When we adjourned the discussion on this Vote on Thursday, I had raised a certain question regarding the position of the Parliamentary Secretary. The sitting was brought to an end just when I had opened my statement. I would like to make clear in this matter that I am not inspired by any animus to any individual in what I have to say. When the question of the appointment of a Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence was under discussion, during the debates on the Ministers and Secretaries Bill, I queried and opposed the insertion of the provision which sets out that a civil member of the Council of Defence, being a member of the Dáil, should act as Parliamentary Secretary. I was not able then to see the need for the addition of a Parliamentary Secretary to a Ministry, the duties of which —in expectation—would gradually decline to comparatively small dimensions. None of us expected that there would be occasion, in respect of the Ministry of Defence, to have a Parliamentary Secretary, by Act of Parliament, when no such provision was made in respect of other Ministries. However, it was made an Act of Parliament and it is not the business of the Committee at this stage, I understand, to discuss the merits of the legislation. But we are entitled to discuss the salary paid to, and the duties of, that officer.
The provisions of Section 8 of the Act states that he will be responsible for such duties as are assigned to him by the Minister for Defence and that he shall act as Parliamentary Secretary to the Council of Defence. I think we ought to understand what, as a matter of fact, are the duties that are assigned to the Parliamentary Secretary. We have not had any experience, until yesterday, that any duties of a Parliamentary nature, at any rate, had been assigned to the Parliamentary Secretary. I am still of the belief that it is unnecessary to have a paid Parliamentary Secretary attached to this Ministry.
Then the question of responsibility for finance arises. The Parliamentary Secretary is designed as being responsible to the Minister for the finance of the Military Defence Forces. When that responsibility is attached to the same person who acts as Parliamentary Secretary it would seem to be obvious that the Dáil would look to that officer for information respecting the finance of the Department, leaving the Minister the time and opportunity to deal with the more important question, perhaps, of the defence of the country, military strategy, and such things as that, in conjunction with the Council of Defence. I consider the request to vote £1,000 for the salary of the Parliamentary Secretary is not justified until we have reason to believe that the office is essential. It is quite conceivable that even within the statute a person who is a member of the Dáil shall be appointed, and it is conceivable, also, that that person would be acting as an unpaid Parliamentary Secretary. I would have no hesitation whatever in voting an adequate salary for any officer if I had any reason to believe that the office was necessary, and that there were duties attached to the office, but so far as I have been able to see there are no duties attached to this office, or there were not until yesterday. Yesterday we had an opportunity of finding out; in the absence of the Minister, the Parliamentary Secretary was able to answer questions on behalf of the Minister. But, surely, it was obvious that a discussion of the Army Estimates was an occasion when the officer responsible for the finance, who presumably would have the duties essentially attached to that office and would be familiar with all the financial operations of the Department, particularly the Estimates of the Department, should be here to deal with the Estimates when they were under discussion.
I am sorry to have to say that it is somebody's duty to call attention to this defect, and to say that we ought not to be asked to vote a salary of £1,000 for such an office until we can see some evidence that the office is essential. I await the explanation of the Minister, first as to what are the duties that are devolved by him upon the member of Dáil Eireann who is responsible to the Minister for the finance of the Military Defence Forces, and what are the duties assigned to him as Parliamentary Secretary.