SECOND REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE ON PROCEDURE AND PRIVILEGES.
Office of Leas-Cheann Comhairle.
1. In fulfilment of a suggestion made by the Ceann Comhairle in the Dáil on Friday, 9th March, 1928, following upon the resignation of the Leas-Cheann Comhairle on the 8th March, the matter of the Office of Leas-Cheann Comhairle was set down for consideration by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges at its meetings on the 16th, 21st, 28th March, and 19th of April.
2. The Committee had before it a memorandum, submitted by the Ceann Comhairle at the request of the Committee, setting forth his views of the duties expected of a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, and on the matter of the reconciliation of these duties with the activities, as a Deputy, of the holder of the office.
3. The Committee is in agreement that the duties of the Office are as follow:—
(1) It is the function of the Leas-Cheann Comhairle to deputize generally for the Ceann Comhairle. In the absence for a period of the Ceann Comhairle he assumes the duties and powers of the Ceann Comhairle —including the administrative headship of the office. It is part of his duties, therefore, to prepare himself adequately for such a contingency. He shall make himself fully acquainted with Standing Orders, and shall study rulings given by the Chair and parliamentary procedure generally, so as to have a background of knowledge. During a Recess he is also expected to devote part of his time to the work, so as to become acquainted with office organisation and what is being done in the offices.
(2) The duties may be divided into two classes (a) duties concerned with what is technically described as “public business” (b) duties concerned with Private Bill legislation. These categories may again be subdivided into (c) office work and (d) work in the House proper—sub-divisions common to the main classes.
(a) The duties concerned with public business consist of the examination of the texts of all motions, amendments. Bills, and amendments to Bills, proposed to be submitted to the House for consideration, in order clearly to understand their implications, and to see that they comply with the requirements of the Standing Orders and the practice of the Dáil. To perform this work satisfactorily it is necessary that the Leas-Cheann Comhairle should attend in the office on the day previous to the sitting of the Dáil (after adjournment over a week-end or longer period) and during the forenoons of sitting days, for preliminary preparation, and so as to be available for consultation with the Ceann Comhairle or the Clerk.
(b) In performance of the duties connected with Private Bill legislation, the Leas-Cheann Comhairle is entrusted with the supervision of Private Bill legislation in the Dáil. He moves the various stages of such Bills, and is expected in putting the measures before the House, to have made himself familiar with the contents of each such Bill, and to have anticipated any action which may be necessary to prevent the House inadvertently passing a Private Bill which contains sections prejudicial to the interests of the community generally. He is also expected to keep in touch with the work of building up the highly technical procedure— including the revision of Standing Orders as and when experience so dictates—which necessarily surrounds Private Bills, on lines in accord with the requirements of the country.
(3) The Leas-Cheann Comhairle must normally be in attendance during the whole period of a sitting of the Dáil.
4. The Committee is of opinion that while the rights, as a Deputy, of the holder of the office of Leas-Cheann Comhairle remain to him fully, there are inherent in the position considerations which render it undesirable that the Leas-Cheann Comhairle should exercise all of these rights, and to the fullest extent.
5. The Committee is in agreement with the view that the Leas-Cheann Comhairle should be entitled to vote, but in view of the practical difficulties presented by the stipulation contained in Article 22 of the Constitution, as to the exercise by a presiding member of a casting vote, and by the inevitable absence, on occasion, of the Ceann Comhairle, is unable to agree that the Leas-Cheann Comhairle must, on all questions put from the Chair upon which divisions are claimed, be entitled to exercise an original vote.
6. The Committee is, further, of opinion that the Leas-Cheann Comhairle should not, as a practice, initiate motions or amendments to motions, nor offer amendments to Bills. In coming to that conclusion, the Committee was influenced by the consideration among others, that if the Leas-Cheann Comhairle were so permitted to initiate debates on controversial topics, over which he might subsequently have to preside, and during which his motives as mover might be subjected to criticism, his position while occupying the Chair would be rendered difficult.
7. The Committee considers, however, that as a matter of arrangement, special facilities should be given regarding motions peculiarly affecting the constituency of the Deputy holding the office of Leas-Cheann Comhairle.
8. The Committee in submitting the recommendations contained in this report for the consideration of the Dáil, desires to place on record its view that the position of the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, in regard to the exercise of his rights as a Deputy, should not be the subject of further definition by Standing Order, but should be a matter for settlement by usage and experience and by consultation, as occasion requires, with the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.
MÍCHEÁL O hAODHA,
19th April, 1928.