Question Time, although I would wonder how Question Time here might be integrated with Question Time in the Dáil.

The suggestion by Senator Dardis that members of the European Parliament should be given the right of audience [1310] either in this House or in the other House is a worthwhile one and should be introduced as a matter of urgency. What is happening in this country is more and more dictated by what is coming to it from Europe. It is very important that both Houses of the Oireachtas should be as involved as possible in the proceedings of the European Parliament and, of course, they should be as well informed as it is possible to be of what is going on in the European Parliament, because what goes on there is of immense importance to the welfare of everybody in this country.

It is a pity that there does not now seem to be any capacity for the introduction of Private Members' Bills. When I say “any capacity” I mean any capacity which can become a reality. It seems to be a reality that most of the large number of motions on the agenda will never be discussed when, at the same time, some of the most important issues of the time are addressed in those motions.

In relation to the committees of the House, there are a whole series of vitally important national questions which are not covered by these committees. There is no committee dealing with unemployment, despite the fact that there are a quarter of a million people unemployed. There is no committee dealing with poverty, despite the fact that we are told that one million people are now impoverished — in other words, something of the order of one-third of the population of this country are below the poverty line. Yet, that reality is not worthy of the considerations of a committee of this House. There are 40,000 to 50,000 people emigrating each year, some of them among the best educated of our young people. Again, that is not deemed to be worthy of being considered by a committee of this House.

Some of the topics which these committees discuss seem to be relatively low grade. I do not wish to go back over the whole business of the restaurant and so on and I certainly do not wish to exploit it by way of political opportunism — but I think some of the topics covered represent a rather funny order of what is [1311] important. For many Irish people the Irish language is something they hold very dearly but, at the same time, when one gets down to brass tack politics, the restoration of the Irish language has never really been an important political issue.

In relation to the way business is ordered — and I do accept that there are constraints on how business is ordered — I think the way it is done is rather haphazard. It is difficult from day to day to know what is coming up the next day. When I say that I do not want it to be interpreted as a criticism of the Leader of the House. I accept that the Leader of the House works under difficult circumstances, much of which is outside his control in relation to the constraints imposed on him by way of Ministers being available and a thousand and one other considerations.

I wonder if some of us who speak in this House need to go on for quite the length we go on? It would be a worthwhile experience for some of the people who speak here to listen to their speeches in their entirety. Indeed, I suspect if some people listened to their speeches in their entirely there would be a sudden and loud begging for mercy to be released from some of the later stages of the speech. Better still, some people might be well advised to read their speeches. There is none of us beyond making mistakes and beyond being boring and repetitive, but surely when you go into your second or third hour you should consider taking a break — half-time, as it were — and a rest and perhaps paying a visit to the bar for a bottle of stout.

Mr. Dardis: What about the record of the number of times?

Dr. Upton: You can still get your record. If you keep your speech to four or five minutes you will be counted because the people who assemble these records would not be able to endure the prospect of working their way, page by page, through those speeches. Certainly, it would be only the most obscure [1312] journalists who would be interested in that type of thing and it would be only the most wealthy gazettes that would be able to afford the resources that would have to be put into that type of experimentation.

There have been one of two things said about the University Senators. I do not believe that anybody now can stand back from the fact that there are fairly serious anomalies. There are two new universities which do not have any votes — a vote in Trinity College is three times as powerful as a vote by the graduates of the colleges of the National University. That certainly should be looked at. Also, we have to bear in mind, when people talk in terms of the University Senators representing real constituencies, that they do and then again that they do not. If real constituencies are constituencies as in the general election, then they do not. It is very much a selected sample which contains those among the most privileged groups in society. One would wonder why the most privileged groups in society should have their privilege enhanced by having the capacity to put people in here to represent their views in the Seanad. What about turning the thing on its head? Why not the underprivileged? Why not a vote for those who are unemployed? That is something which we do not hear a lot about.

The matter of the Seanad being televised is to be encouraged and welcomed and I hope it will happen in the near future. I also hope that when it does happen it will not be turned into a form of show business, of which there is a certain risk. I know the constraints and the drives which force people to do that. I am a politician myself and we need the coverage in the papers but, at the same time, there are inconsistencies. If people are to say, on the one hand, that this place is in need of reform — and I accept that it is — then there is an obligation to have some degree of consistency. Some of the carry-on is irreconcilable with any notion of consistency.

There are one or two final points which I want to make in relation to facilities which are available for Members. I know [1313] that there is a very large queue of people who are very anxious to get in here regardless of the fact that the facilities might not be the best. If we all left and took up some other form of activity, the 60 places would be filled in a time similar to that which it takes to click one's fingers. However, the level of technology which is in operation here is quite primitive. What about word processors, fax machines and so on? A report was produced during the time of the previous Coalition which dealt with new technology for this House. I imagine it is a fairly good report and it would be no harm if someone dusted it down and had a quick read of some of the main items mentioned in it. At least some of them should be introduced. We could all do with having word processors for the secretaries working here, not to mention some of the other gadgetary which could be introduced for everybody.

Finally, there has been a suggestion that it is somehow wrong that this House should be political. Every one of us is a politician and there is no getting away from that. The reality is that we are really in cloud-cuckoo-land when we are talking about the fact that it should not be a political House because we are here because we are politicians. It is as simple and as cool as that. There is this idea also that it is somehow wrong that people are aspiring Dáil candidates. I do not mind saying it again: I am an aspiring Dáil candidate. I stood the last time and, in the words of Senator Norris, I was rejected; but there is not that much wrong with being rejected either. It is a bit like playing football — some you win and some you lose. You have no business at all in this trade if you have not got the stomach for being beaten.

This idea that there is something wrong or ugly about politics is something which has been pushed around this country in a very dangerous manner because the whole place hinges around the political system. When people begin to look at what the alternatives are to being political, then we would want to look at some of the awful stuff which comes in from other parts of the world.

[1314] Again, I support the general trend of this motion. I hope there will be some reforms introduced and we might be well advised to as it were do what we can do rather than to dream things which really are not starters.

Mr. Cullen: I am pleased to be able to speak on this motion here this evening. It is a type of motion that is long overdue both in this House and indeed in the Dáil itself. I contend that the contents of the motion are correct in that I do not think you can discuss the reform or whatever of this House, or indeed any other House, without discussing the reform of the overall Oireachtas at the same time. Indeed, it would be a huge mistake in my opinion if you try to isolate and just discuss reform of the Seanad without somehow involving the whole Oireachtas system itself. Both Houses, because of their nature, impinge greatly on each other. If there is to be meaningful reform that is going to effect permanent changes in the long term, then the whole area of the Oireachtas must be looked at at the same time.

Indeed, in this country as we stand at the moment we have many levels of public representation, starting at local government level, which unfortunately over the last number of years has lost its teeth, in my view. It is a view I have always held, long before I came into politics, that the removal of the control over their own finances was the death-knell for the real power of local government. I personally have a lot of belief in the possibilities of local government but, as it is at present constituted, it is in many ways meaningless. That is a great shame and a great loss to local democracy in this country, for the very reason that they do have control over their own finances.

With regard to the Dáil and the Seanad there is an ever-increasing and important level of legislation nowadays that is focused on the European Parliament. Whether we like it or not in this country, the power of that Parliament is going to continue to grow and affect our lives, not only at a very high level but right through the whole system of operation in this country from education to health, social [1315] welfare, rights of workers, as we have seen in the news lately — to any area of life you can practically think of in the present day.

I am one of these people who have had great misgivings about the role of the Seanad and have said on many occasions that it should be abolished. I would like to say at the outset that it is not because I hold people in public life and those in the Seanad and in any other area of public life in low regard; I do not. Quite the opposite. Although I myself am a short time in public life, I was reared in a household where public life was the norm, so I have many years experience of that form of life. It is a fact that the functions of what this House was perceived to be doing — and in my opinion its operation and independence were very limited — has led to tremendous frustration on all sides of the House. If it was to continue to operate as it does to date, I think then its function should be redundant. Now, if the opportunities coming in the next decade and indeed those already on us are seized upon, I think there is an obvious clear role for the Seanad in relation to the European Parliament. I believe this has been touched on by Senator Staunton this evening, whom, I must say, I listened to with great interest. I thought he made an excellent contribution. He was very cogent in what he had to say and was very cohesive in his arguments.

I would like to extend beyond Senator Staunton's reference to the European Parliament. Indeed, this party took the initiative and expressed a recommendation and desire to provide our MEPs with some forum in this country. It is absolutely nonsense to think that we have people in such an important forum in Europe, and having such an influence on this country, and that they are in no way answerable in any forum in this country either to their fellow colleagues at parliamentary level or indeed to the people at all. This Chamber itself has the potential and the possibility to do something that perhaps no other parliamentary democracies in Europe [1316] have as yet focused on, and that is to constitutionally carve out a role for itself in relation to the issues that are ongoing, and in particular the legislative areas that are ongoing in the European Parliament.

Because of the effect of legislation at European level on individual countries, and particularly a country like this which is of such a small size and feels the effect of legislative changes perhaps quicker than other countries, some mechanism must be found both at domestic level and indeed perhaps from the European side to give domestic parliamentarians some focus as to how they can handle and indeed discuss issues which may be just at a final stage of completion — I do not mean that all of the stages of perhaps a legislative Bill or whatever would have to be discussed. Perhaps there should be some final gap before something is finally passed at European level that could be looked at in the Seanad if a role could be found. I am not quite sure, how that mechanism might work.

Having seen what has happened in the context of eastern Europe in the past few months, and indeed having welcomed the great changes, I could never have believed in my lifetime or in anybody's lifetime that such changes could occur. This makes it seem nonsense that we cannot in a very small way get our act together to bring about our own kind of changes. We keep having to go on about it, to focus on this and that, and “reform” becomes a dirty word and radicalism is misunderstood.

There is nothing radical about updating, about being part of the modern world, preparing for the next decade, looking to the next century. Surely reform on an ongoing basis is the essence, the lifeblood, of any organisation, be it either in parliamentary terms or not, if it is to be relevant to the people. That is what the Seanad today is not. It is not simply relevant to this country because of the constraints that were put on it. I agree with many of my colleagues on the Independent benches, I do not believe that the function of the Seanad today is what it was originally intended to be. It has gone completely in the opposite [1317] direction. The political rubber-stamping that is necessary because of the way the Seanad has evolved is a bad thing. A vocational Chamber as was originally intended, perhaps of many different areas of life, be it industry, education or health, to be represented in this Chamber would be a great thing.

I do not believe you have to remove the political parties from the Seanad itself. There is great scope for removing the obvious numbers game, because that is what we are in. It is a personal hobbyhorse of mine when we talk about the Seanad. If there were only 90 Deputies in Dáil Éireann, which I believe would be quite adequate — I am absolutely convinced of that — you would have a far more reasonable raison d'etre for the Seanad to be there itself. But there are 166 people in the Dáil itself, many of whom, the backbenchers, have no function whatsoever except to be a head count in parliamentary legislative terms. I know they have a function in terms of constituency work which can be a huge burden, and indeed is to all of them there.

The electoral system itself forces parliamentary life in Ireland completely in the wrong direction. In that context reform of the Seanad cannot be discussed without reform of the Dáil and the electoral system itself. This is what the Progressive Democrats have tried to bring forward into Irish life. We had to talk in terms of abolishing the Seanad, even to be listened to in the first instance. I am not convinced at this stage that will be the final outcome of a very serious look at the whole question of the Oireachtas and its functions. It may still be the recommendation of that committee that the Seanad may not be necessary in the future. I may be wrong in that, but there is nothing wrong in looking at all of the options. I think we would be foolish if we were to set down the criteria, thus limiting ourselves in our options.

I do not profess to be an expert on all of these areas but I have some experience of how the Oireachtas actually functions. The facilities have been referred to here this evening. It goes beyond saying that the facilities of Senators and Deputies in [1318] the Oireachtas are extremely poor. For instance, I do not understand why we cannot have researchers, people who have been educated in our regional colleges, and our universities and who are emigrating. They could work permanently in a legislative area and research much better speeches that could be given in both Houses because we would have had more time to prepare. I think they would have a very forceful impact on parliamentary life in this country and it would be money extremely well spent. I think it could happen in conjunction with far fewer people being in the other Chamber and major changes in this area.

The Seanad in the past, and I am sure will in the future, has done things which at the time were probably necessary and well worth while but just because at times it has done good things on an ad hoc basis is not a sufficient basis to keep it there permanently. It must have much more teeth. It must have a much greater focus. It must be more relevant to what is going on in Ireland today. I believe the real test and the real opportunity is to make it far more relevant in a European sense, that the Seanad itself should become an active participant in what is happening in Europe. I think that would give it a role that would be difficult for the Dáil to take on, because the Dáil in a sense is the primary initiator of legislation. I do not necessarily feel that everything that is passed in the Dáil level has to come into this House to be rubber-stamped or vice versa. I do not see why this Chamber should not spend all of its time initiating its own legislative role and not being some form of an addendum to Dáil Éireann. I believe that in that sense it can certainly be of benefit in a domestic legislative role and most certainly in a European legislative role. I think that if we widen our horizons and look at the whole role of the Seanad in this area, the possibilities are endless and the contributions will certainly be far more worth while in the future.

I think that the electoral system to the Seanad is wrong. It is outdated and, as it is constituted, it is outmoded. For [1319] instance, there are many people in different bodies of professions in this country who have no choice but to vote for people who do not necessarily represent their professions at all. I question whether the politicians elected to the Seanad should necessarily be confined to local councillors and Deputies and the outgoing Senators themselves. I am not sure on that. I do not possess the final answer but I have grave questions I want to have answered. This party at present are formulating proposals and I am anxious to see them brought to fruition. I know there have been questions about the time limit put in this motion, but I welcome that for one reason; if you do not put in a time limit we will be five years from now waiting for the results of this committee. I want to see time limits set for many things that go on in this House if for no other reason than at least to get an answer and a response to what is going on in many ways behind closed doors. I want to see my own party's proposals come to fruition very quickly. I want to see the proposals that I know that are being worked on by our partners in Government brought before this House. I want to see a proper functioning committee given responsibility to deal with those proposals.

The committee system in this country as it operates is absolute nonsense. Senator Norris referred to the Committee on Women's Rights on which I had the privilege of serving. That committee does enormous work but the reality is it has no power or no teeth to give a legislative stamp and authority to many of the worthy issues that it deals with and indeed the many worthy recommendations it makes. The overall committee system is totally useless in many ways.

In conclusion, I would say you cannot do any of this without looking at the whole electoral system nationally to bring about and give effect and meaning to those changes. I think that must be part and parcel of all of this type of reform. It should not be piecemeal, ad hoc or in isolation. The whole lot should be put in [1320] and dealt with because each sector affects the other.

Acting Chairman (Mr. Howard): I will be calling Senator Manning now. If Senator Manning takes his full time, there will be only three minutes remaining and there are four other speakers offering.

Mr. Manning: I do not know what that means exactly. As the major Opposition party here, we have had one speaker so far this evening and I do not think it is unreasonable that we should have two speakers on this debate. That is a reasonable point. However, if there are other people who want to speak, then I will curtail what I have to say to allow that time but I do think it is slightly unreasonable to expect Fine Gael to accept simply one full speaking slot this evening. I will say what I have to say and, if there is time left over, fair enough. If there is not, there is not and I am sorry but that is the way it has to be.

Acting Chairman: Could I just explain? The reason I drew the attention of the House to the fact was that as I had four other speakers offering and I wondered if we could perhaps make other arrangements.

Mr. Manning: The appeal to my generosity may bear fruit. I would have no objections if the debate were extended for five or ten minutes. Perhaps the Whips could discuss it while I am talking. I should not be expected to make arrangements while I am on my feet.

This is a very exciting motion this evening and a very important one. I agree with the general thrust of the motion and with what it proposes. The debate itself has been very unfocused. I think a disproportionate amount of time has been spent examining this House without taking into account the overall context of the reform of the Oireachtas. I think it is unreal for us to think simply in terms of reforming this House. Indeed, many of the points made this evening were niggling and were unfair about the general operations of [1321] the House. Perhaps what is left of the historian in me makes me pause in a debate like this just to take account of where we have come in 60-plus years of independence. I think there is a tremendous sense of fundamental integrity about our Parliament which has been there from the earliest days. Sometimes this may well reflect itself in perhaps an unthinking conservatism. We have been slow, too slow, to adapt to change. I think when we examine change we should also bear in mind the type of values which underlie our parliamentary system. I think that by comparison with most others it stands fairly rigorous scrutiny.

In terms of what we are talking about, we are not isolated in this country. What we are talking about is a general trend in parliaments throughout the world. The 20th century in particular has seen a tremendous growth in executive power generally. That has been the case in this country also. What has happened in most other countries is that parliaments, and especially parliaments with strong backbench influence, have begun to fight back for the rights of parliament. In many cases they have been very successful and we do see a strong member presence and member influence on the workings of parliament in a number of countries from which we could learn.

I think what we should be talking about here this evening is not just making more efficient the business of Parliament, not just providing greater accountability, and giving greater access to the public generally, but also the fight back of Parliament for its own central role in the life and legislation of the country.

I believe Members in every party, but especially in the parties on this side of the House, agree there is a need for overall Oireachtas reform. Not just is there general agreement, there is also agreement on the main items on the agenda for Oireachtas reform. Perhaps I could list these out without, unfortunately, having a chance to develop them. Most of the items at this stage are fairly familiar. We are all agreed, for example, that the timetable which governs the life of [1322] both Houses of the Oireachtas is not adequate, it is outdated and needs to be changed in a way which would convenience Members as well as providing a better service. I believe we are all agreed on that.

We are all, perhaps, not agreed on the question of electoral system but I would like to put into proportion some of the remarks made about the electoral system to the Seanad, especially by those from the universities. I am a university person myself; all my working life has been in the university so I can hardly be accused of being anti-intellectual or anti-university but, in fact, there is a far greater democratic justification for the electoral system for the 43 panel seats to the Seanad than there is for the university system. The university system, frankly, is elitist, it has no justification in this day and age.

I said before that the only justification for the university system is that, by and large, it produces good Senators who have made a good contribution over the years and I would stand over that statement. I would judge it on its results, not on its democratic validity.

The system of election for county councillors has parallels in most European countries. Virtually every European country has some variation of the list system whereby almost half the Members of Parliament are elected from lists chosen by the party and distributed in proportion to the votes won by the party in the popular election. There is not a great deal of difference between that system and the system used in electing Members of the Seanad here. By and large, the result is roughly the same; a slight disproportion in favour of the Government party of the day, but by and large it is a democratic principle and it has widespread acceptance right across Europe.

I am not saying it is the best system, I am not saying there are not faults. I personally detest the whole idea of a vocational Chamber. It was a bad idea brought in by Mr. de Valera at a particular time — I do not know why. It was discredited in many other parts of Europe [1323] but it is here now and we have got to make it work. I certainly am not relucant to look at it but I get a bit tired at times of being lectured on the totally undemocratic basis and nature of the particular system. I can justify it more strongly than those who come from the university can justify the democratic validity of their particular system. I am not saying that on the agenda for reform the question of the electoral system should not be right up at the very top.

We all want to see a proper committee system, but there is confusion here as well. What type of committees do we want? We need to think through what we mean by a proper committee system. We need to look at the whole question of how we can debate questions of topicality. We need to look at the whole question of greater public access. I would like to have a situation where major groups including the unemployed, the poor and the most disadvantaged, feel as a right that they have the possibility of putting their case to Members of both or either Houses through properly structured hearings. We should move very strongly in that direction.

I believe, as Senator Dardis and others have mentioned, the whole question of a European presence, of the members of the European Parliament having a right of audience and access to certain debates in this House should be looked at as a matter of urgency. There is the whole question of accountability, of financial accountability and of accountability of the State sector. These are just some of the items on the agenda for reform.

I will conclude — I know there are other speakers — by saying that we all know what are the items on the agenda. All of us who feel deeply about Parliament, all of us are parliamentarians and those of us who have a sense of this House and the other House, who want to make the system work, are in agreement that we should at this stage, early in the life of this Parliament, show a strong sense of commitment to examining in a structured way the questions I have raised and other questions. We should make it [1324] the dominant work of this Seanad that we address this whole area, that we come back within a fixed time framework with definite specific proposals. For that reason I feel that the decision of the proposers of the motion to include a deadline — it is perhaps too short a deadline — by which the committee should report with definite proposals is a good idea. For that reason I feel I can support this motion. I hope the Government can take it in the spirit in which it is meant. It is not meant as a criticism, it is meant as a starting mechanism to a process we all want to see begin.

Mr. O'Toole: On a point of order, in terms of time, may I make a proposal? I would be prepared to waive my right to reply which would save the House 15 minutes, on condition that the Leader of the House would reply now, that the other speaker offering from the Government side would have five minutes and that the remaining Senators in my own group would have five minutes each. I do not intend pressing this matter to the vote unless the Leader of the House says something absolutely outrageous in his response.

The debate has really answered itself but it should be the beginning of reform. I do not intend putting it to a vote at this point and I am waiving my right to reply. I propose that the Leader of the House would speak now and that the remaining speakers get five minutes each.

Acting Chairman: Agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Lanigan: I do not know why I should be the only one precluded from making outrageous statements here this evening.

Mr. Norris: The Senator has already done that.

Mr. O'Toole: It is because he is so responsible.

Mr. Lanigan: I welcome very much the fact that this debate took place. The [1325] beginning of the reform that is necessary is being seen this evening because it is the first time since I came into the House in 1977 we have had a debate which is confined to Members of the House. That is something we should look forward to in the future. There is no Minister present so we are speaking on our own behalf, we are speaking to ourselves and hopefully to others who might feel that there is a necessity to have reform.

Because of what has happened this evening we should look at the time given to debate in Private Members' time or Government time. One and a half hours split over two weeks has meant that there is a spread-out debate which is disjointed. If three hours is given there is a better sense of continuity and a better debate and an issue can be addressed in a better way. That does not mean I am suggesting that the Independent group should come in more often for three hours but I feel that the three hour debate gives better continuity and a better discussion.

A number of items were raised by various speakers and I do not intend to address every item that was mentioned. However, I feel I should address certain matters. It was mentioned that the system lacks the confidence of the people. That is a very broad statement. I do not think there is any real truth in it but it is very easy to say and, of course, the more often it is said the more true it appears to be. I reject totally the statement that was made that the people who are in this House are failures in other walks of life. Some of the most successful people in Irish business and in the professions are in this House and I do not know of any reject in any other walk of life who is in here. I reject absolutely the statement that was made.

You can go into colleges or convents around the country and find there an awareness of what goes on in politics. There is also a degree of interest which would amaze people who do not go to speak to groups in colleges and convents. I have addressed young people in colleges and I am sure many other Senators have done the same. The young people show [1326] an interest and there certainly is not a 100-to-one rejection rate of politicians or politics in schools or colleges around the country.

There has been a misrepresentation of the role of politicians in the House this evening. “Medical card politicians” was a phrase used, or if it was not used it was inferred that there are people in both Houses of the Oireachtas who consider that the only reason they are back is because they are good at getting medical cards. Irish public life covers a much broader spectrum than getting medical cards. It was said that clinic work is boring. One of the most stimulating part of Irish politics is listening to the problems of people. The people who come with problems can bore you but unfortunately the problems they bring are never boring. They come because they feel they must go to somebody. At times it is just to get something off their chest and they are quite satisfied with that.

The role of the Seanad and the undemocratic nature of elections has been mentioned by various people. Senator Manning in his contribution dealt with that one in a more concise manner than I could and I would go along totally with what he said.

The number of days the Seanad sits was mentioned. Certainly problems can be perceived in that area. If we are expected to sit as full-time politicians, for longer hours and perhaps for more days during the period, we have to be paid. I would also suggest that just because one is elected on a particular panel that should not preclude one from commenting on one's area of expertise and there are people who are elected to certain panels who have expertise right across the board.

The committee system has been referred to. There is no doubt that the committee system in the House needs reform and we can take that on board immediately. Modern parliaments are downgraded by extra curricular or outside influences and there is no doubt that street politics is playing a major part in what happens in Houses of Parliament. [1327] Reform of parliamentary procedures is primarily the duty or the responsibility of the Houses themselves and it is a responsibility that is shared by all Members. The Government are, of course, prepared to take a leading role in this, as evidenced by its commitment in the Programme for Government. This particular programme was mentioned by two Progressive Democrats speakers. The long-established practice in this regard is for the Government to submit their reform proposals to the Dáil, through the Committee on Procedures and Privileges of that House, and the reform of the Seanad procedures is basically a matter for ourselves.

In response to the debate I suggest that there should be an immediate meeting of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and that a committee of that committee should be set up with a specific duty to address itself to reform of this Chamber. If that committee is capable of coming forward with a programme that can be implemented by the date in the motion, so be it but I would leave it to the committee to decide on the date.

The second point I want to make is that the appointment of a joint committee is not the correct way to proceed. As I said, we set up our own committee. Under the Constitution each House has the responsibility for making its own rules and Standing Orders. Standing Orders were referred to in the context of the rulings of the Chair. The rulings of the Chair have been correct under Standing Orders. Anybody can read Standing Orders and they will get the precise reasons why the Chair rules. Under Standing Order 29 (4) anybody can bring up a matter which is of relevance in the national interests at any particular time. It is the Chair who rules whether that matter is one to be taken or not. The Chair is not influenced by any outside person. The Chair makes the decision himself.

Senators are aware that the question of reform of Oireachtas procedures has always been handled separately by each House basically for the reason I have just [1328] outlined. The bulk of reforms initiated by the Fine Gael-Labour Government of the 24th Dáil related solely to the Dáil and only encroached on procedures of the Seanad in the area of joint committees.

Mention has been made of the need for extra committees. I take on board that when the sub-committee is formed they will consider the needs that are being expressed here for extra committees. This does not mean that the Seanad will be capable of setting up joint committees. The Seanad may be capable of setting up committees for this House alone and ask that joint committees be formed in other areas. The question of reform of the procedures of the Houses is one which has always in the past been approached separately by the Houses and I feel that more progress can be achieved by continuing to adopt this approach. We can take on board the very necessary needs that are being expressed here for a total reform of the Oireachtas and the procedures of the Oireachtas as a whole. I totally concur with the questions that have been raised about the facilities of the House. There is no doubt that people in the business world or the academic world or wherever would not put up with the facilities that we have in both Houses of the Oireachtas.

Mention has been made of giving the votes to particular sections of the community such as the unemployed. I would like to point out that percentagewise there are as many unemployed county councillors as there are in the population as a whole. The unemployed are very well represented by county councillors who are themselves unemployed. Just because a county councillor is unemployed does not mean that he should not be allowed to vote for a Member of the Seanad but the unemployed are very well treated in terms of their representation by county councillors who elect us as well.

It would not be appropriate for me to discuss matters which are under consideration by the Dáil Committee on Procedure and Privileges. Nevertheless Senators will be aware that the Dáil committee has appointed a working group to [1329] consider the question of reform of the procedures generally. They have already set up a reform group. We can set up our own reform group and the sooner that happens the better. The Dáil committee considered the question of the reform of procedures generally as well as bringing forward a proposal for televising proceedings. The televising of the proceedings of this House is a matter of urgency but it is in hand. Unfortunately we were not represented on the committee which dealt with the thorny question of how the proceedings of the House should be televised. In future if any committee is being set up which impinges upon this House I intend that we will have a representative on it.

The bulk of the proposals referred to in the Programme for Government are likely to be processed through the working group of the Dáil. The programme for Government undertakes to examine among other matters the sub judice rule, the committee system, Question Time, procedures for the passage of legislation and the question of MEPs qualifying for membership of Oireachtas committees relevant to EC affairs. I take on board that we should deal more with EC matters in the House but I think that MEPs are quite capable of looking after themselves. They have the facilities, they have the finance to look after themselves electorally but there may be a need for us to look more carefully at what they are doing rather than them coming in and telling us basically what they are doing.

One area which has been of enormous interest to Senators is the committee system. All the joint committees which were established in the last Dáil have now been re-established but, as has been said here there is a need possibly for extra committees or to have a look to see whether the committees which have already been set up are relevant at all.

I would like once again to thank the Senators for their views on the procedures of the Oireachtas. I have problems with the motion as it is set down but I accept what has been said and perhaps the Senators will take on board the [1330] suggestion I have made that an immediate sub-committee be set up by the Committee on Procedures and Privileges to address itself to the problems that have been aired. The debate has been a very worth-while one. I am sorry for going a little over time but I felt I should respond reasonably to the arguments that were made here this evening.

Mrs. Hederman: I may be considered impertinent, being a newcomer, in commenting on this motion. I listened to the debate here this evening and found it extremely interesting. I stayed for the whole of it and learned a great deal from what was said. I have spoken with Senators who have served with great distinction in this House, some of whom are here at present and some who are no longer in this House and it seems to be summed up for me that the Seanad, must either reform or abolish. I hope, therefore, that the remarks of the Leader of the House outlining what he intends to do will mean that there will be fairly soon an in-depth reform of this House because, like many others here, I feel it has an important role to play in the life of this country. There is an opportunity here for a balanced, measured, reflective debate which is not always possible in Dáil Éireann.

Senator Honan referred to the fact that she had made a commitment to this House and I admire her for that and the other Senators also who have done that. As against that, we had other Senators who spoke of using this House to get back a political career which seems to me to suggest that there is no political career for a Senator, that one has to be on one's way to somewhere else, trying to get back a seat. The point was made by Senator Murphy that a number of candidates for the Seanad very blatantly on this occasion, when canvassing votes made it quite clear that that was what they were about and in the case of some of the Senators who were appointed by the Taoiseach the same thing was probably fairly clear, that they were coming in here simply so that they could go to where the real action was which was in the Dáil. [1331] That says something very fundamental about this House, that there are a great number of Senators here who are simply frustrated in this House and they want to get back to where they feel they can make an important contribution.

I believe that the reform that has been spoken of for the Seanad and the Dáil needs to go even further. It needs also to involve a whole reform of local government because the same problem applies at local government level. Councillors are frustrated by the lack of power, the lack of ability to achieve anything meaningful for the area which they represent and because of that they seek to proceed to where they believe the action is — again, the Dáil. This creates serious problems because instead of having powerful, influential local councillors doing a good job they are so frustrated by their total lack of power that they want to get into the Dáil and by so doing they are threatening the TDs and they, in turn, feel they have to run around doing all this constituency work and be involved in clientelism.

I agree with the Senators who said there is nothing wrong with being in touch with your local constituents and knowing their problems. That is extremely important but that is completely different from what I understand as clientelism which is misleading the public into believing that it is only by going to their local TD that they can achieve what is their right and that I think is something which politicians have brought on themselves. Politicians have over the years misled the public into believing that if you do not come to the clinic of your local TD or your local councillor you cannot get anything. If politicians have a tough life now and are bogged down with constituency work it is their own fault and the public representatives should have the guts to stand up and say: “You can achieve these things by going to the Department,” instead of saying: “Thank goodness you came to me; if you had not come to me this would never have been sorted out”. I have never held clinics because I believe that, by and large, people who come to clinics are [1332] under the illusion that they can only get their just rights by coming to a local TD or a councillor and I say that is largely the fault of politicians. If that is the problem so be it, it is on their heads.

I believe that if the system is to be reformed it should involve a fundamental reform of the whole local government system. I would like to make my position clear. By and large, I agree that the system of election for university Senators is largely elitist but it is a fact of life. The six Senators who are here did not invent this method of being elected. We can only live in the real world which is that that is the only way you can get into this Chamber particularly if you want to be in here as an Independent. Your only way to get in here to this Chamber as an Independent is by standing in the constituency of the NUI or Dublin University. I certainly join with those Senators who have said that the other third level institutions most assuredly should have representation and I would be the first to support that.

I hope that the reforms which are clearly needed in this House will be forthcoming in the very near future. Calls for the abolition of this House are widespread because the public generally believes — and I think the Leader of the House is wrong here — that this House is irrelevant when there are serious problems of unemployment, of emigration, the North of Ireland and a whole range of problems. The public simply does not see this House as having a meaningful role to play and in the other Chamber they see to a large extent politicians squabbling and quibbling and scoring party political points while the country continues to have serious problems. That, to a large extent, is why politicians have such a bad image. The public does not see them as addressing the real problems that are facing people nowadays. The party comes first and the country second.

Professor Conroy: Someone once said: “It is a far, far, better thing that I do...” and said very little else and I feel a little in that position. I believe that the [1333] Seanad can and should and indeed must play a far greater role in the democracy and indeed in the government of this country. I am very heartened by the increased role that I myself have seen in the Seanad from the previous time I had the privilege of being here. There are a number of reasons for this. One is the contribution of the Senators themselves on both sides of the House. The second has been the establishment of joint committees where by virtue of some of the defaults of our parliamentary system it is the Senators in actual practice who play the major role, who have the time, the opportunity and the interest to read the various papers concerned and to make a meaningful contribution to these joint committees.

I must congratulate if I may be permitted, the Senators for putting forward this motion and having this debate which has been a very meaningful and worthwhile debate. One of the aspects of it is all too clearly evident and that is in those empty benches there behind us; something has to be done about this rather trivialising attitude of the media towards this House. This House has powers, this House plays a major role, this House makes a major contribution to debates and it is high time this was reflected more clearly by the media.

I would like as well, if I may, to join, without agreement but in congratulation, with our colleagues in the Progressive Democrats in putting forward the question, should or should not this House be abolished? This has made us face up to the fact to have this type of debate on it. The answers that are coming through, including from our colleagues of the Progressive Democrats, is that what is needed is reform.

I would like to concur in my final comment with the Leader of the House in suggesting that we have a sub-committee of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and that we ourselves make some very necessary reforms to this House.

Mr. Ross: I realise that the time is very limited and I would like to thank the House for accommodating me. I wish to [1334] apologise for not being present to second the motion. In the very few minutes that are left I would like to thank the Leader of the House and Senator Conroy for the far more temperate nature of the contributions in the latter part of the Government's response to this motion. If we are to get anything constructive out of this debate, the promise that the Leader of the House made that there will be an active committee sitting on the proposals we made will certainly take the sting out of divisiveness which might emerge as a result of this debate.

While I welcome fully what Senator Martin Cullen said this evening, it is time that the Progressive Democrats made up their minds what they think about this House. It is all very well to make a statement for electoral gain or popularity, to ride a hobbyhorse and to say abolish the Seanad — we all know that that is playing to the public — but then we have Senator Cullen coming into this House this evening and saying that the vocational element could be a great thing. I agree with him, but let us hear Senator Cullen say that the Seanad has great potential, that the calls that have come from that particular party are now dormant, that they have reversed their policy and have done a U-turn on it. I welcome the shift in policy which is inevitable because of the fact that they have actually taken their seats, but let them be honest about it and play a full part. I look forward to them playing a greater part in this House than they have done heretofore.

I also look forward to them understanding, the role of the Independents in this House, Senator Dardis criticised the Independents for calling for votes, using the procedures of this House and not being used as lobby fodder by the Government but we are using the procedures to make a point of view known which is in the public interest, that it should be known. Those who say that the university seats or other seats are irrelevant or undemocratic are wrong in their concept of what this House is meant to be. The Seanad was never meant to be a democratically elected House in the purest form because if it was it would just be an [1335] imitation, or a mirror image of the Dáil. That was not the purpose and that is not the role of the Seanad. It is wrong to criticise the university seats or any other seats on the basis of their being undemocratic.

Question put and agreed to.

Acting Chairman: When is it proposed to sit again?

Mr. Lanigan: At 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.